Authors: Tim Lahaye,Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #Adventure, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adult, #Thriller, #Contemporary, #Spiritual, #Religion
Tsion shuddered, repulsed, yet unable to look away.
“Is this the present?” he asked.
“Eternity past and future are the present here,” Michael said. “Listen and learn.”
Suddenly Tsion was able to hear the beautiful angel plead his case before the throne, which was beyond Tsion’s view.
“Your so-called children are beneath you, ruler of heaven,” came the persuasive mellifluous tones of the eternal solicitor. “Abandon them to me, who can fashion them for profit. Even after being called by your name, their natures reek with temporal desires. Allow me to surround myself with these enemies of your cause, and I will marshal them into a force unlike any army you have ever assembled.”
From the throne came a voice of such power and authority that volume was irrelevant: “Thou shalt not touch my beloved!”
“But with them I shall ascend to a throne higher than yours!”
“They are weak and ineffective in your service!”
“I can salvage these hopeless wrecks.”
“Thou shalt not.”
“I beseech you, ruler of heaven and earth”
“Grant me these or I will”
“I will destroy them and defeat you! I shall bear the name above all other names! I shall sit high above the heavens, and there shall be no god like me! In me there shall be no change, neither shadow of turning.”
Suddenly from Tsion’s right he saw the flash in the eyes of Michael the archangel, and he spoke with great emotion.
“God, the Father Almighty,” he shouted, causing the evil one to look his way in disgust, then anger, “I beseech you allow no more blasphemy in the courts of heaven! Grant that I destroy this one and cast him out of your presence!”
Yet Michael apparently neither heard nor sensed the permission of God. Lucifer glared with contempt at Michael, smirking, laughing. He turned back to face the throne.
“Michael, your master shall not assign you an impossible task! He knows I am right about the sons of God.
“He will eventually concede them to me. You are a fool, weak and unable to face me on your own. You shall lose. I shall win. I shall ascend”
But as Tsion watched and listened, Lucifer’s voice changed. It became high-pitched and whiny, and his persona began to change. As he railed and begged and challenged and blasphemed, the voice from the throne continued to deny him.
His bright shining robe lost its luster. His face curled into a hideous mask of scales. His hands and feet disappeared, and his garment fell off, revealing a slimy, writhing, coiling serpent. His eyes sank under deep hoods and his voice became a hiss, then a roar as he seemed to transform himself.
His hands and feet reappeared, but his fingers and toes had turned to great horned appendages. He dropped to all fours. His words had vanished into flaming breaths, and he paced before the throne with such anger that Tsion was glad Michael stood between him and this dragon.
His head grew horns and a crown appeared upon it, and suddenly his whole being turned fiery red. As Tsion watched in horror, the beast grew six more heads with crowns and a total of ten horns. Pacing and growing ever larger with each step, the beast shook itself in rage and threatened the throne and they that sat upon it.
And the voice from the throne said, “No.”
With a great roar and stomping and shaking of its heads, the dragon postured threateningly and appeared to want to advance on the throne. Michael stepped that way, and the voice again said, “No.”
Michael turned to Tsion. “Behold,” he said, pointing behind Tsion.
Tsion turned to see the figure of a woman with clothes as bright as the sun.
While Michael’s brightness had nearly blinded him and Lucifer proved brighter still, the woman … the woman appeared as if clothed in the sun.
It seemed she stood on the moon itself, and on her head was a wreath made of twelve stars.
Tsion was transfixed and felt a great kinship with the woman. He wanted to ask Michael who she was. Mary? Israel? The church? But he could not speak, could not turn. He was aware that the hideous seven-headed dragon was behind him but that Michael stood between him and that danger.
The woman was pregnant, her great sun-clothed belly causing her to turn and cry out in labor pains. She grimaced and her body convulsed in contractions, and as she held her abdomen as if about to give birth, the dragon leaped from his place before the throne, clearing Michael and Tsion and pouncing before the woman.
His great tail swept a third of the stars from the heavens, and they plummeted to the earth. And now he crouched before the woman who was ready to give birth, seven mouths open and salivating, tongues darting, ready to devour her child as soon as it was born.
She bore a male child who was caught up to God. The dragon watched in rage as the child was transported to the throne, and when he turned back to the woman, she had fled. He rose up to give chase, and Michael the archangel said, “Behold.”
Tsion turned to watch him use both mighty hands to pull the golden sword from its sheath and swing it in a high arc over his head. Immediately he was joined by a heavenly host of warrior angels, who fell in behind him as the dragon’s angels also mustered behind him.
Tsion had so many questions, but Michael had led the charge against the dragon.
Perhaps Gabriel the announcer was close by. Tsion opened his mouth to ask, but when he said, “Who is the woman?” his words sounded plain to him and he felt enclosed. “Who is the woman?” he repeated, and his words woke him with a start.
He sat up and his blanket slid off. The TV still showed the slow moving line of mourners, bathed in the eerie palace courtyard spotlights. Tsion stood and peered into the playpen where Kenny slept, having not moved. He sat back down and stared unbelieving at the videodisc player clock. It read 12:59.
Movement in the cabin caught Buck’s eye. In the darkness he saw Chaim unstrap himself and awkwardly kneel in the aisle, his elbows on the armrest. Buck touched T’s arm and nodded back. T looked and glanced at Buck, who raised both fists and bowed his head. He turned sideways so he had one ear facing the cabin.
The man who had been so endearing and so stubborn was finally on his knees.
“Oh, God,” Chaim began, “I have never before prayed believing that I was actually talking to you. Now I know that you are there and that you want me, and I don’t know what to say.” He began to weep.
“Forgive me for coming to you only because I am afraid for my life. Only you know the truth about me, whether I am sincere. You know better than 1.1 know that I am a sinner and need your forgiveness for all my sins, even for murder, regardless that the victim was your archenemy. Thank you for taking the punishment for my sins. Forgive me and receive me into your kingdom. I want to give you all of myself for the rest of my days. Show me what to do. Amen.”
Buck looked back to where Chaim remained kneeling, his head buried in his arms.
“Cameron?” he called, his voice muffled.
“I prayed, but I’m still scared!”
“So am I!”
“Me too! “T said.
“You tested God?” Buck said.
“I did. I guess I won’t know his decision until we crash and I wake up in heaven or hell.”
“Oh, the Bible says we can know.”
“It says his Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
What does your spirit say?”
“My spirit says to land carefully.”
Buck laughed in spite of himself. “Chaim, there is a way we can know in advance.
Do you want to know?”
“With all my heart.”
“T, turn the lights on back there.”
David stood atop the observation tower again, watching the line. With a couple of hours to go before midnight, the air was cool enough to keep the crowd calm.
The next day was expected to be over one hundred degrees, and he worried about health and tempers. The funeral was to begin in twelve hours, but David couldn’t imagine the crowds having completely passed by the bier that soon.
From his perch he could see the final touches on the massive, black, hollow, iron and bronze image of the late potentate, made from a postmortem body cast.
Guy Blod seemed about to burst, supervising the last welds and the winching of it into place. Guy would stand on a scaffold and do the final sanding and polishing himself, planning to have workmen roll the finished product near the bier sometime before dawn.
Fortunate and his lackeys were making the rounds, and Leon had a couple of folded sheets of paper in his hand and seemed to be taking copious notes. He and his entou250 rage visited the statue-making operation, where Guy broke long enough to animatedly point out the features and accept accolades from the Supreme Commander.
The Fortunate juggernaut moved to the middle of the long line, where many had been waiting for hours. People bowed and knelt and kissed his hands. Often he lifted them and pointed up to the bier, and they stood nodding and gesturing.
Leon checked the various concession tents and stands, none of which would open until daybreak. When he got to the stand beneath where David stood, David’s worst fears were realized. “Anyone seen Director Hassid?”
While his people were shaking their heads, someone in the tent said, “He’s upstairs, Commander.”
“Alone, I think.”
“Gentlemen, wait for me, would you?”
He mounted the steps, and David felt the whole structure sway. David acted as if he was not expecting anyone and had not heard anyone come up.
“Director Hassid, I presume,” Fortunato said.
David turned. “Commander.”
“Want to join our little group, David? We’re just greeting the people.”
“No, thanks. Long day. I’m about to turn in.”
“I understand,” Leon said, pulling the pages from his pocket. “Have time to give me a little input?”
“I’m getting pressure from a few people in Rome for a memorial service for Pontifex Maximus. Remember him?”
Leon had asked that seriously, as if David wouldn’t remember the head of the one-world faith who had died within the week. “Of course,” David said.
“Well, he seems to have faded from most people’s memories, and I’m inclined to leave it that way.”
“Not have the service, you mean?”
“You agree?” Fortunate said.
“I’m just asking.”
“Well, I agree with you that we probably shouldn’t have it.”
That wasn’t what David had said, of course, but there was no sense squabbling.
Fortunato was likely eliciting the same forced ideas from everyone around him, and he would eventually find himself “acquiescing” to the counsel from his staff.
“I would like spiritual matters centralized here in New Babylon for good, and I believe there is a place for a personal expression of faith better than what that amalgam gave us.”
“Everyone seemed to go for that all-faiths-into-one idea, Commander.”
“Yes, but with mounting evidence that Potentate Carpathia deserves sainthood, and the possibility that he himself was divine, I believe there’s a place for worshiping and even praying to our fallen leader. What do you think?”
“I think you will prevail.”
“Well, thank you for that. David, I have found you a most capable and loyal worker. I want you to know that you can name your role in my regime.”
“Surely you don’t see anyone else in line for Supreme Potentate.”
David was tempted to tell him who the potentate would be very soon. “No, I don’t suppose.”
“I mean, if you do, tell me. I have people watching the three dissident kings closely, and I think Litwala has a lean and hungry look. You know where that’s from, Hassid?”
“Shakespeare. Julius Caesar.”
“You are well read. What role would motivate you?”
“I’m happy where I am, sir.”
“Well, how would you respond to a healthy raise and a title change, say special assistant to the supreme potentate?”
David knew this would all be moot soon. “I wouldn’t oppose it,” he said.
“You wouldn’t oppose it!” Fortunato laughed. “I like that! Look at this list of people who want to say a few words at the funeral tomorrow.” He swore.
“Self-serving sons of the devil.”
Takes one to know one, David thought.
“You want to say a few words?”
“Because I could squeeze you in.”
“No, thank you.”
“It’d be no problem, give you some visibility.”
“Going to get some rest, eh?”
“And you’ll be back when?”
“Daybreak, I imagine.”
“Problem, sir?” “I was looking for someone from our level to be here when the statue is put in place.”
“Blod’s a minister.”
“Yeah, but, you know.”
David didn’t know, but he nodded nonetheless.
“Could you be there, David?”
“Whatever you say, sir.”
Buck moved into the cabin as Chaim rose and turned to face him. He looked exhausted and was tearstained.
Chaim now had his back to the armrest he had leaned on, and it caught him just above the knee. Buck put a hand on each of Chaim’s shoulders, and the old man lurched back and plopped into the seat, his feet on Buck’s knees.
“So, you saw it, did you?” Buck said.
“Yes!” Chaim said, rising. “And you can see mine?”
He maneuvered until he was directly under a light, and he held a shock of white hair out of the way.
“I sure can, Chaim. You didn’t believe us all this time, did you? That we could see each other’s marks, I mean.”
“Actually, I did believe you,” Chaim said. “Not all of you would have lied to me. I was so jealous.”
“So God knew my heart.”
“That in itself is a miracle.”
“Prepare for descent,” T hollered.
“I can’t say I’m any less scared,” Chaim said.
“I’m scared too, friend, but a lot less than I would be if I didn’t know my destination.”