The stage was set. Somewhere on this dark night illuminated only by a half moon through the fog, Derrick Fenton cowered, afraid Blix would send his dogs after him. Why had he agreed to take the flight anyway. He had tickets to the Cowboys-Redskins game and he gave the 50-yard line up for these! He had to have his head examined. He knew he was undergoing an examination of the heart and soul right now. No matter what kind of reward, he'd have no part of outright murder.
Murder was commonplace to the Legion. Body and soul. No questions asked. No answers given. Until now. The resistance had steadfastly persevered. They had thwarted the Legion within the Vatican itself, though not without much devastation. Now three of the principal players were bound and tied, front row seats to the transformation of the man into beast - the antichrist would appear, not as man, but as the dragon foretold in Revelation, forever known as the Apocalypse of St. John. The time had arrived.
Dateline: Field of Death - New Nasiriyah, Southern Iraq - Nov 6, 11:55 p.m.
Corrie was all cried out. Niki sought to console her. "I believe this is known as a room with a 360 degree view."
"Some view," Corrie whimpered dryly, her words exposing the pain racing through her whole body.
"Okay, Nik," Pat inquired somewhat dejectedly, "any ideas how we get out of here?"
"Why, my friend," Niki responded, "are you always asking me if I have the ideas? I thought Americans were the enterprising ones."
"An old wives' tale," Gallagher quipped. "Seriously, Nik, we've got to find a way to get free." Without saying anything he nodded in Corrie's direction. Niki understood. Her injuries were serious. They needed to get her medical help. But where out here? If only they could untie her, maybe Pat could put a splint on her arm to ease the pain.
"That abominable fellow Hudec took my knife," Niki said regretfully. "I didn't bring a spare."
"And I don't have the Penultimate anymore," Pat lamented. "That's all he took when they took us off the plane. God, as much as I hated that freak Hudec searching my pockets, I despise him for feeling up Corrie."
"If it makes you feel better, my love," Corrie emoted apologetically, "I didn't feel a thing. I was only thinking of you."
"Likewise, cara mia," Pat added.
"So where are we?" Niki reminded them. "We're stuck here, hours away from certain death."
"Yeah, and no weapons," Pat groaned.
Niki waxed philosophical, "Throughout this whole ideal, my friends, we all know that there will be a moment when we'll need all the resources, those divine and those that come from a human weapon."
"More or less," Pat remarked.
"Then, my friend, unless you wish to be sitting here tied to this stake in the dawn light at the mercy of those depraved beings, let us try to find something upon the ground. Surely, in all the devastation that was reeked upon this place, some piece of something sharp was left behind."
"The eternal optimist," Pat sighed, scanning the dusty tundra for something within reach.
Dateline: Blix's Palatial Mansion - Outside Nasiriyah, Southern Iraq - Nov 6, 12:10 p.m.
While they searched, Blix arrived at the palatial home he had bought six months ago. A perfect place to funnel the explosives through and set up a front as an event constructor to have the inside in setting the strips in place.
The mansion was cast in darkness except for a small light upon the front veranda. He and Ans exited the limo, and instructed the driver to return the limo to the airport. By the time the young husband was halfway there, he, too, would find that one didn't live to tell when witnessing the power of the Basilisk.
During the drive from the Field of Death to the mansion, Edwin had taken from his pocket a small cartridge and placed it beneath the seat in the rear compartment of the limo. It was, of course, another of his clever devises. A bomb. Tiny but powerful, and timed for thirty minutes once he had rotated the cap. That meant twenty-two minutes after leaving this palatial estate the limo would explode in flames, the driver unrecognizable, and there'd be no one to remark upon the events of this night, until the Master approved of it.
Once the limo was out of sight, Blix caught up with Ans as they entered the home that would be the Royal Seat of the Master. Tired but elated, Blix leaned against the heavy wood of the hall doors for a second, realizing the long awaited moment was almost at hand.
Now for some rest. Blix moved forward. The Basilisk awaited to reward him in but a few short hours. The Master needed him...as much as he needed it.
Soto appeared and broke his trend of thought. "Sir, we have a prisoner, but he is under control."
"What prisoner?" Blix's voice rose in consternation. "There isn't supposed to be any enemy heah in this house. You know the Master's orders."
"I assure you the matter is under control. And it will prove most amusing in the morning for the Master to have another witness from the enemy as he assumes his new role."
"Who's this person?" Edwin demanded.
"Someone who was working against us in Rome," Soto answered. "Vendhem and Macelli overpowered him ten minutes ago and I was able to help tie him up. Macelli remembered who Marinko was."
"Marinko?" Blix was taken aback. "The co-pilot?"
Soto nodded, "one and the same, sir. His name is really Makuta Ogidi. He's a doctor."
"Ogidi," Edwin breathed, trying to rotate his memory and see if it had any knowledge of this person. Only a vacuum existed. "Ah don't recognize the name. But if Macelli and Vendhem are sure, then he can join the other three in the morning. They'll witness the new kingdom, then die knowin' of their failure."
"Excellent," enjoined Ans who had Edwin's overnight bag in hand. "It is getting late, sir. We must all rest this night."
"Yeah," agreed Blix. "Gotta be strong to allow the Master to take form and rule."
"And the candidates, sir?" asked Soto.
"Right now it looks like yers truly and Macelli and Vendhem." informed Blix. "No one else Ah know of. Speakin' of those two, where are they?"
"Asleep in the two rooms on the second floor at the end of the corridor," replied Soto. "Across the hall Ogidi is tied to the bed. He'll not escape, sir. I have your room prepared if you will follow me."
They climbed the stairs, turned right and entered the first bedroom they came to. Ans put down the bags, and backed out to join his brother Soto who had remained in the hallway. Ans flipped off the switch leaving Blix to bathe in the darkness. He stretched out his gaunt frame on the mattress, feeling the weight of his years, the burden of his evil heart taking their toll upon him. He couldn't fend off sleep. It crept over him like a shroud. In seconds he was snoring, his mouth slightly agape, his breath ragged and shallow.
The rattling of the lungs of a dying man who doesn't know he's dying.
Dateline: Field of Death - New Nasiriyah, Southern Iraq - Nov 7, 1:15 p.m.
Their search in the dust and grime was painfully slow. Corrie didn't feel like she was much help because the ropes binding her arms were cutting her flesh, making movement difficult, the broken arm throbbing with agony. Yet she was the one who spotted the piece of glass, its sharp edge partially buried in the ground.
"Niki," she called. "Here, by me. Can you see it?"
He peered in the direction she indicated, but couldn't make it out clearly. Pat stretched and craned his neck to see if he could see it, but it was closer to Niki and Corrie on their side.
"Cara mia, can you work your feet free? Pat asked hopefully.
"I'll try," Corrie concurred. "If I can reach it and shove it toward you. My upper body is useless at this point."
She winced as she stretched her legs trying to loosen the binding around the ankles. Fortunately for Corrie, Fenton hadn't tied her feet as tight as Blix did her wrists. She worked the ropes and after what seemed an interminable amount of time she was able to free her feet. Now to reach the shard. She dug her foot into the soil, loosening the soot around the glass. She had to be careful not to cut herself or break it further where she couldn't reach it. One shot.
Both Andriopoulos and Gallagher sat tensely, watching and trying with their minds to direct her movements and help her get the thing safely close to Niki's hands. She stretched out her legs with all her might and was able to tip the shard upward and toward her. With her toes she carefully pinched it and drew her legs in.
Niki held his hands out, stretching his fingers as far as he could beyond the hemp binding his wrists. Cupping his hands in a bowl, he motioned to Corrie. "It is now or never."
It brought about a lot of painful contortions on Corrie's part, but just when she thought the pain would win out over her, she was able to flip the shard skyward hoping to God it would find its mark in Niki's cupped hands.
"Ouch," yelled Niki, "I am cut but I have it."
"Deo Gratias," spouted Pat gratefully.
"I will work my ropes," Fr. Andriopoulos expressed. "Hopefully I will have us all untied in no time."
"Good job, Cara mia," Pat cooed. She merely nodded, having no strength left to answer him. He wanted to help her, reach out and hold her. Soon. As soon as Niki got free.
"Hold on, Cara mia. Don't give up yet."
"Never," Corrie managed to whisper, and then fell silent as Niki continued to saw away at the hampering ropes clutching the sharp shard between his fingers. His hands were ripped with glass for the glass was chipping away at this strong, rough rope. Niki had very little left to work with until finally the shard had ground down to nothing. The ropes still bound.
All seemed lost. And then he appeared. Derrick Fenton, dust covered from crawling had circled back to help these three prisoners. Pat saw him first.
"It's the pilot. What's goin' on, I didn't hear a car. Where's Blix?"
"He left me for dead," Fenton confessed. "I never thought I'd get involved with such gangsters."
"Gangsters?!," Pat shrieked, "Demons. Monsters. That's what they are, especially Blix."
"I know that now," Fenton agreed as he untied Pat's hands, then moved to free Niki. Pat stretched and removed his heavy jacket, placing it carefully around Corrie's shoulders as he unfastened her wrists. She was shivering and there was no shelter they could find for her.
Pat braced her in his arms as Niki and Fenton made a makeshift splint and, with the rope, tied it around her arm. She finally gave in to the pain becoming numb through sleep.
"We're lucky we were able to get that poor splint on it," Pat assuaged.
"I can't be certain, but it doesn't look too good," warned Fenton.
"He is right, Patrick," Niki chimed in. "It may not mend correctly if we don't get her to a hospital as soon as possible. She could also have internal injuries. She was coughing up blood.
"Well," Pat heaved a sigh, "seein' as how we don't have any way to get outta here other than foot," I'd say we stay and fight."
"Agreed, Patrick," confirmed Niki. "Our place is here to stop the Antichrist. Nothing else matters."
"You guys are spooking me out," Fenton complained. "I gotta get out of here."
"We will be eternally grateful for untying us," Niki was cordial. "If you must go, I suggest toward the southeast. There is a checkpoint about 500 yards on the other side of that ridge. Hopefully you can contact authorities in time if the phone lines are still working."
Fenton nodded and was off.
"Ya think he'll bring the posse?" Pat wondered. "Time to dig in. Kinda like Custer and the Alamo all rolled into one."
"Ah," remarked Niki, "but they were only fending off mortals."
"Dammit, Nikolas Andriopoulos, you sure know how to cheer a guy up."
They huddled closer, trying to gather warmth from their own bodies pressed together as they waited for the sky over them to lighten, and the first rays of the coming dawn to signal the moment they had traveled far and wide to come. It all came down to this.
"When Blix, Vendhem, Macelli and the rest of the entourage arrive," Niki reminded Pat, "we must appear to still be tied up. That will at least give us the element of surprise."
Pat nodded his agreement as his thoughts wafted back to what Sister Bridie had told him: 'Remember, the antichrist cannot be standin' the presence of God. 'Tis your only real weapon. Never be forgettin' it.'
But how much, Pat reflected, were they representatives of God? Sure they struggled for perfection and fell far short. Sure they worked hard to prevent the rise of the antichrist, but they had to kill in the process, and their own human anger and rage had filled them with destructive hate. How effective were they going to be, Pat questioned in his mind, and decided there was nothing to do but find out when the moment came. He was no Marine, but he realized the importance of Semper Fidelis.
Dateline: Palatial Mansion on the outskirts of Nasiriyah, Southern Iraq - Nov 7, 5:10 a.m.
Soto knocked first on Blix's door, then headed down the hallway where he prepared to waken Vendhem. But the German Cardinal met him at the door. He was already up and dressed. All in black. He had changed from the simple black suit from the plane to a flowing black and scarlet robe with a collar of exquisite diamond which caught in the lamp light and reflected in rainbow prisms off the walls. Soto
stopped short when he saw how imposingly magnificent Vendhem appeared.
Before he could say a word, Macelli had emerged from his room, sporting a similar floor length cope over a like black suit. The roly-poly Italian seemed to be lost in the long black robe and scarlet lining that covered his ample girth. He did not favor the diamond pendant, choosing instead a 24 kt gold chain with the symbol of the Basilisk.
They started down the hall to the dining room below where Ans had prepared an early breakfast. Blix met them at the head of the stairs. He too was wearing the vestment of the Legion, except his cope was trimmed in gold with a jeweled collar that rose up behind his neck, looking very much like the Emperor Ming from the Flash Gordon serials of the fifties.
"The Master'll be pleased," Blix offered, looking at the two prelates vested and ready. He wondered how his own physique measured up. He knew he was older than the German and Italian, and compared to their vitality, he was indeed growing older. Doubts of uselessness crept into his psyche and Corrie's taunting during their journey here had haunted him more than he let on. What need would the Master have of a useless servant, even a loyal one?
This was one problem Blix had never anticipated, and had no way of knowing what the Master would do or who he would choose as the host body. Blix dared not ask for fear of reprisal. Even the ruthless feared someone. At that moment Blix wanted to shout and cry out, he should be the host for the Master could change him from an old man into young and muscular, more powerful than ever; from useless to purposeful at a whim. Why not him?
They traversed the stairs to the dining table. Ogidi was already at the table, hands bound behind the chair with Ans feeding him some scrambled eggs ala a mother to a child. Ogidi looked perfectly rested and slightly inquisitive as he swallowed the last morsel and then begged off. He'd rather probe their brains.
"The Master's choice?" Makuta inquired, casting a look up and down at the three vested ones.
"Why not?" blurted Vendhem. "It is suitable for a king and the Master will soon be king of the universe, prince of the world."
"So you keep saying," Makuta badgered. "I can only emphasize, that I'd welcome the sight of your 'Master.' You are so sure of him. And yet you have never seen him?"
"None of us have," Blix intervened. "That don't mean we don't understand his needs or what he'll do for us."
"So, the dawn of this day will be the dawn of a new kingdom, and you will reign as the Antichrist?"
Ogidi was baiting them, playing on their pride and vanity.
"We'll rule with him, as promised," Blix was quick to answer, his voice cracking with fatigue. Ogidi noted the physical symptom. Less power to the disciples. The Basilisk must reserve all now for himself.
"Then let us go by all means," Makuta sounded eager, almost jaunty. "I personally cannot wait to get a look at this 'Master.' It had better be good, gentlemen, after what I have been through these past weeks."
"You have been through?" Macelli was indignant. "Had you and your reckless cohorts not interfered, there would be no need for these measures. Vendhem would be Pope and I would have the power."
"You cain't always go by the book," Blix cut in, a bitterness to his tone.
Vendhem sought to break the tension. "You," he pointed to Ogidi, "will see hell in its pure form, Doctor or whoever you are. It will be the last sight you will ever see upon this earth."
"And when ya've seen it, y'all die from the sight of it," added Blix, trying to buoy himself up without letting on. "I think we better be gittin'."
"By order of the Master, no doubt," Ogidi replied evenly. "We shall see," he said smoothly, and began to stroll past Vendhem and Macelli, but Ans stuck a pistol into his back and Makuta stopped.
"My mistake." He was polite. "You first," he gestured with his head since his hands were still tied behind his back.
Ans held the door as Vendhem and Macelli whirled about and strode from the house followed by Blix into the pre-dawn darkness that clung to the land as if it too mourned, like a widow, for what was about to die. Soto had backed the car into the driveway from the garage, and into this Vendhem moved, sitting proudly in the front with Soto, while Blix and Macelli sandwiched Ogidi between them. He wasn't going anywhere.
There was no one about to see their departure. Even the birds of early morn were still, as if they feared that which crept about on feet which might devour the sunlight they needed for their songs. The serpent was near.
The outline of the hills far to the east was beginning to cast a strong silhouette as the line of sky just above it grew lighter, a pale gray now.
It was time!
Next: Part VI - The Unveiling SIXTEENTH CHAPTER - Final Episode Episode Eight
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