Castling, Part 5

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh." — 2 Corinthians 10:3

APRIL 9, 2000

The laughter of children lilted through the late morning air like birdsong. Alice was playing soccer with a number of Palestinian children from the village, while her father sat watching her, smiling. Sitting across the table from him, an Iranian man watched as well, looking peaceful. "The laughter of a child is a thing of beauty, is it not?"

"It does have a way of inspiring hope in the otherwise hopeless," offered Kilroy. He paused a moment, then added, "You don't seem like the type to have much use for children, Bijhan."

"These children are the future of Palestine," he retorted. "It is the belief of the Iranian people that they should live in a state all their own."

"Always politics with you," huffed Kilroy.

"Not always," said Bijhan, "but often."

Kilroy chuckled once under his breath, then said, "Enough smalltalk. Do you have the information I need?"

"I might," said Bijhan. "It depends on what you've got for me in return."

"Well," said Kilroy, "I had planned on picking you up a little something in Tel Aviv, but unfortunately that trip was cut short by mitigating circumstances. However…" His voice trailed off, and he pulled out Wallace's wallet, still holding the business card for Marshal, Carter and Dark, and slid it towards Bhijan.

The Iranian examined the contents of the wallet thoroughly. "Oh, yes," he said, finally, "this will do nicely. The IRG has been trying to get into this club for years, but they always manage to have better intelligence than us. These documents will go a long way towards turning the tables on the Imperialists."

"Then we have a trade," said Kilroy.

Bijhan nodded, pulling out a folder from his briefcase and sliding it to Kilroy. "We have a trade."

Kilroy picked up the folder, glancing only at the cover, not wishing to appear rude by examining the contents in from of Bijhan. He nodded once. "A pleasure as always," he said, standing.

"Likewise," confirmed Bijhan, leaning back slightly.

"Alice!" Kilroy shouted as he headed towards the throng of children. "Time to go, scout."


"Bastard," said Bright, picking the shrapnel out of his mangled left breast, "and just when I was getting used to this fucking body, too."

"You're lucky you only lost a mammary," said Professor Kain, patching the lighter wounds on the girl's body. "Getting double-teamed by both MC&D operatives and the Russian military isn't exactly odds I'd bet on."

"That's why you're not the Site bookie and I am," quipped back Bright. "Incidentally, are breast implants covered in the employee insurance plan?"

"Gentlemen," said Gears, "it would behoove you to keep your casual conversation to a minimum. This development is, to put it mildly, unfortunate. Underestimating Entity Kilroy once is inexcusable enough, but twice, particularly considering the loss of manpower and equipment, is positively embarrassing."

"How would you know?" mumbled Bright. "It's not like you've ever experienced the emotion of embarrassment."

"Zip it, Bright," said Kain, tightening a bandage around a wound a little more than he ought to.

"The salient point," continued Gears unabated, "is that Entity Kilroy is far and away more resourceful than we have been giving him due credit for. Unless one of you has another viable option, I'm going to authorize Termination Preset Seventeen."

"Please, feel free," said Bright. "I'd be tickled to see that little snotnose try to protect his daughter from that."

"I'm extremely wary of this proposal, Gears," said Kain. "You know how O5 feels about using one item to capture another. If anything goes wrong, we lose them both."

"I have O5's complete support," answered Gears simply.

"And your own totally unbiased perspective, as well," quipped Bright with a shit-eating grin.

"Hush, Bright," scowled Kain. "Though he does have a point, Gears."

Gears looked at both of them coldly. "The application of Termination Preset Seventeen is not open to debate in or of itself. If you have no other viable strategies to offer, Professor Kain, I will authorize engagement."

Kain sighed. "Under duress, I admit having no alternatives at present."

"Very well," said Gears. He pressed a button on his intercom, and spoke into it. "Open the box."


"I don't think I like this place," said Alice. They were stepping very carefully through a series of catacombs under the city. A dankness permeated the air, and the stench of bog and peat hung heavy in their nostrils.

"I know, sweetie," said Kilroy, waving his flashlight in the direction of the next pathway. "It's kind of creepy. But we'll be out of here soon."

"How do you know this is where the sword is?" asked Alice.

"Mister Bijhan gave me a map of sorts," said Kilroy. "You see, Yatta was originally the biblical city of Juttah, the home of John the Baptist's parents. One of the original tribes of Israel still has descendants here; they were verified by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi in the 1950s, who was President of Israel at the time." He hopped over a small chasm, holding Alice's hand as she did the same. "What's not commonly known is that John the Baptist's mother, Elizabeth, was present at the birth of Jesus. There were complications during the birth, as Mary and Joseph were very poor and couldn't afford a proper doctor. Elizabeth knew about certain secret surgical techniques used by the Pharisees, due to her marriage to Zechariah. She was responsible for performing the Caesarean section that allowed Mary to give birth to Jesus. In fact, the legend of Jesus being a divine birth originally comes from this story. It was virtually unheard of for a mother to survive the procedure, but Mary did just that."

"I don't understand what this has to do with a sword," said Alice.

"That's just it," replied Kilroy, "there is no sword."

Alice wrinkled up her brow in confusion for a moment, then her eyes lit up with understanding. "I get it!" she exclaimed. "The Sword of Zion is the scalpel Elizabeth used!"

Kilroy smiled and nodded. "Very good," he said. "And so, if this is where Elizabeth lived…"

His history lesson was cut short by a large portion of the ceiling giving way near them. Kilroy pulled Alice near to him, shielding her from the rubble, and drew his pistol, aiming it at the young man now laying on the pile of broken stone masonry.

"Ow," he said.

Interlude: Shoulda' Stayed in Dubai
Continued in Part 6

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