Shock and Awe – James Nowlan
Whose God can save America from nuclear annihilation?
When the most dangerous jihadist group yet, Al DERSH, has apparently planted atomic bombs in New York, D.C., and L.A., a league of heavily armed fundamentalists, the Holy Jesus Christ Militia, claim that they are the only ones that can prevent the imminent destruction of the U.S.A.
As the nation’s elected officials are too busy with kinky sex and hard drugs, General Aaron Khan, the newly appointed head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who is of Palestinian Catholic extraction, has to figure out what is really going on while there is still an America left to save.
“The novel is guaranteed to upset everyone who is too uptight across the political and religious spectrum. I especially enjoyed the unpredictability of the plotting. I never quite knew what to expect next from the book. I mean any book that has hipsters in Brooklyn forming an army is bound to surprise.”
About the Author
James Nowlan was born in Chicago but his family moved to California when he was twelve because his mother saw it in a vision, although he says this was more likely during an alcohol induced psychotic episode.
After being incarcerated at fifteen and homeless at sixteen he was more or less condemned to a life of vagabondage. He worked as a dishwasher in Los Angeles and as a bike messenger in New York before moving to Prague to be an English teacher and drink lots of beer. He eventually ended up in Paris where the only job he could get was being a security guard in the housing projects. He now lives in the hills west of Lyon where he spends his days playing online chess and going for long walks in the woods.
Several decades later, he was looking down at the land where all this conflict and shame had passed. Not only was he in America but he was working for America, and not just any job. He was wearing a general’s uniform and was standing behind a desk in the operations room of the NSA. By way of a giant screen in front of him and a satellite high above the earth, he could gaze down upon the homes of those who’d pelted his father with debris. The power wasn’t all he thought it would be, but it was much better than being powerless.
Nevertheless, he was as trapped as he ever had been. He looked around at the figures bent over screens transmitting commands in rapid hushed voices, the intonation of fervent prayers of some new faith made pagan by technology. The suffering and dying wasn’t going on in a painting about something that might have happened thousands of years ago, but was going to happen in real time on a big screen. It was only fitting that he was the high priest of the coming sacrifice. None of them understood. They knew he got the killing done better than his predecessors but they just thought it was because he was like them, the enemy. He came from the same place, didn’t he? But he wasn’t like them; he had just grown up amongst them. He appreciated the hatred. Sometimes it made him smile and they just thought it was because he was some cold-blooded bastard who got off on inflicting death. So much the better; he preferred it like that.
One person in the room knew him and that was one person too much. She knew him but he wasn’t sure that he knew her. She was a civilian employee but carried out her duties with military precision. She didn’t want to talk much about her childhood and that, as well as the name she was working under, Amy Stewart, might be fabrications. Her pert appearance, red hair, and icy demeanor was the source of a lot of curiosity that she aggressively discouraged.
He looked at her and feeling his eyes upon him she shot him a quick disapproving glance that told a lot. What had happened had happened because they were in the field and they thought that they were probably going to die so it didn’t matter. Now it was more something to regret than a fond memory. Fortunately, before he could start feeling too remorseful, a man in an officer’s uniform sitting at a computer console right in front of him turned and saluted and he saluted back. “Everything is in position, sir.” A large villa that had been commandeered and converted into a bunker with walls, concrete, and razor wire appeared on the wall facing them.
“And this one they call Abdul Abdullah, has he entered the compound?”
The officer typed something on his keyboard and a color arrest photo of a man with a hawk nose, hazel eyes, and olive skin came up on the screen. “Computer scanning has matched this to video surveillance of a man seen passing through their main entrance.”
“How did you get that?”
“We tapped into it. We can remotely monitor close circuit now because it’s made by subsidiaries we control and designed to transmit a signal we can pick up.”
“I wasn’t briefed.”
“We’re keeping it secret.”
“Well you shouldn’t have told me then,” the General berated his subordinate who swiveled around with a nervous guilty look.
“Yes, sir, I’m…”
“Just joking, there’s nothing above my clearance level and I don’t talk in my sleep. Anyway, I sleep alone.”
“Yes sir, um, of course, sir. I mean not of course you sleep alone but of course nothing’s above your clearance level.”
“Right, never mind, as long as we’re sure we’re going to get him.” General Khan had found a bit of humor kept them guessing.
The woman he had exchanged glances with chimed in, “A strike now will entail numerous civilian losses.”
He forced himself to answer as coolly as possible. “Not nearly as many as this man has already caused and nothing to compare with what he’s capable of if we let him live. This meeting is rumored to have been called to confirm him as leader of Al DERSH, the group that is suspected of trying to unite all jihadists under one banner.”
A close up of the compound was displayed on the main screen of the operations room and general Khan studied the target with cool detachment. The arrival of vehicles had stirred up a cloud of dust like smoke from a firefight. Something big was going on and they were going to make it even bigger. He looked at Amy Stewart again but this time her eyes stayed fixed on the screen in front of her. He decided that he wasn’t going to make her be a part of something she objected to. “You can take a break, Miss Stewart,” he stated, flatly, while looking downwards.
She swiveled about. “A break?”
“Yes, everything is in place, so you won’t be needed.”
With forced indifference, Amy Stewart set her headset down, stretched her back and walked out of the room. Under the high-tech light in the hallway leading to the canteen, she began to reflect upon Khan’s motives for sending her out of the room then decided not to bother. If he said she wasn’t needed then so much the better.