99 Armored

November 27, 2029, Cave Basecamp, Jordan


It has been twelve days since the disaster happened in the skies and Earth’s moon was knocked out of orbit. From our basecamp, little has changed. I encouraged to group to come with me on a hike to Mount Nebo to get some fresh air and new perspective. At the crest, I feel the overwhelming need to address them with something I’ve been running through my mind. “Hey group, can I get your attention? There’s something that needs to be said, and now is the time to do it. Come have a seat.”

My bluntness comes as a shock to the team. I see it in their faces. This has always been my leadership style. It looks like my directness and demand for immediate redirect are traits that are going to stay with me, at least for this next life. I probably wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but it feels good to be back to my natural style. It’s also reassuring to know these things are not faults. If they were, Almighty would have removed them when he perfected me at the entrance of Heaven.

“Let’s hear what’s on your mind, fearless leader. We’re all ears.” The ever-affable Liam jumps down from a tree limb where he has been surveying the area with binoculars and takes a seat on the ground in front of me. His interlaced fingers and cross-legged pose remind me of a preschooler who has been called to attention in circle time. The others fall in place around him.

I lean back on a large rock wall but remain on my feet. I’m sure I will be pacing at some point, as I tend to do when I am delivering a passionate address. I believe my fidgeting is less distracting if I stay on my feet. I cross my arms—being careful to keep both hands in full view to show my command of the situation, and dive in. “It’s no secret I come from a military background. It’s also no secret I take my leadership roles quite seriously. The things happening on this planet are keeping me up at night. Since we don’t need to rest these bodies, the restlessness is not a problem, but the underlying reason for it is.

A big part of my training with the SEALs focused upon military strategy. In every scenario, we were the aggressors. Even when we were being stealthy with our operations, we stayed on the offensive. We left the defensive game to someone else.

“I’ve been a follower of Almighty longer than I’ve been a soldier, but the understanding of how the two converge wasn’t clear to me until after I went into seclusion in the cave. What I’m about to say comes from my experience as a soldier—and not as a spiritual being.”

I take a quick scan of the faces. They seem to be at full attention, so I push forward. “Though it may not look like it right now, we are at war. The entire planet is a warzone. Lucifer has been battling Almighty here for centuries. As I see it, she is advancing significantly because the followers of Almighty have become complacent and are assimilating into her corrupt culture rather than resisting it.”

Kimmy shifts uncomfortably. “What do you mean?”

“I mean a lot of things, Kimmy. First, man isn’t fighting back even though Lucifer is trying to remove him as the rightful heir of the planet. She’s weakened him with her elaborate schemes and sold him a false sense of security. It sickens me to see how she has played upon his compassion for his fellow man to poison his politics. She has confused him to the point he can no longer distinguish between good and evil, at least logically.

“Man’s senses are still very much intact, and he knows on a subconscious level that his situation is dire, yet he continues to live in denial. He has become an adept debater against the very things in which he secretly believes. And he’s doing all of this to ‘keep the peace.’ Much of mankind has not realized being a follower of Almighty puts you in a state of war by default. There’s no way around it. Peace is wonderful, but it doesn’t come until the end, after the battle is won. Peace comes through strength—not conformity. Bottom line: Man is at war and he doesn’t seem to have a battle plan.

“If the situation doesn’t change, most of the people still left on the planet will be lost to the dark side. It’s crawling under my skin how all of this is happening while we’re eating chocolate pies and playing pool.”

Every team member shifts uncomfortably—as is typical when the criticism starts to get personal. I don’t concern myself with their initial reaction because I have a plan. “I want to share an insight: Before I left the United States to take my final assignment with the Navy SEALS, I went to a religious service with a friend in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a troublesome experience, especially for a man heading to war. The conduct I observed at the gathering was inconsistent with Warriors who recognize they are engaged in spiritual warfare.

“The songs they were singing were very insulting to Almighty considering the sacrifice he made for them, and the constant care he places over them. There was a theme of unworthiness and helplessness permeating through the air that night. A soldier knows if this kind of mindset goes unchecked, it will likely lead to defeat. The last song they sang that night was even entitled, ‘I am Nothing.’

“My first thought was, ‘We have just pinpointed the reason Millennials don’t want to attend a place of worship anymore.’ This is a generation of Warriors. You can’t tell them to ‘sit still and look pretty,’ and you certainly can’t tell them they are ‘nothing.’ It doesn’t resonate. No wonder this generation is restless. Its members are awaiting their call to battle. If it doesn’t come soon, they’ll head out in their own direction to find something else worth fighting for.

“Just so you know, I’ve done the research to back up what I just said—both in the sacred writings of the religions and with a study of the ‘generational cycles’ that repeat throughout history.” I stop pacing and face them head-on to be sure that I anchor my first point. “Here is my proclamation: We must take it upon ourselves to put man on the offensive, and immediately!”

I move to a second one. “I don’t think we were left here intentionally, but since we are, we have a responsibility to prepare mankind for intense spiritual warfare. We’re on a second mission. This one isn’t even related to our initial one of returning the keys. I don’t fully understand why we were held up in that jail and not released in time, and I don’t know the identity of the mystery woman who completed the first mission for us. But I know that Almighty’s goals remain the same.

“Seneca made a big deal about our combination of superpowers making us invincible. He told us we could do anything together—and I believe ‘anything’ includes being able to start a very real, very stealthy, yet very powerful, resistance to Lucifer. With our cultural diversity and separate experiences of battling forces that ultimately took our lives, I know we can organize the resistance. There’s no one else on Earth who is equipped like we are. It has to be us.”

Tony raises his hand and asks a question at the same time. “If there was going to be a second mission, why didn’t Seneca tell us up front?”

“I can’t answer that, Tony. It might have something to do with the woman who showed up to the prison to get the keys. It’s a good possibility her act was unexpected, and caused the original plan to be altered. Given the nature of Almighty, he might also want us to activate ourselves of our own free will. I’m not sure why we’re here, but I am sure of what we should do while we are.”

Sterling leans forward on his knees and pulls himself up into a semi-challenging position. “Commander, are you suggesting we replace our plan of ‘lying low and waiting out the seven years until the gates of Heaven reopen’—with a plan of ‘assimilating the people of Earth to battle Lucifer?” He smiles even as he asks it.

I smile back. “Indeed I am.”

He stands to his feet and salutes me. “Commander Cunningham, Officer Sterling Carter reporting for duty. I say we do this thing!”

My smile grows bigger.

The rest of the team rises to its feet and stands with Sterling. “It appears as if your entire team has reported for duty. What are your orders, Sir?”

The team agreed to return to the cave and change clothes before meeting for a strategy session in the Communication Room. I’m pacing again—this time in a room alone. I’m working through a plan to address something personal with the entire team before I lay out our war strategy. It’s about my relationship with Tova. I know it’s in the best interest of the ‘mission’ for the whole thing to go on hold. Relationships on the frontline complicate battle plans and inhibit troop responsiveness.

On the walk home from Mt. Nebo, I made the decision to speak with her alone first, but have changed my mind. I’ve concluded the emotion would be greater, and something might be said that could not be retracted. I’m convinced my decision will sting on her side. She probably doesn’t see it coming. This action will call for a sudden shift in our interaction and we will have to drop the PDA. It’s a tough decision, but I cannot call ‘soldiers’ to war if I am not willing to be fully-committed myself.

My inner turmoil is interrupted by Tova’s entrance. Her expression is uncharacteristically serious. “Grayson, I want to talk to you before the others arrive.” She walks towards me but stops about three feet away.

“Sure, what’s on your mind?”

“I need you to know I understand the level of focus required of each of us to do this great thing you presented—especially for you. I’m sure we all knew on some level we were going to be engaged in the impending war on Earth. I can’t speak for the others, but I started to catch on when we were doing squat thrusts in Michael’s ‘boot camp.” She smiles. “I know you have moved from commanding a mission to commanding an army, small that it may be.

“I’m also aware you will need to lock down your emotions the way you did when we first met. I assure you I’m stronger this time. My perspective is clear. I’ll be fine with whatever changes we need to make. I’m pumped about taking on Lucifer. She’s caused me so much pain. I owe her some payback before I settle into the next life on a permanent basis. It will be quite rewarding to see her face when we slow her trajectory.” Tova makes a cute move with her fists like she’s fighting, and then drops her arms and smiles at me.

I stand before this amazing woman not knowing what to say or do. Only love can do this to a man. When it comes to a woman, a man’s battle between emotion and discipline can tear him in two until he firmly plants himself on one side of an issue. As I look into Tova’s eyes, an Old Testament story comes to mind. It’s the one about Jacob being so desperately in love with Rachel that he was willing to work for her father, Laban, for seven years to earn her hand in marriage. After the wedding ceremony, Jacob learned of Laban’s cruel trick to force him to marry Rachel’s older sister, Leah, first.

Even so, Jacob agreed to work an additional seven years to have Rachel as his wife as well.  Of those seven years, Jacob was known to say they “went by like days” because of his great love for her. Here I am, stepping away from the woman I love, also for seven years. And in another bit of irony, it’s also for the purpose of completing the “job” for her father before we can be together. I will view this as Jacob did, and count the years as days.

“Thank you, Tova. You know how I feel about you, right?”

She nods.

“Is a hug still allowed?”

She doesn’t answer. Instead, she pulls into me slowly and wraps her arms around my waist. I drop my chin onto the top of her head, and then my cheek. I think of kissing her, but then think better of it. She pulls back out of the hug and smiles. As she walks away, my heart both aches and swells with joy. With one final sigh, I let go. It’s time to move forward.

Once the entire team sits the conference table, I put up a presentation.

“We’re assembled today to set a strategy to put humans on the offensive as they battle Lucifer these next seven years. We will begin with what we know about our enemy.” I use my laser pointer as I run through my points.

“One, we know Lucifer—aka, Anna—is already in control of much of the Earth. There are some nations in which she commands a huge amount of power, and there are others in which she has yet to gain a foothold.

“Two, we know she effectively manipulates powerful individuals such as political leaders and celebrities. They flock to her for validation of their lifestyle choices, and to boost to their fragile egos. She controls several rogue governments, most of the courts of the world, communication channels, media outlets, and the internet. Her strategy has been very effective. It will be a real challenge to reverse what she has established as the truth.

“Three, we know she’s well-informed and well connected. She has been around longer than any of us, and she is a very motivated element—she’s been working relentlessly towards her goal from the beginning of time.

“Four, she has an army of four billion demons at her disposal. Demons present as females—very ugly ones. They have the power to possess people and animals. They can change forms. We’ll need to figure out how to identify them so we are not fooled. Not all the demons are on Earth yet. Many are still in Center Earth. It’s likely that given the size of her operations of the Underworld, and the number of humans who must be guarded there, that twenty-five percent of Lucifer’s forces will need to remain in Hades through the entire Tribulation. This is good news for us.

“Five, we know she is a shrewd leader who uses very real threats to force compliance from both humans and demons. She lacks the critical ingredient for building a sustainable army—loyalty. If we can create doubt within her army troops, they will abandon her, or at the very least, do the minimum necessary to survive.

“Six, we know she has access to the entire planet—including its hidden treasures of precious gems, natural minerals, hidden artifacts, undiscovered energy sources, and Eden. The Garden is going to give her a huge advantage. Its plants hold the cures for every disease known to man. She’s likely to command high fees for the cures even as she is spreading the diseases.”

Tova covers her mouth with her hand and shakes her head. “That may be the evilest thing I have ever heard.”

“I agreed, Tova. We’ll need to reprogram our thinking to the agendas of the dark side if we are going to be able to follow her strategy. One of our objectives must be to get control of the Garden of Eden. We want to avoid her where she is strong. Some things are set, and we will not attempt to break through to nations where the citizens have already given themselves over to reprobate minds. There just isn’t enough time. Instead, we will strike her where she’s weak. Here’s what we know about her vulnerabilities:

“One, she has limited resources. She cannot create more troops to increase the size of her army, nor can she create matter. Her limited resources work tremendously in our favor. We will figure out to exploit them cleverly.

“Two, she cannot transform herself. Lucifer can only present as a serpent or as a fixed figure on Earth. According to Seneca, this is a punishment put forth by Almighty. For the next seven years, Lucifer intends to inhabit the body of the United Nations leader, Anna Cohen.

“Three, she cannot control the weather or other natural forces. These things are not currently under the control of any power. They are free agents which will react to the natural conditions of the planet and its galaxy. Almighty has withdrawn his protective hand from Earth—the hand established with the promise he made to Noah after the world-wide flood. It’s very likely that natural disasters such as asteroid collision, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and global temperature changes will happen in rapid succession.

“Four, Lucifer cannot read minds. She is at the whim of her instinctual ability to predict the movements and motivations of man. It’s worth noting she is adept at both. All men must avoid ‘arming’ her with their spoken words.

“Five, Lucifer is not omnipresent. She can only be in one place at a time. Her kingdom will be run from the Temple Grounds in Jerusalem and from the United Nations’ Headquarters in Geneva. Given the size of her army, and her restriction of being in one place at a time, it’s a good bet she’ll have to stay close to her two headquarters.

“Six, there are some traits of Lucifer’s psyche that make her vulnerable. Her insecurity regarding the power of Almighty drives her to madness—she often mimics his methodology out of sheer jealousy. Our Bible stories help us map out her moves. Other traits that make her susceptible to defeat are her arrogance, fear of manipulation, and her many enemies within the galaxy. She cannot earn loyalty. She can only entice and entrap man into darkness.

“Seven, she lacks a personality and natural emotions. She cannot charm, humor, or entice man to follow her. All that she can do is offer him temporary power, perishable possessions, and a time of ‘unbridled pursuit of sin.’ History has proven empires without morals and restraints will eventually fall. If we assimilate small groups of followers throughout the nations who refuse to participate in unprincipled lifestyles, we might speed up the failure of her kingdom.

“Alright, let’s apply military strategy:

“One, we have the advantage of viewing all military actions against Lucifer as productive rather than destructive. We don’t need to worry about preserving land and resources. Almighty will restore these in the end. We are battling for the souls of man. We won’t win them all, but every win will have eternal significance.

“Two, we can pursue Lucifer ruthlessly and leave the lands in ruins. Nations usually restore the cities of their conquered lands and assimilate the people into their own culture. We don’t have to worry about either. Almighty will heal the lands. We will assimilate the people by proclaiming the truth. If they reject it, we move on. If they accept it, they will form their small groups and take it from there.

“Three, wise leaders do not confront a desperate foe. Humans on Earth during the Tribulation will become increasingly desperate. Though most do not know of the seven-year ending, they will have a sense of urgency. This urgency will make them a threat to anyone who disagrees with their thinking. The sooner we reach them, the more likely they are to move towards Almighty’s light. The Mandates will begin to close upon them, and their rights will be stripped. This is when they’ll panic and begin moving erratically. People will be assaulted and killed in the streets for their beliefs. Resistance will be futile, and religion will be forced underground. From that point forward, saving the people will be nearly impossible. We will move back here to the cave to care for the refugees until the end of time.

“Four, our adversary is a worthy opponent. Once a tactic has been used against her successful, it cannot be used again. She will be ready for it, and we would fail. We must change tactics after we conquer one of her strongholds. Here’s where creativity is on our side. Lucifer can only repeat things she’s seen. Ever-changing strategy might paralyze her with confusion and frustration. Liam and Kimmy, you’re our Idealists. Please keep your ideas and observations coming our way. Though I have tried to quiet your chatty style in the past, it’s now open season for new ideas.” Kimmy and Liam give each other the lame guy handshake for the validation of their behavior style.

“Five, we need accurate, real time data. Our advancement will have to be adapted to an infinite variety of circumstances. The Earth will be changing constantly over these next seven years. We will need to run continuous calculations that can track its resources, civilians, armies, etc. This is where our Analytics, Sterling and Seiko, provide us with another advantage. After this meeting, I need the two of you to put your heads together and write adaptable algorithms. Then, redesign the usability of our system to make it user-friendly. I want the leaders of the small groups to be able to see every single tick of the numbers.

“Six, we must remain invisible on Earth. Lucifer cannot fight what she cannot see. She doesn’t have the resources to come looking for us. It will be our indirect methods that secure our victory. Tell no man who you are or where you come from. Only use your superpowers when absolutely necessary, and even then don’t reveal the source of your power.” Heads nod around the table.

“Moving from strategy to current conditions, we begin with the premise that the Mandates are a done deal. We will not speak out against them until they are turned against the people. Instead, we will tell them to take and store things distributed freely in the first three-and-a-half years, like food and supplies. We will also advise them to take advantage of the preventative health care programs. If their diets and fitness routines are perfected, they will have a better chance of fighting off disease and withstanding extreme environments.

“Here are my assignments: Since I have the power of teleportation, I will take the distant scouting trips and find leaders who will help us create a worldwide resistance. We will need a network of small, interconnected groups to create a formidable underground movement. We will update and communicate with the leaders of the small groups every day and grow this thing organically.

“Since the Internet has been compromised, we will need a different way to send and receive information. One no one has seen before.”

I turn towards the screen and tap the remote. “I present to you the Stealth Runner.”

Tony pulls her chair closer to the screen by walking it forward with his feet. “Whoa, what is that?”

“This is the newest weapon of war—and one we will be using. I still have my connections and live codes to access drones and other supplies. Some of the people helping me have no idea I died. I purchased thousands of these drones on my no-limit credit card. I am having the boxes delivered to an empty warehouse in the city. I took out a one-year lease for the warehouse. We will have the drones distributed by the time the lease expires.

“Getting back to your question, Tony, this drone was designed by German engineers and is solar-powered. With the right conditions, it can fly indefinitely. It can move at one hundred miles per hour and carry up to twenty-five grams of cargo. Its flat surfaces and sharp edges make it undetectable by radar.”

“Wow, I have a new obsession. The possibilities of this piece of technology are endless. How do we use it to communicate?”

“It will carry this.” I pull a small tile-like square from my right pocket and hold it up for everyone to see. “This is the Micro Card. It can hold up to two hundred hours of encrypted video.” Out of my left pocket, I pull the Mini Video Recorder/Player. “And, it will carry this.”

“No way!” Tony walks his rolling chair all the way to me and picks up the Recorder and Micro Card for inspection.

I’m relieved the team sees the potential of the communication method I chose. It was a bit of a head-scratcher to find the right thing for our needs. “The recorder also has night vision and a wide-angle camera—so it can spy for us as well.”

“Good call, Commander.” I look at Liam to see him giving me a thumbs up.

“Both pieces together weigh about the same as a deck of cards. After being dropped into human hands, a countdown begins within the unit. The player must be synced with a secure app within sixty minutes or a tiny needle will puncture the plastic reservoir and leak a single drop of fluid that will destroy the card’s content.”

“So, it self-destructs?”

“Yes. Also, the video it carries can only be viewed one time. The message scrambles itself as it plays.”

Seiko walks forward to take the items from Tony. “This is good. A bit primitive in terms of its delivery time, but inventive given our circumstances. How does the GPS work?”

“This will be your job, Seiko. I’d like you to stay here at our basecamp and run the GPS programming for all the drones. I realize I already asked you to set the tracking data as well as designing the new algorithms…”

“Let me stop you right there, Commander. I got this. I got all of this. If I find I can’t handle something, I’ll let you know. Carry on.”

I lightly laugh at her response. “Okay, then. That covers the jobs for Seiko and me. Let’s move on. Liam, your power with shapeshifting allows you to be invisible to the human and demon eye. Anna appointed Cadey Matteson to lead her military and security operations around the globe. I want you to stay glued to her side. She’ll be moving all over the world.”

“You got it, Commander Cunningham.”

“Tova, I want you here at the basecamp with Seiko. I’m putting you in charge of maintaining our home and keeping our supplies guarded. Your telepathy power allows you to send instantaneous messages to each of us in the field, as well as the new leaders of the small groups. Once they’re chosen and open the channels with you.”

“Absolutely, I’ll be here.”

“Tony, your assignment is to use your ability to speak to demons to find out how we can detect them when they change forms. There must be a way that we can tell.”

“I accept the challenge.”

“Good. Sterling, I need your mindreading abilities in Anna’s headquarters. I want you by her side—whether she’s in Jerusalem or Geneva. Find a way to blend into the scenery without being detected. You will be our first-hand spy, but I need you to watch yourself carefully. We don’t know what powers Lucifer has cultivated in her inner circle of demons.

“Kimmy, you will be based in our cave here, but you will constantly move around the world. I’ll place you where we detect intense activity and major territorial advances of Lucifer. You will go onsite and use your creative mind to find us the solutions we need.”

“Aw, thank you… I mean yes, Commander.” Kimmy smiles sheepishly at the group.

“Good! I want to wrap up this session. There’s much to do. Before we go our separate ways, I want to share a verse from the Christian Bible we will use as our motto: ‘Put on the full armor of Almighty to be able to stand against the schemes of Lucifer.’ We will hang this on our wall, and say it aloud together every time we meet to pray and meditate.”

The room is unusually quiet, so I decide to move the team outside before I make my final point “Let’s head to the Summit.” The group follows my lead.

When we reach the top, we stand shoulder to shoulder and look out over Abraham’s Promised Land. I look to the Heavens and whisper a prayer. “Please let me be right about this.”

As we continue looking into the distance, I begin to speak. “Though it’s rarely discussed by the clergy, I’ve found examples in religious writings that prove Almighty can, and does, change his mind. Man likes to think of Almighty as a fortress—fixed and steady. The truth is, there are many examples of Almighty negotiating with man on the conditions of answered prayer.

“In the Christian Bible, I found this: ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear them from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ Beautiful and hopeful promise, right?”

The team looks at me and everyone nods slightly.

“You know, I was thinking about it—every time a prayer is answered, or a soul is saved, Almighty is changing his mind. Sometimes, it’s in response to man changing his mind first. Other times, Almighty comes to man to present a conditional promise.

My team members look a little confused, and I feel as if I’m fumbling all over myself. I decide to just blurt it out. My voice is strong and clear as I begin. “I am proposing we go to battle with three objectives: 1. Move mankind to the offensive, 2. Put Lucifer on the defensive, and 3. Convince Almighty to change the end of this story.”

Sterling is the only one who dares to speak. “Are you saying what I think you are saying, Grayson?”

“I hope so. I’m saying… let’s dare to change a future that has already been written.”


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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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