Executioner for the government, Sublimes' McMillan TAC-338 scopes the hunter green, convent entrance door. Nuns in crisp habits walk the pathway singing. Her mind was not on the job, and this wasn’t like her to be unfocused. Her eyes close for a moment, listening to their voices carrying songs of hope in beautiful, haunted Italian. She was in the moment as the birds coo and scurry away as patrons walk by. Some stand and listen as Sublime’s doing now.
Hidden in a hotel across from the convent, Sublime moves from the Nuns to the door, waiting on her target. The phone buzzes on the nightstand. There was no reason for the call but she dares not answer.
“What’s the urgency? I’m in position.”
“Get back as soon as it’s done. There’s another job of higher importance.”
“My plane leaves in a few hours.”
Staring at the window as the curtains fold, chills roll up her arms. She takes her position again. It was unlike them to call during a mission—why this time?
Raising the rifle again to get in position, the glass shatters from the window pain, her head slams against the wood paneled floor, as Sublime’s body is inches from crashing into the dresser leg. The rifle tumbles across, sliding underneath the dresser. A few seconds she lies dazed. Hearing the muffled car alarms blaring, the shaking finally stops, and her eyes focus on the still swinging ceiling fan.
Undeterred by what just happened, she gets back in position and searches the ground in front of the convent. The pages of the hymnals fluttering in the wind, as the Nuns scramble on the ground, covered in debris and ash. They rise to their feet, covering their faces in the smoke. An instant smell of flesh flows through what was left of the windowpane. Burning her nose, it wasn’t unfamiliar.
The dirty cloud moves past, and her gaze stays on the front door of the convent. The Mother Superior appears, and Sublime’s Barber .308 ammo spins through her heart, and another, more significant through her frontal lobe. She grabs a hold of her chest and crumbles.
She held a secret her government wanted to remain hidden. This was a favor for a favor.
Glad to complete the mission. Something inside Sublime was different. In times past, the jubilance of the kill would have given her a spark of purpose. This time, there was nothing. The screams from down the street and the Nuns across the street fill the air. They hasten to the Mother Superior, as bystanders run away from the bombing. They work to save her life. Her blood flows down the steps. There was no saving her. Sublime never misses.
Siren’s blaze, as management evacuates everyone to ensure those in the hotel remained a safe distance from the bombed building. Sublime exits the hotel and sees one Nun advance toward the screams for help at the bombed site. Electrical sparks fall from the destroyed building. She heads in the same direction as the cries grow louder but stops. Remembering the call from earlier, ‘I know they’re watching me now. It wouldn’t be wise for my handlers to see me head toward the bombing,’ she thought to herself.
Her only solace, the bombing was a perfect cover for her disappearance out of the country. She arrives at the airport unnoticed, and three hours later lands in Egypt.
The sinister acts of one can destroy a lifetime of generations. There was iniquity found in him. He was the most beautiful, who wanted to be like the Most High. His wish to destroy humanity has long lived, and there’s been one difference from then till now—Jesus. Yet Lucifer still tries to steal, kill, and destroy those God calls according to His purpose.
“I’m Mr. Zinkes, the director of the Compound. I watch their every move. You’ll get to know me later. For now, I’m not Tracy’s handler, nor do I work for any government. I don’t interfere with any of their lives unless instructed. Everything they do, I record it. I test each one, because they will be a part of what’s to come in 2043. I can only imagine what it will be like in the next few years when I gather them for God’s Kingdom. All of them right now are in trouble. Searching for who they are inside. What will they find? What shall they become?”
Born in Washington, it was the only home I knew and did not want to leave. Folding my arms, Myron was indifferent to the whole moving situation. He was used to it—I wasn’t. Six years old and my big brother was sixteen. Myron sat with me inside the Hungry Harbor Grille, while our father, Major Pimbridge, concluded a round of golf for the last time. We ate cheeseburgers and cheddar fries in silence. My somber demeanor didn’t go unrecognized. My father said nothing to explain why this move was so important to him. If he had, I don’t know if I would have understood then as I do now—you go where they tell you to go.
My dad drove our dreaded station-wagon since Myron was born. You would think with his rank in the Army, he could buy something new by now. After eating, we drive two miles to the Pacific Beach End, standing and observing the sunset. My mood shifts amplified by the dramatic symphony of waves clashing against the powerful rock arrangement to the left of us. The mist is calming. We always admired the wood formed benches from early twentieth century fallen trees that sat on the beachfront to the right of us. My father guides us to sit for the last time to spectate the sand sculpting competition. His arms went around us. We marvel at the extensive group of artists along the beach shore, as they rush to complete their multi-leveled, three-dimensional sand figures before the downpour estimated to happen within the hour, which Washington was known for.
Leaving the beach, I knew it to be the last time seeing this place as a child. Colorado was our next home destination.
Sixteen Years Later
“Ugh. I hate not knowing what career track to choose now. I just want to start all over.” After finishing West Point, I was in my first year of active duty in the Army at Fort McClellan in Alabama. At nine a.m., sitting on my bed in the barracks alone, I call my father, after travelling to Fort Leonard Wood, in Missouri for 20 weeks. My career path as a Military Police (MP) was not progressing the way I had hoped. I resolved to be the best, making daddy proud was the ambition. Boot Camp had been a breeze, studying to be all I could be. Lamenting about the career path I signed up for and now I want to shift gears. My training was not challenging enough, I called to get advice.
My dad, now Colonel Pimbridge, didn’t want me to be anything like him but it was too late. He challenges my thinking and my direction, “You are my daughter and as much as I would have preferred you had elected another path, I can only respect that this is who you are. I cherish you and wouldn’t change a thing about you. We are along for the ride until the established time of our purpose reveals itself. Having an epiphany, that discovery of what you’re supposed to be doing for the rest of your life.”
“The military has served you well, Dad. I’m preparing for the rest of my life. Is the military all there is for me? I just feel like my path should go down another road.”
“Tracy, you have many more choices than I did at your age. You can’t do life for anybody else. The decision is yours alone to make.”
A twenty-seven-year Army man at Fort Lee in Virginia, Colonel Pimbridge was full of wisdom, integrity, and focus. Both Myron and I followed in his footsteps—somewhat, as my brother joined the Marines. He was dad’s favorite until I came along. It didn’t bother Myron, he was my protector and best friend. He never tried to deter me from joining the military either.
In 1952, Fort Bragg became the home of the Army’s Psychological Warfare Center. Now, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, and the headquarters for Special Forces Soldiers. I transferred to Fort Bragg in North Carolina to do Special Forces training in the Ranger Regiment. While there, North Korea attacks my parents’ base, and they both succumb to their injuries. At my dad’s funeral, I recalled my dad saying,
‘Organizations fail for lack of knowledge, vision, and goals. Organizations fail, because they lack the communication skills of planning and implementing change from top to bottom. Change is imminent, and we must welcome it, or we won’t endure to see another day.’
I realized then my father was right. Not just about the Army but about my life. After completing my initial tour, I left and trekked my way through the region of Asia. Trying to make sense of my life and looking in all the wrong places. My journey to discover who I was on my own, and I had to find my way.
In solitude, I studied with monks for two years, seeking to find myself and any meaning to it all. I believe they pitied me at first and that’s why they allowed me to stay. Settling in the Hengshan, or Mount Heng, which is in Shanxi Province. It is one of China’s Five Majestic Mountains, high in altitude, and a scenic view all around with inset dwellings. Monuments on the cliff side allowed for liberation from the outside world. I was away from the maddening thoughts of a world lost. After learning the disciplines of the Monks, I returned to civilization to find it worse than before. I couldn’t elude my calling and had to go back to what I craved and knew best, the military life.
Biological Weapons became the norm, and I was now a Naval Intelligence Officer (NIO) with the U.S. Navy. I was surprised to find that I was back in the place where I was born—Pacific Beach, Washington. A place I never thought I’d see again. On a normal afternoon, sitting at my desk, I receive an unmarked package that had my name on it, and no return postage. Nothing about the packaging was out of the ordinary.
“Was this examined?”
“Yes. A brief look in the box. It appears to be a pair of slippers,” Petty Officer Justin said. Placing the box down, the brown paper wrapping was loose, with the folded edges pointing to the sky.
“Thank you, for delivering this parcel. I will explore it further.”
“You’re welcome, ma’am.”
“You’re dismissed,” I said.
Without looking up at him, I put on gloves to pick up the package and take it to the containment area. The shoebox remained closed as it rests on the examining table—under the biohazard ventilation hutch. Putting my hands through the opaque green barrier gloves, I opened the lid. Taking out the thong sandals from the box, I scan the soles and the seams, not realizing I was taking shallow breaths in moderate apprehension until I got a little light-headed. Glancing toward Dr. Omar Spin, a chemical scientist, and the labs Director, recognized my concern.
“Dr. Spin, we need a thorough x-ray of these flip-flops. I suspect there is something in between the soles. These types of sandals shouldn’t have two separate uneven parts. If something is in the interior, all I had to do was wear them and whatever it is, could’ve been airborne.”
Although concerned, my demeanor remained unshaken. ‘Who would send this to me?’ I thought.
Dr. Spin, a man in his early fifties with strands of gray hair and a little hunch in his back, directs me to take my hands out of the gloves and don a lab contamination suit. He follows his own instructions and places his hazmat suit on. Once we are both protected, Dr. Spin places the sandals back into the box. Unlocking the hutch, he walks them to the radiation area for x-ray scan. He places the box in the x-ray machine. We both could see two vials, one in each sandal. After the exam, Dr. Spin removes the sandals and takes them to the contamination hutch, and he splits the thong soles open and extracts the vials. It was VX-Nerve Gas, a clear and odorless liquid. Dr. Spin notifies our superiors, and the entire base went on immediate high alert. They launched an investigation to find the individual or individuals responsible.
A year later, the person responsible stayed anonymous. I viewed the situation as blind luck and decided my gut didn’t let me down this time.
A couple of years after that incident, I change career paths again and transfer to the Navy Seal Team 6. This is what I needed. This level of training required me to give everything I had inside. An environment that provided combat and intelligence. I thrived and broke the records of my predecessors. My father’s memory was a constant reminder of what he told me when I began my career path. There was no turning back. The military was in my blood. Running from it did me no good, I craved the action and found where I belonged.
On the USS Momsen, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, we returned from a mission. Walking off the ship, heading toward headquarters, fifty feet from the ship, missiles rain down on the base. A direct hit to the administration building—hundreds lost.
I duck behind a trash barrel. Explosions, deafening with every stride to save my own life, making a run for it, if I could get into the shelter barracks. This may have been the time where I regretted my choice to switch career paths but I had to keep moving. Images of the past flash through my mind as I dodge flying dirt and dangerous metal debris. My fast breathing hurt my chest. I had to stay levelheaded and focused. I search for safety with every move I made. Vulnerable in the open, I ran toward a barracks to take cover. I run past the water’s edge, seeing bodies floating. I scan to see for any survivors. Most of them were unrecognizable. Blood oozes from every orifice. No one could save them. The heat threatens to suffocate me. It felt as if a dragon had flown through and scorched everything in its path. My stomach churned from the acrid smell of burning flesh.
At the Navy Seal Training Camp, which was no longer a six-month training camp. In the past, it was about teamwork, physical and psychological qualifications. Now, it was a year of training, adding in biological and chemical warfare. Fresh recruits sit in class, listening to me speak of my ordeal during the 2037 attack from parts of Asia. I glance around at their faces as they cling to my words.
“Most of the time, we could identify when our enemy was about to attack us. On this occasion, to say they surprised us is an understatement. Ballistic missiles hit our base. Those who ran to get away from the explosions, like I did, ran toward closer barracks. A lot of them didn’t make it in, in time. No one was around me now. Alone in my pursuit to survive, the invader attacks us from behind. No one else had the specific intelligence that I had and being captured was not an option. Thirty seconds from the last missile, I run into the dark, empty barracks, hoping a Hsiung Feng IIIG missile wouldn’t hit it. I knew this simple building with tan-white walls and charcoal-gray floors wouldn’t save me from the bombs dropping. I could feel my heart pound against the wall of my chest. This was the only time I felt fear, not the fear of dying but of being alone. ‘I have to get in here now,’ I said to myself.
Pulling up the loud squealing, steel door from the floor, I jumped onto the ladder and sealed the hatch top, sliding twenty feet below. I punch in the code to the bunker and another hatch door opens. A mechanical sled takes me the rest of the way. I punch in my military access code and the final hatch sucks the air from the door opening. I pull on the vertical bar to get in. My breathing labored because of the smoke. I knew I could not stop to rest. Fluorescent lights come on and I focus. The sound from topside was faint to the ear. I turn to look up at the ceiling. The tunnel bunker was at least fifty feet long and wide, stocked with everything needed to survive a nuclear attack for 100 years. Searching the desk to find the manual codes to the black ops radio, once I find it, I send out the signal for contact. Not hungry but thirsty. I took in as much water as needed and then rest on the cot closest to the radio panel. Not knowing the answers to what was going on up there and what I needed to do next, I close my eyes, fatigued but not willing or able to stop trying to figure out my next move. My mind races with the visions of those in the water. My pulse stays rapid, as I couldn’t stop seeing the images of those already dead in my head. I open them for temporary relief from death. I close them again to see the next move, and my heart slows to a normal pace.
After five hours, I hear nothing. Then the radio sounds, “This is Captain Lorenzo of the USS Makin Island. We received a distress signal. Anybody out there?”
Jumping up to push the com button, “Captain Lorenzo, it’s Tracy Pimbridge of the U.S. Navy Seal Team 6 Unit. They hit our Murat base, and I am not sure of any other survivors. I’m in a bomb shelter, 98658. No other command staff is with me. Can you contact to see if the friendlies have taken back the base? I’ve heard no bombings for the last hour.”
“Pimbridge, please hold,” he said.
For ten long minutes, I pace. Captain Lorenzo comes back to give information. “Pimbridge, confirmation, friendlies have taken back the base. The enemy has deserted the area. It was missiles from a submarine. It’s being pursued but not identified.”
“Thanks Captain, I will get back with you as soon as I get topside.”
Although the time frame to get into the barracks and shelter seemed quick, it took much longer to get out. The sled took me back to the opening. I climb up the ladder and open the hatch door to see the white-tan walls again. It relieved me to be topside. The stench of the dead hit me again. I took a moment to reflect and adjust to what I was about to walk into. My eyes took in the remains of smoke clouds, and bodies floating out to sea like driftwood on an ocean wave. Trying not to look at those lost, I had to stay focused on the living, some pleading for instant death. My ears block the noise of wailing, and I look for the triage, which was helping those wounded and still alive.
Inside the medic tent, I found my Commanding Officer holding on to life. The right side of his leg and arm blown off at the elbow and knee. There was no other way to save his life but to close the wounds as best they could under the circumstances. At the sight of the wounded, I could not help but cry.
My team had just come back from our first mission, victorious. Was this retaliation? Why didn’t we see this coming? Did I blame myself for abandoning my post, surviving in one piece, while others had not? Could I handle the pressure? Was I strong enough for the people I was helping?
I asked the class without expecting an answer from the recruits. I conclude my summation, “These are the questions you need to answer in your written assessment of this debrief. Did I abandon my post? Did I do the right thing? Was I selfish? Should they have court-marshaled me? Could I have helped the others sooner?”
I pace the floor. My glance staunch and unmoving. My gaze locks onto their body language, the slight shifting in their seats to get comfortable. I knew what they were thinking. I allow them to take forty-five minutes to answer a few of those questions. After reading a few of the recruits’ answers, I address them.
“Well, your answers are typical, and I suspect you’d answer the way you have. Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Bradford over there owes me a hundred bucks, and this is the reason I’m Master Chief Petty Officer (MCPO) and you’re not—yet. None of those questions could be yes, because there is a paper in my file that states, under no circumstances, should the enemy capture me. Why, you ask in those new questioning brains of yours?
Well, here’s the answer. I was the only officer left on that base with access codes to Nuclear Weapons from here to NORAD. They could have taken Commander Rodgers but he was dying from the wounds he sustained and they didn’t know he would survive. It just so happens, the first hit to the base was to the administration building.
The Generals, and other higher ups, were sitting in their offices unaware. I don’t know if that was the enemy’s intention to kill those who could give them information but they did. Unfortunate, the enemy hijacked one of our subs and used it against us. There were no survivors in the administration building. Can you imagine what a catch I would have been, had the enemy hacked into our files and received intelligence about me or any other ranked officer like me? So, I had a choice to make. Die as my superiors had or run like hell to get into one of those bunkers.”
I finished my part of the lecture for the day. As I walk out of the class, I turn to them, “Never judge a writer by the fatness of a Silverfish’s molted skin.” It was a tradition to keep them guessing about a metaphor.
During and after becoming Master Chief, I lived in Egypt and continued to do their bidding, even though I questioned my part in the scheme of things. I received high praise, which allowed me to rise in the ranks so quickly.
The property of another until the realization came. I had no life outside of them. No love, no family, no friends—no Sublime, without them. My heart ached with longing for someone I would never meet, until one day I did while lying low in Memphis, Egypt. I planned the doom and execution of those who took my life and love away. They threatened to decimate an entire island the day before our wedding. This island where I was to spend the rest of my life with him. It was their mistake. They wanted complete control over me.
Standing at the window looking out at the sand dunes, not regretting wanting to be free, ‘I have to kill them all, there was no other way to be free,’ I thought.
It was a world filled with sparks of light to guide the course of man. A wake-up call that failed to sound the alarm in the sense of urgency. It was a volatile time, and they desensitized us to the truth of what was going on. Gloom shrouded the earth, even though the sky was blue. Sun rising to the occasion—arraying the seasons as before. Life itself was temporal. Even with the convenience and access to unlimited self-preservation, lives were mundane in existence. Every human was out for themselves—there was no more village to teach the next generation.
Life remained unchanged for those who ruled the nations, their lust for power untamed and unbridled, on the threshold of pure chaos. They limited faith to greed. The positivity that the universe would return to you, is what you spoke to it.
The military scales back, not because there was no need to secure the country but enlisting diminished once the true and brave whistleblowers exposed the government for operating the military for less than truthful purposes.
I had become a less than truthful purpose.
I completed my missions to stay alive and got rid of those who knew the military had control over me within three years.
Thereafter, I continued to train, as my life would soon take on a different meaning and purpose. My soul was at stake. One way or the other, my life was no longer mine to own.
Amid the chaos, those with a calling could not hide. God sent a message to Mr. Zinkes that the Apollyon’s timetable to bring even more chaos to the world was upon us. Those God chose must interrupt their plans. If they failed, it would be Sodom and Gomorrah all over again in the middle east and this time, He would save no one.
Tree leaves rustle with a trivial gust of wind. Mr. Zinkes returns to the Compound from Egypt, sliding on the loose gravel. He wipes the beads of moisture formed on his brow from the heat after balancing himself. He rushes in. Ms. Giles greets him at the door entrance. Strolling down the lobby, she was almost at a jog. At a foot and a half shorter than Mr. Zinkes, she struggles to keep up.
“Do you consider them ready for what’s coming?” They halt in the corridor before entering Mr. Zinkes’ office.
“Ms. Giles, it matters not whether they are ready. We will get them ready. God has found them worthy of His service.”
“So, who will we start with?”
“Tracy Pimbridge, Sublime. She will be first,” he said.
“Why Tracy?” asked Ms. Giles, now sitting in front of him.
“She is first, as she is the first God called.”
“Do they suspect what this involves?”
“No. They’ve never met me. My involvement in their lives, although significant, was limited. Ms. Giles, please notify Mr. Lyemel and Mr. Laemel that recruitment occurs in one month.”
“Yes, sir,” she said. She walks out of his office.