New York City- September 11, 2001

Rasim stood with his hands clasped behind his back, his head lowered in silent prayer. It was a day he had been waiting for longer than he cared to remember. How many failures had he endured? How many times had his own people suffered because he had yet to come to their aid? He had endured the guilt of those questions ever since he found his God in the nation of Islam. Allah had provided, he had helped him clean his life, helped him find his purpose. His purpose now was to repay that gift of life, by devoting it to the service of his people. He would fight to bring them to the world’s forefront.
As he stood next to the window his breathing deepened, his heart quickened as he opened his eyes to stare out the window. The buildings around him gleamed in the early morning sunlight and reflected the greed and selfishness of an entire nation. He could almost feel the flames they were destined to burn in for eternity.
He had this planned to the smallest detail, nothing else would do. He had been doing this for the better part of a decade and at this point, he had become the best at this type of operation. He had hoped many times that his actions would change the way these retched people lived. He had prayed that every time he struck a blow to the heart of the country that it would be the blow that brought them to their knees. Every time however, they limped on. They were not marred by the death of their countrymen, only the inconvenience that each attack caused to their individual daily lives.
It all started for him during the battle in Afghanistan. The Russians had occupied the land for too long, the men and women that had seen their homes taken from their rightful hands and pissed on by the unworthy Soviets, had decided it was enough. They were going to fight back, take their country back from the Russians. And they even had help, they were backed by the well financed, well trained, and well motivated United States Military. They were given the tools to accomplish the job, but when it became a disaster, the US pulled out and left them all to rot. The people of Afghanistan were left with nothing.
His mission had started then, and it finally hit the center stage on February 26, 1993. This was the first mission he was directly involved with. He had decided on an indirect approach. He wasn’t seeking fame, no followers, only the destruction of the United States of America.
However, he did need a protege, he needed someone to follow his instructions and carry out his wishes, make his schemes reality. The man that he found was known as Ramzi Yousef. He found him in Kuwait, burning with the same desire that raged within himself. He took him under his wing, and eventually, that day in February happened.
At 12:18 pm., just as people were heading to lunch, out of their offices and walking the halls and stairways, Ramzi Yousef drove a yellow Ryder van into the parking garage of the World Trade Center building. When the bomb blew, Yousef had already escaped the building. The bomb ripped a ninety-eight foot wide hole through four sub levels of concrete, knocking out the building’s main power, and the emergency lighting system. The smoke billowed up the center of the building and the stairways up to the ninety-third floor, making it difficult to evacuate. The smoke caused the majority of the injuries sustained in the blast, but his joy came when he thought of the six names that graced the memorial built after. The six people that paid the ultimate price for their country’s arrogance. He knew their names, knew them all by heart, along with every other person who had ever died in his attacks. The number now totaled close to five thousand.
His next venture had been a failure, at least at the time. He had taken on too much, and trusted too many inept men to do such important work. The men that worked on the operation called it The Bojinka Plot. It was a completely ridiculous name, but nonetheless, it got them motivated. He once again used the talents of Ramzi Yousef to recruit men and organize them. He committed himself to planning, because there was a lot of it.
The plot was complicated, two phases, both of which were highly dangerous. The first phase began in the Philippines, where they had based their operation. The Pope was visiting for the World Youth Day celebrations in 1995. His route was easily followed, and a suicide bomber was to be in place. The assassination of the Pope was merely a diversion. There were also bombs to be placed on specific flights that would detonate over the Pacific Ocean simultaneously.
Phase two, which would take place just hours after the airline bombs exploded, would consist of suicide pilots. It was a novel idea, one that had never been attempted. He had planned for the planes to hit The Sears Tower in Chicago, The Pentagon, The U.S. Capitol, The White House, the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco, the CIA headquarters at Langley, VA, and his favorite target, the World Trade Center.
He realized after the fact that he had made one of two mistakes, he had either bitten off more than he could chew, there could have been just too much to keep organized with an operation that big, or his people weren’t up to par. Ramzi Yousef was very valuable, but he was just a terrorist. He made mistakes with his men that cost the operation. The Philippine Police were onto the men building the bombs intended for the airlines and were caught. Yousef fled into Pakistan, but was caught after only twenty three days. He made sure he was caught, he turned him in. Yousef was a good sport about it, he knew he made mistakes.
The loss of Yousef could have been devastating, but a man like Rasim was an opportunist. Instead of seeing a void in his ranks, he saw it as an opening to be filled by someone with even more talent, motivation, and devotion to the cause. He searched for years, organizing a few small attacks on embassies around the world. The men that he used were always expendable, none of them had the talent or motivation to be used more than once. Then he met the man that would change the way he planned his operations forever.
Saif al Din was more than a dedicated soldier. He was a man after the heart of Islam. He was a man of faith, a man of principle, a man that could easily live the life the same as Rasim. Rasim was happy with his life’s work of waging war on the United States, but he wouldn’t live forever. He needed someone to take the torch after he was gone. Saif al Din could do that, not because he was a soldier, or a Muslim, but because he was a thinker.
Rasim knew the moment he met al Din that he could mold him, train him to be the kind of
fighting man that used his brain, as well as his brawn. He was proven right as well. After the successful attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1996, and countless embassy bombings, Rasim was ready to take the war to the next level. He had the plans, he had the tools, he just needed the face.
Osama bin Laden became that face. He was a motivated man of Islam, who combined a
charismatic personality with unshakable leadership qualities. He was exactly the man that he was looking for to be the face of terror. After that day, when he had struck fear into the hearts of the infidels all over the world, they would need to put a face on the evil. He was only too willing to put bin Laden’s face on that template. He was ready. He handed out assignments up and down the board, the men took them enthusiastically and set to work without question. All of them were good soldiers, but he had trusted that quality before and it caused him to fail, he needed something else to depend on. He needed al Din. Saif al Din was not just a soldier, he could follow orders of course, but he could do that which none of the other soldiers in his employ could do.
He was a problem solver. He would make sure things were done as if Rasim himself were there, and if for some reason Rasim was ever caught, al Din would take over and complete his work. He was more than capable. And even more valuable, if Saif al Din was ever caught himself, his life would end before any syllable was uttered about Rasim, he was that loyal.
As he stared out the window again, his masterpiece had started. He watched as the plane
dropped quickly from the sky and crashed headlong into the West Tower of the World Trade Center.
The flames and smoke drifted out slowly, almost calmly. From his high floor over a mile away, Rasim almost felt a calm come over him. He couldn’t see or hear the mayhem that was happening in that building and on the ground, but he could imagine it, and that alone filled his heart with joy. The people watching couldn’t believe their eyes, they couldn’t imagine that this could be happening. It had to be a mistake. They knew nothing, for the thought that it could be a mistake was about to abandon them, as Rasim looked back to the sky, and saw the second plane.
When it crashed into the East Tower in the same fashion he literally dropped to his knees, thanking Allah for giving him the strength and the tools to accomplish what he had just done. When he opened his eyes again, he saw what his life had been pursuing. The towers began to crumble. It was like slow motion, almost as if he were already replaying it in his mind.
The towers shrank into the smoke and disappeared from view. Eight years earlier he had trusted Ramzi Yousef to bring the towers down with a truck but they survived. Now, with the help of two dedicated suicide pilots and the ever dependable, undying faith driven Saif al Din, the United States had been delivered a blow that would shake the foundations of their government forever.
Rasim turned away from the chaos out the window and went to the door of the empty room. The whole apartment was empty, rented solely for the purpose of viewing the majestic scene a mile away. Now that he had done so, he was going to leave and never see the building again. He opened the door and slipped out, closing it behind him and disappearing, the sirens still sounding a mile away.

* * * * * * * * * * *

North Carolina- 1964

Sasha Popov was only twenty two years old, but still the leader of the newest and most secret unit. The KGB, secret and ruthless in its own right had created the unit, and only half of them knew that it existed. They were called The Guardians, and they were landing on the shore of the United States for their first and only mission.
At seventeen years old Popov joined the Red Army in his homeland and learned to fight for his way of life. It was a hard life, but a welcome one. Growing up on the streets of Moscow was a dangerous life, he had suffered the effects of frostbite on no less than five places on his body and with no family to help him, struggled to keep himself alive day by day. When he was old enough, he finally joined a new family and they did exactly what the recruiter promised and they looked after him. He was a good soldier, but a great Russian.
This fact alone is what caused the KGB to approach him at age twenty. The next two years he spent training for the appointment of this assignment. The Guardians were finally ready and they were finally sent.
They left their sub, which only surfaced for a brief moment to let them climb out of the hatch and jump into the near freezing water of the Atlantic. The bright moon shined down on them and illuminated the water, but at almost three in the morning and the beach long closed for the night, there was no one to disturb their landing on the beach. Popov was the first of the fifteen men into the water.
As the men dropped in they wasted no time in swimming the three quarter mile to shore.
As they made it to the sand, they climbed the beach and stayed low, finding shelter under a lifeguard stand. Their contact had been true to his word. He provided them with the exact coordinates of their landing point, the information about the stand, and most importantly, the location of the box.
Sasha knelt down and stabbed his fingers into the sand and began pulling it away. The fourteen other men gathered around, staring expectantly and rubbing their frozen hands together. Normally, He would have been irritated that he was the leader and still he was doing the work. But with his blood freezing, he welcomed the work to warm himself. When he was almost a foot down, he began to fear that they were in the wrong place, or that the American contact had fooled them, until his fingers hit something solid, something cold and hard. Popov pulled it out and placed it between his knees.
The box was small and black. There was a small silver handle on top and a lock on the front. Popov reached around his neck and pulled off a chain with a key. Reaching down, he inserted the key, twisted, and the box opened. There was a collective sigh of relief from the men around him. When he opened the lid, the contents were exactly as he expected. There were fifteen plastic bags the size just big enough for a sandwich.
He grabbed the first and read the writing aloud.
“Seattle.” A man stepped forward and he tossed the bag to him. Without a word, the man turned and jogged up the beach to a parking lot, taking care that he wasn’t seen.
“Los Angeles.” Another man, following the same procedure.
“San Diego.”
“New York.”
The men dwindled until only he was left with the box. His assignment still in the box he tucked it under his arm and ran for the parking lot. When he found it, he found it empty except for a black van waiting in the far corner, all the other men had already gone, wasting no time. He took little time crossing the lot and standing next to the door of the van.
Inside the box he opened his plastic bag and extracted a key. He used it to open the van, and once inside, he started the engine and blasted the heat. Letting the warm air sooth him as he inventoried the rest of the bag’s contents.
There was a driver’s license, a passport, and a map. He opened the map, found his destination and noted the first couple directions in his memory. He next turned in his seat to look in the back of the van. On the back seat there was a duffel bag, inside he knew to be three changes of clothes and a leather wallet with a thousand American dollars inside. But the most important inventory sat in the cargo area.
The suitcase was large, about three meters long, a meter wide, and a meter deep. Inside was his mission. He would take it to his destination and wait. If he got the call from his handler with the KGB, he would detonate it, and his mission would be complete. That was it, what he signed up to do. The dirty bomb was smuggled in and assembled months before he was to arrive. He wasn’t sure how long it had been waiting for him in this lot, but he was relieved to see the case.
He knew little about the bomb really, only that it was a small tactical nuke with a small yield, but enough to devastate a city. He would be met at his destination by the man who assembled it and shown precisely what to do in the event of every plausible emergency scenario. Then the man would do the same for all fourteen others.
With his inventory complete, and his fingers thawed, Sasha Popov put the van in gear and drove out of the parking lot. He followed the first couple directives easily from memory and made it to I-95. He turned north and settled in for the long drive. He couldn’t wait to get to his destination, being the leader of The Guardians, there was only one place fitting for him to be stationed. He would be in the center of everything that the KGB grew to detest. The place where his enemies would be at his back door. He would walk with them, mingle with them, ride with them on the bus, sit with them in the theaters and opera houses. He drove north, careful to keep it under the speed limit, Sasha Popov had always wanted to visit Washington D.C., and soon when he got the call, he would do much more than that.