Days of Burning, Days of Wrath – Snippet 04
“But when Islam emerged it put slavery into order, by limiting it to legitimate wars between Muslims and their enemies…the female prisoners of wars are ‘those whom you own’…in order to humiliate them they become the property of the army commander, or of a Muslim…and he can have sex with them…”
–Suad Saleh, Theology Professor (female)
Al-Azhar University, Cairo, 12 September, 2014
Stomach pained and churning, as it often was these days, Khalid stood by the main window to his small rental, watching the drops splatter on the pavement while runnels ran down the glass planes. He’d found himself standing there quite a lot, of late, worried to his innermost core.
Khalid’s reflection on the glass, thin, opaque, and somewhat indistinct and distorted, caused him to shake his head. So many faces now; so many identities. I wonder if I could even pull myself out of a police lineup. Surely there are people in the world who look more like the real me than I do now.
It was a fair complaint. Since coming to work for Fernandez and the legions, when they were in Sumer, Khalid has gone under the knife more times than he cared to think about. Now, his nose thinned and shortened, his chin built up, his hair dyed blond, and blue contacts in his eyes, his own mother wouldn’t have recognized him. They’d done something to his eyes, too, Fernandez’s plastic surgeons; the shape and spacing seemed wrong. Hell, even his native Sumeri Arabic had acquired a Balboan accent.
“Bad enough,” he muttered, “that Arabic comes harder to my mind that Spanish; I least I am domiciled in a Spanish-speaking country. But how much worse that these Sachsens’ guttural German sounds more native to me ears than my own tongue, too?”
Those complaints really weren’t at the core of Khalid’s stomach issues, issues he had begun to suspect might be more than just emotional ones. No, what was killing him was the waiting.
How many more days or weeks until Fernandez gives me the word, wondered Khalid, worriedly. These people – neither of these people – are my own, but I’ve gotten to know them. The Moslems could fuck up a wet dream, timing-wise, and will always either strike before they’re ready or delay until it’s too late. The Sachsens…they’re under the control of a political mob that seems to hate their own country, yes, but there are some stout folk, good men, brave and strong, among them, too. And even a few virtuous women, wonder of wonders. If the Moslems are held back too long, the Sachsens will figure it out. Who knows what happens then? If the Moslems strike too soon…well….maybe in this case that would be better for them. Which, I suppose would matter to me if I didn’t hate their guts on general principle.
I can understand Fernandez and his crew keeping me in the dark, me and the other agents. But it’s hard to tell what I should do or when…
It’s worse, too, because this isn’t really my thing. Machine gun a bunch of senior Moslem leaders in the course of what’s supposed to be a news interview? Just sheer fun. Blow a manhole cover through somebody’s asshole? Oooo, look at the pretty colors. Cut the throat of some terrorism-supporting Sachsen bimbo? No problem. Mail a few letters, get some grids for long range cruise missile targets? Easy can do.
Even smuggling arms was pretty easy, and pretty easy even in some very large quantities. But coordinate a bunch of Islamics for an uprising? Not really my forte; no training, no experience, no real skill…
Off in the distance, muffled by rain and window, wall, street, and tree, Khalid heard a series of pops, like fireworks. He thought little of it until police sirens began sounding, those being a lot louder and much more clear, and coming from all over.
There was really no need to wonder long; a few steps to the television, a flick of a switch, and there, on screen, was a familiar scene. It was the front one of the mosques to which he’d delivered arms. In front of the mosque lay a pair of dead and bleeding Sachsen police officers. A lone man, bearing a Volgan-made rifle, himself black-clad and face covered, stood over the corpses.
But, to give the devils their due, they do understand using the media to get their message across. At least, no one seems to be objecting to that camera and what I suppose must be the new team around it.
As if to confirm Khalid’s suspicion, the camera shifted to a rather pretty and admirably slender blonde Sachsen news reporter. She was standing next to another rifle-bearing man, likewise black-clad and with a scarf wrapped around his face.
I’d best report in.
Headquarters hadn’t had a lot to say, really. But they did allow that I should confirm how widespread the rebellion is. So…take my own rifle, put on my markers, and head on over to the big mosque.
Khalid watched as from the Oppenheimer Mosque, in groups of ten, or twenty, or fifty, or one hundred, give or take, young men – quasi uniformed but fully armed – poured forth into the streets and began the hunt for their quarry. For the most part, this involved the police and such reserve armories as were to be found in the city. They also had lists, prepared by their imam, of those whom he considered the most depraved of Sachsen citizens to be found in the town. This included large numbers of atheists, Tsarist-Marxists, and Kosmos, to the extent those categories differed. From the point of view of the imam and his minions, their fighters would merely be purging this world of the very people condemned in Allah’s Own Voice, in the Quran. From the point of view of Khalid, Fernandez, and Carrera, on the other hand, they would be purging those most responsible for the existence of the Tauran Union, as well as those most likely to object to the Union’s abject surrender to Balboan demands.
Sometimes, thought Khalid, even devout enemies can find common ground. And on that happy note, best to head home.
Two Miles east of the Oppenheimer Mosque, Oppenheim, Sachsen
Yes, indeed, thought Khalid, glancing up at the bodies dangling by their necks from the lampposts of the town’s main thoroughfare, sometimes even the most devout enemies can find common ground.
The scene was lit only by firelight, the fire reflecting off the smoke and clouds lingering above. There was a smell of pork on the air. Of course, it might be pork or it might be people. If I had to guess…people. Lots of fires after all. Lots.
Above the bodies and the fires, one of Terra Nova’s moons – Bellona – slowly crossed the sky.
Along with the solid aroma of pork, mostly at least a bit overdone, there were screams on the air. Some, the more masculine ones, seemed to be cut short quickly. The feminine screams went on and on, so much so that they never seemed to end. In with those were what he recognized as the sounds of fighting, with different calibers and types of firearms lashing back and forth, distinct and distinctly menacing.
His eyes came to rest on the darkened and swollen face of one of the dangling corpses. He recognized the face despite the swelling, the eyes being shut, and the lips twisted into something like a grimace. Below the face the thin cord the lynch mob had used had dug deeply into the neck.
“Easy death or hard?” Khalid wondered aloud, staring up while chewing his lower lip. “Probably hard; whatever pain you felt, it must have been hard to be strung up by the very people whose cause you’ve championed your entire political life. Tsk; what a terrible thing it must have been to realize your mistake just that much too late.”
Dismissing the dangling corpse with an indifferent shrug, Khalid slung his non-serial numbered rifle over his right shoulder, turned away, and set off for his apartment. It was time and past time for him to wash the dust of Sachsen from his feet and exfiltrate back to the country he thought of as home, Carrera’s Balboa.
In his pocket was a safe pass, signed by the Imam of the big mosque. In three languages it said, “This man is serving God by bringing arms to the servants of God. Let him pass for the sake of your souls and the advancement of our cause, and God’s.”
Just to make sure, for those who tended to shoot first and ask questions later, Khalid’s left arm sported a green cloth armband with the words, “There is no God but God” in Arabic script on a white circle in the center of the armband. This was a sentiment with which Khalid, a Druze in the service of Balboa, could completely agree. Islam, on the other hand, he sneered at and despised.
This had not stopped him, after the manner of the Druze, from pretending to be a Moslem. Neither had it stopped him from smuggling in arms, ammunition, and some other equipment by the ton. Virtually every rifle and machine gun used, and virtually every round fired, in this town and half a dozen others had been brought in by Khalid from freighters anchored off the coasts and in the southern ports of Sachsen. Where the freighters had acquired the arms he couldn’t be sure, but the designs were Volgan. He suspected that his boss, Fernandez’s, boss, Carrera, had ordered them from one or more of the factories in Volga in which he had a controlling interest.