"Mary, do you have a little something for your mom?"
She reached into her right dress pocket, then into the left. Mary looked panicked, patting herself all over. Her eyes widened as she shook her head side to side, shrugging her shoulders and raising her hands. "Sorry." Then, unable to contain herself, she erupted into a playful laugh.
The guests, enjoying themselves, laughed along. Thor’s nattily attired best man surreptitiously slipped Mary the elegant stone. She held it aloft with one hand, covering her mouth with the other, still trying to repress a mischievous giggle.
The pastor officiating the ceremony was more relieved than entertained. He cleared his throat to get the Admiral’s attention, encouraging him to slip the jewel onto his bride’s finger. Sarah gracefully lifted her left hand.
The minister breathed a heavy sigh as ring met finger. "Do you, Sarah Abigail Nottingly, take this man to be your husband? Do you promise to love him and cherish him, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and in bad, for as long as you both shall live?"
"I’m not so sure about the cherish part, but the rest sounds pretty good."
"I was looking for a simple yes or no," the pastor said. Turning to Thor, he asked, "Is she always this difficult?"
"’Fraid so." He smiled. Even behind a veil, "Abigail" was beguiling.
The pastor shook his head, suppressing a smile of his own. "If you don’t find exception with not being cherished, I suppose it’s all right with me. So do you, Admiral Thurston Merrick Adams, take this woman to be your wife? Do you promise to love her and cherish her for as long as you both shall live?"
"Yes, sir, I do. Especially the cherish part."
The pastor rolled his eyes. These two apparently deserved each other. "Then I pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."
"I’d thought you’d never ask," the former Miss Nottingly teased, freeing her face from the veil.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Admiral and Mrs. Thurston Adams. Umm, Mr. and Mrs. Adams? You can stop kissing now. Hello...."
The wedding party had a decidedly international flavor. Team Tuxedo were all there, having a whole lot more fun than their first adventure together. This time the canteens were filled with champagne. There was romantic music, not angry shouting. The percussion came from drums, not Kalashnikov rifles. And although they were hanging out, no one was cross.
"Jolly good time. Thanks for including us, old chap." The British delegation was led by the man of steel, the former Major Blake Huston, now Prime Minister Huston. Lad Childress, Ryan Sullivan, and Cliff Powers were all decked out in groomsmen’s tuxedos. Their ranks had also changed. They were now Majors.
"Are you kidding?" Adams responded. "You can’t have a wedding without inviting your family!"
The Israelis never missed a party. They were led by the indomitable Isaac Newcomb, now a Member of the Israeli Knesset. Moshe Keceph, Yacob Seraph, and Joshua Abrams were ambulatory. They clearly looked better in black tie than in chameleon SFG.
Kyle Stanley was Thor’s best man. It was a role he had played ever since that first cold day they had struggled together on the frosty beaches at BUD/S. And if the polls were any indication, it looked like he would soon be America’s Secretary of Defense. Kyle had come a long way from being a crucified Lieutenant in Afghanistan.
The smiling Bentley McCaile and Cole Sumner rounded out the dashing dozen. Whatever uniform they found themselves wearing, they were a team, twelve men who’d bonded for life. They had faced the enemy, learned the source of their madness, and survived to tell the tale.
The boys had hosted Adams’ bachelor party the previous night, commandeering the upper floor of Thor’s favorite chop house. It had been a raucous affair, yet innocent enough to invite Troy Nottingly.
No stag flicks or scantily clad girls; instead, they’d roasted Adams. They even put together a Thor and Sarah highlights film, including the wheezing have-you-got-a-girl-back-home discussion taped when they were pursuing terrorists. The "Sarah!" outburst at the homecoming was a crowd pleaser. So was the infamous Today Show kiss. Had they not been judicious in editing, the film would have grown into a miniseries.
For his part, Troy compiled a too-cute-for-words video on the most embarrassing moments in "Abigail’s" life. In between, Kyle kept the assembled in stitches, revealing enough inside dirt on the illustrious groom to keep Thor humble for a good long while.
After the ceremony, the wedding party moved from the private church into the elegantly refurbished old manor home for the reception. First chance she got, Sarah huddled with the Israelis in one of the reception rooms off the entry. "Thanks for the rock, boys," she said, proudly. She flashed the ice in their midst, making sure it caught the light. "While you shouldn’t have, I’m glad you did. Every time I look at it I think of all we’ve been through. Thank you." She gave them each a kiss.
"Mrs. Adams?" Yacob said, hugging Sarah. "I found him - the Messiah," he whispered in her ear.
Sarah smiled, lovingly, like a mother.
"Yacob, don’t thank me. I didn’t do anything. He did," she said, pointing toward heaven.
"Yes, but I saw him first in you. Then I saw him change the Admiral. Crucified men can’t do that unless...."
"Unless they’re God." Sarah’s magnificent day had just grown brighter. Placing a hand on each side of Yacob’s face, she kissed him again on the forehead. Joyful, she wiped her lipstick away. "God bless you, my brother."
It was the happiest day of her life. Better than any fantasy, she was living her dreams. Stunningly beautiful in her flowing white-pearled dress, her chastity was as pure as the gown’s color. It had been worth the wait. She had a marvelous present to give the most grateful man in the world.
As for Thurston Adams, he was a new man. Dressed in black, his demeanor was anything but. He now had the best jobs in the world - Sarah’s husband, Mary’s dad, and God’s messenger. And depending on what happened at the ballot box next Tuesday, maybe the worst job as well.
As the Palestinian leadership had feared, America’s mood had shifted decidedly in favor of the Israelis. These were dark days for the Muslim brotherhood. Something had to be done.
They had tried blaming terror on Israeli occupation, but too few bought it. A result of the Admiral’s national tour, the American people were galvanized. Enlightened, they shared a righteous indignation. While they harbored no animosity toward Arabs, or even Muslims, they had come to hate the behavior of those who used Islam to inflict their hellish views on an otherwise peaceable world.
Even the press had begun to see the light, or at least the glint of cold cash. Tipped off and ticked off, viewers were no longer as willing to put up with mindless sound bites and a transparent agenda. A dangerous trend seemed to be emerging: fair, thoughtful reporting. Viewers were switching channels in droves. The media was on the defensive, momentarily defanged, not dead but whimpering.
Info-babe Trixi Lightheart was not, however, ready to give up. She was at the top of her game. Bright and all-too-early on Saturday morning, she was on the air. "With the election just a few days away, a confident Admiral Adams has married his CIA-agent sweetheart, Sarah Nottingly. The gala affair was held in a private church on the Severn River in Annapolis, overlooking the U.S. Naval Academy. Our cameras were not allowed in, but as these FOX helicopter shots show, the Admiral has reunited Team Uniform. In black tie, they all served as his groomsmen. Mary, the Israeli girl the unmarried couple adopted while they were in Israel, was the ring bearer.
"No one is saying where America’s Prince and Princess are headed on their honeymoon. But be assured, when we find out, we’ll bring it to you live and unedited," she teased.
Trixi shuffled some of her papers. "On the political front, the most recent FOX News poll shows that the right-wing political neophyte is leading the more experienced and moderate Congressman Macon by a wide margin. The Congressman says he isn’t worried, however. He is convinced the gap will narrow between now and Tuesday’s election as voters view his latest round of television ads. In these commercials, the Congressman has assembled a prestigious team of international statesmen and clergy. Collectively, they condemn the Admiral’s plans on all fronts: political, economic, and religious. They say that he is a dangerous demagogue, a racist, intolerant of other faiths, and a warmonger."
Lightheart looked down as long segments of the Macon commercials played free, as if they were news. "The Congressman’s ads were provided to the Adams campaign staff," she said, "but they offered no comment. They seem content to let them air without providing any rebuttal. The Admiral’s campaign manager and father-in-law, millionaire businessman Troy Nottingly, said, ‘We have stated our position and have no interest in attacking our opponent.’ He went on to say that they will continue with their strategy of not running any ads of their own - positive or negative."
It wasn’t for lack of money. The Save America campaign had received over one hundred million dollars in donations - though they had solicited nothing. Win or lose, they had decided to invest these funds as seed capital, supporting some of the initiatives they were promoting. A hundred million dollars would go a long way toward making credit available to those without it or computers more affordable to those in need.
Congressman Macon’s war chest was overflowing as well. Those who would be the most negatively impacted by the Admiral’s agenda, the dictators in China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Iraq, had sent the American Presidential hopeful and his party tens of millions. It was even more generous than the support the Chinese Communists had shown Bill Clinton and his presidency.
"In other news," Trixi reported, "the new President of Palestine, Mamdouh Salim, is trying to negotiate economic concessions from Israel. He blames his lack of success on the ultra right wing Israeli government and on the militant rhetoric of Admiral Adams. President Salim says the only hope for putting an end to violence is for Israel to pay reparations to his people."
Kahn was being, well, Kahn. He was so antsy, he almost blasted his boats out of the water fooling with the remote trigger, a case of premature eradication. He nearly killed a million fish along with his hopes for a triumphant terrorist action.
Haqqani was fascinated by the electronic timers. Aymen Halaweh had used what the Russians and Iranians had provided and taken it to the next level. The triggering devices were state of the art. Kahn was thrilled with how his young M.I.T. engineer had tied all but one into Internet protocols. The lone exception was Washington. That one was particularly sensitive, since Halam Ghumani, in prison or not, was still the boss. He insisted on dying a martyr. Neither Kahn, Omen, nor Aymen were willing to risk their lives - or their standing in al-Qaeda - on something as potentially quirky as the Internet. D.C.’s dastardly deed was being done the old fashioned way - with a failsafe timer.
Aymen had arranged to have web cams installed at strategic locations in each of the twelve cities and on each of the twelve boats. This would give Haqqani the opportunity to witness the devastation in real time. Kahn smiled. He loved this stuff.
"Omen," he yelled, "when will the last of the boats leave Puget Sound?"
"Not for a couple of days. I want every yacht to arrive just before our little celebration."
He had already sent the San Diego and Los Angeles boats on their way. Omen had decided against sailing the three West Coast yachts from the Bahamas. Too risky. He had instead retrofitted sailboats already in the Pacific Northwest. Omen wanted to cruise into each city moments before Alpha 5’s grand finale, on the theory that the less time the boys had to get into trouble, the less trouble the boys would get into. His experience with Atta and Riza had been a religious awakening of sorts. Muslims couldn’t be trusted, he had learned.
Fortunately, money was the least of his problems. The war booty was coming in faster than even Muhammad, with his vivid imagination, could have dreamed. Candy sales had never been stronger. They were now a full-service provider, an evil version of 31 Flavors. They had heroin, cocaine, crack, ecstasy, date-rape drugs, uppers, downers, hallucinogenics, whatever the youth of America couldn’t get along without. And while the fire and casualty insurance businesses were booming, nothing beat life insurance for encouraging compliance. Even the old standby, kidnapping for ransom, was bringing in millions the world over. It was enough to make Allah proud.
"Inauguration eve, my brother," Omen explained to Kahn. "If Adams wins, he won’t live long enough to crow about it."
"You are a devil," Haqqani praised his comrade. "Elegant timing."
Quagmer was proud of himself. "Washington is scheduled to blow first, per Halam’s instructions. Like he said, they won’t live to see him die. Our boys have a transient slip in the Potomac Marina, near the Lincoln Memorial. They’re scheduled to leave Paradise Island tomorrow. That puts them dockside D.C. on Sunday, eight days from now. In nine we celebrate. Monday afternoon, just before sunset."
"And then, poof - they all die." Kahn added, pounding his clinched fist into an open hand.
"The rest of the fireworks go off in succession, Tuesday morning, inauguration morning, about fifteen minutes apart. It’s kind of like what we did in New York and Washington, with the planes hitting just close enough to prevent the Feds from doing anything about it, but far enough apart to prolong the agony. I call it ‘rolling thunder’ - a phrase I picked up from the Americans. It adds to the drama."
"Beautiful. Who’s second?" Kahn asked impatiently. He was like a kid with a new toy on Ramadan morning. He couldn’t wait to unwrap his presents and play.
"New York, New York. The city that never sleeps."
"Thanks to us." Kahn made a humming engine sound as he stuck out the thumb and little finger of his right hand, forming an airplane. He banked it into his left hand, fingers upright and split. The Twin Towers died again.
"The big apple gets sliced at nine o’clock Eastern Daylight Time, Tuesday morning. Yacht two, the Serenity, has a prime location right on the Hudson. Like the dock in Washington, it’s less than a hundred meters from downtown." The terrorists were having fun. Terrorizing civilians and disrupting their economy was what they loved.
"Those boys left several days ago. Their transponder shows them..." Quagmer reached over to a laptop computer near where Kahn was seated. He clicked the mouse and stroked a few keys. "...in Savannah."
"You’re insatiable, Kahn. Boston at nine fifteen."
"Did you remember to pack some tea?" Kahn loved symbolism.
"You’re a sick man, you know that?"
"It’s part of the job description, remember?" Kahn rubbed his hands together. "Well, did you?"
"Yeah," Omen admitted sheepishly. It was twisted enough to be embarrassing. "Those boys are aboard the Carpe Diem - that’s Latin for ‘seize the day.’ They’re in," he clicked the mouse again, "Cape Fear."
"No way. There’s such a place?"
"Look here," Omen pointed to the screen, near Virginia.
"Baltimore, followed by Norfolk."
"Norfolk," Haqqani repeated. "Perfect. There’s a Naval and Air Force base there, a CIA training facility, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown. That’s a good target."
"I thought you’d like it. Okay. It’s ten o’clock on Tuesday morning, time for President-elect Adams to speak - pity, he’s dead. Now where do you suppose the naughty little atoms are scheduled to misbehave?"
"That would be a winner. Then we party in New Orleans."
"Mardi Gras? I can hear it now: Satan Sings the Blues!"
"Funny. If this terrorist gig craps out, you’ve got a future in stand-up."
Kahn smiled, envisioning himself delivering one-liners. He tried one on Omen, "A teacher at Suicide Bomber School looks around the room and says, ‘Class, pay close attention. I’m only going to do this once.’"
"Real clever. On second thought, don’t give up the day job."
Kahn feigned disappointment. "That’s seven. We’ve got twelve of these little buggers. Where are the other five hiding?"
"Chicago at ten thirty, nine thirty Central Time. It was the first boat to set sail. Last time I checked, it was on Lake Erie. It’s the Great Balls of Fire."
"You’re kidding me. No, I don’t suppose you are. And then...."
"Houston, we have a problem. It blows at nine forty-five local. San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles follow in that order at eight, eight-fifteen, and eight-thirty Pacific Knockout Time. Like I said, ‘rolling thunder.’ Boom-Boom!"
"Which ones are carrying the good stuff? Fission, mushroom cloud, searing heat, wind, and radiation."
"Washington, New York, Boston, and Baltimore in the east. San Francisco and Los Angeles in the west."
In the best Hispanic accent he could muster, he repeated, "Los Ong-heles." Kahn almost looked disappointed. "Bye-bye, beach babes. They don’t wear enough sunscreen, you know. In the other cities they’ll die more slowly ’cause our dirty bombs won’t go thermo-nuclear. But that’s good in a way."
"Sure. Nothing says terror like slow death. Everybody close gets cancer from the fallout."
"Mostly leukemia. The spent fuel pellets we stole from the Russians will kill eighty percent of those within a kilometer. At six hundred REMs, they’ll puke their brains out. Their blood cells will mutate, and their immune system will be kaput."
"Since everybody’s hair is gonna fall out we maybe should buy a wig business," the terrorist accountant mused.
"Chernobyl II. Shake and bake," Kahn predicted.
"Your dirty bombs have what, fifty kilos of Iranian C-12? Sitting under ten kilos of nuclear waste, right?"
"Grade A, prime-filet daughter products, my friend," Kahn explained in Haqqani parlance.
"Daughter products? As in the revenge of al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat - Allah’s little girls?" Omen asked.
"Yep. That’s what they call spent uranium fuel pellets. I looked it up on the Internet, and based on what I found, these ladies are really cranky."
Omen smiled as he walked over and stood behind where Kahn was seated. He was playing one of the computer animations Aymen Halaweh had created to demonstrate the features of his launching system. A series of four rocket-like devices built from jury-rigged RPGs were designed to throw the bombs 100 meters skyward one second after the forward skylight hatch blew out of the way. At the highest point of their trajectory, the C-12 would explode, spreading the radioactive debris far and wide. The thermonuclear suitcase bombs would, of course, forego the plastic explosive. They were plenty explosive in their own right. Kahn and Omen watched the last sequences of Aymen’s animation with considerable pride. Washington, building by building, monument by monument, was being turned back into the swamp from which it had arisen.
Aymen had also shown the pudgy terrorist and his insatiable sidekick how to use the web-cam feature. With a few keystrokes and a click of a mouse, the world’s biggest rats were able to manipulate the cameras. They switched to the Bahamas and scanned the marina. With its pristine, multicolored waters, bikini-clad babes, and virgin beaches, it looked a lot like paradise.
"Oh, would you look at that? Why are we languishing here in this godforsaken desert?" Haqqani groused. "We signed up for the wrong duty this time."
"Well, we are the most wanted men in the world. Don’t you think people might get a little suspicious if we went on a yachting vacation?"
"Yeah, I suppose," he complained. "Besides, the delivery boys are gonna get roasted. They know what they are carrying, don’t they?"
"Of course. They wouldn’t have it any other way."
Kahn rolled his eyes. "Don’t tell me you’re still selling them on the seventy-virgin fairy tale?"
"Step right up. First to die, first served." He underscored his words with an appropriately vulgar gesture.
"Do you write this stuff down for them like bin Laden used to, or do you just have the clerics brainwash ’em?" Haqqani wanted to hone his skills and become a more professional manager. Just because he was a terrorist, didn’t mean he didn’t have ambition.
"It’s more complicated than that," Quagmer explained. He had given this a lot of thought. His lucrative career depended on it. "Selling virgins to boys wouldn’t be possible if the clerics didn’t support us," he admitted. "We owe all this to Muhammad, peace be unto him. Without the Prophet’s, peace be unto him, speeches, we’d be living in a tent, yanking a camel around by the nose."
"With our team floating on oil, the internal combustion engine didn’t hurt either," Haqqani observed. "But let’s face facts; it’s all a farce."
"Of course," he said, looking over his shoulder. He wanted to make sure no one was listening. "But I suppose even the possibility of romping with virgins in paradise is better than the reality of wrestling with vermin in Palestine." Omen shook his head.
"Hard to imagine anybody believes this garbage." Kahn eulogized.
"Have you ever read Muhammad’s speeches?"
"Only the good ones - you know, the stuff about Jihad, killing infidels, war booty - fighting in Allah’s cause. Martyrdom: it’s great for recruiting."
"Oh, just the peace-loving-religion verses."
They both doubled over laughing, nearly knocking Aymen’s triggering notebook off the table.
It had been worth the wait. They were in Paradise, literally. Thor and Sarah had chartered a sixty-foot sloop for their honeymoon. Actually, Troy and Leisel had chartered it. They had provided the transportation too. The newlyweds had been escorted. Sitting in the back, they had held hands for most of the three-hour flight from Lee Field in Annapolis to the Bahamas.
Having lost her taste for flying, Mary had moved in with Kyle Stanley for the week. The two had become pals.
The flight had been catered. Small fruit and vegetable platters had accompanied club sandwiches. Though the bride and groom had just left their reception, they hadn’t eaten. They were too busy celebrating, cutting the cake, throwing garters, being photographed, dancing, and chatting with friends. Sarah had never been hungrier.
Moments after they landed, an aging white limousine pulled up next to the plane. A few seconds later, a lineman working out of the FBO in Nassau brought up a rental car. At the same time, a fuel truck swung around in front. It was poetry in motion.
Sarah opened the door. Wearing an attractive lavender sundress, she glowed as she stepped out into the soft warm light of the late afternoon.
The honeymoon itinerary had been arranged by Leisel. Thor and Sarah would take a small overnight bag to the Atlantis Hotel, where they had reserved the Presidential Suite. Although the room was often comped, they paid for it: Adams and Adams may have been risk takers, but neither were gamblers.
The bulk of their luggage was carted to the Agape, their sixty-foot floating palace. The Nottinglys had volunteered to do the schlepping. Chartering a smaller vessel, they had planned to stay a discreet distance away but still close enough to help out if needed - and more importantly, to remove the crew of the Agape when their presence was not wanted - no offense, but this was a honeymoon. The Nottingly’s yacht had been chartered "bare boat," but the newlyweds’ would have a captain and a cook, a crew that would make life easy when they could be of service and then conveniently disappear when their services were no longer needed.
Now, with the giant pink hotel looming above them, the Adamses had other things on their minds. Sarah had waited a lifetime for this night. Thor wished he had.
Finally inside, the newlyweds rode the elevator to the tenth floor, and floated down the hall. Thor removed the electronic key from its sleeve, and released the door. Propping it open with their overnight bags, he turned to Sarah. His smile broadened. He leaned over, placing his left arm under her thighs, his right behind her shoulders. She fell back, trusting him to catch her. As he carried Sarah across the threshold, Thor slid their bags away with his foot. The door swung closed. They were alone.
"Mrs. Adams, may I have the pleasure of your company?" Sure, it wasn’t the best pickup line, but it worked well enough.
"I thought you’d never ask," she cooed, then said, "You remember that ‘one track mind’ stuff I used to bug you about?"
"Yes?" he replied, still holding her, spinning her around in the living room of the palatial suite.
"Forget it," she giggled.
Thor carried his bride toward the large panoramic balcony. He hoped she’d reprise that night in Jerusalem when she’d slipped behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, her chin on his shoulder, hair against his neck. He wasn’t disappointed. The romantic significance was not lost on her. As the sun turned a deep red and fell beneath the western horizon, the clouds began to glow. The view was magnificent. Sarah held him tight. A warm breeze caressed them. The sights and sounds of the Bahamas filled their senses.
Thor felt Sarah’s arms rise beneath his, moving up from his waist to his chest. Her hands fumbled at the top button on his shirt, then the second and third. When she had reached his belt, she raised her hands again, this time rubbing them on his bare chest. She stood on her toes and kissed his neck. She dragged her nails softly across his pecs.
His breathing became labored. He closed his eyes. This was the moment he wanted to last forever, the moment he would never forget. Thankfully, she wasn’t in a hurry. Her right hand was rubbing his abs just above his pants. Her left teased him, higher on his chest. Sarah reached down, pulling the remainder of his shirt free. She undid the last two buttons, dropping it from his shoulders, as she had done with his robe a month before on the balcony overlooking the Temple Mount.
They were outside, exposed to God’s glory, surrounded by the passionate warm hues of his creation. Yet they were private, up high and tucked in behind a low curved wall that secured the balcony.
Naked from the waist up, Thor felt his skin tingle. It wasn’t because he was cold. His hands were now on top of hers as they roamed freely. Just for fun, she occasionally let them drop, sliding across the top of his belt, sometimes below. Thor was in exquisite agony. Part of him wanted to turn and kiss his wife, unbutton her dress, return the favor. Yet the other part didn’t want to move. He was relishing every moment. In love, he was learning, love was better.
Certain he was about to explode, he grasped his bride’s arms, stopping her long enough for him to turn around. He held her hands for a long moment, down at her side. He stared longingly into her eyes. He could see her desire. He was sure she could feel his. Her hands still in his, he gently pulled them behind her back. Exposed and vulnerable, she wiggled closer to him, pressing her chest against his.
He closed his eyes, tilting his head slightly. She knew she was about to be kissed. Their lips met, softly, then more firmly. Hands still behind her back she leaned into him, opened her mouth and kissed him more passionately than she ever had, even in her dreams.
Thor maneuvered her hands so that he could hold both of hers in one of his. He sensed that she was too worried about pleasing him, about showing him that even though she was inexperienced, she could love him better than anyone ever had. But he wanted her to relax and enjoy being loved.
With his free hand he stroked her hair, the side of her face, her neck, kissing her as he did. Then he pulled her toward him again. She moaned. Thor stroked her side, flirting with her breast, just as she had done with the top of his pants. Each time his hand passed near her nipple, Sarah’s breathing became deeper, more sensual. Releasing her hands, Thor used both of his to release the top button on her lavender sundress. She looked at him as he did, her eyes inviting him to continue. The second, third, and fourth took him down below her waist. He reached inside, holding her where she was narrowest. His hands were so large, they nearly encircled her. Kissing her again, he raised his hands slowly until they were just under the bottom of her matching lavender bra.
Thor pushed back just far enough to see what he was about to feel. Partially covered by a wisp of lace, he had never seen anything he liked better. The mother of all smiles erupted across his face. "How are my favorite distractions?"
"Never felt better." Her smile now matched his.
Dress open, revealing much of her beauty, Thor raised his hands and slid it off of her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Bending down, he picked it up as she lifted one leg and then the other. On the way up he tossed what little there was of it in the direction of a lounge, not knowing or really caring if he had hit his mark. He was far too enamored with the Sarah he saw between her matching lavender lingerie. All the way up, he caressed her tenderly.
It was hard to tell who felt better, more excited. Sensing her knees were about to buckle, knowing his were, Thor lifted Sarah off her feet once again. The warm breeze followed them as he carried his blushing bride to the bedroom, gazing down at her as he walked. He didn’t bother closing the door. With an elbow he hit a light switch, illuminating the room ever so softly.
"Why did you do that?" she asked in a tone that seemed pleased.
"Seeing you," he answered softly, "is as exciting as feeling you."
"Oooh, good answer. That deserves a kiss."
"I was hoping for more," he replied.
Still in his arms, she agreed. "I’m all yours, sailor."
Hours later, exhausted, they fell asleep in each other’s arms. But it wasn’t long before Sarah awoke. She studied him, examining every detail. She ran her fingers over his chest, touched his stomach, and then laid her hand on his thigh. She let it linger there. He awoke, and they made love again.
Satisfied but hardly satiated, they fell asleep. As dawn’s first light broke across the Atlantic, Thor rolled over and looked at Sarah for the longest time, examining each curve. She was still asleep, on her side; her back was closest to him. Unable to resist the temptation, he began to caress her. As he played, she began to move. At first, Thor felt a little embarrassed, but not for long. Sarah placed her hand over his, continuing to guide it wherever it pleased her. She cooed, letting him know that she was enjoying herself and all too happy to be Mrs. Thurston Adams.
It was nearly noon before the lovers finally made their way down to the marina adjoining the hotel. Every time had Sarah tried to dress, Thor undid whatever she’d done. Somewhere along the way, she even managed to model a teddy, the one she hadn’t gotten around to wearing the night before. That didn’t last long either.
After what may have been a dozen attempts, Mr. and Mrs. Adams finally make it to the elevator. Half dazed, Sarah asked, "Are you sure you’re okay with my parents?"
"Sweetheart, I love your parents. And Lord knows, as much as I’d love to make love all day long, we’re going to have to come up for air sometime."
"Yeah, right, O insatiable one. You’ve got a one-track mind."
"Darn right. It wasn’t nearly enough," she giggled.
Thor turned and frantically pounded the button for the tenth floor, but with the elevator already headed down, it didn’t light.
Sarah turned and kissed him. "Have you ever made love while underway, sailor?"
"You mean in an elevator, or on an aircraft carrier?" Thor grinned.
"No, but now that I’ve found the right crew...."
Sarah was a complete woman, faithful, funny, loving, smart, spontaneous, and flirtatious. As she finished her you-won’t-have-to-wait-long kiss, he offered a quick prayer. God, please don’t let this ever end.
"You know," Sarah said, returning to the subject, "with as much attention as we seem to attract, my parents may actually assure our privacy."
The dock was but a hundred paces from the hotel and casino. Along the way, they spotted a pair of smiling faces lounging in the cockpit of the smaller of the two sailboats.
"Good afternoon," Troy chided them, looking at his watch.
"Shush up, sweetie. Remember our honeymoon?"
He reached for her hand, reminiscing.
"You two look positively radiant this morning. I trust the accommodations were to your liking?" she teased.
Accommodations? Thor had no idea what the suite even looked like. But that reminded him of something. "Oops," he said. "I forgot to check out."
"Already done," Troy said. "I took care of it hours ago.
"Thanks. That’s nice of you."
"On the contrary, you’ve made us very happy. Letting us fly you down, seeing this moment, the two of you walking over here, oblivious to the world, brought us more joy than you can imagine." Troy squeezed Leisel’s hand. "But this is the last you’re gonna see of us until you’re ready to go home."
"Home?" Thor repeated, glancing at his bride. "With all that’s been going on, I haven’t even thought about home. Where are we gonna live?"
"The way things look now, it’s going to be 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," Leisel laughed.
Thor shook his head. "Oh, man, I hope not."
It may have seemed like an odd response for a presidential hopeful but not for this one. His idea of winning was losing. He genuinely wanted the other Save America candidates to prevail; that’s why he’d campaigned so diligently. And it looked like the majority were going to win. But just as fervently, he wanted to lose. He hated politics, hated what it did to people, hated what those with the printing presses and microphones did to those in it. Most of all, he hated the message he had to deliver. Islam was so much worse than he had imagined. Revealing its true nature, its history of violence and predilection for terror, was the last assignment he wanted. And then there was his solution. It was unimaginably horrible, and he knew it. The only thing worse was not implementing it.
That was why he had ignored the Congressman’s vicious attacks on his character. It was why he hadn’t responded to the most recent round of negative commercials. They had slimed him, not his plan.
Adams had criticized the legacy of the liberal agenda. But the liberals had attacked him, sanctimoniously and hypocritically labeling his analysis "hate speech." It was amazing, really. It never seemed to dawn on them that when they sullied his character because they hated what he had to say, they were actually guilty of the very thing they were falsely attributing to him.
Adams had studied the behavior and knew it would be coming. Power-hungry hypocrites had always risen by projecting their own faults on anyone standing between them and what they coveted. Muhammad was the best example he’d ever found. Yet knowing it was coming was a far cry from liking it. No, this was one election he wanted to lose.
"Son," Troy interrupted Thor’s thoughts, "can I talk to you for a moment?" He stood and stepped from his boat onto the pier. He motioned for Thor to climb aboard the Agape. Sarah joined her mom.
"Thor, the Congressman’s negative ads are taking their toll. Do you want me to arrange a news conference before you shove off? If we don’t stem the tide, you may lose."
"I thought you’d say that. I admire you for it." He looked straight into Adams’ eyes. "Son, I’ve found that the things I regret most in life are the things I did not do, not the things I’ve done. While I’ve got the courage, I want to tell you what you mean to me, to Leisel, to Sarah."
Thor had long since learned that becoming vulnerable, exposing oneself openly to another, took more courage than any battle he had ever fought. He purposely relaxed his body, softened his expression, trying to help Troy relax in turn, encouraging him.
"We never thought Sarah would find love, not like she’s found it with you. For that we’re grateful. She scared men off, intimidated them. She may be too smart for her own good. She’s got more character than Leisel and I combined. She relaxes around you." Troy sat in the Agape’s luxurious cockpit. He invited Thor to do the same.
"Since the first day I held Sarah in my arms, I’ve feared losing her, feared some man would take her away, someone who couldn’t possibly love her as much as I did. Losing her to you," he said, almost in tears, "was one of the happiest moments of my life."
Thor wanted to say that he wasn’t taking her away. He wanted to say that Troy and Leisel were always welcome, but Troy stopped him. He wasn’t finished. "I was angry at God when I learned that Leisel was barren. I wanted children. Truthfully, I wanted a son. Thankfully, He didn’t return my anger. He gave us Sarah instead, an angel, the greatest joy of our lives. And now, in a way, He has brought me a son."
"And a brother."
"Yes. I’ve enjoyed watching your faith grow. It’s transformed you and your mission." He gave him the kind of hug only a father can give. "Son, I love you. Thanks for letting an old man babble. Now, we’ll get out of your hair. Go get that bride of yours and have a great time."
Thor put his hand on Troy’s shoulder. "I want you to know, sir, I look to you as the father I never had. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to measure up, as a husband or as a believer, but I’m proud to be your son. And," he grinned, "I’m downright thrilled to be your son-in-law."
While the boys were baring their souls, mother and daughter compared notes. "Now Sarah, don’t get mad at me when you see some of the stuff I packed for you. You weren’t here, so I did the best I could."
"What did you pack?" she asked apprehensively.
Mom winked. "Honeymoon stuff. I looked through your things trying to figure out what you’d need, what you’d like, really. And well, you’ve got lots of cute outfits, but not the kind of things a new bride might enjoy having - you know, the kind of stuff a new groom might like his bride to have. Soooo...I went shopping."
"Mom!" She said it like it was a multi-syllable world. "What did you buy? What did you pack?" Sarah pretended to be mad, but she couldn’t wait to look. Leisel saw right through her.
"Fun stuff, sexy stuff." She laughed. "But before you get all flustered, I packed plenty of your regular nightgowns and lingerie. You don’t have to wear what I bought for you."
Sarah confessed, "Judging by last night, I’m not sure he’s going to let me put anything on. I think he likes my birthday suit just fine. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. But mom," she paused, "I’m so crazy about him, I’m afraid I’m going to scare him away, love him too much, smother him. Is that possible?"
"Maybe. But not with that man," Leisel said as they watched Troy and Thor slowly making their way toward them. Her observation would have applied to either of them.
Leisel leaned over to whisper in her daughter’s ear. "Have fun, sweetheart. Experiment if you like, be a little wild at times, take the initiative sometimes. Men love it when you do that - makes ’em feel wanted." A big grin formed on Leisel’s face, matching her daughter’s. "You might drive him away with too little, but never with too much."
Before climbing aboard the Serendipity, Troy motioned for the Agape’s crew, its captain and cook, a husband-and-wife team, to join them. Introductions were made and the plan was reviewed.
"The waters in the Bahamas are thin, as you know, Admiral. We’ll guide you through them, take you to all the best places, fix your meals, clean up, and then bail out, leaving the two of you alone. I know you’re an accomplished sailor, sir, so just think of us as your crew."
It was the best of all worlds, Thor recognized. Paradise.
"Can you imagine having your life depend on this stuff?"
"No way. I’m not gonna have any skin left by the time we’re done."
"At least yours fits - sort of," he laughed. The smallest of the three Jews eyed his pals. They looked ridiculous. "You could fit two of me in this thing. I look like one of those wrinkly dogs. What do they call them?"
SFG suits draped loosely around their undersized bodies, the Temple Faithful trio were preparing for God’s mission. It was their own private Jihad, not against a people, but against a symbol.
More bookworms than combatants, the devout Jews struggled with their equipment. Their packs were loaded with twenty kilos of C-12 and a quarter that amount in heavy steel balls. They were designed to pulverize the large rectangular columns supporting the Dome of the Rock.
With unbalanced loads now strapped on their backs, it was all they could do to stand erect. Even without guns, ammunition, and water, the stripped-down SFGs tipped the scales at nearly forty pounds. Between suits and explosives, each beast of burden was condemned to carry nearly twice that amount.
"Good grief, this is heavy," one of the Jews complained.
"Hey, could you give me a hand?" another asked, trying to adjust the straps.
Although they were now in the best shape of their lives, it wasn’t enough. Religious about their training, the Temple Faithful trio had met at the gym every afternoon since they had accepted the assignment. They had run five miles together each morning, that is, except Saturday. The Sabbath was holy.
Between pumping iron and pounding pavement, they had lunched each day at their favorite overlook. The devout Jews had discovered a landing at the top of some stairs about two hundred meters southwest of the Western Wall - the Wailing Wall. From this vantage point, they could see the thing that stirred them most, the foundation of the Jewish Temple Mount. They could also see, rising above it, the bilious blue and gold shrine, the Muslim Dome of the Rock - the object they loathed most in the world. The view inspired them, giving them strength.
Now, just after eleven on Sunday evening, they were as ready as they would ever be. Soon, a festering thorn would be removed from their side, from God’s side. The Messiah would be delayed no longer.
Under their military garb, the three Jews had prepared themselves for battle. Yarmulke on top, phylactery in front, ritual threads down their sides, they looked plenty silly inside and out but not in their eyes.
Standing for a final prayer, they faced the Wall, barely visible from where they were standing. They could just make it out. The Faithful were in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. Praying, they began to bob, bending at the waist. It looked nauseating, especially since they were all reading a prepared prayer, as was their custom. The devout never prayed spontaneously to God. Only prayers written by learned men and approved by exalted rabbis were considered acceptable.
Ready at last, they hugged one another, kissing their companions on the cheek. Then they donned their helmets, tucked in their beards, and lowered their visors. Setting their SFGs to midnight black, they disappeared into the night.
Aymen Halaweh had been stationed at the gate leading to the Temple Mount. He was prepared to let the men pass. He knew that Talib Ali was a hundred meters away, near the doorway of the shrine, a shrine that had been locked much earlier in the day. As prestigious and devoted Muslims, they had managed to gain control of these important passages.
Though neither man knew it, they were not alone. Mamdouh Salim was on duty too - and close by. He had received his marching orders from the former Chairman of Fatah, now celebrated martyr, Yasman Alafat. President Salim was monitoring the proceedings from a notebook PC, connected via the Internet. Stationed in the Arab quarter, he had the best view of all.
Hoping that the suits might one day prove useful, Halaweh had broken the code sometime back. In his spare time he had programmed the SFG computers so that every image, every bit of data, could be seen remotely at the click of a mouse.
From the comfort of his private overlook, the President watched the Israelis bump Aymen as they made their way through the open gate. Halaweh, who hadn’t seen them coming, nearly jumped out of his skin as they passed. Salim heard the men giggling, enjoying the fact that they were nearly invisible. He had clicked through the menu of visual images and data displays, discovering that he liked the enhanced light mode with image stabilization best.
For the new President, time was passing all too quickly. On his screen he could see the Jews struggling to walk up a long flight of stone steps. He heard their labored breathing. There was no chatter. These were men on a mission. They traveled through a series of open arches and into the large courtyard west of the Dome. Mamdouh smiled as he watched them move with stealth and haste across the last hundred meters of open space between them and their target.
In the helmet-cam view, Mamdouh Salim saw Talib Ali leaning against one of the red marble columns near the shrine’s entrance. Ali’s hand was over his eyes like the bill of a cap. He was trying to shield them from the glare of the spotlights that were illuminating the dome itself. Talib had no idea that the Temple Faithful were almost close enough to touch. Looking at his monitor, President Salim saw them pass between a pair of green marble columns to Ali’s right.
Startled as the Jews opened the door, Talib Ali jumped back. Not trusting them, he wanted to keep an eye on their progress, although hints and shadows were all he could see. The devout Ali struggled to follow the sound of the trio’s footsteps. From what he could tell, one of the Jews had turned right. He was walking across the red and gold octagonal hallway. The others veered left through the Dome’s inner passage.
Ali was concerned. He wanted to be certain that the shrine’s surveillance cameras caught the IDF insignias on the Jewish uniforms. The whole charade was being played out for that very reason.
Talib cupped both hands to his ears. Listening carefully, he thought he heard the first pack, then another, being set down on the floor. He prayed to Allah for guidance, then reached over to the light switch, feeling his way to just the right one. As he heard what he thought was the sound of the third pack being dropped, he flipped up the switch, flooding the interior of the giant shrine.
In the enhanced light mode, the visors on the Temple Faithful’s SFGs were a whiteout. Each man staggered, his senses overwhelmed. Believing that the source of illumination had come from inside the dome, they spun around and faced the open area in the center of the shrine, raising their visors as they turned. The three men stared at the rocky top of Mount Moriah. What looked to be the Holy of Holies lay in front of them, carved into the stone. Their hearts raced; their eyes widened.
Then their world ended.
President Mamdouh Salim clicked his mouse three times, triggering the bombs. It was all over in an instant.
Aymen Halaweh went airborne, blown off his feet by the percussion. The sound was deafening, haunting, echoing as it did off of the graves standing guard on the Mount of Olives.
An eerie darkness followed. The light that had reflected off the golden dome a moment before had been extinguished. Now there was a void. No light, no dome. Instead, a towering plume of dust and debris rose from the center of the Temple Mount. With blood flooding into one eye and fragments of the shattered shrine obscuring the other, Halaweh struggled to see what had happened. As his vision grew accustomed to the dim ambient light of the surrounding city, he could see enough to know he was in serious trouble.
The young Palestinian engineer was aghast. This couldn’t be. He had disabled the Israelis’ triggers. The Jews were supposed to walk in, get noticed, drop their packs, and run for their lives. Sure, they would vainly press their triggers as they cleared the shrine, but nothing was supposed to happen.
Running, staggering, hobbling toward what had just moments before been the third holiest site in the entire Muslim world, Aymen fell to his knees in desperation. The weight of the world was on his shoulders. What had he done? He raised his hands to his face in shame and covered his eyes. "Oh, Allah, forgive me!" he cried.
The Admiral was a happy man. Heading out of the channel, he had changed into a bathing suit, as had Sarah. She leaned up against him, cuddling in his arms. The sun was warm, as was the air and water. A stiff breeze had the Agape keeled over.
The captain’s wife brought the pair a drink, frothy iced piña coladas. A reggae CD complemented the mood. Thor willed it to last but sensed it wouldn’t. Nothing this good ever does.
The captain reached down and grasped his binoculars in one hand, holding the wheel in the other. His bright countenance soured. "I don’t believe it. Those sorry sacks couldn’t even make it out of the channel without running aground." He spoke as if he knew them.
Thor asked for the binoculars. Adjusting them for his face, he eyed the forty-five-foot sailing vessel, the Sacred Seas, marooned on a sandbar. Her crew was frantically trying to get the attention of more competent sailors. Anyone.
"Good grief," the captain moaned, shaking his head.
"You know them?" Thor asked.
"Not really. Well, sort of. They’ve been here the better part of two weeks. Bad news bears. Rude, obnoxious, obviously incompetent. They’ve made fools of themselves."
"Are we going to give them a hand?" It was the honorable thing to do.
"Sure," the captain answered. "Maybe they’ll leave and never come back. Here, take the wheel. Steer a heading of two fifteen. I’ll start the engine and have you bring her up into the wind. We’ll lower sails, motor over to the edge of the channel, and bring ’em a line. I suppose it would be too much to ask for them to have one." The captain was clearly disgusted. "A couple of jackasses, those two."
Atta and Riza were waving their arms frantically, jumping up and down. It was hard to tell if they were screaming at each other or at the crews of other vessels, most which were doing their level best to ignore the fiasco.
Sails down, towline out, the captain said, "Admiral, I’ll keep us on the edge of the channel if you’ll lower the dingy."
Thor eyed the davit. It looked standard enough, but it was way too much of a hassle for a thirty-second ride. "Shoot, cap, I’ll just swim the line over." He tied the bitter end off, throwing the loop into the water, stretching it out in the direction of motionless commotion.
"Be careful, sir. Nobody around here is sure if those boys have had their rabies shots. ’Course, since they’re Arabs, maybe they’d prefer rabbi shots - you know, inoculation against Jews...." The captain started to laugh, but caught himself. Suddenly, he was embarrassed, recognizing his unfair generalization. Just because they looked like terrorists, spoke like terrorists, and acted like terrorists, didn’t mean they were terrorists. Did it?
"They look more confused than vicious," Adams returned, jumping into the water. It was as warm as the air, about bathtub temperature. Swimming toward the loop, the SEAL expertly fastened it around his body, covering the remaining distance quickly. He handed the line to the nearest crewman. The Admiral flinched as they began to babble in Arabic. The last time he’d heard such sounds, he was having tea with terrorists.
Then he relaxed, in sympathy with their plight. These poor guys had no idea what to do with the line. Riza was holding it as if it were a snake, ready to bite him. Atta was staring wide-eyed at the Admiral. He looked like he’d already been bitten.
With his honeymoon temporarily marooned, Thor didn’t have time for such nonsense. He took matters into his own hands. Swimming to the stern of the Sacred Sea, he climbed aboard. Riza tossed him the line, stumbling back as he did. Atta cowered, scared half to death. Looking at them quizzically, the Admiral simply walked the line to the bow of their vessel, tied it off, and motioned to the Agape. Slowly removing the slack, the captain expertly positioned his craft.
A quick tug was all it took. The Sacred Sea was free, bobbing peacefully in the channel, no harm done. The Admiral loosened the line, coiling up his end. He flung it toward the Agape before turning to the men he had just saved. They didn’t look the least bit appreciative. They appeared more frightened than relieved. Thor shrugged his shoulders and muttered, "You’re welcome," under his breath. The deed done, he jumped back into the water, etching the scene into his mind. His gut told him he hadn’t seen the last of these two.
Free at last of all earthly distractions, the newlyweds felt the joy of having the wind at their backs. As they arrived at their private cove, the sun was dipping into the sea, making it come alive, celebrate, dance. It was as if it had all been choreographed by the great Celestial Playwright. The cove was totally secluded, surrounded by virginal white sand. The anchor was set and dinner was served. The lingering hues of the setting sun provided the ambient light, gracing the clouds nearest the western horizon.
Dining al fresco, they enjoyed an excellent chicken cordon bleu and an altogether too expensive bottle of French champagne. The dishes were cleared and the crew departed. They were alone again. The Admiral’s heart raced. Sarah’s skin tingled.
"Decisions, decisions," Thor said just loud enough for his bride to hear. "Should we go for a swim, then make love, or make love, then swim?"
"I know all you SEAL types love to swim, but I trust the other option hasn’t grown so old-married-couple it’s on par with swimming." She crossed her arms over her body, teasing him, like she wasn’t interested. She had dressed for dinner - a sundress that was a bit short on fabric. Red, it was almost large enough to attract a bull’s attention with its plunging necklines front and back. It had certainly attracted Thor’s attention.
"Ooh, what did you have in mind, sailor?" She wiggled her shoulder, letting one on the straps fall. "I seem to be having trouble keeping this thing on. Could you help me with it?" Sarah shot him a flirtatious wink. Thor wasn’t much help. Seconds later Mrs. Adams was wearing little more than a satisfied smile.
Making love under the stars, warm breeze caressing their bodies, was the stuff of dreams. They never quite seemed to finish. Whenever one would stop to catch a breath, the other would rise to the occasion. By the time they were ready for their swim, they had no idea what time it was.
Lounging in his arms, Sarah asked, "Is this going to happen every time I suggest you might be bored with me?"
"Yes," he said, kissing her hair.
"In that case, remind me to complain more often."
As the lateness of today passed into the first moments of tomorrow, everything seemed to glow. A full moon washed the Agape in its majestic light. Then it happened. Almost magically, the sea beneath them came alive. Beneath the ripples, iridescent and glowing, the water was afire with a greenish-blue flame. Sea fire it’s called, the aurora borealis of the deep blue, the ocean’s Monet. It was as if God was happy for them, blessing their union, celebrating what he was - love.
As nature’s light show faded, taking its curtain call, the two lovers looked heavenward, staring into the vastness of space. They were leaning against the soft cushions of the yacht’s open cockpit.
Sarah went below and slipped into one of the little nothings mom had packed for such an occasion. Pawing through Thor’s things before returning topside, she discovered just how busy Leisel had been. Silk boxers, made by Hermes in France no less, were neatly folded off to the side. She found a pair that coordinated with her blue teddy and brought it up, twirling them around on her finger.
Thor took another sip of Monet Chandon. There were things, he had discovered, that the French did right.
As their side of the earth raced into the darkness of space, another of nature’s shows began to entertain the newlyweds. Shooting stars streaked across the sky in ever-increasing numbers.
"There’s one," Sarah said pointing excitedly to her left.
"Did you make a wish?" he asked.
"Didn’t have to. All of mine have already come true."
"Can we talk about something serious?"
"Sure. What?" she inquired, still surveying God’s handiwork.
"About subduing the warlords?"
"Well, not exactly. Properly supported, we’ll do fine. Our boys will prevail. Insecure bullies are the same the world over. They’ll cower and run. They always do."
"What is it, then?" she asked. Another spectacular trail of light marched across the sky.
"Remember sitting around the table in Jerusalem?"
"The morning after?" The previous day had been one to remember.
"Yes, the day we outed the Prophet of Doom."
"You started us off by saying you already knew the answer. Like it had come to you during the meeting at the Knesset."
"That’s right. I was convinced Muslims could be constrained the same way Reagan defanged Communists. He exposed them for what they really were. After reviving our economy, he outproduced them militarily. The Soviet Union imploded. Peace followed."
"But that won’t work on these boys," Sarah knew. She hadn’t been an intelligence officer for nothing - or an economist for that matter. "Exposing a warlike religious doctrine is much more difficult than exposing a warlike political doctrine."
Sarah shifted in his arms. "We have an even bigger problem economically. Reagan, in essence, bankrupted the old Soviet Union. We can’t do that with Islamic regimes. They float on oil. The Soviets had some, but not nearly what these thugs possess, especially per capita. We’re dependent on it, and they know it. Here’s the rub: economic sanctions that restrict the flow of oil will paralyze our economy, but sanctions that allow it to flow will fail. Just a pinprick."
Her words were reasoned. The advice was wise. Her appearance, however, was another matter. Thor found it hard to look at her and think at the same time.
"And sweetie, there’s one more thing. Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD. It worked with the Russians because they weren’t - mad. Muslims are. They’re crazy as bedbugs, and the closer they get to Muhammad, the nuttier they act. If they get their hands on nukes, they’ll use ’em in a New York minute, thinking paradise is their reward. Sorry, dear. You need to kill this viper before it kills us. Just calling it a snake won’t do."
Thor loved the way Sarah felt in his arms. Even the way her hair tickled his neck brought him pleasure. He was willing to talk about most anything to prolong the moment. "I think I know how to ratchet up the stakes on these bad boys - give them pause, so to speak."
"I’ll bite. How?"
"Rather than returning the bodies of suicide bombers to their families so that the lunatics can parade them around like martyrs, I’d declare them the property of the state. The next one gets scraped up with a spatula and fed to pigs. Muslims think swine are so unclean they’d be sent to the realm of flaming faggots instead of to the garden of black-eyed virgins. Take lots of pictures and let ’em know a similar fate awaits them all. Then, if they continue killing people, break out the para-porkers - swine in chutes."
Sarah giggled as Thor detailed his irreverent plan.
"Drop them on their biggest mosques. To quote Yacob, ‘When you come to a pork in the road, take it.’"
"You’re not serious, are you?" She looked at him, brows raised.
"I’ll never tell. But I will tell ’em this. If they blow up one more American building, I’ll blow up the Ka’aba. And if they nuke us, like Isaac thinks they will, Mecca will ‘roast in Hell Fire’." He squeezed her tight. "You know the next attack is going to be a missile of some sort, don’t you?"
"Psalm 91 again. Two by pestilence, one small, one large, followed by arrows by day." She eyed another shooting star. "You really believe God gave you that verse, don’t you?"
"Yeah. In fact I’m counting on him protecting us. He promised." Thor rolled over onto his side so that he could look at his bride. "By the way," he said, "how’d you vote?"
They had both voted absentee, knowing they would be otherwise involved come Election Day.
"Are you asking who I voted for, you or the other guy, Congressman what’s-his-name?" It was a pretty good question, actually. Sarah knew he didn’t want to be president. "Not telling," she giggled.
"Are you always going to be this much trouble?"
The special election was a real nail biter. As usual, negative ads had had a negative impact. Americans knew more, but that was a far cry from acting differently. The constant assault on the Admiral’s character had taken its toll. He’d been labeled a hater, a warmonger, and a racist. The nicest things the left had to say about him were that he was out of touch, an extremist, a right-wing hawk, someone ill prepared to govern.
The horrific images of tear-smeared faces wailing at the destruction of the Holy Shrine didn’t help. Muslims the world over were calling for war - a war to end all wars - a war to end all Jews. Israel was on the defensive, as was its most stalwart ally, albeit in absentia - one Admiral Thurston Adams.
But there was some good news. Tuesday’s elections had proved that provided with an intelligent choice, Americans would make the right choice. Most every candidate that had signed the Plan to Save America and the Plan to End Terror had prevailed. Their victories were of epic proportions - landslides demanding change. America and the world would soon be a freer, more productive, and safer place to live.
Thor’s agenda, just as he had hoped, had won universal acclaim. But he himself had lost - by the smallest of margins. As a result, he was condemned to enduring four years in a fishbowl, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.
But there was a bright side. At least he wouldn’t have to scrounge for a place to live, and he wouldn’t have to borrow his father-in-law’s airplane anymore.
The sight of F18 Hornets off the wing was all too common for Thor, but not for Troy. And while the fighters looked menacing, the real deterrent came from what was flying behind them - a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, with the AC-U modifications. Its 28mm gun was good, the 40mm cannon was better, but for best it was hard to beat the 105mm howitzer mounted on the belly. Known as a Spectre Gunship, it was hardly lean, but it was definitely a mean fighting machine.
The Hornets were Navy. They had accompanied the Admiral everywhere he had gone, including his honeymoon. In that he wasn’t a major party candidate, the air cover had been unofficial. The F-18s were on training missions, missions that just happened to coincide with the good Admiral’s itinerary. How fortuitous.
The big turbine-powered gunship was a bird of a different color. It was Air Force, and thus didn’t normally run cover for Admirals, and never for wannabe presidents. But this Admiral was different. He was now president-elect of the United States, a single "So help me God" away from being Commander-in-Chief. With no current president, sitting, lame, acting, or otherwise, Adams was de facto the most powerful man in the world.
Unlike some who had served before him, almost-President Adams appreciated the value of overkill. The enormous four-engine, high-wing, bulbous-nose turboprop had a wingspan two and a half times that of the Pilatus it was tailing. And when it came to guns and payload, the PC-12/45 wasn’t even in the same league as the AC-130U. It wasn’t called Hercules for nothing.
The question was, would all of this foreshadow what was to come?