Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chapter 7

A test of true belief – A test of time
Chapter 7 by Tobias Nixon

Advanced Recon Desert Camp, 8:34:04, just North-West of Mogadishu, Somalia

Davis woke sweating from the dream. It had been so vivid. He had been in the dreaming. The place had a distinctively different quality from a regular dream. The elders had taught him to recognise this essential quality of the dreaming versus that of a dream that was just inside your head. They believed that entering the dreaming was a life and death journey because it was a realm just like the samsara of our own reality, and that it was connected to each body by life force. He was fully conscious and able to recreate the reality around him just as he had been taught by the elders.

For Davis, as a dream walker, the act of sleeping was simply a gateway into another type of reality. Being a highly productive individual, as soon as he had discovered this control at the age of twelve, he had put it to work. Closing his eyes had suddenly meant he could be practising; homework, new languages, his passion for finance even different approaches to handling people, rather than just taking a nap.

Once you know it is what is behind those walls, there will come a time when you will stop walking into the next room. Once you know this you will tear down those walls and change them into anything you want. It is at this point that you will become the master of your own reality and enter into the realm of the dreaming.
The voice of bear so small it sounded tiny, hardly there at all.

Davis had known this each time he went to sleep. To dream was to be awake in one’s own mind. Nothing could intrude, into a realm in which he was a god, capable of building up and tearing down the world around him with equal measure. Always though he had thought of it as something he did, inside his own mind, unaffected by the outside world.

Now though he was awake, sitting up, feeling the perspiration of a cold sweat. He thought back immediately to the dream, reminding himself of every detail of it, as he had been trained to do. The world had been a desert, nothing lived in that world, or so he thought. He felt he had been wandering for aeons across that dusty plain. Eventually he would cross this place he thought, and at once he was somewhere else just across the plain on the other side in the shadows of a great rock. Uluru reared up from the desert floor, fifty times more massive in dream than in samsara, its towering height reached up to the skies like Everest. The elders had told him it was still dreaming of younger days when it was a mountain.

Davis had smiled recognising as all dreamers of the Australian bush do this signpost. The great rock spirit was a favourite meeting point for entering the dreaming together. Today there was only one other. He appeared as a kindly old man. A visage of a man that instantly touched his heart, for Davis had known this man from when he was a pup.

The eldest of the tribe, old man Tribett, had taught Davis in ways of his tribe since he could remember. At first Bear and Cub had taken up his training, mainly since the elder Tribett couldn’t speak English very well. Then later once Davis was able to enter the dreaming on his own, it was Elder Tribett that had instructed Davis directly via the dreaming. It was Davis’s first taste of the power of the dreaming realm, where all languages effectively became one if you used the correct mental trick.

Feeling such a comforting presence Davis had felt relaxed, and yet the old man had pointed, then suddenly the two of them were far from Ayers rock. They stood at the start of a dreaming trail. Connecting the outback to the dreaming, these pathways acted as conduits for mixing the life force of reality with the power of the dreamtime. The indigenous peoples believed it was what gave them their connection with the land even after they died.

This trail was different. It ran somewhere else. As Davis used his dream sight, looking down the path, it went black. Everything went black, as a tidal wave of rage-hatred came flooding towards him like a black tidal flow of the blackest bile. Within that blackness small creatures stirred. Each wanted nothing more than to bight and tear with beak or claw. Just looking at the hideous visage was enough to inspire fear. Most disconcerting perhaps, was the fact that the longer you looked at the hideous tumble of creatures the more you began to realise it was really one big chaotic entity, unbound by the trans-dimensional realities that pervaded samsara. An entity never designed to deal with the physics of gravity or entropy.

In front of them two small figures loped. They never stopped moving. Scant metres distant from the leading edge of the monstrosity. Blurs yet Davis was positive, it was Bear and Cub! But these were dead men in their dream bodies coming toward him. He wanted to scream with joy, but like everything about reality it was suppressed, a vaguely abstract feeling of tenderness bound within the dreaming boundary.

The elder Tribett, smiled, then pointed again in the distance, it was just beyond the end of the path. Now Davis was really scared. What he saw seemed to be like a portal. A maw within reality had opened up and was extending along the pathway in front of the running bears. It was just as well the nearest claw was only moments from Cubs legs.

At the last moment as it seemed that truly both would be lost to the tearing of the hideous ball of things that chased them, the old man Tribett reached out his wizened hand. Suddenly he was right next to them, pulling them with a mighty bulging arm of pure muscle flesh, taunt and writhing from exertion. His whole body was huge like a modern day Hercules. Every muscle seemed tensed, the body was beautiful. A walking 3d Michelangelo brought to life.

He jerked them away from the creatures, and then in the next movement flung them forward toward the gaping maw of the portal. It rushed to greet them. Ejecting the two of them out into some form of reality beyond the dreaming realm, where the end of the pathway led.

Just as he felt the chains of samsara tugging at him, the still herculean Tribett brushed a hand softly onto Davis’s left shoulder pressing down.

Be careful young cub your fate is your own, but a being of evil intent even now tries to stalk your dreams. He is as powerful as me, and is the leader of the Blue Tiger clan. He cannot touch you in the dreaming where you are stronger, but in that reality [points away from Davis at receding edge of the dreaming] he can cut you down as easily as a babe. He will carry a dark blade; do not let it touch you. It’s cut is pure death.

He leapt with a start once more, for those images of his father, his uncle, his spiritual grandfather, they had seemed so real. Memories, nothing more. Just a lucid dream. His father. His uncle. They were dead. Weren’t they?

All these lessons he had pushed deep down inside were starting to leak out at an alarming rate. Always he had assumed they were part of his crazy hippie childhood. The last couple of days had made Davis realise that the line between the dreaming and samsara was not as defined as he had believed. Walls existed that could be broken down. Great powers existed, ones that had fealty to neither good nor evil. They existed like all forces, to be used or abused as human leverage dictated.

One of the main reasons he had wanted to come here, apart from making sure Ronnie was safely stowed away with her relatives, was to get away from the crazy shit he had gone through in Sydney in the last day or so. He had wrongly assumed that the problem was localised, a product of fighting those shitbag ninjas. The problem was him, the more he confronted his fears the faster those fears rushed up to meet him.

He’d never wanted to use the old man as an excuse before, always he had looked up to his father as the man that had given his son a golden childhood of adventure, learning and a deep spiritual connection with the land of his birth. In some ways his father was another in a long line of Australian explorers of the bush. At some point you reached a line where you became a protector and a guardian, because in exploring the vast perfection of the Australian outback, all such adventurers discovered the knowledge and power that was held within its character, a character that in the process largely transformed their own. It was what the Aboriginals called being one with the land. It was not something they strove for, it was something that bound them by their own deep affection for it.

Takes time to master doesn’t it young pup? Bear’s words half-faded in the dusk.

Memories of his father bubbled up; Davis stifled a yawn and hopped out of the makeshift bed he had procured the night before. Everyone else was up, making breakfast from rat packs and dry stores dropped by cargo plane the week before. He had brought his own food, knowing that commandos tended to eat about as well as the rest of the army, in other words to a strict and somewhat healthy diet. Davis pulled the food out and took it over to where Aimee was already making hers.

“Ho Blackbear! How are you this fine morning?”  Davis smirked as he looked down at her.

“I’m fine. That looks breakfast of yours’ looks good, Davis.”

“Wanna share?” he said with a charmer’s smile and knowing wink in her direction.

“You’re not funny Davis, not even close. Why are you here anyway, apart from getting all Rambo and wanting to kill these bastards that is?” Aimee seemed to say it casually, but Davis knew it was anything but.

“I’ll be honest with you Blackbear dearest, going Rambo as you put it is only part of my motivation. As I already told you there was a major deal that my firm was negotiating just before I left for Abu Dhabi with you, Tim and Ronnie. It turns out that this deal has become somewhat mired in pirate trouble. I’ve been in contact with my customer and will be meeting up with him late this evening. I’ll keep in contact in case we find out anything useful.”

“So you intend to go after the pirates?”

“Yes” said Davis.

“Good luck, I guess you should know we have Intel on a secret tunnel into the building where they are holding the laser cutter and we believe the lattice uranium. We go in at midday.”

“Don’t go that way Aimee. It’s a trap.”

“What? Why did you say that Davis? What do you really know?”

“Look ask Tim ok, sometimes I have premonitions, if you can’t handle that level of craziness, just chalk it up to my intuition. Whatever. The point is you should at least split up your attack. That way if this place is a trap you won’t be left holding a complete shit sandwich.”

“You want me to just change our plans ‘cause you have feeling? You do realise what could happen if they are in there right now putting the finishing touches on a nuclear super bomb? It doesn’t even bare thinking about.”

“What about the alternative Aimee? Have you thought about that? There is only one way we can get out of this. We have to find that lattice crystal. What if it’s not inside, what if even now they are spiriting it away to another location in the city?”

“Our current Intel suggests all their actions to develop the tech capable of utilising this crystal require a scientist of Tim’s level of experience. We are actively tracking all such known individuals. They would need to relocate to Russia or China at this point to get anywhere close to someone else. No the guy inside that building is definitely up to something, even if he is not in direct possession of the crystal. Shutting this scientist down and interrogating him will in a worst case scenario should still some valuable insights and help us with recovery.”

“Ok. I’d just hate to see anything happen to Tim’s new girlfriend.” Davis smiled as he walked away.

Aimee’s high feminine cheeks had suddenly gone a lovely red, unnoticed as her head was hidden now within an oversized hoodie. Her eyes however were clearly visible, hurling daggers at his back.

He was off to arrange a meeting with a Russian boat, the Illuyuz’s, captain. Captain Albinilovoz had scheduled for a small boat to pick him up from the beach. He’d been given a GPS location and a time.

The trip was pretty uneventful, he’d had one of the SAS drop him at the beach, and then sat down to wait. He waited while the sun rose. He waited while the tide came in. The solitary nature of the beach helped calm his mind.

He adopted a meditation pose then, sitting cross legged in the full lotus position. His head raised, eyes closed he wanted to let the dreaming come to him while awake. He rarely tried to enter into a trance state while awake. Now though he wanted to understand something about these powers that seemed to be awakening within him.

Close your eyes young one. You must be courageous. When the fear seeps in, I will stand beside you, shoulder to shoulder. Now. Close your eyes young one, and keep them closed until the true darkness comes.
Cub was talking to him.

He sat straddled atop Bear’s massive chest. He was only seven years old, and crying uncontrollably, thinking of his mother. Why are you not here mum. Why did you leave?

He was once more a young care free boy. Caught up in a spiritual life, given him, by a father’s grand ambitions.

When the darkness comes tell me what you see, young one.
Cub now more insistent, his voice rising in pitch, taking on a noted urgency.
Tell me, release it, and be free, forever.

He let his mind go free.
Nothing comes when you concentrate little cub.
A still young looking Bear had said to Davis as a child. You must learn to let go. Make your mind empty of the very thing that you need to focus on. Let everything in your head fall away, until without trying the power flows within you.

Inside his head was empty, truly empty, even of the thought impulse to check if it was empty. What empty was. Was there something else called full? No matter for as such things seemed more distant, the eyes of his intent grew close.

The last and the first my friend, whichever comes in between. Words that had never made sense, not once, now seemed to crystallise his thoughts into action.

The purpose of the teaching is to make you have something to grab onto when you are past the point of help. I cannot go to that place with you Davis. Your spirit will guide you and protect you.
Bear had said this with great concern, looking genuinely worried at his young charge.

But we can show you how to get there. There is no eternal truth, only your own.
Cub whispering along the winds.

His insight stirred Davis into action. Closing his eyes, he marvelled at how the soft cold sand seemed to encompass his thoughts. Unmoved, absorbing anything that was not them. Like a sponge that held its shape. He sat smoothly upon a land washed clean by the ocean, given beauty by the sun, and made up of millions upon millions of tiny grains of sand.

There in the middle of his mind, was a black circle; he poured all his thoughts into it. More thoughts arose, he threw them in to. Still more came, he let go thinking only of the circle, forgetting even then, that he was supposed to be remembering something.

For a very long couple of seconds, the world stood still. The waves were paused mid break, a barrel stood unbroken upon the shore break. The blackness became a white light, and he felt a discernable pull as his spirit body began to drift above the body it was anchored to below. The circle was complete; it flared with white light as his spirit body drifted to a spot in the middle of it.

Davis looked around, and could see the desert in all directions. The distance his eyes travelled was far beyond the normal physical boundaries of the optic nerve. He looked now out to sea, and saw the Russian craft. It was easy to make out the white lettering, Illuyuz on the side. How could he not see them? He saw the small boat being launched into the sea.

He saw the captain, Albinilovoz, standing menacingly upon the deck, inspecting the forward fifty millimetre gun that was deck mounted. The ship was heavily armoured, having extra steel reinforcing added to the hull, an additional gun next to the first one, and a crew of the most cutthroat merciless ex-Russian soldiers you would ever find in this part of the globe. The mercs were all carrying scoped assault rifles and body armour.

Next he turned his gaze to the building that Aimee was currently planning to invade. He cast his sight inside, moving his spirit body to the front door and pushing in through the walls. Physical boundaries provided no barrier to a spirit. The body could move anywhere it wanted to, so long as he had seen it before. For some reason you didn’t need to see the inside, but if you hadn’t then you had to start outside. It was as he was entering that he felt a sharp pain. The pain intensified with each step he made until within cooee of the door strip it suddenly intensified and an invisible wall prevented him from making further progress. He assumed that one of the Blue Tiger ninjas must have put some type of protection on the building.

Ok, that wouldn’t work but maybe he could try something else. If they didn’t know about the tunnel? Would it work? He imagined the location of the entrance and was there. He quickly moved as a ghost through it until he reached the area where it connected to the buildings level 3 basement. The entrance to the building was open.

“Things are complicated because we imagine them to be that way. Things are simple because we don’t imagine them at all. Make yourself small and large Davis. Hold to the inside even as you slip beyond the farthest boundaries of reality.” Cub to Davis as they both sat in full lotus facing towards the western sun, as it set over Bangkok.

Davis moved back to the centre of the ground floor once he had finished his sweep. He was hovering half a metre from the ground. His spirit body was arched, powerful chest pumped out, arms splayed at his side forming a downward V shape. He began to let go again, thinking that this spot was so small, like a tiny dot in space. We think we know our bodies, but right then Davis had at once a body that was a tiny dot so small that the world around him was so massive it made him want to scream.

Davis made himself expand from the tiny dot, now his awareness was spread over the whole building, forcing its way into every part. He moved with the tenacity of a cat, looking around for people, their locations, what they carried and possible devices that could be used as bombs or booby traps. Finding nothing he moved on, scanning every available nook and cranny.

He swept through the building and located the scientist and his work, he hunted again for the crystal. Looking at the real world from the spirit realm actually made what he was doing easy he realised. The chi fields were visible, so any living thing gave off a distinctive aura or signature that could be identified by its size and shape in comparison to other such signatures. The mechanical and electrical systems that the scientist was building gave off no such signs.

He had hoped that the crystal would be here but he realised he had no way of knowing if it was. So having seen the giant laser cutter, he noted the booby traps one last time, then returned to his physical body. The last he achieved in the most bizarre way, rolling along a silver cord that seemed to go down instead of across, like you would expect if the body was travelling back across the desert to his actual physical locale.

He began entering everything into a small Galaxy tab using keyboard gloves. Once he was ready he made a conference call to Aimee and Tim, Aimee answering just a second quicker.

“What’s up now Davis?”

“Don’t be like that I have Intel, uploading the raw now Tim.” Davis said.

“I’m processing it. Woah! Is this for real Davis?”

“Of course mate, 100%. Now analysis it.”

“Did you get any indication from this that the Scientist might be there?”

Davis was about to say no, when he thought back to the moment, the moment he’d been a dot.


“No? Are you sure? These maps were drawn I assume with thermal imaging cameras, that’s the only way to explain what your sending me.”

“So what Tim?”

“So Davis! There’s no way of knowing that.”

“No. I know ok Tim? I know that he wasn’t there.” Davis said, not mentioning that it was because of Tim’s own very distinctive oversized chi field that he knew what to look for. The Scientist had not been there. Therefore it was logical that the crystal wasn’t either. Except nothing about the past 48 hours had been logical in any way. He wondered how Ronnie was going in Germany.

He closed his eyes. There was something amiss here. Every time they moved the enemy moved first. In war this level of preparedness was associated only with the greatest generals. It was safe to assume that the leader of Blue Tiger was an expert in the Art of war.

“Aimee? I need you to do a scan of the surrounding desert with satellites. Order full spectrum analysis. Tell them to go deep looking for masked heat signatures, up to ten feet below the surface of the ground.”

“Ok. But Davis?”

“If this is another one of your hunches, I am officially going to kill your ass when I see you next.”

“Aimee babe, who said you’re ever going to see me again? Well ok... maybe at Tim’s wedding. Peace out.”

He just caught the tail end of Aimee swearing like the trooper that she was as the encrypted link cut out into loud static.

The Illuyuz frigate, 16:45:02, The Gulf of Aden

Davis had climbed the rope ladder of the vessel around midday, making his way to the start of the bridge, where Captain Albinilovoz was waiting for him with a firm handshake, followed by a super strong Russian bear hug. The kind that broke men’s backs when friendly and typically, made them explode like jelly in tissue paper when, not.

The ship rocked with the sea. Lightly, but at her masters whim. The captain was nothing if not eccentric. Upon greeting Davis, he ushered him into a cabin that looked like something out of the sixteen hundreds. The cabin had been completely re-designed to be like that of a man o’ war gallery of yore. Wood panelling on every surface, a crystal chandelier dripping from the high ceiling, a map table covered in navigation aids of the sea.

They reclined like gentlemen, against the two green leather backed chairs in the room. This was not the only concession to luxury. Captain Albinilovoz smiled at Davis then nimbly jumped out of his chair and headed towards a large glass drinks cabinet. Pouring two double nips of vodka, he returned to his seat.

“So, Davis.”

Russian’s always left you hanging with that half greeting of theirs reflected Davis, he wondered idly if they did it deliberately to entice you into replying too early. Captain Albinilovoz continued.

“You want to hunt pirates, Ay?” Davis nodded his head faintly.

The Captains held his short glass untouched, it contrasted nicely with his breath which smelt faintly of vodka.

“Your company has assured me that you can be contracted to go after pirates, Captain Albinilovoz.”

“Ay, that is true. Best armed private vessel you’ll find in these waters.”

“And what of the pirates, that prefer hit and run tactics, and are invisible when hunted? Can you find them?”

With that the Captain let out a giant belly roar. His laughter was echoing within the tight confines of the cabin. His chair shook with his mirth. Pushing down, he rolled forward taking some of the weight from his back, pushing his neck up so he could look straight at Davis.

“What exactly do you think this is Mr Lockyer?” The Captain clipped slowly in a thick Russian accent.

Captain Albinilovoz continued on from this rhetorical question.

“The pirates are not ol’Blackbeard and co manning the four deck of a stolen frigate. No!” His voice seemed stronger now, the timbre taking on an intensity that compelled the listener to attention.

“Today’s pirate is a product of technology. They form raiding parties. Attacks are carried out in flat bottomed, fast attack boats that carry half dozen men. Grappling ladders with AK-47’s under the cover of darkness are the orders of any given day. Typically they will loot whatever they can fit into the boats. If the vessel is small enough they’ll take it back with them as well. Otherwise they take the crew hostage. In just one respect they are like the pirates of old.”

“Oh and in what way is that?” asked Davis.

“They are the blackest of curs, the most gutless bunch of seafaring dogs that you will ever meet. Most are taken young from their villages and raised to fight and steal by the age of twelve. They take hostages for ransom, and kill them if they don’t get paid inside a month. Sometimes they kill them anyway. Mostly though they hit and run, avoiding any target that is well defended, striking at night, constantly changing the direction of their attack. Fading into the night, back to their secret base.”

“They sound like a well organised gorilla force Captain. Perhaps you also have a plan for them?”

“I do, however alot depends on whether you are able to give me a fixed location on the hull of the ship.”

“Unfortunately we are unable to provide that information. It seems that while the ship has basic gps systems, they are not very accurate. We know the ship is close to shore, and can give you the location to within a twenty five kilometre area. Which I realise is quite a large distance. The pirates appear to have some type of sophisticated electronic counter-measure that can disable gps systems.” Davis paused, “So can you come up with a plan to get us that boat?”

“Yes. As I alluded to your colleague in Sydney, I have devised a way to locate their primary base. We will construct a ruse. Allow a vessel to be boarded and seized. The pirates will take cargo that is fitted with GPS, we will follow. You will go ashore and locate the missing boat, after you find it we will steam in, and provide close range support, while you get it under power.”

“An impressive plan Captain, however what other forces besides the pirates exist nearby?”

“Well there are those United Kingdom ships running around out in the deep water, and of course there’s a US aircraft carrier, which sits like a floating fortress outside of Yemen. From what we can see so far the British have deployed three destroyers, five frigates and two troop carriers. At least one of the troop carriers has been spotted in just the last week carrying out onshore operations, deploying soldiers and long range four wheel drives.”

“I’ve just heard from my colleague Firehead. He’ll be meeting us in ten hours via helo transfer directly to the aft deck. He’s organised the decoy ship to start making its way down the coast of Somalia tonight. He has also let me know he’ll be bringing along a team of his own.”

“I really do not care how many tourists you bring to my ship, Davis. Just keep them the hell out of my crews way and keep the rivers of gold flowing.” Ol Kap-e-tan said the last with a wry grin.

Advanced Recon Desert Camp, 17:05:04, just North-West of Mogadishu, Somalia

The team were geared up and ready to roll. Planning had been completed earlier in the day, with forces assigned to various assault positions around the building believed to house the uranium and the scientist. The British SAS had made contact and were preparing diversionary measures to draw the government forces away from the area.

Several vehicles had been rigged with explosives and were being driven into position. Later at a pre-planned time the cars would be destroyed, and along with smatterings of random gunfire, it was hoped should draw the ire of the local forces.

At the same time the force of SEAL and SAS troops led by Blackbear would begin their assault. A small force of two SAS would lead a daring raid up from the hidden tunnel, attempting to silence any sentries within. The main force would deploy from the roof. Easy-E had been camped up there for half the day already working tirelessly to cut a manhole in the roof using a handheld laser cutter. He reported no activity going into or out of the building. Ali Barba’s contacts continued to insist that nothing had left the building.

Aimee walked in a line with the Americans. Their rail gun rifles slung low, they sauntered along happy for the English boys to take point. One of the British was up far ahead, dropping disposable wifi breadcrumbs. These tiny devices acted as beacons and relay points, creating a mobile network as the team traversed from point to point.

The captain of the SAS turned to Aimee.

“Two kilometres ahead there is a small encampment of tribal warriors. They are Al Shaber, and will kill on site, if they recognise us as foreign troops. I suggest we go around them.”

Aimee responded, “The desert floor for the next twenty kilometres is dead flat, how do you propose we do that Captain? Unless you have a cloak of invisibility built into your suit as well?”

The captain grinned back at her, his good humour really was starting to become infectious. “I might do at that ma’am.”

So saying he walked slowly and started to shimmer His outline shifted to a blur, and, moments later he had simply disappeared from view. The effect was just like seeing the mirage of an oasis after days of thirst. It was impossible to deny the illusionary effect the eyes had witnessed.

“You will note that knowledge of the technology is classified beyond top secret. All operators are required to agree to explosive suicide measures in the event of capture, as it cannot be made available for reverse engineering. As commander of the team Blackbear you have been given the kill code authorisation. The short term ability of the suits to “go invisible” is what gave the squad the ‘Nightman’ designation.”

Sarge piped up at that point, “On second thoughts they can keep their hi-tech suits.”

The walked on towards the group of Al Shabab militia that were stationed ahead of them. Hard men who had the eyes of killers and the guns to match. Eyes that could not see the Nightman as he stood in their midst. Eyes that went past the shadow as it moved amongst the empty Bedouin tents. Never seeing the timed explosives placed carefully at each entrance near the dry goods and ammunition.

The team was now within four hundred metres of the camp. The remaining nightmen had moved into a defensive formation between the camp’s inhabitants and the approaching group of special forces. If the diversion didn’t work, they would have the wide open range of fire to pre-empt any similar action the enemy might take.

Aimee looked down at her encrypted ePad. The invisible Nightmen all had their encrypted locators enabled. She could see where they should be. In a small window to the side of the main display a text convo was taking place between several Nightmen.

The rest of the team of course had no clue as to their whereabouts, however one nice feature of the stealth suits was that the operator could pulse voice and text to others via a special mouth piece similar to the one used by the disabled.

The solo Nightman pulsed, “Explosives for diversion in place. Timer set to 10 seconds. On commander’s go.”

Aimee tapped her ePad texting back “go” to the SAS soldier. Immediately a digital timer counted down from ten.

Ten seconds later all hell broke loose. The last thing the occupants of the tent cluster were interested in was shadows moving in the desert beyond. Suddenly their transport, lodging and most of their ammunition and food were gone or in the process of exploding. Each man was out of his tent now, cursing and shouting. Each explosive eruption followed by echoes of men calling down empty threats on their enemies.

As Aimee walked past where her ePad told her the British were standing, she noted that the technology wasn’t perfect. One of the SAS must have been moving. In fact if her eyes weren’t playing tricks, he was saluting her. At least it seemed that way according to the outlines of a glass like arm that shimmered in the instant heat of four dusty fireballs that had once been cars. Unlike the Americans as mission commander she had already been briefed on all the capabilities at her disposal. The invisibility was nice but only lasted thirty seconds before requiring a one hour recharge, the advanced comms and counter measures were going to be very useful on the other hand.

The team moved off into the desert. The camp city was still thirty minutes away by the march.

Pirate Camp, 16:45:01, Somalian Coast

The pirate leader tossed noisily. Next to him on the king size bed a nubile twenty something lay stretched out in lingerie. Her dark smooth skin was half covered in blue silk sheets, her left side naked to the hot air. The pirate’s dreams were disturbed by a black dream. Men were coming, on boats to attack him. The dream repeated over and over. Each time he tossed more urgently on the bed. Several times his thrashing disturbed the ebony beauty next to him. The pirate paid no heed. He was locked in a battle now. Powerful forearms were straining against the bed; his whole midsection was rigid with the tension of fighting the nightmare.

He woke then unsure of whom he was. For the first time in a long time beyond his recall, very very much afraid. He climbed out of bed throwing clothes on as he rushed out the door of the tent.

Halfway through issuing instructions he began to think. It was just a dream, why was he worried. Because it had been both vivid and frequent and he was scared. So he called up his men and put them on alert. He had his guards ready his boat and leave it idling. Then he went back to his afternoon siesta, his companion already awake looking over at him with a mischievous grin.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Chapter 6

A test of compassion – A test of time
Chapter 6 by Tobias Nixon

An old oriental Inn “The Flying Pig”, 23:31:21, Guangzhou province, China (P.R.C.)

The ninja master turned back to the far wall. His eyes locked on it.

“It is finally time for the realisation of my plans.”

He glanced up at the far wall again, this time caught by a disturbance he felt but did not feel. The fiery nature of the channel that had just opened, the wall was at once alight with a line of burning fire. It stuck to the wall, forming a circle. The circle was crisscrossed with a pentagram. The lines of the pentagram pulsed in time to the universe.

A dream like scene materialised in much the same manner upon the pentagram. The nature of the dream was one of chase. Two bears, one larger than the other, raced through a thick forest. Behind them the hordes of darkness followed. Ahead lay a fortress, already under siege.

Next the dream shifted, to a bucolic field where a wizened old man in a black monks robe stood silently. The master knew what would happen next. He braced himself.

Suddenly the old man, who had been enjoying the sunny day out in the field looked right through the dream at the master. It was a frightening moment, even for the ninja master. He felt the others gaze on him. Felt the stare of eyes no longer bright red, but incandescent purple, washing over his body into reality from the dream.

Suppressing your fear is useless, experience it, don’t let me get you that way again, apprentice.

Yes Master.

Did you see the previous dream apprentice?

Yes Master, our old enemies from Australia have returned perhaps through some unknown passage in the great forest.

So. Apprentice. There are still places you have not been shown by your spirit guide? Muawhawhahahaw. Good. The only way they could be on the way back, from there, is if someone helped them find one of the ancient outback trails. Even then it is not a sure thing. There are powerful entities of power guarding the trails. The ones whose sole purpose is keeping the dead from walking amongst the living; they were amongst the strongest of their kind, ever.

This is what I don’t understand old master, you say I saw the realms of the dead
How is that even possible?

We should never have been able to see that outback trail to begin with. Indeed the only reason we could was because you had another “moment of great power”. You’re mind is like a circuit board that can handle more than normal. It’s how you managed to get from adept to master so fast. So do you know what you must do now?

Yes Master, I must seek out these two and slay them. To fail is to die.

No! You will take the Toaken Sword and use it to cut down this Davis Lockyer. He is at the centre of our plans, and must be eliminated. Those other two will be both weak and impotent.

But Master
Surely you saw how powerful these bears can be? You saw them coming “back from the Shi Guo”!

No one has returned from the dead in more than 500 years. The last to do it, a monk from France, was in almost total paralysis for over two years. Since then the remaining pathways back from the land of the dead have narrowed. The life force that flows from there is extremely weak. No, you don’t have to worry about those two; they are only dangerous if they link with their protégé Davis. He may be powerful but it seems there are large holes in his knowledge.

As you say Master. Yet surely if he is still a learner in the arts, it would be worth using a circle to kill him in his dreams?

I would if could! The boys dreams are incredibly well shielded, creating a similar layer of protection in anyone within a kilometre of him. Spying in the land of dreams is impossible. He has been well trained in dreaming. No you must kill him in the land of Samsara [the waking world;reality]. By your hand he must die.

I will take the Toaken Sword and kill him Master!

Good. Once he is dead the two bears will not even be a fly worthy of swatting. In any case I will order the two adepts you requested earlier to track down these bears and kill them. They will take with them one of the clan’s star crystals. The extra power will be more than enough to kill both bears so long as they set a well planned ambush.

With one last glace the old man cut a withering look over his apprentice. Invisible Ice crystals of moist tangible fear ran down the ninja master’s back. It was despite himself, that he momentarily dropped his gaze then raised it again straight away.

He couldn’t be sure but he thought he saw his master half-smiling to himself. He is still stronger than me, if I tried to usurp him now I would be defeated. Worse he thought, as a lesson to the rest of the clan, the old man would no doubt contact a public torture and interrogation. The pain would be intolerable, but at his level, the ninja master could all but completely block out the nerve impulses. No the truly intolerable thing would be to see the eyes of all his minions looking down at him.

US Army Chopper, 01:30:23, (Flying below radar) Northern Somalia.
The chopper’s cargo bay was pretty full. In addition to Sarge’s team of four and the two civilians, Aimee had acquired three British SAS that had been in between missions in Israel. They were keen to get in and provide support for a larger contingent of SAS that was on long range recon north of Mogadishu.
The SAS were wearing the latest British army hacker52 suits. These suits were kitted out with both active and passive Electronic warfare technologies. In addition to providing video surveillance and map routing, they performed counter-electronic activities. The suits were incredibly useful in the field they could be used to do things such as signal jamming, line splicing, and war dialling that could hack most countries mobile phone system.
The American boys leaned back jealously from the English. Each one carried his railgun now, and both Sarge and Ditz had shoulder mounted laser pods. All were facing up towards the sky in the deactivated position.
Ali Barba’s rail gun was augmented with an ultra high range thermal laser scope, with digital scoping goggles.
Easy-E was now a moving tank. Shoulders mounted a micro dart missile system. His other arm was laser cannon central. Four lethal looking chambers sprouted out of a complex series of cylinders that wrapped around his forearm. This armament had the capability of both punching holes through tanks and troops with equal ease, and calling in strikes from drones.

Still they longed for the high tech sophistication that made their SAS brethren like cyber 007s. Right now the three were conferring, odd in itself because they eye text simple messages. Still faster complex language was still faster vocally.

“Equipment dump just up ahead. Prepare for rope descent.” Said the only officer of the three, a Captain.

“I didn’t know we were maintaining recon dumps inside of Somalia, Captain?”
Aimee looked pointedly at him, staring him down. The Captain didn’t seem bothered, he looked enthusiastically at her and replied,

“We don’t. My corporal has rerouted drones from the USS “Pride & Fury”, hum ha ha. You navy boys... Too much really. Anyway chaps, as it turns out, the local militia, they were only too happy to help us secure two utes, food and water for the journey... “

“We now have twenty seconds to descent” came a friendly computerised voice.

“We call that parrot, Super Siri” laughed the other corporal on his Captains left.

“Yup”, chimed the other one, “Because it’s never wrong.”

“Gear up people, the drones have now returned, and the militia have returned more rapidly than we predicted. We’re going to do a fly by once first to see what you guys can do from the side of a chopper. “

“Woot!” yelled Easy-E, “This is what I was fucken born for.”

So saying he marched boldly off into the rolling pitch of a twenty degree deck, as everyone else was hanging onto their seats. He was already in position, crouched as the helicopter came down from its high arc into view of the highest dune in the surrounding desert.

From above the sands, came the approaching hoards. Behind them and below, lay the prize. The pilot eased the chopper forward getting it to move diagonally across the field of pursuit, as Easy locked on. Small moving circles zoomed around his digi-glasses until they locked on to a target. When they did a thermal profile appeared to give instant confirmation of kills.

Right now though he was seconds from squeezing the trigger, not on the lead vehicle but at the sand below the tall dune’s neck. The sand was rapidly pummelled as he used maximum output from all four silver guns to dig away at the front surface of the dune.

Where there should have been an easy downward slope for the cars coming over the dune’s mound into the desert below, now there was a fearsome drop already beginning to crumble.

The lead cars didn’t have a chance, landing engine head first, engine blocks destroyed as they are rammed up into the cabins. There is carnage at the top as the rest of the pack swoop on the lead cars. They are too close for starters, and now it’s clear why. The other cars have no chance to brake, there are cars behind ramming them forward.

The chopper levelled out over the top of the dune, looking back Aimee scouted total destruction of the column.

“What kind of intelligence did we have to justify that type of extra judicial killing Captain?” Aimee turned again on him.

“Please watch this ma’am.” Said the Captain kindly.

So saying a small projector on his chest popped open and began projecting onto a open space half a metre in front of him. The video displayed was a little blurry at times and had random “streaks” of black, but was otherwise easy to watch. Clearly though the technology had not been perfected.

The images were of the previously engaged column moving through the Somalian desert. The column was approaching a small tribe that appeared to be busily involved with collecting some much needed water from a tiny water hole.

The lead car veered heavily and pushed forward towards the tribe. As it approached the lead passenger climbed out onto the windowsill, aiming his AK47 at the tribes members. His opening volley cut through the camels side causing it to fall back on an older male. Two females took head shots from errant fire. The tribe fled. Running up the sides of a the water hole against fast moving enemy with a height advantage was always going to be a one side battle.

Two cars pulled up as gangsters climbed out of the cars and formed up along a line on the slopes edge. Looking down, some smoking ciggies in the cool afternoon breeze they looked down dully at those below. Then they opened fire, it was a slaughter. Worse than inhuman, was the murder.

The image flickered and died as the Captain killed the video feed.

“Now do you see Blackbear?”

“I see that sometimes tough decisions are required in war.”

Aimee paused, reflecting on the young Captain in front of her, cocky and full of righteous arrogance.

“However in future, you will not break the chain of command, and will defer to me before ordering them, do you understand?” Aimee’s tone was like ice, her demeanour unchanged.

“Yes, ma’am.” The Captain was still the same affable cyber bond.

“Good” Aimee said shortly, “We will go back and get the cars and proceed as planned to reccy the enemy stronghold.”

After a moment’s pause, Tim said, “Good luck Aimee.”

He seemed out of place. He looked left and right, then back at Aimee. Then he really looked at her, and smiled brightly.

It was so dark outside, thought Aimee. The scent of the desert drifted through with the wind. As she took her turn at the rope, expertly dropping down legs crossed, she thought back to when she was a girl. How easy it had been then to imagine a world free from evil. The reality was somewhat different to what she had originally thought of she conceded.

Hitting the sand as a unit they had the two cars commandeered in record time. The US team split up between the backseats of both cars to give the team the maximum spread of firepower in a confrontation.

Driving off towards the deserts that exited onto a road near Mogadishu, Sarge was heard to comment,

“Here we go Easy, into the breach once more.”

Abandoned Power station, 23:30:30, North-West Mogadishu, Somalia
The scientist spied his co-workers at their cubicles. Each was working round the clock shifts processing the data that his models had generated. The resources and the special item that the Chinese gangsters had brought in for him were more than enough to do the job. What’s more he would have the ability to realise his own personal ambitions, god willing.

The scientist looked over at the laser cutter he’d helped modify for that buffoon. He was still horrified by the terror it had unleashed. We truly were in a new world of mass horrors, he pondered. That wall could have easily have been a thousand.

The scientist’s own origins were extremely shaded; no one faction in the Arab world had his permanent allegiance. It was rumoured that the he was a North African by birth, although with his full length coat and wide brimmed hat nothing was certain.

He did a double take at the cutting machine with disgust. Even though he had been an ideologue of many fundamentalist causes, some of which were entrenched in war. Even still, he didn’t feel endeared to humanity for figuring out how to reverse engineer an industrial laser cutter and then modifying it to use the lattice uranium.

The cause was just. After fighting through countless pitched battles, surviving near death cave ins and explosions, the scientist was finally ready to take his place amongst his people. It had come to him in a dream six months back. Allah wanted him to return to his people and lead them from abject poverty back into the mighty civilisation they had once been.  Allah had even been specific saying he would be needed for his skills and that an opportunity would come.

A week later some Chinese gangsters had made contact, arranging for his escape from a prison in western Syria into North Africa. However what had impressed the scientist the most was a plan so bold and cunning that the scientist had been taken aback at first. Surely the Chinese did not have the technology of which they mentioned, otherwise why was America still the world’s only superpower? This lattice uranium had sounded like a fairytale, until they had produced it seven days later.

By the time it arrived, wrapped in Bedouin cloth of all things, the scientist had the laser cutting machine ready. That was stage one, prepare a weapon that would awe the locals into uniting. Give them their brother-ship through fear and the terrible destruction that would surely follow. In his world it had always been so. The strongest ruled, everyone else followed; his people had always looked towards strong leaders to rule them.

He realised now that what his people really needed though was survival. Abject corruption in government had lead to abject poverty. The rebellion had simply crystallised the discontent, the capital providing a convenient field of battle. It had also destroyed the Somalia’s main marketplace and distribution point. Now there were ideologically driven rebels, given free reign out in the countryside. The famine that had followed was amongst the worst on record. Certainly if it continued it had the potential to wipe out the country. Millions of people scurrying towards the capital looking for salvation. From a slow death to a quick one, the only difference was their servitude to pain.

He had his own plans to work on. While they had him developing the platform that would allow the use of the lattice structure inside a bomb, he worked hard on his own intended use. The interface was the same for both devices. That was what made it interesting. Once the interface design was completed the lattice could be fitted to a wide range of different devices, since it was stable storage device of energy. Even without fusion the device emitted enough energy to be used in low yield devices.

The scientist had been given a great gift from god. He just hoped it would be enough to save some of his people from destruction.

The remains of the central marketplace, 8:00:03, Central Mogadishu, Somalia

Ali Barba was in his element. He loved nothing more than to be amongst the people as he went about his morning work. Eating breakfast and drinking coffee seemed so relaxing. The people he met always filled his heart with warmth in a way that made this more fun than work. He likened it to following a stream downriver. It felt to him as though he was following the curves and the bends in the conversation, leading him on to his next contact.

This time the target was the group that had the taken possession of the lattice uranium crystal. They were known to be north of what had been the central business district, just west of the old palace. It hadn’t been hard to find them. They weren’t exactly disguising their presence. A steady stream of supplicants had been brought in days earlier from the other clans and outlying tribes. The people he spoke to seemed amazed at the way life enemies had walked side by side on the way out. Surely they said something had put the fear of Allah in to these people to make them forget their bloody grievances.

Ali Barba took a left into a street vendor’s hut that was setup for selling carpets. The carpets were draped all over the front of the shop and its sides. Inside they painted an amazing mosque that seemed to shine like the desert outside.

“God is great. It is my old friend Ali, I can say that you have not aged a day my dear friend.”

It was really his old friend Al Shemza that seemed not to have changed at all. His ageless face smiled back in appreciation at Ali Barba.

“We have so much time to catch up on my friend. How many years has it been?” said Al Shemza.

“Ah but the years they are only now as long the night was young when we first met.” Ali Barba replied.

“When god is willing the time will come. All things have their time.” It had always been this way between the two men. Each a philosopher, locked within a warriors body. Al Shemza had instantly become attached to the younger man in those days fifteen years ago. He saw at once a kindred spirit, a friend along the path, one to be helped and guided.

Indeed it was Al Shemza’s words that had carried with a young Ali Barba throughout much of his adult life. Upon first meeting Al Shemza on his first tour of duty as a grunt, he had told Ali Barba, “You are the man whose destiny is still to come, born an age early but a decade late. Seize life before it destroys you.”

Like old friends they broke bread and shared tea. Later they smoked some of Al Shemza’s aromatic tobacco. Ali Barba had the distinct feeling Sarge was gonna make him run all day tomorrow. Mindful of it, he bum puffed what he could. Feeling a bit high he had the distinct feeling that ol’ Shemmy had mulled up something else in the mix.

They discussed matters of family and life, and then at some point the conversation turned as it did with all his contacts to matters of espionage. Al Shemza could generally be relied upon to have some very useful intelligence. The recent movement of the various clans and government forces had not gone unnoticed. Central to current power sharing arrangement were two things; the intractability of the clans, and the recent demonstration of shock and awe by one of their number. However weary of being out manoeuvred on their home turf the government forces had started shifting a massive concentration of artillery into shelling range of the supposed location of the facility locating the laser. Things appeared to be at somewhat of a stalemate, although perhaps only until the civil war resumed in earnest.

“Does anyone honestly believe that the weapon is really housed in that building?” asked Ali Barba.

“It must be Ali”, Al Shemza paused puffing on the coil, pulling a deep lungful of the white smoke, “My eyes are everywhere, what is left of them, and we protect each other you see? They tell me that crates of electronics have gone into that building, while nothing except humans has ever come out. The only exception was that on one occasion the laser was taken by truck outside the city and then returned. We are sure it was the laser because we followed and saw. But they did not want to hide what they did Ali. They made sure that word spread like wildfire.”
The calming rush of warmth transpired throughout his body. He was completely relaxed, friendship, a full belly and warm evening breeze. It was what his friend said next that completely changed the mood.
“There is a scientist in their Ali. He is a man without a name. We barely even know that he is African, save that a son of mine who has eyes like a hawk, saw his left wrist bared, for a half a second as he climbed the stairs to the building. He made that mistake once in three months of daily observation Ali. Now something that will whet your appetite my friend. This scientist hasn’t left in over two weeks. There are regular arrivals of food, and container loads of electronic parts. Including a turbine and at least four large electrical generators. Most recently, possibly thinking they went unobserved; a ninja was seen slipping into the building. Things are afoot my friend, I know not what they do, but it is a serious undertaking. The building is huge, and has at least 3 sub levels. It is the old power station for the city before the war made it dysfunctional. Alas they forgot to seal one of the tunnels.”

Ali Barba smiled a cunning smile. His old friend was good, always saving the best Intel for last. He stood up abruptly, flexing his chest and arms. Looking down Al Shemza he pulled a large wad of US one hundred dollar bills in a grimy yellow envelope from underneath his belt.  He handed it nonchalantly to the seated man, and strolled from the shop.

The Refugee camp, outskirts of Mogadishu, 10:00:01, 35 km West of Mogadishu

Tim really missed Aimee. Having worked with her for a considerable part of his recent history, and having just worked out how to let her know that he liked her, he was feeling like most men throughout history in such a situation; incredibly uncomfortable. Women were so much more pragmatic; instead he stewed over how he should say what he wanted to say to her. The one time having a suburb analytical mind was a burden. He wished he had Davis’s alpha male instinct. The guy was subliminal when it came to knowing what women wanted.

It wasn’t that he said much, most of the time Davis said very little to them. As much as knew what not to say Tim reflected, Davis was also supremely talented at making each woman like him. It was only now that Tim realised it was because Davis didn’t care about what happened, and because he cared so much about them, that he probably never thought things through. Why would he? He just did things that worked. Davis loved to give him advice, but on women he had always given very little despite Tim’s constant begging. Tim, you just gotta keep trying, mate. You got a way to player status before any o’my pro tips’ll make a diff.

It was hard not thinking about Aimee, but he had to, needed the focus, had to stay on task. Too many things were happening to rapidly, and it was critical to stay on top of the information. They first thing he was going to do was figure out where the leak had come from and who else had the knowledge to use the lattice uranium.

To that end he had been deployed along with an elite team of Australian SAS soldiers, drawn from the urban terrorism team specifically for this mission, in a refugee camp. The Americans had wanted to deploy S.E.A.L. team 6, but the in the end a tense standoff had been avoided by diplomatic wrangling between the Prime Minster and the President. The S.A.S. would guard Tim, and provide a personal assault force. The US would provide monitoring and onsite surveillance.

Where better to hide than in plain view thought Tim, although it helped that the refugee camp was staffed with several N.G.O. organisations that doubled as military outposts. Ostensibly to keep an eye on the western aid workers, the true purpose of these secret outposts was to provide monitoring and detection of potential terrorist cells. One thing Afghanistan had taught the west was that war was a breeding ground for fundamentalist ideologies.

Each day Tim got up early, and, while the SAS boys were doing morning exercises by going for a “light” 6km run with full pack, would wander seemingly at random amongst the tents of the refugees. He was always accompanied by one of the SAS, the “Mr short straw”, who would act like a bodyguard, sidearm unseen standing at a constant ten metres to his rear. SAS were trained for urban insertion and the one he took with him always looked more like a local than a soldier.

After a couple of days he found a family that he would pass by each time, finding the need to learn more about the personal tragedy of this war and the damage to its people, he felt he needed to check in with them to bring them some small measure of comfort. Most of the refugees were natives of Somalia fleeing their ancestral lands in the wake of the ultra strict groups that were controlling much of the country.

It was strange how this lady, Gal Dejibrie’s story came out. One day while giving her two sons some food and just sitting with them as he had each day from the beginning, she had begun in good English,

“Thank you for the things you bring Mr?”

“Tim. And really it is nothing. I wish I had enough extra to feed everyone here. It is so terrible to see so many people still suffering...”
he had looked down then suddenly aware of the raw emotion burning in her, silently yelling at him, You Have No Idea What Your Talking About.

“I thank you for things you bring. My life... is a misery.” So saying she signalled the two boys off to play.

They ran past her to a small area outside the next tent, kicking a small stone between them.

“These children have one tiny hope.” she continued, “Before I left the village and came here we were a family.”

Her voice starting to choke with emotion was caught in a single high note of pride at that last word. Immediately upon continuing however it descended once more to a dead flat sound.

“The Islamists came to our village in the first month. They talked with the men of the village and told them all would be well under their protection. The men said they believed them, but some left. We stayed; my husband said all would be well. At the end of the second month, they came back and demanded money.”

Now she paused, and turning her head away from Tim began to cry. Not really knowing what he should do, Tim threw an arm gently over the lady. She seemed to take small comfort, and digging deeply continued to recall.

“The famine had already been in force for several years. Being so close to the water the pirate gangs had taken many of our young men into their crews. We had no money. We had already started to eat day by day. Even our land was basically worthless.”
She turned back to Tim, her eyes now dry, face a serene cool mask. She challenged him with her look, and he flinched away looking toward his shoes. He dropped his head in his arms there, laying forward. She looked around now conscious of if anyone might be listening, and lowered her voice.

“They shouted at the men, calling them devils for not honouring Allah. They said the men must atone and organised prayers for them. Many of them went with the men as they were marched off in front of us we saw that there was one next to each husband or father. Later they told us, as they were raping us, that they had shot each of our men in the back of the head.”

She looked straight into Tim’s eyes now, and he didn’t flinch, he recoiled. He felt for a moment, terrible loss, humiliation and pain. He felt trapped, wanting to help, yet having no idea how.

“It went on for days. In the end perhaps those pigs gave up I do not know or care. We fled there after that, the village was no longer safe. It was a place haunted by the dead. We tried to come north at first, but then we ran into road blocks. The last time we were with the others we fled, but they tracked us down with utes and dogs. They found us and dragged away some of the remaining boys. My boys were only spared because I left the main group at the start of the first attack. I thought Allah had blessed us by guiding us here, but this city is worse than the country we came from.”

Tim choked back his own tears, reeling in the knowledge that this lady had shared with him. He said simply,
“I am so sorry to hear of your tale, truly I am. How is it that you came to speak such good English, if I may ask?”

Now Gal looked at him with real pride, a feeling that cut across all the pain and crap that had been thrown her way. Suddenly the future looked brighter.
“My grandfather taught it to me when I was a little girl. My mother always scolded me for being too nosey and asking lots questions, but my grandfather always said it was because I was smart. He knew English and taught it to me. Now both my boys are learning it every day. They will learn it and we will use it God willing to escape this hell.”

Tim smiled back at Gal. He was struck by an appreciation of how extremely small every single one of his problems were compared to a single second of her life. For all the vaulted achievements that he had made in this life, he would give them all up to erase the suffering this women had had to endure. It was terrible, and it was but one story in a tent city that was reaching into the hundreds of thousands. It was just despicable. Treating other humans like garbage, dehumanising the population.

All his university days he had been mildly apathetic to his friends concerns for Ethiopia, Eritrea or the various Balkan wars. People were dying in massive numbers, yet he had no way to relate to the human element, in his head were numbers of a different kind. Equations of the highest order, learning to process physics models for things that only existed on a theoretical level.

Now though he saw differently. So many of these lives were held down for no reason other than famine and war. They were good people that wanted to go on about their lives in the place they loved, but any chance of that had been scorched away.

He looked over at the SAS soldier standing nearby, then he quietly wished Gal well, and left her with her boys. On the way back they swung by the mess area and both picked up two heavy bags of rice. They carried them back in silence to Gal’s tent and hid them under old rugs that they had brought with them. Gal smiled at them on the way out, gathering her boys to shake hands with each of them.

“I thank you so much Tim, from the bottom of my heart. I hope your path is a blessing for Somalia.” She said it with a smile, looking west, patting the eldest of her boys on the head. The two of them walked off back towards the NGO area, the SAS soldier looking straight ahead lost for once in thought, Tim looking at each tent as they walked by a worried look creasing his face. He felt nothing. He just wanted, so badly, for her little family not to die.