Authors: Bryan Devore
THE PARIS PROTECTION
Copyright © 2015 Bryan Devore
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2015 Bryan Devore
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except in a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Published in the United States of America.
I do the very best I know how—the very best I can;
and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.
MAXIMILIAN WOLFF CRACKED OPEN THE silver locket in his palm and gazed at the little oval photos of his wife and son. As he thought of them, he vaguely heard the rustling of the two hundred men standing below him on the floor of a big, old Parisian warehouse. He tried to look inside the two innocent faces in the tiny pictures: Naomi’s radiant eyes and long, dark hair; his little Eli’s wide, happy smile. Recalling the joy that had once been in his life, he felt a brimming tear and blinked it away. This was perhaps the last time he would see their faces before the world erupted in fire. He took a moment longer, then closed the locket and tucked it back under his shirt. Then he stepped out onto the platform, raised his fists in the air, and yelled, “In less than an hour, we will kill the president of the United States!”
The room exploded in cheers. In their black tactical clothing, some of the men raised their Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns in the air like championship trophies. The surge of violent energy helped Maximilian move past the bittersweet memories and focus on the rhetoric of his battle cry. This would likely be the last night of his life, and he was determined to live every minute with the courage and control of the paramilitary general he had become over the past decade.
Patting the air with both hands, he quieted the men enough to continue.
“For too long, America has poisoned the world. For too long, they have plundered its natural resources so that they may live in wealth and luxury while so many others suffer in poverty and sickness and starvation and war.” He raised his arm. “But in less than an hour, we will sever the head of the demonic nation.” He swiped his hand through the air as if delivering a death blow.
More cheers erupted from the floor.
“We will wound their people as never before. Their corrupt society shall witness our moment of triumph! We will rise up from below this city like resurrected warriors and descend on the American president like a tidal wave.”
More fervent cheering.
“For we are that tidal wave of change!” Maximilian yelled. “To bring the world back closer to equality and end the imperialism that strong, corrupt nations impose on the vulnerable and weak.”
As he fired up his men, he saw that they had already grouped together in their units. The two in the demolition team stood next to the engineer with the packed diamond-toothed industrial chainsaw. Beside them stood four other men with large tanks strapped to their backs. His advanced elite made up most of the group, with early first-wave pawns behind them. The dozen dark-skinned men from his personal guard were closest to the platform. And Kazim Aslan, his second in command, stood to the right with his elite dozen warriors waiting patiently for the start of the assault.
“What we do in the next hour, we do for all those whom America has harmed!” he continued. “We do it for those who cannot claim their revenge in person! And we do it for our children, so they have some hope for a future without America trying to control the world that God has given us all!”
The men yelled like berserkers spoiling for a fight.
Maximilian paced slowly back and forward on the steel platform as the hardened faces stared up at him.
“Men,” he continued in a deep, gravelly voice, “let there be no doubt, this will be a Herculean task. To attack such a powerful enemy will cost us many lives tonight. But we must remember the importance of our task: one that will be chronicled in history for thousands of years after tonight. We are not the first to face impossible odds in conquering our enemy. More than two thousand years ago, Rome had defeated Carthage in the First Punic War. Afterward, a great Carthaginian general from that war raised a son named Hannibal Barca, who would grow to become perhaps the greatest military general of antiquity, matched only by Alexander the Great.”
Maximilian stopped and looked down on his men with pride. He had been planning this moment for three years, and he felt more alive in this moment than at any other time since his wife and son were taken from him. He had taken a long, dark path, abandoning his nation and his faith to arrive at this point in his life. But the energy he felt right now only confirmed that he was exactly where he needed to be, exactly on course to meet his destiny.
Again he spoke to the men. “Hannibal would eventually lead the next generation’s Carthaginian army into Roman territory, fighting the Romans in their own lands, conquering Roman legions on Italian soil, burning Roman cities that would not join his alliance, and striking fear into the hearts of Roman citizens for the first time in centuries. His army was always outnumbered on the battlefield, but through courage, clever deception, and brilliant strategic maneuvering, he won battle after battle. History remembers them all.”
He turned to Kazim, standing slightly below him, beside the metal platform. His second in command, a tall Turk with a mop of black shoulder-length hair, had heard him give speeches like this many times over the past few years. But there was now a look of concern on Kazim’s face, as if he had something to say.
Turning back to the men, Maximilian continued. “But before Hannibal ever fought a single battle on Italian soil, he achieved what is still considered one of the greatest feats of any army in history. He crossed the rugged, snowy Alps with an army of nearly forty thousand men and a few hundred elephants. No one thought it possible. Even Scipio, leader of the Roman army dispatched to intercept him in Spain and Gaul, never imagined that Hannibal would take his army through the high mountains instead of the lower coastal lands. But the Carthaginian had planned his invasion of northern Italy with careful calculations and a bold strategy. For fifteen long, cold days, he marched his army through the treacherous mountains. Many of his men froze. Others fell to their deaths. Before he reached the foothills leading down to the plains of northern Italy, he had lost nearly half his men and most of his elephants. But this secret crossing of the Alps had allowed his army to arrive in Italy—to the Romans’ horrified amazement—with a remaining army much stronger than if he had battled Scipio all along the coastal lands.”
He paused and listened to the silence in the vast room.
“And just as he used the snowy Alps to surprise Rome, we will use the Paris catacombs to surprise the president of the United States.”
The men gave a loud, savage roar. To Maximilian’s ears, it sounded like the barbarians from ancient tribes—Goths and Huns and Vandals—whose anger at all dominant powers had been faithfully passed, whether through genes or through spoken lore, down the centuries to the present.
After allowing the men to build their energy with their battle cries, he raised his hands to speak again. When the roaring at last subsided, he recited the words he had memorized from the historian Theodore Ayrault Dodge’s writings on Hannibal after crossing the Alps into Italy.
“Hannibal had reached his goal. He had with him a force of twenty-six thousand men . . . What was the purpose of this reckless army? To attack on its own soil a people capable of raising three quarters of a million of men; a people which, in the last conflict, but a generation since, had utterly overthrown—all but exterminated—the Carthaginian power and nationality . . . To dare this and any other danger for the chance of bringing to his feet the cruel, rapacious power of Rome, which had inflicted such injustice and degradation on his beloved country . . . The man whose courage cannot be daunted, whose mind and body are incapable of fatigue, whose soul burns with the divine spark of genius, may always confront the impossible. And Hannibal had faced all this with a full knowledge of what he was about to do. To him there was no impossible. To him, with his honest cause and unconquerable purpose, there must be a way. It is, indeed, when such a hero looks the all but impossible in the face that he is at his greatest. It is here that he shines forth, clad in all his virtue. Be it that the palm of the victor awaits him, be it that he is destined to sink beneath the weight of his herculean task, at such a time he is no longer man. He is a demigod!”
The men roared in wild jubilation.
“So follow me, men! Follow me into the darkness under this city so that we may rise up and free the world of this evil. And afterwards, as we are all taken into the brilliant light of eternity, as servants to God and proud patriots of our native lands, I shall forever know each of you as my brother! For tonight, we will achieve a victory that history will never forget!”
Maximilian’s eyes shone, reflecting the excitement he had stirred within the men. Turning to Kazim, he said, “Is everything ready?”
Kazim nodded. “The equipment is packed and waiting at the entrance to the tunnels . . . But there is a small matter you need to know about.”
“We don’t have time! We have to go now!”
Kazim leaned in and whispered, “Julian arrived with some men a few minutes ago.”
A wave of fury washed over Maximilian. “Right before we leave!” he snarled. “How did he know our schedule?”
“Someone from the syndicates informed him, I suppose.”
“You think they’re changing their plans?” Maximilian asked his trusted friend and adviser.
“They could be hedging. They have billions of euros riding on tonight.”
“It’s ironic,” Maximilian said.
“History—people like to say it repeats itself. Do you know why it often repeats itself?”
“Why?” Kazim said. He flexed his neck as if impatient to get moving.
“Because human nature is the same in every time. Passion, loyalty, love, honor, pride, ambition, stupidity, fear, hatred, betrayal, shame . . . Human nature seems the only thing in nature that doesn’t know how to evolve. Do you know the main reason Hannibal ultimately failed to destroy Rome?”
“It was because the Carthaginian senate failed to support him at a critical time during his campaign in Italy. He had just beaten the Roman army at Cannae, in the single greatest defeat the empire ever suffered in its entire eight-hundred-year existence, before or after that single day. But the politicians of Carthage—the country Hannibal was fighting for—were too foolish and fearful in their senate chamber to send the support he needed to win the war in Rome. They failed him, and it eventually cost him—and Carthage—everything.”
Maximilian paused before continuing.
“We will not let Julian and the syndicates fail us. We will not let their cowardice stop us. We will not let that species of flaw in human nature once again allow history to repeat itself. Dominik Kalmár has entrusted us with this operation, and we will triumph for him as well as for ourselves. Tonight, we will do what Hannibal ultimately failed to do: we will succeed in our decapitation strike against our greatest enemy.”