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The Sabbatical

[Epic - Part V - Chapter 1]  (The Girl with the Girl Who Played with the Girl Who Kicked the Girl with a Thousand Hardcovers) Maria Frederica Morales wasn't really brought up as a typical freelance assassin. Which is to say that her parents Raul and Maritza Morales always wanted her not to entertain the idea of joining the family occupation and instead always urged her to concentrate on more professionally, financially and socially... well... amiable fields of suburban-friendly, dinner-party entertainable professions such as particle physics or global capital market analysis or evolutionary paleontology, etc.

Pfftt... she'd have none of it.

(Actually she majored in all three from Ivy League colleges: billionaire parents tend to pester you into studying nevertheless, you see.) Maria worked two summers as a research assistant for a boson and graviton study group at CERN..., spent a 'most vain and worthless' spring formulating complex manipulative financial derivatives a…

The Invite

[Epic - Part I - Chapter 4]  (Lord Noorali Luqmanjee's Revolutionary Left-Wing Gorillas and Other Paramilitary Monkeys) 
On the northern side of King Street, east of Yonge street in downtown Toronto, there's a little obscure alley which leads to a small courtyard surrounded and shadowed by tall office buildings. In that courtyard lies one of the most bizarre post-modern sculptures of Western civilization as we know it.

That sculpture, that courtyard and that alley have nothing do with what happened to Lord Noorali Luqmanjee, trapped inside an iron cage, in that freight train in Zambia, during the earlier part of our story.

In fact, upon sensing he was not alone in the cage, Luqmanjee had to light up one of his last remaining matches to get a short glimpse of Rabbi Daniel Levitt Levine smiling at him heartily.

Luqmanjee felt his heart freeze.

"You look like you've just seen a ghost, Nuru." Levine tried to raise his voice amid the cage's skull-penetrating ratt…

The Dinner

[Epic - Part VII - Chapter 1]  (The Existential Kabab Paradox) 
"They laughed at Jules Verne, too." Said Ibrahim Moosa Issa, blowing two perfect smoke rings. A cuban feels particularly exhilarating after a hearty Mediterranean dinner.

"Yes, but that's because he'd shown up wearing an Elf's costume that day at the stock exchange - never a committed stockbroker was he." Chuckled Delvira and lilted her delicately balanced port filled crystal goblet to admire her own deposited thick smoke from an unfiltered Camel straight. No one knew why, but she always preferred this combination of wine and nicotine after dinners, no matter where or when.

Where in this case was the plush study of HRH Prince Charles Bin Abdel Kabir. When, was a matter different altogether, for if asked today, they'd all sigh and nod their heads in solemn nostalgia.

Lord Noorali Luqmanjee smiled mischievously and wrapped the remainder of his betelnutchew concoction back into its pure …

The Call

[Epic - Part IV - Chapter 1]  (Kingdom of Haivaan) His Royal Highness Prince Charles Bin Abdel Kabir of the Hakimiyeh Kingdom of Jabera was having a very bad day at work.

In New York, two of his prized stallions were reported to have been detained and quarantined by the U.S. Customs on suspicions of terror-related financial activity, apparently acting on a tip-off from an undercover jockey at the Kentucky Derby who had anonymously emailed a federal agent about documents accidentally fed to the horses. A senior FBI forensics team was currently investigating piles of manure in an upstate stable owned by a former White House Chief of Staff and a personal friend of the Prince's.

In Santa Monica, his daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Leila, aged 21, was pictured with a group of Puerto Rican, Scandinavian and Canadian wannabe actors by the paparazzi and their images published all over the Internet and tabloids. They were all dressed in -- well, he wished they were dressed in anythi…

The Alias

[Epic - Part III - Chapter 2]  (Abu Boubou and the Rabbi's Renegade Catholic Daughter)  "In chemistry, an element is the most fundamental of substances. It can't be broken down any further. However, a compound is a matter that can be found naturally occurring or created in a controlled environment, like in a lab -- a compound such as plastic. Scientists have now mastered the art of even creating elements. Elements heavier than once heavy-weight champion of the Periodic Table: the mighty Uranium."

Abu Boubou stopped and took a sip of water, as he continued his lecture.

Why am I lecturing this Chemistry 101 lesson to a bunch of old ladies in a retirement home?

"Neptunium and Plutonium, as we know now, are such man-made elements. Of course, we know them to be man-made because we don't know whether they naturally occur anywhere else in the universe. There might as well be many, many heavier elements we don't know about."

Abu Boubou shrugged in silence a…

The Secret

[Epic - Part III - Chapter 1]  (A Judeo-Christian, Judeo-Islamic, Christian-Islamic and Judeo-Christian-Islamic Psychological Thriller Based on Actual Real-life Events Surrounding Steve Job's Sermon during Apple's iPad Launch)  Dr Ibrahim Moosa Issa was a troubled man. And not just because of his name, which, as many people of faith reminded him, constituted a nomenclature and lineage of biblical proportions -- something he had to Wikipedia himself to discover what they were talking about. He was troubled, you see, because he wasn't a doctor at all, and because of something much more troubling.

Abraham Moses Jesus -- anglicized, latinized or romanized -- depending on how or where he was. Again, he had Googled a million times just to get this straight.

"Your name is sacred, my boy," his father, Professor Yousuf Yaqoub Yahya of the Grand Inter-faith University of Ancient Studies based in downtown Los Angeles, often use to tease the young Ibrahim. Ironically, Prof …

The Rescue

[Epic - Part II - Chapter 2]  (Haleji Hallelujah)  "Is that what I think it is?!" Cried Fatima Burrito and jumped out of her hammock. Too bad it was her first time in a hammock and noone had really told her that one cannot actually jump out of a hammock.

She rolled and twisted helplessly. Fine nylon strings stretched and tightened with each attempt of hers to break loose -- like a bratty 8 year-old kindergarten toddler tries to open a cellophane-wrapped, saccharine-infested throatkiller candy.

George Balooney watched with a slightly amused smile as Burrito lay trapped in a nylon cobwebbed contraption that was now beginning to resemble a Merchant Ivory low-budget prop cleverly disguised to mimic a Ridley Scott production refuse.

No, perhaps a Scorcese rehearsal junk, hahaha, Balooney corrected himself and chuckled. But still, Ismail and James were never shy of using family members as cast or crew, either!! Hahaha!!

He laughed at his own little private joke, even when he knew…

The Romance

[Epic - Part II - Chapter 1]  (The Romantic Republic)  "The problem with being an atheist is, my dear," he flicked the cigarette expertly like Eastwood never did, then quickly ducked in vain as the butt boomeranged back towards him along the evening wind's wild, strong gust... "that it is really your own problem." He cursed silently and brushed the smoldering remains off his Armani. Damn, he thought, will have to get it drycleaned yet again this week.

Her hair blew in the wind, as gracefully as a runway model picks herself up after a nasty fall because the oh-so-mighty Bhatti was hellbent on her wearing 6-inch high heels with a dress that was obviously designed by Mullah Omar's tailor. No, bad analogy. It was more like Queen Rania spraining her ankle while stooping out of a Karachi rickshaw.

"Yes, and Rome wasn't built in a day." She replied coldly. He considered the relevance of her statement for a long time, then shrugged it off. App…

The Trap

[Epic - Part I - Chapter 3]  (Leaping over the Luangwa) How ironic, he thought as he tried to make room for himself over the rusted cast-iron planks on the wildly chugging freight-car of the train: it rocked, rattled and screamed more than a bouncing cat inside an old canister of oil being kicked and hurtled by two 9-year old brats returning home from school after a bad day of getting bullied by Deishu the ugly, rat-faced fat 8th-grader.

Yes, Deishu paid for his sins two decades later when his ugly rat-faced 29-year old body was deposited unceremoniously back inside the bank which he'd tried to rob but failed after the getaway car developed serious transmission problems. While Deishu was scratching his head after opening the bonnet, he discovered painfully that the only transmission problem was between his brains and his body: for inspecting a getaway car for trouble right outside the bank you just robbed was not exactly Gary Kasparov beating Big Blue the-chess-playing-monkey. …

The Train

[Epic - Part I - Chapter 2]  (Train Across the Ocean) He kept on walking until the land gave way to the ocean, which in fact was a muddy swamp of a river but he had flunked elementary geography in high school. Out of a corner of his eye he could feel the bi-plane now spiralling like a moth on three screwdrivers and eight tequila shots, so he rubbed his eyes violently because the corner of his eye had caught an eyelash and there was no kamikaze bi-plane anywhere.

The bi-plane had indeed disappeared, and along with it, his hopes of rescuing the Queen of Euquay and his desires to encounter surly Delvira again. He sighed remorsefully - only to realize that he sighed because he had treaded on heavily and squelched a pair of mating tarantulas. Ah, at least he had saved some poor farm animal going berserk in the middle of the night after being bitten by them and as a result, helped a farmer's son steal his father's tractor and heading off to the bright lights of the city (the farm…

The Freedom

[Epic - Part I - Chapter 1]  (Here Begins the Great Epic of Our Times) It was a dark, stormy night. No, it was a dark, cloudless night with few stars scattered across the sky, like after a pack of cheap instant macaroni splits open with a crackle and a gush of rock-hard broken pasta pallets sprinkle all over the kitchen floor.

"Damn..." he mumbled as he looked up toward the sky and saw a tiny bi-plane spinning out of control, as if a freshly bug-sprayed cockroach dancing wildly on its back before resting forever - waiting to be pinched inside a piece of kitchen towel and thrown into the bin with murder written all over dirty fingernails. He also smelled fear, and noticed there was a half-open bottle of Fear cologne lying on the ground.

The bi-plane took a majestic dive: Her Majesty the Queen of Euquay (pronounced Aooa-yuuk-yuiwa-quee) was flying and no one else. How that woman could fly - he wondered. He wondered because the woman could not actually fly at all. She was…