Baghdad was a pit. It had gone through many ups and downs in its history, but the Fundy’s had brought it to its lowest point ever. The UN had made sure water and electricity services worked but there was hardly a building worth serving with them left. Most of the damager had been done by the Fundys themselves.  The Battle of Bghdad had been one of the hardest fought as Touraeg himself had been caught in the city. IN a fit of rage he had ordered Baghdad leveled rather than let it fall into Alliance hands.  He almost succeeded.
Malinao and Lawrence were housed in the UN commission building in an old bus station on Rashid Street. They had a lovely view of the Dijla river, but other than that all seemed to be rubble as far as the eye could see. The only building over one story left in eyesight from the UN building was the Great Mosque which against all odds, had survived the war.
Malinao and Lawrence had taken a walk on their first day there, and had found only military walking through the wreckage.  No major rebuilding efforts could begin until the area was certified free of mines that the Fundys had left strewn throughout the city.  Every other day another family out foraging for food was blown up by a mine. The central city was a ghost town.  It reminded Lawrence more of an abandoned lunar settlement than a major Terran city.
It was his hardest test so far.  Until now, he had most been dreading Vatican City and his fear that the Pope or other dignitaries there would unmaske him.  But this was worse.  He needed Chong now. These people were truly hopeless. The stacks of bodies in Omaha filled him with anger, but Baghdad just made him sad. What hope could the President of the Moon offer a city damaged this badly.  Even more, what hope could a political aide pretending to be the President offer them.  He did not have the words for this.
He was to speak on the steps of the Mosque. That morning Malinao found him sitting staring out at the Dijla rolling by.
“Are you ready Lawrence?” She looked more concerned than he had seen her yet. The light of Baghdad turned everything a bit yellow and it gave her face  fresh glow.
He smiled.  He understood why Richard liked her. He wondered if they’re tasks had helped at all.
“I was just thinking of the President. Do you think he succeeded?  Whatever he was doing?”
She shrugged and smiled a little. “It’s hard to say?  I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Where’s your speech?”
Lawrence balked. “all up in here,” he managed to lie. The truth was he hadn’t been able to think of a word to say. The weight of the devastation had him tounge-tied.  He was too nervous to ask Malinao for help.  She was here to accompany him to the car that would take them across the river to the Mosque.
He decided to brazen it out.  Maybe the words would come to him. “Let’s go,” he said getting up.
“You don’t know what to say do you?” Malinao looked at him with no small amount of wonder. “Yet you’re willing to just carry on and do this for him.  You’re doing more than an aide would Lawrence.  You’re  atrue friend.”
Lawrence pondered how astute Malinao was. She could see through him very easily.
She walked over and took him by both hands. “Chong will be all right because he has a friend like you looking out for him. So will Baghdad for similar reasons.”
Like that Lawrence had his speech.
A little over an hour later, he stood on the steps of the Mosque looking down over a crowd of about 50 people in front of backdrop of broken biuildings, torn up pavement and unidentifiable rubble.  Almost every human within five miles had come to listen. As their applause died down there were no sounds but those of the desert and Dijla. He was almost finished.
“It is hard for friends in trying times. No matter what you do, you can’t always protect your friends.  Sometimes the best way to help them leaves them on their own. But true friends are never left alone. The UMC is a true friend to not only Baghdad but all of United Arabia. and after we get you back on your feet.  The Moon will be better for having a friend like Baghdad. May our friendship be unending insha’Allah. Ansalamu Allaikum.”
The assembled crowd applauded heartily and the Minister of Recovery in charge of the rebuilding of Baghdad slapped Lawrence on the back and had tears in his eyes.
Malinao gripped his arm and whispered into his ear. “That was fantastic Lawrence.”  He thought he could see a shade of a tear in her eye as well.
When they got back to the UN building, Malinao and Lawrence decided to have dinner in their room. There weren’t any restaurants open, and they were weray of the UN cafeteria. Plus they wanted to speak freely and could not do that int he common dining area. Many of the military men had gained a great new respect for Chong deciding to visit Baghdad, rather than the more comfortable Riyadh. All that admiration made Lawrence all the more sad that Chong was not here to benefit from it. Although he knew Chong wouldn’t let it go to his head if he accepted it or even noticed it at all.
As they sat down to eat, Lawrence thought Malinao seemed giddy.
“I had no idea you spoke Arabic,” she said grinning.
“Oh I don’t.  As an aide you pick up little things here and there.  Niceties, greetings, etc.”
“Well it worked wonders.  I thought the Minister was going to marry you.”
“That would have been unlikely,” laughed Lawrence.
“I’m nervous that we haven’t heard from Chong,” Malinao bit her nails. Lawrence decided her giddiness must be nervousness.  her ecstatic smile had changed suddenly to a frown. “Where is he?”
Lawrence started to say somethign but was interrupted by a scuffle outside and a shot. They both ran into the hallway to see John Ford lying in a pool of blood. Lawrence realized it was the killer clone.
“What happened?” he demanded of the guard.
“This man answere the description of John Ford.  We caught him attempting to sneak up to your room sir. Our orders were to shoot on sight.”
Lawrence knew they had to act fast he heard the UN officers barging up the stairs.
“Post guards at the entryways.  Nobody gets in.  This man is not John Ford, but a clone.  That’s been top secret info and I need it to stay that way,” barked Lawrence.  He was surprised at the confidence of his own voice. When the UN asks, it was a ruffian of unknown description.  I want this man in a body bag–”
“Sir, he’s not dead.”
Lawrence rushed to Ford’s side.  The guard was right, Ford was breathing.
He smiled when he saw Lawrence leanbing over him. “You do look kinda like him.  He started to chuckle but wince in pain instead. “Chong and Ford are being held in Cana,” he coughed, “separately.  They need you now.” With that Ford passed out. Lawrence looked up at Malinao.  He was paralyzed.  The rush of adrenaline that had gave him such decisiveness minutes before had fled.
“I’ll handle the coverup,” Malinao said. “I’m American, we’re good at it. Stay with him.”
Malinao rushed off to the stairs and Lawrence could hear her handling the demanding UN reps.
Ford opened his eyes one more time before he passed away. The only other words he managed to say to Lawrence were, “Here in Baghdad, passkey Wilfredo.”