Morgan sat in his cell naked and alone. For days he’d been subjected to a torture he never imagined was possible, as he was systematically degraded and denigraded. For the once proud, dominant man, to be made the submissive one was the most harrowing experience ever.
His tribulations were far from over though. It was at this moment that Tarsus brought down Desdemona, Claes’ secret wife. She was wearing a silky, backless dress that accentuated nicely the curves on her body, and as soon as she entered Morgan’s cell, she doffed it, revealing her remarkable body.
Under normal circumstances, Morgan would be able to resist the voluptuous seductress’ charms, but the defeated Morgan could only resign himself to what was going to happen. Desdemona was beautiful, a shapely 52-year-old with flowing brunette locks that, hanging down, rested nicely on her luscious breasts and contrasted nicely with her ivory skin. Her freckles gave her face the mark of innocence, although there was very little innocent about her. Claes met her here, in Sudan, where she was a labourer at a local Church, one of the few left in Khartoum. Being immediately smitten, she allowed herself to be brainwashed into the most obedient of wives, and now she was helping Claes make Morgan the most obedient of warriors for him.
“Hello sexy,” she said seductively. Morgan stared at her blankly. She walked up to him and caressed his cheek. Morgan started to breathe heavily but still didn’t say a word. “What’s wrong?” Desdemona said mockingly. “Cat got your tongue?”
“Why are you wasting time?” Morgan said, quivering. “I know what you’re here for...just get it over with.”
“No...it’s less fun that way.” She then planted a kiss on Morgan’s lips, and forced his mouth open with her lips so that the two of them could make out. As she was kissing him, she leaned over top of him progressively, eventually forcing Morgan on to his back so that Desdemona could lie on top of him.
Desdemona continued, moving down Morgan’s body so that she could kiss every inch of it. Morgan felt like violently throwing her off his body, but decided to stay motionless and let Desdemona do her work. He kept on hearing Tarsus’ words, “the guns, Derek! Don’t forget about the guns, Derek!” and despite the fact that the walls were lined in stone and couldn’t be penetrated by any kind of bullet, Morgan kept thinking that if he didn’t obey, a gun would shoot him dead.
Eventually Desdemona started oral sex with Morgan, as she really enjoyed Morgan’s endowment. However, enjoying it with her hands and her mouth wasn’t enough for her, so she mounted Morgan and began having sex with him, starting off slowly so that she could feel every inch of Morgan’s endowment inside her body, each pulse resonating in her veins. As she enjoyed herself with Morgan’s body, Morgan could only pant heavily, waiting in agony for Desdemona to finish defiling him.
After half an hour, Desdemona let out a howl of excitement, as she climaxed as Morgan did. She then bent down and kissed the exhausted Morgan, who could only lie on his back, defeated. Desdemona grinned before putting her dress back on and greeting Claes, who was waiting for her outside of his cell.
“I think he’s ready,” said Desdemona, kissing Claes.
“Good,” the Cardinal said. “Get the ceremony ready and have Ricardo lead it. I have something to take care of.”
“As you wish.” Desdemona kissed Claes and left him to his task as she went to prepare the ceremony.
“All right, scumbag,” snarled Rossi, standing authoritatively lording over Musus’ interrogation table. “Why do you want to work with a degenerate lowlife like Wilhelm Claes? What do you think you even have to gain from committing an act of treason against the Roman Empire?”
“Rossi, I’m sure he has his reasons,” said Jane, trying to act sympathetic.
“Seriously?” Musus said, incredulously. “You forget that I’m an army man...I’ve seen every tactic, and it’s amusing you think the good cop bad cop routine would work on me.”
“Oh,” said Jane, sarcastically. “You think I’m the good cop? Really, I can be just as bad as anyone...I’m just far more clever about it.”
“So is this some kind of experimental technique you have going on now?” said Musus, mockingly. “Because, really, I’m not sure what you hope to gain out of this.”
“Okay, I’m just going to get to the point,” said Jane, who then stopped.
Musus threw up his hands- as much as he could in handcuffs- and made a face, wondering if Jane was going to finish his sentence.
“You’re right…I’m not sure what we’re going to gain out of this,” said Jane. He then left the room as did Rossi.
A few hours later, the two agents talked to Musus again, without having much success. Then Gideon went in and tried, again in failure. Later, the agents brought in the big guns, Hotch and Black, who tried to talk to Musus without much luck. Each time, Musus laughed at their failures, deriding the agents as “idiots” or “simpletons”.
Eventually, the BAU was down to its last attempt. It was down to Hawkes.
She entered the room holding a whole bunch of stuffed file folders, carrying them awkwardly. As she walked towards Musus, she hit a divot in the floor and stumbled, dropping the folders’ contents all over the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Hawkes said, embarrassed, as she started picking up the stuff she dropped on the floor.
“Look at you,” mocked Musus. “You’re hardly old enough to go on a prom date, let alone be in an interrogation room. Besides, what business does a woman have being in a room with a man?”
Hawkes looked at him with disgust. “What kind of a cad are you to tell me that because I have breasts I can’t possibly lead an interrogation? Are you that short sighted, like your friend, Will?”
“Wilhelm Claes is a good man. He knows more about proper gender roles than you will ever know. Women have no business doing a man’s job.”
“So should I be wearing a veil too, or is the abaya not revealing enough for you?”
“The abaya…Abaza mentioned it to me once…it didn’t make much sense to me…it only works if women are free, and in our system, the women are slaves. Why do they need to be all covered so they can go outside if they never go outside in the first place?”
“Your system…” Hawkes paused briefly as she momentarily had to sort some of the dropped files before she could put them in their folder before continuing putting the papers back. “So you and Claes have a Victorian fantasy society all thought out, is that right?”
“I wouldn’t call it Victorian…Claes and I, we saw the man primarily in work clothes, getting all kinds of dirt and grime all over him because he’d be in the field, working his tail off. The dominant image of our society would not be top hats and large bicycles…no, the dominant image would be a man coated in mud, wearing his coveralls and a construction helmet proudly displaying his shovel, telling us that he’d proudly finished his work.”
“So a man must always be dirty, is that what you’re saying?”
“No…the man shouldn’t be afraid to get dirty to do the job.”
“…and the woman, she doesn’t get dirty, right?”
“Right…she is afraid, because she was meant to be a paragon of beauty and any speck of dirt destroys that beauty…it is why a female janitor needs a man to clean a clogged drain…because the woman is too afraid of dirt to do it herself.”
“She did get help though…she didn’t need you there.”
“That man in Groningen was pathetic…he wasn’t cultured properly like I was. He needed a real man to show him how it was done.”
“It’s a rather strange way of showing him how it was done…shooting them in cold blood.”
“He wasn’t shot...he was strangled. I thought you knew that.”
Hawkes answered smugly. “I did…and I find it funny that you know that, ‘cause we never told anyone that the plumber was strangled.” Hawkes then finished picking up the last sheet of paper that had fallen on the ground and put it inside the file folder. “So, do you still think a woman can’t do a man’s job?”
“You still don’t have me for the crime.”
“You just admitted to details only we knew about…and you also left your ‘mud’ all over Julia Winters…that’s got DNA in it and we’re combing it as we speak.”
Musus took a deep breath, realizing he’d just been beaten.
“I just have one question- how many of you are there?”
“Just me,” replied Musus, sullen. “I’m a military man…I work with precision and quickness. Either Tarsus or Claes knew the victims…it was all a matter of giving me the names…the Roman military has access to the worldwide database…so I was able to figure out where they all lived and worked quite quickly.”
“Thank you Gnaeus.” Hawkes smiled, turned and started to walk towards the door before she stopped. “Oh, and one other thing…where’s the bunker?”
22:15 local time, Tuti Island, Khartoum, Sudan
“Got it,” said Prentiss, arriving via a helicopter repainted to appear like a traffic helicopter. She landed at the northern tip of the island with her Special Forces group, which she nicknamed the Lilies since she thought a girlie name would make it even more embarrassing for Claes to lose to.
“So you guys took Musus’ overconfidence and buried him with it?” asked Kim Myers, the inspiration for Disney’s Kim Possible cartoon series and Prentiss’ second in command.
“Yeah,” said Prentiss. “We knew that Musus likely thought he could beat us knowing he’s an Army man so if we made him think that he was getting better at handling us, the more he’d believe that he couldn’t get caught…and thus, the more he’d reveal.”
“You guys really are the best,” said Myers with a smile.
“Lilies,” said Prentiss commanding her troops, using encrypted radio signals. “Musus said the bunker is somewhere around here. There’s a latch hidden here, and Musus gave us the secret code. Liles, let’s move!”
The Liles- twelve in all- scoured the beach all the way from the Ring Road towards the northern tip, the exact point where the Nile River splits in two. They had to contend with some extensive brush at the tip of the island, as well as some harrowing marshlands.
“I don’t think it’s right at the tip,” observed Myers. “The land’s far too low-lying here.” She then purposefully walked towards the Ring Road, thinking that’s where the bunker could lie. There was a part of the road that was the edge of a brief cliff, and at the foot of that cliff was a bull head with its mouth open.
“Prentiss,” said Myers, “I think I found your bunker.”
“Good work Kim,” said Prentiss, “now open it up.”
Myers dutifully reached inside the bull’s mouth and found a keypad. She remembered the combination Prentiss told her about and got the door open. The Lilies piled themselves in and awaited instruction from Prentiss.
“Lilies,” said Prentiss, quietly. “Under no circumstances are we splitting up. Our objective is to find Morgan and Cornelia and get them out safely. Once that is done, we’ll radio the Romans who will bring the helicopter back. If you see any enemies, do not engage them unless you have to or can do so quietly. We need to be discreet. Understood?” The Lilies all nodded their heads in agreement, as they started their assault in the underground bunker.
23:23 local time, Tuti Island
As soon as the Lilies entered the bunker, they were faced with a fork in the tunnel. One of the routes would lead to a fire pit specifically constructed by Claes to deter a rescue effort, while the other actually led to the bunker itself.
“This is a trap,” said Prentiss, examining her options, knowing that the tunnel shouldn’t have a fork otherwise. She looked, frantically, for a clue before Myers piped up.
“A few years ago Tuti Island was up in arms when a bridge was built connecting the island to the Al-Fateh Hotel,” said Myers.
“Ghaddhafi’s Egg, named for Momar Ghaddafi since Libya largely finaned the hotel,” said Prentiss. “I’ve heard of it.”
Myers responded sheepishly. “I don’t know...it’s the only thing I know about the island.”
Something clicked with Prentiss as soon as she heard Myers mention that. “Al-Fateh means ‘conqueror’ in Arabic...that’s where Claes has his Palace...and one of these tunnels leads to the hotel.”
“Which one? We’re at the other end of the island.”
“The left one is a direct route.”
“So...we turn right.”
“No...we go left. Tarsus designed this bunker...hence the bull head entrance. He’s not very good at the ‘red herring’ game so he’d build the most direct route.”
The Lilies pressed onward, heading down the left tunnel, quickly but carefully. They faced their first challenges when the two guards in front of the bunker entrance confronted them, but they were no match for Prentiss, who decked one with a punch and another with a roundhouse kick to the face. Another guard came in to help out, but Myers was up to the task, jumping up and grabbing hold of a pipe running along the ceiling and swinging her feet into his face. The Lilies restrained the fallen guards with zip ties before pressing onward.
“That’ll get the blood boiling,” cracked Myers.
“It’s a real fight now,” said Prentiss.
Further up, the Lilies encountered the guards’ sleeping quarters and, as Prentiss though, none of them were asleep. As she saw the door leading to the quarters, she opened the door a crack and fired a shot through it, managing to hit the guard standing right next to the door ready to ambush her. She then aimed her gun up and shot another guard on the second floor towards her left as she entered, with Myers right behind her, covering her back. Myers shot two guards in quick succession, actions that allowed the rest of the Lilies to enter the quarters.
By now, each of the bunker’s 30 guards were engaged with the Lilies. Some of the guards stayed on the above floor to provide their allies covering fire, as they slowly made their way to the floor to engage the Lilies. As the minutes wore on, the firefight grew fiercer, leading to a war of attrition.
Eventually, the Lilies knew they had to make a move, since the guards were defending their turf and had no reason to make one, plus once the Lilies ran out of bullets, the guards would likely have the advantage. It was at this point that Myers saw an opportunity.
“Prentiss,” she said with urgency. “Cover me.” Myers then grabbed the ladder leading to the upstairs portion of the quarters, and flipped herself onto the floor, knocking over a guard in the process.
She then got into a fistfight with three guards, prompting Prentiss to join her. Myers got a high kick to the teeth of one of the guards knocking him flat, but she got exposed to a punch from another guard, who landed one square in her jaw.
Prentiss saw that and engaged the guard, landing a punch to the face and another body blow. However, since this guard was quite muscular, he managed to fell Prentiss momentarily with a single blow to the face. He then crouched on top of her and used his legs to incapacitate hers, allowing him to start raining blow upon blow on Prentiss.
Prentiss, though, was undeterred. Even though his fists were quite powerful, she willed herself not to lose consciousness even though it was hard. She also punched back when she could, but the man’s position didn’t make it easy. She saw that she was close to the railing, so she thought that if she could just nudge him over there, she could flip him over. Slowly, she worked him over there, and just when he was about to land the decisive blow, she used the last bit of strength in her legs to flip the man over the railing, knocking him out.
Prentiss was dazed though and didn’t realize another guard was heading her way. Myers came to her rescue, tripping the guard from behind before another guard attempted to tackle her. When he failed due to his faulty grip, he planted a hand on the ground and swiped at Myers’ feet, knocking them out from underneath her. Myers wouldn’t stay down for long, rolling herself upward, only to be greeted with a fist to the back of her head. She responded by turning around and uppercutting the guard and elbowing the one that had tried to come up from behind her. A third guard then grabbed her by the ponytail, prompting her to jump up and flip herself and deliver a kick to his face, knocking him out. Another guard started to run toward her, and Myers readied herself for another fight before Prentiss came from behind and tackled the guard and landing a few punches in, knocking the guard out cold.
“I would have had him,” said Myers.
“I know,” replied Prentiss, “but I figured you could have used a bit of a breather.”
By this point, the rest of the Lilies- engaged with the rest of the guards- had managed to subdue the guards that were left, resulting in a total victory for the Lilies. They ziptied any guards that weren’t dead and moved into the guards’ equipment room in order to get first aid treatment and reload their ammunition.
It was here that Myers finally felt the pain in her jaw, as the adrenaline had wore off.
“He got you good,” said Prentiss, pulling out an ice pack for Myers.
“I know,” she said, grimacing in pain. “How are you? That guy got you good.”
“Head’s still a bit woozy but I think I barely escaped a concussion.”
“Those guys were tough.”
“They’re Claes’ personal guard...they’re his best soldiers. I think we did pretty well. It had also been a while before I actually had to fight someone.”
Prentiss then addressed the entire group. “Okay Lilies,” she commanded, “take five. Once we’re a little better we’ll look for Morgan and Cornelia.”
00:36 local time, Al-Fateh Hotel, Khartoum, Sudan
Morgan stood over the sink, his head sunk with his eyes staring longingly into the drain. He was dressed to the nines in a fine tuxedo, as he was getting ready to “wed” Cornelia, but never did he feel so low. Beaten mentally and physically, Morgan’s feelings of helplessness coalesced today into one monster of a depression, as he began to feel like he just might never escape Tarsus’ grasp.
Meanwhile, Cornelia faced her own issues getting prepared for the wedding. An old man, dressed as a doctor, walked in to her quarters, despite her protestations about how it would make her “unlucky”. The man didn’t listen, instead forcing her onto her chair and tying her up.
In her head, Cornelia knew what was going to happen, so when he inevitably raped her, she braced herself and took it in stride. When he was finished, though, he brought out a syringe, some stitching equipment and other medical supplies.
“What...what,” said Cornelia, quivering. “What are you doing?”
“Well...” said the man, “you need to be a virgin for your wedding night.”
“...but it’s not an honest virginity.”
“I don’t make the rules, Gaia. Besides, we’ve all had our fun with you...it’s time for a new chapter.” He then opened her legs and applied the anesthetic to her genitals as Gaia winced in pain.
“Why? Why?” Gaia then began to cry.
“Oh, don’t cry,” said the man, mocking her. “I’ll only be another minute.” In a few short minutes he was finished stitching together Gaia’s hymen and “restoring” her virginity.
Gaia could only cry now.
“Silence!” He said, slapping her violently. He then grabbed her breasts and squeezed them, before cupping her head and kissing the top of it. He then left, leaving Gaia sullen and broken down in tears.
01:00 local time
The time for the wedding had come. Claes wanted to hold it at midnight for the symbolism, but complications arose with Cornelia’s surgeon so he pushed it back. Desdemona supervised the affair, which was to feature only two guards dressed as ushers, another acting as the organist, another pretending to be Cornelia’s “father”, Morgan, Cornelia and the man that stitched Cornelia’s hymen together, playing the role of the priest, with the proceedings videotaped so that it could be broadcast across Sudan later.
At this moment, Morgan felt unusually smug. He figured that being helpless was useless, and that he might as well accept his new life if, indeed, there was no actual way out. Besides, Cornelia was a wonderful woman, and Morgan figured there was no better woman to be forced to be married to. Above all else, once the ceremony was finished, he looked forward to actually getting some sleep for once- Desdemona promised Morgan and Cornelia they would receive far better quarters after the marriage, and that Morgan would become master of a planned city south of Khartoum that Claes wanted to build as his capital.
When it came time for Cornelia to walk down the aisle, Morgan stood, smugly, as “Here Comes the Bride” played in the background. Cornelia, also having accepted her fate, smiled as she walked up the aisle and saw Morgan, although given her condition, she did walk gingerly.
“Tonight,” started the presider, “we are gathered here to unite Derek Morgan and Gaia Cornelia in the holiest of matrimonies. This day marks the true beginning of the new chapter of human civilization, where the man truly takes over society. We have gathered before us the perfect specimens to lead such a society, with the strong, robust Morgan and the delicate, willing Cornelia providing the perfect examples of what Catholic society should be.
“So now,” continued the presider, “I turn to you, Derek...do you take Gaia Cornelia as your wife, with all your heart and your soul, until death do you part?”
“I do,” said Morgan, calmly and warmly.
“Do you, Gaia, take Derek Morgan as your husband, with all your heart and your soul, until death do you part?”
“I do,” said Cornelia, lovingly looking into Morgan’s eyes.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” said the presider. “Derek, you may now kiss the bride.”
Before Morgan could do so, a voice interrupted the proceedings.
Prentiss stood at the back, after she and Myers easily subdued the guards at the entrance, her gun trained on the presider. Morgan, who could only think of the words of Tarsus, cowered in fear at the sight of the gun, which Prentiss immediately recognized as a sign of that Tarsus had psychologically tormented him.
“Who are you?” asked the presider, who was more confused than scared of Prentiss.
“Emily Prentiss, FBI!” Prentiss barked. “I’m here to arrest all of you as accomplices to the murders and kidnappings of Decius Tarsus and Wilhelm Claes!”
The presider scoffed. “A woman? Here to arrest all of us? You must be mad. You are incapable of such an act.”
“The twelve of us just subdued your entire bunker, and you guys are the only ones we have left to deal with. Do you still think we’re incapable of such an act?”
The presider didn’t hesitate, ordering the guards at the front to attack Prentiss. Desdemona rushed down in order to shephered Morgan and Cornelia away but Myers spotted her and tackled her.
“Kim!” Prentiss barked, “go get Morgan and Cornelia! I got this.”
Prentiss didn’t flinch, elbowing one guard in the mouth that was coming up from behind her and clotheslined another that rushed right at her. The first guard she knocked down then got up and attempted to trip out her feet from under her, but Prentiss felt it and backflipped over the attempt. She then moved in between the two guards, punching the guard she was facing and kicking the one she had her back to in the groin, before using her leg to lift him up onto her back so she could throw him into the guard facing her, subduing both guards.
Meanwhile, Myers had to deal with the presider, who had taken Cornelia hostage in a desperate attempt to escape.
“Freeze!” Myers ordered, drawing her gun at the presider, who stopped his run. He then held a gun to Cornelia’s head.
“No no no,” said the presider. “That’s not the way this is going to work...you let all of my men go and Cornelia lives. It’s all very simple.”
“Don’t play this game! I will shoot you!”
“You? You couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn!”
“Don’t try me!”
Prentiss, having finished subduing the men, jumped in.
“Father,” she said, despite hating the utterance knowing the presider was every bit as fake as Claes is, “if you value Gaia in any way, you will let her live.”
“Gaia is a woman,” mocked the presider, “she is dispensable. In fact, I think I’d rather take both of you. I can make you every bit as obedient as I made Derek Morgan.”
Something clicked with Prentiss when she heard that. “Did Claes brainwash you with the guns as well? Is that why you so blindly follow him?”
The presider was rattled. “Cardinal Claes is worth following.”
“You’re older and wise...you have no reason to succumb to his wishes. The guards...they’re young and easily manipulated not knowing any other religious ideal, but you...you should have your own religious viewpoints...you’re old enough to have formed them long before Claes formulated his. Besides...you care about Gaia...that’s why you didn’t kill her.”
The presider started to cry. “No...you’re wrong.”
“It’s okay...nobody likes being tricked. I’m sorry it had to come out like this.”
The presider let go of Cornelia and slumped to his knees, bawling uncontrollably.
“Desdemona was my wife!” he called out, crying incessantly. He then hunched himself over, crying and banged the floor with his fists several times.
“It’s true,” said Desdemona, lying on the floor, handcuffed. “Twelve years ago, just after Hosni Mubarak’s government crumbled in Egypt, Wilhelm Claes came to Sudan from San Marino. He knew of the Sudanese Christians in Juba so he came to recruit them, so that he could create his own Catholic state on the heels of the chaos in Egypt. My husband, Raek, was the Bishop of Juba and the most influential man in South Sudan...I worked for him, that’s how I met him. One day, Claes comes to us and tells us he wanted to take us on a ‘spiritual journey’...we went to a cabin of his in Port Sudan, where we stayed for over a year. We were both brutally tortured and I was raped many times, and Claes repeatedly told us that we needed to obey, or ‘the wrath of God’ would get us. As the year progressed he was progressively nicer to us, but all this did was to make us even more submissive to him.”
“So he would beat you,” analyzed Prentiss, “and then be nice to you?”
“That’s how it worked.” Desdemona continued with a sigh. “I remember it came at the exact moment I felt there was no way out of this.”
“So he beats you to establish control and dominance, and once he’s done that, he’s nice to you so he can manipulate you further.”
“...and he manipulated us,” said Raek, “into taking our men and leading them against first the Sudanese government and then the Egyptians...he won Sudan fairly well but Egypt was an unexpected struggle. He made us think we were all doing this for God’s Will but the truth is we’re just pawns in his game...” Raek let out a huge sigh. “This has been so much to comprehend.”
“Wait one second!” Myers hollered. “From what I know, Claes is all about red herrings and has followed our investigation thoroughly...why should I believe you, Raek, if that’s even your-”
Prentiss waved her hand against her throat telling Myers not to continue with their statement, but Raek interjected.
“We have no reason to lie,” he said. “What would we have to gain from lying about being brainwashed?”
“Our sympathy,” said Prentiss sternly. “It would make you less culpable in all this...and besides, where are Claes and Tarsus? They’re conveniently absent.”
“They’re in Aswan,” said Desdemona. “They’d been planning that trip for days to help organize the defences there.”
“I give you a trust exercise,” said Raek, handing out an amulet. “This amulet is a trigger for a bomb that could blow up this entire bunker. It’s Claes’ defence mechanism in case it ever did get infiltrated. I don’t know how to defuse the bomb, but I can start it. If I am telling you the truth, then this amulet will not have started the detonation process.”
Prentiss took the amulet and examined it. She then opened it carefully and studied it, realizing that Raek was right.
“See?” Raek said. “You may even search me and every last one of the guards here and Desdemona. We have nothing to hide.”
Prentiss ordered the Lilies to do just that. She then asked Raek where the bomb was so she could defuse it. After Raek was frisked, he directed her to the janitorial closet where the bomb was located.
“Thanks,” said Prentiss, starting to examine the bomb. She grabbed a screwdriver and started to take off a panel, but the mess of wires and buttons confounded her. She sighed. “If only Morgan was here,” she said, staring blankly at the array.
“You called for me?” Morgan inquired, having followed Prentiss to the closet.
“You’re back!” Prentiss said, giving Morgan a warm hug.
“Something clicked in my head when you brought up the brainwashing...I didn’t realize that I was being conditioned just like Raek was...also, I hadn’t been there that long so my mind wasn’t altered that much...but I was close, and seeing you really made my day.”
“We missed you.” Prentiss and Morgan hugged again.
“Now...getting down to business. I’m going to teach you something. See all these wires?”
“Disregard them. They’ve been put here intentionally to confuse you.”
“How do you know?”
“Modern bombmakers know that the layperson expects a bomb to be disarmed via cutting a wire, so they make the bomb accordingly. The trick is having to dig through these wires and find the right one...if you find one at all.”
“Don’t all bombs need some kind of wiring?”
“Technically yes, but we can bury them better now...I’m positive they’re behind some kind of metal fixture.”
“So how do we disarm this...and is this even a bomb?” Prentiss began wondering if the convoluted bomb was a trap.
“Oh yes, this is a bomb and Raek was right when he told you it’s not detonated. The fan in the computer isn’t running.”
“Computer? So it has a motherboard...and a microchip.”
Morgan smiled, knowing that Prentiss learned what he wanted her to learn. “That’s it! Now, where do you think the motherboard is?”
“Somewhere in the back...no, wait...red herring.” Prentiss reached her hand into the bomb’s front wall and felt it, eventually hitting the motherboard. “Okay,” Prentiss continued, her voice strained as she tried to muscle out the motherboard, “so now I have to take this out...”
“...and you’ll have disarmed the bomb.”
After a few agonizing minutes, Prentiss was able to muscle out the motherboard, clipping its connectors along the way. She also found its explosive material after unscrewing the section of the bomb behind the wires, bagging the motherboard and the gunpowder for evidence.
Aswan, Egypt, 04:56 local time
“They did what?” Claes said, staring at his cell phone screen in disbelief. The Romans just issued a press release detailing the rescue operation, including the arrest of the entire bunker, by the Lilies.
Claes put away his phone and paced, furiously. He couldn’t believe an all-female fighting force, especially one as small as the Lilies, could take over his bunker. The good news is that he could repopulate it and still had control of it, but this was still a jar to his system.
He stared, blankly, at the walls of his command centre, wondering what his next move was, and wondering what the Romans’ next move was. Rome had already taken control of the Delta Region after mop-up duty following the Battle of Heliopolis, but this wasn’t a major concern- the Romans were still playing into his trap.
“Decius,” he hollered into his phone, making a call.
“Yes Father,” replied Tarsus at the other end of the line.
“Women infiltrated our base and rescued the prisoners...they even took my wife.”
Tarsus’ mouth was left agape. He sat there in stunned silence.
“Good news is that we’ve still got control of the bunker, but they’re up to something...I don’t know what.”
Tarsus could barely contain his shock. “Women? How did women invade our bunker and rescue the prisoners? This is...this is an outrage!”
“Decius...we need to keep our wits about this. I’m in just as much shock as you are but we need to stay composed...the Romans are trying to rattle us.”
“I’ll stay here in Aswan...I’ll keep the defences in order.”
“I’m going to go visit our friend...he needs to be made aware of this transgression.”
Claes then grabbed his falsified documents and made his way for a flight to Rome.
“Got it,” said Leroy “Jethro” Gibbs, the Director of the Carolinian Crime Scene Investigators unit, on the phone with his agent, Nick Stokes. “Morgan and Abby are having a look at the body as we speak...we’ll let you know what we find. In the meantime, follow up with Carmichael’s friends and see what turns up.” He then closed his phone and walked towards the lab to pay a visit to his forensic scientists, Abigail “Abby” Sciuto and Morgan Brody.
In the lab, the ladies were on a break from dissecting Carmichael’s body. Brody was playing Tetris on Abby’s computer, as Abby watched on.
“No, no!” Abby said loudly, moving her arm as if she could direct the block herself. “Move it to the left, move it to the left!”
“I’m trying!” Brody said, tensely. Since it was never a part of her youth, she was a relative newcomer to Tetris, and being at Level 8 with the faster moving blocks was rattling her.
Meanwhile, Abby, hunched over Brody’s chair, panted heavily as the tension of the rising blocks was getting to her.
“Oh crap...oh crap...” Brody was starting to get nervous at the rising level as well.
“Here!” Abby barked. “Hand me the controls, I’ll fix this!” Brody did just that.
It was here that Gibbs made his entrance.
“Hello ladies,” said Gibbs, entering with his dry charm and standing as he did, lording over the room.
“Oh...hi Gibbs,” said Brody, nervously. Abby was undeterred, continuing with the Tetris game.
“Hey Abby,” said Gibbs, who grabbed her shoulders and started to rub them.
Abby refused to turn around, her eyes peeled on the screen.
Gibbs patted her on the back. “Come on now,” he said softly. “We have a case to solve...once it’s solved you can have all the time you want for Tetris.”
The game finished, as Gibbs’ pat distracted Abby. “Did you have to do that?” Abby said, turning around and giving Gibbs a scowl and a grunt. “Meanie! I was on a roll!”
Gibbs could only laugh. He loved her like a daughter, as even though her antics grated him, her boundless enthusiasm continually gave the jaded Gibbs the strength to carry on his own job.
“So, ladies, what do we have here?” Gibbs continued.
“The bruising on Carmichael’s body is consistent with a brass knuckle attack,” said Brody, now standing over Carmichael’s body and directing Gibbs’ attention towards the bruises. “In fact, we think the culprit struck Carmichael with the knuckle first before bashing his head with the TV.”
“So he hits him with the knuckle,” said Gibbs, acting it out, “gets him down and then bashes his head with the TV.”
“Exactly,” said Brody, tapping the air authoritatively at Gibbs with her finger, telling him he was right.
“Good work Brody,” said Gibbs, with a firm smile. “Abby, what do you have?”
“The TV is brand new,” said Abby. “In fact, Carmichael won it via Jimmy Cochrane’s ‘Lift the Lip’ promotion.”
“So Michael Carmichael got killed out of jealousy,” he said, furrowing his brow.
“Yeah, but probably not just because he won the TV,” said Abby. “Since his home wasn’t broken into, it had to have been someone he knew, so the TV was just the tip of the iceberg.”
“What about the knuckle?” asked Gibbs.
“That’s the interesting part,” said Abby. “As we know, the Carolinian Empire doesn’t ban brass knuckles…they’re sold freely, as self-defence weapons. However, these knuckles aren’t sold in Carolina at all…as you can see the brand name is ‘Tsov Ntxhuav’, which is the Hmong word for ‘lion’.”
Gibbs nodded his head and furrowed his lips with approval. “Oh,” he said, “I didn’t know you knew Hmong.”
“Google Translate is my best friend,” beamed Abby.
Gibbs chuckled. “Good point,” he said. “How’d you find the brand?”
“It’s imprinted, faintly, on Carmichael’s cheek,” said Brody, directing Gibbs over to the mark.
“So that means that if we find the brass knuckle,” said Gibbs, analyzing, “we’ve found our killer. Do you know who bought the knuckle?”
“Unfortunately whoever did buy the knuckle,” said Abby, sighing, “bought it via cash…had to have been from an underground source…there’s no credit card information on this particular brand, at least not in Georgia. They all point to where it originates, in South China.”
“Check the flight records,” said Gibbs. “See if there’s anyone that flew back from China to Georgia within the last year. That will give us a start.”
“It’ll be a lot of names,” cautioned Brody.
“I know,” said Gibbs, “but it’s the best we’ve got. Hopefully we can narrow it down to Carmichael’s associates. See what you can find.”
“They’re coming, sir,” said Vizier Omar Farouk, noticing via radar the Sinai beachhead of the all-female Roman Legion, the Flower Legion.
“Don’t worry about them just yet,” said Sudanese Caliph Malik al-Hamsa. “Wait for my order.”
“Very well sir,” replied Farouk.
The Flowers weren’t worried about the Caliph, at least not yet. Led by Legate Teresa Drusilla, a 10-year veteran of the Roman Army, the Flower Legion was created quickly via a draft of the best female soldiers across the entire Roman Army, and while they had only a day to go over battleplans and formations, they were all still hardened professionals more than capable of doing the job.
It didn’t stop the occasional hiccup though. Halfway through the drive to Suez, two of the tank drivers had started to veer off from the pack before Drusilla caught them. They were used to serving in Legions that were speedy, and were still getting used to Drusilla’s more cautious approach. She promised them that they would be able to use their speed soon though.
Their first task was to capture Suez and provide the Romans with a sea link to Sudan. The first bump in the road would be in Ismailia, which is where the Suez Canal widened. Ready to greet the Flowers was a wall of Surface-to-Air-Missile (SAM) stations, each guarded with a squadron of bazooka-toting and RPG-toting defenders, necessitating the use of stealth bombers to open the attack.
The bombers approached carefully, and shot rounds of bullets at the defenders in quick spurts before pulling up, retreating and doing it again. They made sure they came in waves so the pressure was relentless, with the quick strikes not allowing the defenders to get the proper aim. After a two-hour long firefight, the bombers finally subdued the defenders and destroyed the SAM wall, allowing the ground troops to come into the city and penetrate.
Since the bulk of the Egyptians’ Suez defences were in Suez itself, the resistance in Ismailia was limited to several squadrons of soldiers using snipers and other guerilla tactics to keep the Romans at bay. Drusilla, knowing the Egyptian tactic, proceeded slowly, ordering her Air Force squadrons to shoot at and destroy buildings if necessary. Sappers cleared the way for the tanks, who could now roam the streets of Ismailia freely without much resistance, executing mere mop up duty. Two hours after the SAM wall was destroyed, Ismailia had fallen into Roman hands.
There was no time to celebrate though- Drusilla sensed they could move in for the kill, so they pushed onward to Suez, where they knew the real battle would begin.
14:22 local time, Suez, Egypt
After a few roadside attacks, the Flowers finally made their way to the Canal, one of the Egyptians’ main strongholds after Alexandria, Cairo, Khartoum and, likely, Aswan. Drusilla knew she would have a fight on her hands in order to capture the Canal, and while she had her worries that her hastily organized Legion might not be adequately prepared for the assault, there was no time for complaints- Marcus and the rest of the Empire expected results.
Just like at Ismailia the Suez defenders lined the city with SAM sites, although this time they were bolstered not just by RPGs but by actual artillery divisions. Another squadron of stealth bombers was thus required to be called in to deal with the defences, along with more conventional fighter jets required to take out the artillery.
The Flowers had one objective: clear a path via the July 23rd Road to the port, securing a vital supply line from the Mediterranean to Sudan and allowing better Roman troop deployment southward. The battle started well enough, with the waves of bombers taking care of the SAM wall in a relatively short time, although the artillery cost them a few planes. The Egyptians were forced to retreat further into the city and regroup, setting up a long string of roadside bombs along the way. The Romans anticipated the bombs, using their fighter jets to give their sappers covering fire so they could disarm the bombs ahead of the tanks. The operation went smoothly as the Romans bursted through downtown, as their slow approach wore down an Egyptian defence that couldn’t compete with Rome’s far more superior equipment. By nightfall, all that was left was clearing the path to the Canal, which Rome hoped to take by midnight.
Then they hit Port Taofik.
Port Taofik, Suez, Egypt
“What is that?” Camp Prefect Maria Flavia gasped.
“I don’t know what to make of it,” Drusilla said.
The Ismailians, shortly after their defeat to Drusilla, notified the defenders at Suez, who hatched a plan upon learning the Flowers were all female. A daycare had been looted with all of its infants and toddlers killed, hastily, being strewn across the road in front of them, blocking the narrow passageway to the port. Predictably, the Flowers stopped their forward progress, aghast at the horror in front of them.
Drusilla thought something wasn’t right and looked around to see if anything untoward was happening. She looked at her radar and saw nothing, but her periscope on her tank did catch something faint getting closer.
“Bogey to your right!” Drusilla hollered, “Bogey to your right! Flowers, engage!”
Coming up from behind was a stealth bomber filled with explosives coming right towards them, seemingly kamikaze-style. The plane was plowing at full speed, giving the Legion only minutes to react. Fortunately, the artillery units lined it up just in time, shooting the plane down with the debris landing mere inches from where the Legion was standing.
“Madam,” said Flavia, “it doesn’t look like it had a human pilot.”
“It’s a drone,” Drusilla figured, her eyes squinting analytically.
Suddenly, fifty more drones came at the Legion from behind the baby wall, all flying in zigzag patterns to distract the aim of the Legion. Fortunately, the Avii arrived just in time to engage with the drone fighters, relieving the pressure on the artillery. After a few minutes the threat had cleared, allowing Drusilla to plow forward. A few hours later, after a few more fights with resistance forces, Port Taofik was secure, giving the Romans control of the Suez Canal.
00:12 local time, Pandataria Prison, Rome
Shortly after capturing the Suez, the Flowers went on a roll. The towns along the Red Sea coast- in MIS state of Havilah- fell in quick succession, allowing the Flowers to move within striking distance of the Havilah capital at Hurghada by nightfall.
The developments only served to worry Claes even more. Identifying himself as Ali Abaza, Jamal’s father (who Jamal had killed while he lived in Egypt and buried his body, neglecting to tell anyone about it) and applying lots of makeup to help with the guise, it became Claes’ de facto identity when travelling to see Jamal. This allowed him unfettered access to Abaza (aside from being searched), since the guards never questioned his status as “family”. Today, he needed to see him to coordinate the strike against the Flowers, who were now threatening the heart of MIS land.
“The Flowers are threatening Hurghada,” said Claes to Abaza, upon entering his cell.
“Who are the Flowers?” Abaza asked, confused.
Claes took a deep breath before continuing. “It’s an all-female Legion of the Roman Army.”
Abaza was shocked. “Women...are beating...us?”
“I know...it’s troubling.”
“What about the other Legions? Where are they?”
“The Caliph has decided to join the war.”
“Malik al-Hamsa? So he came around.”
“Yes...that leaves Sudan completely in our control.”
“Caliph Malik is engaging the other Legions at Qena as we speak...and he is doing really well at holding them back.”
“Good. Keep him there. We have to send the rest of our divisions to Hurghada...we have no choice. We cannot let women beat us.”
“I agree. I will divert the troops from Aswan, as well as call in the ACA. All hands are on deck.”
Abaza smiled. “...and it’s a hand we will win.”
St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
“Hello Adrian,” said Black, greeting Adrian in the Pope’s office.
“It’s been a while,” said Adrian, fixing his smock as he got up from his chair to greet Black.
“I assume you’ve been a busy man.”
Adrian chuckled. “The Pope is always busy.” He then took a breath and adopted a serious tone. “How’s the investigation going?”
“Agent Hawkes suggested that we create an all-female Legion to take on Claes, reasoning that the Egyptian forces would divert too many resources out of ego allowing us to ambush them…so far, it’s working.”
Adrian smiled. “So we’ve got a breakthrough in Egypt. Looks like we’re well on our way to winning the war.”
Black sighed. “There’s only one catch…somehow Jamal Abaza has been able to maintain control of the MIS, even though we placed new limits on his visitation rights.”
Adrian’s eyes widened with concern. “Who can visit him?”
“We used to allow friends and family to visit him…but now it’s just family.”
“So Claes has a mole in Abaza’s family. Do you have Abaza’s file?”
Black pulled out a file folder from his handbag and placed it on Adrian’s desk. Adrian sat back down and started to examine it.
“Okay,” started Adrian. “So he’s got a wife, D’dab, and a son, Amir, who was killed in an air raid. He was a single child, raised by parents Salifah and Ali. Salifah died in the same air raid that killed Amir back in 1999, but Ali managed to survive. D’dab,” he said, tapping the document before continuing, “divorced him last year, around the same time that Claes lost the election and, interestingly, despite going into hiding, she was still found and stoned to death.”
Black took a seat and furrowed his eyebrows, pondering Adrian’s last statement. “Interesting,” he said, continuing to examine another part of his file.
Adrian continued staring intensely at the file, before moving on to a picture of Abaza and his father, dated to when Abaza was only seven. He then went into his drawer and started to rifle through his notes but failed.
“Lucius,” he said with purpose.
“Yes Adrian?” said Black, noting the urgency.
“In the filing cabinet,” said Adrian, pointing to the cabinet by the west wall, “in the second drawer, are records of the Consistories. Wilhelm Claes was promoted to Cardinal in 1976 by John Paul I after performing a miracle…he was only 29…I need to see that picture.”
“Okay,” said Black, furiously rifling through the drawer. He found the file and pulled out the report and laid it on Adrian’s desk. Adrian took one look and nodded firmly several times.
“What did you find?” asked Black, leaning forward and cupping his chin, curious.
“Look at the pictures,” said Adrian, putting them side by side.
“My goodness,” said Black, whose eyes widened. “They’re not dead ringers but they look alike.”
Black then pulled out his cell phone and called Garcia, putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the table.
“The Office of Garcia’s Magical Supercomputer speaking,” beamed Garcia.
“I’ll never get enough of your enthusiasm,” said Adrian with a smile.
“Your Holiness!” said Garcia excitedly, “I’m glad to hear from you.”
“Garcia,” said Black firmly. “We need you to pull up any records you have of an Ali Abaza, Jamal’s father. Compare them against the records of Wilhelm Claes, and see if there are any congruities.”
“Okay,” said Garcia, typing furiously at her computer. “Give me a few moments.”
Black and Adrian sat patiently, waiting for Garcia to finish her search. After a few minutes, Garcia returned with information.
“For the most part,” Garcia started to explain, “there are no ‘congruities’ with regards to Ali and Claes.” Adrian cocked his mouth to the side, frustrated. “Except for one date in 2004, when, curiously, Ali used his credit card to pay at the Fumicino Airport duty free shop mere moments after Claes landed in Rome, even though Ali wasn’t on that flight. Every other instance, Ali only pops up sporadically, as he always did…he worked as an independent contractor, and his business was ruined by the air raid. There were claims that he became a drifter after the air strike, but I think we know what really happened.”
“Claes became him,” said Black firmly.
“Exactimundo!” said Garcia excitedly. “In fact, looking at the records, after 1999 Ali’s only credit card activity seems to occur only when Claes is in Egypt…it’s still a rarity even then, but there isn’t a point that Ali uses his credit card without Claes being in Egypt.”
“So Jamal and Wilhelm met in 1999 it seems,” thought Black out loud.
“Yeah, and remember the rumours about the air strike originating from North American forces?” said Garcia. “Guess who started them?”
“Claes?” said Adrian.
“Yeah,” said Garcia, “he wrote a letter to the editor of The Cairo Times, an extremist newspaper, blaming the attack on North American and Roman forces. Jamal must have read it and the two became friends.”
“…and he likely had to assume Ali’s identity in order to get more involved, until he gained the MIS’ trust,” said Black.
“As you know, Mubarak’s government fell in 2001,” continued Garcia. “Guess who was at the centre of that?”
“Claes?” said Black.
“Ooooh,” said Garcia, playfully grimacing, “you’re close. It was Abaza and the MIS, with a little help from his ‘father’.”
“Thanks Garcia,” said Black, ending the phone call. “I need to notify the authorities, especially the airports to be on the lookout.” He then shook his head and sighed heavily before continuing. “I can’t believe he’s been under our noses for so long…well, now we can turn the tables.”
08:21 local time, Galen of Pergamon Hospital, Rome
“Okay, he’s ready for visitors now,” said Cladius Pontus, Morgan’s doctor to the BAU, Adrian and Black, waiting in the waiting room. Since being rescued Morgan and Cornelia had to go for days of surgery to get themselves patched back up. They’d still need months of healing and periodic checkups, but at least for now they were in a “functional” state, and now they would get visitors for the first time.
Seeing Morgan for the first time since his kidnapping shocked the team. He still had his numerous bruises from the beatings he took, as well as more than a few scars. He had also lost some weight and his demeanour was dishevelled, looking very much like a beaten man, a stark contrast from the strong, dominant person the team had gotten to know. However, as soon as he saw his team, he warmed right up to them and gave them his trademark smile.
“Guys,” said Morgan as the team piled in to his room. “It’s so good to see you.” Everyone exchanged hugs with him, though it was the ones with Reid, Jane and Garcia that struck a chord with him the most.
“I can’t tell you how worried I was for you,” said Reid, who cried on Morgan’s shoulder, making Morgan cry as well. For Reid, seeing Morgan, a man he valued as his “protector” in his vulnerable state was extra rattling and, though he did his best to hide it, Reid couldn’t stop but wonder what he could have done to save Morgan from being kidnapped in San Marino.
“You’ve been there for me so many times,” continued Reid, sobbing, “and yet, in San Marino, I wasn’t there for you…I’m so sorry man.”
“Reid,” said Morgan through his tears. He then cupped Reid’s face and held it right in front of his. “It’s perfectly okay. There was nothing you could do for me except do your job…and you did, because I’m here. Thank you so much.”
“Babygirl!” said Morgan as he hugged Garcia, who also couldn’t help but cry as she laid her head on Morgan’s shoulder. “It’s okay Penelope…you did what you could.” He then kissed her cheek and grabbed the back of her head, slowly stroking her hair and cradling her head on his shoulder. “I’m okay now.” He paused to regain his composure before continuing. “I’m safe now…thank you for everything.”
“Jane!” said Morgan to Jane, who simply stood over his bed. “What would we do without you? I know we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot…but you’ve proven me wrong…you’re such a valuable asset to this team. Don’t think for a second that you’re not a part of this team because you are.”
“I felt so guilty,” said Jane, who normally didn’t show his emotions but couldn’t help but tear up. “I said going to San Marino was a setup…and I sent you into the trap. I’m so sorry.”
“Jane,” said Morgan, grabbing Jane’s hand. “There was nothing you could do…we were all played. We couldn’t just sit there and play Claes’ bluff…the nuke needed to be dealt with…I knew I could have died in there but I wasn’t afraid…if I had to die for this team then I would.” Morgan then outstretched his arms and gave Jane a hug, which prompted Jane to let loose a flood of tears.
When the hugs were finished, Hotchner couldn’t help but get down to business.
“Listen Morgan,” said Hotchner, firmly, “you relax today. You’ve been through a lot. Take as much time as you need…we’ll be fine in your absence…I want you at the top of your game, so don’t rush yourself back into action. I know you want to, but please…don’t.”
“Don’t worry Hotch,” said Morgan assuredly. “I won’t rush myself. In the meantime, let’s win this war.”
10:36 local time Hurghada, Havilah
For the past six hours, the Flowers had been placing Hurghada under constant bombardment. Drusilla’s slow approach to the attack forced the Havilahites into a war of attrition they lacked the resources to win, meaning, by 6AM, the Romans were able to break down the Havilahites SAM wall and break into the city.
However, something seemed a little off with this assault.
“Is it just me or did the Havilahites put up more of a fight in Suez and Ismailia than they are here?” Flavia asked.
“No, I think you’re right,” said Drusilla. “We broke into Hurghada way too easily. Something is up.”
Drusilla ordered her troops to slow down and stay on their guard, since she felt an ambush was coming. As they continued their slow drive into the city, though, nothing seemed to be happening.
Towards the centre of the city, by the Hurghada Hilton Plaza, one of her soldiers noticed a fire.
“We need to investigate that,” said Drusilla. “Towards the Plaza.” By 12:24PM, the Flowers had made their way to the Plaza to inspect the fire, and, seeing how small it was, it was easy to put out. However, they’d soon find it was the least of their troubles.
12:32 local time, Hurghada, Havilah
As soon as the first volley landed the Flowers knew the real battle had begun. The Plaza was really a diversion, as, underneath the Plaza was a modified parking garage that was enlarged to conceal an entire division of tanks, on top of the artillery and snipers that lay hidden in the buildings in the heart of Hurghada. As the hours wore on, more and more divisions of artillery, tanks and soldiers showed up, as Claes and the MIS poured their entire military might into defeating the Flowers.
Suddenly, the Flowers were surrounded, with attacks coming from all sides. What made the situation worse was that the Havilahites didn’t all attack at once, deciding to strike at random and concealing their whereabouts to keep the Flowers guessing.
“All hands on deck! Flowers, fire at will!” Drusilla called from her command tank, since the Legion had no other choice. She worried, still, since the Havilahites had her surrounded without an outlet to escape, and while she could count on her technological superiority to win the war of attrition, she was losing soldiers and tanks and wasn’t sure she had the numbers to hold them off for that long. Worse, what divisions she could see were constantly moving- there was no weak point for her to attack.
After a few hours of constant bombardment, Zalayetta- who had escaped, barely, from Alexandria to lead the rest of Claes’ troops, left Drusilla a very clear message:
“You now have two options, Legate,” radioed Zalayetta menacingly. “You can either surrender peacefully and all of your women will enjoy the benefits of their rightful role...or, we will continue the bombardment and you will all perish. What will you decide?”
“Or,” radioed Caliph Malik al-Hamsa. “Zalayetta, you can surrender or you can get annihilated right now...because the Romans and I have you surrounded.”
Zalayetta peeked out of his tank behind him and saw that Malik was right...behind his troops was the rest of the Roman Army, as well as Malik’s Sudanese troops and the Roman Navy, ready to rain volley upon volley on him with little that he could do. Malik had deceived the MIS into thinking he was joining them by staging a battle with the Romans at Qena, with the troops knowing “all hands on deck” was their cue to move. They also knew that Claes’ men would be too obsessed with the Flowers to bother checking their radars, allowing the Romans to move under them. Zalayetta, cornered, felt there was nothing else he could do, so he surrendered, and, with that move, Egypt and Sudan fell into Roman hands.
Back in Rome, the BAU greeted the news with celebration, as loud cheering went off in the RSC headquarters. However, one thing left unresolved- Claes and Tarsus were still unaccounted for.
12:01 local time, Downtown Rome
“That will be five sestertii,” said the café barista, ringing in Claes ordering a coffee and a bagel before departing for the airport.
“I’m not quite sure I know what you mean,” said Claes, who donned an impeccable accent and removed his makeup to play an American alias and thus had to pretend not to be aware of Roman money.
“Five dollars,” retorted the barista.
“Five dollars?” said Claes, surprised. “Where I’m from, in Montana, this stuff costs three bucks, tops.”
“Sir, I don’t set the prices,” said the barista, indignant. “Besides, in Rome, the tip is automatically included in your price.”
“So that’s why you get to be rude to me,” replied Claes angrily.
“Look, pal, do you want the coffee and bagel or not?” said the barista, defiantly.
“You’re lucky I’m hungry,” snarled Claes, rifling through his wallet. He searched furiously for a credit card but was having difficulty finding one.
“Great,” said the barista, who threw his hands into the air. “now you’re going to waste my time trying to find your card.”
“Buddy,” retorted Claes, still rifling, “this is my stuff getting cold…don’t you think I want to get my stuff quickly?”
“I guess so,” said the barista, who still shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“Ah,” said Claes, finally pulling out a card.
The barista put the credit card into the machine. A message came up, causing the barista to press a button.
“Sir,” said a police officer approaching Claes. “I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.”
“Excuse me,” said Claes, looking around furiously, shocked. “What’s going on?”
“Your card was not only declined,” said the barista, “but it told me to notify the authorities.”
“That can’t be possible,” said Claes. “I’m as clean as a whistle…I just got approved for that card yesterday.”
“I’m sorry sir,” said the barista, his eyes and his smile wide, “but this isn’t a clean card. You’re wrong.”
Claes tried his best to hide his nerves but they still showed. He breathed a few deep breaths before continuing. “I must have pulled out my son’s card by mistake.”
“Is your son Jamal Abaza?” said Adrian, who had just entered the café and was almost unrecognizable clad in dress pants and a leather jacket. Rossi was right behind him.
“YOU!” said Claes angrily, furiously projecting his finger at Adrian. “You set me up for this you heretic!”
“No Wilhelm.” Adrian didn’t raise his voice so as not to make a spectacle, though he exuded a quiet confidence, holding his hands in his pocket. “Proverbs 16:18: pride goes before destruction; and a haughty spirit before stumbling. You set yourself up. You let your pride consume you, so much so that you spun a web of manipulation and lies to force people into working a fantasy society that you knew no one would accept, and you let it cloud your judgement so much that you didn’t think anyone could figure it out. Didn’t you learn from The Beatitudes?”
“Matthew 7:15,” said Claes, defiantly. “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
“2 Peter 2:1,” said Adrian. “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
Claes darted his eyes, looking frantically for an escape. As soon as he budged, the guns of the officer, Rossi and Adrian were drawn.
“Don’t make any sudden moves Claes,” commanded Rossi. “It’s over.”
Claes then drew his own gun, forcing the police’s hand. As soon as he saw it, Adrian fired a few bullets from his gun, shooting Claes dead. He then wore a sullen look on his face, but didn’t shed a tear. Rossi patted his back.
“You had no choice,” said Rossi.
“I know,” said Adrian. “I’m just sad it had to end like this.”
Galen of Pergamon Hospital
“Hello,” said a man draped in a fedora and a trenchcoat approaching the secretary’s desk. “I’m here to see Derek Morgan.”
“I’m going to have to ask you for some ID,” said the secretary. “You need clearance to see him.”
“I’ll show you my clearance,” said the man, drawing a gun.
The secretary quivered in fear, and showed the man his room.
When he got to Morgan’s room, he undid the top button, revealing himself to be Tarsus. He pulled out a gun with a silencer, and shot the FBI agent tasked to protect Morgan. As he got into Morgan’s room, he saw the agent still sleeping.
Tarsus chuckled at the sight. “Oh Derek, you were always special,” he said, pulling out his gun.
“Oh no you don’t,” said Cornelia, surprising Tarsus with a gun drawn of her own. It was here that Morgan revealed he wasn’t sleeping at all.
“I got a button under my bed,” said Morgan. “I ring it when someone like you comes and it notifies Cornelia. Did you just think we’d led you walk in?”
“...and you forgot FBI agents have bulletproof vests,” said the agent, Brian Anderson, emerging into the room with his own gun drawn. Tarsus, realizing this wasn’t a battle he was going to win, allowed himself to get arrested without incident.
One week later, Gideon’s chateau, Reims, Champagne
“This has been a long case,” said Rossi, laying back comfortably in his easy chair enjoying a glass of wine, “but we did it.” Gideon had the entire team, including the just discharged Morgan plus Adrian, Malik, Cornelia and Black over for a celebratory feast, with everyone enjoying wine and cheese in his expansive living room.
“This was officially my first case for the BAU,” remarked Jane with a smile, “and I don’t think I could have picked a better one.”
“You performed admirably,” said Hotchner, returning a wry smile.
“I can’t remember the last time we had to win a war to win a case,” said Morgan.
“I suppose there was Doyle,” said Prentiss.
“We didn’t need the Roman Army for that one,” said Reid. “This was a first.”
“I’m just glad we’re all here and we’re all safe,” said Hawkes with a warm smile. “Putting away those chauvinistic scumbags was worth it.”
“So what’s next?” Rossi asked.
“Might still be a while before I can open my shop again,” said Cornelia with a sigh.
“Don’t worry,” said Hawkes. “We’ll help in any way that we can.” Cornelia responded by smiling and warmly clutching Hawkes’ hand.
“I’m becoming the new head of the Roman Commonwealth,” said Adrian.
“The Abbassids will give me Mecca,” said Malik, the only one not drinking any wine, “which is all I want.”
“You and Adrian have gotten pretty close,” noted Gideon.
“We’re both the same age and are ideologically the same,” said Malik, “I’ve known Adrian for a while and I had been fighting Claes for a while...so when Adrian asked me to help him out, it was a no brainer.”
“...and now you’re both hailed as heroes,” said Prentiss.
“Heroes with great responsibility,” noted Adrian with a wry smile.
Cornelia then excused herself to go outside and enjoy the balcony. Gideon’s chateau lay on a hill to the east of the city, overlooking the old Fort de la Pompelle. On a clear day like this, she could see all the sights of Reims, including its many distinctive chapels and, faintly, the Porte de Mars, a triumphal arch built in 108 when the Romans were in control here. Although many a Roman- including Cornelia- got wistful about what once was when looking at old Roman territory, the thought here was fleeting, and Adrian, who came outside to join her, couldn’t help but notice.
“Hey Gaia,” said Adrian, standing next to her and grabbing onto the railing to enjoy the view himself.
“Hey,” she replied, sheepishly.
“It’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too.”
“I know what you’re feeling...but remember, you’re here, he’s not. You won.”
Cornelia was still despondent, staring wistfully into the distance. “I wish it were that simple, Adrian. Not only was I violated not just physically but emotionally and psychologically as well, I was tormented by the one man who haunted me the most and the one man who I thought I got rid of. You say Wilhelm is gone...how do I know that? If he came back once he can come back again.”
“Gaia.” Adrian reached for her hand only for Cornelia to pull it away, stopping Adrian’s motion. He then sighed, thinking of reminding her that Claes was dead before thinking better of it before continuing. “I understand that. I guess the only thing left for you is time.” He then started to tear up. “I wish there was more I could have done for you...I regret every single day that I didn’t stop him from taking you and torturing you. I care for you more than anything in the world...it disgusts me that he did those things to you, those unspeakable horrors, that I will have to live through myself, all because I never stopped them.”
This time Cornelia grabbed Adrian’s hand, albeit softly. She too started to tear. “Adrian, you did all you could. All that I ask is that you pray for me.”
Adrian spoke with conviction through his tears, worried for the worst since Cornelia’s healing had only just begun. “I assure you, I will pray for you every single day...praying that you will heal and get stronger by the day. I will do everything I can for you to help you out...just promise me you will stay strong for me.”
“I promise.” The two of them then engaged in a long, warm embrace.
In Gideon’s courtyard, Morgan had pulled away from the party to step outside and reflect on his ordeal. He sat on a rock overlooking a giant water fountain, featuring the Egyptian god Horus looking over the construction of a pyramid below, with birds constantly chirping as Gideon set up numerous birdfeed stations in his courtyard. Although Gideon had the fountain for many years, the personal symbolism was not lost on Morgan.
After spending some half an hour out there, Reid paid Morgan a visit.
“Horus was hailed as the premier Egyptian god,” said Reid, “and the symbol of the Pharaohs, even though he wasn’t that honourable a god himself.”
“Didn’t he blow all over Set’s lettuce or something?” said Morgan, trying to recall the details.
“Yes…and, not just that, he caught Set’s ejaculate and threw it into the river. Set would later eat the lettuce, which I find interesting because it’s not like semen wouldn’t be impossible to detect on lettuce, so when the gods wanted to resolve who could dominate Egypt, they found that Set’s semen didn’t find its way into Horus yet Horus’ found its way into Set.”
“Trickery.” Morgan sighed, but Reid didn’t notice.
“To top it off, the two of them ultimately decided to have a race, seeing which one could traverse a river on top of a stone the quickest. Horus won only by painting wood to resemble stone, allowing him to traverse the river while Set’s stone sunk.”
“So he manipulated Set, and, in doing so, manipulated the gods to get what he wanted.”
“Just like Claes.” Morgan took another deep breath. This time Reid noticed, taking a seat next to him.
“I still think about that night in Tobias Hankel’s barn,” Reid said, softly. “It’s not as bad as it used to be, but those memories still haunt me and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.”
“I keep on thinking, Reid, that I could have avoided all that,” said Morgan, doing his best not to cry. “We should have had the army come in first and secure the area before going in…but I let my impulses get the best of me.”
“…and I should have never left JJ behind and went wandering by myself…but it happened. I relive that moment time and time again and, like you, I wish I could have changed it.”
Morgan laughed wistfully. “I can remember saying that a few times to you about that.”
“…and now I’m saying it to you, if only because it will help you come to terms with it.”
“I know…I shouldn’t blame myself for what happened. I’m the victim, not the perpetrator.”
“I wish there was some magic word that I could say to make this all go away…I could probably repeat the line about how post traumatic stress disorder could be even worse than the trauma you went through, but you already know that.”
“Reid.” Morgan said calmly, grabbing Reid’s hand, sensing he was going to break down in tears. “Don’t think you didn’t do enough…you did. You did all you could.”
“It’s not just that…you’re my protector and seeing you reduced to what you were…that got to me.”
“I guess I got a reminder that I’m not invincible.”
“Morgan.” Reid paused, feeling that his last statement was a touch insensitive. “Never forget you made it through…yes, you went through one of the worst possible moments in your life, but you got out of it. You made it through. That makes you stronger.”
“…and you guys saved me in the end, a testament to the kind of people that I call teammates.” Morgan and Reid both smiled before giving each other side hugs and looking longingly but admirably at the display in the courtyard.