For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. – The Book of the Revelation 16:14,16
Jihad al-Akhbar was not having a nice day. He cursed as he peered through his scope. Can’t a terrorist catch a break?! He cursed the day he was born. He cursed the day his parents named him Jihad. And to think they had thought it was witty and wise. There was some irony in how two British Muslim secularists had named their child after al-jihad al-akbar – the Greater Struggle, the Struggle Against Oneself – mainly to remind their humorless brethren what Jihad was really all about. So maybe it was kinda funny. For them. For awhile. But then came 9/11 and 7/7, and no one laughed anymore. The al-Akhbars moved from Birmingham to London, and Jihad changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
But there was even more irony in how, after all he had suffered to join the Hashshashin, Muhammad Ali’s new brethren gave him the code name Jihad al-Akhbar. Because he was a struggle, they said. And his specialty was, in a way, the news.
No good news at all today. All day today he stalked his prey.
His Hashshashin cell was activated at 3PM Jerusalem time. They were off to execute the mission they had practiced to perfection – so often, so long – when he was detached from the cell, and reassigned. And now he was stuck here, all alone, like a tabby on a tree.
What is he doing here? he had wondered, running through possible explanations, as he tailed Daniel Romero from Ben Gurion Airport, and headed north on Highway 6. It was almost midnight now, and traffic was light, so Jihad kept a safe distance from the three black Manila Tanks in Daniel’s convoy. Jihad knew Daniel well enough to know that he’d be watching – waiting for a chance to turn predator to prey.
What is he doing here? he asked himself now, as he turned into Route 65, 20 minutes later. Jihad’s heart raced a little faster as the black Tanks merged into Route 66. What is he doing here? he asked with growing alarm.
Then his heart stopped completely as the convoy turned, five minutes later, onto Megido National Park. What is he doing HERE?
From his perch atop the tree, Jihad now had a clear line of sight into the Crusader camp, and the command tent that Daniel and his crew had entered. He hadn’t dared launch a spydrone – not against a guy like Daniel, who almost surely would’ve traced it back to him. Instead, Jihad found cover in the forest, and lay prone on a high branch. His Scope worked well enough, despite the dark, the distance, the tent, and the background noise. The video and audio were fuzzy – Daniel deployed Noisemakers, obviously – but Jihad knew how to hack his way through all sorts of screens.
He’d almost fallen asleep from boredom, listening to the Crusaders complain to Daniel about the accommodations, the equipment, the ammo, the logistics. It reminded him of that Monty Python sketch that he showed Daniel and the kids, the one about tourists “Bomplaining about the tea – ‘Oh they don’t make it properly here, do they, not like at home’, and they drone on …”
Good times. But you chose the wrong side, dear brother. That was then. This is
“Now!” Daniel ordered. Jihad felt the Net wrap around him suddenly, completely immobilizing his body, zapping dead all his toys, and dragging him down through branches and leaves, until his head nearly hit the ground.
“Good morning, Haji,” Daniel greeted Jihad. “Howzit hangin?”
“Wattup, Gook,” Jihad replied. This was the worst day ever.
“Here you go, J. You look like you need a cookie.” I handed Jihad a double-dark chocolate chip cookie – I knew it was his favorite. Jihad smiled.
The best thing about my Cookie Jar Mobile: it makes people so happy so quickly. The next best thing about my Cookie Jar Mobile: I can take out an entire battalion by battering it down with cookies.
J is one of my favorite people. I first met him when I was five. He was an exchange student from London, spending a year with us. His family had hosted Ed in London, five years earlier. It wasn’t just his BBC accent that was funny. Jihad was just all kindsa hella funny. He introduced us to Monty Python and Bertie & Jeeves. If that were all that he did for all of his short life, it would have been a life well lived.
“Howzit Kulas?!” Jihad asked, as he mussed up my hair. “And how’d you get this … thing?”
“Cookie Jar Mobile. Built it myself,” I beamed. That was the first thing I did, soon as I got my powers. Build me my Cookie Jar Mobile. Took just a second, since I already had the designs in my mind.
“How’s mom and dad?” Ed asked Jihad.
“They’re good, all things considered. Yours?”
“Likewise, I’m sure.”
“So what you up to?” Daniel asked.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“Beat you to it. Again.”
“I was asked to trail a target from Ben Gurion. Just my luck it turned out to be you.”
“Your boss doesn’t like you.”
“That’s what I was just thinking.”
“So join us then, and I won’t have to enhanced-interrogation you.”
“Tempting, but not at all. You’re on the wrong side you guys.”
“And what side might that be?” Daniel asked, and smiled.