Chapter OneDeath in Tel Aviv
Judd Thompson Jr. closed his eyes as a plume
of smoke rose from the aircraft wreckage less
than a mile away. The jet had slammed into
the beach at hundreds of miles an hour,
followed by a deafening explosion. Judd's
ears still rang as he knelt on the beach.
Judd's friend, Mac McCullum, was piloting
the plane. Judd tried to imagine the horror of
those last few seconds. Chang Wong had told
Judd that Mac and a few other believers who
worked inside the Global Community were
trying to escape. Why hadn't Mac pulled the
plane out of the plunge to earth?
A siren sounded from emergency vehicles
in the distance, but everyone knew they
could send a thousand ambulances to the
crater and it wouldn't make any difference.
Lionel Washington put a hand on Judd's
People near Judd and Lionel, as well as
those who surrounded the platform, fell
silent. Angry black-and-orange flames
billowed from the crash site as the blaze
melted the Quasi Two.
A man several feet from them turned to his
wife. "I hope they have a record of passengers
on that plane. They'll never find any bodies."
The man's wife covered her face. "This was
supposed to be such a happy day for the
Judd looked at Lionel. "The way that thing
came down, you think it was sabotage?"
"What do you mean?"
"If somebody found out about Mac and
the others, the GC could have made it crash."
Lionel shook his head. "With all these
people around? Plus, the plane had equipment
for the mark application. They
wouldn't have destroyed their own
The eerie silence continued until a woman
cried out, "Save them, Potentate!"
Z-Van, the singer Judd and Lionel were
traveling with, stood at the back of a group
of dignitaries. He leaned forward and spoke
to a man in front of him as Nicolae walked
to the microphone.
Carpathia held up a hand and tried to
soothe the masses with his voice. "Peace be
unto you. My peace I give you. Not as the
Lionel gritted his teeth. "He's ripping off
"Would you please quietly make your way
from this place, honoring it as the sacred
place of the end for four brave employees. I
will ask that the loyalty mark application site
be appropriately relocated, and thank you for
your reverence during this tragedy."
Z-Van stepped forward, then was ushered
off the stage, along with the regional potentates.
Leon Fortunato, now the Most High
Reverend Father of Carpathianism, stepped to
the mike and spread his hands wide. The folds
of his robed arms looked like great wings.
"He looks like the most high turkey,"
Fortunato tried to speak comfortingly to
the audience as Carpathia had done, but his
voice didn't have the same tone. "Beloved,"
he said, "while this sadly preempts and
concludes today's activities in Tel Aviv,
tomorrow's agenda shall remain in place. We
look forward to your presence in Jerusalem."
The crowd scattered, some hurrying to automobiles
and others standing by the motorcade
to get one more look at Carpathia.
Bodyguards and officials flanked the man.
Judd and Lionel wandered along the beach
to the crash site. The heat from the twisted
metal was intense. Global Community security
forces had already cordoned off the site
with yellow tape. A few people passed, shaking
their heads. Some took pictures.
One woman, overcome, laid a bouquet of
flowers on the sand. She looked at a friend,
wiped away a tear, and said, "They gave their
lives in service to the potentate. Those four
Judd turned to Lionel as the woman
walked away. "Let's get back to Z-Van's
plane. I want to call Chang and see if he
knows anything about this."
* * *
Vicki Byrne rubbed her eyes and looked out
at the dark sky. It was early morning in Iowa,
and several kids were still awake discussing
their next move. Mark and the others agreed
that Cheryl Tifanne should accompany them
to Wisconsin, but Vicki wanted to go immediately.
Colin Dial arrived from one of the
other safe houses and joined the discussion.
In the middle of the argument, Mark took
a call from Jim Dekker, a believer working
inside the Global Community. Mark turned
on the speakerphone, and Jim updated them
about what had happened since they last
Jim said he was still at the satellite tracking
center, searching for any information he
could find about Pete. "I know the GC has
impounded the van, but I haven't heard
anything about Pete. I also know this
Commander Fulcire of RAP is in Iowa."
"RAP?" Shelly said.
"The Rebel Apprehension Program," Jim
said. "The United North American States
have pledged to lead the world in cracking
down on anti-Carpathia activity."
"Then they're mostly after believers," Vicki
Mark looked at Colin. "Won't they be able
to trace your van, the one Pete took?"
Colin shook his head. "We altered the
vehicle identification number and assigned it
to the GC fleet. I'll call Becky and have her be
on alert just in case."
"What about you?" Vicki said. "Why aren't
you out of there?"
"I'm not leaving until I know there's nothing
I can do to help Pete," Jim said. "There
are rumors about us being required to take
the mark later today. I want to be out before
Vicki asked if Jim knew anything about
Claudia Zander. He didn't but said he
would check. When a new report flashed
on GCNN, Jim said he would call back
soon and hung up.
A news reporter, April Wojekowski, stood
on a dark road in Iowa, lights of squad cars
flashing behind her. "GCNN has learned of a
search for anti-Carpathia forces here in Iowa.
We were allowed to fly in with Commander
Kruno Fulcire, who wouldn't comment on a
possible escape of prisoners at a nearby GC
holding facility. But the commander was
optimistic that an abandoned van discovered
at the side of this road may yield more clues
about a possible rebel conspiracy."
Natalie Bishop's picture appeared on the
screen and Vicki gasped. Natalie had been
accused of helping rebels by using a superior's
The scene switched to April's recorded interview
of Commander Fulcire on his plane. "Are
there others inside the Global Community
who may be helping the rebels?"
Commander Fulcire frowned. "We hope
not. That's why we're administering the mark
of loyalty as soon as possible to all United
North American employees."
"What new measures will you take to
capture anti-Carpathia forces?"
Before Fulcire could answer, GCNN
switched live to April again, her hair swirling
wildly below a hovering helicopter. She
screamed into the microphone to be heard.
"We have some activity now in the brush, a
few yards from where they discovered the
The camera swung to the right, past the
television truck, and focused on about a
dozen Global Community officers walking
through tall brush by the roadside.
"What do you think they found?" Shelly
"I just hope it's not Pete," Vicki said.
* * *
Judd and Lionel made their way through the
lingering crowd in Tel Aviv. Judd had heard
there would be as many as 100,000 GC
troops brought into Israel, and he did notice
more Morale Monitors and Peacekeepers
patrolling the streets. Some rode in Jeeps and
covered personnel vehicles. Others walked
with guns slung over their shoulders. Judd
wondered if Carpathia hoped to scare everyone
in Israel into following him. If so,
Nicolae had greatly misjudged followers of
People along the street spoke sadly about
the plane crash. Some called it a shame, while
others blamed Tsion Ben-Judah. "Some say
the thing exploded before it even hit the
ground," one man said. "I'll bet the Judahites
planted a bomb and had it explode over Tel
Aviv just to make the potentate look bad."
Some young people sat on sidewalks,
dressed in shirts and hats that bore images of
The Four Horsemen. They were almost as
dejected as Z-Van that his appearance had
Westin Jakes, Z-Van's pilot, came down the
stairs of the airplane when Judd and Lionel
finally made it to the airport. Westin had
become a believer soon after Nicolae
Carpathia's rise from the dead.
"I don't mean to spoil the party," Westin
said, "but I don't advise you guys riding with
us. It's not a pretty sight back there."
"What's wrong?" Lionel said.
No sooner had Lionel spoken than a guitar
flew out the open door, spinning down the
stairs, and smashing onto the tarmac. Z-Van
screamed and cursed at someone inside.
"Who's he mad at?" Lionel said.
"Everybody," Westin said. "Join me in the
Judd and Lionel quickly ran up the steps
and slipped into the cockpit.
Z-Van screamed from the back of the
plane, "We had the potentate right there! We
were all ready, and because of this airplane
foul-up, we have to reschedule!"
Someone spoke softly and Z-Van screamed
again. "I swear, Lars, if you film any of this
I'll throw the camera twice as far as I threw
"That film guy still following Z-Van
around?" Lionel whispered.
Westin nodded. "They were set to shoot
the songs at the platform, but the plane crash
wiped their schedule."
Judd fumed. "I can't believe he's more
concerned about singing his new songs than
he is about the people killed in the crash."
Westin cocked his head. "That's my boss."
Westin turned on a tiny monitor and tuned
in the GCNN station in Tel Aviv. They had
been showing the live broadcast of the festivities
up to the crash of the plane. Two grim-faced
anchors played amateur video that
showed the best moments of the fatal flight.
Westin scowled. "The way that thing came
down tells me there was a major problem."
"What do you mean?" Judd said.
"You have all those acrobatic moves, all
the fancy flyovers, and then everything goes
blank. The pilot doesn't even try to pull out."
"Maybe he couldn't," Judd said.
A photo of Mac McCullum flashed on the
screen. The news anchor said, "We now have
confirmed those members of the flight crew
and the two passengers. Captain Mac
McCullum was said to be one of the Global
Community's most experienced pilots, the
person who usually flew Potentate
Carpathia's plane, the Phoenix 216. He is
presumed dead, along with copilot Abdullah
Smith, a former Jordanian fighter pilot and
first officer for the Global Community."
The news anchor paused. "We should be
reminded that there are perhaps family
members of these victims who are just now
finding out about their loved ones' deaths,
and for that we apologize.
"Also among the dead, this woman,
Hannah Palemoon. Originally from the
United North American States, she was a
nurse by profession, so one can assume she
may have been on the flight to help administer
the mark of loyalty here in Tel Aviv.
"Perhaps the most shocking casualty was a
director in Potentate Carpathia's cabinet,
David Hassid. We understand he was one of
the technical geniuses who helped behind
the scenes in New Babylon. I'm sure His
Excellency will miss the input of these
colleagues, and again, our hearts go out to
those who are family members and those
who knew the deceased."
Z-Van threw open the cockpit door and
rushed inside. "Get me back to Jerusalem!"
He eyed Judd and Lionel and cursed again.
"And get these two off my plane."
Westin started his preflight procedures and
said, "Sir, we promised them-"
"I don't care what you or I or anybody else
promised. I want them off and I don't want
them back on. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Westin said.
* * *
Vicki and the others sat engrossed in the
GCNN coverage of the situation in Iowa.
Periodically the news switched to Israel to
report on the plane crash that had taken four
lives. Vicki whimpered when Mac McCullum's
picture appeared. The kids knew Mac
was a member of the Tribulation Force.
The phone rang and Mark picked up as the
kids continued to monitor the news. His eyes
darted around the room. When he hung up
he looked at Vicki. "If we're getting out of
here, we should do it now. Jim said the GC is
converging. He sent an urgent message that a
small convoy was fleeing south toward
Kansas City. He thinks that'll give us enough
time to get on the road back to Wisconsin."
"Is he getting out?" Vicki said.
"As soon as he knows we're safe," Mark
"Let's go," Colin Dial said, grabbing a few
of their belongings.
"Wait," Shelly said. "The van's gone."
"Take my family's minivan," Chad Harris
said from the shadows.
Vicki turned to the young man and smiled.
Chad had helped her deal with Natalie's
death. She put a hand on his arm. "Thank
you for being here when we needed you."
Chad nodded. "I hate to see you go, but
you'll always have a place here if you need
it." He took Vicki's hand, then hugged her.
Conrad yelled and the kids rushed back to
the television. The reporter was excitedly
announcing that after an exhaustive search,
Global Community authorities had found
something about a hundred yards from the
road. The camera zoomed into the darkness
where two uniformed officers dragged someone
through the brush.
"It appears to be a large man," April
Vicki put a hand to her mouth as the
group approached. Between the two GC officers
was her friend Pete.