WHITE SMOKE, BLACK FIRE! c 1986, 2001, 2005

Part II
Third Chapter
The Smoldering

Episode Three: The Universal Chess Game

From this day forward the Field of Abraham would forever be known as the Field of Death, the Day of Doom. That was the tone the media had conveyed in confirming that all were dead. No survivors! Reports were trickling in around the globe about funeral arrangements for various world leaders who had perished. There was still no official word on the pope's funeral or funeral for the Vatican entourage and accompanying cardinals who had died in the holocaust.

       One thing all realized without a doubt, there would be no open caskets for anyone. The consummate annihilation of the high-tech plastic explosives had seen to that. In fact, few there were who could be identified at all. Only ashes would be carted away in caskets that represented those who had been on or near the massive stage. Few would correlate identities with those believed to be the remains of each casket. Such were the frustrations and utter futility of the forensics experts combing the scorched scoriae.

       Less than one hundred miles south of this massive and ghastly site, the contrast of lush, verdant climes with the fetid dust of the day before was obvious. Pat relished the sleep, what little it was and a hot, steamy shower had invigorated his pores. Water had satisfied his body, now his stomach sought fulfillment. Breakfast beckoned.


Dateline: Fasif Khadid's Oasis Villa Estate, November 2, 9:05 a.m.

       "Pat, come. I want you to meet a dear and old friend of mine," Andriopoulos said expansively, gesturing graciously as if they were at an elite affair.

       The table was set for a king Pat felt, a potpourri of pastries, an epicurean delight spread from one end to the other. Crystal goblets and plates. He moved slightly to the side and the man at the head of the table stood, hand extended toward Pat. Fasif was smiling, but tightly, as if he found the exercise of facial muscles too much too soon for a total, unproven stranger. Gallagher wondered what it was he would have to prove. Yet he liked what he saw. The man's eyes were shrewd but wise. Pat felt them plumbing the depths of his character, his soul. No, not a rash man by any means; merely a cautious one.

       Andriopoulos introduced them, "This is Fasif Khadid, our host. Fasif, my new friend from America, Patrick Gallagher."
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nbsp;      Their handshake was firm and challenging, and then they separated. Finally, Fasif himself broke the moment of uneasiness, gesturing for Elias to begin the breakfast ritual. "Welcome, Mr. Gallagher," he said, "It's a pleasure to meet you. Other than old Niki here, I don't get many friendly visitors to my home. Please, have a seat."

       Gallagher took the indicated chair which gave him a clear view of his host, as well as beyond to the wide expanse of sky and a fountain outside that cascaded six feet into the air and then gently plummeted to the lush, verdant manicured lawn that absorbed the liquid sunshine with warmth and gratitude.

       "Ah, you enjoy the view," Fasif noticed, gesturing toward the open patio door. "It is one I cherish. A last refuge, so to speak, against the troubles of the day."

       "Yeah, ah, it's beautiful. Man it's unbelievable after where we came from."

       "Niki was telling me, " Fasif intoned. "I daresay I can appreciate both the squalor you were exposed to and your long flight. You are more than welcome to my home throughout your stay here."

       "Wow. Thanks. Boy this is good food." Pat was animated in his praise of Elias' cuisine as he wolfed down the Eggs Florentine and the ham patties.

       "I am certain you are famished, my son." Fasif lifted another cover revealing some tempting stuffed mushrooms. "I also assure you Elias is one of the best cooks in the world. There's more."

       "Ya don't have to convince me. I can see and taste that." Pat was still speaking with food in his mouth as Fasif glanced toward Niki who was chuckling at the manner Pat was consuming so much so fast. For the next several minutes the three men concentrated on the matter at hand - food. Elias served with practiced grace, and, once satisfied that everyone was happy with the repast, he departed through a swinging door which led to the kitchen.

       "Niki has told you nothing of me." Fasif didn't question. He knew.

       "Naw. He's been tightlipped. But I figure you must be in the oil business."

       "Ah, because I have wealth and am near the gulf." Fasif was toying with Pat's psyche.

       "Well, yeah, I mean-" Pat had been put in the defensive mode.

       "Is this the keen eye of an objective reporter, Mr. Gallagher, or your assumptions?" Fasif had him reeling.

       "Uhmm, well I guess I..." Pat mumbled.

       "Ah, you guess, my American friend? Is that astute? Is that the way you reach conclusions?" Fasif was grilling him now and even Niki was concerned that the combination of lack of sleep and his host's inquisitive manner might push Pat away. Yet Fasif continued this trend. "Even though this area has not been a desirable place for some time, it is my home now. These are my people now. And I have a job which allows me to help them in more ways than you or they can imagine."

       Pat tried to be patronizing. "Really? Very gratifying. I'm sure."

       "You're possibly thinking that whatever this 'job' might be, it has kept me safe from the destruction of civil war and repeated terrorist attacks. Perhaps you wonder, Mr. Gallagher, if I am 'on the take,' as you Americans might express it?"

       "It had crossed my mind," Gallagher tried to gain the upper hand. "After all, it's highly unusual to find anyone living so luxuriously in a country that's barely surviving."

       "So you believe me to be corrupt, young man?" Fasif was cornering him.

       "I - I didn't say that, sir. You're putting words in my mouth now," Pat reeled from the accusation.

       "Certain interests in the quest for good have protected my investments," Fasif continued. "However that, my friend, is only a testimony to wise money-planning. Nothing else. That the home still remains untouched and I am allowed to continue on here with Elias, virtually hidden until recently, is a testimony to God's protection and my commitment to be as guileless as a dove, as shrewd as a serpent."

       "I can understand that," Pat concurred.

       "I have learned over the long years how to play the 'game' of politics. It has served me and the cause well until now." Fasif was referring to the recent surge in the Legion's activities.

       "Obviously," Pat agreed looking around at the rich furnishings. "Just what do you do, Mr. Khadid, that allows you to 'play' this 'game'?"

       "I am a doctor, Mr. Gallagher. More precisely, I am the Chief Medical Examiner for my country, and, as such, have more than a passing acquaintance with the various powers that at times pull this region apart. Naturally, in my position, there are times when it has been expedient for me to judge the wisdom of my findings and to report to the public, and the government, what is allowable. Because I have done my work well and thoroughly, because I have cooperated when necessary, I have established a certain air of trust and 'indispensability' about myself. The government cannot afford to replace me with someone who does not or will not play the 'game.'"

       "Medical Examiner?" Pat's mind was racing. "Then you've been to the Field of Death?"

       "But of course." Fasif responded. It was terse, a momentary frown wrinkling the olive skin between the magnificent eyebrows. But he managed another of his tight smiles and gave a knowing look across to Niki who was just about to take a sip from his cup. "Within hours after it occurred I was there. I arrived home only a short time ago. And after a brief rest, I will return to oversee the clean-up operations, because my government expects me to be present during the ordeal."

       "So you had access to the main stage area?" Pat questioned.

       Before Fasif could answer Niki, his usual exuberance slightly curtailed in Fasif's presence, interrupted. "Gallagher, eat. You're neglecting the rest of this wonderful bounty."

       "He's right, you know?" Khadid said. "While you are in my country you can never be sure where your next meal will come from, and of what quality it will be. As I said, I am blessed to have access to the produce and bounty of the land that still exists. And I use it, Mr. Gallagher, not to deprive my fellow man of food, but to give me the necessary strength to continue the job at hand and ultimately help my fellow man.

       Pat didn't know whether to applaud or throw down his utensils and stalk from the room. He wasn't much in the mood to hear a man justify his own safety when a million or so had just died.

       "You look puzzled, my friend," Fasif was still testing him. "Do not be too hasty to judge the heart. Appearances are often deceiving. No?"

       "You sound like Andriopoulos now?" Pat quizzically responded.

       Niki chimed in, "Yes. We are kindred spirits. Survivors, if you will, of a time that has seen too many weaker men die."

       "Sorry, I don't see it as a laughing matter," Pat reprimanded Niki.

       Fasif's tone turned serious. "Neither do we. We are not ghouls, nor the hardened hypocrites you might believe us to be."

       "Hey, now wait a minute. I never said -" Pat shot back.

       "You didn't have to, Mr. Gallagher, it is written on your face as clearly as lines in a book. But you have a right to judge from what you see, for you do not as yet know the full truth," Fasif asserted.

       "Do you?" Pat parlayed.

       "Does anyone?" countered Niki slightly anxious. He wanted Pat to listen and learn. To do that one must be recollected.

       "No, I suppose not." Gallagher was trying to be as truthful as possible. "But it'd be damn nice if I could get an inkling of it."

       "Then please listen, my friend of Andriopoulos. Before you can judge, you must be dedicated, committed to the cause."

       "The cause of what?" Pat looked puzzled.

       "The forces of good, my friend," assured Fasif as he pushed the unfinished expresso aside and taking a heavy cigar from his pocket, cut off the tip.

       "I'm listening," said Pat impatiently.

       "Good," Fasif responded offering him the peace pipe of another cigar he had extracted. Pat declined as Fasif continued. "You'll pardon the obnoxious odor of my indulgence of these cigars. It's the one passion and vice I allow myself. Sometimes I do believe it keeps me sane."

       "I can relate to that. Okay by me. After all, it's your house. Mind if I light up, too?"

       Fasif nodded and reached toward his pocket to offer Pat the before rejected cigar, but the Texan pulled out his pack of Pall Malls and Fasif offered his lighter instead. Pat took a deep draw and exhaled. "Oh, God, that tastes good. Go on. I'm all ears. It's the very least I can do to repay your hospitality."

       "Good. I would suggest we allow Elias the opportunity to clear the table and we will retire to the living room where we can relax and fill you in more on 'the cause'," Fasif said as Elias, almost by mental telepathy appeared in the doorway anticipating their leave.

       What Pat would learn this morning would send shivers up and down any respectable citizen's spine. It surely would Pat's for little did he know he would be thrust even further into the lair of the Legion's nest in his quest for the truth at all costs.

       The morning sun was now well into its climb high above the Kuwait and Iraq desert. If one were to zoom in on a satellite camera one could detect a speck of green in the vast brown terrain of this region. On closer inspection one could see that this was an oasis - one with a villa upon it between two hills that made it almost undetectable except from the air. This had been one reason Fasif Khadid had chosen this site to build his estate where he was protected and could maneuver between Iraq and the Gulf.

       It was also watched by the Legion of the Basilisk. They were well aware Fasif was tracking them. The devil gets around. But what was being discussed this day inside the walls of the Khadid estate was still unknown even to satan himself. The angels had protected this abode and its inhabitants from the ravages of hell. Fasif knew intuitively it would not be much longer that this would remain a refuge. He knew time was running out as the beast closed in on his secretive operatives which were intent on thwarting the goals of the evil one.

       Fasif also knew that time was running out and he needed this brash reporter from Texas to understand the scope of the danger. He needed Pat to understand he was needed in the desperate attempt to beat the Legion to the draw for, though no one realized - even Pat Gallagher this morning - how vital it was that he knew all and understood. The question was would this skeptic reporter believe the tale Fasif was about to divulge? Khadid had no choice. He had to reveal as much as possible to recruit this unlikely ally. Civilization of the known world depended on it.

       Pat had settled comfortably into a plush leather chair, wondering where this conversation was leading. He glanced around the room where several classic paintings adorned the walls including one of the Apostle Thomas putting his hands in the wounds of the Risen Christ. It sent a reminder to Pat, and a shot of remorse for being so skeptical - much like the disciple who doubted. Deep within his subconscious he recalled the biblical words attributed to this scene, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe." Would he? Could he?

       Niki had taken his place to the left of Pat, Fasif to the right as the latter spoke. "What I'm about to tell you is not easy, as you'll come to appreciate, Mr. Gallagher. Nor will it be any easier for you, my dear Niki."

       Pat slid his eyes in the direction of Andriopoulos, saw the intensity of the man's own stare and felt his heart sink. The normal philosophically good cheer the Greek wore as a suit of armor was nowhere to be found. From his countenance he seemed as apprehensive as Pat. And Fasif hadn't yet begun.

       Fasif sensed this tension. "Before we begin, do you mind if I call you Patrick?"

       "Actually, why not just Pat. That's what all my friends call me."

       "Very well," Fasif concurred, "Pat it is. And I encourage you to address me as Fasif. Agreed?"

       "Fair enough," Pat said, as he reached for another Pall Mall and moved a large glass ashtray on the olive wood end table closer to him. His fidgeting seemed to annoy Niki.

       "Now that we're all on friendly terms, Pat, would you be so kind as to listen to Fasif?"

       "Deal." Pat nodded.

       Fasif took the cue. "You and I, my friends, have become enmeshed in a game of an entirely different sort, a game that has nothing to do with politics per se."

       "What sort of game?" asked Pat. His impatience seemingly building like Krakatoa. He wanted the bottom line. Only then would he decide if what this medical examiner had to say was worth sticking around to hear. After all, he had an assignment to do at the Field of Death. Vic was counting on him.

       "Impatience will not aid you," Khadid intoned solemnly. He closed his eyes partially and went on, daring either man to interrupt him again. Pat considered it, but held his tongue as Fasif invited both to lean forward while he did the same, bringing their attention to an elegantly rugged chess set made of ivory on the coffee table before them.

       "We stand on the threshold of unveiling a game - a deadly game. You might wish to think of it as a variation of the game of chess. In this game, my friends, there are only two players. Two powerful kings. The board upon which the game is played is the world, and each space on that board represents a segment of mankind."

       "Pretty high stakes!" Pat couldn't help himself from interrupting.

       Fasif only nodded as he continued. "Until now there has been something of an equality in the contest, a give and take between these two powers."

       "Kind of a check and balance thing?" Pat chimed in.

       Fasif was patient. He knew this American reporter was used to reinforcing points with interruptions so he would tolerate it. "Exactly. Now, however that balance no longer exists. A move has been made, a take-over bid by the king who has heretofore only dominated the black side of the board. The other king is being pushed into retreat."

       "You're talkin' 'bout what happened at the Field of Death?" Pat quizzed though he already knew the answer.

       "Yes," Fasif continued. "In the wake of the advancing dark king mankind finds itself in an abyss of such depravity that I do not know if it is possible to extricate ourselves from this chasm of such overwhelming fear."

       "There's been terrorism around for a long time," Niki offered softly. "Surely that is not unprecedented."

       "It is not," Fasif answered. "But I'm not speaking of terrorism as we've known it, or as it has been recorded in written history. That time is passed."

       "Meaning?" Pat was urging Fasif to a point.

       "Meaning, my impatient friend, this. I speak of a terror that has not yet been glimpsed by the world. Yet, the first tangible tentacles of it are already here for us to see and study...if we but look. It is the inception of the horror of doom, the dread of being caught in the trap we have laid for ourselves over countless centuries."

       "What trap?" Pat asked.

       "Neglecting the cultivation of good," Fasif confirmed.

       Niki was quick to back up Fasif's premise, "The demise of goodness is the yeast for evil to rise."

       Fasif nodded his agreement. "Because of our tepid attitude, our ignorance and our sheer laziness, the king of evil, the Antichrist, has come forth."

       "Get serious!!!" Pat was incredulous.

       "I am, Patrick. Oh, I am. As you shall see for he has seized this time to wrest once and forever - and I emphasize forever - the world unto himself."

       "C'mon, Fasif. You've been reading too many occult books lately." Pat was now in a state of denial.

       Fasif countered. "Rather, you haven't read enough, Pat, for our eyes and ears have remained closed to the sin afoot on this earth."

       "I've got enough skeletons in my own closet to worry about others, Fasif."

       "We have dared not let our tongues speak out in an effort to thwart it, my naive Texas friend."

       "I don't get it," a perplexed Pat said.

       Fasif sought to further explain. "The consequences of our meager actions and our growing aversion have joined together to bring this cataclysmic time to fruition."

       "Now I'm really lost." Pat wasn't kidding.

       "Niki, Patrick, we have much work ahead of us. Hard work! I, for one, have no intention of letting the Antichrist win without a fight."

       Pat was reeling. "Good God, man, are you serious? That's madness, talkin' about an antichrist."

       "Which is precisely my point. You, like so many others, Pat, choose not to believe."

       "I work with facts not fantasy," Pat tried to justify his journalistic purity.

       "You feel than, Patrick, to speak of the Antichrist is to reduce yourself to superstition and ignorance, to revert back to a primitive age?"

       Pat sat back, his chest puffing out. "You got that right."

       "Wrong!" Fasif brusquely replied. "It's within that frame of mind that the Antichrist has staked a claim. The black king has trumped his pawns."

       Niki tried to bring home the point to Pat. "And the Field of Death has truly been our first look at hell?"

       "Precisely. This is only the beginning of the manifestation," Khadid correlated, "not the end."

       Pat was beside himself as he rose, ready to leave. "I can't believe I'm actually listenin' to this. I've got a job to do and I ain't gettin' no where here. I'm a responsible reporter."

       "Then be responsible!" Fasif commanded.

       Pat stiffened at Fasif's stern and very serious tone. Niki tried to assuage him. "Please, Pat, hear him out."

       Pat reluctantly sat back down, lighting up another cigarette. "Okay, but c'mon, we're in the 21st century. This type of thing..."

       It was Fasif's turn to interrupt. "This type of thing can happen. Let me give you some background, Patrick. I think your mind will shift its focus when I'm through."

       "Better be good." Pat was daring him as Niki sought the calm.

       "Perhaps, Fasif, we should wait for another time to-"

       "Time is of the essence, my friends. We must trust each other. We have no other choice. No. The time is now."

       "Then I for one am ready," Andriopoulos chimed in, hoping to convince Pat.

       Fasif continued with an urgency to his demeanor. "As I mentioned, my position in this government has been long established. I have witnessed a lifetime of war, poverty and destruction here and in other countries. It has prepared me to be more perceptive to other evils that have cropped up around the world...to seemingly unrelated events."

       "I'm still waitin', Fasif."

       "You Americans are so impatient," Niki chastised Pat.

       "Pat, Niki, it leads to events that, at first glance seemed unconnected. Except they all reflect man's lowest nature. Yet, so easy an explanation I could not accept."

       "Good. Cuz I wouldn't accept it either." Pat's interruption was ignored by Niki and Fasif as the latter continued.

       "I began to search, to study, to assemble the facts until a pattern emerged. A link."

       "So what was it?" Pat asked.

       Fasif had arisen and moved to his side to a large glass terrarium where he extracted a creature. "This!"

       Pat couldn't believe his eyes. "A damn lizard?!?"

       The olive-skinned host placed the lizard back in its walled habitat where it scurried under a rock, and Fasif returned to his chair. "Yes, a damn lizard. Documents, records and photographs were studied, interviews conducted with those who had been involved."

       "Involved with what?"

       "In some of the more notable events over the past half century and well before that as well."

       "Oh, yeah, like an evil plot." Pat retorted mockingly.

       Niki, remanded him, "Patrick, patience is a virtue...for all of us!"

       Fasif resumed. "Our first break came when..."

       As Fasif continued to identify various events from the French Revolution on, Pat's demeanor changed as he listened intently, often incredulously, but nevertheless hooked on the fascinating, unbelievable story his host was revealing to him. It was vital for Pat to understand and believe. His very life depended on it.

       Chronologically Fasif wove more vividly for Pat and Niki the quilt of terror that had been wreaked on mankind. The fabric of his story was one of unspeakable terrorism, war, covert actions, country against country, man against man, brother against brother, son against father, daughter against mother. Most of it Gallagher and Andriopoulos were familiar with, for each had kept abreast of world events, just as the majority of the population had. But what they had not realized, what Fasif and his few allies had managed to piece together revolved around a group of disciples who had devised, organized and carried out these nefarious plots to upset the balance of power and peace in the world. In the ensuing chaos their master the Antichrist had gained more and more power. The threads of the story were strong, interwoven so cleverly that it would have been impossible to extricate one strand from another. They were all connected Pat and Niki realized. From the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the devastating collapse of the World Trade Towers in 2001 and most recently the total destruction of Jerusalem. In every incident the connection belonged to the king of sin.

       Acknowledging that life is a universal chess game was the first step in alerting Patrick Gallagher of the dire predicament the world was in. How cleverly, insidiously, maliciously the father of half-truths had maneuvered the pieces - his demons - on the board of life. At every instance seemingly blocking God and the goodness of His people. Fasif Khadid continued to relate to Pat and Niki Andriopoulos why. He explained that man, weak and fallible, had kept trying to move into position God's pieces, placing them where man thought they should go, where man wanted them to go. Free will, that gift given to every man at conception, kept getting in the way. No matter how much more knowledge man garnered, no matter the scope of technology, without God there is a void. It is a void so chasm-like that the great black hole of the Milky Way pales in comparison.

       Fasif revealed how, because man allowed free will to get in the way, man literally cut the Almighty off at the pass for man has control, reveling in his own power of intellect and action. Khadid explained that the Supreme Being - the Source of goodness - will never overstep man's God-given privilege of free will. Because of that conundrum, the universal chess game has gotten out of hand. Evil had forged forth.
       He explained how the pawns were the seven deadly sins of pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, and seven added by an eighth accomplice: complacency. These pieces could only move forward one square at a time. They were countered by those on the side of light by mere drops of water for separately they were helpless. They could, by their own finite ability, only move in the same manner. The only way they could be effective were to pool their resources in one giant flood of faith. Because of their position on the board, this had been impossible.

       The dark rooks represented division and confusion, wrought by racism, hatred, the lack of respect for human dignity through the acceptance of abortion, euthanasia, and genocide. They were opposed by the depleted forces who tried to reinstate respect for human life in all its stages, but, because they had been so battered by the overwhelming rejection of good, they had been greatly weakened.

       Likewise the white knights of Sacred Scripture and of the Church established by Christ Jesus Himself. Over the past century the forces of the black knights of war and pestilence, and despair had worn down the voices of justice and right.

       The bishops of the dark side represented apostasy and schism in the Church wrought by those who had embraced the Luciferian ideals of Freemasonry, as well as occultism and the growing new age that had so engulfed society. Their thrust diagonally unhindered across the tableau of life had greatly trumped the weaker white bishops who represented the honored traditions of the past that had been trampled on and degraded as superstition, as outmoded in a modern world where man knew better. Because of that mentality, their movement had been greatly limited.

       The dark queen was Lucifer disguised. This was how the Legion of the Basilisk moved clandestinely, always in disguise, permeating boardrooms, political chambers, religious houses and institutions of every creed, temple, mosque and church. No one was immune from the siren of hell that beckoned so many to the lures of the world, the flesh and the devil. The queen of light was the woman clothed with the sun, the woman of the Apocalypse with the crown of twelve stars who would confront the red dragon with the seven heads, ten horns and seven diadems. Much was still a mystery but as Fasif unraveled the trail of the Basilisk, Pat understood better the severity of the situation.

       He explained to this Metroplex Mirror reporter and the Greek how all of his legion were making way for the king of the darkness - Satan himself - who would reveal himself as the beast in all his hideousness and ultimate ugliness of heart. He would do so only after his minions had toiled for him, sacrificed for him, accomplished all he desired, deceiving them by the riches that awaited those who had sold their souls for a fleeting moment of power. Waiting for him to expose his everlasting grotesqueness and vileness was the great White King - God Himself. Fasif elucidated how He was represented by Jesus Christ, Who had promised He would come again as the scriptures bear out. He reiterated how this Mystery of Faith was no myth. When and how was the great mystery.

       And so Fasif this day illustrated how it came down to the very principle of Zoroaster - Good vs. Evil. He restated how he believed with his entire heart and soul that good would win out. But at what price? The million or so souls that had perished exactly 24 hours ago was a heavy price for the wages of sin. Yet, as difficult as it was for Patrick to comprehend, that was only a harbinger of things to come.

       "It was not easy, my friends," Fasif related, "to find a pattern or even a clue as to why certain events happened and were followed by other events which stemmed from the first, and so on. But I had contacts. One of them, "here he paused and smiled. A little sadly Pat thought and wondered why, "was a beautiful woman who held a high political post in the Israeli government. Naturally there were many times it was necessary for me to interact with the Israeli operatives, and thus I came to know this woman."

       "Ah, you speak of Helene Shenneker," Niki nodded, adding his own affectionate smile. "I've only met her on that one occasion, Fasif, as you know, but she is truly remarkable."

       "Pardon my ignorance, but who the hell's Helene Shenneker, and what does she have to do with all this?" Gallagher demanded.

       "First of all, she is more than a dear friend. She is my sister," Khadid confessed, and to Gallagher's look of shock and puzzlement, added. "Though I am a Traditional Latin Catholic priest, I also have ties to the Maronite and Chaldean Rites.

       "Your're a priest?" Patrick incredulously blurted out.

"Yes, Patrick, according to the Order of Melchisedech." Yet, because both Helene and I are Palestinians our faith is mostly hidden from the world. Were others to know of Helene's religious persuasion, it could jeopardize her duties for the Israeli State, or what is left of it after the destruction of Jerusalem last year. I work for a coalition of governments in the aftermath of the fall of the Holy City."

       "So?" Pat grilled.

       "We were never able to reveal our Catholicity to anyone. Both Helene and I believed that we could better serve mankind and God by remaining at our given tasks, a fact which would have been impossible had our orthodox Catholic bonds been known. About 25 years ago Helene married an Israeli agent in the Mossad: Malachi Shenneker. He loved her dearly. Secretly he converted to Catholicism before their first and only child was born. Malachi enjoyed the fruit of their flesh - their daughter Karel - for only a few years. He was killed during the Palestinian uprising - the intifada of 1987." A heaviness seemed to envelop Fasif. Niki could sense an extreme sensitivity.

       "Fasif, if I may enlighten our friend a little? Karel is a dark-haired raven beauty, Patrick. She is Fasif's niece, Helene's daughter."

       Before Pat could respond Fasif continued. "The three of us saw our mission clearly. After Malachi's death, Helene and I remained ever more committed to it, covertly, of course. Now Karel grows in grace and wisdom. She has joined us in the resistance movement. This charge I have been given must take priority. I will say no more for now on that."

       Pat could tell there was much more Fasif could have said, but declined. This man of mystery picked up on his previous trend of thought. "It was Helene who was able to find the first tangible clue we needed to be certain these disciples were controlled by a master who was not just some power-hungry madman from a corner of the world who wanted control of the planet. She had people working for her. Clever, educated people of great faith."

       "And what exactly did they discover?" Pat queried. "Don't tell me a lizard?"

       "Exactly," Fasif replied emphatically. "Documents, records and photographs were studied; interviews conducted with people who had been involved in some of the more notable events over the past fifty years or so. Our first break came when we examined the death of the late Pope John Paul I - Albino Luciani - in the fall of 1978. If you'll recall, he was in office for only a month and died suddenly, leaving the Church in a very tenuous position. Helene's agents in the Mossad discovered that at the time of his death Luciferian operatives had already penetrated deep within the Vatican.

       "Something rotten in Denmark," Pat conjectured.

       "Except this was rotten to the core inside the very seat of Christianity - Rome," Niki asserted.

       Fasif continued. "It is customary at the death of a Roman Pontiff that the doors of his apartments are sealed prior to a new election, that the deceased's papal ring is smashed. Though this was done, it was done clandestinely and a different symbol was uncovered, a water mark that was, according to his closest confidantes, not placed there by John Paul I. In fact, in further research it had been imprinted during the reign of his predecessor Paul VI and had gone undetected. We have since discovered that John Paul I had discovered this and was about to expose the Satanists within the Vatican."

       Pat couldn't resist probing, "I remember that conspiracy theory, but I had believed he was going to reveal those who had been operating the Vatican Bank. That's where the scandal lay."

       "And that's what they wanted you to think, to believe," Fasif emphasized emphatically. "Corrupt operatives of the American CIA, the Soviet KGB, The Red Chinese Secret Service, the Mafia, Mossad and an organization known as Propaganda Due or P-2 composed of business leaders, bankers, hit men, highly placed political leaders and religious leaders, including many in the Roman Curia, had all conspired to dispose of the new pope and floated the rumor of the Vatican Bank and the demise of Michele Sindona."

       Pat shook his head at the realization of this decoy. "The ol' distraction ploy. Magic and mirrors."

       "Yes, and their password, their secret identity was-"

       "Let me guess," Pat interjected, "a lizard!"

       "Precisely. Your astuteness is improving, my son," Fasif nodded as he picked up where he left off. "It is a set of lines, actually. At first that is all you see. But if you study closely the form, the shape of the lizard is present. This is their secret code."

       "Just as the ichthys formed the fish for the early Christians," Niki injected, "so also these lines signify the Basilisk."

       "Satan has always sought to mock God in every way." Fasif had Pat's attention fully now. "We were able, through a unique special laser beam our resources intercepted, to detect the watermark that linked so many documents over the past fifty years. We discovered through a filter in the lens that by reviewing footage of past events the cockatrice was easily identifiable."

       "Where to the naked eye one couldn't see it?" Pat was coming around. "Like a blacklight effect."

       "Exactly," asserted Fasif. "For example, when the Ayatollah Khomeini overtook Iran and there was so much tension between his country and yours. In viewing tapes of the U.S. Embassy hostages taken, the image of the lizard can be seen on papers, discreetly displayed on banners held by those incited to riot, on many Arabic and Farsi placards that were always in abundance to stir up the crowds. The symbol has shown up in almost every country at some point over these past 100 years. Italy, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Libya, the Philippines, East Timor, Beirut, Jerusalem, Palestine, Syria, Baghdad, Russia, throughout Europe, Australia, Canada, South America, the Caribbean and especially in the United States. No continent has remained untouched."

       "Yeah, but how does the lizard make the difference?" Skepticism returned to Pat's voice.

       "It's the common factor that, due to Helene's devoted efforts, we've taken hold of and tried to track down, for we need to discover its exact meaning and from there we will know how to destroy its origin."

       "Though it may not make sense, Pat," Niki inserted, "it is an interesting depiction, no? You are not unfamiliar with the Holy Book, Fasif? Does this not strike you as even more significant, that the sign of these disciples of evil should be that of a lizard?"

       "I was struck, Niki, right to the core of my soul." Fasif's answer was a solemn testimony to his belief.

       Yet Pat put a monkey wrench into the conversation once again. "Well, I'm not quite sure that I buy all of this. You tell me of events that have long been publicized, and then add that in all of them there was this covert symbol of a lizard, which is supposed to be the symbol of the Antichrist himself. I thought this Antichrist, if and when he or it came, would come dressed in sheep's clothing, or at least bear the number 666 somewhere easily detectable."

       "Do not mock this, Gallagher," warned Khadid. "The time for joking and cynicism is at an end. What happened on the Field of Abraham, now the Field of Death, says more eloquently than ever I could that the reign of the Antichrist is upon us. I do not know if we can yet halt it. But I am going to try. I believe Niki will try also. I had hoped you would, too."

       "I'm working on it, Fasif," said Gallagher bluntly. "Pays to be skeptical. Besides, if what you say is true, how do I know that this king of evil isn't you? Or that you and Niki are not disciples of this lizard?"

       "The Basilisk," replied Khadid nodding. "That, my friend, is the proper name given this lizard. And, no, you're right to be skeptical. I only wish, somehow, to convince you that I speak the truth about the Basilisk."

       "What is this Basilisk? Have you ever seen it?" Pat machine-gunned questions at Khadid.

       "Fortunately in its real form, no," Fasif fielded his adversarial inquisitor. "Only in the deeds it leaves in its deadly wake."

       "The Basilisk is supposedly a legend." Niki informed his skeptical American friend. "One of those tales from ancient times that has survived. But it is also as old as mankind itself, appearing even in the Bible."

       "The eleventh chapter of Isaias, verse nine and the eighth chapter of Jeremias, verse seventeen of the Latin Vulgate, Douay-Rheims version," documented Fasif.

       "The lesson, Pat," Niki encouraged, "is that the apostles subdued kings and philosophers, without, I might add, any finite advantage. The evil that will be conquered symbolizes the Basilisk. In other words, if you have God, Pat, you can conquer the demons even when things look the darkest. And right now they do."

       "I'm afraid, Niki, it is not merely a representative or a symbol. It has taken on the very flesh of the Basilisk for, on the scientific side, the basiliskos is a lizard reported to be between two and one-half to three and one-half feet in length. It originated in the African desert. In legend it is said its breath and glance are fatal to all living creatures."

       "Wonderful," sighed Pat dryly, "a death dragon, so to speak."

       "That is not a bad description," Niki approved. "It is of the genus Basiliscus and has a dilatable pouch beneath its throat and an erectile crest along its head and spine. When ready to strike its victim, the Basiliskos is indeed a sight to cause death."

       "Even more," Fasif added, "the meaning of Basilisk, over the years, has taken on other significant meanings. For instance, it is the diminutive of basileus which means king."

       "Ah," added Andriopoulos, "the connection becomes even stronger. Do not forget, my friend," Niki said to Khadid, "that the bible speaks of an unnamed serpent which hatches from a cock's egg. A Cockatrice. The etymology of that word alone increases the evidence that the Antichrist is indeed ready to assume a king's role...for first the Antichrist must hunt down and destroy its enemies. That is its source. That is what it is doing now. Hunting and destroying."

       "Then it must destroy the religious leaders?" Pat deduced. "They walked right into the serpent's den."

       "Exactly!" Fasif emphasized. "You're starting to see the light, Pat. In order to get to that point, much planning and deceit, infiltration had to be engineered. Many converts to the dark side had to be made. The great majority had to be fooled and accept what was proffered."

       "How so?" Pat quizzed.

       Before Fasif could answer, Elias appeared at the door. "Pardon me, sir. The call you have been expecting has just come through. Shall I tell them you will call back?"

       "No, Elias, my good man, I shall take it. In the meantime, serve our guests some of your famous spiced pomegranate and some figs as a mid-day repast. Gentlemen, I would recommend you stretch your legs for we have much more to discuss. Let us take a short hiatus for now. Niki, feel free to show Pat around. Shall we meet back here, say at 1 p.m.?"

       "Yeah, I'm fine with that." Pat agreed, looking forward to the break and trying to drink in everything he had heard to this point. Little did he know Fasif was just getting started.



Next: PART I: The Unleashing SECOND CHAPTER, Episode Four: Revelations of Basic Basilisk 101


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