“Pull the trigger, Jim Grey,” William said as rain poured down his face. “That’s why you’re here, after all.”
I stood frozen in an awe-inspired fear. The nude figure that stood before me transfigured into a dark angel. He was still man, but appeared to possess the powers of hell.
I was unable to pull the trigger.
But before I could react, William grabbed the barrel and slammed the butt of the shotgun to my face. Still conscious, I fell backwards into the muddied forest floor. I could taste something from the corner of my mouth; it was blood, assisted by the rain, streaming down from the wound on my forehead.
I had never bled before.
William now held the shotgun but threw it aside as he stood over me. His cock was inches from my face. Finally, the rush of panic kicked in and I sprinted aimlessly through the woods.
But the newly minted demonic angel was never far behind.
Then I reached an obstacle: a gully nearly 100 feet deep but a little over 10 feet wide. I had no time to think. I leapt across the crevice but my feet missed the landing on the other side.
My life was hanging perilously over the side of a cliff, fingers barely maintaining a grip on a wet, slippery rock jutting over the edge.
William looked down upon me struggling like a helpless creature. For the first time in his 70 years, he felt something he previously thought impossible: sympathy…compassion. Mr. Shitz then entirely hurdled the 10 foot gap and kneeled down before me.
“It’s quite a thing to live in fear, isn’t it?” he asked. “But that’s what it means to feel alive.”
Right as my fingers slipped, William grabbed my wrist and single-handedly pulled me to safety. As he dropped me on land, I impulsively wiggled backwards up to a tree, not knowing what to expect.
The arctic fox wandered up and sat obediently next to Mr. Shitz. The old, dying man gazed upon the animal and sat down before me.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” William told me, “I’ve had shits like fire from a baconator in Hoboken. I watched Harry Reems and Arthur C. Clarke cheer as they masturbate. Now all of those moments will be lost, in time, like the career of David Blaine.”
A look of sorrow fell over William Shitz’s rain-covered face. “Time to die,” he uttered. And with those words, the clouds departed, and the fox trotted off into the sunset.
I laid there for what seemed like hours, pondering Mr. Shitz’s last moments. And in his waning hours, he bestowed upon me the gift of humanity; his last, and perhaps only, act of benevolence.
Then I heard a voice from across the gully. “I guess he’s through, eh?” it asked. It was Archibald, holding the shotgun.
“Finished,” I said.
Archibald tossed the shotgun to my side and started to walk away.
Then he paused.
“It’s too bad I won’t live,” he pondered aloud, “but then again, who does?”
“I found him!” Allen Funt screamed through the torrential rain. It was our second day of hunting for the surprisingly evasive Mr. Shitz. The terrain in the sprawling forest proved to be formidable.
Archibald, shotgun in hand, ran towards Allen’s screams. Darla and myself weren’t far behind. “Where is he?” Archibald asked as he approached.
“Right there,” Allen said.
The butler looked down and was puzzled. “That’s just a hole in the ground,” Archibald replied.
Allen cocked his head. “But I thought that’s what this was,” Funt said, pointing to his ass.
Darla had enough. “This excursion is pointless!” she yelled. “Just let my father die naked and shitting himself in the woods, just as he wanted!”
Allen Funt seconded the notion.
Archibald tuned out the noise as he gazed into the woods ahead. “There,” he pointed.
Less than a 100 yards away was the majestic arctic fox. The creature contrasted like an apparition against the wet and drab forest. “Follow that fox,” Archibald ordered.
The butler proceeded forward while Darla and I followed in his footsteps. Allen Funt fell into the very hole he pointed out moments before.
“Help!” he screamed.
No one came to his aid.
We watched closely as the fox trotted forward a few feet. As the animal neared a meadow, a totally nude Mr. Shitz fell out of a tree and onto Darla’s shoulders. “Father!” she cried, but Mr. Shitz was delivering a rear naked chokehold, quite literally, as he was hanging on to her rear, he was naked, and had her a chokehold.
“Release her!” Archibald ordered.
Darla lost consciousness and fell to the ground. With an open shot, Archibald raised the shotgun and fired. But the spry Mr. Shitz dodged the shrapnel and disappeared into the shadows.
“Goddamn, he’s like the Vietcong,” Archibald said as he reloaded the shotgun.
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
“He’s too dangerous like this,” Archibald replied. “If you see him, kill him.”
Right then, Mr. Shitz swung around a tree and knocked Archibald out cold. The shotgun flew forward to my feet.
I kneeled down to pick up the weapon. But Mr. Shitz was close enough that I could see the rainwater dripping off his ballsack. I slowly picked up the shotgun and returned to my feet.
It was nearing dusk and the rain was falling harder. But the red in Mr. Shitz’s eyes pierced the dark through the booms of thunder and brilliant flashes of light.
“Shit!” I yelled. “After killing those bald eagles, I’m all outta bullets!”
“Jack,” Pete replied, “if you can get us out of this, you might make me a believer after all.”
That was all the motivation I needed. So I said a prayer: “Lord, everything that’s happened so far has led me to this point. Give me the strength to kill Sally and lead Peter Tucker to Salvation in Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Right then, as the Goodyear Blimp hovered above, Sally, who was piloting the aircraft, released dozens of live hand grenades down onto Progressive Field. Pete and I weaved and bobbed our way through one explosion after the next but when the last grenade landed, it didn’t explode.
That’s when the Lord gave me a sign.
I saw Deshaun Watson, who was supposed to the throw the first pitch in the celebrity baseball game, cowering in the corner and pissing himself in the dugout. “Deshaun!” I yelled, “we need your arm strength! If you pick up this live hand grenade and hurl it back at the blimp before it detonates, you might be redeemed in the eyes of the public for all those disgusting sexual acts you did to those masseuses. Maybe not though. But what other choice you got?! Hurry before it explodes!”
Watson gathered up the courage, climbed out of the dugout, picked up the grenade, and with all of his strength he launched it towards the blimp.
He was right on the money. The grenade exploded, and the blimp came tumbling down onto the field.
Sally was in a daze when she climbed out of the wreckage. “Holt!” Pete ordered as he lifted his 9mm towards her. But Sally was too quick. She drew her weapon and shot Pete in the abdomen.
Then she turned her gun towards me and laughed maniacally. “I finally have you where I want you, Jack Hardcock!” Sally said, “Prepare to meet your maker, Cleveland scum!”
Sally then ripped an entire clip into my direction, but to her surprise, every bullet missed. I dodged my way over to Pete’s position. With one hand over the bullet wound, he tossed me his 9mm with the other. “Pete,” I said, “without my .38, I’m useless!”
“I believe in you, Jack,” he replied, “have faith!”
I lifted the 9mm and emptied five bullets into Sally. As she dropped to her knees, I walked towards her, still aiming the weapon. “But why, Jack?” she asked, “I was only trying to clean up the streets. Wouldn’t your God approve?”
“No Sally,” I said, “Vengeance is the Lord’s. And I am His instrument.”
I fired one more round into Sally’s skull and her body fell to the ground.
“Stop calling them the Cleveland ‘Indians’ Jack,” Pete said while we were prepping to enter Progressive Field.
“I will never give into the woke agenda,” I replied. “This is a Christian Nation and I will never let a Catholic like Joe Biden tell me who to respect! Build the wall!!!”
“You’re a moron,” Pete uttered.
Security let us through the gate and we were handed a program. It stated that at the conclusion of the National Anthem, hundreds of bald eagles would be released over the stadium.
“We gotta stop those eagles,” I said, “thousands of people are at this celebrity baseball game. If Sally armed those birds with live grenades, there’s no telling what kind of damage that will do.”
“We should split up,” Pete ordered, “we’ve only got 10 minutes!”
Security was tight. There was no way we could search the entire stadium. I had to act fast.
The Village People were prepping to sing the National Anthem. One of them stepped into the bathroom and I followed him inside. While he was taking a shit, I kicked open the stall door and knocked him out.
With him unconscious, I took his costume, added a lot of makeup, and flushed the toilet. As I exited the bathroom to search for Sally, one of the Village People, the construction worker, shouted at me.
“Hey buddy,” he yelled, “it’s time to go on!”
“Fuck,” I said, then followed them out onto the field.
I had the .38 hidden under my smock.
As we danced to an upbeat rendition of the National Anthem, I kept a lookout for Sally. When the song concluded, Deshaun Watson was coming out onto the field to throw the first pitch.
Then the bald eagles came flying.
“Everyone hit the ground!” I yelled as I drew the .38.
I ripped one bullet into the air after another. Each one made it into a bald eagle and they came plummeting towards the ground. The stadium erupted into a panic and security rushed the field.
“I’m a cop!” I yelled after they tackled me. I pulled out my badge.
Pete came running out behind them with his weapon drawn. “Jesus Christ, Jack!” he said, “What the hell’s the matter with you? Out of all the Village People, you came out dressed as the Native American?!”
“Never mind me!” I said, “What about the bald eagles?! Did anybody get killed?!”
“There were no grenades,” Pete replied, “you just senselessly shot six bald eagles out of the sky in front of everyone!”
“Damn it Pete!” I yelled, “Sally is here! We’ve got to stop her!”
There was a quiet roar overtaking the stadium. It continued to grow louder and louder. “The fuck is that sound?” Pete asked.
A large, smooth object the loomed large over the stands and was slowly moving over the field. It was the Goodyear Blimp. I squinted to see who was piloting it.
Sally’s trail went cold. But somewhere beneath that shit-crusted anus that is the Cleveland underworld, she was waiting on us, plotting her trap.
The FBI was generous enough to fish out Gregg’s Buick from the bottom of the Cuyahoga River. Despite being busted up on the side and immersed in water for hours, it started up like a charm.
“A Buick will never let you down, my daddy always told me,” Gregg said.
“Ain’t that the truth.”
We were passing back and forth a bottle of brandy while on stakeout outside of Progressive Field. Peter Tucker sent us there. He had his suspicions that Sally would strike there next.
“What kind of idiot would send us here?” I asked Gregg. “It’s not even baseball season!”
“That ain’t true boss,” he replied. “There’s a celebrity baseball game here tomorrow.”
The blood drained from my face. “Oh fuck!” I said. “Gregg, get to the nearest pay phone and page Pete’s beeper. We’re gonna need backup.”
I knew what Sally was thinking. Celebrities would be there. That means pedos, druggies, rapists, all-around scum of the earth. She would have all of her eggs in one basket.
So I readied my .38 and scaled the fence into the stadium. It was night. The security guards were sleeping.
Sally was there. I knew it with all my instinct. I kicked open doors and trashed the stadium but found no one.
Then I entered the equipment room.
Inside were countless bald eagles locked up in cages. Strapped to them were contraptions that, when activated, would release live hand grenades onto unsuspecting people below.
“What are you doing in here?!” a man shouted. It was the bird keeper.
I lifted the .38. “Where’s Sally?” I said.
The man raised his hands in the air. “Hey man! I know nothing about that. I was just paid to do a job!”
I clicked the gun. “I’ll give you three seconds to answer before I blow your brains out,” I replied.
The man pissed his pants and continued to cry that he knew nothin. I pulled the trigger and his brains splattered all over the wall. In hindsight, that was a bad decision because I should have took him in for questioning.
C’est la vie.
I walked back out to the Buick and looked for Gregg. Off in the distance, underneath a pay phone, I saw Gregg laying on the ground holding his guts in.
I ran up and tried to stop the bleeding.
“She got me good, Jack,” Gregg said.
“Shut the fuck up you stupid bastard,” I replied. “You’re not gonna die.”
With his last bit of strength, Gregg grabbed me by the back of the neck. “Jack, I want you to know,” he uttered, “I regret every moment.”
There I held Gregg Poppovich, local Cleveland gangster, dead in my arms.
Then the pay phone rang. “Jack! This is Pete Tucker,” the voice said, “I received an urgent page from Gregg!”
“Gregg’s dead,” I said to Pete. “Sally killed my boss and now she’s killed my best friend. But I have her right where I want her. She’s here, Pete. Vengeance is mine.”
“I received a page from my beeper,” Gregg yelled. “They spotted Sally alone off Market Avenue!”
So Gregg and I piled into his 78 Buick Regal and sped off northbound into town. “What are we gonna do when we catch her?” Gregg asked.
“Just gonna ask her a few questions,” I said.
But before we reached Market Square, a black SUV rammed into the side of us. The Buick crashed into the side barrier then went over the edge into the Cuyahoga River.
Thankfully the river wasn’t on fire at that particular moment.
Gregg and I were individually strapped to a chair in an abandoned warehouse. We were revived by a blinding flash of light.
“Well well well,” a voice said from behind the light. “If it isn’t disgruntled Ohio BCI agent Jack Hardcock and local Cleveland gangster Gregg Poppovich. You two make strange bedfellows.”
“By the authority of Jesus Christ, I demand to know what’s going on here!” I exclaimed.
The light shut off and in front of us were three FBI agents. I recognized one of them. “Peter Tucker,” I said.
“Jack, how’ve you been?” Peter replied.
“Pete, untie us now! I don’t know what Sally told you, but I am not the killer!”
“Yes I know,” he said, “I just wanted you to know that I am in charge here.”
“What do you mean?”
Pete lit up a cigarette. “You see,” he stated, “we know that Sally and her minions are the ones that killed Art McGarth and many, MANY others.”
“If you have something to say, Pete,” I said, “spit it out. We don’t have all day.”
Pete took a long exhale as smoke billowed out his mouth. “Sally is a vigilante, Jack,” he continued. “We’ve keeping a watchful eye on her. She’s been executing pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, stoners, plumbers, hipsters, Hoobastank, and anyone she deems a menace to society. She’s gone renegade, Jack. She thinks she’s above the law.”
“My God!” I said. “That means…”
“Yes,” Pete interrupted, “that means you were next.”
An agent came up and cut Gregg and me loose from our chairs. “Since you’re in charge,” I said to Pete as I massaged my wrist, “what happens now?”
Pete put out his cigarette and stepped out from behind his desk. “Jack, you can fool BCI but you can’t fool me,” he said. “I know you want back into the Federal Bureau. Cleveland’s a toxic wasteland. It’s Ohio’s toilet for fuck’s sake. It’s no mistake that the Browns are perpetually terrible. This city is cursed! I know that you don’t want to spend the rest of your career here.”
He handed me my .38. “All I’m asking,” Pete concluded, “is that you help me catch Sally. If you can do that, we can forget that time you accidentally burned down a retirement home and shot up a Denny’s. You’ll be back in the Bureau. What do you say?”
I looked him square in the eye.
“Pete, if I help you do this and you go back on your word,” I said, “you won’t have to wait on the Second Coming. I’ll send you straight to hell myself.”
“Jack, you magnificent sack of shit,” Gregg said to me after he patched me up, “I don’t know how you do it, but I’ve never seen anyone heal from broken limbs, organ failure, and brain damage as quickly as you have.”
“That’s the power of prayer,” I said in response. “I don’t need any of that medicine bullshit. I have God on my side.”
“You have proven the Power of Christ to me, Jack,” Gregg replied. “Despite growing up in America, getting hounded daily by Jehovah’s Witnesses, raised in the Catholic Church, and the Bible essentially being the cornerstone of Western art and literature, no one has ever told me about Jesus Christ or how to receive His Grace.”
“Bow your head,” I said. And on February 27, 2022, Gregg Poppovich, local Cleveland gangster, accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.
I got up from the operating table, buttoned up my shirt, and punched Gregg in the stomach. “I’m gonna need more bullets for my .38,” I said.
Gregg was wheezing on the floor. “You could ask nicely, Jack,” he said.
“I don’t have time,” I responded, “Sally’s behind these murders, I’m sure of it. She’s already framed me, which means the FBI will be looking for me. Have you amassed your army of fellow gangsters? I’m gonna need them.”
Gregg stood up and straightened out his jacket. “They’re ready and waiting on your orders, sir,” he said.
“Good,” I replied, then socked him in the face. “I want a stakeout on Sally and a few of her officers. They are NOT to engage with any of them. Understood? Once when they have them cornered, your men should reach out to me. Okay?”
“Understood, sir,” Gregg said as he wiped blood away from his nose.
“Alright, now where are those bullets?”
I went to the back of Gregg’s Italian restaurant outside of town to do some target practice. I had just recovered from shattering every bone in my wrist after falling 20 stories into a dumpster. Unfortunately I missed every shot.
Gregg stood on the back patio laughing with a stogie hanging out his mouth. “Are you sure you’re ready for all this?” he asked.
I turned swiftly and shot the stogie out of his mouth. “As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said. I twirled the gun around my finger and put it back in my holster.
“What happened to your face?” Jacob asked as I met him at the Cyrene’s inn.
“I was attacked by one of Herod’s thugs,” I said. “They’re onto us. So watch who you talk to.”
“You didn’t tell him anything did you?”
“I told him I was a friend of Joseph’s. After that, he left me alone.”
“Shit,” Jacob said and rubbed his face. “Well good news is I met with Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Remember them?”
“The one’s from Rome?”
“Yeah. They sold some of their property in Judea. They gave the money to John to distribute to the widows outside of the city walls. It’s finally happening Simon!”
“Don’t let it get to your head!” I told him. “You still need to lie low.”
Just then a big burly fellow with six other men busted through the door. “Χαιρετίσματα Jacob,” the booming voice said.
“You’re Stephanos?!” I exclaimed.
Stephanos looked over to me and back over to Jacob. “Who’s dis?” the man asked in his Greek accent.
“Relax, he’s Simon,” Jacob replied. “He was a good friend of Yeshua’s.”
Stephanos looked me up and down. “I heard you were arrested,” he said to me.
“No, it must have been another Simon,” I replied. “I’m from Bethsaida.”
Stephanos was confused. He looked back to Jacob. “I was told that Ananias gave you money. Our women and children are starving too-“
“Now Stephanos,” Jacob interrupted, “I know where you’re going with this. But Ananias was very clear: he wanted us to use this money to help the widows of Jerusalem.”
“Because we’re Greeks we’re not as important as the Hebrews?”
“I didn’t say that. Please listen to me. I’m only respecting Ananias’ wishes.”
Stephanos was furious. “We’ve been in the streets for days while you Hebrews have been coward up in your homes! Do you support us or not?!”
“Of course I support you!” Jacob yelled then took a deep breath. “I get how you feel, Stephanos, I really do. But you gotta understand our situation. Herod and Pilate aren’t too concerned with the Greeks right now. But they are after us. We can’t be out in the streets and we don’t have the money to spread around to everyone. I’m sorry. But Ananias is a very successful man from Rome and a diaspora Jew just like yourself. If you go to him and explain your situation, he can probably provide you with some assistance.”
Stephanos stood silent for a moment then muttered something in Greek. He walked up to Jacob. “μη με σταυρώνεις,” he said. Then him and his six men left the room.
“You should’ve stayed away from him Jacob,” I said.
“And Stephanos is a convert. To Ananias, he’s still a Gentile. He’s not giving him the money.”
Jacob began rubbing his temples. “I need a drink,” he said.
We went down to the tavern where Levi was scribbling something down. “What are you doing?” Jacob asked him.
“The Greeks wanted something to tell the people back in the Decapolis. Something about Yeshua.”
I looked over the writing. He didn’t write much but it was all in Greek. I couldn’t understand a word of it. Jacob was puzzled. “Where did you learn to write Greek?”
“In school, here in Jerusalem” Levi replied, “I had to learn it along with Hebrew.”
“Maybe we should drop the subject of Greeks for the time being,” I said.
We sat silently drinking our wine for a few minutes. There was a commotion on the streets. Andrew came running up. “They’re about to stone some of the Greeks!” he screamed.
Jacob and Levi instantly got up. “Aren’t you coming along?” Jacob asked me. Against my better judgment, I put down the wine cup and followed them.
A few blocks away, a crowd was gathering. Some were shouting. Others gawked out of morbid curiosity. Moments later, Temple guards began dragging out seven Greeks. One of them was Stephanos.
Behind them followed a few members of the Sanhedrin, including Joseph. Standing beside him was Ananias.
“Thief! Thief!” Ananias shouted. “These men conspired with Yeshua to rob the Temple and overthrow the Romans!”
My heart began to sink. This was a setup.
The guards threw the Greeks in front of Herod’s black-cloaked mercenaries who had their spears ready. Meanwhile, the Roman guards stood back smiling at the whole affair.
A judge from the Sanhedrin stood among the crowd and faced the accused. “Conspiracy, sedition, robbery of Ananias,” the judge said, “are these accusations true?”
It didn’t matter what Stephanos said. And he knew it. From his knees, he laughed and looked at the crowd. “You stiff-necked people,” he said, “your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—”
“God help you,” the judge said.
With those words, the mercenaries plunged their spears into the bellies of the Greeks. A pool of blood formed in the middle of the crowd.
Levi screamed in horror and ran away.
But the crowd was just getting warmed up. They picked up stones or any disposable object and began hurling them towards Stephanos. He got bruised and battered and knocked in the head a few times but kept crawling forward.
Among the mercenaries, I recognized a familiar face: The scars….the scabs…the wiry frame. It was him alright. It was the man that attacked me a few days earlier.
And Stephanos kept crawling towards this man as the stones were raining down on him. When he reached his feet, Stephanos grabbed the man’s cloak and got to his knees.
I was too far away to hear anything, but Stephanos was clearly saying something to this man. Judging by his face, the figure was stunned by what was being said. But before the figure could react, a member of the crowd smashed a rock into Stephanos’ skull.
The man in the black cloak stood back with blood and brain matter splattered all over his face. He was in a daze.
Before the crowd could mutilate the bodies, Joseph stepped in to quiet them. That’s enough!” he yelled. “The perpetrators of the Passover sedition have been caught and punished! This matter is closed! Please return to your homes!” As the crowds dispersed, the Temple guards started dragging the bodies outside of the city walls.
Jacob and I returned to the inn in silence. We didn’t know what to make of what just happened. “Do we leave Jerusalem?” Jacob asked.
“Why?” I replied. “It looks like Joseph and Ananias took care of our problem.”
“Simon saw Yeshua come back from the dead!” Andrew said.
“I didn’t see Yeshua!” I replied. “How did you get to be so stupid?”
Andrew and I were meeting with Jacob and Levi at the Cyrene’s tavern after returning to Jerusalem. “What did you see?” Levi asked me.
“Look,” I said, completely ignoring his question, “I only came back to Jerusalem to bring Jacob back to Galilee. I already got Yeshua killed, I can’t let the same thing happen to his brother.”
“I’m not going back,” Jacob said.
“This might come as a surprise to you Simon, but people actually believe the Message. You thought the Romans could never be driven out of Judea, but everyone took notice of Yeshua. Including the Greeks!”
“The Greeks? We were only in Scythopolis for a few days. We barely spoke Greek!”
“Yeshua made quite an impression on them.”
“Yeah, they’re saying that he did all kind of shit,” Levi said, “healing the blind, casting out demons and sending them into pigs, making the lame walk…”
“Are you sure they’re not confusing him with one of the thousands of other lunatics that wonder around the Decapolis?”
“I’m telling ya Simon,” Jacob exclaimed, “these Greeks have some goddamned imagination. They think he’s some wandering miracle worker! There is some guy named Stephanos who followed us all the way from Scythopolis. He’s been screaming in the streets! He’s pissed about the crucifixion!”
“You guys didn’t talk to him, right?”
Right then, Mary walked into the tavern. She had the look of death on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Jacob asked.
All of us ventured outside of the city walls to Joseph’s tomb near the Mount of Olives. The women were weeping. I walked inside the tomb and Yeshua’s body wasn’t there.
“The Greeks?” I asked Jacob.
“How would they have known where his body was?”
Joseph was stomping down the hill up ahead. I looked over to Jacob. “Let me handle this,” I said.
Joseph was only a few yards away when he started yelling. “You guys have been an epic pain in my ass!”
“Now Joseph, calm down,” I said. “I’m only here to collect Jacob and bring him back to Galilee. I swear. I’m not here to cause trouble.”
“Like hell! All the Jews are gone but now the streets are crawling with Greeks! Ever since Passover ended, they’ve been piling into the city!”
“I know, but we have nothing to do with that.”
“Bullshit! This idiot here…” Joseph cried, referring to Jacob, “has been seen screaming on the streets with that lunatic Stephanos. And now all of you are grave robbing!”
I shook my head as I looked over to Jacob. “Joseph, we didn’t take Yeshua’s body. Mary came here this morning and it was gone. As for the Greeks, I don’t know what to tell you. We’ll leave Jerusalem and maybe this will all blow over in a few weeks.”
“Too late. They’ve been threatening the Sadducees and Pharisees because apparently, Yeshua was railing against them in Scythopolis! I know you were there Simon. So this IS your fault!”
Damn it, I thought. I looked over to Jacob. “This has gotten out of hand. We’re leaving.”
“If all of you are leaving, you better do it quick. The Sanhedrin wants this fire put out now! Herod is bringing in mercenaries from all over the empire. A few of them might be here now. You’re probably as good as dead,” Joseph said.
“Then that means you too,” I told him. “You’re as guilty as the rest of us.”
Jacob spoke up. “It doesn’t matter where we go. Do none of you see what’s going on here? The moment Yeshua spoke against the Romans and their collaborators, we had a target on our backs. We knew the risks. And we accepted them. Because look around you: lepers, beggars, widows, children sleeping on the streets. We can’t continue to live like this. Even the Greeks agree! Yes Yeshua is dead, but that doesn’t mean the Kingdom of God is dead too. We continue to fight for it or we die in the streets.”
Joseph was silent.
“It’s time for you to take a stand Joseph,” Jacob continued. “You’re either with us or you’re with Herod.”
Joseph looked down to the ground and thought for a moment. “I have no love for the Romans,” Joseph said, “but I want no more bloodshed. So I ask all of you: stay away from the Gentiles. They aren’t our problem. Let them take the fall for this Yeshua situation. If you can do this, I can keep the Sanhedrin off your scent.”
“But Joseph,” Jacob replied, “a lot of them are Jewish converts. We’re in this together.”
“Listen to me Jacob: stay away from them. And please, for the love of God, lay low!”
With those words, Joseph walked away. Jacob was beside himself. “What does he expect us to do?” he said to me, “we can’t just wish the Romans away!”
I put my hands on his shoulders to calm him down. “Jacob, he may be onto something,” I said. “Let’s face it: we don’t have the power to get the Romans out of Judea just yet. Our only choice is to play the long game. Alright? Now you might be safe in Jerusalem for the time being, but you’re gonna have to live to fight another day. Also, keep quiet about being Yeshua’s brother. Okay?”
Jacob nodded. “Are you going back to Galilee?” he asked.
I smiled. “No. I gotta keep you out of trouble,” I replied.
All of us went back into the city walls individually. As I was returning to the Cyrene’s tavern, a strange man in a black cloak pulled me into an alley and put a dagger to my throat.
“I got money in my satchel,” I said to him.
“I don’t want your money!” the man replied. He was a short, wiry figure with rashes and scabs all over his face. “I recognize you!”
“Well I don’t recognize you.”
“Don’t play with me! I saw you with that man in Caesarea.”
“Yeshua you fool!”
He punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. “Why are you in Jerusalem?” the figure asked.
“I’m just a fisherman. I’m here in town because of Passover. I’m leaving tomorrow, I swear!” I said as I was gasping for air.
“Why would I lie about that?!”
He kicked me in the face and I fell flat on the ground. The man continued his interrogation.
“Who do you know here?”
I crawled back to my knees. “Joseph, alright! He’s from Arimathea! He’s on the Jerusalem Council!”
“Can you confirm that?”
“We can go talk to him now!”
The man put his dagger back into his cloak and he helped me off the ground. He also dusted me off. “I’m sorry about the confusion,” he said. “There’s a lot of insurrectionists around. They always cause trouble around Passover. Can never be too safe, ya know?”
I wiped the blood from my mouth. “Indeed.”
“Alright, well you take care now,” the man said.
He walked up to the edge of the alley, looked to his left and right, and disappeared back into the city streets.
“We are going home,” I announced to the crew onboard the Sagan. “To repair the ship, we’ll need Yah’s help. He’s being brought to the surface as we speak. His chamber will be stored in the cargo area, where Dr. Jackass will release him. We cannot get too close to Yah. He’s highly radioactive, but the Doctor will be equipped with a radiation absorber that I stole from the Ishnarians. You are ordered to remain out of the cargo bay. The Doctor will ask Yah to remain a safe distance from the crew.”
“If he’s God,” Patel asked, “can’t he make more radiation absorbers?”
“Good question Patel,” I replied, “but let’s not overthink this. Yah is not a supernatural being. He is made of real matter and is bound by gravity. That’s why he needs a spaceship to get off this planet. Additionally, it should be noted that Yah can read minds. But it appears that he can only do so at a certain distance. Perhaps up to 60 feet. If possible, stay 60 feet away from the cargo area. I can’t go into any more details, but when I order everyone to be at their stations, you will have 30 seconds to get there. Am I understood?”
“Good. Begin preparations for launch.”
I exited the Sagan to meet with Hazov. Off in the distance, Yah’s chamber was being wheeled towards the ship.
“It’s a shame that you are unable to stay,” Hazov said, “hopefully this is the beginning of a fruitful relationship between our two worlds.”
“Possibly,” I said.
“If you don’t mind me prying, Captain, I thought your ship was having trouble launching.”
I smiled. “Someone forgot to carry the 1.”
“I see,” he said. “Farewell Captain.”
We shook hands and I immediately went to engineering to speak with Commander Mwangi. “Commander, once when you see that the hydrogen drive is back online, fire it up immediately,” I told her.
“But Captain, with lift thrusters firing we’ll be moving at a tremendous speed. We risk burning the hydrogen drive out again.”
“Just do it.”
I went to the bridge and strapped into the navigation station next to Valdez. “What’s the fastest you’ve ever flown a ship?” I asked her.
“About 1/8th the speed of light sir.”
“Prepare to shatter that record.”
The Doctor then came over the intercom. “The chamber is loaded sir,” he said.
“Close cargo bay doors and release Yah from the chamber,” I ordered.
Yah spoke up. “Thank you for releasing me from my chains, Captain,” he said.
“Don’t mention it.”
I monitored controls from the command post. Moments later, Valdez spoke up. “Lift thrusters are online sir!”
The Sagan began lifting off the surface and into the atmosphere. I channeled down to engineering. “How’s that hydrogen drive coming along, Nia?!”
“Hydrogen drive is fully operational!”
Then a deeply distraught Hazov came over the radio. “Captain Kananga! Our planet is facing a torrent of earthquakes and tornadoes! We are dying! What have you done?!”
I radioed down to the cargo bay. “Yah! Unleashing the apocalypse on Ishnar wasn’t part of the deal!”
“Sorry Captain,” Yah replied. “The people of Ishnar have broken the covenant. They shall face my wrath.”
Now Yah was about to face my wrath, I thought. “I see,” I responded to Yah. “Dr. Jackass, please report to the bridge.”
I looked over to Valdez. “Have we cleared the atmosphere?” I asked.
“Yes sir, we are about to leave the outer orbit of Ishnar’s moons.”
“Good. Hopefully we can put enough distance between Yah and Ishnar.”
Moments later, Dr. Jackass entered the bridge. “Doctor,” I said, “on my count, open the cargo bay doors.
I went over the intercom. “Attention crew: please be at your stations,” I ordered, then activated life support systems on all decks.
After 30 seconds expired, I looked back over to Valdez. “Alright Commander, step on it!”
“Damn it Valdez! FLOOR IT!”
As we accelerated to an extraordinary speed, I ordered Dr. Jackass to open cargo doors. Centrifugal systems instantly cut out and we were floating at zero-g.
“Sir!” the Doctor yelled, “all contents in the cargo bay have been suctioned out! Including Yah! Closing doors now!”
As the gravity was being restored, I looked up at the radar. An energy source outside the ship was keeping pace. “Damn it! Yah is on our tail! More speed!”
“But we’re traveling near the speed of light!” Valdez replied.
“Can God go faster than light?!” Dr. Jackass asked.
“I guess we’ll find out!”
The ship began to rattle back and forth. We were under attack. Using his god-like power, Yah came over the intercom. “Is this how you want this to end Captain?” he asked. “Empty space makes a cold grave.”
“Faster Valdez!” I ordered.
“She’ll fly apart Captain!”
“Fly her apart then!”
Alarms and buzzers were going off across the bridge. The vibration intensified. If we were going to die, we were going to die going the speed of light.
Then I looked up at the radar. Another energy source was was gaining on Yah.