Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chapter Eleven

Paris, France
Sunday, November 15
1:00 p.m., Local Time

Andre D’Tiene sat on the leather couch of his tenth story Paris penthouse and looked out over the Champs De Elysees. Beautifully manicured trees lined the lanes of the avenue. Cyclists filled the streets, scores of Sunday pedestrians traversed the broad walks in an orderly flow. Everyone moved toward, or flowed away from the distant Arc de Triomphe standing backlit by the noonday sun. He’d never grown beyond a profound awe at the vista. It saddened him to think that he was just days away from tendering his resignation as the President of the Republic of France. However, in order to take the reigns of the Mediterranean Union, the resignation was demanded. The immense power he would be gaining was worth the exchange, even though he would miss Paris immensely.
The Union was growing in strength at an astonishing rate, far beyond his original projections when the idea first materialized in his mind six months earlier. The calamitous events in America and Israel were the primer to that surge. Every economy of the world had been uniquely tied to the dollar, with only the Euro having given it a run for its proverbial money. But with the collapse of the American financial system the dollar had lost most of his historic impetus. In fact, it had contracted so much it would soon be unsustainable in value. Inflation in the United States was soaring into the stratosphere. With an unimaginable national debt, America had lost complete control over its currency. In effect, the United States had ceased to exist as a world power, and its weak President did not have the knowledge or backbone to halt the downward spiral.
America had become the epicenter of a domino effect. The next to teeter were the Asian markets, those that held the bulk of American debt in their greed-dripping hands. Their fall was imminent simply because the United States could no longer keep pace with even the interest accrued on trillions of dollars worth of IOUs. Since the gold standard had been removed in the early 1970’s, all that America had was the almighty dollar, and real estate. The dollar was spent and dying! Five nuclear detonations, with the threat of further terrorist attacks, had effectively eliminated real estate as a foundation of wealth.
The European Union was also suffering. Simply put, Europe no longer had a basis for competition. With few natural commodities such as oil, natural gas, and fossil fuels, no ability to barter beyond the Euro remained. It would not be long before the current financial crises converted the EU into fractured segments. Unity would never again be achieved.
Russia had maintained itself through two decades of internal economic strife, only to reemerge economically with a new czarist, totalitarian-style government. Finally learning to exploit its own vast resources, Russia now controlled two-thirds of the world’s supply of energy. Soviet-styled world domination was back in its sights. Having mastered the ability to manipulate the Arabs, the Russians were again a force to be reckoned with.
D’Tiene’s trump card was Israel. The entire world was focused on that narrow strip of land. It seemed everyone desired to possess it. Why? D’Tiene thought to himself.
He had no clear answer, but taking possession of the world’s epicenter was quickly becoming his obsession as well. Maybe it was the Jewish genes dangling from his DNA. Maybe it was an innate knowledge that the key to controlling the world began by taming the religions birthed on Temple Mount. This grasp for control would be consummated by whoever possessed the ultimate artifact, the Ark of the Covenant. Winning the race to uncover the Ark’s whereabouts would be his ticket to global domination and peace.
So far, he’d played his hand brilliantly. Creating an international consortium that was patterned after the long-dead Roman Empire had been his first achievement. Uniting nations that had been snubbed by the world with those which held historic prestige had been a stroke of genius. For the first time in a millennium, Italy, Spain, and France were working in equal partnership with the nations of North Africa. Turkey was on the verge of stepping fully into the union, even though they were in a quasi military partnership with the Russian coalition. All that remained was the consolidation of the splintered Balkan states and the eventual inclusion of the remnants of Syria. The Union would soon have eleven nations that encompassed the Mediterranean Sea. Israel would have no choice but to accept the MU’s offer to become its overlord.
That inevitability stemmed from another of D’Tiene’s many achievements. He’d forged of a relationship with Yosef Naftali, the hard-nosed Israeli Prime Minister. Naftali had come to power in the wake of the dividing of Israel to the Palestinians, and although the man had no desire to overturn what had been done, he would stand for no more ceding of territory to terrorists.
The hook that D’tiene had used to snag Naftali was the offer to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Work remained to be done, but D’tiene was absolutely confident that he would find a way for the Temple Mount to be shared by both Muslims and Jews. Perhaps it would be something as simple as constructing a wall between the Dome of the Rock and a rebuilt Temple. It would probably require a certain amount of sabotage, something he was prepared to instigate. Time would tell. One thing was certain, with the Temple as his trump D’tiene could pull Naftali’s strings just as a puppeteer works a marionette.
The intangible in all his plans for Israel was the Ark. If he could find it before the Israelis, the world would see him as the ultimate broker of peace. He would be the savior of worldwide Judaism by simply returning it to its rightful owner. His desired position of benevolent mediator between the religions would be sealed. All that was required was that he be the discoverer of the Ark’s location. For this purpose, a man had been keeping tight surveillance upon Israel’s best hope in the race, Doctor Hannah Lira. Her face now filled D’Tiene’s thoughts. She was the counterpart in the race that he must win.
Just then, the phone jarred D’tiene from his musings. He answered on the before the third ring.
“One moment,” he said, and then punched a series of numbers that engaged a scrambler device. “Go ahead, we are secure.”
“Sir, all participants are in place.”
“Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in an area known as the Nazir Fields,” a low voice reported.
“Can you breach the security and get a look at what is happening?”
“That remains to be seen, but I believe we have a few days to make an attempt. I want to do it right and avoid every risk of discovery. We lost a man at Jerusalem University and I wish not to lose another.”
“Very well. When you become aware of the target location, call me.”
“Understood, Mister President.”
The line went dead and D’tiene went back to his thoughts. Naftali had set the ball in motion. A commando team had been established to recover the Ark, meaning the Israeli leader had a strong indication of its whereabouts. The game was fast approaching the pivotal moment. It was a game that D’tiene was determined to win.

The Fields of Nazir Training Grounds
Sunday, 2:00 p.m. Local Time

Ben leaned forward with his hands resting on his knees and wretched. His body was being taxed to the limit and had finally reacted with violence. He was also somewhat embarrassed. He hadn’t lost a lunch since his days of basic training as a teenager. It made little difference that two other members of the team had done the same over the course of the last hour.
As sweat dripped from his forehead, Ben focused on the ache in his heart. He was missing his wife and his ministry. By now, they would have enjoyed a time of worship and be breaking bread together. If he’d only said no to Ari Goins, Zev Tolberg, and their quest to find the Ark, he could be eating with his people instead of trying to keep his food in his stomach.
Finally, Ben was able stand and recover. As he did he looked into the sky. A pair of vultures soared high above the hilly terrain. He wondered if they might be waiting for the demise of an old soldier gone soft. The second day of mission training was confirming that he was half the man he used to be, at least in stamina. It also shouted that his was twice the man in volume.
He looked ahead to where the rest of the team were beginning to climb a wall of netting and mumbled. “Lord, what have I gotten myself into?”
Just then, Ben felt the weight of a huge hand on his back. He was suddenly being propelled forward. “Come on, preacher, we have a wall to climb.” Ari Goins was fully engaged in the workout while wearing a sadistic grin. “Think about it this way, you have more room in your belly for the evening meal.”
Ben didn’t have enough air in his lungs to offer an appropriate response. All he could do was gasp. One thing was certain, though he wished he were back with the people he loved so dearly, not an ounce of quit would ever be found in his character. His body may be screaming for relief, but his heart was big enough to drive him forward, at least until he stopped at the next obstacle.
He watched for a moment as Ari reached the base of the twenty foot wall and grabbed a handful of rope to begin his ascent. The big man made it seem so easy. Wiping the sweat from his eyes with his sleeve, Ben asserted his will and pressed forward. Knowing his team had a race to win before time ran out provided at least momentary motivation to drive him through the pain of the day.

Jimmy Root Jr
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