The Grass is Always Greener... ("Why do you keep those guys around?" edition)
The intercom on his desk chirped briefly, and then Hattie Durham’s voice followed: “Mr. Williams has arrived.”
Nicolae barely heard the words enough to register them. He was looking out the window, over the New York skyline. He felt tired, weary, exhausted even. He considered ordering coffee, but the fatigue wasn’t physical, but mental. His supernatural gifts meant an endless well of physical energy and endurance, but his mind was tired. There was so much to do, and so little time to do it well. How long since he had slept? Six months? A year? Well before the Event, and before the Israel war. So much to get done… he had been charged with these tasks, and he was determined to do them well.
It was a strange series of emotions. At first, elation to see the writing on the wall, to know that God is real and that he exists and that he has chosen you to do his wonders! True, the tasks He had given Nicolae were to oppose Him on earth, to spread discord and suffering, but if that was His will, then it was for Nicolae, His humble servant, to do his bidding to the best of limited human talents.
That understanding had always evaded Stonegal. He didn’t grasp that they were merely playing roles, heightening the stakes, raising the tension for greater drama. Stonegal kept talking about “winning” and “triumph” as though the two were one and the same. Nicolae tried over & over to explain that their greatest triumph would happen with the Return of Christ, and the salvation of humanity, but Stonegal kept seeing events as a battle, or a fight. He thought it was like a chess game, when Nicolae saw clearly it was more like one of those gauche American wrestling exhibitions. He was the Evil High Plains Drifter, the sneering Sophisticate who would taunt the crowd before the big, blonde muscleman came out and tore his own shirt off with his bare hands. Stonegal never understood, could never really accept the real nature of the Tribulation. That was a big part of why Nicolae had him killed: a close confidant could be a relief, an asset, to soothe the stresses and share the burden, but Stonegal was never really on the same page, so their conversations were always like sand in Nicolae’s shoes.
After elation came the gritty demands of reality. It is one thing to see the Writing on the Wall, it’s another to read that writing, and see that it’s a “to-do” list. Even with supernatural powers, endless endurance, the ability to bend the wills of men, there was so much on that list, such massive tasks to be done in such a short time. He had already bent the powers of the U.N. to breaking, crushed the wills of strong men enough to make laughably absurd pronouncements carry the weight of law, and he still had so much more to do. Sleep was a luxury he simply didn’t have.
Cameron Williams was in the building, answering Nicolae’s summons. Cameron was one of the Saved, someone who found God after the Event. When Nicolae killed Stonegal and compelled all present to accept his visions, Cameron was protected, and since he was not part of the visions, no one remembered him being there except Cameron and Nicolae. Since then, he’d ordered Mr. Williams watched, his associates noted and researched, their movements followed. He’d told Hattie and Chaim to pay close attention, and report any religious or evangelical language Mr. Williams used. “For it was given to him to make war on the Saints”. That was another item on the list, as non-negotiable as the rest. If Mr. Williams put himself in the role of ‘holy man’, Nicolae had a duty to make war on him, to wrack him with pain and suffering, and to do so visibly & publicly. This brave new world needed martyrs and saints; Nicolae knew that much. The message of those Christians would gain much-needed weight if the most powerful man was seen to hate and fear them. All he needed was an excuse, a single slip by Cameron, and he could begin the glorious work. Hattie had suggested offering a job to Mr. William’s friend, Rayford Steele. Rayford was a pilot, and could be the “official” pilot for Nicolae; apparently Rayford had found Jesus as well, but was equally reluctant to speak up about it. Keeping those two close meant a good chance at making one into a martyr. And if not, well, they did share a common minister. Odd that Hattie would volunteer one of her former co-workers for martyrdom. Nicolae had the impression that there was some past fondness between the two.
Nicolae shook his head and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. It was all just so much work, a mix of the minute and the massive. Find a newly minted Christian to torture to death, establish a one-world currency and religion, find a woman to bear his child, and less than seven years to get it all done. Even without sleep, not enough time for one man, and all the while trivial minutiae kept creeping in. He hated cutting corners, hated having to rush and take the quickest route rather than making the grand gesture, but he had to prioritize. New Babylon had to be great & impressive, demanded time & effort. His bride, the mother of his child, that could probably just be someone from the office. There would be what, a dozen people who would even know about her? He had to prioritize. Mr. Williams was waiting for a meeting, and Nicolae needed a martyr. The rest could wait, even the much-desired sleep.