Chapter OneInto the Great
Judd Thompson Jr. wiped sweat from his
forehead, aware that he was watching the
beginning of the end of the world. For the
past three and a half years he had studied
biblical predictions about the Antichrist and
the false prophet. There was no doubt in his
mind that Nicolae Carpathia and Leon
Fortunato, Carpathia's right-hand man, were
the evil men described in Revelation 14
The sun baked the crowd, still scurrying to
greet the potentate. GC personnel in roving
carts warned people that the courtyard was
filled. "If you want to stay and watch the
risen potentate greet others, feel free to do so.
Otherwise, please exit the area. Thank you."
The gigantic screens showed Carpathia
smiling, energetic, and full of life. Minutes
earlier the crowd had wept over the man
entombed in his glass coffin. Now, as the
Bible had predicted, Carpathia stood in the
midafternoon New Babylon sun and
beamed. Like moths to a flame, the crowd
worshiped their risen hero.
Judd felt drawn too, but for another
reason. Carpathia's final words shocked
him. The once-dead potentate had urged
his enemies to join the Global Community.
Then with menacing eyes the man
spoke directly to believers in Christ and
warned them not to attack him or the
harmony he had worked hard to create.
The look on Carpathia's face reminded
Judd of the look on his face at the execution
of the two prophets, Moishe and Eli.
No doubt, Carpathia had the same in mind
for other followers of Christ, but how
would he try to kill them?
As Judd passed through the crowd, he
overheard several people talking about
Carpathia. "This is the greatest political
comeback in history," a man said.
"There's nothing political about it,"
another said. "This is a religious experience!
Judd shook his head as he headed for the
courtyard. A GC guard with a bullhorn asked
people to move away from the entrance.
Judd pulled out the special pass he had been
given when he accompanied Z-Van backstage
and held it high above his head. The guard
didn't pay attention until Judd came closer.
The man inspected the pass, eyed Judd
warily, and motioned him through the gate.
"Why does he get to go through?" a
woman yelled. "That's not fair."
The gate clanged shut and Judd moved
past the line. He looped around the huge
speakers and equipment at the front of the
stage and found the narrow backstage stairs.
He flashed his pass to another guard and the
man waved him through.
Invited guests and dignitaries who had
planned for a funeral watched in awe of
Nicolae. Judd noticed some ashes behind the
stage, the remains of the three regional
potentates Leon Fortunato had struck with
fire. Judd glanced at the statue of Nicolae, a
perfect replica. Puffs of smoke lingered, and
Judd shuddered as he recalled the voice that
had thundered from it.
Judd walked through a series of curtains
and almost tripped over Z-Van's wheelchair.
A leg cast stuck out from under a velvet
curtain. He pulled back the curtain and
gasped when he saw Z-Van lying facedown,
his hands raised in front of him. His guitarist,
a skinny man known as Boomer, sat
beside him, equally overcome.
Judd touched Z-Van's shoulder and the
man turned, his eyes red. "Don't bother me.
This is a holy moment."
"I can't take my eyes off Carpathia,"
"Don't call him that," Z-Van snapped.
"Don't even call him potentate anymore. The
term is too low."
Z-Van took a quick breath and covered his
face. "He's looking this way. I'm not
Judd glanced up in time to catch Nicolae
Carpathia staring straight at him.
* * *
Vicki's stomach churned as the kids scampered
into the shadows of a rocky crag above
Darrion's summer house in Wisconsin. The
GC had located them through Vicki's phone
call, but she could live with that. If she
hadn't called her friend Natalie Bishop, they
wouldn't have found out about the arrests
of Charlie and the Shairtons.
Janie shook her head. "I liked this place. I
thought we'd stay here a long time."
Mark cradled the laptop computer and
scanned their hideout below. "We have to
figure a way out."
Two GC cars stopped near the driveway.
Downed trees prevented them from driving
all the way to the house. Radios crackled,
then went silent as car doors opened and
closed. Vicki couldn't see how many officers
there were, but by the rustling of the leaves it
had to be more than two.
"Be right back," Darrion whispered.
Vicki grabbed her arm. "What are you
"There's a path behind this rock that leads
down to the driveway. I'm going to get a
better look. Maybe I'll grab one of their
Mark shook his head. "It's risky."
"I'll go with you," Vicki said.
Darrion squeezed between a tree and a
rock, and the two wound around a tiny path.
Vicki chose her footsteps carefully. In several
places the path was so narrow that Vicki
hugged the rock as she inched along.
"Don't look down," Darrion said.
Vicki glanced over the edge and saw tops
of huge trees below. No one could survive a fall
that far, she thought.
Darrion slipped on a loose rock and fell
over the edge. She grabbed a small root and
hung on as Vicki rushed to her. Rocks landed
more than a hundred feet below.
Vicki grabbed Darrion's elbow and pulled
with all her might. Darrion struggled to get a
foothold and finally pulled herself up to
safety. Vicki's heart raced like a frightened
animal's as the two sat, their backs to the rock.
"Do you think they heard us?" Darrion
Vicki gasped for air. "Let's go back to the
Darrion pointed. "Around this curve the
cars will be directly below us. Come on."
Before Vicki could protest, Darrion was on
the move. Vicki caught up, being careful not
to slip. She leaned over the edge and spotted
two GC cruisers near a thicket at the end of
"Nobody's there," Darrion said. "Let's go."
"I thought you said the path leads down
Darrion smiled and pulled a rope from a
hole in the rock and threw it over the edge.
"My dad and I used to rappel down this rock
Darrion showed Vicki how to hold the
rope and quickly slid down. When she
reached the bottom, she waved.
Vicki took the rope like Darrion had
shown her. She wasn't able to go as fast as
Darrion, and it felt good when her feet were
on solid ground.
They ran to a tree and hid. From there
they could see two GC officers outside the
open front door of the house. One talked
into a radio and gave orders. Darrion
tugged at Vicki's shirt, and they crept
toward the squad cars.
Darrion peeked inside an open window,
grabbed a handheld radio from the passenger
seat, and turned it on.
"Negative on the first floor," a man said.
"Somebody's definitely been here, though."
One by one guards checked in with reports
from inside the house. "This is quite a setup,
sir. They've got a huge plasma TV and some
pretty sophisticated equipment."
"This was Max Stahley's place," the leader
said. "He liked the bells and whistles."
"If it was those kids, how would they have
known about this place?" a female officer
"Let's go," Vicki whispered.
Darrion shook her head. "We have to
think. Maybe we should let all the air out of
their tires so they can't follow us."
Vicki glanced at the house again and made
sure the officers hadn't moved. Darrion
reached inside the car, pulled a lever, and the
trunk opened with a thunk.
"What are you doing?"
"There might be stuff in there we can use."
"We don't need anything. Come on."
The leader barked orders to two guards
outside. "We've got negative contact. Get the
"What's that mean?" Vicki said.
Darrion hopped inside the trunk and
pulled Vicki in with her.
* * *
Judd locked eyes with Carpathia and trembled.
Could this man read Judd's thoughts? If
Satan indwelt him, would he be able to see
the mark of the believer on Judd's forehead?
Carpathia's face and body looked the
same, but there was something different
about his gaze. He seemed even more intense
than before, as if some unearthly power
surged through him. Nicolae turned and
glanced at a woman in the receiving line. He
smiled and spoke softly, reassuring her that
he was alive and well.
Judd studied the back of Carpathia's head.
There were no signs of the death wound
inflicted by Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig at the
closing night of the Jerusalem Gala. Judd
relived the scene, remembering how Nicolae
fell backward on Rosenzweig's razor-sharp
sword. There should have been a huge scar
on Nicolae's head, but hair had grown over
it. Judd would have loved to inspect the
wound closer, but he slipped behind a
curtain out of Carpathia's sight. God's archenemy
was only a few yards away, and the
world worshiped him as if he were the
creator of the universe.
Judd looked at Z-Van, still flat on the
ground, groveling at the image of Carpathia.
Judd heard Z-Van whisper something and he
"Victory to you, our lord and risen king,
ruler of the world, head of everything,"
Z-Van said. "We bow and give you praise;
once dead, you're now alive. May peace
forever reign with you, our sovereign,
Judd closed his eyes and took a deep
Z-Van turned and said, "If this doesn't
make you a believer, nothing will."
Judd winced. He wanted to challenge
Z-Van, tell him the truth again, but this
wasn't the time or the place.
"Look at him," Z-Van continued. "He's got
unbelievable power, even over death. When
I'm onstage and people scream my name and
sing my words, it's an energy rush. But that's
nothing compared to this." He looked at
Nicolae again, his lower lip trembling. "This
man is pure power, and I know he's back to
Judd pulled the curtain back slightly and
looked at the long line of people waiting
their turn to greet Carpathia. He couldn't
wait to get to Lionel and leave New Babylon.
* * *
Vicki scrambled inside the trunk, and
Darrion pulled the lid down, making sure
it didn't latch. A thin strip of light showed
around the edge of the trunk lid.
"What if they're coming for this car?" Vicki
"Accelerant is like gasoline or something
flammable. There are no cans in here."
"What will they do?"
"They're probably going to torch the house."
Footsteps hurried by and someone opened
the other trunk, closed it, got in, and drove
the car a few yards past them, gravel crunching
under the tires. As Darrion started to lift
the trunk to climb out, the officer in charge
barked another order. "Move those fallen
trees and bring the other car up here!"
"Told you we should have gone back,"
As the GC guards groaned under the
weight of the trees, Darrion fiddled with the
trunk latch. "We'll wait until they start the
fire and take off while they're not looking.
But we've got to figure out a way to-"
Someone ran to the car and opened the
driver's door. The car dipped to the left as
someone sat. As the engine started, a warning
buzzer sounded. The car sped toward the
house and slid to a halt. Vicki thought she
was going to fly through the backseat.
A man cursed as he slammed the front
door. "Wonder who left this open?" The
trunk lid slammed shut.
* * *
Mark Eisman scooted to the edge of the cliff
and looked at the house. A GC officer
handed two containers to the others, and the
three went inside. Another car raced up,
barely skidding to a stop before it smashed
the other car. The man got out, slammed the
trunk that was slightly open, and went
Shelly crawled beside Mark. "Janie just
came back. She said there's no sign of Vicki
Mark gritted his teeth. "We'll have to leave
"No, I won't-"
Mark clamped a hand over Shelly's mouth.
"Pretty soon they'll come looking for us and
they won't be alone. We have to leave."
"But what if they're hurt? They could have
"Let's find a safe place and regroup," Mark
said. "Tell everybody we'll head along the
trail Vicki and Darrion took. Maybe we'll
find them back there."
As Shelly crawled away to alert the others,
breaking glass shattered the morning stillness.
Someone shouted and GC officers ran
from the house.
Then Mark saw it. Smoke poured out of
the windows of the Stahley home. Soon,
flames licked at the walls. The GC officers
were using their weapon of fire again. As the
Stahley home went up in flames, Mark
wondered what the GC's next weapon would