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The base seemed impenetrable. Rafe looked at the tall fences and marveled at how well they’d built the place. American ingenuity was working against them, he thought ironically.
Captain Laurie had led them to the back where he and the rest who escaped had gone through. But it seemed that the terrorists had discovered the vulnerable spot of their makeshift prison.
There was now a couple of men on guard at the chain-link fence Captain Laurie had cut. Rafe waited to see if there were any other men on patrol and was relieved to see that there weren’t. He motioned over to the Captain and signaled for the rest of the men to wait.
Rafe moved swiftly but packed a lot of force as he jumped one guard. He knew the Captain had also surprised the other one. In a matter of minutes, they had the terrorists subdued and disarmed.
They quickly moved to enter the base and free the prisoners. Rafe was surprised to see that the Brotherhood had indeed used technology more than brute force. While they had to shoot down a few guards, there weren’t as many as one would expect from a base being used as a prison.
“We have to cut the power first,” Rafe instructed as he saw smartphones attached to the prisoners.
“They must’ve done that when we escaped,” the other man observed.
“Get ready to get them out as soon as I cut the power,” Rafe whispered. The door to where the prisoners were being held could only be opened with an access card. If they forced it open, it would send an alarm, and the terrorists might detonate the phones.
Rafe didn’t wait for an answer. He took off down the hallway where they had just taken down two guards. Now, where would the control room be? Or had he just watched too many Bond movies? Maybe all he needed to do was find the fuse box. But where?
He turned a corner and caught one of the terrorists by surprise. The other man had apparently not been expecting to run into anybody as he had his assault rifle hanging on his side instead of aimed forward.
Both of them stood rooted to the spot for what seemed like forever. But Rafe knew that it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds. His own gun was still holstered at his side.
Rafe almost chuckled. It must be the adrenaline in his blood that had his brain working overtime. He felt like he was in the Wild West. It was now a matter of who could draw his gun first.
He stared at the man who stood in front of him. The harder Rafe looked, the more he realized how young the other man was. He was actually more a boy than a grown man. He couldn’t be more than sixteen, almost the same age as Rafe’s son Noel.
“You don’t have to do this,” he said softly.
There was no reply from the boy who had a determined look on his face. But Rafe noticed how his hands trembled.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Rafe said it as gently as he could. “What’s your name?”
“Am-Amrit.” The boy’s voice broke.
“Amrit. I’m Rafe. Tell you what… I’ll just reach for my gun and set it down on the floor… okay?”
The boy nodded but reached for his gun as well. Rafe knew Amrit was watching his every move. He slowly pulled his gun out of the holster, and just as slowly he placed it on the floor. “Your turn,” he said, nodding in the direction of the automatic rifle.
Rafe felt like his heart would jump out of his chest. Shooting this boy would be nothing like shooting those men in the mountain. This was a confused young man who deserved to be given another chance. He prayed that he could convince Amrit to join him.
But just as Amrit was about to reach for his rifle to put it on the floor as Rafe had done, a radio clipped to his belt sounded. A voice spoke in Arabic. Rafe had no idea what was said, but whatever it was seemed to clear up Amrit’s mind.
Gone was the confused and frightened look on the boy’s face. It was replaced with an angry expression. He glared at Rafe and aimed the rifle. The older man acted quickly.
Rafe found himself diving for the gun he had placed on the floor and rolling on the floor to dodge the bullets Amrit fired at him. He got on his feet, and despite his conviction that he would not kill the boy, Rafe raised his gun to shoot.
Pulling the trigger was probably the hardest thing he ever had to do. He felt the gun discharge and watched as Amrit’s body stiffened. He had a surprised look on his face as he raised his arm to touch the wound on his chest. In a matter of seconds, the boy lay sprawled on the floor, his eyes open in a blank stare.
Rafe dropped his gun. He knew it was a foolish thing to do as there were probably other terrorists just around the corner. He walked slowly to where Amrit lay. He swore he would make the monster who used boys to fight his war pay for this. And to do that, he would have to finish what he came there to do.
“Where do I find that main power switch?” He asked himself. He looked up and saw a sign on the wall with an arrow. He grimaced at how simple it was to actually find it. “Why don’t you follow the sign that says ‘electrical room,’ Rafe?” he murmured to himself.
He got to the electrical room with no more unexpected encounters. Turning off the main switch was also quick. Now all he had to do was get the hell out of there.
Rafe felt like he could run a marathon. He had so much energy left for his sprint out the base. He had run into a few more guards. He closed his eyes as he remembered how most of them were the same age as that boy Amrit. When he had finally gotten out, he was relieved to find Captain Laurie and the rest of his men waiting just outside the fence.
On the drive to the Pentagon, Keith had radioed them to let them know that they had successfully taken the weapons they needed. They also blew out the power plant that supplied energy to the White House.
In only a matter of minutes, they made it to the Pentagon. Now, he stood in a room that only very few people knew about, and he was about to give the order to do something no American President should ever have to give.
“Sir?” General Priestly, one of the top-ranking soldiers he rescued was looking at him and waiting for an answer.
Rafe looked at the building that was the symbol of his country’s government, displayed on the screen. It had served as the home of the President for centuries, and in only a few minutes, he would be the one to end that proud tradition.
He kept reminding himself that it was just a building. His country’s legacy was more than just bricks and stones. The White House could be rebuilt; what he needed to do was save his people.
“Rafe,” Keith whispered. The younger man was standing next to him and, like the others, was waiting for his decision. “In a few seconds, the power in the White House will be back up. Bakirin will be able to control the phones again.”
Rafe nodded. He understood it needed to be done, but the decision still weighed heavily on him. How many more of the terrorists inside the White House were boys brainwashed into thinking that war was the only solution?
He thought about his sons. What if the tables had been turned? What if they were the ones fighting for their beliefs? He dreaded having to kill more innocent children.
“The men at the base… the men of the Brotherhood… they were just teenagers.” Rafe turned to Keith, who had a determined look on his face. “Is this what the world has been reduced to? Sending children to be slaughtered?”
“We can’t save them, Rafe. They’ve been conditioned to see us as the enemy,” Keith reasoned.
“But shouldn’t we… shouldn’t we at least try…” It was more of a plea rather than a question.
“Those children will not hesitate to kill you if they have the chance. I know it sounds terrible, but there’s no going back for them… Rafe, they’re a lost cause. If we don’t do this now, children – the ones who are innocent, the ones who don’t carry guns- they’re the ones we need to save.”
Rafe thought about Amrit and how the boy had been so close to putting his weapon down. He’d seen the terrified look in the eyes of that boy… but he also saw the murderous glaze that came over them when he’d heard the voice on the radio. Keith was right.
“Engage,” he said sadly.
General Priestly hit a switch. Everybody in the room stood staring at the screen. They were all frozen on the spot. It was as if nobody dared to breathe until it was over…
Then it happened. The white domed building that had stood so proudly nestled in the center of the Capitol exploded. It was a direct hit. The Capitol building and the terrorists who dishonored it were gone. He heard somebody in the back sob. He knew the rest of the people in the room were barely holding back their tears.
Rafe collapsed into a nearby chair. He was grieving for the lives lost. For the men and the boys of the Brotherhood that had been misled into this war. He grieved for those they could not save.
“Do we have a signal on Abdul Aleem’s phone?” he asked General Priestly, who has now busy working on the controls.
“He’s a few minutes outside of Toulouse.” The reply was quick.
“I want to see.” Rafe’s voice was firm. He wanted to see the monster who was responsible for all the deaths.
He looked up at the screen where a satellite image of a building was shown. That’s where the bastard who started all this was. A man who had cost millions of people their lives and for a reason that was known to no one but him.
“Missile aimed and ready to engage, sir.” General Priestly relayed.
“Are we sure he’s there?”
“Yes, sir. Surveillance captured him entering the building.”
“I want to see that image,” he ordered.
One of the other screens changed images. Rafe watched the man in the recorded video. The face was blurred. The monk had said that the wolf would be in sheep’s clothing. He studied the image. He wore a bisht, which seemed odd to Rafe.
“Are we sure that’s him?”
“Yes, sir. We were able to intercept a call between him and Bakirin earlier.”
Rafe stared at the man’s face, willing himself to be able to see more. “He looks… Caucasian,” he observed.
Keith walked closer and nodded. “Our Intel says he’s half Middle Eastern and half European.”
Rafe kept looking at the face. It seemed familiar, but because the image was blurred; he couldn’t make out where he’d seen the man.
“Sir?” General Priestly prodded.
This decision was easier than the one before. Without even a falter in his voice he gave the order. “Engage!”
When the building on the screen exploded, the entire room cheered. There were no tears for this target. Nobody to grieve for that bastard. Rafe looked around and saw people hugging and patting each other on the back.
There was no sadness for this attack. They did it. His only regret was that he wasn’t the one who personally killed that psycho.
It was over.
Keith walked over to him and stretched out his hand. “Congratulations, sir! How about we get your family home now?”