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Winter Born


Hamid Halal stepped past the two teenage mujahideen, pushed aside a flap of rotting canvas and ducked to enter the low doorway. The room beyond was small, no more than three meters on a side, dark and dirty with a litter-strewn, packed-clay floor and granite walls covered in Arabic graffiti. The only light was from the doorway, blocked by the canvas and his body, and a small paneless window on the south wall. Despite the size, five heavily armed mujahideen were packed along the sides leaving only a narrow spot in the middle. In this narrow spot a tall, spare, figure squatted behind a low table, typing on a laptop computer.

"Great One," Halal said, dropping to both knees and bowing his head. "It is good to see that you truly survive!"

"Did you believe that Allah would permit the forces of the Great Satan to kill his most valiant leader?" the man said, soberly, his piercing eyes meeting those of Halal with a real question behind them.

Halal recognized what the question implied. Only true belief could bring about the Final Jihad and the destruction of the Dar Al Harb. Questioning the survival of the Great One, surely Allah's most important sword in the battle against the Dar Al Harb, implied a lack of faith in Allah Himself. And the slightest trace of lack of belief, in this place, in this man's presence, could lead to immediate martyrdom. Halal bowed his head and nodded in submission.

"Great One, my faith has been tried by the events of the last two years," the mujahideen commander admitted. "We battle the Great Satan daily and yet our numbers dwindle. Again and again the mujahideen fearlessly attack them as we are instructed in the Words of the Prophet. To put aside fear of death and think only of the Will of Allah. Of the Glory of Paradise and the spread of the Dar Al Islam. And, again and again, we are not only defeated, but destroyed. Their technology, their training . . . their faith in their false Gods, seems to be beyond even the Will of Allah to defeat. But, your presence fills me with renewed hope. If you can survive when all their forces search for you, anything is possible. Forgive me my trial of faith and look upon my actions. I have sought battle without fail. As Allah is Merciful, have mercy upon his true servant."

"Very pretty," the tall man said. "And very common. Everywhere I go, the faith of the mujahideen is tried. And, everywhere I go, they profess renewed faith. It is with these weak tools that Allah's Will must be worked. But, Halal, the Jihad has need of you. You have skills that are needed in a great mission. We still can bring the Great Satan to its knees and teach the Lesser Satans of Europe and Asia that Allah's Will is great and powerful beyond even that of Satan. And you will be the tool that shall show that will. In one stroke, we will break the will of the Dar Al Harb, which is divided even in the lands of the Great Satan, and bring the banners of Islam, once again, to the lost Dar Al Islam. And all the jihad needs is your skills."

"I live in submission to Allah," Halal said, nodding. "What is the mission, Great One?"

"We shall strike at the Satan's greatest weakness," the tall man said, his eyes lidding heavily. "The love of its whores."


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