THE BAKER’S DOZEN FICTION STORY

Always a pleasure to connect with other bloggers and writers. Orignal idea by Joe Owens – Joe’s Musings, a few of us decided to jump and create a fiction story. Each writing one of the chapter. I’ll keep this page up, to keep you updated every time there is a new chapter. Also you can find the list of contributors, the links to their blogs and the date they are scheduled to post.

Chapter 1 – by Joe Owens

Forrest Graham drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited for the traffic light to cycle through its pre-programmed circuit. He felt like there had to be a camera pointed at the cars approaching this light because it stopped him every day on the way to work. He knew it could very well be due to the fact he always arrived here within sixty seconds of the same moment every day, but he wanted to believe in the conspiracy idea more.

With a foot on the clutch and another on the brake he revved the engine as if he was ready to tear away as soon as the light gave him freedom. But he wouldn’t, because he never had. No, Forrest was a rule follower and never did anything that would mean trouble. It was something ingrained in him as a child. His father and mother made sure he knew his limits and never exceeded them.

Perhaps this is why Christina or Chrissie had rejected his marriage proposal the evening before. She said she was flattered, but did not think of him as the type of man she would want to spend her life with. Forrest expected her to use some lame line like “it’s not you, it’s me”, but she didn’t. She laid it all on him, making him feel like a waste of flesh.
Forrest ruminated on her words for the hundredth time and only snapped back to reality with the blaring of an air horn behind him. He stared at the rear view mirror which only showed the grill of a large construction truck. Forrest released the brake and drove on toward his office building.

Settling into his desk, he powered on his computer and waited for it to run through its start up routine. A trip to the break room rewarded him with a fresh Danish offered by someone with a birthday bounty, which he combined with a cup of coffee from the community pot. Forrest thought about Angie, the attractive blonde from Accounting who flirted with him every day. Maybe losing Chrissie was meant to be.

He sat back down at his desk and entered the password to start the work day. The e-mail program offered nothing unexpected and he looked forward to concentrating on work to forget about the dismal night before. At least that is what he told himself as he tried to shake the memories out of his consciousness.

A strange little icon appeared in the right corner of his desktop, a square with a circle inside and diamond within the circle. Forrest frowned, because he had just had his laptop returned by the onsite technical service guy for removal of spyware that came with an innocuous looking e-mail. Not wanting to go through this again he right clicked on the icon to delete it. Instead a program launched and filled his screen.

Text quickly filled the screen and began scrolling up at a dizzying speed. Forrest clicked all kinds of keys to try to stop it, but nothing seemed to make any difference. Suddenly another box opened in the middle of the screen atop the scrolling test that said: “YOU HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO EXIT THE BUILDING! DO NOT HESITATE; YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN STOP THEM!”
Forrest blinked several times, re-reading the bold text, not knowing what to think. Five seconds later a timer flashed in the upper right hand corner of the screen and began to count down from five minutes. Forrest looked around for someone who could tell him this was a joke, but something inside told him it wasn’t.

He jumped to his feet and looked at the screen again as it loaded another sentence. He leaned down to read the next words as his heart began to race.

“IF YOU CHERISH ANYONE HERE, TAKE THEM WITH YOU AND RUN. YOU HAVE LESS THAN THREE MINUTES!!!!”

Forrest backed away from the computer with a shuffling of his feet, then turned and ran toward the elevator. He looked at the floor indicator to see both cars on the bottom floor. The door to the stairs made a clattering sound when he burst through it. He scrambled down two flights of stairs and threw the door open to the second floor and the Accounting suite. He sprinted through, looking for Angie, but did no see her anywhere. Feeling as if time was slipping away he turned for the stairs and headed for the exit.

Outside the front door he could see Angie just entering the parking lot. Breathing hard he ran to her car and pounded on her hood as he shook his head. Angie looked at him with an expression of “What gives?”

“We have to leave. Right now! I know it sounds crazy, but trust me. I don’t have time to explain.”

Angie liked Forrest. She had day dreamed of him saying something similar, but not in the same way. She felt urgency in his tone that scared her and her first reaction was to believe him.

“Get in!”

She backed out of the parking space and rolled toward the ticket booth where the bar slowly raised to let her leave. As she rolled out on the street, she turned to look at Forrest, but he was staring at their building. Angie struggled to keep the car in the road as a deafening roar filled their ears. A wave of energy buffeted the car, causing her to scream and struggle to maintain control. In her mirror she could see a humongous fireball where their office building stood only moments before.

Chapter 2 – by Josh Magill

The intense heat from the flames scorched the tires of Angie’s car and smoke engulfed them, but Forrest quickly directed them to a parking garage before the fireball did more damage. Angie still screamed as Forrest sprang from the car, ran around to the driver’s side and yanked her from the car.

“We need to get out of here,” yelled Forrest. “Now!”

He led Angie to a side door opposite from the vehicle entrance they had used to escape the explosion. An explosion—the thought frightened Forrest, and though he couldn’t imagine what caused it, he decided he must stay focused and strong for Angie. The panic in her beautiful green eyes fueled him. She looked at him for safety, comfort, and to get her out of this alive. And he would get her out somehow.

Forrest slowly opened the side door and peered out, but was nearly blinded by a second fiery blast when the building across the street—a bank—shattered into pieces. Angie again screamed, buried her face in her hands and began running, but stopped. They were stuck, trapped between two inexplicable detonations. Angie’s mind raced trying to figure out what was happening, who was doing this, and would she die. She collapsed to the cold concrete, broken, unable to move.

“I know you’re scared, but we need to find a way out,” Forrest said to Angie. “I need you to get up and trust me.”

Angie’s eyes were red and pleading. Forrest gently helped her to her feet and led her to a stairwell, guiding, almost pushing, her up the steps to what he hoped was an escape from whatever—whoever—was terrorizing them. He thought about the message on his computer: YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN STOP THEM!

Who? Who was Forrest supposed to stop and how? Why was Forrest chosen to stop them? He couldn’t wrap his thoughts around the situation. This sort of thing didn’t happen to him. It couldn’t; he was not adventurous or searching in that way that would bring such calamity. He continued to question the messages as he and Angie climbed past each floor of the parking garage, but when he opened the door at the top the canvas of white smoke and red flame almost buckled him.

It was a war zone—military fighter planes buzzed overhead, and Forrest could see multiple tanks rolling through the city streets. It reminded him of scenes from CNN or Fox News, which caused him to recognize the emblem painted on each vehicle … Israel.

לא,” said Forrest in his native tongue. “הוא לא יכול להיות; אנחנו בעלי ברית.” (No! It cannot be; we are allies.)

But it could not be mistaken, with the blue Star of David between two horizontal blue stripes on a white field. It had been a long time since Forrest had seen such destruction and felt such fear. He tried to shake the memories and focus, but he was mesmerized by the sight and he shook.

Angie stared at Forrest with confusion, no longer noticing the destruction around her. Her eyes, once pleading, were now unsure and even angry. They pierced Forrest, stopping him when he turned to grab her arm.

“What did you just say?” Angie asked. “What language is that? What is going on?”

“I don’t know what is going on,” Forrest replied, reaching for her arm. Angie recoiled and asked again.

“What language is that you spoke in?”

Forrest had never told Angie of his heritage, his nationality, or how he hid in the secret place behind the wall when the soldiers came to take his older brother. They had murdered his brother in the street as an example of what they could do when the people fought back. This was the reason his parents had forced him to follow the rules and never stretch the limits or step out of line. But this fear may have also been why Chrissie had rejected him, not seeing herself with a person that never took chances. Forrest never told Angie about the pain his family suffered when his father later hung himself in grief—a moment that Forrest now despised because he now understood that weakness was a family trait. He had never told her he was Israeli because it hurt too much, because it was a different life—a life he had run from to save his mother, to save his younger sister and brother. He was not that person anymore, but that life quickly came back to him amid the flames here now.

“Angie, don’t freak out,” Forrest said, slowly reaching out to her. “I was born in Israel and migrated here sixteen-years-ago when I was fifteen with my mother, sister and brother. I changed my name because I wanted to leave that life behind.”

“Do you have anything to do with this?” Angie asked.

“No!” Forrest replied, not wanting to tell her about the computer messages.

“What was your name?”

“We don’t have time for this,” Forrest pleaded. “We need to get somewhere safe.”

But Angie just stared with those emerald-colored eyes and waited. He had never been able to resist those eyes and the spell they put on him, like the trance of a spelled lover that he could not break. He had always known he liked her, but now he knew it was more. He knew that this moment would make or break any chance they ever had together. She had to trust him so he told her.

“I was born Ananiah Yedidya.”

Angie smiled, then grabbed Forrest’s hand and followed him to the roof of the adjacent office building. She had loved him for a long time and would follow him anywhere.

Chapter 3 – by Ambrozya 

Holding Angie’s hand tight, Forrest felt a surge of overwhelming emotions. In the midst of all this chaos, was this really happening? Would she really accept him for who he was or who he had been? Forrest didn’t get the chance to inquire further; a movement on his left grabbed his attention. He stopped abruptly and kept Angie behind him, protecting her.

“Have you seen that?”

“Seen what?” Angie replied coughing through the smoke.

“This.” “What? I don’t see anything!” She replied bent forward, coughing some more.

As Forrest didn’t answer she lifted her head and saw what he was talking about. A man was standing with a gun pointed towards them. Angie tried to hide behind Forrest, her eyes still teary from all the smoke.

“We meet again,” said the man with a wicked grin.

“You know this guy?” asked Angie, still trying to catch her breath.

Forrest didn’t answer. The last time he remembered seeing a gun was when his older brother died. With all the noise, the explosions, the smoke, the run, the tanks and planes and the emotion of having Angie with him, Forrest just froze. At that moment, he didn’t know what to do. Not more than 8 minutes ago, he was sitting at his desk, wondering how his life would turn out without Chrissie and now he was running for his life and had a gun pointed to his head. Angie’s question finally made it through the fog of his mind.

“Eh! No. I don’t know that guy,” he finally answered after a good look at the chubby guy between two ages. A scar on his cheek gave the impression of a perpetual grin.

“I didn’t mean you,” said the man with a long sight. “I meant you girl!”

It was Angie’s turn to freeze to death. Even though she couldn’t quite see the man standing in front of them, she would always remember the voice.

“You know him?” It was Forrest’s turn to be surprised. Angie didn’t answer. In an instant, anger took over. She rushed to the man, screaming as loud as a vengeful harpy. Both men didn’t have time to make a move that she was already on him kicking and hitting.

The gun flew across the roof, Forrest jumped to get it. His first reaction had been to stop Angie, but lucky for them he didn’t put much thought in that. Angie must have had her reasons and for now this man needed to be unarmed – mission accomplished. There would be time for questions later.

Forrest became aware suddenly that Angie had better fighting techniques that he would have thought. It couldn’t match the image of sweetness and frailty that he had of her. In a minute, their assailant was beat down on the ground, moaning. Angie took the gun from Forrest hands and pointed it at the man’s head.

“So I guess no one should call you ‘girl’…” said Forrest with a semi-smile. Angie caught the tender look in Forrest eyes. The tension in her body lowered and she took a deep breath.

“It’s my dad,” she finally utter from the tip of her lips like if she was spitting something rotten. Forrest was caught of guards. All along he thought his family history was messed up and he tried to hide it, Angie’s family story seemed to be more twisted.

“Well, what can I say? Not the kind of meeting-your-family I was expecting.” They both laugh, releasing more of the tension. “I’ll explain later, she started with pleading eyes. Right now, we may want to get the hell out of here.” Forrest sighed. “What are we going to do with him?”

“For all I care…”

Forrest bent over Angie’s dad. “What are you doing here, eh… what’s his name?”

“Ross…”

“So Ross, what are you doing here? Are you part of a bombing commando?”

Wiping the blood flowing from his mouth with his shirt, Ross looked at his daughter without any trace of anger. “I came to save…”

A helicopter buzzing over their heads cut his last words. Gun shots were heard around them and a bullet did a ricochet and brushed Ross on the shoulder. Angie and Forrest took him and quickly ran through the door from which they came in a few minutes ago.

“What the hell!” Angie screamed over the noise when they finally found a safe place behind a car in the parking garage.

“Dare to explain?” Gushes of blood ran on Ross’ arm. Forrest was tearing his own shirt, trying to make the blood stop.

“I… came to save you.”

“Why would you care about me after all these years?” Angie snapped.

“I heard of the attacks through a contact and was sent to stop it.” Ross took a deep breath, it wasn’t his first gunshot wound, but he was getting old. “Geez Angela! You can really throw a punch…” Angie frowned. “Go on talk! It’s not like we have all day!”

“For the short story, started Ross staring at Forrest, I work for the NSA and…”

“And, he left my mom one day without even a letter or a phone call. He then reappeared 5 years later, like nothing ever happened, to disappear again after beating her up during a nasty fight. And the worst after that, she kept talking about you like you were the good guy.” Angie’s eyes were throwing bolts of fire towards her dad.

“Angela that’s not what happened. It’s maybe not the time to talk about this.”

“No you’re right it’s not the time. It will never be the time.” Angela turned her back to the two men and stared at the wall.

“Okay then, Ross continued, when I realized it was the building you where working in, I did a bit of research. Why would they attack a seeming low profile IT Company?”

Angie turned around. “So?”

“Your lover here might have a few bits of the story…”

“I know of his story Ross, tell us something new?”

“His father…”

Forrest suddenly felt sick. All he remembered from his father was that last look of hopelessness when he killed himself. “My dad hung himself like a coward…”

Ross grabbed Forrest’s arm and insisted. “Did he say something? Did he give you something?” Forrest tried to recall the last hours of his dad. On that dreadful day, Dawid, his father, started to clean up the house, arranging his papers. His mother was crying in a corner, inconsolable. Forrest always thought  it was because they had one of their epic fights. His mother wanted them to leave the country while they still had a chance and Dawid always refused.

“Yes! He gave me this.” From under his shirt, he showed Ross and Angie a pendant resembling a coin crushed under pressure – a piece of metal of irregular ovoid shape in braided leather.

“Did he say something?” Ross urged.

“Eh… Nothing much. He said something about a key to save us all. But I thought killing himself meant saving us in his own twisted mind…”

“That seems pretty useless,” said Angie inspecting the pendant closely.

“Angela my girl, some people are willing to kill to get rid of that useless thing…”

Chapter 4 by Leslie Moon 

“…some people are willing to kill to get rid of that useless thing…”

Ross and Angie tried not to gaze the reddish glow on the pendant dangling around Forrest’s neck. Forrest excused the warmth of the metal as warmth from his body heat. He knew they were staring…

***

The desert wind stirred the tent flap causing it to slap against the tent post. Onyx eyes flickered in candlelight.  A veiled woman silently slipped behind a man bent in intent study over scrolls. She held the cold steel of a dagger to the trembling man’s throat. “What can you tell me before you die, swine, about this “useless” talisman?”

“I will take the message of its power to my grave,” the man spoke his last words as a bloodied and bent coin was slipped into a small leather bag around her neck.

They neither cared for nor desired stealth; the sound of sandaled feet and swords being unsheathed caused panic for a woman with no place to hide. A woman’s scream pierced a moonless night. The tent flap bore the bloodied stains of treachery. The Decanus, of an elite Roman contubernium, reported to his Centurion.  They produced a dead Jew, a lock of curly dark hair, and a bloody coin.

“Too bad about the woman. We really needed the scribe alive in order to decipher the scrolls we were given. What do we do with this worthless Jewish coin?” The Centurion was not pleased. He had the option to punish the contubernium as a unit or send them on a day’s march into the desert to bury the coin. He opted on the latter. His face was hardened like stone as he gave the order. The contubernium never returned.

***

Words had been spoken in whispers and in shouts over the metal that presently bore little resemblance to the coin that was more than two centuries old. Needless to say it carried a dark history of bloodshed and treachery. None knew the full story but the legend was of a key to an unknown power. Some believed it had aided the priests who escaped the temple as Rome laid siege in 70 AD. Israel had sought the coin when statehood was within her grasp.

***

“Forrest, your father was part of a special group – he was Mossad.”

“That’s ridiculous. Your daughter is more likely to be Mossad. Did you see how she took you and the gun down?”

“Yes,” a proud smile curled about Ross’ lips. “Not all of Mossad are agents you know. Mossad has… I’m going to get into security breach stuff here. I can say this… your father was most likely working for Mossad doing top-secret research. That “useless” thing was his life work. Someone killed him for it.”

Forrest could not wrap his head about what Ross was saying. There was too much to take in as it was and if he had to be honest, his loyalties were divided.

“Sadly, I bet he destroyed a lot of his life’s work the day he died. He knew they were coming Forrest. He gave you what he knew was important to his country. He may have left something else as a clue if we could get to his personal effects.”

“This attack is about that bent piece of metal?” Angie asked with a smirk.

“That’s my best guess, honey.”

“Why would they have sent me a coded warning?”

“Who sent you the message?” Ross’ question was cut off by a missile that crashed through the concrete wall exploding an SUV.  The garage was soon going to be a war zone.

“Come on Forrest, Angie we have to get to out of here. If we get separated, you need to get that piece of metal to my boss. Here’s his number.” Ross scribbled a number on the back of a card.

Forrest eagerly took the card Ross offered. He had no qualms about passing off the thing around his neck as quickly as possible. The thing that was becoming increasingly warm. “Key to death and destruction. Why me?” Forrest wanted to fling the metal out at the armored vehicles below; maybe it would detonate.

What Forrest had not considered was whether Ross really was NSA. As he looked at the scene unfolding on the street below, he felt like he was caught in the shootout at the OK corral with nothing but his cell phone,  a cryptic message, a girl and her father, and a bent piece of metal around his neck. “Not even a knife to bring to a missile fight?” Forrest muttered.

****

*Decanus was a Roman non-commisioned officer who commanded 8 roman soldiers.

**Contubernium: A squad of 8 roman soldiers.

Chapter 5 – by Candice Setton

Ross, in his best efforts, ensures Angie and Forrest that he can lead them to safety, blindly and for the moment, they trust him as it seems they have no other option or way out of this war around them. They cross over into a large warehouse three blocks down from their office. They have walked past this warehouse many times and neither of them, at this moment, remember giving it much more attention than that.

“What is this place?” they wonder.

There is a silence and peace that feels strange considering the chaos that is going on around them. They are overcome by the peace and stand side by side, Angie and Forrest, holding hands and breathing deeply. Suddenly, as though they were lost in another world, they realise their closeness and Forrest looks into Angie’s beautiful eyes as if to say, “I don’t know how, but we will get out of this alive and together.” They sigh, in unison, and it just feels so right, the two of them together.

It is at that moment that Forrest’s cell phone buzzes rather loudly in his pocket. It is like they, the people who caused this, are still watching and each moment he gets to drink Angie in, they break him away from it. Yet another cryptic message, this one a little clearer than the previous one. It simply reads, “YOU MUST TRUST NO ONE EXCEPT THE GIRL!” As he ponders on this message and wonders what Ross is doing, who he really works for and where he is leading them to, he grabs Angie and begins to run, and run, and run. Angie, who trusts him totally, accepts the running without question. She knows what her own father is capable of and is relieved that Forrest has been warned without her having to say anything. Although she does wonder who the message came from. Right now there is no time to give it much thought.

After what felt like hours of running they finally come to a place where they can stop, for a brief moment, and gather their thoughts. Neither one of them would ever have imagined that they were this connected. While they were both secretly drawn to each other, this seems a little unreal right now but they both know that they need to get out of whatever they are in before they can actually discuss anything, and they are both strangely ok with that. They embrace the journey and look forward to the end when they can, hopefully, have a quiet night in and discuss life. It is at that moment that they both feel that they are in this together, forever.

Suddenly, Forrest gets a flash back to sitting at the traffic light and being stopped every single morning. He knows now that there probably were cameras all along and that they, whoever they are, stopped him every single day to observe him. Who were these people? And what on earth was the true meaning behind the bent piece of metal around his neck? Since his father gave it to him he has never taken it off. He tries then to remove it, but he cannot.

Angie notices that he is lost deep in thought and slowly touches his arm. The touch of her skin to his brings him back to the present and he is really grateful to have her at his side. She looks at him and says exactly what he just thought and together they get lost in another world for a brief moment in time.

They are immediately snapped back to reality by the buzzing of Forrest’s phone. Another message, it reads, “HELP IS ON THE WAY.” As they read it together, they hear a chopper up ahead. They have no idea where to run to but they both know that they have to get out of there. They look up at the chopper and it is clearly marked with the ‘Mossad’ marking – they are here to help Forrest and Angie. After Ross had given a brief background of Dawid’s history, and after the message that they just read, they know that this is help and they can trust these people.

A sudden feeling of relief engulfs them as they reach for the ladder that has been lowered and they are lifted into the safety of the chopper. Once inside and seated they are given some much needed water and promised a place to clean up and eat – much to their relief. They both sink into the leather seats and fall into a deep sleep, overcome by the exhaustion, side by side.

The soldiers watch as they sleep. They take Forrest’s phone and search it for any clues that they might need. They know exactly who these two are and wonder if they are at all aware of what is happening around them. The soldiers search Forrest and Angie for identity just to reassure themselves that they have the right people. Neither of them awake as they are searched, as though they have been drugged, they are both in such a deep sleep, wrapped in each other’s warmth.

They are awoken by the quiet that follows once the chopper has landed. They realise that neither of them have any clue as to where they are yet they just know that these people have the answers that they need…or do they?

Chapter 6 – by Elisabeth Eyles

Forrest rubbed his head groggily after his heavy sleep and looked around. They’d been left in the helicopter with two young soldiers, one peering out the door as though waiting for a signal.

“Where are we?” he asked the other in Hebrew, with no response.

“How long were we asleep?” Angie tried in English, and the soldier just shook his head. Forrest and Angie exchanged glances.

“Frying pan, meet fire?” Forrest asked softly, and tugged at the medallion round his neck restlessly.

“Damn, I’m starving! And this thing actually feels hot, it’s really bugging me –” he squinted down at it, but the chain was too short to give him a clear view. “I was a kid when my father hung it round my neck. There’s a lump that feels like a clasp but I’ve never tried to take it off before and I can’t see the clasp to work out how to undo it.”

“Let me look” Angie leaned in towards him to peer at the chain. He was very aware of her warm scent, overlaid with the sharp tang of sweat. “Forrest, this is a weld, not a clasp. He welded the chain on to you!” She slid the medallion round to look at it more closely. “It looks really old. There’s an emblem – a square, with a circle inside, then a diamond shape inside that.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” he nodded, then sat up sharply. “Hey! That was the warning emblem on my computer screen! I didn’t even realise at the time, I just knew it was important –” he stopped as the soldier who had been peering out ducked back inside and nodded to the other.

“We go now – put on these hoods, please.”

The hoods, unlike blindfolds, at least let them see where to put their feet as they were guided across the helipad, up age-mellowed stone steps and into what was, as best they could tell from their fleeting glimpses, quite a mansion. When the hoods were removed they were in a luxuriously furnished suite, facing a table with snacks and drinks. Two sets of fatigues were draped over one of the beds.

“Eat, drink, you can change clothes if you wish. We will take you to the Commander in fifteen minutes,” one of the soldiers said as they withdrew. Forrest hardly heard them, his attention fixed on the table. Angie was at least as hungry – it was hard to judge the time, but their stomachs were pretty sure it was late afternoon and for a couple of minutes they ate in concentrated silence. Forrest loaded a plate with a second helping and carried it across to the window. Angie, her second sandwich in one hand, started opening the internal doors of the suite.

“Shower room here” she called back to Forrest, who was staring out of the window as he chewed.

“What can you see?”

“A park – well, grass. Trees.” He shrugged, turning back towards her. “Some kind of country retreat, at a guess, a long way from the fighting, anyway. You want to shower first?”

“We could shower together?” She met his eyes squarely and he was briefly shaken by the depth of his desire for this girl who had become so very important to him in such a very short time.

“Ah –” he had to clear his throat and try again “I don’t think I could stop at soaping your back and the Commander –”

“I’ll be two minutes,” she promised, her voice husky. When she emerged wrapped in a towel, her skin rosy and damp tendrils from the knot of her hair clinging to her face, he was ready to consign the Commander straight to hell. She laughed at him, reading his mind easily. “Your turn, and quick, remember?”

He abandoned his sweat-soured clothes with relief and was still buttoning the fatigues shirt over the crisp damp curls on his chest when the soldiers appeared again to take them along a carpeted passage to a library, where a tall older man was waiting for them next to a large old-fashioned desk.

“Ananiah Yedidya” the man nodded to him “And Angela Tolstoy. I’m afraid, Miss Tolstoy, that you’ve been caught up in events. I can arrange to have you taken to a place of safety immediately, if you like.”

“No” Angie shook her head violently “I want to stay with Forrest – I mean if you don’t mind?” She glanced at Forrest, who grinned back at her. Mind? He didn’t mind!

“Take a seat then, please, both of you. I am Commander Yurdissen. Do you prefer to be called Ananiah or Forrest?”

“Forrest.” He held a chair for Angie, then sat slowly. Were they finally going to learn what this was all about?

As though the older man had read his mind, he picked up a pair of wire cutters. “May I have the talisman?” As Forrest nodded he stepped forward, slid a finger under the chain, and snipped it through. He held the talisman almost reverently as he went back to take his seat behind the desk.

“You must have many questions. This talisman is the key to most of the answers, and we are now close to its final activation. Over the centuries men have died to steal it, and more have died to get it back. Your father, behind his other affiliations, was a key member of the most secret society in history; he killed himself while wearing a decoy replica of this so you could escape. A very brave man, a hero. You’ve been under our surveillance since the day he welded it round your neck, but the enemy finally learned your general location and started closing in on you a few weeks ago. We were preparing for them to launch a surgical strike, we only learned thirty hours ago they intended instead to level the entire section of the city around your building. The Israelis were among the quickest of many friends to mobilise in defence and have managed to contain the worst. You should have been picked up last night but -” he paused, looking a little sheepish. “The security detail lost track of you.You vanished. I’m sorry you were put in such peril today as a result.”

“Yeah, well.” Forrest remembered, as though from a distant lifetime, plunging out spontaneously for a long walk after Chrissie rejected him. “I’m not sorry. Angie would have been in that building if I hadn’t been there to intercept her. But I have so many questions! And you don’t sound, or look, Israeli?”

Yurdissen shook his head. “I’m not. The Israelis have a huge stake in this, but the society is international. You’ll learn more of this in the days to come, but we knew you must be shocked and even traumatised by the events of the day, and you were entitled to know why this has been happening.” For a moment he looked very tired, then straightened his shoulders and pressed a bell on his desk. The door behind them opened again and he rose to his feet in obvious dismissal.

Chapter 7 – by Jennifer Pendergast 

“Let’s get some air,” Angie whispered, her hand hot on Forrest’s arm as they were led back to the suite.

“Could we go outside?” he asked one of their escorts. “My friend needs some air.”

The two men consulted briefly, then one nodded. “This way.”

He led them out into a high-walled garden. From here, they could see the grand house, which was even bigger than Forrest had surmised from under his hood. Four storeys high and forming the shape of an L, it was as big as some of the ancient palaces he’d seen in Europe. The grounds were equally expansive. Ornate and tended lawns gave way to an orchard and this was the way Angie walked, leaning gently on him for support. Forrest was pleased to see that the two men waited on the veranda – he was looking forward to a bit of time alone with Angie, and when they reached a pond in the middle of the orchard, it was clear she had been too.

Her hands began to pull at the buttons on his shirt. Forrest reciprocated, his mind wandering back to the offer a shower that he had somehow turned down earlier. Stripped down to khaki t-shirts on top, Angie grabbed both shirts and threw them over her shoulder. They landed with a splash on the pond and began to sink.

“Oops,” he laughed.

“I had to,” she said, her hands wrestling with his belt, but her face strangely serious. “They could be bugged.” Forrest’s hands dropped from her waist as she spoke. “Listen, we probably don’t have much time.”

“For what?”

“We’re in danger now, Forrest. You’ve given them what they want, so what’s to stop them killing us?”

“These are the good guys!” he replied. “They have been sending me messages. They told me to save you. They told me not to trust anyone except you.”

She sighed and stopped kissing him, then, looking around, she eased down onto the grass and pulled him on top of her. “We have to make this look real,” she said, kissing him passionately on the mouth, “But I need to tell you something. Those messages, they came from my people. These guys are not my people.”

“What?” Her body was warm and he wanted to stop talking and concentrate on feeling, but he couldn’t. He rolled onto the grass beside her, forcing himself to keep his distance.

“Please, Forrest. You have to trust me. It’s my job to protect you, but I really do like you. Maybe after all this is over…” Her voice trailed off, but he didn’t resist when she pulled him back in close and placed her lips over his. He’d thought about this moment too often over the time he’d known Angie. Sure, Chrissie had been his girlfriend, but he couldn’t help finding Angie attractive. Was this what they called a honey trap, he wondered, because if so he’d fallen right in.

As they kissed and held each other, Forrest felt himself relaxing again. Maybe he shouldn’t, but he trusted her. He wanted to believe her, and as he thought about everything that had happened to them today, it fitted together. Her martial arts training, the messages, the Isreali helicopter pilot who didn’t speak Hebrew … He had been so relieved to finally feel safe, he’d handed over the pendant without thinking.

“I’ve let my father down,” he said, leaning out of Angie’s embrace again. “I gave them the pendant.”

“I know,” she sounded frustrated, almost angry.

“Why didn’t you stop me?”

“I couldn’t risk blowing my cover. If we’d resisted they would just have killed us both in that room. At least now we are alive.”

“But they have the talisman, the key, whatever it is.”

“I know,” she said again. “And we have to get it back. But first, we need to find a way out of this pretty prison, ready for when we need to escape.”

Forrest noticed the two escorts approaching through the trees. They were accompanied by another man, his dark tailored suit contrasted with the fatigues of the others. He looked angry.

“Can’t we just stay here,” he said, stroking her face and trying to convey with his eyes that they were no longer safe to talk, “I’ve been waiting a long time to get you alone and now that we’re safe, what’s to stop us relaxing?”

Angie looked like she was about to say something, then she seemed to understand his message. She sank down on top of him and wrapped her legs tightly around his thighs, her tongue dancing around his mouth. Forrest wanted so much to really live this experience, but when he closed his eyes, he could still see the three men approaching, and something told him that they were in more danger now than they had been at any time during this whole affair.

He opened his eyes, saw that the men were close, and tried his best to look surprised as he pushed Angie off and got to his feet.

“Err… sorry. I guess we…”

“We got carried away,” said Angie. She looked around, caught sight of the sunken shirts and giggled playfully. “Does any of you guys have a fishing pole?”

None of the men laughed. “The Commander says you will be safer inside the house,” said the businessman. He seemed not to register the embrace he had caught them in, and Forrest wondered whether that was because he knew it was false.

False, he thought sadly. He’d thought Angie actually liked him. Thought they might have a chance to get to know each other better after all this was over, perhaps even to have something like a normal relationship. But she was being paid to keep him close. She would probably not even have looked at him twice if he weren’t part of her mission. He knew in his heart that he trusted her, even with everything that had happened and all that she’d said, but he had trusted Yurdissen a few minutes ago, and now he felt like the Commander was holding him captive.

He had so many questions again – about Angie, about who ‘her people’ were, but mostly about the talisman and what this whole thing was all about. Right now, though, he had to concentrate on the charade she had placed him in. He was playing the part of a man in lust, that was easy enough, but he was also playing the part of a naïve innocent, the naïve innocent he had been until a few minutes before. And acting had never been Forrest’s strong point.

Chapter 8 – by C.L. Elli

They continued to walk towards the compound. While he walked, he wondered to himself if his “acting” was good enough to keep them alive.. The intense heat from the sun above them, made Forrest feel like his skin was sizzling and burning. He looked up quickly to find Angie. She was walking just ahead of him but because of the bright sun shining so intensely into his eyes, he could only make out her slender silhouette. Trying to shade his eyes from the sun, he raised his hands to shield himself from its rays. At that moment, he heard what sounded like a wooden bat hitting a hollow tree. The noise was deafening. His ears began to ring. Forrest turned quickly to see what could have made that sound but as he did, he noticed that the world was starting to spin around him.

What happened? My head! As soon as he regained consciousness, all he could focus on was the pain radiating from the back of his head. Grabbing his head, he sat up quickly, only to hit the top of his head on something metal above him. Oh that’s perfect. I guess, that answers my question. They must not have believed our little romantic scene. Nice job Forrest. Nice job indeed, you managed to get ‘knocked out again’.

The room is eerily dark and smells musty like an old basement. In a small area of the room, barely noticeable is a small slither of light. Forrest blinks once…twice…and then again trying to focus but the darkness surrounding him hinders any resemblance of objects in the room. He then realizes, where is Angie? He doesn’t know if Angie is close, in the same room or possibly dead. He begins to call out “Angie.” At first quietly and then growing louder with each call for her, “Angie!!”

“Shhhhh! You really don’t want to do that.” An unfamiliar voice says from inside the darkness around him. What direction did that come from?

“Where is Angie?” Forrest insists.

“You’ll see her soon enough. Unless you get yourself killed or even worse, get me killed with you. So, since I wasn’t planning on dying today..please don’t ask anymore questions and just trust me and stay quiet.”

“That’s all I keep hearing ‘trust me’…’just trust me’ I’m done trusting anyone! Angie! Where are you!”

“Please stop…just try to be quiet. You don’t want to do that…Stop!”

Forrest yells out again, this time with more intent, “Angie! Answer me! Angie!”

“You really don’t want to do that.”

All of sudden they all heard a terrifying sound, like electricity being generated from a large energy source just beyond the walls of the room. The sound changes. Is that crackling? In that instance, for a brief moment, thanks to the light from the electric current now traveling from across the room, up a conduit and across the ceiling covered in a highway of wires, he could see that he was not alone. He could see three other prisoners confined in what looked like small jail cells, two men and one woman.  It’s not Angie.  He then realizes that the restraints around his ankles are connected to one of the wires on the ceiling.  There is a huge flash of light.  The room is black again, cloaked in complete darkness.  He notices that the darkness seems even more blinding than it had been before and then he becomes aware of the intense pain radiating from the restraints. The jolt from the electric current and pain is so intense, it knocks him off his feet.  He can barely catch his breath.  He could smell the smoke from the current that ran through his body, as he starts to black out, but not before seeing the door open to the large holding area. In the doorway, he could make out a silhouette of a woman and several men, all dressed in militia fatigues.

“Angie..” he whispered before succumbing to unconsciousness once again.

Angie gives orders to the men and begins to walk towards the cell where Forrest is laying helpless on the floor. “I’m sorry Forrest. I’m so sorry.” She signals for the men to pick him up and tells them to take the other prisoners with them. “Take them all.”

“You know that you won’t get away with this.”

Angie replies, “You need to come up with something new to say…because I think we’re winning the game.”

Chapter 9 – by Ted Strutz

The staccato click of high heels on tile reverberated down the hallway alerting the men sequestered in the situation room of a rogue unit of the RNC.  A phalanx of men entered and took up position, followed by a svelte figure dressed in a back pencil skirt, topped with a silk camisole and trademark red blazer, sporting the familiar rhinestone American flag pin on the lapel.  Piercing eyes behind the Kazuo Kawasaki eyewear locked on each man for a second.

“Have you heard from Ross yet?”

“Yes ma’am.  He briefed us an hour ago.”  A withering glance made the speaker wish he had lied, he quickly continued.  “Ross claims they are being held in the Pelosi/Reid compound outside Las Vegas.  His agent arranged to be held captive with the others to gain access.  Forrest was wearing the medallion when he entered, so there’s every reason to expect recovery should be ours.”

“I would like Forrest unharmed if possible, and the girl held captive too, save her.  What of Angie?  Has she shown her true colors yet?  Her father was none to happy.”

“She is not being held with the others, so Ross thinks Forrest must know by now.  He says the conditions are pretty brutal in the cells”

Sarah smoothed her skirt and blazed a look at the group.  “That’s the Dems for you!  They have become emboldened during his second term.  Gentlemen, there can be no failure if the GOP expects to beat Michelle in the next election.  We must have the medallion.  What does Ross plan to do?”

A senior aide stepped forward.  “Mr. Ross has assembled a crack team of Cirque de Soleil performers from the show at the Bellagio to infiltrate the complex.  A complete layout and the location of the cells, along with an escape route was furnished by Max Welton after he was expelled from the house and defected to our side.  He is Tea Party all the way now and has been most helpful.  Mr. Ross is awaiting the go.”

“Good.  Then green light it and have my helicopter ready in five minutes.”  A quick turn and the heels left the room.

*************************************

A nondescript white van left the bright lights of The Strip and headed toward the Wilson Cliffs.  The smell of rosin and makeup hung heavy in air.  Good thing they’re small, thought Ross, otherwise I’d have to get a larger vehicle.   After going over the plan and assigning roles, an excited silence fell over the group of men and women dressed in black.  The threat of world domination and the resulting chaos on their homelands had made for an easy recruitment.  Tranquilizer guns had been issued, and a switchblade in case the slitting of throats became necessary.  Ross hoped not, as he did not want to further ramp up hostilities.  The attack of drones on Forrest’s building and subsequent attacks had been unfortunate and showed the lengths they would go to attain their goals.  He wished he could have stayed to free him from Angie’s grasp, but after that damn fool had bolted with her, he had to make other plans. Sarah had not been happy.

**************************************

In Washington D.C., two powerful leaders meet in the back room of a small restaurant.  One leads a majority and the other a minority.  The clink of champagne glasses finishes the meeting.

“Has Renaissance been notified of the news from Nevada?”

‘Yes, I’m told she’s grateful.”

****************************************

The captives soon found themselves tied to metal folding chairs against a stone wall in an open courtyard.  The girl next to Forrest watched as the woman the others called Angie crushed a capsule under Forrest’s nose.  Jolting awake, he was disoriented and fought his bonds.  Waste of good Amyl, thought Angie, but it did the trick.  ”Forrest, can you hear me?  I am going to say good-bye to you and your friends now.”  This announcement and the men with the M-27′s seemed worrisome to them, as the guards had not been seen carrying machine guns before.

Sleep in the cells had been hard to come by, and the girl thought she was seeing things as if there were people sliding down ropes in the gloom on the other side.  A sudden flash of light and a deafening roar caught everyone by surprise.  There was no time to react as figures came cascading across the stones in a dizzying array of cartwheels, handsprings, and somersaults.  The guards were quickly subdued, but it took 3 tranquilizer darts to put Angie down.  The group was rushed to the center of the yard as lights started flooding the compound.

Then,  blades of a helicopter so silent they could barely be heard, and the rush of air seemed heaven-sent to the captives.  The girl crushed against Forrest asked how he had been.  Looking at her he could only say…

“Christina?”

Chapter 10 – by Lashell Collins. 

“Forrest!” Her voice was a warm, breathless whisper against his cheek. “Forrest, how are you? Are you all right? Forrest?”

 Her familiar voice sounded slightly frantic now, but Forrest still struggled to pull himself from the fog his brain was mired in. His eyes endeavored to focus, to try and help his brain make some sense of the confusion going on around him. He felt a sudden and erroneous jolt of relief as the owner of the sweet voice slowly came into view. It couldn’t be! Was his mind playing tricks on him?

 “Christina?”

 “Oh, Forrest! Thank God,” she whispered as she held him tightly, clinging to him like a frightened kitten.

 “Chrissie?” he mumbled again, still feeling confused. How was she here? What was happening? He didn’t get the chance to ponder those questions for very long, because suddenly they were being herded into a waiting helicopter. Not again, Forrest thought to himself. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take. Who were these people and what was going on. And most importantly … would this madness ever end?!

The fog clouding Forrest’s brain lifted as they piled in, and it was then that he finally got a good look at the uniforms their new captors were wearing. American? Navy Seals? Were they finally being rescued for real? A small ray of hope began to take root inside him. Perhaps now, things would finally begin to make some sense. He could only pray that it were true. Taking a deep, unsteady breath, he looked to his right and watched in disbelief as one of the uniformed men carried a bound and unconscious Angie onto the helicopter and secured her in the seat next to his.

 “Orders were to bring this one back alive if possible,” the soldier said to the pilot. “Luckily Ross’ team of acrobats didn’t have to kill her.”

 “Did you get the talisman?” the pilot asked.

 The soldier nodded his head in affirmation, holding up the old medallion that used to hang around  Forrest’s neck. He had taken it off and given it to Commander Yurdissen. That seemed so long ago. He wanted to ask the soldier where he had gotten it, but the man spoke up, answering Forrest’s unasked question. “As we expected, she had it on her when they neutralized her. All the captives are accounted for; let’s go!”

 Forrest couldn’t believe his ears as the chopper lifted into the air. Angie had his medallion in her possession? How had she gotten it? And he felt like a fool when he realized that she must have been in cahoots with their captors from the very beginning, and that whole scene with Commander Yurdissen was all for show. All to get her hands on Forrest’s medallion. But why? Who is she really, and who does she work for? And how did his father’s old medallion really fit into the craziness that had become his life? Forrest still had so many questions and not nearly enough answers.

 Scratching his head with a deep scowl on his face, Forrest suddenly felt weight on his left shoulder and it startled him. He jumped slightly, turning to the pretty young woman beside him who was resting her head on his shoulder. Chrissie! In all of the confusion and his silent quest for answers, Forrest had completely forgotten she was here.

 “Chrissie,” he whispered, and she slowly lifted her head and looked at him. Her warm brown eyes were wary and frightened. “Chrissie, what are you doing here? How did you get tangled up in this mess?”

 “I don’t know,” Chrissie responded softly, her voice small and tearful. “I don’t know what’s happening, Forrest. All I know is that I was kidnapped on my way to work. I was grabbed from behind and tossed into a van. And I think they must have drugged me or something because the next thing I knew, I was in that dark place! That cell, with the horrible smell and the electric shackle around my ankle! I don’t know how long I was there or even what day it is now,” she said, quietly sobbing now.

Forrest listened to her tale in horror. Chrissie had been kidnapped and brought into this nightmare, all because of him? It just didn’t make any sense. She reached up and gently caressed his face with her hand as she continued talking.

 “Oh, Forrest! The whole time I was locked in there I just kept thinking about you, and how I wished I had said yes and accepted your marriage proposal. When you were punished in the cell, and the room lit up from the sparks … I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when I saw it was you. That it was all some cruel joke. But it really is you! Oh, Forrest, I love you! I love you, and I thought I was never going to get another chance to tell you that! And to tell you that I made a huge mistake the other night. Please tell me I’m not too late. Tell me that we can still be married! If we survive … whatever this is.”

 Forrest’s mind was reeling. He had no clue how to respond as he stared at her lovely face in stunned silence.

Chapter 11 – by Francesca

Forrest was staring into Chrissie’s eyes but his brain was working frenetically and trying its best to recollect the thoughts and the happenings of the previous couple of days.

It seemed Forrest wasn’t supposed to trust those who were asking to be trusted or to believe those declaring the truth. Also, he thought once again, he was just an ordinary software engineer. Why him?
He was even sick and tired of repeating these things to himself…he actually started to hate himself.

He was interrupted in his train of thought by two men who pulled them out of the helicopter and pushed them forwards without ceremony.

Another pair of the kidnappers were waiting for the party at the top of the stairs. It was just then that Forrest noticed they were Asian and weren’t dressed as military but more in the style of old Bruce Lee movies. There was an exchange of words, brief and in an oriental language.

“What is it?” Forrest heard Chrissie saying.

He didn’t even realize that she was tightly gripping on to his shirt until then.

Forrest just shook his head. He pulled himself together and decided that from then on he had to pay attention to what was going on. No point in despairing and no time to feel weak anymore.

No distraction this time.

The stairs they descended were metal, the kind you would find at the top of a skyscraper.

They reached the base of the helipad and they were pushed through a door. Forrest didn’t say anything but his rage was reaching higher and higher levels. Flashbacks of his childhood were coming back to him, but he didn’t push them back this time. He tried to remember instead, something that had been dormant for the past twenty years.

He tried to remember the faces, the voices connected with his father. He remembered the trip they took to Greece. It was then he remembered that had been the first time he had seen the dress the men in front of him were wearing now.

Immersed in his thought he was barely aware of the surroundings.

He connected with the present again only when they were led into an office and when he saw Ross sitting on a chair behind a huge desk.

“Welcome, Forrest!”

Forrest didn’t answer, he was forced into a chair and the same treatment was given to Chrissie.

“Don’t you want to introduce me your friend?” asked Ross

“No, not really!” Forrest said.

He heard the door opening once again and a man entered the room. Angie was dangling from his shoulders. He just threw her on the couch in the farthest corner of the room. Then he went closer to the desk and chucked the medallion in front of him.

Ross nodded at them to go and they left the room, leaving Forrest staring at the chubby old man in front of him.

“So you have what you want now, Ross” Forrest said.

“No, not entirely” Ross said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that this one” he lifted the medallion in front of him “It’s a fake!”

He got up from the chair, walked around his desk and sat on the edge.

“Would you be so kind as to tell me where the original is?”

Forrest felt in danger once again, but he stuck to his resolution to be stronger.

“You could ask your daughter, it seems she knew better than me!”

“You’re the owner!”

“Well I don’t know! So what? Do you want to kill me? Be my guest!”

Chrissie started crying at his side.

Ross stared into Forrest eyes for a split second and then said.

“Very well, I’m a patient man, Forrest, I can wait and I want to show you that I’m also a gentleman”

He went back to his desk again and pushed the interphone.

“Take them away”

A couple of the saffron dressed men came in and again in silence and not too delicately, brought them away.

After a long walk they entered a huge suite. There was food and all they needed to get a change of clothes.

“It seems the baddies are not like in the old movies anymore!” Forrest said and laughed almost hysterically.

When the door was closed and locked behind them Chrissie went closer to him and started pleading “Forrest, please, can you tell me what is going on? Why are you here? Why am I here? Where are we?”

For the first time Forrest managed to relax a notch and embraced Chrissie with all the sweetness he had left.

“I’m sorry, honey, I’m very sorry. I don’t know!” he said.

She started sobbing and then slowly calmed down. Forrest could hear his heart drumming on his ribs, and hers as well in such tight embrace as they were.

“Everything will be all right” he said, not entirely convinced.

He felt her unbuttoning his shirt and once again confusion was flooding his brain.

An intense heat hit him once he felt Chrissie’s lips on his torso and her hands going along his spine. He turned down and he saw she was in her lingerie already.

“Chrissie I…”

“Let’s go in the shower together, c’mon…” she whispered.

Forrest wasn’t surprised this time and after an initial sense of winning, detached the girl from him.

“Chrissie what have you just…”

But he couldn’t finish the sentence.

The door was knocked down and a blond fury came in armed with a gun.

It was Angie; her face was covered in blood.

“Leave him alone!” she ordered Chrissie.

Forrest looked at her and then at the woman next to him and once again he felt lost. He tried to shield Christina with his own body but Angie shot at his shoulder, aiming to hurt him just slightly.

“Stop it! You have no clue who she is!” Angie said.

“Well I had no clue who you were either!” Forrest said.

It was then that Chrissie jumped from behind him, disarmed Angie and the two women started an intense and tight fight.

Forrest couldn’t move. He admitted for a split second that he dreamed about that during his lonely nights but he didn’t see it happening for real.

He decided that despite the confusion he was feeling inside his head this was the time to go away and hide somewhere.

Once on the threshold though, he found his face level with Angie’s.

“What?!” he said.

“Move!” she yelled.

She pushed him aside, lifted the crossbow she had in her right hand and yelled once more “You’ll now die, bitches!”

She aimed to the two women fighting on the floor.

After a few idle shots she managed to hit Angie, the other Angie, in the neck and Chrissie straight into the heart.

“Nooooooo!” yelled Forrest and he fell on his knee to vomit.

After that he felt a burning sensation and nothing anymore.

***

“Brother” Forrest heard a familiar voice calling him.

He opened his eyes but couldn’t move. He was aching all over.

“What are you doing here?” he said once he focused on the face of his sister. He turned around and saw a high room. The walls were irregular and it was cold.

After a while he managed to sit up and having a better look around, he realized he was in a cave. He had been cured.

“What are you doing here?” he repeated.

“Brother is here as well!” she said without answering.

His younger brother came closer then accompanied by the other Angie and a very old shrunk Asian man.

“Can you please explain to me what is going on?” he pleaded.

The old man jumped on a stool, asked Forrest’s younger siblings to turn their backs to their brother and lifted a bucket full of hot water.

He poured it on the left shoulder of both of them and Forrest could see that with the heat a line started to form, and then a drawing, and then after a while he understood. The pictures he could see were forming part of what looked like the medallion.

“You have the third part of the front side, Forrest” the old man said.

“This explains why everybody was so eager to have a shower with me lately!” he said.

 Chapter 12 by David Stewart

“This must be a lot to take in all at once,” Forrest’s sister Anna said. She laid her hand on his arm. “Still, it’s good to see you again, Ananiah. I haven’t seen you since just after David died.”

“My name’s Forrest now,” he said, stiffening at the mention of his older brother. “None of this makes any sense. What are you doing here, Anna, and with Benjamin too?” He turned from his younger brother and sister to the elderly Asian man. “I don’t know who you are and you, Angie—I sure as hell don’t know who you are anymore.” His furious glare was locked on Angie’s face. She merely nodded.

“I won’t ask what you’ve been told over the last few days,” she said. “I know parts of it, but it doesn’t matter. I am the one who you’ve gotten to know over the last few months at work, but I’m not the one you’ve been with for the last few days. That was my twin sister. Up until today, we both worked for the CIA. Twins are of immense value in the intelligence business—misdirection, confusion, chaos. Neither of our names is really Angie, but you can still think of me that way, if you want.”

“You killed her,” Forrest said. “You killed your sister, and Christina too. I suppose she was a spy too—probably never really loved me, right? I suppose everyone I know is a spy.” He suddenly felt very tired, as if another revelation would send him to his knees.

“I didn’t want to kill them,” Angie said. “I loved my sister, at one time, but I was desperate. It was probably a mistake. As for Christina, I don’t know how she felt about you, but she was a spy. Not with us though. Another group.”

“Who? The Chinese?”

“No, the US military,” Angie said.

“But you’re on the same team!” Forrest said. “Aren’t you?”

“Let me try to explain,” the elderly man said, stepping forward. “The situation is, uh . . . complex.” He had a gentle, soothing voice with just a hint of a British accent. He sat down at the table nearby and motioned for Forrest to sit. Angie, Anna, and Benjamin all sat down as well.

“My name is Mr. Xia,” the man said. He pronounced it like sha. “I am the leader of this group, which we call Mechilah. It is a Hebrew word, just like its founder, your mother.”

“My mother,” Forrest repeated. Benjamin nodded; Anna smiled encouragingly.“The medallion you carried around for most of your life; do you know what it does?” Xia asked. “Has it ever shown any, uh, unusual properties?”

“I don’t know what it does but it seems to be immensely important to everyone but me,” Forrest said. “It has gotten suddenly warm before, but that’s it.”

“Your father was understandably quiet about its nature, but let me give you a quick history lesson,” Xia said. “It is said—in legend, mind you—that during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, a group of priests was trapped inside the temple. One prayed for a miracle, laying the only thing he had on him, a revolt shekel, on the altar. The legend says that that one priest gained great powers when he was holding the coin and through those powers, he saved himself and his fellow priests from the pillaging Romans. The coin was made into a medallion and handed down from father to son, although the knowledge of its powers was lost to time.”

“What sorts of powers?” Forrest asked.

“The ability to pass through walls and walk unseen,” the old man said. “It was your father who rediscovered them and put them to good use—or not so good use.”

“Our father was a hero,” Forrest said. He looked unconsciously to his sister and brother for support.

“He was,” Xia said. “He is responsible for a great deal of Israel’s success in the wars of the 60s and 70s, both through intelligence gathering and, well, elimination of key enemies. He once told me that he had killed 1,482 people. Mostly men—mostly soldiers, but not all. The covert medals and commendations did nothing for his conscience and that is why he ultimately killed himself.”

“But then why didn’t he just destroy the medal, if he hated it so much?” Forrest asked.

“He did not hate the medallion; he hated himself for how he had used it. He saved his country, but he could not save himself. Still, he was too much of a traditionalist to destroy such an heirloom. That is why he passed it on to you, but did not explain its power.”

“So what is happening now?”

“Even allies spy on each other,” Xia said. “Israel could not keep its secret weapon totally secret and soon the rest of the covert world got wind of it, both allies and enemies. The vultures began to circle around you, looking for evidence that you were using the medallion and how you used it. An international covert coalition was formed to keep this technology out of the hands of ‘enemies.’”

“But who is the enemy?” Forrest asked. Xia merely smiled and nodded, as if Forrest had hit on the crux of the matter.

“Sometimes people form alliances even when they know that there can only be one winner,” Angie said, breaking in. “The alliance exists only to the point where one individual can betray his allies and seize victory alone. The Israelis may have been the first to respond to the attack on your office building, but Ross—my father—made sure the Americans grabbed you first. Now that we are in America, even national unity is breaking down as each group tries to grab the power for themselves: the military, the CIA, even political parties. This kind of power is divisive. People would kill without hesitation for it.”

“So whose side are you on, your little Mechilah group here?”

“We’re not on anyone’s side,” Benjamin said. “Mother knew all about the medallion and she formed this group to keep the power safe from people who would misuse it. Mechilah means “cave” because we want to bury the medallion, to keep it safe. But the word can also mean “forgiveness.” I do not know if the power of the medallion can ever be used for peace and forgiveness, but it is our hope. Until then, we need to keep it safe.”

Forrest gave a bitter laugh. “Well, that’s admirable, but it doesn’t change the fact that you failed. The medallion is gone. Ross has it now, although he says it’s a fake.”

“It’s not a fake,” Xia said. “You see, the medallion is only a key.”

“To what?”

“To you, Mr. Ananiah Yedidya, or Forrest Graham, if you prefer. You and your brother and sister. Only descendants of that original priest can use it.”

“Then there is no problem,” Forrest said. “They can’t use it and they think it is a fake. Can’t we just forget about it?”

“We could, for now,” Xia said. “But it may not always be that way. It may be that one day they will find a way to use it, even in ways we cannot anticipate. It is not safe with anyone but us.”

“Then what do you propose we do?”

“I want you to go back and get it.”

Forrest jumped up. “Are you crazy? I’m not a spy. I was a prisoner in that place and now you want me to walk up the front door and ask for the medallion back?”

Mr. Xia stood up and gave a slow, almost ceremonious nod. “That, son of my dear friend, is exactly what I want you to do.”

* * *

Ross Hammerstein sat behind his desk with his legs propped up and slowly turned the medallion between his fingers. It was not fake, he knew, but still they could not figure out how to use it. He had acquired it thanks to luck and ingenuity, just ahead of a clamoring mob of other interested parties. Now he needed to find out how to use it, quickly and before the winds of fortune changed direction yet again.

The phone rang and he grabbed it. “Ross here.”

“This is the front gate, sir. We have Forrest Graham here. He just walked out of the darkness and asked for you.”

Ross sat up. “Is he alone? Armed?”

“Totally alone and unarmed. We searched him thoroughly. Should I let him in?”

“Bring him, captain, but under guard.” He hung up and smiled to himself. This was a wind he hadn’t anticipated. He sensed unseen stratagems at work. A trap? Possibly, but this was his base and he was in control. A moment later, Forrest Graham walked in, surrounded by four armed guards. “What do you want, Forrest?” Ross asked. “You got balls, coming back here like this.”

“I want to help you,” Forrest said.

“Sure you do,” Ross said with a leonine smile. “And how are you going to do that?”

“The medallion you have isn’t  a fake but only I can use it. Just like my father.”

“You know what it does?”

“It increases the user’s strength a hundred times,” Forrest said. “That’s where the Jewish legend of the golem comes from. You didn’t know?”

Ross said nothing. That was not what he had been told, although it seemed plausible. He gazed at Forrest, looking for signs of lying, but the younger man’s face was impassive.

“Fine, show us,” he said at last. It was a risk, but it had to come to it sometime. “Not here, though.” He turned to the captain in charge. “Vault B.”

* * *

Forrest was stripped and dressed in a white cotton jumpsuit and slippers. Then he was led into a steel chamber with windows high up on all sides. The medallion was lying in the middle of the chamber.

Ross’ voice came through a speaker. “Pick up the medallion and demonstrate its use. You are currently being covered by a wide variety of powerful ordinance, so don’t try anything.”

Forrest picked up the medallion and held it in his fist, trying to stop himself from trembling. Mr. Xia’s plan seemed insane now. He closed his eyes, trying to remember how he had felt when it had gotten hot before. He thought of his father, willing himself to do this for him, willing the medallion to show its power.

He felt it, a growing heat in the palm of his hand. He opened his eyes in time to see the steel wall in front of him fade slightly. He could still see it, but he saw the room beyond it as well, as if he were looking through thin tissue paper.

There was an exclamation from the speaker. “You faded from sight for a moment. How did you do it? Tell me, quickly.”

Forrest did not answer. He was breathing hard; the mental effort he had needed to exert was staggering. He heard a hiss and saw that gas was pouring into the room from overhead vents. It was now or never. He stared at the wall in front of him until it faded again and then he lunged through, running as fast as he could in those ridiculous slippers.

He tripped and lost concentration, sprawling to the floor of an empty corridor. Then he was up again, desperately trying to make the medallion work again. It was easier this time, but already exhaustion was creeping in.

He ran again and suddenly found himself outside. The outer fence was only a hundred feet away. Behind him, alarms were going off. Shucking the slippers and gritting his teeth, he sprinted towards the fence just as gunfire erupted behind him.

Chapter 13 – by Joe Owens

Forrest could hear bullets whizzing by him as he sprinted toward the fence. He wondered if he could scale the twelve foot obstacle before the bullets found their mark. He wondered if he would ever get the chance to actually find love without the girl revealing herself as a spy. He also wondered how he had so much time to think before something bad happened. In the last few days nothing had ended well.

Forrest froze in his tracks as machine gun fire began from opposite the fence. Within seconds the gunfire behind him became silent. Forrest turned to see half a dozen bodies lying on the ground. He lifted his hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he heard the sound of a powerful helicopter above. He jerked his head to the right when a more powerful machine gun began shooting toward the helicopter.

There was a whooshing sound and line of white smoke that erupted from the helicopter and the gun emplacement inside a tower near the main building exploded in flames. The next thing Forrest knew he felt strong arms slide underneath his and he was floating upwards as the cable attached to his ride pulled them both to safety.

Forrest tried to breathe as he looked at the serious faces in the helicopter. The four men he could see had all black uniforms, so he could make no sense of their identity. He could see only pieces of the pilot and co-pilot, but there was something familiar about their flight suits. Within a few minutes the whole picture clarified a bit as the copter made approach to a massive aircraft carrier flying the American flag.

A pair of naval officers stood with arms crossed on the deck awaiting the touchdown of the aircraft.

“Follow me,” one of the men said when Forrest exited the chopper.

Forrest shook his head at the twists his adventure had taken. He had been in so many different places that it was hard to remember all he had seen.

The officer that had been silent so far pecked at the door of a room that had Officer’s Mess stenciled on a sign.

“Enter.”

The silent officer opened the door and stood aside to allow Forrest to enter. Inside there was one man, who looked to be in his sixties. He was a large specimen, likely with a football past, with short hair, salt and pepper. His expression was gruff looking when Forrest entered, but seemed to soften a bit when the man held out his hand to offer a chair. A quick nod told the officer’s accompanying Forrest their task was complete and they exited the room.

“Mr. Graham, allow me to introduce myself. I am Vice Admiral Gino Pirelli. We have a lot to discuss. Much of it relates to that token you have in your right hand.”

Forrest was unaware he was holding the object as everything going on was so engrossing he was just holding on for dear life. He opened his hand to stare at the medallion and then returned his gaze to Pirelli.

“Do you have any idea what the last five days have been like for me?” Pirelli asked. “You see Mr. Graham five days ago your office building was destroyed and several people perished in the blast. A few minutes later another building suffered the same fate. Since then the world has gone to hell in a hand basket.

Right now the armed forces of the United States are at defense condition two. You will recognize from the Hollywood movies that this is called DEF CON – 2. Whatever the hell that thing does, Pirelli said pointing at the medallion Forrest clutched, there is a whole lot of maneuvering involved to try to take it from you.

Right now there is also a real concern that war could break out in the biggest hotspots in the world. The Koreans, Iranians and Chinese have decided now is the perfect time to mobilize their forces. Because of the efforts the intelligence agencies of the free world have spent trying to find you we are at a disadvantage and having to scramble to recover.

So the question I have is what the hell is so special about that piece of crap?”

“It allows me or anyone in my family to penetrate walls and move unfettered.”

“Anything else?”

“I have no idea.”

“Who told you about it?”

“A Mr. Xia. He is part of the . . .”

“Mechilah Group,” Pirelli finished. “Yes I am familiar with your mother’s creation.”

Forrest remembered what was said about the military and intelligence services fighting for control of the medallion. He suddenly lost the comfort he had accepted when he saw the gigantic Unites States ship come into view from the helicopter. There was no way he could escape from this ship. If he did he could never swim back to shore.

“Mr. Graham, we need to ratchet down the tension across the world. I am going to ask you to surrender the medallion to me so we can make sure it is secure. Once the countries I mention realize the United States has control of the item everything will slowly roll back to normal.

Forrest stared at the piece of metal in his hands as his mind rolled through the possible ways this could go. He wondered if the man would try to take the medallion by force. What did he know about the powers? What else could this do that he did not know about? Could he bluff his way out of here? He decided he had to try.

He sprung from the chair suddenly and flashed the medallion at Pirelli like it was a badge. With as much attitude as his exhausted body could manage he barked out a response to Pirelli’s request.

“No sir, I won’t be doing that. Unless you want this ship to rest at the bottom of whatever body of water this is, you will allow me to leave at once on the helicopter I came in and return to Mr. Xia and the others.

“You little shit! Who do you think you are?” Pirelli said, standing to reveal his six and a half foot tall frame. His fists tightened as he forced the words through gritted teeth.

“Are you willing to risk the lives of over four thousand men and women?” Forest asked.

Pirelli wavered as the number seemed to sink in.

Nearly a half hour later the U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter eased to a landing about a mile from where Forrest was to meet his brother, sister, Angie and Mr.Xia. The faces aboard the helicopter were not friendly as Forrest exited to see his family waiting. Their faces were a mix of confusion, yet relief.

Mr. Xia stood with his arms by his side, patient to hear Forrest’s report.

“The Americans have the token?” he asked.

“No. I threatened to sink their carrier,” Forrest smiled.

“If you only knew,” Xia said.

Forrest sat between his brother and sister in the van, with Angie driving and Xia in the front passenger seat. No words were uttered as the group had much on their minds as Angie turned away from the direction of Ross’ compound and headed for a safer destination.

It was dusk when they rolled to a stop in front of a place very familiar to Forrest. He felt an indescribable comfort as he approached the front door of the place. When the door opened he saw the face of his mother and immediately stepped forward to embrace her. Sephira Yedidya smiled as she held her son for the first time in too many years.

“My son, my son is finally safe!”

“Mother. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Let’s all sit and I will tell you about all of it.”

Over the next two hours the five of them shared a meal Sephira prepared in anticipation of their arrival and she recounted the last days of their father and the decision to form the Mechilah Group. Forrest always thought his mother was a silent partner to her father, but the truth was that she had been with the Mossad before they married and even now was well-respected within the intelligence community.

Forrest shook his head as he allowed her words to settle in his mind. No one spoke since it was his turn to react. Anna and Benjamin remembered when they were clued in. It had been long enough that they accepted the fact as a part of their mother’s life.

“So what happens now?” Forrest asked.

“You make a choice,” his mother said. “Become the one who wields the power, or you pass it along to Benjamin.”

“I don’t want it,” Benjamin declared, even before Forrest could speak.

Forrest’s eyes darted to Anna’s face, which suddenly filled with fear. She knew Forrest was ready for all this to end. The tears accumulated in her eyes and trailed across her face as she blinked repeatedly. Forrest’s gut tightened with the realization he had no good choice. Angie spoke to break the tension of the moment.

“Can I speak with Forrest alone before he decides?” Angie asked.

“Yes,” Sephira replied.

Forrest wasn’t sure what he would say to Angie. The woman he had admired from afar and wanted to be with was a spy. She had so many secrets and he was so tired of the limited life he knew was normal for her.

“I have to tell you this. At first this was simply a job for me. I watched over you for your mother, keeping my distance, allowing you to be with Chrissie. It was all more than I could stand sometimes. I had several face to face meeting with my superiors asking I be given the freedom to bring you in and every time I was sternly rejected.

You deserved to know the truth about your father, about all of this. I wanted so much to tell you,” she said as she took his hands in hers. Forrest stared into Angle’s eyes and fought the voices telling him he shouldn’t trust her. Those yes, those dammed eyes of hers just melted him.

“So not a job now?” Forrest finally whispered.

“No. I want you Forrest. Forever.”

Forrest stared at her for a moment, and then looked at the window that revealed Xia, his mother and siblings who were involved in a discussion at the table. No doubt they were hypothesizing about what his response would be. Forrest wasn’t entirely sure himself.

“I’m not sure I can kill,” Forrest said. “Not like you.”

“You don’t have to,” Angie told him. There is another alternative.”

***—***

“Are you sure you are okay with this?” Forrest asked his mother.

“It is time Ananiah . . . Forrest,” she smiled.

“Okay,” Angie said. “The pit is through those doors. The medallion will be destroyed when the reactor cycles in fifteen minutes. All we have to do is get in, drop the medallion and get out.”

“Simple, huh?” Forrest said, wiping his sweaty palms on his pants.

“Don’t say that!” Angie said.

“Sorry, trying to deal with my nausea. How do you do this for a job?”

“You get used to it,” Angie told him.

“Look, in case something happens, I need to tell you that . . .”

“Forrest, don’t,” Angie said. “You are going to be fine. I will not let anything happen to you.”

“Don’t kid a kidder. I heard my mother’s men. I know what it is going to be like when we try this. Everybody who wants this “thing” is going to try to stop me.” Forrest pointed at the medallion and screwed his face into a disgusted look.

“Then we will have to be better,” Angie smiled.

Angie led Forrest down a dark corridor, with two light machine guns strapped on her shoulders and her favorite hand gun pointed ahead of them, ready to shred anything that got in their way. She could hear Forrest’s breathing as they eased down the hall. She wished she could calm him, because she wondered what might happen if he stayed so amped up on adrenalin and clutched the medallion. The last thing she needed was to get separated from him with everyone descending on them.

“Angie!” Forrest said when the first enemies appeared in the corridor.

Angie drew down and emptied her clip into the face of four men who crumbled with merely one errant shot.

“You wouldn’t do that to me after a bad argument would you?” Forrest joked as he tried to erase the image from his mind.

“I wouldn’t use that many bullets,” Angie said at first without a smile, and then she winked before allowing her smile to settle his fears some.

She jerked him into an alcove when bullets began to fly in their direction. An exchange of gunfire gave Angie pause as she saw there was too much distance between her and the room they had to access. She could see it wasn’t going to happen with her leading the way.

“You have to go alone!”

“What? NO! No, I cannot do that.”

“There’s no other way. I will stay here and keep them occupied. Use the talisman and they won’t see you.”

Forrest felt like he would barf all over the place. He remembered how much strength it took to remain unseen at Ross’ compound. Could he concentrate more to make it all the way without being seen?

Angie smiled, squeezed his hand and turned to blast away at the direction of their adversaries and Forrest sucked in as much air as he could, summoned what courage he found and made his way toward the pit.

He was learning more about how to make the talisman work for him and that bit of knowledge scared him. Would this stupid thing take over his mind and convince him he had to do the things his father did? He shook his head to clear his thoughts as he knew he had one chance to make this work. He could hear nearly constant gunfire now and wondered if Angie was okay. He wished he knew the difference in report of her weapons so he could determine if she was still firing.

When Forrest passed through the final barrier to the pit he dropped to his knees in exhaustion. His breath came hard as he scrambled to remember why he was here. He wondered how his father managed to accomplish so much with this horrible thing.

“The pit!” his mind told him. “Put it in the pit.”

“STOP!” he heard from behind him as he held the medallion over the opening to a 1500 meter pit. It was Ross, who drug Angie into view and had a large caliber pistol against her right temple. “You release that and I will drop her and then you!”

“Do it Forrest. You have to. My life is not enough to risk all the ones that will be harmed if that thing stays around.”

“Angie!” Forrest called, wavering enough to give Ross hope.

“Drop it!” Angie commanded.

“NO! Toss it to me,” Ross said. As incentive he cocked the pistol aimed at Angie’s head.

“Come and get it,” Forrest said extending the medallion over the pit as he turned to face them.

Ross studied Forrest’s face and then made a decision that set off a crazy scramble toward Forrest. He doubled over Angie with a thrust of his elbow to her gut and rushed toward the pit and the medallion. Forrest squeezed the medallion once more and faded from view just as Ross dived for it. Finding nothing to grab, Ross tumbled head first into the deep hole. Forrest reappeared with one hand clasped on the rail at the top of the pit and fought to hold on. The medallion hung by the chain from his other hand and he called out to Angie for assistance.

“I’m here! Give me your hand!”

Forrest’s face showed he was nearly out of energy, drained from too many transitions. Angie grabbed his wrists just above his hands and held on tight.

“Let it go,” Forrest. “Ross wanted it, so let him have it.”

Forrest felt his while body shudder as he released the object that had been with him for so long it seemed a piece of him. Angie heaved as she braced against the rail and pulled Forrest to safety. He melted into a prone position on the floor, gasps of air causing his chest to heave uncontrollably.

“You did it!” Angie said pulling him close.

“We did it!” Forrest breathlessly corrected her.

—***—-

Sephira Yedidya smiled as she saw her son staggering, but walking hand in hand with Angie as they exited the building. Men from her Mechilah group were busy securing the site, collecting the survivors of Ross’ force. The danger had passed.

Xia smiled appreciatively, knowing his long career was complete. Anna and Benjamin ran to embrace their brother, with Benjamin sliding under Forrest’s arm to help him to their mother’s position.

“It is done?” Sephira asked.

“Yes,” Forrest answered.

“Your father would be proud!”

Forrest embraced his mother, and then turned to face Angie. He took in her face, which was as beautiful today as he could ever remember. Her hands in his he hesitated only a second before speaking.

“I have something to ask, and I hope you won’t . . . “

“Yes. Yes I will marry you Forrest Graham.”

“It’s Ananiah. Ananiah Yedidya.”

THE END

 

The list of contributors and their blogs:

Joe Owens – Joe’s Musings  May 1st 

Josh Magill – The Magill Review May 6th

Ambrozya – Ambrozya May 11th

Moondust Writer – Moondust Writer May 16th

setton crew – setton crew May 21st

E.J. Lamprey – elegsabiff May 26th

Jennifer Pendergast – Elmo Writes May 31st

Cl Elli – Venti Mocha Moments  June 5th

Ted Strutz – TedBook June 10th

Lashell Collins – Lashell Collins June 15th

Francesca – Dr. Franny and Mrs. Myself June 20th

David Stewart – The Green-Walled Tower June 25th

Joe Owens – Joe’s Musings  June 30th