“We don’t stop to think about ... religion. We stop to think about the threats and focus our efforts there.”
-Michael Bloomberg, Former New York Mayor and First Acting President of the United States of America
I hadn’t heard from Leeza in over a year. I knew she’d joined up, though I prayed that she would be smart enough to stay behind the front lines. I was deluding myself. I was the thinker while she tackled things head on. I assumed the Lord would protect her, would watch over her.
“Phifer,” a stone-laden voice growled, “what’re you gonna recommend?” Big Roll like to play the part of the thug. He was built for it. 6 feet 3 and 275 pounds of beef-fed muscle. I’ve never seen him lose a game of chess, though, and he was always two moves ahead of people in the real world. He was my better in rank in intellect and in mass.
“Sir,” I began. I was knocked out of my chair, then lifted up by my neck. I saw stars floating around my peripheral vision. Everything else was taken up by the obsidian giant’s face, a face that was sporting a tooth filled smile.
“‘Sir’ doesn’t work here. Never has, never will. Haven’t broken you of that habit, but we will,” the voice was low and guttural, “we will. Even if it kills you.”
Big Roll released his grip. I dropped unceremoniously to the floor. I stood, rubbing my neck, knowing that there would be a massive hand-shaped bruise forming. In military intelligence, we weren’t allowed to dress for rank; we weren’t even allowed to acknowledge it. There were subtle clues that we were trained to pick up on, mannerisms and speech patterns that indicated who stood where in the hierarchy. Generally, the meekest, quietest person in the room held the greatest rank.
“Answer the question, McGlow,” Big Roll said. We were given code names in the Military Intelligence, given to us by our trainer and kept for life. The only person allowed to use your actual name was the person who’d given you your handle. “And stop touchin’ your neck. You’ll be fine.”
I dropped my hand and whispered the Lord’s Prayer. Some people counted to ten, I counted on God. “I know that the Apostle-President wanted my opinion, but I’m really not...”
“You are,” Big Roll said, turning his attention back to the monitors. “You are because he thinks you are. You came up with the idea in the first place, and you dropped it into his ear when no one else would.”
I sighed. “I’ve prayed on this, prayed hard,” I began, ignoring Big Roll’s derisive snort; he was not one of the religious. He just wanted his guns. “I prayed, and I believe that the Lord put that idea into my head for a reason. I think that it’s the only way we can avoid an even worse outcome.”
He nodded. He didn’t envy my position. The decision I was being asked to make would cost a quarter million lives. I knew that the most Holy Ryan would make the final call, but it was my plan. 250,000, as horrendous a number as that was, was better than two billion.
My left hand twitched up to fiddle with the black cross on my lapel. Black and White - that’s how everyone was supposed to see things, everyone but those of us in the MI. The black cross that my thumb was caressing, that was the cross that represented the wicked path. I wasn’t sure if if this was a subconscious act or not, and I dropped my hand back down.
Apostle President Abraham Ryan’s virtual figure appeared in the room. He looked solid enough, and there was no sound delay. The High Government could afford these sorts of technologies.
“Well,” said the living ghost in a deep Texan drawl “Well, son, what do you think? Can you see any other way out of the situation?”
I bowed my head and cast my eyes downward. “Nossir. I think it might be the only way. May God have mercy on my soul and the souls of those who are soon to pass through Heaven’s Gate.”
I felt the slight weight of the hologram’s hand rest on my shoulder. The tech really was good. “A blessing unto you my son, for it should not be your burden to carry. This is in God’s plan. You are but the messenger. “ I looked up into the Most Holy Ryan’s eyes, and saw tenderness, forgiveness and redemption. “And, son, if you think that I am relying upon your mind alone, then maybe you oughn’t be in the Military Intelligence after all.” He laughed, a clear and clean laugh.
“I am sorry, I know this isn’t a matter to be taken lightly. But sometimes you need to laugh or you will be crippled with tears.” His craggy, wizened face grew grim. “Big Roll, let’s get this started”
Big Roll began typing furiously on the translucent keyboard that was projecting from the bit drive. He was silent. This was unusual.
“It’s time,” the Apostle-President said, “Operation Chow Mein is a go.”
Our leader was never one for subtleties nor cultural sensitivity.
I hoped that God would forgive what I was responsible for unleashing.