N5

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N5 - THE CANAL

Lilith Gervasi served in all of the Arab-Israeli Wars in Timetrack One until che fell victim to ultra-orthodox Jews playing politics and was sent home in the middle of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, a move that probably saved her life. In Timetrack Three, resetting the clock to 1972, Lilith provided her government with a great deal of intelligence on the Egyptian moves fully a year in advance, information that turned out to be uncannily accurate. Acting on these tips, the country mobilized to nip Egypt in the bud. So there was no Yom Kippur War on that reality thread and Lilith became legendary. The Labor Party kicked around the idea of making hem Prime Minis- ter. What Lilith obtained instead was an officer's commission for hez grandchild Del in the formidable Israeli Defense Force, which when rendered in Hebrew and shortened to an acronym was known as ZAHAL.

After the near-miss of 1973 the active forces of Israel were reorganized into twenty-six battalions, Alfa through Zulu. Major Del commanded the two thousand men and women of Bravo Battalion. In times of major conflict in Israel (always alerted well in advance by Robyn), hundreds of thousands of reserves were called up and assigned to one of the twenty five other battalions, which rapidly became full divisions, but Bravo Battalion, the elite, remained made up solely of hand-picked army regulars.

With hez head sticking outside of the hatch on top of one of twenty segments of a towed barge, Del let the eternal winds of the Gulf of Suez and the moderate rolling of the barge kick saltwater spray over hem. Hez tan, mottled major's uniform was impeccable, sharply creased, heavily adorned with fabric service ribbons, and practically skin-tight. Del was invincible in war, but Belial figured che couldn't be in two places at once, and hy also figured if both Selene and Israel were attacked simultaneously, Del would automatically default to defending Lilith's adopted homeland. So when Belial moved to assail Taurus City, hy ordered up another Arab-Israeli War just to keep Del and perhaps several other bene elohim tied up.

Africa was almost completely surrounded by water. The place where it was joined to Asia had been crossed by a man-made ditch 200 km long for the last 200 years, permitting ships to travel between Europe and the Far East without detouring all the way around Africa. It was not even a particularly elaborate engineering feat. The land was so flush with sea level that the canal did not require locks. By 1985 fully 23% of all world trade was using the Suez Canal, but it was only wide enough to permit one lane of travel, alleviated with turnout lanes here and there, thus requiring quite an elaborate traffic control setup. For a long time there had been talk of widen- ing the canal, but the proposals for dredging it wider always entailed shutting down traffic for up to four years and the predicted increase in traffic was not thought to be enough to justify the loss of government revenues from transit taxes, an enormously important source of income for Egypt as the country approached becoming a net importer of petroleum and Islamist terrorism strangled Egypt's once lucrative tourist trade spigot.

For twelve years Israel had relied on Lilith's reports, obtained through Robyn's borrowed power of precognition, to concentrate against any attack well before it happened. But this new attack was on the initiative of Belial hymself, completely outside the scope of Robyn's foresight, so the country was caught completely off-guard. Egypt punched a hole at one point in the much-vaunted "Ben-Judah Line" of fortifications with artillery. The commander of the Egyptian 1st Army knew that the Sinai was like a bread with a hard crust that was soft in the interior. After breaching the crust in the short channel between marshy, salty Lake Timsah and the Great Bitter Lake, the Egyptians started ferrying over tanks, troops, ammunition, and other war materiel on rafts as fast as they could, building up quite a bridgehead on the other side, like an infection of bacteria lodged in a wound. They had a good three day head start before Del could travel down from Selene and report for duty, together with her parents Brand and Shyla, her aunt Ariel, and her cousin Victoria. Mike went to Jerusalem to be a point of contact between the bene elohim and the Israeli government.

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