Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chapter Forty-two thru Epilogue


Mount Quarnat as Asawda
Friday, November 27
6:00 a.m.

General Telnikov felt the heavy thump given off by the rotors of a gunship just seconds before he heard the whine of the engine. He did not have to guess the purpose of the visit. The reaction of his leaders had been quicker than he’d thought.
Telnikov removed the pistol from his belt, dropped the clip from the butt, and ejected the chambered round. At this stage in the situation, there was little point in resisting the inevitable. He laid the gun on his desk, donned his field jacket, and stepped out to meet his fate.
Four Russian military policemen jumped from the large, M-8 Hip transport helicopter and stepped to the side. Lieutenant General, Evgeni Malkin, Telnikov’s immediate subordinate in the 7th Armored Division, exited the transport.
There was no salute, no greeting. The MPs moved alongside Telnikov as Malkin smirked at him. “Anatoly, what have you done?”
No answer was required nor offered.
“General Telnikov, I relieve you of your command. You are under arrest,” Malkin stated with no emotion. “Follow me! We must put an end to this catastrophe.”
As Malkin led Telnikov into the communications trailer, the general confusion register on his men’s faces.
“Report!” Malkin shouted.
Yuri Ovanskaya stepped forward and saluted General Malkin, but his eyes were fixed on his commander. “Sir, our forces are currently in moderate to heavy firefights with the Libyans to the west and the Turkish Army to the east. So far, casualties are light.”
“What about the Iranians?” Malkin fumed.
“Sir, the Iranians are fully engaged with the Israeli’s fifteen kilometers west of the Euphrates River. We just administered our fourth salvo of SS-21 missiles, and our MiG 29s and 31s continue to target their command and communications.”
“Issue the order to cease all operations against our allies!”
“Sir, we are in secured communications mode. Our battalion commanders will require the code,” Yuri explained.
Malkin turned to Telnikov and pointed him toward the radio.
Telnikov smiled but stood firm.

Jewish Quarter
6:15 a.m.

The plume of a large explosion lit up the northern section of the Temple Mound. Ben had no idea who’d set it off, but the blast emanated from somewhere near the Qubbet Suleiman Mosque. Most likely, the Arab mob was formed somewhere in mosque’s vicinity and was destroying the remaining remnants of everything Jewish.
A string of grunts came from the stairwell. Ben turned and saw Gilad step out. Next, Ari Goins stuck his head through the opening. His face reflected an extreme level of exertion as he strained to haul up one end of the Ark. Both Gilad and Ben rushed to relieve the big man of his burden and pull the Ark from the well.
“Be careful with the figures. They will barely fit through the door,” Ari puffed as he fought to regain his breath.
Ben reached down with one hand and placed it over the head of the closest Cherubim. “Go, Zev, we’ve got it. Push the Ark up gently.”
Inch by inch, the three men maneuvered the Ark of the Covenant through the opening and into the room. They sat it on the rug that had covered the door and then began to receive the packs of equipment. The other members of the group soon followed carrying the weapons.
“Okay, here’s the situation,” said Ben once they were all gathered. “I believe a large crowd has formed near the Suleiman Mosque. They seem to be intent on destroying whatever they can find at that end of the Mount. If we are going to get the Ark up the Bab en-Nahdir gate, we are going to need a diversion.”
“What do you suggest,” asked Ari.
“We still have plenty of C-4. Gilad and I can make our way to the minaret at the northwest corner of the Mount and place the explosives. We’ll do it with timers and make our way back before we set off the bomb. The rest of you should do your best to get the Ark to the top while it is still dark. There are cedar trees all along the plateau where you can hide.”
Ari looked at Zev. “Sounds like a plan.”
“Let’s do it,” Hannah agreed.
“One thing,” Ben paused. “I want the professor and the pomen to stay here in this room. We can leave weapons and ammo with Ty and Moshe. The guys can protect them until we return.” Ben glanced at Ty. He then opened his arm for his wife who was already making her way toward him.
“Do you know how to use one of these?” Moshe asked Ty.
“Yes, just have someone give me a quick lesson in its operation and I’ll be fine.”
Ben and Ingrid moved away from the group to a corner.
“I am so afraid,” she tucked her head into Ben’s chest.
“Listen, I’m afraid too. So is everyone else, but everything is going to be okay.”
“O Ben, I can’t lose you.”
“Sweet heart, you won’t.” Ben wrapped his arms tightly around his wife and quietly prayed for peace and protection. “Honey, it’s time I get to work. Stay close to Moshe and Ty, okay?”
“I love you,” she cried.
“And I love you.”
Ben moved over to Gilad and helped him gather the remaining blocks of C-4, a timer, and a detonator.
Gilad looked at his partner, but said nothing. He understood the pain coursing through Ben’s heart. With a nod, the two headed out the door and into the shadows.
In the meantime, Moshe gave Ty instructions on how to use the Tavor and the grenades. He then fitted Ty with an earpiece and microphone given to him by Ari. A pistol was also handed to Professor Aveneri. As a natural born Israeli, he too had served time in the IDF and could still use a gun.

Mount Quarnat as Asawda
Same Time

The standoff continued. General Malkin stood holding his pistol to Telnikov’s temple, and Telnikov remained silent.
“You do not believe I will pull this trigger, do you Anatoly?”
“Nyet,” chuckled Telnikov. “Evgeni, you know my commanders need to hear the pass code. You will not shoot.”
Malkin spit at the floor in anger. He then lowered the weapon and held it to Telnikov’s kneecap. Telnikov closed his eyes and pictured his grandmother’s face as Malkin pulled the trigger.
General Telnikov fell to the floor in anguish. Yuri Ovanskaya, thinking to offer aide to his commander, was stopped dead in his tracks as Malkin aimed the gun at his face. “Step back or you will die where you stand.”
Ovanskaya complied.
Telnikov held his knee tightly with both hands, not only to succor the pain, but to staunch the flow of blood. A gaping wound was all that evidenced any existence of a patella. Malkin bent and placed the tip of the gun’s barrel beside the general’s elbow.
“Do you wish me to continue, or shall I slowly dismember you with 40 caliber bullets?”
There was a day when Telnikov would have responded in the most venomous hatred possible, but something in him had been transformed. No ill will existed, only peace.

Temple Mount
6:45 a.m.

Darkness still covered the Ben en-Nadhir gates as Ben climbed the steps and passed through its arch. The faint glow of dawn was becoming noticeable in the east as he spotted the team among a stand of cedars. He noticed the Ark, now uncovered, and how even the fading light of the stars reflected off the polished gold. The two long poles had been slid through the Ark’s rings making the object appear truly Biblical in glory. In just a few strides he was back with the commandos.
Gilad came quietly to a stop beside him and pulled out the detonator. “Are we ready?” he whispered.
“Do it,” Ari nodded.
The blast was deafening. The outline that had been an ancient minaret, built by the Suleiman of Syria hundreds of year ago, crumbled into a pile of dust and debris at the north end of the Mount. The crowd, still circling around the Qubbet, screamed its outrage in a united voice. The entire mob moved swiftly toward the fallen tower and further away from the Israelis.
“Now,” Zev commanded.
Ben and Gilad manned the poles in the rear while Zev and Ari took the front. They lifted the Ark together and began the last push to compete the mission. Hannah, with her Tavor assault rifle sweeping from side to side, led them south toward the Dome of the Spirits.
Moshe and Ty stood beside the window watching and listening through their earpieces. They listened to the order for the team to move across the plateau, but had heard nothing for several seconds.
“Oh no,” Moshe said as he pointed up the street.
Ty looked in that direction. What he saw sent a chill down his spine. The group of armed Arabs that had passed by earlier was now returning. They were headed for the stairway of the Ben en-Nadhir Gate.
“Our guys will be caught from behind,” said Ty. “We’ve got to do something!”
Moshe reached up and touched the activator to the front of his earpiece. “Ben, you are about to have company at your six. An armed group is almost to the gate.”
Ty didn’t know what made him do it, but he cocked his weapon and readied a spare clip in his pocket.
Blake saw the move and immediately understood what he was thinking. “No, Ty!’ she said as she reached for him. “Don’t!”
Ty ran his hand down her long hair and bent to kiss her. “I have to, babe.” He gave her a wink and smile, and then headed out the door before Moshe could stop him.
Ingrid and Tasha held tightly to Blake to keep her from following her husband.
“Moshe, help him!” Ingrid shouted through her tears.
They had all received Moshe’s transmission over the radio. Without a word, and in a single motion, the team lowered the Ark of the Covenant. They quickly formed a fire-line between it and the doorway of the Ben en-Nadhir Gate. Sporadic stands of Cedar trees offered cover, but none of them wanted to leave the Ark in danger of being taken, so they remained out in the open and in great danger.
Moshe caught Ty just before he bounded up the stairs. “Slow down a bit. I have only one good arm, remember?
“Sorry. We can’t let these goons trap our people.”
“We won’t, but we can’t be crazy about this either. Now, let’s do this together. Ready?”
The two men began to climb, creating as little noise as possible. Looking upward, they saw the last of the mob as it passed through the gate.

A dozen Arabs, armed with Uzi machine pistols, moved onto the Temple Mount. But their gaze was fixed toward the northern sector where the minaret had been destroyed. It was only the last man of the group that happened to scan towards the fallen Dome of the Rock. He immediately saw the shinning gold of the Ark. And then he recognized five people, dressed in commando black, pointing weapons directly at him.
A shout brought the entire gang back toward the Israelis. Once they understood who was facing them, a non-stop barrage of gunfire was released.
Ben’s Kevlar vest stopped the first bullet, but another penetrated his jacket and passed through the flesh of his left shoulder. The impact dropped him to his side on the ground. Ari grunted as a round struck him in the thigh. His femur was shattered. But it was the sharp intake of breath from Hannah that made the world stand still.

Ty dove to the hard surface of the mount after he passed through the gate. Moshe took a kneeling position behind the first Cedar he came to. Spread out in front of them, firing their weapons with abandon, were a dozen Arabs. Ty spotted the Ark and the black figures protecting it, but three of those figures were laid out on the ground. He recognized one of prone figures as Pastor Ben.
Raising his weapon to eye level, Ty began to methodically drill the attackers from behind. Four dropped almost immediately. Moshe peppered another two before the Arabs realized they were caught in a crossfire.
Once the Arabs turned to face the new threat, Zev and Gilad let loose a string of staccato gunfire and finished off attackers.
Moshe ran to Ben and examined the wound. Ty dropped down beside Ari only to see that the big man was bleeding profusely and beginning to lose consciousness.
Zev and Gilad knelt by the lifeless body of Hannah Lira. She had been killed instantly by a bullet to her forehead.

Mount Quarnat as Asawda
6:55 a.m.

Telnikov had won, at least the battle of wills with General Malkin. The man would eventually gain control of Russian forces, but the damage was done. Not only was Israel the enemy of Islam, so now were the Russians. Malkin would be foolish to order a unilateral ceasefire, for neither the Iranians, Turks, or the Libyans would turn from their new jihad. The coalition was now bent on destroying itself.
The general, his wound wrapped tightly in a blood-soaked bandage, was wedged between two military policemen in an M-8 transport helicopter. The machine lifted off the rocky surface of the mountain and into the air over the Bekaa Valley as the first rays of the sun highlighted the peaks of the eastern horizon. The site distracted him from his pain and his fate. Though he knew an executioner’s bullet would be waiting when he landed, for him this would be a glorious day. He felt it in his heart.

Temple Mount
7:00 a.m.

Leaving Ari Goins alone and dying beside the dead body of Hannah Lira was the hardest thing Ben had ever done, but divine urgency had overcome him. The mission had to be completed, even if it meant his death. Moshe had taken Ari’s place in carrying the Ark. Ty had taken his. Now cradling his weapon in his one good arm, Ben led the team across the hard surface of Temple Mount. As the light of the sun illuminated the plateau, he could make out the rectangular depression called the Dome of the Spirits.
“Hurry,” Zev urged from behind. He’d caught site of a writhing mass of people to the north. The throng was moving again after hearing the gun battle. They had spotted the Ark and were coming for it with hatred filling their cries of battle.
Ben turned and leveled his gun at the crowd. “I’ll hold them off,” he shouted as he knelt and took aim. “Get that Ark into place!”
The four men quickened the pace until they were running in perfect step toward their goal.
Ben opened fire on the mob just as his team reached the depression.
Zev and Moshe pivoted first bringing the front of the Ark around to face the eastern sky. Slowly, carefully, the men lowered Israel’s most precious icon onto its rightful pedestal.
With no warning, the men were stricken by a violent wave of compressed air, followed by an incredible flash of light. And then, everything slowed.
Ty knew he was flying backward through the air, but as he flew, the golden Ark of the Covenant held his gaze. From between the bowing Cherubim, a thick shard of lightning materialized and shot high into the sky. Small bolts of lightning separated themselves from the shard and flashed out from Jerusalem in all direction. It was as if each splinter of light was obeying some command. The atmosphere appeared to split in the violence of God’s wrath. Everything seemed to roll back as if huge hands were opening a scroll.
Ty couldn’t tell when or how he’d landed, but he suddenly felt the ground beneath him. The Earth was trembling. He struggled to turn toward the others, but the glory of the Ark would not release his gaze. In his periphery he caught the images of Ben and Moshe doing the same as he. Their mouths were open in awe at what was happening, not understanding any of it. The rioters were also splayed out flat on their backs.
At first, the shock wave from the Ark completely overwhelmed Ty and the men, including their ability to distinguish all other sounds. But strangely, the steady note of a distant trumpet penetrated the fog in their hearing. The more it sounded, the louder and more joyful it became, as if a trumpeter was flying over the eastern hills and drawing ever closer. Then, over the trumpet’s quickening note came the shout of a strong voice. The sound removed every vestige of fear, and their hearts were filled with hope.
Ty was finally able to lower his gaze. The shard of lightning was now a thick column of fire shooting upward into the sky. As he looked around he was astonished to see Ari in the Cedars with his hands raised in the air. His clothes were bloody, but he was standing as if nothing had happened. Beside him, Hannah Lira was also standing upright, completely whole, and weeping with joy. Ty did not understand.
Then, echoes of his mother’s voice filled his mind. “You will live to see the coming of the Lord.” Tears filled his eyes as he realized what was taking place.
Then, without warning, Ty was flying through cloudless skies. Blake was at his side and holding tightly to his hand. She giggled and cried at the same time. Tasha had joined Moshe. Ingrid was wrapped in Ben’s strong arms. And then, high in the stratosphere, they all saw the King of Kings for the very first time.

Over Lebanon
Same Time

The helicopter bucked and jerked causing one Russian MP to look with alarm at the other. Their eyes spoke what their lips could not. What happened to their prisoner? One second he was there, and then he was gone. But then something else stole their attention.
The mountains along the Bekaa Valley began to belch steam and burning ash. Even from their current altitude, the occupants of the helicopter could see the earth shaking with violence.
They heard the scream of the pilot and felt the force of the sharp turn he was attempting. They all looked through the windshield in time to see a molten chunk of earth just before it sent them to a fiery death.

Three Weeks After the Firestorm

Andre D’Tiene peered through the window at destruction so vast it was indescribable. The mountaintops surrounding Israel had exploded. Everywhere he looked earthen rubble co-mingled with the tools of war, most of which continued to smolder and burn. Worse, everything was painted in blood. Even from this altitude, mass accumulations of bodies were visible. Horror so marred the scene that neither he, nor his companions could utter a word. The inexplicable disappearance of millions across the globe only added to the urgency of the moment. The world was in need of a savior, and the title would fall to him. He was ready.
D’Tiene leaned back in his seat as he felt the sharp turn of the large Sikorsky helicopter. They were on the final approach into Jerusalem, but the huge aircraft was not flying towards an airport. Their destination was the Temple Mount, the famous Zion of old. A historic event awaited him, one that would pull the world away from the brink of annihilation.
Again, the leader of the Mediterranean Union glanced out the window as the helicopter flared over the rubble of the Dome of the Rock, its golden splendor gone forever. He leaned forward to improve his view of the northern side of the plateau that once held the first two Jewish Temples.
Dozens of men stood a few yards to the east of a small, rectangular tent. D’Tiene knew what was housed inside. Resting on the Even Shetiyah, the ancient foundation stone of the original Temple was the Ark of the Covenant. A shiver ran down his spine at the thought of the massive power inside that tent. That golden symbol, along with all its power and glory, would soon be his to protect and command.
The wheels of the Sikorsky gently kissed the ground as the pilot spooled down the engines. A uniformed Israeli soldier opened the door, lowered the steps, and saluted. Andre D’Tiene emerged, followed by the nine remaining ambassadors of the Mediterranean Union.
The newly elected Israeli prime minister was there with extended hand and a wide smile to greet the one on whom the hopes of the world would soon be placed. D’Tiene acknowledged the Israeli with a nod, but his eyes were as serious as the enormity of the moment.
No words were exchanged as the two men approached a dais. Upon it were two chairs and a table. On the table was a document, the provisions of which would insure a rebuilt Temple for Israel. The other members of the Union would serve as witnesses.
A wisp of wind floated across the Mount, as if an unseen presence was adding blessing to the new state of peace that was about to sweep the planet.

© Copyright, Jimmy Root, Jr., 2011
Jimmy Root Jr
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