Smith

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Training

“What’s the deal with your medallion?” Jake asked.

“As he became more experienced, Solomon realized the Interface had an agenda. The Interface’s original purpose was training, but it became impatient with Solomon’s reluctant use of the Ring’s full powers.”

“It is my job to insure the person who wears the Ring is protected at all times and uses it to its full potential.”

“The Interface will give you the impression the Ring won’t work without it. According to its twisted logic, the Wearer can’t work the Ring without the Interface. Therefore the Interface and the Ring are inseparable. The trouble with the logic is the Ring is inert without a strong-willed Wearer.”

Koffka lifted the medallion.

“As Solomon aged, his mind began to succumb to the ravages of time. The Interface recognized the weakness and persuaded him to let it manage the Ring powers. Solomon’s control disappeared little by little.

“Smith doesn’t like the symbol. He is powerless when it is close to him,” Jake said.

“It is known as the Cross Runed Sigil. The only thing capable of nullifying the Ring powers.”

“Without the powers of the Ring, the wearer is vulnerable to attack. The medallion is the enemy of the Ring.”

“I saw a similar symbol embossed on a gauntlet the Legion used when it tried to take the Ring,” Jake said.

“Few people have access to the historical references needed to discover the purpose of the Sigil and make one,” Koffka said. “Who created the gauntlet?”

“It must have been a man named Manzur who worked in the National Library of Israel. He’s dead, and the gauntlet is destroyed,” Nava responded.

“The Interface doesn’t like anything restricting its powers. The fact it has named itself demonstrates ego. Your training must commence at once,” Koffka said.

Pulling a dusty spiral binder from a nearby niche, he instructed, “Memorize the commands on the first two pages. Tomorrow we begin.”

“This is a waste of time. You express a desire, and I fulfill it. Simple, straightforward, elegant.”

“I have to agree with Smith. It’s much simpler to tell him what I want. He makes it happen.”

“The Interface’s purpose is training, not de facto wearer. Dependence on the Interface forces you to need it.”

“I don’t know who this charlatan is, but the knowledge he claims to have is dangerous. I will put an end to him.”

The Ring tightened, and the odor of sulfur bit into Jake’s nose. A dark, swirling cloud appeared, and Jake heard faint chanting.

“SMITH. STOP!” Jake shouted as he pulled Nava away from Koffka and the fire-pit.

Instead of moving, Koffka said, “Arrete.”

The cloud vanished, and the sulfur odor faded.

“What did you do?” Jake asked as he let Nava go and sat down.

“Combined with the Sigil, there are certain commands the Ring cannot ignore. You will learn them all.”

***

“You must know the differences between demon and angel powers,” Koffka said.

“Why? When you study the fine points, the powers are similar,” Jake responded.

“They might be similar, but application is different. Angelic powers are subtle and accurate. Demonic powers are based on the broad use of brute force.”

“Okay, I get it. Good versus bad. Blah. Blah.”

“Quit being a know-it-all, Jake,” Nava scolded. “Listen to the man.”

“I just want some excitement. I’ve been memorizing words in a foreign language for the last couple of days, and I’m getting bored.”

“You think you’re bored. For me it’s like going back to kindergarten and being taught the alphabet.”

Koffka noticed Jake’s blank look and said, “Smith giving you a hard time again?”

Jake focused and said, “It’s constant. Let’s get on with this.”

“Okay, name the angelic powers you command.”

“RUGRAM. It means Raguel, Uriel, Gabriel, Raziel, Ariel and Michael.”

“Now the demonic powers.”

“FAVBIZ. It means Foras, Amon, Vepar, Bael, Ipos, Zepar.”

“I thought up the acronyms. It’s what I use when I have long lists to memorize,” Nava bragged.

“Cute,” Koffka said. “As long as he knows the names, I could care less.”

“You’ll never get awarded teacher of the year with that attitude,” Nava said.

Ignoring her, Koffka pointed at a boulder half the size of a house and said, “Move the rock using demonic powers.”

Jake recited the necessary mantra and pointed. The multi-ton rock floated up, moved left a few feet and dropped with a jarring crunch.

“Very good. Solomon built temples and palaces from huge blocks of stone weighing tons. He used demon power to transport the raw stone blocks from quarries to the building site.”

“Understood, but the finished buildings were carved and fitted together like a puzzle. Demons are effective but unsubtle,” Jake said. “Where a jeweler’s hammer would work, they’ll use an 8 pound sledge.”

“This exercise demonstrates the fundamental difference between demonic and angelic applications of the Ring. Using angelic power, move the rock back to its original location as a roof support.”

Reciting a complicated phrase, Jake pointed.

The boulder shivered and dissolved into a fluid. Directed by an unseen force, the fluid oozed across the floor to the boulder’s original location and formed itself into a round column complete with polished grooves and fluted edges. It rose to the cave roof and fused to it.

Excess liquid rock formed into winged angels, gargoyles and inscriptions. The end result was breathtaking.

“No way,” Nava whispered.

“Remember,” Koffka said. “You must decide which set of powers should be used in any given situation.”

“Why not use both at the same time?” Jake asked. “Brute force coupled with subtle application.”

“Solomon warned against using them together, but I think his explanation was too complicated. Just remember this phrase from a popular movie. Never cross the streams.”

***

“You’re a smart kid,” Koffka said as he took the Cross Runed Sigil off his neck and handed it to Jake. “Coupled with this, your control of the Ring is assured.”

“Thank you, Seer Koffka,” Jake replied. “But I have control of the Ring. You keep the medallion.”

“It is yours now. Before the Seers, it was the property of Solomon. Keep it with you at all times.”

“Is it necessary?” Jake asked.

“Time will tell. Solomon discovered it too late. Perhaps it will be your lucky charm,” Koffka said.

“I was wondering when the old man would let his guard down. Time for some payback.”

The Ring tightened, and Koffka slammed against the cave wall.

“Arrete,” Jake yelled as he caught Koffka and held him upright.

“Don’t let your guard down,” Koffka slurred. “The Interface will test you from time to time. You must be vigilant.”

“The Healer summoned to care for Solomon during his last days. He was your ancestor,” Jake said.

“Yes, and I have fulfilled my duties. I have taught you everything Solomon learned about the Ring.”

“I can see why he was reluctant to use it. On the wrong hand, the Ring could start the apocalypse. Ready to return to civilization, Nava?

“I want a shower, clean clothes and a decent meal,” Nava groused. “And we need to let the Prime Minister know we’re still alive.”

“I’m tired of being put in limbo at the whim of the old man.”

“Quiet, Smith, or I’ll superglue the Sigil to you,” Jake warned.

***

“Was the Prime Minister surprised?” Jake asked as he waited on their room keys.

“Yes. When we didn’t report from New York, he assumed the worst. He’s sending a team. He wants a full report.”

“I need time to unwind. Jumping back into the middle of Shin Bet is not my first choice,” Jake said.

“I want some excitement. Being stifled by Koffka brought back 3,000 years of bad memories. I need to stretch. Get some exercise.”

“You’re going to have to wait. Nava and I need rest and good food.”

“I don’t think we’re getting either,” Nava said.

Jake followed her eyes. Men in black SWAT team outfits with automatic rifles barged into the lobby. They gathered around Jake and Nava.

“Jake Goddard and Nava Kilman. You are hereby placed into the custody of Shin Bet. Cuff them.”

Jake’s arms were jerked behind his back.

Nava asked, “What’s going on? I just spoke to the Minister. You’re supposed to protect us.”

“Gag them. You are both charged with the murder of Senior Officer Daniel Kohn and the massacre at the home of Jibar Safize Laspor. Take them away.”

One of the commandos forced a rubberized triangular shape into Jake’s mouth and buckled it in place with a leather strap. Jake tried to speak, but all he managed was some muffled, unintelligible wheezes.

Nava looked both angry and terrified as she was led from the lobby. Jake heard a snick and felt metal clench around his ankles. The shackle chain was just long enough to allow him short steps.

“Smith, do something.”

“As long as you wear it, the Sigil prevents me from taking any action. I am powerless.”

“I can talk to you in my mind. Why can’t I summon the Ring’s powers the same way?”

Smith didn’t respond.

“Smith, I asked you a question. Answer.”

“I don’t know what I don’t know.”

Jake thought Smith’s response was strange, but his train of thought was interrupted by a shove that almost made him fall.

“Get moving,” someone growled as Jake was pushed again.

Jake didn’t like feeling helpless, and the shoves brought back memories of the alley beat down. Anger reddened his cheeks.

Plunging his thoughts deep into the Ring, his indignation erupted.

Every SWAT weapon disappeared. The commandos had a moment to wonder what happened before they realized the guns had merged into their torsos. Pushing aside internal organs, each man’s weapon embedded itself lengthwise with the barrel centering in the esophagus. The bullet clip protruded under the skin in the center of their chests.

“I’ll have to say you have a unique way of disarming your enemies.”

All the soldiers dropped, writhing in pain. Gurgling, choking screams were all they could manage. Jake looked at the commando who had shoved him and blinked. The rifle inside the man fired, and the top of his head blew off. With a thought, Jake ordered the manacles around his wrists and ankles be removed. As they popped loose, he ran for Nava.

A dark van screeched away as he burst through the hotel doors. Jake was seething mad, and he called upon the demonic powers of the Ring.

The van rose off the road, and all its tires and rims broke off their hubs with squealing, metallic clanks. The motor block tore loose from the transmission and dropped to the pavement. The smell of gasoline mixed with motor oil was stifling.

Jake whipped open the rear doors. Two commandos using Nava as a shield, held pistol barrels to her head. Their eyes were round with fear, and Jake realized any move he made could be her end.

“Back off or she dies,” one of them muttered.

Nava couldn’t talk through her gag, but her eyes glowed with fear. Jake realized he was still gagged. He unbuckled it and threw it away.

Stepping back, he gave enough ground for the men to clamor out with Nava between them.

“Our backup is on route. Get on your knees.”

Ignoring their instructions, Jake said, “Nava, sometimes subtle is just as satisfying as brute force. Come to me. They can’t hurt you.”

The pistol barrels dropped away from her head, and the grips on her arms disappeared. Her handcuffs popped open as the screams of her captors grew louder.

Nava stumbled to Jake and looked back. The men’s arms hung like withered balloons from their shoulders. All the bones in their arms and hands had liquified and drained out the tips of their fingers.

“Your techniques for engaging the enemy are most unusual. You take their focus off you while creating medical emergencies their teammates cannot ignore.”

Ignoring Smith, Jake unbuckled Nava’s gag and pulled the rubber bit from her mouth.

Pausing a moment, she leaped into his arms and kissed him.

***

They crouched in shadow across the street from the Knesset.

They knew from experience the perimeter fence was electrified after 9 pm. They weren’t expecting the double guards or the tanks at the main gate.

“Do you really think this is necessary?” Nava asked.

“I don’t know who to trust,” Jake answered. “Right now it’s four people. Dad, Avner, Smith and you. Anyone else is suspect.”

“If I had a heart, I’d be touched.”

“Don’t get the big head,” Jake mumbled.

“You should learn to keep your mouth shut,” Nava said. “I like you, Jake, but ever since you came into my life, I’ve been almost killed more times than I have fingers to count.”

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

“You’re using Smith as an excuse to insult me,” she groused.

“I haven’t heard talk like that since Solomon was young. The tales I could tell about his forays with women. By the way, I have confirmed Nava is a most fertile female.”

“Shut up,” Jake warned. Nava looked at him in disgust and turned her attention to the guards.

A car approached the gate. Men got out and pulled two handcuffed people from the back seat.

Jake gasped and lost color.

“Jake, what’s wrong?” Nava asked.

“It’s my father and Avner. They’ve got them.”

He started to leave their hiding place, and Nava grabbed him.

“Wait. Anything you do might get them hurt. Let’s see what happens.”

Knowing she was right, Jake crouched but didn’t take his eyes off the scene.

Avner and his father were marched through the gate and shoved into an armored military transport. The transport headed toward the main Knesset building.

“Take the Sigil off and give it to Nava. I have more experience with the Ring powers. With my supervision, we can save your Dad and Avner.”

Smith’s request was logical. He did have more battle experience, and Jake knew the military threat had to be handled with decisive actions.

“Nava, please take care of this,” Jake said as he removed the necklace and hung it around her neck.

The solemn look in her eyes told him she understood. Her nod confirmed it.

“Okay, Smith,” Jake said. “Let’s have some fun.”

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