Somewhere in the An Najaf area of southern Iraq:
had been in a state of rest now for millennia. Suddenly there were
infidels invading its temple. This could not be tolerated. There
were several blinding blue flashes. It dispatched all of the invaders
quickly and violently.
First Class Jordan M. Franklin was struggling to crawl on his one
good arm and impossibly twisted leg. He had to get away from the
terror and mayhem. The fact that he was still conscious was amazing.
His right arm had been severed from his body along with his left
leg. He was losing a lot of blood and wouldn't last long. Some people
would have gone into shock quickly; somehow Jordan was able to hang
on for a few minutes. But his death was a given fact. He was able
to make out his M4 combat weapon off to the right in the sand. It
had been melted out of shape by whatever bizarre force had flung
it out of the temple. Beyond that he could make out the severed
head of Private Desabato lying in the sand. His helmet was still
on and his lifeless eyes were staring blankly into the harsh, noontime
sky. There were still some low moans and guttural sounds behind
him; all the men in the twenty-man squad must be dead or dying.
blacked out for a moment, but came to lying on a piece of exposed
rock that wasn't sand covered. His entire body was descending into
numbness. A half minute was about all he had left before darkness
closed in. A warning had to be left for others that may come this
way. And his fellow Marines would surely come looking for him and
the rest of Recon One soon. Jordan used the blood that was flowing
out of his severed right arm and coated his finger with it. He began
to write a message on the exposed rock, clumsily scrawling out 'DO
NOT GO IN'. That was all he could manage. The blackness was closing
in on his vision and his ears were filled with a loud buzzing. It
was over. His head fell to the ground and death overtook him like
a cheetah its prey.
Al Hillah Marine outpost designation Border Watch Three:
James Brady was sitting at his desk waiting for his breakfast. It
was eight in the morning and he was going through briefs on the
day's upcoming activities. Included were a disciplinary hearing
on a fight between two of his Marines the night before, and some
combat drill training to keep the men's edge up. There was also
a memo from the deployed forces coordinator that Recon One had failed
to check in at their designated time. Odd; could be communications
problems. He would have Hanson check on it.
loved the corps, and liked to keep those under him on a fighting
edge, ready for anything. He demanded respect from his men and they
gladly gave it to him. His mix of toughness along with being fair
and understanding was well known in the corps.
were times he didn't agree with certain assignments or deployments,
such as commanding this small Marine outpost in south-central Iraq.
It felt too far from the real action.
base was just outside the small town of Al Hillah in south-central
Iraq. Brady and his men were here to patrol the surrounding area
in case any unwanted traffic, weapons or insurgents might make their
way north from the Iranian border. At least the locals in this area
of Iraq seemed friendly, although he wasn't sure what the populace
thought of his outpost and men. His assistant Hanson was given orders
to have Intell recon get him a better picture on that. The people
in this area of Iraq were more respectful and trouble was at a minimum,
unlike Baghdad and Al Fallujah to the north.
totally believed in his nation's fight against terrorism; on that
point he had to agree with his present assignment. He had often
thought that it was a good thing he wasn't the President on that
terrible day of 9/11. He knew he would have handled things in a
much different way. And he had great admiration for the President's
staff and the President himself for staying calm at a moment when
emotions were running high. Brady couldn't claim the same for himself.
There were several times he had talked with his peers about his
viewpoints and expressed the fact that America should have used
the 'Big Stick' policy, although somewhat modified. Some had agreed
with his viewpoint; some hadn't. His take on the methods of that
principle would have been for America to put its intelligence communities
to the task (and that they had better work together on it) of making
absolutely sure where Bin Laden was hiding out. Once that was accomplished,
the country (let's say Afghanistan) where good old Bin L. was resting
his ass would have been given the designation of being terrorists
themselves. America would then missile over a nuke to an uninhabited
part of that country (probably a desert or mountainous region) to
get their full attention. A warning to that country would then be
issued that if Big Bin wasn't surrendered over to the US in two
weeks, the next nuke would be painful; your choice.
was actually a good thing for the world that Pax Romana (The Roman
Peace) wasn't still in effect from antiquity. America would absolutely
rule the world with a nuclear fist. The 'Big Stick' strategy wouldn't
even apply in that scenario. It would be America's will and dominance
or harsh retribution to any nation that didn't accept it. But that
scenario belonged to a different timeline. Brady was daydreaming
and disappointed that he didn't live in it. He had been called a
war hawk before and took pride in the nickname. In this reality,
the US was altogether too nice and amiable, even to those who wished
assistant, Second Lieutenant Robert J. Hanson, had just brought
his breakfast in and sat it on his desk, being careful not to cover
anything the colonel was working on. Hanson was the best assistant
he had picked for quite awhile. Smart man; followed orders and respected
authority. He was also a useful source of information. Brady could
always count on him to follow up on the details of any briefs or
memos, the overall mood of the outpost and the local populace, any
current scuttlebutt, etc. The colonel would make sure that Hanson
got the breaks he deserved when it came time for promotion.
Hanson. I've been up since 5 AM and I am absolutely starving. Have
you already eaten?'
sir, about an hour ago." He knew where this was leading. The
colonel usually asked the question as a precursor to a quick meeting
to go over the day's activities.
Hanson always found the
man reasonable; all he wanted was essential info gathered concerning
pertinent happenings about the outpost, men and the local populace.
Not a hard job to do considering that he had the colonel's cart
blanche to ask questions of anyone. He had also earned respect among
the men as a right-hand man who was trying to make the base commander's
job easier. And the men knew that, if asked, Hanson would put in
a good word to the higher-ups about any topic that wasn't too outrageous.
wasn't stupid about the workings of moving up in the ranks. He knew
if he kept the colonel happy, it would only help his overall career
in the corps. It was good luck on his part that he was picked to
be his assistant. Being from a poor farm family in Kansas, he was
bound and determined to take advantage of any opportunity to advance
go ahead and have a seat. We'll talk about today's agenda while
sir," he replied, taking a seat at the table.
shoved a piece of toast covered with egg and bacon into his mouth
and still continued to speak. Bad habit. But Hanson wasn't about
to point it out to him. In the military, that would be worse manners
than the bad habit. Plus it might have negative repercussions.
one item I want to know about, since I've heard little bits and
pieces from different sources. Have you been hearing any rumors
about odd behavior from the locals? What I mean is, have you heard
of anything out of the ordinary, peculiar, funky, etc.? And drop
the 'sir'; 'Colonel' will do."
Colonel. There have been reports from the men on patrol here at
Al Hillah that the locals have seemed quieter and more somber. The
men reported they would barely make eye contact with our soldiers
while on patrol, and if they did, they would quickly look away with
what seemed to be pity in their expressions."
have pity on us?"
to say. But what's even more fantastic is that I've also heard reports
from my contacts in Baghdad and Al Fallujah that the same conditions
are being reported there, along with even more rumors of a total
absence of any insurrection activity. It's amazingly quiet. No roadside
bombs, suicide vehicles, or any other attacks on our troops have
been reported at all in the last few days."
like that, huh? With no explanation. Seems like someone threw a
switch somewhere. Okay, all that unexplainable bullcrap aside, the
other briefs I received this morning are important. But the more
disturbing report is the one about Recon One not checking in yet.
They were sent out to check an isolated structure spotted by our
satellites a few days ago in the An Najaf area. Hard to tell what
could be hidden down there, especially given the isolation of the
understandable, Colonel. What would you like me to do?"
first off, the satellite image of that area is only able to make
out the structure and our helicopters due to a small sandstorm in
the area. So I'm thinking comm problems or trouble, maybe both.
They were sending regular check-ins until shortly after they landed,
sir, I mean Colonel."
I'd like you to do is set up an exploratory mission, code name Recon
Two, to copter down southwest and investigate. I want the team to
be assembled from the MARSOC unit, thirty troops plus the pilot
and copilot. Also make sure that max armament for both the helicopters
and the troops is provided. We're not sure what happened down there.
And as the Boy Scouts say, 'Always Be Prepared'. You have my authorization
to conduct the mission briefing and to make sure they get airborne
ASAP. I'd like to have this resolved before sundown since it's only
9 AM now. And have them check-in with Intel on the hour, airborne
or ground. Clear enough, Hanson?"
I will get on it immediately. Anything else, Colonel?"
have the cook send in another breakfast. I was talking so much this
one went cold.
Something else, I want you to be in charge of Recon Two. You need
to get out there and get more field experience instead of waiting
on me all the time."
pleasure, Colonel." Hanson stood and gave a snappy Marine salute,
which Brady returned.
proceeded directly to Ops to make all the mission arrangements.
He had to contact the MARSOC commander about the thirty troops he
needed, get in touch with flight Ops to have the birds they would
need fueled and weapons loaded, and a NAV/flight plan in order.
had been through basic and officer training, plus had a short tour
in the more troubled parts of Iraq. Fear of the upcoming mission
wasn't a real problem. There were some possibilities that the Colonel
may have overlooked. If there were any Marines left alive from Recon
One, they would have found a way to communicate back to the base.
There was comm gear on each copter, plus at least one Marine would
be carrying satellite uplink comm gear for ground communications
or for reporting back to base. Either all the equipment had been
destroyed, or all the Marines were incapable of using the equipment.
This left open the possibility that they had all been captured or
killed. There had been twenty combat-hardened troops on that mission,
and they were as familiar with their weapons and tactics as wiping
their own ass, so either possibility seemed a little far-fetched.
went to the mess and grabbed an early lunch. About an hour later
he had reports back from the various units that the birds were ready
and armed. The troops had been briefed in part by Second Lieutenant
Navis, one of his chopper pilots. He could hear the talking and
joking in the briefing room before he entered.
someone exclaimed as Hanson entered the room. The men all snapped
to their feet. He outranked them all, along with being mission lead.
ease, men. I'm going to finish your briefing and we need to get
airborne ASAP. The Colonel wants this mission completed today."
filled the troops in on some more details.
word is green for go, so everyone gear up and get out to the choppers."
men quickly obeyed orders and assembled out at the airfield waiting
to board; the choppers were idling flat-blade fast and loud as hell.
Once everyone was on board, the pilots of the five Huey choppers
applied more power and angled the rotors down, biting hard into
the air and lifting the birds quickly while leaving a large wake
of swirling sand.
mission course was southwest towards the location of Recon One.
Hanson was in the lead
chopper wearing his headset and mic. Navis was one of the best pilots
at the base; Hanson was glad he had chosen to fly with him.
was keeping the group on the correct heading, flying at an altitude
of about two hundred feet while watching the horizon and landscape
below. This was some of the more inhospitable areas of Iraq. All
he could see were rolling sand dunes with an occasional outcropping
the pilot came over the headset, "Intel requests to speak to
you personally, sir."
that, Navis. Put them through."
Hanson here, proceed."
were told to inform you ASAP if any conditions of the mission changed,
sir," the Intel radio operator began, "and there has been
some new satellite data that's directly related."
that. What's changed?"
sandstorm has cleared up and the view on Recon One is crystal now.
We can clearly see all four birds on the ground along with numerous
bodies around the structure dressed in desert camos. What's more
disturbing, sir, is that many of the bodies seemed to have been
Hanson thought. The satellites could pick the up the brand of a
golf ball if the atmospheric conditions were right. What the
hell are we getting into?
Brady has seen the same report, Lieutenant, and has instructed you
and your Marines to proceed with extreme caution."
that, Intel, and copy the Colonel, we will continue with the hour
God, Hanson thought. What could decimate a squad of twenty Marines
so easily? A bomb? Intel hadn't mentioned any signs of explosions.
Navis, what's our ETA?"
fifteen minutes, Lieutenant. Any changes in course or speed?"
on that, Navis. Stick to the mission parameter."
switched to allcomm so that the troops in the other Hueys could
is Lieutenant Hanson. Ready-up on all your weapons and prepare to
disembark once the choppers touch down. I will give further instructions
then. Side-gunners in all choppers have the twenty-mil Gatling guns
could already see something on the horizon; at this distance it
must be at least one-hundred meters high.
birds, I want to make at least a two-circle pass to assess the situation."
received an all roger on that reqluest.
structure was in sight now. It looked like a mosque of some sort,
but with flavor of a much older architecture.
commed through to Intel back at Border Watch Three base.
this Recon Two checking in. We are about to ingress into Recon One's
area and check the situation."
that, Lieutenant. I will put the message through to Colonel Brady.
choppers were beginning to make their circle. Hanson could see the
four helos from Recon One sitting off to one side, undamaged. They
flew around the front and saw the horrendous mess of bodies and
body parts littering the sand all around and out from the structure
opening along with the Marines' weapons flung in every direction.
The other men had to be getting the same view.
What the hell happened down there?" an agitated Navis asked.
keep flying the recon circle, Navis; we'll find out soon enough,"
Hanson answered with a hard edge of determination and anger to his
up," Hanson put out to all the birds, "Come to a hover
behind the temple while I think strategy for a minute."
came back from all birds. Hanson thought back to his training for
again put out to all the choppers: "Marines, this is what I
want to happen. Jackson and Rogers, set your two birds down towards
the temple entrance with Gatling and chain guns manned and armed
facing the entrance. The other three birds set down behind the temple
and we will proceed from there. Every man will have his mic and
earpiece on for communication. I will address further in person
once we land. Pilots, stay in the choppers with rotors on flat idle
just in case."
loved working with these Marines. They were the best of the best,
special ops training and everything that went along with it. They
ate 'Semper Fi' for breakfast. They would die trying to carry out
the orders given them.
five birds settled to the ground as ordered, sand swirling all around
as they touched down. The men had been in desert combat before,
and instinctively knew to wear their desert gear plus goggles so
that they could egress the choppers without waiting for the clouds
of sand to settle.
quickly grouped up at the rear of the temple, at least that's what
Hanson believed it to be.
one had said anything yet, and being combat-hardened troops, they
most likely wouldn't. It was an eerie sight to see dead brothers
in arms in front of the temple from the choppers on their approach
in. That along with the smell of rotting flesh at ground level in
the hot noonday sun was enough to make the average person toss a
kneeled in front of the group of Marines and drew in the sand a
representation of the temple, their positions, etc. with a stick
he found nearby.
up. Three Hueys are on the ground behind the temple on standby takeoff
if needed. The other two are facing the temple entrance with a shitload
of firepower. Johnson, Brands, Oakes and GoldmayerI want you
four in back at the corners on watch for anything that might come
across the desert, each soldier armed with a LARS rocket launcher
and your M4 assault weapon. The rest of us are going to round the
temple sides and form up two groups on either side of the hueys.
I know it's a hell of a mess out front. Something inside or outside
did that to our men. Concentrate on what killed our brothers and
let it keep you cold and frosty, understand? Whoever did this will
pay; I can assure you that. Okay, form up two groups and let's round
the temple to the entrance. Go!"
men broke up and double-timed around the structure so they were
facing the entrance in two groups. It was a large opening leading
in with no door or closure. It seemed eerily dark inside. They tried
not to look at their fallen comrades, but like gravity, the eyes
were pulled to the travesty of death that lay on the sand.
Hanson," Sgt. Handel shouted, "I got a Marine here who
made it a little further from the temple than most. Looks like he
left a message."
not go in'written in his own damn blood. Could there be a
to say, Lieutenant. I don't know what kind of a trap could do this
to so many men. There's not even any sign of an explosion, which
would account for all the body parts and destroyed weapons."
point. I'd say we proceed with caution."
soldiers responded quickly. "Yes, sir."
Marines feeling brave?"
yes, sir!" they shouted with enthusiasm.
I want you both to turn on your helmet mini-cams and lights, go
to the entrance and each take a side. Work your way around the inside
and reconnoiter. I'll be listening on headset and watching your
progress on video from here. Give me a good look around with your
sir." They proceeded towards the entrance.
of them picked a side of the entrance and hung there for a few seconds,
and then both turned their heads slowly to get a look inside. It
was dark; the TAC lights on their helmets and M4s bit through the
darkness. The room inside was quite large and looked like the inside
of a mosque. They proceeded to edge along the walls, noting that
they were totally covered with Arabic-looking symbols and inscriptions.
The interior had a smell that was a combination of old cave and
your attic stuffed with musty crap.
Marines had just about walked the distance around the circular room
and were close to meeting each other. They stopped short when they
came upon a shrine-like alcove in the wall that was in a direct
line with the door. Looking at each other and nodding, they both
trained their lights on the inside of the alcove. The brilliant
reflection almost blinded them. The ledge inside the alcove was
at chest level and resting there upon on a purple, velvet-looking
rug was a brilliant, silver sword. It was curved sword and of a
scimitar type. Everything around was dusty and musty, but the velvet
rug and sword looked pristine, no dust or corrosion whatsoever.
Hanson, you catching all this?" Private Allen asked.
bit, Allen. What do you make of it?'
be silver, but it would be corroded if it had been here for a while.
Stainless steel is another possibility. Hell, someone could have
brought it in yesterday and sat it in the alcove. But I've never
seen anything so reflective and brilliant. Whoever made this was
a damn fine craftsman."
ahead and pick it up. Bring it out here for examination."
set down his M4 against the wall. He slowly reached into the alcove
and picked up the sword. It felt as light a feather. It couldn't
be made ofthere was suddenly a brilliant blue flash. The sword
dropped to floor. Even though momentarily blinded by the flash,
Goldberg was barely able to make out the form of Allen's body being
flung up into the air and hitting the opposite wall hard. Goldberg
heard an awful splat when Allen hit the wall, his body then falling
on the sandy floor. Goldberg's sight was returning as he was backing
away from the sword. He ran over to Allen's body, remembering to
hang on to his M4.
Goldbergwhat the hell just happened? We saw a blue flash and
Allen's cam went dead!"
dead, sir. He was flung up against the far wall by somethinghit
so hard the back of his helmet and head are caved in."
the hell out here, now!"
wasn't listening. He was mesmerized by the sight of the sword lifting
up and starting to glow an eerie blue. But then his training took
over and he began to fire his M4 at it to no effect. Dropping his
weapon, he had time to let out a shrill scream as the sword rushed
in his direction, slicing him into several pieces.
they heard the weapon firing and then the snuffed out scream.
God," Hanson said, "what's happening in there? Both cams
are dead now. Damn it! Marines, get in there and fire at will!"
all howled to run in but never had a chance. The sword had appeared
at the opening, spewing out what looked like flat, blue lightning
that was slicing back and forth. It had cut down the all the Marines
at the opening into several pieces before they could make a move.
screamed into his mic, "Everyoneopen fire!"
two Hueys responded with a deafening roar of twenty-millimeter rounds
from chain and Gatling guns as the side-mounted rocket launchers
joined in. Likewise the four Marines in back of the temple had rushed
around at the order and started firing their LARS rockets and M4s.
The maelstrom had no effect on the sword or the temple. Blue sheets
of lightning whipped out to cut the choppers into several pieces
causing them to explode in flames. Any remaining Marines plus the
four who had rushed from behind the temple were all mown down. Everyone
except for Hanson, who had dropped all of his equipment and was
just staring in disbelief at the massacre before him.
pilots in the choppers waiting in back disobeyed orders to hang
back after they heard Hanson scream over the comm system. They powered
up and were lifting above the temple to fly around front when they
suffered the same fate as their fellow Marines and tumbled burning
to the ground. The choppers from Recon One weren't left alone this
time. They also were sliced to burning shards.
only one left was Hanson. The sword slowly floated up to him, highlights
of blue flashing back and forth across the reflective surface. He
tried to back away, but couldn't. Something was forcing him down
to his hands and knees. He tried to resist, but to no avail. The
sword lifted up, and then swiftly sliced through Hanson's neck.
was intelligent. It knew that if the temple had been invaded twice
that more would come. It must venture forth from its resting place
to seek out all infidels and destroy them.
true Jihad had begun.