Three Legs of the Caliphate

 

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Book 2 of the Robert Curry series

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages CHAPTER 1 Abdullah Al-Rasheed thought he was having a stroke. One moment he was perfectly fine, working diligently as the CEO of an obscure but promising London investment firm, and the next moment he felt light-headed and disoriented. The room had seemed to turn invisible, shadows shifted, objects faded then reappeared, many had the same form, but some—most, in fact—had changed. Blinking didn’t change the scene, and when he realized it wasn’t a hallucination, his heart started to react by becoming a drum. The computer monitor was larger and had a different color arrangement. Most of the codes and lines were green whereas they were red just a minute before. He raised his eyebrows in disbelief and looked at the wall. Where there had been a hotel-level painting, there was now a large Matisse. The furniture, too, had transformed; more elegant, expensive. The shimmering had stopped and everything had become solid again. He shook his head, closed his eyes then re-opened them: still the same sight. Then a tangible difference from a different sense: The unfamiliar tufted oxblood leather chair didn’t creak as he rose. Trembling and weak, he went to the window and grabbed the sill. “Ma aldhy yahiddith?” he asked himself through quickened breath. What is happening? The obscene Gherkin Building stood a few blocks away, and the London Eye was in the far distance poking above the buildings across the street. Same view, so his office hadn’t changed, but… The more he realized that it had not been a momentary delusion, that whatever happened was real, the more the worm of anxiety tried to take control of his guts. An attempt to restrain the shaking that threatened to force his knees to fold didn’t work as well as he had hoped. His mind was awash with confusion as he struggled back to the © Timothy Freriks 2016 1

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages edge of his desk and pressed the ‘INT’ button on the phone which was larger and more complex than it had been. “Elizabeth?” he asked, almost breathlessly. “I’m sorry?” came the delayed response. The voice was different. “Who is this?” “Aadila, Mr. Al-Rasheed.” There was a pause. “Your secretary.” “Where is Elizabeth?” Another hestitation. “I don’t know an Elizabeth. I’ve been working for you for four years, sir.” Abdullah jerked his head backward slightly as a cold sweat instantly popped to his skin. People had changed, too? How can that be? “Are you okay?” No, he wasn’t. “Aadila, please try to reach Dr. Shaheed,” he said. “I’m not feeling well.” “Of course.” At least, my doctor still exists, he thought. Abdullah fell back into the plush executive chair and took a deep breath. As he tried to quiet his racing heart and calmly evaluate his environment, he noticed two things within milliseconds of each other: first, the number on the lower right side of his screen was $312,454,932.32. As his mouth and eyes flew open in surprise, he saw another difference: the nameplate on the monitor read COMBS. He had purchased one made by Matsimoto just three weeks before. *** The arched ceiling of the aging St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in College Park, Maryland, had been crumbling for years, but fund raising efforts had finally produced sufficient money to fix it. The low bidder was an aggressive company named Al-Bina Construction. Bearded men had become a common sight as they walked and worked on the scaffolding above the Nave. They seemed friendly. © Timothy Freriks 2016 2

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages CHAPTER 2 Robert Curry finished reading his own biography President Richard Combs had left him in the anteroom of the Oval Office. The reality of ending up in another replacement history had settled in, and with it was the satisfaction of knowing he had accomplished the mission he had accepted many years ago: to end the threat to his Master Entity’s creation, Earth. As best he could tell, his life in this timeline was close enough to the one he had originally lived that he thought he could return to it without raising suspicions or concerns. After a deep, calming breath, it was time to go home. HOME. What a beautiful word. His heart had quickened with anticipation as he walked to the hallway door and reached for the handle, then paused. “President Combs?” he said to himself, shaking his head. He still couldn’t quite believe it. Richard Combs had been his best friend and partner for twenty-seven years, actually, eighty-eight years if you counted his first life and the second, and the thirty-four years of the current life which he didn’t remember. Less than a week before—in another world, another time—Curry was the President and Combs was his Vice President. But then he failed his mission and a new—a third—history had been created, one in which his arch-enemy, Hiro Matsimoto, was strong and appearing to win the Master Entity’s competition. But Curry turned the tables and defeated his foe. He was now in what he hoped would be the final history. It appeared safe and prosperous, and Richard Combs was President. Through the thirty-seven years of the second lifetime, Curry’s heart ached for his family, Kathy, and his daughter, Tyler. At the end of his first history, they died tragically before he was transported back in time. In the second, Kathy died before they met, and Tyler never lived. He never saw them in the third, but now, in the fourth, he was © Timothy Freriks 2016 3

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages close to seeing them alive again, looking forward to holding them tightly, loving them more strongly than he had ever loved them. He finally swallowed hard and opened the door. Agent Stephen Daniels was in the hallway, as promised. “Agent Daniels, the President said you could take me home when I was ready.” “Yes, sir,” he said. “We can leave now.” They left the West Wing and got into a black Chevrolet Caprice. Daniels started the car then turned to Curry. “While the President is still in office, I’ll be your conduit. When he leaves office, I will be the leader of the FPOTUS detail. You’ll see me a lot, I’m afraid,” he chuckled. “I’m not afraid,” Curry replied with a short laugh. After a moment, Daniels turned serious. “The President filled me in as much as he could. My father had a small stroke when he was about your age, too. It took him a few weeks to remember everything, but he was fine for another twenty years. I think you’ll be okay, too.” Brilliant, Curry thought. A stroke could be confused with a loss of memory or, more accurately, the fact that he didn’t know things simply didn’t happen. “I appreciate that, Daniels.” “I prepared that dossier you read. It covers all your recent activities and friends and responsibilities, but I have done a lot more research on my own, so if you get stuck, just call this number, and I’ll be able to help.” He handed him a business card. Curry nodded. “I might need your assistance. I’m actually nervous about looking stupid.” “No problem,” Daniels continued. “I arranged for you to take a week’s leave from your teaching duties at Woodbridge College. We can get you completely caught up. I’m sure it will all come back.” “Thanks.” Daniels pulled out a different business card and handed it to Curry. “This reads Ronald Meagan, investment advisor, but it is actually the President’s private cell phone number. No one but you has this, and it must remain secret.” “Ronald Meagan. Seriously?” He looked at it and laughed. “That’s my pal, alright.” © Timothy Freriks 2016 4

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages “The President said he will be available whenever you need him. Don’t hesitate to call me, too.” “Thanks, Stephen.” Daniels smiled and put the car in gear and backed out of the parking space. “You must be good friends,” he said. Curry shook his head and looked out the window at the familiar surroundings. “You have no idea.” Daniels waved at the officer in the gate house and pulled out into traffic. Curry was finally on his way to rediscovering the life he had left almost forty years before. *** The large sheet of plastic hanging from the scaffolding protected the congregation from falling dust and debris, but it also protected the workers from inquisitive eyes below. No one noticed the workers any more. After two weeks, they had become as familiar as any other member of the flock. Large bags of construction materials had also become commonplace. There was no hint of what was to come. © Timothy Freriks 2016 5

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages CHAPTER 3 Abdullah surveyed his immediate surroundings more calmly and started to catalogue the similarities and differences, but his mind was no closer to understanding what had happened to him. He heard a muted cheer outside his office, much like the ones that his traders released when something good occurred, only louder. He went to the door and hesitated, not really wanting to examine anything more than the personal environment he had just started to come to grips with. But, he had to; he couldn’t stay in his office for the rest of his life. Cautiously, he opened the door twelve inches and peeked out. Beyond a desk was an enormous space, crammed with men at computers, all diligently tapping away at keyboards, eyes constantly glancing at a huge eight-sided array of monitors hanging in the middle. He closed the door hard, pushing against it as if to hold back the reality of what he had seen. Heart racing, he felt his brain was about to explode. He had built the trading floor from a base of himself and one partner six years before and expanded it to eight traders and seven support staff. There must have been close to seventy people in the room. A stroke, he thought. I’m certainly having a stroke and imagining all of this. He decided that the best course of action would be to lie down on the couch and get some sleep. When he awoke, he was certain things would be back to normal. “Abdullah!” someone yelled from the other side of the door. “Abdullah!” Abdullah fought the urge to avoid the intruder, but he had apparently already been seen. There was really no escape, so he opened the door just far enough to face the short, sweaty man. “What do we do with our position in Midweb? It’s a dollar away from your target price.” © Timothy Freriks 2016 6

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages As if driven by another force, he opened the door fully. It sounded like a different voice he heard from outside his head—but it was his, and it was full of confidence. “Wait for $95. Then sell. It might be next week, but that is as high as it will get.” “Yes, sir,” came the response and the unquestioning small dark man scurried away. Abdullah had no idea who he was. Then: Wait! How did I know that? He tried to analyze the decision process he had used, but the only words he could bring up were: I just did. A woman he assumed was Aadila appeared as he remained in the doorway. “Are you alright, Mr. Al-Rasheed?” The honest answer: he didn’t know. “Mr. Al-Kazim would like to see you. And the doctor is on his way.” Mr. Al-Kazim? That name was not familiar. “Who?” “Dr. Shaheed.” “No. Not the doctor.” He tried to sound calm. “Who wants to see me?” Aadila looked at him oddly, brows furrowed. “Your partner, Khalid Al-Kazim. Are you sure you’re okay?” What the hell? My partner is Donald Whitehead. Confused fragments of possible actions tumbled through his mind, but at the base was one concrete, driving fact: He needed to make sense of this new world, and surely someone had to know what was going on. If the doctor couldn’t help, certainly his ‘partner’ would. Whoever Khalid Al-Kazim was, maybe he could straighten things out. “Tell him to come to my office, please. After the doctor leaves.” “Yes, sir.” Abdullah closed the door and walked around the office, touching objects, sorting and analyzing, searching for answers until Aadila announced the doctor’s arrival. “I feel fine,” he offered to Dr. Shaheed a moment later. “But, I seem to have disorientation.” “Let me take a look.” The doctor took Abdullah’s vital signs and determined that except for an accelerated pulse and blood pressure, he seemed to be in perfect shape. © Timothy Freriks 2016 7

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages “We’ve talked about this, Abdullah. You have to find a way to calm down. You are as tight as a drum. Relax. Stress can do powerful things.” Like, have a Matsimoto monitor turn into a Combs monitor? He wanted to ask. “So, it is stress?” “There doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong. Go home and get some sleep. Visit your summer place and don’t talk to anyone for a week.” What summer place? Abdullah pushed that away and pondered the doctor’s words. Could it be stress? “I’m very busy,” he said, almost by rote. “That’s your normal answer, Abdullah,” Shaheed sighed. “I don’t expect you to change. Just try to relax more. You see what happens if you don’t.” Shortly after the doctor left, Abdullah went to the window and stood there, his brain spinning. A moment later, the door opened, and a tall, dark, sophisticated man with thick silver hair entered. Abdullah turned toward him. He was impeccably dressed in a deep blue suit. He smiled at Abdullah as a friend would, but he did not look familiar at all. “Abdullah,” the man said calmly as he sat down in front of the desk and settled in. “You are having an interesting day, yes?” The man had a strong middle eastern accent, not unlike his own. Abdullah then considered the man’s words and straightened up. His eyes narrowed. “Who are you and how do you know that?” The man motioned toward the desk. “Please sit. We have much to discuss.” Cautiously, Abdullah returned to his chair and sat, eyes never leaving his visitor. “The good doctor probably blamed it on stress, correct? But it is not, my friend. I will explain who I am in a minute, but first: tell me about your morning.” Abdullah did not know how to start; this was a total stranger, but also someone who seemed compassionate, understanding, and willing to listen, which he needed very badly at the moment. © Timothy Freriks 2016 8

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages Abdullah cleared his throat. “Alright. I seem to be having some mental issues today. I’m having a hard time remembering and comprehending things, almost everything, in fact. I realize this will sound crazy, but…” Abdullah shifted his weight in the plush chair. “Listen: Aadila said you were my partner. But my partner is Donald Whitehead and..,” Khalid raised his hand. “I know, Abdullah. Nothing makes any sense to you right now. I understand you must be disoriented,” the man’s smooth voice poured over him, somehow comforting. “But underneath the confusion, you have a sense of clarity. Am I right?” Clarity? Although it seemed like an odd choice under the circumstances, the word climbed out from under the chaotic mass of other words and suddenly sat at the forefront of Abdullah’s mind. When the trader approached him fifteen minutes before, there was nothing of the usual second-guessing, none of the normal fear of making a wrong decision; he simply answered the question with a very real self-assurance that surprised him. When he had looked at the Matisse hanging on his wall, it oddly seemed to fit. Yes, he did feel intense disorientation, but under it, there had been a profound sense of familiarity, a certain lack of ambiguity, as if the contents of his office belonged there, to him. “How do you know this? Who are you?” he paused. “Who am I? What is happening?” The man leaned over to the intercom. “Aadila. We are not to be interrupted for any reason.” “Yes, sir.” Khalid sank back into the comfortable chair and stretched his long legs. “What I have to tell you will be difficult to comprehend. I’ve been waiting many years to have this conversation.” “But we just met,” Abdullah said, cocking his head to one side. “No, my friend. We have been together for seven years as partners.” Abdullah recoiled. “Seven years! But… How…” Khalid held up his hand for silence. “In these last seven years, we have done very well in the financial world in preparation for a holy © Timothy Freriks 2016 9

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages mission. But our success has been limited. Now that you are here, we will complete our mission.” “Mission? Now that I am here? What are you talking about? I’ve always been here, and I’ve never met you.” “We are partners not only in Saalab Investments but in the service of Islam. My job has finished, and now I will help you fulfil your destiny—our destiny.” Abdullah stared blankly at this strange visitor who spoke riddles. “Our destiny? Our quest? I don’t understand, Khalid. I don’t understand anything of this. I…” Khalid interrupted with a wave of his hand. “Wait, please. I will explain. Today is May 13, 2000. This is the day when one history has replaced another.” Abdullah’s mouth fell open then snapped shut. “One history? Replaced?” Khalid’s words had made no sense. “This is not a good explanation, Khalid.” “In time, you will understand it all. Let us start at the beginning. You felt very strange sensations today, yes?” “Sensations?” More like break down, Abdullah thought as he took a deep breath and tried to again settle his racing heart. “Oh, yes, I experienced very unusual emotions that I can’t explain, but...” “I know what you are going through. Listen carefully. It happened to me seven years ago. But, it was actually today.” Abdullah opened his mouth to respond, but then shut it and narrowed his eyes again, just staring into the man’s dark eyes. Other options, more rational ones, started to surface. “I see,” he said softly. “Is this an elaborate scheme to force me out, to drive me crazy? It won’t work.” Khalid shook his head. “It is not a scheme. It is true. I must explain.” Abdullah searched his visitor’s face for signs of deception but found only sincerity. He waved his hand. “Please.” Khalid continued. “Today was a transition, from my leadership to yours. You have been given a great gift by Allah, the gift of foreknowledge, the ability to see all the critical events that will occur © Timothy Freriks 2016 10

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages in the next sixteen years. I was given this gift on this same day, which for me occurred seven years ago.” “Today is seven years ago? The next sixteen years?” Abdullah put his hands on the sides of his head, rocking slightly back and forth. “This is making it worse, Khalid.” “Hear me through. Let go of everything you think you know and listen carefully. On this day in the year 2000, a mysterious Iranian man, a stranger, visited me. A short time into our conversation, I began to feel odd.” “What do you mean, odd?” “It was as if a mist formed and I descended into it.” Abdullah’s eyebrows rose. “A mist?” “The man said it was the Mist of Allah. I never heard of that before, but it did seem as if I was being consumed by it.” Abdullah searched his memories. “I remember a story about a Mist of Allah, but it was a fable.” “It is real. I heard a voice, but it was not the man speaking. It was like an echo. I felt it penetrate me; become a part of me, and I became part of it.” Abdullah looked at the man’s eyes. Again, he saw no deception. “It gave me instructions,” Khalid continued. “What did it say?” “That I must serve Allah unlike anyone has served Allah before. I am to become the Provider for the Caliphate.” Abdullah’s face softened; his expression had withdrawn from skeptical and somehow he moved past interested and closer to enthralled. “What does ‘Provider for the Caliphate’ mean?” “The Mist said that I will be returned to 1993 and that I would remember all the critical events that had occurred when I lived through them. With this knowledge, I was to manipulate financial markets and reap huge profits to benefit Islam.” Abdullah rubbed his forehead as he shook his head and tried to absorb the improbable story Khalid was unfolding. “Khalid. This sounds like… he tried to find the right English word… a fantasy. Time travel? That is not possible.” © Timothy Freriks 2016 11

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages “Allah is all powerful. It is possible, my friend.” Khalid leaned forward. “And it happened to me. And it has now happened to you. I bring you the same message.” “I have gone back in time?” Abdullah’s stomach filled with a different form of anxiety, a mixture of fear and anticipation. “I don’t recall anything of the future, so how can…” “You will remember only what you must remember,” Khalid interrupted. “Nothing else. When you need to know something, it will come to you.” Abdullah thought back to his earlier encounter with the trader. Is this why I knew what to tell him? Could this be true? Is this what happened? A question distilled from the jumble of input: “Why? Am I to be the Provider now?” “Yes. It is your turn,” Khalid said with a shallow smile. “I will explain it all in due time, my friend, but this is the truth. You lived through these last seven years with me, but don’t remember them.” “No, I don’t.” Abdullah held up his hand. “Wait. You are saying that I have returned from a May 13 that will exist sixteen years from now. But I don’t have full knowledge of those years, either. I can’t grasp what…” Khalid smiled. “I know this is difficult, but it is true. Allah is all powerful. Yes?” “Yes,” Abdullah said. “Allah controls time and space.” “And knowledge.” Abdullah was reciting from the Qur’an but paused. “I thought it was just words.” “No. It is fact. And Allah has taken time in his hands and given you and me great power. For his good.” “Allahu Akbar,” Abdullah replied then sat still for several moments, reflecting on everything he believed in. Allah is allpowerful. Anything is possible. “Allah is using us?” “Allah is using his power to assist us in a great undertaking.” Abdullah put his elbows on the desk and leveled his gaze at his visitor. “Khalid. You said the word ‘clarity’ a while ago. I don’t understand why, but my mind is not rejecting what you are saying.” © Timothy Freriks 2016 12

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages “Because it is true. Somehow, unconsciously, you know that. The Mist of Allah has spoken directly to your heart. Its clarity has entered you.” A gathering sense of calm filled Abdullah as he turned and looked out the window at the darkening gray clouds over London. “You said that I am a different person than I was, that my memories are of a future time that doesn’t exist.” “Your life from 1993 has been replaced with the one we shared. And we will share a new future together starting now.” “But I don’t recall anything of the years that were created for you, Khalid.” Abdullah shook his head. “I have no knowledge of who I am in this world.” He looked around the office and so many beautiful things he couldn’t recollect buying and waved his hands. “Nothing about this is familiar. I am frightened.” “I know. But you will be fine.” Abdullah looked around. There were no pictures. “I remember nothing, only fragments of my childhood.” “Nothing of your past before 1993 has changed, and I will help you remember whatever you need about this life. What is critical, however, is that the major financial events that are going to shape the world in the future are known to you. Using this knowledge, enormous profits will come and ensure our success in our holy mission for Allah.” “What exactly is our goal?” Abdullah asked. “To finance the greatest war machine the world has ever known.” “War machine?” Abdullah tensed. “For Islam. Our Jihad will be the final Jihad. Because of our success, Islam will reign supreme forever. That is our mission.” To his surprise, Abdullah realized he had warmed inside and was no longer trembling. In his heart, in his soul, he could feel confidence and strength growing. He began to believe. “Al-hamdu lillah. Praise Allah.” Abdullah Al-Rasheed sat quietly after Khalid left, his brain sorting and ordering and examining all that he had learned. When it fully settled, his heart swelled with pride and commitment to Allah, to the © Timothy Freriks 2016 13

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages faith of his father and of his youth. Khalid was right: There was clarity. He was awakening. It was as if he already had known he had been chosen for a great role and this day was just the next step. His childhood in Abu Sakhair came back to him, sitting with the father he loved so deeply, praying and letting the wealth of Islam fill his heart. He also remembered the worst day of his life when he returned as a man in 1991 to his village to protect his father and sister. The American invaders killed them without any thought of their worth, of their goodness. Over the next hour, the ache and confusion of loss and disbelief had weakened its grip, replaced by a powerful sense of determination. Believing in the mission felt right. He took a great, calming breath and dialed Khalid’s phone. “How do we begin?” “You must pass a test.” “A test? When?” “Soon. Let me explain.” © Timothy Freriks 2016 14

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Three Legs of the Caliphate (Book 2 of the Robert Curry series) 50 pages CHAPTER 4 The neighborhood was familiar. The house he and Kathy fell in love with almost twenty years before sat there, still nestled on the bend of a tree-lined street. Kathy stood at the kitchen counter, right where he last saw her before she was murdered in his first life. He thought his heart would pound out of his chest; thirty-seven years of anticipation and now, finally, it was real. In Kathy’s mind, he had to remind himself, he had left the house that morning. “Hey, Bob. You’re late.” Robert went to her and turned her around, pulling her body to his, nuzzling his face into her neck. Tears came easily, but he had to control his emotions; she wouldn’t understand. After a moment’s hesitation, she gave into him, returning his embrace. “Somebody’s a little horny?” You have no idea, he thought. He tried to weld himself to her, allowing his being to enter hers and become one. They stood like that for a minute before she pulled away. “What’s up?” she asked. “I missed you,” he said. “It seems like years, like thirty-seven years, to be exact.” She raised one eyebrow. “Thirty-seven years? Why not forty?” He chuckled as he regained control. “Okay. Forty. Who’s counting anyway?” “You’re acting strange, but I like it. Maybe Tyler can go to bed early tonight.” She raised her eyebrows provocatively. “Daddy needs a little Mommy time.” He laughed. “Maybe Bobby needs a little Kathy time.” “Oh, yeah. That, too.” The front door burst open, and Tyler flew in, her blond hair streaming behind her. Except, she wasn’t ‘little Tyler’ now: his © Timothy Freriks 2016 15

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