Hamid waved his receiver. “Signal coming in, boss. Satellite phone. Text only.”

“Don’t call me boss,” Ali said. “It’s demeaning. Call me Captain.”

“You’re the boss, boss,” said Hamid.

Ali snatched the handset and looked at it. “Foreigners sighted at following coordinates. Westerners. Lax security. Apparently excavating something.”

“Sounds like a good chance for us,” said Hamid. “Kill some interlopers, maybe take some hostages, get some artifacts for Khalid to move. They’re paying cash for hostages and artifacts in Raqqa.”

Ali nodded. He’d come out to the desert to do something with his life. He couldn’t be content running his father’s dry-cleaning business in Hatay. But in the eighteen months since he’d slipped south to join the Caliphate, there had been nothing but dusty patrols, slim rations, and a steady supply of contradictory orders from the higher-ups.

It was time to prove that he wasn’t a screw-up.

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