Abu Khan didn't mind the bombs screaming out of the darkness.
The long-range American missiles slammed with deadly precision into Osama bin Laden's camp below. The horrific destruction gave him reason for hope.
The Tomahawks exploded in the air for greater coverage. Fragments of the terrorist university and the blood of her students and instructors splattered all across the mountains. It was a triumph.
America finally knew the meaning of fear.
Seventy meters above the inferno, he watched with his hands on his hips. White-hot shock waves burst through the tunnel where he stood.
They wouldn't get Abu Mohammed Ali Khan that day. He had unfinished business.
With each impact, clods of dirt fell on his crocheted skullcap and dribbled down the green uniform stretched tight over his square shoulders. He was a tall, slender man, with weathered skin and energetic movements. Some called him nervous. He looked pale for an Indian from Bombay, but it was not due to anxiety. Together, his energy and good looks were Allah's tools.
And then there was his gift.
Like the Moghuls of Persia before him, he and his invisible army would take over the Indian subcontinent.
He glanced down at his mosquito friends beside his tightly laced military boots. Their glass tank rattled with every blast. Inside, Anopheles mosquitoes hummed with alarm.
"Relax, little chaps," he whispered in his lilting accent. "The Americans created you. They won't spoil your little home."
Shrieking, the guided missiles continued to hone in from the night sky. They flashed like silver meteors past the silhouetted forms of his men.
His young mujahid brothers cowered against the cave walls. But they needn't worry. Each blast was a victory.
Abu had been teaching his men the finer points of infiltration, exfiltration, weaponry, kidnapping and bombing in order to advance the low-level war between Pakistan and India over Kashmir.
Osama bin Laden's camp had been an inspiration. Professional overviews on how to hijack airplanes and blow up skyscrapers had given Abu's youths a taste of the big leagues.
Bin Laden's men spoke in terms of a larger agenda for Muslims around the world. His camp drew a much larger picture of a resolute and cohesive Islamic world.
If governments didn't sponsor them directly, terrorist acts sent a powerful message. Casualties in Riyadh and Dhahran had brought Saudi Arabia back into line. Blasts at American embassies had quickly convinced Kenya and Tanzania to ante up.
The destruction taking place below regained his attention. In a way, it was beautiful, like a mesmerizing Bollywood classic, a creative work of art.
The superpowers had turned out to be paper tigers.
The Soviet Army had retreated at the gunpoint of the mujahideen. Now America was trembling before the world.
Nobody was invincible!
Suddenly, a powerful concussion sent him staggering backward. He tripped and fell, covered his ears and squeezed his eyes shut. A missile had slammed into the ammunition depot, igniting the night with shrapnel, magazine rounds, mortar shells and burning powder.
As a growing red conflagration billowed from the valley floor, he regained his feet and followed the rising ball of fire with his eyes. It sucked a gust of wind out of the tunnel. He had lost his cap. His dark hair whipped in his face.
Peering through the clouds of dust, he looked about for the breeding tank.
Shards of glass lay scattered around the tunnel. He must have stumbled over it when he fell.
The explosion was sucking a swarm of mosquitoes toward the youths.
Like a dark blanket, hungry females clung to the young men's skin. In the exaggerated shadows of the dusty tunnel, the silhouettes of the men flailing to get rid of mosquitoes danced against a raging ball of fire.
At his feet lay a broken panel that still bore an orange sticker:
Genetically Volatile Organisms Inside
Centers for Disease Control
That gave him an idea. His comrades were being infected by the deadly, experimental form of malaria.
"You are truly Allah's Right Hand," he whispered. It sounded like a death sentence, and it was.
A young fellow staggered up to him, brushing mosquitoes off his arms, and fell distraught at Abu's feet.
"Commander, these are infected mosquitoes," he screamed. "What will become of me?"
"You are Allah's jawan," Abu said calmly. Allah's foot soldier. "I can put you to good use."
With the persistent gust of wind at Abu's back, the mosquitoes released their victims and soared out of the mouth of the cave to their deaths in the searing heat.
"Will I die?" the young man cried, his eyes pleading with him.
Abu remembered the words of his brother, Rajiv, the researcher in America who had sent him the infected mosquitoes: A human subject will only last a few weeks.
"Our tiny mosquitoes have died tonight, as all martyrs must," Abu said, to soften the blow. "But you will carry on another few weeks. Your septic blood will put paid to the infidels' ambitions."
"I'm not understanding you. These insects are lethal?"
"That is right. They have gifted you a great power. You can do in far more people than even these missiles. You will carry this disease to the far-flung corners of India."
"They will do you in, as well, sahib."
"Alas," Abu said, and heaved a sigh. He studied his untouched arms and legs. "It is Allah's Will that I survive."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta made a big mistake. They fired a medical researcher who holds the key to the world's tiniest weapon of mass destruction. And he's mad. His brother is a jihadist with a mission, and these deadly malaria parasites will bring him the results he needs, starting with infecting South Asia with a pandemic of fatal stings. When the daughter of former CIA officer Mick Pierce falls ill from the new, lethal disease, he and his wife Natalie begin a tense chase from the CDC to the CIA to Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Kashmir in a quest to diffuse the biological time bomb and find the madmen who hold the world hostage with a vaccine. Leading a team of crack Navy commandos, Mick begins Operation Fatal Sting that will determine his daughter's fate…and the future of the world.
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