"Bring me an ashtray." Perkasa waved to the servant.

"Yes, General." A sterling silver ashtray appeared on the table.

Perkasa put the stogie into the ashtray. "Yes. I heard that your organization was helpful in the elimination of Bhutto. If that is true, accept my compliments."

"I can neither confirm nor deny any such thing," Al-Fadil laughed. "Nevertheless, I accept your compliments." He raised his glass, as if to celebrate a great accomplishment. "Are you sure you do not wish to drink, General? Perhaps a toast to the unfortunate demise of Benazir Bhutto?"

"Perhaps later," Perkasa replied. "Bhutto sided with the Americans. So does Santos. Both purport to be Muslim." Perkasa took a drag from the cigar. "What are you getting at? You wish to assassinate Santos too?"

"Not so fast, dear General." Al-Fadil set the glass on the table. "Since you are unwilling to drink with me, perhaps I could smoke with you?"

His eyes locked onto the stogie, casting a longing look upon it. "Would you share one of those with a brother of the faith?"

"Why not?" Perkasa slid a cigar, a cutter, and a lighter across the table.

The Arab cut the cigar with the ease of an experienced aficionado, lit it, and exhaled smoke off to the side. "This is not as simple as you would suggest, General. Indonesia and Pakistan are different nations."

"Not so fast, my friend." Perkasa flung his hands in the air. "I suggested nothing. And I by no means proposed or suggested the assassination of Santos."

"Of course you did not, General," the Arab said. "I was addressing the great geographic and political differences between Indonesia and Pakistan."

"Very well," Perkasa said, having set the Arab straight. Not that he would mind seeing Santos dead, but no one would ever be able to say that an assassination was his idea. "Please proceed."

"As I was saying," Al-Fadil nodded, "unlike Pakistan, Indonesia controls, or at least has the potential to control, the most strategic sea lanes in the world. Your islands stretch across the waters from east to west in a distance greater than New York to Los Angeles. Your country, unlike any other Islamic country in the world, has all that is necessary to become the world's first Islamic superpower." The Arab took another drag from the Cuban stogie. "Except for one thing . . ."

General Suparman Perkasa let that sink in. "And that would be?"

"Leadership," Al-Fadil said, without hesitation. "And related thereto, courage and vision."

Perkasa flicked a segment of white ashes into the silver tray. The Arab was correct. "Look, you know that I am no admirer of our president, or you wouldn't have gotten me here. But as you have pointed out, Mr. Al-Fadil . . ."

"Please, General, call me Farouq," Al-Fadil interrupted.

"Very well," Perkasa continued, "as you have pointed out, Farouq, Indonesia, because of her geography, possesses a greater geo-strategic importance to the world than Pakistan. Control of those sea lanes means billions of dollars to America. You cannot do in Indonesia what you did in Pakistan. The Americans did not step in there. Here, if you moved against Santos, they would send their navy. Perhaps their marines. They would use force. And remember that President Williams likes to play John Wayne with the US Navy." His cigar had gone out. With a single flick, a blue-and-orange flame leapt from the lighter.

"Ahh, the all-powerful Americans." The smiling Arab sipped more wine. "Good. Our thinking is congruous." He put the glass down and motioned for more. "What if I told you, General, that we have a plan for Mack Williams and the Americans? What if I told you that we have a plan to make you the most powerful Indonesian in the world? And what if I could show you a plan that will work to make Indonesia the first Islamic superpower, with you at the historic forefront of this great awakening?"

Perkasa glanced at Dr. Budi, who was raising an eyebrow and sipping a glass of water.