Unite and conquer td 102, p.1

Unite and Conquer td-102, page 1

 part  #102 of  The Destroyer Series

 

Unite and Conquer td-102
 


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Unite and Conquer td-102


  Unite and Conquer

  ( The Destroyer - 102 )

  Warren Murphy

  Richard Sapir

  Start the Revolution Without Them

  Not that things were so hot before, but when a huge earthquake guts Mexico, nobody wants to hang around, especially with all sorts of demonic doings by the barbaric gods of old Mexico, released from hell when the earth ruptured.

  Not satisfied with great takeout, the ancient Aztecs are hungry for the lifeblood of the entire continent. It's up to Remo and Chiun to go south of the border and root out the inhuman mind who is uniting downtrodden Indian tribes into a ferocious guerrilla army and leading them into a new dark age of bloodlust and superstition.

  Is an army of deathless demons too powerful for even the implacable avatar of Shiva the Destroyer? It's good versus god, with the human race helpless trophies for the victor.

  Destroyer 102: Unite and Conquer

  By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

  PROLOGUE

  The Great Mexico City Earthquake was destined to be great because it shook more than Mexico City.

  When it started, it shook the earth, of course. The Valley of Mexico rattled like dice in a stone cup. The seismic vibrations reached out to all of Mexico.

  The ground quivered as far north as the Rio Grande. It touched the jungled Guatemalan frontier. The jungles of Cancun, Acapulco and the sandy curve of the Gulf of Tehuantepec were each stirred in turn.

  No corner of Mexico was untouched, new or old. The weathered pyramids of Chichen Itza made plaintive grinding noises in sympathy with the collapse of distant skyscrapers. Monte Alban trembled. Yucatan shivered. Teotihuacan, a ruin so old no living being knew by name the race that built it, sank a quarter-inch into the unsettled soil.

  To the south in the Lacandon forest of Chiapas, the shaggy trees swayed as if the very earth was stirring to new life. Stirred dust arose from the old Maya ruins at Panenque and Copan.

  In that jungle the earthquake that was shaking Mexico shook the man who had shaken Mexico in turn.

  Subcomandante Verapaz crept through the jungle in his brown polyester fatigues, the trademark red paisley bandana tied tight around his neck, his head all but enveloped by a black woolen ski mask. His smoldering pipe jutted from a small ragged hole snipped in the mask just below his obscured nose.

  When the mahogany trees all around began to groan in wordless complaint, he lifted his hand to call a halt.

  "Wait!" he said in the tongue of the Maya.

  Behind him his well-trained Juarezistas froze.

  Kneeling, he doused his pipe, which was as much a trademark as his wool ski mask. His eyes, green as the quetzal bird, peered through the heavy forest. His ears strained to hear through the light wool muffling his skull.

  The Lacandon forest, home to the Maya and the Mixtec, was in turmoil. A storm seemed to shake it. But there was no storm. It was a cool March day, and utterly windless. But the trees shook as if lashed by an unfelt wind.

  The soft soil beneath his black combat boots seemed like cornmeal settling in a gourd.

  "Noq!" he barked, using the Mayan word for earthquake. "Kneel and wait it out."

  His Juarezistas obeyed. They were brave men. Boys, really. Thin as rails and identically clad in brown polyester with black ski masks. Only their lack of a pipe set them apart from their subcommander. That and their dark brown mestizo eyes. None were criollo-white. Or even mestizo.

  What culture had birthed Subcomandante Verapaz was unknown even to his Juarezistas. Many were the speculations. The legend was but two years old and already it had grown to mythic proportions.

  Some said he was a fallen Jesuit priest. A name was even floated in the media. Others averred that he was the disgraced son of one of the plantation owners who oppressed the Maya. Some called him American, Cuban, Guatemalan-even a Maoist Sendero chased out of the Peruvian highlands. All manner of identities except indio.

  With his green eyes, he could not be an Indian.

  It was said that Subcomandante Verapaz was a god to the Maya Indians. That they followed him blindly.

  As the earth moaned in its mute agony, Verapaz dropped to one knee, clutching his AK-47, his green eyes narrowing.

  Far, far to the north, a wisp of dun smoke showed on the horizon. It grew ugly and began spreading outward like a dirty brown mushroom cloud.

  "Look," he said.

  His Juarezistas began to scale trees even though this was dangerous to do with the federal army so near. They climbed the better to see the plume of smoke on the far horizon.

  It was not smoke of afire, they understood very quickly. It was too vast, too impenetrable and too brown. It could only be Smoking Mountain, the volcano the Aztecs of the north called Popocateped, belching up its ashy innards. Eruptions had happened before.

  But never with such vehemence that the result could be seen in the poor lower corner of Mexico.

  "Popo!" a Maya cried. "It is Popo!"

  "There is no fire," another called down.

  Verapaz sucked on his pipe. "Not now. Not yet. But perhaps the fire will come."

  "What does it mean, Lord Verapaz?"

  "It means," said Subcomandante Verapaz, "that Mexico City itself twists and writhes in her deserved torments. The time has come. We will leave the jungles now. The jungle is behind us. From this day forward, our unassailable goal is nothing less and nothing more than the capital itself."

  And with their muttering growing fainter, the Juarezistas dropped from the trees and shook with an anticipation that had nothing to do with the earth and its convulsions.

  They knew they had been transformed from ragtag rebels who defended their hovels and cornfields to instruments of true civil war.

  Chapter 1

  In Kigali it seemed like a joke.

  Supreme Warlord Mahout Feroze Anin had come to the Rwandan capital looking for refuge from the war-torn Horn of Africa nation of Stomique, which he had bled dry until even the naive and credulous United Nations stopped feeding it. That was what he told the international press when he resurfaced in Kigali.

  "I am a revolutionary no more. I seek only peace." And since he smiled with all of his dazzling ivory teeth and did not snarl his words, the bald lies were taken down and printed the world over as truth.

  That was on day one of his exile.

  On day five, he had dinner with a minor Rwandan general.

  "We can own this country inside of two months," he told the general in a low conspiratorial tone. His gold-tipped swagger stick leaned against his chair. A bluish diamond flashed on a twenty-five-carat gold ring setting. "You have the soldiers. I have the military genius. Together..." He spread his hands and let the thought trail off into implication.

  The minor general looked interested. But the words that emerged from his generous mouth belied his facial expression.

  "I have the soldiers, oui. But your military genius has bankrupted Stomique. It is a stinking corpse rotting in the sun. Even if one were to discover oil under the capital, no one would bother with it."

  "I have money, mon general. "

  "And I have it on excellent authority that you crossed the border on foot, with nothing more than your billfold and swagger stick, mon ami."

  They spoke liquid French, the language of the educated of postcolonial West Africa.

  "I have a cache of treasure," whispered Anin.

  "Where?"

  "That is for me to know."

  "It is said your wealth was left behind in Nogongog, where it now languishes."

  "No one knows where it is."

  "As I said, languishes." The minor general continued carving up his antelope steak. The red juices ran. Seeing
this, he took up his coffee spoon and began sipping the blood as if it were a tepid consomme.

  The waiter hovered about, replenishing the wineglasses. He was white. This was the finest French restaurant in Kigali, but former Supreme Warlord Mahout Feroze Anin had no eye for mere waiters. Not when he was a warlord in search of an army of revolution.

  "Once I have a nation," Anin confided, "it is only necessary to declare war on Stomique, invade, and my wealth will be recovered. Which I of course will share with my very closest allies."

  "I have no interest in revolution," the minor general said as he masticated a fat wedge of antelope. "I am an African patriot."

  "Then why did you agree to meet with me?" Anin sputtered.

  The minor general bestowed upon Anin a smile more ingratiating than his own practiced one.

  "Because," he said, "on my lowly salary I could never afford to eat in so fine a restaurant as this."

  As that point, the bill was laid at Anin's elbow by the faceless phantom of a waiter, who quickly withdrew.

  With a sinking feeling, Anin understood that he would have to dig into his thinning billfold to deal with it. He had hoped the general would offer to pick up the tab as a gesture of his newly redirected loyalty.

  The bill lay upon a silver tray. A filigreed lid covered it from prying eyes.

  Reluctantly Anin lifted the lid.

  A small black calling card was exposed. Frowning, he picked it up.

  It was inscribed in blood-red ink with four words: YOU ARE THE FIRE.

  His bald brow furrowing, Anin turned the card over. The obverse was printed with four more English words: I AM THE EXTINGUISHER.

  "What is this!" Anin howled, standing up.

  The maitre d' came bustling up. He offered profuse apologies in impeccable French, and a search was undertaken for the waiter. He was not found. Nothing could be learned of him other than that he was an expatriate American, hired only that morning.

  "What is this man's name?" Anin demanded as the minor general, concerned about the commotion, slipped out the back door.

  The manager appeared and said, "The name he gave was Fury."

  "He should be fired for disturbing my meal," Anin screeched, waving his malacca cane. "He should be exiled. All Africans know that the Americans wish me dead because I stood up to their imperialist forces. Not content to hound me from my own country, they have embarked upon a campaign of intimidation here in neutral Rwanda."

  His voice sought higher and higher registers, and the maitre d' quietly tore up the check and called a taxi for the former supreme warlord lest the bulging purple veins on his high forehead signify the onset of a sudden and appetite-inhibiting stroke.

  As he climbed into the taxi, Mahout Feroze Anin allowed himself a sly smile. It could not have turned out better. Unless of course, the minor general had acceded to revolution. But there were other troubled African nations. If fact, most African nations were troubled in these post-Cold War times. Burundi continually chafed at the edge of civil war, for example.

  As he was coveyed through bustling Kigali traffic, Anin wondered what the waiter had meant by his strange message.

  Perhaps a United Nations agent was simply trying to frighten him, he decided. Having failed to capture him in his stronghold, they were reaching out to him in exile.

  Two days later, Anin reappeared in Bujumbura, having skipped out on his hotel bill in Kigali.

  When he realized late in the evening no Burundi general would accept his call, he ordered room service.

  "Yes," he told the room-service operator. "I would like a zebra roast, with all the trimmings, a bottle of the house wine as long as it is French and a blond tart, also French."

  The blonde came smelling of French perfume, and smiled salaciously upon Anin as he ate his fill.

  As they laughingly emptied the wine together, Anin plunged into her sumptuous charms and, after a suitable interval of play, sank into a relaxed sleep. There was something about a woman who obeyed his every whim that restored a man's faith in the eternal malleability of humanity.

  In the middle of the night, Anin rolled over in bed and struck his hand against something hard and metallic. It made a faint clang when his diamond ring touched it.

  "Yvette?" he whispered.

  There was no reply from the rounded shape on the adjoining pillow. Heart pounding, Anin groped the unmoving object. It was cold and metallic, not warm and compliant like Yvette. And in the African moonlight, it gleamed like steel.

  Snapping on the night-table light, Anin saw the steely gleam resolve into the heavy tube of a large fire extinguisher.

  It occupied the spot where Yvette should have been. The covers had been pulled up so that only the pressure-gauge dial showed. Tied to it with a scarlet ribbon was an ebony calling card. Anin snatched it up and read the legend with his heart trip-hammering in his chest.

  One side said: PREPARE TO BE SNUFFED OUT.

  The reverse bore the familiar printed legend: THE EXTINGUISHER.

  Jumping out of bed, Anin called the hotel manager.

  "I have been violated by your lax security!" he shouted.

  Again profuse apologies were offered. The bill was torn up with great ceremony. "You may, of course, stay as long as you wish, General Anin. Charges will accrue from noon of this day only."

  "I demand two free nights. No-make that three. Let it be a lesson to you to tighten up your worthless security."

  The manager acquiesced instantly. The reputation of the five-star hotel meant more than a mere five thousand dollars.

  After the hotel staff had departed, lugging the offending extinguisher, Anin found he could not sleep. It was too dangerous to remain in Bujumbura. Perhaps Dar es Salaam or Maputo would be safer for a fugitive expatriate warlord.

  Rushing to the closet, he discovered Yvette on the floor, trussed up like a political-torture victim. Her eyes were hot and angry.

  Untying her, he demanded, "What happened to you?"

  "A man stole upon me in the night," she complained. "He wore black and was white. Other than that, I could see nothing."

  "You did not call out?"

  "He placed a ferocious pistol to my head."

  "He was armed?"

  "I have never seen such an ugly weapon. It literally bristled with menace."

  Anin's brow puckered. "Why did he not shoot me?" he muttered. "He was armed. He could have shot me dead in my sleep."

  Climbing into her clothes, Yvette quoted the agreed-upon price.

  Anin snapped out of his puzzlement.

  "You expect me to pay your price when you failed to warn me of danger?" he snarled.

  "I sell pleasure, not protection. You have been pleasured. Now you must pay."

  "Then I will hire a tart who is adept in the protection arts."

  "Bonne chance, " said Yvette, who nevertheless held out for her price and would not go until her scarlet-nailed hands curled around it.

  In the end, Anin gave it up. Luxury hotels were easy to hoodwink compared to call girls. And he had to get out of Bujumbura as quickly as possible.

  IN NAIROBI, there was some difficulty procuring a hotel room given his odd demands.

  "You would like a room without a fire extinguisher?" The hotel manager was dubious.

  "No. No. I wish a room on a floor without a fire extinguisher."

  "We have fire extinguishers on all of our floors. It is a safety precaution."

  "I have a phobia. I cannot be around fire extinguishers. I am allergic. The mere sight of their steely, sinister hulks makes me nervous."

  And since he was Mahout Feroze Anin, a former head of state and presumed wealthy, all the fire extinguishers were stripped from the top floor before Anin was escorted to the Presidential Suite.

  By that time, he knew he was being stalked.

  It was time to put aside all thoughts of revolution and acquire a personal protective force, the more vicious the better.

  "I WISH PROTECTION," Anin announced to Jean-Erik
Lofficier in the offices of the Nairobi Security Company. Anin's fresh candy-striped shirt was open at the neck, and his grayish fringe of hair was as dry as the sweltering Kenyan heat would allow. He leaned forward in his chair, both hands resting on his malacca cane.

  "Against enemies known or unknown?" asked the white Frenchman.

  "I am being stalked by a man who calls himself the Extinguisher. His last name is Fury. I know no more than this."

  Jean-Erik Lofficier raised both eyebrows in alarm.

  "If you are being stalked by the Extinguisher," he said gravely, "then you are a dead man. The Extinguisher never fails."

  "You know of him?"

  "In my younger days, I read of his exploits. I am astonished to hear that he is alive."

  "Still alive, you mean," said Anin, suddenly patting his tall brow with a canary yellow handkerchief.

  "No. I mean alive. I had thought he was a legend without substance."

  "You must protect me from him."

  Jean-Erik stood up gravely. "I cannot. No one can. L'Eteigneur never fails."

  "Then help me to learn more of him."

  "For five thousand francs, I will compile a dossier."

  Supreme Warlord Mahout Feroze Anin leaned forward and took the man's hand gratefully. "I will await your report."

  "It will be a pleasure to read up on L'Eteigneur. The very thought fills me with nostalgia. I would not have entered the security business if it were not for his supreme inspiration."

  Backing out from the office, Anin wore a troubled expression.

  At another security office, he was laughed at.

  "We do not fight bogeymen," Anin was told.

  He could get no other explanation than that.

  In the end Anin was reduced to doing what he had done in his early revolutionary days: recruiting street rabble. If only he had AK-47s and some khat for them to chew. His soldiers had been paid in the druglike plant. It had made them fearless. It had also made them foolhardy. If not given sufficient enemies to shoot from the backs of their rolling technical vehicles, they tended to machine-gun innocent Stomiquians in the streets.

  It took nearly all day, but Anin assembled a formidable protective force-if sheer numbers and a dull willingness to murder for food were a measure of formidability.

 
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