Authors: Tim Lahaye,Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #Adventure, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adult, #Thriller, #Contemporary, #Spiritual, #Religion
“What, your statue will be barefoot?”
Guy giggled and shared the mirth with his clones.
“Oh, David,” he said, lifting his feet and spinning in his chair. “My statue will be au nature!.”
David made a face. “Please tell me you’re joking!”
“Not on your life. Did you think the mortician was going to make a body cast of him in his suit?”
Guy fluttered the air with his fingers and said, “Forget it, forget it, you wouldn’t understand. You obviously have some hang-up about the human form and can’t appreciate the beauty. You just”
“Guy, I’m assuming this statue is to maintain a prominent place within the palace”
“Within the palace? Dear boy! This will be
objet d’art of history, my piece de resistance. It shall stand in the palace courtyard not thirty feet from where the potentate lies in state.”
“So the whole world will see it.”
“In all its glory.”
“And it’s your masterpiece.”
Guy nodded, appearing unable to contain his glee.
“So if I took a picture of something and then traced it, I could be an artist too?”
Guy looked disgusted. “You’re about as far from an artist as I am from”
“But what of this reproduction of a dead man’s bare body is your work?”
“Are you just insulting me, or is that a sincere question?”
“Call it sincere. I really want to know.”
“The concept! I conceived it, David! I will supervise the construction. I will do the finish work on the face, leaving the eyes hollow. I was asked to create a huge statue to represent the greatest man who ever lived, and this came to me as if from God himself.”
“You’re on speaking terms with God?”
“It’s just an expression, Hayseed. It’s from my muse.
“Who can explain it? It’s what I blame my genius on, the one thing that keeps me from unbearable ego. Can you imagine how embarrassing it is to be lauded for everything your hands create? I mean, I’m not complaining, but the attention becomes overwhelming. The muse is my foil.
“I am as overwhelmed at my gift-the gift from the muse, you see-as anyone else.
I enjoy it as the masses do.”
“Yes, I do. And I can’t wait to get to this one. I’m assuming I would have access to the GC foundry, as we won’t have time to have this done off-site.”
David shut one eye. “The foundry is on three shifts, seven days a week. We could have this more cheaply done in Asia, where”
“Help me stay civil here, David, as it is clearly my fault for not clarifying.
Supreme Commander Fortunate-who, in case you couldn’t figure this out on your own, will likely be the new potentate once Carpathia is entombed-wants this monument in place no later than at dawn Sunday.”
Guy stared at David, as if to let that sink in. It almost didn’t. David looked at his watch. It was crowding 1:00 A.M. Saturday, Carpathia Standard Time. “I don’t see it,” he said, “but I don’t imagine you can be dissuaded.”
“Why, I believe we have begun to connect!”
Anything but that, David thought.
“Zhizaki,” Guy said, “if you please.”
With a flourish, an Asian with two-inch green nails produced a computer-generated schedule. It called for the procuring of materials and determining the manufacturing site by noon Saturday, concurrent with computer design by the artist and cast making by the mortician. By midnight Saturday, the foundry was to create a cast to the artist’s specifications, produce the shell, and deliver it to the back of the palace courtyard. There Guy and his staff would do the finish work until the product was ready for positioning in view of the mourners just before dawn Sunday.
“That’s more than ambitious, Guy,” David said. “It’s audacious.”
“Audacious,” Guy said with a faraway look. “Now there’s an epitaph.”
“You’ll have to work with materials already on hand,” David said.
“I assumed that. But we’ll need you to override current projects, get this at the top of the list, and let me in there to make sure the consistency and the color are right.” “You’ll have to wear protective clothing and a hard hat,”
Guy looked at his mates. “I love new clothes.”
to Rayford’s advantage that the Global Community had rendered the whole of Greece virtually invisible. In realigning the world into ten regions with sub-potentateswhich Tsion Ben-Judah insisted were “kingdoms with kings”the United Holy Land States had appropriated Greece. Her potentate had lobbied for independence, as most countries’ leaders had, then pleaded for membership as one of the United European States.
Carpathia himself had mollified the Greeks with a personal visit and several appearances, during which he took full responsibility for their inclusion in “his” region.
Lukas (Laslos) Miklos had once regaled Rayford with a dead-on imitation of the potentate’s Eastern-flavored Greek as he flattered the nation into compliance.
“You are a deeply religious people,” Carpathia had told them, “with a rich place in the histories of many cherished belief systems. You are nearly as close to the cradle of civilization as you are to the United European States, so I personally argued for your inclusion as a Holy Land state. My own origins are not that far north of you. The line of demarcation that puts both my homeland and my current residence in the same region naturally includes Greece as well. I welcome you to ‘my’ region and trust you will enjoy the benefits from this area’s housing the new world capital.”
That had won over the majority of Greeks. One huge benefit to tribulation saints was that Greece seemed above suspicion as a spring of rebellion. The exploding church there went underground immediately, worried that it might otherwise draw the attention of the GC. Dr.
Ben-Judah corresponded with nearly a thousand Greek evangelists he had identified as likely part of the prophesied 144,000 witnesses. These were Messianic Jews, many of whom had attended the great conference of witnesses in Israel and had returned to their homeland to win tens of thousands of converts to Christ.
Mr. and Mrs. Miklos’s own local body of underground believers had mushroomed so that the original assembly had split many times and now met as more than a hundred “small groups” that weren’t really so small. The new corporate church was too large to ever meet together without jeopardizing its clandestine identity. The witness-leaders of each faction met monthly for training and mutual encouragement, and of course the entire body counted itself part of the new worldwide band of believers, with Tsion Ben-Judah as its de facto cyberspace pastor-teacher.
The covert nature of the Greek church, while clearly not impeding its evangelistic efforts, served to keep from waving a red flag before the GC. Buck Williams’s private investigations for his cybermagazine, The Truth, foundwith the help of ultimate hacker David Hassid-that Greece was all but ignored by GC
counterintelligence, security, and peacekeeping forces. The country was low maintenance. Most of the forces assigned there had been redeployed into Israel for the Gala and New Babylon for its aftermath.
Thus it was not a surprise to Rayford to find that the tiny airport in Ptolemai’s was not only closed and unmanned but also dark. He had neither the light power nor the confidence to land on an unlit runway with a plane as powerful and tricky as the Gulfstream. He overflew the airfield a few times, not wanting to draw attention to himself, then headed south about twenty-five miles to Kozani and its larger airport. It too was closed, but one runway remained lit for emergencies and private cargo carriers. Rayford watched a wide-body international delivery craft put down, waited until it had taxied toward the colossal commercial hangars, then set his instruments for landing.
He didn’t know how he would get hold of Laslos or find a ride to Ptolemai’s.
Perhaps he would be close enough to use his phone without relying on satellite technology. He hated to bother the Mikloses at this hour, but he’d done it before. They always understood. In fact, it seemed they loved the intrigue of the underground, Mrs. Miklos as much as Lukas.
Rayford was strangely calm as he descended into Kozani. He believed he had made intimate contact with God during the flight, had communicated more directly, and felt more personally connected to heaven than he had in ages. This had come when Rayford finally heeded the Scripture “Be still, and know that I am God.” After months of rationalizing, self-defense, and raking matters into his own hands, he had finally given up and sought God.
His first overwhelming emotion was shame. God had entrusted him, a brand-new believer, with a scope of leadership. God had used the gifts he had bestowed on Rayford to direct the little band of believers that had become known as the Tribulation Force.
Smarter people were in the Force, Rayford knew, including his own daughter and son-in-law. And where on earth was a more brilliant mind than that of Tsion Ben-Judah? And yet they all naturally looked to Rayford for leadership. He had not sought it, nor did he hoard it.
But he had been willing. And as the Force grew, so did his responsibility. But though his capacity could have expanded with the scope of his charge, the illogical had invaded. The man who had prided himself on his pragmatism found himself living by his emotions.
At first, becoming attuned to his emotions had been revelatory. It had allowed him to care deeply for his daughter, to really grieve over the loss of his wife and son, and to understand how much he had loved them. It had allowed him to see himself for who he was, to understand his need for forgiveness, to come to Christ.
But, understandably, Rayford had found it difficult to balance his emotion and his intellect. No one could argue that he had been through more than his share of loss and trauma in three and a half years. But the emotion necessary to round him out as a new believer somehow overrode the levelheaded temperament that made him a natural leader. Never one for psychobabble, when Rayford opened himself to God that night, in his spirit he saw his failure for what it was: sin.
He had become selfish, angry, vengeful. He had tried to take God’s place as defender and protector of the Tribulation Force. In the process, he had left them more vulnerable than ever to danger. As Rayford dared peek at himself in that spiritual mirror, he hated what he saw.
Here was a man who had been wholly grateful to God for his forgiveness and love and salvation, now living as a maverick. He still called himself a believer. But what had happened to his dependence upon God, upon the counsel of his friends and relatives and spiritual mentors? What had happened to his love for the Bible and prayer, and for the guidance he had once found there? As God seemed to shine the light of truth into his soul, Rayford pleaded for forgiveness, for restoration. Had his rage been sin? No, that didn’t compute. The Scriptures counseled, “Be angry, and do not sin,” so the anger itself was not wrong. What he did as a result of it clearly was.
He had become consumed by rage and had allowed it to interfere with his relationship to God and to those he loved.
Rayford had become isolated, living out his private ambitions. He had fought to see through his tears as God showed him his very self in its rawest state. “I’ll understand,” he prayed, “if I have disqualified myself from any role with the Trib Force,” but God did not seem to confirm that. All Rayford felt was an overwhelming hunger and thirst for the Bible and for instruction. He wanted to pray like this from now on, to constantly be in touch with God as he had been when he first became a believer. What that meant to his role as head of the Tribulation Force, he didn’t know. More important was getting back to the basics, getting back to God.
Rayford found the cargo plane crew busy with their own work as he taxied a quarter of a mile north to park the Gulfstream. They barely looked up as he hurried past on foot, his bag slung over his shoulder as if he were headed somewhere specific. As soon as he emerged from the airfield’s gated entrance and found a dark spot between road lamps, he phoned the Mikloses’ home.
Mrs. Miklos answered on the first ring.
“This is your friend from America,” he said, and she immediately switched from Greek to her very limited English.
“Say code so I know,” she said.
Code? He didn’t remember any code. Maybe that was something among the local believers. “Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah,” he said.
“That not code,” she said, “but I know voice. Saw on television.”
“You did? Me?”
“Yes. Did you shoot Carpathia?”
Rayford’s mouth went dry. So the cameras had caught him. “No!” he said. “At least I don’t think so. I didn’t mean to. What are they saying?”
“Fingerprints,” she said. “On gun.”
Rayford shook his head. He had been so certain that if he shot Carpathia he would be immediately captured or killed that he had not even worried about fingerprints.
He hadn’t considered escaping. Some criminal be was! Why didn’t he think to wipe the handle on his robe before dropping the weapon? “Are they showing my face?”
He told her where he was and asked if Laslos was there.
“No. With our shepherd. Praying for you.”
“I don’t want to compromise you,” he said. “I’ll just fly on to America.”
“Don’t know compromise,” she said.
“Ah, sorry. Give you away. Get you in trouble. Be seen with you.”
“Laslos would not leave you alone,” she said. “I tell him. He call you.”
Rayford hated the idea of jeopardizing Greek believers, but Laslos’s English was better than his wife’s, so perhaps Rayford would have an easier time dissuading him from becoming involved. He gave her the number and settled in to wait for the call in the shadows of the shrubbery off the makeshift road that led north out of the airport.
Upstairs in Rosenzweig’s massive house, Buck used the flashlight sparingly as he searched for any sign of Chaim.
From outside he heard noises in the underbrush that paralyzed him. He held his breath and crept to the window, peering down while desperate to stay out of sight.