The rising antichrist is.., p.1
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       The Rising: Antichrist Is Born, p.1
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         Part #1 of Before They Were Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye
The Rising: Antichrist Is Born


  The Rising: Antichrist Is Born (Before They Were Left Behind Series)

  Jerry B. Jenkins

  Tim Lahaye

  POST-TWENTIETH CENTURY

  Prologue

  The sun hung just below Rayford Steele's glare shield, making him squint even behind his dark gray lenses. His first officer, Chris Smith, pointed and said, "Oops, how long has that been there?"

  Rayford shielded his eyes and found the message screen reading "ENGINE #1 OIL FILT."

  Oil pressure was normal, even on the engine in question, the one farthest to his left. "Engine number one oil-filter checklist, please," he said.

  Chris dug into the right side pocket for the emergency manual. While Chris was finding the right section, Rayford grabbed the maintenance log he should have checked before pulling back from the gate in Chicago and heading for Los Angeles. He speed-read. Sure enough, engine number one had required an oil filter change in Miami before the leg to O'Hare, and metal

  vii

  THE RISING

  chips had been detected on the used filter. They must have been within acceptable limits, however, as the mechanic had signed off on the note. And the plane had made it to Chicago without incident.

  " 'Retard thrust level slowly until message no longer displayed,'" Chris read.

  Rayford followed the procedure and watched the message screen. The throttle reached idle, but the message still shone. After a minute he said, "It's not going out. What next?"

  " 'If ENG OIL FILT message remains displayed with thrust lever closed: FUEL CONTROL SWITCH . . . CUTOFF.'"

  Rayford grabbed the control cutoff switch and said, "Confirm number one cutoff switch?"

  "Confirmed."

  Rayford pulled out and down in one smooth motion while increasing pressure on the right rudder pedal. Engine number one shut down, and the auto throttle increased power on the other three. Airspeed slowly decreased, and Rayford doubted anyone would even notice.

  He and Chris determined a new altitude, and he instructed Chris to call air-traffic control at Albuquerque to get clearance to descend to 32,000 feet. They then positioned a transponder to warn other traffic that they might be unable to climb or maneuver properly if there was a conflict.

  Rayford had no question they could reach LAX without incident now. He became aware of the strain on his right foot and remembered he had to increase pressure to

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  Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

  It

  compensate for the uneven thrust of the remaining engines. C'mon, Rayford. Fly the airplane.

  After Rayford informed Pan-Con of the situation, the dispatcher told him to be aware of low visibility at LAX. "You'll want to check weather as you get closer."

  Rayford announced to the passengers that he had shut down the number one engine but didn't expect anything but a routine landing at LAX. The lower the plane flew, however, the more he could tell that the power margin had increased. He did not want to have to go around, because going from near idle to full power on three engines would require a lot of rudder to counteract the thrust differential.

  LAX tower was informed of the engine issue and cleared the Pan-Con heavy for initial landing sequence. At 10,000 feet Rayford began checking descent figures.

  Chris said, "Auto brakes."

  Rayford responded, "Three set."

  LAX approach control turned Rayford and Chris over to the tower, which cleared them to land on runway 25 left and informed them of wind speed and RVR (runway visual range).

  Rayford flipped on the taxi lights and directed Chris to zero the rudder trim. Rayford felt the pressure increase under his foot. He would have to keep up with the auto throttles as the power changed and adjust the rudder pressure to match. He was as busy as he had ever been on a landing, and the weather was not cooperating. Low cloud cover blocked his view of the runway.

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  THE RISING

  Rayford worked with Chris, setting the speed to match the flap settings and feeling the auto throttles respond by reducing power to slow the plane. "Glide slope intercept," he said, "flaps 30, landing check." He set the speed indicator at 148, final speed for a flaps-30 approach with that much weight.

  Chris followed orders and grabbed the checklist from the glare shield. "Landing gear," he said.

  "Down," Rayford said.

  "Flaps."

  "Thirty."

  "Speed brakes."

  "Armed."

  "Landing check complete," Chris said.

  The plane could land itself, but Rayford wanted to be in control just in case. It was a lot easier to be flying than to have to take over if the autopilot had to be suddenly switched off.

  "Final approach fix," Chris said.

  A loud horn sounded when Rayford clicked off both the autopilot and throttles. "Autopilot disengaged," he said.

  "One thousand feet," Chris said.

  "Roger."

  They were in the middle of clouds and would not likely see the ground until just before touchdown.

  A mechanical voice announced, "Five hundred feet." It would announce again at fifty, thirty, twenty, and ten feet. They were ninety seconds from touchdown.

  Suddenly Rayford overheard a transmission.

  x

  "Negative, US Air 21," the tower said, "you are not cleared for takeoff."

  "Roger, tower," came the answer. "You were broken. Understand US Air 21 is cleared for takeoff."

  "Negative!" the tower responded. "Negative, US Air 2l You are not cleared to take the runway!"

  "Fifty feet," the auto announcer called out. "Thirty."

  Rayford broke through the clouds.

  "Go around, Cap!" Chris shouted. "A '57 is pulling onto the runway! Go around! Go around!"

  Rayford could not imagine missing the 757. Time slowed, and he saw his family clearly in his mind, imagined them grieving, felt guilty about leaving them. And all the people on the plane. The crew. The passengers. And those on the US Air too!

  In slow motion he noticed a red dot on the center screen of the instrument console with a minus 2 next to it. The auto announcer was sounding, Chris screaming, the tower shouting on the radio, "Pull up! Pull up! Pull up!"

  Rayford mashed the go-around buttons on the throttles twice for maximum power and called out, "God, help me!"

  Chris Smith whined, "Amen! Now fly!"

  Rayford felt the descent arresting, but it didn't appear it would be enough. Rayford imagined the wide eyes of the US Air passengers on the ground. "Flaps twenty!" he barked. "Positive rate. Gear up." Smith's hands were flying, but the gap was closing.

  The plane suddenly dipped left, the three good engines

  xi

  causing the slight roll. Rayford had not added enough rudder to counteract them. If he didn't adjust, the wing- tip would hit the ground. They were a split second from the 75 7's tail--standing nearly four stories--and about to bottom out. Rayford closed his eyes and braced for impact. He heard swearing in the tower and from Chris. What a way to go ...

  XIV

  1

  TWENTY-FOUR YEARS EARLIER ONE

  marilena titps union with Sorin Carpathia was based on anything but physical passion. Yes, they had had what the vulgar in the West would call a fling. But as his student and eventually his assistant at the University of Romania at Bucharest, Marilena had been drawn to Sorin's intellect.

  The truth, she knew, was that there was little prepossessing about either of them. He was short and thin and wiry with a shock of curly red hair that, despite its thickness and his aversion to haircuts, could not camouflage the growing bald spot at his crown.

  She was thick and plain and eschewed makeup, nail polish, and styling her black hair. Colleague
s, who she was convinced had been wholly enculturated by outside influences, teased that her frumpy clothing and sensible shoes harkened to previous centuries. They had long

  2

  since abandoned trying to make her into something she could never be. Marilena was not blind. The mirror did not lie. No amount of paint or spritz would change her, inside or out.

  And inside was where she lived, physically and mentally. She would not have traded that for all the patrician the butcher could stuff. In recent decades, a tsunami of progress had transformed her quaint motherland from that with the lowest standard of living in Europe to a technological marvel. Marilena could have done without it all. She resided in the horn of plenty of her own prodigious mind, fertilized by an inexhaustible curiosity.

  Perhaps she had been born a century late. She loved that no other Eastern European nations traced their lineage to the ancient Romans. And while she knew that modern Romanian women looked, dressed, spoke, danced, and acted like their Western icons, Marilena had resisted even the fitness craze that sent her peers biking, hiking, jogging, and climbing all over her native soil.

  Marilena knew what was out there, outside the book- lined, computer-laden, two-room flat she shared with her husband of six years. But save for the occasional foray by bus, for reasons she could not now remember, she rarely felt compelled to travel farther than the university, where she too was now a professor of literature. That was a four-block walk to a ten-minute bus ride.

  Sorin preferred his ancient bicycle, which he carried to his office upon arriving each day and four floors up to their apartment upon his return. As if they had room for that.

  But hiding the bike reflected his mistrust of mankind,

  3

  and Marilena could not argue. For all their decrying of religion, particularly branches that espoused innate sinfulness, everyone Marilena knew would have taken advantage of their best friends given the slightest chance. Everyone, perhaps, but the mysterious Russian emigre who ran the Tuesday night meetings in the anteroom at a local library. After several months of attending, Marilena had not yet formed an opinion of the thirty or so others who attended, but something deep within her resonated with Viviana Ivinisova.

  Ms. Ivinisova, a handsome, tailored woman in her mid- thirties, seemed to take to Marilena too. Short with salt- and-pepper hair, Viviana seemed to be speaking directly to Marilena while gazing at the others just enough to keep their attention. And sure enough, when the younger woman stayed after her twelfth meeting to ask a question, the leader asked if she cared to get a drink.

  With her load of books and folders gathered to her chest as she walked, Ms. Ivinisova reminded Marilena of her university colleagues. But Viviana was no professor, bright as she was. "This," she said, nodding to her pile of resources, "is my full-time job."

  How delicious, Marilena thought. She herself had never imagined a cause more worthy than expanding one's mind.

  They found a nearly deserted bistro a block from Marilena's bus stop, were seated at a tiny, round table, and Viviana wasted no time starting the conversation. "Do you know the etymology of your name?"

  Marilena felt herself redden. "Bitter light," she said.

  4

  Viviana nodded, holding her gaze.

  Marilena shrugged. "I don't put any stock in--"

  "Oh, I do!" Viviana said. "I do indeed. Bitter," she said slowly. "It doesn't have to be as negative as it sounds. Sadness perchance, a bit of loneliness? emptiness? a hole? something incomplete?"

  Marilena reached too quickly for her glass and sloshed the wine before drawing it to her lips. Swallowing too much, she coughed and dabbed her mouth with a napkin. She shook her head. "I feel complete," she said.

  Marilena could not meet the older woman's eyes. Viviana had cocked her head and was studying Marilena with a closed-mouth smile. "There is the matter of light," she said. "The bitterness, whatever that entails, is counterbalanced."

  "Or my late mother just liked the name," Marilena said. "She was not the type to have thought through its meaning."

  "But you are."

  "Yes," Marilena wanted to say. "Yes, I am. I think through everything." But agreeing would appear boastful.

  Where was the European reserve? Why were Russians so direct? Not as crass as Americans, of course, but there was little diplomacy here. In spite of herself, Marilena could not hold this against Ms. Ivinisova. Something within the woman seemed to care for Marilena in a way that both attracted and repelled her. She might not abet the Russian in her attempt to violate personal borders, but she could not deny the dichotomy that the attention also strangely warmed her.

  5

  "Your husband does not attend with you anymore," Viviana said.

  It was meant, Marilena decided, to sound like a change of subject. But she knew better. It was an attack on her flank, a probe, an attempt to get to the bitter part of her. Clearly Ms. Ivinisova believed in the portent of one's name. It seemed anti-intellectual to Marilena, but then that was what kept Sorin from the weekly meetings.

  Marilena shook her head. "He's not a believer."

  'Viviana smiled. "Not a believer." She lit a cigarette. "Are you happy with him?"

  "Reasonably."

  The older woman raised her eyebrows, and Marilena fought to keep from letting down more of her guard.

  "He's brilliant," Marilena added. "One of the most widely read men I have ever known."

  "Which makes you 'reasonably happy' with him."

  Marilena nodded warily. "We've been together eight years."

  Viviana slid her chair back and crossed her legs. "Tell me how you met."

  What was it about this persistence that had such a dual impact on Marilena? To anyone else she would have said, "I don't know you well enough to tell you about my personal life." Yet despite the direct approach, Marilena felt bathed in some sort of care, compassion, interest. She was put off and intoxicated at the same time.

  She allowed a smile. "We had an affair of sorts."

  "Oh!" Viviana said, leaning forward and crushing out her smoke. "I must hear it all. Was he married?"

  6

  "He was. But not happily. He did not even wear his ring, though the whiteness near his knuckle was still fresh."

  Nostalgia washed over Marilena as she recalled her days as a doctoral student under the quiet flamboyance of the strange-looking professor so enamored of classical literature. By her questions, her participation, her papers, he had been able to tell that she was not there to merely fulfill a requirement. He engaged her in class, and the other students seemed content to act as spectators to their daily dialogue.

  "He was a god to me," Marilena said. "It was as if he knew everything. I could not raise an issue, a point, a subject he had not studied and thought through. I suddenly knew what love was--not that I believed I loved him. But I could not wait to get back to his class. I threw myself into the work so I would be prepared. I had always lived for learning, but then I burned to impress him, to be considered his equal--not as an intellectual, of course, but as a fellow seeker of knowledge."

  It was the wine, Marilena decided. How long had it been since she had been this effusive, this transparent? And with a virtual stranger, no less. Of course, Viviana Ivinisova reminded her of Sorin in Marilena's impressionable days. She was just as drawn to this woman who seemed to know so much, to care so deeply, and who was so willing to open an entirely new world to initiates. How could Viviana know who would respond to things beyond themselves, truths most would consider coarse and mystical, outside conventional academia? What

  7

  would Marilena's colleagues think? Well, she knew. They would think of her what Sorin now thought of her. His indifference spoke loudly, as did his absence from the meetings after a mere two weeks nearly three months before.

  "Did you pursue him?" Viviana Ivinisova said.

  "I never even considered it. I pursued his mind, yes. I wanted to be near him, with him, in his class or otherwise. But I believe i
t was he who pursued me."

  "You believe?"

  "He did. He asked if I would consider serving as his assistant. I suspected nothing more than that he respected my mind. He had to consider me his inferior, yet I allowed myself to imagine that he at least respected my intellectual curiosity and dedication to learning."

  Viviana seemed not to have blinked. "You were not used to being pursued."

  No debate there. Marilena barely spoke to males, and not only had she never flirted with or pursued one, but neither had she ever considered such interest coming the other way. Certainly not with Dr. Carpathia. Not even when he insisted she call him Sorin. And have a meal with him. And spend time with him aside from office hours.

  Even when he became familiar, touching her shoulder, squeezing her hand, throwing an arm around her, she considered him brotherly, or more precisely, avuncular, for he was ten years her senior.

  "But at some point you had to have known," Viviana said. "You married the man."

  "When I first accepted his invitation to the apartment

  8

  we now share," Marilena said, "we spent most of the night discussing great literature. He made dinner--very badly--but I was too intimidated to agree when he said so. We watched two movies, the first a dark, thought- provoking picture. He sat close to me, again in a familial fashion, leaning against me. I was so naive."

  Viviana's eyes were dancing. "Then came a romantic picture, am I right?"

  Were such things so predictable, or was this part of Viviana's gift? In the meetings she had oft proved her ability to foretell, but now she knew the past as well?

  "And not a comedy," Marilena said. "A thoroughgoing love story, full of pathos."

  "And true love."

  "Yes."

  "Tell me."

 
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