Israeli General Command Headquarters, Tel Aviv, Israel
Orders should be clear, concise, unambiguous and decisive. General Marosy’s order to the Israeli Navy officer-of-the-watch was all of those. “Explain yourself.”
“Well, Sir, it appears that the Tekuma was correctly designated on the plot as of fifteen hundred when the watch shift changed. When the new operations room staff took over, the first thing they did was purge the board of outdated contacts. They noted that the contact report representing Tekuma hadn’t been updated since the early part of the previous watch so they removed her from the board. Then, when the present watch took over control, they had no means of knowing that the submarine was not represented on the plot.”
Marosy stared at the naval officer in awed disbelief. “I’ve heard of things like that happening. I never thought I would actually be present to see one. If somebody was to write that into a novel, nobody would believe it. Yet you imbeciles have done it, not once but twice? Give me strength. Have you people learned nothing in the forty years since you last pulled something like that off? Then you just shot up a ship belonging to your only ally. Now, you’ve mislaid a nuclear-armed submarine?” Marosy almost lost control of his voice and nearly heard it go up into a squeak. He paused for a second and swallowed, wishing he had a good shot of slivowitz to help him endure the unendurable. Then, he took a deep breath. “And just what do you plan to do about it?”
“We’re putting out radio messages, ordering Tekuma to report in.”
“And what Sir?”
“And suppose she can’t report in, or doesn’t want to? We’ve no idea what is happening out there. She could have been sunk by collision with a merchant ship, simply had a radio failure or hit an uncharted rock. Remember that Chinese boat a few years back? Snort valve jammed while charging batteries, she got back to the surface but the pressure differential prevented her from opening her hatches and her entire crew suffocated. Happened so fast nobody got a distress call out. She was drifting for ten days before the Chinese Navy found her. Now, are you sure Tekuma isn’t out there, drifting around with a dead crew? Think, man. Get some recon birds out there and call Dolphin and Leviathan. They’re the only capable ASW assets your Navy has. Find that submarine.”
Marosy slumped into a seat, trying to think of a reason why he could be transferred to another posting in the Human Expeditionary Army. This one was just too much.
The Scarlet Beast paused for a second to scratch his back on the Crown Plaza Hotel, then headed for the Bridge of Chords. Seated on his neck, Dumah screamed in triumph as the Hotel crumbled with the impact of Fluffy’s body. She ignored the steady crackle of gunfire, most of the shots were aimed at the Scarlet Beast and she seriously doubted whether they were penetrating his thick skin. She was bleeding where some of the heavier-caliber bullets had hit her, the silver of her blood disfiguring her red-and-purple robes. None of the wounds were severe enough to worry her though, not while the sheer exhilaration of destroying the city pulsed through her veins.
Underneath her, the Scarlet Beast reared on his back legs and took two swings at the Bridge of Chords with his front paws. The first ripped the column from its foundation and hurled it backwards, the second caught it as it fell and batted it backwards, causing the iconic structure to shatter in mid-air. The wreckage sprayed across the nearby buildings with the same effect as a shotgun blast. The sight drew another scream of triumph from Dumah, this time one of professional fulfillment. When not riding the Scarlet Beast, she was one of the Eternal City’s better architects and destroying that eyesore of a bridge had been a real pleasure. Meanswhile, Fluffy had spotted a group of three tower blocks close together and he galloped over to them. One massive swing of his paws topped the end one down and it took the other two with it.
“Stee-RIKE.” Dumah cheered and slapped Fluffy on the neck at the sight of the three blocks collapsing into dust and gravel. The sight of the tower blocks going down was an entirely new sensation to her. The last time she had destroyed Jerusalem, it had been a miserable collection of hovels that the Scarlet Beast had trampled without a second thought. This was much more professionally satisfying.
Thoughts of her previous rampage through this area so many millennia ago distracted Dumah for a second. It had always upset her slightly that the scribes who had told of Fluffy’s exploits hadn’t been able to accept that their beloved Yahweh could pull such a rampage of wanton destruction. In the end, they had assigned the blame to Satan and assumed that she and her Beast were his creations. As a result, poor Fluffy had been written down as a Hell-spawn and she as a demon. That really offended Dumah. Perhaps it was because of that moment of reflection that Dumah didn’t see the four shapes hurtling through the night towards her. She heard nothing because the F-111Cs were coming in at Mach 1.1and their sound wave followed far behind the bombers.
F-111C, Koala Flight, Approaching Jerusalem
Each aircraft was carrying four two thousand pound retarded bombs and the great beast trampling the ruins of Jerusalem was hardly a target they could miss. The great red monster seemed to glow amidst the clouds of dust and smoke, illuminated by the starlight and what was left of the city lights. Squadron Leader Mackay had already obtained clearance for this raid, it was a matter of how desperate the situation was that the Israelis had authorized the use of these heavy bombs on the city. But then, if these failed, the next option was the use of a nuclear weapon and he guessed they would do most things rather than authorize that.
“Target in sight Charlie, get the nav-attack system locked. All Koala aircraft, we’ll try and get that wee beastie trapped in a four-by-four box of bombs. Set intervalometer for a one hundred-foot spacing around him. One pass and we’re out of here.”
“Roger.” The affirmatives came over the radio swiftly as the target swelled in size before them. Neither the beast nor its rider were aware of the threat that was racing through the sky towards them. Making attack runs over Mach one had that effect. Mackay tapped his controls slightly, lining his aircraft up to pass directly over the beast below. Then, he felt his Pig lurch as eight thousand pounds of steel and explosive, the finest two thousand pound bombs that Norinco in China could make, dropped clear. Their tale find split open and spread out, stopping the bomb’s forward movement and slowing their descent so the four F-111s could get clear. The Scarlet Beast and his rider barely had time to notice their arrival before they exploded all around them.
Dumah had heard about human weapons and their terror but she hadn’t imagined anything like the waves of blast, sound and fragments that enveloped her. The stories, those she had heard, and she had thought she understood them but they hadn’t even begun to convey the nightmare of being caught in one. She heard Fluffy screaming as the fragments slashed into his body and the blast from the bombs pummelled him. Somebody else was screaming in fear and agony as well and to her horror Dumah realized she was hearing her own voice. She looked down, through the billowing smoke and stink of human explosives Why human weapons even smelled of the hell they created she thought, and saw the streams of silver blood pouring down the sides of her Beast and splattering on the ground far below. Only then did she realize how badly the bombs had hurt her.
Even breathing was painful. She could feel the bones grating in her chest when she tried to take a deep breath, heard the bubbling in her lungs. Her mind didn’t seem to be working properly, it was as if it had been filled with a strange jelly that wrapped around her brain and stifled her thoughts. There was something she had to do but she couldn’t quite get a handle on it, the memory of what she had to do and where she had to go seemed to be stuck somewhere and she couldn’t quite get it loose. Underneath her, Fluffy was weaving around, his own scarlet blood pouring from the gaping wounds in his chest and belly. Slowly the thought came to her mind. I have to get the hell out of here.
That’s when the second part of her instructions came clearly into her mind. She had to open an escape portal to a specific point, one Michael-Lan had been very insistent on. That one point, nowhere else. No matter how bad things were, she had to go to that point first. She joined her mind to that of the Scarlet Beast and together they opened the great black ellipse that was her road to safety. Stunned with shock and pain, she and Fluffy leaped through it and into the refuge that lay beyond.
Radio Room, INS Tekuma, Mediterranean
The radio message chattered its way through the decrypting system and spewed out as words printed on a white tape. The message was clear and formed into two parts. One was an urgent message to Tekuma to re-establish contact with operations center immediately. The other was a flash message that said an Australian air strike had forced the Scarlet Beast to break off its attack and retreat to Heaven. That emergency at least was over.
Lieutenant Midyan Yitzchak read the latter and sighed to himself. The time had come, all the planning that had gone into this operation would be rewarded. It had taken years to get this operation set up, people had had to be moved into the right places, and they had had to move others into the places they were needed. But, with Divine inspiration, provided by the peerless Archangel who had appeared to them all in their visions, it had been done. They had been promised no reward. They were doing the Lord’s will and that was enough. He took the message that had arrived and carefully destroyed it, feeding it through the shredder that was specifically designed to reduce paper to an irrevocable mass of tiny shards. Then he took another message out of his pocket, one that was carefully packed so that it looked freshly arrived. Its contents were not those that had just been delivered.
Yitzchak’s next stop was the weapons control room. There was a terminal there, one that connected to the five Popeye missiles stored in the torpedo tubes forward. They had been loaded into the tubes earlier, all they needed was their target coordinates. The weapons control officer took the orders and typed the numbers given there into the missile control panel. There, they would be fed through an algorithm that converted them into the actual targets. The Weapons Control officer had no idea where those targets were and that was the plan. He was better off not knowing.
“The targets are entered into the system.” The voice was solemn as befitted the occasion. Nobody on the submarine had ever really believed this moment would come. In fact, it still might not for there was an outside chance the submarine’s Captain would refuse to fire. But that was a remote chance indeed. Yitzchak saluted and left the compartment, heading for the command center.
Captain Alex Ben-Shoshan was waiting there. An alert had sounded when the message had come in and in his heart he guessed what it was. Yitzchak silently handed the message to him. Ben-Shoshan read it and his eyes saddened. “The situation is worse?”
“Worse by far Sir. The beast has finished its destruction of Jerusalem and has moved into the corridor. Soon, it will be approaching Tel Aviv itself and then it will be too late. We have a brief opportunity, when the Beast is in the corridor, that is all.”
The Captain nodded. At the bottom of the message was a line of characters. He took a small box and typed those characters in. Then he handed the message to his Executive Officer who had a similar box. Once again the characters were typed in and the box translated them into a different string of numbers.
“I have 693987909 Sir.” The Executive Officer typed the numbers manually into the launch console.
Ben-Shoshan nodded. His machine had given him a different number and he added that to the console input. The computer would add the two numbers and if they came to the right total, they authenticated the input and released the locks on the firing system. There was no sign that the doomsday decision had been taken. No lights, no flashing messages. The fire control system was quiet. “It is time.” Ben-Shoshan said.
He took the key from its chain around his neck and went to a box at one end of the control room. His executive officer did the same so the men were separated by the length of the room. Then, they inserted their keys in two small, unobtrusive locks. “On the count of three. One… two… three.”
The keys turned and the computer made a series of clicks. A t this point, if the calculations done by the computer had not come to the correct answer, the whole system would lock down. There was an eerie silence in the control room then the submarine shuddered gently. The first Popeye missile was on its way. The next followed ten seconds later with the third following ten seconds after that. In less than a minute, all five missiles were on their way to their targets.
Israeli General Command Headquarters, Tel Aviv, Israel
The cheering and applause in the headquarters building was stilled by five words.
“We have a missile launch.”
The Navy Duty Officer’s simple statement changed the celebration over driving off the Scarlet Beast into a tense atmosphere that was thick with fear. On the displays that dominated one wall, the tracks of missiles were clearly evident. Only one at first but others joined it and were fanning out across the sea towards the land. There was nothing indicated on the display to suggest where the missiles had been launched from but there was only one real option and everybody knew what it was. Tekuma
Five missiles, heading east in a fan. There was no doubt what they were either. Nuclear-tipped Popeye missiles. “”Nobody authorized that launch.” It was a stupid remark and the man who uttered it flushed deep red with embarrassment.
“Where are they going?” Marosy’s throat was dry. This was what everybody in the nuclear business had feared for so long.
“No way to tell yet. The missiles will use an evasive course for the first few minutes to complicate any hope of interception. Then they will go to their targets.”
“Interceptors are up. Four Akef fighters out of Tel Nov.” The Air Force Duty Officer read the data out. The fighters would be heading out in an effort to shoot the missiles down before they reached their targets.
“Only four?” Marosy couldn’t tear his eyes off the screen. The missiles were heading east in a snaking S-shaped pattern that made target prediction impossible. Blue lines appeared on the map, the F-15Cs heading out to intercept the Popeyes.
“All we have. It will be ten minutes before the rest of the aircraft are available and that will be too late.”
Second ticked by. The missile tracks stopped snaking and accelerated along straight courses to their targets. The fighters changed course slightly, spreading out to make their intercepts.
“We have targets Sir. Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Cairo and Tel Aviv.” The last words were spoken in stunned disbelief. “Sir, the way they’re spread, we can’t get them all. The first three, we can get, one Akef each. The last pair, its one or the other.”
“Order the fighter to take the one heading for Cairo.” The Prime Minister’s voice cut across the room. “If Israeli nuclear missiles destroy an Arab capital, the human alliance will be torn apart. Human will fight human with every weapon we have. The only winner will be Yahweh and his crew. So we sacrifice Tel Aviv, not Cairo. Anyway, our missile batteries may stop the Popeye.”
That was a faint chance and everybody knew it. The anti-missile system was designed to shoot down ballistic missiles that came in on a straight, predictable ballistic arc. An ABM system didn’t even need guidance to hit a target like that, the Indians had made intercepts by mathematical prediction without guidance. The Arrow stressed range and speed, not the agility needed to hit a maneuvering target. But the Popeye was skimming in at very high speed, a few feet above the ground. A much harder target. By ordering the one fighter within reach of the last pair of missiles, the Prime Minister had condemned Tel Aviv to death.
“Mister Prime Minister.” Muamur al Zahari spoke from the corner of the room, his eyes glistening with tears. “Please authorize me to use your radio system. I must get word out telling the world of the decision you have just made. The world needs to know of the sacrifice that is being made here today.”
The Prime Minister nodded and al Zahari sat at a communications console, dialing frequencies and transmitting messages, advising his command structure that Tel Aviv was about to die so that the Human Alliance could survive. Behind him, Marosy stared at the city outside. He was still staring at it when it was engulfed by a brilliant flash of light.
Michael’s Palace, Aukumea, Heaven
“What do you want.” Michael-Lan’s voice was uncharacteristically angry. He had enough to worry about without routine messages to distract him. The Scarlet Beast was screaming with pain, threshing around and dumping excrement all over his prized flowers. Deumah had been pulled off his back and rushed into the private operating theater in a grim effort to save her life. Both had been hideously wounded by the bomb blasts and Michael really didn’t know whether either would survive. The Scarlet Beast? Perhaps. Deumah, if she was very lucky and his medical team were working at the top of their form.
“O Lordly One, I have news from below. The Fourth Bowl of Wrath has been poured on another human city. The capital of the Israelites is no more.”
That stopped Michael in his tracks. “The Fourth Bowl of Wrath poured on Jerusalem? And only one city?”
“Only one, Greatest of Generals.”
Oh shut up with the ass-licking. Michael thought. I’m not Yahweh and my name is Michael, not some sycophantic chant. Stop wasting my time with that mindless nonsense..
“Tel Aviv has been destroyed and all who reside within. A masterly strategy, Greatest of Generals, tricking the humans into using their own weapons.” The messenger bowed and left.
A masterly strategy indeed. Use human weapons because Uriel’s death showed that even the deadliest we have is no great threat to them. Michael tried to calm Fluffy down. I wonder who thought of it.