It was midafternoon in New Babylon, and David Hassid
was frantic. Annie was nowhere in sight and he had
heard nothing from her, yet he could barely turn his eyes
from the gigantic screens in the palace courtyard. The
image of the indefatigable Nicolae Carpathia, freshly
risen from three days dead, filled the screen and crackled
with energy. David believed if he was within reach of the
man he could be electrocuted by some demonic charge.
With the disappearance of his love fighting for his
attention, David found himself drawn past the jumbo
monitors and the guards and the crowds to the edge of
the bier that had just hours before displayed the quite
dead body of the king of the world.
Should David be able to see evidence that the man was
now indwelt by Satan himself? The body, the hair, the
complexion, the look were the same. But an intensity, an
air of restlessness and alertness, flowed from the eyes.
Though he smiled and talked softly, it was as if Nicolae
could barely contain the monster within. Controlled
fury, violence delayed, revenge in abeyance played at the
muscles in his neck and shoulders. David half expected
him to burst from his suit and then from his very skin,
exposed to the world as the repulsive serpent he was.
David's attention was diverted briefly by someone next
to Carpathia, and when he glanced back at the still ruggedly
handsome face, he was not prepared to have
caught the eye of the enemy of his soul. Nicolae knew
him, of course, but the look, though it contained recognition,
did not carry the usual acceptance and encouragement
David was used to. That very welcoming gaze had
always unnerved him, yet he preferred it over this. For
this was a transparent gaze that seemed to pass through
David, which nearly moved him to step forward and
confess his treachery and that of every comrade in the
David reminded himself that not even Satan himself
was omniscient, yet he found it difficult to accept that
these eyes were not those of one who knew his every
secret. He wanted to run but he dared not, and he was
grateful when Nicolae turned back to the task at hand:
his role as the object of the world's worship.
David hurried back to his post, but someone had
appropriated his golf cart, and he found himself peeved
to where he wanted to pull rank. He flipped open his
phone, had trouble finding his voice, but finally barked
at the motor-pool supervisor, "I had better have a vehicle
delivered within 120 seconds or someone is going to find
"An electric cart, sir?" the man said, his accent making
David guess he was an Aussie.
"They're scarce here, Director, but"
"They must be, because someone absconded with
"But I was going to say that I would be happy to lend
you mine, under the circumstances."
"The resurrection, of course! Tell you the truth, Director
Hassid, I'd love to get in line myself."
"You think I could do that, sir? I mean if I were in
uniform? I know they've turned away civilians not inside
the courtyard, and they're none too happy, but as an
"I don't know! I need a cart and I need it now!"
"Would you drive me to the venue before you go
wherever it is you have to g"
"Yes! Now hurry!"
"Are you thrilled or what, Director?"
The man spoke slowly, condescendingly. "A-bout-the-res-ur-rec-tion!"
"Are you in your vehicle?" David demanded.
"That's what I'm thrilled about."
The man was still talking when David hung up on him
and called crowd control. "I'm looking for Annie Christopher,"
"Sector 53 has been cleared, Director. She may have
been reassigned or relieved."
"If she were reassigned, you'd have it, no?"
The motor-pool chief appeared in his cart, beaming.
David boarded, phone still to his ear. "Gonna see god,"
the man said.
"Yeah," David said. "Just a minute."
"Can you believe it? He's got to be god. Who else can
he be? Saw it with my own two eyes, well, on TV anyway.
Raised from the dead. I saw him dead, I know that.
If I see him in person, there'll be no doubt now, will
David nodded, sticking a finger in his free ear.
"I say no doubt, eh?"
"No doubt!" David shouted. "Now give me a minute!"
"Where we goin', sport?"
David craned his neck to look at the man, incredulous
that he was still speaking.
"I say, where we going? Am I dropping you or you
"I'm dropping you! Go where you want and get out!"
This wasn't how David normally treated people, even
ignorant ones. But he had to hear whether Annie had
been reassigned, and where. "Nothing," the crowd-control
dispatcher on the phone told him.
"Relieved then?" he said, relieved himself.
"Likely. Nothing in our system on her."
David thought of calling Medical Services but scolded
himself for overreacting.
Motor-pool Man deftly picked his way through the
massive, dispersing crowd. At least most were dispersing.
They looked shocked. Some were angry. They had
waited hours to see the body, and now that Carpathia
had arisen, they were not going to be able to see him, all
because of where they happened to be in the throng.
"This is as close as I hope to get in this thing then,"
the man said, skidding to a stop so abruptly that David
had to catch himself. "You'll bring it back round then,
"Of course," David said, trying to gather himself to at
least thank the man. As he slid into the driver's seat he
said, "Been back to Australia since the reorganizing?"
The man furrowed his brow and pointed at David, as
if to reprimand him. "Man of your station ought to be
able to tell the difference between an Aussie and a New
"My mistake," David said. "Thanks for the wheels."
As he pulled away the man shouted, "'Course we're all
proud citizens of the United Pacific States now anyway!"
David tried to avoid eye contact with the many disgruntled
mourners turned celebrants who tried to flag
him, not for rides but for information. At times he was
forced to brake to keep from running someone down,
and the request was always the same. In one distinct
accent or another, everyone wanted the same thing.
"Any way we can still get in to see His Excellency?"
"Can't help you," David said. "Move along, please.
"Not fair! Wait all night and half the day in the blistering
sun, and for what?"
But others danced in the streets, making up songs and
chants about Carpathia, their new god. David glanced
again at the monstrous monitors where Carpathia was
shown briefly touching hands as the last several thousand
were herded through. To David's left, guards
fought to block hopefuls from sneaking into the courtyard.
"Line's closed!" they shouted over and over.
On the screen, pilgrims swooned as they neared the
bier, graced by Nicolae in his glory. Many crumbled
from merely getting near him, waxing catatonic. Guards
held them up to keep them moving, but when His Excellency
himself spoke quietly to them and touched them,
some passed out, deadweights in the guards' arms.
Over Nicolae's cooing"Good to see you. Thank you
for coming. Bless you. Bless you."David heard Leon
Fortunato. "Worship your king," he said soothingly.
"Bow before his majesty. Worship the Lord Nicolae,
Dissonance came from the guards stuck with the
responsibility of moving the mass of quivering, jellied
humanity, catching them as they collapsed in ecstasy.
"Ridiculous!" they grumbled to each other, live mikes
sending the cacophony of Fortunato, Carpathia, and the
complainers to the ends of the PA system. "Keep moving.
Come on now! There you go! Stand up! Move it along!"
David finally reached sector 53, which was, as he had
been told, deserted. The crowd-control gates had toppled,
and the giant number placard had been trampled.
David sat there, forearms resting on the cart's steering
wheel. He shoved his uniform cap back on his head and
felt the sting of the sun's UV rays. His hands looked like
lobsters, and he knew he'd pay for his hours in the sun.
But he could not find shade again until he found Annie.
As crowds shuffled through and then around what had
been her sector, David squinted at the ground, the
asphalt shimmering. Besides the ice-cream and candy
wrappers and drink cups that lay motionless in the windless
heat was what appeared to be residue of medical
supplies. He was about to step from the cart for a closer
look when an elderly couple climbed aboard and asked
to be driven to the airport shuttle area.
"This is not a people mover," he said absently, having
enough presence to remove the keys before leaving the
"How rude!" the woman said.
"Come on," the man said.
David marched to sector 53 and knelt, the heat sapping
his energy. In the shadows of hundreds walking by,
he examined the plastic empties of bandages, gauze, ointment,
even tubing. Someone had been ministered to here.
It didn't have to have been Annie. It could have been
anyone. Still, he had to know. He made his way back to
the cart, every seat but his now full.
"Unless you need to go to Medical Services," he said,
punching the number into his phone, "you're in the
* * *
In Chicago Rayford Steele found the Strong Building's
ninth floor enough of a bonanza that he was able to
push from his mind misgivings about Albie. The truth
about his dark, little Middle Eastern friend would be
tested soon enough. Albie was to ferry a fighter jet from
Palwaukee to Kankakee, where Rayford would later pick
him up in a Global Community helicopter.
Besides discovering a room full of the latest desktop
and minicomputersstill in their original packagingRayford
found a small private sleeping room adjacent
to a massive executive office. It was outfitted like a
luxurious hotel room, and he rushed from floor to
floor to find the same next to at least four offices on
"We have more amenities than we ever dreamed," he
told the exhausted Tribulation Force. "Until we can
blacken the windows, we'll have to get some of the beds
into the corridors near the elevators where they can't be
seen from the outside."
"I thought no one ever came near here," Chloe said,
Kenny sleeping in her lap and Buck dozing with his head
on her shoulder.
"Never know what satellite imaging shows," Rayford
said. "We could be sleeping soundly while GC Security
and Intelligence forces snap our pictures from the stratosphere."
"Let me get these two to bed somewhere," she said,
"before I collapse."
"I've moved furniture in my day," Leah said, slowly
rising. "Where are these beds and where do we put
"I wish I could help," Chaim said through clenched
teeth, his jaw still wired shut.
Rayford stopped him with a gesture. "If you're staying
with us, sir, you answer to me. We need you and Buck as
healthy as you can be."
"And I need you alert for study," Tsion said. "You
made me cram for enough exams. Now you' re in for the
crash course of your life."
Rayford, Chloe, Leah, and Tsion spent half an hour
moving beds up the elevator to makeshift quarters in an
inner corridor on the twenty-fifth floor. By the time
Rayford gingerly boarded the chopper balanced precariously
on what served as the new roof of the tower, everyone
was asleep save Tsion. The rabbi seemed to gain a
second wind, and Rayford wasn't sure why.
Rayford left the instrument panel lights on and, of
course, the outside lights off. He fired up the rotors but
waited to lift off until his eyes had adjusted to the darkness.
The copter had twenty feet of clearance on each
side. Little was trickierespecially to a fixed-wing expert
like Rayfordthan the shifting currents inside what
amounted to a cavernous smokestack. Rayford had seen
choppers crash in wide-open spaces after merely hovering
too long in one place. Mac McCullum had tried to
explain the physics of it, but Rayford had not listened
closely enough to grasp it. Something about the rotors
sucking up air from beneath the craft, leaving it no buoyancy.
By the time the pilot realized he was dropping
through dead air of his own making, he had destroyed
the equipment and often killed all on board.
Rayford needed sleep as much as any of his charges, but
he had to go get Albie. There was more to that too, of
course. He could have called his friend and told him to lie
low till the following evening. But Albie was new to the
country and would have to fend for himself outside or
bluff his way into a hotel. With Carpathia resurrected and
the GC naturally on heightened alert, who knew how long
he could pull off impersonating a GC officer?
Anyway, Rayford had to know whether Albie was
"with him or agin him," as his father used to say. He
had been thrilled to see the mark of the believer on
Albie's forehead, but much of what the man had done in
the predawn hours confused Rayford and made him
wonder. A wily, streetwise man like Albieone who had
provided so much at high risk to himselfwould be the
worst kind of opponent. Rayford worried that he had
unwittingly led the Tribulation Force into the lair of the
As the chopper rumbled through the shaft at the top of
the tower, Rayford held his breath. He had carefully set
the craft as close to the middle of the space as he could,
allowing him to use one corner for his guide as he rose. If
he kept the whirring blades equidistant from the walls in
the one corner, he should be centered until free of the
How vulnerable and conspicuous could a man feel?
He imagined David Hassid having miscalculated, trusting
old information, not realizing that the GC itself knew
Chicago was safenot off-limits due to radiation.
Rayford himself had overheard Carpathia say he had not
used radiation on the city, at least initially. He wondered
if the GC had planted such information just to lure in the
insurgents and have them where they wanted themin
one place for easy dispatch.
With his helicopter free of the tower, Rayford still
dared not engage the lights. He would stay low, hopefully
beneath radar. He wanted to be invisible to satellite
surveillance photography as well, but heat sensing had
been so refined that the dark whirlybird would glow
orange on a monitor.
A chill ran up his back as he let his imagination run.
Was he being followed by a half dozen craft just like his
own? He wouldn't hear or see them. They could have
waited nearby, even on the ground. How would he
Since when did he manufacture trouble? There was
enough real danger without concocting more.
Rayford set the instrument panel lights at their lowest
level and quickly saw he was off course. It was an easy
fix, but so much for trusting his brain, even in a ship like
this. Mac had once told him that piloting a helicopter
was to flying a 747 as riding a bike was to driving a
sport utility vehicle. From that Rayford assumed that he
would do more work by the seat of his pants than by
marrying himself to the instrument panel. But neither
had he planned on flying blind over a deserted megalopolis
in wee-hour blackness. He had to get to Kankakee,
pick up Albie, and get back to the tower before sunup.
He had not a minute to spare. The last thing he wanted
was to be seen over a restricted area in broad daylight.
Detected in the dead of night was one thing. He would
take his chances, trust his instincts. But there would be
no hiding under the sun, and he would die before he
would lead anyone to the new safe house.
* * *
In New Babylon frustrated supplicants had formed a new
line, several thousand long, outside the Global Community
Palace. GC guards traversed the length of it, telling
people that the resurrected potentate would have to leave
the courtyard when he had finished greeting those who
happened to be in the right place at the right time.
David detoured from his route to Medical Services to
hear the response of the crowd. They did not move, did
not disperse. The guards, their bullhorned messages
ignored, finally stopped to listen. David, looking puzzled,
pulled up behind one of the jeeps, and a guard
shrugged as if as dumbfounded as Director Hassid. The
guard with the loudspeaker said, "Suit yourselves, but
this is an exercise in futility."
"We have another idea!" shouted a man with a Hispanic
"I'm listening," the guard said, as the crowd near him
"We will worship the statue!" he said, and hundreds
in line cheered.
"What did he say? What did he say?" The question
raced down the line in both directions.
"Did not Supreme Commander Fortunato say we
should do that?" the man said.
"Where are you from, my friend?" the guard asked,
admiration in his voice.
"Méjico!" the man shouted in his native tongue, and
many with him exulted.
"You have the heart of the toreador!" the guard said.
"Let me check on it!"
The news spread as the guard settled in his seat and
talked into his phone. Suddenly he stood and gave the
man a thumbs-up. "You have been cleared to worship
the image of His Excellency, the risen potentate!"
The crowd cheered.
"In fact, your leaders consider it a capital idea!"
The crowd sang and chanted, edging closer and closer
to the courtyard.
"Please maintain order!" the guard urged. "It will be
more than an hour before you will be allowed in. But
you will get your wish!"
David shook his head as he executed a huge U-turn
and headed to the courtyard. People along the way called
out to him. "Is it true? May we at least worship the
David ignored most of them, but when clusters moved
in front of his speeding cart, he was forced to brake
before slipping around them. Occasionally he nodded,
to their delight. They ran to get in a line that already
stretched more than a quarter mile. Would this day ever