In December 2013, the once great Behavioural Analysis Unit, first of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and then of its replacement, the Foederatio Borealis Indigatores Imperiale (FBII), was reformed and reduced in size due to damning implications found in the controversial Milner Report. The Report alleged that the BAU's methods had caused unethical practices that corrupted law enforcement operation as a whole across North America, and thus recommended its disbandment. The BAU counters that it has always "followed the rules" and misapplication by lower level officers was really the culprit. Thus, the cases from its last year of operation are presented here, so that the readers may decide for themselves the validity of the BAU's assertion.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Cardinal Wilhelm Claes sat pensively in the Presider’s Chair. In mere moments, the Cardinal was expected to make history, declaring an open revolt against the Catholic Church. Despite his confidence, Claes took in the silence of the empty Church to contemplate things. This was no small moment, and, for that he needed to feel its essence. He prayed and then meditated, because, in his head he did not wish to rush such a momentous moment, lest he flub his speech and someone takes the wrong idea. He already had enlisted the Samarians for the capture of Jerusalem, asserting that he wished to create a new, powerful Rite of Christianity centred at the Church. Thus, Cardinal Claes wouldn’t be content with only Jerusalem- no, to assert his own brand of Christianity, Cardinal Claes needed to expand his base- and he looked no further than the Papacy itself.
Content in his thoughts he emerged outside from the Church doors, ready to give his scheduled speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” began Cardinal Claes, “I will begin by reading a passage from the Great Bishop of Carthage, St. Cyprian, because it is this passage that best captures what I am feeling today:
“If the Church is one which is loved by Christ, and is alone cleansed by His washing, how can he who is not in the Church be either loved by Christ, or washed and cleansed by His washing? Wherefore, since the Church alone has the living water, and the power of baptizing and cleansing man, he who says that any one can be baptized and sanctified by Novatian must first show and teach that Novatian is in the Church or presides over the Church. For the Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with Novatian, she was not with Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honour of the priesthood, the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way.(Epistles of Cyprian, 75:2-3)
“It is here that I present to you that the Antichrist that Cyrpian talked about, Novatian, has returned, in the flesh, claiming he has been ordained to serve in the Church, but he has not. He has succumbed to the Devil’s desires in accepting his ideas of policy in advocating sexual empowerment and challenging gender roles and identities, as well as refusing to take a hardline stance on the vices of humanity, such as partying and capitalism. It is therefore my duty to contest the unlawful ordination of a one Adrian VII and assert the throne that is rightly mine, and I will capture said throne in any way possible. For it is I, Petrus Romanus, Peter II the Roman, who will come as the Great Prophet St. Malachy predicted, to preside over the Church and ready it for Christ and His Ultimate Judgement. Good day.”
Roman Special Crimes Headquarters, Rome
It had been a long flight for Zeke Coleman. The Behavioural Analysis Unit member was in Rome on the behest of FBII Director Lucius Black, who wanted to start his own Roman criminal profiling team across the entire Empire, with Coleman tagged to lead it. As he walked into the RSC offices for the first time, he decided to take a small break before going up to meet with Black, who had an office at the RSC. He checked into a visitor’s computer terminal to check his E-Mails and read some news when something caught his eye.
“Is he...am I,” said Coleman with shock. “No...he didn’t just...”
“It looks like he did,” said Coleman’s colleague, Dr. Pascal Yves, who just happened to be at the terminal beside him. He was reading the same story.
Coleman was still flabbergasted. “Who excommunicates the Pope? Are they nuts?”
“He’s obviously a narcissist...taking on such a public persona is a clear attempt to draw attention to themselves in order to mask their own deficiencies...in this case, I surmise it’s because Cardinal Claes lost in the election of the new Pope, so he’s retaliating.”
“Yeah, but Yves...Cardinal Claes has to know the consequences of this action...the whole world is going to go ape***. Narcissist or not, this is political suicide.”
“Perhaps he knew about the consequences and he’s prepared to deal with them.”
“Or he’s delusional with a severe Napoleon complex and doesn’t understand fully what it is he’s getting into.”
“Either way, these next few weeks are going to be a bit of fun.”
Coleman logged off and placed his hand on Yves’s shoulder. “In any case, it’s not our problem. Let’s go see what Director Black wants.”
Yves nodded his head, logged off and went off to join Coleman.
The Office of the Pope, The Curia
“Oooh! Bouncy!” said the new Pope, Pope Adrian VII, getting used to his desk chair after sitting in it for the first time. “Hee hee!” He was thoroughly enjoying how bouncy his chair was when Cardinal Jesse Newman entered his office.
“Your Holiness,” said Newman, 60, genuflecting. “Congratulations on your electoral victory. I see you’re quite enjoying your new chair.”
Adrian, one of the youngest Popes in the modern age at 42, reacted with unbridled glee while continuing to bounce up and down. “I’ve never sat in something so liberating!”
Newman closed the door to the office, slowly.
Adrian’s smile was replaced by a face of concern. “Did...did something happen? I...I...just started...can’t people wait?”
Newman spoke sternly, to emphasize the gravity of the situation. “Cardinal Wilhelm Claes has excommunicated you and declared himself the new Pope.”
Adrian whimpered, befuddled. “He...he...but...me...wait...um...”
“Yes, I know...he can’t legally excommunicate you...he’s trying to usurp your power.”
Adrian curled up into a ball on his chair, scared, whimpering even more. “I just...I just...I just started...it’s...it’s too early for this...no!” He started to cry.
Newman put his head in his hands and wiped his face, frustrated. How’d this guy get elected? He then loudly placed his hand on the Pope’s desk, jarring Adrian. “Get a hold of yourself Your Holiness! We can figure this out! You’ve got the entire world to help protect you! This man is an imposter and he’ll go down quickly! We just need you to start thinking straight!”
Adrian was still rattled. “but...but...but...I’m...just me...”
Newman threw his hands up in frustration. “Oh come on now! If I know my history, you’re the guy that once took down an entire squadron in Mali with nothing but your bare hands! How can you be scared of the village idiot?”
Adrian just stared blankly into space, still frozen with fear.
Newman sighed, frustrated. “Okay, I’m going to let you think things over...I’ll catch up with you later.”
Newman left the office, knowing he had to take charge. He wrote a communique for Adrian declaring a worldwide Crusade, the Ninth Crusade, inviting them to the Curia. He also placed a call to Black.
“Hello, Director Black?” Newman asked through the phone.
“This is Director Lucius Black,” responded Black.
“Your profilers are here, right?”
Black sensed the urgency in Newman’s voice. “Yes, yes they are. What’s wrong?”
“I need them to talk to the new Pope. He’s nothing but a cowering mess since he assumed office, and we need him to be strong. Something happened...something shook him up and he’s not himself...I need your guys to figure it out.”
“Anything your Excellency.”
FBII Academy, Quantico, Virginia
Claudio Pucci was nonchalantly enjoying his sandwich. The senior BAU member had quite the morning after coming back home from the Mongol Khanate, having sent off five profiles for police officers just before lunch.
Nothing like the sweet smell of success, thought Pucci, pleasantly chewing away. It was at this point where Pucci’s boss and longtime friend, Aaron “Fitch” Fitchner, entered his office.
“Hey Claude,” said Fitchner, greeting Pucci. He was taken aback by Pucci’s smug eating. “What are you doing?”
“Masticating,” explained Pucci, still eating. “What are you doing?”
“Have to review Oldrich James’ background file before I can give the green light to get him on the team.”
“Oh. Did something come up?”
“No, it’s just procedure.”
“Where’s Coleman, Yves and Parkes?”
“They’re in Rome, meeting with Director Black. Coleman’s been tapped to start a Roman profiling team.”
Pucci smiled, happy for Coleman. “Finally, after all these years. What happens when he leaves?”
“We’re still sorting that out. People are going to get promotions...I might get the Director’s chair if Lucius Black moves to Rome full time...Proctor might get the BAU Chief chair...have you made any decisions?”
“I’m old...I think I’d rather stay here. Although filling an administrative role in Rome would be fun.”
“Nothing is set in stone yet, but things are moving.”
“Changes are coming. Let’s just enjoy the ride.” Pucci and Fitchner exchanged smiles as Fitchner departed Pucci’s office.
In the bullpen, the rest of the BAU, Emily Proctor, media liaison Jenna Jayme “JJ” Cooke and Technical Analyst Andi Morales were simultaneously playing Tetris.
“Look at that!” Cooke boasted, “Level 42!”
“You cheated,” said Morales, stuck at Level 1.
“I just think you’re unlucky,” said Proctor, rubbing salt in Morales’s wounded ego.
“Grr!” Morales said, frustrated as yet another game went by the wayside.
“So Emily,” said Cooke, “how are things between you and James?”
“Oh they’re great,” said Proctor. “We’re on the same page about everything...we couldn’t click any better.”
“That’s great,” said Cooke, “but what will you do when he joins the BAU?”
“There’s a chance he’ll join Coleman’s team,” said Proctor. “In which case, I won’t have to worry about that. Besides, we’re professionals...we’ll make this work.”
“Well,” said Morales with a smile. “I’m happy for you.” She then grunted in frustration at yet another loss. “Eventually this game will give me some love.”
The ladies just laughed as they continued their game.
The Caesar’s Office, Roman Senate
“Sir, you have a Cardinal Jesse Newman here to see you,” said the secretary for Caesar Valerius IV through Valerius’ intercom.
Seriously? What now? Valerius sighed before giving instructions to let Newman come visit him. Despite being one of the most popular Caesars in recent memory, the Catholic vote was one that eluded him, and Cardinal Newman often led that charge. Still, Valerius was a man of duty, knowing he had to put the interests of the country before his own. Even if it didn’t come across that way.
“Cardinal Newman! So great to see you!” Valerius exclaimed with mock excitement, holding out his arms for an embrace.
“You disgust me, Valerius,” said Newman, stonewalling him.
Valerius responded sarcastically. “So I guess you’re not ready to apologize for writing that wonderful article in The Vatican Times.”
“...and I guess you’re not ready to apologize for stifling free speech.”
“I’m sorry, but there’s a difference between ‘free speech’ and ‘slander’ and you went for the latter. The judge said as much.”
Newman clenched his mouth in frustration and sighed heavily. He thought about continuing the debate, but decided against it since it would be counterproductive- he wasn’t in a position of strength.
Valerius smiled smugly. “Since I know you’re not here to discuss the past over coffee and biscuits, why don’t you tell me why you’ve decided to bother me at this hour of the morning?”
“Sir, it’s Cardinal Claes.”
Valerius scoffed. “Oh, so you expect me to pay attention to some loony in Samaria?”
“He’s not some loony...he’s raised an army capable of unsettling an already tenuous peace in the Levant.”
Valerius laughed dismissively. “He’s just some crazy that’s just out for a desperate plea for attention that everyone will stop paying attention to in two weeks. Just you watch.”
“Sir, there are already a multitude of nations gearing up for an assault...this is serious business. Can we get your help?”
Valerius was curt. “Nope.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Do I need to make like Dr. Evil and spell things out? Because I’ll do that.”
“You sicken me.”
Valerius waved mockingly. “Bye!” Newman then left in a huff.
A few minutes later, Valerius’ Foreign Affairs Minister Jomo Marea walked in to his office to discuss some matters, noticing Newman.
“Your Majesty,” started Marea, befuddled. “Did you just blow off The Vatican?”
“Marea,” started Valerius, leaning forward purposefully on his desk. “I need you to understand something. We’ve got a diverse Empire, and no matter what kind of a nutcase Peter II may be, we can’t appear to be taking sides. The enemies of Catholicism, and there are many, will seize the opportunity to strike at us if we lend the Vatican our support, and if we lend Peter support, we draw the Catholics against us. It’s a lose-lose situation. Our Empire has survived for over 2600 years by not creating needless enemies...I’m not about to start now.”
“Sir...he’s got nukes.”
“Yes, and he knows it’s suicide to launch them. I’m not worried. We’ll monitor the situation, still, and make sure he does not take an aggressive stance against Roman soil and react accordingly, but not a moment sooner.”
Marea was still concerned with the Caesar’s dismissiveness. “We need to say something. We can’t just stay silent...we house the Vatican...we need to act.”
“Okay, let’s do what we normally do.”
“Declare our neutrality, say we’ll monitor the events closely and invite the parties to resolve the issue diplomatically, even though we both know these guys are way too trigger-happy to even consider the peaceful solution.”
“Exactly. We save face because we at least made the effort and then get back to our own business and let the kids play in the sandbox.”
“Okay. I’ll go release that statement.”
Lucius Black’s Office, RSC Headquarters, Rome
“Hello gentlemen,” said Black, leaning back in his chair greeting Coleman and Yves. “Have a seat.”
“Trying to keep things light today, huh?” Coleman said with a nervous smile, taking his seat.
“I think you’ll learn, Zeke, that as a leader you can’t let things get to you,” explained Black. “When you’re in charge so many things come at you at once...you have to take things in stride. It’s not easy, but you have to do it- an exasperated brain is one that does not think clearly.”
“I hear ya,” nodded Coleman in agreement. “Fitch really needs to learn that.”
“He will,” concurred Black. “You have to remember, he was thrust into the job haphazardly and had to learn on the fly...he’s done remarkably well, considering.” Black then leaned forward, pointing his finger momentarily to draw attention to his next words. “Anyway...you two have a case.”
“Already?” Yves exclaimed, surprised.
“Yes,” said Black. “The Vatican called me and explained that the Pope has been acting strange lately...and, given that we have trouble brewing in Jerusalem, we need you guys to figure out what’s troubling him and get him out of his panic attack.”
“We should call James,” said Coleman, referring to Oldrich James, the erstwhile psychic and mentalist detective the BAU wants to recruit.
“I already did,” said Black. “He’ll be here later today. I meantime, I need you to observe the Pope and interview Cardinal Newman, the Pope’s right hand man, and see what you can come up with.”
“We’re on it,” said Coleman, assuredly.
January 9, 2013, Lecce Marina, Lecce, Apulia, Italy
Carla Perotta needed a smoke. Most of her morning was spent hauling boats that had been cast adrift by the previous’ nights winds and securing them properly back in their docks. It was tiring work, made even more difficult considering the fact Perotta had to cover for the laziness of the night time manager of the Marina, who never seemed to properly fasten the boats the right way.
As she took her break, she couldn’t help but notice a man standing beside his Rolls-Royce parked in the visitor’s lot. He was a dapper gentleman, adorned in a pinstripe suit complemented by a grey fedora. His demeanour was cool and his delivery every bit as slick as his clothes were. The hazel-haired Perotta, clad in nothing but a dusty T-Shirt and overalls, couldn’t help but be taken by the man and approached him playfully but with a purpose.
“Hey,” said Perotta warmly, her ivory skin brightening up. “Come to pick up your boat?”
“No,” said the man, who spoke with an alluring gruff, “I came to see you.”
Perotta was pleasantly surprised. “Me? What could you possibly want out of me? I’m just a simple girl. You on the other hand…”
“You may be but a simple girl, Carla…but you are a simple girl with potential. It is one you don’t realize that you have.”
Perotta was too smitten by the man to notice that he had used her real name even though she never offered it to him. “Well…I suppose…but I like it here at the Marina…I have no regrets about my life.”
The man shifted a bit alongside the car, inching towards her. “Do you really like it here? You have a dead-end job…sure, you’re in a union, but you get no respect. What if I told you that I have a job where you can earn that respect, and then some, as well as utilize your full potential?”
Perotta was intrigued, but she was still skeptical. “Okay…but why should I believe you?”
“Look at this.” The man extended his arms to show off his car and draw attention to himself. “My opportunity bought all this for me…and it can buy it for you too.”
“Oh!” Perotta’s eyes shot wide open. “Please, tell me more!”
“I’d rather I show it to you.” The man gave Perotta his card, telling her to meet him after her shift.
After her shift, Perotta excitedly drove to the place the man talked about. As she drove, all she could think about were the riches she was about to obtain, her thoughts kept her from paying much attention to the road. She skirted a few accidents, but she didn’t care- even if she got into an accident, the man’s opportunity would more than compensate for that.
When she arrived at her destination- an office plaza with an underground parking garage that the man owned- she parked her car in the spot the man told her about. She then exited her car and waited…and waited. What’s taking this guy so long? I’m on time…why can’t he just show up? Perotta thought. She then got worried, wondering if she made a wrong turn and ended up in the wrong garage, before confusing herself even more when she realized the garage was exactly the way the man described it should be.
After a nervous hour, the man emerged from an elevator door, handbag in tow, and walked towards Perotta. Her smile soon turned into an anxious gasp.
“Don’t shout,” barked the man, pointing a gun at her with a silencer on it. “Get in your car.” Perotta, still afraid, didn’t even question the man, dutifully re-entering her car cowering in fear, but awaiting further instructions. The man soon followed, still pointing the gun at her.
“Take off your clothes,” he barked. Perotta quivered, stunned with fear. The man was unrelenting. “I’m not going to say it again!” This time Perotta complied.
The man twisted Perotta onto her back and got on top of her, digging his knee excruciatingly into her back. He grabbed her hands and placed them behind her back, tying them together. He also bound her feet and cleave-gagged her. He then proceeded to beat her senselessly, raping her for good measure, beating her face into an unrecognizable pulp. When she was unconscious, the man opened a window and stepped outside of the car, shooting Perotta dead. He then drove the car back to the Marina’s visitors’ lot, leaving it there, but before he left, he pulled a power drill, marked only with the number 10, from his handbag and put it in Perotta’s hand, forcing the drill into a screw that bolted a piece of fabric onto the floor.
Present day, Roman Special Crimes Headquarters, Rome
“Such an amazing quote,” said Gaia Maria, 34, a seasoned veteran of the RSC who was taking the classes the Behavioural Analysis Unit were teaching in Rome in order to help build an Imperial profiling team of their own.
“Which quote is that?” said Zoe Parkes, of the BAU, as she passed by.
“It’s from Decius Tarsus,” explained Maria.
“Oh, the billionaire…the richest man in Rome,” said Parkes, intrigued at what Maria had to present.
“Yeah,” said Maria, reading from her computer screen. “One day, he was in Egypt. As you know, women are forbidden from working in Egypt, due to their rather archaic laws.”
“I don’t quite understand that,” said Parkes, concurring with Maria’s point.
“Anyway,” continued Maria, excited. “Four fifths of the audience were men, with one-fifth being women, separated with a partition. During the engagement, a man asked what Egypt could do to break out of their economic depression, to which Tarsus supposedly replied, ‘if you’re not using the talents of half of your workforce, you’ll never get out of it. Operation of a power drill knows no gender.’ Isn’t that wonderful?”
“Yeah,” said Parkes, deadpanning. “I guess it is.”
“What’s wrong?” said Maria, confused. “You’re a feminist…I thought you’d love this.”
“I like the quote, don’t get me wrong,” said Parkes. “However…there’s just…something about it that seems off.”
Maria was intrigued. “What would that be?” she asked.
“I really don’t know,” said Parkes, who quickly changed the subject. “Anyway, we’ve got some work to take care of…we’ll worry about that later.”
“Okay,” said Maria, acknowledging the point.
St. Peter’s Square
“Tell me, Father, when did you first meet Adrian?” asked Yves, as he, Coleman and Newman were observing Adrian greet followers after Mass.
“He was an altar boy I had,” explained Newman. “I moved to Rome from Calgary over 30 years ago, and fresh-faced Adrian was one of the first people I met when I started celebrating Mass in Rome.”
“His full name is Hadrianus Cornelius,” said Coleman, recalling his notes. “He’s the first Pope in quite a while who used his given name.”
“Funny how that worked out,” said Newman. “Adrian wanted to have a Papal name, but couldn’t think one up in time- so he just reverted to his given name. I know you guys would call that ‘narcissistic’ but Adrian reasoned, eventually, because he felt like he had nothing to hide- if he assumed a Papal name, there would be people who would only know him by that name, and wouldn’t know his past...Adrian felt that his past was relevant, since without his past he wouldn’t have become Pope.”
“So when did the panic attacks start?” asked Coleman.
“The day after he got elected,” said Newman. “He was never the most assertive of men to begin with...a wonderful orator, sure, and great at appearing strong, but deep down inside was someone who was terribly insecure...in fact, ever since he came back from Mali during a stint in the Roman Army in his twenties, he’s been prone to episodes like this, but never on this level.”
“He’s a bit less of a goofball in public than he is in private,” noticed Yves.
“I coached him a long time ago on how to hide his insecurities,” said Newman, “so that, at least in public, he’ll appear somewhat dignified. I helped him get elected...I was his liaison with the press, and I coached him on the proper things to say at interviews and in press conferences...of course, Papal elections are not nearly as vicious as Roman elections and interviewers are far more sympathetic than the curve-ball throwers we get on CNN.”
“So when he made all those points at the Papal Debate,” said Yves, “that was you who wrote them?”
“He gave me the ideas,” said Newman, “but yes, I phrased them, and whenever there was a recess I chatted with him.”
“That also explains why, at the debate, he flubbed a few lines,” said Yves, “because he’s better when he can anticipate things and his challengers threw him a few curve-balls.”
“Yeah, the election was tough sledding,” said Newman, “but we made it, mostly because Adrian ran on a ticket of reform and reaching out to disillusioned Catholics.”
“The antithesis of Claes,” noted Coleman.
“Yes,” said Newman.
“So Claes loses the election to Adrian,” said Coleman, analyzing. “So he runs off and forms his own Papacy.”
“Seems to be the course of events,” said Newman.
“Okay,” said Yves. “Let’s backtrack for a second. You said, Father, that Adrian’s panic attacks started because of his ascent to Office, right?”
“Roughly speaking, yes,” nodded Newman in agreement.
“Did the attacks get more pronounced after Claes ran off to Israel?” asked Yves.
“Now that I think of it,” said Newman, reflecting, “they did. We both didn’t know what Claes was going to do but we had a feeling he was up to something. Claes invited Adrian to his office shortly after the electoral victory and confronted Adrian...from then on, Adrian has been a nervous wreck.”
“Explains a lot,” said Yves.
“So Pope Adrian has anger issues,” noted Coleman, “and Claes set him off.”
“What happened in Mali?” asked Yves. “You said, Father, that his unassertive streak started then.”
“He’s never talked about it,” said Newman, “not even to me...and I’m his closest friend.”
“Repressed memory,” said Coleman. “Happens within post-traumatic stress disorder.”
“Did he mention anything about Mali?” asked Yves.
“Nothing,” said Newman, who didn’t understand Adrian’s actions himself. “All I heard about was in the news...Adrian wouldn’t discuss the episode with anyone, not even when he received his Eagle Award.”
“At least we’ve got something to tell James,” said Coleman, who placed a phone call.
“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with hypnosis,” said Newman, waiting in a hallway with Coleman and Yves after Adrian’s time with his followers was finished.
“The Catholic Church doesn’t have an opinion on it, from what I understand,” said Yves.
“My objections are not religious,” said Newman. “I’m just not sure it will work.”
“This guy is the best at it,” said Coleman, trying to ease Newman’s tension. “Oldrich James can unlock even the most beat down of memories...whatever is troubling Adrian Oldrich will find it.”
“...and now that we know where to focus the search,” explained Yves, “it’ll be easier.”
“All right,” said Coleman, receiving a call on his cell phone. “Send him in.”
In a few moments, Oldrich James descended into the hallways, walking in with a cool bravado that he was known for.
“He’s going to fix the Pope?” said Newman, befuddled.
“Don’t mind him,” said Yves. “Oldrich’s not one for subtlety. You’ll get used to it.”
“Hello gang,” said James, greeting the trio. He continued with his trademark smirk. “We should have some fun today, will we not?”
“How are you going to approach this?” asked Coleman
James chuckled cockily. “Trust me Zeke...I got it all figured out.” James then spotted Adrian coming out of his office and darted towards him. The agents and the Cardinal sat in confused silence.
“Hey, Adrian, how ya doing?” exclaimed James in excitement. He then slapped his arm around the Pope as if Adrian were simply a childhood friend and let him to another room, which James locked from the inside and reinforced it by pushing a cabinet in front of it.
Cardinal Newman was apoplectic at what he saw. “What is he doing?” said Newman, enraged. “He can’t just put his arm around the Pope! He is a heretic! Does he have no sense of decorum?”
Coleman was similarly disgusted. “I did not see that,” said Coleman, angrily. “Let it be known Father, I didn’t approve of that...nor will I.” Yves, too, was shocked, but he refrained from getting angry since he had a feeling this was just another of James’ tricks.
“I didn’t think you approved that,” said Newman. “You are a man of honour, Agent Coleman...I can tell.” Newman angrily pointed down the hall. “That...he is not even a man, he is a monster!”
Coleman didn’t waste any time. He approached the room with James and the Pope with purpose, and tried to unlock the door. When that didn’t work, he then tried to kick it down like he normally did, only for the door to not even budge off its hinges.
Meanwhile, inside the room, James was making progress with Adrian.
“Close your eyes and concentrate. I need you to listen to the sound of my voice,” said James, softly. “You are entering a trance...you will soon leave this place and enter into the dark abscesses of your mind...we need to go on a journey...back to Mali...something happened there that you don’t like to recall...something...we need to find it.” James continued to hum softly, to keep Adrian in his trance. Eventually, Adrian started to talk.
“I’m in Bamako,” started Adrian. “The town is deserted, save for rebels who have infiltrated the city and forced the town’s inhabitants to flee to refugee camps. We were there to save Roman hostages, and I led a century. Our century was ambushed by the rebels...most of us managed to flee, but my contubernium was in too deep in the city and thus all of us died except myself...meaning I had to go at it alone. I see myself fighting the rebels, all at once, and I won the fight quite handily...then...” Adrian began to slip.
“It’s okay,” reassured James. “Think...you’ve fought the rebels...now what do you see?”
“I see a cellar...I open it...inside there’s this little boy...but, as I reach for him, I’m hit in the head. I turn around and there’s a rebel, twice the size of me. We grapple...I pin him to the ground momentarily but he manages to escape...the boy...no! The boy...” Adrian began to sob.
“It’s okay,” reassured James. “You’re doing wonderful...no need to blame yourself...you were tricked.”
“He unsheathed his sword and killed the boy right in front of me,” said Adrian. “Then he ran off, but I was too distraught to chase him. I sat there, clutching the dead boy in my arms...crying...if only I had been smarter...I could have saved him.” Adrian started to breathe heavily, and put his head in his hands.
James saw that Adrian was distraught so he ended the session by snapping his fingers. Adrian broke his trance.
“So,” said James, smiling. “How do you feel?”
“I feel,” said Adrian, who sounded very relieved. “I feel like this weight has been lifted off my shoulders.” He then got up, seemingly to shake James’ hand in gratitude. James got up as well and extended his own hand.
“Well, I’m glad I could help,” said James, grabbing on to Adrian’s hand.
Adrian, though, wasn’t going to give James a pass. After taking James’ hand, Adrian took his other hand and flipped James onto the table in the room.
“Let that be a reminder that if you ever disrespect me again,” said Adrian, menacingly. “It’ll be more than just the marble on that table you’ll be tasting.” Adrian then fixed his frock, pushed the cabinet out of the way and greeted Newman, who saw a new man in the Pope.
James needed a moment before he could think about getting up from the table after taking that hard hit. Coleman, however, wouldn’t relent.
“What was that all about?” scowled Coleman. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“You needed me to fix his head,” said James with a smirk. “I did that.”
“By disrespecting the Pope! I’m going to fire you right now!”
“No you won’t.”
“I just did.”
“See, after you hear my explanation-”
Coleman didn’t care for James’ explanation. In mid-sentence, Coleman lifted James over his shoulder and carried him outside of the Curia, throwing him onto the steps. James grimaced from the hit, as he still hadn’t recovered from the hit Adrian gave him, but he did manage to set himself straight to sit on one of the steps.
He continued to sit on the step, waiting. Despite the fact that James had been, until now, tabbed by Coleman to be a part of the Roman profiling team, James wasn’t worried. Ten minutes later, James received a phone call.
“A very sore Oldrich James speaking,” said James, answering his cell phone. “Oh hello Coleman.”
“I don’t know how you do it,” said Coleman, exasperated.
“See, that’s what I was trying to tell you,” said James. “I knew the Pope felt that someone had overpowered him earlier in his life, which is why he second-guesses himself. Since he’s the Pope, he never dealt with someone who was openly disrespectful of him, so I had to be to unlock the hidden assertiveness that he had inside. Once he figured out that he did have someone he was mad at, unlocking his assertiveness was easy. That’s all it was.”
Coleman sighed, having to acknowledge that James’ unorthodox tactic worked. “Okay, fine,” said Coleman, “I’ll let it go. Adrian told us to let it go. However, the next time you want to pull a stunt like that, at least run it by me. You should know us by now...we know about your antics...it’s why I want you on this team; but if you’re going to be on this team, we’re going to have to work together, not against each other. I’m not like your former employers at the CBI...I trust you...you gotta repay that trust. Is that understood?”
“Yes, that’s understood,” said James, realizing that Coleman was right. “Next time I want to do something like that I’ll run it by you...you guys have treated me fairly...it’s time I repay that.”
“Thank you,” said Coleman, as the two ended the call.
February 17, 2013, Groningen, Netherlands
“Hello,” said the plumber, greeting the receptionist, Lisanne Meijer, at William of Orange High School. “I’m here to see Julia Winters.”
“Ah yes,” said Meijer. “The drain in the boys’ bathroom has been acting up lately…Ms. Winters…she’s done all that she could…she really needs your help.”
“Well, I’ll be glad to provide it,” said the plumber, who flashed a polite smile.
“I’ll page her,” said Meijer. In a few minutes, Winters arrived at reception and greeted the plumber, and escorted him to the offending bathroom.
“I’m glad you came,” said Winters, the fair-skinned brunette walking with the plumber to the bathroom. “Sewage came up from the drain and exploded onto the floor…I’ve done what I could to clean it up and unplug it, but I need more advanced tools than the school is willing to give me.”
“You don’t normally call plumbers, do you?” said the plumber.
“I don’t…usually I can fix everything myself, just with my ingenuity and my limited tools…I think I know what’s blocking the drain but I can’t get to it.”
The plumber flashed a wry smile. “That’s what you have me for…I unclog the permaclogged.”
After making sure the bathroom was empty- easy because the stench from the drain meant no one wanted to use the bathroom anyway- the plumber and Winters got to work.
“This drain is wedged in pretty tightly,” said the plumber. As he started to unscrew the drain, the plumber heard the lock on the bathroom door get undone. A service man then entered, locking the door behind him.
“I was told you guys needed some help,” said the service man.
“Yes, yes we do,” said the plumber.
“Who are you?” asked Winters, confused at seeing the service man. She was only expecting the plumber.
“I work with the City of Groningen,” explained the service man. “Every time there’s a drain problem, I need to investigate for health issues.”
“Shouldn’t you wait until we’re done?” asked Winters. “We know about the risks and we’re cleaning it up right now.”
“I don’t have time for this,” said the service man, reaching into his pockets.
Out came a gun with a silencer.
“Don’t scream or I’ll shoot you both,” threatened the service man. “Put both of your hands behind your back and lie down on your stomachs.” Neither the plumber or Winters took any chances, complying with the request. “If I hear one peep out of you, I’ll shoot you.”
The service man then knelt on top of Winters, making sure he incapacitated her hands. She did her best not to scream, though she writhed in pain. As he knelt on top of Winters, he tied up hands, knees and feet of the plumber and gagged and blindfolded him with zip ties. He then got off of Winters and tied her hands and feet together, though he only gagged her.
After incapacitating Winters, the service man put his hands around the plumber’s throat and squeezed. He applied as much pressure as he could, with fierce intensity in his eyes and watching with enjoyment as the plumber writhed in pain. However, he looked up and noticed the open toilet, and decided not to take any chances. He dragged the plumber and plunged his head into the toilet bowl, making sure his nose and his mouth were submerged. After a few minutes the plumber drowned to death.
Winters watched, gripped with fear, knowing that she was next. The service man wasn’t going to make quick work of her though. He turned her over and ripped off her clothes with a knife. He then raped her, having his way with her body and held her close to his so that she could take in the stench of her attacker and remember, as her last memory, of who was the one who defiled her. After he was finished raping her, the service man took her head and violently smashed her face several times against the wall, leaving it a bloody pulp. To finish her off, he then submerged her head into the other toilet, waiting until she drowned to death, which, afterward, the service man defecated over Winters’ submerged head. He then undid the ties to her hands, placing a power drill with the number “10” marked on it, changed the drill bit and wedged it into a screw he had on him.
BAU War Room, FBII Academy, Quantico, Virginia
“We’ll be logging a lot of miles, guys,” said Cooke, as she started the presentation for the team’s newest case. “Our latest case has us flying out of North America again.”
“Again?” said Pucci, surprised. “Are serial killers in North America taking a break or something?”
“Lucius Black wants us on the case,” explained Cooke. “He’s afraid that something bigger is at play here and we’re his best crime fighters.”
“So that’s why Coleman, Yves and Parkes are in Rome,” said Pucci pensively.
“Actually they’re in Rome for something completely unrelated,” responded Cooke.
“For now,” said Proctor. “These cases seem to have a strange way of connecting, don’t they?”
“Right now, we can’t comment on that,” said Cooke. “As far as we know, what we’ve got is a European serial killer who has so far claimed ten lives, all women except for one man. They’re all working class women, they were found naked, raped and beaten after being restrained and gagged. Each of them were also found holding a power drill with the number ‘10’ emblazoned on it, with the drill being inserted into a screw.”
“In Groningen, Julia Winters got defecated on?” said Proctor, not hiding her disgust and shock at the information.
“I wish I was making that up,” said Cooke, agreeing. She paused and then continued. “Our latest victim is Cecile Beaufort, 36, of Djon, Burgundy. She was a taxi driver, found in a state like the other women, only this time she was murdered in her own car.”
“Judging by the victimology,” said Fitchner, looking at the notes, “our UnSub seems to have issues with a certain woman, and these women are surrogates. They’re all from the same background and have the same appearance.”
“The ‘10’ and the power drill have some significance, though,” said Pucci. “Last year, Decius Tarsus, Rome’s richest man, is reported to have made a statement in Egypt condemning the country’s policy forbidding women from working, and a power drill was specifically referenced in the quote. I believe these murders are tied to him somehow.”
“You don’t think he made the comments?” asked Proctor, intrigued. She always thought Tarsus did.
“There’s only one source for the quote, and that’s an opinion piece in The Roman Free Press,” explained Pucci, “however, the piece is vague about whether or not Decius actually made the quote, but I haven’t seen any other news reports that independently verify Decius’ speech.”
“We’re going to talk with him anyway,” said Fitchner. “Pucci and Proctor, I want you to interview Decius, and see if you can get a lead on his next target. I’m going to go to the latest crime scene, where I’ll be joined by Simeon, who I’ve called to help out on this case. We’ll also rendezvous with Coleman, Yves and Parkes while we’re there- they’re still working security detail on the Pope, so right now they’re unavailable for the case but we’ll keep them posted.” Fitchner then closed his file folder and started to get up to leave. “Wheels up in 30.”
“Sorry for interrupting your vacation at your chateau, Jason,” said Fitchner, greeting BAU Alternate Jason Simeon at the Beaufort crime scene.
“Nah, it’s okay,” said Simeon with a wry smile. “Who doesn’t like a busman’s holiday?”
Fitchner laughed before getting down to business, observing the cab. “So Cecile Beaufort has been driving a cab for ten years.”
Simeon took a closer look at the body. “Would have been ten years next week.”
“So the UnSub gets in the cab, and then threatens her in some way to gain control of the vehicle.”
“I think the UnSub gets control of the vehicle before he steps in. He holds a gun in his pocket, tells her not to scream, she gives up the driver’s seat and he drives her here, where he can beat and rape her without detection.”
“How would the UnSub know if the cab he’s approaching is Cecile’s though?”
Simeon continued to look around the car. “My guess is that he stalked her, memorized her route and struck at the best moment. This crime scene is carefully planned.”
“I will grant you that.” Fitchner stood, folding his arms and cupping his face pensively. “However, what do you make the timing of the killings? If all of these are planned, how did one UnSub pull it off?”
“That’s because there isn’t one UnSub. There’s nine of them. Nine highly trained and highly disciplined serial killers.”
“So we have an organization of international killers. I find it interesting that they’ve all repeated the pattern of crimes…usually with multiple killers some deviate more than others.”
“Just look at the overkill, Fitch. Julia Winters got defecated on. This poor lady had her eyes torn out. Carla Perotta, bless her soul, was lucky enough just to get a beating.”
“It’s clear that the UnSubs have a particular woman in mind as their ultimate target. All the victims look similar and have similar ages. This woman is also hated- you can see it through the overkill, as well as the rape.”
“Fitch.” Simeon waved Fitchner over to the passenger seat window, where Beaufort was draped over holding the power drill. It had the initials “GC”, for the person who made it, Gaia Cornelia, pressed on the bottom. Simeon recognized the initials, having used a similar drill himself, but didn’t think too much of it, since the “10” was much more prominent.
“Yes, Jason, what do you see?”
“Look at this.” Simeon picked up the drill and tried to wedge it into the screw, but the drill wouldn’t fit. “Wrong bit.”
Fitchner was enlightened by the observation, having seen something in the police reports. “So our UnSubs are killing working-class women to prove they’re incapable of performing the jobs that men can do, because each woman is positioned holding a drill with the wrong drill bit. They’ve also been denigrated and beaten beyond recognition as a symbol of how weak they are.”
“We’ve got a ‘social revolution’ happening…and it’s not going to stop any time soon.”
“Unless we stop it.”
Decius Tarsus’ Residence, L’Aquila, Roman Republic
“Welcome,” said Tarsus with a full-bodied grin as he greeted Proctor and Pucci at the door of his mansion. He heartily shook Pucci’s hand before grabbing Proctor’ hand and kneeling down to kiss the top of her hand before Proctor pulled it away.
“Flattery ain’t going to get you anywhere honey,” snapped Proctor.
“Ooh,” said Tarsus, maintaining his cool. He slicked his already gelled-hair back. “You play hard to get.”
“I play impossible to get,” scowled Proctor. Tarsus just chuckled, deciding he needed more time to try to woo her.
Ornate wouldn’t begin to describe Tarsus’ house. Gold statues of bulls of various sizes littered the floor space, with the counters made of the finest marble and the walls made with magnesium oxide wallboards. The colours were earthy in tone, with lots of blues and greens, giving it an ambient, vibrant feel. The look wasn’t the only part Tarsus didn’t spare expense for- if there was a fancy technological gadget or two, he had it in his cavernous abode.
His narcissism didn’t end there though. At every point possible hung a monument or a wall decoration aimed at celebrating Tarsus’ many entrepreneurial achievements. Tarsus’ business empire spanned many different products and fields, from household care to electronics to even alien research. He was most famous, though, for the Sabre automaker brand, which he launched in Brampton, Ontario in 1966 and built it into the Roman Empire’s second largest carmaker, just behind Fiat Auto.
“To say this guy loves himself is an understatement,” whispered Proctor to Pucci, who chuckled in agreement.
They eventually made their way to Tarsus’ expansive living room, taking seats on opposite leather couches.
“Italian leather,” Pucci couldn’t help but note, given his own fondness for Italian leather.
Tarsus called three of his many maids over.
“These are three of my finest maids,” said Tarsus, slapping each emphatically on their butts. “Would you guys like anything? Sandwiches? Tea? Coffee? Oh wait! I know what you want! Steak!”
“Actually I think we’re okay,” said Pucci, declining.
“Oh come on,” said Tarsus, egging the agents on. “I have the finest materials in the world…you’ll love it.”
“No thanks,” Proctor repeated for Pucci.
“Suit yourself,” said Tarsus, who ordered one of the maids into the kitchen to fix a steak. The other two women then knelt down in front of both Tarsus and Pucci and planted their heads in between their legs and started to undo their pants.
“Excuse me,” said Pucci, shocked. “What is she doing?” Proctor could only look on in sheer disgust.
“I thought it was a long flight for you,” replied Tarsus, smugly. “I thought maybe you could use a little…’pick me up’.”
Pucci furiously put his pants back on. “We’re two federal agents on official business,” scolded Pucci. “We’re not here for ‘pick me ups!’ In fact, we need you to start showing some class this instant!”
“Well,” chuckled Tarsus with a smirk, “maybe I’ll let that go for you. For me…you’re not going to get any co-operation from me unless I-” Tarsus could feel the sensations of enjoyment oozing through his body as his maid pleasured him. “Unless I…ooh…unless I get my pleasure. Ooh she’s good…ooh yeah baby, work it! Work it for me! Ride that bull!”
“Dear goodness,” whispered Pucci to himself, putting his head in his hands, “the things I have to work through to do my job…”
St. Peter’s Square, Rome
“Are you sure, Your Holiness, that you want to say Mass from the Obelisk?” Parkes inquired, scoping the intended place for the Altar in the middle of the Square at the Obelisk.
“You guys may call me Adrian,” said Adrian. “We’re friends now, and yes...I know it’s not the safest position...but I campaigned on being an ‘accessible’ Pope...I’m not about to change that now.”
“Okay,” said Parkes. “Fair enough...if we need to change anything, just let me know.”
Parkes then joined Yves, who was also observing the setup. Yves was at the southeast corner, right in front of the Friezenkirk, or the Church of Saints Michael and Magnus.
“The Pope likes being risky,” said Parkes, approaching Yves.
“It’s a risky job,” responded Yves. “However, I admire his determination...even in the face of all of these threats, he’s holding strong.”
“Oh he’s at the RSC firing range...Coleman told him he needs to have a gun so he’s practicing.”
“I thought he hated guns.”
“He still does, but at least he recognizes what needs to be done.”
Parkes then noticed someting about the Vatican flag being draped over the corner. “The left ring...it’s positioned too nicely around the window of the Church.”
“This can’t be good.”
Decius Tarsus’ Residence
Pucci and Proctor were uneasy with Tarsus having oral sex right in front of them, though both knew they weren’t exactly in a position of power so they had to go along with the ordeal. Keeping their composure was a challenge.
“Mr. Tarsus,” started Pucci, fumbling his speech a little. “As I understand from our records, you’re quite the champion for women’s rights.”
“I love women,” said Tarsus, still enjoying his maid’s service. The other maid came by with his steak, which he gladly started to eat. “Can’t you tell?” Tarsus said, with a smug smile.
“Yes, we really can,” said Proctor sarcastically.
“Hey Emily,” said Tarsus playfully. “Once you deep throat this,” he said, pointing to where the maid’s head is, “you’ll love it forever.”
“It’s Agent Proctor,” snapped Proctor, “and no I will not.”
Pucci was still confused. This was not a man who looks like someone who championed women’s rights.
Proctor soldiered on. “So what organizations have you helped out with?” Proctor asked.
“Oh I have a long history,” replied Tarsus with a pleased series of smiles. “My proudest moment came with the Vestal Virgins...I’ve been contributing to them for over a decade now...I’ve really gotten behind them, if you know what I mean.” Tarsus winked, then silently moaned enjoying the oral pleasuring.
“The Vestal Virgins,” said Pucci, chuckling. The group no longer actually requires its members to be virgins, in fact becoming the Empire’s foremost proponent of responsible sex, contraceptives and abortion. The irony of their name does get pointed out, but the Vestals kept it for brand recognition.
“So that’s why you were so quick to defend women in Egypt,” said Proctor. “The Vestals loved that quote of yours.”
“It’s a golden one,” said Tarsus, smiling with appreciation. “One of my favourites...the din of that concert hall fills me with joy every time I think of it.”
“I didn’t know it was in a concert hall,” said Pucci, not following Tarsus’ logic. “The quote talked about a partition separating the men and the women...quite hard to partition a concert hall.”
“None of our records even indicate you were in a concert hall when you were in Egypt,” said Proctor. “In fact, you weren’t there at all when you were claimed to have uttered the quote.” The maid pleasuring Tarsus looked up at him with a bit of bewilderment, but decided to keep going anyway.
“Hey, don’t slow down!” said Tarsus to the maid, sensing she had eased up a little. He then answered suavely. “Anyway, Agent Proctor…if I wasn’t in Egypt the day of the quote…where was I?”
Proctor pulled up a story on her cell phone. “You were arrested for assaulting a Vestal Virgin and making derogatory comments about them,” said Proctor, sternly flashing the story in front of Tarsus. “In fact, you covered it up with millions in ‘hush money’, and a day later you were claiming you were in Egypt teaching them about respecting the talents of women.”
“Judging by your treatment of women,” said Pucci, smugly, “it seems like the only ‘talent’ of theirs that you respect is sexual.”
“You know what I else I find funny Pucci?” said Proctor, tapping Pucci’s shoulder. “He claims he loves women but the only women he can get to show him any love are the ones he pays. There must be a reason why a good looking, 50-year-old guy never did get married.” She continued with a smirk. “Oh yeah…it’s because you have no class.”
The maid had enough of what the agents were saying, stopping her servicing of Tarsus. “I was a Vestal Virgin,” she exclaimed in disgusted horror to Tarsus. “I was enamoured by you ever since you apparently made that quote…I can’t believe I’ve been living a lie my entire life!” She then went down over Tarsus’ penis and bit down hard on it, but not enough to draw blood. She then flipped Tarsus’ steak dish off of his lap splattering it all over the floor before leaving in a huff.
Tarsus, still writhing in pain, had unintentionally left himself exposed.
“Looks like big money isn’t enough to get you a big package,” said Pucci, who couldn’t help but crack a joke at his expense. Proctor bawled over with a belly laugh, agreeing with Pucci. Pucci then got up and put his coat back on, while Proctor followed the maid into the kitchen.
“Hey,” said Proctor, finding the angry maid. “I’m sorry for what happened.”
“It’s okay,” said the maid. “I have to re-evaluate things…I can’t stay here anymore. Thank you for making me see the light…I felt so dirty being nothing more than a prostitute to this guy.”
“Listen,” said Proctor handing the maid her card, “if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call.”
“Will do,” replied the maid, happily.
St. Peter’s Square
“Hello Your Holiness,” said Newman, greeting Adrian, getting ready inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
“My first Mass as the new Pope,” said Adrian, sitting in his chair pensively. “I’m pretty excited…I get to show the Catholics of the world why they voted for me.”
Newman smiled warmly. “I’ll let you be. It’s great to see you happy again.”
“I agree, Cardinal.” Newman left Adrian alone, allowing Adrian to open a drawer he had been eyeing.
“I didn’t think I’d have to use these,” whispered Adrian to himself, “but I can’t take any chances with Peter the Roman running around.” He then put on a bulletproof vest and hid it under his shirt and took out a small, military-grade handgun, the same one that Coleman had, concealing both under his smock.
When it came time to start the Mass, Adrian joined the procession like he was supposed to. Meanwhile, Coleman met up with Yves and Parkes by the Obelisk.
“What’s wrong?” Coleman said with urgency.
“Look at the flag,” noted Yves.
“Yeah, so?” Coleman said, confused.
“The left ring on the flag,” said Parkes, pointing it out. “It fits too nicely around the window of the Friezenkirk, and aims directly to where Adrian would be standing for Mass.”
“You guys waited until now to tell me this?” Coleman scolded. “We can’t stop the Mass now.”
“They only put it up ten minutes ago,” said Yves. “There was nothing we can do.”
“We’ve tried to find out who installed the flag,” explained Parkes, “but the commanders don’t know.”
“We’ve got an inside job,” said Coleman with grave concern. “How did we miss this? We should be catching things like this.”
“Coleman,” said Parkes. “We were only given the case a few days ago, our focus was the Pope and ultimate command is with the Vatican Army, not us. We didn’t have the opportunity to vet any of the soldiers, since it wasn’t our job and we’d be stuck with them anyway.”
Coleman sighed then got back on track. “I know what our job is,” he said authoritatively. “We can profile the soldiers now and see which ones were in on the job. I’m going to focus on the Pope. Parkes and Yves, I want you guys to profile the soldiers and do it discreetly. Once we identify who did it then we’ll know who we can trust to go in that Church. Hurry, because we don’t have much time.” Coleman cussed in frustration, which drew some shocked reactions from people nearby but Coleman was too stressed to worry about decorum.
Coleman saw the Pope walking towards the Altar, ready to start the Mass. Coleman began to run to the Pope to tackle him out of harm’s way, but as there were too many people to wade through, Coleman’s chase would be slowed. His worst nightmare then happened.
A shot crackled through the air and struck Adrian in the back, knocking him down, face first, onto the ground with red oozing out of his clothes.
Coleman panicked. “Get the paramedics! Get the f***ing paramedics!” Coleman hollered, “Pope down! Pope down!” He breathed frantically and heavily, wanting to cry in sadness but there was no time for that. He knew where the shot came from and pushed his way towards the Frienzenkirk.
Meanwhile, Yves and Parkes had to work impromptu crowd control, but it was bedlam. There was confusion in the crowd and even in the Vatican ranks, as some of the dishonest soldiers were undermining the work of the honest ones. Some of the corrupt soldiers even started to open fire on the civillians, hoping to create an even bigger tragedy. This forced Parkes and Yves to abandon crowd control, since they weren’t equipped for a firefight. The Vaticans fought between themselves, civilians and soldiers alike. Yves called in the Roman Army but it would be a while yet before they could attend to the situation.
“That door will lead us to the Friezenkirk,” said Yves, pointing to another passageway.
“Good idea,” said Parkes. “We can’t get close to the Obelisk or we’ll get shot too.”
Meanwhile, Adrian heard in the background that the fighting was getting closer to the Obelisk. Still smarting from the gunshot, he took off his smock- which had a few splattered ketchup packets attached to it- and headdress and got up gingerly, but as soon as he was on his feet he regained his energy. Several in the crowd stopped running watching in utter shock that Adrian had gotten up, largely unscathed, from the gunshot, with many, including Newman, doing the Sign of the Cross.
Adrian, though, wasn’t paying any attention. He pushed himself through the crowd, shooting down two attempted assassins and knocking out another that jumped him with a well-timed punch (as, by now, the corrupt Vaticans had realized that Adrian wasn’t actually dead) and escaping towards the Friezenkirk. Just outside the Church entrance, he found Coleman, engaged in hand to hand combat with ten different soldiers. He was holding his own, but Adrian knew he had to give him help.
“Adrian,” said Coleman, relieved, as Adrian assumed a battle stance next to him. “You just might make me believe in miracles.”
“Let’s show these guys what the Power of God can do,” said Adrian, grinning.
The two engaged the group of corrupt Vaticans in earnest. It was a difficult fight, since they were dealing with trained soldiers, but Coleman and Adrian were trained fighters in their own regard. The two of them were in the middle, encircled by the mooks, but they wore but the slightest of concern.
Eventually, one of the corrupt soldiers started forward, causing the rest to come forward as well. Adrian responded by clotheslining the first soldier to get to him while delivering a roundhouse kick that leveled two other soldiers. Coleman flipped his first challenger over his shoulder and kicked him in the face after he landed, before grabbing another challenger and using him as a baseball bat against another soldier.
Over his shoulder, Coleman noticed Parkes and Yves coming towards the Church. Parkes thought Coleman and Adrian had the situation under control so she darted into the Church, with Yves following in the pursuit.
“F***!” Coleman said outloud. He knew neither agent were seasoned fighters and feared the worst, but there was little he could do given his preoccupation.
The soldiers kept coming. One of them got Coleman with a kick to the face, but he rolled over and punched the guy from his stomach, before getting up and leveling him again with another punch. Meanwhile, Adrian got jumped from behind, and the soldier restrained his arms allowing another soldier to get a few free shots at him. However, Adrian used his upper body strength to pull the soldier from behind him and strike the solider in front of him, knocking them both out.
“Coleman,” called out Adrian, “crouch down, I’ve got an idea.” Coleman nodded, and followed Adrian’s instructions.
Adrian jumped on top of Coleman and placed his hands on Coleman’s back. He then kicked up his feet and used his arms to twirl himself around perpendicularly from Coleman’s back, his legs fully extended, striking each of the soldiers several times in a circular motion, knocking them all out simultaneously.
“Good work,” said Coleman, tossing Adrian some zip ties to use as handcuffs. The two of them restrained the soldiers before darting towards the Church to join Parkes and Yves.
Near the Church, Parkes and Yves had their own difficulties. As soon as Parkes darted up the stairs that led to the Church, her excitement got the better of her and she got struck in the face by the barrel of a rifle from a soldier guarding the first entrance. Parkes fell to the floor, dazed with her face bloodied by the attack. The soldier then took out his revolver, and was about to shoot Parkes dead before Yves picked up his discarded rifle and struck the soldier on the head.
“What happened?” Parkes said, groggily with her senses hazy.
“You got lucky,” barked Yves, handcuffing the felled soldier.
Yves barely had a chance to catch his breath when another soldier came from behind and jumped on his back, tackling him to the ground. As the soldier wrestled with Yves (with the agent getting the worst of the fight), Parkes, recovering, slowly got up, cocked her gun and shoved it right against the soldier’s back.
“Back off or I will kill you,” Parkes snarled. The soldier’s moment of hesitation was all that Yves needed to flip the soldier on to his back, allowing for another arrest.
After shooting down two more guards (and having to rescue Yves from being jumped again, although this time he held his own a bit better), Parkes and Yves got inside the Church. Parkes was ready to run in before Yves stopped her.
“Wait,” he said. “There’s a sniper in there…he knows we’re coming.”
“You’re right,” said Parkes. “We need some cover.”
A few moments later, Coleman and Adrian arrived.
“Guys,” said Coleman. “The Roman Army is outside…they’ve got their own guns trained on the sniper. Let’s move in.”
The team moved up the stairs, eventually getting to the top of the tower where the sniper was. When they descended upon him, they found a sniper who was still rattled by the arrival of the Roman Army and the BAU, and he was even more confused when he saw the Pope staring down at him, his own gun raised.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” barked Coleman, his eyes belying the intensity of the moment.
“I don’t…I don’t understand,” stuttered the sniper. “I thought I killed the Pope.”
“The LORD is on my side,” replied Adrian. “He told me to get the Kevlar and the ketchup…just to throw you off your game.”
“You really fooled me,” said the sniper, still rattled. He hadn’t left the observatory thinking he had accomplished his task, and stayed amidst the confusion of his henchmen getting beaten up. He then pulled a knife out of his pocket, which Adrian shot right out of his hand, causing him to writhe in pain. Coleman called for paramedics as he formally arrested the sniper, with the Army arresting the other corrupt soldiers inside the Square and in the Friezenkirk.
As the Army attended to arresting the corrupt soldiers, Coleman attended to Parkes and Yves at the Church’s First Aid quarters.
“He got you real good,” said Coleman, who has a St. John’s Ambulance certification, cleaning up Parkes’ bloody face. Her nose was broken and swollen, welding her glasses, which only got a scratch, onto her face, with her left eye being blackened.
“I didn’t realize how much it hurts until now,” said Parkes, wincing in pain as the adrenaline that kept her going had worn off.
“You gotta be more careful,” said Coleman. “You can’t just run in with guns blazing...you’ll get into trouble.”
“You go on impulse too, though,” said Parkes.
“I’m experienced,” said Coleman. “I’ve been in more dangerous situations than anyone could ever dream of...I’ve learned how to assess danger and do it quickly. That moment will come for you...you just need time. In the meantime, think before you act.”
Adrian came in to check on things.
“Are you okay?” Yves, also being treated by Coleman, said, clutching onto Parkes’ hand.
“I’m fine,” said Parkes, reciprocating Yves’s gesture. “Coleman is taking very good care of me.”
“Coleman is great like that,” said Yves, smiling.
“You took a shot from an AK-47,” said Adrian, examining Parkes’ wound. “Tough girl.”
Yves had a closer look at the wound. “Good eye,” he commented, commending Adrian on his observation.
“Been an Army guy most of my life,” said Adrian. “I can spot an AK from a mile away.”
The paramedics then arrived to take a look at Parkes and Yves, allowing Coleman to have a word with Adrian.
“Ketchup and Kevlar, huh?” Coleman said with a smirk. “Looks like your hunch worked.”
“I had an inkling Peter II wanted to strike at me,” said Adrian, “so I set him up. That’s why I wanted to preach from the Obelisk, because it was just daring him to come at me...and it worked. I wanted to see what kind of a man he was...late last night he called for peace...so I wanted to see if I could trust him. Turns out I can’t.”
Coleman smiled, impressed that Adrian seemed like an adept, if raw, profiler. “Where’d you learn your profiling skills?”
“I met a priest...I’m sure you know him...Father Frank Dowling. He’s from Chicago, just like you, Agent Coleman.”
“Father Dowling...he helped me when I had my issues with Carl Buford...he encouraged me to become a cop. I owe him a lot.” Coleman took another look at Parkes and Yves before scratching his head and breathing heavily out of concern.
“Your agents will be fine,” said Adrian, picking up on Coleman’s concern.
“I know,” Coleman sighed, still concerned for them. “I just realized Lucius will grill me for what happened.”
“No he won’t. You guys are crime fighters...you’re not trained to fight an army. Given the circumstances, you did the best that you could.”
Coleman lamented. “I still allowed two of my least seasoned combat agents into the Friezenkirk without backup. Granted, both have got a mind of their own and get carried away rather easily...but still.”
“What were you going to do? Leave me alone with those soldiers? Your hands were tied. Besides, they’re young...they’ll eventually see the error of their ways and be more calculated. It just takes experience. Give them time.”
“This just in,” bellowed CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer as Fitchner watched on TV. “Mere minutes into Pope Adrian VII’s first Mass we are reporting that Adrian has been shot amidst a firefight that has erupted in St. Peter’s Square...it is absolute bedlam and anarchy in there, requiring the assistance of an entire Roman Legion. To fill us in a little more, we turn to our Roman correspondent, Sextus Pilus. Sextus, what can you tell us?”
“Wolf,” started Pilus, who spoke with a distinct Scottish accent since that is where he learned his English, “there isn’t much that we can tell you at this stage. I do know the Romans have managed to retake control of St. Pete’s Square and that the corrupt soldiers, including the sniper that shot His Holiness, are all in Roman custody. The situation on the ground is, as I am told, just getting back to normal but other details, such as the condition of the Pope, are unknown to us at this stage.”
“So we don’t even know if he made it out alive?”
“There was a lot of confusion, Wolf, after the shot. Some witnesses report that His Holiness managed to escape and left his smock behind, while others contend that they saw the body of the Pope being dragged out and that the person witnesses saw running was an apparition...it’s very hard to get a clear account of what happened at this stage.”
“Did the Army say where the shot came from?”
“Witnesses are saying they heard the shot from the southwest corner, in the direction of the Friezenkirk observatory...indeed, that’s where the sniper was found. As far as who attacked the Pope, the authorities are not divulging any information at this time...what I do know is that there were Vatican soldiers, or people dressed as Vatican soldiers, who opened fire on the crowd...estimates vary on the dead and injured, with totals as low as 53 and as high as 1075. Roman officials have promised us to clarify this at a later time.”
“Thank you Sextus.” Fitchner then heard something that caught his ear.
“Thank you Sextus.” Fitchner then heard something that caught his ear.
Friday, April 19, 2013
“This just in,” bellowed CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer as BAU Chief Aaron “Fitch” Fitchner watched on TV. “Mere minutes into Pope Adrian VII’s first Mass we are reporting that Adrian has been shot amidst a firefight that has erupted in St. Peter’s Square...it is absolute bedlam and anarchy in there, requiring the assistance of an entire Roman Legion. To fill us in a little more, we turn to our Roman correspondent, Sextus Pilus. Sextus, what can you tell us?”
“Wolf,” started Pilus, who spoke with a distinct Scottish accent since that is where he learned his English, “there isn’t much that we can tell you at this stage. I do know the Romans have managed to retake control of St. Pete’s Square and that the corrupt soldiers, including the sniper that shot His Holiness, are all in Roman custody. The situation on the ground is, as I am told, just getting back to normal but other details, such as the condition of the Pope, are unknown to us at this stage.”
“So we don’t even know if he made it out alive?”
“There was a lot of confusion, Wolf, after the shot. Some witnesses report that His Holiness managed to escape and left his smock behind, while others contend that they saw the body of the Pope being dragged out and that the person witnesses saw running was an apparition...it’s very hard to get a clear account of what happened at this stage.”
“Did the Army say where the shot came from?”
“Witnesses are saying they heard the shot from the southwest corner, in the direction of the Friezenkirk observatory...indeed, that’s where the sniper was found. As far as who attacked the Pope, the authorities are not divulging any information at this time...what I do know is that there were Vatican soldiers, or people dressed as Vatican soldiers, who opened fire on the crowd...estimates vary on the dead and injured, with totals as low as 53 and as high as 1075. Roman officials have promised us to clarify this at a later time.”
“Thank you Sextus.” Fitchner then heard something that caught his ear.
“One other thing Wolf...at the scene of the crime, a power drill with the number ‘10’ was reported at the scene by witnesses. We don’t know for sure what this means but we’ll keep you posted. We also found a cross that’s an exact replica of the one from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the scene, leading to speculation that ‘Peter the Roman’ is involved.”
“Thank you Sextus.”
“Claude,” said Fitchner, calling his colleague, Claudio Pucci.
“Yes Aaron?” Pucci replied, hearing Fitchner’s concern.
“How many people work at Decius Tarsus’ mansion?”
“Tarsus’ mansion is next. At the Obelisk, a power drill with the number ‘10’ was recovered.”
“I heard. I just heard about it on the news.”
“Adrian was supposed to be victim No. 1. Decius and his maids will round out the total to ten, as our killer kills in groups of ten.”
“Doesn’t fit the victimology, though. Our killer has only killed one man so far and that man seemed like collateral, not as an intended victim...now, I know Adrian ran on a platform involving women’s rights, so he could have been the tenth victim.”
“So we have one person that is missing. In any case, I don’t want to take any chances...set up a security detail for Tarsus’ home.”
Pucci sighed. “I hate that guy...Tarsus is a despicable human...but...he’s still human...I guess. I’ll get it set up.”
“In the meantime, we need to explore Adrian’s side of things. Cardinal Claes is our prime suspect...he’s the only one who could have the manpower to pull off the assassination attempt and has the motive to do so.”
Pucci and Fitchner said their goodbyes and ended the call. Pucci then slumped in his chair.
“What’s wrong?” BAU teammate Emily Proctor, visiting Pucci’s room, asked.
“Fitch wants us to set up a security detail for Tarsus,” said Pucci, with frustrated indignation.
“Tarsus? I’m sorry, but I don’t think he deserves our protection...in fact, he just may be our UnSub.”
“You think so?”
“Just look at him...we’ve got a guy who treats women badly. Very badly. He’s a classic narcissist who will do anything to make himself look good...he lied about the women quote just like he lied about the story about sending a man the rest of his mortgage payments after the man fixed Tarsus’ flat tire. The ‘10’? That’s just his way of saying his guys are the ones committing the crimes...and the cross? Red herring. He’s trying to pin this on Claes because he’s the criminal du jour when he’s got nothing to do with this. Pucci, everything points to Tarsus.”
“I don’t think we can dismiss Claes just yet...he’s got more reason to kill Adrian than Tarsus does. However, the other killings...it does fit Tarsus’ profile. We’ll keep tabs on him and see what turns up.”
Gaia Cornelia’s Workshop, Neapolis, Campania
“I think this is the drill you need,” said Gaia Cornelia, helping out a customer.
Her curly brown locks fell beautifully against her snow white skin, her well-built frame and simple clothing belying her no-nonsense, workmanlike attitude. “It’s slender, so it fits in the corners a lot better.”
Her curly brown locks fell beautifully against her snow white skin, her well-built frame and simple clothing belying her no-nonsense, workmanlike attitude. “It’s slender, so it fits in the corners a lot better.”
“Thank you,” said the customer.
“Excuse me just one minute,” said Cornelia, noticing two police officers enter her store.
“We gotta take you in,” said one of the officers, a burly man brandishing his badge, identifying him as Officer Zayaletta.
“What’s wrong officers?” Cornelia asked, stunned.
“We found the body of Ms. Fulgencia Drusia, a maid for Decius Tarsus, in your shop this morning,” replied Zayaletta.
“There must be some kind of mistake. I’ve been here all day,” said Cornelia, sternly. She noticed something off about Zayaletta, but couldn’t put her finger on it. “I need to see your badge again.”
Zayaletta didn’t waste any time. He grabbed Cornelia, turned her around and violently threw her against the wall, where his partner handcuffed her. The customer Cornelia helped out couldn’t help but notice what was happening, and decided to hide behind a shelf. Zayaletta, though, noticed the customer. As his partner violently dragged the resisting Cornelia from the store (at one point smashing her head against a shelf), Zayaletta grabbed the customer and threw her to the ground, where he handcuffed her, pulled down her pants and sexually assaulted her, before dragging her out of the store too and into their jerryrigged car. Zayaletta then made a phone call.
“We got her,” said Zayaletta. “Plus a nosy witness.”
“Good,” replied the voice at the other end. “Bring them to me.”
Caesar’s Office, Roman Senate
“All right,” said Roman Emperor Caesar Valerius IV, switching off the TV, clasping his hands and leaning forward toward FBII Director Lucius Black, wearing a sarcastic smirk on his face. “Explain this to me, ‘cause I’m just...a little lost by all this ‘profiling’ you’re doing. Do you think the Pope is someone you can just play with?”
Black was unnerved in his chair. “You heard Claes...he was calling for peace,” explained Black. “We had to call his bluff, see what he really wanted...and what you saw is what you saw...Claes is a criminal who cannot be trusted.”
“Oh so this is about proof-making...I assign you to look after the Pope and you think it’s okay to use him as evidence against a criminal...are you out of your mind?”
“Caesar...let me remind you that this wasn’t my idea. This was Adrian’s idea, and, while extreme, I saw the merit in the exercise. So I approved it.”
“...and your little game cost the lives of 274 innocent civilians in St. Peter’s Square.” Valerius chuckled, sardonically. “Tell me why I shouldn’t fire you right now?”
“There were certain logistical points that we could not account for. I told him about all this...His Holiness understood my concerns. We both believed that we’d get the full support of the Vatican Army...we didn’t think they’d turn on us. I’ve known many of those guys for years...so did Adrian. Really, this boggles my mind...we were betrayed, Caesar. Deeply betrayed.” Black took a few, slow deep breaths, sighing heavily.
Valerius nodded his head after a few thoughts, conceding the point to Black. “That is true, but your agent…Zeke Coleman. You have him lead your profiling team and he sends in his two worst agents in terms of combat to battle an army. Not only that, but as soon as the shots fired, he didn’t gather his agents or give them instructions…he just bolted towards the Friezenkirk. Alone. Don’t try to dispute this information, Black. I heard it from multiple sources, including Cardinal Newman. At best, Coleman is someone who has issues trusting others to do their jobs and, at worst, he is completely incompetent as he has no idea how to use his own agents…and you think he’s a leader?”
“Caesar…I think you’d be the first to understand that Coleman, Yves and Parkes are notarmy veterans…they’re trained detectives. Fortunately, Coleman has military combat training and is built like a soldier, but still…they can’t possibly expect to fight an army. In fact, as you already know, we weren’t expecting to fight an army…circumstances went way beyond our control. Furthermore, this is Coleman’s first assignment leading an investigative team in three and a half years, and the first time he’s dealt with a hand-picked team…he’s still learning the ropes, and knows he made a mistake. He also scolded them for their actions…Yves and Parkes knew they made mistakes. Plus, Coleman knows them well enough to know they’ll learn from those mistakes…he’s worked with them for years…in fact, Yves started at the FBII with him in 2002. He knowswhat he’s doing.”
Valerius sighed, cocking his mouth to the side. He then wagged his finger pointedly. “I’m putting a lot of trust in you, Black…don’t blow it.”
“Caesar…I’ve known you for over 15 years…when have I ever let you down?”
“Well, there was the time you made dinner for the office…that didn’t go so well.”
Black laughed. “Just be thankful you didn’t hire me to cook.”
“Okay,” started Proctor, taking a look around Gaia’s store. “So witnesses say that earlier this morning, two people posing as police officers violently abducted Gaia and another customer who was also in the store, before leaving without locking the store.”
“Why leave the door unlocked?” asked BAU alternate Jason Simeon, pensively.
“Maybe they did it on purpose,” said Fitchner. “They wanted us to find something…or they wanted to defile Gaia’s store.”
“The ‘10’ power drill was found here,” said Pucci, picking up said drill. “So defiling seems like a possibility.”
“Okay,” said Simeon, turning and facing the other agents with purpose, “but why just rob Gaia’s store and kidnap her? If these are the same UnSubs who murdered all those women…wouldn’t they rape and kill Gaia in her store right then and there? Why keep her alive?” He paused, because he had a theory and wanted to see if another agent caught on first before continuing.
“He needs something out of Gaia,” said Pucci, “but what?”
Proctor called the agents to another corner of the store.
“What is it Proctor?” said Fitchner.
“It’s a message,” said Proctor, holding up a cloth that appeared to have fallen from being affixed to the ceiling:
للعثور عليها، أدريان، يجب أن تتبع ثعبان
“It’s written in Arabic, more specifically Egyptian Arabic…the Egyptians came by and took Gaia.”
“Muslim terrorists?” said Pucci, chuckling. “I knew we were going to bump into them at some point.”
“Proctor, can you translate it?” asked Fitchner.
“Of course,” said Proctor. “The document is a little scuffed, so I’ll need some time to make out the wording exactly, but I can translate it.”
“Good,” said Simeon.
As the agents walked to their cars, Pucci and Fitchner couldn’t help but reminisce.
“Hey Aaron,” said Pucci, his hands casually in his coat pockets.
“Yeah Claude,” said Fitchner, slowing his pace for his friend.
“Remember the days when all we had to deal with was some deranged loner who shot people in a blind rage? Call me crazy, but I miss those days.”
Fitchner laughed. “This has been a strange case. Just goes to show that there are no freebies anymore.”
“Reconnaissance for Samaria is complete, sir,” said Praetor Legatus Primus Julius Emitrius to Valerius. The pair were seated in Valerius’ office.
“Okay,” said Valerius, leaning forward with interest. “What have you found?”
Emitrius pulled out a map from his tablet. “It appears that the Samarian defence is concentrated at the beachhead near Ashkelon. This is because the Samarians are already engaged in several skirmishes with Philistine militants, so that area of Samaria is already battle-hardened and thus we’d encounter the stiffest resistance. Our best bet is to go through Ashdod…their defences are not as strong in that area, and it provides a clearer path to Jerusalem.”
“Have you already contacted Philistine authorities? Perhaps we can get their assistance…it would make the war effort easier.”
“Already done sir. We’ve also contacted the Jewish leaders in Ashdod, as well as the Polish, Quebecois, the Chileans and the Parisians. Everyone who has an interest in taking out Cardinal Claes is on our side.”
“Good. So when does the assault start?”
“Well, we gave the Samarians until noon today to accept our ultimatum.” Emitrius checked his watch. “That gives us…another fifteen minutes. Our troops are at the ready to strike the minute the deadline passes.”
Valerius nodded heartily with approval. “Good. Let the Christian heretics in Jerusalem know that they messed with the wrong nation.”
Neapolis Police Headquarters, Neapolis, Campania
“Agent Fitchner?” said Neapolis Police Chief Umberto Rocchi, running towards Fitchner with urgency.
“Yes Chief Rocchi?” said Fitchner.
“We identified the body found earlier today hanging from the trident at the Fountain of Neptune. It’s Fulgencia Drusia…dental records identified her since her face was beaten beyond recognition.”
“Was there any sign of sexual assault?”
“Drusia was raped. Repeatedly.”
“Was there a power drill found at the scene?”
“Yes there was…complete with the ‘10’. It was recovered a ways from the scene because we speculate that it fell from Drusia’s hand. That’s all we know at this stage.
“Thank you.” The Chief then left Fitchner, allowing him to reconnect with the other agents.
“Fulgencia Drusia’s body was found at the Fountain of Neptune,” said Fitchner.
“Fulgencia?” said Proctor. “That’s the maid I gave my card to.” Proctor sighed with frustration and disappointment. “I can’t believe she’s dead.”
“This only furthers my belief that Tarsus is the ultimate target of these attacks,” said Fitchner.
“Who could it be, though?” said Pucci. “We’ve already checked his records, and the police have already interviewed him…there’s no one that checks out as a smoking gun for someone that would hate him this much.”
“Let’s recap the profile,” said Fitchner.
“This is an organization of UnSubs,” said Simeon. “They’re highly motivated, organized and dedicated. They have a specific woman in mind since the women they’ve raped and killed have a specific appearance. They’re tied to Decius because of the power drill with the number ‘10’ on it, as per his quote, so whomever is leading this organization, disagrees with the quote. This is further bolstered by the fact that the power drill is inserted into a screw head that’s the wrong bit for the drill. We find today the cloth with Arabic writing on it, which suggests that this group are Egyptian terrorists. However, before that, there was a cross and a power drill found at the scene of Adrian’s attempted assassination, indicating that Claes is behind the murders. Emily…have you translated the message?”
“Yes,” said Proctor. “It says ‘Adrian, if you want to find her, follow the snake’. However, there’s something-”
Simeon cut her off, annoying Proctor. “So that means Claes has recruited the Egyptian terrorists, and that Gaia Cornelia is connected to Adrian in some way. We need to start looking into her.”
“Guys,” said Proctor assertively, getting animated. “We’re missing the point. Tarsus isthe UnSub. As I already mentioned to Pucci, everything that we’ve found so far is a red herring. This is a man who is quite open about how he treats women poorly, Pucci and I saw that first-hand. He lied about making the quote just how he lied about paying off the mortgage of a man who helped him with a flat tire. He plants all these clues so that we think someone else is behind them but we know better. The ‘10’ on the drills say it all…we all know that the root for ‘Decius’ is 10…it’s a clear marker that he’s behind the crimes. As I was going to say about the message, it’s clearly not written by a native Egyptian- it’s written by someone who found a phrase they liked and threw it into Google Translate. I don’t know enough about the Vatican attack to know for sure if that was a red herring, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was.”
“All this still implicates Claes,” said Fitchner. “We’ll have to check the records, but he’s likely not a native speaker of Arabic so it would make sense for him to use that as a red herring just to throw us off. I know what you are trying to say about Tarsus, but Claes has far more of a motive than Tarsus does to kill Adrian, and it fits the fact that Adrian favours women’s rights. The evidence points to Claes.”
“We should still get Morales to run a background check on Gaia,” said Pucci. “It’s obvious that she’s the woman whom the other victims were surrogates for.”
“How did we miss this?” said Simeon, frustrated. “I saw her name on those drills…I dismissed it because the ‘10’ was much more prominent.”
“It happens,” said Fitchner. “When we notice a message on a car, do we automatically assume the company who made the car is involved in the crime?”
“Good point,” said Simeon.
“In any case, I’ll call Morales,” said Fitchner. “This UnSub wants something out of Gaia, which is why he didn’t kill her, and out of Adrian, which is why he’s in the message.”
FBII Academy, Quantico, Virginia
“You’ve reached Andi Morales, who holds more info than the Library of Alexandria could dream of having!” said Technical Analyst Andi Morales, cheerfully through the phone. “What’s the request today?”
“Morales,” said Fitchner, “we need you to run a background check on Gaia Cornelia. We need to know what kind of links she has to Fulgencia Drusia, Decius Tarsus, Cardinal Wilhelm Claes and Pope Adrian VII.”
“Got it.” Morales reacted normally before her attention was piqued at the last moment. “Pope Adrian? I thought Popes weren’t allowed to get married.”
“We’re not saying that at this stage. All that we know is that the UnSub left a message at the crime scene that referred to Adrian, so we need to know what connections he has to Cornelia.”
“Okay.” Morales tapped away at her computer. “My, Gaia’s beautiful…she looks like someone any man would sin over.”
“Right…sorry. Well, according to official Papal records, Adrian took his Holy Orders in 1997, a year after he went through a string of confessionals and Sacraments of Reconciliation…now…as I unseal the Papal records…wow…Adrian took a vow of celibacy during this time and had to cleanse himself to do it because he and Gaia had been in a relationship prior to his time in Mali.”
“Thanks Morales. See what else you can dig up.”
“Righto, El Capitan!”
“What did she find?” asked Simeon, as Fitchner got off the phone.
“Adrian and Gaia were in a relationship prior to his time with the Army in Mali,” said Fitchner. “In fact, Adrian decided to become a priest shortly after he returned from the war, going through numerous rituals of contrition in order to get properly ordained…it’s a long record.”
“The Vatican keeps a record of that?” said Proctor. “I’ve been to confession numerous times…I didn’t know they were writing it down…in fact, I don’t think they’re supposed to.”
“The rules are different if you’re becoming a priest,” said Fitchner. “In order to go through the Holy Orders, the prospective priest must make a detailed list of all of his sins, with the overseeing priest documenting all the various rituals he has to go through to cleanse himself of those sins. In addition to this, the prospective priest must also submit to a criminal background check before he can proceed into the priesthood…this was all enacted in 1993 by Pope John Paul II when news of the sexual abuse scandals first came out.”
“So that’s what this is all about,” said Simeon, analyzing. “Our UnSub is seeking to expose Adrian’s past…and bring him down by proxy.”
RSC Headquarters, Rome
“All right,” said BAU teammate Zeke Coleman, in an interrogation room with the sniper, Pasquale Casiraghi. He angled his body in his chair in such a way that Casiraghi could see how much Coleman towered over him, as well as how fit and strong he was. Coleman spoke very threateningly. “There’s two ways we can go about this. You can either tell me what I need to know right now…or…I charge you with attempted murder of the Pope…and believe me, Pasquale…the Roman magistrates aren’t going to be thataccommodating to you if it came to that.”
Casiraghi just sat there, with smug silence.
“Oh really?” Coleman chuckled, sticking his tongue out of the side of his mouth in sarcasm. “You think this funny, don’t you? Let me remind you that you attempted to assassinate a head of state…that makes you a terrorist, and we can keep you here as long as you want. Of course…if you talk…we just might be able to talk about a deal.”
Casiraghi scratched his face, continuing to stay silent.
Coleman was prepared for this. “Suit yourself then.” He got up to leave the room, but before he did, he unfurled a large picture of Adrian with his arms folded and smiling smugly and placed it right in front of Casiraghi’s sightline, forcing him to stare at it.
After leaving the room, Coleman left to check on his teammates Pascal Yves and Zoe Parkes.
“What have you found?” asked Coleman.
“We knew from how the shot was fired,” explained Yves, “that the shooter has something against not just Adrian but the Catholic Church as a whole. Otherwise, why position the flag in such a way that you’d have to shoot through it?”
“…and disrespect the flag, right,” concurred Coleman.
“Furthermore,” piped in Parkes, “the shot came from the Friezenkirk, which is a Frisian Church. Now, this could just have been picked because it provided the best sightline toward the Obelisk, but I still find it interesting that the Belgian Claes would pick aFrisian monument to shoot from.”
“So you think Claes is a red herring,” said Coleman.
“The Frisians and the Belgians hate each other,” said Parkes, “so yes, I do.”
“Good work,” said Coleman, patting both agents on the back. “I need to speak with Adrian.”
Down the hall, Adrian was relaxing in a break room. Before Coleman greeted him, he received a phone call from Fitchner, which he took before meeting up with Adrian.
“What have they found?” said Adrian.
“My boss at the FBII just called,” said Coleman. “He wants to know what you know about Gaia Cornelia.”
“Gaia?” Adrian’s face was overcome with concern, worried for Gaia. “Well, I had nothing to hide…and this is proof of that.” He sighed heavily before continuing. “Gaia and I were high school sweethearts…we had sex numerous times. We were in love, and I thought I was going to marry her. Then we had a falling out…it’s why I joined the military and eventually the priesthood…that part of my life concluded.”
“Why did you two break up?”
“Gaia is a strong-willed woman…some would be intimidated by her but I wasn’t. She’s a very kind and loving soul, but she’s headstrong…she can get stubborn at times and I think, at that age, I felt like she was too much of an authority figure for me so I ended things…and turned to the priesthood. The horrors in Mali showed me that I had to restore hope and a belief in God in the people in the world…so I did what I had to do to become a priest. The public knows about it…it’s no secret…but I guess Claes is trying to bring it to the forefront again, after he failed to do it successfully during the election campaign.”
Coleman sensed something was off in that story but didn’t know what. Unbeknownst to Coleman, prospective BAU agent Oldrich James walked into the break room and fixed himself some tea.
“That boy in Mali,” started James as he was making his tea.
“When did you get here?” Coleman asked, surprised James had shown up.
“Oh, I just finished at the firing range,” said James. “Really digging the baby Glock...love the flashlight on top of it...it’s incredibly light...doesn’t even feel like you’re handling a gun at all. It’s also so smooth and-”
“That boy in Mali,” said Adrian, interrupting out of aggravation. He sighed before continuing. “Okay, that boy in Mali made me realize I didn’t want to be a father...so I ended things with Gaia after the war and went into the priesthood. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing a child...Gaia understood where I was coming from.”
“So all this stuff about Gaia being strong-willed,” noted Coleman, “was just you trying to give a palatable explanation so you wouldn’t have to explain the harsh truth.”
“Okay,” said Adrian, ashamed. “You caught me. Well, the stuff about Gaia being strong-willed is true...I just repressed my other reasons for breaking up with her...you understand, sometimes it’s just easier to skirt the truth than to deal with it. Can I come back later? I need to atone for this sin.”
“Absolutely,” said Coleman.
Adrian left for the chapel. He needed to pray for lying, as well as pray for Gaia’s safe return.
In the chapel, Adrian found Yves, fixatedly analyzing the various art found there along the walls and in the windows.
“Surprised to see you in here,” commented Adrian. “I thought you told me you were atheist.”
“I think you have me confused,” said Yves, who didn’t break his glare. “What I meant was that rational thought and other kinds of reasonable inquiry don’t really leave a lot of room for the supernatural to operate...by its very definition, the scientific method cannot allow for the supernatural, because the goal of the method is to find natural causes for things. However...there’s just certain things the natural can’t explain, like how karma seems to work...I know rational thought would suggest karma is just coincidences but sometimes things just seem ‘too’ coincidental that one can’t deny that there may actually be a supernatural force at work trying to keep us all in line. There has to be a reason why we’ve had skeptic thought for millennia yet the belief in the supernatural is still so pervasive...I think it’s better to say I’m agnostic than atheist.”
Adrian nodded in acknowledgement. “I see.” He then noticed the plastic bag Yves was holding. “Is that the cross recovered from St. Peter’s Square?”
“It is. It’s been stylized and painted to look like it came from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but something’s off about it. I can see crack marks around the centre of the cross...looks like there was a circle there.”
“Let me have a look at it.” Adrian studied the cross, looking for inconsistencies. “This was moulded from the cross of Saint Marinus, which has a circle around the centre of the cross.”
“That’s it!” Yves was enlightened, and continued with unbridled excitement. “Tarsus…he’s trying to frame Claes. He went so far that he’s even trying to replicate the Cross of the Holy Sepulchre! In doing so…he’s revealed where he is…San Marino! I gotta step outside...get Coleman. Thank you Your Holiness.”
“No problem Dr. Yves.” Yves left allowing Adrian to pray.
Meanwhile, Coleman was getting background information on their new leads.
“Hey babygirl,” said Coleman excitedly on the phone. “Work your magic!”
“You got it, my Dark Knight!” Morales beamed.
Coleman continued playfully. “Oh so I’m Batman now.”
“Oh you always were...just not with those disgusting tights...never understood why heroes wore their underwear outside of their uniforms...anyway, I got some wonderful information on Wilhelm Claes.”
“I’m all ears.”
“It turns out that our Papal pretender was also a pretender of honour. You see, our dear Claes was the high school priest when both Adrian and Ms. Cornelia were there, and, at one point got accused by Ms. Cornelia when she was in high school of inappropriate conduct...the records don’t clarify what happened because, and here’s the fun part, the investigation closed abruptly for some reason, never to be opened again.”
“Father Claes covered it up.”
“Exactly. So when Adrian ran for the Papacy this year, it must have triggered all kinds of memories for him.”
“...and when he lost...he started killing.”
“You’re right. At the beginning of the year, right after he lost the election, Claes was wired around $100 million from an unknown account in San Marino...which I traced to...”
“Exactly. It took some doing because Tarsus had some crazy hacks going on there but I pulled through.”
“So Claes is really behind all these murders, and, to make sure he doesn’t get his hands dirty, he hires henchmen. Since he doesn’t have the money for that, he recruits Tarsus, who hires a team of hitmen to do the dirty work. Have you found anything so far, Morales?”
“How come you guys didn’t start looking for the hitmen right away?”
“Well, each one performed their task cleanly and efficiently, and their MO’s were extremely similar. Furthermore, none of the victims, in their criminal investigations or in their backgrounds, provided much in the way of links…the hitmen covered their tracks extremely well. Our only hope was to figure out who they work for, because by then we’ll be able to see their entire employee list. They’re mission-oriented killers…they wouldn’t reveal themselves until we figured out what the mission was about…and now we know.”
“Oh okay…so…anyway…after receiving $100 million from Tarsus, Claes paid a few associates to commit his crimes…the one that got the most? Some $10 million? That would be your sniper, Pasquale Casiraghi.”
“Thank you babygirl.” Coleman smiled. “You really are something.”
Morales frantically piped in trying to stop Coleman from hanging up. “Wait! That’s not all!”
“No, it’s not. Claes was born in San Marino…his parents moved there from Belgium three years before he was born. In fact, he doesn’t even have a home in Jerusalem…his credit card activity reveals that he only moved to Jerusalem to raise an army to go against the Pope. Furthermore, this army of his has numerous ties to Egypt…and there’s a civil war going on there between the Copts and the Arabs and the Catholics…it seems like Claes wanted Tarsus’ involvement so that his own armies could get the upper hand in Egypt.”
Coleman was impressed and intrigued. “Wow…this is something! Thanks babygirl.” As he hung up the phone, Yves and Parkes caught up with Coleman.
“Guys!” said Yves, excitedly. “Tarsus has a base in San Marino. The cross found at St. Peter’s Square…it’s made to look like it came from the Holy Sepulchre but it’s really the Cross of Saint Marinus, the founder of San Marino.”
“So you don’t think Claes has anything to do with this at all,” said Coleman, challenging Yves’s assertion.
Yves and Parkes were perplexed. “Yeah, we’re certain,” said Parkes. “Just five minutes ago you were agreeing with us.”
“Five minutes later I talked to Morales,” said Coleman. “Turns out Claes is a part of this after all. He lives in San Marino…he only moved to Jerusalem so that he and Tarsus could turn the tide of the civil war in Egypt.”
“So Claes put all these red herring clues to make it look like he didn’t commit the crimes when he actually did,” said Parkes, analyzing.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” said Yves, animatedly flummoxed. “Why would someone go through all these lengths to make it look like someone else is framing them for a crime they actually committed…I mean, wouldn’t you rather just frame someone else? The St. Peter’s Square Attack…makes more sense if it was framed on Peter II than it would if Peter II framed himself.”
James couldn’t help but interrupt.
“Maybe,” he started. “That’s what he wants you to think. You see…Tarsus…he’s sloppy. Obvious narcissist…and lazy. He wanted to make sure that he did the bare minimum in covering his tracks so that he wouldn’t get caught, but he couldn’t resist putting his own touches on the crimes…I mean, the ‘10’? Seriously, why not just put your own name on the drill for all to see?
“Claes, however…he’s smart. He’s in a war. He knows he has to cover his tracks a lot better. That’s why he went to all those lengths to look like someone else committed that assassination attempt on the Pope, when we all know that only Claes would realistically have the resources to pull something like that off. In fact…I don’t think that cross is a mistake…we might think it is but I think it’s a setup. See, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is an Orthodox Church, and the Samarians are Orthodox, plus making all those announcements from Jerusalem gives one the impression that is where he is based. Besides, why go through the trouble of forging a cross from the Holy Sepulchre when he could just get one? They’re not hard to find. No, his real camp is in San Marino, where he has his real army…he only helped out the Samarians knowing that the Romans would retaliate and turn their attention on to them, figuring that if he could draw the Romans into the civil war in Egypt and take out his enemies, he’d get the upper hand in winning the war…and Rome took the bait.”
“So where does Gaia fit into all this?” said Adrian, joining the conversation.
“Well,” said James. “Looks like Claes wants a final battle with you, Your Holiness…and the only way to do that is to take your former girlfriend and maybe score some political points along the way.”
Undisclosed factory, Khartoum, Sudan
As the minutes passed, the woman’s screams became louder and louder. She was naked, her hands were bound together and were affixed to a chain suspending her from the ceiling, while her legs were spread as far apart as they could, affixed each to a chain suspended from the ceiling, giving the impression that she was lying on her back in the air.
Tending to her was a man, who was quite happily enjoying himself with her. As her moans got louder and louder, it served to egg him on even more. In her mind, all she wanted was for the ordeal to stop, but, by now, there was nothing she could do.
When the man finished, he put his pants back on and joined his friend outside.
“I never thought rape could be this fun,” said Claes on the phone to Tarsus.
“These women,” said Tarsus, “they really need to know who really controls them.”
“Gaia was a maid of yours, wasn’t she?”
“No, but she was friends of the Vestal Virgin I assaulted...and she blew the whistle on me. So I blew the whistle on her instead...and once we get Adrian here, the whole world will know about her hypocrisy.”
“...and teach these women about where they belong...the kitchen.”
Tarsus laughed, nodding in agreement, before Claes decided to re-enter the room so that he could rape Gaia again.
RSC Headquarters, Rome
“Now that we’re all here,” said Fitchner as the entire team plus Adrian gathered in a boardroom, “what do we know about the Tarsus and Claes team?”
“I think this is Claes’ team,” said Coleman. “He had the highest profile target, and his crime was the cleanest of the bunch. He fooled us for a while.”
“Tarsus appears to be the junior partner in this,” said James. “The ‘10’ says it all, like hehas to have his stamp on these crimes...someone with more confidence wouldn’t feel the need to compulsively point something like this out.”
“I still think Tarsus is far from being submissive, though,” said Yves. “He didn’t become CEO of Sabre by being weak...plus, he knows Claes needs his money...so he probably feels like an equal to him.”
“His group is also highly motivated and dedicated,” said Proctor. “I’d say the deadly precision at which they commit their crimes indicates a cult-like mentality, and definitely suggests a religious undertone.”
“Meaning that Claes is likely an extremist and will turn Egypt into a dangerous militant theocracy if we don’t act,” said Parkes.
“I got some info on the henchmen,” piped Morales through the phone’s speaker. “There was one other reason why they were all hard to track, and that’s because they all used one-time aliases where they committed their murders. All of their names are bull-related- heck, someone even used ‘Bull Durham’- and all had credit card transactions related to their crimes in the weeks prior to their assaults. Took some digging though...only if one knew Tarsus was involved could you make the connection.”
“Morales,” said Simeon, “can you trace the aliases to the real persons? Maybe we can arrest them.”
“I can trace them to real people,” replied Morales. “I sent them to your phones. However, they got smart and fled. They’re all back in Egypt.”
“Working on the next step,” noted Pucci.
Ashkelon, Philistia Province, Judea
Right on schedule, the bombardment of Ashkelon began at the stroke of noon. The Romans started with air strikes before landing beachheads once the beach defences were softened. Aided by the Philistine contingent, by 4PM, the Romans had managed to tear a hole through the Samarian defence, allowing for easy access to the downtown core. With two cohorts marching downtown, the others worked at encircling the city, meaning it got “cut off” from the outside world two hours later. After some more fierce downtown fighting, Ashkelon was secure, just after sundown.
Emitrius wasn’t content with just Ashkelon. He ordered his troops forward, hitting the defences of Lachish in full force in the hour. Halfway through the assault, Emitrius received a call to pull back.
“Retreat?” Emitrius said, flabbergasted. “Valerius, we’re on a roll…we can’t stop now! This is an outrage!”
“Emitrius,” said Valerius on the phone with him, “the Samaria link is a red herring. Cardinal Claes fooled us into thinking the Samarians were involved with the assassination attempt…Claes is really just using the Samarians to get Jerusalem for himself, and wants to strike at them at some point.”
“Okay…I’ll tell my men to hold their fire except for defensive purposes,” said Emitrius, disappointed.
“All right,” said Valerius to Samarian Emperor Paul Alsap. “I told my men to stand down.” Alsap nodded his head and gave the order to his general to stand down as well.
“You do realize this won’t be enough, Caesar,” said Alsap, still angry with Valerius.
Valerius was contrite with egg on his face. “On top of my heartfelt apology, we will also pay for the repairs to the cities we’ve destroyed, as well as provide compensation to the families of the soldiers we’ve needlessly killed, as well as any civilians caught in the crossfire. We will also throw in some extra cash for indemnity as well. You have to understand, Cardinal Claes played us too...and I’ll have to answer to my people for being fooled.”
Alsap’s anger started to dissipate seeing the contrition on Valerius’ face. “Claes is clever. He was able to sweet talk me into helping him out...I didn’t realize he was a sham.”
“Anything to get ahead, especially in the powderkeg that is Judea and Egypt.”
“Egypt is the prize...with the Suez and the fertile Nile Valley. It was once the breadbasket of Rome.”
“Since we are brothers in being duped by the heretic, we will help you in this war and bring this man to justice…your terms are acceptable to us, Caesar.”
“Glad we came to an agreement.”
The walls of San Marino
“Coleman,” said Fitchner, standing stoically, staring at the city walls at a building that served as a makeshift command post several feet away. The BAU were there with a Roman SWAT team, with the Rimini Legion on call nearby. “We can’t just go in there…we have no concrete proof that Claes is in there.”
Coleman was pacing, furiously, around the command centre. “This man is good,” said Coleman, intensely. “I want this so badly…I’m not going to let him win. I just he’d stop hiding like a coward behind that stupid wall!”
Outside of the command centre, Pucci held a walkie-talkie to radio a reconnaissance helicopter overlooking San Marino.
“Dolphin,” said Pucci, radioing the helicopter. “Do you see anything?”
“Negative Graybeard,” said Dolphin.
Back at the centre, Yves and Parkes were brainstorming, hoping a clue would unlock a path into Sammarinese territory.
“The clues fit a lot better if they’re tied to the Sepulchre,” said Yves, wiping his face with frustration.
“All we’ve got is the cross of Saint Marinus,” said Parkes, breathing heavily and still frustrated.
“The cross could mean anything Zoe...it’s not going to narrow down where in San Marino Claes is.”
Parkes could only sigh heavily, stressed at the lack of clues.
“Zeke,” said Adrian, approaching Coleman. “Let me go in there.”
“We can’t let you do that Adrian,” said Coleman sternly.
Adrian replied in kind. “I’m the Pope, Zeke. They will listen to me.”
“Adrian, this is a trap. Claes knew we’d figure out that he was here and he’s just waiting to capture you too and bring you to your death right next to Gaia. That’s why he took her...because he knew he could get you too.”
“For all we know, Gaia could already be dead. My death doesn’t matter. I’m a military man, Zeke...I laugh in the face of death.”
“Gaia is still alive...Claes needs you to see her alive because only then will the pain of her death, in front of your eyes, will be more brutal. He needs to draw you in to have the cruelest fate possible. Then he can claim that you and the Church are hypocrites, because then the world will have a visual of the two of you together. He needs her to bealive for that to happen...so the longer you stay with us, the longer that she stays alive!”
Adrian sighed and nodded reluctantly. “Very well then. Just find the bull.”
“Yeah, Tarsus is here, not Claes. Remember, everything has been set up to make us think one possibility is really the other...besides, why would Claes hide here when he’s got all of Egypt to work with? He’s also the submissive partner...eventually we can break him down and find Claes.”
Coleman nodded, enlightened by the Pope’s suggestions. He then radioed the info to Pucci.
“Dolphin,” radioed Pucci.
“Dolphin here,” said Dolphin. “Go ahead Graybeard.”
“Look for a bull structure or a number 10 or some kind of facsimile thereof...Tarsus is here in San Marino, not Claes. Since he’s a classic narcissist he’ll pick some kind of symbol that relates to him. Copy that?”
“Got it. Copy.”
Pucci grabbed his binoculars and started to study San Marino from what he could see. A few minutes later, Dolphin radioed in.
“This is Graybeard. Go ahead Dolphin.”
“Found a cattle ranch in Serravalle, with the number ‘10’ on the silo. I’m using infrared to look inside and...oh this isn’t good.”
“What is it?”
“He’s got a nuke.”
The Command Centre, right outside of San Marino
“He’s got a what?” said Coleman intensely through the phone.
“Tarsus has a nuclear warhead trapped in that silo,” said Pucci.
Coleman sighed heavily, wiping his face with stress. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“I wish I was Coleman. This case is getting stranger by the minute.”
“Wait for further action. In the meantime, send us the scans.”
Within a few minutes, the team received the infrared scans of the device and were studying it.
“I can’t believe this idiot has a nuke!” said Coleman, exasperated.
“It could be a red herring,” said Yves with a nervous smile.
Coleman was apoplectic, his eyes getting menacingly big with the blood vessels in his shaved head becoming much more prominent. “Yeah, genius…it could be a red herring…and while we sit here playing his bluff he’ll trick us and blow up half of Europe‘cause we just thought it was all a joke.” He then flailed his armed wide, animatedly, and got right into Yves’s face. “That’s why we can’t play chicken with this guy, idiot!” He then put his hand underneath the table Yves was sitting at and violently flipped it across the room, before storming off.
Yves make a snarky reply. “One of these days one of those blood vessels will burst.” Fitchner, concerned for Coleman, followed his teammate, having stayed calm for the entire exchange.
“Coleman,” said Fitchner, walking into the room Coleman had hid to.
“Leave me alone Fitch!” yelled Coleman, slumped into a corner, holding his head.
Fitchner stayed calm. “Coleman, I know this situation is stressful…but you can’t let these things get to you if you want to be a leader.”
“I know Fitch, but this…this is beyond the pale. Plus what Yves said was incredibly stupid. He knows better than that.”
“Yves, though not very tactful, is right though…given what we know about how this case has progressed, not everything is what it seems…that nuke could just be a decoy. In any case, you need to learn how to channel your emotions and deal with your stress…this job isn’t easy.”
Coleman had calmed down by this point. “How do you do it Fitch? You’re always so calm in the face of adversity.”
“Trust me, Coleman, it’s not easy. Takes a lot of practice…and time. I’ll help in any way that I can. Now, can we go back to the case?” Coleman agreed, going back to the command post with Fitchner.
As soon as he saw Yves Coleman gave him a giant hug.
“I’m sorry man,” said Coleman, hugging his best friend. “You understand this has been unbelievably stressful, right?”
“It’s okay,” said Yves, responding in kind. “I didn’t take it personally…this has been a bizarre case and you’ve been through a lifetime of stress in such a short period of time. Really it’s no big deal.”
“Okay now guys,” said Parkes, who couldn’t help but crack a joke at their expense. “Kiss and make up.”
Coleman reacted with playful disgust. “I love Yves,” he said as the two agents parted from their embrace, with Coleman rustling Yves’s hair at the end, “but not like that. This ain’t Criminal Minds.”
“So what do we know about the weapon?” asked Coleman, getting back on track.
“It’s a one megaton nuclear warhead,” said Yves, “so I was right…kind of.”
“I don’t follow,” said Fitchner.
“What we have is still a very powerful bomb,” explained Yves, “but today’s nuclear weaponry has surpassed that level of payload in terms of direct damage…if Tarsus’ intention was to simply launch a nuclear bomb at a target, he would have amassed several of them at once, or acquired a bigger bomb.”
“He could still have other bombs though,” countered Coleman. “Just because we’ve found one doesn’t mean we’ve found them all.”
“That’d be quite expensive,” said Yves. “One nuclear warhead already costs hundreds of millions of dollars with little reinvestment value because the technology is constantly changing, plus San Marino’s not big enough to hold that many undetected warheads.”
“So what’s his gameplan?” asked Fitchner.
“Tarsus is planning an electromagnetic pulse attack,” said Yves.
“An EMP?” said Coleman, intrigued. “How do you figure?”
“An EMP attack can provide much more long lasting and far-reaching damage than a conventional nuclear warhead,” explained Yves. “For example, a nuclear warhead detonated at 400 kilometres over the Earth’s surface at, say, Amsterdam, would be enough to cripple the entire electronic infrastructure of the European continent. Furthermore, even if the missile was intercepted by the Romans, the resulting EMP would likely incapacitate the entire Italian peninsula, as modern anti-ballistic missile defence systems don’t intercept the missile until it hits an altitude of 100 km, at least, which would still be enough to cripple Rome.”
“So it’s in our best interests to make sure he doesn’t launch it,” analyzed Coleman.
“Correct,” said Yves.
“I want to know something,” said Proctor, “how does a EMP strike figure into Tarsus’ overall message?”
“He figures he can cripple the Romans into the Stone Age, forcing more physical labour,” explained Parkes, “and physical labour tends to favour males…hence why all those drill bits were the wrong size…he wanted to show that women ‘can’t’ do physically demanding ‘workmanlike’ jobs.”
“What’s our next step?” asked Fitchner. The agents sat there, pondering their next options before James piped up.
“Tell the Romans to play some sort of war games with the Samarians,” said James. “Make press releases saying that the two of them are still at war and have the two combatants pretend they’re still fighting each other when they’re actually not. If we can trick Claes and Tarsus into thinking the Roman troops are still distracted in Samaria that would give us enough time to try to deactivate the bomb before it gets launched, because if Tarsus thinks we’re on to him, he’ll launch it in a panic…and we’ll have some real trouble.”
“Let the mind games begin,” said Coleman, making the phone call to Black.
San Marino, 22:10 local time
“Here’s the plan,” said Coleman, briefing the SWAT team that was accompanying him into the farm. “We’re all going to drive in to San Marino. Discreetly. Then we drive to the farm. Most of you will forage the barn to cover our backs and find Tarsus, but some of you will come with me to deactivate the bomb. Remember, whatever you do, do it discreetly. The Sammarinese government is working with Tarsus here...if they find out that we’ve found the bomb it could jeopardize our entire operation and compromise our safety. Is that understood?” The SWAT team all nodded in agreement, as Coleman and the rest of the team drove toward the farm.
“Babygirl,” said Coleman, calling Morales. “See if you can hack into the hardware and disrupt its communication system.”
“Okay mon cherie,” said Morales, “it’ll take some doing though...these things aren’t on conventional Internet networks.”
“Do what you can,” said Coleman, hanging up.
Once at the farm, the SWAT found the place deserted, allowing for easy access into the silo. After securing the farm, the SWAT kept watch, making sure no one interrupted Coleman during his work.
“Okay Zeke,” said Coleman, talking to himself which spurred his thought process. “It’s been a while since you looked at a nuclear warhead...what do you know about the bombs?” He stared intently at the large device, before grabbing a ladder and climbing, reaching a small panel at the side of the bomb.
“Behind here is the power chord...I find it...I disarm the bomb,” he mused to himself. He unscrewed the panel, and stared at the wires. Eventually, he came across a large green wire hidden in the mass of wires.
He reached in, carefully, because any one of those wires could set off the bomb if they were jumbled too much. Eventually, he was able to dig to the green wire, which he effortlessly cut with his pliers. Having now disarmed the bomb, Coleman climbed down the ladder, ready to rejoin his unit.
What he saw when he came out from the silo astounded him.
“Oh s***,” he said, staring in disbelief.
23:15 local time, BAU Command Centre
“Coleman?” Fitchner said, calling Coleman’s cell phone. His level of worry went up each second Coleman did not respond. “Coleman? Coleman? Are you there? This is Fitch.”
“He’s not answering?” Pucci asked, concern overtaking his face.
“We gotta go in there,” said Proctor, anxiously. “What are we waiting for? Coleman’s in trouble.”
“We can’t just barge right in,” said Simeon, his own face awash with worry. “We still don’t know if that nuke is incapacitated.”
“We’re also dealing with an independent country,” said James. “Our authority doesn’t extend there.”
“I think it does,” said Parkes. “Last year, San Marino defaulted for the first time in their history...Tarsus bailed them out, making sure his companies could be registered in San Marino to avoid paying Roman taxes. Tarsus is also bankrolling other Sammarinese institutions, such as the army...in short, Tarsus is San Marino.”
“I also think the presence of a nuke is pretext enough,” opined Yves, doing his best to handle his nerves over the situation.
Roman Senate, Rome
“What are you talking about, your agent’s in trouble?” Valerius said, incredulously, to Black after Black informed him of what happened. “I thought you said if we played war games you’d have the nuke disarmed safely.”
Black slumped into his chair, his face overcome with emotions worried for Coleman. “Sir, we don’t know yet what happened to Coleman...he’s not answering his phone. It’s like he disappeared.”
“Black, Black, Black!” Valerius was beside himself with sarcastic laughter. “Unless San Marino is a black hole- which, for our taxmen, it is- no one just ‘disappears’…Coleman’s somewhere…you just have to find him!” Valerius gave Black a death glare, folding his arms disbelievingly at a man whose agents seemed two steps too slow for the entire investigation.
“Your Majesty…I know this hasn’t been pretty…but this case…”
“Don’t ‘this case’ me! I pay you to solve them, not to bumble around going on ‘hunches’ and putting the entire nation in danger!”
Black sighed heavily, wiping his face due to stress. “Your Highness, please…we can’t lose our cool…look, I’m frustrated too…it seems like every time we get something right it blows up in our faces.”
Valerius let out a deep breath, reluctantly agreeing. “This has been a bigger case than even I thought it could be.” He then pondered a little before deciding his next course of action. “Put San Marino under siege. No one leaves or comes in. No one. No exceptions. I will take that city by storm…no questions asked, and if I have to burn it down, I will. That will serve as a lovely message to the world about what happens when you stroke the Roman fire!”
23:00 local time, Outside of the warhead housing silo, San Marino
Every one of them dead. The hundreds of men Coleman led into the farm were all perished, done in under a hail of sniper bullets, not a single SWAT team member a match for the Sammarinese Army that challenged them. Worse, Coleman stood in bewilderment, as those same Sammarinese troops were staring down on him, their guns so menacingly trained at his head.
He stood there, breathing heavily, thinking about what to do next. He then decided that he wasn’t going to let the Sammarinese take him without a fight. It was then that Tarsus appeared from behind a shadow to set him straight.
“No no no,” said Tarsus, wagging his finger at Coleman and walking towards him. “I wouldn’t do that, tough guy. You forget, the instant you pull out that gun, every one of these trained snipers will put a bullet in your brain…and maybe through it too.”
“Sir,” said Tarsus’ second in command, Enricus Iapitus, “can we kill him now? We’re all getting restless.”
“No,” said Tarsus, caressing Coleman’s face, which caused Coleman to swat away Tarsus’ hand. “You forget, Zeke, about the guns,” he scolded, leaning in real close to Coleman’s ear.
“Now can we kill him?” said Iapitus.
“Still no,” said Tarsus, caressing Coleman again, much to Coleman’s chagrin. “I like this one. He’s everything a man should be. I’m going to take him back with me. Arrest him- and do it quickly- we need to escape before the Romans catch on and blockade us.” Two soldiers dutifully handcuffed Coleman and ushered him into the trunk of a black Sports Utility Vehicle, which Tarsus was driving. Iapitus and another soldier joined the ride, with Iapitus watching Coleman in the trunk. The soldiers managed to escape San Marino mere minutes before the Roman order to commence the siege went up, allowing them to escape to the coast where a small aircraft was waiting for the group.
“We got lucky,” said Iapitus once the plane was in flight. He couldn’t help but notice the Romans starting to move on San Marino.
“Enricus,” said Tarsus, “when you’re good, you’re lucky- and we, my friend, are good.”
BAU Command Centre
“Hello?” Fitchner said, receiving the phone call.
“Is my honeybunch okay?” Morales asked, worry overcoming her voice.
“Andi.” Fitchner’s normal calm voice couldn’t help but allow his own concern to creep in. “We don’t know that yet. The Romans are going to move in to San Marino and we’ll find out.”
“Oh please...please tell me he’ll be okay.” Morales began to sob.
Fitchner himself also began to well up. “Penny...please...we’re going to get him back alive. I promise.” Fitchner ended the call, collecting himself for a few minutes before rejoining his team.
“How did we miss this?” Pucci asked, puzzled at how Coleman could find himself in danger. “It’s like Tarsus planned this entire investigation.”
“Pucci,” said James, the only one who didn’t show a major amount of worry. “Stuff like this happens...they got lucky and we didn’t. Simple as that.”
“How can you be so dismissive of this entire situation?” Proctor asked James, her voice filled with disgust. “If you care about me, you should care about my team too!” She then stormed off.
“Emily,” said James, trying to stop her from leaving but he couldn’t. He followed her.
“Emily,” said James, putting his hand on Proctor’ shoulder.
“Don’t,” said Proctor angrily, moving away from his touch. James pulled away his hand.
James let out a heavy sigh. “I didn’t mean to sound like I didn’t care about him...maybe it’s all just because I don’t know him like you do and thus haven’t developed that kind of a bond with him, but I’m also trying to be levelheaded about all this...look, we’re not going to find him if we just go with our emotions.”
“You were still very callous in there...as if Coleman was nothing.”
James cocked his mouth to the side and sighed. “I do feel bad too.” He hung his head in shame. “I remember now that I thought this could be a setup...I don’t know why I didn’t think about that before Coleman went in there.”
“So you’re only worried for him because you screwed up?”
“No...it’s because I put a man who I deeply respect in peril. Coleman also said to me the other day that he trusts me and that he values my tactics, however insane they may be.” He sighed heavily. “I can’t tell you what that means to me.”
Proctor saw James’ genuine concern, and gave him a hug, which he returned. The two of them held each other, with James cradling Proctor’s head for quite some time.
01:22 local time, The walls of San Marino
The Romans went to work starting with attack helicopters clearing the defenders from the top of the wall, with soldiers in Hummers driving towards the wall and shooting at any defender that they saw trying to challenge them. The fighting stagnated at the wall as the Sammarinese backed up their wall with small artillery and tanks, hidden in area farms, which the Romans couldn’t challenge yet since their tanks had yet to arrive. Half an hour later, the full force of the Rimini Legion was able to kick in, with Roman tanks able to engage the Sammarinese tanks at Dogana.
After fierce fighting, the Romans finally broke through the wall at Dogana and started to drive into the heart of San Marino. The mountainous terrain provided some difficulties for the armoured vehicles, but the Roman Air Force made up for that, gunning down whatever Sammarinese artillery vehicles that showed up before they faced the tanks. Turning the tide of the battle was the simple fact that Rome had military aircraft, something the Sammarinese just weren’t able to obtain, due to their country’s small size.
By 05:02, the southcentral part of the Sammarinese wall had fallen, forcing the depleted Sammarinese Army to fight on two fronts. This allowed the Special Forces to enter the towns and buildings and eliminate the rest of the resistance piecemeal. An hour later, the tanks from the north met up with the tanks from the south, culminating in one last stand by the Sammarinese at the Three Towers. At this point, the battle became one between the Air Force and the castle defenders, which were slim pickings for the Romans. By 07:15, the last of the Towers, Guaita, had fallen, meaning the Sammarinese resistence was no more. San Marino was now officially in Roman hands.
There was still the task of finding Coleman, which fell to the Special Forces. For most of the morning, the Forces combed the Sammarinese interior, looking in every building, tree and tunnel they could find. By noon, the BAU- which tried to fight the urge to sleep but couldn’t- were awoken by the worst possible news.
“Okay,” said Fitchner, downcast after receiving the telephone call. “I’ll tell them.” He then lowered his head as he faced his team.
“Did they find him?” Yves asked, quivering, as both he and Parkes were holding each other’s hands nervously as the rest of the BAU waited with baited breath.
“No,” said Fitchner, welling up. “They took him.”
Saturday, June 1, 2013
“Okay,” said Chief Tobias Gregson to his team of detectives, Joseph Bell, James Watson and Sherlock Holmes. “What do we have on Martin Foyer’s murder?” The team had been out collecting evidence and interviewing people of interests seeing if they could find any leads.
“Foyer’s friends and family check out,” said Watson, “none of them have motive to commit the crime and have solid alibis. Seems like this guy is pretty likeable…no one seemed to hate him.”
“The dealership did too,” said Bell. “In fact, he won the car as a prize in Jimmy Cochrane’s ‘Roll Up The Rim To Win’ promotion…no one at the coffee shop had any issues with him.”
“Sherlock?” said Gregson, turning his attention to Holmes. As time passed, Gregson got more annoyed. “Sherlock?” he repeated, angrily.
Holmes wasn’t paying attention, her gaze fixated on her pet tortoise, Clyde, which she placed on a table to use to simulate the Rover 200’s drive into Professor’s Lake.
“Okay Sherlock,” said Gregson, befuddled at the display, “what in the world are you going to get staring at a tortoise?”
“Hold on, Chief,” said Bell, excitedly. “She’s got something.” Bell then approached the table and crouched down to get a better look at Clyde.
Holmes then got up from her gaze and authoritatively addressed her colleagues.
“Watson,” she started. “You said his entire family checked out, right?”
“Yes,” said Watson firmly.
“Someone is lying,” she said, sternly.
“What?” said Bell, intrigued.
“Martin Foyer drove straight into the lake,” said Holmes. “He didn’t try to swerve or drive away from the killer, as we might expect if the killer was unknown to him. Also, the tire tracks were not tentative at all, as we might expect if Foyer were doing this against his will. No, he had an argument with someone he knew well, with the murderer using the gun to ‘force’ the issue. The argument didn’t end well for Foyer, who, becoming depressed, decided to drive into the lake no questions asked.”
“Wait,” said Watson, confused. “At the lake, you were certain this wasn’t a suicide…now you’re saying it is?”
“Sort of,” said Holmes, curtly. “This is still a murder given that Foyer didn’t drive himself willingly to the lake and the murderer made circumstances so difficult that Foyer didn’t have any choice but to kill himself…but Foyer wasn’t entirely coerced. That could only happen if Foyer and the murderer were having an argument that would cause Foyer to drive into the lake willingly.”
“So this all started because they were discussing something important,” said Watson, following along with Holmes’ analysis.
“Something other than donuts,” remarked Bell.
“Come on!” barked a soldier, brandishing a whip on Behavioural Analysis Unit team member Zeke Coleman’s back. Coleman, naked except for a loin cloth around his waist, dropped the boulder he was carrying and was about to attack the soldier until another one barked at him.
“Guns Zeke!” said the commanding officer. “The guns, Zeke! You keep forgetting about them!”
Coleman sighed, resigned to his fate. He’d been warned multiple times about the guns every time he tried to strike at his captors, and each time he got progressively more submissive. By this point, he decided it wasn’t worth fighting them anymore. Cardinal Wilhelm Claes and Decius Tarsus had him in chains at all times, both mentally and (when needed) physically. He then picked up the boulder and carried about the task at hand, which was to create an artillery hole to bolster the fortress of Claes and Tarsus.
Meanwhile, Gaia Cornelia was in the kitchen of the fortress, clad in nothing. She had work alone to cook dinner for the fortress’ 400 soldiers, a task that wasn’t helped when soldiers helped themselves to raping her and copping a feel whenever they felt like it.
After another rape, Gaia stood at the counter, stunned in sadness. She wanted to cry, but she knew that would lead to her getting beaten and she had enough of that. She also had to finish her cooking task or else they were going to give her some more beatings and make the sex even less pleasurable for her. After taking a few deep, difficult breaths she found the strength to keep on going, hoping that no one would bother her for the rest of the day.
Coleman himself wasn’t so lucky. Since he was still new, he was still subject to the beatings that Gaia used to get on a regular basis. Every day after he finished his backbreaking work in the searing desert heat, he’d be worked over by a few soldiers with whips, in addition to being whacked with their fists. For the normally strong and dominant Coleman, he was experiencing the greatest humiliation he’d ever known. Still, he knew he had to be strong- Claes was keeping him alive for something, but for what?
RSC Headquarters, Rome
“I’m lost,” said FBII Director Lucius Black, as the team gathered in a boardroom. “We had the guy cornered and he corners us. How did we let this happen?”
“Maybe we didn’t give Tarsus enough credit,” opined BAU teammate Claudio Pucci. “We kept thinking he’d be the subservient one to Claes but he seems to be pretty clever himself.”
“He only amassed a nearly trillion-dollar empire,” said BAU alternate Jason Simeon, curtly. “Frankly, Pucci, I don’t know how you could have missed that.”
“Okay smarty pants,” said Pucci, agitated. “Why didn’t you pipe up something before Coleman put himself in peril? Maybe then he’d be here with us planning the next stage instead of somewhere in the Gobi Desert!”
“It’s the Sahara, actually,” corrected BAU teammate Pascal Yves.
Pucci threw his arms up in fury. “Semantics!” he replied in a huff.
“Guys!” said Black, trying to reel everyone in. “Sniping at each other isn’t going to save Coleman…now’s not the time to assign blame.”
“Whatever it is,” said BAU Chief Aaron “Fitch” Fitchner, “whatever army Claes and Tarsus have amassed are far more disciplined and organized than we anticipated…so we need to proceed with the utmost caution.”
“The Romans are going to enter the war in Egypt,” said Black. “They hope that, at the very least, they can create a diversion to allow us to get in there and find Coleman and Cornelia, after which they can at least incapacitate Egypt’s ability to harbour more terrorists.”
“There’s so many factions in Egypt and Sudan though,” said BAU teammate Emily Proctor. “I mean, I’m sure the Romans can handle all of them put together but wouldn’t ‘divide and conquer’ be a better idea?”
“Valerius is trying to get in touch with local leaders and see who will be co-operative,” said Black, “but there will be a tough go of it. We’re not exactly liked in Egypt for our ‘heretical’ values.”
“I think our job should be to profile the factions and see who could be co-operative,” said Fitchner. “We need to get a sense of their tactics and fighting spirit…if we can get inside their heads and use their own neuroses against them we’ll get the upper hand.”
“Good idea,” said Black, firmly nodding his head. “I’m getting the intelligence reports as we speak…Fitch, I’ll let you determine who reviews what. James, Adrian…I want you guys to review the evidence that we have and figure out where Coleman could be…it will give our army a focus. Is everything clear?” The team nodded in agreement. “Good. Let’s get to work.”
08:45 local time, 25 nautical miles off the coast of Sidi Barrani, Egypt
“Okay men,” said Drusus Marcus, the Dux of the Roman Legions- who came with two Avii air squadrons, two siege engines and one Classis naval squadron, just in case it was needed- that would be tasked to take Egypt and Sudan. “Our intelligence records show that Alexandria is armed to the teeth at the coast, so we have to attack from an alternate position. We will meet up with the Sinai Legion at Damietta and then push our way down...according to our estimates, if all goes well, we should link up at the same time. Right now, though, our goal is to reach the International Coast Road- that will take us right to Alexandria. Any questions?” His leading officers all shook their heads for “no”, allowing the Romans to depart on their trip.
After encountering some small Egyptian sorties at the beachhead, which were easily handled, down the road, partially hidden by the desert sands, Primus Pilus Gnaeus Musus of the 10th Neapolis Legion saw something that caught his eye.
“Oh dear no,” he said, cupping his face. Although he’d seen more than his fair share of skeletons in his lifetime- some of those caused by his own actions on the battlefield- there was something about this skeleton that took him aback.
“Sir,” said Overall Camp Prefect Cladius Gallo, approaching the scene. “What is it?”
“We have buried here,” said Musus, distressed, “alongside the skeletons the credentials of Zeke Coleman. He was a good man,” he said, trying not to cry. “He didn’t deserve to die like this.”
“They found what?” said Pucci, devastated by the news. The team sat in stunned silence, not knowing what to make of the latest development, with some of them tearing up while others simply breathed heavily. James and Proctor could be seen consoling each other, seated in a corner. Even Fitchner, the normally stoic one, was reduced to tears, sitting, hunched over and cupping his face, with both Pucci and Simeon- themselves inconsolable- doing their best to console their grief-stricken leader.
“I’m sorry guys,” said Black, not even hiding his tears. “I wish I had something better to tell you all, but I don’t.”
“What are we going to do?” said Parkes, sobbing. “Coleman’s our guy…we can’t continue the case like this.” She then collapsed herself into Yves, who held her. However, Yves wasn’t crying, and neither was Adrian, who was seen examining the picture of the skeleton.
“Your Holiness,” said Black, “did you find something?”
Adrian didn’t answer. He stared, intently at the picture. He knew something was off but couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Agent Yves,” started Adrian, “you’re good with all this medical stuff, right?”
“Yes,” replied Yves.
“Come here, I need your help.”
Yves walked over, wondering what Adrian had found. He too had doubts about the authenticity of the skeleton. Parkes, wondering what the commotion was about, joined them.
“This does not look like what Zeke Coleman’s skeleton would look like,” said Adrian firmly. “I can say this with the fullest of confidence that it’s not him. I just don’t know why I have that sense.”
“I’ll tell you why,” said Yves, noticing the pelvis. “It’s because this skeleton is a female…the pelvis...it’s shorter and more rounded, typical of a female’s skeleton.”
“Wait.” Adrian was overcome with worry, realizing what that revelation could mean.
Yves spoke reassuringly. “It’s not Gaia’s either…Gaia was well-built…this looks like it came from a smaller woman. This is because…” Yves took a longer look at the picture, “as I suspected, this skeleton looks like it’s been touched up in some way to make it appear like it has greater muscle mass than it does.” He then paused before another thought came to him. “Police reports said that two women were abducted at Gaia’s store, right?”
“Yeah…there were two…though I believed the other customer was collateral.”
“Well, that’s your collateral.”
Adrian stepped forward to front of the room, commanding the attention of those present. Yves joined him at the front, where the skeleton found was shown over a projector lying on the table.
“First of all, Coleman is not dead,” said Adrian, authoritatively, “and neither is Gaia.”
“That’s right,” said Yves. “If I could direct everyone’s attention to the screen, what you’ll see is quite clearly a female skeleton. It’s been touched up by plastic welded onto the frame to make it look like it’s got greater muscle mass than it actually does, but…” Yves then directed the room’s attention to the pelvic area, “as you can see, the pelvis is short and round, which is indicative of a female skeleton. We’ll need to have the skeleton examined, but I think there’s a good chance that’s the woman that got kidnapped with Gaia at the store.”
“Another red herring,” said Pucci, flabbergasted, throwing his hands up in frustration. “When will this end?”
“Quite clearly,” continued Adrian, “Claes and Tarsus are toying with us…it’s like they’re saying that we can’t catch them because they’re always one step ahead of us.”
“There’s one problem,” said Simeon. “The woman captured at the store fell into their laps…they couldn’t have planned for her to be available to them. Coleman also fell into their laps.”
“Yes,” piped in James, “but they also knew that we’d send someone into San Marino…and that someone was Coleman. What this tells us is that Claes and Tarsus are extremely adaptable.”
“How could they know that we’re not going to hit Alexandria directly?” asked Proctor.
“Simple military tactics,” said Adrian. “You don’t start an invasion by attacking the strongest part of the wall…you find the weakest…and Sidi Barrani was the weakest point. So they left us a ‘message’ reminding us of that.”
“This whole thing,” said Pucci, flustered, “we’re just playing right into their hands…we’ve got to find a way to undermine their plan somehow.”
“Okay,” said Adrian, going to the boardroom’s dry erase board. “Let’s recap how we got here. Okay, so Wilhem Claes tries to rattle me by saying some choice words before I assume my role as Pope.”
“Wait,” said James, confused, “that whole thing where you were blubbering like a schoolchild…that was all fake?”
“Well, yes and no,” said Adrian. “I’d always had anxiety issues since I came back from Mali…but I had to exaggerate them in front of Cardinal Newman so that I could get my mind set straight…I needed therapy, and you gave it to me, Oldrich.”
“Oh,” said James, smiling though he was still confused. “Thanks.”
“Not to get too carried away,” continued Adrian, “but Cardinal Newman didn’t think I needed therapy for what happened in Mali. I always told him that I did…so…panic attacks.”
“Now it all makes sense,” said James. “You’re a smart one, Your Holiness.”
“Can you guys just call me Adrian, please?” said Adrian. “I appreciate the respect, but I think we’re past the initial pleasantries.”
“Very well Adrian,” said Black, standing with his back to the back wall. “Continue on.”
“Anyway,” continued Adrian, writing things down on the board as he went along. “I get spooked, and Oldrich helps me out. At the same time, the murders of the women start with Carla Perotta. Then they continue with other women, including that brutal murder of Julia Winters, and then we get the assassination attempt, on me. Who knows if Claes knew that I’d be prepared for that…it’s a possibility.”
“I think his plan would have continued whether or not you were actually dead,” opined Simeon. “You were just a symbol…a marker for people to know that it’s your views that he doesn’t like…and you championed women’s rights during the election. Whether or not he actually killed you we’d still be able to make that connection, because of the symbolism of the murders.”
“Wouldn’t Gaia have been killed if Adrian was,” said Proctor. “I mean, we reason that Claes is keeping Gaia alive because he wants Adrian to go after her.”
“Unless he has another reason for keeping Gaia alive,” said Fitchner. “Gaia was the surrogate all along…all these targets were meant to show Gaia that Claes has a distinct message for her, and it’s quite possible that message is to mould her into what he thinks is ‘the model woman’. He wants a state for himself in Egypt, to use as a new base for Catholicism…one that rejects the direction that Rome took.”
“He essentially wants to create a Victorian Catholic state,” opined Parkes, “…and change the state that he believes promotes the antithesis of that, which is Rome, by striking at one of its most important figures.”
“In any case,” continued Adrian, “after the assassination attempt, he leaves the clue that tells us to go to San Marino, but not before kidnapping Gaia and sending the Roman Army on a wild goose chase to Samaria. Of course, he was prepared that we’d figure out that ruse so he has people in San Marino to ambush us…which he did. Now, since he knows we’re in Egypt and that we’ve launched our invasion, and the skeleton was his way of reminding us of that.”
Proctor then had a thought occur to her. “The message at Gaia’s workshop,” she thought out loud, “it said ‘Adrian, if you want to find her, follow the snake’…the snake…that’s the Nile River…and the end of it is in Khartoum, where it branches off into two different rivers. So he’s in Khartoum and knows that we have to go down the Nile to find him.”
“Okay,” said Fitchner, “that means we have to send the Army away from the Nile…he’ll ambush us from the desert.”
“No,” said Pucci. “He’s planned for that too…every time we’ve thought of the most conventional alternative, he’s thought of that too. So we need to do something unexpected.”
“Our intelligence reports,” said Black, “show that he has pockets of support throughout Egypt surrounded by hostile tribes, with better control in Sudan. He clearly has the strongest force in the Egypt-Sudan corridor but his control is far from complete.”
“That’s his plan,” said Pucci. “He wanted the Romans to come in to ‘finish the job’ for him, just so he could drive them out.”
Black scoffed. “How could he even think he could defeat the Roman Army? He’s just some small-time terrorist with a rich friend…he’s got nothing on us.”
“We thought the same thing about the Viet Cong,” said Pucci, “and look what they did to the American Army.”
“Hastened the eventual dissolution of the United States, I know,” said Black. “I still think the situation is a bit different…we have a much larger GDP than the Americans did, and we’ve been a lot smarter with our money, so I don’t think we need to worry about a collapse.”
“Oh no,” said Pucci, “I don’t think a collapse would happen…but, it could still turn into an embarrassment for Rome, and that’s a feather in anyone’s cap.”
Black still gave him a disbelieving look.
Adrian jumped in. “Lucius, I know that you might not think something could happen,” he said, “but we have to be prepared. Claes has been prepared this entire time…so we need to catch him off guard. We can’t continue playing his bluff…he’s burned us time and again so why risk things?”
“Good point,” said Black. “Okay, team, let’s continue profiling the Egyptian and Sudanese tribes…we can see which ones we can link up with and see if we can surprise Claes for a change.”
“What about the Roman assault?” asked Fitchner.
“Why don’t we keep it going,” said Black. “We can make him think that we haven’t caught on to him when we have.”
The International Coast Road, Egypt
“What’s our intelligence say about the strength of Claes’ army?” Black asked Marcus over the phone.
“He’s got about 200,000 soldiers, all things considered,” replied Marcus, “including whatever tanks and planes he seized from Jerusalem.”
Black spoke with urgency. “Double that strength...or even triple it. He’s likely got a lot of soldiers hidden where we can’t see them.”
“How though? Egypt’s not particularly known for having subways...they only have one, in Cairo.”
“The pyramids have tunnels, and there are many caves and the like, especially along the Nile. Trust me, there’s plenty of hiding spots.”
“Okay. Thanks Director.”
Marcus then summoned his leading commanders to brief them on the road ahead. “Before we move on,” started Marcus authoritatively, “we need to review the Egyptian landscape. Director Black tells me that Claes has likely set up a trap for us somewhere in Egypt…since he likely knows that we’re on to his ‘red herring scheme’, we can’t just follow a traditional invasion path down the Nile…we’ll get ambushed. So we need to proceed with caution and watch our flanks.”
“So we’re not going to change our invasion plan?” asked Gallo, confused. “If his plan is to surprise us, shouldn’t we figure out where he’s surprising us and take it from there?”
“I understand what you mean, Claudius,” replied Marcus, “but Black suggested that we proceed as normal and make Claes think we don’t know what he’s up to. The Cardinal has shown himself to be incredibly adaptable…if we show him that we know what he’s doing, he’ll change his modus operandi and surprise us in a different way.” He then retook control of the room. “Okay men, let’s move!”
“I’m not doing it!” Coleman said, defiantly. He then screamed in anguish, as the effects of the shock collar he was fitted with set in.
“Heh,” said Tarsus, chuckling maniacally, before leaning in real close. “You’re my dog now...dawg.” Tarsus laughed manically, enjoying the dominance he had over Coleman.
“Now,” said Tarsus. “Originally, I was going to marry Cornelia and together we’d start the proper Eastern Catholic society...but then I found you. You perfect hunk of a man. You are far better for this role than I, so I decided that you should be the one setting Cornelia straight. Besides...that customer of yours, Cornelia...she was quite the looker herself. Of course, every good couple needs to have sex...so allow me to remind you what your duty is...Zeke.”
He then ushered Coleman to Cornelia’s cell, instructing him to get right behind the already kneeled over Cornelia. Tarsus was going to make them have sex, doggy style.
“Come on,” said Tarsus. “Stick it in there. Don’t be shy.”
Coleman sighed, resigned to his fate and followed along with the order.
“My men really love her,” cackled Tarsus. “She should be sufficiently softened, just for you. Now go...work it! Grunt like an animal! Show her who’s boss!” As Tarsus egged him on, Coleman did exactly as he commanded during sex, barking and grunting while going at Cornelia hard. “Faster now, Zeke, faster!” Coleman did as commanded, making Cornelia shriek even more. After half an hour, the sex ended as both climaxed. Both started to cry before Tarsus shocked both of them back to their senses.
“That,” sneered Tarsus. “Was a good show. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have someone to enjoy.” He then departed for the cell of Gaia’s customer, Marcia Gamma, where she was held, chained and naked, ready for Tarsus.
14:30 local time, El-Hamam, Egypt, just outside of Alexandria
When the Romans reached the outskirts of Alexandria, they found it as they expected it- a city lined with artillery walls and other assorted weapon systems that underscored how valuable the city was. The linear geography of the city also provided some challenges- sprawled along the coast, laying siege to it would be much more difficult than a landlocked city like San Marino was. The beaches were all closed and lined with mines, while whatever made up the Alexandrian Navy dutifully patrolled the coast. Straight-up, the Romans looked like they would be in for a long battle.
Not that Marcus wasn’t worried about having a conventional battle…he had the better troops and the better equipment. Rather, Marcus was worried about what tricks Claes would have up his sleeve, so if he could avoid losing as many troops as possible, it would soften whatever “surprise blow” Claes had planned.
So he ordered his men to stop short of Alexandria’s city limits, both on the ground and in the sea, and told them to only fire if fired upon.
Then they were told to wait…and wait…and wait...and wait some more.
“Sir,” radioed in Marcus’ lead Legate Franciscus Paulus, “what are we waiting for? We didn’t come all the way here just to sit and do nothing. We’re getting a bit antsy.”
“Patience Paulus,” replied Marcus. “I know exactly what we’re doing.”
Paulus was confused. “Which is…?”
“Just you wait. The wise commander never reveals his secrets. I just need ALL of you to stay disciplined.”
On the other side was Zalayetta, Claes’ commander in Alexandria. He stood in his makeshift command tower at the Alexandria Airport confused as to what the Romans were trying to do, especially considering he could see their Air Force flying around and doing absolutely nothing.
“Is this a game that they’re playing?” said Zalayetta to his officers at the Airport, looking at the Roman forces through his binoculars. Meanwhile, the Romans continued to sit there, in one grand stare down with the Alexandrian troops, one that Marcus would let go on for days if he had to.
“How are we doing with the profile?” Black asked, as Pucci and Simeon were conducting their research, in between sniping at each other.
“Don’t think we’re going to get much help,” said Simeon firmly. “All of the factions here believe the Romans are heretics.”
“It’s a political mind game,” retorted Pucci. “I’m sure the people just want their citizens to start getting along again. We need to look deeper...the Romans have been known to get along fine with just about anyone.”
Simeon was flabbergasted. “Well if you see something, why don’t you tell Lucius about it?” Simeon sneered. “All I see are Wahhabists who are in control...and Wahhabists don’t like anyone.”
“Guys,” barked Black. “That’s enough! If I have to seperate you two I will...and then I will severely reprimand you both. Don’t make me do that.”
“We could have told you that the two of us don’t get along,” retorted Pucci.
“You two are our best profilers,” Black said, angrily. “I’m not asking you to be friends, but by Jove, I’m asking you to solve this case!”
Pucci sighed. “Okay,” he said, as Black departed.
Pucci and Simeon then stared at each other, blankly, resigning to their fate. However, Pucci wasn’t one for silence, so he spoke up first.
“Before Hosni Mubarak’s government fell in 2001,” Pucci said, “Egypt used to be a haven for moderate Muslims and moderate Christians. There has to be some left.”
“If I remember correctly,” said Simeon, “in the aftermath, radicals chased the Church from its headquarters in Alexandria and Cairo to Aswan, in the south.”
Pucci answered excitedly. “Yes, yes yes...and after missionaries from Rome and Virginia were killed in Cairo in 2005, the Militant Islamic Society and the Armed Christian Alliance were created by the radicals to counter what they thought was a surreptitious attempt to undercut them.”
“...and now both are at war with each other and with Claes.”
“He’s working with one of them, though, at the very least...he can’t get the ambush correct if he isn’t.”
“Geographically both are a wash...the ACA control the western desert and the Gilf Plateau caves, and the MIS control the eastern desert with its mountains and the Red Sea Riviera...and likely the only Roman allies are at Aswan.”
“So Aswan is the ambush point...still doesn’t tell us who the ambusher will be.”
“It could be both.”
“Doubt it...Claes brought the Romans here to destroy one of them and leave the other to the ambush, allowing him to come in and defeat whatever soldiers are left, since most of his troops are in Sudan anyway.”
“...and since both are terrorist organizations, numerical intelligence would be spotty, meaning Claes knew that the Romans wouldn’t bring enough soldiers to deal with the ambush.”
“More to the point...Claes has a conventional army, while the ACA and MIS thrive on guerilla tactics...Claes needs to recruit one to make his own tactic work, as well as provide him with enough men so that his own men don’t get hurt.”
“Well, if it’s just one it’s the ACA, surely.”
Simeon spoke with urgency. “Think like Claes.”
“Right...red herring. The MIS are more likely...because it’s the least likely group you’d group him with. This means we’ll need to talk to Mr. Amaza again.”
“...and continue attacking the ACA.”
“Why? Shouldn’t we talk to them too?”
“If we play Claes to his bluff, then we’ll need to make him think that we still haven’t caught on to his plan. Only way to do that is attack the ACA, because that’s still how he thinks the war would go down. We can’t deviate from the script or else Claes will change his plan too.”
“I’m not sure I like attacking the ACA...they may not be friends of the Romans but they’re not part of our investigation.”
“To get to Coleman and Gaia we need to win the war...and they’re part of this war.”
“Yes, but couldn’t we pretend like we’re fighting them? If we get into a long, drawn out battle with them, we could lose whatever superiority we need at Aswan.”
“Paulus,” radioed in Marcus.
“Yes, sir?” radioed back Paulus.
“I need your first Cohort to cross the city limit of Alexandria momentarily and then beat a hasty retreat.”
Paulus was befuddled. “I’m sorry?” Paulus wanted to fight, and didn’t like that Marcus sounded like he was taking that away from him. “Marcus…those are my best guys…and you just want them to run like wimps?”
Marcus was livid. “That’s my order, isn’t it?”
“Marcus…you sound like you’re giving up.”
“Paulus…just do it…and when you’ll see it, you’ll know what to do.”
Paulus sighed in frustration, but he wasn’t going to undermine his boss. He ordered one of his soldiers to walk to the border and walk over it. One of his men spoke up, volunteering to do the task.
The soldier drove to the border, stopping short of the marker that separated the Alexandria Governorate from Matrouh. He then casually stepped out of his truck, slapped his hands in his pockets and nonchalantly whistled while walking. He then got to the border and pretended to stumble over it.
“Oops,” he said, playfully, before laughing while jumping back hastily into his truck and driving away.
As Marcus predicted, the Alexandrians, who were far too eager, followed the soldier and his retreating cohort in hot pursuit. The two armies fought each other as they fled, firing volleys for well over an hour as they drove. By the second hour, the two factions were already deep in the Egyptian desert, causing the Roman cohort to split apart suddenly.
“What the…?” said the lead Alexandrian soldier with surprise.
As the Romans split up, it revealed an array of RPGs and other assorted salvos that were supposed to be headed Paulus’ way headed towards the Alexandrian contingent. It was the ACA.
“Hook, line...sinker!” Marcus said, excitedly. He knew the Alexandrians were way too eager to fight, so he goaded them to make the first move, also knowing they’d be too excited to see the ACA coming towards them and the Romans, something he noted.
With the Alexandrian rear exposed along the International Coast Road, this opened up an avenue for the Roman assault. The Roman objective was to clear the Coast Road as a path for themselves, to eventually clear a path to Rasheed and on to Damietta. The linear nature of the city meant the Legion couldn’t just drive straight through without an ambush, so some cohorts went to the other side of the city and furrowed their way through. Fighting went deep into the night, but by sunrise, Alexandria was in Roman hands.
Meanwhile, the fight between the ACA, the Alexandrians and the Romans went the way Marcus expected: with the ACA and Alexandrians pounding each other allowing the Romans to finish the job. This meant that the northern extremity of the desert belonged to Rome as well, protecting the Legion’s rear.
“Good job guys,” Marcus said to his troops. He then sent soldiers to maintain control of Alexandria, before sending Paulus forward.
Meanwhile, at Arish, in the Sinai, the Roman Legion stationed there had to deal with a flash riot that had erupted, stalling their progress. They were supposed to secure a path to Damietta but the riot kept them occupied. The Legate, Antonius Fusus, radioed this to Marcus.
“I understand Fusus,” said Marcus, who noticed another message on his communication device. “Just hang tight and don’t sweat it- we can take the Delta on our own.”
Pandataria Prison, Pandataria Island, Latium
The cell was dark, damp and lonely, but for Jamal Amaza, the exiled leader of the MIS, it had become his home. Although the cell was only slightly big enough to contain his frame, Amaza had grown comfortable with his surroundings, having spent the last 15 years of his life here, in Rome’s most forboding prison having been convicted of leading the plot that saw the bombing of the Roman subway in 1997, killing 33.
Still, the island was no picnic. Dubbed “Rome’s Alcatraz”, the island was fitted with the most up to date security measures, making maximum security prisons look like amusement parks in comparison. Every prisoner was in solitary confinement, with only a peephole being their connection to the outside world, with the prisoners denied any kind of priviledge, except for the bare minimum of clothing and food. Many a prisoner had committed suicide under such drab conditions, but for Amaza, he didn’t just come to accept it- he loved it.
So when he heard that the BAU were coming by for a visit, he could only grin. This is going to be fun, he thought.
“Agent Simeon!” Amaza said heartily, as if Simeon was an old friend.
“Hello Jamal,” Simeon answered blankly.
Amaza then held his arms opem. “What I don’t get a hug?”
Simeon, knowing what Amaza was trying to do, decided against reacting angrily and just smiled, curtly.
Amaza continued mockingly. “Did somebody shoot down your favourite bird, Simeon?”
“How’d you know I like bird watching?” Simeon was surprised by Amaza’s observation.
“I can just tell, just by looking at you.” Amaza was connected to the outside world, but didn’t feel like admitting that to Simeon.
Simeon made a mental note to remind the guards that Amaza’s visitors needed screening.
“For a man that likes to talk, you sure have been silent tonight. Come on, tell me that you love me.”
Simeon then decided to leave the room.
“You want to leave me? How could you do that to me?” Amaza pretended to cry, as inside he was laughing at Simeon for his actions.
“What’s the scoop?” asked Pucci as Simeon emerged from the room.
“Well, he knows that he holds the power in the interrogation,” said Simeon, “but we already knew that. He’s going to play us, I can tell.”
“So he’s not going to be that helpful,” said Parkes, analyzing.
“I think he can help us,” said James. “We just need to feed into his ego.”
“To do that we’ll have to release him from custody,” said Yves. “Amaza is too smart to know if he’s being played…especially since we tricked him once before.”
“Why does he trust Claes?” asked Parkes. “If he’s smart to know if we’re playing him, then surely he has to be smart enough to know Claes is playing him too.”
“That’s because Claes is a manipulator,” said James. “He works so subtly so as not to arouse suspicion…if Claes can play us, he can play Amaza without arousing suspicion.”
“What makes us so certain that Amaza is going to get played by Claes?” asked Pucci. “Ideologically, Amaza and Claes are very similar…they both want a Catholic religion that’s ultra-conservative and extremely patriarchal…they could be working together.”
“We still have Casiraghi, right?” said Simeon.
“He isn’t talking,” said Yves, “but yes we do.”
“We need to talk to him,” said Pucci. “I’ll stay here…maybe a new face will open Amaza up. James, Proctor…you two stay with me. Simeon…take Yves and Parkes with you to Casiraghi.”
“Hopefully then we’ll get some answers,” said Simeon.
RSC Headquarters, Pasquale Casiraghi’s Interrogation Room
“Why’d they put it up?” said Casiraghi, unhinged as he stared at the picture of Adrian. As he had for days, he pulled at his chains fruitlessly, as he so desperately wanted to take down the picture plastered in front of him when his interrogation began so long ago. He’d been given food to eat from time to time, but other than the occassional checks on his health, the chains bound him in perpetuity.
It was in this environment that Yves stepped in.
“Hello Pasquale,” he started, taking a deep breath as he sat down.
“You?” Casiraghi scowled. “They expect me to be scared of a pencil like you?” He then laughed sardonically.
Yves adjusted his collar before moving on. “I think you have the role of an interview wrong...my goal isn’t to scare you, it’s to see how you can help us solve the case. I’ve done numerous studies and I’ve found scary or other kinds of coercive tactics are ineffective at procuring the interviewee’s assistance.”
Casiraghi was disbelieving. “What makes me think that you want my help?”
Yves leaned forward, letting Casiraghi understand the sense of urgency. “I want to know, Pasquale, when I say the word ‘Muslim’, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?”
Casiraghi didn’t hesitate to answer. “Islam is a brotherhood...the Muslims are our brothers. They agree just like we do that women shouldn’t be left to their own devices and that men should be the sole determiner of their fate. We may not agree with the whole ‘covering up’ thing but, as I understand, the MIS and Claes have reached some sort of agreement.”
“Thank you, that’s all I need.” Yves then got up from his chair and exited, with Casiraghi staring in disbelief that Yves left him in the chains and left the poster of Adrian on the wall.
“That was quick,” Parkes said after Yves closed the door of the room.
“He was very quick to bring up the MIS,” noted Simeon, “and he wasn’t even prodded into giving up that information. That means that Claes has no intention at all on turning on Amaza.”
“That doesn’t mean we can’t make Amaza think that Claes will turn on him,” said Yves. “We have precedent.”
“Divide and conquer,” said Parkes, “with a twist.”
“All right, scumbag,” said Pucci, greeting Amaza. “You think you’re so smart, eh? Tell me, what do you think of the Catholics?”
“They are nothing but the scourge of the Earth,” said Amaza quickly and derisively. He was going to continue before Pucci cut him off.
Pucci then got right in his face. “So why are you allies with them?” He then gestured his hand around the side of his head, leaving the other on the table. “Explain that to me because I don’t get it.”
“As I was going to explain.” Amaza then paused because he was agitated. “Your Catholics have bastardized the Word of God...their Popes and their priests have invented so much codswallop that they have become the heretics they claim to fight against. Cardinal Wilhelm Claes understands this too...I see it. He wanted to create a new institution, a new Catholicism, one that is friends with Muslim ideals. He is a true believer...you are nothing but a sinner.”
“...and yet you don’t buy the inherent contradiction in that? Your group has forever claimed that Islam is the ‘one true way’...why suddenly get in bed with Catholics?”
“Because Wilhelm Claes is the first Catholic that finally sees the truth...besides, Agent Pucci, you seem to forget that Muslims and Christians were friends for a while before the Christians turned their backs on us...Claes is the first Christian to attempt to right the wrongs of the past.”
“Surely you know that Claes said the same thing to the Samarians...and look how that turned out.”
“The Samarians were fools...they were easy to manipulate. You should have known moderates don’t mix well with radicals...and Claes and I are radicals.”
“Yes...but you know what happens when egos collide.”
The next day, 07:00 local time, Cairo, Egypt
Paulus was ambitious. Knowing that the Roman Navy had the coast of the Nile Delta covered, he decided to change course and head to the southern tip of the Delta, at Cairo. His desire was to cut off the Deltans from the rest of Egypt and progressively hem them in, producing what would be the world’s largest siege. Marcus disagreed with the plan but he trusted Paulus, so he left him to his own devices.
He entered Cairo at the district of the 6th of October City, and immediately identified the entrance to the district’s subway station. He gathered his Special Forces and guided them into the subway, under orders to take out any of Claes’ troops that he felt were hiding in the subway system. The rest of the Legion would stay above ground, told to fight through the city and clear a path eastward towards Suez.
“Leave no stone unturned,” barked Paulus as he led his men through the subway. “Let’s move!”
At first, Paulus’ men didn’t meet any resistance, since it looked like Paulus’ prediction that there would be Egyptians in the subway tunnels bore little fruit. Just as his men were getting frustrated, around downtown Cairo at the Martyrs interchange station, the Special Forces were entangled in a fierce firefight. The Egyptians seemed to come out of nowhere, as the multiple tunnels of the interchange station provided ample cover.
Soon, the subway’s dull hum was replaced by the inescapable din of guns firing and bullets ricocheting off of their targets. Some of Paulus’ men were overwhelmed, not expecting to deal with what seemed like an endless supply of Egyptian soldiers coming at them. It was an absolute frenzy, with heart-stopping action around every corner. If dealing with the masses of Egyptians wasn’t enough, having to trudge through the dust, the ferocious rats and the grime present along the subway floors that promised to bring sickness to many of the soldiers made the fighting especially unbearable.
Eventually Paulus and his men fought through the hardships and dealt with the Egyptians admirably, allowing them to forge ahead along the subway. By the next day, Paulus and his men had managed to clear the subway of any threats, and emerged at Heliopolis hoping to reconnect with his Legion.
What he saw was astounding.
Waiting for him were Egyptian soldiers with their guns trained on the emerging soldiers, meaning Paulus’ men had to face another firefight. Paulus and his men were able to handle those soldiers as well, but it was already too late- the situation was dire for Paulus and he had to turn back.
His Legion was nowhere to be found, as they got caught in an ambush of their own in Cairo’s downtown. The Egyptians were hiding in the buildings there too, armed with RPGs and other assorted small artillery that made life difficult for the Romans. Half of the Legion’s tanks and four fighter jets were downed before the Legion’s Broad-Striped Tribune, Rufus Castorus, gave the order to retreat to stronger positions, as there seemed to be more Egyptians in Cairo than the Legion had accounted for.
Once back at the Camp just outside of the 6th of October City, Paulus received his expected reprimand from Marcus.
“You have some serious explaining to do,” said Marcus from the radio. “You told me marching through Cairo would be a piece of cake. Instead, we just got schooled on urban warfare by an enemy that bought all of its equipment from the Dollar Store!”
“Dux, I can explain,” started Paulus.
Marcus scoffed in his retort. “I bet you can!”
“Sir.” Paulus paused, as he spoke with contrition. “I was following the intelligence reports and they misrepresented the threat, so I went in with fewer resources than I should.”
“Uh-huh…yeah, blame the intelligence reports why don’t ya? You know, I have thosesame reports, and I told you that I didn’t agree with the plan but you went along with it anyway. So don’t blame our intelligence. Blame your own incompetence, Legate! From now on, you take your advance orders from me and no more freelancing! Is that understood?”
Paulus sighed, resigned to his fate. “Yes sir.”
The next day, 08:00 local time, RSC Headquarters, Rome
“Hello?” said Black, answering his phone in his office. It was Valerius.
“Okay, so we’re playing all these mind games,” said Valerius, sardonically.
“Okay…” Black was confused but wasn’t sure he liked where Valerius was going.
“…and our army had their hides handed to them on a platter by soldiers that youconvinced me were no better than fanatics with cricket bats, is that correct?”
“I wouldn’t characterize Claes’ army like that…I never underestimated them, you did.”
“Ha, likely story. Don’t try to deflect blame, Lucius. Your ‘profilers’ led us directly into a trap in Cairo and that’s making my military men believe there’s some kind of a mole in this investigation. It got me thinking…no matter where we’ve turned, Claes seems a little too far ahead of us, catching us right after moves that your people have made.”
Black was apoplectic. “Caesar, don’t go there.”
“Oh I will, and I’m going to arrest every one of your agents for treason, including you.”
“Please, please, please…” Black was now begging. “We’re not the moles…we’ll be able to find out who they are, just trust me.”
Valerius laughed. “Really? Well then Black, you have until noon to find out who it is…and if you don’t, you’re all getting arrested. Is that understood?”
“We’ll need more time than that.”
“That’s not my problem, is it?” Valerius then slammed the phone down, ending the call.
Black wiped his face with stress and cupped it. He was still cupping it when Fitchner, whom Black summoned, entered his office.
“Lucius, what’s wrong?” asked Fitchner, seeing the look of concern on Black’s face.
“It’s Valerius,” replied Black. “He believes that there’s a mole feeding Claes information about the investigation and that we’re the moles.”
“Us?” Fitchner was flabbergasted. “How could he think that? What would we have to gain from feeding Claes information?”
“You don’t understand, Aaron…he doesn’t think like we do. He thinks like a politician, who can only react to what he sees…we understand the intangibles, Valerius only sees the tangibles, and right now, our tangibles are- justifiably so- creating a lot of worry within Rome.”
“So we need to figure out who the mole is.”
“…and do it in four hours.” Black took in several deep breaths, as Fitchner sighed in frustration.
“I’ll summon the team.”
In the boardroom, Fitchner gathered his agents and briefed them on what Black had just told him.
“What?” said Pucci, flabbergasted. “How could we be the moles? What do we have to gain from that?”
“Fitch,” said James, the only agent not distraught at Fitchner’s news. “What’s the number for the Roman camp outside of Cairo?”
“We don’t have access to it, James,” said Fitchner curtly.
“I need access to it,” replied James. “I know who the mole is. It came to me as soon as you said ‘mole’…it was a pretty easy deduction.”
“Well, it won’t be easy,” said Fitchner, sighing with frustration, “but I’ll get it from Black. Just tell me what your plan is and I’ll do what I can to get the camp’s number.”
“I’m going to tell all of you,” said James, who addressed the boardroom and relayed his plan.
09:00 local time
“Thanks Morales,” said James on the phone with Technical Analyst Andi Garia. “Wow, this is pretty salacious stuff.”
“They ask me to dig up the dirt and dirt is what I find!” Morales beamed enthusiastically.
James thanked Morales and ended the call, placing another one into the Roman camp.
Roman camp, 6th of October City, Egypt
“Attention soldiers of the 10th Neapolis Legion!” James’ voice beamed over the loudspeaker, “my name is Oldrich James, the world famous psychic! Now, I’ve been told that your camp has been down your luck recently, but never fear, because Oldrich James is here!”
Castorus, who was particularly depressed today, perked up as soon as he heard James. He thought that maybe James could help him get out of his rut.
“Now, who wants their reading? Come on now, don’t be shy.”
Castorus dutifully ran up to the radio and spoke to James.
“Hi Oldrich,” he said. “It’s an honour to meet you.”
“It’s an honour to meet you as well, Rufus,” said James, excitedly.
“So, what would you like me to do for the reading?”
“Seeing as, you’re the mole, I think you have some explaining to do first.”
Before Castorus could reply, Musus, the Primus Pilus, came by and placed him under arrest.
“What’s going on here?” Castorus asked, shocked and confused at what was happening.
“You heard James,” said Musus. “You’re the mole for Claes. Therefore, I’m putting you under arrest. The Atrium Militaris is going to have some fun with you.”
“Ladies and gentlemen of the 10th Neapolis Legion!” James boomed through the loudspeaker, “I’d like you to meet your mole to Claes, Primus Pilus Gnaeus Musus!”
Musus was stunned with shock as Paulus emerged from a tank and formally arrested him, telling him they caught him since he seemed too eager to arrest his superior officer. Paulus then ordered Musus to be driven to the coast, so as not to create a scene, and be flown to Rome where he would face trial.
“Mr. James,” said Paulus into the radio. “That was well done.”
CBI Headquarters, Sacramento, California
“Okay so,” said California Bureau of Investigation Agent Grace van Damme as she finished typing on her computer, “Jenny’s barbecue was not something she bought...she won it in a contest at Jimmy Cochrane’s.”
“The ‘Lift the Lip’ promotion?” teammate Kimball Lee asked.
“Yeah,” said van Damme.
“Okay,” said colleague Wayne Rugby. “So you think someone got jealous of her victory and killed her for it?”
“I don’t know about that,” said Lee. “I somehow doubt a barbecue is worth killing over.”
“Jenny has been a decorated girl,” said van Damme, going over her file. “She’s very active in the community and has won numerous awards...certainly it would make someone jealous.”
“So the barbecue was the tip of the iceberg,” noted Rugby.
“All right,” said team leader Teresa Gibson as she walked in to the bullpen. “What do we have?”
“We know that Jenny is really active in the community,” said van Damme. “She’s won numerous awards and the barbecue was her latest achievement.”
“Where’d she get the barbecue?” inquired Gibson.
“She won it at Jimmy’s,” said Lee.
“Means she got lucky,” said Gibson. “Her skills have nothing to do with ‘Lift the Lip’.”
“It still could incur jealousy,” said Lee. “I mean, we all know someone who has far better luck than we do.”
“James!” said van Damme and Rugby together, to which Gibson laughed to.
“We think whoever was her rival,” said Rugby, “likely saw the barbecue victory as ‘the last straw’…even though Jenny didn’t do anything to win it except be lucky, the rival still got frustrated that they aren’t enjoying the success Jenny is getting.”
“So is there someone who Jenny seems to consistently beat in all of her awards?” asked Gibson.
Van Pelt typed away at her computer. “Luckily,” she said excitedly, “there’s one, Rita Johnson.”
“Let’s pay her a visit,” said Gibson as the team nodded in agreement.
08:45 local time, 6th of October City, Egypt
Paulus wasn’t going to waste any time. Shortly after dispatching Musus, Paulus decided he had to strike at Cairo once again. The Egyptians called in reinforcements readying themselves for the Roman offensive, so Paulus expected another tough battle.
Believing the Egyptians would hide in the buildings and tunnels again, he ordered his tanks to cover the perimeter of Cairo, and brought one of his siege engines into play. His infantry would push into the city with their artillery-mounted trucks, which were better for mobility. The Avii would fly over the city first to take care of whatever Egyptian fighter planes they had, as well as take out any snipers they saw hiding in high rises.
The operation was smooth sailing for the Romans for most of the morning, allowing Paulus to push through downtown by noon. However, as Paulus suspected, that was just the test- as soon as they got to Heliopolis, the real battle begun.
This is going to be fun, thought Paulus. The symbolism- Heliopolis being the site of one of the Romans’ worst defeats in their history in 640, inflicted by the Arabs and stopping the Romans from thinking about recapturing Egypt until this point. So, for Paulus, he had a chance to correct the ills of the past and have a hand in reasserting Roman glory in a long-lost province.
The battle started at Maryland Park. Since the Egyptians had their tanks rooted in the Park, he ordered his infantry to hide behind the buildings for better cover. Some of the tanks that were closing the perimeter were ordered to Heliopolis, as Paulus was forced to do given the circumstances. Trouble was brewing to the north of him, but he hoped his forces could strike quick enough so that the Egyptian reinforcements would not pose problems.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians at Heliopolis were not going to wait for the Roman tanks- they saw the infantry’s mild retreat and went after them, not afraid to fire at their own buildings. Paulus found this curious, until he noticed that no Egyptians were volleying in the direction of the Sports Club.
“Castorus,” said Paulus to Castorus.
“Yes Paulus,” replied Castorus.
“Get your artillery men to bomb the s*** out of the courtyard of the Sports Club.”
“Because the Egyptians have something hiding there. It’s why they’re hitting every building in Heliopolis except the Sports Club.”
As the firefight continued, Paulus noticed the Egyptians were attempting to steer the Roman infantry into the Sports Club. They were encircling the Romans, with the firefight being very fierce. The Egyptians knew what they were doing, refusing to let up in their volleys just so the Romans were forced to retreat.
“Which way is the wind blowing?” Paulus asked Castorus.
“Northeast sir,” replied Castorus.
“Then order the strike to come from the southwest, and move everyone else northeast.”
Paulus kept the retreat going. His soldiers were starting to get antsy, as was the Legate as he was wondering what was taking the artillery men so long to get a strike out. Meanwhile, the Egyptians were grinning, sensing they were closing in on the kill, pushing the Romans further and further back.
It was a trick, though, as by this point the artillery men did their job, blowing up the mines planted in the Sports Club gardens. Coupled with the wind, the debris gave the Romans ample cover with which to proceed forward and fire back.
The Egyptians were ready for this, though, and backed up towards Maryland Park. A frontline developed in between the Park and the Sports Club, with the Romans and Egyptians trading volleys with little in the way of advancement.
Up the road to the north, the tanks called in for reinforcements on both sides got tangled into a battle of their own. On the plains of Ain Shams, the site of the ancient Heliopolis, the Romans were tasked with protecting the entry into Cairo from the Egyptians, while also finding a way to get to Cairo themselves. The Ring Road became their front, and the Battle of Ain Shams felt more like a chess match with the slow moving tanks.
Back at Heliopolis, Paulus was anxious to find an opening. There were no significant casualties as of yet, but the Egyptians’ unrelenting pressure kept the Roman line back. He then came up with a plan: half of the Roman infantry would form a single line down on roadway and aim all their artillery at the Egyptians blocking that one specific roadway. If it went according to plan, the Romans would break through the Egyptian line at that point in the road, and work progressively to encircle the Egyptians.
The plan worked like a charm. Since the Romans struck so quickly, the Egyptians didn’t have time to react, allowing the Romans to burst through their line without much difficulty. Confusion set into the Egyptian ranks as volleys came in on both sides, and it was Roman pressure that hemmed them in this time. After five fruitless hours and many casualties later, the Egyptians at Heliopolis capitulated.
At Ain Shams, the Romans didn’t bother trying a wedge, although the Egyptians anticipated it. Since the Romans had superior equipment, they decided attrition was the way to go. It worked, as Egypt’s tanks started to progressively wear down, allowing for an easy encirclement. By the following morning, Cairo was in Roman hands, allowing Paulus unfettered access to the pivotal Suez Canal.
“Good job Paulus,” radioed Marcus upon hearing the news.
“Thanks Marcus,” Paulus said, “but there’s no time to celebrate. We’ve got a lot of work left to do still.”
“The Romans have taken Cairo,” said Simeon to Pucci.
“That’s the good news,” Pucci said with a hint of a sigh. “The bad news is that we’re still playing into Claes’ hands.”
“We’ve still got a few cards to play.”
“I’m worried about it getting to that point...the Egyptians have proven remarkably resilient...this could become nothing more than a Phyrric victory and that’s what Claes wants.”
Parkes then approached the bemused agents.
“I have an idea,” the soft-spoken petite agent said. “Their entire premise rests on the idea that men do the heavy lifting and dominate while the women are submissive and do the housework.”
“Okay,” prodded Pucci. “Carry on.”
“I want to create a Legion that’s entirely female,” said Parkes, boldly, “and have it take Khartoum.”
“On such short notice I don’t know if it’s possible,” said Simeon.
“All right,” said Parkes, “we get a Special Forces and they take Claes’ bunker, all while forming that all-female Legion.”
“I like the idea,” said Pucci, “but I’m worried about logistics…the Red Sea is a fortress right now.”
“So have the Legion take over the Suez and attack the MIS,” said Parkes, confidently.
“If we attack the MIS directly,” sighed Simeon, “Claes will likely switch sides to the ACA and still ambush us.”
“Yes, but that’s only with the army that we have now,” said Parkes. “What you’re forgetting is that if you have women kicking the butts of MIS and Claes, they’ll be rattled so much that their resistance would fall apart. Their identities are tied so much to the notion that men are better than women, so if we show them just how misguided they actually are, we can subvert his plan.”
“You know, you might be on to something,” said Pucci, intrigued. “These guys are obsessed with bringing women down…with women gaining the upper hand on them, it just might be enough to throw them off their game so that we can end this thing quicker than it’s going right now. Zoe…tell Black about your idea. He’ll be most impressed.”
“Will do sir,” said Parkes, leaving to tell Black about her plan.
Pucci then spoke pensively with Simeon.
“Now why didn’t we think of that?” asked Pucci sardonically.
“Because we’re men, Pucci,” said Simeon.
Pucci laughed. “Stubborn, grumpy old men.”
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Coleman sat in his cell naked and alone. For days he’d been subjected to a torture he never imagined was possible, as he was systematically degraded and denigraded. For the once proud, dominant man, to be made the submissive one was the most harrowing experience ever.
His tribulations were far from over though. It was at this moment that Tarsus brought down Desdemona, Claes’ secret wife. She was wearing a silky, backless dress that accentuated nicely the curves on her body, and as soon as she entered Coleman’s cell, she doffed it, revealing her remarkable body.
Under normal circumstances, Coleman would be able to resist the voluptuous seductress’ charms, but the defeated Coleman could only resign himself to what was going to happen. Desdemona was beautiful, a shapely 52-year-old with flowing brunette locks that, hanging down, rested nicely on her luscious breasts and contrasted nicely with her ivory skin. Her freckles gave her face the mark of innocence, although there was very little innocent about her. Claes met her here, in Sudan, where she was a labourer at a local Church, one of the few left in Khartoum. Being immediately smitten, she allowed herself to be brainwashed into the most obedient of wives, and now she was helping Claes make Coleman the most obedient of warriors for him.
“Hello sexy,” she said seductively. Coleman stared at her blankly. She walked up to him and caressed his cheek. Coleman started to breathe heavily but still didn’t say a word. “What’s wrong?” Desdemona said mockingly. “Cat got your tongue?”
“Why are you wasting time?” Coleman said, quivering. “I know what you’re here for...just get it over with.”
“No...it’s less fun that way.” She then planted a kiss on Coleman’s lips, and forced his mouth open with her lips so that the two of them could make out. As she was kissing him, she leaned over top of him progressively, eventually forcing Coleman on to his back so that Desdemona could lie on top of him.
Desdemona continued, moving down Coleman’s body so that she could kiss every inch of it. Coleman felt like violently throwing her off his body, but decided to stay motionless and let Desdemona do her work. He kept on hearing Tarsus’ words, “the guns, Zeke! Don’t forget about the guns, Zeke!” and despite the fact that the walls were lined in stone and couldn’t be penetrated by any kind of bullet, Coleman kept thinking that if he didn’t obey, a gun would shoot him dead.
Eventually Desdemona started oral sex with Coleman, as she really enjoyed Coleman’s endowment. However, enjoying it with her hands and her mouth wasn’t enough for her, so she mounted Coleman and began having sex with him, starting off slowly so that she could feel every inch of Coleman’s endowment inside her body, each pulse resonating in her veins. As she enjoyed herself with Coleman’s body, Coleman could only pant heavily, waiting in agony for Desdemona to finish defiling him.
After half an hour, Desdemona let out a howl of excitement, as she climaxed as Coleman did. She then bent down and kissed the exhausted Coleman, who could only lie on his back, defeated. Desdemona grinned before putting her dress back on and greeting Claes, who was waiting for her outside of his cell.
“I think he’s ready,” said Desdemona, kissing Claes.
“Good,” the Cardinal said. “Get the ceremony ready and have Ricardo lead it. I have something to take care of.”
“As you wish.” Desdemona kissed Claes and left him to his task as she went to prepare the ceremony.
“All right, scumbag,” snarled Pucci, standing authoritatively lording over Musus’ interrogation table. “Why do you want to work with a degenerate lowlife like Wilhelm Claes? What do you think you even have to gain from committing an act of treason against the Roman Empire?”
“Pucci, I’m sure he has his reasons,” said James, trying to act sympathetic.
“Seriously?” Musus said, incredulously. “You forget that I’m an army man...I’ve seen every tactic, and it’s amusing you think the good cop bad cop routine would work on me.”
“Oh,” said James, sarcastically. “You think I’m the good cop? Really, I can be just as bad as anyone...I’m just far more clever about it.”
“So is this some kind of experimental technique you have going on now?” said Musus, mockingly. “Because, really, I’m not sure what you hope to gain out of this.”
“Okay, I’m just going to get to the point,” said James, who then stopped.
Musus threw up his hands- as much as he could in handcuffs- and made a face, wondering if James was going to finish his sentence.
“You’re right…I’m not sure what we’re going to gain out of this,” said James. He then left the room as did Pucci.
A few hours later, the two agents talked to Musus again, without having much success. Then Simeon went in and tried, again in failure. Later, the agents brought in the big guns, Fitch and Black, who tried to talk to Musus without much luck. Each time, Musus laughed at their failures, deriding the agents as “idiots” or “simpletons”.
Eventually, the BAU was down to its last attempt. It was down to Parkes.
She entered the room holding a whole bunch of stuffed file folders, carrying them awkwardly. As she walked towards Musus, she hit a divot in the floor and stumbled, dropping the folders’ contents all over the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Parkes said, embarrassed, as she started picking up the stuff she dropped on the floor.
“Look at you,” mocked Musus. “You’re hardly old enough to go on a prom date, let alone be in an interrogation room. Besides, what business does a woman have being in a room with a man?”
Parkes looked at him with disgust. “What kind of a cad are you to tell me that because I have breasts I can’t possibly lead an interrogation? Are you that short sighted, like your friend, Will?”
“Wilhelm Claes is a good man. He knows more about proper gender roles than you willever know. Women have no business doing a man’s job.”
“So should I be wearing a veil too, or is the abaya not revealing enough for you?”
“The abaya…Amaza mentioned it to me once…it didn’t make much sense to me…it only works if women are free, and in our system, the women are slaves. Why do they need to be all covered so they can go outside if they never go outside in the first place?”
“Your system…” Parkes paused briefly as she momentarily had to sort some of the dropped files before she could put them in their folder before continuing putting the papers back. “So you and Claes have a Victorian fantasy society all thought out, is that right?”
“I wouldn’t call it Victorian…Claes and I, we saw the man primarily in work clothes, getting all kinds of dirt and grime all over him because he’d be in the field, working his tail off. The dominant image of our society would not be top hats and large bicycles…no, the dominant image would be a man coated in mud, wearing his coveralls and a construction helmet proudly displaying his shovel, telling us that he’d proudly finished his work.”
“So a man must always be dirty, is that what you’re saying?”
“No…the man shouldn’t be afraid to get dirty to do the job.”
“…and the woman, she doesn’t get dirty, right?”
“Right…she is afraid, because she was meant to be a paragon of beauty and any speck of dirt destroys that beauty…it is why a female janitor needs a man to clean a clogged drain…because the woman is too afraid of dirt to do it herself.”
“She did get help though…she didn’t need you there.”
“That man in Groningen was pathetic…he wasn’t cultured properly like I was. He needed a real man to show him how it was done.”
“It’s a rather strange way of showing him how it was done…shooting them in cold blood.”
“He wasn’t shot...he was strangled. I thought you knew that.”
Parkes answered smugly. “I did…and I find it funny that you know that, ‘cause we never told anyone that the plumber was strangled.” Parkes then finished picking up the last sheet of paper that had fallen on the ground and put it inside the file folder. “So, do you still think a woman can’t do a man’s job?”
“You still don’t have me for the crime.”
“You just admitted to details only we knew about…and you also left your ‘mud’ all over Julia Winters…that’s got DNA in it and we’re combing it as we speak.”
Musus took a deep breath, realizing he’d just been beaten.
“I just have one question- how many of you are there?”
“Just me,” replied Musus, sullen. “I’m a military man…I work with precision and quickness. Either Tarsus or Claes knew the victims…it was all a matter of giving me the names…the Roman military has access to the worldwide database…so I was able to figure out where they all lived and worked quite quickly.”
“Thank you Gnaeus.” Parkes smiled, turned and started to walk towards the door before she stopped. “Oh, and one other thing…where’s the bunker?”
22:15 local time, Tuti Island, Khartoum, Sudan
“Got it,” said Proctor, arriving via a helicopter repainted to appear like a traffic helicopter. She landed at the northern tip of the island with her Special Forces group, which she nicknamed the Lilies since she thought a girlie name would make it even more embarrassing for Claes to lose to.
“So you guys took Musus’ overconfidence and buried him with it?” asked Kim Myers, the inspiration for Disney’s Kim Possible cartoon series and Proctor’ second in command.
“Yeah,” said Proctor. “We knew that Musus likely thought he could beat us knowing he’s an Army man so if we made him think that he was getting better at handling us, the more he’d believe that he couldn’t get caught…and thus, the more he’d reveal.”
“You guys really are the best,” said Myers with a smile.
“Lilies,” said Proctor commanding her troops, using encrypted radio signals. “Musus said the bunker is somewhere around here. There’s a latch hidden here, and Musus gave us the secret code. Liles, let’s move!”
The Liles- twelve in all- scoured the beach all the way from the Ring Road towards the northern tip, the exact point where the Nile River splits in two. They had to contend with some extensive brush at the tip of the island, as well as some harrowing marshlands.
“I don’t think it’s right at the tip,” observed Myers. “The land’s far too low-lying here.” She then purposefully walked towards the Ring Road, thinking that’s where the bunker could lie. There was a part of the road that was the edge of a brief cliff, and at the foot of that cliff was a bull head with its mouth open.
“Proctor,” said Myers, “I think I found your bunker.”
“Good work Kim,” said Proctor, “now open it up.”
Myers dutifully reached inside the bull’s mouth and found a keypad. She remembered the combination Proctor told her about and got the door open. The Lilies piled themselves in and awaited instruction from Proctor.
“Lilies,” said Proctor, quietly. “Under no circumstances are we splitting up. Our objective is to find Coleman and Cornelia and get them out safely. Once that is done, we’ll radio the Romans who will bring the helicopter back. If you see any enemies, do not engage them unless you have to or can do so quietly. We need to be discreet. Understood?” The Lilies all nodded their heads in agreement, as they started their assault in the underground bunker.
23:23 local time, Tuti Island
As soon as the Lilies entered the bunker, they were faced with a fork in the tunnel. One of the routes would lead to a fire pit specifically constructed by Claes to deter a rescue effort, while the other actually led to the bunker itself.
“This is a trap,” said Proctor, examining her options, knowing that the tunnel shouldn’t have a fork otherwise. She looked, frantically, for a clue before Myers piped up.
“A few years ago Tuti Island was up in arms when a bridge was built connecting the island to the Al-Fateh Hotel,” said Myers.
“Ghaddhafi’s Egg, named for Momar Ghaddafi since Libya largely finaned the hotel,” said Proctor. “I’ve heard of it.”
Myers responded sheepishly. “I don’t know...it’s the only thing I know about the island.”
Something clicked with Proctor as soon as she heard Myers mention that. “Al-Fateh means ‘conqueror’ in Arabic...that’s where Claes has his Palace...and one of these tunnels leads to the hotel.”
“Which one? We’re at the other end of the island.”
“The left one is a direct route.”
“So...we turn right.”
“No...we go left. Tarsus designed this bunker...hence the bull head entrance. He’s not very good at the ‘red herring’ game so he’d build the most direct route.”
The Lilies pressed onward, heading down the left tunnel, quickly but carefully. They faced their first challenges when the two guards in front of the bunker entrance confronted them, but they were no match for Proctor, who decked one with a punch and another with a roundhouse kick to the face. Another guard came in to help out, but Myers was up to the task, jumping up and grabbing hold of a pipe running along the ceiling and swinging her feet into his face. The Lilies restrained the fallen guards with zip ties before pressing onward.
“That’ll get the blood boiling,” cracked Myers.
“It’s a real fight now,” said Proctor.
Further up, the Lilies encountered the guards’ sleeping quarters and, as Proctor though, none of them were asleep. As she saw the door leading to the quarters, she opened the door a crack and fired a shot through it, managing to hit the guard standing right next to the door ready to ambush her. She then aimed her gun up and shot another guard on the second floor towards her left as she entered, with Myers right behind her, covering her back. Myers shot two guards in quick succession, actions that allowed the rest of the Lilies to enter the quarters.
By now, each of the bunker’s 30 guards were engaged with the Lilies. Some of the guards stayed on the above floor to provide their allies covering fire, as they slowly made their way to the floor to engage the Lilies. As the minutes wore on, the firefight grew fiercer, leading to a war of attrition.
Eventually, the Lilies knew they had to make a move, since the guards were defending their turf and had no reason to make one, plus once the Lilies ran out of bullets, the guards would likely have the advantage. It was at this point that Myers saw an opportunity.
“Proctor,” she said with urgency. “Cover me.” Myers then grabbed the ladder leading to the upstairs portion of the quarters, and flipped herself onto the floor, knocking over a guard in the process.
She then got into a fistfight with three guards, prompting Proctor to join her. Myers got a high kick to the teeth of one of the guards knocking him flat, but she got exposed to a punch from another guard, who landed one square in her jaw.
Proctor saw that and engaged the guard, landing a punch to the face and another body blow. However, since this guard was quite muscular, he managed to fell Proctor momentarily with a single blow to the face. He then crouched on top of her and used his legs to incapacitate hers, allowing him to start raining blow upon blow on Proctor.
Proctor, though, was undeterred. Even though his fists were quite powerful, she willed herself not to lose consciousness even though it was hard. She also punched back when she could, but the man’s position didn’t make it easy. She saw that she was close to the railing, so she thought that if she could just nudge him over there, she could flip him over. Slowly, she worked him over there, and just when he was about to land the decisive blow, she used the last bit of strength in her legs to flip the man over the railing, knocking him out.
Proctor was dazed though and didn’t realize another guard was heading her way. Myers came to her rescue, tripping the guard from behind before another guard attempted to tackle her. When he failed due to his faulty grip, he planted a hand on the ground and swiped at Myers’ feet, knocking them out from underneath her. Myers wouldn’t stay down for long, rolling herself upward, only to be greeted with a fist to the back of her head. She responded by turning around and uppercutting the guard and elbowing the one that had tried to come up from behind her. A third guard then grabbed her by the ponytail, prompting her to jump up and flip herself and deliver a kick to his face, knocking him out. Another guard started to run toward her, and Myers readied herself for another fight before Proctor came from behind and tackled the guard and landing a few punches in, knocking the guard out cold.
“I would have had him,” said Myers.
“I know,” replied Proctor, “but I figured you could have used a bit of a breather.”
By this point, the rest of the Lilies- engaged with the rest of the guards- had managed to subdue the guards that were left, resulting in a total victory for the Lilies. They ziptied any guards that weren’t dead and moved into the guards’ equipment room in order to get first aid treatment and reload their ammunition.
It was here that Myers finally felt the pain in her jaw, as the adrenaline had wore off.
“He got you good,” said Proctor, pulling out an ice pack for Myers.
“I know,” she said, grimacing in pain. “How are you? That guy got you good.”
“Head’s still a bit woozy but I think I barely escaped a concussion.”
“Those guys were tough.”
“They’re Claes’ personal guard...they’re his best soldiers. I think we did pretty well. It had also been a while before I actually had to fight someone.”
Proctor then addressed the entire group. “Okay Lilies,” she commanded, “take five. Once we’re a little better we’ll look for Coleman and Cornelia.”
00:36 local time, Al-Fateh Hotel, Khartoum, Sudan
Coleman stood over the sink, his head sunk with his eyes staring longingly into the drain. He was dressed to the nines in a fine tuxedo, as he was getting ready to “wed” Cornelia, but never did he feel so low. Beaten mentally and physically, Coleman’s feelings of helplessness coalesced today into one monster of a depression, as he began to feel like he just might never escape Tarsus’ grasp.
Meanwhile, Cornelia faced her own issues getting prepared for the wedding. An old man, dressed as a doctor, walked in to her quarters, despite her protestations about how it would make her “unlucky”. The man didn’t listen, instead forcing her onto her chair and tying her up.
In her head, Cornelia knew what was going to happen, so when he inevitably raped her, she braced herself and took it in stride. When he was finished, though, he brought out a syringe, some stitching equipment and other medical supplies.
“What...what,” said Cornelia, quivering. “What are you doing?”
“Well...” said the man, “you need to be a virgin for your wedding night.”
“...but it’s not an honest virginity.”
“I don’t make the rules, Gaia. Besides, we’ve all had our fun with you...it’s time for a new chapter.” He then opened her legs and applied the anesthetic to her genitals as Gaia winced in pain.
“Why? Why?” Gaia then began to cry.
“Oh, don’t cry,” said the man, mocking her. “I’ll only be another minute.” In a few short minutes he was finished stitching together Gaia’s hymen and “restoring” her virginity.
Gaia could only cry now.
“Silence!” He said, slapping her violently. He then grabbed her breasts and squeezed them, before cupping her head and kissing the top of it. He then left, leaving Gaia sullen and broken down in tears.
01:00 local time
The time for the wedding had come. Claes wanted to hold it at midnight for the symbolism, but complications arose with Cornelia’s surgeon so he pushed it back. Desdemona supervised the affair, which was to feature only two guards dressed as ushers, another acting as the organist, another pretending to be Cornelia’s “father”, Coleman, Cornelia and the man that stitched Cornelia’s hymen together, playing the role of the priest, with the proceedings videotaped so that it could be broadcast across Sudan later.
At this moment, Coleman felt unusually smug. He figured that being helpless was useless, and that he might as well accept his new life if, indeed, there was no actual way out. Besides, Cornelia was a wonderful woman, and Coleman figured there was no better woman to be forced to be married to. Above all else, once the ceremony was finished, he looked forward to actually getting some sleep for once- Desdemona promised Coleman and Cornelia they would receive far better quarters after the marriage, and that Coleman would become master of a planned city south of Khartoum that Claes wanted to build as his capital.
When it came time for Cornelia to walk down the aisle, Coleman stood, smugly, as “Here Comes the Bride” played in the background. Cornelia, also having accepted her fate, smiled as she walked up the aisle and saw Coleman, although given her condition, she did walk gingerly.
“Tonight,” started the presider, “we are gathered here to unite Zeke Coleman and Gaia Cornelia in the holiest of matrimonies. This day marks the true beginning of the new chapter of human civilization, where the man truly takes over society. We have gathered before us the perfect specimens to lead such a society, with the strong, robust Coleman and the delicate, willing Cornelia providing the perfect examples of what Catholic society should be.
“So now,” continued the presider, “I turn to you, Zeke...do you take Gaia Cornelia as your wife, with all your heart and your soul, until death do you part?”
“I do,” said Coleman, calmly and warmly.
“Do you, Gaia, take Zeke Coleman as your husband, with all your heart and your soul, until death do you part?”
“I do,” said Cornelia, lovingly looking into Coleman’s eyes.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” said the presider. “Zeke, you may now kiss the bride.”
Before Coleman could do so, a voice interrupted the proceedings.
Proctor stood at the back, after she and Myers easily subdued the guards at the entrance, her gun trained on the presider. Coleman, who could only think of the words of Tarsus, cowered in fear at the sight of the gun, which Proctor immediately recognized as a sign of that Tarsus had psychologically tormented him.
“Who are you?” asked the presider, who was more confused than scared of Proctor.
“Emily Proctor, FBII!” Proctor barked. “I’m here to arrest all of you as accomplices to the murders and kidnappings of Decius Tarsus and Wilhelm Claes!”
The presider scoffed. “A woman? Here to arrest all of us? You must be mad. You are incapable of such an act.”
“The twelve of us just subdued your entire bunker, and you guys are the only ones we have left to deal with. Do you still think we’re incapable of such an act?”
The presider didn’t hesitate, ordering the guards at the front to attack Proctor. Desdemona rushed down in order to shephered Coleman and Cornelia away but Myers spotted her and tackled her.
“Kim!” Proctor barked, “go get Coleman and Cornelia! I got this.”
Proctor didn’t flinch, elbowing one guard in the mouth that was coming up from behind her and clotheslined another that rushed right at her. The first guard she knocked down then got up and attempted to trip out her feet from under her, but Proctor felt it and backflipped over the attempt. She then moved in between the two guards, punching the guard she was facing and kicking the one she had her back to in the groin, before using her leg to lift him up onto her back so she could throw him into the guard facing her, subduing both guards.
Meanwhile, Myers had to deal with the presider, who had taken Cornelia hostage in a desperate attempt to escape.
“Freeze!” Myers ordered, drawing her gun at the presider, who stopped his run. He then held a gun to Cornelia’s head.
“No no no,” said the presider. “That’s not the way this is going to work...you let all of my men go and Cornelia lives. It’s all very simple.”
“Don’t play this game! I will shoot you!”
“You? You couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn!”
“Don’t try me!”
Proctor, having finished subduing the men, jumped in.
“Father,” she said, despite hating the utterance knowing the presider was every bit as fake as Claes is, “if you value Gaia in any way, you will let her live.”
“Gaia is a woman,” mocked the presider, “she is dispensable. In fact, I think I’d rather take both of you. I can make you every bit as obedient as I made Zeke Coleman.”
Something clicked with Proctor when she heard that. “Did Claes brainwash you with the guns as well? Is that why you so blindly follow him?”
The presider was rattled. “Cardinal Claes is worth following.”
“You’re older and wise...you have no reason to succumb to his wishes. The guards...they’re young and easily manipulated not knowing any other religious ideal, but you...you should have your own religious viewpoints...you’re old enough to have formed them long before Claes formulated his. Besides...you care about Gaia...that’s why you didn’t kill her.”
The presider started to cry. “No...you’re wrong.”
“It’s okay...nobody likes being tricked. I’m sorry it had to come out like this.”
The presider let go of Cornelia and slumped to his knees, bawling uncontrollably.
“Desdemona was my wife!” he called out, crying incessantly. He then hunched himself over, crying and banged the floor with his fists several times.
“It’s true,” said Desdemona, lying on the floor, handcuffed. “Twelve years ago, just after Hosni Mubarak’s government crumbled in Egypt, Wilhelm Claes came to Sudan from San Marino. He knew of the Sudanese Christians in Juba so he came to recruit them, so that he could create his own Catholic state on the heels of the chaos in Egypt. My husband, Raek, was the Bishop of Juba and the most influential man in South Sudan...I worked for him, that’s how I met him. One day, Claes comes to us and tells us he wanted to take us on a ‘spiritual journey’...we went to a cabin of his in Port Sudan, where we stayed for over a year. We were both brutally tortured and I was raped many times, and Claes repeatedly told us that we needed to obey, or ‘the wrath of God’ would get us. As the year progressed he was progressively nicer to us, but all this did was to make us even more submissive to him.”
“So he would beat you,” analyzed Proctor, “and then be nice to you?”
“That’s how it worked.” Desdemona continued with a sigh. “I remember it came at the exact moment I felt there was no way out of this.”
“So he beats you to establish control and dominance, and once he’s done that, he’s nice to you so he can manipulate you further.”
“...and he manipulated us,” said Raek, “into taking our men and leading them against first the Sudanese government and then the Egyptians...he won Sudan fairly well but Egypt was an unexpected struggle. He made us think we were all doing this for God’s Will but the truth is we’re just pawns in his game...” Raek let out a huge sigh. “This has been so much to comprehend.”
“Wait one second!” Myers hollered. “From what I know, Claes is all about red herrings and has followed our investigation thoroughly...why should I believe you, Raek, if that’s even your-”
Proctor waved her hand against her throat telling Myers not to continue with their statement, but Raek interjected.
“We have no reason to lie,” he said. “What would we have to gain from lying about being brainwashed?”
“Our sympathy,” said Proctor sternly. “It would make you less culpable in all this...and besides, where are Claes and Tarsus? They’re conveniently absent.”
“They’re in Aswan,” said Desdemona. “They’d been planning that trip for days to help organize the defences there.”
“I give you a trust exercise,” said Raek, handing out an amulet. “This amulet is a trigger for a bomb that could blow up this entire bunker. It’s Claes’ defence mechanism in case it ever did get infiltrated. I don’t know how to defuse the bomb, but I can start it. If I am telling you the truth, then this amulet will not have started the detonation process.”
Proctor took the amulet and examined it. She then opened it carefully and studied it, realizing that Raek was right.
“See?” Raek said. “You may even search me and every last one of the guards here and Desdemona. We have nothing to hide.”
Proctor ordered the Lilies to do just that. She then asked Raek where the bomb was so she could defuse it. After Raek was frisked, he directed her to the janitorial closet where the bomb was located.
“Thanks,” said Proctor, starting to examine the bomb. She grabbed a screwdriver and started to take off a panel, but the mess of wires and buttons confounded her. She sighed. “If only Coleman was here,” she said, staring blankly at the array.
“You called for me?” Coleman inquired, having followed Proctor to the closet.
“You’re back!” Proctor said, giving Coleman a warm hug.
“Something clicked in my head when you brought up the brainwashing...I didn’t realize that I was being conditioned just like Raek was...also, I hadn’t been there that long so my mind wasn’t altered that much...but I was close, and seeing you really made my day.”
“We missed you.” Proctor and Coleman hugged again.
“Now...getting down to business. I’m going to teach you something. See all these wires?”
“Disregard them. They’ve been put here intentionally to confuse you.”
“How do you know?”
“Modern bombmakers know that the layperson expects a bomb to be disarmed via cutting a wire, so they make the bomb accordingly. The trick is having to dig through these wires and find the right one...if you find one at all.”
“Don’t all bombs need some kind of wiring?”
“Technically yes, but we can bury them better now...I’m positive they’re behind some kind of metal fixture.”
“So how do we disarm this...and is this even a bomb?” Proctor began wondering if the convoluted bomb was a trap.
“Oh yes, this is a bomb and Raek was right when he told you it’s not detonated. The fan in the computer isn’t running.”
“Computer? So it has a motherboard...and a microchip.”
Coleman smiled, knowing that Proctor learned what he wanted her to learn. “That’s it! Now, where do you think the motherboard is?”
“Somewhere in the back...no, wait...red herring.” Proctor reached her hand into the bomb’s front wall and felt it, eventually hitting the motherboard. “Okay,” Proctor continued, her voice strained as she tried to muscle out the motherboard, “so now I have to take this out...”
“...and you’ll have disarmed the bomb.”
After a few agonizing minutes, Proctor was able to muscle out the motherboard, clipping its connectors along the way. She also found its explosive material after unscrewing the section of the bomb behind the wires, bagging the motherboard and the gunpowder for evidence.
Aswan, Egypt, 04:56 local time
“They did what?” Claes said, staring at his cell phone screen in disbelief. The Romans just issued a press release detailing the rescue operation, including the arrest of the entire bunker, by the Lilies.
Claes put away his phone and paced, furiously. He couldn’t believe an all-female fighting force, especially one as small as the Lilies, could take over his bunker. The good news is that he could repopulate it and still had control of it, but this was still a jar to his system.
He stared, blankly, at the walls of his command centre, wondering what his next move was, and wondering what the Romans’ next move was. Rome had already taken control of the Delta Region after mop-up duty following the Battle of Heliopolis, but this wasn’t a major concern- the Romans were still playing into his trap.
“Decius,” he hollered into his phone, making a call.
“Yes Father,” replied Tarsus at the other end of the line.
“Women infiltrated our base and rescued the prisoners...they even took my wife.”
Tarsus’ mouth was left agape. He sat there in stunned silence.
“Good news is that we’ve still got control of the bunker, but they’re up to something...I don’t know what.”
Tarsus could barely contain his shock. “Women? How did women invade our bunker and rescue the prisoners? This is...this is an outrage!”
“Decius...we need to keep our wits about this. I’m in just as much shock as you are but we need to stay composed...the Romans are trying to rattle us.”
“I’ll stay here in Aswan...I’ll keep the defences in order.”
“I’m going to go visit our friend...he needs to be made aware of this transgression.”
Claes then grabbed his falsified documents and made his way for a flight to Rome.
“Got it,” said Leroy Simms, the Director of the Albertan Crime Scene Investigators unit, on the phone with his agent, Nick Stoltz. “Coleman and Katy are having a look at the body as we speak...we’ll let you know what we find. In the meantime, follow up with Carmichael’s friends and see what turns up.” He then closed his phone and walked towards the lab to pay a visit to his forensic scientists, Catherine “Katy” Scutaro and Colbie Brody.
In the lab, the ladies were on a break from dissecting Carmichael’s body. Brody was playing Tetris on Katy’s computer, as Katy watched on.
“No, no!” Katy said loudly, moving her arm as if she could direct the block herself. “Move it to the left, move it to the left!”
“I’m trying!” Brody said, tensely. Since it was never a part of her youth, she was a relative newcomer to Tetris, and being at Level 8 with the faster moving blocks was rattling her.
Meanwhile, Katy, hunched over Brody’s chair, panted heavily as the tension of the rising blocks was getting to her.
“Oh crap...oh crap...” Brody was starting to get nervous at the rising level as well.
“Here!” Katy barked. “Hand me the controls, I’ll fix this!” Brody did just that.
It was here that Simms made his entrance.
“Hello ladies,” said Simms, entering with his dry charm and standing as he did, lording over the room.
“Oh...hi Simms,” said Brody, nervously. Katy was undeterred, continuing with the Tetris game.
“Hey Katy,” said Simms, who grabbed her shoulders and started to rub them.
Katy refused to turn around, her eyes peeled on the screen.
Simms patted her on the back. “Come on now,” he said softly. “We have a case to solve...once it’s solved you can have all the time you want for Tetris.”
The game finished, as Simms’ pat distracted Katy. “Did you have to do that?” Katy said, turning around and giving Simms a scowl and a grunt. “Meanie! I was on a roll!”
Simms could only laugh. He loved her like a daughter, as even though her antics grated him, her boundless enthusiasm continually gave the jaded Simms the strength to carry on his own job.
“So, ladies, what do we have here?” Simms continued.
“The bruising on Carmichael’s body is consistent with a brass knuckle attack,” said Brody, now standing over Carmichael’s body and directing Simms’ attention towards the bruises. “In fact, we think the culprit struck Carmichael with the knuckle first before bashing his head with the TV.”
“So he hits him with the knuckle,” said Simms, acting it out, “gets him down and then bashes his head with the TV.”
“Exactly,” said Brody, tapping the air authoritatively at Simms with her finger, telling him he was right.
“Good work Brody,” said Simms, with a firm smile. “Katy, what do you have?”
“The TV is brand new,” said Katy. “In fact, Carmichael won it via Jimmy Cochrane’s ‘Lift the Lip’ promotion.”
“So Michael Carmichael got killed out of jealousy,” he said, furrowing his brow.
“Yeah, but probably not just because he won the TV,” said Katy. “Since his home wasn’t broken into, it had to have been someone he knew, so the TV was just the tip of the iceberg.”
“What about the knuckle?” asked Simms.
“That’s the interesting part,” said Katy. “As we know, the Albertan Empire doesn’t ban brass knuckles…they’re sold freely, as self-defence weapons. However, these knuckles aren’t sold in Alberta at all…as you can see the brand name is ‘Tsov Ntxhuav’, which is the Hmong word for ‘lion’.”
Simms nodded his head and furrowed his lips with approval. “Oh,” he said, “I didn’t know you knew Hmong.”
“Google Translate is my best friend,” beamed Katy.
Simms chuckled. “Good point,” he said. “How’d you find the brand?”
“It’s imprinted, faintly, on Carmichael’s cheek,” said Brody, directing Simms over to the mark.
“So that means that if we find the brass knuckle,” said Simms, analyzing, “we’ve found our killer. Do you know who bought the knuckle?”
“Unfortunately whoever did buy the knuckle,” said Katy, sighing, “bought it via cash…had to have been from an underground source…there’s no credit card information on this particular brand, at least not in Alberta. They all point to where it originates, in South China.”
“Check the flight records,” said Simms. “See if there’s anyone that flew back from China to Alberta within the last year. That will give us a start.”
“It’ll be a lot of names,” cautioned Brody.
“I know,” said Simms, “but it’s the best we’ve got. Hopefully we can narrow it down to Carmichael’s associates. See what you can find.”
“They’re coming, sir,” said Vizier Omar Farouk, noticing via radar the Sinai beachhead of the all-female Roman Legion, the Flower Legion.
“Don’t worry about them just yet,” said Sudanese Caliph Malik al-Hamsa. “Wait for my order.”
“Very well sir,” replied Farouk.
The Flowers weren’t worried about the Caliph, at least not yet. Led by Legate Teresa Drusilla, a 10-year veteran of the Roman Army, the Flower Legion was created quickly via a draft of the best female soldiers across the entire Roman Army, and while they had only a day to go over battleplans and formations, they were all still hardened professionals more than capable of doing the job.
It didn’t stop the occasional hiccup though. Halfway through the drive to Suez, two of the tank drivers had started to veer off from the pack before Drusilla caught them. They were used to serving in Legions that were speedy, and were still getting used to Drusilla’s more cautious approach. She promised them that they would be able to use their speed soon though.
Their first task was to capture Suez and provide the Romans with a sea link to Sudan. The first bump in the road would be in Ismailia, which is where the Suez Canal widened. Ready to greet the Flowers was a wall of Surface-to-Air-Missile (SAM) stations, each guarded with a squadron of bazooka-toting and RPG-toting defenders, necessitating the use of stealth bombers to open the attack.
The bombers approached carefully, and shot rounds of bullets at the defenders in quick spurts before pulling up, retreating and doing it again. They made sure they came in waves so the pressure was relentless, with the quick strikes not allowing the defenders to get the proper aim. After a two-hour long firefight, the bombers finally subdued the defenders and destroyed the SAM wall, allowing the ground troops to come into the city and penetrate.
Since the bulk of the Egyptians’ Suez defences were in Suez itself, the resistance in Ismailia was limited to several squadrons of soldiers using snipers and other guerilla tactics to keep the Romans at bay. Drusilla, knowing the Egyptian tactic, proceeded slowly, ordering her Air Force squadrons to shoot at and destroy buildings if necessary. Sappers cleared the way for the tanks, who could now roam the streets of Ismailia freely without much resistance, executing mere mop up duty. Two hours after the SAM wall was destroyed, Ismailia had fallen into Roman hands.
There was no time to celebrate though- Drusilla sensed they could move in for the kill, so they pushed onward to Suez, where they knew the real battle would begin.
14:22 local time, Suez, Egypt
After a few roadside attacks, the Flowers finally made their way to the Canal, one of the Egyptians’ main strongholds after Alexandria, Cairo, Khartoum and, likely, Aswan. Drusilla knew she would have a fight on her hands in order to capture the Canal, and while she had her worries that her hastily organized Legion might not be adequately prepared for the assault, there was no time for complaints- Marcus and the rest of the Empire expected results.
Just like at Ismailia the Suez defenders lined the city with SAM sites, although this time they were bolstered not just by RPGs but by actual artillery divisions. Another squadron of stealth bombers was thus required to be called in to deal with the defences, along with more conventional fighter jets required to take out the artillery.
The Flowers had one objective: clear a path via the July 23rd Road to the port, securing a vital supply line from the Mediterranean to Sudan and allowing better Roman troop deployment southward. The battle started well enough, with the waves of bombers taking care of the SAM wall in a relatively short time, although the artillery cost them a few planes. The Egyptians were forced to retreat further into the city and regroup, setting up a long string of roadside bombs along the way. The Romans anticipated the bombs, using their fighter jets to give their sappers covering fire so they could disarm the bombs ahead of the tanks. The operation went smoothly as the Romans bursted through downtown, as their slow approach wore down an Egyptian defence that couldn’t compete with Rome’s far more superior equipment. By nightfall, all that was left was clearing the path to the Canal, which Rome hoped to take by midnight.
Then they hit Port Taofik.
Port Taofik, Suez, Egypt
“What is that?” Camp Prefect Maria Flavia gasped.
“I don’t know what to make of it,” Drusilla said.
The Ismailians, shortly after their defeat to Drusilla, notified the defenders at Suez, who hatched a plan upon learning the Flowers were all female. A daycare had been looted with all of its infants and toddlers killed, hastily, being strewn across the road in front of them, blocking the narrow passageway to the port. Predictably, the Flowers stopped their forward progress, aghast at the horror in front of them.
Drusilla thought something wasn’t right and looked around to see if anything untoward was happening. She looked at her radar and saw nothing, but her periscope on her tank did catch something faint getting closer.
“Bogey to your right!” Drusilla hollered, “Bogey to your right! Flowers, engage!”
Coming up from behind was a stealth bomber filled with explosives coming right towards them, seemingly kamikaze-style. The plane was plowing at full speed, giving the Legion only minutes to react. Fortunately, the artillery units lined it up just in time, shooting the plane down with the debris landing mere inches from where the Legion was standing.
“Madam,” said Flavia, “it doesn’t look like it had a human pilot.”
“It’s a drone,” Drusilla figured, her eyes squinting analytically.
Suddenly, fifty more drones came at the Legion from behind the baby wall, all flying in zigzag patterns to distract the aim of the Legion. Fortunately, the Avii arrived just in time to engage with the drone fighters, relieving the pressure on the artillery. After a few minutes the threat had cleared, allowing Drusilla to plow forward. A few hours later, after a few more fights with resistance forces, Port Taofik was secure, giving the Romans control of the Suez Canal.
00:12 local time, Pandataria Prison, Rome
Shortly after capturing the Suez, the Flowers went on a roll. The towns along the Red Sea coast- in MIS state of Havilah- fell in quick succession, allowing the Flowers to move within striking distance of the Havilah capital at Hurghada by nightfall.
The developments only served to worry Claes even more. Identifying himself as Ali Amaza, Jamal’s father (who Jamal had killed while he lived in Egypt and buried his body, neglecting to tell anyone about it) and applying lots of makeup to help with the guise, it became Claes’ de facto identity when travelling to see Jamal. This allowed him unfettered access to Amaza (aside from being searched), since the guards never questioned his status as “family”. Today, he needed to see him to coordinate the strike against the Flowers, who were now threatening the heart of MIS land.
“The Flowers are threatening Hurghada,” said Claes to Amaza, upon entering his cell.
“Who are the Flowers?” Amaza asked, confused.
Claes took a deep breath before continuing. “It’s an all-female Legion of the Roman Army.”
Amaza was shocked. “Women...are beating...us?”
“I know...it’s troubling.”
“What about the other Legions? Where are they?”
“The Caliph has decided to join the war.”
“Malik al-Hamsa? So he came around.”
“Yes...that leaves Sudan completely in our control.”
“Caliph Malik is engaging the other Legions at Qena as we speak...and he is doing really well at holding them back.”
“Good. Keep him there. We have to send the rest of our divisions to Hurghada...we have no choice. We cannot let women beat us.”
“I agree. I will divert the troops from Aswan, as well as call in the ACA. All hands are on deck.”
Amaza smiled. “...and it’s a hand we will win.”
St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
“Hello Adrian,” said Black, greeting Adrian in the Pope’s office.
“It’s been a while,” said Adrian, fixing his smock as he got up from his chair to greet Black.
“I assume you’ve been a busy man.”
Adrian chuckled. “The Pope is always busy.” He then took a breath and adopted a serious tone. “How’s the investigation going?”
“Agent Parkes suggested that we create an all-female Legion to take on Claes, reasoning that the Egyptian forces would divert too many resources out of ego allowing us to ambush them…so far, it’s working.”
Adrian smiled. “So we’ve got a breakthrough in Egypt. Looks like we’re well on our way to winning the war.”
Black sighed. “There’s only one catch…somehow Jamal Amaza has been able to maintain control of the MIS, even though we placed new limits on his visitation rights.”
Adrian’s eyes widened with concern. “Who can visit him?”
“We used to allow friends and family to visit him…but now it’s just family.”
“So Claes has a mole in Amaza’s family. Do you have Amaza’s file?”
Black pulled out a file folder from his handbag and placed it on Adrian’s desk. Adrian sat back down and started to examine it.
“Okay,” started Adrian. “So he’s got a wife, D’dab, and a son, Amir, who was killed in an air raid. He was a single child, raised by parents Salifah and Ali. Salifah died in the same air raid that killed Amir back in 1999, but Ali managed to survive. D’dab,” he said, tapping the document before continuing, “divorced him last year, around the same time that Claes lost the election and, interestingly, despite going into hiding, she was still found and stoned to death.”
Black took a seat and furrowed his eyebrows, pondering Adrian’s last statement. “Interesting,” he said, continuing to examine another part of his file.
Adrian continued staring intensely at the file, before moving on to a picture of Amaza and his father, dated to when Amaza was only seven. He then went into his drawer and started to rifle through his notes but failed.
“Lucius,” he said with purpose.
“Yes Adrian?” said Black, noting the urgency.
“In the filing cabinet,” said Adrian, pointing to the cabinet by the west wall, “in the second drawer, are records of the Consistories. Wilhelm Claes was promoted to Cardinal in 1976 by John Paul I after performing a miracle…he was only 29…I need to see that picture.”
“Okay,” said Black, furiously rifling through the drawer. He found the file and pulled out the report and laid it on Adrian’s desk. Adrian took one look and nodded firmly several times.
“What did you find?” asked Black, leaning forward and cupping his chin, curious.
“Look at the pictures,” said Adrian, putting them side by side.
“My goodness,” said Black, whose eyes widened. “They’re not dead ringers but they look alike.”
Black then pulled out his cell phone and called Morales, putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the table.
“The Office of Morales’s Magical Supercomputer speaking,” beamed Morales.
“I’ll never get enough of your enthusiasm,” said Adrian with a smile.
“Your Holiness!” said Morales excitedly, “I’m glad to hear from you.”
“Morales,” said Black firmly. “We need you to pull up any records you have of an Ali Amaza, Jamal’s father. Compare them against the records of Wilhelm Claes, and see if there are any congruities.”
“Okay,” said Morales, typing furiously at her computer. “Give me a few moments.”
Black and Adrian sat patiently, waiting for Morales to finish her search. After a few minutes, Morales returned with information.
“For the most part,” Morales started to explain, “there are no ‘congruities’ with regards to Ali and Claes.” Adrian cocked his mouth to the side, frustrated. “Except for one date in 2004, when, curiously, Ali used his credit card to pay at the Fumicino Airport duty free shop mere moments after Claes landed in Rome, even though Ali wasn’t on that flight. Every other instance, Ali only pops up sporadically, as he always did…he worked as an independent contractor, and his business was ruined by the air raid. There were claims that he became a drifter after the air strike, but I think we know what really happened.”
“Claes became him,” said Black firmly.
“Exactimundo!” said Morales excitedly. “In fact, looking at the records, after 1999 Ali’s only credit card activity seems to occur only when Claes is in Egypt…it’s still a rarity even then, but there isn’t a point that Ali uses his credit card without Claes being in Egypt.”
“So Jamal and Wilhelm met in 1999 it seems,” thought Black out loud.
“Yeah, and remember the rumours about the air strike originating from North American forces?” said Morales. “Guess who started them?”
“Claes?” said Adrian.
“Yeah,” said Morales, “he wrote a letter to the editor of The Cairo Times, an extremist newspaper, blaming the attack on North American and Roman forces. Jamal must have read it and the two became friends.”
“…and he likely had to assume Ali’s identity in order to get more involved, until he gained the MIS’ trust,” said Black.
“As you know, Mubarak’s government fell in 2001,” continued Morales. “Guess who was at the centre of that?”
“Claes?” said Black.
“Ooooh,” said Morales, playfully grimacing, “you’re close. It was Amaza and the MIS, with a little help from his ‘father’.”
“Thanks Morales,” said Black, ending the phone call. “I need to notify the authorities, especially the airports to be on the lookout.” He then shook his head and sighed heavily before continuing. “I can’t believe he’s been under our noses for so long…well, now we can turn the tables.”
08:21 local time, Galen of Pergamon Hospital, Rome
“Okay, he’s ready for visitors now,” said Cladius Pontus, Coleman’s doctor to the BAU, Adrian and Black, waiting in the waiting room. Since being rescued Coleman and Cornelia had to go for days of surgery to get themselves patched back up. They’d still need months of healing and periodic checkups, but at least for now they were in a “functional” state, and now they would get visitors for the first time.
Seeing Coleman for the first time since his kidnapping shocked the team. He still had his numerous bruises from the beatings he took, as well as more than a few scars. He had also lost some weight and his demeanour was dishevelled, looking very much like a beaten man, a stark contrast from the strong, dominant person the team had gotten to know. However, as soon as he saw his team, he warmed right up to them and gave them his trademark smile.
“Guys,” said Coleman as the team piled in to his room. “It’s so good to see you.” Everyone exchanged hugs with him, though it was the ones with Yves, James and Morales that struck a chord with him the most.
“I can’t tell you how worried I was for you,” said Yves, who cried on Coleman’s shoulder, making Coleman cry as well. For Yves, seeing Coleman, a man he valued as his “protector” in his vulnerable state was extra rattling and, though he did his best to hide it, Yves couldn’t stop but wonder what he could have done to save Coleman from being kidnapped in San Marino.
“You’ve been there for me so many times,” continued Yves, sobbing, “and yet, in San Marino, I wasn’t there for you…I’m so sorry man.”
“Yves,” said Coleman through his tears. He then cupped Yves’s face and held it right in front of his. “It’s perfectly okay. There was nothing you could do for me except do your job…and you did, because I’m here. Thank you so much.”
“Babygirl!” said Coleman as he hugged Morales, who also couldn’t help but cry as she laid her head on Coleman’s shoulder. “It’s okay Andi…you did what you could.” He then kissed her cheek and grabbed the back of her head, slowly stroking her hair and cradling her head on his shoulder. “I’m okay now.” He paused to regain his composure before continuing. “I’m safe now…thank you for everything.”
“James!” said Coleman to James, who simply stood over his bed. “What would we do without you? I know we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot…but you’ve proven me wrong…you’re such a valuable asset to this team. Don’t think for a second that you’re not a part of this team because you are.”
“I felt so guilty,” said James, who normally didn’t show his emotions but couldn’t help but tear up. “I said going to San Marino was a setup…and I sent you into the trap. I’m so sorry.”
“James,” said Coleman, grabbing James’ hand. “There was nothing you could do…we were all played. We couldn’t just sit there and play Claes’ bluff…the nuke needed to be dealt with…I knew I could have died in there but I wasn’t afraid…if I had to die for this team then I would.” Coleman then outstretched his arms and gave James a hug, which prompted James to let loose a flood of tears.
When the hugs were finished, Fitchner couldn’t help but get down to business.
“Listen Coleman,” said Fitchner, firmly, “you relax today. You’ve been through a lot. Take as much time as you need…we’ll be fine in your absence…I want you at the top of your game, so don’t rush yourself back into action. I know you want to, but please…don’t.”
“Don’t worry Fitch,” said Coleman assuredly. “I won’t rush myself. In the meantime, let’s win this war.”
10:36 local time Hurghada, Havilah
For the past six hours, the Flowers had been placing Hurghada under constant bombardment. Drusilla’s slow approach to the attack forced the Havilahites into a war of attrition they lacked the resources to win, meaning, by 6AM, the Romans were able to break down the Havilahites SAM wall and break into the city.
However, something seemed a little off with this assault.
“Is it just me or did the Havilahites put up more of a fight in Suez and Ismailia than they are here?” Flavia asked.
“No, I think you’re right,” said Drusilla. “We broke into Hurghada way too easily. Something is up.”
Drusilla ordered her troops to slow down and stay on their guard, since she felt an ambush was coming. As they continued their slow drive into the city, though, nothing seemed to be happening.
Towards the centre of the city, by the Hurghada Hilton Plaza, one of her soldiers noticed a fire.
“We need to investigate that,” said Drusilla. “Towards the Plaza.” By 12:24PM, the Flowers had made their way to the Plaza to inspect the fire, and, seeing how small it was, it was easy to put out. However, they’d soon find it was the least of their troubles.
12:32 local time, Hurghada, Havilah
As soon as the first volley landed the Flowers knew the real battle had begun. The Plaza was really a diversion, as, underneath the Plaza was a modified parking garage that was enlarged to conceal an entire division of tanks, on top of the artillery and snipers that lay hidden in the buildings in the heart of Hurghada. As the hours wore on, more and more divisions of artillery, tanks and soldiers showed up, as Claes and the MIS poured their entire military might into defeating the Flowers.
Suddenly, the Flowers were surrounded, with attacks coming from all sides. What made the situation worse was that the Havilahites didn’t all attack at once, deciding to strike at random and concealing their whereabouts to keep the Flowers guessing.
“All hands on deck! Flowers, fire at will!” Drusilla called from her command tank, since the Legion had no other choice. She worried, still, since the Havilahites had her surrounded without an outlet to escape, and while she could count on her technological superiority to win the war of attrition, she was losing soldiers and tanks and wasn’t sure she had the numbers to hold them off for that long. Worse, what divisions she could see were constantly moving- there was no weak point for her to attack.
After a few hours of constant bombardment, Zalayetta- who had escaped, barely, from Alexandria to lead the rest of Claes’ troops, left Drusilla a very clear message:
“You now have two options, Legate,” radioed Zalayetta menacingly. “You can either surrender peacefully and all of your women will enjoy the benefits of their rightfulrole...or, we will continue the bombardment and you will all perish. What will you decide?”
“Or,” radioed Caliph Malik al-Hamsa. “Zalayetta, you can surrender or you can get annihilated right now...because the Romans and I have you surrounded.”
Zalayetta peeked out of his tank behind him and saw that Malik was right...behind his troops was the rest of the Roman Army, as well as Malik’s Sudanese troops and the Roman Navy, ready to rain volley upon volley on him with little that he could do. Malik had deceived the MIS into thinking he was joining them by staging a battle with the Romans at Qena, with the troops knowing “all hands on deck” was their cue to move. They also knew that Claes’ men would be too obsessed with the Flowers to bother checking their radars, allowing the Romans to move under them. Zalayetta, cornered, felt there was nothing else he could do, so he surrendered, and, with that move, Egypt and Sudan fell into Roman hands.
Back in Rome, the BAU greeted the news with celebration, as loud cheering went off in the RSC headquarters. However, one thing left unresolved- Claes and Tarsus were still unaccounted for.
12:01 local time, Downtown Rome
“That will be five sestertii,” said the café barista, ringing in Claes ordering a coffee and a bagel before departing for the airport.
“I’m not quite sure I know what you mean,” said Claes, who donned an impeccable accent and removed his makeup to play an American alias and thus had to pretend not to be aware of Roman money.
“Five dollars,” retorted the barista.
“Five dollars?” said Claes, surprised. “Where I’m from, in Montana, this stuff costs three bucks, tops.”
“Sir, I don’t set the prices,” said the barista, indignant. “Besides, in Rome, the tip is automatically included in your price.”
“So that’s why you get to be rude to me,” replied Claes angrily.
“Look, pal, do you want the coffee and bagel or not?” said the barista, defiantly.
“You’re lucky I’m hungry,” snarled Claes, rifling through his wallet. He searched furiously for a credit card but was having difficulty finding one.
“Great,” said the barista, who threw his hands into the air. “now you’re going to waste my time trying to find your card.”
“Buddy,” retorted Claes, still rifling, “this is my stuff getting cold…don’t you think I wantto get my stuff quickly?”
“I guess so,” said the barista, who still shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“Ah,” said Claes, finally pulling out a card.
The barista put the credit card into the machine. A message came up, causing the barista to press a button.
“Sir,” said a police officer approaching Claes. “I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.”
“Excuse me,” said Claes, looking around furiously, shocked. “What’s going on?”
“Your card was not only declined,” said the barista, “but it told me to notify the authorities.”
“That can’t be possible,” said Claes. “I’m as clean as a whistle…I just got approved for that card yesterday.”
“I’m sorry sir,” said the barista, his eyes and his smile wide, “but this isn’t a clean card. You’re wrong.”
Claes tried his best to hide his nerves but they still showed. He breathed a few deep breaths before continuing. “I must have pulled out my son’s card by mistake.”
“Is your son Jamal Amaza?” said Adrian, who had just entered the café and was almost unrecognizable clad in dress pants and a leather jacket. Pucci was right behind him.
“YOU!” said Claes angrily, furiously projecting his finger at Adrian. “You set me up for this you heretic!”
“No Wilhelm.” Adrian didn’t raise his voice so as not to make a spectacle, though he exuded a quiet confidence, holding his hands in his pocket. “Proverbs 16:18: pride goesbefore destruction; and a haughty spirit before stumbling. You set yourself up. You let your pride consume you, so much so that you spun a web of manipulation and lies to force people into working a fantasy society that you knew no one would accept, and you let it cloud your judgement so much that you didn’t think anyone could figure it out. Didn’t you learn from The Beatitudes?”
“Matthew 7:15,” said Claes, defiantly. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
“2 Peter 2:1,” said Adrian. “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
Claes darted his eyes, looking frantically for an escape. As soon as he budged, the guns of the officer, Pucci and Adrian were drawn.
“Don’t make any sudden moves Claes,” commanded Pucci. “It’s over.”
Claes then drew his own gun, forcing the police’s hand. As soon as he saw it, Adrian fired a few bullets from his gun, shooting Claes dead. He then wore a sullen look on his face, but didn’t shed a tear. Pucci patted his back.
“You had no choice,” said Pucci.
“I know,” said Adrian. “I’m just sad it had to end like this.”
Galen of Pergamon Hospital
“Hello,” said a man draped in a fedora and a trenchcoat approaching the secretary’s desk. “I’m here to see Zeke Coleman.”
“I’m going to have to ask you for some ID,” said the secretary. “You need clearance to see him.”
“I’ll show you my clearance,” said the man, drawing a gun.
The secretary quivered in fear, and showed the man his room.
When he got to Coleman’s room, he undid the top button, revealing himself to be Tarsus. He pulled out a gun with a silencer, and shot the FBII agent tasked to protect Coleman. As he got into Coleman’s room, he saw the agent still sleeping.
Tarsus chuckled at the sight. “Oh Zeke, you were always special,” he said, pulling out his gun.
“Oh no you don’t,” said Cornelia, surprising Tarsus with a gun drawn of her own. It was here that Coleman revealed he wasn’t sleeping at all.
“I got a button under my bed,” said Coleman. “I ring it when someone like you comes and it notifies Cornelia. Did you just think we’d led you walk in?”
“...and you forgot FBII agents have bulletproof vests,” said the agent, Brian Anderson, emerging into the room with his own gun drawn. Tarsus, realizing this wasn’t a battle he was going to win, allowed himself to get arrested without incident.
One week later, Simeon’s chateau, Reims, Champagne
“This has been a long case,” said Pucci, laying back comfortably in his easy chair enjoying a glass of wine, “but we did it.” Simeon had the entire team, including the just discharged Coleman plus Adrian, Malik, Cornelia and Black over for a celebratory feast, with everyone enjoying wine and cheese in his expansive living room.
“This was officially my first case for the BAU,” remarked James with a smile, “and I don’t think I could have picked a better one.”
“You performed admirably,” said Fitchner, returning a wry smile.
“I can’t remember the last time we had to win a war to win a case,” said Coleman.
“I suppose there was Boyle,” said Proctor.
“We didn’t need the Roman Army for that one,” said Yves. “This was a first.”
“I’m just glad we’re all here and we’re all safe,” said Parkes with a warm smile. “Putting away those chauvinistic scumbags was worth it.”
“So what’s next?” Pucci asked.
“Might still be a while before I can open my shop again,” said Cornelia with a sigh.
“Don’t worry,” said Parkes. “We’ll help in any way that we can.” Cornelia responded by smiling and warmly clutching Parkes’ hand.
“I’m becoming the new head of the Roman Commonwealth,” said Adrian.
“The Abbassids will give me Mecca,” said Malik, the only one not drinking any wine, “which is all I want.”
“You and Adrian have gotten pretty close,” noted Simeon.
“We’re both the same age and are ideologically the same,” said Malik, “I’ve known Adrian for a while and I had been fighting Claes for a while...so when Adrian asked me to help him out, it was a no brainer.”
“...and now you’re both hailed as heroes,” said Proctor.
“Heroes with great responsibility,” noted Adrian with a wry smile.
Cornelia then excused herself to go outside and enjoy the balcony. Simeon’s chateau lay on a hill to the east of the city, overlooking the old Fort de la Pompelle. On a clear day like this, she could see all the sights of Reims, including its many distinctive chapels and, faintly, the Porte de Mars, a triumphal arch built in 108 when the Romans were in control here. Although many a Roman- including Cornelia- got wistful about what once was when looking at old Roman territory, the thought here was fleeting, and Adrian, who came outside to join her, couldn’t help but notice.
“Hey Gaia,” said Adrian, standing next to her and grabbing onto the railing to enjoy the view himself.
“Hey,” she replied, sheepishly.
“It’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too.”
“I know what you’re feeling...but remember, you’re here, he’s not. You won.”
Cornelia was still despondent, staring wistfully into the distance. “I wish it were that simple, Adrian. Not only was I violated not just physically but emotionally and psychologically as well, I was tormented by the one man who haunted me the most and the one man who I thought I got rid of. You say Wilhelm is gone...how do I know that? If he came back once he can come back again.”
“Gaia.” Adrian reached for her hand only for Cornelia to pull it away, stopping Adrian’s motion. He then sighed, thinking of reminding her that Claes was dead before thinking better of it before continuing. “I understand that. I guess the only thing left for you is time.” He then started to tear up. “I wish there was more I could have done for you...I regret every single day that I didn’t stop him from taking you and torturing you. I care for you more than anything in the world...it disgusts me that he did those things to you, those unspeakable horrors, that I will have to live through myself, all because I never stopped them.”
This time Cornelia grabbed Adrian’s hand, albeit softly. She too started to tear. “Adrian, you did all you could. All that I ask is that you pray for me.”
Adrian spoke with conviction through his tears, worried for the worst since Cornelia’s healing had only just begun. “I assure you, I will pray for you every single day...praying that you will heal and get stronger by the day. I will do everything I can for you to help you out...just promise me you will stay strong for me.”
“I promise.” The two of them then engaged in a long, warm embrace.
In Simeon’s courtyard, Coleman had pulled away from the party to step outside and reflect on his ordeal. He sat on a rock overlooking a giant water fountain, featuring the Egyptian god Horus looking over the construction of a pyramid below, with birds constantly chirping as Simeon set up numerous birdfeed stations in his courtyard. Although Simeon had the fountain for many years, the personal symbolism was not lost on Coleman.
After spending some half an hour out there, Yves paid Coleman a visit.
“Horus was hailed as the premier Egyptian god,” said Yves, “and the symbol of the Pharaohs, even though he wasn’t that honourable a god himself.”
“Didn’t he blow all over Set’s lettuce or something?” said Coleman, trying to recall the details.
“Yes…and, not just that, he caught Set’s ejaculate and threw it into the river. Set would later eat the lettuce, which I find interesting because it’s not like semen wouldn’t be impossible to detect on lettuce, so when the gods wanted to resolve who could dominate Egypt, they found that Set’s semen didn’t find its way into Horus yet Horus’ found its way into Set.”
“Trickery.” Coleman sighed, but Yves didn’t notice.
“To top it off, the two of them ultimately decided to have a race, seeing which one could traverse a river on top of a stone the quickest. Horus won only by painting wood to resemble stone, allowing him to traverse the river while Set’s stone sunk.”
“So he manipulated Set, and, in doing so, manipulated the gods to get what he wanted.”
“Just like Claes.” Coleman took another deep breath. This time Yves noticed, taking a seat next to him.
“I still think about that night in Tobias Heathcliff’s barn,” Yves said, softly. “It’s not as bad as it used to be, but those memories still haunt me and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.”
“I keep on thinking, Yves, that I could have avoided all that,” said Coleman, doing his best not to cry. “We should have had the army come in first and secure the area before going in…but I let my impulses get the best of me.”
“…and I should have never left JJ behind and went wandering by myself…but it happened. I relive that moment time and time again and, like you, I wish I could have changed it.”
Coleman laughed wistfully. “I can remember saying that a few times to you about that.”
“…and now I’m saying it to you, if only because it will help you come to terms with it.”
“I know…I shouldn’t blame myself for what happened. I’m the victim, not the perpetrator.”
“I wish there was some magic word that I could say to make this all go away…I could probably repeat the line about how post traumatic stress disorder could be even worse than the trauma you went through, but you already know that.”
“Yves.” Coleman said calmly, grabbing Yves’s hand, sensing he was going to break down in tears. “Don’t think you didn’t do enough…you did. You did all you could.”
“It’s not just that…you’re my protector and seeing you reduced to what you were…that got to me.”
“I guess I got a reminder that I’m not invincible.”
“Coleman.” Yves paused, feeling that his last statement was a touch insensitive. “Never forget you made it through…yes, you went through one of the worst possible moments in your life, but you got out of it. You made it through. That makes you stronger.”
“…and you guys saved me in the end, a testament to the kind of people that I call teammates.” Coleman and Yves both smiled before giving each other side hugs and looking longingly but admirably at the display in the courtyard.