a short story by Noel K Hannan
art by David Stephenson
I beg the forgiveness of Allah and, more specifically, of the Covert Projects Committee of the Revolutionary Council, for the failure of the B.A.D. JIHAD project. As Project Director and Military Commander of the Masshad Research Village, it is with me that sole responsibility lies. I accept this responsibility, and ask only that your punishment be just, merciful and (above all) swift, and that you spare my comrades and brothers any retaliatory action. They were, after all, only following my orders.
You have requested a detailed breakdown of the project stages and some indication, in my opinion, of where the project went wrong. I stress again that where I may appear to blame other members of my team, I personally oversaw all major phase decisions and completions. The project was executed as follows:
PHASE ONE -- Selection of the candidate
There was much debate among the teams as whether to use a live or deceased volunteer, or to attempt the construction of an undetectable cyborg (an option favoured by the robotics and artificial intelligence teams, always eager to justify their budgets), and in the early stages a number of variants were completed and tested. My own choice would have been the cloning of an Olympic athlete and training the child from its earliest years in the skills of a warrior, however the time scale imposed upon the project precluded this. After several disastrous attempts with live subjects and some promising but ultimately fruitless androids, a hybrid was suggested and although initially dismissed by all concerned, proved to be the best compromise.
Our subject was Private Hanan Bashir of the Islamic Guards. He was gloriously killed in action at Shiraz on January 7th, 1987. As per our request to the forward field hospitals, his body was identified as conforming to our template and had all major organs intact -- he had been suffocated in a collapsed bunker during an assault by Iraqi forces. His body was delivered to us on February 1st.
At this stage we had settled on the preferred method of advance on the project and had pre-cast the hydraulic limbs, optical devices, sensors, weapon systems, heart/lung units and neural enhancements, hence the need for a physical type that lay within narrow parameters. Appropriately, Private Bashir was officially re-animated on February 24th, Martyrs Day, when a blood supply was restored to his brain.
It was at this point that I feel the project first floundered. While my teams were attempting to test and develop the unit's combat prowess and the largely experimental software, an increasing amount of operational time was being taken up by the mullahs assigned to the military village, with the express remit of investigating the after-death experiences of the subject individual. I understand that they were reporting directly to the Revolutionary Council. While I appreciate the importance of their Holy Work, I feel I must faithfully report that their presence hindered our advance and was also, I feel, instrumental in altering the mental state of the individual beyond the stable condition that we had worked hard to maintain. In my opinion, this was the main cause of failure in Phase One.
PHASE TWO -- Advanced Training and Combat Orientation
The Biological Attack Djinn proved extremely receptive to military and covert operations training. Our choice of a combat veteran was thoroughly vindicated, it showed little or no fear during live fire exercises -- perhaps because it had already gazed on the face of Allah, and returned? As the war drew to a close we were able to recruit many highly skilled advisors as well as those who had experience of the 'dirty operations' as taught to the Palestinian groups, the kind of environment that the B.A.D. would encounter on the missions that it became apparent it was being earmarked for, as large scale offensives became a thing of the past. It proved as capable in the face of an assault by a captured Iraqi tank as it did assassinating the sentries on a mock-up embassy. I am satisfied that this phase was carried out to the best, if not beyond, of our abilities, however the approach of the end of the war with Iraq and the marked change of emphasis from overt to covert operations sowed a degree of confusion in the subject's mind. Paradoxically, it is the intensity of the covert operations training undertaken that currently makes the B.A.D. so elusive for our agents to recapture.
PHASE THREE -- The Field Test
I am on record as stating that I was opposed to the planned field test. I felt that it was an unnecessary risk of an invaluable resource, for minimal research gains. At this point in the project, the emphasis had changed completely, even the enemy was different. I have no doubt that the objective was political. Forgive my candidness, but the order was carried out without question.
The B.A.D. was inserted into the battlefield during the final week of the long war that we had waged against the aggressor Iraq. I had absolute faith in the B.A.D.'s abilities but it could not win a war single handed and besides, it has primarily been designed as a prototype for the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of such units. The B.A.D.'s heroic exploits in those seven days before the ceasefire are the stuff of legends, and are well documented elsewhere. Less well known, of course, is the failure of the unit to return to base and its current whereabouts, some six months later. There have been numerous suspected sightings across the Gulf region and the Islamic world, but as yet our agents have not positively identified the unit's movements and above all, its motives.
Of course, its re-assigned primary mission remains unfulfilled. Rushdie still lives, under heavy guard by British intelligence at an unknown location. Whether or not the B.A.D. retains enough programming or human desire to carry out its primary function remains to be seen. If reports of its appearance alongside Mujahideen in Afghanistan are accurate, then it appears to be fighting a wider Jihad than we first envisaged for it. The fatwa remains unresolved, and I did not get the opportunity to implement the revised Phase Four, the assassination of the Heretic Writer.
I have of course received your order to purge this site. The order is at the moment being carried out by the unit of the Revolutionary Guard that hand-delivered it. My teams were taken away by bus into the desert earlier today, I trust you saw fit to relocate them in a place suitable for such keen minds in the service of Allah and the Revolution. Would that I join them, but the Guards ordered me to stay. It seems I must go down with my 'ship'.
The flames lick at the door even as I feed this, my report, into the fax machine. Please forgive the bloodstains at the foot of the page.
Report X22331, October 17th 1989, CIA Field Operative Howard Ringmeyer, Operation Iguana, Afghanistan
(Note : this report has been written by a highly regarded operative, a veteran of several Middle Eastern covert operations, who holds a Masters Degree in Psychology. After filing this report, the agent was withdrawn from the field and given a full medical examination and psychiatric evaluation. Analysts are convinced that the report is accurate, however the validity of some of the agent's observations cannot be independently confirmed.)
The incident took place on October 9th 1989. I was on my fifth and final assignment in Afghanistan, accompanying a party of Mujihadeen fighters, who I had been in contact with since my first visit in 1982. Then , I was supplying and training them with Stinger missiles to bring down the MIL-24 Hind helicopter gunships. Now, I was observing their tactics and conduct as they pushed the hastily withdrawing Russians north, and out of their troubled country.
We had been in sporadic combat for three days. The Muj were stalking a Russian armoured column that had got separated from its mother unit after developing mechanical problems, and was having trouble navigating its way out of a narrow valley. The column consisted of two T-72 main battle tanks and two BTR-70 PB wheeled armoured personnel carriers, about 16 airborne infantry soldiers, around twenty six Russian soldiers in all. Over the three days of the contact, snipers (including, contrary to orders, myself -- Marine Corps training proving just as effective with a Dragunov as a M16) and the odd skirmish had whittled these numbers down to about fifteen souls. One of the BTRs had been disabled by a RPG, and abandoned.
The Muj, as usual on foot, were in danger of losing their quarry if they managed to make it over the pass and on to the main metalled highway to Kabul. The lead tank was cresting the ridge and making a dash across open ground to the north, when something hit it and sheared its turret straight off. I have no idea where the weapon came from or indeed what nature of weapon it was. My best assessment, given that there was no flash, hear, smoke or signature of any kind, was that it was an extremely powerful and sophisticated laser. When we inspected the vehicle and its crew later, they had all been neatly decapitated or cut in two.
However, I did not at any time observe a vehicle or any other kind of installation that would have been required to mount a weapon of this nature. What I did see was a man in a black outfit that appeared among the remaining Russian vehicles (by now debussing their crews and paratroopers in blind panic at the fate of the lead vehicle). I thought I saw him look at an attacking Russian infantryman who then exploded. Of course, I realise how absurd this sounds, but I feel it is my duty to relate these impressions as well as harder observations. It is highly likely that the Russian's grenades exploded prematurely while trying to attack the man in black. However, I did observe this phenomenon at least three more times as the Russians scattered and the Muj fighters moved in to take advantage of their mysterious ally's actions. I tried to get in close to see who this man was, but other than to confirm he was of Arabic origin, I can provide no further information. One of the Muj fighters did manage to exchange a few words with him before he vanished. When I questioned the fighter later, he said that he had thanked the man and asked him his name. The man replied "Bad Jihad". The talk around the campfire that night was of a djinn sent to expel the Russians from their country, to kill as many of them as possible even as they retreated, to make sure that they never, ever returned. The fighter who had talked to the man, a hardened veteran of their ten year war and as cold blooded a killer as you were ever likely to meet, was visibly shaken by his experience.
I can offer no rational explanation for what I saw that day. The damage to the Russian vehicle was conducive with that which you would expect from advanced heavy weaponry, perhaps chemical laser or supercharged plasma, of a type that is not, to the best of my knowledge, in production even in the United States. I know of no country capable of producing such weaponry. Nor did I see this weapon or its vehicle. All I saw was one man, who the Muj called djinn. We would call him a devil.
Excerpt from Weekend In-Depth magazine, October 1990. Reporter -- Don McDonald
I first met Ali Hussein earlier this year when I was researching a piece on Iranian mural painters for the Observer. Ali had been an officer in a tank regiment during the Iran-Iraq war and had fought for five long years, leading by all accounts a charmed life that endeared him to his men and earned him the nickname the Lucky Lieutenant. Ali's luck ran out in the high passes of the Zagros Mountains during the Battle of Ahwaz, when he was ambushed by an Iraqi Sagger antitank missile team, and his British-made Chieftain tank was blown out from under him, along with both his legs.
"Thank Allah, they left me my hands," says Ali with characteristic pragmatism. "I cannot walk, but at least I can still paint."
The murals celebrating the heroics of the those martyred in the struggle with Iraq began to appear all over Tehran and the larger Iranian cities soon after the end of the war, depictions of muscular, clear-skinned Arabian warriors that would not have looked out of place on the covers of romantic novels. They splashed their technicolour exploits across canvases hundreds of feet high, with the blessing and support of Khomeini's successors, eager to commemorate the horrific losses of a campaign of trench warfare and poison gas that had drawn parallels with World War One. And who better to lend authenticity to the paintings than a war hero, a live martyr like Ali, still making sacrifices for his country, for Allah, and for the memory of the fallen.
I was led back to Tehran recently by a photograph that had appeared in National Geographic of a particular mural in downtown Tehran. I recognised it immediately as the work of Ali -- while he conformed to the ideal of the homogenous mural painters, his work had enough stylistic originality for it to be identifiable. I was extremely intrigued by this painting. It depicted a figure that had begun to crop up in soldiers' reports from the front line, on both Iranian and Iraqi sides, that of a lone warrior dressed in black, fighting for the Iranian side but apparently under no one's direct command. Certainly, there is no official confirmation of the individual's existence, and I have even experienced hostility when investigating the story through official channels. Of course, in a society as secret and secular as post-revolutionary Iran, hostility to enquiries of a sensitive military nature is to be expected. But the stories of this individual's exploits read more like the adventures of a comic book hero. A comic book hero brought to life by the brush of Ali Hussein.
Ali had begun work on a third mural when I visited him for the second time. Alone, I visited his second mural first, the one I had seen in National Geographic. The hero's jaw, the rippling dark hair, the laser-light stabbing from the eyes, the black cape cracking in the desert wind. Bullets bouncing off a manly chest and dead Iraqi soldiers flying in all directions. How much truth was there in these paintings, and how much was simply propaganda? And if it was just propaganda, what drove a legless war veteran to give up his life to spend eighteen months or more on each canvas, devoting himself to a single enigmatic subject, starting a new one scant days after finishing the previous?
I found Ali fifty feet in the air, sitting in the battered, paint-smeared metal bucket that was his means of transport up and down the array of scaffolding that had been erected -- by government hands? -- for his express use on the drab grey flank of an office block that he had chosen as his new canvas. His painting was only partially completed but already I could see the form of what was taking place. The hero of his previous mural had taken shape as full-blown superhero, flying over the battlefield knocking Iraqi MIG fighters out of the sky with his fists. All that was missing were the kpow! and splat!
I made myself known to Ali. He acknowledged me and I waited while he finished a portion of the painting and laboriously let himself down the system of scaffolding by ropes and pulleys. Remaining in his basket, we shook hands -- his were rough and callused from many hours hauling his battle-scarred body up and down the ropes. We shared a cigarette and I asked him about the subject of his most recent painting. Surely, this was a figment of the artist's imagination, an idealised Persian warrior, a metaphor for a dream victory over the Iraqis that never came? Or, maybe, Ali was working under the instructions of the mullahs, perpetrating a mythic reasoning for the madness that had engulfed their country for eight years.
"He is called Bad Jihad, and he is real. I have heard many reports about him, from many different soldiers, and I would not believe them if I had not witnessed him with my own eyes. I met Bad Jihad during the Battle of Ahwaz, shortly before I lost my legs."
I asked him did he think that the man had supernatural powers. This seemed the most common presumption that I had read from other reports.
"I do not know. I felt no evil from him, so if was a creature not of this earth, then surely, he was sent by Allah. Certainly, he was on our side, on Allah's side, that day."
Ali told me a story. The story of the Battle of Ahwaz. How a black-garbed man attacked an Iraqi tank column with no visible weapons, bending gun barrels and slicing of turrets with blasts of terrible light from his eyes. I looked deeply into Ali's own eyes as he told me this, a most familiar story. In there I saw no lies, nor madness. If the story is not true, it does not matter to Ali. He believes it is the truth.
His voice wavered as he finished his tale with details of his own fate, then without another word -- I think he did not want me to see him cry -- he dragged himself back up his rope to the painting and restarted his work. He had told me, in answer to my question, that he denied his memory of Bad Jihad until he started his paintings, and that it was a chance meeting with other veterans of the battle that had reactivated his recollections, and they had urged him to use his skill to commemorate the incident.
Ali died two months after I returned from Tehran, the brush strokes on his last completed painting still drying in the wind. I do not know what he saw that day at Ahwaz, and my further research has come to nothing. Lies, propaganda, myths. I do not know which, if any, are true. But Ali's belief was fundamental in its totality. Bad Jihad exists. And he's still out there.
Video tape supplied by French Secret Service (GIGN). Classification -- Tres Confidential.
(Quality 8mm video footage from tripod mounted camera in corner of hotel room. PRISONER tied to chair in centre of room, facing camera. Arabic origin, dressed smartly in a black linen suit, no tie, barefoot. Bruise on right cheek. Four other men in room, all in light summer suits or shirtsleeves. Identification badges on pockets mark them as GIGN AGENTS. The man in the chair has his hands secured behind his back, but appears relaxed. The agents rotate around him, either standing or sitting astride a chair to one side of him, firing questions in rapido French. Occasionally one strikes his face, but the prisoner does not appear overtly concerned at this treatment)
AGENT ONE -- Do you know why you have been brought here?
PRISONER -- I know that you are agents of the French government. I presume that I am accused of some crime under French law.
AGENT TWO -- That is very perceptive of you. Let us show you a photograph.
(AGENT TWO brandishes a large glossy print in front of the prisoner's face. PRISONER scans it, unmoved. AGENT TWO approaches the camera and allows the lens to record the picture. It is a high quality print of a photograph from a desert war incident. An armoured vehicle is on its side, smoking, with several soldiers lying around it, some dismembered, in French desert camouflage uniform.)
AGENT TWO -- Would you like to tell us what you see in the photograph?
PRISONER -- It appears to be the aftermath of a successful attack on a VBL armoured vehicle of the French Foreign Legion 2nd Regiment Etranger d'Infanterie, during operations conducted during the liberation of Kuwait.
AGENT THREE -- That is an extremely accurate observation. Would you like to tell us how your intelligence is so accurate?
PRISONER -- Of course. I was there. I retaliated against an unprovoked attack by the Legionnaires.
AGENT FOUR -- This unprovoked attack was a direct hit by a MILAN antitank missile on your person. Would you like to explain to us how you survived such an attack?
PRISONER -- That is classified information.
(AGENT ONE jumps up and strikes the prisoner across the face.)
AGENT ONE -- We just de-classified it! What the fuck are you? A fucking freak? Don't fuck us about, cochon, we don't play by the rules. Ever heard of 'Rainbow Warrior', eh? You are in some very serious shit.
(The agents pace the room. They take off their jackets, sweat is marking their shirts. The prisoner remains calm and unexpressive.)
AGENT TWO -- Why did you kill the legionnaires?
PRISONER -- I was conducting operations against Iraqi forces on behalf of the personal orders of the Great One, the Ayatollah Khomeini. The legionnaires wrongly identified me as an Iraqi soldier and opened fire, impeding my mission. I was forced to defend myself.
AGENT FOUR -- I will ask you again, how are you able to survive the impact of a MILAN missile? And what weapons did you use against the Legion unit?
PRISONER -- That is classified information.
(AGENT TWO straddles the prisoner and begins to beat him around the face. Suddenly, he takes his hand away, screams, and brandishes his hand at the camera. His hand is on fire.)
(PRISONER sits passive in the chair as AGENT TWO falls screaming to the floor. The other agents attempt to put out the flames with their jackets. AGENT ONE abruptly spontaneously combusts. PRISONER sits passive in the centre of the room, unmoved, as the remaining agents and the whole room is engulfed in flame. Free of his bonds, he reaches forward and picks up the video camera, holding it up to his face. Film ends)
(Tape was retrieved by intelligence sources from the ruins of the Hotel Libre, Paris, destroyed by fire on January 17th 1993)
Extract from the personal diary of Major Rupert Hockedy, Company Commander, 'A' Coy 1st Battalion The Queen's Own Yorkshire Rifles, attached to UNPROFOR, Bosnia-Herzegovina
I've been dreading writing this entry. God alone knows how it will sound when I read it as a wizened old lieutenant colonel (retd.) sipping my g&t in the Savoy. One thing is certain -- unless a Chetnik sniper takes me down and this is sent home to my nearest and dearest along with my dog tags and lucky pewter hip flask, no one is going to read it. If they did, I would be declared insane and thrown out of the service. Or maybe they would put it down to battle shock, or traumatic stress disorder, or whatever they call it these days, and give me a nice desk job. Sitting here, in a portacabin with a wooden pallet floor awash with mud, that sounds pretty good to me.
Anyway, onward and upward. This is roughly how, where, when and what. The observations are outlandish, I know. But they are the observations of a trained military officer who has been shot at by people of three different nationalities over the past five years, and who is unlikely to find himself hallucinating about Bosnian super-partisans when the first crack-thump is heard.
I had received orders to mount an armoured patrol eastwards from our base in the old school at Drbac, to monitor an apparent Serbian withdrawal from a factory complex that they had been zealously guarding for over a year. It was rumoured to contain a POW camp full of Bosnian civilians, but the Serbs had defied UN and Red Cross requests for access. To be honest, as our white painted Warrior armoured vehicles thundered down the single metalled road toward the Jinska factory, all I was expecting to find were bodies. I had come to know the Serbs, and their methods, very well.
Taking the high ground above the factory complex, we consolidated our position, sent out flanking teams of heavy machine guns and antitank weapons, and generally got ourselves into a good position in case the Serbs had decided to set a trap for us. I sent a rifle section of experienced Toms in to check for mines around the factory's huge iron gates, and they came back safely to report that there were none. But they had observed -- and been observed by -- unarmed civilians within the compound. The rifle platoon sergeant told me that the men had looked too emaciated to react or follow them. So, the intelligence reports about this place had been true. Leaving behind a sizeable rearguard and reserve element, I personally took two Warriors into the heart of the complex.
I will never forget the sight that met me that afternoon. Perhaps this is what our fathers and grandfathers saw as they knocked down the gates of Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. Thank God that a Serbian never entered my gunsight from that day onwards, otherwise I would have been as guilty of murder myself, my hatred of them was that strong.
The Serbs had used Jinska as a holding camp for Bosnian civilians, mainly Muslims with a few out of favour Christians. But it was much, much more than that. As I took my men through its dusty interior wary of tripwires and with shemaghs pulled up over our faces to keep out the stench of human decay, it became evident that experimentation had been taking place here. There were rooms that had been given over for the express and evil purpose of torture, hung with meat hooks and shackles imbedded in the wall, bare electrical connections and pools of stagnant water dripping from rusty fawcets. Survivors -- aided from the building by my medics and some UN personnel that had joined us -- were horribly disfigured, with wounds and sores reminiscent of the biological and chemical warfare training videos I had been shown at Porton Down. There had been rumours that the Serbs had stocks of nerve agent, the hallucinogen BZ and 'dirty nukes', conventional explosives laced with plutonium waste, and here was evidence that they were planning to turn Bosnia into apocalypse now. I began to withdraw my men in an orderly fashion, fearing that the whole complex might be contaminated, clearing rooms and collecting survivors as we went. I became separated from my close protection team, and found myself in a wing of the factory that had been hastily transformed into a makeshift hospital ward by thin wooden walls. It was completely silent, but on and in the dusty beds there were shapes. I stood frozen in the doorway. Facing me at the other end of the ward was a man in black. He was bent over the last bed on the row on the right. Its occupant was still alive -- he lifted a hand as the man in black laid his hand on the patient's arm. But the patient's hand was like a lobster claw, a gnarled mass of bone and muscle. The man in black looked up at me, and the -- God forgive me -- thing in the bed turned too. Words fail me to describe it, I can only allude to the worst Lovecraftian nightmare, a face turned inside out, an external brain pulsing with wet life. The man in black placed his palm on this horror and I heard a brief fzzt like a fuse blowing, and the creature went limp in the bed. A whiff of ozone stung my nostrils. Then the man in black spoke. I remember his words, they were spoken loud and clear and in good English, with a cultured Middle Eastern accent:
I watched, my weapon hanging forgotten from its sling around my neck, as he moved from bed to bed, responding to the movements of the hideously mutated forms there, placing his hands on them, and apparently killing them with the slightest of touches. Before his work was over, I retreated from the room, ran through the factory and linked up with my men, who informed me that they had found stocks of Russian-labelled nerve agents and unidentified, possibly biological agents in a factory storeroom. I ordered a full withdrawal and we took the UN team and the survivors of Jinska back to Drbac. Later, after the agents had been safely removed, Jinska was purged for good measure by fuel-air explosives delivered by RAF Harriers, in a spectacular fireworks display that the Toms appreciated.
I did not report my meeting with the man in black, nor the things that I saw in that room. Certainly, the dubious looking UNSCOM team that took over Jinska before its destruction brought its own armed protection and I heard no more about the place once they had left. Perhaps, as with the Nazis in World War Two, they took away secrets that we ourselves will one day use.
Remembering what I saw in Jinska that day, I pray God that we do not.
(Major Hockedy was killed by a Serbian sniper in Sarajevo several days after completing this diary entry)
Extract from Final Solution, article in Spartan 2000 -- The Magazine of the Modern International Military Man, by Warren Grant, Balkan Correspondent
I sit with him on a hillside overlooking the refugee camp at Mace. Behind us is Albania, a country honour-bound to welcome those who call it an ancestral home and who are fleeing persecution, but whose faltering steps into the modern world after fifty years under the surreal grip of Hoxha have been knocked flat by the human wave of misery that has engulfed them. NATO forces stationed here, expecting to launch an onslaught against the JNA, have found themselves on riot duty in Tirana. They call this phenomenon 'mission creep'. Such is the fluid nature of millennium global politics.
He calls himself Hanan. It is his given name, he says, and he only remembered it recently. His comrades in the UCK, of which he is a new member, call him Jihad, and are proud to have him here as one of their warriors. His claims are enormous and entirely unsubstantiated, but in the myth-ridden world of the guerrilla fighter and career partisan -- some of these men have been fighters since pre-teens -- only one thing is undeniable : the number of enemy you have slain. Crossing the mountainous border time and time again to terrorise hidden bands of Serbian paramilitaries, Hanan has proved himself worthy of the title Jihad -- Holy War. A one man Holy War.
Hanan's claim is that he is the product of an ill-fated military experiment in Iran during their desperate war with Iraq. That he saw action there, and was subsequently tasked to kill the heretic writer, Salman Rushdie. It was at this point that his brainwashing, or programming, began to malfunction, and it was a mission that he never completed. On the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini, architect of the fatwa, he considered his mission cancelled. Since then, he has fought on almost every front where Muslim soldiers or civilians have been imperilled -- Afghanistan, Iraq during Desert Storm, Beirut, Bosnia, Algeria, Somalia, Libya, Chechnya. The claims are incredible, and he performs a trick for me to prove his story, burning a piece of notepaper on the palm of his hand by apparently raising his skin temperature, a skill he claims was responsible for the deaths of four GIGN agents in a Paris hotel room after he had 'allowed' them to capture him, for his amusement. It is a clever trick, and I do not know how he did it. I ask him what is his purpose. His answer is forthright.
"To wage holy war on the infidel. I was created to serve Allah, to do his Holy Will. That is why I broke from my controllers and disobeyed the Iranian state. They may have created me, but often Allah's will and the will of the Iranian government, are two different things. Now, I serve only Allah."
I asked him what his plans were.
"When I have aided the UCK in their mission, I will return to my home in Iran. I have read that a Pan-Arabic Mars Mission is being prepared. I am an ideal candidate, a prototype if you will, for spaceflight. With a little oxygen, I could survive on Mars. I have breathed raw nerve agent with no ill effect. Allah willing, they will forgive me and welcome me back."
Did he think this would happen? Would he not be shot as a deserter?
"I am an expensive investment. I am sure they will be pleased to have me back. Allah willing!"
He takes his leave. Dressed in the battle fatigues of a UCK soldier, but carrying no weapon, he walks back down the hill to the camp. Thorn bushes crackle and burst into flames in his wake. The hairs on the back of my neck prickle, as they do when you see something that you know is not right. I don't know if Hanan, or Jihad, is telling the truth. All I know is, he will kill many Serbs before he decides to go home.
I hope he makes it to Mars. Because he is far too dangerous to keep on Earth.
Text © Noel K Hannan 2000.
Illustrations © David Stephenson 2000.
story was first published in Noel's collection, Shenanigans
Press, 2000; price £6.99; orders from PO Box 12, Maesteg,
Mid Glamorgan, South Wales, CF34 0XG, UK).
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