He had left EDA to become a Dominican Father. And he was the only teenager who once was a soldier in EDA. The CIA wanted him gone, but they couldn't get to him. They believed strongly that God protected him.
Everytime Wheeler's enemies attempted to destroy him their plans were immediately sabotaged. One example was when the Chairman Greg Day decided to use strike drones on Priest. But the satellites malfunctioned from solar radiation out of nowhere. The drones all short circuited after a huge lightning storm fried them in mid flight. Day himself died moments later from a super heart attack. When examined, three separate doctors concluded Day's heart exploded due to a deadly increase in cortisol and adrenaline.
Things like that happened anytime someone nefarious even attempted to destroy Wheeler.
77 had never heard of him.
"You're going to an abbey in Egypt," Captain Wildcat explained.
77 had been training with Juice to get back into shape, but she felt far from operational readiness.
'Understood,' she told Wildcat.
'I think you'll do fine now that you've finished your antivirals and physical therapy,' he said. 'You recover faster than the normal soldier, that is certain. It's a damn good thing we removed all of those implants. They were suppressing your immune response.'
They had spoken previously about the implants at Fort Benvenuta in Spain: a secret commando base once used by the allies in WW2. Dr. Young wanted to be sure exactly what she was dealing with.
'77, I've seen enchanted microchips before, but nothing like this,' she said.
'Jeneca, what's the difference between one magic sigil and the next? Aren't they all based on proprietary sorcery? We're talking about mind control here. That's all.'
That was Dr. Carr: a physician who was new to these types of cybernetics.
Dr. Young lit a cigarette in haste. Her nerves were getting the better of her.
'Bryan, if I may, pray tell who has been working with these kinds of patients for the last fifteen years?'
'I understand, but—-'
''You have little to no knowledge of magic. Sigil based enchantments that are used in these patients, mainly from EDA, are manufactured in a tedious fashion by one known as the Death Jeweler.'
'Right. And where is this supposed Death Jeweler exactly?'
'Are you fucking for real?' she asked. She turned to Wildcat. 'John, is he really one of ours?'
Suddenly, Wildcat drew his pistol and immediately blew out Bryan Carr's kneecap. As Carr lay screaming on the cold laboratory floor, Wildcat radioed for soldiers to detain the incapacitated physician.
'Take this bag of shit to the brig. Have the paramedics dress that wound,' said Wildcat.
The soldiers dragged Carr away. But they weren't taking the bastard to the brig. Instead, they laid him down in front of a wall riddled with bullet holes. After drawing their automatic rifles, they shot the turncoat to death.
Jeneca wasn't surprised to find more implants in Carr's dead body.
'That's the second close call we've had with these assholes, John. Next time, they might sabotage the whole operation.'
After that, everyone on Wildcat's unknown team was moved permanently to the sub.
'Petrovic has infiltrated every level of the American military. We can't afford to recruit anyone else. This is all we've got.' Wildcat addressed the crew of the USS Ravenwolf.
He later spoke with 77 directly, explaining the need to recruit Priest.
Egypt was hot.
It was a Sunday. And their contact was a nun named Sister Anna. She was in her thirties, youthful and pretty. Her brown eyes sparkled in the noon sun.
'Are you looking for a guide to the pyramids?' she asked Juice and 77.
'Yes, but only if they are willing to pay the fare.' said Juice.
'And how much will it be?' asked Sr. Anna.
'98.33 drachmas,' answered Juice.
'Then, you must follow me,' said Sr. Anna.
They were in downtown Cairo. The streets were busy. Not everyone was trying to be out and about because of Covid-19.
There was a door to an old Catholic church past a tiny graveyard near a small fountain.
Through the graveyard's iron gate they went, led by Sr. Anna. Bright green grass grew with lilies in the graveyard. And the door to the church was a thick wooden one that needed two skeleton keys and a keycard to unlock. Sr. Anna had all three tied to the necklace she kept hidden in her habit. Once the keys were turned and the keycard scanned, the inside wall revealed a small keypad. She entered a four digit code for DOVE, being 3683. She hit the pound key and the door unlocked.
Inside the church 77 and Juice discovered the door was reinforced with two inch armor plating—-enough to stop a tank. The walls facing the street were the same.
A large statue of St. Michael the archangel towered before them in the lobby. And in the sanctuary Sr. Anna took them to another locked entryway guarded by iron bars. She used two keys to unlock the double deadbolts.
Down the spiral stairs hewn from stone, they followed Sr. Anna until, finally, they reached an underground sanctuary.
Windows with mirrors reflected sunlight from mysterious passageways starting at the rooftops of the old church. There were pews made of ancient wood.
'These pews look like they are thousands of years old,' whispered Juice.
On display was the Blessed Sacrament of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. And on his knees before the monstrance was Elias David Wheeler.
He was dressed as a friar. Clean shaven and bearing the fragrance of lilies, Wheeler remained in a silent mystic prayer. Sr. Anna begged 77 and Juice to quietly sit and wait. She then bowed and walked backwards. She faced the Sacrament until she bowed at the end of the stairs, and softly made her way back to the top.
A few moments passed. 77 decided to kneel. It surprised Juice when she pulled the rosary from her breast pocket.
Out of reverence, Juice also decided to kneel, following his friend's moves.
Wheeler arose. He turned to them.
'I am Priest,' he said.
77 and Juice stood.
'You must be 77 [looking at her] and Juice [looking at him]. You need my help, yes?'
They entered the humble friar's subterranean dwellings. There were more mirrors reflecting the enigmatic sunlight.
He poured each of them red wine from an ancient jar. Only the knives were made of steel. The rest of the utensils and dishware were made of olive wood.
As they broke bread and sampled the hummus, they discussed their reasons for meeting.
'Why the mirrors? You have electricity down here.' Juice was interested in learning more about the strange habitat of this reclusive soldier.
'Demons hate God's light,' said Priest, savoring the lentil soup.
'I think you're right about that. I ain't wanting no demon round where I live either. But sunlight hard to come by in a submarine.
'You ever have a problem with rats or bugs, radon, that sort of thing?'
Priest shook his head. 'We are sure to keep the lights on at all times and the sisters routinely clean the entire church, top to bottom. We also have pest control services contracted with several places operated by trusted providers.'
'I like the marble flooring and the murals. They look like something from the Byzantines.'
"That is correct, Juice. They are.'
Juice quietly left his wine untouched and substituted a Tetra Pak grape and berry flavored iced tea.
'I try to keep them cool with a couple ice packs in my belt pockets.'
After putting the straw in, he started sipping away. Though he wasn't a giant man, Juice possessed an air of strength that mirrored itself in his balanced body. He wasn't as tall as someone on the Orlando Magic or Kentucky Wildcats, but Juice was tall. It was all that stuff put together that just made him a soft spoken teddy bear most of the time. And that was one of the reasons 77 had started snuggling with Juice every night.
'You have the heart of a blessed soul, Juice. I have some of those exact juice boxes in my fridge. Help yourself.'
When Juice got back to the table, he had half a dozen.
'Are you sure Petrovic is there?' asked 77.
'Totally,' said Priest.
'The Gilded Forge is what she was searching for in Siberia, but she never found the sat data she needed,' said 77.
'No thanks to your efforts, I presume.'
'She needed the data tapes from the remote sub to confirm their existence. And she knew what they really were.'
'And we're a long way from the production of ingots, correct?' asked Priest.
'The English didn't need them for that anymore. And the business of contract killing was old news.'
'So, it is true then. The bastards made an underground network of human trafficking.'
77 acted like she still had something to add.
'Oh no. It's children. Isn't it?' asked Priest.
All the while, Juice listened to their conversation, quietly eating the bread, hummus, and drinking that boxed tea.
'I had my suspicions. I needed to know. And it wasn't until I was in the archives that I started piecing together the whole thing.'
'Go on,' said Priest.
'It started in the Cold War. One of the oligarchs was a huge pedophile, originally kidnapping Indian children and contracting with European buyers. But with Indian independence this was a broken system. So, the Russians started kidnapping East Asian children, using the Viet Cong to ship them through jungles to sell via French shell companies. But the Americans interfered with this operation. Eventually, the Russians learned how to bribe Washington bureaucrats via Chinese lobbying firms—-having the children trafficked through Thailand and San Francisco exchanges. But the Russians found another way.
'One of the oligarchs who opposed human trafficking, especially that of the children, convinced a Spetsnaz group to encrypt the trade routes on data tapes aboard a remote controlled submarine. They expected the Americans to eventually find it and stop the officials named in the decoded tapes. But the oligarch's move was botched when one of his Spetsnaz cracked under brutal torture by the KGB. In attendance was a very interested advocate for the old British Empire: the father of none other than one Colton James Stoess.'
Priest was dumbfounded.
'Does Wildcat know this?' asked Priest.
"I wouldn't be here if he didn't. That's why I'm still alive. I have the very information Petrovic doesn't want me to have. And she was willing to kill me in Siberia in order to prevent one of her own from turning on her. They removed two hundred implants from my head and spine. It took weeks of antivirals to keep me alive. And then, just to be able to walk and function normally—-Juice has been with me as the Navy nurses me back to health. Physical rehab has sucked. But I can do this. I'm a cyborg killing machine that's ready to end Petrovic and this whole global trafficking shit once and for all.'
Priest digested the information.
'And now that I've told you the location of her chateau, you need me to help you destroy her?'
Priest pondered some more.
"I've been waiting half my life to end that evil bitch. And by God, I'm not passing up the opportunity. Count me in."
Juice watched as 77 extended her hand across the table. Priest put his hand on top of hers. The straw crackled satisfyingly as Juice drained the last drops of iced tea from the box. Not a second later was his big hand on top of theirs.