Chapter 16:

A Question for the Future

The Young Knight of the Desert

Kansai City, State of Japan. August 11, 2030; 1144 hours (Japan Standard Time)

In his apartment, Tarou Ganji had a new war to fight. It didn’t involve guns, grenades, ballistic vests, Walgears, missiles, nor explosions. It involved pencils, books, the Internet, and solitude. This war was summer homework.

Summer had come to Japan. For Tarou, however, his mission in Iran had cost him the opportunity to spend his summer without homework but his absence for almost a week cost him his summer vacation.

Despite his work, Tarou still thought of how his mission in the Middle East ended.


Farniwaya Governorate, State of Kuwait. July 31, 2039 hours (Arabia Standard Time)

The Galaxy reached Kuwait International Airport. As it landed, it reached for the portion of the runaway used for Abdullah Al-Mubarak Air Base.

Alicia Caguiat and A.K. reached the cockpit of the Galaxy. Through the right window, they found infantrymen from both the Middle Eastern League Army (MELA) and the Kuwait Army waiting. A sharply dressed man stood with the infantry and Caguiat recognized him as Khaled Hassim, the Director of the Foreign Intelligence Agency. In addition, there were more ambulances than military vehicles; the latter consisting of an M809 6x6 cargo truck and two High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), commonly known as “Humvees”.

“It’s time,” Caguiat announced.

“We best get al-Saqqaf with us,” A.K. added.


2104 hours

Through the right airstair, Caguiat, A.K., and Yusuf al-Saqqaf left the Galaxy to meet with Hassim. “I see you came back,” Hassim said.

“What’s with the ambulances?” al-Saqqaf asked.

“They’re for the wounded inside,” Hassim answered upon facing al-Saqqaf.

“Thank you, but for my men, I already have a medic and an on-board doctor treating them,” A.K. warned Hassim.

“I see,” Hassim replied to A.K. before turning to Caguiat and al-Saqqaf. “I assume Wouter Vos, Sunan Wattana, Tarou Ganji, and Anita Hamilton from Iron Dutchman Services are inside the plane?”

“They are,” al-Saqqaf answered. “I assume the troops are to escort them?”

“We have accommodations ready for them.”

“And how long will they remain in your custody?” Caguiat inquired.

“Until we get them a flight back to Japan,” Hassim answered as he faced Caguiat. “I assume you won’t be going with them?”

“I was ordered to report back to Langley after bringing the surviving Nomads back to Mauritania.”

“I assume there are no more questions at this point?”

Caguiat, A.K., and al-Saqqaf asked no further questions. “Very well,” Hassim continued. “I need those bay doors open so that we can get the wounded out. The remnants of the Brotherhood of Freedom and their charges will have to remain in the plane until more trucks arrive to pick them up. After the wounded have been taken out of the plane, we’ll take custody of Mr. Vos, Mr. Ganji, Miss Wattana, and Dr. Hamilton. Is that understood?”

“I understand,” Caguiat replied.

“I’ll warn Vos and his men,” al-Saqqaf added.

Upon reaching the Galaxy, al-Saqqaf found the Iron Dutchman members waiting for him. “So that’s it?” Vos inquired. “We’re going to be imprisoned somewhere by the FIA?”

“I assume it’s for your own safety,” al-Saqqaf answered. “They’ll get you a flight back to Japan but we’ll all have to wait until it’s safe for civilian airliners to go here and back, especially from Japan, due to the fighting across Iran.”

“So this is goodbye?”

The mercenaries and al-Saqqaf turned to find Vahid Farahani, Kourosh Bakhtiar, and Leila Alam approaching them. “Sadly, it is,” Vos answered.

“Thank you for everything,” Bakhtiar added.

“Sorry we couldn’t help liberate Iran,” Wattana replied.

“It’s alright,” Farahani continued. “Like Mr. Vos said, we’re alive so we can fight another day.”

It was Leila’s turn to speak. “What did you she say?” Vos asked to Tarou.

“She said that she thanks us for training her,” Tarou answered for Leila.

Leila then asked something else in Farsi. “I heard my name,” Wattana said to Tarou after hearing what Leila asked. “What did she say?”

“She’s asking if she will see her again,” Tarou answered.

“Sadly, I can’t,” Wattana answered to Leila. “I’m not exactly you type. Consider this a lesson: if you wish to find someone to spend the rest of your life, don’t choose me.”

Tarou repeated Wattana’s words, but in Farsi, to Leila. Leila nodded in response.

“I do, however, promise to write,” Wattana added. “If they’ll allow it, that is.”

While Tarou translated what Wattana said in Farsi, al-Saqqaf boarded the plane.

“I’ll see what I can do,” al-Saqqaf replied.

“Speaking of which, what will you do after this?” Vos asked al-Saqqaf.

“First, be debriefed,” al-Saqqaf answered. “Second, see you off but that will be after we’ve worked out a plan to get you back to Japan.

“Third, I’ll need to find Armin’s wife Fatima and tell her of what I’ve done. Last, I will need to talk to the Director about what to do with the people who talked to the VRO about the arms shipments.”

“I see. Good luck with all of that.”


August 3, 2030; 0748 hours

Vos, Hamilton, Wattana, and Tarou appeared outside of the hotel they were taken to after they returned from Iran. They saw a taxi whose driver they were familiar with stopping before them. He got off and was joined by two other individuals: Yusuf al-Saqqaf and Qazvini.

“You’re going to take us to the airport?’ Vos asked Younes Bader.

“Mr. al-Saqqaf here is paying to do so,” Bader answered. “Also, not just you.”

“That will be me,” Qazvini answered.

“You’re coming with us?” Wattana asked.

“He asked,” al-Saqqaf answered. “Jawed here said he’s always to see the world and wishes to join you.”

“You wish to be a mercenary?” Vos asked Qazvini.

“I do,” Qazvini answered.

“At least you know English,” Hamilton remarked.

“Then welcome to Iron Dutchman Services, Jawed,” Vos said before he offered his right hand with Qazvini grabbing it with his right hand and shaking it.


Kansai City, State of Japan. August 11, 2030; 1203 hours (Japan Standard Time)

In the present, someone knocked on the door of Tarou’s apartment. Tarou got up and reached the door. Opening it, he found Maria Hoshikawa carrying with her bento containers.

“M… Maria, what are you doing here?” Tarou asked.

“Like I said weeks before, I came to offer you lunch,” Maria answered while closing her eyes.

“I see.”

“How’s your homework?”

“Getting what I missed because of my mission. I intend to finish all of it because Mr. Vos won’t let me participate in another mission lest I finished all of what I missed.”

“Can I help you later after lunch?”

“… Sure.”


Farwaniya Governorate, State of Kuwait. 0740 hours (Arabia Standard Time)

In his apartment, Yasin Ismail, The Foreign Intelligence Agency’s Director of Covert Operations, finished dressing up. As he left his room, he found a man hiding his eyes with sunglasses sitting by the sofa.

“W… Who are you?” Ismail asked.

“Don’t recognize me?” the man asked. “I figured you wouldn’t. Now listen, I’ve come with a warning.”

“And what might that be?”

“The DIA have been watching you for two weeks, ready to build a case against you.”

“For what?”

“For using Jamal Sulaiman to feed information to the OVR’s infiltrator who called himself ‘Gadyuka’.”

“That’s preposterous!”

“Is it? Enough has been collected to have you arrested. Now, you could either let that happen or listen some more to what I have to say.”

“This is nonsense! Who are you!?”

“Before I tell you, let me explain to you what I did when I escaped Iran. After having those mercenaries temporarily detained until we arranged a flight for them back to Japan, I had to visit the widow of a friend of mine. A friend I had to kill during the escape because it was too late for him to get on the plane. He asked me to kill him because he would rather die than be captured and thrown into a Eurasian gulag where he would die slowly and painfully.

“You know what I did? I shot him with my pistol. I didn’t even look and I emptied my magazine hoping it would be quick. Painful, yes, but quick. Can you imagine doing that to a friend of yours?”

“Wait… you’re al-Saqqaf, aren’t you?”

“I’m sorry, who?” the man asked before standing up and leaving the apartment.

Ismail wasn’t able to move. What have I done? Ismail pondered. All I wanted to do with the money I got from the OVR infiltrator was to make sure my daughter finished her studies.

Ismail then returned to the dressing room and going through a series of cabinets, opened one filled with bullets and a Sikiyn pistol. Loading one bullet into the pistol, Ismail turned off the safety and kneeled into the ground. He then shoved the pistol onto his mouth. Closing his eyes, Ismail slowly pulled the trigger.


Unknown Location. 0830 hours (Unknown Time Zone)

“Šap” stood before the shadowed figure she knew as the Grand Gatekeeper. “How have you been, Šap, or should I say Shireen Baloch?” the Grand Gatekeeper asked.

“Šap” removed her mask. “I am fine, Grand Gatekeeper,” “Šap” replied.

“Now, I apologize for calling you by your real name but how goes the situation within the Tsardom?”

“The Iranian Security Forces have revolted due to how they were treated in the Brotherhood of Freedom’s last offensive and how the remnants fought in Bushehr.”

“I see. I need you return to Iran and aid them.”

“But why, Grand Gatekeeper? What of our relationship with the Tsarist government?”

“I intend to make things fair on both sides. Other than that, I’ve been told that the Covert Operations Director of the Middle Eastern League's FIA has been found dead in his home. Most likely he killed himself to avoid being arrested for using his partner-in-crime Jalal Sulaiman in telling the VRO.”

“What will we do now?”

“Keep observing. As for you, aid the new rebellion in Iran. No doubt Iron Dutchman Services will be needed for our future plans so we’ll continue to keep an eye on them too.”

I’m sorry for doing this, Tarou, “Šap”, or rather Shireen Baloch thought.