Chapter 10

Persecution

 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

~ Revelation 13: 7-12

96 A.D. Island of Patmos

As John continued writing what would become the most read and most misunderstood book of the Bible, he reached chapter 13, the most painful one so far. He winced as he recalled the persecution that he had seen in his life, both as a disciple of Christ, and through his recent experience of being in the spirit and viewing these future events. As his pen flew over his paper, he recoiled at the suffering and pain described.  He knew, however, that it was necessary for the plan of God to unfold.  That didn't make it more palatable, just more understood. Any time a brother or sister in Christ suffered for the gospel, he cried. But more tears were shed at the thought of his Savior and the suffering Christ had endured for his sins and all the sins of mankind.  He didn't claim perfect knowledge, he didn't claim to understand it all, and he certainly didn't claim to know the mind of God, and why these things had to happen.  He only knew that God used all things, good and bad, for his glory. In the end all would be perfect, and right now that's what John found comfort in at this moment.

Present day, Lincoln, September 15, 12:00 P.M. Year 2 of the last 7 years of the Tribulation.

     Life was back to normal, or as close to normal as this "C.U.E."-run world could get. People returned to work, school, and a limited grocery store. But despite the positive things the new leaders of the world were saying, normal had one glaring exception: the global re-education session.
     Most were impressed with the speed at which Chardanay had whipped together world order and peace from total chaos. Impressed, that is, until they had their legally mandated turn at the session. Most took it in stride as a small price to pay for life being returned to them out of ashes. A minority, however, objected as their rights were slowly taken away. The mood everywhere could be best described as a controlled, peaceful, un-eventful civil war; A war in name only. There were no riots, no chaos, and no visible antagonists. No violence could be reported, but if one was observant enough, they heard the grumblings. The grumblings that would never be more than conversation and never rise beyond that.

     Simply titled, "C.U.E. Phase 2", The sessions spanned the globe. In just about every school, library, or town hall, there was a mandatory class scheduled around the clock until every citizen on the planet was updated on the worldwide laws, statutes, and regulations aimed at unifying the planet into one entity. With every man's cooperation, the Continental United Earth would be the ultimate set up for peace, harmony, and togetherness.
     The outline was simple, however the session was anything but. It seemed that confusion was the order of the day for some, and the ones who questioned the new laws were the most confused. Objections were especially heard in the U.S.A., or Zone 6 as it was now known, where most protesters came from  and where confusion reigned. The changes were more accepted in the 3rd world nations, the communist nations, and the more liberal western nations, which made up most of the planet.  In America, however, where freedom was treasured more than anything, it was not so easy. 
     What was it that was so offensive to this world-wide minority? The first blow had come with the registration of every citizen in a central database, monitored by the newly formed world government. Number two was the abolishment of all public forms of organized religion. Number three was the confiscation and relinquishment of all forms of firearms.
     The rest was never even brought up for debate due to the fact that the first three created enough debate to last a lifetime. Law enforcement had their hands full as some simply refused the changes and were told that not attending the session and accepting the new changes was not optional. The citizenry had 30 days to comply or risk incarceration indefinitely until such time as compliance could be verified. The result of the threats just made the people more angry, but slowly, most of them acquiesced, figuring that the consequences weren't worth it just to keep their gun.

     When it came time for Johnathan Browne to take his turn, he showed up with the whole group in tow, and that's when things got interesting at the Lincoln reeducation center.
     As soon as he arrived, he began, "Well guys, my life is none of your business, you can't have my gun, and Jesus Christ is Lord. Any questions?"
     Since the chief of police, who had been charged with crowd control, was a friend of his, the man quietly pulled him aside, "Please Johnathan, this is for our own good. This planet was dead until this was organized. Just give it a chance, you'll see. I beg you, don't make me come to your house and make this hard." 
     Well, there it was. It was officially put out to Johnathan, as well as the others with him: comply or face the punishment. "For our own good," Johnathan muttered under his breath, "We'll see about that."
     He quietly gathered up the rest of the group and high-tailed it back to the house. "Let's go gang. Time to unveil the surprise, and I ain't waiting for C.U.E. phase 3"

     Bob Edwards had just finished destroying all evidence that he ever owned another weapon, securing them in his secret hiding place that nobody would ever find, and now set off to his turn at the mandatory meeting that he reasoned was the first phase of the new world order takeover. Traffic was thicker than normal for this part of Lincoln, but all Bob could think about was the new knowledge that he learned from his neighbor. The Antichrist, the tribulation, it was all reeling in his head when he was thrust atop the steering wheel.
     In his distraction, Bob had hit the beat-up SUV in front of him, and before he could get out and confront the other driver, the police were already on the scene. It was the same cop who had taken Bob's gun, and still wearing the laughable C.U.E. uniform.
     Bob reasoned that this guy must be assigned to this part of town to keep the peace. The cop stormed up to Bob as he exited his smoking car, "So, we shoot people one minute and ram cars the next? I think you're coming with us."
     Before Bob knew what was happening, he was in the back of a police car, handcuffed, and on his way to what could only be Jail. Bob had never been in a police car so he didn't know the drill, but he tried to talk some reason into the "cops" that were ignoring him in the front seat. "Why are you doing this for a simple fender bender?" His first attempt was met with silence. "This is wrong, just plain wrong. My lawyer will be in touch about a wrongful arrest."
     That prompted a hearty laugh from  the officers, but no other conversation. To Bob's amazement, they did not arrive at a police station, but what used to be the Walmart. As they shuffled him inside, he was in awe at the reconstruction. It had been transformed into a massive holding area for thousands of people, all milling about and looking aggrivated, confused, and bored. Bob was processed and what could only be described as thrown into the fray. 

Tim Gordon sat in the corner of what had once been the neighborhood Walmart. Now, however, it was a detention facility. He had been unable to  believe it when Frankie had arrested him for taking an extra sandwich for a poor, hungry lady ahead of him in a line of citizens waiting for their daily rations.
     He wasn't sure if it had been his arrest or who had done the arresting that had pained him more. When Frankie had told him that looters and thieves would not be tolerated any longer, he had immediately known two things for sure:  the world was in trouble, and he was alone for the ride.
     "But why Walmart?" he wondered. He must have said it out loud because the guy next to him exclaimed, "He speaks!" As the man spoke, others gathered around Tim to introduce themselves, both intimidating and strangely relieving him.
     "What are you all here for?" Tim said. That was met with a series of answers that Tim couldn't make compute. They all seemed to be there for a list of extremely minor offenses that should warrant no more than a warning at best.
     As everyone told their story, Tim noticed the last person he thought he'd see here: Bob Edwards, leading a group of people nearby. Tim didn't like Bob much, to say the least, but he was smart enough to recognize and appreciate the authority of a Christian bookstore owner in the middle of what he thought was an end times event unfolding. Tim had questions, and he knew Bob had answers, so off he went to confront Bob.
     Bob looked up with a look of disgust that put Tim on the offense, "I guess being straight didn't keep you out of here?" Tim said.

     "Checkmate" Judy said.
     "Darn it!" Robert said, "I'll get you next time."
     It was his fifth consecutive loss. "I'm going to get a soda, you want one?" Judy said.
     "No, I'm trying to cut down. Besides, when we can't get this stuff no more, dirty water is gonna be a luxury." Robert joked.
     Judy's face fell, "Robert, seriously, how will we survive when we don't cave in to this garbage?" The crumbled C.U.E. notice was in her hand as she spoke. She cleared her throat, "You know we can't buy or sell when this takes hold, and the shelters and food banks will all close soon. What will we do?"
    Robert cocked his head, "Either God's in control, or he isn't. Which one of those possibilities are you gonna bank on?"
    Judy was confident in God's ability to control everything, that was no question, but it didn't make going through it any easier. Persecution was coming, Judy knew it, but somehow Robert's reassurance that God was in charge was enough. "You mean a nice grape soda will just continue to appear, supernaturally?" She managed a smile, and suddenly wondered where she'd be without her husband.
     Robert laughed and said, "Probably not, but have you ever heard of Manna and quail?"
     As they sat to go another round she said softly, "Never made a quail before, but I hope it's good with dirty water." As the both slowed their laughter, the doorbell rang, sending a chill up Judy's spine.
      "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Starling?" The young man said as Robert cautiously opened the door
     "Yes" Robert said. "This is for you, Sign here." The exhausted young man managed in an obvious fatigued voice.
     "What is it?" Judy said over his shoulder.
     "It's all in the letter ma'am, please don't make me explain it again, I'm not going to finish my route at this rate." He said as he turned to leave.
     Robert began reading and Judy paled at the part he read aloud. "You have 30 days to report to the following address to receive your citizen number, R.F.I.D. Chip, and program placement. Failure to do so will result in penalties up to and including incarceration."
     Judy just stared at him in unbelief. "This is where the rubber meets the road, Philly girl, you ready?" After a long pause and a short prayer, she crossed her arms, "Bring it on! That soda's kinda flat anyway." 
     Robert suggested that they go to the church and see what they thought, before they couldn't go there anymore.

     Tracey felt uneasy. She believed it all, but couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing. Al sensed it as he asked her what was wrong. "I don't know, I can't place it." she said "You don't know? You have to go and get a chip put in you we both know is the mark of the beast or face the consequences and you say you don't know what's wrong?"
     Tracey chuckled and replied, "It's more than that, Al. I feel uneasy about me, my feelings and reactions. I don't feel right! I can't explain it,"
     Al thought it was just butterflies due to her new-found realization of the truth, and prophecy coming true before her eyes. But Tracey knew that wasn't it. She leaned her head down on the kitchen table, secretly wishing she could just go back to the way she had been before, where she had liked it.
     What neither of them knew was that Tracey had not sealed the deal with God. There was only her analytical belief and still no substance, despite everything she had witnessed. They didn't realize that if Tracey didn't figure this out soon, the two of them would be separated, possibly forever.
      "I hear that there is a group of people going to Morning Glory church for what they think is the last time. I think we should go, hon. There might be answers there, the answers you're looking for." Tracey didn't move, and after a minute of staring at his confused wife, he sighed, "I'll get your coat."

     Johnathan pulled into the parking lot of Morning Glory to a mob scene. Signs read, "End Religion", "Support C.U.E.", "God=War" and his favorite, "Jesus divides"
     He chuckled, "I might get that tattooed on my hand instead of the mark." It took them twenty minutes to find a place to park and wrestle their way into the building that was protected by police, for now. He knew that would stop soon, it was just a holdover feeling from the cops that still thought their job was to protect and serve. That would be changing soon.
     As they gathered inside, they saw Pastor Allen sitting on the edge of the stage, looking ragged and exhausted. Sam leaned close to his Dad, "Is this the surprise Mr. Browne was talking about?" 
     His Dad looked at him sideways, "No, this is the last time we will be allowed to congregate, and we need to get all the spiritual info we can before the big stuff starts." 
     "The big stuff?" Sam muttered and shook his head, not willing to say it louder. He turned to Jess, "I think we are in real trouble" A strange feeling he would rather have ignored was settling in his mind. For the first time in his life, he was ready to listen.
     The biggest shock to all of them was the number of people in the sanctuary that was normally filled to bursting. There was only about 200 people around them, and they barely filled half of the ground level. 
    James Allen used no microphone. Johnathan realized that most of those who would be hearing this message wouldn't be hearing it from him. Most would relay the information learned to friends and loved ones.
     "Persecution has arrived." Pastor Allen seemed to be trying to look each member in the eye, "To declare yourself a Christian will soon be begging for violence. These people still need the truth though, and I aim to go down swinging. I think we all know that the R.F.I.D. is the mark of the beast. Do we have any other questions that are more specific?" 
     Shouts came, "How do we survive?", "When's the Rapture?", "How do you know you are right?", Two hundred was suddenly a staggering number as people began to stand, their eyes wild with fear. Johnathan and Kevin tried to help calm the crowd,
     "Listen!" Johnathan yelled. "This is not helping! Let the man talk." Pastor Allen continued with explanations of what was coming based on his studies. "I suggest you find some kind of shelter, Safe house, hideout, whatever you call it. This is a big planet, and only 3% is inhabited. That leaves a lot of room, so find somewhere, work together. It won't be long before true believers are raptured, but it could be as long as another year and a half or more, it just isn't clear.
     Stay out of sight, stay in touch, find a network, create one, scrounge, find sympathetic people who have the mark. If you feel compelled to evangelize, do it. If not, do something else for the kingdom. It's almost over, people. The day that we've been praying for our whole lives is coming soon. God bless, take care, go,go,go. The Police came in to announce that they were leaving soon and that if they wanted to get out safely they better leave now. Tracey was almost hysterical when Al pulled her into a hidden corridor, "Listen, somehow we gotta come back here tonight, late, when nobody's around, they got an underground hideout, only a few know about. This is all about networking now, we got to stick together, lets go home and put our life kit together and come back later, I've got the directions."

Bob and Tim were informed that they would be held for 3 more weeks and then release would be granted only by obtaining their R.F.I.D. or they would rot in detention like the rest of the "unchipped" as they were referred. Tim said, "3 weeks, that ain't bad, at least they still feed us, I ain't got anybody out there anyway." Bob replied, "I don't either, but I ain't takin' the mark for nobody, even to get out of here." Tim whipped around to face him, "What do you mean the mark, this is just order out of chaos, why does everything that happens have to be about the bible" Just then a woman appeared and overheard their conversation. "Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear you, but what else do you think is going on here?" As Tim turned to face her, he froze, She continued, "Sorry to be blunt, but we ain't got much time left if it ain't God, what's your story?" Tim Said, "I don't know." his voice quavering and unsure, "I haven't really thought about it much." He was captivated by this woman, but didn't know why. "Well then let me borrow you for a while, I'm new at this but I think I can help, I'm Allison, by the way, and you are?" Tim managed to say his name but nothing else as they took a walk together.

As Johnathan and Company found their way back to the house, they all got out and followed him through the woods away from the main house. "How many acres" Said Kevin. "7" said Johnathan, as he stopped at a large stump and sat. Jed smiled. "Here we are, welcome home" Johnathan grinned as he spoke. "Wow" Said Jess, "Where's the kitchen?" She said sarcastically, ""Make it so, number one" Johnathan said to Jed in his best Patrick Stuart imitation, Gesturing toward the stump. Jed grabbed one side, Johnathan the other, the stump moved back revealing what looked like a tunnel straight down at least 20 feet with a ladder along the wall of the tunnel. "Ladies first?" Jed said motioning to Jess who just stood Frozen shaking her head and saying, "I ain't going down there." Johnathan countered with, "Oh, I think you'll want to go down, you all do, trust me." As they reached the bottom of the tunnel, they all stood in a tiny room 5 feet by 5 feet, the only thing visible was a switch on the wall barely illuminated by a faint light around the switch plate. As Jed flipped the switch, they couldn't believe their eyes. Hundreds of lights came to life all at once revealing what looked like an underground house. Floors, ceilings, rooms, furniture, even country knick knacks on the living room entertainment center. "Unbelievable!" Kevin said, "You said it was nice, but I had no idea, I'm in the wrong business, how much did this set you back? and is it untraceable?" Johnathan chuckled, "Not to toot my own horn, but I've been building this thing since Russia occupied Crimea, years ago, we saw this coming, prophecy speaks volumes, it took a pretty pile of cash to build it, but so much time has passed, that it hasn't hurt my bottom line, hungry anyone?" He moved out of the way to reveal a storage warehouse with what looked like enough food and water to last forever.

 6 months later..

March 15th, Beginning of 3rd year of last 7 left....

"Here's your slop, you chipless fool" The guard said to Bob Edwards. As he took his ration at the detention center he stopped to notice what a nice facility it had grown into despite its function. He likened it to a 2 star hotel. The meal was as boring as it had been for the past 6 1/2 months, no frills and no taste. As he returned to his little band of believers that had become a close knit group, he noticed for the first time the construction taking place in the northeast corner of the courtyard. Maybe it meant something, maybe it didn't, but Bob would tell the group when he returned with his lunch. Over the months, Tim and Allison Becket became quite close, almost an item some would say, which puzzled Bob who knew Tim was Gay but said nothing when he saw them growing closer. He felt Tim would either tell her when the time was right or would be converted to liking women. Either was fine with him. "I saw an area of construction over there." Bob told the group as he sat for lunch. "We all know what we have to do to get us out of here, we all know we ain't gonna' do it, so I figure before we rot in here, we ought to think about a way to get out on our own, with some help from God." 

Tracy liked the "underground" as it was called, 6 months there was no different than 6 months at home, except for more people to talk to. The hideout was clean, spacious, and she had a new best friend to talk to. Her and Al befriended a couple named Starling. As Judy, Robert, Al, and Tracey's friendship grew, so did bible knowledge. Al and Robert were kindred spirits, not far apart in age, they found lots in common, but nothing more than their love of the Lord. Tracey however, felt she knew enough to be at peace with the Lord, and reverted into her old habits of missing bible studies in favor of time alone, she would soon find out that being alone wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Nobody minded the shelter. The close quarters did not even bother Jessica. The kids all running around occasionally got on her nerves, but Jed's brothers and sisters were a small annoyance compared to the fate that would await her on the outside. They were way past the deadline to conform. They were allowed brief walks on the outside when the coast was clear but other than that, life was very boring. Sam and Jess would talk about their wedding that never happened, Jed played games with his siblings, and the adults discussed long term plans. Nobody ever talked about the elephant in the room, who was or wasn't soundly saved.  It was just assumed that the nightly bible study was enough. But as some would come to find out, it wasn't.