The Thirteenth / Chapter EIGHT

Chapter EIGHT


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Chapter EIGHT

Dillowing clouds of smoke were behind them and an uncertain future lay ahead of them. Guardians collapsed on deck chairs, each taking their turn to console a completely freaked-out Monty while Berkfield took the helm.

"What 1 have just witnessed is beyond the capacity of human understanding!" he said, pacing and talking with his hands.

Carlos just looked up at him from where he sprawled on the padded furniture. "You did good, man. You got us out of there in one piece."

Yonnie pounded Carlos's fist and got up to sling an arm around Monty's shoulder. He smiled when Monty squeezed his eyes shut. "I know, I know the fangs . . . but now you see why me and my good brother, C, have 'em?"

"Y-yes, yes, I guess so," Monty stuttered. "Glad you're on our side."

Team members swallowed smirks out of respect for the newest member of the team, but the thing that had been clawing at Damali's mind was back . . . then in slow motion she covered her mouth with her hand and turned away. Each team member's body tensed as their collective gazes bore into her back.

"Monk Lin," Damali whispered. "We lost him."

"Aw, man!" Carlos was on his feet. "How?"

She couldn't even look at him. "Friendly fire . . . local patrols didn't understand." That was all she would say in front of the group, especially in front of Monty. No one needed to be further demoralized, and having lost the last living member of the Covenant would have done just that.

"Kiss my ass!" Rider got to his feet and began to pace. "The man was a complete pacifist... I mean, how could that happen?" Rider raked his fingers through his hair. "I just don't get it."

Tara gave Damali a look and soon the other seers closed their eyes and turned away.

"What? What are we missing here, ladies?" Rider said, sounding indignant.

"There is a reason why during this period, you gentlemen are blind," Marlene said calmly, grounding the group. "The male and female energies are balancing as they should ... if Monk Lin was here, he would tell us that according to the Ayurveda science of life, the mahabhutas--the five master elements of space, air, fire, water, and earth--are realigning within each person and on the team as a whole to accommodate change. There are things that we seers can see now, being of the space-air dosha, that are easier for us to communicate calmly and with purpose." Marlene stood and walked as she talked, holding the group rapt.

"Space holds all the aspects of unlimited potentiality; air has the qualities of movement and change. These ladies have this dosha that is called in the tradition Vata, and they have infinite possibilities growing within them and are experiencing significant change. That would be Val, Tara, Jasmine, Krissy, and Juanita . . . although she's still a little fiery, that is mellowing."

Marlene looked around at the group. "We are also evenly divided between those of us, like Marj and I, and Damali, plus Inez and Heather, who carry the dosha of water-earth now, or Kapha energy. Water is cohesive and protective; earth is solid, grounded, and stable. It's not just about sun signs; that is a different matter. I am talking about energy here."

"And you gentlemen at present are fire," Damali said calmly. "Fire is hot, direct, and transformational. Pitta energy. Right through now, if images of what was going on came to you guys directly, as ready for war as you are, you'd burn out your adrenals. Seriously. And, later, as we all get farther along, we're gonna need you in one piece. It just makes sense."

"Now that's deep," Big Mike said, nodding. " 'Cause it's been bothering me lately that I feel like I'm a step behind in getting gut hunches and information . . . you know what I'm saying?"

"Word." Jose nodded. "Usually the hair is standing up on my neck or--"

"I get a vibe," Shabazz cut in. "And those have been coming slower."

Dan rubbed the back of his neck. "I thought it was just me."

"Naw, man," J.L. said, pounding Dan's fist, and then Bobby's.

"Well, shit," Berkfield said, yelling out from the pilothouse. "Then now you guys know how I feel all the time. I'm always late to the party."

"You know what's so odd," Monty said, his gaze sweeping the team. "My wife used to get . . . impressions all the time. That's why I sank my life savings into this yacht. She specified everything on here--she was the one who insisted on the sleeping quarters being as they are, everything. And as she was dying,

I was going to sell it, but she begged me to keep it and to hold on to it."

Monty stood and shook his head, walking off a bit to look over the rail. "She knew, or felt something miraculous would happen. She said, 'Monty, promise me you won't give up before the miracle happens.' I never knew what she meant." He turned around to face the group, eyes shimmering. "I felt cheated. I thought the yacht would give her something to hope for, something to cling to so she'd get better. When she didn't, I was so angry. But after what I witnessed today . . . never in a million years could anyone have ever told me I'd be a part of something so unfathomable."

"We're glad you didn't give up before the miracle, man," Carlos said, shaking his head. "We owe you, big time, because as you can see, without your escape hatch, we would have had our backs against the wall in Bermuda."

"It's mutual," Monty said. "If I had not come to know you, I would be trapped back there," he said, pointing to the island. "How long before those things slithered over the rails and into the water to swim ashore? I would have been caught unaware like all those poor people at the marina. I only pray that we created a barrier and none of them got past the docks. So, it is I who owes you."

"Naw, man, it's mutual," Yonnie said. "We got an old saying, 'Fair exchange is no robbery.' "

"Don't teach the man that," Carlos said, giving Yonnie a look.

"Why not?" Monty asked, seeming confused. "It makes sense." "Don't it just," Yonnie replied with a sly smile. "But listen to C-los; we don't use anything from the old empire, if we don't have to. Brings back memories."

"Old empire?" Monty's gaze went from one Guardian to the other.

"Hell," Shabazz said flatly. "These brothers died and came back, so they don't really like going there."

"Like a near death experience?" Monty hung on Shabazz's gaze, innocent, open, and absorbing everything.

"Naw, more like a real-death experience." Yonnie produced a toothpick in his mouth and gave Monty a wink.

"Okay," Damali said, throwing up her hands. "Convo for another day, another time. Let the man absorb this much first and maybe over a beer, later, you can get deep and esoteric, Yolando. For now, I don't want our ship captain having a heart attack."

"My bad, ma," Yonnie said, grinning. "You're right, ma. Okay, I'll chill."

"Thank you, Yolando," Carlos said, shaking his head. He stood and walked over to a five-gallon, sealed watercooler bottle and brought it back to set it on one of the glass and wrought-iron deck tables. "This right here, Monty, is salvation. Not only is it something we'll need if we're stranded out here indefinitely, but it's a weapon. So before I return you to the helm, with Berkfield and J.L. on your flank, I'ma need you to bless these. If we get in a tight, this is like C4. One brother can hurl this up while another blows it with ammo for maximum impact, and it'll fry anything it splatters without deep-frying you."

"I saw that with the ocean," Monty said, excited.

"Me and Mar are gonna fill you in on lots of little details like that," Shabazz said. "But meanwhile, we're gonna have team members watching your six who need to also be learning how to navigate this sucker." Shabazz's hard gaze went around the seated group. "Everybody's gotta be able to fill in for everybody else. We don't know what we're facing out there or how deep this contagion goes."

"I hear you, 'Bazz," Dan said, leaning forward on his forearms and clasping his hands. "Like, if we happen to pull into a marina in Puerto Rico and we're low on supplies, but it's a ghost town at the docks--is it stealing to salvage from the gift shops? Seriously. This isn't like all systems are normal. . . isn't like we're ripping people off that could sell their merchandise and have kids to feed, blah, blah, blah. The systems are gone. The monetary system has collapsed."

"Dan's got a point," Juanita said, her gaze going from Jose to Carlos, and then to Damali. "When we were at the hotel, this mess hadn't reached that far inland. In fact, the manager was still functioning in some kinda crazy denial, like business was as usual. But I'd bet an hour into the morning, homeboy probably took off and went home to hole up with his family, if he had any sense."

"Dan does have a point, you all do," Damali admitted. "I was just trying to be on the safe side." She turned and looked at Carlos. "Look, I may have been overzealous, but I just didn't want anything we did to draw havoc our way."

"Hey," Carlos said. "I feel you. I ain't mad at you, boo. In fact, it was a good thing that we went on those ships and didn't just jack supplies from the hotel--because we wouldn't have realized how bad it is. They ain't showing zombies on the news. All they are talking about is rabid animals, that freaking dengue fever." "What?" Monty glanced around. "What the heck is dengue?" "Mosquitoes carry it," Jasmine said softly. "It's formally known as Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever Virus. In developing nations, roughly ten million people get it annually, and it gives you a high fever, aching muscles, vomiting, and only like 1 percent of the population dies from it... but this year it broke out in Rio de Janeiro first and then swept South America, Central America, Africa, India . . . my home in the Philippines, Indonesia--a hundred million people with a 75 percent kill rate."

Monty sat down slowly.

"You know what I think is happening?" J.L. said, talking with his hands and then springing up out of his chair from tension like a jack-in-the-box. "I think that every plague that was already out there just got tougher. Period. And everybody who had been susceptible to the shadows from before is getting hit �with whatever part in their spirit the contagion lodged in."

"Oh, snap," Damali said, beginning to walk in a circle. "So, like, if the person had greed and avarice in them, they might become a feaster--one of those things that gets up and walks and eats flesh."

"Yep," J.L. said. "Or, if they were depressed or jealous, maybe they got the bubonic thing, or, I don't know, Ebola?"

"That's freakin' genius," Carlos said, "but I'ma tell you what it is."

"Preach," Yonnie said, going to a rail to lean on it and chew on a toothpick. "My boy knows Hell. Watch him deconstruct this shit. Mr. Chairman, you have the floor."

Carlos couldn't address Yonnie's theatrics and think at the same time. With his hands behind his back he closed his eyes and began a slow pace in front of the team.

"They mirrored the levels of Hell, topside. Well, I'll just be damned." Carlos stopped walking. "Anybody whose spirit was foul and was going to them anyway just manifested whatever level they were gonna bottom out on when they died. That's why some folks didn't catch jack. . . Monty ain't coughing, because he wasn't headed south. Some of those good folks on the ship that wound up as breakfast, yeah, they died, but they weren't contagious. That's why it's bullshit that this thing is spreading through the currency. It might be if you ain't righteous in your soul but for anybody else, uh-uh. You can't catch it. You can't catch none of this mess. It's not about your physical immune system being strong: it's about your spiritual immune system being able to take the weight."

Yonnie pushed away from the rail and flung his toothpick down onto the deck with conviction. "Genius! That is some wicked smooth shit if ever I seen it! Damn!"

"Whoa," Damali said quietly, staring at Carlos. "That is pure brilliance."

Her compliment made him stand a little taller but he fought not to show it. Carlos looked at Damali and then Yonnie before staring at the team. "I hope I'm wrong, but this is the fourth quarter for life as we know it."

"But what about the rats, the animals?" Inez said, unsure. She glanced around. "They're innocent, like kids."

"Those were demon-possessed creatures," Damali said gently, going to her Guardian sister. "And all this time, through all the chaos, I never saw any kids turning."

"But on the news they're showing children bitten by rabid animals. Their little bodies can still get whatever normal diseases are floating around, and especially with dirty food and water supplies, they can be poisoned." Inez hugged herself as Damali's arms enfolded her.

"We're gonna go get your boo, that's why we're headed to Miami so we can get back into the States . . . just gotta go around the edge of the Triangle, girl. You keep her in your mind surrounded by white light--your momma, too." Inez nodded and swallowed hard.

"Yeah," Carlos said, running his fingers through his sweat-damp hair, "first wave of it got anybody infected by the shadows from before. They were your first to fall. Then, they ramped up the diseases, and I'd place even money on it that Lucrezia has an all-out poison campaign ... so -we do have to watch what we consume, water supplies, and things like that--because you can still die of regular shit like cholera, that's more prevalent now than ever before. That's what's making the kids and innocents sick who didn't go down on the first wave. Then they have the demon bats as street sweepers, literally attacking folks who are still standing because they have strong mental, physical, and spiritual constitutions . . . case in point, they threw everything they had at the moment at us."

"They know where we are now?" Val asked in a horrified murmur.

"No, I don't think so," Carlos said. "Because if they did, they wouldn't have stopped with a coupla walkers, some bad-ass sharks, and jellyfish. Hate to break it to you, but some ridiculous shit would have come up from the ocean. Think tsunami, typhoon, Poseidon kinda drama. What went after us was just general, regulation demon energy on autopilot to take down people who ain't diseased."

"That makes me feel better," Rider said, and then got up to hock and spit over the rail. "You're just full of comforting anecdotes." He cut Carlos a glare. "But the ladies-in-waiting . . . c'mon, dude. Not so graphic."

Berkfield laughed. "Go easy, Carlos, it's Rider's first."

"My bad, just trying to keep it real," Carlos said, weary. "I can't tiptoe over some of this. It is what it is."

"But maybe that's why they said the world is gonna end by the fire this time, C," Bobby said out of the blue, making all eyes go to him. "Like . . . before, in Noah's time, it was the Great Flood. But this time, they're talking brimstone and whatever. So, water wouldn't get rid of all the diseases, but fire would burn it out."

"If we make it that far," J.L. said, slumping in his chair and closing his eyes, "we only got like a few more years, if that. Our kids will be toddlers when everything goes black in 2012." He sat forward quickly and held his head in his hands. "It was in the Bible code, the Mayan calendar ends on that date, December twenty-first, 2012, Nostradamus predicted it, and the sibylline prophecies said so ... the ching called it the end of history, Lakota Sioux ghost dancers have it orally in their tribe--"

"Black Elk spoke on that," Jose chimed in. "The Hopi--" "Albert Einstein predicted the polar shifts at that same time," Dan said, his gaze nervously ricocheting around the group. "The prophecies of Malachi, even the oracle at Delphi--"

"Okay, okay," Damali said, walking back and forth waving her arms. "Stop! Energy is going in a real nonproductive direction. Carlos figured out the key to this--so now we know how all the contagion has really been spreading. Genius. Half the battle is knowing what you're up against and how it's coming at you." She motioned to Yonnie. "Do me a favor and open that water, Monty you bless it, and lemme dunk my pearl."

Although the process to bless the water jug, get a bowl, and submerge her necklace at a top deck table only took a few minutes, it felt like it took forever. Marlene sat across from her with Carlos on one side and Shabazz on the other, with everybody else closely crowded around.

Damali waited as her pearl got acclimated to the spring water, her rosy pink glow finally lighting and a small stream of tiny air bubbles made their way to the surface.

"Pearl, you there, you okay?" Damali asked gently.

"My word, Damali," Pearl said, sounding breathless. "What just happened?"

"Long story," Damali said, letting her breath out hard.

"Horrible and I already know," Pearl murmured. "You all feel like you need rest--your energy isn't good at all."

"I know," Damali said, glancing around. "The stress is wearing on people."

"Very dangerous at a time like this. People must heal."

Damali's gaze met Marlene's. "Yeah. I know. But before we draw straws for who gets the first shift and showers, we need some navigational advice. You said to lock in on the pyramid that's in the center of the Triangle, right?"

"Yes, but draw your lots first," Pearl replied. "Those ladies have to be clean, bathed or showered, so that nothing from the recent battle goes toward the Atlantean crystals within the pyramid. The stone structure will give you a steady compass point, but the Guardians will get back one of the healing rays. I cannot specify what ray any particular individual will receive, but it will sense the child she carries and give her crown chakra vibrations of Divine insight, or second-sight intensity, or charismatic speech from the throat chakra, or a lion's heart, or something from the chakras of gall and indignation over the injustices of the world, hence courage or gut instinct, or significant primal reflexes. Each female will come away from her post with her child's gift amplified, as well as her own."

"Whoa," Carlos murmured. "Pearl, that's some serious mojo."

"Indeed it is." Pearl giggled. "But may I make a suggestion?"

"You are the oracle, sis," Damali said, growing peeved at the way Pearl always flirted so outrageously with Carlos.

"If it's not too much of a hardship, why not allow Marlene and Shabazz, Marjorie and Richard, and Mike and Inez to take the first watch with Mr. Sinclair at the helm. Those are the only couples not expecting, even though the strain on Inez is great. . . but tell her not to worry, her mother and baby are in solid Guardian hands. I would not make this suggestion if it were a time for Inez to grieve."

Inez covered her face with her hands and breathed into them, as Mike rubbed her back and then pulled her into a deep hug, "Those mothers-to-be need to bathe, to wash any possible contagion from them, as do their mates," Pearl said pleasantly.

"Use the additional salons as bedrooms for now . . . pull out the sofas and use them for rest. Everyone should be hydrated and eat while they can, sleep while they can, so they are refreshed in the event of emergency. Marlene and Marjorie and Inez can hold the trinity polarity of the vessel, guiding it past all calamities, while Richard and Shabazz and Mike can learn to pilot it, as well as provide security. Mr. Sinclair can take brief breaks by dozing on the pullout sofa in the pilothouse, if the other gentlemen simply hold his course. Once the night falls, Mr. Sinclair will need to be at the helm as the most experienced captain, and the seven couples can relieve the three. This is my advice, take it or leave it."

Damali was so grateful to her pearl for her advice that once in a cabin alone, she simply kissed her necklace repeatedly until it giggled. Fatigue made her entire body feel as if she were walking through molasses, and after an insane morning, her stomach was growling and her eyelids were so heavy that she could barely keep her head up.

She didn't care who got what room, as long as she could shower and then fall down on a soft mattress. Carlos had ransacked the hotel gift shop back on the island with a straight energy jettison without leaving the yacht, bringing in clothes for everybody, except Big Mike--for him he just pilfered the British Navy's base, and even then, the pickings were slim. But she should have known that her husband would have wrangled the master suite out of the deal. Part of her appreciated that he did, while the other half of her felt slightly guilty.

When she stepped out of the tiny shower, she was surprised to see him leaning against the door with a smile.

"You feel better?" he asked, not going near her.

"Have you been standing there the whole time?" She squeezed her freshly shampooed dreadlocks out, and gave him a half-smile.

"Yeah, I figured I was on those foul-ass cruise ships, no telling what funk splattered me. Didn't wanna sit on the bed with it or touch you to get it on you, so, if you're done, lemme jump in real fast, change, throw our duds overboard, and I'll go get you something to eat."

"How about you go get washed and I'll go get you something while you're in?" she said, loving him for just suggesting that he'd do that. "I wasn't on those ships, and I didn't see half of the gore, or fight it. I'm just glad you guys made it out alive."

"You're gonna make me kiss you and use up our sleep time on something else," he said with a grin. "But, seriously, why don't you just go lie down and I'll go. In fact, I insist, because as it is, I've gotta light blast this door where I've been leaning, just in case."

"You drive a hard bargain," she said, yawning as she sat down heavily on the side of the bed.

He motioned toward the wicker chair in the corner of the room with his chin. "Brought you a cotton sundress . . . thought it might be comfortable to sleep in. Some more jeans and a couple of tanks, some sneakers, flip-flops, undies ... I wasn't sure what all you wanted. Pretty much cleaned out the store for everybody and left that on the top deck for them to sort out--so if you don't like what I picked, there's more stuff up there."

"If you weren't dirty, I'd kiss you," she said with a gentle smile.

"Then lemme go clean up," he said, pushing off the door with a sly grin. "Be back in a flash."

She followed him with her eyes until he closed the door behind him, but the moment he did, she realized just how exhausted she was. The sundress now seemed sooo far away. All she wanted to do was lie down for a few moments, shut her eyes, and curl into a little ball.

He was in and out of the shower like greased lightning, but by the time he opened the door, Damali's peaceful breaths made her chest gently rise and fall. His poor boo was wrapped in a damp towel, hair all over her head, nearly passed out from all the drama, and hadn't even been able to change into her sundress.

Carlos kicked his soiled clothes to the side, walked over to her, and placed a delicate kiss on her forehead. How during the extended war of the Armageddon did he keep that serene expression on his wife's face? He couldn't even begin to figure that out. Rather than try, he walked over to the chair and found his sweatpants and a pair of flip-flops. At least while she was asleep, he could find her something decent to eat. The bitch of it was, she was vegan and everything good, like fresh fruit and vegetables, was potentially tainted. So he'd have to concoct a meal for her from frozen stock . . . maybe some kind of stir-fry, who knows.

On a mission, he light cleaned the door, the doorknob, and any surface he'd touched, just for good measure, taking their soiled clothes out with him to fill in a garbage bag and then dump. As he stood at the bow rail alone, holding the plastic over the pristine blue sea, the political incorrectness of just dropping it into the ocean made him jettison it back to the already destroyed marina. "Be kind to the earth," a familiar male voice said. "You'll need her one day, so will your children."

Carlos whirled on the sound, his heart beating hard. "Father Pat," he whispered, emotion catching in his throat.

"We didn't forget about you," Father Pat said quietly, his translucent form moving with the gentle Caribbean breeze. "It has only been three days since D.C. The Neterus will return to your side."

"But, you were the one I missed the most, man. I'll get them back for what they did to you--you know that, right?"

"I do . . . but not at the expense of your family or team. It is glorious here."

Carlos nodded and briefly looked away. "They got your boys, too. The other clerics."

"I know," Father Pat said softly. "Son, I know."

"But what do we do now without you?" Carlos hadn't meant for his voice to waver or for his tone to sound so forlorn, but the sight of the man who'd been like his father tore open a wound in his soul and poured salt into it.

"You go on," Father Pat murmured, producing a Templar blade. Slowly, before Carlos's eyes he became younger, his clerical robes turning from black to royal blue. In the center of his chest was a large silver cross with a medallion centered in it, a bleeding heart pierced with a dagger and a crown of thorns.

"Easier said than done," Carlos replied quietly after a moment. But then he lifted his chin and squared his shoulders. "You look good, though. I'm glad all the suffering is over."

"I will never, ever leave you, son," Father Pat said quietly. "And you know old warriors never die."

Carlos smiled and shook his head. "That's what I always loved about you, man. You were a tough old dude."

"Had to be--to go out and find a young vampire to turn into a Neteru, yes?"

Carlos's chuckle deepened as warm memories poured into his spirit. "Yeah. You were crazier than me. I'da left my ass in the desert at the first sight of fangs . . . and I was ornery and bloodthirsty, too."

"I recall," Father Pat said, coming closer. "Do you trust me now:

Carlos raised an eyebrow. "Sorta, but the blade in your grip is making me nervous. If I messed up with the Light, can you give a brother warning?"

"I know this isn't your style," Father Pat said, chuckling. "But can you go down on one knee?"

Carlos just stared at him for a moment.

"So I can knight you?" Father Patrick let out an exasperated breath.

"Knight me?"

The deceased priest walked away shaking his head and then came back to Carlos. "You have always asked too many questions and that, my friend, has always gotten you in trouble. But, if you must know--I cannot share any Templar secrets with you unless you're one of us."

Carlos slowly dropped to one knee and looked up with a sheepish grin. "My bad."

"Listen to me," Father Patrick said, laying the transparent blade on Carlos's shoulder. "Right now, goods and weapons are what you need. Money is worthless. But we also have gold and diamonds, other means of exchange. Wait to trade these until the time of the mark of the beast. Right now, be sparing on your use of grains and water . . . when the economy comes back online, you will have resources. It's in the tunnels . . . our consecrated tunnels where no demons can enter."

"Thank you," Carlos said quietly, looking up into Father Patrick's wise, aged eyes. "I'm gonna miss you not being here like old times, you know?"

"I will be here to christen your children, to follow you in battle. I will never leave you, that is my vow."

Carlos nodded and held Father Patrick's line of vision as his wisp of phantom blade touched each of Carlos's shoulders.

"I am proud of you," Father Patrick said quietly. "I watched you go from an angry kid from the streets into an honorable man. See with my eyes where your resources are hidden when you need them. I have also shared this with Cordell so your teams on the mainland and around the world can eat."

As Father Patrick backed away, Carlos stood. "I don't know what else to say but thank you." The urge to hug him was so great that Carlos had to ball his hands into fists, lest he made a fool of himself by trying to give a warrior hug to thin air.

"The honor is all mine," Father Patrick said, obvious pride glimmering in his eyes. "To watch your development, Damali's development, was the greatest gift of my life. Remember these words from Revelation, son, 'and I will give power unto two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand, two hundred, and threescore days . . . these are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth . . . and if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouths and devoureth their enemies.' Carlos," Father Patrick whispered.

The fading priest stepped in closer, his words urgent as his form began to disappear. "Your wife carries the strongest Neteru ever born. Go to Megiddo after you collect Ayana, her grandmother, and the Weinsteins. Find the place of Revelation 16:16, the water tunnel southwest of the mound. There is an underground spring there with water that is untainted, and the tunnel is a one-hundred-and-five-foot drop cut into bedrock by the sheer will and bare hands of people with no modern machinery--that is what humans can do, Carlos. The iron tunnel that leads from it is two-hundred-and-ten-feet long. This place is packed with things you must know in the final battle-- ask Solomon, it was his center of administration. Ask Akhenaton, there were six letters sent to him from there, and it is spoken of on the stele at the Temple of Karnack. This place that overlooks the Valley of Jezreel in Israel is prophesized. It is called Tel Megiddo in Hebrew or Tell al-Hutesellim in Arabic. Ask the Neteru Kings of old, they will guide you. Be well, my son ... I must go."

Carlos turned away from the now-empty space before him and stared out at the endless blue surrounding the ship and closed his eyes. A single tear rolled down his cheek. Even in death, the old man had his back.

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