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Poem: "Uncertain Miracles" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Uncertain Miracles"
This poem is spillover from the January 5, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] daisiesrockalot and [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "transformation" square in my 1-1-17 card for the Dark Fantasy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics, directly following "Insha'Allah" so read that one first or this will make no sense.

WARNING: This poem contains topics that many readers may find disturbing. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. Patches and Rampart help Buraq find Haboob to use miracles to make him stop being a supervillain. This includes a manhunt, terrorist activity, Buraq getting shot, messy medical details of a serious bullet wound, flashback to prior injury, the bad guys fragging their own sniper for violating medical neutrality, taking items from a corpse as a point of positive etiquette, teleporting while injured is no fun for anyone, kidnapping Haboob and fixing him by force, when you apply miracles to a terrorist it kind of sounds like you're torturing him, and not everyone is comfortable with this, dubious consent once Haboob starts to regain some sanity, distressing inability to pray in the customary manner, but Buraq is creative with solutions and it works fine in the end, another overwhelming prayer experience ending in a faint that scares the team healer, traumatic guilt, renaming, radical forgiveness of a divinely repaired terrorist, miracles have a blest radius of extra healing, loss of homeland, austere living conditions, feeling unclean, but fortunately Buraq knows how to fix that, uncertainty, and other challenges. On the whole, however, everyone is better off in the end. Because this poem contains a major plot development in world politics, skipping it would leave a gap, even though it doesn't fall into main storylines. Please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you wish to read.


"Uncertain Miracles"


It took weeks to track down Haboob,
even though he wasn't a subtle man.

The terrorist and his troops had lairs
scattered around much of the Middle East,
primarily in Iraq, Haboob's base of origin.

Rampart did most of the hunting,
Buraq helped him sort through clues,
and Patches hung back in case anyone
got hurt and needed medical care.

When Rampart didn't need his help,
Buraq stayed with Patches and worked on
his first aid training. He had learned enough
to wear a red cross/crescent armband,
which made him doubly neutral as
both a teleporter and a medic.

It was difficult to learn, but Buraq
enjoyed the challenge. He had never
cared much for serving in the Iraqi army,
and preferred saving people to killing them.

He wasn't sure about saving Haboob, but
Allah was, and that was enough for Buraq.

"I think we've finally got him," Rampart said
as they walked through a seedy little town
surrounded by slopes of sand and dry scrub.
"The Kitab are holed up in the hills, squabbling
with some other groups of insurgents. I've seen
at least three of the lieutenants, which means
Haboob is probably around here somewhere."

"Now we just have to find which nest
he's actually in," Patches said.

"That way," Buraq said. He felt
the tug of a hunch, but added,
"The only watering hole outside
of the town is on the east end,
which means Haboob will go west."

The supervillain's powers came from
the desert itself, and water weakened them,
so Haboob stayed as far from it as he could.

"West it is," Rampart agreed. "Head out."

They followed him carefully, because
he was the best soldier of the three.
Rampart had only left the army when
they wanted to misuse his Invulnerability.

As the three men slunk through the rocks,
they could hear arguments, and even
the occasional spatter of gunfire.

Suddenly a line of pain blasted
through Buraq's left arm, the force
of the bullet spinning him in place
before he fell to the ground.

"Sniper!" Rampart snapped.
"Everyone take cover!"

Patches grabbed Buraq and
dragged him behind a boulder.
"We're as safe as we're gonna get,"
he said. "I'll take care of Buraq.
You deal with that shooter."

"I'm on it," Rampart said,
and hustled away in a crouch.

Patches took one look
at Buraq's sleeve, where
the white background of
the red crescent was rapidly
turning dark, and said, "Not good."

"I can't move all my fingers,"
Buraq said, starting to panic.

"Can you move your wrist?"
Patches asked as he opened
the military-caliber first aid kit.

"Some, but it hurts," Buraq said.

"I'll take care of that before I start
cleaning the wound," Patches said.
He cut open the sleeve, revealing
a nasty hole with splinters of bone
poking through the torn flesh.

Buraq could feel the healer's hand
cup his shoulder above the injury, and
then a rush of cold made it all go numb.

He leaned his head back against
the rock and tried to relax as Patches
took care of him, but his memory kept
flashing back to the day they met.

Buraq had gotten shot, rather badly,
and lay there expecting to die, but
then an American medic had
showed up and saved him.

Buraq was so grateful that he
offered to teleport them both out
of the place they were pinned down
by heavy fire, but the medic refused
to abandon his other patient.

Since Buraq could carry two, he
managed to get them all out of there
and back to an aid station, but it
had been a very near thing.

A hand patting his cheek startled
Buraq back to the present moment.
"Hey, stay with me, little brother,"
Patches said. "I'm almost done."

Woozily Buraq looked down at
the thick layer of gauze wrapping
his arm over the splints. He still
couldn't feel much of anything.
That was probably for the best.

"Thank you," he managed to say,
and meant it for more than just this.

"Any time, but let's not do this again,
okay?" Patches said as he started
to put away his first aid kit.

Rampart returned without
his shirt but with an armful of
other stuff. "I'm back," he said.

"The sniper?" Patches asked.

"Dead," Rampart said. "His own side
fragged him and threw the body over
the barricade so that I would know
how seriously they disagreed with
his breach of medical neutrality."

"Where'd you get that?" Buraq said,
eyeing Rampart's unexpected resources.

"From the sniper," Rampart said.
He began unpacking the supplies that
he'd gathered in the process of checking
that the shooter was in fact dead.

"You robbed a corpse?" Patches said,
frowning at the little heap of items.

"It's polite under these circumstances,"
Rampart explained. "If I just ignored him,
that implies rejecting their apology. I didn't
want this to turn into a long discussion, so I
grabbed some useful bits and left."

"Fair enough," Patches said, and
picked out his share of the supplies.

"How's Buraq doing?" Rampart asked.

"Sore but mobile again," the healer said.
"The bullet went right through his upper arm.
I put the pieces of the humerus back together,
and mending the soft-tissue damage is easy, but
the injury cut both the ulnar and median nerves.
He's got no grip until those finish knitting."

"Well, he doesn't need his hands to teleport,
just needs to be thinking clearly," Rampart said.
"It could have been a whole lot worse."

Buraq was not, in fact, thinking clearly yet
but he could move if they needed to.

"Did you find out who's making trouble?"
Patches asked, glancing up the slopes.

"The Kitab we knew about. I think that
the other side is the Prophets of Purity,"
Rampart said. "There may be more."

"This place is a madhouse," Patches muttered.

"Yeah, but I also found out where Haboob is,
and get this: he's sitting behind a rock, alone,"
said Rampart. "He shooed away the Kitab
for some reason only known to himself."

Warm certainty swirled through Buraq,
giving him a much-needed surge of strength.
"Help me up," he said. "This is the chance
that we have all been waiting for."

"Okay," Patches said. He got a shoulder
under Buraq's uninjured arm and then
boosted the smaller man to his feet.

"Now show me in your mind where
to find Haboob," Buraq said to Rampart.

"Can you carry two in this shape?"
Patches said, worrying over Buraq.

"I've done it before," Buraq reminded him.

"More to the point, can you carry three?"
Rampart said quietly. "If we nab Haboob,
we'll need to get the hell out of here, fast."

"I can, not very far like this, but far enough,"
Buraq said. "If necessary, I can make
a series of short, quick hops."

"The ruins," Patches suggested.
"Remember the stone house where
we camped on way here? We could
hide there for a while if necessary."

They had searched the ruins because
the Kitab liked to shelter in such places,
but there were so many of them dotted
all over the desert, it was unlikely that
a particular one would be discovered.

"Good idea," said Rampart. "Okay,
Buraq, follow my lead to Haboob."

"I'll need my hand free to grab him,"
Buraq said. "You'll have to hold me
and make sure that I don't fall."

His companions closed in, supporting
him carefully on both sides while leaving
his good hand loose. Buraq realized
that he could never have done this
without their help. It was humbling.

He found the image of Haboob's retreat
inside Rampart's mind. It wasn't standard
telepathy, but it made his teleporting
a lot more useful when he could
follow someone else's direction.

The transit wasn't as smooth as usual,
landing with a clatter of loose stones that
made Haboob startle to his feet and start
to swing his machine gun toward them --

but Buraq manage to snatch him --

and then stumbled into a series of
even more awkward jumps until they
tumbled into a heap in the ruined house.

"That was not my best idea ever,"
Patches groaned as he sat up.

"Or my best trip," Buraq admitted.

Rampart was efficiently frisking Haboob,
but the terrorist had lost his gun somewhere
and seemed liable to lose his lunch also.

"Sorry about the rough ride," Buraq said.
"I guess I'm worse off than I thought."

"Let me check your wound," Patches said.
He was gentle and quick about it, but
the feeling was starting to come back
to Buraq's arm, and it was unpleasant.
"Everything is healing fine. Just don't
try to use it yet, it's not ready for that."

"I will be careful," Buraq said. He had
a job to do, but it didn't require both hands.

The miracle felt like a live coal in his grasp,
but he made himself walk slowly so that he
did not trip on the way to Haboob. Then Buraq
leaned down and pushed the miracle into him.

Haboob screamed.

Buraq had been half-expecting that,
because the man had been doing all kinds
of evil and the presence of Allah could be
overwhelming even to a devout one.

But Haboob kept on screaming
as fast as he could suck in air
and push it back out again.

"What the hell did you do to him?"
Rampart demanded, staring in horror.

"I am not doing anything to him,"
Buraq said. "It is the will of Allah."

"I am not comfortable with this,"
Patches said through his teeth.
"I didn't know you intended
to torture him like this!"

"I am not comfortable with it either,"
Buraq said. "It is not required to be
comfortable, only to be obedient."

"I'm gonna go check the perimeter,"
Rampart declared. "I wasn't expecting
for him to make this much noise. It
might attract unwanted attention."

Buraq waved him off, all his focus
on Haboob. The man's shrieks were
finally beginning to subside. Either
he was in less pain, or he was
just running out of strength.

Eventually the miracle burned through
the storm of hate that kept Haboob
walled off from the rest of the world.

He lay panting on the stone floor
of the abandoned house.

When Haboob finally opened his eyes,
Buraq saw a spark of sanity there.
"Your turn," he murmured to Patches.
"I have heard that Haboob survived
some kind of head injury. If you can
heal some of the scars inside his brain,
perhaps he will become more rational."

"Not my specialty, but I'll give it a try,"
Patches said. He scooted over to
Haboob and carefully explained
what he wanted to do to the man.

Surprisingly, Haboob nodded.

Patches cupped his hands over
Haboob's head and went to work.

Buraq leaned back against the wall
and let the house hold him up. He
felt exhausted, yet grateful they had
succeeded in catching the supervillain.

Then he realized that the sun had
turned yellow while he was attending
to Haboob, and was in fact sinking
rapidly toward the western horizon.

There wasn't enough water for wudu,
and Buraq was entirely too wobbly
to stand on his own for any length
of time. He could not call the healer
away from Haboob, and Rampart
was still gone on his patrol.

With a sigh, Buraq made tayammum
instead. He sat up as best he could, saying,
"Bismillaah hirahmaan nirrahiim." He struck
his one good hand against the clean dust,
blew upon it, and wiped his palm over his face.

His injured arm itched and ached from
the rapid healing. His fingers twitched,
breaking his concentration, so that he
could not recall all the proper words.

Finally he gave up and said, "Allah,
it is my intent to pray, but I have worn out
my body delivering what You gave to me.
By Your mercy, let this be my prayer."

Then the yellow light of the sun
which fell upon him turned to gold,
and he was in the presence of Allah.

The light was so bright and joyful
that it wrung tears from his eyes,
as if he stared directly into the sun,
and the sense of approval that
came with it overflowed his heart.

When it faded, Buraq found himself
sprawled on the ground again with
a very worried healer leaning over him.

"What happened?" Patches asked.
"One minute you were fine, and
the next minute you just fainted!"

"Was praying," Buraq mumbled, then
realized he had more work left to do.
Inside him another miracle waited,
sun-bright and tasting of forgiveness.
"Help me over to Haboob."

"Here we go again," Patches said,
but he helped Buraq move, despite
his earlier misgivings about the effects
of applying a miracle to a terrorist.

Haboob cringed at his approach,
but was evidently too exhausted
to pull away from Buraq's touch.

It took only a moment's contact to pour
the miracle from one soul to the other,
and a moment longer to start working.
Haboob didn't scream this time.

He wept.

He rolled over and turned
his face into the floor and
sobbed so hard his body
almost shook itself apart.

"Jesus, this is even worse,"
Patches said, watching him cry.

The Christian savior had nothing
to do with this, but Buraq saw
no need to say that aloud.

Rampart came back from his patrol
and announced, "No sign of enemies."
Then he looked at the still-sobbing man
and added, "What's up with Haboob?"

"Second miracle isn't sitting with him
any better than the first," Patches said.

"We cannot keep calling him that,"
Buraq said suddenly. "It is a name for one
who is no more, wiped away by the grace of
Allah. We must call him something else."

"Like what?" Rampart said. "Far as I've
heard, nobody knows his real name."

Patches gently shook the man by
his shoulder and inquired about
his name, but there was no answer.

"We will call him Abdul for now,"
Buraq decided. "It is common enough
that nobody should remark on it."

It was either that or Mohammed,
and he was not about to hang
the Prophet's name on someone
who had recently been so heinous.

"Sure, that works," Rampart said.

"How are you doing?" Patches said
to Buraq. "It's early yet, but I thought
that I saw your fingers moving."

Buraq opened and closed his hand,
suddenly realizing that the pain was gone
except for a little residual soreness.
"I think I'm fine," he said, amazed.

Patches unwrapped the bandages
and found only fading red lines where
the wounds had been. He prodded
gently at the bone, then said, "It's all
healing beautifully. The nerves are
knit and the bone is nearly done."

"Allah is merciful," Buraq said.

"If you're that much better, then
can you jump us out of here?"
Rampart asked. "Just because
there's no enemy action yet, doesn't
mean that it'll stay this way forever."

Buraq felt for his superpower and
found that refreshed as well. "I can
probably reach the last hotel we used."

"That should work," Rampart said.

They made their way to the hotel
in careful stages. Buraq felt strange,
as if he had all of his skin off, only it
didn't hurt. Since it also didn't seem
to disturb his teleporting, he put it
out of his mind to worry about later.

As soon as they reached their room,
Buraq hustled into the bathroom so that
he could perform ghusl and still have time
after showering for maghreb, the sunset prayer.

The one they were calling Abdul slunk into
the bathroom after Buraq left it, but instead
of praying in the customary manner, he
prostrated himself flat on the floor and
mumbled everything into the carpet.

Well, that was better than nothing.

They spent an uneasy evening in
the hotel, whispering conversations
about what to do with Abdul.

They could not simply turn him loose;
he was in no shape to care for himself
and could easily be captured by authorities
who would have no idea of his redemption.

"It's too bad Muslims don't have monasteries,"
said Patches. "Christian monasteries used
to have a custom of sanctuary where they
would house remorseful offenders."

"There are Sufi monasteries,"
Buraq said. "I have heard of them.
Perhaps one would take Abdul."

"I think there are interfaith ones too,
but not very many," Patches said.
"We could check those as well."

So they took turns searching
through the night, as each one
kept watch for a few hours
while the others slept.

By morning they had turned up
a tekke in Bosnia that accepted
penitents who wished to make up
for past wrongs through prayer
and service to humanity.

"It is so far away," Abdul said
when they told him about it.

"I think that is for the best,"
Buraq said gently. "There are
many people around here who
do not like you very much. It is
safer for you to go somewhere else."

Rampart finished making his circuit
of the room to ensure that they had
packed up everything, then tucked
a tip for the maid under a pillow.

Patches came back from
the checkout desk and said,
"Everyone ready to go?"

"Ready," Buraq said, beckoning
them to stand close to him. They
pulled Abdul into the huddle too.

He felt recovered enough to make
the trip in a single jump today, setting
them in a quiet corner of the courtyard.

The leader of the tekke came out
to greet the travelers. Arif Sidran had
sorrel skin and flowing white hair which
stood out against robes so deep an indigo
that they looked almost black. A necklace of
thick amber prayer beads draped over his chest.

"It is good that you have come," the old man said.
"I have been expecting a penitent to arrive."

Buraq explained about the assignment
from Allah and the two miracles, displaying
the badge he still wore on his shirt.

Patches explained how Abdul
could not take care of himself and
needed someone to keep an eye on him.

Rampart explained that Abdul had been
up to all kinds of evil, and thus had better
stay out of sight for the foreseeable future.

"Yes, of course," Arif replied. "Come, I will
show you to the room I have prepared."

The building was simple but beautiful,
stone walls framing a squarish structure.
Inside, sunlight spilled through a dome
cut with stars and pieced with fragments
of glass in many different colors.

The gathering room and prayer room
were resplendent with rugs of scarlet wool,
and the Quran upon its stand was touched
with gilt, but most of the walls were bare stone,
and the bathroom was little more than an urn
with a basin above it for making ablutions.

The room assigned to Abdul might as well
have been called a cell, for it held nothing
but a narrow bed with one thin blanket,
a low table, and a rug to pray upon.

"That'll do," Rampart said firmly.

"Thank you," Abdul said, and managed
to look each of them in the eye when he
said it. There was such sorrow there,
an old bitterness staining his gaze
like oak leaves fallen in a lake.

When he touched their hands
in parting, it made them shiver,
and they were all grateful when he
retreated to the bed and lay down.

They thanked Arif for taking charge
of their burden, and left a quantity of
cash for the upkeep of the tekke.

Buraq jumped them back to Iraq where
they could lay a false trail to confuse anyone
who might have been following them.

Then he noticed that Patches
kept wiping his hand on his pants,
and Rampart looked a bit queasy.

"What's wrong?" Buraq asked.

"I don't think I'll ever feel clean again,"
Patches said, and Rampart nodded.

"All right, I know how to fix that,"
Buraq said. "It is almost time for zuhr.
Come and make ablution with me.
That should help you feel clean."

It took only a few minutes for him
to find the necessary facility.

Buraq gently pushed his way through
the crowd milling around the bathroom doors
that divided the toileting area from the wudu area.
"Excuse us, please," he said, towing his companions
toward the ablution room. "We feel unclean."

People obligingly moved out of the way,
just as they would if someone expressed
an urgent need for the toilet.

Buraq pulled off his shoes, put
them on the shelf, and replaced them
with toilet slippers as he took a towel.
His companions did the same.

When they moved forward,
Patches and Rampart stared at
the row of Wudumates as if they
had never seen ablution facilities
before. Well, perhaps they hadn't.

"Uh, what do we ...?" Rampart said.

"I'll show you. Just follow what I do,"
Buraq said. "First, concentrate on
your desire to purify yourself.
Next, sit down on the stool."

"Okay," Patches said as they
settled on either side of him.

Mindful of their close attention,
Buraq went through each step of
ablution carefully, explaining them
as he went along, just as he would
if demonstrating for young boys.

"Wash your hands three times,
working from fingertips to wrists,"
Buraq instructed as he did so.

In this manner he led them through
the ritual of purification, and by
the time they left the ablution room,
everyone felt a great deal better.

"Thank you," Patches said. "I've heard
that washing could relieve a feeling
of guilt or contamination, but I have
never seen it work so well before."

"Some methods work better others,"
Buraq said. "I showed you one
that I know is effective."

They let him go and pray then,
without pressing him any further.

Buraq felt a little nervous when
he went into the prayer room, but
to his relief (and disappointment)
nothing remarkable happened.

After he returned to his companions,
Patches said, "Do you think it worked?
What we did for Haboob back there?"

"Insha'Allah, I believe that Haboob
is gone from this world," Buraq said.

"It would be a miracle," Rampart said.

"Yes, it is," Buraq said. "I am glad
to have completed its delivery."

"Even though it's uncertain how
things will turn out?" Rampart said.

Buraq shrugged. "I am certain that
Allah considers my task complete,
as He made no further request of me."

Accordingly he peeled the badge
off of his shirt and paused by the table
of a street vendor selling small items
belonging to several religions and
printed in as many languages.

"Take this," Buraq said to the man.
"I no longer have need of it."

"Choose another," the vendor invited,
waving a hand over his wares.

There were eyes of cobalt glass,
tiny charms made of tin, badges in
cloth and brass and other materials.

Buraq's fingers roved over the offerings
but found nothing that called to him.

"How about this one?" Patches asked,
pointing to a small square of etched brass.

Around a design of spirals and circles
there were four simple words in English:
Uncertain miracles begin everything.

"Yes," Buraq said, "that will do."
He thanked the vendor and
pinned the badge to his shirt.

It was not necessary to have
certainty, only faith.

* * *

Notes:

Patches (Montgomery Hammond) -- He has milk chocolate skin, brown eyes, and short nappy brown hair. He speaks English, French, Arabic, and Algerian. He is nonmonogamous, preferring to have fun without commitment. He has also fathered four children for ladies who wanted a baby without the hassle of either a husband or a sperm bank. His impoverished background makes it difficult for him to handle money fluently, so he usually leaves that to Rampart. Hammond was a Navy corpsman trained as a Marine field medic. His nickname came not from his superpower -- although it matches perfectly -- but from the state of his clothes when he first enlisted.
Currently he works with two other soups, Buraq (a teleporter) and Rampart (an invulnerable soldier). They're a punch team, meant to cut through any obstacles or hazards to reach a designated casualty. They are unusual in working for anyone who needs them and can afford them -- ordinary, superhero, or supervillain -- and almost everyone respects their medical neutrality. They don't charge anywhere near what they're worth, and most of that goes into operating expenses, although it still isn't cheap.
Origin: Originally serving in the Navy as a corpsman, Hammond was on deck when a fuel container exploded, injuring several sailors. His Healing talent manifested, allowing him to save them. After that, he sought training as a Marine field medic.
Later in Iraq, Hammond was working under heavy fire when he found an American soldier trapped under rubble, unconscious but with no visible injures. He managed to free the soldier, but then heard moans that led him to an Iraqi soldier who was seriously wounded. There was no path out of the hot zone, but the Iraqi man said he could get them out. Hammond refused to leave his first casualty behind, and the Iraqi said that he could carry two; he was able to teleport them all to a field hospital. The three of them later formed a team.
Uniform: He still wears a surplus Marine uniform in the field, minus the old insignia and with a lot of red cross markings to indicate him as a field medic.
Qualities: Master (+6) Marine, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Comic Book Fan, Good (+2) Deduction, Good (+2) Fearless, Good (+2) Ladies' Man, Good (+2) Partners with Buraq and Rampart, Good (+2) Strength
Poor (-2) Impoverished Background
Powers: Expert (+4) Healing
Motivation: To patch up whatever he can.

Rampart (Titus Truello) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short dark hair. He speaks Arabic, Croatian, Dari (Persian), English, Esperanto, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Pashto, and Turkish. He has a large family back in the states and keeps in casual contact with them.
Rampart is the one who networks to find jobs and negotiate payment. In the field, he also leads the strategic planning. He and Buraq are responsible for getting Patches to the casualty, and then they provide support for his greater medical experience. A persistent challenge is that Rampart is Invulnerable but his clothing is not. He dislikes dexflan and capery, preferring conventional materials, and like his partners he prefers a version of his old military uniform. So he winds up showing a lot of skin sometimes, to the periodic amusement of people who admire fit male bodies.
Origin: While serving in Iraq, Truello got trapped under a pile of rubble, which activated his superpower. He was rescued by Patches and Buraq. The stress of the manifestation kept him unconscious for hours, although he recovered just fine. Afterward he formed a team with the other two soups so they could rescue other people.
Uniform: In the field, he still dresses in surplus fatigues, minus the old insignia and with a red cross armband to mark his first aid skill -- and he goes through them like kleenex. Otherwise he wears street clothes, but still favors the drab earth tones like tan, brown, and olive green.
Qualities: Expert (+4) First Aid, Expert (+4) Soldier, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Loyalty, Good (+2) Making Contacts, Good (+2) Negotiation, Good (+2) Partners with Patches and Buraq, Good (+2) Strategy, Good (+2) Video Gamer
Poor (-2) Can't Keep His Clothes On
Powers: Good (+2) Invulnerability
Motivation: To stick by his partners.

Buraq (Akram Zaidi) -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He is slim and quick. Akram speaks Arabic, English, and Spanish, currently learning French from his partners Patches and Rampart. He enjoys reading and writing Arabic poetry. He is a Muslim, originally from Iraq. He finds political conversations stressful and prefers to avoid them, because he's seen how much damage is done over political disagreements.
Buraq currently works as part of a punch team, meant to cut through any obstacles or hazards to reach a designated casualty. He specializes in getting through defenses meant to block teleporters, and in memorizing coordinates for many hospitals and other safe zones. He has also learned enough first aid to help Patches with casualties.
Origin: Before joining the military, Akram made his Hajj to Mecca. His flight home was canceled, leaving him stranded and about to be late reporting for duty. He wished fiercely that he was at his base -- and suddenly, there he was. Over time, he learned how to acquire jump references from other people's minds as well as his own experience, although his telepathy is iffy for anything else. Akram considers his superpowers to be gifts from God, hence his nickname: the buraq was a legendary creature who carried the prophets.
Later in Iraq, Akram was wounded in combat with the American military. A Marine field medic named Patches found him and provided first aid, but there was no path out of the hot zone. Akram offered to teleport them out. The medic refused to leave his first casualty behind, and Akram said that he could carry two; he was able to teleport them all to a field hospital. The three of them later formed a team.
Uniform: He still wears an Iraqi-style uniform in the field, but without the old insignia, with red cross/crescent armbands to mark his first aid skill.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Soldier, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Fast, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Partners with Patches and Rampart, Good (+2) Poet
Poor (-2) Hates Politics
Powers: Expert (+4) Teleportation, Good (+2) Telepathy, Average (0) Miracle Delivery
Motivation: To carry on.

Haboob -- He is an Iraqi supervillain whose name means Sandstorm. Although he purports to be a holy warrior and likes to expound on the topic, he doesn't seem to have read the book. Many Muslims feel that he misrepresents their faith, and they resent his violent tactics. Haboob has brown skin, curly black hair, and brown eyes. Nobody, including himself, knows his birth name.
Origin: Haboob's family was killed by American soldiers searching a village for weapons. The adolescent Haboob was shot in the head and left for dead. A freak storm destroyed the troop. Haboob was found by a small terrorist cell and trained to fight. Eventually he took over.
Uniform: Traditional desert garb of loose layered cotton clothes with a headscarf to keep out dust and cover the hair.
Qualities: Expert (+6) Terrorist, Expert (+4) Tough, Good (+2) Doumbek Player, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Survival
Poor (-2) Muslim
Powers: Master (+6) Desert Powers
This meta-power includes Control Sand, Control Wind, Control Desert Life, and Desiccation. The sandstorm effect makes it unsafe for Haboob to fly the way many wind-powered people can, although he's trying to find a way around that.
Good (+2) Minions: The Kitab consists of nine lieutenants, each in charge of roughly a hundred regular troops. Lieutenants have qualities of Expert (+4) Terrorist, any other Good, Poor (-2) Fanatically Devoted to Leader, and one Good (+2) superpower (often Energy Blast, Strength, Speed, or Invulnerability). Troops have Good (+2) Terrorist, any other Good, and Poor (-2) Uneducated.
Limitation: Haboob's super-powers grow stronger in or near a desert, but weaker the farther away he gets. He tries to stay close by drylands. His enemies try to get him away from there.
Motivation: Destroy America and other foreign invaders.

The Prophets of Purity are a radical Islamic group primarily active in Iraq. They customarily dress in white robes and head coverings.

Arif Sidran -- He has sorrel skin, brown eyes, and long wavy white hair and beard. He is the head of a tekke, or Sufi monastery, in Bosnia. He provides a refuge for the penitent Abdul, formerly known as Haboob.
Origin: Arif prayed himself into spiritual power by sheer persistence. He spends 40 days in seclusion and then 40 with people, and he's been doing that for decades.
Uniform: Simple robes, usually indigo or black.
Qualities: Master (+6) Existential Intelligence, Master (+6) Sufi Monk, Expert (+4) Endurance, Expert (+4) Leadership, Good (+2) Dancer, Good (+2) Quiet, Good (+2) Sincere
Poor (-2) Worldly Matters
Powers: Master (+6) Khalwa
By spending forty days in seclusion, Arif can commune with Allah.
Motivation: Enlightenment.

Khalwa is a type of spiritual retreat.

* * *

The Red Cross and Red Crescent are two emblems of health care. They appear in various formats. Here are armbands with either a red cross or red crescent, convenient to distribute in an emergency. This badge combines both, and this one adds the red crystal. Badges are typically used on permanent uniforms. This is banner shows superheroes flagging as medical personnel. Terramagne is a lot more serious about medical neutrality than local-Earth has become.

Emergency care features seven principles as illustrated here, along with seven personal skills. If you want to learn first aid, you can look for Red Cross courses in your area, or learn online for free.

Gunshot injuries can be very destructive. Learn the first aid for bullet wounds.

The anatomy of the arm includes a lot of nerves, each with its own area of coverage. Nerve injuries disable different areas depending on which nerves are affected.

Fractures of the humerus can damage adjacent nerves, especially the radial. Read about the first aid for broken arms. This type of injury is often treated with a splint, as shown here, although a shattered bone typically requires surgery if a healer is not available. The arm nerves, although easily injured, are also pretty good at repairing itself for a nerve -- about 90% of such injuries recover most or all function.

Flashbacks are a cardinal symptom of PTSD. Buraq doesn't seem to have PTSD, but has survived traumatic experiences in the past. No matter how well you heal, a direct hit to the same experience will often cause flashbacks, and that's something most people don't seem to realize. It doesn't mean you're sick, just that getting hit over a formerly serious injury tends to hurt, whether physical or mental. Also notice that, unlike most PTSD flashbacks, Buraq's has positive aspects mixed in with the negative ones. There are ways to get through a flashback or help someone else through it. In L-America, emotional first aid among emergency workers is very patchy, but a few places do teach how to minimize traumatic stress and thus reduce the risk of PTSD. In Terramagne this is much more common, because they recognize that it's no use saving someone from a gunshot wound only to have them die of PTSD a few months later.

Iraq has many ruins. Our heroes take refuge in this large ruined house.

Technically, the time of 'Asr is "until the sun turns yellow." However, the "time of necessity" extends until the sun actually sets, and there is no sin for delaying due to urgent work such as dressing wounds.

Islam provides special dispensations and alternatives for praying while injured, such as sitting down or cleaning over wounds. Similarly tayammum is the dry ablution which may be performed when wudu is not possible. Buraq is not very happy about needing these exceptions -- it's about like having to pee sitting down -- but he knows how to use them and they do work.

One interesting aspect of miracles according to Islam is that they cannot be resisted. While this might not sit well with people from some other religions, Islamic ethics emphasize obedience to Allah; who is obeying Allah cannot be doing wrong, even if it looks pretty bad from the outside. Even though Haboob is a terrible Muslim, starts out fighting with his rescuers, screams all the way through the first miracle, and is only vaguely aware of Patches offering to help after that, Haboob does still think of himself as a Muslim and would not presume to refuse anything that Allah wanted. It's a whole new tangle of dubious consent. However, the outcome is definitely better than Haboob running about with a raging case of post-traumatic brain injury and dessicating whole villages.

Ghusl is a major ablution, which has obligatory and voluntary circumstances for performance. Muslims tend to be fastidious in general and wish to purify themselves whenever they feel unclean. Among the obligatory conditions is any loss of consciousness, and furthermore, Buraq thinks of Haboob as having died and thus feels as if he has touched a corpse. So the first thing he wants after reaching the hotel is a shower.

The time of Maghrib lasts "until the twilight has faded."

Sajjdah is the kneeling position in Islamic prayers, a form of prostration. What Abdul does is more abject, but less proper. He just can't face Allah right now.

Interfaith monasteries are rare, but there are a few.

Sufis are mystical Muslims. They have monks, and the whirling dervishes are famous. Their institutions include the zawiya, tekke, and khanqah.

This is the tekke where Abdul goes, with its colorful dome. Here is Abdul's room. This is one of the common bathrooms. The gathering room and prayer room are more elaborate. The Quran is nicely illuminated and rests on its own stand.

The time for Zuhr is "from when the sun has passed its zenith and a man’s shadow is equal in length to his height, until the time for ‘Asr comes.”

See the pilgrim badge that says Uncertain miracles begin everything. These things used to be enormously popular, but in L-Earth have largely faded except for a few remnants. They are still seen sometimes in Terramagne.

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