Chapter OneMysterious Message
Lionel Washington smiled as he sat in front
of a computer deep in a cave in Petra. He still
couldn't believe that Judd and Vicki were
married. He had been with them just after
they had first met in Mount Prospect, and he
would have never guessed they would wind
up together. He replayed video from the ceremony
a few days earlier and shook his head.God worked this out, he thought.
Chang Wong had set Lionel up with the
computer and showed him how to access the
Global Community's vast network. With a
few clicks of the mouse, Lionel listened in on
one of Nicolae Carpathia's secret meetings,
or heard what was going on in the control
room at the Global Community News
Network. Chang had even given him software
to control the computer with his voice,
but Lionel preferred the old-fashioned way.
Lionel touched the stump of his left arm
and counted the months since his accident in
Indiana. He wasn't having nightmares as
much, but he still found it hard to get to
sleep. Sometimes he stayed up all night at
the computer, trying to figure out what
would happen next on God's timetable.
He had renewed his friendship with Sam
Goldberg and Mr. Stein, eating manna and
quail with them just about every day. But
Lionel had to admit he longed for his friends
back in the States. It was strange. He was in
the safest place on earth, supernaturally
protected by God from Carpathia and his
growing armies, but Lionel longed for
In a way, he felt useless and pitied. When
assignments were handed out, Lionel was
always given the soft jobs or nothing at all.
He wanted to build things or help with
chores, but he often found himself back at
the computer alone.
As the yellow glow of the rising sun
peeked through the opening to the cave,
Lionel yawned and stretched. People would
gather manna soon. Little kids would run
through the camp. He loved playing with
them, especially Kenny Williams, but Kenny
spent most of his time with Buck now,
asking questions about his mother.
Instead of heading for bed, Lionel clicked
on the link for the Global Community in the
United North American States. Things had
gotten worse there in the past few days. The
GC seemed to be taking out their frustration
about the darkness in New Babylon on those
without the mark. Reports of people being
dragged from hiding places and executed had
Lionel winced as he pulled up a report
from GCNN detailing another raid on what
looked like a militia hideout in Minnesota,
fifty miles west of the Mississippi River.
These people didn't have the mark of the
believer or of Carpathia. They were hauled
from their underground hiding place and
herded onto trucks.
The camera focused on a smiling
Commander Kruno Fulcire, head of the
Rebel Apprehension Program. "We're very
pleased with the level of cooperation from
the people of this community," he said.
"How did you know they were here?" a
"We actually had a tip from family
members of one of the unmarked. They, of
course, will receive the full reward offered to
those who help uncover rebels."
"Will there be more arrests and executions
in this part of the country?" the reporter said.
Fulcire squinted. "I can't give that information,
but we hope to have significant developments
in the coming days."
Lionel sat forward and pulled up a map of
the region. The site of the arrests wasn't that
far from the Avery, Wisconsin, hideout. He
quickly sent a warning message to Mark and
* * *
Mark Eisman held his head in his hands
while several people filed out of the main
cabin in Wisconsin. Maggie Carlson put
a hand on his shoulder before she left. Others
weren't so kind, with mean looks and
Marshall Jameson paced in front of the
computer. "I understand your feelings, Mark.
I've wanted to start a rebel radio station to
tell people the truth, but some things are too
"Why are we so concerned about staying
safe?" Mark said. "Isn't it more important to
get the message out?"
Conrad Graham slapped his hands on his
knees. "If that's your goal, I might go along
with you, but you're talking about fighting
the GC. What could you possibly accomplish?"
"You saw what they did to Chloe," Mark
said. "If somebody had tried to take those
Peacekeepers out before they caught her, she
wouldn't have lost her head."
"Reports from the Trib Force say she went
outside trying to protect her family and
friends," Marshall said. "But a rescue mission
would have backfired. They didn't even know
where she was."
Conrad stood. "I hate just sitting here as
much as you do, but if you go out there, we'll
be seeing your face flashed on TV."
"You guys don't need me," Mark said. "We
have enough people to staff the Web site
twenty-four hours a day with people left over."
"Okay, so what do you want to do?"
"Find those RAP people, Fulcire if I can,
and give them a dose of their own medicine."
Mark glanced at Conrad, then at
Marshall. "If you want to know the truth, I've
already packed my stuff."
Colin Dial sat in the corner. He cleared his
throat and said, "What if we could find a way
to get you closer to the action?" Marshall
frowned but Colin held up a hand. "I don't
want to see him get into trouble, but if he
could get closer to the main headquarters,
south of Chicago, maybe he could do some
good before this is all over."
"What was the name of the lady and her
son living near Chicago?" Marshall said. "The
one Vicki and you guys met at the schoolhouse."
"Lenore?" Conrad said.
"That's right!" Mark said. "She was staying
southwest of Chicago, wasn't she?"
"I've got her number on my cell," Conrad
said, handing a phone to Mark.
Mark punched the Redial button and
waited. He heard a weird noise but no dial
tone. "Something's wrong with it."
Mark found Lenore's e-mail address and
looked through past messages to Vicki and
the group. He quickly wrote her and sent the
* * *
Vicki awoke to sunshine peeking through the
lone window of her and Judd's small dwelling.
They couldn't call it a house, but it wasn't
a shack either. There was enough room for a
nice-sized bed, a cabinet to hold their clothes,
a computer desk, and a small table.
Vicki noticed Judd was gone and smiled.
There was no question where he was.
She lay back and stretched. Being married
was a lot different than she had thought.
There had already been disagreements to
work through. Her childhood image of
"happily ever after" was gone. Marriage was
truly a lot of work.
Vicki thought of her friends in Wisconsin.
They had seen the ceremony via computer,
but it wasn't the same as being there. She
would have liked Shelly and Melinda and
Janie to be bridesmaids, but that had been
out of the question. Life wasn't normal and
never would be again. But within a few
months Jesus would return. Vicki had lived
the past six and a half years yearning for him
to come back and set things right. Now she
would experience the event with her
Husband, Vicki thought. The word made
her shoulders tremble.
There was a slight knock and Judd entered.
"Ready for breakfast in bed?"
Vicki chuckled. "Are you going to do this
every day until Jesus comes back?"
Judd smiled, set down a pitcher of cool
water, and handed her a plate filled with
fresh manna. "Wouldn't be a bad job," he
said, sitting cross-legged on the bed. "You
Vicki nodded. "Though it took a while last
night. I kept thinking about lunch today. Have
you heard anything from Dr. Ben-Judah?"
"I guess we'll hear something if it's off."
Vicki had figured she would get tired of
eating the same food, but each morning the
honey wafers tasted great. She recalled advertisements
for restaurants that claimed their
donuts or croissants melted in your mouth,
but the manna literally dissolved on her
tongue. It was light, flaky, and tasted good any
time of the day. Vicki wondered if God had
put extra vitamins in the food to satisfy their
"You know, we could have made a lot of
money if we'd have gotten this recipe before
the Tribulation started," Vicki said. "Even
people who were overweight when they
came here have lost pounds eating this."
"Just shows that God's food is best," Judd
said, taking a bite of a wafer. He put the plate
down and wiped his hands. "I know you
might be tired of hearing this, but you've
made me the happiest guy in Petra."
Vicki smiled. "I never get tired of hearing
that. But sometimes ."
"Well, I look at Buck Williams who lost
Chloe and Dr. Ben-Judah who lost his wife
and children. I see their pain and almost feel
guilty for feeling . happy."
"I know what you mean. I met a guy
yesterday who lost his brother and dad to the
false messiah's vipers. Every day he wakes up
knowing they're never coming back."
"I met a woman a few days ago who has
family in Jerusalem. She doesn't think
they've taken Carpathia's mark, but there's
no way to tell. She can't reach them."
"Maybe we can bring this up with Dr. Ben-Judah,"
They finished breakfast, then took a long
walk to the fountain. It was one of Vicki's
favorite things to do-walk hand in hand
with Judd around the sprawling camp,
watching people, looking at the rock formations,
meeting new friends. Vicki couldn't
imagine being any happier.
* * *
Mark rolled his clothes and a small supply of
food into his sleeping bag and tied it tightly.
He slipped a gun Zeke had left behind into
his pocket, but Mark knew there was no way
he could overpower the GC. He would have
to outsmart them rather than outgun them.
As he moved his things outside, he noticed
Charlie standing by the window. The crisp,
fall air was cool, and he could see Charlie's
breath. "You want to come inside?"
Charlie nodded and entered, pulling his
hooded sweatshirt over his head. He looked
at the floor and blinked.
"What's up?" Mark said.
"I heard what you're thinking about
doing," Charlie said, pawing at the floor with
"And I wish you'd stay."
"But if you won't, I want to go with you."
Mark put a hand on Charlie's shoulder.
"I'm sure I could use the help-but not this
"You know the GC are mean people, putting
Chloe in that head chopper and all.
They won't stop, and if they catch you . I
think something bad's going to happen."
"Nothing's going to happen to me," Mark
said. "I hope we'll all be together at the
Glorious Appearing. I want to be standing
right next to you when Jesus comes back."
Charlie looked up. "You really think we'll
make it to then?"
"I'm planning on it."
Charlie helped carry Mark's things to one
of the abandoned cars parked in the woods,
then said good-bye.
* * *
Lionel stared at the computer screen, trying
to figure out what he had found. An e-mail
sent from an aide to Kruno Fulcire to the GC
supreme commander updated the progress of
the raids. Much of it was straightforward,
with statistics about the number of prisoners
and the execution schedule. But a line at the
bottom included numbers and letters that
looked like gibberish.
Chang walked in and Lionel stood. "Glad
you're here. Take a look at this."
Chang sat and studied the screen. "Good
catch. Have you talked to your friends in
"I e-mailed them and even made a call, but
I can't get through. I saw that GCNN was
predicting some kind of satellite interference
for the northern part of the States."
Chang shook his head. "No way. They
must be jamming that area for some reason.
When did you send your e-mail?"
"About forty minutes ago," Lionel said as
Chang punched information into the computer.
"Look at this," Chang said. "The GC intercepted
your message. It never got to your
"What? How could they-?"
Chang clicked on the e-mail from Kruno
Fulcire's aide. He pointed at the bottom of
the screen. "See this? It's code for the higher-ups.
I think they've finally broken into the
Young Trib Force Web site."
"No," Lionel gasped.
"That's not the worst news. Looks like the
GC has a location for your friends. If we
don't alert them, they're dead."