Chapter 1 - An Early Morning Call

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The year is 2049. After months of bitter fighting, Nusantaran loyalist forces have finally scored a decisive victory against rogue Army forces who had tried to stage a coup against the Emperor a year earlier.

With pro-coup forces scattered and on the run, Grand-Marshal Zack Assegaf was summoned to the Imperial Palace to receive his latest task from the Emperor himself. Though he'd expected his visit to be short, Assegaf soon discovers that behind his new mission lay numerous intrigues and rivalries.


The old, heavy push-button phone on the bedside table rang just as Zack Assegaf was finishing his Fajr prayers. It was just before daybreak at five, a time when most people were still sound asleep. Everything was silent, except for the distant sound of crickets and the occasional rooster crow.

"Who is this?"

The voice on the other side was Rifat Bin Sanad, his adjutant. "Excuse the interruption, sir. There's a message for you from Imperial Palace."

"Tell me."

"The Emperor requests your presence in his office at your earliest convenience."

Assegaf listened with rapt attention as Bin Sanad proposed him a list of possible timeslots to carry out his visit. Having made his decision, the Grand-Marshal stroked his bushy moustache and gave his order.

"Prepare my car," he said. "Inform His Majesty's staff I will be coming at eight."

"Yes sir."

Assegaf put the receiver back in its place. Shortly afterwards, he shifted his gaze to a small photograph beside the telephone. It was of him and his late wife Noor Tamimi, taken about two decades earlier. For a moment he stood gazing at the picture, running his finger across Noor's gentle face as if to draw strength, before finally heading to the bathroom.


The Bentley Brooklands cruised along the idyllic road leading away from the Marine Corps headquarters at Cilandak towards the capital Jakarta. Occupying the driver's seat was army chauffeur Lieutenant Edward Tjahjo. Seated to his left was Marshal Assegaf – dressed in his customary white uniforms, eyes obscured behind a pair of aviator glasses perched atop an aquiline nose. As he drove, Edward took several glances sideways, wondering what the Marshal might be thinking along the journey.

Assegaf turned his head around just in time to notice Edward glancing at him. "You've got something to say?"

"No sir," Edward replied. His voice holds slight embarrassment. "Just wondering what you have on your mind right now."

Assegaf smiled wryly. "Plenty. We're close to discovering the location of Siregar and his forces, but the slippery bastard still eludes us."

A year before, both of them were caught in the crossfire when Strategic Reserve commander Field-Marshal Dzhokhar Siregar decided to launch his coup attempt against the Emperor. It had come very close to succeeding, only to unravel when Assegaf managed to put together a task force to retake the Senate District and rescue the Emperor before clearing the rest of Jakarta. At the time, Edward had helped to conceal Assegaf's whereabouts from Siregar's forces as the Grand-Marshal rallied loyalist officers to put down the coup.

"Sir, remember when we were the ones hiding from him?" Edward asked. "Thank God we made it out safely."

"Alhamdulillah," Assegaf said. His put his hand inside his uniform tunic's right pocket, running his fingers over the prayer beads that his father had given to him as a child. Since then, he had carried it with him wherever he went, whether on duty or praying inside a mosque.

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