The motorcycle roared along, passing one vehicle after another on the expressway. It was a beautiful day with a bright blue sky, ideal for being out on a bike. And perfect for the job ahead.
Never one to be bothered by laws, the biker paid no heed to the posted speed limits that reared their heads along the highway. With no restrictions, he rumbled along as fast as he cared to go. While he did, the wind whipped across him, cooling him with the scents from the many fields of wild flowers he passed. It gave him a sense of exhilaration as he sped toward Oxford.
Dressed entirely in black leather and silver that matched the bike’s exterior, Moshe Shaheed kept a close eye on the terrain for signs that informed him he was nearing his destination on the outskirts of the city. He knew that soon he would need to turn off M4, one of the UK’s major expressways. When he saw his exit straight ahead, he slowed the motorcycle to maneuver from the freeway onto the ramp and then onto A40, one of the many auxiliary arteries of the system. Several miles later he rolled up to the roundabout. Taking the second turn from it, he pressed the pedal and the bike responded with a powerful thrust, rearing up on its back tire to handle the increased acceleration and, for a second, looking as if it could go airborne.
When he purchased it, Shaheed had spared no cost. The motorcycle was the top of the line in every way. And even with that being the fact, additionally, he had splurged to customize it. He had chromed it up so much that every bike aficionado who spied it passing by was duly impressed by its pedigree and appearance. It was no secret that he was very much enamored by it and would extoll its virtues with any of his friends who cared to argue the point over a beer.
Because the day was warmer than usual, Shaheed pushed up each sleeve of his jacket, exposing part of the huge scorpion tattoo on his right forearm. For those who paid it close scrutiny, it was the common belief amongst them that there could never be a meaner, more menacing-looking reproduction of the eight-legged arachnid ever set to ink, from the fierce burning eyes in its head to the erect tail with the venomous stinger.
Born in Syria, the Muslim himself was very much in real life like the symbol he had chosen to grace his arm. He had the qualities of passion both good and evil that the dangerous arachnid, as well as many of its fellow peers, possessed, having been raised in a climate of sand and scorching heat that existed for many centuries and seemed to embolden the mind with its history of violence and its sting of death, as well as its impassioned desire for love making. However, the bike’s rider was so deeply engrossed in reaching his destination and fulfilling his mission that the thought of the tattoo and its succinct history lesson never bothered to cross his mind.
Instead he bent low over the chopper’s handlebars and whizzed along toward his target, which was, according to his estimates, only a few more miles up the road.
Within minutes he spied the twin stacks of the nuclear power plant off to the right side of the freeway. The left stack billowed a cloud of steam into the clear blue sky, much like a robust combustion engine working at full throttle while churning up smoke, vapor and heat as byproducts of the process of generating energy.
After checking his rearview mirror to be certain that no other vehicles were approaching from behind, he slowed and rolled his bike to the edge of the road. There, he lowered his kickstand and dismounted. It took him only a couple of seconds to grab the armed, hand-held rocket launcher from the rear of the bike, aim the missile at the one stack that was expelling the cloud of steam, and launch it into the air.
When he pulled the trigger, the sleeve of his jacket slid up to expose the full image of the intimidating scorpion tattoo on his arm, which signified the depth of the hatred and hostility he felt toward those who reviled and blasphemed his Muslim faith. Like a chameleon, the scorpion’s appearance seemed to morph into an expression that was best described as delight, as though it could already envision the destruction that would follow.
True to expectations, the projectile tore into the concrete stack like a pre-historic raptor ripping into its prey. As it bit into the structure, it took a large chunk out of one side of the complex. The accompanying explosion was so loud that it rivaled the thunderous wall of sound that emanates from a stage 5 hurricane.
Shaheed lay steeped in one of his darker moods, where he found himself exhibiting the same fuming rage as his analogous representation, the stinging scorpion. With ruin and wreckage the main goals of his mission, he spent little time locking in another missile to launch so he could maximize the damage to the cooling component of the plant. Then, quickly, he hopped on his cycle to make his getaway.
As he peeled away, he glanced over his shoulder to scrutinize the dark cloud of smoke and destruction that spewed into the sky. His job was finished, and not wishing to be spotted, he blew down the highway on the bike as fast as he could, disappearing into the distance in a trail of exhaust smoke and fumes.
* * *
In the war on global terrorism, and in what was becoming more of a common occurrence than an isolated event, for the next hours the BBC and the major news wire services were flooded with the details about the latest attack that had damaged the nuclear power plant on the outskirts of Oxford, a plant that had been providing a significant amount of the electrical needs to the city.