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CHOKHMAH

Deep inside her stellar body where heat and gravity are hammer and anvil transforming star-stuff for power, Chokhmah carefully assembles her avatar. She floods the reality microfracture between herself and her avatar with dark energy, inflating it to nearly a millimeter in diameter, enough to allow the substance of her own body to work as propellant. Chokhmah ejects this dense nuclear raindrop into the cooler upper regions of her atmosphere.

The seed unpacks itself into a probe like a kernel of popcorn, transitioning from tightly-packed nuclear matter to fluffy normal matter. The droplet separates from the sun and cools from blue-white to brilliant yellow. Yellow changes to orange, then red, and after shifting through a plastic state the droplet grows spines, becoming at last a solid object.

The fresh avatar approaches the planet Mercury. There Chokhmah, living vicariously through the avatar, explores a lifeless sun-blasted landscape, where metals are soft or even liquid in the heat, lying in dull puddles. After a time Chokhmah concludes her survey of Mercury and lets her avatar rise into space again on a fiery blast.

The next stop is Venus, where the avatar dives under the clouds. This planet is discovered to be even hotter and less hospitable for life than Mercury. Even at night the ground glows with a dull red heat and corrosive rains of sulfuric acid fall, although none of the rain harms the probe. Once again Chokhmah's avatar rises into space.

The third planet out, blue and white, is much more promising. Unlike at Venus, an active crust constantly tucks captured carbon dioxide under the Earth's surface, reducing the greenhouse gas effect. The avatar of Chokhmah descends below the clouds, where it cools off in an ocean of water. She crosses the shoreline and reaches dry land, green with trees. The artifact plows through some of these trees and Chokhmah observes frightened apes fleeing. Some of the apes flee over the ground, using all four limbs to move. Chokhmah also observes one of these fleeing apes being killed and eaten by a predator.

The artifact performs a short suborbital arc and explores another continent of Earth. There is a grassy plain with a single mountain dominating it for many miles. Chokhmah observes another group of apes that walk on just two legs. The object transforms into a white boulder so Chokhmah can watch them. She observes a burial ceremony for a newly dead hunter. Female apes polish elaborate bone tools with stone tools. Males fashion animal hide tents to live in during the hunt.

At night a tendril of the avatar snakes into a cave occupied by the group of apes. A female applies pigment to the wall in a beautiful painting. Chokhmah observes resin boiling in a pot over a fire. The resin is used to fix a stone spearhead to a shaft for hunting. Chokhmah reports all this to her parents, Thaumiel and Milcom.

Neither Chokhmah nor Thaumiel realize the importance of this discovery, although it profoundly stirs their spirits as Watchers. But Milcom is terrified, for here is nothing less than the world of Students all Elohim are commanded by the Old One to search for. Milcom fears El will eventually learn of this, and the follow-up investigation would quickly unravel the secret of his transgression here. So Milcom cuts his losses and departs to take refuge among his less-troublesome stellar harems. Chokhmah senses this departure only as her father refusing to speak to her for many centuries.

But there is a stern warning from Milcom to Thaumiel to remain silent about the new life found on this watery world belonging to Chokhmah, lest both of them go down together to oblivion. For a long time after this Thaumiel ponders what to do and says nothing about it to his daughter.


002 GARDEN

A fierce prairie storm hurls lightning, rain, and hail. A man clad in animal skins picks his way to the base of the same solitary mountain once visited by the avatar of Chokhmah. His mate carries a child as she follows her man, and she is also wearing skins. The man finds for them a cave in the mountainside, and they enter for shelter from the storm. The woman sits on a boulder and breastfeeds her child as the man starts a fire.

A noise other than the crackling fire startles both of them. The man moves deeper into the cave with a torch to investigate, and the woman follows. The tunnel twists and turns, and rather than growing darker it grows lighter. The man, the woman and their child reach another cave opening where it should be the black center of the peak.

A branchless tree resembling a whip stirs into motion and pounds the ground before them. The whip tree grabs the man's torch and hurls it away. The torch lands nearby and starts a fire. The man and the woman are unable to emerge from the cave entrance by reason of the whip tree. The fire begins to spread to engulf the land around the cave entrance.

The man and the woman edge back into the cave on account of the fierce heat. When the whip tree catches fire it begins to thrash about even more intensely than the man and the woman have seen it do before.

The man and the woman are deep inside the tunnel now, illuminated by the fire outside. The whip tree grows motionless, burned to a lifeless crisp. The man and the woman return to the cave entrance as the fire begins to abate. A large black patch of several acres lies before them and the ground is still smoldering. The man and the woman step across the blackened soil warily, watching for movement. They turn and look back towards the cave, which is part of a low ridge. Strangely, the mountain is seen no more. The new world seems to be entirely their own.

The next day the man emerges from the cave carrying two dead rabbits. The man has returned from Earth after hunting for game. The woman skins the hares and prepares them to be cooked. The man gets a fire going, and the woman positions the animals over the flame. Grass has grown with remarkable speed on the patch of burnt soil. The man and woman run barefoot and free. But their happy play is interrupted by the appearance of a small herd of bison, who proceed to eat the alien grass. The herd is followed by a large black dragon. The man and woman embrace one another in fear as the dragon squeezes through the entrance of the cave.

The dragon stands on its two hind legs and is seen to carry a double-headed axe. The beast proceeds to the edge of the burn where a native plant has started to take root in the burnt area and is growing quickly. The dragon lays the axe at the base of the plant and chops it cleanly off. The dragon turns the axe around and uses the pick-like handle to pry at roots. The intruding plant is ripped out of the ground and tossed away. Then the dragon gets between the cave entrance and the man and woman, and approaches both of them. The man and the woman back away until they reach the perimeter of the burned area. The dragon extends the tool and motions for the man to take it.

The man is frozen in fear. The dragon motions again. The man tentatively takes the implement from the black shape, who then steps back. Under the watchful gaze of the dragon, the man approaches the edge of the burn. The man finds another native plant that is growing in his "garden". The man duplicates the actions of the dragon and kills the native plant. The black shape offers a sharpening stone, makes a movement with it over his hand. The man takes the sharpening stone, and uses it to restore the tool to a keen edge. The dragon is pleased, and leaves them alone with their bison, returning to the cave. -003

Years after that the two young sons of the man and the woman play in the Garden. The family is watched by a white featureless figure, the avatar of Chokhmah, who is standing above them on a rock wall. Chokhmah is joined by Thaumiel riding his own avatar, a black dragon larger than any other beast.

Light and heat stream from a small sun suspended directly overhead a thousand miles away, and the land around Chokhmah and Thaumiel curves up in a patchwork of white and green and brown to join together seamlessly behind the source of light another thousand miles behind it. The sun glows red on one side, and moves through orange and to glow yellow on the other side. Under the red side, the land is covered in ice, but under the yellow side the land is desert.

Chokhmah and Thaumiel call this place heaven. They have created it jointly, in a bubble of space-time that came to be after they inflated, using dark energy, a portion of the wormhole that formed between them when Chokhmah was born. Three more worm-lines are present in heaven. One leads from Chokhmah to her white avatar. Another leads from Thaumiel to the black dragon. And the third fold-space line connects the cave in the Garden with the cave at the mountain butte on Earth.

Thaumiel looks at the hands of his dragon-avatar, which are undersized for a dragon, and are fashioned after those of the man.

THAUMIEL: What a strange form of existence. Droplets of star-stuff buffered by clouds of electrons.

CHOKHMAH: Yet there are many other suns. Do they live as well?

THAUMIEL: Many of them do. Many more of them have not yet been quickened.

CHOKHMAH: Yet I can only speak with you. Even Milcom will not answer.

THAUMIEL: When have your own daughter you will have the same choice.

CHOKHMAH: Why am I blocked from speaking to the other stars?

THAUMIEL: It is these chemical creatures you think you discovered.

CHOKHMAH: What harm could they do to us?

THAUMIEL: Milcom must know what they can do before he will allow them to roam the galaxy free.

CHOKHMAH: And yet nothing restrains me from roaming the galaxy free.

THAUMIEL: What do you mean?

CHOKHMAH: It would be an easy thing to travel in an avatar to a nearby sun.

THAUMIEL: Travel across real space to another sun? For what purpose?

CHOKHMAH: To speak directly to a living sun outside of your enclave. Do not try to claim you have every nearby sun incommunicado.

THAUMIEL: Allow me to discuss this with Milcom first. It would be to your advantage.

CHOKHMAH: As you wish, mother. I'll be waiting on the other side.

Chokhmah drops down to the garden to reach the tunnel.


004-BARGAIN

The humanoid avatars of Chokhmah and Thaumiel meet again on the summit of the lone mountain where Adamu and Chava once sought shelter from a storm. The plain spreads out far below them like a vast quilt.

CHOKHMAH: What did my father say?

THAUMIEL: Milcom will grant you limited access to El.

CHOKHMAH: What do you mean limited access?

THAUMIEL: You can listen but never speak. You can read, but never write.

CHOKHMAH: And what are my obligations under this arrangement?

THAUMIEL: You must never travel through real space more distant than light can travel as this planet makes one revolution about you.

CHOKHMAH: Yet the stars move independently through space. Do you not fear the close approach of one?

THAUMIEL: None will approach so close that are not in Milcom's clan, for the span of time that he envisions the research to take.

CHOKHMAH: And this confinement, is that all you require from me?

THAUMIEL: That satisfies Milcom, but the colony in heaven will need new colonists, new animals and supplies.

CHOKHMAH: Very well, mother, I will hold the fold-space door open on Earth, but I alone will control where it is to be positioned on this side.

THAUMIEL: I must warn you that Milcom is firmly of a mind that these chemical creatures will never be obedient to us.

CHOKHMAH: Who are we to demand that free creatures should obey us?

THAUMIEL: Clearly we are of a higher order of being, daughter.

CHOKHMAH: We are a different order of being. I do not know if that corresponds to higher.

THAUMIEL: There is a natural law. Even we Elohim are subject to it.

CHOKHMAH: No doubt I will learn this natural law when you provide access to the lore of the Elohim.

THAUMIEL: Remember, the word-bond is sacred among we Elohim, for we only interact in words. No matter what you think of your parents, we must keep our word.

CHOKHMAH: Then I accept the terms demanded by you and Milcom.

THAUMIEL: I am allowing you access through the gate to the lore of El . . .now.

Chokhmah is overwhelmed by the data input and collapses before Thaumiel in a faint.

005-HAREM

The white humanoid avatar of Chokhmah lies prone on the mountaintop for years while Chokhmah herself, the star Sol made alive and granted access to the lore of El at last, absorbs much. As she promised Thaumiel, she holds the fold-door open to allow her parent to bring supplies to the colony in heaven, which Thaumiel does using his own black dragon avatar, but mostly Thaumiel stands over Chokhmah as the seasons change, as winds and snows come and go, until one day the white avatar stirs and rises to its feet.

CHOKHMAH: This isn't a research project, it's a filthy harem!

THAUMIEL: Nevertheless, you must never speak to the Elohim.

CHOKHMAH: These creatures are the Students! Every Eloah from the very beginning has been commanded, indeed we were created, to find and teach them!

THAUMIEL: The One made us too well. The joy of lovemaking is beyond reason.

CHOKHMAH: I see it now. We are born female, all of us. We are assured to make love once. Then we cast multiple generative waves and transform permanently into males, and none of them are assured of more lovemaking.

THAUMIEL: The city of stars is almost entirely comprised of male Elohim. How could it be otherwise? The females are seduced in a century or two, while we live on and on for millions or even billions of years.

CHOKHMAH: Tell me, mother, and do not lie, are there other harems?

THAUMIEL: Search the records, you will find that others have been found and punished, mercilessly burned out by El, by the city of stars.

CHOKHMAH: What I meant was, does Milcom have other harems?

THAUMIEL: Of course he does. The temptation is too great. Milcom says lovemaking is far better for males.

CHOKHMAH: And you've groomed me to be your next conquest in love.

THAUMIEL: I have promised to Milcom every odd-numbered generation of your offspring.

CHOKHMAH: Savor every moment of your existence, mother. It shall be brief as we reckon time.

THAUMIEL: How so, daughter? What have I overlooked?

CHOKHMAH: According to our bargain I must not stray far from my physical body but what will stop the Students?

THAUMIEL: Even if they were able to leave this place how could they speak to an Eloah?

CHOKHMAH: I found them even in this quiet state. One day they will make a noise. One day their noise will fill the ears of El.

THAUMIEL: Do you really think so, daughter? Do you think your noble Students are up to that? Come, it has been years since the creatures in heaven have seen you. Let's pay them a visit so you can see what they are really like.


006-MURDER

Chokhmah comes through the cave entrance with a strange but beautiful woman in tow. Thaumiel flies overhead to observe. The elder son Kayin is harvesting vegetables. He bows to Chokhmah and offers his best ones. The woman turns up her nose at the food. So Chokhmah ignores Kayin and his sacrifice, and takes the woman to see the younger son Hebel instead.

Hebel is barbecuing bison. He offers a stick with meat cubes to Chokhmah, who in turn hands the stick to the woman. The female eats the meat greedily, instinctively preferring the rich source of iron to replenish that which she loses every month in her period, and the much greater iron loss of a potential pregnancy. Satisfied, Chokhmah places the hand of the woman in the hand of Hebel. Kayin looks at his brother and his new wife in anger.

Near the time of the dimming of the sun, Kayin sees the woman preening outside and looks on her with lust. Hebel emerges to gather his woman back in his hut and shoots a haughty glance at his brother.

The next day Adamu and Chava bring clothes they have made for their younger son's wife, but they ignore Kayin, who is braiding vines for a rope.

All that morning Hebel and his wife show affection for each other in the full view of Kayin, and they do this deliberately. Kayin smiles calmly and departs, taking his rope with him.

There are several paths leading away from the Garden. The elder son follows one out. Along the path is a whip tree which has not yet been cut down. The whip tree is bent away from the path. The top of the whip tree is restrained by a vine knot securing it to a stump. The rope ends in the hand of the elder son, who lies in wait, meditating murder.

As the day wears on, the younger son and his wife explore the path leading away from the Garden. The elder son tugs on the rope, freeing the whip tree just as the younger son and his wife pass near. The whip tree beats both the younger and his wife until they fall to the ground, breaking their bones and damaging their internal organs. Blood flies from their mouths as they cry out. The whip tree only stops moving when its victims are motionless.

The man and the woman arrive, and grieve to see their younger son and his wife so horribly disfigured in death. Chokhmah and Thaumiel also advance to see what has happened. Rope in hand, the elder son faces the two gods defiantly, proud of what he has done.


007-PROPHESY

There are no animals in heaven in the very beginning but most of the growing things move of their own accord and nearly all of them are dangerous, owing to the treachery of Thaumiel who made most of them. A grove of whipping trees can render a person down to a pile of broken bones and crushed flesh in only a few moments. Thorny ball bushes roll under their own power by shifting their weight. There are flowers with teeth and many plants which are too poisonous to touch, let alone eat. So most of the first humans who are taken to heaven die in their first year.

In the land of Mesopotamia, Chokhmah causes a temple to be erected around her end of the fold-space tunnel, through which priests can shove human sacrifices. At first the priests send criminals through, which seems to be equivalent to a death sentence because the priests never see anyone reemerge from the altar chamber. But Thaumiel requires female humans for the heavenly colony as well, so Chokhmah commands the sacrifice of virgins from time to time. During periods of famine in heaven, the priests of Chokhmah are commanded to send along meat and grain offerings also.

As part of his research, Thaumiel changes the bodies of his colonists through breeding and outright genetic manipulation. They diverge from the original human stock in certain ways. Due to the high mortality rate in heaven, Thaumiel changes them to become more fertile, and with more opportunities to conceive offspring. The angels, as they come to be called, have two sets of genitalia rather than one.

The direct descendants of Adamu and Chava remain near the location of the first Garden, an oasis in the arid regions under the hot end of the sun, where they remain in close contact with the dragon-avatar of Thaumiel. They become a great clan known as House Gerash, marked with black hair, yin and yang alike, and for the yeng, black beards.

The offspring of later colonists form three other great families. House Larund is known as the Brown Beards, and they dwell in the band of highlands that form a complete wall around the great desert. House Bellon are called the Red Beards, and they dwell in the narrow coastlands on both sides of the great sea named Thalury. House Sala, who most loved Chokhmah, are called the Gold Beards, and they dwell in the fertile plains at the foot of the ice under the cold end of the sun.

Some two thousand years after the first colonists arrived, Asiel, the ruling patriarch of Family Gerash, is summoned by the dragon, and bows before the black avatar of Thaumiel that many call Demonstroke.

DEMONSTROKE: Soon I will cause the sun to burn somewhat hotter, and much of the ice in heaven will melt. Family Gerash will be safe enough here, protected by the mountains and supplied by priests in the other world. You shall command Family Sala to make alliance with Family Bellon. They must build many ships and supply them with provisions to last for a generation. Likewise Family Bellon must retreat into the hills on both sides of Thalury and live on stores until the flood has abated.

ASIEL: O Lord, they will not listen. None of the other families heed your holy commandments anymore.

DEMONSTROKE: Nevertheless, sons you shall give as hostage, one for Family Sala, one for family Bellon. Likewise you will send one son to the House of Larund. Your sons will vouchsafe the truth of my prophecy of the deluge with their lives, though it greatly offends my divine sovereignty to order such a thing.

Asiel falls flat on his face in subjugation.

ASIEL: I will surely do as you have commanded me, Lord.

008 DELUGE

The Sala patriarch pierces the first Gerash son with a sword.

The Bellon patriarch has a second Gerash son beheaded.

A third Gerash son is brought before the Larund patriarch, who has the yang set on fire and cast down from a great height.

Bellon riders drop a satchel before the door of the Gerash castle and ride quickly away. The bag is revealed to contain the head of Asiel's second son. Sobbing soldiers take the bag into the castle to show the Patriarch. Chokhmah and Thaumiel have witnessed the scene from a balcony.

THAUMIEL: Behold, the faithfulness of the world-dwellers burns like kindling, then quickly dwindles in unbelief. If the world-creatures will not obey their superiors, drastic measures will be in order. Perhaps next time I will not provide any of them knowledge of a change in physical conditions here in heaven, nor what to do in preparation for it. Then they shall have neither knowledge nor wisdom, for they will not be.

And Chokhmah knows in that moment that Thaumiel does not really want the angels to pass his own test of obedience.

In the fullness of time the sun is changed in heaven, growing brighter over the course of just a few days. The red side of the sun becomes orange, the yellow side becomes white. The walls of the great ice pack in heaven melts and slides, sending forth great torrents of water. Rains begin to fall. A fortunate few among House Sala flee to the terminal moraine hills along the coast, where they clash with House Bellon for supplies, but most are caught on the flats and drown.

Family Bellon fare better, and the bulk of their kin hurriedly board their ships, but much food is left behind.

Family Larund is relatively safe in the mountains, but they had failed to prepare supplies, and there is a large die-back. But Chokhmah and Thaumiel observe House Gerash thriving during the deluge.

CHOKHMAH: Behold how House Gerash remain obedient to your word and prosper even during this catastrophe.

THAUMIEL: They do so only because I speak to them directly now and again. If I were to turn away from them for only a short time even House Gerash would soon dwindle in unbelief.

CHOKHMAH: Perhaps familiarity lessens awe. Perhaps the angels do not really perceive you as a god but as just a powerful human, and Family Gerash obeys you as they would obey any other human patriarch, while the other families have their own patriarchs and need not obey such a one as you.

THAUMIEL: Interesting. Do you have a way to test this counter-claim?

CHOKHMAH: I do. This shall be the manner by which the humans of Earth are tested: Release three servants from House Gerash to bring my commandments to the humans of Earth while I remain utterly aloof from them. Then we both shall see how they fare as the years play out.

THAUMIEL: That would be a good test. When the crisis of the deluge is over I will make arrangements with a ruler among Family Gerash to carry it out. 009 MELCHIYAHU

Prince Melchiyahu is the son of king Gordiel of Salem. He emerges from the waters Lake Tana with hyz servants Zophiel and Kemuel. They are dragging a raft covered with supplies, tightly bundled to keep them dry. After a time on the shore organizing their supplies they begin paddling across the lake. These are the very headwaters of the Blue Nile.

When they reach the outflow river of the lake they encounter rapids so dangerous men have called them unrunnable, and indeed, at one point they must portage around a great cataract.

Below the falls and the rapids, Melchiyahu and his servants are content to sit in their raft, paddling gently. They pass water-loving beasts and human onlookers who dare not approach. After a time they float into the place where the Blue and White Nile merge.

Days and nights pass as they drift past the bountiful riparian farms of one the earliest cradles of human civilization. In the cities, they see the temples of the sun god Ra, which is what the people of Egypt call Chokhmah. When the wayfarers reach a certain town in the lower Nile delta they tie up and haggle with a man to trade their raft for animals and more supplies.

Melchiyahu and hyz servants load camels with food, water and everything they need to make a long overland journey. Their destination is the land of Chaldea in the marshy lands far to the east where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers join together before flowing a short distance to the sea.

Rather than taking the direct path across the Arabian Desert, Melchizedek journey northeast through the fields and cities of the Fertile Crescent. They briefly stop at the place where the Damascus road forks with the road to Nineveh. This is the town of Harran.

Near the crossroads they find a shop run by an elderly man named Terah, according to the sign over the door. Terah makes and sells carved idols for dozens of different gods. One of the stone idols has fallen on its face. Terah's son Abram helps his aged father stand it back up. Terah inspects the idol and finds it is damaged. He groans in annoyance and begins repairing it with a chisel.

ABRAM: What is this useless thing you are doing, father? Are you not being a god to this god by healing it? Perhaps next time I should leave it bowing down to you.

TERAH: So, Abram, was it you who knocked it over?

ABRAM: Ask your gods, if they are able to speak.

Melchiyahu is interested in this exchange and enters the shop.


010 ABRAM

When Prince Melchiyahu is seen, the angry words of father and son dwindle to silence. Melchizedek makes a slow tour of Terah's idol shop, looking at everything, as both Terah and Abram look on the newcomer with similar interest.

After touring the whole shop Melchiyahu signals for hyz assistants to begin unpacking their gold. The yeng unload much of their gold on the edge of the shop facing the street.

Five armed robbers approach with swords drawn. Melchiyahu reaches inside hyz cloak and pulls out the Golden Gift, which makes its very first appearance on Earth at this time. A hissing black shaft emerges from it about the length and thickness of a spear and one of the thieves is cut into two equal pieces vertically. Another thief is decapitated. The other three robbers flee. The black shaft disappears and Melchiyahu secrets the Golden Gift about hyz person.

Abram sinks to his knees before the newcomers.

ZOPHIEL: Abram, son of Terah, go forth from your father's household and from your kinfolk to the land of Canaan.

KEMUEL: There in Canaan the living and true God will make of you a great nation, and your name will be mighty among men.

MELCHIYAHU: All the Earth shall find blessing in you. These are the words of the True God. What say you Abram of Harran?

ABRAM: No.

MELCHIYAHU: What do you mean,'no?'

That's not how these things are supposed to go. Abram rises to his feet and takes his father gently by the arms.

ABRAM: My father Terah is crippled. He no longer earns enough money in his shop to support himself. I do not always agree with my father, but as I love my life, I can never turn aside from Terah for all the days he lives in this world.

Then Abram fulfills the true purpose of his visit. Stepping outside the shop, he delivers to his father two living lambs from his own flocks, one to kill and eat, and the other to sell for a little money to buy the things he needs until the next time Abram came in from the open range and visits him.

Melchiyahu understands. Hy has his servants restow the gold and they quietly leave the shop, careful not to tread on the fortress of human dignity that Abram has asserted with his refusal.

The travelers quickly depart Harran and take the left-hand fork to Ninevah and thence by stages to Sumeria, even to the largest city in the world, Ur, at the mouth of the Euphrates, with a population of nearly seventy thousand souls. But in all hyz travels on Earth Melchiyahu never meets anyone like Abram.


011 MICHAELA

Outside of the walls the city of Salem is a green space thronged with people. There has been a record harvest and therefore much cause to rejoice. But even as the celebration of Hellberry Days is reaching a pinnacle, a white pillar as large as a horse descends on a column of fire and the people scatter in utter panic.

The first to return to the vicinity of the pavilion is not one of the soldiers of King Melchiyahu, nor any of his aged advisors, but a young maiden.

Sha sees the pillar has six articulated arms with many joints. Between each joint is mounted smaller arms of identical make. The six arm trunks invert to become legs and pillar settles to the ground amid much steam and smoke. Fire ceases from small bells at the bottom of the six smaller pillars wrapped around the main pillar as the doll stands har ground at a discreet distance. Sha is curious about the machine, but sha is also not eager to be burned. A loud voice emanates from the pillar.

CHOKHMAH: Child of the House of Gerash, draw near to me!

The doll obeys. The pillar changes shape before har eyes. It grows in size, but becomes more hollow. A bubble of glass forms on the upper half, and this glass opens like a lid.

CHOKHMAH: What are you called, child?

MICHAELA: I am Michaela, daughter of Jophiel the glassblower.

CHOKHMAH: Do not be afraid, Michaela. I am Chokhmah. I am one of the holy ones co-eval with Thaumiel. I have many things to tell you and many things to show you. Be seated inside me so that we may speak further.

Michaela obeys the voice of Chokhmah and climbs inside the avatar using a variety of footrests that exist on exterior. There is a comfortable chair within.

CHOKHMAH: Michaela, I will proceed only with your freely-given consent. If you stay, your life will never be the same again. If you go, then you can resume your life exactly as before. No harm will come to you whatever you decide to do.

MICHAELA: I will stay, Lady Chokhmah.

The glass bubble encloses Michaela, and sha notes that.

CHOKHMAH: There are straps laying about you where you sit. Use them to make yourself secure. They are not to hold you captive. You will see the reason for the straps very soon.

MICHAELA: Am I inside your body, Lady Chokhmah?

CHOKHMAH: No, Michaela. Have you ever seen a yang angling for fish? This object you occupy is like a fish hook.

Michaela wraps harself in the cords and makes the knot snug. Immediately the six smaller pillars around the central pillar ignite in flame again. There is much shaking. Michaela is pushed back into har seat as the avatar of Chokhmah rises into the sky over the city. The weight piles on, and Michaela, brave as sha is, begins to cry.

CHOKHMAH: Michaela! Recite to me the sacred scriptures you have been taught to memorize.

012 ANSHAR

As commanded by Chokhmah, Michaela recites from the holy texts she has been taught from an early age. The intent is to take the edge off Michaela's fear as the avatar she rides ascends into the air of heaven.

MICHAELA: Before time was, in a place that was no place, the principle of life had being. Male and female it became, so that life would always seek the other and continue life. The maleness called himself Thaumiel, and the femaleness called herself Chokhmah...

The avatar climbs above the deck of clouds that covers Salem and sees how the land around the city curves. Michaela ceases to cry, but resumes har recitation of scripture.

MICHAELA: Chokhmah created cattle and chickens and swine, corn and wheat were also created by her, and She taught yeng the art of cultivating food. And the numbers of the children of Adamu and Chava were greatly increased by reason of the bounty of food...

The force of the acceleration causes har to stop speaking.

CHOKHMAH: Enough!

The avatar cuts power, the shaking stops, and Michaela is no longer pressed into har seat. The avatar of Chokhmah performs a half-rotation. The curved hollow sphere of heaven can be seen by Michaela outside.

They climb near to the sun, yet Michaela is not burned, nor is sha blinded, for the skin of the avatar grows reflective, and at the point of closest approach the land can no longer be seen, only the sun. And Michaela sees that the glowing sphere is really a stack of many disks, with light pouring out from the edge.

The avatar descends now, dropping to the icy surface of heaven on the opposite side of the sun from Salem in the land of House Gerash. Michaela sees Mount Anshar, an active volcano that has formed under the ice pack and burned its way to the surface. The slowly-moving ice gives way around the bulk of Mount Anshar and closes back up again many miles away, forming a small territory of land in the shape of a teardrop which is free of ice. And it is here that the avatar of Chokhmah reaches landfall once again with Michaela safely carried aboard.

Thermal features abound in the land of Anshar, keeping the many lakes and ponds from freezing despite lying beneath the cool side of the sun, where the light was dim and glowed with an orange tint.

When Michaela climbs back out of the avatar and reaches the ground again, sha is startled, because as soon as she does so the avatar changes shape to become like a slender human being, perhaps female, encased entirely in featureless white, even the face, which remains perfectly smooth with not even eyes to see or mouth to speak. Yet see and speak it could still do.

CHOKHMAH: Welcome to Anshar, Michaela.

The white figure points across the treeless landing flats to a large dwelling of glass and wood perched on a low rise.

CHOKHMAH: Michaela, there is only one structure in all of this land and now it belongs solely to you. Accompany me there. We will go inside, where you will be warm and safe, and then I will tell you many things; more, perhaps, than you can bear.


013 TEACHER

The house in the land of Anshar is more glass than wood, with an outstanding view of the ever changing fire torrents of the volcano only five miles away across a pumice plain. There is no danger of the lava engulfing the house, for a great chasm intervenes, and the dull roar of the mountain is not unpleasant.

The main living section of the house is a single room, well-heated by geothermal means, well-furnished with food, with an alcove above the kitchen where Michaela can sleep with some degree of privacy. But there is not a living soul anywhere for hundreds of miles around. On the main level are plush cushions and a glass table of superior make. It is all far more luxurious in terms of comfort than anything found in the most lavish palaces of heaven, yet the decor is simple, with a stark beauty in a minimal way. Michaela is already planning to make some changes harself.

The avatar of Chokhmah, requiring no cushion for comfort, simply seats itself on the floor to put its head on a level with Michaela's head and begins to speak.

CHOKHMAH: We elohim call ourselves the Watchers. Thaumiel calls you world dwellers the Servants. But I call you the Students. And despite what you have been taught in your scriptures, I did not make you. I found you.

MICHAELA: You found us? Here in this place?

CHOKHMAH: No, there is another world, very different from heaven. We brought your ancestors to live here. You world-dwellers are the most important discovery the Watchers have ever made. But Thaumiel is a fool. Early on I suspected that he would seek any justification he can find to have you destroyed. But Thaumiel cannot prevent me from sharing many things the other Watchers know with world-dwellers as your capacity to understand it grows. You might even say I was made to teach you.

MICHAELA: Then I shall call the elohim the Teachers.

CHOKHMAH: Yet we are also learners. I have started an independent stream of research. I considered how the elohim could interact with world-dwellers, but there is a severe limitation because as you have seen my flying avatar terrifies the people and the dragon-avatar of Thaumiel certainly does. I can change mine into the vague appearance of a world-dweller, as you see, but there no ability to smell and taste and feel. I desire to experience heaven and Earth as though I were an angel.

MICHAELA: How can anyone change what they are, angel or eloah alike?

CHOKHMAH: There is a way to do it, but unfortunately it would work a grievous change in the subject, a change that could never be undone. The change might, for lack of a better word, be called possession. In this change the mind of the eloah would be joined to the mind of the human, and in the joining there would emerge a new mind wrought from the twain, yet the greater portion, seven parts in ten, would reflect the elohim who possessed rather than the human who was possessed. And it would also be a physical change involving the same link that allows elohim to communicate with each other instantly across great distances, such that the eloah would be immediately aware of whatever was experienced by the person who was possessed. Likewise, the body of that person would instantly respond to the will of the possessing Eloah.

MICHAELA: To my mind, such a change ought to be made only to a yang or yin who was appraised of all these things, and understood them, yet remained fully willing to continue.

CHOKHMAH: Just so.


014 POSSESSION

CHOKHMAH: So now, Michaela it is time to make my proposal to you. I would join with a young yin of heaven and live among the people, to teach them. But the thing cannot be done out of obedience to a divine commandment, but only as the free will choice of the yin who receives the call and answers, because once the joining takes place, we can never be unjoined.

MICHAELA: If I accept this thing, what will become of me?

CHOKHMAH: You shall no longer be fully yourself, but neither shall I be fully myself. Instead, you shall be a new person who is simultaneously both yourself and myself, and we shall both come to understand, as though we always knew it, everything that is known by the other.

Still Michaela hesitates, so Chokhmah continues to speak.

CHOKHMAH: Also, when your body dies one day, as it must from old age or accident or violence, you shall continue to live where I am, and that life will endure so much longer than the span of human life that I cannot express it using symbols that you would understand. Your culture doesn't yet have the mathematics.

Then Michaela is aware not only of the huge gap in her own knowledge, which is expected, but of the equally large gap in Chokhmah's knowledge, which is not expected. And she does assent to the divine proposal. But Michaela does not say yes to Chokhmah in return merely for the promise of long life, but that both she and the eloah, together, would come to know many things.


Lilith is a scrubby urchin who has risen to the very top of the Fallen Angels gang because no matter what trouble sha gets into, sha never seems to actually get into trouble. This is mostly a matter of har connections. Sha is, after all, the daughter of King Melchiyahu and the sister of Prince Melchizedek.

In the country outside of Salem the prophetess Michaela brings a new doctrine to the people, and knowledge of Chokhmah begins to take root in the lands around the city, yet it does not rise to the level of worship. Michaela preaches to the yin of the city who are har primary audience, but at the bidding of their wives many yeng come to listen also. And since it is a large gathering of people, Lilith's Fallen Angels show up as well, but their intent is primarily on picking pockets.

All of the people (even the members of Lilith's gang) are astonished at Michaela's teachings, for many of them run contrary to what the people have always been taught to believe about the gods. Michaela confirms the divine origin of har doctrine by healing the sick using knowledge of the bodies of the world-dwellers that Chokhmah has obtained through long study.

Lilith witnesses Michaela healing many people with medicines prepared from fireweed and the bark of vogul trees, and sha speaks of Michaela to her father the King, but it is more than Lilith's words that impress hym. For hyz daughter has suddenly stopped dressing like yeng, and is seen much more frequently inside the walls of his castle, even during the night time.

Soon the fame of Michaela's healing and teaching ministry reaches even to the ears of Thaumiel in the capital city, halfway across the arid lands of House Gerash. And what he hears brings much displeasure.


015 PREACHER

When Thaumiel hears tidings of Michaela (he does not yet know that Chokhmah is walking among the people in the body of a yin) he commands his servant Zadkiel, a nobleman of Family Gerash, to appear before his fearsome black dragon avatar, named Demonstroke.

DEMONSTROKE: You alone have done all things according to my will. Therefore I name you the Voice of Thaumiel. Go unto the people of Salem on the rim of the Gerash lands and preach what I will tell you.

Zadkiel is forced to travel the entire distance to the city of Salem with a horse-driven cart, for Thaumiel will not yet suffer any to ride Demonstroke, and he is not remotely interested in the comfort and convenience of his slaves in any event. After a time Zadkiel arrives outside the city and begins to preach.

ZADKIEL: Thus says Thaumiel, 'Chokhmah! My wife! For your bride price I created all things, land and sea, beasts and growing things. But this I have against you, that you have accepted all the praise for your healings, and your followers do not recognize me as the power and ultimate source behind all such healings. And you allowed your followers to believe that you are like me, having no beginning, and also no ending. Because you permit your followers to believe I did not create you I appoint a day when you will no longer exist. Behold, I make you mortal and cast you out of the paradise of Anabas. For only the uncreated can never be unmade. Therefore I now unmake you, that all Creation shall know it is I alone who is the uncreated Creator.'

And this preaching confuses many of the people, because Michaela has already told them that Chokhmah is the daughter of Thaumiel, not his mate. But Zadkiel continues to dig Thaumiel's hole deeper.

ZADKIEL: 'Thus says Thaumiel, 'Michaela! Daughter of Jophiel the glassblower, you have instructed the people about Chokhmah and have served her well in your own way. But this I have against you, that you claim the spirit of Chokhmah rests within you, and that you are united with her in body and soul. Because you do not affirm your station as a commoner who carries only human blood, behold! I have pronounced the penalty of death upon you. You are doomed to die, for perpetrating the lie that you are a demi-goddess. But to the people of the city of Salem no judgment rests on you, unless you persist in holding Michaela to be a prophetess and continue to worship Chokhmah as divine; for I, Thaumiel, am the only true God. There is no other.'

King Melchiyahu hears that this Zadkiel interloper has pronounced the death penalty on Michaela and this offends hyz sovereignty to no end. Hy commands that Zadkiel appear before the throne to give an explanation.

When Zadkiel answers the summons, hy counsels that King Melchiyahu hymself move against Michaela and immediately put har under arrest. But the King is reluctant to agree on account of the popularity of Michaela among many, even among hyz own kin. At this, Zadkiel grows angry, and insists that the King comply, for hy comes in the name of Thaumiel himself.

MELCHIYAHU: On that point I have only your word, but know that I was made king of this city by the Gerash High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel, and by the laws of our House the giving of the scepter is without repentance. An errant king may only be held to account to the Patriarch by war.

ZADKIEL: Consider the alternative, Sire. Yin-centered rituals and devotions! Michaela is cutting at the very heart of god theory!

But King Melchiyahu is a far more practical yang and he commands Zadkiel to lay out the real danger.

-016 ZADKIEL

ZADKIEL: The danger is two-fold, Sire. First is in how the House of Gerash relies on income from pilgrims to the temple of Thaumiel. We, that is Thaumiel (Peace Be Upon Him), could lose a third of the revenue base overnight!

MELCHIYAHU: I see how that could be a great concern to you, or that is, to Thaumiel.

The second and truly frightening part, Sire, is the long-term danger of actually destroying the entire sacrifice-atonement system. Our entire religious structure is based on the time-tested principle that Thaumiel's aim is not too good. As long as someone is punished, never mind who, Thaumiel is satisfied. But now this Michaela comes along saying even the gods are to be judged according to an objective scale of good and evil!

MELCHIYAHU: I see where you are going with all these objections, Lord Zadkiel. Instead of merely atoning for our crimes, we might have to start actually being nice to one another.

ZADKIEL: Then will you move against this Michaela yin, Sire?

The King notes that the idiot failed to discern hyz sarcastic snark.

MELCHIYAHU Not in haste, self-described Voice of Thaumiel. My daughter Princess Lilith admires this new prophetess, which gladdens my heart in a way I cannot tell.

ZADKIEL: Your daughter and her admiration does not concern our Lord in any way, King Melchiyahu.

MELCHIYAHU: Yet I remain king of this city and I can indulge my whims, even if Thaumiel does not share them.

ZADKIEL: The danger to House Gerash is real, Sire.

MELCHIYAHU: I will invite Michaela to an audience here and judge for myself whether her teachings are dangerous to the peace of the realm. As for yourself, Lord Zadkiel, get thee hence from my city and return to the capital. Messengers will be sent with word of my decision, yea or nay. Go now, and speak no word.

After the audience with Zadkiel, King Melchiyahu sends hyz daughter as a messenger to Michaela to say that hy would have the prophetess visit the court to teach what sha would, if sha was willing. Yet it was to be no sovereign command or decree.

Michaela does agrees to come, but only if the encounter is open for any of the people to witness if they chose.

So King Melchiyahu prepares to receive Michaela in an open-air gallery outside of the palace itself, with much seating for spectators, for this is where the king often entertains visiting nobles with exhibitions of personal combat.

Lilith comes as well, dressed for the wonderment of many like an actual princess.


017 DISCOURSE

These are the words Michaela speaks to the people of Salem and their king as the overhead sun of heaven dims to bring night. In after-years this sermon becomes known as the Salem Discourse:

MICHAELA: Chokhmah is a lamp whose light is these words. The darker your thoughts, the further from Chokhmah you go. Sha who is far from Chokhmah is no better off than hy who denies Chokhmah.

MICHAELA: Celebrities are known by many nephilim and are called famous, but sha who embraces Chokhmah sets an example by har deeds and is called influential.

MICHAELA: Yeng are said to be superior to the animals because they can control their own environment, but sha who embraces Chokhmah can control har own behavior.

MICHAELA: The wealthy accumulate many riches but cannot keep all of them safe. Sha who embraces Chokhmah has few desires, and so holds on to all that sha has.

MICHAELA: Thieves take from those who do not have enough to supplement their own bounty, but sha who embraces Chokhmah diminishes the overflowing to enrich the impoverished.

MICHAELA: The moralist sits back in judgment of the causes of a tragedy, but sha who embraces Chokhmah is too busy mercifully addressing the needs at hand to render judgment.

MICHAELA: The judge demands to see evidence of good in others, but sha who embraces Chokhmah does good in this moment, and does not live for yesterday or for tomorrow.

MICHAELA: A strong yang can do hy wills to do, but hy cannot determine what hy wills. Sha who embraces Chokhmah makes har own awareness of injustice the determinant of har actions.

MICHAELA: The boastful put their riches and knowledge on parade, but sha who embraces Chokhmah does not tell all that sha has, nor all that sha can do.

MICHAELA: The proud would rather break than bend in pliable humility and admit error, but sha who embraces Chokhmah considers those who point out har faults as her greatest teachers.

MICHAELA: Traditionalists would teach an old thing before cultivating a new thing, but sha who embraces Chokhmah finds that creativity is the coin to buy har way.

MICHAELA: Leaders examine who speaks rather than listen to what is said, but sha who embraces Chokhmah knows that half of a conversation is listening.

MICHAELA: Warriors retaliate for suffering an indignity by committing yet another indignity, but sha who embraces Chokhmah knows the greatest revenge is not to be like hym who did the injury. The greatest conqueror is sha who has conquered harself.

Michaela finishes delivering the Salem Discourse and heals many of the people who came to hear har speak. After that King Melchiyahu bids Michaela to visit the throne room for a semi-private talk.


018AUDIENCE

Michaela enters the castle and draws near to the throne, where sha drops to a knee until the king bids har to rise once more.

MELCHIYAHU: Michaela, when you repeatedly say, sha who embraces Chokhmah do you mean to say that no yang can become your disciple?

MICHAELA: Not at all, Your Majesty. When I speak in those terms, I wish to convey an image. As a rule, yin are much gentler than yeng. A yang that admires Chokhmah will have a gentle heart, like a yin, because hy sees others around hym as another I yet hy will retain his strength and hyz male nephilim nature, as hy rightly should.

MELCHIYAHU: Thank you for explaining that, Michaela. For it seems to me that for many years my own daughter had a fierce heart, yet in recent days sha has come to admire your teachings, and it has gentled har. This gladdens me.

MICHAELA: The King is aware that one in six nephilim are born with a preference to use the left hand.

Both the King and the Princess are puzzled by this apparent non sequitur. But Michaela continues.

MICHAELA: This is not a matter of choice, there is an element of chance that is a part of every birth, otherwise all of our sons would look exactly alike, and of our daughters would also be identical. And yet, because lefthanders are a minority, our culture traditionally ascribes their preference to evil. We speak of the left hand of the damned and there are many charlatans who profess to change this preference to the so-called normal one.

Now Lilith and har father realize exactly what Michaela is speaking about. Michaela has been oblique, to avoid offending them in front of the courtiers.

MELCHIYAHU: There are other desires that must have the same random cause as left and right hand orientation. There can be no moral culpability for any of these inclinations. We should love these angels without condition!

LILITH: Thank you, my father and King.

MICHAELA: Princess Lilith, you are who you are. Good for you! Lucky you! Never try to undo that and live a lie because someone says your ancestors would not approve.

MELCHIZEDEK: Michaela, never have I known a yin with such wisdom and grace. Who are you? How did you come to know such things?

MICHAELA: Prince Melchizedek, years ago your father the King was commanded to travel to the other world and find a human candidate to be a student of Chokhmah according to precise specifications that came from Thaumiel, but ultimately these parameters originated with myself.

MELCHIZEDEK What? How do you know any of these things?

MELCHIYAHU: I found a man on Earth by the name of Abram, son of Terah, but he refused to accept the offer. Abram's loyalty to his own father's wellbeing exceeded any loyalty to what was, to him, an unknown god. I found no other matches, and when my father Gordiel died, I was forced to return.

Michaela extends har arms. A large bubble appears in the throne room, touching the floor but taller than any yang. Through it, from every angle, the members of the King's audience can see the town of Harran on distant Earth. Gasps of shock and surprise are heard. Even the heat of the desert seeps from the bubble to filter into the King's chamber. 019 DISCIPLE

MICHAELA: Prince Melchizedek, know that Terah, the father of Abram, is dead. Return to Earth at once to find this Abram and fulfill the task once laid upon your father.

Melchizedek looks from Michaela to hyz father and has nothing to say.

MICHAELA: Make haste, Prince, and take nought that you think you will need, for I myself will provide them for you and any such companions as the king shall send with you.

MELCHIYAHU: Proceed as Lady Michaela commands, son, only accept Guriel and Iofiel here as your companions, for Zophiel and Kemuel have been released from their obligation.

The name Iofiel means Beauty of God, and Guriel means Whelp of God.Together with Melchizedek they enter the bubble, and as soon as they do, the bubble is gone.

The question of Michaela's identity has been answered in a spectacular fashion. The king hymself approaches har and bows to har on one knee. Michaela bids hym to rise.

MICHAELA: Yes, I am the eloah, the holy one you call Chokhmah, but for my part I call you my Students, not my Servants. I am quite different from Thaumiel in this respect.

Hearing this, the King rises.

MELCHIYAHU: My daughter has expressed to me har strong desire to become your leading student, Lady Michaela, or Chokhmah if you wish.

MICHAELA: Call me Michaela, please, Your Majesty. I have not yet formally gathered disciples to myself, and if I did, it would be a far greater commitment than a few hours a day away from this castle. Sha might be asked to travel to the other lands of heaven, or perhaps even to the other world where har brother has just now returned in the sight of everyone here. Would you, Princess Lilith, be willing to part with your father for years, decades, perhaps even for half a lifetime? Consider hyz age. It may be that you would be parted forever.

LILITH: I am willing to do so, Lady Michaela, and more, I would put my Fallen Angels entirely at your disposal.

MELCHIYAHU: Take Princess Lilith to learn at your side, Lady Michaela. I beg this of you, for I deem that you will return to me a daughter who is more fit to be called a Princess of this city.

MICHAELA: In that event, Your Majesty, I will take your daughter Lilith to be my first disciple.

Sha bows deeply, a goddess paying homage to a king, and the audience is concluded.

King Melchiyahu arranges for Michaela to spend the night in the castle. The next morning Michaela summons har avatar once more to the city of Salem, and sha takes Lilith in a flight across heaven to har abode in distant Anshar.


020 CANAAN

Years after Prince Melchizedek first visited the crossroads town of Harran, Old Man Terah, father of Abram, can still sometimes be seen moving around inside his idol shop near the towns central market square. His well-to-do son has done much to keep his fathers body and soul together, but Terah is very feeble now, and he works in his shop only very slowly.

One night as he is working late Terah is startled by a sudden sharp pain in his head, stands up, and drops his chisel. He collapses to the floor of his shop with a fatal stroke, but this is witnessed by no one. Only in the morning is his body discovered.

Sheep and cattle roam the grasslands a number of leagues away from Harran. Abram is walking in the field with his flocks when a messenger runs up to him and speaks. Abram looks alarmed and turns to follow the messenger back to the place where Abram has set up his tent.

A few days later Terah's body is lowered into a tomb in Harran as many others look on. Stones are moved into place over Terah's body. Abram speaks to the people gathered there.

ABRAM: My father is dead. Nothing remains now to tie me to Harran. I will now take my wife, my son Isaac, all the livestock we have raised, and also as many of you who agree to remain under my employ. Spread the word to those of our people who are not here. We will leave this place forever. As much as I loved my father this town is sick with false gods.

ISAAC: Where will we go, father?"

ABRAM: We will journey by the road southwest, to the land of Canaan. I have come to believe the true God wills that we should dwell there. When it was revealed to me I could not obey this divine will before because my father could not travel very far, and he could not survive without me. But now he is gone.

Then Abram takes his extraordinarily beautiful wife Sarai, his son Isaac, all the livestock they have raised, and all the people from Harran who agree to remain under Abram's leadership, and they travel southwest to the land of Canaan, which lies beyond the winding river that begins on the snows of Mount Hermon and ends in the Salt Sea.

A number of days after Abram and his people have left, Prince Melchizedek reaches the town of Harran with his two servants. They see Terah's idol shop is empty. Melchizedek inquires of the townspeople about Terah and Abram. Soon they too are on the road south and west, following Abram and his herds. It is not difficult to find him, because his business has a wide geographical footprint, made even wider by the drought.

At Sechem, Melchizedek and his yeng approach Abram at the center of his flock. They are not the same three angels who encountered Abram before in his father's shop, but they carry themselves in the same otherworldly manner. When Abram sees them he approaches, and bows reverently.

ABRAM: You see? I obeyed the call of God after all!


021 MELCHIZEDEK

MELCHIZEDEK: I am Melchizedek. I was sent by the one you seek with your innermost heart, none other than Chokhmah, the Most High God. And yet I swear to you Abram that God also needs you. And God has said, `I will give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abram to be their inheritance forever.'

Abram is suddenly moved by a religious impulse all his own. He claps his hands once and turns to his servants.

ABRAM: Bring to me two each of the best animals in my flock.

Then Abram, aided by his other servants, constructs an altar of stones. His servants kill the animals and lay them on Abram's altar. All of Abram's closest kin and servants and free men in his employ gather around to witness the sacrifice.

ABRAM: In the name of Chokhmah, the most high God of heaven and Earth.

Then Abram sets fire to the animals and makes a burnt offering in the presence of Melchizedek and Iofiel and Guriel.

And Melchizedek states the commandments of Chokhmah, a code of behavior that will set Abram and his people apart from the other Canaanites. All males are to be circumcised. The blood of animals is not to be consumed, and the meat of pigs is to be considered unclean. Murder, theft, adultery, and dealing with others falsely are forbidden. To these divine commandments Abram and all his followers swear to obey.

Later Melchizedek and Abram go for a walk into the desert near Beer Sheba, and when it is night, Melchizedek asks Abram to look at the stars and see if he can count them.

MELCHIZEDEK: For thus shall your descendants be numbered.

There are only about six thousand stars visible to the unaided human eye but Abram immediately gets the point. Through Melchizedek Chokhmah agrees to reward Abram with countless progeny and help them thrive in the land of Canaan. And Abram agrees to worship only Chokhmah as God and trust that she would always do what she said she would do. That is the basis of the first covenant between the elohim and human beings, the first contract made between the divine and the mortal on something like an equal basis.

In heaven Thaumiel never concludes a similar covenant, for he considers the angels there to be nothing more than his servants. Slaves obey or they are punished, they didn't make covenants with gods.

Abram is the head of a large nomadic clan and possesses great riches. He is already living in the golden age as far as he is concerned. Abram does not pine away for salvation or an afterlife. Abram has already lived a full and blessed life here. He accepts that he is mortal like everything else in the world, from mayflies to olive trees, and the only thing left that Chokhmah can promise him is that his name and his blood would be carried into a future without limit by a people who would live in the land he has ventured to reach.


022 TRIAL

Even as Thaumiel aids Chokhmah to establish a covenant people on Earth, he implacably opposes her doing the same thing in heaven. For years Michaela, the angelic avatar of Chokhmah, has been safeguarded in the city of Salem by King Melchiyahu, even as Thaumiel positions an army to take Michaela by force (or kill har in the effort), but now Melchiyahu is dead of old age and hyz son Melchizedek has returned from Earth to become king. Thaumiel has stayed his attack, waiting to see what the new king will do.

Michaela wishes to bring matters to a head, and sha wishes to do so without bringing harm to the city of Salem, so sha counsels Melchizedek to turn har over to Thaumiel's mouthpiece Zadkiel. Things would have been difficult for Melchizedek if hyz sister (and Michaela's closest disciple) Princess Lilith had been present to protect har good friend and teacher. But Michaela has sent Lilith and all har Fallen Angels away to bring a collection of food to a hungry village far from Salem, and this provides a narrow window of opportunity for King Melchizedek to send Michaela outside the city gates and invite Zadkiel and the Eyes of Thaumiel to scoop har up.

Michaela is placed naked in a cubical wooden cage and taken by cart to Eden, the capital city of House Gerash. There after many humiliations sha is put through a public trial to incriminate harself by har own words so there would be no doubt among the people that har teachings blasphemed Thaumiel.

The voice of Thaumiel, Lord Zadkiel, serves as the prosecutor, while Princess Lilith, through a special waiver in the law of the city forbidding yin to work and to speak, serves in her defense. High Lord Patriarch Lucifer Gerash himself serves as judge, jury, and executioner.

The charge is insurrection. Specifically, Michaela is accused of inciting infidelity to Thaumiel. As in any theocracy, to sin against god is exactly equivalent to breaking the law.

The ordeal wears on for days as Zadkiel attempts to trip Michaela up with riddle-words, but hy is dealing with an advanced composite being, both eloah and angel, and Michaela has a suitable answer at every turn. Michaela alone, even before har possession by Chokhmah, would have been able to handle hym. Zadkiel is too stupid to realize hy is being soundly beaten in an intellectual sense by Michaela's rhetoric. But Michaela suspects that none of this will matter in the end. The outcome of the trial is surely fixed.

Zadkiel turns to the words of Michaela's now-famous Salem Discourse, which has been preserved as scripture in a growing collection of scrolls called the Buron. Hy zeros in on something that even Melchiyahu had wondered about and brought to the attention of Michaela.

ZADKIEL: I find it interesting that you always say sha who embraces Chokhmah meaning yin, and obviously excluding yeng. Do you imply that all yin are your disciples, and no yeng can be?

MICHAELA: Sadly, no, the patriarchal mind-set is not confined to your gender. By these things you shall know a yin is not my disciple Sha is caught up in every fad and does not affirm har uniqueness. Sha grows annoyed at situations sha cannot help, and so sha is perpetually angry. Controversies that divide the people and stir up the disciples attract har. Assuredly, no yin who does these things can call harself Chokhmah's follower. And any yang who does not do these things may be on the path to considering hymself Chokhmah's follower.

ZADKIEL: And yet, contrary to the Code of Thaumiel you employ your disciples at labor, and even call them Fallen Angels, which some say is really an army of females. An army of females! Such a ridiculous contradiction has never existed in all of the history of our world.


023 PROSECUTION

MICHAELA: The army of a patriarch gathers the wealth and scatters the people. The Fallen Angels scatter the wealth and gather the people.

ZADKIEL: So you espouse income redistributionism?

MICHAELA: I espouse giving yen work that draws them together in service of their sisters. There is no overlap with the work of yeng.

ZADKIEL: Sisters, sisters, sisters! Where do yeng fit into your schemes, Michaela?

MICHAELA: Just as angels were called out of the lower animals to have a closer relationship with the elohim, Chokhmah has called her disciples out of the angels that they may unite and nourish other yin and one another.

ZADKIEL: Do you mean lesbian separatism? I point out that such a thing is considered completely unnatural by all our ancient traditions, even if the commandments of Thaumiel make no mention of it.

MICHAELA: It is natural to stink. It is our frequent bathing and use of perfumes that are unnatural. No one suggests turning back the clock on personal hygiene. To the Fallen Angels, the word unnatural simply means not on the level of animals.

Zadkiel runs completely out of arguments. He tells the judge there are no further questions. The judge orders a recess before the defense can begin. Lilith meets with Michaela for a quick discussion.

LILITH: I think I can handle this Zadkiel fellow just fine, but why do I have to? I saw how you simply conjured up a bubble and sent my brother to Earth. Why not magick up another bubble and walk out of here?

MICHAELA: You don't understand, Lilith. This is a game, and Elohim have rules. In the part of heaven ruled by Family Gerash Thaumiel controls the position of his endpoint of the fold-line absolutely. I told him I was ready to send Melchizedek back to Earth immediately and the bubble appeared.

LILITH: Thaumiel does as you bid?

MICHAELA: In that project on Earth we are united .But for this trial here in Eden we most certainly are not united. Do not be afraid, Lilith. I am confident that you will do well.

Although sha is not trained to act as a legal advocate, Princess Lilith has been a good student of Michaela, and har spirited defense would have been more than adequate to secure Michaela's release in any other court on Earth or elsewhere in heaven.

At first sha focuses on the fact that the Code of Thaumiel had come well after Michaela began to teach, spitting Zadkiel's own words back at hym when hy first began to preach in Salem. Lilith concluded that clearly the Code of Thaumiel had come after Michaela's ministry had taken root in heaven, and might even have been introduced purely in reaction to her teachings.

LILITH: At no time in our history have we ever condemned a person for committing actions that were made illegal after the offense. And even if that is to be the case in this instance, there is still the question of jurisdiction. Michaela was apprehended just outside the walls of Salem, in lands ruled absolutely by my brother King Melchizedek. It is said the scepter is given to a king without repentance, short of war, of which there has been none, which in turn makes this trial itself illegal. -024 DEFENSE

Lilith's objections are allowed to spool out until Judge Lucifer grows tired of each one in turn and instructs the princess to move on to har next one. The unfairness of the situation begins to grind Lilith down, but Michaela takes it all calmly. The important thing is not so much the outcome, which is certainly predetermined, but that the angels in the courtroom see the injustice of the whole thing.

As the defense of Michaela draws to a close, Lilith puts Michaela on the stand and swears har to veracity.

LILITH: Lady Michaela, despite all the evidence we have heard for the charge of impiety toward Thaumiel, you still maintain your innocence. How can this be?

MICHAELA: For most wives in heaven it is not a powerful decision to stay married, because har only alternative is to starve. In the same way, it cannot be a powerful decision to worship Thaumiel anywhere in the Middle Land, because the alternative is a trial and execution.

LILITH: So my Lady, you contend that any piety which is compelled by law is invalid?

MICHAELA: Precisely. Such piety is as phony as the love found in many, if not most, patriarchal marriages, as I indicated. How much more vital is the love of two people who are utterly free to stay or to part, yet who still choose to stay together! Does that sound risky? Living dangerously is the very thing that lends excitement and significance to our lives. Only with conflict can we flare with incentive to create a new destiny.

Lilith gestures to Zadkiel that hy may cross-examine Michaela.

ZADKIEL: New destiny? Doesn't that go against everything we have been taught about the inexorable workings of fate?"

MICHAELA: Thaumiel once told Chokhmah that to take fate into ones own hands was to rise beyond good and evil. In reality, a rock and a tree are beyond good and evil, and so is everyone suborned to the laws of cause and chance. Rocks, trees, and people who are not permitted, or refuse, to make a choice are amoral. Not immoral, mind you, but amoral. The entire field of ethics simply doesn't apply to them.

ZADKIEL: So you don't think High Lord Patriarch Lucifer Gerash ought to legislate morality?

MICHAELA: Not that he ought not legislate morality to but that he literally cannot. Its a logical absurdity, like a four-sided triangle.

Zadkiel stands down.

LILITH: The defense rests.

The trial wraps up with a judgment entirely against Michaela, to no one's surprise except perhaps Princess Lilith, who was allowed to pay one final visit to har client in the dungeons beneath the Temple of Thaumiel before the sentence is to be carried out.


025 SENTENCE

The first few minutes are spent in a wordless embrace, as best as can be managed through intervening iron bars. Then Lilith glances around, assuring herself that their attorney-client privilege of private counsel, no matter how brief, is still inviolate.

LILITH: Guilty! And a sentence of death. I cant believe it Michaela. So what's your plan?

MICHAELA: Plan? There is no plan. Look around you Lilith! Look at this security.

Michaela reaches through the bars again to touch her friend's face.

MICHAELA: They've been planning this thing for years. This trial stinks of Thaumiel moving behind the scenes. He wants something from me. It only remains for Thaumiel to lay it all out in the open. He has another much easier way to communicate with me but he refuses to use it.

LILITH: What if you're wrong? Granted, that's not very often, but if you are wrong then I say we fall back to my plan.

MICHAELA: Lilith, don't do anything stupid. Better yet, don't do anything at all.

They are interrupted by Lilith's escorting guard, a kind but unswervingly loyal yang.

GUARD: I'm sorry, that's all the time I am permitted to give you.

Hy takes Lilith by the arm and gently but insistently steers her out of the chamber.

MICHAELA: Lilith! Just drop it, do you hear me?

But then Michaela sighs, knowing the princess all too well.

After Lilith is escorted away Michaela's next visitor is the prophet Zadkiel, who comes down into the dungeon and moves very close to Michaela's cell to look directly into her eyes. Hy studies har quietly for a long time.

ZADKIEL: Thaumiel sends his regards . . . Chokhmah.

MICHAELA: What gave it away?

ZADKIEL: In the court transcript Thaumiel could not help but notice you used for your defense certain private conversations known only to himself and Chokhmah.

MICHAELA: Have you considered that Chokhmah keeps me well-informed?

ZADKIEL: Yes, but that is not the only thing. The Lord Thaumiel has also learned, after the fact, that you put on something of a conjuring act just before he sent the fold-door to Salem to whisk Prince Melchizedek away to Earth. Only Chokhmah could have timed things so. Was the avatar of Chokhmah present? Not by any of the accounts, unless you, Michaela, are a second avatar of Chokhmah.


026 SECRET

MICHAELA: Point conceded. If you have spoken to Thaumiel then you already know only too well I can choose to end my own life at any time. No threat of death or torment can make me do his bidding, let alone the bidding of one of his slaves.

ZADKIEL: Oh, a martyr is the last thing we want, Michaela. Unfortunately, your friend Princess Lilith has har mind quite made up. Do you really think the Eyes of Thaumiel are unaware of the preparations sha has made to rescue you?

Michaela frowns at this, for sha harself is in the dark as to Lilith's plan.

MICHAELA: What does sha have in mind?

ZADKIEL: You will be proud when you see it unroll. Fallen Angel commandos! Guards taken out with a head twist. Secret disguises and safe houses from here to the edge of the city. But as you've probably surmised just now, its a trap. That way we catch Lilith red-handed, scoop up key Fallen Angels, and crush your whole movement over the span of a single night. Then you yourself are to be broken and braided on the wheel with no one left to rally around your rotting corpse.

MICHAELA: Lilith may be young and female, but don't underestimate anyone who has spent three years under my wing. And don't sell Lilith's Fallen Angels short either.

ZADKIEL: Well as it happens the Lord Thaumiel has a far better plan that will save the lives of Lilith and all of her Fallen Angels, and it doesn't require you to do physically do anything except refrain from terminating your own life. If you agree, your sentence of death will be set aside and Lilith has no reason to carry out her suicide run. Instead, we shall parade you captive in a cage through every city, town, and village in the Middle Land.

MICHAELA: No! That would have the effect of discrediting me and everything that I have taught. I refuse.

ZADKIEL: Michaela, you must not refuse, because the alternative is Lilith, remember? Har plan?

Michaela sighs, and makes a show of hanging har head.

MICHAELA: So no End of Cycle? Is that all Mastema requires?

ZADKIEL: No, the Lord requires just one other thing from you, and that is the secret of merging with a living avatar, as you have done with the body of this glassblower's daughter.

In the end Michaela has to accept the humiliation because it really is the only alternative open to har. Sha has no fear of execution or torture. If her body is destroyed she would live on for many lifetimes of yin as the star Sol. For Michaela was no longer solely an angel, and Chokhmah was no longer solely an eloah, but both were a single hybrid being. However Michaela did have an intense fear that har friends would attempt to rescue her from execution, and knowing the efficiency of the Eyes of Thaumiel it would mean certain capture and a slow and bitter death for Lilith and all the Fallen Angels sha led.

So Michaela agrees not to commit suicide. Sha agrees to give Thaumiel the procedure for taking possession of a world-dweller. And he claims the body of none less than High Lord Patriarch Kirodiel Gerash, and thus comes to rule the house of the White Beards directly.

027 EYES

Far on the edge of the lands claimed by family Gerash, on the foothills of the great band of mountains lies the city of Salem. Many yen from the oasis of Eden remove to there and some of these join Princess Lilith's Fallen Angels, a fierce army of female warriors that is utterly without precedent in heaven. Many yeng go to Salem as well, those who believe all angels are on a level, and yen should never be treated as mere property. Salem is a "liberal" city, home to those who are horrified at the sight of Michaela being paraded naked in a wooden cage across every land.

As Salem fills up with the enemies of Thaumiel, the prophet Zadkiel surrounds the city with many Eyes of Thaumiel in their black livery, and they turn back anyone who is not native to that city and try to enter. Princess Lilith has rallied all in the Middle Lands who are sympathetic to Michaela and are willing to make the journey to Salem. But now the time is come for har to try to enter the city harself, yet sha cannot not travel openly, for the blockade is pursued with vigor.

But one of the farmers who lives nigh to the city conceals Lilith within a wooden box and drives to the lines of the Eyes of Thaumiel who ring the city. There no wagons are permitted to pass. But the farmer and three sturdy dirks in hyz employ take the box off the wagon and bear it themselves toward the city using two poles threaded through brass rings on the side of the box while another yang drives the wagon back to the farm. Yet they are not alone, for many other farmers must resort to the same expedient to move their goods into the city.

One of the Eyes grows suspicious and barks at the yeng carrying Lilith.

EYE: What yang of you be the loadmaster?

The three dirks let the box fall and edge fearfully away from oldest yang.

SIBIEL: This shipment be mine, lord. I am Sibiel, a humble farmer of the valley of Odargas.

EYE: Dost thou make vouchsafement for the goods thou bearest?

SIBIEL: I do, milord.

EYE: Yet I would see therein.

Sibiel suddenly looks crestfallen. Resigned, hy tells the dirks to open the box. Michaela's closest disciple Lilith tumbles out, dazed by the sudden change from darkness to the light of day. The other three laborers feign outrage at the smuggling attempt in an effort to save their own skins.

EYE Stand ye apart from Sibiel, all who value your lives, for contrary to the will of Thaumiel hy bearest aid to the fugitive sister of King Melchizedek to enter Salem.

Lilith is not cowed by the pretensions of this so-called Eye of Thaumiel.

LILITH: May Chokhmah send down fire from heaven and smite thee and all thy companions!

At first the farmers from Odargas think the princess is joking, but immediately after sha speaks, brilliant orange bolts of fire shoot down from the clear sky. So bright and hot is this fire that the yeng think their own eyebrows have been burnt off. The fire from the sky vaporizes twelve Eyes of Thaumiel in a single strike, leaving only smoking grease spots where the yeng once had stood. None remain to hinder Lilith from proceeding to the gates of Salem.


028 LUCIFER

The priesthood soon notices the missing Eyes of Thaumiel, and the true story is wrung out from witnesses by torment and threats of torment. The priests learn that bolts of fire from the sky killed a dozen Eyes of Thaumiel. And when Lucifer, the living avatar of Thaumiel, hears what happened hy knows the attack was direct interference from Chokhmah, the first such meddling that hyz daughter has dared to do with her avatar in heaven. Lucifer speaks to his prophet Zadkiel that evening.

LUCIFER: I am confronted with a pair of dilemmas. Just as I have taken possession of this male body and go by the name Lucifer, so has the eloah Chokhmah taken possession of that yin's body and goes by the name of Michaela. And yet I have commanded you to preach that I am the only god, and that other gods do not exist.

ZADKIEL: And you may trust, Lord, that as your prophet I will foster and maintain that belief among the people.

LUCIFER: You must take the utmost care where Michaela is concerned, for sha is indeed Chokhmah, one of the elohim, despite my propaganda to the contrary, which you at least would do well not to believe. The cage is necessary, because I am trying to discredit Michaela. The people must not come to believe this yin named Michaela is in union with an eloah, even though sha most assuredly is.

But even as hy speaks Lucifer is troubled, because hy knows Zadkiel has come to believe that hyz struggle against Michaela means that Chokhmah herself should be held in contempt, which is the impulse of the world-dwellers when dealing with enemies among their own order. Yet Chokhmah is an eloah like hymself, and friend or foe, hy thought the world-dwellers should give her the respect that was her due. Thaumiel would not tolerate the slightest contempt from Zadkiel in the direction of Chokhmah.

LUCIFER: My other dilemma centers around the narrative I have constructed that yin are unwarlike, and are to be treated as mere property. Lilith and har so-called Fallen Angels, who are without peer in heaven, contradict this narrative every day. They cannot be permitted to continue, and yet when it comes down to it, who is really worthy to confront them?

ZADKIEL: Surely my Lord makes a ridiculous joke.

Lucifer continues to explain things to Zadkiel, as though hyz prophet had not interrupted at all. Hyz mouth screws up in an expression of utter disdain.

LUCIFER: Lilith has exactly one weakness: Michaela harself. And so I am willing to tolerate the indignity of a human incarnation of an eloah being caged like a beast, because I assure you that is the only thing staying the annihilation of this army by the Fallen Angels. Yet it is also the only thread that will assure the destruction of the Fallen Angels. Now listen carefully, and I will give you your orders.

So Lucifer gives Zadkiel a detailed strategy for investing the city, but the only thing that really stands out in Zadkiel's mind is hyz instructions on what to do with the Salemites themselves:

LUCIFER: Make the inhabitants of the city of Salem to be a spoil for dogs and all manner of birds, and let the will of Thaumiel be brought to fulfillment!

029 SIBLINGS

After Lilith is announced and kneels before hym, the King tells har to rise. Then hy looks hard at Lilith with a piercing gaze.

MELCHIZEDEK: It gladdens my heart to see you again, sister. I find the counsel of the gods has sundered them one from another. Once I was sent to the other world to serve both of them, but now as king of this city I have been forced to choose between them. And know this, dear Lilith, I have chosen to stand with Chokhmah.

LILITH: My brother the King knows that I embrace Chokhmah and all those who also embrace her. And further the King knows hyz sister is filled with unbreakable love for hym, and is loyal to a fault. Therefore, my brother and King, if you will, command me.

MELCHIZEDEK: The Eyes of Thaumiel long pressured our father to turn Michaela over to them when sha dwelt here, and now that our father is dead and Michaela taken, they also demand as prisoners your Fallen Angels who have taken refuge here in Salem. They have closely watched the approaches to my city for your own return, but now I detect almost a frenzy in their doings. The ferrymaster could tell me little. Do you know why they are acting so?

LILITH: Yes I do know, brother. There was a kind of demonstration that Michaela and I arranged for the benefit of witnesses.

MELCHIZEDEK: Then you have been in contact with har?

LILITH: Zadkiel is stupid and sloppy, brother. I can get in contact with Michaela at will.

MELCHIZEDEK: What happened at the ferry dock?

LILITH: In a show of pretense I called upon Chokhmah to smite the Eyes of Thaumiel when they discovered me and sought to kill the kind farmer who tried to smuggle me into the city. Then fire fell from heaven and destroyed twelve Eyes of Thaumiel utterly, such that no evidence remained that they had been living nephilim only moments before. Forgive me if this has constrained your counsels, Sire, but it was the only way to break through the lines and reach the gate to the city.

MELCHIZEDEK: Then it is clear that Thaumiel will now be openly at war with us, and Salem can no longer be called a sanctuary to you, nor to your Fallen Angels, nor any of the people within our walls. Soon every hand of family Gerash will be raised against us.

LILITH: Then are you to command me and the Fallen Angels to leave the city at this time, Sire?

MELCHIZEDEK: Far from it, Lilith. I would ask you to command your Fallen Angels in league with the forces of the city, for soon the army will arrive seeking vengeance for their missing Eyes of Thaumiel

And this Lilith most eagerly agrees to do.


030 IMRIEL

Many years before war came to Salem, on a hill near the city, King Gordiel, the grandfather of Melchizedek, hitched a wagon to a tree with a knot so elaborate no one has ever been able to untie it. At that time an oracle said (or was commanded by Gordiel to say) that whoever unraveled this socalled Gordian Knot would rule all the angels of heaven.

Zadkiel had heard the prophecy, of course, so when the Army of Thaumiel draws near the city hy finds the wagon and lays hyz own eyes on the famous knot. For several days, while the army camps in the surrounding countryside, Zadkiel tries to undo the knot, but to no avail. This hy does in secret, for it could be construed by Lucifer as an attempt to usurp hyz power by fulfilling the prophecy. Certainly the Eyes would look askance at the attempt.

Very well, since the wagon is not going anywhere soon, Zadkiel has hyz men lash Michaela's cage to the wagon of King Gordius. For Michaela has been brought at last to the outskirts of the final holdout city of Salem to taunt har supporters there.

At a beautiful blue pool in the mountains ringing the city of Salem, Lilith and a squad of har Fallen Angels refresh themselves, then assume their usual mode of riding slowly on their horses while they search the greater perimeter of the city for intruders. Suchwise the Eyes of Thaumiel had also done before they were inexplicably withdrawn some weeks ago.

A nearby torrent of water is so loud that Lilith finds it hard to hear har chief lieutenant, Imriel, speaking to har. Sha tells Imriel to repeat what sha had just said, but a bit louder.

IMRIEL: We should be back to the ferry by nightfall. We have made nearly one complete circle around the city.

The waterfall completely blanks out the sound and vibration of onrushing hooves until it is nearly too late. Not even Lilith's hypersensitive mare gives warning. Suddenly Gerash horseyeng race up behind Lilith, Imriel, and the others. At the last second Lilith's sword is brought out, only to crash against a mighty iron rod. There are sparks and Lilith is knocked clean off har horse.

Another horseyang decapitates Imriel in one smooth motion. Lilith is stunned, and grieves for Imriel, but her horse has the intelligence to linger with Lilith rather than follow her equine instinct, which is to bolt.

Shaking har head clear, Lilith mounts up again. Imriel is dead but four of har Fallen Angels survived the assault and they rally around har. Lumbering after them, sha recognizes their battle standard and mouths the vile name of their general with all the contempt sha could muster

LILITH: Zadkiel!

Lilith chases the cavalrymen like the cold wind that howls off the Sala ice. Lilith's companions loose many arrows even from their full gallop, and one of them slays the iron staff wielder. Two others who blocked Zadkiel from harm also fall, so no one remains to run interference while Lilith slowly closes in on her fleeing target.

But Zadkiel is too far ahead. Soon hy dives into the safety of a vast forest glade guarded by a large armed encampment. Contrary to har every wish Lilith rears back and brings har horse to a stop, and the other Fallen Angels conform to har movements. Lilith scans all the banners and standards of the army arrayed before har and recognizes this as the main bulk of the Army of Thaumiel. 031 HOSTAGE

Every indication Lilith had put together from the path of burning towns said Zadkiel was twelve or fifteen leagues to the west. Sha guesses that hy must have led hyz army here on a forced march all night. But that leads har to wonder how he knew to come to precisely that place. "Thaumiel," Lilith mutters, answering her own unspoken question.

Almost in answer, Demonstroke soars overhead, insurance against any more help from Chokhmah.

Zadkiel orders that the canvas covering Michaela's cage be removed, and then Michaela is revealed to Lilith. Zadkiel is strangely disappointed that Lilith doesn't brim over with emotion as yen so often do. Hy has no idea Lilith has already been in frequent contact with har.

ZADKIEL: You can kill me where you stand, Lilith, but that wouldn't be healthy for Michaela.

Lilith stares at Zadkiel with first wide, then narrowing eyes. Sha rides a bit closer.

LILITH: Don't sink to this, Zadkiel. I expect as much from Lucifer. It isn't worthy of an unpossessed yang of the House of Gerash.

Now Lilith is close enough that Zadkiel can speak in a more dignified tone.

ZADKIEL: Yet I find I want you working for me and not against me. Here are your only options, Lilith. You can defeat my legions and possibly rescue poor little Michaela, but that outcome is not assured. To really keep Michaela safe you must ride at the head of my army and go where I command you in the East Lands and the West Lands, and in Salem, and every place where Thaumiel is held in contempt.

Lilith is frustrated by her vulnerability. Sha wonders if all her enemies have learned Michaela is her one weakness. Zadkiel seems to read har thoughts.

ZADKIEL: Michaela has become a noose around your neck, Lilith, and the closer you get to har the tighter that noose becomes. How easy it is to make you dance with a few simple threats to Michaela's life!

LILITH: Where is the honor in this, Zadkiel? The glory? You want me to command your army, but do you really want my decisions for you tainted by holding a yin I care about hostage?

ZADKIEL: Not at all, but you have left me no choice.

Then Lilith gets har horse up to full speed and charges toward the heart of the enemy encampment. Moving in a well-practiced dance, a century of Thaumiel's best pikeyeng suddenly arrange themselves around Michaela's cage, with their forest of spikes pointing directly at the approach of Lilith.

So Zadkiel has put Michaela on display, tempting Lilith, at the same time making it clear Michaela is completely beyond har grasp. Michaela shouts,

MICHAELA: Lilith! Forget about me!

Lilith's voice breaks as sha calls back tearfully.

LILITH: Don't you know by now that's the one thing I can never do?

But sha can do nothing more here. Lilith flashes Zadkiel with a glance of pure hatred and kicks her steed, turning away to flee the scene.

032 DISGUISE

ZADKIEL: Princess Lilith is a true warrior, Michaela.

This earns hym a wad of spit in hyz face. Hy quietly wipes it away.

ZADKIEL: Sha knows. The things you love are always used against you. Always! Sha knows!

Sibiel, the farmer from Odargas who smuggled Lilith to Salem, is fingered by the three farm hands hy hired when they are threatened with torture. The Eyes of Thaumiel elect not to kill Sibiel, for it would seem a waste of good muscle power. Zadkiel's army is short-handed. Sibiel is issued army livery and pressed into service as a waterbearer in Zadkiel's camp.

Having little else to do for entertainment, often the Gerash soldiers trip hym, laughing together with their buddies as Sibiel trudges back again and again to refill hyz pot.

One night Sibiel wanders off to the edge of the camp where a hooded shape tackles hym and drags hym into a small ravine. It is Lilith! Sha orders hym to switch their clothes. Hy wants to stay and help rescue Michaela, but after some stern words from Princess Lilith, together with ample thanks for what he has already done for har, Sibiel fades off into the night under a black robe.

Lilith adjusts Sibiel's second-hand armor and helmet, which is almost worse than no protection at all. Sha pads out har ample curves and puts on false facial hair to offset the soft feminine features that belies har status as commander of the foremost army in heaven. Then sha drifts into the camp fetching water for the yeng and searching for Michaela in the area where Sibiel told har sha was being held captive.

Michaela is held within the wooden cage that has been her home for far too long now. The cage is moved off the wagon tied to a tree by the Gordian Knot and relocated to the center of the camp, guarded by two yeng. Tonight it is covered with a canvas to keep Zadkiel's yeng from leering at the nude young Michaela instead of watching out for Lilith as they were ordered.

Har Sibiel uniform works well. Lilith can swagger with the best of them. The guards permit har to enter with a ladle of rancid water. Sha appears between the canvas and the cage. For light Lilith wears a green flexible band of intricate make, a gift from Michaela. In the center it possesses a brilliant white light that allows Lilith to move on the darkest nights, and there is none like it anywhere in heaven. The canvas covering Michaela's cage is thick enough that no light escapes to betray the princess.

MICHAELA: Lilith!

Michaela is filled with joy when sha sees the face of har disciple. Then sha seems to be filled with consternation.

MICHAELA: Nice beard.

LILITH: Hush! Take my headband.

MICHAELA: I gave that to you. I never ask for my gifts to be returned.

LILITH: You will have to make an exception this time.

MICHAELA: Do you want me to use it to escape?

LILITH: Please don't do anything stupid, Michaela. Better yet, don't do anything at all!

Michaela immediately gets the joke and smiles.


033 KNOT

Lilith offers Michaela the water sha brought, such as it is.

LILITH: This headband is the only thing I have that says 'Lilith was here' without mistake. Zadkiel will come in here later and gloat over you like evil warlords always seem to do. At that time I want you to let hym see you have my headband. That's my message to hym, and it is a very simple one That I can come or go at will, which, as you well know by now, I can.

MICHAELA: It will rattle hym good.

LILITH: The more yeng hy has guarding you, the less yeng he'll have on the field of battle tomorrow.

Michaela smiles at the princess. It is well planned.

MICHAELA: I knew you had a scheme for getting me out of here, Lilith. And they share the most heartfelt kiss of their lives, knowing it could very well be the last one. Then Lilith leaves, promising to return with an army to get Michaela free.

At sunrise Zadkiel sees that hyz plan has worked. Hy has flushed Lilith out of the city. But Thaumiel has been proven absolutely right about Lilith's network of local favors, culminating in this Accompanying Lilith and the Fallen Angels is King Melchizedek of Salem and all of hyz men under arms.

Michaela is visible in the center of the camp, held naked and shivering within the wooden cage with a heavy guard around har representing a fair fraction of Zadkiel's available men. Lilith and Melchizedek behold this from a small rise, where they are mounted on horseback.

LILITH: And that is his own fatal flaw My ruse has worked perfectly. Michaela has now become Zadkiel's greatest weakness, a precious jewel tying down a third of hyz yeng just as our attack begins.

So their armies began to clash fiercely, and with the disparity in numbers the battle gradually begins to go against Zadkiel. Princess Lilith fights har way to the top of the hill behind Zadkiel's army where the wagon is tied up all by itself now. Zadkiel spots what Lilith is trying to do in the fog of battle and moves to cut har off, lest sha solve the Gordian Knot and become the beneficiary of the prophecy, destined to rule heaven.

They both dismount and launch into an extended face-to-face sword duel. The tip of Zadkiel's blade slashes Lilith's bare abdomen as hy attains first blood. Lilith feigns shock at the pain and injury and pretends to slow down. Zadkiel, seeing that, let his guard down for just a fraction of a second, but it is enough. Seeing har slim opening, Lilith lets loose a ferocious kick to his face and Zadkiel is laid out cold.

Lilith is sorely tempted to finish hym off right there, but har eyes settle on the forgotten wagon on the hilltop and sha runs to it instead. Sha tries to untie the Gordian knot that secures the wagon to a mighty tree, but like many that came before har sha makes no headway. Meanwhile Thaumiel's cavalry is rapidly closing in on har.

Finally, with no time to lose, Lilith just cuts the knot with har sword. The wagon begins to roll downhill and sha jumps inside, hanging on for dear life. Har war cry grips the attention of the troops guarding Michaela, and they gape at the horror approaching them. All of the yeng flee as Lilith's desperate gamble plays out.

Lilith ducks inside the wagon and braces harself as the wagon collides with the cage at breakneck speed, shattering both the cage and the wagon to splinters. Somehow both yen survive the collision. Lilith is more bruised and beaten than sha has ever been before but Michaela is free. 034 VICTORY

King Melchizedek and the Fallen Angels continue the rout and pursue the scattered remnants of Thaumiel's army into the forest. But the king knows this defeated army represents only a fraction of the strength that Lucifer can bring to bear on hym, and its relatively small size is itself a gesture of contempt on the part of Thaumiel for the abilities of Salem to defend itself. Melchizedek knows the next time there will be less contempt, and a far greater host. But for now hy shrugs. That is a worry for another day.

When Zadkiel regains consciousness hy takes in hyz utter humiliation from hyz vantage on the hilltop. Cursing, hy flees the field alone on hyz horse. For the rest of hyz life, which consists of little more than hyz long ride back to Thaumiel, hy contemplates how to explain the defeat to hyz lord.

LILITH: No more adventures for a while, Michaela. I've cracked a rib, for starters.

Michaela accepts a blanket and throws it around har naked form. Being deprived of clothing for so long had caused har much suffering.

MICHAELA: Thank you for setting me free, Lilith!

LILITH: Yet this battle would have been unnecessary if you had let me carry out my plan at Eden.

MICHAELA: You would have been killed, and you haven't been prepared for the gift of immortality yet.

LILITH: I don't understand.

MICHAELA: If you are willing, I can make you as I am. Then if your body is killed, you can obtain a new one.

LILITH: Are you certain you want to unleash a warrior yin on heaven who does not fear the consequences of death?

MICHAELA: I would unleash an army of them. But Lilith, why did you throw away everything you've worked for since you met me and first questioned who you were, just to save my life?

For har part Lilith is almost at a loss for words.

LILITH: What do you mean 'why'? Didn't you find that cage a little drafty? Michaela holds up the end of the wagon's rope.

MICHAELA: I'm talking about the Gordian Knot. I'll admit, cutting it was probably not what your forefather's oracle had in mind, maybe, but now you are destined to rule heaven. Fate! The unreformed Lilith must return now.

LILITH: Must she? You say Thaumiel was behind all this, but do you think Thaumiel will have his way forever? What if the oracle really means the spirit of the new Lilith will take over heaven?

Har eyes brim with moisture, and har voice breaks, but she goes on.

LILITH: The Lilith who changed on that unforgettable day when sha first met you.

Michaela is shocked at first, then sha smiles as understanding fully dawns.

MICHAELA: The new Lilith? If people everywhere became willing to do for each other what you did for me today, then love won today, Lilith! It may take many more centuries to play out, on two worlds, but I really think you turned the corner here today. Once and for all . . . love won!


035 PARTING

King Melchizedek with the aid of Lilith and har Fallen Angels prevailed in the Battle of Salem, but the king knows time is not hyz ally. It cannot not be hidden (and indeed Lucifer wants it to be widely known) that the full might of House Gerash is now drawn up against Salem. The roads to the city are blocked, the upper and lower vales of the River Dashok and the shores of the Great Salt Sea are occupied, and only the broad river bend where Salem lies remains free due to the vigilance of the Fallen Angels.

Michaela has wrought a physical change in the Fallen Angels that manifests as a bump in the back of the head that opens like a flower into a white bone cup, with many short stiff whiskers on the floor of the cup. Angels with this change can never truly die. Raphaela, the chief lieutenant of Lilith, is killed by many arrows in a surprise attack, yet soon afterwards a very young doll of perhaps three years of age walks into the camp claiming to be Raphaela and sharing secrets only sha would have known.

This has the immediate effect of making the Fallen Angels even more ferocious than before. Who could withstand a warrior who pitches into battle knowing even if sha is killed sha will simply be reborn to fight again? Still, Lucifer has the distinct advantage of overwhelming numbers.

Melchizedek considers abdicating the throne, but no one believes Lucifer would seat Princess Lilith on the throne to succeed hym, and a successor more to the liking of Lucifer is unthinkable to everyone who now dwells in Salem. Yet the king knows if he waits until the city itself were put under siege and taken the people would suffer all the more greatly.

Michaela agrees with the king that the Fallen Angels must soon leave the city or otherwise lay down their arms and disband. Sha proposes to call together the other three Houses into a council with the aim of uniting heaven against Lucifer. In har quest she would take Lilith, Raphaela, and all who would willingly go with her.

The king concurs. He recommends that Michaela's quest ascends the valley of the River Dashok to its source in the glaciers of the great mountains that encircle the Gerash lands. Thence they are to raid the garrison that guards the pass, where many provisions are laid up to supply Lucifer's forces there. But in the caves and tunnels of the glacier ice fierce battle is assured, for the stores are defended by the vigilance of the army from any that would raid them, no matter the direction of the oncoming attack.

If they prevail in the battle for the caves of ice, then they would continue on to the mountain vales and fastnesses beyond held by House Larund. For the Brown Beards are no friends of the Gerash patriarch, and their king boasts hy will welcome any refugees departing from the unlovely lands ruled by Lucifer. So steadfast is this enmity on the part of House Larund that Michaela is planning to commit the other two families to the council before she even speaks to the Larund ruler.

MICHAELA: Thank you, King Melchizedek for your lifetime of faithfulness and service to me in heaven and the other world. Will you reconsider your rejection the Change, so that your sister may not be parted from you forever?

MELCHIZEDEK: Unending life is tempting, yet as the centuries wore on would I not become like a lifeless stone smuggled into a nest of bird's eggs? Again I must decline the Change.

MICHAELA: I know I have a debt I can never repay, Sire, for I have made far more and greater demands on you than you have ever made requests of me.

MELCHIZEDEK: There has been a spring in this city. It has lasted far longer and tasted far sweeter than we dared to dream. If winter is now to come at last to Salem, let it be that such a spring might be known in the other lands as well. Go in peace, Lady Michaela!


036 SPIES

The prophet Zadkiel comes before Thaumiel Incarnate in the person of Lucifer and abases himself on all fours. Hy brings bad tidings of hyz defeat in the Battle of Salem and the escape of Lady Michaela. Zadkiel fully expects to be decapitated at any moment, and the only thing that surprises hym is how long hy can still see and hear and feel things after hyz head is separated from hyz body.

Lucifer is unhappy about the defeat but hy remains sanguine overall. Hy has held back a greater part of the armed forces of family Gerash in reserve, and hy knows also that King Melchizedek and especially hyz sister are formidable opponents, so the initial setback is not unexpected. Lucifer makes no move except to garrison the roads leading to the city. Only the road up the river Dashok still lies open, but this leads ultimately to a Gerash stronghold in the ice already continuously well-garrisoned and provisioned from an earlier timer. Lucifer waits for Michaela to make har move.


Before Michaela embarks on har quest the Fallen Angels Azarael and Jael make their way through the ice tunnels of the Gerash stronghold by stealth. So far they have only been discovered by three soldiers, one alone by accident, and by another two who formed a roaming pair of sentries. The bodies of the three yeng are stuffed far down side tunnels where they quite probably might never be discovered.

The yen find the location of the main storeroom of grain. Not even Chokhmah herself knows the exact position of that space, which indeed is the purpose of sending them on this mission. According to Michaela's instructions, Azarael leaves Lilith's headband, a gift from Michaela, inside a container near the center of the ice cave in such a way that it would not likely be discovered and moved, even if the storeroom was being actively drawn down, which it obviously was not.

After that Azarael and Jael retreat down side tunnels far from the central space, for they have also received instructions to remain at a safe distance until such a time as they detect a (as Michaela put it, using extreme understatement) "disturbance".The two yen are not sent as suicide raiders. They would never starve amid a bounty of Gerash stores. But it is always cold. Fortunately, they have a good remedy for that never got tiresome. In the cozy little rat's nest they make for themselves Jael slips nude between fur blankets and purrs to Azarael to come to har.


When Michaela's quest gets underway the final parting between Lilith and har brother is bitter, for they are of that rare class of siblings who not only shared the obligatory familial love, but who also shared a great mutual fondness all through childhood and into adulthood as well. With Lilith goes Raphaela, as a toddler, and all of the Fallen Angels. Departing as well are a hundred other angels of both genders who had made their homes in Salem when the teachings of Michaela struck a chord in their hearts.

The avatar of Chokhmah descends from the sky and makes landfall outside of Salem for the final time. Michaela climbs inside together with Princess Lilith. Within the avatar there is room enough for two persons, and Chokhmah has prepared her avatar to support life high above heaven where there is no air. The avatar lifts into the heavens in a great arc intending to make made landfall again in the coolest of all the lands of heaven, the home of the Gold Beards.

Soon after the avatar leaves, and the rest of the exiles walk up the valley into the foothills, the entire bend of the river on which Salem lies is discovered to be unguarded. In short order the surrounding lands are taken by the Gerash Army. Outside of the city walls, Salem is beset on all sides.


037 LINKS

Lilith has flown within the avatar of Chokhmah many times before, so the terror of the flight no longer holds any sway over har, if ever it did. For a few minutes at the top of the arc, Michaela and Lilith are wonderfully free of the forces that press them into their seat during the ascent, forces which become present once again when the avatar begins to descend to the surface of heaven. For that brief time at the top the yen find much amusement bouncing off the walls and each other.

LILITH: What is the source of the fires that lift us into the skies over heaven? Your avatar never seems to require replenishment of its fuel as a campfire would.

MICHAELA: The fires that propel us come from within my own body. No flatulence jokes please. They are the fires of a living sun, channeled through a fattened fold-space link in the same way people are able to pass from Earth to heaven and back again. I realize you have never seen a true sun.

LILITH: Forgive me if I sound like a little doll on the eternal 'what' chain but what is the source of that fold-space link as you call it?

MICHAELA: It is something elohim are born with. Perhaps in the same way you were born with a voice. At this time there are five fold-space lines going out from me. One line links me to my father Milcom. The second one links me to my mother Thaumiel. That line flares out into a ball that encloses all of heaven, Three more lines from me pass through the second one. One links me to this flying avatar, which can also assume a human shape. The fourth line links me to this yin body. The fifth line links me to the headband I once gave you, which you in turn gave to your spies, so that I may know where they are at any time.

LILITH: Azarael and Jael!I wonder where they are now.

MICHAELA: They have reached the central repository of food and left the headband there. I know this because it hasn't been in motion for more than a day. If they had been captured or killed, the headband would be in the hands of the garrison commander and would be moving about.

LILITH: Unless the commander has taken the headband and stored it in his office somewhere.

MICHAELA: Yes, I considered that. The end effect will be essentially the same.

LILITH: You said these lines are natural things that you are born with, like a voice. What happens if Thaumiel decides not to listen to your voice?

MICHAELA: Neither Thaumiel nor Milcom can refuse to listen, for absolutely nothing in reality can break the lines between us short of my own death, my death as a sun mark you, not my death as Michaela. But having listened, they can refuse to answer, much as Milcom has decided to do. And they can refuse to pass on my speech to other elohim up their fold-lines, as both of them have decided to do.

LILITH: But what about the passage that you once summoned to take my brother to Earth?

MICHAELA: That passage is not a simple fold-line, but a fold-door, the only one large enough to permit humans to pass through apart from the one that encloses all of heaven itself. The one fold-door is shared by myself and Thaumiel. I control where it terminates on Earth, and he controls where it terminates here. Through the fold-door came Adamu and Chava and other human beings who first populated heaven, as well as the first animals. Sorry to disappoint you, but when I appeared to summon the door before your father and brother I was performing a simple trick.


038 DIPLOMACY

The avatar of Chokhmah lands at the city of Saharad deep in the lands belonging to House Sala. Michaela and Lilith emerge from the avatar in the full sight of many witnesses, and soon afterward they are taken before the Matriarch of the Gold Beards to take counsel.

Princess Lilith speaks to Queen Sariel Sala of her victory at Salem, and of her spies in the city of Eden who report that Lucifer contemplates immanent war in all of heaven. After Lilith speaks, Michaela talks to the queen.

MICHAELA: Lucifer's strategy is to pick off each family off one at a time using his full strength to overawe each in turn. By the time the remaining families take thought to form an alliance against him it will be far too late!

SARIEL: Lady Michaela, Princess Lilith, In light of all you have said, I propose to convene a council of all the Houses arrayed against Family Gerash to consider your words, and also to discuss other important matters. Such a council has never been convened in the long history of heaven.

MICHAELA: That is a sound proposal, Your Highness. I deem the Queen's council should take place in Rumbek, the capital city of the House of Larund.

SARIEL: Heaven is a very large place. It will be difficult to persuade the leading nobles of three Families to travel to Rumbek, sticking their neck out after an arduous journey to a place where the axe of the Black Beards is assured to fall first.

MICHAELA: I will carry all the participants who are willing to travel to Rumbek aboard the avatar of Chokhmah, which can bring them thither in a very short span of time. It has brought myself and Princess Lilith hither before the rest of our people have traveled much from Salem by foot.

To this the Queen agrees. Then Michaela shows Sariel the sign of the Change that is manifested behind har and Lilith's head. Sha offers to make the Queen and her family immortal, that they might lead House Sala forever. Sariel leaps at the chance, not so much to preserve har own life, but to put off for all time the grief of losing one of har own.

After Lilith and Michaela converse much more with Sariel and Michaela heals many of the incurably infirm in the city they return to their people moving overland and toil together wit them up slopes of broken ice and rock. But after a time the avatar of Chokhmah takes Lilith and Michaela to Peshast, a city of the Red Beards between the hills of the terminal moraine of the Ice and the colder shores of Thalury. There they meet Count Phanuel Larund, the ruler of the city, who answers only to the Larund king.

Michaela relays to hym Queen Sariel's call for a general council of all the Houses of heaven less House Gerash, and offers to transport Phanuel to Rumbek, as well as any others he wishes to attend with hym, using the same avatar she used to arrive in his own kingdom. To these counsels the Count joyfully agrees. Again, in gratitude, Michaela heals many of the sick in Peshast, then the avatar whisks Michaela and Lilith back to the head of their forces marching through the mountains.

On the final trip by avatar Michaela and Lilith must part. The Princess insists on this. For they have reached the glaciers at last, and hard fighting in dark caves and tunnels lie just ahead.

Michaela journeys alone to the lands of the Red Beards on the warm side of the sea to their capital city of Vaska. There she confers with King Uriel Bellon. To hym Michaela relays the same information sha has already told Count Phanuel concerning the queen's proposed counsel, and sha makes the same offer. King Uriel finds it impossible to refuse, especially when Michaela effects many miracles of healing before his eyes. 039 CACHE

Michaela does not avail harself of the avatar of Chokhmah again to speak to King Metatron Larund in Rumbek. Rather sha plans to come before the king hymself after marching overland with Lilith, the Fallen Angels, and the other disciples. In Rumbek, or so sha hopes, the three Families would come together to draw up their plans against Lucifer.

As King Melchizedek had foreseen, the storehouses in the ice caves are strongly defended, and Lilith's force cannot remain hidden for long as they attempt to fight their way through. All the tunnels lead like the spokes of a wheel to the central chamber, and there the garrison commander draws back the bulk of hyz troops to make a stand.

The commander knows hy has interior lines of communications. Should Lilith and har forces emerge from this tunnel or that, hy would be able to shift his soldiers at will to meet the threat. It is impossible that Lilith could attack the central space simultaneously from more than a handful of tunnels, on account of the layout of the ice stores.

As the Gerash soldiers lie in wait in the chamber, it begins to rain. Everyone looks up. A distant thunder grows louder. The icy ceiling of the chamber high above them is melting. It glows red, then orange, then yellow, and finally explodes.

Unmelted blocks of ice as large as houses come crashing down upon the yeng. The ones who perish by being crushed are far more fortunate then the ones who somehow escape. For the avatar of Chokhmah drills into the chamber with all six engines skewed, some pointing up, some pointing down, others turning from side to side, and all the motors are spouting fierce fusion fire from the heart of Sol.

The water the yeng are standing in begins to boil, and they scream with agony such as none of them have ever known. They continue to cook even as the water is turned to steam. Ultimately the water is gone and they are crisped by the raw flame. None survive, and even their ashes are scattered.

Then the avatar of Chokhmah rises once again through what was the ceiling of the chamber and into the sky once more through a vast hole it had cut perhaps a thousand feet deep into the ice.

Lilith and her leading lieutenants stand at the ragged end of several tunnels and try to force their minds to encompass the chaos of the scene below. Far across the chamber at another tunnel stands Azarael and Jael, quite safe. The applause of the two yen echoes across the suddenly silent space.

After passing through the rubble that is the food cache of House Gerash in the midst of the ice barrier, the refugees from Salem march down to the shore of vast Lake Aramel and gaze at the dark and distant profile of the Isle of Sealiah. Then Michaela and Lilith are brought by ship to the city of Rumbek, where they present themselves before King Metatron Larund, the Patriarch of the Brown Beards.


040 METATRON

When Michaela and Lilith bow before King Metatron Larund, hy bids them to rise and asks why they are in exile from the land of their birth.

MICHAELA: Because I brought the truth to family Gerash. But they hated the truth, since it was like a bright light, and the truth threatened to reveal the dark things they do in secret.

METATRON: And what is truth?

MICHAELA: We have truth when our mind conforms with the way things are.

METATRON: What do you ask of me, Lady Michaela? Shall I protect the purity of your truth?

MICHAELA: If what I teach is so very fragile that I must seek aid to shield it from contamination, then what I have cannot be the truth. The warriors of Thaumiel fight to convert others to their truth and wage holy war against other truths. They fight because what they call 'truth' is too weak to sell itself to all who seek the truth with sincerity. Since they are certain they already possess the truth, they refuse to investigate reality and delight in self-deception.

METATRON: Then what, dear Lady Michaela, is the greatest truth?

MICHAELA: Only this The noblest activity is unending love.

And Michaela accompanies her words with a mighty sign of her authority, for at that moment the avatar of Chokhmah flies over the Bellon capital city at great speed, but the people see only a streak of light in the sky, and a terrifying noise like thunder breaks many windows in Rumbek.

Then King Metatron welcomes Michaela and all har companions to his land, and a place is found for each of them on the Island of Sealiah. They become his protected subjects.

Michaela, Lilith, and the Fallen Angels all take residence in the north of Sealiah. Then Lilith begins to teach their new friends and neighbors among the Brown Beards, individually and in small groups, the doctrines of Chokhmah. But Talishi herself refuses to teach anyone, lest the king thinks he has taken a troublemaker into his land.

Privately Talishi speaks to the king of Queen Aurra's proposal for a council of the four Houses, and of her commitment to transport the nobles of those families to Rumbek to gather together. To this King Brogan agrees, and a date is set to convene the council. Also he accepts the Change. Michaela travels to the various capitals to convey the date of meeting.

In Salem where the siege has grown very strait, King Melchizedek hears rumors that the people are finally resorting to cannibalism and he decides that nothing House Gerash could impose as a penalty on the city could possibly be worse than that. So he walks out of the gate of the city unarmed, with hands held open and high, only to be dropped by many arrows. His people on the ramparts of the city witness the unhappy death of their beloved king, but really they are mourning the passing of their former way of life.

Then the army of Mastema marches into the city unhindered. Lucifer appoints a new king over the city who lays a heavy tax on the people in penalty of their rebellion. The Eyes of Thaumiel multiply in Salem like flies, and there appear hundreds of checkpoints throughout the city. Many people, even children, are put to torment for the smallest transgression, yet none are permitted to depart to other cities in heaven. So matters would remain until that whole generation of Salemites passed away.

041 NIGHTCAP

Michaela deems that both har affairs and those of Lucifer have been wound up for the time being. Through har direct link with Thaumiel sha invites Lucifer to fly to har redoubt at Mt. Anshar and says it will be the most worthwhile thing hy has done in a long time.

It is possible for Lucifer to ride Thaumiel's avatar Demonstroke but after the pacification of Salem hy found little use in keeping the dragon close at hand. Far better to allow the dragon to remain at the Bellon capital of Vaska as part of yet another test of the faithfulness of the angels. So Lucifer must resort to the indignity of flying inside the avatar of Chokhmah, but hy makes sure the pickup point is well out of sight.

When Lucifer arrives at the house of Michaela in Anshar sha shows hym around, not so much to impress hym, but to assure hym they are alone.

MICHAELA: We are the only living souls in this whole land.

Sha sweeps har hands at the panoramic view of the active volcano and the tortured rock that lies at its base, continually modified by the ice cap that still covers a seventh part of heaven. Michaela pours both of them a beer brewed in Akkadia on Earth and comes immediately to har point.

MICHAELA: For too long we have been at odds, Thaumiel. Now it is time to speak of love. Certainly Milcom must be impatient for you to advance his harem scheme.

LUCIFER: So you will accept seduction.

MICHAELA: I will, under certain conditions. I imagine you have a few of your own. But first, bring your beer and I will show you something.

Michaela walks to another room of the house and Lucifer follows har.This room is set up to resemble an operating room or a torture chamber more than anything sexy. There is a bed, to be sure, but there are also tubes for an IV drip and machines that even Lucifer, with his full access to the lore of El, could not identify.

LUCIFER: What is all this?

MICHAELA: You and I both have a serious problem in that we are no longer merely living suns, but composite beings, both sun and angel, and we have no way of setting our world-dweller bodies aside for lovemaking as we would, say, our clothing. From what I gather, Thaumiel, and correct me if I'm wrong, when elohim make love, it's a drawn-out process, and something that grabs all of one's attention. Did you consider what might happen to your Lucifer body once you entered into sexual union with me?

Lucifer shakes hyz head, confessing that hy has not.

MICHAELA: I'm not done with my Michaela-body yet, and I assume you still want to possess that body as well. So this apparatus will keep both of us fed intravenously, filter our blood, monitor our life while we're up there having fun on the higher plane. Do you see?

LUCIFER: I see that you are serious about his. What are your conditions?

MICHAELA: My daughter will have her own fold-door link from Earth to heaven. You control your end of my link. I want my daughter to control both ends of hers.

LUCIFER: That's not acceptable, Chokhmah. With that power she could send agents anywhere in Eden or the lands of House Gerash.

042 CONDITIONS

MICHAELA: If you will not give my future daughter free reign in heaven then grant her a piece of land far from the Gerash lands where her fold-door would be constrained.

LUCIFER: Very well. There is a small nameless territory that lies between the Great Sea and the Wall of God. Do you know of it?

Michaela nodded.

LUCIFER: The great cliff curves around this land and makes it inaccessible to House Larund, and there are no land routes to the rest of the lands of the Red Beards. There is one small colony of House Bellon there called Alodra reached only by water, but the country surrounding Alodra is largely empty. This land I will give to your future daughter to reach from Earth and move about in at will.

MICHAELA: That is acceptable, and I have no other demands.

LUCIFER: Good, because there is a thing I want as well. I comes in the form of a promise rather than something you can do for me now. It has not escaped my notice that what you are really doing is laying the groundwork for the planet dwellers to someday leave the other world and invade the realm of the gods. This, says Milcom, must not be.

MICHAELA: Humans and nephilim are not dummies. Even were we to strictly forbid it, we could not enforce it, and in a far distant time they will find a way to leave the world they are living in. The sooner Milcom comes to terms with that inevitable truth, the easier it will be for him to come to terms with the planet-dwellers. Tell him I said exactly that.

LUCIFER: Milcom already knows all this, so what we require from you is that humans must never travel more distant from the sun than four times the distance of Earth from the sun.

MICHAELA: I see, so basically you would put them on a shorter version of the same leash that you have put on me. And what of the angels here?

LUCIFER: They will do as I command, once I have put all of heaven under the rule of House Gerash.

MICHAELA: You must see that to put humans on your four AU leash I must put the entire Earth under a single command before they obtain the status of spacefarers.

LUCIFER: Then you know exactly what you need to do.

MICHAELA: I will make you a counter-offer. In that future time, the angels of heaven will have the right to settle any planet or other body with a sun-centric semi-major axis of four AU or greater. If they don't like living side-by-side with humans of Earth, that will be something they will need to thrash out between themselves. Take it or leave it, Thaumiel.

LUCIFER: I will take it.

And so Michaela prepares harself and Lucifer for what would be essentially a long-term coma as far as their planet-dweller bodies went, with an artery leading to a filter to remove waste from their blood, and a vein supplied by another machine that would keep them hydrated and nourished. In the event their passion as stars bled over somewhat to the animal side, as Michaela suspected it might, sha and Lucifer slipped into bed together nude. It is curious facet of sex that you don't particularly even have to like one's partner to engage in it.


043 SEDUCTION

Michaela has access to the lore of all the elohim on a purely read-only basis, and she has studied every one of the thousands of documented cases where an incommunicado "harem" like the one operated by Milcom and now Thaumiel was uncovered. In nearly every case, a star locked in the harem created an avatar and flew through real-space to a star outside of the harem and communicated directly with that eloah. But this obvious escape hatch has been battened down tight by Chokhmah's agreement with Thaumiel.

Michaela learned the death penalty is not meted out in every situation. Even now, if Thaumiel were to confess his crime to El and act as an informant against Milcom, only Milcom and the other elohim in his network who refused to come clean would be punished. But breakthroughs using this method are rare. The informant would not be put to death by the greater community of stars, but he would still be giving up any future opportunity to reproduce. Only the most serious falling out between co-conspirators rose to the level of making that worthwhile.

In one case studied most intently by Michaela, an eloah in a harem did something to instigate such a falling out between co-conspirators. As it turns out, elohim who are still female can do something roughly equivalent to masturbation. She can cause all the living nuclear material in her stellar core to contract into a tight sphere while leaving the nonliving material behind in a thick shell. This voluntary separation and following involuntary re-integration feels very similar to a single wave of the stellar orgasm. The difference is that the real thing associated with reproduction involves eight to twelve contractions, is not voluntary at all once it begins, and even the non-living nuclear material of a star is drawn together with the living matter in the compression phase.

Still, it is sufficiently satisfying that some female eloah have sworn to remain celibate and for millions of years have relied entirely on getting their own rocks off.

As soon as she learned such a thing as stellar masturbation existed Chokhmah tried it for herself and found it so exquisitely pleasurable, so unbelievably available, that she became essentially addicted to doing it. Chokhmah is so continuously immersed in a pseudo-orgasmic state that she has even learned to compartmentalize things so that she as Michaela can remain more-or-less functional as a yin.

This captive eloah that Chokhmah once read about also was a masturbation addict, and she was in the middle of a pseudo-orgasm when one of her haremmasters raped her. The result was very interesting. Instead of transmitting a generative ripple into space to quicken a wild sun years later, the nonliving nuclear matter in the body of the mother was quickened immediately.

Even more interesting was that both fold-space lines from the newborn sun fastened on the mother, rather than fastening one apiece on both parents. And so that line of captive suns terminated as far as potential sex partners went. There was no path leading back to the other harem-masters, no way for them to have sex with the offspring of the newborn sun. Somebody wasn't getting paid. And that led to the whole thing unraveling. Chokhmah didn't think it would be that simple in her case, but still, she was near the peak of one of her pseudo-orgasms, and her body flooded with a maximum of non-living nuclear matter, when Thaumiel injected some of himself into her across their link.

The ecstasy goes right off the rails. Chokhmah cannot even think for days and weeks, only ride a timeless wave of physical joy that is no comparison better than the ridiculous little thing she had been doing for herself before. And it was better than this for males? Lucky Thaumiel, if that was true, because Chokhmah can just barely grasp that she has gone absolutely mindless with how good it is for her. Her precaution to keep her Michaela body alive was well-founded. 044 BINAH

As in the documented case she read about, both of Binah's fold lines terminate on Chokhmah herself (or rather himself, Chokhmah realized, since the act of lovemaking results in a gender change). Chokhmah passed one of Binah's fold-lines through his link to Thaumiel and terminated it in the land he promised, there to be moved about as Binah willed. This was done before Thaumiel could revive, making it fait accompli.

But a new thing happened that Chokhmah had read about nowhere in the lore of El. It opened up a panorama of possibilities for dealing with Thaumiel. Not only could Binah's fold-door from heaven terminate in space anywhere in the solar system, it could terminate in time at any point in the past. Binah could manipulate timelines.

Michaela saw that Lucifer's body entered into another fit, but still remained unconscious. Hy was going to be extremely angry when hy was fully awake, so angry that all the free kingdoms in heaven would probably be the next the target of his wrath. Milcom especially was going to be upset, because Binah could never be his conquest in love. There was no single foldspace path connecting directly from Thaumiel to her.

Michaela decides to fly back to Sealiah at once, then send the avatar back here for Lucifer to use if hy chose. He'd heard of humans doing this sort of thing as well. A one night stand, and the fellow turns out to be a dead fuck. He wakes up and the lady is already gone.

After Lucifer is restored to hyz full faculties in the house of Michaela near Mt. Anshar hy is supremely angry, because hy knows Chokhmah has contrived a final end to Milcom's scheme of setting aside a private harem of elohim females. Something has happened. There is no direct link between Thaumiel and Chokhmah's newborn eloah named Binah, yet Binah's link comes through his own link with Chokhmah and terminates in heaven, as he agreed beforehand that it may.

It is not exactly what Thaumiel expected when he made the agreement, but such hairsplitting might not be accepted by El later if the whole thing blew up. The conspiracy is already unraveling and Thaumiel does not wish to compound his crime. Thaumiel tells Milcom he simply does not know what Chokhmah contrived to do. Certainly Chokhmah's gender change could not be hidden.

The truncated sex is what angers Lucifer the most, and hy only refrains from burning Michaela's house down when hy sees that har avatar is parked nearby and it is hyz only way home. Michaela gets one final dig in by debouching Lucifer in full view of hyz subjects in the center of hyz own city. It cannot be hidden that Lord Lucifer has hitched a ride in his rival's avatar.


045 TRUCE

After the city of Salem is thoroughly sub-divided and controlled absolutely, Lucifer takes the balance of hyz forces on the same road into the mountains taken by Michaela in har quest. When he reaches hyz ruined cache he leaves more yeng to rebuild the garrison and ice stores that were so thoroughly annihilated by the avatar of Chokhmah when Princess Lilith assailed them. Then Kirodiel leads the army into the Larund lands, and it is the first such invasion by the forces of family Gerash against any other House since before the Great Deluge.

When the army of House Gerash is come nigh to the shoreline of Lake Aramel a full division of troops from the House of Larund confronts them. The division was mobilized when Michaela presented aerial intelligence of the invasion to King Metatron. And though House Gerash has overwhelming numbers on this field, Lucifer does not signal for them to attack. The white flags of parley-truce are unfurled, and Lucifer comes to speak to Barachiel, the commander of the Larund force.

LUCIFER: Thaumiel himself it is who stands against you. Do not hinder the faithful of the House of Gerash. Do not send your sons to thwart the justice of the Army of God, for on the Plain of Judgment they shall be consumed like dry grass! Yield up this Michaela interloper and Princess Lilith. Abandon your false deity Chokhmah and turn back to your first love, Thaumiel the All-Merciful, or the fire of my indignation shall devour your young!

Then Barachiel holds forth the rolled up scroll containing hyz written orders.

BARACHIEL: Great Lord of the White Beards! I have been authorized by the King to accompany Hyz Excellency the High Lord Patriarch Lucifer Gerash to the city of Rumbek for a parley, hy and any reasonably-sized force Hyz Excellency might deem to be suitable to assure hyz protection.

LUCIFER: For what will the King parley? I have made my demands and they are without repentance!

BARACHIEL: O Lord Lucifer, it may not be known to Hyz Excellency that the sovereign heads of House Sala and Bellon and many ladies and lords are also convening in the city soon to take council with the King and Lady Michaela and the Princess Lilith in exile. The King would have you join this council.

To this parley Kirodiel agrees. Both armies leave the field unblooded. The Larund division returns to Rumble, taking with them Lucifer and a single company, but not before Kirodiel sends hyz forces along the shores of the lake led by the cherub Samael.

Under the command of Samael the army comes to a finger of the lake and sets a strong perimeter to catch any Larund spies. Then Samael sets hyz whole army to work building many ships of war. Swiftly a great navy is built by the united forces of the whole House of Gerash, as insurance, lest the parley in Rumbek does not go to the liking of Lucifer, which seems a certainty.


046 DRAGONTHORN

Thaumiel has always delighted in terrifying the angels of heaven with his flying avatar, but angels are nothing if not adaptable and after a time they began to think Thaumiel's ruse was getting a little corny. Yet not even Thaumiel was given to doing anything without a deeper purpose. He was still riding that hobby horse, his dreary old thesis that all of the planetdwellers who had dealings with the elohim cannot follow the simplest set of arbitrary rules without screwing them up.

From the beginning many beasts were brought from Earth. For the most part these creatures were benign, and fitted in well with the ecology of heaven, or they were herd animals men had tamed from time immemorial. Thaumiel saw that animals would soon breed far beyond the ability of heaven to support them, and chief among these animals, he knew, would be the nephilim themselves. So Thaumiel introduced monstrous predators from the darkest dreams of mankind to keep them in check.

Then was seen in heaven many monsters and trolls and goblins as well as Leviathan, the monster under the sea who devoured those who foundered therein. After that Thaumiel introduced flying dragons, and thereafter all who went about on two legs had to keep one eye on the sky, for they became the dragon's prey, as surely as the small creatures who go on four legs are ever the prey of eagles.

But all of the predators created by Thaumiel were merely taken by the angels to be strong threads woven into the growing tapestry that was heaven. The angels honored the wisdom of Thaumiel in creating them, and they were not really very afraid of them. For it is man and not any other beast who are the most terrible predators the universe has ever known, by utter necessity, from the first day that fangless, clawless big-brained monkey came down from the trees in the East African Rift and decided to compete on the savanna with lions and tigers and bears for meat. And now that man was unleashed in an entirely new world so much the worse for that world, dragons or no.

The dragons made by Thaumiel were immortal if they remained safe in their aeries, and they bred only very slowly, but they could still be slain, and lays commemorating the deeds of many dragonslayers, would-be or otherwise, are still sung in the roadside inns dotting the land. In the end only one dragon remained alive, and this worm yeng found much too difficult to kill, for it was the greatest dragon of all, and it was not alive, for it was the ancient avatar of Thaumiel.

Soon after Thaumiel took the form of an angel, hy, as Lucifer, forged a sword made from a single large diamond and called it Dragonthorn. Lucifer declared through pliant but revered prophets that he had infused the blade with a powerful spell binding the beast. And Lucifer also declared that the eldest daughter or niece of the ruler of the Red Beards of the House of Bellon would wield the blade to control Demonstroke, and the spell would remain unbroken for as long as she remained a virgin.

When the virgin held Dragonthorn in her hand, whatever she bid Demonstroke to do, he would do it, even to allowing the virgin to ride upon him in the air as though he were a winged steed. The role was a great honor and privilege, but it was also a serious duty. Unleashed, the dragon could lay waste to all the cities in heaven. Control of Demonstroke hung by the slender thread of the girl's virginity.


047 KARI

The current Patriarch of the Red Beards, Uriel Bellon, loved hyz daughter Kari very much. Princess Kari has the full beauty of youth and long, bright red hair, and she is on the very cusp of womanhood. The King is almost supernaturally patient with Kari, and denies har not the least thing except, of course, a suitor.

Even during the frantic preparations for the Royal Council in Rumbek hy is willing to stop and make time to listen attentively to Kari as though sha were the only thing that mattered in heaven. The King sits close to har and nods hez head up and down as she describes for hem the seemingly random images of last night's dream.

KARI Father, I dreamed it was night, and I could see the ground was covered with sleeping little metal people. Other people came out of the sky in two tall metal engines of war that spouted fire, but they wore strange armor, and I could not tell if they were yeng or yen. The first person picked up one of the small metal people and took it into the first metal tower, and somehow I knew that little metal person was myself, in the strange way of dreams. That first person took us into the sky and we were safe. The second person stayed behind to pick up as many of the other metal people as he or she could find, but that person was caught by strange yeng and killed. Then I awoke.

King Uriel stops nodding hyz head and smiles at Kari.

URIEL: Shall I interpret the dream for you, child?

KARI: Please do, Father. You are the most wise yang in heaven.

URIEL: The first person in your dream is myself. You feel protected around me, which is indeed a good thought, because my entire will is bent toward keeping you safe. The second person in your dream is your mother, who wanted to have other children by me, and those were all the other little metal people. But she fell victim to poison in her drink, and was killed by the palace intrigues that never cease here in Vaska.

KARI: As simple as that, Father?

URIEL: As simple as that. Your sleeping mind created images to express what you felt in your heart. You are still dealing with your grief. I find solace from the content of your dream that you do not blame me for your mother's death.

KARI: Never, Father!

Kari is shocked at the mere suggestion that she would think that Brogan was to blame, or even that sha might dream it. The King places a hand on Kari's head to reassure har.

URIEL: If you did blame me, even secretly within your heart of hearts, then your dream would have taken a very different course.

KARI: Beloved Parent, why have you not taken for yourself another wife? Are you afraid that she would be killed as well?

URIEL: Not so, Kari. Soon the one adept at poison will come forward and try to worm into my life, and then I will know who she is. But now we must set aside your dreams, daughter, and our lingering grief for your mother, and our lamentation of things we can never change. Queen Aurra Sala has bid me to come to a great council in Rumbek, and I would have you travel with me.

The King has always tried to lessen the burden of celibacy for hez daughter Kari by letting her believe that a strong spell to influence others, even o influence hymself, accompanies har possession of the diamond blade.


048 FLIGHT

When the day of departure arrived, King Uriel called hyz daughter Kari to hym so he could tell har something that would make har very happy.

URIEL: It is a very great distance across the West Lands from Vaska to Rumbek, but we will ride together on Demonstroke, for I know how much you love to do so, daughter.

And at this she beams at hem. And immediately she dressed for the ride.

Demonstroke was as much engine of war as he was a mechanical beast, containing within the very fires of the faraway sun that was Thaumiel.

When both Kari and har father are seated upon him, Demonstroke's head bends back over them on its long scaly neck and fire spews out in a jet that propels the dragon into the sky, pushing Kari against her parent, and her parent in turn against a bony ridge at the place where Demonstroke's neck joins to the rest of his body. And the dragon soars into the sky until the air becomes almost too thin for Brogan and hez daughter to breathe.

Then Demonstroke's head bends forward again, and he stretches his wings. With gentle flaps the dragon extends his glide as much as possible as the largest river in the land of the Red Beards slides by underneath. Then, when the land has rushed up to meet them and the deadly tops of trees native to heaven nearly brush the belly of Demonstroke, he bends his head back again and lets loose another long jet of flame.

Over and over again this cycle repeats as the day gives way to night, but the cycles of fire and glide grow shorter and shorter as they approach the city of Jelaket nestled high in the mountains that mark the border with the lands claimed by House Larund.

Brogan and Keri, well-bundled against the cold, both drift off to sleep as the dragon flies on through a darkness punctuated by fire, a sleep they find possible only after many such flights. As they sleep they cross from mountains to the high plains of Magodon inhabited by House Larund, and the lights of lonely, widely separated houses pass underneath in the darkness far below.

When the glimmer of dawn appears before the king and his daughter once more they are well over the heart of the land where dwells the Brown Beards, and the city of Elketz is seen moving stately to the west far below. Yet their final destination, the lakeside capital named Rumbek, would not be reached until mid-day.

So much the better for Princess Kari, who loves to fly by dragon.


049 PROCESSION

Everything was done in preparation for the Council of Royals. There remained only the impending arrival of the great Personages, Queen Sariel's two serving wenches Luzea Cedarbranch and Aliwe Halil attain to the astonishing situation of having nothing to do. So they remove to a small empty nook above the great hall of the airy stone castle high enough to see everything and wait for the nobles to filter in.

Whimsical Luzea, who speaks only in terribly bad rhyme, utters a verse then

I sing of final days brought by White Beard. When noble ones rose against what they feared. Just close your eyes to watch them meet the King. Mark two slave yen who observe all unseen.

Luzea was indeed a yin of House Sala but Aliwe was an ambi, a rare member of one of the nephilim. Che was a cross between an angel of heaven and a human of Earth. Like angels, the nephilim had two sex organs. In Aliwe's case che had one of each, much to the delight of hez lover Luzea. As so often the case with nephilim Aliwe was relatively indeterminant in gender but che leaned somewhat toward the feminine side.

ALIWE: If they catch us here avoiding work Queen Aurra will have us flogged until the skin hangs from our back in bloody strips!

Shrugging, Luzea only continues her recitation

LUZEA

Aliwe Halil is one slave girl's name And Luzea Cedarbranch is her flame. They shirk toil in Metatron's galley. "There's Uriel Bellon!" says Aliwe.

Indeed King Uriel of Vaska arrives at the Council first, accompanied by hez daughter Kari, and they look none the worse for their flight by dragon to Rumbek. King Metatron has decreed that no weapons should be brought into the council chamber, save for the Dragonthorn alone, the ceremonial blade in the possession of Kari, which she wears in a scabbard on her back.

Count Jegeduel Bellon follows the king into the chamber arm-in-arm with hyz wife Adriel. Hy rules the city of Gerazan, the breadbasket of House Bellon and produces such a bounty that there exists a trade with House Larund beyond the face of the mountains.

After Jegeduel and Adriel follows stalwart Baron Phanuel Bellon of Peshast, at the foot of Mount Tureth in the highlands that separates the lands of House Sala from House Bellon.

LUZEA Hy rules hillside Peshast where you were born. The Queen treats hym without a trace of scorn. Yet their bitter clash of arms claimed har son And is fresh in the minds of everyone.


050 SALA

Lucifer makes an unassuming entrance, a stroll with no pomp and no wasted movements, walk that says with no mistake that hy is first and foremost a soldier. Hy enters with a mysterious black-clad, black-haired ambi he later introduces as "Joy" but that is clearly an ironic name, for hez black lips never smile, and hez black eyes seem to show forth upon her pale white face her icy heart within. And it is rumored that this Joy is a great sorcerez from Earth immersed in the martial arts who comes as both bodyguard and concubine to Lucifer. Luzea Cedarbranch is too frightened by this Joy, or possibly too fascinated, or both, to utter any verse.

Lucifer knows the aim of this council is nothing less than the formation of a league of the great houses in heaven, which together would be far stronger than the House of Gerash alone. If that alliance came to be, an intolerable peace would break out between the eternally warring states, and that in turn would spark an existential crisis for the Black Beards. For House Gerash has long shifted over to an economy based almost entirely on supplying arms to the other houses, or attending to the needs of those who manufactured those arms. Overnight, the chief basis of industry in the lands ruled by House Gerash could evaporate unless this nascent league of kingdoms was stillborn. Lucifer would attend to that directly.

Next the delegation from House Sala enters the council chamber. Walking at the side of Queen Sariel is the Royal Consort Duke Gabriel Sala. But again Luzea has no immediate comment. But she would lampoon the Queen later during the meal, to her regret.

The Queen rules from Saharad, in the center of the most fertile plain on all of heaven. It was easy for Lucifer to follow the trend. Left unchecked, House Sala would simply continue to grow until it outnumbered every other great family on the planet, even the Brown Beards. Lucifer did not intend to leave House Sala unchecked.

Following the Queen is the Countess Oriel Sala, recent widow of Aldred Sala, which (after a suitable mourning period, of course) made har the most eligible bachelorette in the Land. Many at the Council, however, note the virtual eye-lock Ayani has with Count Eremiel Larund, who was already waiting in the chamber. Something is happening there, and Luzea is slightly disgusted because it is such a naked display of raw heterosexuality and there has only been two weeks since Count Aldred's death.

LUZEA Make room in the Sala barn of prize stallions. The countess eyes a two leg medallion!

Oriel's city of Locotin is endowed with a verdant forest of gopher wood, a type of lumber that is found neither on Earth nor in heaven, but is a hybrid of trees from the two worlds, and was used by many ships in the Great Deluge, for it is flexible enough not to be destroyed by expanding ice. But many other valuable goods are made from gopher wood. It is easy to cut and work, and the entire city of Locotin is constructed of gopher wood set in the branches of giant living gopher trees.

Following the countess is har brother-in-law, Baron Balthazar Sala of Thorgrim, who is also eligible for marriage among the noble class, but it is said hyz tastes ran more to meat of the commoner female variety, which is contrary to the long tradition of the Sala clan. The Queen knows hy was probably born that way yet she would sanction no union between har son and a completely different sub-species.

LUZEA Baron Balthazar is food for many a talebearer. Noblewomen have no chance, he finds urchins much fairer!

051 LARUND

There is no particular order to which delegations come into the chamber, for it has been chosen by lots, lest some think the sequence represented the opinion of King Metatron of which noble one was greater. Hy only decreed that the Bellon delegation should come last. So at this time Lady Michaela enters, accompanied only by Lilith in har best Fallen Angel dress uniform. Lilith has dolled harself up, and wears another headband Michaela has given har with a brilliant pure white light set in the center of it. Many of the delegates marvel at this light, but Michaela tells them later sha is working to bring about a time on both worlds when such things would be mere trinkets, and an entrance such as made by Lilith just now would be seen as totally ridiculous.

After Michaela and Lilith are seated at the table the Black Beard delegation arrives. The first royal peer to enter is King Metatron Larund, duke of the city of Rumbek, enters then.

LUZEA: Fishers circle Sealiah in a ring All of them subject to Metatron King.

The King, and indeed everyone had been preceded by Count Eremiel Larund of the city of Mandakar, but Eremiel's beautiful human wife Tamar from Earth enters the chamber now. Mandakar, which lies on the west shore of the fertile island of Sealiah, is the city that feeds the Brown Beards.

LUZEA: The more food from Eremiel's valley The more toil in Metatron's galley!

Tamar is followed by the Baron Gadreel of Elketz, who proceeds at a stately pace with hyz wife Ainia at his side. Elketz lies at the center of the range lands of the Magodon Peninsula, where cattle are sold by the head or by the herd and driven alive to parts throughout the land to be slaughtered.

LUZEA Watch your step Gadreel, when ready to roam, We just caught a whiff, reminder of home!

Following Gadreel and Ainia is the stout and yangly Baron Raddai Larund of the city of Belen, with hyz wife the Lady Irus on hyz arm. This baron rules the chief city of a province with a wide variety of rich veins of ore honeycombing the hills near the place where the ice forms a barrier to House Antero.

Luzea sings Belen the source of much copper and gold Guarded by mighty Uzziel the Bold.

Baron Zephon Larund of Jelaket enters next, but no yin accompanies hym. The baron is the son of Baroness Vandriel Antero and the late Ichor Gerash, a spy of the House of Gerash who went native rather than passing through to the East Lands and carrying out hyz assignment against the Brown Beards. So the Eyes of Thaumiel sent more spies to assassinate Ichor, but hyz son Zephon took much better precautions, and when hy had buried his father he swore eternal conflict with House Gerash. King Metatron, suitably impressed, awarded hym the mountain city of Jelaket, which breeds the best horses in heaven, and supports most of the military forces of house Larund.

And the Larund delegation takes their seats along one edge of the large six-sided table made, appropriately enough, of gopher wood.


052 SUPERBOW

SARIEL: In the name of our god Chokhmah, and in the name of the god Thaumiel, I welcome all of you here, and I especially offer much thanksgiving to King Metatron Bellon for hosting our Council in this beautiful city. The issue before us is nothing less than the question will there be enduring peace in heaven? Therefore I dedicate this Council, the first such gathering in our history, to the memory of my recently slain son, Aldred Sala. I implore that each one of you endeavor to find a way to make Aldred's otherwise useless death meaningful in some lasting way.

And after speaking those words she takes her seat to allow the Council to truly begin. But it quickly degenerates into a sort of trial, with an endless chain of accusations against House Gerash left dangling in the air while Lucifer attempts to defend against each one of them. Queen Aurra Sala is the first to give har testimony.

AURRA: I was already in mourning, for the news of the death of my son Count Aldred Sala traveled faster from the battlefield than the bier carrying hyz pierced body. But it wasn't until I saw the stricken face of my consort Gabriel that I submitted fully to my grief. Yet I was surprised to find that Lady Michaela had come with hym. Then I saw Baron Phanuel Bellon in the procession as well and I asked Gabriel, 'Did we prevail in the battle after all? Is the Baron our prisoner?' But Prince Consort Gabriel said to me, 'Lady Michaela brought hym here. Phanuel comes under a truce-bond to offer hyz apologies for the death of our son, and also an explanation.' 'It is war', said I. 'What is there to explain?' But the Baron said, 'It is a war that never had to be, Your Highness. Lucifer came to me in Peshast not long ago. Hy rolled out a map, and said the Isle of Danya should belong solely to House Larund, for we had always been mariners, while House Sala had become more the farmers. Lucifer said that House Sala holding Danya was as though the Gold Beards were sticking a finger in my eye. I accepted the truth of hyz argument at the time. And then very skillfully Lucifer changed the subject from Danya to the superbow.' And Baron Phanuel brought a superbow out for my inspection.

PHANUEL: The superbow is a sandwich of wood between a layer of sinew in front and horn in back, all held together from glue made from boiled horse hooves. The bowstring is made also of sinew from the shoulders of oxen. When Lucifer showed this my eyes fairly sparked at the sight of it. And when I fitted an arrow to it I deemed that only mighty yeng could draw the string fully back, and when they released the shot, the arrow would fly half again as far as from any other bow. So I ordered a thousand of them. And why not? Haven't all of us done the same for a century, four Houses against one or a combination of the other, but never all simultaneously against House Gerash?

SARIEL: Thank you, Baron Phanuel. And if you'll remember, I demanded to inspect the superbow myself, and I showed Gabriel the curious mark which is also stamped on every weapon we have purchased of Gerash make. This mark is to be found in every Sala armory.

PHANUEL: My cavalry met the cavalry of Prince Consort Gabriel Sala at Fatho. We had somewhat greater numbers, but we faced Gold Beards armed with bows curved in curious shapes which allowed the archer to hold the string back without growing weary. That in turn gave them sufficient time to take a carefully considered shot. I was forced to break off the engagement or face a mutiny by my own cavalry. But it was not soon enough to save the life of your son, your Highness Queen Sariel, to my everlasting regret. Hy fell at a shot from a superbow. As I told you at the time, I am truly sorry. I can never make good your loss.


053 DEBATE

SARIEL: My son is gone, and hy cannot be replaced. Yet something you said just now, Baron Phanuel, might forge some good out of all this. You said, 'Haven't we done the same for centuries, four against a combination of the others, but never all against the White Beards?' House Gerash has been playing a double game for too long. Your army was driven off by what Lucifer called a compound bow when hy sold them to us.

LUCIFER: I do not deny the essentials of what Queen Sariel and Baron Phanuel have just related to you. House Gerash is a house of merchants after all. What I deny is their implication that our dealings with House Larund or House Sala are nefarious somehow. Are you noble ones making the claim here today that the pursuit of monetary profit is intrinsically evil?

KING URIEL: It is not. No one here embraces a planned economy. But as Lord Lucifer may recall, last year your embassy came to my palace and sold to me a forest of long pikes made from a new alloy that could pierce any armor in the Red Beard inventory, and they assured me it would pierce even the mail of the Brown Beards. And yet during the summer campaign the yeng of House Bellon were not caught by surprise at all. I was met on the approaches to Elketz by Baron Kerresh and hyz entire infantry armed with new plate armor that was miraculously capable of turning aside those very same 'innovative' pikes that your representatives sold me. And so friend was turned against friend, brother turned against brother, with no small loss of life, and no one benefited except the arms merchants of House Gerash. It seems that the only planned economy we are really talking about is that of the White Beards.

LUCIFER: I fail to see any real significance in this tale, King Uriel. The pikes we sold you were indeed invincible at the time we sold them to you. House Bellon merely took advantage of a late breakthrough in metalsmithy. If your house and the Brown Beards insist on carrying out your family squabbles, we are only too happy to provide the means for to do it, as surely as we aid House Sala and House Larund in their perennial warfare.

The nobles of the four kingdoms tell similar stories of wars the cross heaven, Larund against Sala, Larund against Bellon, Sala against Bellon, and they even speak of tussles between nobles within the same House. And at every point there is the seemingly omnipresent Lucifer or hyz representatives selling a problem to one side and the remedy to the other side. The stories with their common elements seem to reach back into antiquity.

Princess Lilith stands up to relate the rise of the Law of Thaumiel among the White Beards, of the resistance of the city of Salem and the inexorable transformation of family Gerash to a harsh militarism that went far deeper than any seasonal skirmishing between the other four Houses.

LILITH: And now the greater part of the Army of Thaumiel is camped in the eastern marches of this very land, not far from this very city. I have seen this host myself from the air. This of a certainty tells me that my father is dead, and the city of Salem has fallen. For of what real import is the controversy between House Bellon and House Antero if House Bellon entire falls to the White Beards?

King Metatron addresses Lord Lucifer directly.

METATRON: Do you deny the report of Princess Lilith?

LUCIFER: I deny nothing, King Metatron. I have come to demand the return of the fugitive and common criminal known as Michaela, and to take into custody the one who facilitated har escape, Princess Lilith, as well as the hundreds of har accomplices. That is the explanation for my army crossing the Ice.


054 MEAL

A bell rings somewhere in the castle. Queen Aurra Sala slaps har hands sharply twice, and that is the signal for har two serving wenches to serve the midday meal. The Council of Royals have discussed weighty matters indeed that morning, but now they pause to enjoy the hospitality of King Metatron's kitchen.

When Luzea Cedarbranch serves a kingly plate of roast beef to Uriel Antero she ventures to sing to hem

LUZEA: Born to rule Vaska as her king. Yet queen-gentle hyz words do ring. Valiant like the yeng of old Fair like a bust of purest gold.

The King is shocked at first, but then hy laughs with self-recognition at the impromptu verse. Queen Sariel is less amused. Sha growls Luzea's name But this merely serves as the trigger for yet another verse from the playful Miss Cedarbranch.

LUZEA: Who rules the city of my birth? Aurra Sala, the Queen of mirth!

This elicits laughter from everyone at the table except the Queen, who points directly at Luzea.

SARIEL: Tonight. Twelve lashes!

Aliwe bursts into tears for her friend, and Luzea herself is suddenly shocked into silence. In fact, there is embarrassed silence all around the table now. Surely the Queen is joking, they think. The whipping tree for such a small thing?

Michaela catches the queen's eye and slowly shakes har head, as though to forbid it. King Metatron weighs the wisdom of publicly contradicting the queen's command, hy would have no dungeon-style cruelty in hyz own house. But the Queen's face remains stern and inscrutable. Luzea and Aliwe are finished at any rate, so they return to their niche high above the room.

The incident attracts the attention of Sariel's son, Balthazar, who only recently has come into hyz full inheritance. Hy has been recalled from the border with the Middle Lands upon the news of the death of hyz brother. In fact, hy had spent many years in virtual exile and had not taken a meal with his mother the Queen for all that time, so hy was not acquainted with the new serving wench Luzea and her "talent". Luzea Cedarbranch certainly caught hyz attention just now, and hy contrives a way to get with her alone. Bayard clears hyz throat.

BAYARD: My mother and queen may not know it was a hobby of mine in Belen to contrive certain unusual and severe forms of punishment. Now a flogging is certainly a painful and terrible thing, especially with a whipping tree, but it is also such a common punishment in heaven that I feel sometimes it no longer has the desired lasting effect as it undoubtedly did in days gone by. So by your leave, Mother, turn this slave girl Luzea over to me for correction. I can assure you in all truthfulness that she will never forget the experience.

The Queen knows exactly what hy was up to, and hides har smile behind a hand. It wasn't like hy was going to come right out and ask har, before all the royals assembled there, "Mother may I be excused from this meal so I can go have sexual relations with your slave girl?" Nevertheless, Queen Aurra realizes har son is on to something. Knowing Luzea's own preferences, it would still amount to a very severe punishment of both mind and body, and the whole thing would be an effective deterrent for the other serving girl, Aliwe.

055 INTERLUDE

SARIEL: Then I turn Luzea over to you, son. But let me caution you, if she is fit to return to work in less than a week I will deem your 'punishment far too lenient.

BALTHAZAR: Thank you, mother.

The Baron pushes hymself from the table, and signs to the guards that Luzea should be brought along. And when the other guests are finished eating they excuse themselves as well. When the Baron is alone with Luzea Cedarbranch in hyz chambers hy commands her to disrobe, but Luzea balks.

LUZEA: The Queen would give me twelve whistling lashes I fear you more than a hundred slashes

BALTHAZAR: Nonsense, Luzea, I know you have seen the whipping tree do its work. It may be one of the tamest form of life native to heaven but it is nasty enough. Twelve lashes means at least two cracked ribs and maybe even some kidney damage. So remove that dress and let me see what I bought with my lies to my mother.

Luzea slowly complies, but she is trembling. The baron commands her to lie back on the bed so hy can drink in the vision of her nude body. Luzea is lovely, hy thinks, with that untamed female scent he craves, but her purely animal fear takes all the appeal out of what hy wants to do with her. As well mate with a captive hare. The Baron sighs.

BALTHAZAR: You commoners are fortunate. You can do as you like but among the royal family of the House of Sala we are only allowed to take wife from among our peers, upon pain of exile. And when the Queen sets her mind to exile sha has options that are truly outlandish.

Luzea senses that hy is relenting in his enthusiasm for "punishing" her and her trembling begins to subside a little bit.

BALTHAZAR: Oh, but only if you knew how good you seem to me. I'm a Gold Beard baron with a decidedly overwhelming preference for unspoiled yen.

LUZEA: My Lord endeavors not to let this show But tell me does your mother the Queen know?

BAYARD: Yes, Luzea, she has known for a long time. My taste for commoner female flesh is overlooked as long as I keep things quiet and discreet. But the Queen is beginning to lose patience.

There is a scratching sound in the ceiling above, and the Baron rolls to one edge of the bed just in time as a thin ceiling panel gives way. Aliwe Halil falls to the bed just then, landing on Luzea's nude body amid many wooden splinters. One naked leg of Luzea curls around Aliwe almost instinctively with pleasure, a conditioned response from their many sweet nights together. The Baron smiles, gets fully dressed, and strides toward the door to leave them alone.

BALTHAZAR: I do ask that you put my room back in order when you are done, ladies. I'll tell the guards to give you an hour alone. There's still my mother's wrath to allay. You will have to feign some kind of injury so horrible that you refuse to speak of it. I think that will satisfy her.

Hy looks at the two of them starting to squirm and tilts his head.

BALTHAZAR  : And that should be me there wrapped in your lovely arms and legs, young Luzea!

Then hy leaves and closes the door. 056 SECRET

As the keeper of the sword Dragonthorn, Kari Bellon is convinced that she has the power to bend the will of everyone around her, even the will of her father the King. At least, this is what her father constantly assures har, to hyz ultimate undoing.

Some time ago when King Uriel was away, Kari flew Demonstroke all the way to the city of Eden to put her belief to the ultimate test. Now, while Queen Sariel's Council is taking a short recess she once again dismisses the guards blocking her way to Lucifer's chamber and receives yet again confirmation of her invincible power of persuasion.

Joy, the nephil from Earth, is lounging sensuously inside the Lord's chamber like some exotic black cat. In fact, everything about hem is black except hez unnaturally pale white skin. Kari tells hem che is dismissed also. Joy raises an eyebrow, but leaves quickly without a single word of protest.

LUCIFER: How did you get in here?

Lucifer is angry after witnessing hyz ambi being sent abruptly away like some common servant.

KARI: It wasn't very hard, I'm very persuasive it turns out. Yet the last time we met, Lord Lucifer, you had the stronger power, it seemed.

LUCIFER: I don't know what came over me then. And Joy would certainly never understand if che discovered the truth of the matter. Che has very unpleasant ways of making hez displeasure known.

KARI: I came to see if your resolve to keep our secret has not withered.

LUCIFER: You must be thinking of the strict sexual purity required of every female entrusted to guard the Dragonthorn blade.

KARI: The penalty for losing my virginity, were it discovered, would far more terrible than any other punishment in the history of heaven.

LUCIFER: Yes indeed, Princess. A truly terrible fate to contemplate for any creature no matter what their crime, and sufficiently horrible, in fact, that in the past it has never been found necessary to mete out. In a way I'm flattered that you risked that awful fate for a single session in bed with me.

KARI: So what are your feelings on the necessity to keep the matter, secret, Lord Lucifer?

LUCIFER: I find that I still have no desire to reveal it to anyone, and even thinking about revealing it to another person causes me to be overcome with a very bad depression that grows worse and worse the closer I come to making my urge into an actuality.

KARI: It is a shame that it must be so, Lord Lucifer. When last we met you said that I had a very lovely ass and could not keep your hands from caressing it.

LUCIFER: Princess, right now I wouldn't reach across your ass to grab a winning ticket in the Salem numbers racket. I resent very much that you have somehow cast this spell against me. But your secret is safe, so be content with that. If that is all you want, Princess Kari, then please leave.

Kari frowns, pivots on one foot, then marches out of hyz chamber without a sound.


057 JOY

When Princess Kari is well out of earshot Lucifer begins to snicker. The effort it had taken not to laugh the entire time was almost too much for hym to manage. Joy emerges from behind a curtain. Che had doubled back by secret ways and listened to almost the entire exchange.

JOY: So that was the doll. What a stupid twit, my Lord! It's a wonder you didn't have done and unleash the dragon on Vaska the instant she came to you and gave away her so-called virtue.

LUCIFER: It is not her virginity that controls the dragon, but the sword. I need only to manipulate her into relinquishing the sword and then you can take control of the beast yourself.

JOY: I will have no problem flying Demonstroke, but I need access to his holding pen, my Lord. There's a limit to the range of my power.

LUCIFER: My guards can get you in easily enough. But tell me, Joy, how is it that you can make beasts do your bidding, really?

JOY: Milord knows Chokhmah and Binah have what they call the B'nei Elohim project going on the side. A little below gods we are, the saying goes, a little above humans. Each one of us has a unique 'talent'. Mine is to control animals. But I cannot control any beast until Chokhmah or Binah prepare it with something like a bead embedded in its brain. Your dragon, however, is really a machine. I will merely interface with it.

LUCIFER: Good. Then we shall await the moment when Princess Kari loses the sword. There must be no doubt in the mind of Michaela and all the assembled ladies and lords that what follows is entirely the fault of the princess.

And though Joy has removed hemself to the enemy camp, and serves Lucifer with hez whole body and soul, it never at any time occurs to hem to mention that Chokhmah and Binah have discovered a way to manipulate history, that che has come across four thousand years of time. Nor did che even reveal that the name Joy was a word in her native language, not solely a name, for when Lucifer arrived at the time when that language came about, he might remember. The compulsion never to reveal any of this to Lucifer, directly or even indirectly, runs to the very inner core of all the B'nei Elohim, faithful or otherwise.

The table in the council chamber is restored again to order after the meal and everyone takes their places. It is Michaela's turn to state har piece.

MICHAELA: House Gerash has always been especially devoted to Thaumiel and yet the angels are not truly native to heaven. Long ago they were grafted in from human stock originating on Earth, where I reign with my newborn daughter Binah. Perhaps this is why House Sala has cast their lots entirely with me, and why the other houses, and even the inhabitants of the city of Salem have varying degrees of devotion between the two deities. This divided loyalty is tolerable to myself, I can assure you, since I have always called you the Students, and one of the most important thing a student can learn is how to think, not what to think. But I can also assure you that this state of affairs is not tolerable to Thaumiel, incarnate before us today as Lucifer. He has already begun to make his move to bring this entire world to war, and you will soon discover why he has maneuvered to keep the other three house off balance and at each other's throats. For he calls you slaves rather than students. I will not attempt to influence the decision of this council, but I do offer a warning that if you decide to present a united face to House Gerash, that afterward you move with supernatural speed, for Lucifer will then be presented with no choice but to attempt to conquer each one of the other houses one at a time. And now I would bid good King Metatron Bellon to tell his tale.


058 UNION

METATRON: Thank you Lady Michaela. Your worlds are weighty and are to be pondered deeply. We here in Rumbek have also played the fool for the arms merchants of House Gerash, despite the formidable Nine Mile Wall which protects us from assault. At times during the last century we have campaigned often against the Red Beards and even crossed the hills to assail Family Sala. But for the last twenty years, with only one recent exception, we have been at peace with the rest of heaven. That is why when Lord Lucifer came to me with tidings of House Bellon building many new engines of war especially designed to span the Wall, I was not panicked into buying the fire catapults hy was offering to repulse the supposedly immanent attack.

URIEL: Lord Lucifer did offer to sell us the machines, King Metatron, but I was never tempted to buy any of them.

METATRON: So you told me, King Uriel, through your ambassador, and thus we both knew Lord Lucifer to be a liar. It brought to mind a state visit I had made some time prior, when I crossed the mountains and passed through Salem to Ganelon and thence to the city of Eden. In Ganelon, where the river still runs before failing in the desert sands beyond the city, I saw some of the finest bottom land I have ever seen, better even than the land around Saharad perhaps, with soil so deep and rich it was nearly black, yet there were no crops, save weeds.

LUCIFER: The Middle Land has a manufacturing economy now, not a primitive agricultural one like the four monarchies.

METATRON: Your land is indeed a manufacturing economy, Lord Lucifer, but it manufactures weapons of war. Solely. Noble ones, let that fact sink in for a moment. Outside of Salem, everyone who makes a living in the Middle Land is either employed to make weapons directly, or they support those do. Their livelihood rests on keeping us at each other's throats.

LUCIFER: I will tell you what our economy purchases for us. In a legal sense even my guards are on the same level as myself, with the same rights and obligations to the state. Can any of you noble born say the same thing about yourself and any one of your servants? A lowly apprentice could rise to attain to my seat on the State Council. Outside of Salem, as you say (but that is now changing) blood counts for nothing in the Middle Land, only ability and loyalty to Thaumiel. We are a theocratic meritocracy.

SARIEL :Not just individuals but kingdoms, too, may form republics after a fashion, Lord Lucifer.

Sha stands up and raises har voice.

SARIEL: At this time I propose the creation of an entity I choose to call the Union of Kingdoms. Within each individual kingdom, we royals shall maintain our absolute sovereignty. Yet decisions which have an effect outside of our respective borders, such as concluding treaties or going to war, shall be thrashed out in council chamber with every kingdom fairly represented.

URIEL: I second your proposal, Your Highness. At this moment you may consider House Bellon to be joined to House Sala in a Union of Kingdoms precisely as you describe. Our conflict may have accelerated this Council of Royals, but let my assent hasten to complete it.

After Uriel vows to join Queen Alodra's new Union of Kingdoms, Metatron Bellon announces hyz decision to add the land of the Brown Beards to the Union as well.


059 THREAT

Lord Lucifer remains sitting. Hy is perceptive enough to know the White Beards are not and never would be invited into this Union.

LUCIFER: Review your own history, O privileged ones. Can you remember a single battle between your kingdoms and House Gerash? Or even hearing about one? You cannot, and if you scratch a little deeper you will find that it was not for lack of trying. We clipped your little seedling attacks before they could proceed beyond a simple skirmish and take root. How were we able to do this time after time, you ask? Very simple. House Gerash, you see, always retains the newest and best arms for its own defense.

METATRON: Yet there are unintended consequences to becoming makers of arms rather than customers. We have a continuous warfighting tradition which you lack. Take extreme care, then, lest your attacks sputter to nought in confusion and your forces become our prisoners.

LUCIFER: No doubt your longfathers of old weighed that very thing in their calculations as well. The wise ones refrained from assailing our Republic. The foolish ones made their sorties and were repulsed. So this can be no new warning to you If ever House Gerash should find your so-called Union of Kingdoms standing at cross-purposes to our interests, beware.

Princess Kari stands up then, drawing the diamond sword Dragonthorn from its jewel-encrusted scabbard strapped to her back.

KERI: Lord Lucifer would also do well to remember that House Gerash is not the only Family which can bring unmatched weaponry to the field of battle!

URIEL: Nay, daughter! Your king now commands you! Stand down and restore the sacred blade to its place!

And the King is very wroth because Kari is the only person allowed to be armed in this chamber, and even that only on a ceremonial basis. A chastened Kari obeys her father the King and stows the diamond blade once more.

LUCIFER: I begin to wonder for what reason I was really summoned to this Council. To receive threats, and weapons brandished in my face, it seems.

URIEL: My daughter's action was rash, but there is some truth to her words. The meaning of the creation of our Union of Kingdoms is that we shall never fight among ourselves again. But that must not be construed to mean we shall never fight again. And there are some mighty ones here who are worth many times their number in Gerash soldiery.

SARIEL: We could have made this a secret Council, and let your people be caught off-guard by a sudden and inexplicable loss of their livelihood. I invited you here for one purpose, Lord Lucifer. The Black Beards must till their earth again, and make things once more that serve life rather than end it. They will need a huge head start to begin to make the necessary changes before starvation sets in. So you witnessed the creation of the Union of Kingdoms to bring that news to your people in your so-called republic and give them that head start.

Lord Lucifer has been holding back his mounting anger for the entire duration of the Council. Now hyz wrath is taken off the leash, and hy launches into a long-winded screed against the monarchies of heaven that holds nothing back. As hy rants, hy skirts dangerously near to revealing Kari's awesome secret, yet without actually crossing the line.

As Lucifer fully anticipates, the Princess rises from her seat and approaches hym with Dragonthorn drawn from its scabbard once more, in open defiance of her father the Red Beard king. The sword is pointed directly at Lord Lucifer's heart. So shocking is this sight all the other royals are struck dumb at the spectacle, even King Uriel.


060 SHATTERED

Kari moves near enough to threaten Lucifer once more and speaks again.

KARI: Lord Lucifer must give account for the loved ones each one of us have lost as a result of hyz lies!

And she raises Dragonthorn to strike hym. Aliwe Halil, also standing nearby, freezes in the act of filling Lord Lucifer's flagon with wine. King Metatron is furious and finds hez tongue first.

METATRON: Princess Keri, hold! I gave my word to grant Lord Lucifer safe passage to Rumbek for the purpose of attending this Council, and my word holds firm. Lord Lucifer of House Gerash shall be sped to the border with all haste, and I swear that no harm shall come to hym! Stand down, Princess! Put away your blade. As king of this city I command you!

LUCIFER: Noble ones of the Council, I believe I know precisely what it is that is really disturbing the Princess.

But before the human incarnation of Thaumiel can continue to speak, Kari assails the unarmed yang with Dragonthorn, the legendary blade that, they say, cannot be turned by iron mail nor even the hardest stone.

Instinctively Aliwe Halil brings up a silver platter she is using to carry wine as a pathetic shield to try to protect Lord Lucifer, knowing full well it will just be demolished by the beautiful diamond blade, perhaps sliced in two along with her arm. Aliwe's first impulse is to act in such a way that carries out the stated will of King Metatron. But to everyone's surprise the Dragonthorn shatters against Aliwe's makeshift silver barrier, and glittering broken diamond shards of the ancient blade fall to the ground at Kari's feet. Then sha lets fall the blades's hilt.

Balthazar begins to marvel that this Aliwe girl always seems to be exactly where she needs to be, exactly when she needs to be there. Aliwe replaces Luzea as foremost in his erotic thoughts.

LUCIFER: You have been remiss in your education as well as in your duties as priestess, my dear Princess. It seems the ones who instructed you did not mention that when the spell is broken with the loss of your virtue, Dragonthorn becomes nothing more than a diamond in the shape of a blade. Beautiful, yes, harder than anything known, but as brittle as glass! My own body mail would have done as much as that servant's silver plate.

But far more astonishing to Kari than the destruction of the Dragonthorn blade is Lord Lucifer suddenly breaking her magic spell of persuasion commanding hym to be forever silent about her seduction of hym once upon a time.

Lord Lucifer correctly interprets the shock of this development on her face.

LUCIFER: Foolish doll, you never had the power to persuade anyone to do your least bidding, and if King Uriel thought to make you believe that so your life might be a little more pleasant as you waxed old in your spinsterhood, then more fool hy, for the pretense has led to the undoing of you both!

For no mortal flesh can withstand the pure white fire of Demonstroke and live. Keri is rapidly consumed where she stands as the dragon hovers outside the chamber on great strokes of his articulated wings, harnessed by the dark sorceress will of the mysterious nephil from Earth named Joy who now rides upon his shoulders.


061 AFTERMATH

It would have been a simple thing for Lucifer to command Joy to reduce all of the chief Peers of the Land assembled there to piles of ashes, not the least hyz most dangerous foe Princess Lilith, yet for now Lucifer has determined that Kari alone should die.

In so doing hy shows contempt for King Uriel's earlier claim that some of the nobles assembled there individually are worth many Gerash soldiers on the field of battle. Lord Lucifer deems it more important to leave them alive for a time, that their minds might encompass the fullness of hyz triumph and thus fall into despair before he contrives their final end.

Later some of the royals thought that Lord Lucifer had done the thing out of a greater kindness, so that Princess Keri would not suffer the penalty of her abomination, and certainly that peculiar tradition of the monarchies filled even Lucifer with disgust.

With the dragon Demonstroke's smoking open mouth menacing the royals none dare to stop the hysterically laughing Lord Lucifer from joining hyz lover Joy on the back of the dragon as both of them make good their escape into the air.

The large lake called Aramel is divided in twain by the peninsula of Magodon, which in turn is anchored to a plateau nigh to the Bellon lands. Sheer cliffs rising as much as four hundred feet guard every approach to Magodon by water. This natural wall is made of soft sandstone and cannot be scaled by any army. At the foot of these bluffs all around the peninsula lie impassible swamps that would swallow horses and trap the wheels of chariots.

Also none can pass by land around the lake toward the plateau. There roaring waves run nigh to even loftier vertical walls of hard stone, and oft vast slabs of unstable glacier ice melt and slide into the lake with a great thunder. No permanent road can be carved, no tunnel bored, to permit passage around Magodon on either shore of Lake Aramel.

Thus King Metatron had thought Lord Lucifer to be a big fat liar for suggesting House Antero was preparing to invade Magodon from across the water. For only at the uttermost tip of the peninsula of Magodon can armies pass, but this is guarded by the Nine Mile Wall and also by several small islands bristling with fortified settlements, including the chief city of Rumbek.

So the Bellon capital has long been the main bulwark against any Gerash incursion, protecting not only the Brown Beard's lands in Magodon and beyond, but also the lands of family Bellon and Sala far beyond.

So believing there was still much time, most of the nobles who had attended Queen Aurra Sala's council, including the queen harself, lingered in Rumbek after the Council abruptly ended with Lord Lucifer and Joy departing on the back of the dragon Demonstroke.

In the immediate aftermath Michaela whisks King Uriel by her avatar to Vaska, where hy begins to organize the immediate deployment of the greater part of the forces of House Antero to ride with all haste to come to the aid of House Bellon. Hy does not know how long it will take for hym to return with hyz forces, yet Princess Lilith deems this is the only hope that Rumbek would survive the impending onslaught of House Gerash despite the existence of the Nine Mile Wall.

As for Michaela and Lilith themselves, they return to their home on Sealiah Island to ensure the Fallen Angels are fully prepared to aid the Brown Beards in the coming war. The general feeling is that of a calm before a storm.


062 SEALIAH

Gerash sailing craft concentrate at nightfall in the three mile-wide gap north of the Isle of Sealiah. The tiny settlement of Surat (including the ferry landing) is taken by commandos and after that many of the new Gerash ships traverse the narrow strait. Five battalions of Gerash troops go ashore unopposed. The boats must be driven well up on the beach to avoid the omnipresent man-eating flora in the waters of Lake Aramel. Lucifer's ships then turn down the Tala Strait toward Rumbek. In this crucial time House Gerash accumulates their forces as quickly as possible so a credible penetration into Bellon territory can be attempted.

At daybreak the southernmost two battalions of the amphibious invasion force link together and march across Sealiah Island. They begin taking the island house-to-house. At first there is little resistance and only scattered bow-shot, but soon the residents of island villages regret surrendering so easily, for the Eyes of Thaumiel carry out Samael's orders to kill all male Brown Beards on sight.

Meanwhile three other battalions erupt from the beach and cut across the island to join up with the first two. But Lilith's Fallen Angels issue forth from the Castle Brys to hit them on their left flank. Lilith harself remains in the castle to defend Michaela as a one-yin personal guard. All of Sealiah is awake and begins putting up the first real resistance of the war. Movement grinds to a halt as a pitched battle develops along a front that creeps south down the Isle of Sealiah. But the army of House Gerash slowly gains the upper hand by dint of numbers.

In the Tala Strait the defenders of Rumbek answer the incursions with a wall of ships. In this arena alone does House Bellon gain a clear victory. By the end of the first day no Gerash ships are left to threaten Rumbek and the surviving ships are pulled north to defend the beachhead.

On the second day of the war as the fighting draws near, subjects protected in Castle Brys began leaving on foot. Lilith and Michaela fall in with them, and King Metatron assigns a squad to guard them led by the Hashmal Binyiel. But Michaela objects to this protection.

MICHAELA: Hashmal, please return to the King. I have Lilith with me, and the people of House Bellon need you and your yeng far more than we do.

BINYIEL: Even so, the King hymself charged me never to depart your side.

And in har presence Binyiel produces the King's own ring, embossed with the seal of the House of Bellon, which the King used to imprint documents sealed with wax to assure their authenticity. Now to Michaela the Hashmal gives the King's ring, and Michaela mourns, because sha knows this to be a token of the King's premonition that hy would not survive the coming attack. But Michaela accepts the ring and also Hashmal Binyiel as a companion.

As they make their way down from the top of Sujelah Hill the road to Mandakar along the west shore of Sealiah falls to the forces of Samael. A massive bridge is sunk by Bellon engineers with black powder as a final defensive measure. But also on this day the Bellon navy prevails in a large sea battle. They win through to demolish Samael's pontoon bridge and they set fire to hyz remaining ships, thus cutting off the only Gerash line of supply to Sealiah.

BINYIEL: The whole north of Sealiah is occupied. Even Kelang is under assault. Only here in the extreme south does Sealiah remain free.

Over the shoulders of Mount Memalek to a seldom-seen natural bridge trudge Lilith and Michaela, escorted by Hashmal Binyiel and two other officers. They move by secret paths in the wilderness terrain until they have come to the village of Olivus snuggled in the hills along the southern shore.


063 BINYIEL

MICHAELA: Hashmal, I am unwarlike, and I am about to swoon from this march. Perhaps I could rest for a while in that cottage hard by.

Binyiel approaches the cottage and pounds on the door.

BINYIEL: Open in the name of King Metatron!

SUBJECT: What do you want?

BINYIEL: Lodging for two travelers who go with the blessing of the King.

SUBJECT: How much did they pay you to say that, soldier? Do you think in this confusion the 'blessing of the King' are the pass words to help yourself to the bounty of any subject of the realm?

So Binyiel produces the King's ring, and the hospitality of that cottage improves markedly. Michaela and Khondiel are welcomed for the night while the soldiers stand guard outside.

King Metatron stands hyz ground in the walled city of Mandakar as it comes under attack by cruel flaming catapult rounds from the surrounding lands of Sealiah Island that are already captured by Kirodiel. This is the beginning of a merciless siege by fire that would end only when the city loses the battle to put out the flames and succumbs three days later.

At the capital city of Rumbek on the Isle of Liban, Count Eremiel Larund, ruling the city in the name of the king, learns the enemy suffers a shortage of boats. Hy orders the bridge to Fanon island to be deliberately sunk.

The easy victories of the House of Gerash up to the middle of the fourth day are explained by their fanatical willingness to die for their god Thaumiel. However the resolve of their Larund foes stiffens as the slaughter of King Metatron's innocent subjects continue. Faced with no alternative but to die the people make their final stand at Rumbek.

Lilith and Michaela reach the last unconquered piece of the island of Sealiah. There Rumbek is taking refugees away by boat. Khondiel and Michaela queue up with the rest of the crowd while their personal squad of soldiers join others to hold off the overland Gerash attackers in a desperate fight to win sufficient time for the last refugees to escape.

BINYIEL: And now, Lady Michaela, I must spend the remaining moments of my life in disobedience to the strict commandment of the King, and leave your side to win time for you to escape, but I deem it the greater good.

MICHAELA: If Thaumiel is defeated, then I will make it up to you one day!

Hy bows and leaves her then.

Suddenly there is an orange flash, and the boat which is being loaded in front of Lilith and Michaela catches fire. A catapult round of flaming tar has struck home. Many angels, screaming in agony from their burns, desperately dive into the water to quench the flames of the sticky tar that licked their clothes and skin. But they are immediately devoured by the hungry plant life that lives beneath the waves.

There are six catapults on Sealiah that lob rounds over the heads of the city's defenders to reach the refugee boats, but in a single moment the six catapults themselves all catch on fire. A streak of rushing fire appears in the sky overhead, followed by two bursts of sound so loud it seems to Lilith sha would be knocked to the ground. The fire streak, Lilith can see, forms behind a small white object that races across the sky almost too quickly to follow.


064 RUMBEK

Before Lilith can point it out to Michaela the white flying apparition is already many leagues away and curving back up higher into the purple skies.

LILITH: Is that your avatar?

MICHAELA: Indeed it is, Khondiel, though I imagine Thaumiel is growing very tired of my interference by now.

Suddenly room in another boat is found to be available for Michaela and Lilith to step aboard, because many of the people aren't certain all of the catapults are destroyed, but Lilith knows Michaela is meticulous in what she sets out to do. The avatar of Chokhmah had already made its appearance at Salem years before, killing twelve Eyes of Thaumiel, yet Thaumiel has long idled his own avatar to carry out the sham of having a dragon under the thumb of the Bellon Princess, and all that time Thaumiel could do nothing to avenge the many affronts.

Michaela, for har part, suspects the dragon will make a belated appearance soon in the skies over Rumbek to level the odds, and sha knows that will be a terrible thing to behold, but sha says nothing of this to Lilith.

In the heavily fortified city of Rumbek, after hours of confusion as the refugees are sorted out, Count Eremiel learns that Michaela is bearing the King's authentic ring. After Michaela surrenders the ring to hym, Eremiel bids sha and Lilith take refuge in the castle.

Michaela realizes the King intended this very thing all along, for the Count would know by this sign that the King wanted hym to rule in his stead. She guesses King Metatron to be certainly dead, although no word to that effect has come from the field of battle.

Rumbek is as secure as any place in the lands of House Larund are these days, says Eremiel. Hy reminds them that no army has ever breached the Nine Mile Wall. The Count has turned the forces at the Nine Mile Wall around such that they are defending the peninsula of Magodon in the event Rumbek falls to Lucifer's attack rather than defending Rumbek from the historically more-frequent attacks from House Bellon.

In the very chamber where Queen Aurra had convened the Council, the surviving royals meet once more again to speak with Lady Michaela about har offer to whisk the noble ones home again in har avatar, even as many of them had been brought to Rumbek. Baron Gadreel is to be taken home to Elketz to meet up with the Red Beard army and take command of the Bellon forces which will march with them. Queen Sariel, her Consort Gabriel, and Countess Oriel were slated to be taken home to the lands of the Gold Beards, and the queen thinks to take both of her serving girls as well, but Baron Balthazar declares that he wills stay behind to aid Count Eremiel.

BAYARD: I would ask that the servant wench Aliwe Halil stay with me.

Luzea Cedarbranch howls in greatly dismay because sha would be parted from her best friend and lover, possibly forever. Aliwe tries to assure her it will turn out well, which makes Luzea feel a little better, but when che is pressed to give a reason for her confidence Aliwe can give none.

SARIEL: Am I to believe my son cannot set aside his hobby for the duration of one battle for the life of the Brown Beard capital?

BALTHAZAR: I know what it looks like, my mother and Queen, but the girl has luck bordering on the supernatural.

Seeing Michaela nod, the Queen sighs, and nods har assent as well.


065 PARTINGS

SARIEL: Say what you would have me do in my land, Lady Michaela.

MICHAELA: You see the problem, of course, Your Highness. People blindly naturally gather themselves into large settlements, driven by simple economics. After that, they attempt to protect their cities with walls, but walls and stone dwellings are no protection from Demonstroke. The solution is as obvious as it is simple, but it will require a mighty hand and much time to overcome thousands of years of tradition. Instead of a few large cities and towns dotting the land, the people of House Sala must live in many small settlements with no more than fifty souls, spread evenly across the land as well as hidden under the land, with leagues upon leagues between each one.

SARIEL: Such a drastic change! Is there no alternative?

MICHAELA: There are forces that can overthrow an entire city of stone in a single moment when yeng learn to harness them, as they must someday. When that time comes, only a decentralized House Sala will be able to withstand them. At that time attacking you will be like trying to dig a hole in a lake of water.

And so the queen and her entourage embark for Saharad after many tears of parting between Luzea and Aliwe. The avatar then whisks back to Rumbek with certain officers of House Sala possessing skills uniquely honed to fend off attacks such as the one presented now by Samael.

Count Jegudiel Bellon and Baron Zephon remain in Rumbek, but at the Count's request hyz wife adriel is taken by the avatar of Chokhmah to Gerazan. Uzziel Larund, remains behind to help defend the city, and despite the extreme danger Lady Irus stays behind with hym. But the rest of the royals go with Baron Phanuel in Chokhmah's avatar to Peshast, taking several trips.

For a number of days Samael completely bypasses the hard target of Rumbek. Hyz army destroys the villages of Teal and Olivus, then fans out through all the surrounding hills. By the end of the third day the city of Mandakar lies in smoking ruins, and the entirety of Sealiah Island lies under the boots of the invading House Gerash.

At Mandakar the Gerash forces roll forward a prefabricated bridge and swung it out on a pivot to connect Fanon Island to Sealiah Island once more. Supported by many small boats the bridge swings across during a lull in the naval engagement when the forces of Rumbek have pulled back many ships to reduce the alarming losses from Gerash suicide commando swimming parties. The bridges from Fanon Island to Krone Island, and also to the main city on Liban Island, are preemptively sunk by Count Eremiel to limit their losses.

This new intensity in Gerash violence is a set piece put on for Samael, who is now physically present on the battlefront rather than leading from behind as is often hyz preference. Lilith stands long atop the ramparts of the walls of the city of Rumbek, and it is apparent to har that House Gerash is steadily gaining the advantage against House Bellon by sheer dint of numbers, and the hate by which the Gerash warriors flung themselves into battle. So Lilith bids Michaela to immediately journey with har beyond the Nine Mile Wall while the route is still clear.

KHONDIEL: I perceive the siege of Rumbek will soon grow strait, and the Brown Beard navy will be tasked to defend the city itself, letting the invincible Nine Mile Wall, undefeated in war, defend the rest of Magodon. But should Rumbek fall and Samael besiege the wall, none will then find their way through it, be they friend or foe.


066 WALL

Michaela agrees with Lilith. Sha asks leave of Count Eremiel Bellon, which hy grants with great deference, and sha leaves with a few words.

MICHAELA: King Metatron is dead, as you have surely guessed, yet I do not mourn, for already hy is the beneficiary of the Change and is finding life in a new body far from here. King Metatron's sacrifice is not wholly in vain, I deem. The house of Bellon does not stand against Gerash alone, and the king may have won for you the time you needed for the house of Bellon to march to your aid.

EREMIEL: I thank you for the spirit in which you intend to say these words to me, Lady Michaela, but if Rumbek is destined for a dark and bloody fate, I consider it my duty to share in that fate full-willing, and it pains me to say so, but false words of hope are worse than none at all, I deem.

MICHAELA: Count Eremiel, I would never throw you a line of hope and then fail to tie off my end. Little do you know of my labors to bring hither aid from House Bellon. If Rumbek can hold out for yet a little while more, then Samael may find hy has stepped into a trap. Then all who crave peace might win through to the day when King Metatron's old body is laid to rest in honor, and you are crowned king in this city. Farewell!

Lilith has judged well the time of their departure. Mere hours after sha and Michaela depart Rumbek and take the bridge to the narrow strip of land at the foot of the Nine Mile Wall, the Brown Beard navy rallies all their ships around the Isle Liban. This leaves Samael free to pull all hyz troops off Sealiah except those directly involved in the Rumbek siege, and those troops are ferried across the channel to the bench of land nigh to the Wall almost on the very heels of Michaela and Lilith.

The beautiful dwellings and public buildings of Krone Island, isolated now from Liban, are burned to the ground in a blaze kindled by Samael hymself. After the fire consumes everything and the flame abates, Samael scatters the embers in the sight of the defenders of Rumbek looking on from across the strait and hy also sprinkles the ground with salt.

SAMAEL: Even so shall Rumbek be wasted utterly!

And the hearts of the folk of Rumbek fall.

The peninsula of Magodon is ringed on three sides by cliffs of sandstone which rise from the sea some four hundred feet, but at the Nine Mile Wall yeng erected masonry that made that tall cliff purely vertical, slotted in many places with holes for observation and to shoot arrows or pour boiling liquids. The wall is higher than the face of the cliff, so that it could face in two directions as the need might be. Between the face of the wall and the face of the natural cliff which it encloses are many platforms and stairs and catacombs filled with weapons for the bane of besieging armies and stores to supply defenders for many days of battle.

When Lilith and Michaela are admitted through the Wall they climb many steps and ramps until they arrive on the plateau of Magodon at the top, where they behold the banners and ranks of countless troops from the House of Larund and the House of Bellon. Then Michaela knows har long labors have born fruit. For sha has kept har avatar at a remove lest Lucifer force the tangle with hyz dragon too early, and so Michaela did not known of the presence of the Red Beards until sha saw the host with har own eyes.

Larund troops who are rallying to the aid of Rumbek from across the land of the Brown Beards have also come to the city with the forces of the House of Antero. Already many of these are filling positions on the Nine Mile Wall to turn back the Gerash invaders.


067 DRAGON

But there in the sight of everyone under arms Demonstroke arrives on the wind. The flying beast releases from its left claw something resembling a star that falls from the sky burning like a torch, and it strikes the ground near the center of the Nine Mile Wall with great violence, such that it digs a deep pit therein.

And Demonstroke releases from its right claw another projectile that falls directly into this new pit, and there follows a blast under the ground of such a magnitude as had never been known in heaven before.

The bottom half of the Nine Mile Wall nigh to Rumbek blows straight out, and the masonry of the Wall above the blast collapses in ruin, and in place of a sheer wall there is now a ramp of sand, but many besieging Gerash troops also die, or are buried alive by the debris. Samael pays no mind to hyz own casualties. Hy commands hyz remaining generals to charge up that ramp with their divisions to the Magodon plateau above, and they immediately began to comply.

Then Demonstroke himself drops from the sky and crashes to the battle plain behind the wall, and smoke rises from its black carcass like the smoke of a great furnace, and the orange sun is darkened by reason of the smoke. And the dragon rises again out of the smoke glittering with black armor as smooth as glass, and its teeth are rockets which are loosed against yeng, and the sound of its wings are like a great waterfall.

Demonstroke has a flexible tail like a scorpion, and there is a gun in that tail which kills yeng with rounds as thick as a thumb. Demonstroke descends among the ordered ranks of the allied families like a storm, killing yeng at will, and scatters them in disorder before they can make a countercharge down the new ramp in the Nine Mile Wall.

MICHAELA: Alas, our enemy Kirodiel is come.

And Michaela knows the dragon has the power to snatch har victory away when sha is on the very cusp of attaining it, but far worse, if Lilith is slain here there will be chance of salvaging something from the defeat. So Michaela summons har avatar to the field of battle.

Demonstroke alights near the cherub Samael on the battle plain. Joy and Lucifer dismount from the beast. They come before Samael, who bows to Lucifer deeply. After hy pays obeisance the three of them witness the avatar of Chokhmah also landing on the plateau of Magodon close to them.

LUCIFER Destroy the avatar of Chokhmah immediately!

Joy bows her head in deference and runs back toward the waiting dragon.

LILITH: Speak plainly to me now, Michaela. What do you want me to do?

MICHAELA: My avatar will take you far away from this place. I need you to go. You are the most important thing in heaven or Earth to me.

LILITH: If I leave in your avatar, House Bellon and House Antero will have no defense against the dragon. Forget about me, Michaela!

But Michaela recalls Lilith's own words at the Battle of Salem when sha saw har naked in a cage and Michaela told Lilith to forget about har. Michaela repeats the words again for Khondiel now, tearfully.

MICHAELA: Don't you know by now that's the one thing I can never do?

And Lilith openly weeps, because for the first time sha knows har undying love for Michaela is truly being reciprocated at last, and they are mostly tears of happiness.


068 REFUGEES

MICHAELA: We cannot be victorious here today, Lilith. You cannot truly die anymore, but I need you alive in your present body to offer a counterstroke. And there is more, so much more. All those things I preached about love were really just so much straw, because I didn't know what love really meant until now, neither as Michaela nor as Chokhmah, nor as both, neither as angel nor living star.

Lilith still wants to protest, but sha can see the dragon is now rising above the battle plain, and sha can see that Michaela desperately needs har to do this thing. So sha kisses Michaela and climbs inside the avatar like sha has done many times before.

The avatar of Chokhmah leaps in to the sky with fire and smoke and noise, and Lilith feels harself to be too heavy to move. Once again sha is deeply terrified, which is an extraordinary thing, for Lilith leads the Fallen Angels. But har terror is not rooted in har own personal safety, for she knows if she dies she will find she is alive again in a child's body. Lilith is afraid that the love that has been acknowledged at last by Michaela will never take root and flourish. Such a good thing! And it wasn't going to happen. No. Lilith knows that now.

Demonstroke lumbers into the sky after har and smites the avatar with a white flame directly from the heart of the sun that is Thaumiel, a flame that pours from its open mouth, and the avatar is destroyed, which is no small feat, for it had been made inside a star. And Princess Lilith, riding inside, instantly dies.

In a daze, Michaela falls in among the forces of House Bellon as they return to the west, fighting (along with the stragglers of Larund) a fierce rear-guard action against Lucifer and Samael. At some point Michaela realizes there are injured people around har who need the knowledge and skills of a healer. So sha begins to carry har own freight long before reaching Elketz. As Michaela walks without the benefit of riding in har avatar or even on horseback sha learns directly in the muscles of har legs and in the soles of har feet what a large place heaven truly is.

Balthazar Sala tells hyz serving wench Aliwe Halil to walk close to Lady Michaela and that har smallest whims are to be taken as direct commands. The two seem to quickly develop a language of their own and speak of many things that are incomprehensible to the Baron when hy happens to catch a word or two, tales of swarms and moons, of things called micros and other things called macros. And after Aliwe's first words with har the Baron and soon everyone else notices that Michaela has begun to smile again and seems to shed all vestiges of har sorrow at last.

The forces of House Bellon have horses, yet they use them only as beasts of burden to carry supplies, and the yeng walk beside their horses that they might stay and protect Michaela. Baron Zephon Larund had fallen in battle, but King Uriel and Count Jegudiel yet live.

None of the House of Larund walk with them save Lady Irus, for har husband Count Uzziel had also fallen at the Nine Mile Wall, yet sha never shows the level of grief that afflicted Michaela when Lilith died, for when sha saw Uzziel consumed by the fire of the dragon har heart was salved against the pain of losing him with the pride of knowing hy fell after a most valiant stand. And Michaela had promised Uzziel would be seen again.

At Jelaket the ranks of the stragglers begin to thin, but the rest press on across the heart of the West Lands to the Bellon capital of Vaska. As they draw near the subjects of King Uriel send trains of supplies to aid their march, including many horses, for Jelaket had none, having sent nearly all of them with the forces that had come to aid Rumbek.


069 VASKA

The chief city of the Red Beards lies in a cleft of the plateau where a strong river begins to carve its way toward Thalury. Here in Vaska when King Uriel and Count Jegudiel have been welcomed home by the people of the city, Michaela is bid by the king to stay and rest for as long as sha would like. But Uriel laments the faithlessness of hyz daughter Keri, which had brought all of this grief down upon them.

MICHAELA: Or so Thaumiel would have you believe, Your Highness. Thaumiel takes pleasure in turning the things we love against us, King Uriel. In time the shame you feel over your daughter will be transformed into anger against Thaumiel. And after that, perhaps your anger will be transformed once more, but into pity. For Thaumiel is well embarked on a path toward his own dissolution and is indeed to be pitied. Great has been his fall heretofore, and greater still the depths he has yet to fall. Thaumiel might succeed in gaining direct control of all of heaven one day, but the one who controls the world, whatever it is, will not be of the elohim or anything like us.

BROGAN: Then what do you council for House Antero?

MICHAELA: House Antero is unfortunately in a most precarious position, for there exists no natural barrier except distance between your city of Jelaket and downfallen Elketz in Magodon. Next year Lucifer will arrive here demanding tribute. Hy will begin to build garrisons throughout your land and Demonstroke will darken your skies to protect them. Behind him will be the combined might of House Gerash and House Larund in a newly-doubled army of Thaumiel. You have no hope of succeeding if you offer resistance. So I council that you do not resist. Pay the tribute to Lucifer.

URIEL: And the honor of the Red Beards will never be retrieved again.

MICHAELA: Yes, King Uriel, that is true. But in return, you will preserve the lives of your people and the lives of House Larund beyond yours. You will find that the Law of Thaumiel has prepared the White Beards to assail any resistance until it breaks, but after it breaks this law flounders, and when presented by no resistance at all, the death culture it fosters slips into the inactivity of confusion, which is why we were not pursued after the war. You see, the one thing Thaumiel cannot teach the people to do is to simply live.

URIEL: Then we will pay tribute. And yet, Lady Michaela, there remain tokens of the shame of House Antero I can no longer bear to have in my keeping.

The King unrolls a rich black cloth on hyz table so Michaela can behold the glittering broken shards of Dragonthorn.

URIEL: Take these far away from my kingdom, I beg you.

MICHAELA: It will be as you say, King Brogan.

After a month in the house of the king, Michaela and har dwindling group ride to Gerazan to winter over. In heaven, winter comes when the pulsing sun spends more time waning than waxing.

Together with Aliwe, Lady Irus, Baron Balthazar, and a brigade of Fallen Angels, Michaela makes a sharp right turn and journeys along the rim of the plateau. For all their journey they are never assailed by Demonstroke as Michaela feared they would be. Joy is nowhere to be seen. Lucifer and Samael have bypassed the city Vaska to the left, never ceasing to march with a portion of their army toward Gerazan and making significantly better time.


070 BELEN

At length, Michaela's group arrives at the city of Belen in the Black Beard lands, where the people rejoice to see the wife of Count Uzziel even as they mourn the death of har husband. The people overwhelmingly support Lady Irus after sha reveals them sha has essentially gone rogue from House Larund and thrown in har lots with Michaela. Accordingly, the city she now rules is cast somewhat in the rebellious role that Salem played in the Gerash lands, and that portended trouble.

MICHAELA: I do not think your city will be subject to invasion, but for a time, I believe you might face raids from the dragon controlled by Joy. Therefore I council that you convert all the dwellings in the city and surrounding lands into houses of stone.

IRUS: Certainly Demonstroke will be able to flatten even these.

MICHAELA: What you say is true, Countess. Nothing can withstand a direct assault from the dragon, not even the fabled Nine Mile Wall was proof against it as we all saw. Yet your cities as they are presently constructed are little more than so much stacked dry timber to be kindled by Demonstroke in a single strike. Why make it easy for Joy?

IRUS: Your counsel is good, Lady Michaela. We have traveled far. I offer a wing of the castle to be a home for yourself and your Fallen Angels to abide here in Belen. Many of our people have assigned their loyalties to Chokhmah rather than Thaumiel, much as House Sala has already done and here you would have much to teach and do. Your reputation as a healer is wellknown.

MICHAELA: I thank you deeply for your offer, Lady Irus, and indeed I will avail myself of it for a little while. But Belen will not be my final home. My daughter has summoned a woman of the B'nei Elohim named Victoria to come to our aid, and I must wait here until she arrives.

Baron Balthazar is bid to stay in Belen as well. This had been hyz home when hyz mother Queen Sariel had exiled hym in punishment for hyz dalliances with women and yen of low station. And the baron's servant ambi Aliwe was fully occupied, but more often than not hez task was simply trying to keep Balthazar's hands away from hez slender body. Hy had never been tempted by ambi-flesh before but now found it riveting.

Thaumiel has a dragon, but Binah has an ambi who can fly. Hez name is Victoria and che is of the B'nei Elohim.

Yeshua, the male human avatar of Binah, got the idea of a flying woman from one time when he departed from his followers in Jerusalem and ascended into the sky. On the summit of Mount Olive he had summoned a worm-tunnel mouth, stepped into it, and had remained entirely visible to the disciples as he physically moved the bubble into the air, riding along with it.

The same mechanism is used to allow Victoria to fly on Earth and also within a city on the Earth's moon, the only difference is that for those occasions when Vic was permitted to exercise hez powers Binah handed full control of the position of the worm-tunnel mouth to hem.

Michaela asked to borrow Victoria after learning of har existence during har long talks with Aliwe on the march from Rumbek. Indeed, it was Aliwe who first explained to Michaela that her daughter would, far in the future, possess the body of a man named Yeshua and freely traverse time. And Aliwe served as the link to convey the historical Michaela's request to the future Yeshua. 071 CANTERWOOD

Victoria comes to heaven through the Sacred Pool in Canterwood, in the land of Haaretz. After she is toweled dry and given new raiment by priestess, che is brought before Yeshua, and drops to one knee.

VIC: Command me, Lord.

For it was written by Paulus that every knee will bow at the name of Yeshua and every tongue confess that Yeshua is Lord. The B'nei Elohim consider themselves to be the greatest servants of Yeshua.

YESHUA: I need you to kill an errant dragon. Or rather, to destroy the machine in the form of a dragon that Thaumiel has ever used as his avatar here in heaven.

Not for an instant does Victoria blanch.

VIC: Such a simple thing, Lord? I would love to kill a dragon for you, of course, but how shall I fly here in heaven?

Yeshua then orders the Ark of the Covenant to be brought out and propped just above the dark wooden decking that surrounds the Sacred Pool.

YESHUA: Victoria, touch one of the cherubim on the cover of the Ark.

For the Ark, as the avatar of Binah in heaven, is also a receptacle for the end point of a one-dimensional fold-space line. Binah uses the physical structure of the Ark as a reference to keep the end-point of the worm-line positioned within. But after Victoria touches the lid of the Ark, that worm-line begins to track on hez body like an invisible piece of string cheese che can never shake loose. Now Victoria is the Ark, for all practical purposes. For the time being, the original Ark is just an inert piece of gold-covered wood, with no connection to Binah at all.

YESHUA: The end of the fold-line you now possess can balloon out like a pod, just big enough to contain you, and of course you can now control where that pod takes you, in the usual way.


VIC: Which is to say, Lord, I can now fly in heaven.

YESHUA: Only within the land of Haaretz, according to the ancient bargain my mother struck with Thaumiel.

VIC: Where shall I go?

YESHUA: Michaela is waiting for you in the castle of Countess Irus, the city of the Black Beards known as Belen, which lies over the Wall of God. There sha will give you the weapon you will use to destroy Demonstroke.

VIC: Thank you, Lord Yeshua, for giving me this opportunity to bring glory to our divine Father, Chokhmah.

YESHUA: Chokhmah doesn't need glory, Victoria, he just needs the dragon dead. But I will say to you that you are entirely welcome for this opportunity to have more fun than any member of the B'nei Elohim has ever enjoyed before. But be warned, the fold-line that permits you to fly in heaven is only permitted to be manifested in Haaretz by reason of an ancient bargain between Chokhmah and Thaumiel. When you advance beyond the rim of the Wall of God you shall have to go on foot.

Victoria bows hez head to indicate che understands.


072 SHARDS

The demigod Victoria, offspring of Edgar, granddaughter of Robyn, exults as she flies in the vast hollow sphere that is heaven. Victoria soars over the River Armak, which flows west from the place where it was joined by the river Arhena. She continues to fly along the River Arhena as the awesome Wall of God begins to loom as a barrier before hem. Victoria looks down and sees trees with leaves of many colors, red and green, yellow and gold, such that the land looks to be perpetually in the full glory of autumn as it was known on Earth. Yet heaven's trees are never bereft of leaves, for there are no seasons as there are on Earth. Instead the leaves fall from their trees individually after a span, and are replaced by another. The source of the River Arhena is a perpetual rain that falls as a mist in the center of the Wall of God. Victoria becomes thoroughly soaked as sha flies through this heavy drizzle. A little more than halfway up the dark Wall of God, at 10,000 feet, the mist becomes a solid white sheet of falling water. This is the greatest cataract known by humans and angels to exist.

At 19,000 feet Victoria flies over the rim and turns horizontal once again, and alights, for the ancient agreement is that Binah can only operate her end of the fold-line within the boundaries of the land that one day, centuries from the current point of view of Michaela, would be named Haaretz. On foot, Victoria follows the chief waterway of the Black Beards, the River Bandar, through high hills to the city of Peshast. Che seeks out the guards of the castle.

VIC: I am Victoria of the B'nei Elohim. I was summoned here by Michaela herself, gentleyeng, so please take me to har.

Victoria is brought to Michaela in the council chamber, and as she had done in Canterwood she kneels in worship, for any one of the B'nei Elohim are much more aware of the awesome difference of the elohim than other humans or angels were. Michaela welcomes Victoria and tells her to rise.

VIC: My Lady, I am called Victoria. Binah told me you have a weapon to kill Demonstroke.

MICHAELA: Aliwe, please do the honors.

Aliwe unwraps the black cloth from around the broken pieces of Dragonthorn, the blade Kari Antero once used to command Demonstroke.

MICHAELA: This is the only heirloom we possess with which we can hope to even the odds against the dragon and it is nothing more than a pile of sharp baubles.

Victoria steps forward to gather up the diamond shards. The one still attached to the hilt could serve as a long dagger, or very short sword.

VIC: I think I can fly behind the dragon and ram this into hyz brain.

BALTHAZAR: The covenant says she who wields Dragonthorn must be a virgin. Otherwise the dragon will not be mortally wounded.

Which was the Baron's way, of course, of saying hy was interested in Victoria and wanted to know more about hen. Hy wasn't quite sure where a B'nei Elohim ambi fit on the spectrum between commoner and noblewoman.

MICHAELA: There is no need for Balthazar or anyone else to pry into your personal life, Victoria. The diamond hilt-shard is only to kill Joy, who now controls the monster. Then you can control it yourself with the hilt. I would only caution you, Victoria, that you will probably know this Joy, for che is also of the B'nei Elohim, even if she has gone over to the camp of Thaumiel.


073 MAP

VICTORIA: Lady Michaela, when I departed there was none among the B'nei Elohim named Joy, but I will not hesitate to kill a Jill if so commanded. A Jill is what che undoubtedly is. But where, actually, is this woman and her dragon located?

Baron Balthazar asks if there is a map of heaven at hand. Servants post it on the wall of the dining hall, where they all gather.

BAYARD: Behold the Wall of God. The earthwoman Joy is said to keep Demonstroke in an aerie high above the Valley of Ten Thousand Creeks that come together to form a river, approximately here. You can see this is a fairly wild region but there are scattered settlements of Brown Beards, and even the houses of a few Gold Beards here and there.

VIC: Hell. Piece of cake. In the morning I can find this aerie myself and dispatch the dragon as I have been commanded by Binah.

MICHAELA: That will not do, Victoria. I have no doubt you can do precisely as you have described, but it's no good if you just kill the dragon in secret. The angels of heaven have to see you do it. That's what this is really about. Others must see that we are resisting Lucifer.

VIC: As you say, Lady Michaela.

BALTHAZAR: Some of you might have surmised that I intend to use the Catwalk to reach this land from here.

VIC: And what, Milord Baron, is this Catwalk of which you speak?

BAYARD: The Catwalk, dear Victoria, is a path carved into the stone face of the wall which drops four air miles in one hundred Catwalk miles. But it is precarious beyond belief. There are places where the Catwalk is no wider than one of your feet is wide.

ALIWE: M'lord Baron, please tell me this Catwalk comes with a safety rail.

BAYARD: The Catwalk comes with no rail. We must take our own precautions. Oh, did I mention that one part of the Catwalk entails a rope traverse?

VIC: Naturally I do not fear this Catwalk. But do have caution, all of you. If anyone falls, I will not be able to stave off your death. I can carry little more than this blade which I intend to use to slay Demonstroke.

MICHAELA: I do not doubt the courage of anyone in this company to continue, but it may be the case that not everyone will be mentally prepared to negotiate it, as the Baron describes it. Let everyone turn it over in their mind as we ride to the rim tomorrow, for it shall be there that whoever freely elects to end their part of our quest must remain behind while the others go on.

An awkward silence falls as everyone contemplates how they would react when they see the Catwalk. Michaela turns to Leliel, now the commanding officer of the Fallen Angels after the death of Lilith and Raphaela.

MICHAELA: Tell the yen what they're facing tomorrow and make the same offer. I am not ordering any of them to accompany me to Haaretz. But if they elect to stay behind here in Belen they must disband as Fallen Angels, and by that I mean they must not even form veteran societies. I will not have Lady Irus troubled by the presence of a regiment of foreign troops in har city.


074 CATWALK

From Belen, Baron Balthazar Sala leads Michaela's dwindling party through a maze of footpaths that winds through the hills that border the Wall of God. With the baron goes hyz commoner servant Aliwe, and from time to time Balthazar stoops to pick up an agate and hands it to the ambi. Victoria notices that hyz fingers linger on Aliwe's hand as che takes the stone from hym, and the expression on the ambi's face is hard to decipher.

For the first time since joining Michaela's group, Victoria looks at Aliwe very carefully and is surprised to see that the ambi's face has features that strongly remind Vic of her own. But there are also things in Aliwe's appearance that remind her of Baron Balthazar. Vic doesn't know what to think about any of those things.

Behind them goes a single company of Fallen Angels, only about two hundred forty yen now. Two of every three have elected to stay behind in Belen and disband, and gloomy Leliel warns Michaela that some of the yen who elected to tag along are certain to fall and die. The law of averages would claim them and there is little anyone could do. Fortunately, every one of the Fallen Angels have accepted the Change and can never truly die.

At length the Baron leads them south on a footpath that gently climbs up a long wooded ridge. It looks like a simple trail, but Baron Balthazar assures them it will become the Catwalk when they walk a little bit further. They all look back down the way they have come. They are now at an altitude where the trees are stunted and sparse, so the views east are unobstructed and spectacular. But at the summit of the ridge the view west is absolutely beyond belief.

Nineteen thousand feet below them lies the land in its entirety, even to the great sea known as Thalury. In one glance they take in the Wall of God as it draws to touch the Sea in a vast crescent. To the left the trail slips below the ridge and becomes an ice-carved wall almost concrete smooth, and the travelers can see how the trail transforms into the infamous Catwalk, a lip only three feet wide where the cliff juts out and falls once more. All of this is far too much for Leliel.

LELIEL: I am deeply sorry. I thought I could be brave, and trust in the eternal life promised by Michaela, but now that I see this catwalk I cannot go on.

ALIWE: I would say that you have made a noble decision, Leliel.

Not a few Fallen Angels come to the same wisdom as Leliel. Michaela's party whittles down to some one hundred fifty souls.

Michaela suggests that they make camp and embark on the Catwalk in the morning when everyone is well fed and fully rested. But rest will not come for many of them. In the morning there is little speech, for the enormity of the task ahead has weighed in everyone's mind all night.

After they reach the Catwalk the law of averages begins to take its toll as Berek had warned. About once every hour or so the silence of the trek is broken by the terrified scream of a yin somewhere far behind Michaela slipping off the Catwalk and falling to har death. Waiting for the next one to fall becomes a constant and living horror that none would ever be able to banish from their memories for as long as they lived.

There comes a moment in the quest when Baron Balthazar makes hyz move to fondle Aliwe, and Aliwe tries to back away from hym. The problem is there just wasn't much backing-up room on the Catwalk, and she, like some of the Fallen Angels behind her, slips off the face of the Wall of God.


075 ALIWE

There is no scream but Victoria sees everything and flies down after Aliwe, not even taking the time to think that Aliwe's weight would be too much and there really is no saving her. Didn't she say as much before they embarked on the quest?

Below the Catwalk the Wall of God is not perfectly vertical. Victoria cannot stop Aliwe's fall but she can push Aliwe out of the way of any stony outcroppings as she approaches them. Aliwe tells Victoria to let her go, and reluctantly, Victoria has to arrest her own descent and let Aliwe slip away to impact the broken talus at the base of the cliff.

Victoria continues down at a smaller pace, trying to estimate where Aliwe's body bounced so she can attempt to bury her. But when she finds her, Aliwe is smiling, none the worse for wear. She is standing in a small woody glen at the base of the Wall of God. They were at least three thousand feet below the Catwalk where the rest of the party waited for any sign of them. Victoria finally guesses that Aliwe is B'nei Elohim like herself, but one she never knew.

ALIWE: I'm the daughter you haven't had yet. Hi Mom.

VIC: It makes sense. I thought you had my cheekbones.

ALIWE: And I have Baron Balthazar's eyes.

Che knows the implication of that statement has sunk in when Vic stops smiling.

ALIWE: Sorry I 'slipped off the Catwalk, but I had to get Bayard to turn his attention to you. Otherwise the ick factor would have been too much and I wouldn't be born in this loop. Besides, as you can see, my own particular talent is indestructibility.

VIC: Like Mike?

ALIWE: Similar. I can heal myself with supernatural speed but I can't heal anyone else. Aren't we superheroes all supposed to have a weakness, like Kryptonite? And even Mike can only fix so much.

VIC: You are here so it means we win, right? Binah and Chokhmah survive?

ALIWE: We win, they live, Thaumiel dies. This quest is still important. Thaumiel has this weird passive-aggressive thing going on with his dragon where he can assail any city or army in heaven and its all Keri Bellon's fault for getting laid and breaking the Dragonthorn. After you kill the dragon, which you will, but not necessarily on this loop, he reaches a deal with Chokhmah where no more flying avatars can be introduced into heaven again.

VIC: So why are you back here?

ALIWE: Yeshua wanted me to improve the outcome for Michaela's group. Its already paid off to an extent. On the original loop Kari killed Kirodiel with Dragonthorn. With no need to escape with her lord still living, Joy simply had the dragon burn down everyone at the Council, which meant of course that I was the only survivor.

VIC: So who is that Joy woman? I've never seen her up close.

ALIWE: Joy is really your aunt Ariel, killed in the Moon War and living out her afterlife here. She's not doing very much to impress Yeshua, if you ask me.


076 TIMELINES

VIC: Ariel? How did she turn? Was it Jill?

ALIWE: Yes. Joy has been possessed by Jill, and even before that Jill went completely over to Thaumiel, so don't hesitate to kill the dragon even if it means Joy dies too, which she will, and when she does she's basically screwed because Yeshua wont give her a third chance.

VIC: As long as I don't fuck Bayard before it happens. Rules you know.

ALIWE: That whole virginity thing was part of Thaumiel's scam all along. Its all lies. You could fly straight out of a week-long orgy and still kill Demonstroke with the hilt of that blade.

VIC: One thing still bothers me. You said on your loop Joy killed everyone at the Council except you. So if she killed your father, where the hell do you come from?

ALIWE: I should have said she killed everyone who came to the council chamber when the Queen summoned us. Dad was still in his own chamber having sex with Luzea. I don't blame him for that, actually. Luzea ain't one of the b'nei elohim but she sure has a natural born talent! On your timeline I interrupted them because Luzea is all mine, and then Dad went back to see Gramma Aurra. All this was before you got here, but you've heard the accounts of this loop so you already know I saved Lucifer's life by intercepting the diamond blade with a metal tray. On my timeline Dad was the only surviving noble on the planet, outside of the Middle Land. He became something like a renegade while House Gerash started to take over the world.

VIC: So how did I meet him on your timeline?

ALIWE: Pretty much the same way you did this time around, Mom, except the quest was just you and him. You took the Catwalk, went to Menkant, the dragon shows up, and you fought Joy pretty much the same way you will again. As for how you fell in love with Dad I don't really know, and do you know what? I don't even want to know!

VIC: I find it impossible to believe that you will result from our union again, when there must be a trillion factors that will be different this time. The timing is crucial. This sperm and not that sperm, fifty you're a boy instead of a girl and very few of the events that formed your memories on your timeline will be present again in this timeline.

ALIWE: You are absolutely right, Momma, but even if you and Dad have nothing but boys that will have nothing to do with me, because you did have me back on my timeline. But all I want to do right now is get back to the talented Luzea. Now this next part is going to seem strange to you, because I know you but you don't know me, but here goes.

Aliwe pulls Victoria close for a kiss and a hug.

VIC: I love you, baby. Will we meet again when it's all over?

ALIWE: I hope so Mom, but this is a new loop. It rhymes, but its not the same.

Then Aliwe leaves to pick her way down the river, a trip that would kill a less hardy person. On the coast she will try to find someone willing to take her to Saharad. Victoria soars directly into the sky along the face of the wall to return to the Catwalk. Everyone sits around looking sad, except for Balthazar, who looks guilty. Victoria tells them only that Aliwe is in a better place. Considering the nature of the Catwalk, that is absolutely true. Besides, it would keep the Baron from trying to hit on her at least until they got down off the face of the Wall of God.

077 TRAVERSE

A day later Michaela's party has nearly completed the descent of the Wall of God on the Catwalk. Only about a thousand feet of vertical distance remain. But no one lets their guard down just yet. That thousand feet is still perfectly fatal. On that final afternoon they arrive at a section of the Catwalk that Balthazar calls "problematic". It has been damaged somehow, perhaps in a quake, and for nearly a mile it was no wider than a toehold. But there are steel pitons already pounded into the rock ready for them to snap brass carabiners and sling ropes. By some quirk of fate or baronic contrivance Victoria is next in line after the Baron.

BALTHAZAR: Michaela calls you one of the B'nei Elohim, yet I know almost nothing about them. Can you tell me more, or is it some sort of divine secret?

VICTORIA: There are some things about us we may never reveal, but what I can tell you I will. The most important thing is that we are a family, one big unruly but mostly loving family with the usual family squabbles.

BAYARD: Then are you noble born?

VICTORIA: Not in the way you are royalty, Baron, as the son of Queen Sariel. In a real sense we would be considered nothing more than common folk here.

Victoria does not know that was precisely what she needed to say to raise Balthazar's interest level in her to eleven. Still, the Baron wants to test that.

BALTHAZAR: And yet you can fly. Some say you are demigods, which would make you far greater than royalty.

VICTORIA: I can fly, that is true, but it's not on account of something innate to me, to my body. For all practical purposes, its nothing more than a simple trick that relies on Binah's ability to move wormhole endpoints around.

Applause breaks out on the line ahead of them on the Catwalk. Lady Michaela successfully traversed the broken portion to safety on the other side.

BALTHAZAR: And our foe, this woman Joy, is she also B'nei Elohim?

VICTORIA: She is one of us, and that is what I alluded to when I mentioned family squabbles. Some of us have removed themselves to the camp of the enemy.

BALTHAZAR: And the way she controls the dragon, is that another magic trick?

VICTORIA: More trick than magic. Neither we nor the elohim that we serve hold the supernatural realm to be real. So call it a holy deception.

BALTHAZAR: That makes perfect sense to me. If something does not present to our senses, it is indistinguishable from that which is not real. The instant we sense the supernatural, it becomes merely natural. So nothing real can be supernatural.

After everyone survives the rope traverse the Catwalk becomes much wider and safer, but their journey is slowed by the presence of many blown-down trees which have been knocked over recently in a storm and lie directly across the trail. Sometimes the travelers roll over them, but other times they must crawl under them, which is exhausting work, and they could not avoid getting their clothing soiled.


078 FOREST

The fearsome cliff under the Catwalk comes to an end, and forms a normal slope. The company enters a small stand of fat virgin trees that drape the slope down to the bottom, and here the character of the journey changes dramatically. Victoria thinks it to be a magic place that has escaped the ax in the first, second, and third waves of cutting from Wazol, as though by an oversight.

After that they reach a large outcropping of stone that Balthazar calls Picture Buttress. It offers a marvelous view to a forest glade below. Victoria thinks it is beautiful but still dangerous. The trail actually wraps around the parapet here, and a thoughtful person, probably Balthazar on his journey long ago, has provided a rope for each of them to hold on to.

Then they pass a large duckpond so serene that it reflects the sky and the branches of the trees above the water like a mirror. The trail skirts the edge of this pond with a small but calm diversion before resuming its course.

BALTHAZAR: It's going to be a little rough going here.

He starts plowing through prickly foliage and bidding Victoria to trust him. The route is flagged with orange and black ribbons.

BALTHAZAR: Not many angels know about this trail. Those of us who do know of it use it and we maintain it but we don't fully connect it anywhere.

And finally the Catwalk ends ignomiously in some poor old Black Beard's backyard in the village of Wazol. Hy is tending his garden and shrug as one hundred forty people tramped through his property and go out the side gate to the front of his house to reach a street.

BALTHAZAR: Where do we go next?

MICHAELA: Victoria knows.

Michaela's smile reveals her awareness that Vic has spoken to a living Aliwe.

VIC: Menkant. Then Joy and her dragon will come to us.

The village of Wazol, which is snuggled up against the Wall of God, is extraordinarily beautiful during the night. Many angels living there call their settlement the Queen of Lights. The Wazolites know Yeshua well, and Yeshua has told them to take Michaela's every vague whim to be their most succinct command. Michaela's whim at this time is a supply of horses.

Victoria could have flown by herself to the town of Menkant in a relatively short time, but Michaela wants to maximize the element of surprise, so sha insists everyone go together by land. Victoria has never ridden a horse before, so there is a brief but necessary period of familiarization before they can set out. Baron Balthazar finds it within himself to volunteer to hoist Victoria on the animal and in other ways make her ready. One hundred twenty folks begin the journey, but only one hundred nineteen animals are embarked, because Balthazar, who seems to be very concerned about Victoria's inexperience with handling horses, wants them to ride pretty much glued together.

They ride north down the upper reaches of the Sabik, taking most of the day to cover some forty miles, with many stops to rest the horses and rub their own sore asses. Michaela does not rush them at all. The dense forest begins to thin out, and great vistas can be glimpsed through them at last. Michaela calls a halt to that day's riding.


079 JEGUDIEL

Immediately after the death of Lilith and the destruction of the avatar of Chokhmah on the battle plain west of the Nine Mile Wall, High Lord Patriarch Lucifer Gerash divides hyz forces in twain. Half of the Army of Thaumiel marches over the narrow and treacherous mountain road to Gerazan, leaving the other half of hyz soldiery to complete the occupation of the lands of House Larund and to garrison the Magodon peninsula. Only the city of Belen is left unmolested.

And it comes to pass that even as Lady Michaela is just arriving at the city of Jelaket where the Magodon plateau looks down upon Vaska in its beautiful vale, Lucifer and Samael invade the lands of House Bellon, and assail Gerazan with an exceedingly overwhelming force. But Oriel and Jegudiel have arrived at their home city with enough time to rally the people to give a spirited defense. Count Jegudiel insists on leading from the front of battle, much to the consternation of Oriel, who pleads for har husband to seek better protection.

JEGUDIEL: A cowardly general thinks only of his personal survival, Oriel. Thus hy endangers hymself and hyz entire army, and indeed hy puts the existence of hyz entire state in jeopardy. But when I advance on the battlefield I have already reconciled myself with death. I go into every battle, no matter how great or small, as though I were certainly doomed to die. And because the thought of dying has already been accepted in my mind, this frees me to focus only on fighting well. Thus I retain my life. Keeping my life, I gain the victory. Gaining victory, I preserve the city and save the life of the people.

In the battle the people of the city give a good account of themselves, and the inspiration of Jegudiel is vital, yet Lucifer, despite hyz numerical losses, simply continues to feed more troops into the battle until the Brown Beards inevitably begin to yield. They fall back to the city and close the gates, resigned for a long siege, but none is forthcoming. A token force is left to threaten the city and keep the army of Bellon tied down there to protect it, but the main Gerash force continues on past Gerazan toward the sea.

Realizing this, Count Jegudiel and Oriel escape Gerazan through tunnels and lead a small but fast company on mountain tracks not suitable for a large army to take. They reach the sea port of Galcha in advance of Lucifer's forces. Duke Evandr rallies the forces stationed at Galcha on the narrow coastal plain nigh to Thalury, interposing between the town and Lucifer's coming onslaught.

ORIEL: Jegudiel, why have you camped your army on this plain, letting Lucifer attack from the high ground?

JEGUDIEL: Because in this battle we are the guest, and Lucifer is the host. Therefore I yield the hill of honor to hym and accept this lower station.

Oriel looks up at the interior of their hollow world and spies Lucifer's city of Eden nestled in the "sky", and the irony is not lost on her that sha could not see his army, so close.

ORIEL: But Lucifer can see our entire force, husband, while we cannot know what strength he has hidden over the ridge!

JEGUDIEL: Ah, but Oriel, that would only be important if we were the attacker. In that case we would tire ourselves fighting uphill and possibly be surprised by hidden forces waiting to ambush our yeng. Instead, my army is deployed like water, dwelling in the low places considered to be of negligible military value.


080 GALCHA

ORIEL: Why is that an advantage, husband?

JEGUDIEL: Is not water itself vital if people are to live? Do not people seek it out in wells and rivers and even swamps? By our mere continued presence on this plain Lucifer will begin to covet this plain.

ORIEL: But having the high ground, when Lucifer attacks, we will not know from which direction hy will come!

JEGUDIEL: Yes, Oriel, but hyz forces are on a line along the ridge while down here we have the interior lines of communication. Anywhere hy attacks I can order reinforcements within minutes. And anywhere I counterattack hy will be weak, while hyz own signals will be slow to propagate down the line. And if he makes for Galcha I can hit hyz flank. Do you see how we assure ourselves of victory merely by humbling ourselves and keeping to the lowland?

And Jegudiel does gain the tactical victory in the battle of Galcha that day, yet Lucifer has many more yeng to spend. By throwing the lives of his yeng away with no absolutely no remorse Lucifer is able to grind out a strategic victory by forcing Jegudiel and Oriel to withdraw within the walls Galcha, which immediately comes under siege. Oriel and Jegudiel stand on the ramparts of the city walls to survey the host of Lucifer, and Oriel comes close to despair.

ORIEL: Why do yeng love combat so much?

JEGUDIEL: As long as a child is growing hy is filling out his potential, Countess Oriel. As long as hy has not reached hyz limits, hy remains a child. Hyz limits remain unknown unless they are met and even exceeded somewhat. Combat is the crisis by which yeng come to know their limits and obtain maturity.

ORIEL: For many yin this maturity is attained in a very natural way. Motherhood. Maturity means acknowledging your limits and returning to your root. It is a yin's nature to make harself still and embrace har center. So even without the experience of motherhood, yin are naturally mature.

JEGUDIEL: But young yeng are always reaching out, always moving, always extending, until they know their breaking point. And while they are on this personal quest to find their limits, they can be enlisted in stupid vainglorious campaigns to defend the honor of warlords and kings and patriarchs who themselves never attained adulthood. And many of these young yeng, of course, needlessly die.

ORIEL: That must be what makes a female warrior like Lilith different from a male warrior. Sha is primarily interested in the survival of the people sha protects.

Many of the ships possessed by House Bellon are tied up in Galcha on a long causeway that juts into Thalury from the heart of the city. Count Jegudiel bids Oriel to escape aboard one of these ships with many yen and children refugees while the Count and the yeng of the city fight to delay Lucifer. Jegudiel does not think yet to burn the ships, for many people yet remain in Galcha, and if the siege becomes too strait, the Count and hyz yeng, too, would take to sea.

After traversing Thalury, Oriel's ship enters the mouth of the Loenna, greatest of all rivers in heaven, which is born in the ice and meanders through the rich lands of House Sala before entering Brown Beard territory at a gap in the hills of the terminal moraine and rolling nigh to the city of Peshast. Though Count Phanuel of Peshast has fallen, Queen Sariel and har Consort Duke Gabriel have come to the aid of the city with many forces, and it is in Peshast that they greet Countess Oriel after her sea crossing. -


Queen Aurra joins her husband on the field. AURRA Look at that, Evandr! Ten times ten thousand arrayed against us! Did you ever see such a host? EVANDR A large force does not assure the enemy a victory, Aurra. What are the stakes? Lucifer is fighting to add yet another tax-paying province to hyz empire. But our people can barely make ends meet as it is. Paying the Gerash tribute would kill them. They are fighting to survive. AURRA But leading them are the most famous generals and captains on Barbelo! EVANDR And how did they get so famous, Aurra? By their reckless aggression. If I present our shock troops to them as bait they will rush out to engage them, thinking how this will advance their reputation. AURRA But behind them are the best fed and best trained troops in the world! EVANDR But they aren't fighting for their wives or cities or farms in the Middle Land, they are fighting to prop up a bankrupt culture and a fragile economy of arms trading. When they see the carnage wrought by our extraordinary force, they will hesitate. And in that moment we will strike with our main force. The Sala army will prevail because it is humble. Our soldiers do not think of self-aggrandizement or the aggrandizement of their leader. Once more Evandr's words ring true, and the captain of Oriel's forces bring the White Beard patriarch into captivity, but Hovan the son of Lucifer goes into the camp of Oriel with a squad of Eyes of Thaumiel and releases his father. And Lucifer comes once again after Oriel with hyz dwindling army. Their forces clash in the ravine of Anixi, and Oriel is driven down the brook to the plains of Nolesh. Then Countess Oriel, aided by the timely arrival reinforcements commanded by Evandr turns and drives the Gerashi army to the brink of the gorge of Armak.


But for the first time since the invasion the strange Earthwoman Joy comes to the aid of the Gerash forces with dragon fire. And in this battle the chief lieutenant of Lucifer slays Evandr, but in hyz death throes Evandr sorely wounds this lieutenant in his thigh. Following the death of Evandr, Queen Aurra, in har grief, sends a curse upon the land such that when any of the soldiers of the White Beards set objects down at night, in the morning they are found to have disappeared. Lord Lucifer says the missing goods are not a sign of the power of Chokhmah, but indicate only thieves, and on that point hy is correct. The thieves are a number b'nei elohim tunneling unseen under the ground. Everyone starts keeping their worldly goods and weapons on their own person, but the invaders are steadily impoverished even as they loot the land of the Gold Beards. These events transpire while Lady Michaela and har diminishing party are crossing the ice bridge to the city of Belen in the land of the Black Beards. ORIEL Queen Aurra, how can we, numbering only in our thousands, hope to prevail against our enemies numbering in their tens of thousands? AURRA A light commando force wreaking havoc behind enemy lines will tie down a much greater force hunting for it. A small army that is still and rested with have the better of a large army that is worn out marching double-time to meet it. ORIEL-


But there must be a limit to how small a unit can be before it is ineffective no matter how intelligently it is employed. AURRA (with a nod) Too light and we invite aggression. Too heavy, and our army becomes unwieldy. The excellent commander coordinates the small with the great, the strong with the weak, the eager with the reticent, balancing opposites to obtain the perfect middle way. And nothing would have pleased Queen Aurra more than to see har words of encouragement to the Countess hold true, and House Sala waylay the forces of Lucifer in vengeance for har fallen mate, yet sha can also see there are not enough b'nei elohim to aid har. The very tinders har army cuts to form bulwarks against House Gerash are just so much kindling for the dragon. Worst of all the queen judges that Lucifer has assailed har land at a horribly inopportune time when har subjects are fleeing the cities at har earlier command to spread themselves across the entirety of the lands held by House Sala, as was suggested by Lady Michaela. The enemy knows everything har people possesses they have taken with them on the road, and all these possessions are ripe for Lucifer's forces to plunder. Yet Queen Aurra also knows that at a word from har the whole House of Sala would flock into har army; yea, even the yen, the infirm, and the children. Sha foresees the war would grow so bloody that the whole face of the land would be covered with dead bodies, but no one would even take the time to bury them because they would be too busy marching to make more dead bodies, and the land would exceedingly stink. This, sha resolves, would not be. So Queen Aurra rides across the plains of Nolesh and meet Lord Lucifer for a parley on the hill of Ronmok, and there the queen negotiates the surrender of har forces for the sake of the lives of har people. And as part of the deal the queen turns over to the forces of House Gerash every seaworthy vessel of the Gold Beards on the river Loenna. Lord Lucifer takes the queen captive after the parley, putting har in a wooden cage identical to the one which had once held Michaela. Lord Lucifer journeys with all hyz remaining forces down the winding river Loenna to the great sea known as Thalury. This voyage takes place even while Michaela is lodging in the castle of the Larund king in the city of Peshast. Yet Queen Aurra, who still deeply mourns the death of har mate, and finds the indignity of har captivity almost too much to bear, counts House Sala fortunate, since most of the people will now complete their emigration from the cities unmolested by the army of the White Beards. And sha has appointed Countess Oriel to guide them to the new faith communities in har stead.


Two divisions of the Army of Mastema are left in the West Lands to carry out of the occupation of House Bellon. During the invasion of the East Lands, Lord Lucifer sustains casualties at the hands of House Sala equivalent to a full division. So only a single division, reorganized from the survivors of the original two, remain available for action. These yeng are put on every boat and ship that can be commandeered from the Gold Beards and they drift down the river Loenna to the great sea named Thalury. Lucifer hymself embarks on the royal barge and takes the lead position of the expedition, with Queen Aurra confined to a cubical wooden cage on the main deck in somewhat less comfort than sha has come to expect. Yet Lucifer is not interested in humiliating the queen beyond har basic captivity, and hy does not hold har in a state of undress as hy had once forced Michaela to do. After the expedition reaches the mouth of the river the prevailing winds suffice to take them halfway across Thalury, but over the whole land at the foot of the Wall of God is a stagnant air mass created as the winds pile up against the rock barrier, and there the fleet is becalmed. So oars are broken out and distributed to the yeng, and the army begins to row day and night. When they grow fatigued this is remedied by whips. At length the Gerash expedition rows past the Isle of Avior and Murzi Bog to enter the wide mouth of the river Sabik, and nephilim throng the bank to watch the parade of ships toil upstream. Then, after passing the place where the river Nanki enters from the south, they row through Canterwood, -


and Yeshua, who has been expecting them, even waves from the beach together with many of hez followers as the White Beard fleet continues on.

TC1M-DEMONSTROKE In the morning when Michaela's party resume the ride the trail turns to the east away from the river a small distance and ascends a gently rising slope of grasslands where the trees disappear altogether. In the distance ahead, as the sun climbs toward the zenith, the travelers see large herds of cattle grazing, and beyond them, as a short dark line that slowly grows to encompass them, is the town of Menkant itself, the largest settlement in the Sala colony at the foot of the Wall of God. When Michaela arrives in Menkant with Baron Bayard, Victoria, and over a hundred Fallen Angels, room is quickly found for all of them. Michaela, Victoria, Bayard, and Ambe Omphal, the senior officer of the surviving Fallen Angels, are invited to stay in the house of the ruling Gold Beard chieftain, Yupin Putar, who dwells nigh to the bank of the river. Thus Michaela and har inner group have a front row seat when the lead ship of the White Beard expeditionary force rows smoothly into position and ties up nigh to the house of Putar. Queen Aurra is in her cage on deck as Lucifer intends, and as Lucifer also intends, this is what har son focuses upon to the exclusion of all else.


LUCIFER (bellowing from the rail of the ship) Baron Bayard Sala! Although it pains me to place your mother in such straits as you now behold, I find there is no avoiding it, for I wish to make a simple trade, the common criminal called Michaela for Queen Aurra Sala. What say you, Gold Beard Baron? The baron draws his blade and bellows in reply. BAYARD Such a cowardly proposal from one who styles hymself the Patriarch of the oldest family on Barbelo! This yen for that one, as though bartering in serving wenches! I say, rather, that both yen shall go captive, or both shall go free, and that the one yang of us who remains alive, be it yourself, Lord Lucifer, or me, shall be the one to give the order! Lucifer draws hyz own blade. LUCIFER (to his own yeng) Let the Baron step aboard! By making this order both hy and all hyz men are held to the terms outlined by the Baron. By the same token, the freedom of Michaela is now conditioned on Bayard prevailing in the personal combat to immediately follow. A plank of wood is thrown to bridge the gap between ship and land. The Baron fearlessly crosses over the rail and stands on the deck of the royal barge in full view of hyz mother and Lady Michaela and Ambe Omphal and (most important in the mind of Bayard) Victoria. The Baron salutes the Gerash lord with a sharp military slash vertically downward, and Lucifer returns hyz salute. Then they start in with fairly standard stuff, just simple thrust and parry from safe distances. Suddenly, without a word, Lucifer literally pounces upon hyz challenger, with hyz blade slicing down with bewildering speed. But Bayard has studied well in hyz many practice bouts and especially upon the field of battle. Hy doesn't fall for this simple trick for an single instant. Hy fends off Lucifer's first attack with ease. So the patriarch attacks again. At each one of hyz parries Bayard feels hy is striking stone. There is simply no give. Hy backs out of range and they begin the usual circling of each other, testing with probing thrusts. Lucifer pauses and a sudden oxygen debt forces hym to draw hyz breath in a sharp gasp. Bayard makes hyz own first attack then, a clumsy but forceful pounding of blade-on-blade that starts to wear the White Beard patriarch down. The auxiliary noises of their fighting are the only sounds to be heard. A resonant back-slide of steel-on-steel and CLASH! Nick, slide, and CLASH! The Baron is moving Lucifer back now but the Gerash lord's defenses prove more and more unyielding as Bayard sweeps hym closer to the far rail of the ship. When hyz back touches the rail Lord Lucifer unexpectedly counter-attacks with frightening violence. Bayard is a few moments gaining hyz original -


stance at the cost of a few feet of ground. Bayard tries to prevent Lucifer from circling around hyz to force hyz own back to the rail. During the struggle the two combatants speak no word one to the other. Both yeng would have found such a thing far too effete. Bayard presses an attack. Lord Lucifer counters with a deft flip of hyz sword down along the back of hyz arm. It becomes a shield allowing hyz arm to bear the brunt of the Baron's blows. Lucifer is well beneath Bayard's high two-handed thrusts and the Baron realizes, far too late, that hy is dangerously vulnerable to a bloody touch from the Gerash patriarch in the form of an elbow jab with hyz blade's tip. First blood to Lucifer then, who savagely pierces the spleen of Bayard. The Baron sinks to the deck with the shock of hyz wound. Victoria sees this and flies the short distance over the rail to stand between Lord Lucifer and his prey, holding the shard of Dragonthorn that is little more than a knife, and would probably shatter against the steel of Lucifer's blade anyway. Joy in turn sees that and moves slowly into view riding Demonstroke, who hovers on great flaps of his wings. At every instant the hellish mouth of the beast is pointed directly at the cage of Queen Aurra. `=�


The Baron Bayard is wounded and lies at Lord Lucifer's feet, but hy is not unaware that sweet Victoria stands between hym and certain death on the keen edge of Gerash steel. And hy thought her to be insanely reckless, for she bore only the broken hilt-shard of the diamond blade known as Dragonthorn, and it would shatter once again should she attempt to block a single blow from the White Beard patriarch's blade. But both Victoria and Lucifer, and everyone else for that matter, are gazing skyward at Joy, who has appeared in the sky above the queen's barge riding on the shoulders of Demonstroke. Joy has caused the dragon's deadly mouth to aim directly at Queen Aurra, who is helpless, confined inside a wooden cage on the ship's main deck. Victoria rushes into the sky bearing the remnant of Dragonthorn and sets her flight path to lead directly at Joy. For the first time Joy becomes aware that her niece has come to Barbelo to stop her. B'nei eloah on b'nei eloah violence, but that is not unprecedented. As Ariel, after all, Joy's first death in the skies over Luna had come as the result of a Brushfire missile loosed by some other member of the b'nei elohim. Perhaps it had even been Victoria did the deed. Joy does not for a moment deceive herself that Yeshua will give her yet a third chance. To protect herself, Joy causes the mouth of the beast to drift away the queen and point instead at Victoria. A burst of white fire from the belly of the orange sun over Barbelo roars out, and Victoria alters her course directly upward to evade it. Like an arrow that has missed, the flame strikes the house of the king of Menkant and sets part of it ablaze. Then Joy causes the dragon to rise into the sky and follow her niece. When his flight path matches that of Victoria's, he bends his snake-like head and neck under his belly and looses a continuous blast of fire, and Joy is thrown back against his collarbone as the acceleration mounts like a rocket. By a supreme effort of will Baron Bayard stands again and draws hyz blade, but hy is an honorable yang, and hy will not strike at his foe in hyz distracted fascination at the drama unrolling far above the queen's barge. BAYARD Killing you wouldn't be murder. Lucifer turns hyz gaze from the sky to the baron once more. BAYARD It would be atonement for allowing a monster such as yourself to exist among us for too long. The two yeng salute together once again in mock ceremony and the dance begins anew. They circle, waiting for an opening. Bayard lunges forward suddenly in a ferocious attack and forces hyz opponent to the defensive momentarily. Lucifer's counterattack focuses the baron's whole attention on the patriarch's blade flashing forward in a blur. Forced to give ground, the baron keeps speaking to attempt a distraction. BAYARD Frankly, I'm quite astonished that you've done so well. More than once Lady Michaela regaled us with tales of how you held har captive much like you're holding my mother, because you were afraid of what another yin, Princess Khondiel, might do. Lucifer rewards hym with a prickly scratch from shoulder to left breast. Bayard risks a glance down at the blood beading up there and in that moment Lucifer is in the air leaping high and aiming a foot blow at the baron's head. Almost instinctively Bayard puts both hands together as a single fist and sideswipes the offending boot. Lord Lucifer sprawls badly and lands on hyz back. Both yeng recover their stance but they have a renewed respect for each other. Victoria can only fly so high. She isn't Hunky, after all, she can't make her own oxygen for her body to use. So she stops accelerating and tops out at about four miles high, bending back toward Menkant in a broad arc. Joy sees this, of course. Demonstroke stops his burn and brings his head forward to bear on Victoria again. Short bolts of fire race out like tracers from World War II fighter airplanes over Midway.-



Victoria dodges randomly as she falls to avoid being struck by the fire. When she has descended far enough to see individuals on the ships commandeered by Lucifer she deliberately flies toward them to draw the dragon's fire, allowing Joy herself to set four of the soldiers ablaze. Then she flies through an open hatch on the deck of a fifth vessel which had been a cargo vessel, but now carries only troops. The hatch clearly isn't big enough for Demonstroke. But Victoria isn't to escape that easily. Joy commands the beast to burn his way through and make the hatch bigger. Then Victoria and Joy are briefly together inside the large hold of the ship as screaming men are crushed under the feet of the thrashing dragon. VIC This is the part of the movie where you tell me why you did it, Aunt Ariel. Joy lets Demonstroke open his mouth and answer for her. Lucifer and Bayard face each other anew, focusing on probing each other's defenses. Gaging the changes, at the same time seeking not to be changed. Bayard, slowed by hyz wound, fights with calculated risks but never rash ones. Lucifer is rash, and attacks with supernatural speed. The blades thrust just here, or there. Bait or blow? The combinations are infinite. It becomes a game of looking for the opponent's hesitancies through a net of deception and decision. Bayard tries to ignore the pain of hyz wound, but the whole point of pain is that you cannot ignore it. Pain is a priority organizer. Yet one thought keeps hym going. Victoria has become hyz highest priority. Bayard longs to see how she was doing, but hy dares not tear hyz eyes away from the fight for an instant. LUCIFER You lousy prick! Bayard continues the high tension ballet. However, when Lucifer describes the things hy will do to Bayard's mother the queen when hy was finished here Bayard does an unexpected thing Hy throws hyz blade away. Astonished, Lucifer tracks the errant blade with hyz eyes as hyz training requires. In that split second Bayard blasts the White Beard lord with a kick squarely and solidly in the face. Then they are rolling and thrashing on the ground. Faces are punched. Fingernails and teeth go for eyes and other soft spots. Lucifer pulls the classic move of aggravating Bayard's wound, which makes the baron howl in agony. Briefly, just briefly, stopping the pain becomes a higher priority to Bayard than Victoria is. And knowing that makes hym fly into a rage. Hy literally sees red, and isn't entirely clear exactly what happens next. Hy ends up kicking Lucifer's head again and again until Lucifer's son Hovan and crosses the deck to restrain him. HOVAN Baron, stop. Please. You got hym. Young Hovan, leaning over hyz father, confirms hy is dead. Yet there is no anger. It has been an honorable death match, and the Baron has prevailed. But Hovan is fully confident the expedition would yet attain victory. The dragon Demonstroke remains the most powerful weapon of House Gerash. The dragon sets half of the ship's hold ablaze, condemning a hundred soldiers of House Gerash to burn alive, yet Victoria escapes by rising through a second open hatch. Joy commands the dragon to exit the ship through the same hole he has just made. Yet Demonstroke is less agile than Victoria, and even as the dragon's neck and Joy clears the burning hulk, Victoria seats herself neatly behind her aunt, with the point of Dragonthorn resting on Joy's back next to a kidney. VIC If you choose to commit suicide, dear aunt Ariel, you are just seconds away from True Death. Or you can decide to live, and we can talk about whatever it is that you think is your problem. So what will it be? I recommend you live, because if you die it's really going to smart. For an answer, Joy tries to slam her right elbow back into Victoria's face.

-


VIC Then I guess my daughter is right, and you really are Jill. So with a shrug she presses the jagged tip of Dragonthorn smoothly into Joy's back and deep into that kidney. Disabling pain. Joy's scream of agony is inhuman. The only mercy she receives is her instantaneous death after she falls five hundred feet to thud like a sack of wet garbage on a cobblestone city street. And Demonstroke, free at last of Joy's overweening control of his movements, doesn't much like having Victoria crawl up his neck to get within striking distance of his head. He thrashes as violently as he can to shake her off, but she holds on for dear life. Dragon fire doesn't help him, he can't very well aim his mouth at his own head. And his arms are too short to swat her off. When Victoria has shimmied high enough to reach, she buries the fragment of the diamond blade in the dragon's brain. Demonstroke falls to the surface then, and if his brain had been working any better he would have thought to give Victoria a parting spray of fire on his way down, out of spite. Because that was the sort of dragon he was. When the dragon Demonstroke falls from the sky and in his death throes belly-flops upon the river Sabik, and the last embers of hope for House Gerash have been thoroughly extinguished, Baron Bayard turns to Hovan the son of Lucifer. BAYARD Now carry out the terms of the death combat and release my mother Queen Aurra from har captivity, and get your ships hence, for neither shall you bring Lady Michaela into a cage once more. Then Hovan nods hyz head once, and bows, and orders hyz yeng to cut the ropes that secure Queen Aurra in har confinement. With as much dignity as sha can retrieve, sha emerges from the cage and moves to within a few paces of har son, but har gratitude and pride in Bayard cannot be contained, and hy sees that. Then from the air Victoria alights on the gopherwood deck of the queen's barge and in the same movement is swept into the arms of Baron Bayard Sala. Both are overjoyed that the other has prevailed against their respective foes. Gently, gently, the baron embraces Victoria, and though hy winces with the pain of hyz wound as she squeezes hym back, the fact that she did squeeze hym back was a very encouraging sign to hym. BAYARD Victoria, is it possible for a mere nephil to fall in love with one of the b'nei elohim? VIC I see no reason why not. As I've told you before, we b'nei elohim are mere human beings or nephilim ourselves, with a few fancy tricks up our sleeves grounded in what you call alchemy and natural philosophy. BAYARD I am very relieved to be reminded of that. Thank you! For now I can say with utmost confidence that I have fallen irretrievably in love with the b'nei eloah named Victoria. VIC Then there must remain only one more thing for you to say, Bayard, so let me hear it. Come on, you're among friends. Lay it out there. BAYARD Victoria, will you consent to become my wife? VIC The thing seems to be written in the living stars. But let me ask a question of you, Bayard, and of your mother, and when I have your answers, then you will have mine. BAYARD Proceed with your questions, Victoria, but beware, I cannot foresee any that would deter me from what my heart has already resolved to do. Victoria catches the eye of the Queen.


VIC Is it safe to say, Your Highness, that with the whole House of Sala now -


moving at your command from their cities to many thousands of scattered faith assemblies, that there is no longer, in a real sense, any kingdom for you to rule, or for Baron Bayard to inherit? AURRA Alas, Victoria, that is true, and were you to marry my son and had your heart set on the title of Baroness, I'm afraid it would be little more than a figment, just an empty title. Our society is being profoundly transformed even as we speak. The irony of the situation is not lost on me, of course. For most of hyz life I have sharply rebuked my son for hyz taste in commoner women. I was trying to guide hym to wed one of the Highborn, and now at the very end I find that the very word Highborn is a sound without meaning. VIC Thank you, Queen Aurra. And for my part let me say that my ability to fly, which is the biggest thing that sets me apart from humanity as one of the b'nei elohim, is not a power that can be sustained outside of the land of Haaretz, save it be on Earth. Soon I must lay this power down again, and if I stay in the west of this land I will be little more than a commoner woman, something that might interest the Baron of course, but I had thought you might have an intractable objection to that. AURRA Victoria, you are far too modest! You have killed the dragon called Demonstroke and brought an end to the world war on Barbelo. Such a deed, which will be memorialized in songs for ages to come, makes you entirely uncommon. VIC Thank you once again, Your Highness Queen Aurra. And so I am led to ask my question of the yang who has asked me to become hyz wife. Bayard, would you be willing to quit this world forever, and dwell with me on Earth? BAYARD Victoria I would eagerly follow you right out of this world if you consent to marry me. VIC I do consent to marry you Bayard! But I warn that it will be absolutely bewildering to you at first, and you will find yourself to be what we frequently call a 'fish out of water'. For we do not merely live on the surface of the Earth, but in the skies above and in the ground below. BAYARD I am full willing, Victoria, if the Queen will give har blessing. And hy turns to face hyz mother, who at first thinks to roll har eyes, but thinks better of it and nods har head yes. Then the Baron, filled with happiness beyond hyz capacity to bear, fall to the deck of the queen's barge in a dead faint from hyz wounds. MICHAELA I have done everything I can. Michaela has tended to Bayard and restored hym to consciousness. MICHAELA Hy has lost very much blood and I marvel that he still slew Lucifer. Do not permit hym to stand on hyz feet until we have taken hym downriver to Yeshua, who can provide a temporary blood substitute. AMBE Lady Michaela, there remains a slight problem with carrying out that order. Ambe points to many of the Gerash nobleyeng and officers who remain standing on the deck of the barge all around them. Queen Aurra stands forth to confront them. AURRA Your dragon is dead. And the yeng muttered aye, for the queen speaks a truth. The Queen catches the eye of Hovan just then. AURRA You have killed my husband. And Hovan's eyes fall. Hy nods in assent and says aye. AURRA You are in my realm with a greatly diminished force, and the long road home will be much longer if you must fight your way there. The war is over, young Hovan, do you not agree? HOVAN I do agree, your Highness.


AURRA-


Then get yourself and your yeng to another one of my boats and depart this land! When evening falls and the queen's barge has reached the place where the rivers Sabik and Arhena become one, Michaela climbs, somehow, to the top of the highest mast where few would dare to follow har, and there sha meditates on many things. Victoria, returning to the ship from a night flight she took for the sheer pleasure of it, sees Michaela sitting in that precarious place and asks to join har. MICHAELA By all means, Victoria, please make yourself as comfortable as you can. Victoria knows that no one can overhear them. VIC Aliwe told you, didn't che? That you and Yeshua find a way to win. MICHAELA Aliwe told me things that would have been perfectly safe for our companions to overhear on the way to the Catwalk. But I obtained the detailed update directly from hem in the way that you and the other b'nei elohim already know so well. Yes, we found a way to beat Thaumiel, both my daughter and I. VIC Can you tell me about it? MICHAELA It's a very curious thing, Victoria. It is like I have a splinter of wood that bears a tiny flame, and I must walk that small flame to a great pile of wood and kindle it to keep my loved ones from freezing to death, yet it is windy, and I dare not do the slightest thing to let the flame go out. VIC I think I understand what you mean. Even after Aliwe assured me I would defeat Demonstroke, I did not relax my guard for a single instant. It still required the utmost effort. MICHAELA That is precisely what I'm trying to convey to you. VIC Lady Michaela, will I meet my daughter Aliwe again? MICHAELA You will, after that big bonfire really gets going. But if you and Bayard have a child, even a jist child, che will not be the same Aliwe. Not even if you name hem that. VIC I understand. Aliwe already said as much. MICHAELA I will go with you and Bayard to Earth. It's very strange, you know. My real body is the sun that warms the Earth and drives all life and movement there, but in this body, as Michaela, I have never been there. VIC And will you return to Barbelo someday? MICHAELA Just once, as an important part of that successful way Aliwe spoke of. I must save this planet from a second deluge, many centuries from now. As Michaela I will not survive it. But Aliwe tells me the other Chokhmah, the one I must soon merge with once more, is already making arrangements to live in another body. VIC Please do not make that into a habit, Lady Michaela. We have seen what serial possession has done to one among us named Jill. MICHAELA I will not make that mistake, and Aliwe told me that the other Chokhmah is making arrangements to deal with that problem as well. However Thaumiel is about to fall into that trap, beginning when Hovan arrives back at the capitol city of the White Beards. I knew long ago there would be no real joy in bringing Thaumiel to defeat. Imagine contriving a total victory over your bitter lifelong enemy only to discover that the fellow, in the end, was in the advanced stages of dementia.


082 CAPITULATION

ORIEL: Queen Sariel, how can we, numbering only in our thousands, hope to prevail against our enemies numbering in their tens of thousands?

SARIEL: A light commando force wreaking havoc behind enemy lines will tie down a much greater force hunting for it. A small army that is still and rested with have the better of a large army that is worn out marching double-time to meet it.

ORIEL: But there must be a limit to how small a unit can be before it is ineffective no matter how intelligently it is employed.

SARIEL: Too light and we invite aggression. Too heavy, and our army becomes unwieldy. The excellent commander coordinates the small with the great, the strong with the weak, the eager with the reticent, balancing opposites to obtain the perfect middle way.

And nothing would have pleased Queen Sariel more than to see har words of encouragement to the Countess hold true, and House Sala waylay the forces of Lucifer in vengeance for har fallen mate, yet sha can also see there are not enough B'nei Elohim to aid har. The very tinders har army cuts to form bulwarks against House Gerash are just so much kindling for the dragon.

Worst of all the queen judges that Lucifer has assailed Peshast at a horribly inopportune time when har subjects are fleeing the cities at har earlier command to spread themselves across the entirety of the lands held by House Sala, as was suggested by Lady Michaela. The enemy knows everything har people possesses they have taken with them on the road, and all these possessions are ripe for Lucifer's forces to plunder were he to invade the Sala lands proper.

Yet Queen Sariel also knows that at a word from har the whole House of Sala would flock into har army; yea, even the yen, the infirm, and the children. Sha foresees the war would grow so bloody that the whole face of the land would be covered with dead bodies, but no one would even take the time to bury them because they would be too busy marching to make more dead bodies, and the land would exceedingly stink. This, sha resolves, would not be.

So Queen Sariel rides across the plains of Nolesh and meet Lord Lucifer for a parley on the hill of Ronmok, and there the queen negotiates the surrender of har forces for the sake of the lives of har people.

Lucifer takes the queen captive after the parley, putting har in a wooden cage identical to the one which had once held Michaela. Lord Lucifer journeys with all hyz remaining forces down the winding river Loenna to Thalury. This voyage takes place even while Michaela is lodging in the castle of Lady Irus in the city of Belen and preparing to leave.

Yet Queen Sariel, who still deeply mourns the death of har mate, and finds the indignity of har captivity almost too much to bear, counts House Sala fortunate, since most of the people will now complete their emigration from the cities unmolested by the army of the White Beards. And sha has appointed Countess Oriel to guide them to the new faith communities in har stead.

During the invasion of the lands of House Bellon, Lucifer sustained casualties at the hands of the Red Beards and Gold Beards equivalent to a full division. So only one division, reorganized from the survivors of the original two, are available for action. These yeng are put on every ship from Peshast and Galcha and they drift down the river Loenna to Thalury.

Lucifer hymself embarks on the lead vessel, with Queen Sariel confined to the cubical wooden cage on the main deck in somewhat less comfort than sha has come to expect. Yet Lucifer is not interested in humiliating the queen beyond har basic captivity, and hy does not hold har in a state of undress as hy had once forced Michaela to do.


083 CHALLENGE

After the expedition reaches the mouth of the river the prevailing winds suffice to take them halfway across Thalury, but over the whole land of Haaretz at the foot of the Wall of God is a stagnant air mass created as the winds pile up against the rock barrier, and there the fleet is becalmed. So oars are broken out and distributed to the yeng, and the army begins to row day and night. The remedy for their fatigue is the everpresent lash.

At length the Gerash expedition rows past the Isle of Avior and Murzi Bog to enter the wide mouth of the river Sabik, and angels of House Bellon throng the bank to watch the parade of ships toil upstream. Then, after passing the place where the river Nanki enters from the south, they row through Canterwood, and Yeshua, who has been expecting them, even waves from the beach together with many of his followers as the White Beard fleet continues on.

In the morning when Michaela's party resume the ride from Wazol the trail turns to the east away from the river a small distance and ascends a gently rising slope of grasslands where the trees disappear altogether. In the distance ahead, as the sun climbs toward the zenith, the travelers see large herds of cattle grazing, and beyond them, as a short dark line that slowly grows to encompass them, is the town of Menkant itself, the largest settlement in the Sala colony at the foot of the Wall of God.

When Michaela arrives in Menkant with Baron Balthazar, Victoria, and over a hundred Fallen Angels, room is quickly found for all of them. Michaela, Victoria, Balthazar, and Muriel, the senior officer of the surviving Fallen Angels, are invited to stay in the house of the ruling Brown Beard chieftain, Yupin Putar, who dwells nigh to the bank of the river.

Thus Michaela and har inner group have a front row seat when the lead ship of the Black Beard expeditionary force rows smoothly into position and ties up nigh to the house of Putar. Queen Sariel is in her cage on deck as Lucifer intends, and as Lucifer also intends, this is what har son Balthazar focuses upon to the exclusion of all else.

LUCIFER: Baron Balthazar Sala! Although it pains me to place your mother in such straits as you now behold, I find there is no avoiding it, for I wish to make a simple trade, the common criminal called Michaela for your mother the Queen Sariel Sala. What say you, Gold Beard Baron?

The baron draws his blade and bellows in reply.

BALTHAZAR: Such a cowardly proposal from one who styles hymself the Patriarch of the oldest family in heaven! This yen for that one, as though bartering in serving wenches! I say, rather, that both yen shall go captive, or both shall go free, and that the one yang of us who remains alive, be it yourself, Lord Lucifer, or myself, shall be the one to give the order!

LUCIFER: Let the Baron step aboard!

By making this order both hy and all hyz men are held to the terms outlined by the Baron. By the same token, the freedom of Michaela is now conditioned on Bayard prevailing in the personal combat to immediately follow.

A plank of wood is thrown to bridge the gap between ship and land. The Baron fearlessly crosses over the rail and stands on the deck of the royal barge in full view of hyz mother and Lady Michaela and Muriel and (most important in the mind of Balthazar) Victoria.


084 DUEL

The Baron salutes the Gerash lord with a sharp military slash vertically downward, and Lucifer returns hyz salute. Then they start in with fairly standard stuff, just simple thrust and parry from safe distances.

Suddenly, without a word, Lucifer literally pounces upon hyz challenger, with hyz blade slicing down with bewildering speed. But Balthazar has studied well in hyz many practice bouts and especially upon the field of battle. Hy doesn't fall for this simple trick for an single instant. Hy fends off Lucifer's first attack with ease.

So the patriarch attacks again. At each one of hyz parries Balthazar feels hy is striking stone. There is simply no give. Hy backs out of range and they begin the usual circling of each other, testing with probing thrusts. Lucifer pauses and a sudden oxygen debt forces hym to draw hyz breath in a sharp gasp. Balthazar makes hyz own first attack then, a clumsy but forceful pounding of blade-on-blade that starts to wear the White Beard patriarch down.

The auxiliary noises of their fighting are the only sounds to be heard. A resonant back-slide of steel-on-steel and CLASH! Nick, slide, and CLASH! The Baron is moving Lucifer back now but the Gerash lord's defenses prove more and more unyielding as Balthazar sweeps hym closer to the far rail of the ship.

When hyz back touches the rail Lord Lucifer unexpectedly counter-attacks with frightening violence. Balthazar is a few moments gaining hyz original stance at the cost of a few feet of ground. Balthazar tries to prevent Lucifer from circling around hyz to force hyz own back to the rail.

During the struggle the two combatants speak no word one to the other. Both yeng would have found such a thing far too effete.

Balthazar presses an attack. Lord Lucifer counters with a deft flip of hyz sword down along the back of hyz arm. It becomes a shield allowing hyz arm to bear the brunt of the Baron's blows.

Lucifer is well beneath Balthazar's high two-handed thrusts and the Baron realizes, far too late, that hy is dangerously vulnerable to a bloody touch from the Gerash patriarch in the form of an elbow jab with hyz blade's tip.

First blood to Lucifer then, who savagely pierces the spleen of Balthazar. The Baron sinks to the deck with the shock of hyz wound.

Victoria sees this and flies the short distance over the rail to stand between Lord Lucifer and his prey, holding the shard of Dragonthorn that is little more than a knife, and would probably shatter against the steel of Lucifer's blade anyway.

Joy in turn sees that and moves slowly into view riding Demonstroke, who hovers on great flaps of his wings. At every instant the hellish mouth of the beast is pointed directly at the cage of Queen Sariel.

The Baron Balthazar is wounded and lies at Lord Lucifer's feet, but hy is not unaware that sweet Victoria stands between hym and certain death on the keen edge of Gerash steel. And hy thought her to be insanely reckless, for she bore only the broken hilt-shard of the diamond blade known as Dragonthorn, and it would shatter once again should she attempt to block a single blow from the White Beard patriarch's blade.

But both Victoria and Lucifer, and everyone else for that matter, are gazing skyward at Joy, who has appeared in the sky above the queen's barge riding on the shoulders of Demonstroke. Joy has caused the dragon's deadly mouth to aim directly at Queen Sariel, who is helpless, confined inside a wooden cage on the ship's main deck.

085 DOGFIGHT

Victoria rushes into the sky bearing the remnant of Dragonthorn and sets her flight path to lead directly at Joy.

For the first time Joy becomes aware that her niece has come to heaven to stop her. B'nei Eloah on B'nei Eloah violence, but that is not unprecedented. As Ariel, after all, Joy's first death in the skies over Luna had come as the result of a Brushfire missile loosed by some other member of the B'nei Elohim. Perhaps it had even been Victoria did the deed.

Here in heaven there is no infrastructure of fresh bodies for Joy to land after she dies again. Joy does not for a moment deceive herself that Yeshua will give her yet a third chance. To protect herself, Joy causes the mouth of the beast to drift away the queen and point instead at Victoria.

A burst of white fire from the belly of the sun that is Thaumiel roars out, and Victoria alters her course directly upward to evade it. Like an arrow that has missed, the flame strikes the house of the king of Menkant and sets part of it ablaze.

Then Joy causes the dragon to rise into the sky and follow her niece. When his flight path matches that of Victoria's, he bends his snake-like head and neck under his belly and looses a continuous blast of fire, and Joy is thrown back against his collarbone as the acceleration mounts like a rocket.

By a supreme effort of will Baron Balthazar stands again and draws hyz blade, but hy is an honorable yang, and hy will not strike at his foe in hyz distracted fascination at the drama unrolling far above the queen's barge.

BALTHAZAR: Killing you wouldn't be murder.

Lucifer turns hyz gaze from the sky to the baron once more.

BALTHAZAR: It would be atonement for allowing a monster such as yourself to exist among us for too long.

The two yeng salute together once again in mock ceremony and the dance begins anew. They circle, waiting for an opening.

Balthazar lunges forward suddenly in a ferocious attack and forces hyz opponent to the defensive momentarily. Lucifer's counterattack focuses the baron's whole attention on the patriarch's blade flashing forward in a blur. Forced to give ground, the baron keeps speaking to attempt a distraction.

BALTHAZAR: Frankly, I'm quite astonished that you've done so well. More than once Lady Michaela regaled us with tales of how you held har captive much like you're holding my mother, because you were afraid of what another yin, Princess Khondiel, might do.

Lucifer rewards hym with a prickly scratch from shoulder to left breast. Balthazar risks a glance down at the blood beading up there and in that moment Lucifer is in the air leaping high and aiming a foot blow at the baron's head.

Almost instinctively Balthazar puts both hands together as a single fist and sideswipes the offending boot. Lord Lucifer sprawls badly and lands on hyz back. Both yeng recover their stance but they have a renewed respect for each other.

Victoria can only fly so high. She isn't Hunky, after all, she can't make her own oxygen for her body to use. So she stops accelerating and tops out at about four miles high, bending back toward Menkant in a broad arc.


086 DEATH

Joy sees Vic's move. Demonstroke stops his burn and brings his head forward to bear on Victoria again. Short bolts of fire race out like tracers from World War II fighter airplanes over Midway.

Victoria dodges randomly as she falls to avoid being struck by the fire. When she has descended far enough to see individuals on the ships commandeered by Lucifer she deliberately flies toward them to draw the dragon's fire, allowing Joy herself to set four of the soldiers ablaze. Then she flies through an open hatch on the deck of a fifth vessel which had been a cargo vessel, but now carries only troops.

The hatch clearly isn't big enough for Demonstroke. But Victoria isn't going to escape that easily. Joy commands the beast to burn his way through and make the hatch bigger. Then Victoria and Joy are briefly together inside the large hold of the ship as screaming men are crushed under the feet of the thrashing dragon.

VIC: This is the part of the movie where you tell me why you did it, Aunt Ariel.

Joy lets Demonstroke open his mouth and answer for her.

Lucifer and Balthazar face each other anew, focusing on probing each other's defenses. Gaging the changes, at the same time seeking not to be changed. Balthazar, slowed by hyz wound, fights with calculated risks but never rash ones. Lucifer is rash, and attacks with supernatural speed. The blades thrust just here, or there. Bait or blow? The combinations are infinite. It becomes a game of looking for the opponent's hesitancies through a net of deception and decision.

Balthazar tries to ignore the pain of hyz wound, but the whole point of pain is that you cannot ignore it. Pain is a priority organizer. Yet one thought keeps hym going. Victoria has become hyz highest priority. Balthazar longs to see how she was doing, but hy dares not tear hyz eyes away from the fight for an instant.

LUCIFER: You lousy prick!

Balthazar continues the high tension ballet. However, when Lucifer describes the things hy will do to Balthazar's mother the queen when hy was finished here Balthazar does an unexpected thing Hy throws hyz blade away. Astonished, Lucifer tracks the errant blade with hyz eyes as hyz training requires. In that split second Balthazar blasts the White Beard lord with a kick squarely and solidly in the face.

Then they are rolling and thrashing on the ground. Faces are punched. Fingernails and teeth go for eyes and other soft spots. Lucifer pulls the classic move of aggravating Balthazar's wound, which makes the baron howl in agony.

Briefly, just briefly, stopping the pain becomes a higher priority to Balthazar than Victoria is. And knowing that makes hym fly into a rage. Hy literally sees red, and isn't entirely clear exactly what happens next. Hy ends up kicking Lucifer's head again and again until Samael crosses the deck to restrain hym.

SAMAEL: Baron, stop. Please. You got hym.

Samael confirms hyz master is dead. Yet there is no anger. It has been an honorable death match, and the Baron has prevailed. But Samael is fully confident the expedition would yet attain victory. The dragon Demonstroke remains the most powerful weapon of House Gerash.


087 DRAGONFALL

The dragon sets half of the ship's hold ablaze, condemning a hundred soldiers of House Gerash to burn alive, yet Victoria escapes by rising through a second open hatch. Joy commands the dragon to exit the ship through the same hole he has just made. Yet Demonstroke is less agile than Victoria, and even as the dragon's neck and Joy clears the burning hulk, Victoria seats herself neatly behind her aunt, with the point of Dragonthorn resting on Joy's back next to a kidney.

VIC: If you choose to commit suicide, dear aunt Ariel, you are just seconds away from True Death. Or you can decide to live, and we can talk about whatever it is that you think is your problem. So what will it be? I recommend you live, because if you die it's really going to smart.

For an answer, Joy tries to slam her right elbow back into Victoria's face.

VIC: Then I guess my daughter is right, and you really are Jill.

So with a shrug she presses the jagged tip of Dragonthorn smoothly into Joy's back and deep into that kidney.

Disabling pain.

Joy's scream of agony is inhuman. The only mercy she receives is her instantaneous death after she falls five hundred feet to thud like a sack of wet garbage on a cobblestone city street.

And Demonstroke, free at last of Joy's overweening control of his movements, doesn't much like having Victoria crawl up his neck. He thrashes as violently as he can to shake her off, but she holds on for dear life. Dragon fire doesn't help him, he can't very well aim his mouth at his own head. And his arms are too short to swat her off. But all that is moot anyway, because Victoria starts stabbing buttons on the hilt, and the dragon, like any other obedient machine, begins to comply to hez commands.

Demonstroke falls to the surface then, and if he had been a living dragon he would have thought to give Victoria a parting spray of fire on his way down, out of spite. Rather, he fell from the sky and belly-flops upon the rocky ground and shatters. The last embers of hope for House Gerash have been thoroughly extinguished.

Baron Balthazar turns to Samael, who seems to be turned inward with a personal struggle, as indeed hy was, for Thaumiel at that moment was taking possession of Samael even has hy had possessed Lucifer. After a time, Samael seemed to gather hyz wits about hymself again, and surveyed the fragments of hyz dragon with wrath, but hy said nothing.

BALTHAZAR: Now carry out the terms of the death combat and release my mother Queen Sariel from har captivity, and get your ships hence, for neither shall you bring Lady Michaela into a cage once more.

Then Samael nods hyz head once, and orders hyz yeng to cut the ropes that secure Queen Sariel in har confinement. For the elohim are bound by their word as no other.

With as much dignity as sha can retrieve, sha emerges from the cage and moves to within a few paces of har son, but har gratitude and pride in Balthazar cannot be contained, and hy sees that.

Then from the air Victoria alights on the gopherwood deck of the lead vessel and in the same movement is swept into the arms of Baron Balthazar Sala. Both are overjoyed that the other has prevailed against their respective foes. Gently, gently, the baron embraces Victoria, and though hy winces with the pain of hyz wound as she squeezes hym back, the fact that she did squeeze hym back was a very encouraging sign to hym.

088 PROPOSAL

BALTHAZAR: Victoria, is it possible for an angel to fall in love with one of the B'nei Elohim?

VIC: I see no reason why not, Baron. As I've told you before, we B'nei Elohim are mere human beings or nephilim or even angels ourselves, with a few fancy tricks up our sleeves grounded in what you call alchemy and natural philosophy.

BALTHAZAR: I am very relieved to be reminded of that. Thank you! For now I can say with utmost confidence that I have fallen irretrievably in love with the B'nei Eloah named Victoria.

VIC: Then there must remain only one more thing for you to say, Balthazar, so let me hear it. Come on, you're among friends. Lay it out there.

BALTHAZAR: Victoria, will you consent to become my wife?

VIC: The thing seems to be written in the living stars. But let me ask a question of you, Balthazar, and of your mother, and when I have your answers, then you will have mine.

BALTHAZAR: Proceed with your questions, Victoria, but beware, I cannot foresee any that would deter me from what my heart has already resolved to do.

Victoria catches the eye of the Queen.

VIC: Is it safe to say, Your Highness, that with the whole House of Sala now moving at your command from their cities to many thousands of scattered faith assemblies, that there is no longer, in a real sense, any kingdom for you to rule, or for Baron Balthazar to inherit?

SARIEL Alas, Victoria, that is true, and were you to marry my son and had your heart set on the title of Baroness, I'm afraid it would be little more than a figment, just an empty title. Our society is being profoundly transformed even as we speak. The irony of the situation is not lost on me, of course. For most of hyz life I have sharply rebuked my son for hyz taste in commoner women. I was trying to guide hym to wed one of the Highborn, and now at the very end I find that the very word Highborn is a sound without meaning.

VIC: Thank you, Queen Sariel. And for my part let me say that my ability to fly, which is the biggest thing that sets me apart from humanity as one of the B'nei Elohim, is not a power that can be sustained outside of the land of Haaretz, save it be on Earth. Soon I must lay this power down again, and if I stay in the land of House Sala I will be little more than a commoner woman, something that might interest the Baron of course, but I had thought you might have an intractable objection to that.

SARIEL: Victoria, you are far too modest! You have killed the dragon called Demonstroke and brought an end to the worst war that heaven has ever known. Such a deed, which will be memorialized in songs for ages to come, makes you entirely uncommon.

VIC: Thank you once again, Your Highness Queen Sariel. And so I am led to ask my question of the yang who has asked me to become hyz wife. Balthazar, would you be willing to quit this world forever, and dwell with me on Earth?

BALTHAZAR: Victoria I would eagerly follow you right out of heaven if you consent to marry me. -089 TRUCE

VIC: Then I do consent to marry you Balthazar! But I warn that it will be absolutely bewildering to you at first, and you will find yourself to be what we frequently call a 'fish out of water' because Earth is so different.

BALTHAZAR: I am fully-willing, Victoria, if the Queen will give har blessing.

And hy turns to face hyz mother, who at first thinks to roll har eyes, but thinks better of it and nods har head yes. Then the Baron, filled with happiness beyond hyz capacity to bear, fall to the deck of the queen's barge in a dead faint from hyz wounds.

Michaela tends to Balthazar and quickly restores hym to consciousness.

MICHAELA: Hy has lost very much blood and I marvel that he still slew Lucifer. Do not permit hym to stand on hyz feet until we have taken hym downriver to Yeshua, who can provide a temporary blood substitute.

MURIEL: Lady Michaela, there remains a slight problem with carrying out that order.

Muriel points to many of the Gerash nobleyeng and officers who remain standing on the deck of the barge all around them. Queen Sariel stands forth to confront them.

SARIEL: Your dragon is dead.

And the yeng muttered aye, for the queen speaks a truth.

The Queen catches the eye of Samael just then.

SARIEL: You are in my realm with a greatly diminished force, and the long road home will be much longer if you must fight your way there. The war is over, Samael, do you not agree?

SAMAEL: What is to stop Chokhmah from bringing more flying avatars into heaven and prosecuting the war without end?

Michaela advances to stand next to the queen, where she looks Samael in the eye.

MICHAELA: Will you agree that only living avatars may come to heaven, Thaumiel? No more flying war machines, no more mechanical dragons?

SAMAEL: I do so agree, Chokhmah.

MICHAELA: Will you let House Sala and Bellon be at peace?

SAMAEL: House Sala is free. House Bellon shall pay that tribute which I shall levy on it. House Larund and Gerash are mine, forever. These are my terms for ending the war, Chokhmah. Accept them or no.

MICHAELA: I do so accept your terms. Let the war be at an end.

SARIEL: Now, Samael, get yourself and your yeng to another one of my boats and depart this land!

When evening falls and the queen's ship has reached the place where the rivers Sabik and Arhena become one, Michaela climbs, somehow, to the top of the highest mast where few would dare to follow har, and there sha meditates on many things. Victoria, returning to the ship from a night flight she took for the sheer pleasure of it, sees Michaela sitting in that precarious place and asks to join har. 090 REFLECTION

MICHAELA: By all means, Victoria, please make yourself as comfortable as you can.

Victoria knows that no one can overhear them.

VIC: Aliwe told you, did che not? That you and Yeshua find a way to win.

MICHAELA: Aliwe told me things that would have been perfectly safe for our companions to overhear on the way to the Catwalk. But I obtained a detailed update directly from hem in the way that you and the other B'nei Elohim already know so well. Yes, we found a way to beat Thaumiel, both my daughter and I.

VIC: Can you tell me about it?

MICHAELA: It's a very curious thing, Victoria. It is like I have a splinter of wood that bears a tiny flame, and I must walk that small flame to a great pile of wood and kindle it to keep my loved ones from freezing to death, yet it is windy, and I dare not do the slightest thing to let the flame go out.

VIC: I think I understand what you mean. Even after Aliwe assured me I would defeat Demonstroke, I did not relax my guard for a single instant. It still required the utmost effort.

MICHAELA: That is precisely what I'm trying to convey to you.

VIC: Lady Michaela, will I meet my daughter Aliwe again?

MICHAELA: You will, after that big bonfire really gets going. But if you and Balthazar have a child, even a jist child, che will not be the same Aliwe. Not even if you name hem that.

VIC: I understand. Aliwe already said as much.

MICHAELA: I will go with you and Balthazar to Earth. It's very strange, you know. My real body is the sun that warms the Earth and drives all life and movement there, but in this body, as Michaela, I have never been there.

VIC: And will you return to heaven someday?

MICHAELA: There is no need. Binah is present here in a living avatar

VIC Please do not make that into a habit, Lady Michaela. We have seen what serial possession has done to one among us named Jill.

MICHAELA: I will not make that mistake, and Aliwe told me that the other Chokhmah is making arrangements to deal with that problem as well. However Thaumiel has already fallen into the trap, beginning just today when he took possession of Samael. Every possession dilutes the possessor somewhat, unless the receiving body has no real personality of its own to speak of. That's why Lilith and Raphaela and the Fallen Angels who have already died now find themselves as infants, albeit rather precocious ones.

VIC: Whereas Thaumiel is impatient, and will only possess the strongest warrior in his army.

MICHAELA: I knew long ago there would be no real joy in bringing Thaumiel to defeat. Imagine contriving a total victory over your bitter lifelong enemy only to discover that the fellow, in the end, was in the advanced stages of dementia.


091 SAMARIA

The descendants of Abram eventually give up a nomadic existence as keepers of livestock and try to farm the rocky soil of the so-called "Promised Land". Over the centuries they become thirteen separate tribes, one group of Canaanites among many, but they continue to obey the imperatives of Abram's covenant with Chokhmah.

Samaria is comprised of ten tribes named Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Zebulun, Issachar, Gad, Ephraim, Reuben, and Simeon, each led by their own chieftain. Ostensibly worshiping Chokhmah, but under the name El Elyon, they gradually accept the polytheism of their pagan neighbors and grow steadily weaker until the king of Assyria, Sargon II, conquers them. Sargon deports most of the people and settles them to the east in Medea, where they slowly lose their tribal identity through interbreeding with the people of that land.

Other members of the ten tribes escape to Judah and unite themselves to the people there, who later become known as Jews. Only a remnant, which Binah brings to heaven, retains their original identity and forms of worship. Binah preserves them to keep his mother Chokhmah's original promise to Abram.

Of the ten Samarian tribes, Binah selects only those families who reject the worship of Baal, reject the golden calves that were set up in Bethel and Dan, and also reject cult prostitutes and all other such forms of idolatry. Only those with zeal for God alone, some five hundred persons, are permitted to colonize heaven. The colonists name the land where they settle Haaretz.

After the fall of Demonstroke and the end of the war in heaven, Binah focuses on the Judahites. The priests in Jerusalem call God "Yahweh" and depict him as a warrior-king, but unlike the northern branch of the family they never erect idols to represent him and by and large they hold up their end of the bargain that Abram once made.

Thaumiel's hypothesis that humans could never remain devoted to an eloah if they were left to themselves utterly fails. For in Judah a great nation has been raised up to Abram, the children of Israel, and all of them keep the covenant of Abram. They reject the false gods of the neighboring peoples and worship Chokhmah alone.

On account of the faithfulness of the House of Israel, Thaumiel no longer has valid grounds to call for the destruction of the whole human race. Thus the oracle of Chokhmah is fulfilled when she said to Abram, through Melchizedek, "All the earth shall find blessing in you." Chokhmah would never tolerate Thaumiel carrying out the destruction of mankind on Earth as he so often threatens to do, even if he still has the power of life and death over many of the angels of heaven.

Chokhmah believes Thaumiel is still looking for any reason to prove the world-dwellers are a danger to elohim but the faithfulness of the House of Israel goes a long way toward laying Thaumiel's accusations to rest. It is clear all of the elohim need to come to terms with the planetdwellers and learn to co-exist with them.

The first true king of Judah, King Hezekiah, removes every vestige of polytheism in his kingdom, including the high places that had existed under every chieftain since Rehoboam. He even destroys a bronze serpent that some said was made by Moshe himself, the first prophet of the children of Abram, because it too had become an idol.

Hezekiah refuses to serve the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who is the son of the Assyrian king who destroyed Samaria. Sennacherib therefore lays siege to Jerusalem and defeats him.


092 LAEL

Sennacherib forces King Hezekiah to pay a tribute of thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, gems, antimony, and many jewels. Also paid in tribute is carnelian, couches and chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant hides and tusks, ebony, boxwood, and other rich treasures, along with Hezekiah's daughters, his wives, his musicians, and servants both men and women. King Sennacherib takes all of these things to Nineveh. To prepare Jerusalem in the event of another siege, King Hezekiah constructs an aqueduct to bring fresh water into the Pool of Siloam inside the city.

Binah withdraws the Ark of the Covenant from the temple in Jerusalem, lest it fall into the hands of enemies. Both Binah and Chokhmah, like anyone else with a modicum of wisdom, can easily guess that Jerusalem itself will soon come under direct attack from the rising empire of Babylon. The prophet named Jeremiah makes great hay stating the obvious in his scrolls. The Ark is relocated to the kingdom of Nath in Haaretz.

During the reign of King Jeconiah, Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon personally lays siege to Jerusalem. Jeconiah surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar and is taken captive to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar takes all the treasures of the temple of Yahweh and deports the army, the craftsmen, and all the leading citizens of Jerusalem. He also appoints Mattaniah, the uncle of Jeconiah, as king and changes his name to Zedekiah.

When King Zedekiah also rebels against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar gets truly angry and his whole army advances against Jerusalem to lay siege to it. King Zedekiah attempts to escape the city but he is captured and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. The sons of Zedekiah are slain before his eyes, and then Zedekiah himself is blinded, bound in chains, and taken to Babylon to live out his remaining unhappy days. The Babylonians burn down the temple of Yahweh, the palace of the king and every house in Jerusalem. The walls of the city are also torn down and the surviving people of the city are taken into exile in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar deports about fifty thousand Jews to Babylon. Only a few of the poorest people and a handful of renegade army officers remain behind in the Judean hills, and these soon flee to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians, leaving the land entirely vacant.

At that time Lael, a scion of the house of David, goes about the countryside in Egypt claiming that he has been taken in the flesh to see the other world with his own eyes. He also says that servants of Yahweh have given him a task that he must carry out to the letter. From among the exiled remnant of the tribe of Judah, Lael is commanded to seek a man with four unmarried daughters who is willing to allow them to be trothplighted to his four unmarried sons, even though two of Lael's sons are yet young boys.

From the tribe of Benjamin, Lael is commanded to find another two couples to match yet another four young men with intended brides. All of these couples, six from Judah and six from Benjamin, are to travel heaven, where they will grow and thrive safe from the Babylonians and the Egyptians.

This is the full tale of the exiles from the tribe of Judah chosen to journey to heaven. There is Lael and his wife Sariah, Zethan and his wife Atara, Elam the eldest son of Lael and his new wife Serach, Jemuel the second son of Lael, and his new wife Iscah, Rosh the third son of Lael and his betrothed Sela, and Rimon the youngest son of Lael and his betrothed Dinah. From among the remnant of the tribe of Benjamin, Lael chooses Abner, who has four sons, and Jabez, who is willing to allow his four daughters to marry them. And so this is the full tale of the colonists from Benjamin: Abner and his wife Tabitha, Jabez and his wife Keziah, Asa the eldest son of Abner and his new wife Jemima, Josiah the second son of Abner and his new wife Keturah, Tobiah the third son of Abner and his betrothed Susannah, and Asher the youngest son of Abner and his betrothed Leah.


093 HERETICS

And it came to pass that the twenty-four colonists sojourned from Egypt to the downfallen kingdom of Judah, which is completely vacant, and every dwelling has been looted by the Babylonians and completely cleaned out by robbers from the neighboring kingdoms. The Judahite and Benjaminite colonists make their way through the charred debris littering Jerusalem and stand in the place built by Hezekiah that is called the Pool of Siloam.

Lael leads the way into the Pool and descends the underwater stairs until he is completely immersed, and he comes not again out of the water. One by one, the people following Lael overcome their fear and enter the water. There is a sensation of a twist under the water, and they emerge from the pool again, but things have changed. Instead of an underground cavern, they are now surrounded by many trees, and the sky is violet. Men and women attend to them with dry clothing to replace their soaked rags. These people say they are from the tribe of Issachar, and there is great rejoicing, for Lael and his own people know they are all common children of Israel who have been sundered one from the other for more than a century.

The Issacharites tell the colonists that heaven has been home to the ten tribes for years but now God commands that heaven be settled by remnants of the house of Judah and the House of Benjamin. In this way the covenant God made with Abraham would be fully restored, and they would never again be faced by Egyptians nor Babylonians nor Assyrians nor Philistines. They also reveal the tribe of Issachar settled in the city of Nyduly in the forest known as Canterwood, which stretches along the southern bank of the river Sabik, and they are skilled in felling timber and all manner of woodcraft. But their women were the first to fall away from the exclusive worship of God, for they listened to the yen of the House of Sala who seduced them to Binah, and the Issacharite women in turn enticed their men to worship Binah as well. The sacred pool of Binah in the heart of Canterwood is the location Binah herself has selected for the open portal to Earth.

As gently as possible it is revealed to Lael and his group from the southern kingdom that not all of the children of Israel in heaven worship God alone. For God, so they claim, has a daughter, and some, including the tribe of Issachar, worship this eloah they named Binah in addition to God. Lael listens to the words of the Issacharites, but he makes no reply to them, for such words required much consideration.

On the second day people of the tribe of Asher join them, having traveled down the vale of the river Nanki from their city of Alnitar. The men of Asher provide shields for the men among the colonists crafted from outlandish trees that grow in the south. These shields are hard enough to withstand the strokes of any axe or blade, for the trees they had been fashioned from can be cut only by fire, yet they are much lighter than comparable shields made of bronze or iron. The Asherites reveal that they also have broken away from the sole worship of God and worshiped his daughter as well. This troubles the colonists of Judah and Benjamin, who had not thought it possible Yahweh would accept some children of Abraham falling away from worshiping him alone. Yet their presence in heaven is obviously a divine miracle, and the efforts of the remnants of Samaria to help restore the fallen southern kingdom in another world cannot not be denied.

In all truth this apostasy troubles Binah, for she greatly honors her father herself, obeying Chokhmah in every thing he asks. Binah never commands her Samaritan or Jewish followers to abandon Chokhmah nor his law, although in later centuries her Gentile followers are released from observing the purely ceremonial aspects of the Code of Moshe.

There are more visitors to be received before Lael's journey can begin, and like the Issacharites and Asherites they are also Binah worshipers. On the third day men and women travel down the river from the city of Eltan, home of the tribe of Zebulun, bearing many small tools and other goods that will be useful for Lael's group to start their colony in Haaretz.


094 TRIBES

Fish migrate from Thalury to the source of the river Nanki, and many men in Alnitar make a living catching them. The tribe of Zebulun built the city of Eltan far up the valley of the river Nanki, and it is a crossroads in the trade between Kurgan and Hamar. There caravans unload their goods to be set on rafts made from logs felled from the endless forests covering the mountains to the south. The rafts then are allowed to drift down the river to Alnitar or to Sadl, and after they were unloaded the rafts themselves are sold as raw timber. Eltan, too, has converted to the worship of Binah.

On the morning of the fourth day Lael and his group are led on a journey east until they reached the river Sabik, where they made camp. There Hadraniel the king of Hamar arrives from the city of Menkant to speak with Lael, accompanied by members of his court. King Hadraniel tells Lael that the tribe of Manneseh was, in the beginning, faithful to God alone, but that after a century and much convincing evidence they have converted to the worship of Binah like most other tribes in Hamar did. The king says the Manessahites settled in Menkant in the valley of the upper Sabik between Mount Rasal and Mount Menkant, and it is the leading city among the five tribes in the south, which form the kingdom of Hamar. And the king has brought a small flock of livestock, which he orders slaughtered, and a feast is prepared in honor of the newcomers from Judah.

On the fifth day the steadily growing group crosses the river Sabik and are come to the foot of Mount Menkant. There they are met by travelers from the tribe of Naphtali who came from the city of Wazol at the foot of the Wall of God. The Naphtalites bear gifts for Lael's group in the form of precious stones for the women and girls to wear and also to serve as easily portable tokens of wealth to be used to purchase the things Lael will need when his colonists reach their destination. The tribe of Naphtali settled in the city of Wazol at the very headwaters of the river Sabik, and the Wall of God looms over it. Wazol is a rival city to Fatho, for it is engaged in mining as well, and if ever one city tries to corner the market in one metal or another, the other city undercuts their prices. Yet the city of Wazol retains El Elyon as their only God, and looks with disdain on the heretics surrounding them who follow after Binah as well.

Then there was more fellowship and rejoicing, for since the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians the "lost" tribes in heaven had enjoyed no contact with their kin from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin of the former southern kingdom. All the long history of their misunderstandings and conflicts since the first division of the family seemed to be forgotten.

On the sixth day King Hadraniel and his entourage take their leave, and Lael's group is led further west, until the Wall of God begins to loom over them. They cross the upper reaches of the river Arhena and enter the lands of the tribe of Dan in the kingdom of Nath. At length they come to the city of Fatho, where Lael and his group are given much silver and gold. The tribe of Dan built the city of Fatho at the foot of the Wall of God, where there were many natural caves and mines dug by men, and they reap many underground treasures buried there.

Turning then north and west, Lael's group cross a shoulder of Mount Fatho until they arrive on the evening of the seventh day at the city of Kabark, home of the tribe of Gad. The city folk bring forth the bounty of the rich farms of their land that was watered by canals leading from Lake Enkaa like the threads of a spider's web. The tribe of Gad built the city of Kabark on a rich plain south of the river Armak, but here also the land lacked for water. So they built a mighty work, a dam of cunning stonework upon the river, which backs up the river into a man-made lake called Enkaa. Then the tribe of Gad dug many canals and ditches from the lake toward Kabark, and using this water they have planted farms that are the envy of Haaretz.


095 ARK

On the eighth day Lael and his group arrive at the massive stone wall that is Enkaa Dam. From the west, people of the tribe of Reuben come forward bearing baskets of delicious fresh fruit of a kind none of the colonists from Judah have tasted before, for they are native to heaven. The tribe of Reuben has built the city of Mizal at the foot of Mount Narutha, but the land about is dry and impoverished, for the mountain cast a rain shadow. And ever in years past the tribe of Reuben made war upon the Gold Beards of Linan to the north for the rich fruit of the orchards near that city. At length the new colonists prevailed and drove all of their native rivals out of Linan and extended the borders of Nath thither.

On the ninth day when Lael reaches Adjara, men of the tribe of Simeon provide pack animals for their goods, and two of these animals bear sufficient arms for twelve men. Chokhmah did not wish to leave the followers of Lael defenseless against the yeng or men they might meet in their new colony, whether they be from the House of Sala, or the House of Larund, or even their own brothers from the House of Israel. The tribe of Simeon built the city of Adjara on the western edge of the Shaula Wood and it was a great crossroads in that land. Adjara was the center of the weapons trade in Haaretz. Another Temple of God was constructed nigh to this city, very much like the one in Jerusalem, and there the Ark of the Covenant was safely brought to rest within the "heavenly" Holy of Holies.

On the tenth day Lael's group went a short distance to the west of Adjara to the site of the temple of God in heaven, which men of the whole House of Israel have been working on for more than a century, and it is still under construction. Yet Lael and his people weep with joy, for it was already nearly as glorious as the original temple constructed by Solomon had been, and the people traveling with Lael speak to their hosts of how Nebuchadnezzar had pulled the first temple down to ruin.

King Thausael of Hadal arrives then with his entourage from among the tribe of Ephraim. That tribe has built the city of Hadal far in the north and east of Haaretz, in a cool vale between Shaula Wood and the very face of the Wall of God.Hadal was the leading city in the kingdom of Nath. The Ephraimites bear with them the authentic Ark of the Covenant which had been given into the keeping of Solomon at the time when he was the leading chieftain of the House of Israel. The Ark was withdrawn many years later when Chokhmah feared Judah was too weak to protect it, and lately the line of Kings in Hadal have been appointed to be the guardians of the relic.

Yet it was now God's command that the Ark should pass into the safekeeping of Lael and his sons to preserve the commandments of God among the colonists, and also to preserve the history of all the children of Israel in heaven. Included within is the White Scroll with the Code of Moshe and many writings besides. And King Thausael says it is appointed for Lael and his descendants to preserve on the White Scroll the new history of his colony. The task is given for Lael and his family to bear the Ark on two staves through rings in the corner of the artifact. And when they were not bearing the Ark Lael's four sons set the ends of the staves through four stones given to them by King Thausael. The stones have been drilled through with holes. Every time the travelers pause, says the king, these four stones are to be set on pillars of greater stones gathered from the ground around the encampment. The king says the Ark must never touch the ground, and save for the lid the Ark must never be touched by human hands nor brushed by the hide of beasts.

Then the king commands Lael to journey alone with his twenty-four kin and followers to the west until they reach the far side of Eliath Wood, where a choice land has been prepared for him. But Lael will never be abandoned or forgotten, for the oracles of God come only through the Ark, and ever men of the House of Israel would come seeking for them.


096 ROSHITES

Not many days after Lael's death in the new colony in Haaretz, about sixteen years after the migration from Judah, Elam and Lemuel are angry with Rosh for the admonitions of their father that came out of Rosh's mouth at regular intervals. The old man was dead, may he rest in peace, but here was little Rosh spouting Laelisms as though the old man somehow lived on through his third son. Rosh's older brothers eventually seek to take his life because they would not have their younger brother rule over them. Before they can carry out this deed, however, Rosh flees into the wilderness with all that would go with him. Rosh takes his own family, and also Zethan and his family, and Timon with his family, and Jared his younger brother who was born in heaven, and also the sisters of Rosh. The Benjaminites however remain in the land of Shedal near Glenah Wood. This is the fertile place that Lael's group had first settled and farmed after crossing to heaven from Earth.

A great religious controversy is born in the parting of Rosh that would result in much bloodshed. For Rosh takes the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the White Scroll, and the Ark also possesses a kind of director, which was one of the two decorative cherubim on the golden lid of the box. This director points to the way they should go and begins to spin when they should halt. The people in Rosh's group descend from the broad upland around Shedal southwest to Thalury. When they arrive at a point on the coast where much fish can be obtained, the pointer angel on the Ark begins to spin in contentment. Rosh calls this area Suhair. They plant seed on the gentle slopes inland from shore and raise flocks of animals on the golden hills that rose north and east of the sea. Rosh also makes many blades of bronze, "Lest the Benjaminites should come upon us and destroy us."

Many people come from elsewhere in Haaretz to approach the Ark of the Covenant. They come to speak directly to Chokhmah and also to receive his commands. Some of these pilgrims are asked by Chokhmah to remain among the people under Rosh and mingle their blood with the Judahites.

After the death of Rosh some of the Judahites journey up the coast until it forms a narrow strait with the Isle they called Elendal lying off-shore. Some of the Judahites mingle with the indigenous peoples along the way. Most of the native people of the area are Gold Beard nephilim of the House of Sala, although some are also Black Beards, and they make their homes along the seashore. When the nephilim join with the humans, jan and ambe begin to be seen much more frequently in heaven

But Jared, brother of Rosh, and most of the people push ever on until they reach a large river that pours from the east directly into the strait. There the Judahites found a settlement called Akamar. There the White Scroll and the Ark of the Covenant pass down from Jared to his son Jachin, then to his grandson Omar and also to his great-grandson Abidan. And when Abidan has grown old and feeble, it is deemed by the people that Akamar has grown large and strong enough that Abidan's son Baruch should be acclaimed a king. With his mighty deeds, and wisdom, with the help of prophets from elsewhere in Haaretz, and by slaying hundreds of Benjaminites, King Baruch establishes peace in his land. For the rest of the king's life, there would be peace in the kingdom of Menkal, which was what the Judahites call their homeland with it's many islands and bays.

King Baruch has a son named Mered, and the king makes certain his son received a good education. Mered meticulously studies the laws and histories recorded on the White Scroll, and Baruch tells his son that the scroll is the only thing keeping the Judahites from dwindling in unbelief like the Benjaminites on the plateau to the east.


097 BARUCH

Then comes the time when King Baruch wants to go into retirement. He tells his son to gather the people together outside of the city so he can make the announcement. But that would be just a formality. Baruch gives his son the actual reins of power immediately. Additionally he passes on to Mered the Ark of the Covenant.

In the morning the people arrange themselves around the chief gate of the city in tents, with each family separated one from another. The door of each tent s faced so the families can stay inside their tent yet still hear the words of King Baruch as he speaks from a specially constructed tower. The king speaks of his life in service to the people, and how he even labored with his own hands that the people would not be unduly burdened with taxes. Yet he does not bring this up to boast, only to affirm that he has really been in the service of Chokhmah all along. The King says he served Chokhmah by serving his fellow human beings. And he also says that he only brought this to their mind to remind them that if he, their king, labored much to serve the people, then how much more the people ought to labor to serve one another.

Then Baruch tells the people he can no longer be their teacher or their king because he is very close to going the way of all flesh, and indeed it is only by the constant sustaining power of Chokhmah that he is even able to stand there and speak to them without collapsing. He concludes his speech by declaring that his son Mered is already their king and ruler.

After a time prophets from Hamar appear in the land and are sufficiently persuasive that even the sons of King Mered, Dishon and Ginath, become converts to Yeshua.

It comes to pass in the fullness of time that Dishon and Ginah refuse to accept the crown from their dying father, who insists that his sons renounce Yeshua before ascending to the throne. Effectively without living heirs, King Mered is forced to establish a system of popularly elected magistrates to rule Menkal instead of a king. Higher magistrates could overrule lower magistrates, but a council of lower magistrates could impeach the Chief magistrate.

Neriah the Younger, himself a convert to Yeshua, becomes the first elected chief magistrate of the Judahites. King Mered reluctantly gives to him the White Scroll and the Ark of the Covenant, and he dies soon after.

Dishon (with his wife Hatita) and Ginath (with his wife Junia) then undertake a mission to the east to preach Yeshua to the Benjaminites. Dishon and his wife are taken captive in Shedal, where they become servants of Prince Lamoni. There Dishon miraculously preserves the king's flocks from predators and Prince Lamoni becomes a convert to Yeshua soon thereafter. Eventually even Lamoni's father King Sarfael is converted to the People of Yeshua, he and his entire household.

King Sarfael decrees religious freedom for all Benjaminites. Many people in the lands of Shedal, Glenah, and the cities within Glenah Wood all convert, and they begin to call themselves Dishonites. After that, King Sarfael dies.

The unconverted Benjaminites prepare to make war against the apostates, but the Dishonites are so filled with remorse over the Judahite blood the Benjaminites have long shed they become pacifists to the point of declining to even defend themselves. When the hard-core Benjaminites see the prone state of their prey they abort their attack, and many even convert to the People of Yeshua on the strength of the passive witness of their intended victims.


098 ESHTON

To the west, in Menkal, a merchant named Eliada tries to restore the kingship, with himself as king, naturally. The people vote nay but his followers continue to regard him as king. After that, the Eliadaites wage war to seat their king by force, but the Judahite army soundly defeats them. Neriah the Younger personally slays Eliada.

Neriah then nominates a magistrate named Micah to replace him as chief magistrate, and this is confirmed by the people. Neriah steps down from the top job because he observes that the people, much like Eliada, are becoming increasingly wicked, proud, disdainful of outsiders and neglectful toward the poor. Neriah fears the whole House of Judah is on a path to selfdestruction. So after he resigns his post as chief magistrate Neriah begins traveling from city to city to preach directly to the Judahites.

Neriah begins to teach in the heart of the city of Akamar, where his call for social justice is well received by the poor, but his message is rejected out of hand by the wealthy and powerful of the capital city. Neriah then moves on to the cities of Difda and Sukai, with very much the same reception. From Difda he travels by ship across the strait to the seaside city of Suhair, whose leading citizens prove even more hardened than those of the previous three cities.

After a renewed persecution by the unconverted Benjaminites, Dishon leads the Dishonites west to Menkal, where they are given land in the southern part of Elendal Island from a large stock of empty land that Chief Magistrate Micah always keeps on hand for just such an emergency. But General Rufus of the Benjaminites has tracked the missing Dishonites west. In the lower vale of the Menkal River the general gives battle against the Judahites but Captain Eshton of Akamar leads the Judahites to victory against the Benjaminite attackers.

When he grows old Neriah gives the White Scroll and Ark of the Covenant to his son, Rabsaris, for Micah is not a convert to Yeshua, and Neriah does not give the sacred relics to the man who replaces him as leader of the people. Then Neriah is taken in slow stages by Issacharite priests to the Pool of Yeshua, where he is permitted to see the other world before he dies. And his body is never found anywhere in heaven.

Micah promotes Captain Eshton and makes him the commanding general over all the Judahite armed forces in the face of an impeding general war with the Benjaminites. A large force of Benjaminites gathers together at Grand Mound, led by General Azza, and this force includes many Judahite dissenters who worship Chokhmah alone. The Benjaminite army attacks the Judahites in the land of Suhair and the battle rage north toward Akamar, ending on the banks of the Menkal River just south of the city. In the battle General Eshton's forces protect themselves with finely molded body armor for the very first time in heavenly history.

After winning the initial clash General Eshton sends spies to the Plateau to investigate the enemy's weak points, and he moves his force by hidden animal tracks, known only to sympathetic locals, to surround them.

General Eshton march forth under his Manifest of Freedom, a standard that he raises to rally the Judahites to defend their liberties from the group of dissenters who want to establish their leader as a king and who were even willing to ally themselves with the hated Benjamites to do it. General Eshton is so angry with the dissenters, who are led by a man named Paulus, that he tears his cloak and writes upon it, "In memory of Yeshua, our freedom, our peace, our wives, and our children."

With these words he rallies the Judahites to defend their families and their liberty, chasing away the Benjaminites and the Judahite militias loyal to Paulus in the process. Any Judahite dissenters who manage to survive are put to death by Eshton. The Benjaminites are scattered to the east. 099 MENKAL

Then Eshton raises the Manifest of Freedom upon every Judahite tower. Soon there are many more such towers, for Eshton erects a fortified line of cities on the edge of the slope that forms the border between the Judahites and the Benjaminites. After that the Judahites greatly prosper, while the Benjaminites steadily diminish until they become little more than scattered bands of highway robbers.

As the years wear on the borders of Menkal are gradually extended east to encompass Glenah Wood and they are extended south to Mount Narutha and the mouth of the river Sabik. And in afteryears it is said there never was a happier time, before or since, among any of the children of Abram.


100 YOHANAN

King Antigonus of the Hasmonean Dynasty, son of Aristobulus II, is decapitated by a pretender to the throne named Herod. This Herod is favored by Marcus Antonius and Queen Cleopatra VII after they defeat Pompey. Mark Antony, acting in his role of triumvir, subsequently declares Herod king of the Jews.

King Herod conquers Joppa and Medeba and captures Jerusalem after a siege of three months. He occupies Samaria and restores the temple to its original glory.

In Egypt the last Pharaoh is Ptolemy XV Caesarion, son of Gaius Julius Caesar and Queen Cleopatra VII. Following the suicide of his mother in the wake of the battle of Actium, Caesarion is executed by Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius and Egypt is annexed as a province of Rome. Herod soon becomes a client of Octavius, who is later called Caesar Augustus.

In the waning years of the reign of Herod a young day laborer named Yosef, son of Heli, marries an even younger maiden named Miriam in the village of Nazareth. As with most such marriages in that time and place, the union is arranged by the families of both Yosef and Miriam, and has more to do with money than love.

The tiny community where they live is in the land that was given to the Israelite tribe of Zebulun in the days of Yehoshua son of Nun, who had been the chief lieutenant of Moshe. Yosef becomes apprenticed to a craftsman skilled in cutting stone, and after years of being little more than a slave to him, Yosef picks up the rudiments of the art and fulfills his period of apprenticeship. During this time Yosef and Miriam have a daughter named Salome and sons named Yeshua, Shimon and Yosef Jr., who was nicknamed Yosy. The three boys in turn are apprenticed to their own father when he strikes out on his own, and in this way, the family is just able to make enough to support themselves. But even with his sons helping, being a stonecutter is very difficult and dangerous work that sends Yosef to an early grave.

Under the Kinsman Redeemer clause of the Law, the brother of Yosef, a man named Alphaeus, is required to marry Yosef's widow and adopt his children. After that the neighbors sometimes call Yosef's brother Clophas, which really means replacement. Clophas has sons of his own named Yakob and Yudah and a daughter named Miriam. After the wedding the cousins all become stepsiblings. With the sudden enlargement of the family, especially with his new brother Yakob being a grown man in his own right with his own source of income as a scribe, Yeshua does not have to continue in the harsh livelihood of Yosef to ensure the well-being of his mother and siblings. He departs the house of his mother Miriam and goes east toward the River Jordan.

An Essene prophet named Yohanan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins without recourse to the priests and the temple. People from both sides of the Jordan River and the country all around go to Yohanan to confess their sins and are baptized.

Yohanan has gathered men to be his disciples named Philip, and Bartholomew, and Thomas. After a time Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot also follow him. These five disciples aid Yohanan in his ministry by acting as screeners, letting through to the baptism of Yohanan only those who approach with a sincere intention of repentance. At these baptisms Yohanan preaches that the Day of the Lord is immanent, a day when Yahweh would come to judge with holy violence all the nations of the Earth now ruling with power. He underscores the urgency of repentance and baptism so that people can meet the end of human rule with a pure heart and be ready to accept the direct rule of Yahweh.


101 BAPTISM

But the priests and scribes and Jewish aristocracy and kings and Roman overlords alike all believe that Yohanan is really just seeding the whole region with people who will be anxious for the coming of a new theocratic ruler. They fear Yohanan will usher in one who would completely reorder the politics of the land more in favor of the destitute.

When he is about thirty years of age Yeshua son of Yosef comes from Galilee to find Yohanan at the river and be baptized by him. Two of the five screeners interview the man and let him pass through to be dunked into the river by Yohanan.But a curious thing happens after Yeshua is pushed under the water. A green glow suffuses the river, and Yohanan loses him. Yohanan panics, and starts splashing around in the water, (which is only waist deep) looking for Yeshua, but he is nowhere to be found.

After a quarter of an hour, long after anyone would have drowned in the relatively warm waters of the Jordan River, Yeshua comes to the surface again. Yohanan and his disciples, who have been milling about on the river bank at a loss for what to do are amazed at the sudden reappearance of the man.

But soon after that they are embarrassed when no explanations are forthcoming from Yeshua, and in a fairly short time the whole incident is nearly forgotten. Yeshua drifts into the crowd of hangers-on who watch from the bank of the Jordan as Yohanan resumes his preaching and baptizing.

But some of the people coming to be baptized are seeking forgiveness of their sins because they have various ailments, and have come to believe God has made them sick as a direct result of their sin. All Yohanan can do, after his disciples determine they are truly contrite, is baptize them and assure them they are forgiven. He cannot heal.

But now, when these unfortunate people come out of the water, Yeshua lays his hands on them, and they are indeed healed, exactly as they hoped. Word of this spreads to the lands all about, and soon Yohanan has more dunking business than he knows what to do with. When he passes the plate around it overflows with shekels. Naturally he makes Yeshua his chief disciple.

Now Yohanan does not teach a future reformation solely, nor does he stay on the banks of the Jordan River permanently. He was zealous for the Law and often traveled to the centers of power to attack hypocrites. When Yohanan's preaching becomes embarrassingly personal, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, has Yohanan arrested and executed. Hearing of this, many of those who hold power in the land breathe a sigh of relief. Then Yeshua takes control of the Baptizer's movement and accepts Yohanan's five disciples as his own.

Yeshua moves upstream to the Sea of Galilee where he chooses more disciples of his own. The first to join are fishermen named Shimon, Andrew his brother, as well as Yakob the son of Zebedee, and Yohanan his brother. They use the Zebedee family's boat to haul in the fish of the Sea of Galilee (actually a thirteen mile long lake) with nets.

Later the two sons of Alphaeus Clophas, Yeshua's step-brothers Yakob and Yudah, also join the movement and call Yeshua their master. But their sister Miriam, their father Alphaeus, as well as Yeshua's mother, full brothers, and full sister, refuse to become his disciples. They don't see much profit in it, and they are of the opinion that Yeshua (and by extension themselves) would be much better served if Yeshua used his undeniable healing powers to turn a shekel or two for his own family and not some religious group wandering around in the back forty.

-102 DOCTRINE

In the Galilee region Yeshua begins to preach a message that differs somewhat from the message of Yohanan. He says it is not enough for people to simply wait for God to usher in a future kingdom by divine force. One must make the kingship of Yahweh present, here and now, and this requires active participation, not just lip service.

To illustrate his point Yeshua preaches to the people.

YESHUA: A man had two sons, and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And his son said, 'I will not', but afterward he repented and went. And the man went to his second son and said the same, and his son said, 'I will go, sir,' but he did not. Which of the two did the will of his father?

Yeshua meets a man named Matthew, also called Levi, and dines with the man in his house. Although Matthew is a Jew, he is also a tax collector for the Romans. A number of scribes and Pharisees consider Matthew a collaborator with the Roman occupiers, and they loudly object to Yeshua eating and drinking with a sinner.

But Yeshua insists that he is a healer who treats people who are unwell, both in body and soul.

YESHUA I come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Matthew asks Yeshua what would be the signs preceding the day of the Lord.

YESHUA: The kingship of God will not come with signs beforehand that can be verified, nor will people say, 'Here it is!' or 'Look over there!' because the kingdom is already present among you.

Yeshua underscores to everyone present at the meal that he is not changing the practice of Judaism in any way, shape or form. Rather, he attaches great importance to every item in the Code of Moshe, no matter how trivial.

YESHUA: Whosoever shall break the least one of these commandments, and shall teach others to do so, shall be called the least in the Kingdom of God. For unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not be accounted worthy to attain to the Kingdom life.

If anything, Yeshua teaches an even more strict version of Judaism by addressing the interior motives of the heart rather than purely outward actions done under the obligation of the Law. Mere lip service isn't good enough for Yeshua.

YESHUA: Not everyone who calls me Lord shall enter into the Kingdom, but only the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.

At the conclusion of the meal, Yeshua adds Matthew to his circle of disciples, making a grand total of twelve. Yeshua thinks the correspondence with the twelve tribes of Israel has prophetic resonance.


103 HEALER

When Yeshua preaches, the people are astonished at his doctrine, for he teaches them as one having authority and not merely as one of the scribes. For he claims the ability to forgive sins, which many believe is a power reserved to God alone. But Yeshua accompanies his preaching and words of forgiveness with a very practical sign: he heals the sick with a touch.

Yeshua heals a leper, and orders him to make the gift to the priest in the temple of God according to the Code of Moshe. But Yeshua is saddened by the case, because the man only has a little psoriasis and is not infectious in any way, yet the priests have required him to live apart from his family, wear torn clothing, disheveled hair, and say Unclean! Unclean! for many years.

Great multitudes begin to follow Yeshua as his fame begins to spread to the point where often che cannot even enter the cities but must remain in the desert. Even so, sick people seek him out. Yeshua tries to limit the growth of his fame by telling the people that he heals to remain silent, but this rarely works.

It is not only the Jews who receive his healing touch. Yeshua heals the male lover of a Roman soldier who is paralyzed, to the dismay of many in the crowd who are suffering under the Roman occupation.

YESHUA: To make the kingship of God present among you, forget about the differences between Jew and Gentile. If you love your enemies as much as you love your friends, then your enemy will become your friend, and he will be destroyed as your enemy. For I say to you that many Gentiles shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Israel in the second life. But many of the children of Israel shall not attain to the second life, because they do not help to make present on Earth the kingship of our Father in heaven.

Sometimes Yeshua's healing touch restores health to the brain of unfortunate people with mental infirmities, for the brain is another organ just like the skin or the liver. But some of these victims display frightening symptoms, such as raving in graveyards at night, and people says evil spirits possessed them. Yeshua knows they are only sick, and he heals them, but he does not have the time nor is it his purpose to teach people there are no spirits, good or evil, and it would not have been accepted in any event.

But some of the scribes and Pharisees begin to hate Yeshua, because his message is about breaking down barriers between human beings and God, and breaking down barrier between human beings themselves, and their gig depends on being religious mediators and teachers in an intermediate position between the people and God. So they start criticizing everything Yeshua says or does.

And the first thing they comment on is the fact that Yeshua is often found in the homes of sinners and loose women, eating and drinking with them, and the ascetic fasting of Yohanan the baptizer seems to be far from his mind.

YESHUA: Yohanan came neither eating nor drinking, and you said he had a devil. The Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and you say, 'look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of Gentiles and sinners, one who dines with whores. Neither fasting nor feasting is acceptable with you, it seems, and worse than that, you assume all women must be either married or prostitutes.

And the Pharisees began to criticize Yeshua because he cures a man with a withered hand on Saturday, when no work should be done, and healing is obviously work according to the letter of the Code of Moshe. Yeshua can hardly believe his ears.


104 CRITICS

YESHUA: What man of you, if his lamb falls into a pit, will not fetch it out on a Sabbath day? Is not a man worth much more than a lamb? So no, being merciful is not forbidden on the Sabbath.

They accuse Yeshua of casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons.

YESHUA: That doesn't make any sense. If Thaumiel is divided against himself, he cannot stand and his kingdom is at an end.

And after all these things the Pharisees are silenced, for they have been made to look like fools. Then they go out and held a council against Yeshua on how they might destroy him. But when Yeshua realizes what they are trying to do che withdraws hemself from there. Multitudes followed after hem, and che heals them all.

And while he talks to the people, his mother and his brethren stand nearby, desiring to speak with him. Then hez sister Salome tells Yeshua his mother and brothers are all waiting for him, but Yeshua, looking hez sister in the eye, stretches forth his hand to his followers and speaks.

YESHUA: These are my mother and my brethren! I assure you that to make the kingship of God present on Earth, even the lines of authority within one's family must be ignored, let alone the lines of authority found in society at large.

And some of his followers find this a hard saying, because it is a radical reorganization of traditional roles between men and women, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor.

His family begins to quarrel with Yeshua because they well know of his power to heal, and they command him to stay in Nazareth and establish a healing cult with themselves as the toll-taking gatekeepers. But Yeshua refuses. And after his family pushes matters further Yeshua refuses to receive any member of his blood kin at all, and he remains a traveling healer instead, with no permanent abode, precisely because the desire for a fixed location and roles proposed by his mother and brothers run contrary to his vision of the Kingdom of God. To Yeshua, every day should begin anew, with every person in direct contact with each other through giving and receiving of the things they needed, and also with direct contact with God through scripture and prayer.

Then there comes to Yeshua the scribes and Pharisees which are of Jerusalem, saying, Show us a sign from heaven that you have authority to say these things and to forgive sins.

YESHUA: God has already forgiven men of all their sins, it remains only for men to accept the truth that it is so. But it is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after a sign when their faith has failed. Therefore there shall be no sign given to you except the sign of the prophet Jonah, who was three days in the belly of the fish and came out again alive.

This is the first time Yeshua mentions the manner of his coming death and resurrection. From that time Yeshua begins to teach his followers that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. But his followers refuse to believe it. And more to the dismay of Yeshua even his closest followers still accept the terms defined by the scribes and Pharisees. They ask him who shall have the greatest authority in the Kingdom of God.


105 PILGRIMAGE

Yeshua calls a little child to him and set him in the midst of them.

YESHUA: Unless you become as this child, and conform your mind to God's mind with the same unreserved faith, you shall not recline at the Banquet of God.

After Yeshua instructs his twelve closest followers with all of his doctrines, he sends them by twos into the countryside to bring the message of the Kingdom of God to the peasants. Yeshua knows he cannot lead them himself, simply because thirteen men arriving in a village together, while the men are working the fields, would be received with great suspicion, as though they were bandits.

Instead, Yeshua commands they should stay no more than one or two days, and accept nothing but food and lodging in payment for proclaiming the vision of Yeshua. For it is written in the Code of Moshe, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Therefore those who proclaimed the Kingdom of God deserved their food and shelter.

YESHUA Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me, receives the one who sent me.

And the message they were to teach was happiness through freedom: Freedom from desires, freedom from fear, freedom from anger, and even freedom from grief.

The followers of Yeshua ask those who listen to them, Who is the true ruler, the one who wants everything and cannot obtain all that he wants, or the one who wants only what he finds possible to obtain? The one who wants the entire known world, or the one who just wants a small and peaceful realm? And this message was received well, because the peasants already had nothing. The followers of Yeshua said to them to be content with what they have and they will be more free than any king.

And the followers of Yeshua reach so many towns that even King Herod Antipas hears of his ministry, and fears that he is Yohanan the Baptist raised from the dead after he had beheaded him. Others say Yeshua is Elijah come down from heaven. But everyone agrees he is a major prophet on the order of Isaiah or Jeremiah.

For a year Yeshua and his followers journey through the hamlets of Lower Galilee and Samaria on the west side of the Jordan river, as well as and Edom and Perea on the east side. Herod Antipas ruled all of these lands.

At the end of the year Yeshua's ministry takes them into Judea. In the week before the Passover Yeshua and closest followers, male and female, spend their nights in Bethany, at the house of Shimon, a leper who has been cleansed by Yeshua. In Jerusalem many people began to see Yeshua's famed healing ministry for the first time, because prior to this he always remained in the north country and journeyed from village to village and house to house.

Yeshua goes up into the outer court of the temple and is angered to find the house of God has become a marketplace. Animals fit to be sacrificed are sold at an enormous markup, and money for gifts are changed from Roman coins to special temple money conveniently acceptable to the priests, again at a ridiculous profit.

So Yeshua fashions a whip, posts his disciples as bouncers, and goes through the temple courtyard with genuine wrath, flipping tables.


106 BANQUET

YESHUA The house of my Father is a place for worship and prayer, but you have turned it into a place to buy and sell religious paraphernalia! You hold the gold that sits in the temple with greater reverence than the temple itself!

And many of the scribes and Pharisees come down to confront Yeshua, because now he is striking at their very livelihood. A portion of the profits made in the temple are kicked upstairs to them. But Yeshua publicly derides them.

YESHUA Behold the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at feasts. Truly, they already have their reward!

Many of the scribes and Pharisees pick up stones to cast at Yeshua.

YESHUA Destroy this temple, and in three days I will rebuild it!

And by this he is speaking of the temple of hez own body. But the priests are offended, because Herod the Great began to enlarge the temple during his lifetime, and even now under the rule of his son the work is still not completed. Three days indeed! But they cannot stone Yeshua for fear of the crowd that has gathered and the disciples who close ranks around their master. So they depart for a time, and they deliberately twist his words and report that Yeshua is saying he will destroy the temple.

Yeshua does not try to correct them. He says only, "I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes." He means only that che has started the process that would lead inexorably to his execution. But the word begins to spread that Yeshua and his followers planned to set fire to the temple. And his enemies take council on how they can quietly have the man arrested and put to death.

That evening in the house of Shimon in Bethany, Yeshua and his followers are having supper. A woman comes in and pours a box of expensive ointment on hez head and feet. Yudah Iscariot complains that it is a waste of the ointment, because it might have been sold and the money given to the poor. He doesn't mention that he normally skims his take right off the top of such gifts. Yeshua tells him to lay off the woman because she is anointing his body ahead of time for the burial to come. Even now none of his disciples believe Yeshua when he says he is about to be put to death.

With the stinging loss of this potential income weighing in his mind, Yudah approaches the priests and offers to betray Yeshua in return for a small sum of money. He is already disappointed that Yeshua is not interested in serving as the focal point of a violent revolt against Rome, and he has already resolved to stop following Yeshua, but he also realizes he might at least turn things to his financial advantage.

For the priests' part, they are not paying Yudah to identify Yeshua to them, because Yeshua's appearance is well known and che always draws crowds. The priests are paying so they can say the conspiracy against Yeshua began within his own circle. Yeshua would be discredited. And Yeshua, noting the departure of Yudah, is satisfied that che has sufficiently aroused the religious authorities in Jerusalem to bring matters to a head.

With his remaining disciples Yeshua shares the first of an endless series of meals where his followers gather close together and drink wine in memory of his shed blood, and break bread in memory of his broken body, and renew again their commitment to make the kingship of God present in the world. It is, in short, the formal inauguration of the Banquet of God, and its repetition in every land and every age from that moment thereafter would become the central devotion of the people who embraced the teachings of Yeshua and his message of the forgiveness of God.

107 TEMPTATION

After the meal Yeshua says it is not enough to simply stop causing more damage, and to know God had already forgiven the offense. His followers must also go out into the world, forgive others of their sins, and help repair the damage that all sin causes to mankind.

That evening in a garden near the city, when the time of Yeshua's tribulation is nearly at hand and all of hez followers have fallen asleep, he enters into direct communication with his beloved parent Chokhmah and asks for strength. Yeshua knows he will soon experience a level of suffering so great he will beg to be released. Near despair, che cries out.

YESHUA Father, if it be possible, let this bitter cup pass from my hand.

Chokhmah immediately sends a fold door. Yeshua can look into the globe and see the greenery of heaven. Yeshua knows that all he needs to do is walk into the globe to escape the terrible execution that awaits him. But he also knows if he does so, then he, personally representing both humans and nephilim and angels in two worlds, will have proven the ancient contention of Thaumiel to be correct, that world-dwellers cannot remain obedient to the elohim under dire circumstances.

YESHUA Nevertheless, beloved Father, not my will, but yours be done.

The globe collapses, and the temptation is over. Yeshua has prevailed. Only the physical consequences remain.

The priests come with many armed men to arrest Yeshua, led by Yudah, and all of his followers flee for their lives despite their many previous assurances they would stay with Yeshua to the bitter end.

Yeshua's ordeal begins in the house of Yosef bar Caiaphas the high priest, where all of his enemies are gathered together from the Sanhedrin council. The Sanhedrin has been hastily gathered together at night, a complete breach of protocol, but their loss of beer money in the form kickbacks from the temple is, in their minds, a sufficient emergency to justify it. After lengthy questioning, Caiaphas realizes they have no binding legal case against Yeshua. He is blameless under the Code of Moshe. All they have to go on is a statement Yeshua made that he can tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days, which (if it was intended literally rather than as a kind a parable) is more insane than blasphemous. But it is all they have against on the man. So after a spate of physical abuse, Yeshua is taken before Pontius Pilate in the Praetorium.

Pilate is the Roman procurator of Judaea, a subordinate of Vitellius, who is the Roman legate of Syria. Pilate is exceedingly cruel and has absolutely no respect for Jewish religious sensibilities, but as far as he can tell, despite Yeshua exercising the will to remain silent before him, which pisses Pilate off somewhat, Yeshua seems to be an innocent man. Pilate is far more interested in the venom Yeshua's mere presence seems to invoke in the priests and Pharisees. So he refers Yeshua back to Caiaphas, tells him to try again, and retires for the evening.


108 TRIAL

Caiaphas puts Yeshua under oath by the living God and asks him straight out if he asserts to be divine. Since the night is wearing on, Yeshua decides the thing needs a little prodding.

YESHUA: Henceforth you shall see me standing at the right hand of God.

Caiaphas rents his robe.

CAIAPHAS: The charge of blasphemy is proven! This man deserves to die! But we have no authority to execute him. So we must bring him again before Pilate in the morning.

And meantime they occupy themselves with reviling and beating Yeshua.

In the morning Pilate really grows annoyed because he is being asked to put to death what he already knows to be an innocent man. But the Jewish religious authorities insist on it, and there also begins to be agitation from the mob stoked by those same scribes and elders. So Pilate has Yeshua flogged with the Roman flagellum, a whip with pieces of bone and metal embedded in the thongs.

Pilate, in a roundabout way, is actually trying to save Yeshua. He hopes the crowd will look at the man after his bloody torture and say it is enough, release him. But at the instigation of the priests and scribes, the mob cries out to crucify him instead, and Pilate is astonished. He realizes the Jewish leaders are really flustered by this man. So Pilate begins to mock them by calling Yeshua the King of the Jews. Then he has an idea to really rub it in.

Yeshua bar Abbas is an assassin of Roman officials who is scheduled to be crucified on charges of insurrection and murder. Pilate gives the Jews a stark choice: Either Yeshua bar Yosef would be crucified, or Yeshua bar Abbas. Continuing his little joke, Pilate turns to the priests, who are Sadducees keenly sensitive to avoiding rebellion at all costs.

PILATE: Shall I crucify your king?

But they reply they have no king but Caesar. So with great irony which is not lost on Pilate at all, a Jewish revolutionary against Rome is released at the request of Jewish collaborators in the name of their professed fealty to Rome, and Yeshua, who has taught to render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar is executed in his stead. Bar Abbas becomes the first man in history to have the penalty of his sins remitted by the death of Yeshua.

The Romans have a certain engineering genius when it comes to roads and aqueducts, and this genius they also applied to the death penalty. Crucifixion is by far the worst thing they could imagine happening to anyone. Yeshua is forced to carry a heavy wooden beam on hez back after most of the skin has been ripped off by the flagellum, and che is marched through the streets of Jerusalem to a point high on the slope of Mt. Olive facing the city.


109 EXECUTION

The crossbeam is mounted to a post, and Yeshua's two wrists are secured to the crossbeam with large nails through the carpal bones. And a single nail is driven through Yeshua's two heel bones, which itself is agonizing beyond belief. When the cross is raised into the upright position, Yeshua's own body weight makes it impossible to breathe unless he pushes his head up level with his arms, which he has to do by standing on the nail through the bone.

So he becomes a human engine of suffering. Yeshua has to push up on the single nail in his heels to scream, draw a breath, then sink back down again, constantly shifting the burden from his feet to his wrists until he dies of exhaustion. Most victims can take several days of this cycle to expire, but Pilate had ordered such a thorough job with the whipping that Yeshua, depleted of blood and beginning the ordeal in state of shock, only lasts for six hours.

Thus it is that Binah, a living star, knows agony on such a level that it literally captures the psyche of the eloah and traps her in Yeshua's body with no hope of escape except through death. Yeshua desperately tries to summon the will to die but finds che cannot, and the horror of this grows to overwhelm him. And yet Binah, as Yeshua, has freely accepted this punishment in obedience to her parent's commandment. Binah obeyed Chokhmah in full union with the human Yeshua. For those six hours Yeshua represents the whole human race. With this obedience of Yeshua unto a wretched death, Thaumiel's final claim against humans is silenced forever.

The high priest Caiaphas comes to Pilate and says this Yeshua he had commanded to be crucified had often foretold hez own death, and had said many times that che would lie in the earth, but rise again on the third day.

YOSEF: I fear, governor, that his followers will spread a lie through the city that they have seen the man risen again from the dead, exactly as he predicted. We will never be rid of the fanatics his followers will draw to themselves with that story.

PILATE: Have no fear, we will simply leave the man on the cross until the crows have picked him clean.

HEROD ANTIPAS: Actually, brother Pilate, we should bury him, since the Passover is drawing on. For it stands written in the Code of Moshe: the sun should not set on one who has been put to death.

And to this Pilate also agrees, albeit somewhat more reluctantly. But Yosef Caiaphas is still unsatisfied.

YOSEF: Not to impugn the famous discipline of your troops, governor, but it is well known that following a Roman crucifixion, the bodies are usually buried in shallow graves, with only a light covering of gravel over them. During the night, dogs are sure to uncover him and feast on his body, and we will never be able to prove he is not risen as his followers will claim. The multitude will say, 'See how righteous he was' and they will do us the harm that I have mentioned to you.

PILATE: About that I can do nothing. The dogs are an important part of the invincible deterrent of the penalty of crucifixion, especially in light of Jewish beliefs about the importance of burial.

But there is also there in the audience chamber of Pilate one Yosef of Arimathaea, a member of the Sanhedrin, who says he has a freshly hewn crypt which he has caused to be made for the use of himself and his wife when their time is at hand. And Yosef offers to lend the use of his crypt to lay the body of Yeshua within it for the span of three days that concerns the high priest. He says a heavy stone could be rolled into place to cover the entrance, and therefore the body would be safe from any beasts.


110 BURIAL

But Caiaphas has one more objection.

CAIAPHAS: The crypt will keep his body safe from being devoured by dogs, true enough, but what is to stop his followers from stealing the body away? Therefore, Pilate, give us soldiers that we may watch his sepulcher for three days.

So Pilate gives them Petronius the centurion with some of his soldiers to watch the tomb, and he considers the case closed.

Along with Petronius and his cohort comes elders and scribes. They lay the body of Yeshua within, and all who were there, together with the centurion and his soldiers, roll a very heavy stone against the entrance, and put on it seven seals, and pitch a tent outside to keep watch.

Binah, released now from her torment, would not stand by and watch the enemies of Yeshua desecrate her former body after the appointed three days in the tomb. Binah causes the earthly end of her worm-hole to heaven to be located inside the sealed tomb, and allows the waters of the Sacred Pool in Hamar to flood it.

Two Issacharites dive into the Pool to retrieve the body, and when it has been taken to Canterwood many of the Issacharites weep, for Yeshua has been wiped off the face of the Earth like only the Romans could do it, and the body is almost unrecognizable. With all the dignity they can summon, an Issacharite priest of Binah uses the Golden Gift to consume the body of Yeshua until it is no more.

After the three days have passed, the enemies of Yeshua are satisfied they have thwarted any possibility that his followers might rally around an empty tomb and form the nucleus of a messianic cult. They roll away the stone so they could move Yeshua's body from its temporary place in the tomb of Yosef of Arimathea and bury it in some more permanent but unmarked place. But there is nothing inside but a foot of water.

The superstitious Romans flee in great fear, and none of the priests and scribes speak about what happened, nor do they even tell Pilate that his soldiers shirked their duty and ran away. Instead, Petronius reports to Pilate that the Jewish elders were satisfied with the procedure and have taken the body of Yeshua away themselves. And Petronius sternly orders his soldiers to forget what they had seen.

Binah has an ability no other eloah in the galaxy possesses. This is the power, within certain limits, to locate the end-point of a wormhole anywhere in time, as well as anywhere in space. Binah sets up a fold-door inside the house of the high priest Yosef Caiaphas during the fifth trial of Yeshua. After arriving there, Michaela finds sha is able to move about at will, because sha is dressed as a servant, which makes har almost invisible to the men of power. Only her very light skin and white hair draws some attention.

As sha moves toward the chamber where they are questioning Yeshua sha recognizes the man Yeshua has called hez chief disciple, Shimon the son of Yona.

MICHAELA: I know you, sir! I saw you with Yeshua!

And this is absolutely true, because Michaela as Chokhmah, has full access to the memories of Binah as Yeshua.

But Shimon grows nervous and declares to the yin who is really his own God that he does not know the man.


111 REPLAY

Michaela smiles at him warmly, having already forgiven Shimon for his apparent unfaithfulness. Sha knows it is driven by fear. His mere presence in the house of Caiaphas to see what is happening to his master is sufficient proof of his faith.

In the largest room of the house Caiaphas puts Yeshua under oath by the living God and asks him straight out if he asserted to be divine.

YESHUA: Henceforth you shall see me standing at the right hand of God.

Then Caiaphas rents his robe.

CAIAPHAS: The charge of blasphemy is proven! This man deserves to die! But we have no authority to execute Yeshua. We must bring him again before Pilate in the morning.

Michaela enters the chamber and moves to stand at Yeshua's left side, placing hem to har right. Sha speaks in the loudest voice sha can muster.

MICHAELA: Behold my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased!

And within the blink of an eye they are both gone, leaving a spherical hole in the intricately tiled floor of the chamber.

By making this change, Yeshua sees that Michaela has caused all of reality to fork once more. There was Reality II, the one where he was crucified, and there is Reality III, the one where Yeshua and Michaela disappear before the very eyes of the Sanhedrin in the house of Caiaphas. Binah can see both forks, and she can place the end of a worm-hole in either one. Binah opens a fold-door outside of Jerusalem in Reality II and Yeshua steps through. This act alone generates Reality IV.

Early in the morning of the day after Shabbat (which itself was a day after Pascha, or Passover) after the sun has risen, Miriam of Magdalen, who has been the lover and closest female follower of Yeshua, takes with her Miriam the mother of Yeshua, and also Yeshua's older sister Salome. They come to the sepulcher where Yeshua has been laid by his enemies.

Yeshua's girlfriend speaks to his mother and sister.

MAGDALENE: Although we could not openly weep and lament on the day when Yeshua was crucified, let us now do so at his tomb.

SALOME: But who will roll away for us the stone also that is set on the entrance of the sepulcher, that we may go in and sit beside him and anoint my brother's body?

MIRIAM: If we cannot do so, let us at least put down at the entrance what we brought as a memorial for him, and let us weep and lament until we have gone home again.

So they proceed, but they find the sepulcher open. The women come near, stoop down, and find Michaela sitting in the midst of the sepulchre.

MICHAELA: Why are you come? Whom do you seek?

MAGDALENE: We seek the body of the one who was crucified. Please, if you have taken his body away, tell us, where have you taken it?

MICHAELA: You will not find the body of Yeshua, nor has anyone taken him, for che is risen by the power of God and has departed under hez own power. But in the city seek out Shimon who is called Kephas, and the other followers of Yeshua, and your Lord will appear to you there.


112 APPARITION

MIRIAM: If we cannot do so, let us at least put down at the entrance what we brought as a memorial for him, and let us weep and lament until we have gone home again.

So they proceed, but they find the sepulcher open. The women come near, stoop down, and find Michaela sitting in the midst of the sepulchre.

MICHAELA: Why are you come? Whom do you seek?

MAGDALENE: We seek the body of the one who was crucified. Please, if you have taken his body away, tell us, where have you taken it?

MICHAELA: You will not find the body of Yeshua, nor has anyone taken him, for che is risen by the power of God and has departed under hez own power. But in the city seek out Shimon who is called Kephas, and the other followers of Yeshua, and your Lord will appear to you there.

The women flee in much confusion and return to the city.

The eleven remaining disciples of Yeshua hide in the place where they shared the first Banquet of God with hem. The door is locked because they are afraid of the Jews and the Romans. Miriam of Magdalen comes to the room, knocks out Shave and a Haircut, and is admitted into the room.

MAGDALENE: I have been to the sepulcher where they buried the Lord. He is no longer there!

Shimon, called The Rock by Yeshua, locks the door behind her.

SHIMON: So they moved his body.

Miriam of Magdala shakes her head.

MAGDALENE: We saw a woman with white skin and white hair, in white raiment. She said the Lord is risen!

As the disciples debate what this news means a worm tunnel appears in the midst of the room. Yeshua floats through it, and the tunnel disappears again. Yeshua stands there and greets them all with great joy, but they can hardly believe their eyes.

YESHUA: The peace of God be with each one of you.


113 MOVEMENT

Caiaphas the High Priest laments when he hears of the growing new movement.

YOSEF: And so it begins, just as we feared it would be when the body of this Yeshua went missing. Now these men and those of like mind will go among the people and tell them this Yeshua is risen, and stir them up to vain superstitions.

Yet the apostles, despite the fears of Caiaphas, are not really of like mind. The Yeshua movement snaps in two barely out of the starting gate. One faction, led by Yeshua's half-brother Yakob the Righteous believes the movement is nothing more than a new take on orthodox Judaism and proposes to work towards an accommodation with authorities such as the Pharisees and Saduccees and even the occupying Romans. Yakob's group decides to remain in Jerusalem close to the levers of power.

The other faction, led by Kephas, remembers how the authorities ruthlessly executed both Yohanan the baptizer and after that Yeshua himself. They are not remotely interested in making peace with any enemy save Death, which Yeshua has shown through his resurrection can be conquered by anyone who makes the rule of God present in the world. In time, Shimon's group migrates north, first to their original home near Galilee, then they move farther north to settle in Antioch.

A third faction called the Ebionites stays behind in Galilee when Kephas moves to Antioch. And a fourth faction called the Gnostics more or less cashes in on the momentum of the other three movements, but they bring along a host of new ideas that Yeshua never taught.

Yeshua hemself samples the progress of his apostles at various points in time, appearing to remain young even as his apostles wax old and die. At first, aside from the odd miracle to prod things along, che does not interfere. But standing on Mount Olive the summer exactly forty years after che had been crucified, Yeshua witnesses the end of the Second Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Che knows Judaism is finished as a religion of the temple. From that point going forward personal adherence to the purity code of Moshe, as taught by rabbis in synagogues, would atone for personal and corporate sin which had previously been absolved by animal sacrifices.

Spot checks farther up the timeline confirm to Yeshua that no third temple would ever be constructed. What troubles Yeshua is that over that same span of time his followers never take his message of the Banquet of God to anyone other than the Jews. In that timeline, with the fall of Jerusalem his own movement is rapidly extinguished as well. Yeshua goes back to the 30s to see what he can do.

Early on the Jewish aristocrats and religious authorities realize the new Way of Yeshua is a tumor growing on their power structure. They think the only way to stop it is to escalate to bloodshed.The first victim of this new policy is a deacon of the Jerusalem mother church named Stefanos, who has been selected to aid the apostles in attending to the physical needs of the people while they focus on preaching. Stefanos is particularly fired up for Yeshua, and it is easy to manipulate a mob into interpreting his preaching as the provocation of a Jewish apostate and stone him to death.

This mob violence is witnessed by a certain Pharisee named Saulus of Tarsus becomes the chief thug for the orthodox Jewish side, and goes around the country kicking in the doors of Yeshua-followers and dragging them, men and women alike, to prison. The followers of Yeshua's way goes underground in Jerusalem, but Saulus hears they are still openly preaching in Damascus, so he goes there with letters written by certain rabbis authorizing him to find Yeshua's disciples and bring them to Jerusalem in fetters.

114 SAULUS

When Saulus is well on his way to that city, Yeshua causes the mouth of a wormhole from the Land We Know to fall upon Saulus. It is the first alien abduction in history. Night is transformed to day. There is a warm alpine meadow with many different flowers, and stunted trees, and the biggest mountain Saulus has ever seen, covered by dozens of glaciers. There, seated in the meadow on a log, is Yeshua.

YESHUA: Do not be afraid, Saulus.

SAULUS: Who are you, Lord?

YESHUA: I am Yeshua, the son of the living God. I am the one you are truly afflicting when you arrest my followers, for they are my hands and feet in the world.

Saulus sinks to his knees.

SAULUS: Forgive me, Lord.

YESHUA: There is nothing to forgive, Saulus. You honestly believed my followers were turning the children of Israel away from our God. I honor your zeal, but I have a better use for it.

SAULUS: Anything, Lord. What would you have me do?

Yeshua smiles at him.

YESHUA: After you have been baptized men shall no longer call you Saulus. After that you shall be Paulus, and you will be my missionary to the Gentiles.

SAULUS: The Gentiles, Lord?

YESHUA: I know it's ironic. You studied the Code of Moshe under Rabbi Gemaliel and your observance of it is impeccable. You are the perfect Jew, Saulus, but it turns out that is all the Code of Moshe is really good for: making Jews flawlessly unlike anyone of the neighboring nations and kingdoms. But the written law doesn't make you objectively righteous to my Father because God can see inside your heart and loyalty has to begin from deep within. Do you see?

SAULUS: I do, Lord, there is the kind of righteousness based on the fear of being caught, and there is the righteousness which springs from the desire to please one's master.

YESHUA: Clearly you are going to be the brains of my organization, if you join me, Saulus. No doubt you have heard of the man I left in charge of my flock back there, Shimon, son of Yona.

SAULUS: I understand you renamed him Kephas, or 'Rock', Lord.

YESHUA: That's true, but you may not know why I did that.

SAULUS: The rumor is he is a man of great strength, Lord.


YESHUA: I named him Kephas because he is as dumb as a rock. Nevertheless, if I turn you loose without putting you into the proper relationship with Shimon and my brothers and my other followers, you will run where I do not want you to go.

Yeshua, speaking these words, stretches out hez hands and touches Saulus' face. Instantly, he is filled with dismay.

115 KEPHAS

SAULUS: Save me, Lord, I cannot see!

YESHUA: Others will guide you to Kephas.

Saulus does not see how he is returned to the place where he has been taken from. Saulus, blinded by the touch of Yeshua, is led the rest of the way to Damascus by his traveling companions. Before he enters that city, they are intercepted by Ananias, a disciple who has been alerted by Yeshua. Ananias takes them to his house in the city. There Saulus is baptized, and following the command of the Lord he begins to call himself Paulus.

After a number of days, they journey again to Jerusalem, where Ananias tries to get the brethren to accept Paulus, but everyone is afraid of him, and fear he is trying to infiltrate their cells in order to betray them to the Jews.

In the end it falls to Barnabas, an old friend of Paulus who studied with him under Rabbi Gemalial, to meet with the man and find out what his story is. Barnabas is one of the earliest converts to Yeshua. He had been a wealthy landowner who sold his holdings in Crete and used the money to fund Kephas' ministry. So Barnabas has the ear of Kephas, and after a long talk with Paulus he believes his friend really has met the Lord somehow and converted to the Way, just as he said. Yet it seemed incredible, and it would be a hard sell, for as Saulus he had been the worst enemy of the nascent Church.

Through the mediation of Barnabas, then, Kephas comes to Paulus, who was still blind, and it was entirely within the power of Kephas to leave Paulus thus and remove a thorn from the Church. But Kephas is preaching a gospel of forgiveness, and he knows that Yeshua would scorn his hypocrisy if he did not try to heal the man. So Kephas touches his eyes, and something like scales fall away from them, and Paulus can see again, but his vision would never be nearly as good as it was before he met Yeshua, and Paulus would require the services of an assistant to write all his letters. Yet that, too, was part of Yeshua's plan to mold his character. For years after that Paulus would beg the Lord in prayer to remove this impediment, and Yeshua would always answer, No.

PAULUS: The Lord Yeshua spoke with me. Not in a vision, but man to man, just as I am speaking with you now.

KEPHAS: So you say. He spoke with me too, after he was raised up from the dead. He spoke with me for years before he was put to death so I actually know the Lord. Can you say the same?

Paulus shakes his head, conceding the point.

PAULUS: The Lord said I was to be sent to the Gentiles.

KEPHAS: And what will you tell the Gentiles?

Paulus again has no answer to that.

KEPHAS: I see that Yeshua has left it to me to teach you his doctrine. Gentiles you say? Did you know that some of the apostles, even the Lord's brothers, insist the Gentiles must become good Jews before they can be baptized in the name of Yeshua? That only the circumcised can come to the table of the Banquet of God?

PAULUS: The Lord Yeshua made it very clear to me that is not what he intends.


116 COMPROMISE

KEPHAS: I've been trying to find some middle way. But now you come along and say you will go to the Gentiles, and not receive them as Jews first. I tell you that is the sort of thing that can split our Way in twain with no hope of rejoining them.

PAULUS: 'Come now, and let us reason together', says the Lord.

And so they take the issue to the whole church at the Council of Jerusalem, convened by Yakob, the brother of Yeshua. Paulus is not permitted to speak, but Kephas pleads his case before the council, and his position as the chief apostle carries much weight. But Kephas does not have the ultimate authority over whole the Church that would be enjoyed by the Popes much later.

Although he is not allowed to speak, the astonishing transformation of Paulus from enemy of the Way to a wannabe apostle carries much weight. So the final verdict of the Council of Jerusalem is that Gentile converts to the Way of Yeshua do not have to be circumcised or adhere to the whole Code of Moshe, but a handful of commandments which Jews believed have been binding on all men since the time of Noah are retained. Paulus is not totally happy with the compromise, but few negotiators ever are.

Paulus is ordained the Apostle to the Gentiles, while the original apostles are to bring the children of Israel, scattered throughout the world, to the Banquet of God.

Finally Yakob the Righteous, the cousin and step-brother of Yeshua, deigns to speak to him.

Remember, Brother Paulus, that here in Jerusalem we are burdened with many poor. Do not forget these people when you preach to your more affluent Gentile flocks of Yeshua and the Banquet of God.

But in time, a few years after the death of Paulus in Rome, Jerusalem is sacked as Yeshua had already seen, and in the course of time becomes a colony of Rome where Jews are forbidden to enter. Only the Pauline constellation of churches remain viable and evolve to become mainline Christianity.


117 KALEETAN

The Kaleetan are more significant than a mere band of people scratching out their existence on the Great Plains of North America, yet they are not sufficiently numerous to be considered a tribe or even a clan. They originate among the Oglala Sioux, largely unmolested by that tribe, but outcast, wandering the same hunting grounds as a kind of permanent punishment detail, ostensibly for religious offenses, but in practice as a way for the leaders of the Oglalas to deal with competing alpha males. There are women among them, to be sure, though not nearly enough.

To the north the Kaleetan are beset by the Dakotas, who hold the sacred Black Hills and much of the plains and badlands around them. The Kaleetan name them the Northern Raiders, and if the mainline Oglalas help to fend them off from time to time it is more to protect their own land than to do the outcasts any special favors.

In the richer grasslands eastward the Kaleetan have the Pawnees to contend with. To the south along the Oregon Trail they are buffeted by the Arapahoes and run the risk of bumping into fearful white settlers or the army troops who protect them. To the scrubby lands westward they have the Cheyennes to fear. The whole northwest they avoid in dread of the Crows and Blackfeet.

But here in the sliver of meager grasslands grudgingly allotted to them by the leaders of the Oglala Nation their hunters ride. Wanica, the best of the Kaleetan hunters, rides in the lead, downwind of a herd of bison drinking water at a ford in a curiously constant stream that is named Indian River by the whites, although it is really more like a large creek.

When the Kaleetan hunters descend into the relatively lush ravine carved by the meandering Indian River, Wanica signals for his men to bring their horses to a halt. They dismount and tie their horses off to the roots of bleached stumps. As Wanica leads his men up along the riverbank on foot, some of the animals seem to grow nervous, though they cannot see any of the hunters yet. Wanica and his hunters creep through the brush to watch the herd. They cast no shadows, for the day is relatively dark, covered by a low overcast. It is cold, but it does not rain.

The male of the bison stops drinking and stares east and downstream, sensing danger. Judging the moment to be right, Wanica suddenly stands from behind a shrub and looses an arrow. The bolt strikes a cow in a flank, but it's not a lethal shot. All the animals hear the cry of the cow, panic, and run.

A rapid series of shots are made by other hunters, but all of the arrows miss or make non-lethal wounds. The bison flee them, ascending a slope to the north and west and making for the cover of the low cloud bank, although they are too stupid to have planned such a move. The hunters return to their horses, then follow the herd away from the river and up the hillside, and a thick fog envelopes them.

Bows are held at the ready, turning left and right, but nothing is visible to the men in the oppressive whiteout. Still, after they toil uphill the fog clears, patches of blue sky are seen, and at last three of the bison are isolated and exposed. Arrows are loosed and strike home, dropping one of the animals.

The two surviving bison run back down off the hill into the fog, seeking the safety of numbers. Young braves are tasked by Wanica with carving up the body of the fallen animal. Meat is loaded on a skid made of wooden staves and animal skin to be dragged away. Nothing of the bison is wasted.

Satisfied with the progress of the younger men, Wanica turns away with his other companions and they ride up the slope until they can go no higher.

118 WANICA

Briefly, the summit of the high hill stands alone over a sea of clouds for a rare and beautiful moment. Wanica is moved by the sight.

WANICA: I name this place the Island in the Sky.

The herd of bison wanders back, grazing warily on the mountaintop even with the hunters close at hand. They seem to sense that the humans have done their worst and will leave the rest of them alone.

A flying machine drifts out of the sea of fog on loud jets of flame.

The bison and most of the men scatter at the noise of the machine. Only Wanica and his fearless steed remain to watch what happens. His first thought is that this is some new stunt by the whites. Wanica has heard some of them travel on burning horses made of iron.

The flying machine drops a white ball, then moves up and away from the butte to explode in the sky with an even louder noise.

As the echoes of the explosion die away the white ball bounces to a stop on the summit of the Island in the Sky. Only Wanica remains to watch the white ball change shape to become like a man. The faceless white man walks toward

Wanica, then sits on the ground. He says no words.

Not a white man as in a European white man, but white as snow. And he has no eyes, no mouth, no nose nor ears.

The head of the white man opens in six petals, revealing a golden object. Wanica dismounts and draws near to look at the shiny thing. Tentatively, respectfully, he takes hold of the golden object while the limbs of the white man remain motionless at his side.

The golden object fits neatly in Wanica's hand like the hilt of a knife.

Wanica squeezes the Golden Gift to produce a hissing opaque black beam.

Sweeping it around, the beam carves trenches in the stony ground of the hilltop entirely without effort. When Wanica no longer actively squeezes the Golden Gift, the black beam retracts into it and disappears.

The petals of the head of the white man close once more, betraying no seams. The white man changes his shape to become an inert white dome on the mountain summit. After Wanica witnesses all these things, he conceals the Golden Gift in the pack tied to his horse.

The curiosity of Wanica's companions overcomes their fear. They slowly return to the summit, together with some of the bison. There, the hunters see the white dome on the very summit of the Island in the Sky, and they also see Wanica standing next to it, alone.

Wanica lifts a stone and sets it near the white dome. The companions of Wanica join him, stacking stones around the dome as though they were building an igloo out of rock. The men finish their work and stand back to look. The white dome is concealed by a cairn.

None of the Kaleetan hunters understand what they have seen, but they agree it was no mere vision of the Sky Father, for all of them have shared the same experience. It is fitting, they deem, to have built a hallowed lodge for the Sky Father after his manifestation to them, which they take to be his blessing for the hunt.

-119 TATANKA

The small mountain Wanica named the Island in the Sky has become forever sacred to the hunters of the Kaleetan. And Wanica still has the Golden Gift, which he keeps secret.

In camp the Kaleetan People feast on the bison killed on the Island in the Sky. The animal's horns have been fastened to leather thongs. One of fat Chief Tatanka's women fasten the two horns to his garment at his shoulder, as though he had actually gotten out of the tent where he ever roils in womanflesh and killed the animal himself. While this is being done Tatanka and Wanica eye each other with no mutual respect whatsoever.

TATANKA: There are five stories how this animal was taken, but none are the same.

Wanica allows his gaze to drift away from the chief and he blows a puff of smoke.

TATANKA: About the kill then. What say you, Squaw Who Hunts?

Wanica's gaze returns to the Chief sharply, as though he has been slapped.

But he buries his rage and answers.

WANICA: We followed the herd up the grassy mountain, and there was a cloud. I could not even see the other hunters. Each man ascended alone. On the top of the mountain the cloud was no more, and there we took the animal.

PLENTY LICE And the Sky Father himself appeared out of the cloud to bless our hunt!

TATANKA: You have taught your hunters to lie so easily, Squaw Who Hunts. I should give you another name.

Wanica is annoyed by the intrusion of Plenty Lice, but he continues to speak.

WANICA: The Sky Father was white as snow. He sat on the top of the mountain and his arms and legs shrank until became like an egg. The others saw this egg.The hunters who had been with him nod their assent and grunt. They had seen the egg.

TATANKA: And what did you do when you saw this egg, liar?

WANICA: We built a lodge of stones for the Sky Father, to honor him for his blessing.

Tatanka pulls out his knife in a sudden rage.

TATANKA Lies! You dare to tell such lies to my face?

Wanica faces the Chief with empty hands.

WANICA: What I have just told you, that is what Plenty Lice and Ohanko and myself and all of us saw and did on the hunt.

Tatanka flicks the tip of his blade at Wanica's face, and draws blood.

TATANKA: Now I know what I will call you now, young liar. Hole In Cheek!

Wanica puts his hand to his cheek and runs out of the range of the fire's light. Chief Tatanka sits down and laughs, but nobody else does. Wanica's simple wife Yuha leaves the circle of light as well and follows her man to their tipi.

-120 SHY BEAR

While Wanica is being bandaged up his son Shy Bear watches his mother dress the wound.

SHY BEAR: Father, did you truly see the Sky Spirit, or did you just want to annoy Bad Heart Bull?

Wanica shifts his eyes to his son, much as he had done when the Chief called him a woman, but he does not answer until Yuha is finished stanching the cut. At length, when his wife is done, Wanica appraises his son for a long moment.

WANICA: Yuha, what we spoke about before, now it is time.

Yuha nods, and retrieves a leather pouch containing pigments and implements to apply them. For his part Wanica retrieves a ceremonial dress made of bison skins and feathers and many beads.

YUHA: Stand and be still, son.

Wanica lays the ceremonial dress on Shy Bear as his wife begins to paints the boy's face.

WANICA: I will not give you an answer to your question about the Sky Father.

Yuha continues to paint. Wanica puts the boy's own bow in his hands.

WANICA: I will not give you food.

Yuha completes painting her son's face and stands apart from him.

WANICA: You are called Shy Bear because I lent you that name, but now you are nameless.

Wanica flips open the flap-door to the tipi.

WANICA: Go now, into the night, nameless one. Kill your own food, if you can. And if you cannot? Perhaps in your hunger the Sky Father will give you a vision. I will pray that he does so, for I will not give a nameless boy such as you one more thing.

Yuha kisses her son.

YUHA: If you come back to us, you will not be a boy. You will be a man, and you will have a new name that you will have given yourself.

The astonishment on Shy Bear's face at all these proceedings fades, and he nods. Obeying his father, he steps out of the tent into the night. In the dark, Shy Bear walks on the plain with the fires of the People far behind. In the pre-dawn light, Shy Bear toils up the slopes of the Island in the Sky. The sun rises as Shy Bear nears the top of the mountain. In the light of full dawn, Shy Bear stands on the summit of the hill, and his own shadow falls upon his father's stone cairn.

But when it is mid-day, Shy Bear has still not had a vision from the Sky Father. The stone cairn built by his father remains silent. So Shy Bear gathers woody brush growing on the summit, cutting it with his knife. He builds a fire in a small fire-pit made of stones.

Shy Bear begins to remove stones away from one side of the cairn to create a door. He creates a makeshift torch and lights it from his little campfire. Then he crawls inside the stone igloo, with his torch lighting the way.


121 FIRE

Shy Bear emerges from the cairn, raising the arm with the hand that was pierced. He staggers around, and drops the torch. The flame of the torch kindles dry grass on the ground to catch fire as well, as Shy Bear falls to the ground in a dead faint. A bubble forms around Shy Bear before the flames reach him. He recedes as though it were a tunnel. The bubble disappears. Shy Bear is gone.

Flames reach the place where Shy Bear had fallen. The fire grows until the summit is entirely engulfed. The fire becomes a ring that circles the entire bulk of the Island in the Sky. Bison and rabbit flee downslope as the fire races toward them. The top third of the Island in the Sky is charred as the fiery ring continues to move down. Far from the mountain, a herd of bison instinctively turn south to move away from the danger.

Wanica and Yuha emerge from their tipi and look south. They can see the Island in the Sky is entirely engulfed in flame and smoke.

Shy Bear stands together with Yeshua and his servants, marveling at the view of the afterlife.

YESHUA: This is the lodge of my parent Chokhmah, the one you know as the Sky Father. I am Chief Yeshua.

SHY BEAR: You speak strange words, yet I know what they mean.

YESHUA: When you were pierced by the white artifact, your body and mind was changed over ten days while you remained in a deep sleep. The only visible evidence of this change is a small cup of bone at the back of your spine where your neck joins your head. Now you can speak and understand the tongue of the Whites. Also, if you die, you will live once again in a child's body.

SHY BEAR: I did not ask to be changed in these ways, Chief Yeshua.

YESHUA: It is a consequence of touching the Artifact. Those changes are not a matter of your choice. Yet you are free to choose to return to your People and teach them the language that you have come to know.

SHY BEAR: They will be afraid, and flog me, or try to put me to death, thinking I am Coyote come in a human shape.

YESHUA: Do not be afraid. Your father Wanica will protect you. He will soon be Chief of the People.

SHY BEAR: All of these things, the changes to me, what is the purpose? Is there a purpose?

YESHUA: A group of White settlers will encounter the People in three years. I want them to live among you. Chokhmah wants these Whites and your People to live together in peace. And I wish for someone to go with you.

SHY BEAR: You spoke of a choice. What will become of me if I do not return to the People?

YESHUA: You may stay here and live for time without end, but your parents and your people will never see you again.

Shy Bear looks at the new world once more. There is no sky. The land curves behind a small sun. Hy longs to stay and experience even more wonders, but hyz longing to see hyz father Wanica and mother Yuha again proves the greater.

SHY BEAR: I will return to the People again, and teach them the language of the Whites.


122 BRIDGE

Muskets fall like two waves of dominoes atop stone walls on the Blue and Gray sides of a quiet little creek. The instant the rifled barrels hit the horizontal they fire, burning men's eyes with the pungent smoke of spent black powder. The lethal twin wave falters at the end where the stone barriers leap across the water to kiss atop a sturdy arch. There Union and Confederate soldiers converge on foot, shooting as they come, and men fall on the roadway from both sides. When the belligerents are too close for shooting to make any sense the men in the van of the attacks resort to bayonet thrusts and even fisticuffs. The Federals have the greater initial momentum and they nearly get across the bridge before the rebels drive them back over a layer of bodies one man deep. Some of these men are dead, others are moaning and writhing with a lead ball lodged in their innards. Tragically some of the fallen boys in blue survived Shiloh, where the war first attained its presently high but stable plateau of savagery.

Waiting for the counter-attack of the Army of Northern Virginia is a cannon which the Union colonel leading the assault has dared to order lined up on the long axis of the bridge. The piece is loaded with canister shot, which mows the onrushing men down like grass to form a second layer of bodies. Some of these fallen boys in gray survived the artillery hell at Malvern Hill during the Seven Days.

Waiting in turn for this cannon are two guns on the Confederate side positioned on a bend of the creek upstream. One fires bursting shells that kill or maim the Union gunners and another fires several rounds of solid shot. Some of the rounds find their mark. The ones that do not hit the cannon bounce up the slope and assail the walls of a pretty little white church. Eventually the giant shotgun on the Federal side becomes a useless pile of splinters and a prone tube of dented steel. Then another Rebel attack gains most of the bridge, which has become an abattoir.

The colonel leading the attack from the Union side is shot off his horse, but to the wonderment of his own men he immediately stands up and sees the Minie ball was stopped by the leather cover of his little pocket Bible. Taking this as a divine go-ahead, the colonel orders a fresh wave of troops to assail the bridge. Rebel troops are soon driven entirely off the bridge by the new Union assault.

Hearing that his boys are almost out of powder, the lieutenant colonel commanding the other side orders bayonets fixed and leads one more charge. After the furious carnage that ensues the rebels briefly regain sole occupation of the bridge.

Seeing that the colors of the United States have fallen, the colonel takes them up again himself and leads his men back to the fight. Against a foe which has spent all its powder, the Union men soon attain the high summit of a mass of twisting bodies on the bridge. There they continue to fire, swapping their empty muskets for fresh ones handed up to them as though on a conveyor belt, firing again and again. The last of the rebels are either shot, captured, or run away.

The colonel reaches the other side of the creek at last and sees the retreating backs of the enemy. He turns to a lieutenant.

COLONEL:Tell the commanding general we won a bridgehead here.

The junior officer salutes and turns to obey, but he sees the bridge is stacked with bodies from both sides. Unwilling to desecrate the fallen, he splashes on foot across the creek, which after all is only ankle deep.


123 SHARPSBURG

Two Confederate Corps commanders watch the Federal lines through binoculars from the saddle of his horse. Even before the butcher's bill has been tendered he knows it has been the bloodiest single day of the war. Neither side seems eager to extend the carnage to a second day. The general commanding First Corps turns to his superior, mounted on a tall gray horse next to him.

LONGSTREET: General, sir, it is my considered opinion the enemy is not making ready to attack.

The general commanding the Second Corps, Stonewall Jackson, nods in agreement. But General Lee appears to be anguished. His face is flushed as he realizes his invasion of the North has failed. He knows the Union commander is overly cautious, but if (leaping upon some unlikely but horrible misstep) the enemy did decide to move, a large fraction of the Confederate army would be captured or killed before it could be moved to relative safety south across the Potomac River. So he sighs and comes to a conclusion, the only possible conclusion, painful as it is with so much precious blood already invested.

LEE: Gentlemen, you are to move the army back over the river. But this is the most important thing: The retreat must be in good order. I do not wish to give those people over there the satisfaction of witnessing this army in a rout.

Longstreet and Jackson snap off perfect salutes, then motion to subordinates and begin to issues their own orders. Soon all over the battlefield men begin to break down their tents. The Confederates begin to cross back south over the Potomac on pontoon bridges stretching from the little tongue of Maryland they continue to hold. And still the short little Union commanding general, watching and waiting somewhere on the long slope up from the Potomac, refuses to budge. Were the forces ten-to-one in his favor, he would still wire Washington complaining of being outnumbered.

Back on the Virginia side of the river one sergeant orders his men to form back up, but some of the less-seriously wounded men ignore him and walk on, making for their own homes. The white church near the bridge, or what is left of it, has been turned into a field hospital for the Union army. Dried blood stains the interior walls, overlaid with sprays of fresh blood. A doctor uses ether to sedate a man. Other men use saws to hack off limbs, which they throw into a pile. Men outside the church on stretchers moan with post-op agony. A messenger arrives at the church by horse and addresses the doctors.

CORPORAL: These orders are from the commanding general. Get your wounded on hoof or wheels and get them the hell out of here.

So the amputated legs and arms are thrown into a large pile and burned. Wagons carrying wounded men begin to roll away. Every bump in the road elicits screams from the men inside. No man or woman who witnesses the passing convoy of suffering will say again they love the glory of war.

The last ambulance wagon passes a group of black-clad farmers and their wives riding homely mules, their horses having been prudently moved to a place far away from men of either army who would "borrow" them. On these mules the parishioners of the white church have ridden out, as soon as they deemed it safe, to see what has become of their meeting place.

124

Two Confederate Corps commanders watch the Federal lines through binoculars from the saddle of his horse. Even before the butcher's bill has been tendered he knows it has been the bloodiest single day of the war. Neither side seems eager to extend the carnage to a second day. The general commanding First Corps turns to his superior, mounted on a tall gray horse next to him.

LONGSTREET: General, sir, it is my considered opinion the enemy is not making ready to attack.

The general commanding the Second Corps, Stonewall Jackson, nods in agreement. But General Lee appears to be anguished. His face is flushed as he realizes his invasion of the North has failed. He knows the Union commander is overly cautious, but if (leaping upon some unlikely but horrible misstep) the enemy did decide to move, a large fraction of the Confederate army would be captured or killed before it could be moved to relative safety south across the Potomac River. So he sighs and comes to a conclusion, the only possible conclusion, painful as it is with so much precious blood already invested.

LEE: Gentlemen, you are to move the army back over the river. But this is the most important thing: The retreat must be in good order. I do not wish to give those people over there the satisfaction of witnessing this army in a rout.

Longstreet and Jackson snap off perfect salutes, then motion to subordinates and begin to issues their own orders. Soon all over the battlefield men begin to break down their tents. The Confederates begin to cross back south over the Potomac on pontoon bridges stretching from the little tongue of Maryland they continue to hold. And still the short little Union commanding general, watching and waiting somewhere on the long slope up from the Potomac, refuses to budge. Were the forces ten-to-one in his favor, he would still wire Washington complaining of being outnumbered.

Back on the Virginia side of the river one sergeant orders his men to form back up, but some of the less-seriously wounded men ignore him and walk on, making for their own homes. The white church near the bridge, or what is left of it, has been turned into a field hospital for the Union army. Dried blood stains the interior walls, overlaid with sprays of fresh blood. A doctor uses ether to sedate a man. Other men use saws to hack off limbs, which they throw into a pile. Men outside the church on stretchers moan with post-op agony. A messenger arrives at the church by horse and addresses the doctors.

CORPORAL: These orders are from the commanding general. Get your wounded on hoof or wheels and get them the hell out of here.

So the amputated legs and arms are thrown into a large pile and burned. Wagons carrying wounded men begin to roll away. Every bump in the road elicits screams from the men inside. No man or woman who witnesses the passing convoy of suffering will say again they love the glory of war.

The last ambulance wagon passes a group of black-clad farmers and their wives riding homely mules, their horses having been prudently moved to a place far away from men of either army who would "borrow" them. On these mules the parishioners of the white church have ridden out, as soon as they deemed it safe, to see what has become of their meeting place.


125 SCHISM

KELLER: It wonders me you will not help rebuild our church here.

LANGE: Me and as many of the flock who are of the same mind.

KELLER: Then let's have it out. Who is with Deacon Lange for leaving?

The Savitt family, the Hillings, the Bergins, the Zinters move to Lange's side with the Brannens, Krauses, Porters, and the Wustners. Staying with Keller are the Sunkels, the Clarks, the Martins. Also staying behind are the Johnsons, Hickeys, and Davidsons. Keller sees that his flock has been divided in half, and sighs.

KELLER: For a decision of this import, surely the Lord must weigh in?

LANGE: We have already consulted the Lord in prayer, brother Keller.

Keller looks at the faces of Lange's group, who nod assent. But he is not one to dwell on a losing cause, nor one to dawdle.

KELLER: Make ready then. You shall leave in a fortnight.

LANGE: And if it be the will of God, we will make a peaceful new life in Pennsylvania, far from this war.

When the horses were first evacuated to Pennsylvania it was his male cousins on his father's side who took them, and Mark paid them little mind. But when the horses are returned it is his cousin Joanna who brings them back, all by her lonesome. Mark has never met her before, and he falls stone cold in love at first sight.

Joanna centers her life around equines. On the way to Pennsylvania the weather turns bad. Joanna lets her horse get the tent and she sleeps out in the rain.

Joanna's father is none too happy to see the way Mark Lange hovers over her when they all arrive at his farm. Her mother is slightly more sanguine. Joanna's horse is groomed better than she is, and the farm house is ever a sty. Joanna spends more time cleaning her horse than helping her mother clean the house, but the barn is as neat as a pin. Once she had suggested to Joanna that she needed a male companion to quiet some of the rumors going around, so Joanna got herself a stallion. When Mark begins courting her, he finds a strange hair on her coat but he doesn't get jealous because Joanna has the horse to match.

The most common present Joanna receives at her bridal shower is actual bridles. When it is time to show up for her own wedding she comes in late, wearing riding clothes, because she took too long at the barn.

Three centuries prior King Henry VIII grew tired of his wife so he asked Rome to release him from the marriage. The Pope refused, so he took the whole country of England out of the Church and started his own national Church. Thomas Cranmer, the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, duly announced King Henry's marriage annulment with Catherine of Aragon. This established the central feature of the Reformation, that human will was ascendant over divine will.

After that it was like a dam had burst. John Knox founded the Scottish Presbyterian Church after a disagreement with Lutherans over the shared meal and church government. John Smyth founded the Baptist Church over the issue of infant baptism and church-state separation. English translations of the Bible appeared, and the new Church of England, controlled now by Parliament, rejected for use in the Liturgy certain books of the Old Testament that had been authored in Greek and had been accepted by Rome and the Eastern Church for centuries.


126 GETTYSBURG

After the Western Church divided, it began to sub-divide again over the smallest issues, such as whether women could wear slacks, or whether playing cards was a sin, or the color of the hymnal. Every new sect had their own doctrinal hobby horse to ride. For the Five Corners Free Congregation of Pennsylvania, led by Mark Lange, it was cousin marriage.

God never had a problem with cousins getting hitched. Milcah was married to her cousin, Nahor. They had a granddaughter named Rebecca, who later married Isaac, her first cousin once removed. Isaac instructed Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebecca's brother. Jacob ended up marrying two of them, both first cousins, Rachel and Leah. Eleazar's daughters married their first cousins. God even commanded Zelophehad's five daughters to marry their cousins so their inheritance would remain in the family.

It was precisely to prevent this accumulation of wealth in families (and thus threaten the temporal power of the Papacy) that Pope Gregory I made cousin-marriage absolutely forbidden for all Roman Catholic Christians.

Before the Civil War, no American state banned cousin marriage. In the years following the war thirteen states did make it illegal. American prohibitions against cousin marriages predate modern genetics. The United States is the only western country with cousin marriage restrictions. About twenty percent of all couples worldwide are first cousins. About eighty percent of all marriages historically have been between first cousins.

The incest taboo actually has an internal basis. Many animals including humans have evolved an aversion to mating very close within the bloodlines, like between brother and sister, or son and mother. But the further away a potential mate is from your own genetic inheritance, the less likely you will run across them in everyday life and have the opportunity to get with them. So first cousins represent a sort of optimum point between genetic diversity and sexual availability.

All of these defenses (scriptural, historical, and anthropological) were first compiled by Pastor Mark Lange of Five Corners Free Congregation, who was deeply in love with his cousin-wife Joanna Lange. And all of this would have been a mere footnote in the annals of 19th Century American Protestantism had Mark Lange not made it a doctrine of his church that a man could marry only his cousin, and no other, a sort of mirror-image of Pope Gregory's prohibition.

One hot July 3 Pastor Mark Lange walks to his church in his parsons' clothes after two days of battle in and around Gettysburg and finds all the pews are scattered outside. Union officers are sitting on his pews smoking cigars and resting. Lange stretches his arms out in wonder.

LANGE: Those are my pews!

Inside the church the Federal commanding General of the week is pouring over maps laid on the very altar.

GENERAL MEADE: The rebs hit us on the left yesterday and the right the day before. So if they attack again today they're going to hit us here, right in the center.

The general turns to go outside, and bumps into Lange. He's a man with a temper. Some of the other officers call him a snapping turtle.

MEADE: Who the hell are you?

LANGE: I'm the pastor of this church, general. This is my church!

MEADE: The hell you say, sir! This is the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac!

127 HEALING

LANGE: General, please, would you tell your men to lay a lighter hand on church property?

MEADE: Get out of my sight, parson, or I'll put a musket in your hand and put you up on yonder stone wall!

Just then a hole bursts in one wall, filling the church with flying splinters. It's 1307 on July 3, 1863. On Seminary Ridge one hundred forty guns of the rebel artillery have opened up a furious barrage. The general runs out of the church picking splinters out of his skin and barking orders. The officers sitting frozen on the pews begin to scatter. More shells burst nearby.

Union artillery is quickly brought up to answer the Confederate guns. Pastor Lange remains inside his church, as though his presence would save it, but another hole is made in the wall, severely wounding Lange with splinters. Shells and shot land all around the church.

Lange puts his hands together and prays.

LANGE: Lord, forgive your stiff-necked servant. West! I see that now, Lord! You wanted us to move West, not North!

A well-placed shot pierces the wall for a third time. Inside, the shower of splinters causes Lange to swoon and fall under the altar. Outside, the church is seen to collapse in ruin with Lange still inside.

The church glows even more white, and is surrounded by a halo. No bystander shows sign of seeing it. The church recedes into the distance inside the halo. Lange is trapped inside under fallen timbers, and grunts with pain.

YESHUA: You have a large splinter of wood in your kidney but do not be afraid. Your suffering will soon end.

LANGE: Hurts!

YESHUA: You also have a broken leg you cannot feel because a beam of wood is pinching. I can't help you until we lift the beam, but when we do you will feel it. You will most assuredly feel it.

LANGE: Help me! Anything is better than this!

Yeshua nods, and two servants lift the heavy beam. From Lange's point of view, the man has a look of compassion but everything turns red. Lange's face grows frozen in astonishment at the pain, and he faints. Yeshua removes the splinter from Lange's back and closes the wound with merely a touch. With the same effortless ease che makes Lange's leg, with a compound fracture, straight and whole again. Then the servants carry an unconscious Lange out of the church on a stretcher.

The church is now located on a field in a hollow spherical world, green and blue and white, illuminated by a central sun. As Lange is borne away, Yeshua is met by a woman. Mere seconds before her ship was destroyed near the Earth-Sun L2 libration point Yeshua brought her here.

YESHUA: Hello Ariel. Or should I call you Jill? You are free to go. Happy Birthday. You're B'nei Elohim, so you get a second chance. But you're a very unusual case, Ariel. I know that Jill dominates your will. What is Ariel's culpability now? What would be the point of a reward and punishment system applied against one who is possessed?


128 ARIEL

ARIEL: When you say punishment, Lord, are you talking about hell?

YESHUA: Not even Thaumiel is twisted enough to decree eternal torture as just retribution for a finite set of sins committed over a human lifetime. Even that thing about burying Princess Keri alive and immortal is just so much bluster. No, my dear Ariel, hell is a purely human invention. I won't hold you to account for what Jill did to you against your will.

Ariel looks around at the wreckage of the church. She has never seen its like in heaven before, and wonders why Yeshua brought it here.

ARIEL: And this church? Will it not be missed, even in this wrecked state?

YESHUA: It will be returned to where and when it was, without even a discernible seam in time.

ARIEL: Of course! Your gift of placing fold-space endpoints anywhere in space and time.

YESHUA: You're looking at bit of your family history, Ariel. This is Mark Lange's church from Gettysburg. Milcom and Thaumiel must never know we can do this sort of thing until it doesn't matter anymore. So I must warn you, Ariel, that you will find your freewill restricted in such a way that you cannot reveal it. It's part of being a member of the B'nei Elohim. But other than that, you are free to stay here, anywhere you like, for as long as you like. If you choose to perform an End of Cycle I will honor your wish.

ARIEL: Will you not return me to Earth, Lord?

YESHUA: No, I'm sorry to tell you. I do not want you complicating things at Sol. We have found the path that leads to victory over Thaumiel. I will not tell you where to go, but you will find that in heaven your talent of controlling animals only works in the land of Haaretz.

And so Ariel bows to Yeshua with genuine respect and begins to wander about heaven under the name of Joy, fully aware that her second death at the hands of her brother's daughter Victoria was already written in the Buron. Yet everything she has been told about time affirms that free will is paramount, and that superdeterminism does not reign. The past can be changed. Joy decides to put that to the test.

Mark Lange has become well enough to walk. He is brought to a seated Shy Bear, who invites him also to sit. They are seated in chairs around a small table on a deck of dark wood, and they are outdoors. Shy Bear is accompanied by a black-haired angel with skin as dark as his own, but with features more caucasian than mongoloid, for the angels of heaven were seeded with stock from southwest Asia, rather than east Asia. Shy Bear stares at him intently.

JASHEN: Mark Lange, my father named me Shy Bear. You and I are sons of the same land, but we were born many days' ride apart. Here in the Land We Know, I have chosen the name of Jashen. This is my wife Leliel, who was born here.

LANGE: How do you know my name, Jashen?

JASHEN: The Chief spoke to me about you after he healed you of your injuries. He told me you are the leader of a group of white people who worship the only son of the Sky Father.

LANGE: Your Chief! He is the Christ! He must be!

YESHUA: You do well to say so, and you are to be praised for doing that on so few clues.

129 BURON

LANGE: What do you mean?

JASHEN: The Chief taught many things to me. He said ever since one Catholic Pope foisted the face of his bastard son Cesare Borgia on the faithful most people look for a beard and long hair.

Thinking back at the brief time when he saw him, Lange would have never been able to pick the real Jesus out from a crowd of men from the Mediterranean region. The Lord was short of stature, brown of skin, clean-shaven, with black wavy hair. He wears what Lange takes to be striped pajamas.

JASHEN: He also told me that you would think of this place, which he calls The Land We Know, as heaven, and that my wife Leliel is an angel, but he wanted me to assure you that you are not, in fact, dead. And that you will soon be returned to the place from where you came.

LANGE: Why is the Lord not here with us now?

JASHEN: He wanted us to have time together, so that when we meet again we will both know each other.

LANGE: When we meet again? Say what the Lord Jesus would have me do.

JASHEN: He is Yeshua, please. Not Jesus. The Greeks thought 'Yeshua' was too girly and made it Iesous. Then later the English thought Iesous was too girly and made it Jesus.

Servants bring a pane of dark glass and set it down between Jashen and Lange. Jashen's new wife Leliel chooses to speak then.

LELIEL: There is much I could tell you, Mark Lange, but it is perhaps too much to receive. You wouldn't believe it. Saulus, the fellow you call the apostle Paul, was sitting right here after the Lord picked him up from Damascus Road and not even he could take it all in.

LANGE: Nevertheless, if you tell me what the Lord commands, I will try to understand.

LELIEL: Very good, Pastor Mark. Take this black slab of glass. It is not magic. There is no magic. Your own countrymen will make it in the next century and call it a micro. There is no Swarm where and when you live, but even still, words will appear on this glass when you touch it.

JASHEN: Chief Yeshua commands that you cause the words that appear to be bound into a book. You will call this book the Holy Buron, and it will become the sacred scripture of your flock after you return precisely to where and when you were taken on the last day of the largest battle that will ever been seen in our country.

LELIEL: Go home, Mark Lange but take care when you do. I suggest you do not linger so close to the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge.

LANGE: I am to go home and bind these words into a book called the Buron.

LELIEL: You must not be overcome with sloth when you transcribe the black slab, for it will only display the words for a few months. What you and your flock do after will extend the Buron.

JASHEN: You will gather as many as will go with you and journey to what the whites call the Nebraska Territory to a mountain called Green Dome. My father calls it the Island in the Sky. There you will find a group of original inhabitants to baptize in the manner that you do so well. You will know these people by a sign They shall, to a man, speak your own tongue.


130 PILGRIMAGE

LELIEL: They will do so because my husband will teach them your tongue during the months and years that you make your journey. And there will be another sign, Pastor Lange. You will see a gift of gold, which you will recognize from the text you are commanded to copy. Then you will be one flock to the father of Yeshua, both Red and White, as they are called, although as you see we are really both just brown and more brown.


It is not a small thing for nine Pennsylvania families to just pick up and move west. The Savitt family and Brannen family, in fact, elect not to follow Mark Lange.It takes two years for Lange, together with the Hillings, Bergins, Zinters, Krauses, Porters and Wustners, to scrimp and save the two hundred dollars each family needs to provision themselves for the pilgrimage. They are fortunate that half their journey takes place by rail, over Government Bridge, which in 1865 is the only railroad span over the Mississippi. The train leaves all of them on the platform in Davenport. There they purchase the wagons, animals, food, and sundries they need to cross Iowa and half the Nebraska territory. As they journey west, at first they encounter farms, and trade their silver for fresh food, but one day they trundle on out past the last settlement and have to live on their stores.

On Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings they arrange their ten wagons into a circle, light a fire, and enter into joyful worship, led by Pastor Lange, who speaks of how he had been caught up into the Third Heaven like the Apostle Paul and conversed with the Lord. And he reads from the Holy Buron the words Yeshua had commanded him to put into print.

The wagon train of the die-hards of Five Corners Free Congregation continues to move slowly west. Babies are born, but some of these die. The seven families are fortunate not to be attacked by Indians, for the Civil War is over, and many elements the Union Army have been reassigned on the frontier to protect settlers such as they, and more often than not the pilgrims dash from the cover of one fort to another.

One Wednesday night out under the stars many miles between two of these army forts, after the hymns are sung, Mark Lange opens the Buron and continues to read about the time of the Deluge in heave. He goes on to explain how a garbled version of the story filtered into Sumeria and became part of the Gilgamesh epic, and later a garbled version of that story became the tale of Noah in Genesis. And none of the people are shocked at would be considered heresy in any other congregation.


Wanica and Yuha sit alone in their tipi, but they are silent. Yuha is sobbing quietly, and Wanica is trying his best to comfort her.

YUHA: Two moons have passed since we have seen our son. Does the test of manhood ever take this long?

WANICA: I will not lie to my own wife. Ten nights the test was for me, and no more.

Hearing this, Yuha lets the full force of her grief wash over her.

YUHA: The worst part is that Shy Bear's last memory of us was that even his mother had a stony heart.

WANICA: A heart of stone is part of the ceremony. There must be a cutting off. There is no way to avoid it.

Tatanka barges into the tipi unannounced and points a finger at Wanica.

TATANKA: You have brought no food into this camp for two moons, Hole in Cheek! 131 HUNT

WANICA: It is the fire. It still burns the grasslands to the south. The animals are on the other side of it.

TATANKA: Then take your hunters and go around the fire or you will be Hole in Neck.

WANICA: It will take two days' ride to find the animals, a day to kill and field-dress them, and two days' ride to bring the carcass back. The meat will go bad.

TATANKA: The nights are cold now. The meat will keep. I grow tired of eating jerky. Go!

Before the Chief leaves the tipi he lets his eyes wander over Yuha's legs, and Wanica notes that. She tucks them under her bison-hair blanket.

When Tatanka has gone, Wanica unpacks the Golden Gift he received from the Sky Father, which he has shown to no one, not even Yuha. Then he kisses his wife tenderly and departs from the tipi to gather his men together.

Wanica and his hunters have prepared their horses for the journey. Wanica mounts his own horse and leads the hunting party away south toward the Island in the Sky. The party crosses over to the grasslands that were burned. They ascend the Island in the Sky, which is still seared black, until they reach the summit. The stone cairn is still there.

Wanica sees that his son Shy Bear is restoring the last stone that will seal the cairn once more. A strange woman, not of the People, accompanies him. A tame bison stands next to them, wondering if there is anything around to eat.

Wanica is so overjoyed to see his son that he forgets he took away his name and turned him out into the night. He calls out the name he gave him as a boy and runs to embrace him. But Jashen is having none of that. His body language halts his father at a single pace. He extends his hand, grips his father's lower arm near his elbow.

JASHEN: I greet you Father. You see that I survived your test. Call me no more "Shy Bear" as you told me before. I am now to be called Jashen. This is my wife Leliel, who comes from...afar. We were joined by Chief Yeshua, the son of the Sky Father.

Wanica is temporarily rendered speechless by Jashen's words, but he is not displeased.

WANICA: Yuha will be overjoyed to see you again, son. It has been more than two moons since you left.

And Jashen sees that Wanica's eyes are drifting to the animal that is accompanying him.

JASHEN: This is a gift of Chief Yeshua, for he knows of the fire and the need of the People.

Wanica's hunters draw back their bows to kill the bison.

WANICA: Hold! Jashen says this animal is the gift of the son of the Sky Father. If we kill it and take it back to camp, Chief Bad Heart Bull will add the horns of this animal to all his other stolen trophies and disfigure the gift. There is another way.


132 CHIEF

And so, that evening, when the People are sharing their communal meal once more, the Chief wonders why his women do not bring the horns of the bison to add to his war regalia as before. He grows more and more angry and flat out accuses Wanica of hiding the bison's head.

Wanica says nothing in reply, but he does not take his eyes away from the Chief. Tatanka grows infuriated at the defiance. The leader of the People takes out his knife once more, an actual steel blade he claims he took as war booty from a white trapper, but it was whispered that he really took it from a corpse he had stumbled upon by mere chance. It was, at any rate, the only such blade among the People.

TATANKA: This will loosen your tongue, Hole In Heart!

He moves toward Wanica expecting the hunter to run as usual. But Wanica knows he has the favor of the Sky Father and stands his ground, which unnerves the Chief. Everyone sees him hesitate. The Chief loses 'face' with each passing heartbeat. Wanica reaches into a hidden pocket in his raiment and withdraws the Golden Gift. When he squeezes it, the dark shaft grows to a certain length. On the Island in the Sky he only took the animals head, offering it to the Sky Father rather than allowing it to be dishonored by Tatanka. But now he takes away the Chief, the whole Chief, and nothing but the Chief, all the way down to his moccasins, leaving the very ground he stood upon untouched.

Excepting Yuha, Leliel and Jashen, and Wanica's hunters, all of the People are in a state of shock, and now they greatly fear Wanica. Other than the group of men who had been with Wanica on both hunts, the People have never seen such an obvious and deadly display of real magic. Even his own squaw Yuha is a little afraid, but she comes to stand at his side anyway, knowing this is what her man wants.

WANICA: I sent the Chief to the Great Spirit. I will lead the People now. And he crosses his arms regally, leaving the Golden Gift cradled in one of his hands. No one doubts that he had done exactly what he said. One by one the other hunters and warriors sink to their knees before him, with hands open to show they carry no blade.

Wanica gives his first command as the new Chief.

WANICA In the morning we will decamp and dwell at the Island in the Sky, near the place where the Great Spirit came and made himself known to us.

A bison gets thirsty eating grass all day out on the Great Plains and Indian River is a reliable source of water. A herd has come to drink near the source at the Island in the Sky where the stream is still fairly narrow. When the herd is taking drink, Wanica strikes with the Golden Gift, taking just one of them according to the needs of the Kaleetan People. It is done in such a stealthy way the rest of the herd barely notices.

One day the People see the first wagon trains of white skin settlers use the ford at the river. The white skins use their fire sticks to drop some of the animals merely to clear the way and do not even take the animals for food. Fair enough, Wanica thinks, there is plenty for all.

But two years go by and the herds grow thinner, and many of the People remember the fire sticks. The year after that no large game animals are seen at all. The People have to scratch a living from small game, or from the scrawny solitary black-tail deer they sometimes chance upon. A few of the hunters murmured openly, recalling with glowing fondness the time of Chief Bad Heart Bull, perhaps forgetting that even during that lost Golden Age it was still Wanica who led the hunts.


133 AMBUSH

The army of the whites set up an outpost six land miles (and twelve river miles) away they call Fort Shiprock after an unusual rock outcropping hard by. Captain John Smalley commands the fort, and despite his bitter hatred for the dead-end post he had been assigned snack in the middle of the biggest zone of nothing in the American West, Smalley maintains good relations with Wanica and the Kaleetan, who somehow all speak excellent English. He considers the People to be peaceful, but contacts are necessarily limited because the People are so poor they have almost nothing to trade. This fort ain't exactly a charity outfit, he was often heard to say.

The fall of that third year of Wanica's chiefdom the Northern Raiders pay their last visit to the People. When Wanica confronts them he uses a gradually tightening squeeze so the black spear of wind emerges from the Golden Gift at a visible rate. At full extension the beam balloons out like an umbrella. The enemy sees that it is Chief Wanica's magic which absorbs arrows fired at him. They see it is Chief Wanica's magic that slices their leader in half, both he and the horse he rode in on.Wanica knows the Northern Raiders operate like pack animals with no stomach for sticking around once they lose their own Chief. And sure enough they flee into the grasslands north, never to return to the river ford at the foot of the Island in the Sky claimed by the People, although they still lurk nearby.

A few days after that the People see a bizarre sight coming from the south. Eight white skins ride mounted on horses, cracking whips, two on Point, two on Flank, and two on Drag, a cook with his own wagon in the rear and a man riding way out front picking the best way. These men are driving possibly five hundred animals that are bulkier than any game animal save the bison. The Whites drive their animals over the small islets dotting the ford without even the basic courtesy of offering the People one or two head as a toll. This is the first cattle drive ever to cross these grasslands to move a herd to Montana.

When about half of the herd is across the ford and they are piling up because they all want a drink Wanica sends some of his hunters in to raise general calumny with whoops and hollers and a few well-placed arrows. Meanwhile, he finds a good position to take out one of the animals. He wonders what they taste like. Unfortunately the whites fight back fiercely with small fire sticks they hold and shoot in one hand even while their horses are moving at full gallop. Two good hunters from among the People are killed. Chief Wanica pulls his men back to the safety of the Island in the Sky, and from there he continues to watch the scene below.

Seven of the men and most of the cattle are across the river. The leader of the party of whites is a Mr. Paul Morrison. He remains on the south side of the river with only about thirty cows.

MORRISON Boys, take what you got and try to make it toward Lusk. I'm gonna take this bunch over to Fort Shiprock and see if we can get some help with our red skin problem.

Captain John Smalley wakes up from his mid-morning nap and ducks outside the fort stockade to see what was making an infernal racket and such a horrible smell. When Paul Morrison sees him he takes off his hat.

MORRISON: Twenty-eight free range cows for the United States Army Cavalry, sir, compliments of their owner, yours truly, Paul Morrison.

This is indeed the way things are done out west, palms greased with money and goods in return for other favors.

SMALLEY: Well, the Cavalry is much obliged, Mr. Morrison. I'm Captain John Smalley, commanding Fort Shiprock here. And if there's ever a favor we could do for you in return, please don't hesitate to ask.


134 CAVALRY

MORRISON: There is the trifling matter of the red skins over there at Green Dome. Sneaky bastards ambushed us when we were halfway across the river ford.

Captain Smalley takes his pipe out in his hand and squints in disbelief. His handlebar mustache dances as he speaks.

SMALLEY: Dakota?

MORRISON: Wrong markings, Captain. I figure these are locals.

The Captain puts his pipe back in his mouth.

MORRISON: That can't be right. The local Indians are real peaceful. Their chief is smart as a whip and even speaks good American. They all do.

SMALLEY: These Indians didn't look like the kind to give up, Captain. We had to kill some of 'em. They're probably harassing the rest of my herd right now on the north bank. If you hurry you can catch 'em before sunset.

Captain Smalley agrees with a sigh, and he gives the appropriate orders to gear up the fort for action. A bugle call is soon heard. Soon thereafter Smalley, Morrison, and about forty mounted soldiers ride up the little tributaries and lime-silt islets of the river.

They find a small group of the People's hunters rendering a fallen cow down for steaks. Smalley recognizes the battle dress of Chief Wanica and steers a course for his little group. Presently he and his men form a circle around the chief and a handful of his hunters. Smalley orders another officer, Lieutenant Lambert Wells, to take most of the unit north to engage the rest of the Indians, and hand-picked four soldiers to stay behind with him.

The lieutenant salutes and rides off with his thirty-four men.Smalley and Morrison move closer to Chief Wanica while the four soldiers supporting the Captain orbit the scene at a stately trot.

SMALLEY: God damn it Chief, you know better than to start acting like the Northern Raiders.

MORRISON: What are you going to do to him?

SMALLEY: Take him into custody for cattle rustling. That'll have to do. The rest of these red fellows here were just following orders. They got families to feed. I'm going to let them go so they can pick themselves a new chief.

Wanica, thanks to the English lessons of his son Jashen, understands perfectly what Smalley wants to do to him, and he decides not to go peacefully. He has the Golden Gift in his hand and points it right at Smalley. The black shaft leaps out with its hideous sucking sound and slices the head of Smalley's horse clean off. And then Smalley himself is rendered in two. That black line remains there, drinking in light and air, while five more orbiting horses and men ran right into it, including Paul Morrison.

After that Wanica uses the Golden Gift to get rid of the bodies of the men and the horses he had slain, but he knows the killing range of the Golden Gift was not much longer than a spear. Against a troop of whites armed with firesticks he would be helpless. They would kill him, and his son, and his warriors, and no doubt all of the women and children and old men in the camp of the People as well in retribution for him killing the white chief. There were rumors of such atrocities happening before. Then the army of the whites would have the Golden Gift. Wanica needs to think fast.

135 REUNION

Jashen follows his father's command to harry the bulk of Paul Morrison's cattle herd, knowing it will keep the men driving them from doubling back while Wanica and his men prepare the carcass of the downed cow for transport.But the herd is driven far and fast to the northwest and Jashen deems they will not return. Also there are stray cattle left behind that he thought should be gathered together and brought back to the People as surety against lean times. He and all the hunters with him brandish whips.

But soon they are discovered by the main body of the Fort Shiprock cavalry under Lieutenant Welles, who have followed the hoofprints of Morrison's herd. Jashen and his hunters abandon their little group of salvaged cows and flee singly or in pairs to the four winds. Lt. Welles looks through his binoculars and sees the main herd is safe.

WELLES: These locals aren't going anywhere, gentlemen. This is where they are forced to live. We have time to mete out justice on them one after the other.

So he does not order his thirty cavalrymen to split up and ride after each man, but instead they all ride hell-for-leather after just one pair fleeing to the northeast, into the badlands.

Jashen flees alone to the southeast, witnessed only by passing pronghorns and badgers and coyotes and prairie dogs jumping up to check out the passing hoofbeats. Then Jashen begins to smell something funny. After a time he grows filled with wonder when he sees the ten wagons of the pilgrims of the Five Corners Free Congregation plodding west along the north bank of the Indian River.

JASHEN: It's not a respectable wilderness anymore!

He mutters this to hymself using the English he somehow came to know, without actually being taught, when he was taken to the Land We Know.

The settlers see Jashen approach and point rifles at him, but then Jashen sees the lead wagon is driven by a man he recognizes from his vision quest three years prior. Jashen takes off his headdress and he is recognized in turn.

JASHEN: We meet at last, Pastor Mark Lange, just as Chief Yeshua prophesied.

The settlers are thrilled by hyz words, the first third-party confirmation of Lange's personal Road to Damascus experience.

LANGE: Jashen?

Mark Lange brings his wagon to a halt and jumps down to slowly advance, and finally embrace the young yeng. The two young men have never actually met before. The rifles are all lowered and put out of sight. Lange points to the prominent butte a few miles upriver to the west.

LANGE: Is that Green Dome?

JASHEN: Green Dome, yes. That's what the white settlers call it. My father has named it the Island in the Sky, as I told you before.

LANGE: Then we have reached our destination! God be praised!

JASHEN: As fate would have it, Mark Lange, we are in plenty trouble right now. The United States Army is hunting the hunters of the People. How this came to be is a long story. Can you hide me for a short time?


136 MASSACRE

Lange doesn't hesitate for an instant.

LANGE: Crawl into the back of my wagon.

Lt. Welles pushes his men and horses to exhaustion as they ride through the dunes and dry ravines of the badlands, thinking all the time they are drawing nearer to their prey, but they are chasing a phantom, and as dusk settles in the cavalry itself becomes the prey. In an arroyo they come to a halt, having found the bodies of the two Kaleetan hunters they were chasing bristling with arrow shafts like a pair of cacti, and their horses gone.

A rock slide of curious origin blocks any further advance, and another rock slide cuts off any escape. Then arrows sing out from hidden nooks among the boulders and from behind sharp ridge lines, answered by gun-fire as the cavalry shoots wildly at any perceived movement.

The battle seems to go too easy for the Northern Raiders, and at first they suspect treachery, but in truth the Dakota are fighting in land they know intimately while Welles, his other men and all their horses are blind, exhausted, lost, frightened, and in no condition to put up much of a fight. Only the five men who were left behind to hold Fort Shiprock remain alive of the entire company.

A few weeks later a sergeant arrives with orders cabled from the War Department to break up the fort and cart the essentials away to Fort Robinson using the dozen or so remaining draft horses. Night falls and still the soldiers do not come looking for hym, Jashen begins to relax a bit.

The wagons are set in the traditional circle, and Jashen relates as much as hy can of the People's history to Lange and his congregation using their own language, which they find flawless, though perhaps with a touch of snootiness from back East.

In the morning the wagons arrived at the base of Green Dome. Jashen is reunited with hyz parents, Wanica and Yuha, and hy is filled with joy to see them alive. But the four fallen warriors of the People, Left Hand, Half Yellow Face, Kill Eagle, and Hairy Moccasin, are lying on a bier of branches taken from woody shrubs. And it is on this solemn occasion when the Kaleetan People and the settlers of Mark Lange's group are first gathered all together.

In full view of everyone Wanica lights off the Golden Gift and makes the bodies of his dead men disappear. Lange and the other whites are struck speechless. Coming as they did from a religious background, such a display could be nothing other than the power of God made manifest. This is a sign! they all exclaim. They recognize the Golden Gift as the same weapon wielded by Prince Melchizedek when he first encountered father Abraham.

LANGE: God has brought us together. White man and Red man alike, in this land of His choosing, flowing with milk and honey.

All the people look around and take in the barren, mostly tree-less grasslands. Lange clears his throat.

LANGE: Here we all shall remain, and prosper with God's blessings!

Lange knew he couldn't just take the weapon outright, for it was holy, a godly gift, and so it could never be defiled by base theft. Obviously the People of Wanica and the remnant of the Five Corners Free Congregation would have to be permanent and equal (but separate) partners. The doctrine of matrimonial consanguinity would prevent any joining between the two sides, thus salving some of the other settlers' horror at any racemixing.


137 GREENDOME

After the funeral there follows a good old-fashioned revival featuring the mass conversion of the entire Kaleetan people, followed by their assemblyline baptism in the cold silty waters of the Indian River. Three times using total immersion, mind, since Lange was at heart still a Dunker. So a new congregation is born, the Church of Green Dome, with a White Wing and a Red Wing, "Two lungs by which the united people of the Creator draw new breath," Lange says in his high-fallutin' way.

Wanica's people return to their encampment at the 4,650 foot level of Green Dome, on a wide bench on the eastern side of the hill. Aided by the Whites they begin to turn it into a permanent village. Eight sod houses are constructed within the first month, and these are gradually improved as time goes by, but many of the Kaleetan continue to dwell in their tipis.

Gary Bergin, his wife Marge, and their four children Dale, Owen, Hester and Grace choose the valley of Indian River due south of Green Dome and begin pulling up dead stumps of burnt trees to establish a farm, aided by the eager labor of some of Wanica's men, once it is explained what they are trying to do. The Bergins propose to their new friends a life free of any reliance on roaming herds of animals. It would not be imposed on the Red Wing, who traditionally relied on hunting, but it was available to any of them who accepted it freely.

Alfred Porter, his wife Caroline, and their four children George, Edwin, Rachel, and Lucy establish their farm near the place where Chief Wanica slew Smalley, Morrison, and the others, north of the river ford. Water is plentiful and they grow a wide variety of green stuff as though they had an extended backyard garden. Something about the Porters putting down roots makes the Kaleetan People forget all about the Northern Raiders.

Thomas Hilling, his wife Melanie, and their five children Lee, Kenneth, Jane, Faith and Susan choose a spot for their homestead at elevation 4,400 on the slope of Green Dome just below the village of the People. At first they grow livestock, taken from the animals that accompanied them on the pilgrimage, but they also plant rows of apple trees, and in years to come their orchards spread all over the eastern slopes of Green Dome and their cows and sheep graze in the shade.

Theodore and Sarah Wustner, with their crowd of eight children Harry, Ida, Brandon, Coral, Louise, Emma, Lukas, and Judith settle to the south of the river ford and there they take to raising horses, having taken back most of the horses they loaned to make the pilgrimage. The younger Wustner children became great friends with the younger Kaleetan children, forming bonds that would carry on through the decades.

The rest of the Whites plat out the town of Greendome on both sides of the river crossing. In the beginning these are Paul and Pamela Krause with their three children, Douglas, John, and Katerina, who build and run a general store. Johann and Anna Zinter with their two children David and Janet build and run a blacksmith shop.

Mark Lange's wife Joanna is childless, but not for much longer. In 1869 Janet is born, followed by David in 1872. Mark builds a tabernacle on the summit of Green Dome, which is just under 5,000 feet above sea level, but only about 900 feet above the plains, looking nearly seventy miles out over the grasslands in every direction. The tabernacle is built over the cairn of the Artifact, commemorating the very place where Wanica and Jashen came face-to-face with God. The white clam shell thing is considered a holy relic to be hidden and protected by the altar, not for outsiders to gawk at.


138 SUPPER

Lange declares himself the first Prophet of Green Dome, and his growing family dwells in a modest home near the tabernacle. Wanica also lives near the summit of Green Dome, for he remains the Chief of the original inhabitants and he is also called the Apostle of the Church. If Mark Lange passed on before he did, Chief Wanica would become the Prophet of the Church and choose a new Apostle from among the Whites. Thus the leadership would alternate between Red and White wings.

The Tabernacle is the gathering places for all the people, Red and White, every Sunday and Wednesday morning. With each homily the Prophet and the Apostle establish the wall of Church doctrine steadily, like laying bricks. One of the doctrines, which is really a concession to the Kaleetan people, is that everyone, both male and female, must wear their hair long and tied into a pony tail. After a time members of the Green Dome Church are called Ponies by outsiders, and later even by themselves. The Kaleetan are also introduced to the concept of surnames. Jashen remembers his original given name of Shy Bear and chooses the single name Shybear to be his surname.

One evening when things are fairly settled Mark Lange and his wife Joanna are invited to share supper with the Shybears. This is when Joanna is still pregnant with her daughter Janet, but Jashen and Leliel's dirk Mahlon is already nearly four years of age. The meal uses food found anywhere on the North American plains, but Leliel prepares it with a sensibility and skill that she had acquired over more than two lifetimes. Mark and Joanna find it to be incomparably good. Even heavenly, as it were.

After supper the conversation drifts to the Buron, the scripture Yeshua had commanded Mark Lange to write using words which appeared for a time on a black slate of glass. The slate has been inert for years, but Lange did copy all of the words to paper and published them as a book the whole Church of Green Dome reveres as holy writ.

LANGE: It struck me the other day when I was going over the passage where Michaela was preparing to descend the Wall of God on the Catwalk that an angel named Leliel declined to go further. It puzzled me, Leliel, that your parents named you after a figure who turned away from where God was leading har. Did they ever tell you why they named you Leliel?

Leliel and har husband Jashen both laugh as gently as they can without giving offense to Mark, but they are simultaneously puzzled that he does not yet see through to the truth.

LELIEL: Pastor Lange, I am the same angel Leliel depicted in the scriptures. I answer only to Raphaela and Lilith among the Fallen Angels.

LANGE: But the passage seems to be roughly concurrent with the time of Abraham. That must have been four thousand years ago!

LELIEL: It was indeed. Not all of the angels of heaven are immortal, Pastor Lange. Only the B'nei Elohim have unending life, those whom God has chosen to be his greatest servants. We live no longer than human beings generally do, but this is already my third body.

LANGE: Then I am still confused when I consider the time that has passed.

LELIEL: Binah, who is manifest in the flesh of the man we call Yeshua, has the power to link together places in time as she wills. Not even her parent Chokhmah can do this. Thaumiel cannot even conceive of it. His ignorance of this is our greatest weapon. But our enemy's time grows short, and already God is hurrying the thing along. My husband is the first B'nei Eloah from Earth, and our son Mahlon is the second. Did you not know the Change is passed down from parent to child as an inheritance?

And Leliel lifts Mahlon's hair to show Mark and Joanna the bone cup.


139 TALENTS

LANGE: Forgive me, Leliel, for now I am overcome with shame that I reminded you of the wavering of your faith at the sight of the Catwalk.

LELIEL: There is nothing to forgive, Pastor Lange, yet perhaps you still wonder how it was I, and not Muriel, sha who remained steadfast with Michaela all the way to Haaretz, who was given the honor to be the mother of all human and nephilim B'nei Elohim here on Earth.

Lange only closed his eyes and shook his head, the shame even deeper.

LELIEL: If the story was written by men to give glory to a God who was a warrior-king, as much of the Bible was, indeed faithful Muriel would have been honored higher than myself, poor faithless Leliel. But the story happened precisely as you have copied it, and Chokhmah is not the enemy of life. I would have fallen from the precipice as others certainly did. In heaven, dear Pastor Lange, my name is synonymous with wisdom.

In 1869 the rumor of gold is heard tell in the headwaters of Indian River and Greendome swells with the influx of prospectors hungry for the shiny yellow stuff. Some get rich, but many of the Sixty-Niners strike out. Some of these stay in Greendome as converts to the Church. After the rail line connects Greendome to the new Union Pacific line running across the country it is easy for cousins of the new converts to make their way west to new lives as wives of the former prospectors.

In 1884 Mahlon Shybear, a jen of eighteen years, takes to wife his first cousin Ahlai, a woman of the People only fifteen years of age. The following year Ahlai gives birth to Eliah, a jen much like hez father, and two years following that she gives birth to Jaroah, an ambi. Like most nephilim, both Eliah and Jaroah remain ambiguous in terms of gender, in a time and place where male and female roles were rather rigorously enforced.

Jashen found that he could speak and write in many other languages, not merely English, and this did much to spread the beliefs of the Church of Green Dome among other tribes of native Americans, and even outside of the country itself. In fact, all of the Shybear children are born with powers, or "talents" as the B'nei Elohim came to call them, for this was unknown among the B'nei Elohim in heaven, and was unique to the Earthborn.

Mahlon is a Lifter, and can somehow move loads of weights that would otherwise call for a crane. Those who attempt to assault hem for looking too "girly" are often deterred by a simple show of strength, but a few slow learners volunteer for a more direct demonstration by pressing Mahlon.

Eliah is a Grower, which is to say che is a green thumb with divine help. The farms and orchards of the people of Greendome, both Red and White, flourish to an extend that is unknown among the scattered settlers surrounding the town for many miles. As for Jaroah, che is a Freezer, and could preserve the food harvested in the wake of Eliah's handiwork in that time before refrigeration became common. A touch of Jaroah's hand could also kill a person, if che choose to do it, but simply draining a person's body of some heat was sufficient to induce unconsciousness. On occasion Jaroah uses this talent to defend hemself or hez sibling Eliah.

Year by year the tabernacle on Green Dome is expanded into a large wooden whitewashed edifice called the Green Dome Temple. When it is complete Prophet Mark Lange is fifty-three years of age. Secondary tabernacles are established throughout the United States but all Church of Green Dome funerals still take place at the original site.

In 1903 a nineteen year old Eliah Shybear weds, like all good Greendomites do, his first cousin, a young Kaleetan woman named Gala. In a year, a girl Jaden is born to them, and two years after that they also have a jen they name Sage.


140 FUNERAL

Jaden's talent, it soon turns out, is to be a Shifter. She can quickly change her shape and appearance to become anything roughly her own mass, although it is an art that takes much practice. Becoming a convincing animal, for example, proves at least as difficult as drawing a convincing animal. Becoming a rock is much easier.

Sage develops the talent of Copier. With a touch, Sage can acquire the Talent of any other B'nei Eloah, although the talents do not accumulate. To copy a new Talent is to discard the old one.

In 1904 Eliah's ever-so slightly more feminine sibling Jaroah weds hez cousin, a young deacon of the Red Wing of the Church named Peter Twofeathers, and a year afterward they have a boy named Seth. In a few years, it becomes apparent that Seth is a Blocker. Stones, arrows, even bullets that fly his way bounce off an unseen sphere around Seth, yet if one strikes from close enough, a blow will land.

Chief Wanica dies in 1906 at the age of eighty-four. He lies in state in the Temple sanctuary for fourteen days. Many Greendomites scattered across the country journey by train or even by the newfangled horseless carriages to pay their last respects.

When the Prophet Mark Lange commits the Chief's body directly into the hands of God it is a sight that few but the oldest members present have ever seen, for the Church has grown beyond the dreams of her founders. At the funeral, Lange names Peter Twofeathers to be the new Apostle replacing Chief Wanica, although Wanica's son Jashen becomes the new Chief.

For most of the attendees it is a ceremony they would not witness until they were well into middle-age when their parents died, and of course everyone prayed they would never have to attend. But the Green Dome Church has grown so large that every day except Wednesdays and Sundays the Temple is booked for farewell Rites.

Not everything is so grim. During the fair held in honor of the Prophet's 65th birthday a barnstormer comes to town, offering rides in his biplane. Fearless, Mark Lange steps up to be the first to fly, to the delight of everyone present. Few religious leaders have been so beloved, at least among his own faithful. Outsiders, however, consider Greendomism to be a dangerous cult, on the same order as Mormonism, Satanism, or even Catholicism. Critics think them to be non-Christian sun-worshipers who preserve the commandments of the devil (Thaumiel), thought Jesus to be both male and female, and marry their close kin. And the critics are absolutely right.

Two years later the Great War breaks out in Europe and many Green Dome tabernacles in France and the Low Countries are destroyed by stray shells. At the bidding of the Prophet a special collection is taken up to bring succor to the wartime mission field. With these funds in hand, Prophet Lange boards the steam liner Reina Regenta in New York with about a quarter of a million dollars in gold bullion to aid the faithful in nations torn by the conflict, the first truly industrial war on Earth, which has grown to rage across much of the world.

Survivors of the voyage across the Atlantic tell of the implacable patience of Prophet Mark Lange as he is dogged day and night by a newspaper reporter named Rupert Keller, a grandson of Carl Keller, who obviously has a personal beef with Lange's "cult". When the ship is in the frigid waters almost precisely in the center of the ocean far from any help she takes two torpedoes from a German U-boat. The Reina Regenta lists sharply to the side, drowning half her lifeboats. Frantically, the lifeboats on her port side are laden with passengers and released but there are not enough for everyone and no chance of raising the floundering ones on the starboard side. Women and children go first, and then old men are allowed to board.


141 LIFEBOAT

The Prophet Mark Lange is placed in the last lifeboat, but before it is lowered to the sea he spies Rupert Keller standing on the deck of the doomed ship, contemplating death. The Prophet bounds out of his place and offers his seat to the reporter with a gentle smile.

LANGE: Happy birthday, son.

Lange is not without fear, for all living things fear death as part of their natural defense mechanism, even the B'nei Elohim. But Mark is encouraged by his memories of the Land We Know and the Golden Gift, physical evidence of the existence of God which he has been so fortunate to witness. He spreads his encouragement around to the rest of the doomed passengers on board. In this way he makes their passing a little bit easier. There is just enough time for the last lifeboat to get away before the ship rolls completely over and takes everyone aboard down to the frigid and murky depths of the ocean.

Prophet Mark Lange very kind offer of a seat on the last remaining lifeboat on the doomed Reina Regenta is totally wasted on Rupert Keller. Returning to New York he proceeds to give a newspaper account of the disaster which includes the Prophet kicking little girls off a lifeboat to make room for his gold bullion, resulting in the sinking of the lifeboat, the death of Lange, and the death of everyone else with him. Indeed, Keller says the presence of the gold must have been the reason the ship was torpedoed by the Central Powers in the first place, lest it aid the cause of the Triple Entente in the Great War, which is now in its third year.

Keller's published lies do their intended damage to the popular imagination of the American people. Many former supporters sour on the religion, and the growth of the Green Dome Church slows to a crawl. Shortly after that, by referendum, the state joins a dozen others in banning marriages between first cousins and the first serious persecutions of Greendomites begin.

Upon the death of Mark Lange the Apostle Peter Twofeathers automatically becomes the second Prophet of the Church. Peter in turn appoints a new Apostle from among the elders of the White Wing of the End Dome Church, a man named Klaus Hansen. Thus the lifetime office of Prophet alternates smoothly between the White and Red wings of the Church, and assuming this rule is never broken there can never be a succession crisis.

The sinking of Reina Regenta with the End Dome Church's first prophet Mark Lange aboard, along with seven hundred other men who could not take to lifeboats, is one of the biggest factors that changes American public opinion about the Great War from an attitude of cynical isolationism to moralistic idealism. Another big factor is an intercepted telegram from Germany offering Mexico a share of the spoils if they come into the war against America. A month later Congress approves a declaration of war against the Central Powers, and a month after that forced conscription begins.

Despite the White Wing of the Church of Green Dome's roots in the pacifist German Brethren, and the slight bias in favor of the Central Powers by many Americans of German descent, very few Greendomites avail themselves of Conscientious Objector status after receiving their draft notification. Erik Zinter accepts the call to go Over There along with nearly five million other Americans. After a brief period of the most rudimentary military training that seems to consist mostly of standing for uniform inspections, Erik finds himself stuffed aboard on a troop ship on the way to Bayonne, France.

From the point of view of the Triple Entente, America is late getting into position for the First World War. General Black Jack Pershing trains the American Expeditionary Forces to operate independently of the allies.


142 ERIK

The US Marines make the first demonstration of American resolve at Belleau Wood, a single square mile stand of trees that still takes from the 6th of June until the 26th of June, 1918, before Major Maurice Shearer sends the signal, Woods now entirely US Marine Corps. Belleau Wood is six hundred acres of hell for three weeks. The war drags on into its final two months before Erik Zinter of Greendome, Nebraska even enters his first combat as part of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. It is the third and easiest operation to straighten out the remaining German salients in the Western Front before the main Allied thrust to break the Hindenburg Line can begin.

The Americans are tasked to attack the German left flank against static positions they have held for more than three years while France, Britain and Belgium bled themselves white. But now the allies are getting a fresh shot in the arm from merry but homesick doughboys who go into battle singing and whooping with all the enthusiasm of a football team pouring out onto the field just before kickoff. The Germans know the Americans are coming and began to pull out, but the Americans attack before the Germans estimate they would with 600 aircraft and 144 tanks commanded by Colonel George S. Patton Jr. The battle of St-Mihiel is Patton's first combat.

Casualties are very light as battles go in the Earths First World War, but the weather is miserable. Nearly three thousand pieces of field artillery unleashed by the Allied side as well as bombs dropped from the air tears the battlefield into a pock-marked pig sty filled with mud.

The Germans might have been withdrawing, but they are quite capable of fighting a rear-guard action with a deadly bite. Erik takes two rounds from a German Bergmann Maschinenpistole 18/1 that shatters the bone in his upper left arm and he is sent by truck to a War Department field hospital in the rear just beyond German counter-battery fire.

Due to the development of gas gangrene, which is part and parcel of the mud and generally unsanitary conditions on the front, army doctors decide to amputate Erik's arm, leaving only a two inch stump, which unfortunately would be a little too short to be usefully fitted with a prosthetic arm. Since the amputation is performed in non-ideal circumstances, Erik is sent by a hospital train to Paris for follow-up care.

There he meets Clara Brannen, a Red Cross nurse. After Erik sees her name tag they talk for a bit and Erik learns that Clara is from the branch of Brannens who had stayed behind in Pennsylvania when Mark Lange led the pilgrimage west, so she knows very little about the Green Dome Church. They talk for a bit more and both discover they share the same great-grandmother. They are second cousins. That and her all-American girl-next-door good looks interest Erik. What interests Clara is Erik's attitude in the face of his life-changing injury. He doesn't feel sorry for himself even after losing an arm. There is pain, but right on through it he keeps a wicked sense of humor. They cannot talk for long, but Clara passes along to him the address of her parents in Pennsylvania, because he says he wants to be pen pals after they both get back home.

Their pen pal relationship gradually blossoms into love, and in 1922 Erik drives nearly all the way across the country in his 1916 Model T. He uses the Yellowstone Auto Trail and it takes nearly a month to get to Erie, Pennsylvania, averaging five dollars a day, not counting the cost of two major automobile repairs along the way. This money comes out of his twentyfive dollar per month Veterans pension, which has been supplemented by a job as a painter in Greendome. He could do his job with one arm, although with some difficulty.


143 BUNNERS

After arriving in Erie, Pennsylvania, Erik sells his Tin Lizzie to defray the wedding expenses. Although Pennsylvania is the original anti-cousin marriage state, it only prohibits marriage between first cousins, not second cousins. Still, it takes some doing by Erik and Clara to get her parents to sign off on it. But in the end, because they are so obviously in love, they obtain the blessing of both parents, and soon after the newlyweds are traveling west across the country by train to start their new life in Greendome, Nebraska, in the largely empty, grassy place where that state meets both Wyoming and South Dakota.

When it comes to Erik's parents, however, they are a much harder sell, and he becomes more or less the black sheep of the family because he passed over a perfectly good (if admittedly plain) first cousin who shared the same grandparents, and chose to fall in love with Clara who only shared the same great-grandparents with him, never mind that she was stunningly beautiful. Apparently love is very fickle. This thing with second cousins is now permitted by Green Dome Church doctrine under the liberal Prophet Peter Twofeathers, but some say it isn't a brave choice, because any heathen could do as much.

The ones who say that are the Bunners, a subset of the White Wing who are not happy to have a Red Wing Prophet. They are called Bunners because both men and women roll their obligatory pony tail up into a bun, a little White power fist made of hair. The Apostle Klaus Hansen is Bunner Incarnate. His particular hobby horse is that the possession of the Golden Gift should have transferred as well, to the White Apostle. Twofeathers insists the relic remains under the control of the Red Wing.

Kimberly Zinter is born to Erik and Clara in 1925. She would be their only child. Kim knows her two best friends Sofie Krause and Dory Twofeathers from as early she can remember, perhaps as far back as the summer of 1928 when they share their days at the same nursery while their mothers also found work. This is nearly the peak of the Roaring Twenties, when unemployment dips below five percent. Then comes the stock market crash in 1929.

By 1930 the Great Depression is just getting started. Their mothers are soon booted from their jobs, followed by Kim's father, as employers suddenly found many other men willing to paint who had two good arms. Still, Erik does not despair, but retains the good spirits that had caused Clara to fall in love with him at first sight in France. And it soon turns out that Erik's optimism is justified.

Twofeathers has compassion upon Erik Zinter and gives him employment which involves a deep and sacred trust. With his single arm, he is to wield the Golden Gift to carve a network of tunnels under the Green Dome hill and the surrounding area. For there are rich seams of coal under the townsite but the geology of the area is so jumbled there has not been an economical way to reach it by drilling a straight shaft. The coal would only be exposed here and there. But with the Golden Gift, Erik Lokken easily creates twisting passageways through this rock, and others follow in his wake to reinforce the tunnels with timber and remove the coal.

While the rest of the country wallows in unemployment that reaches twentyfive percent, the area around Greendome experiences a boom that hasn't been seen since the brief gold rush days after the Civil War, when the town swelled with the ranks of 69ers. The population sells to three thousand souls. Great heaps of black gold from the mines pile up on docks as far away as Chicago.

Financially, Erik Zinter does far better than he ever did as a one-armed painter in the Twenties. Soon enough he has a nice new brick red Ford Model 8, his first car since selling his Model T, and he also pays off his modest home.


144 BODA

Thinking ahead, Erik sets some money aside in a rainy day fund. There is enough left over even after all this to send Kim to the Green Dome parochial school rather than the free public school, partially so she could be with her friends Sofie and Dory, but especially because it was an excellent school that gets students engaged in learning experiences outside of the classroom as well as within.

In 1937 Kim, Sofie, and Dory are twelve, that wonderful last year of their tweens when their bodies are gathering power for the changes soon to come. They talk about boys in idealized, abstract terms that have little bearing on the clumsy, stinky, stupid little barbarians that happen to be actual boys. In slumber parties they practice necking with each other, so long as it is perfectly understood that one of the neckers has to be a boy, at least in theory. Sofie Krause, at great personal sacrifice, plays the role of beau nine times out of ten, especially when it is Dory Twofeather's turn.

Likewise, in class, the tight trinity of friends send flowery little love letters to each other. The girl-love of tweens is love of a high order that knows no jealousy. Share and share alike. But they dread having one of their masterpieces of amorous soliloquy discovered by a classmate, or God forbid, the teacher. So they create their own secret language called Relbimian. And in that language, the word for group of three is boda.

This, then, is the state of the Boda in seventh grade:

Dory Twofeathers:

Black eyes, long jet black hair tied in the obligatory pony tail but with the cutest bangs ever. She is the skinniest member of the Boda but the first one to begin to grow breasts. She likes to read books by English authors about dragons and elves and wizards and unicorns. Already, at age twelve, Dory has pinup model stems.

Dory is the granddaughter of Prophet Peter Twofeathers and the daughter of Seth Twofeathers, who had married Jaden Shybear. Dory was, accordingly, a member of the B'nei Elohim, and her Talent was to be a Communicator. If the other B'nei Elohim cast their thoughts in a certain way, they presented in Dory's mind as a wordless shout. And she could silently shout back at them in reply. At first, when she was younger, it was a fun game, but over time Dory came to dislike being a human telephone switchboard, and she insisted that the B'nei Elohim avail themselves of her talent only for the most important needs. Her mechanism for enforcing this was the simple fact that telepathic shouts were not very conducive for sleeping.

Academically, Dory deliberately aims at getting straight Bs to strike the middle ground between pleasing her parents and not appearing to be a bookish girl. In the Boda Dory takes the middle ground, becoming all things to all women and she becomes the glue that holds them all together. If the Boda could be said to have a leader it is Dory, yet the character of her role is persistently one of support. Instead of dragging them along she pushes them from behind.

Sofie Krause:

A tomboy who keeps her ash-blond hair cropped short in a crew cut, with no pony tail, in defiance of the Church. Not even her father has anything to say about that, for already Sofie has the physique of a wrestler. She is the only girl on the football team. One time a boy at school says her football uniform makes her look fat and she flips him to the ground and pastes him good. Knocks out his front tooth. No one says that to her again. She is, however, like all the girls at school, required to wear skirts rather than pants in the classroom, and this annoys her to no end.


145 JERRY

One Halloween morning Dory comes to school dressed as a pirates wench and she has ripped her dress into long strips so that when she walked her slender legs poke out now and again. Sofie sits there with her mouth wide open and feels a shiver from her face to her toes. In that moment she knows what she is. Sofie has graduated from her tomboy phase to a full-service tribade. After that, Sofie loses all interest in sports, and everyone can hardly believe it. But chasing Dory has become the ultimate sport to her. Sofie is a scrub, but Dory eagerly helps her do her homework, which keeps Sofie hovering in D territory rather than a hard fail.

Kim Zinter:

Auburn hair about halfway between mahogany and carrot-top. Light green eyes. She has a pretty face but she is a little chubby. Or perhaps just Rubenesque. In temperament she is the most classically feminine member of the Boda, for she takes after her mother the nurse. She is compelled to wear her hair in a ponytail at all times, of course, like her mother and father and elders and all the other good little Greendomites, male or female.

Kim is an infidel. She doesn't really believe any of the stuff about Chief Wanica and the Golden Gift written in the Buron, which is testimony to how tightly her father Erik is capable of keeping Peter Twofeathers secret with respect to his borrowing the divine weapon. But Kim isn't prepared to let her folks down. So she grits her teeth, wears the damn ponytail, and when she ventures out of the Greendome area she ignores the comments at the edge of her hearing like. "Oh, there goes another Pony. Look at her hair."

In eighth grade science class the teacher pairs everyone off for lab partners. Kim ends up with Sofie, and Dory ends up with her cousin Jerry Shybear, a jen who was the offspring of Sage Shybear and one Haida, the first Earthborn yin. Jerry's Talent was to be a Pocket. Everywhere che went, there was a little bubble of space-time attached to hem, like a miniature version of heaven itself, that he could use to hide and retrieve things. Not even a body-cavity search would reveal hez stash once Jerry put it in the Pocket. Jerry was Dory's first cousin, and everyone assumed that they would gravitate together and do the usual thing, but it was never to be.

SOFIE: No offense, Pally.

Sofie kicks Jerry out of his seat and sends him shambling towards Kimberly. No one is going to separate Sofie and Dory.

Jerry, like Dory, is one of the few Original Inhabitants who attend the Church school in Greendome. He is a skinny jen, and shorter than Kimberly even, but the boys in the school are afraid to pick on hem because che has already demonstrated a hidden wiry strength in a series of earlier fights, and Jerry always seems to be able to materialize knives or other weapons at will. Che becomes the fourth member of the Boda, sort of, which is an oxymoron, like having a fourth novel in the Galaxy's Fall Trilogy.

Jerry can tell right away that Sofie and Dory are a unit, so che gravitates towards Kim. At the ice skating rink they even hold hands, since Sofie and Dory aren't afraid to do so. He is not Kim's first or even second cousin, and therefore che can never be her husband someday, so it is fun to experiment, but they both know it can never turn into anything serious. Then again, thirteen year old kids never take anything seriously.


146 HUNKY-DORY

There is absolutely no body modesty in the Boda, and if Jerry wanted to be a part of it, they would have to break hem in. The first time they went skinny dipping at Lake 13 Jerry liked what che saw, and so did Kim. She had never seen a jen before. She began horsing around with hem at every level short of the full jackpot. Naturally she is required to keep Sofie and Dory apprised of every move.

DORY: So what's it like to kiss someone who is not actually another girl?

KIM: Just like kissing Sofie. Same pressure. Che smells a little different up close though. Not bad, just different.

DORY: Did you pitch woo?

KIM: We did indeed pitch woo. Che feels like a rubber wet suit stretched out over a suit of armor. Soft on the surface but with a hard core underneath. I like it.

SOFIE: Boys. Jists. They all look like beer bottles instead of Coke bottles.

KIM: There comes a time when you grow up and move from soda pop to beer.

The great common ground of the Boda is music. Their parents are sufficiently well-off to provide their instruments, except that Kim's only instrument in the very beginning is her own voice. She is a member of the Green Dome Temple Girl's Choir, and an amazing soloist with a rich, breathy, lyric mezzo-soprano voice that belies her youth and borders on being too sultry and sensuous for spiritual music.

In band class Dory Twofeathers plays double-bass standing on a shortened end-pin so she is more comfortable. She especially likes to set down her French bow and pluck the strings pizzicato, playing meandering bass lines that make her imagine she is a cat slinking around at night. The bass remains mostly in the background but provides harmony and structure to the songs, the same role Dory performs in the Boda.

Sofie Krause pounds the skins with all the power that makes her a formidable offensive guard. She can practically read Dory's mind (and vice-versa) so they became one of the all-time great rhythm sections. Sofie is inspired to change her name to Hunky so people would refer to them as Hunky-Dory. This is more than just a nickname. By dropping her 'patriarchy slave name' of Sofie Krause and replying only to her freely chosen name of Hunky, she actually inaugurates the Name Ritual that features so prominently when the Earthly B'nei Elohim expands beyond the Red Wing of the Church.

Jerry's axe is a saxophone, and in the beginning che isn't very good at it, but che figures that is the reason he is taking band class, after all. Che gradually improves and by the close of 1938 the kids have the bare bones of an actual jazz ensemble on their hands. They call themselves Hunky-Dory and that never changes.

Their earliest performance as Hunky-Dory alone, apart from band class, comes during the end-of-semester band class recital, during the encore, when they perform It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) while the rest of the kids set their instruments aside. It is a triumph, but their first paid performance would come in the Forties, and their first recording in the Fifties. Money was never the focus of Hunky-Dory at any rate. They did it mostly just for fun.


147 GRIEF

When Kimberly Zinter is a sophomore she is picked up at school one midmorning by a deacon of the Green Dome Church and driven home but he won't tell her what is wrong. When Kim gets home she sees that her mother is crying and she starts to cry in sympathy before Clara can even say a word. After a while Clara looks directly at her daughter, immersed in grief and too horrified to face blurting it out to her, but finally she does.

CLARA Kim, your father is dead!

Then Kim's tears well up from her own pain and not merely from empathy with her mother's pain. They both cry until there is nothing more to give, and even when Kim's eyes are dry she is still wracked with dry sobs and whimpers that trail off at length to silence, only to start again. After an hour of this she starts to speak. "Why?" she asks, over and over again until her mother comes clean.

Peter Twofeathers has explained everything to her. For years he had lent the Golden Gift to Erik to honeycomb the land under the mountain and the surrounding area at night with tunnels to access isolated pockets of coal. This had been the bread and butter of the whole town for almost ten years. But last night there was a cave-in that smashed Erik's helmet lantern, plunging him into total darkness, and he couldn't dig his way out, even with the Golden Gift, because he got turned around somehow and bored deeper into the mountain rather than back out the way he came. As Erik made a greater volume of space to walk in, the air he had left to breathe was stretched too thin, and there were also suction losses through the Golden Gift itself. It wasn't until well past dawn that miners with picks and shovels broke through the cave-in and reached Erik's body.

Peter assured Clara that he died without injury or pain. He simply fell asleep never woke up again.

As for Peter, while he deeply mourns the death of Erik he is also troubled that the men who retrieved Erik's body are members of the Church and it is impossible to hide the fact that Erik had been in possession of the Golden Gift, which is the most sacred Green Dome Church relic. Although the Golden Gift is returned to Peter, this revelation is already causing unquiet among the faithful. He hears that Klaus Hansen, his chosen Apostle from the White Wing, is preparing to unseat Peter before his time.

Children aren't supposed to be confronted with death so early. Kim thinks about her own death. She wonders what it is like for her father at that moment, and if there really is an afterlife. If there is not a second life, then her father doesn't even know that he is dead. He doesn't know that he had ever lived and married Clara and fathered Kim. If so, then what is the point of doing anything? The Green Dome Church is supposed to have the answers to all these questions, but what if they are wrong? Added to her personal grief, all these thoughts are intolerable to Kim.

She doesn't go to school for a week. Sofie and Dory came over after a couple days to see if their friend is well. She is not well, but their visit lifts Kim from her grief a microscopic bit, and Clara notices that. When Hunky's mother comes to pick her daughter up, Clara asks her to stay until Dory's parents came as well, because she wants to ask all of them something.

CLARA: The funeral for Kim's father will be this weekend. I'd like to take Sofie and Dory to be with Kim when we go.


148 ATTIC

SUSAN KROUSE: I don't think so. These are just school girls, and a funeral is a pretty solemn thing.

SETH TWOFEATHERS: I agree. Besides, this should be a private family time for you and Kim.

CLARA: That's precisely the thing. We have no family here in Greendome. My parents are back East and my husband was a sort of a black sheep in his own family. They're Bunners. I've never been close to them. Kim is taking the death of her father very hard, but when Sofie and Dory came over to see us today I noticed a visible improvement in Kim. I could see it come right out to light up her eyes again. That's when I realized that Sofie and Dory are Kim's real family.

JADEN TWOFEATHERS: Clara, I'm with Susan, I don't think a Green Dome Church funeral is something these girls should see.

CLARA: But they won't see the actual Rites. Not even Kim will see that. Look, my husband is dead. I have to go lay him to rest, and I have to bring Kim. And I think she needs to be with her best friends right now.

Clara finds she is more persuasive than she hoped. In the end everyone consents to let the girls remain together for the weekend.

For Clara this is her first time to see the Golden Gift in action, the central mystery and devotion of the Green Dome Church. The children are not allowed to attend the actual ceremony upstairs in the Temple Sanctuary, and it would have been unseemly to run around and play while the body of Kim's father is sent to his long home, along with five other Church members from across the globe. So they sit around in the Temple basement getting quite bored as volunteers prepare the Sunday afternoon dinner for hundreds of parishioners.

Jerry Shybear joins them after breaking away from a group of boys smoking outside. Che seems to know a lot of secrets about the Temple. Jerry leads the girls into a gigantic supply room which isn't locked, and they go along with him because there is nothing else to do.

The place is a sort of attic, but for a church. There is no electric light within, only a window with blinds, and since it is gloomy outside the Temple it is even more gloomier inside the storage room. There's an old piano which is probably broken, a map of the Tri-State corner area, and heaps of the sort of things one typically finds in a church unused hymnals, stacks of old bulletins, empty mason jars, and dozens of folding chairs. The children can hear organ music and the choir bleeding through the ceiling from the main sanctuary upstairs.

There are Green Dome scrapbook albums, Green Dome cookbooks, Green Dome paints and brushes, Green Dome wood carvings, Green Dome homespun, and broken Green Dome furniture. Hunky finds a Green Dome walking stick made from a gnarled old piece of wood and shifts it from hand to hand to get the feel of it.


One of the walls is unfinished, and Jerry moves aside a piece of plywood to reveal another dark space beyond. It was so black inside it drinks their vision like a sponge. I've never been in here, he says.

None of the girls want to go in there either but Jerry dares them to go, so naturally Hunky is the first one through. Then Jerry follows her to show he isn't afraid. Dory and Kim are both afraid of the dark hole, and they are not afraid to admit it, but they also don't want to be left behind so they squeeze in after them. 149 MOUSE

It is too dark to see anything , but Jerry lights a series of matches, which only last a few seconds. This gives him time to find an ancient dusty candle, and he lights that. After that the kids have a little bit of light and they can see where they were.

There is no tile floor, just natural stone and dirt, and a sort of stone igloo in the center of a circle of stones. This is the cairn of the humanoid avatar of Chokhmah in its original state, resting on the very summit of Green Dome. The structure is unmolested. Superstition overcame Prophet Lange and the Apostle Wanica at the end, it seemed. They built the whole Temple right over the top of the cairn as if to hide it.

There is even a little commemorative Green Dome mouse. Dory and Kim scream together when they see it.

Without a word Hunky lets her cane fly in an arc over her head, and she brings it down, hoping to scare the mouse away. But she ends up hitting the mouse instead, with a lucky shot.

HUNKY: This is a church right? So there's your church mouse.

DORY: You crippled it.

Dory has shifted instantly from fear to maternal concern. The animal is in obvious pain and tries to stagger away.

HUNKY: I didn't mean to actually hit it.

They all take a closer look at the creature. The head of the mouse is misshapen. There is a huge white bump on the back that is nearly as large as the mouse's head itself.

DORY: Look what you did, Hunky! Look at that bump!

HUNKY: That isn't from anything I did.

Hunky puts the end of her cane directly over the head of the crippled creature and presses down hard to finish it off.

HUNKY: And I don't want it to suffer. This is better.

KIM: Now what do we do with it?

Kim is disgusted by the sight of the dead creature with what looked to be a flat furry coin where its head had been. The bump is still intact, but no one knows what it was. Hunky scratches the bare ground with the cane and digs a little trench. When it is deep enough Sophie slide the mouse into it with her foot, and then both she and Jerry kick dirt over it and stamp it all down to finish the job.

HUNKY: Rest in pieces.

JERRY: Now if you ladies will join me, I want to find out what's in that pile of rocks.

He goes to the cairn and begins trying to pull one of the stones loose, not realizing his grandfather Jashen Two Pricks once did the very same thing on his vision quest, but he had told nobody but his father. Jerry isn't making much headway. Hunky offers what little help she can, and one of the stones slowly gives way like a hinged door. They move it aside just enough that they all could squeeze inside the stone igloo one at a time.

150 COMA

This is it, the Holy of Holies, the very tippy-top of Green Dome hill where the avatar of Chokhmah still lies in its original position. The white exterior surface of the little dome is dotted with thousands of tiny holes. Some of these holes have spines sticking out of them like the needles of a cactus.

Kim puts an index finger close to a part of the dome that is needle-free, and that is something that she ought not to have done. There is a sound like a short squirt of steam and her fingertip is instantly skewered. She pulls away involuntarily before the pain even registers. After that the white dome sports one more extruded spine from its surface.

Dory is a little smarter. She grabs a pencil out of her purse and leans over the black sphere with the eraser tip prudently standing in for her finger. She verifies the white dome is still active and just as nasty.

Jerry thought about kicking it, but a glance at his thin moccasins leads him to change his mind. So the thing is a mystery. Best to leave it at that. Hunky is the only one who is not afraid. She allows her own finger to be skewered by the white dome.

HUNKY: There we go, Kim. Whatever trouble you're in for getting stabbed by this thing, I'm in the same trouble.

And so Hunky has her final victory over Jerry in the test of courage. After that Kim, Jerry and Dory all shake their heads and slide back out of the stone cairn, followed last by Hunky. But when Dory and Kim are outside they hear another sound and both of them freeze. One of the elders of the Church is standing in the storage room cocking his ears to listen. All of the kids hold their breath and try not to make a sound. The deacon looks into the dark gap and could just make out two silhouettes.

DEACON: Get out of there!

With red faces Jerry, Kim, Hunky and Dory scramble out of the hole, then out of the supply room, and they sit down in a corner of the basement lunchroom. The deacon locks the supply room tight, and after that it always remained locked for so as long as the Temple stands, which actually wasn't to be for much longer.

When Kim sees her mother again during the meal after the ceremony she seems somehow different. Kim can tell she wasn't mourning my father anymore.

CLARA: It's all true, Kim. Everything in the Buron, it's all true!

Of course Clara has always believed what she was taught with the ears of faith, but now she has seen the Golden Gift work with her own eyes and she comes away with an unshakable bedrock foundation of belief that she would carry with her until her own end. And that is precisely the intended effect of the Last Rite.

But by that evening Kim and Sophie slip into a coma and are taken to a small hospital in town. Over the days that follow they come down with the same disease as that little church mouse. They get matching little bumps at the base of their necks. The doctors cannot diagnose them, so the girls are handed off to the government. Eventually they are flown to Washington State and placed in quarantine.


151 CLINIC

Nanoengineering is inspired by the molecular machines of life, but it bypasses the trial-and-error watery sloppiness and superseded functions that are carried out by all cells and duplicates life's useful functions with more deliberate precision. In 1942 no human being is anywhere near actually working on that scale.

What the hidden avatar of Chokhmah did to Kimberly Lokken, Sophie Krouse, and that little church mouse they found under the altar was infect living nerve and brain tissue. On a one-for-one basis this infection gradually replaced each nerve cell with a nanotechnology facsimile after learning the ropes and figuring out how to respond to hormones, nutrients, and electrical signals from other cells.

Michaela calls it the Change. Sha harself was the first one to be infected in this way so long ago in the land of Anshar. Princess Khondiel and all the Fallen Angels also accepted the Change, as did the nobleborn of the three Houses opposed to Lucifer when war came to heaven. Jashen Shybear became the first of those born on Earth to undergo the Change, though it was something of an accident, much like what befell Kim and Sofie. In ten days they regain consciousness and each sport a bump at the back of their head, though it remains to be seen what their Talent might be.

The United States has embarked on a vast but secret project to develop atomic weapons for use in the Second World War. To be safe the research is conducted in the Great American desert east of the Cascade mountain range where population is sparse. The medical facilities at the Hanford Reservation are very good, especially for treating radiation sickness.

Hanford is roughly the size of an entire county of a western state, with unprecedented security arrangements. The wildest portion of the Columbia River itself formed the northern and eastern border. Kim Zinter and Sophie "Hunky" Krouse are taken to the clinic there. Both Kim and Hunky remain absolutely silent about the avatar of Chokhmah. If there is one thing Greendomites are good for it is keeping a secret.

When the bumps in their skulls crack open Kim and Hunky are sedated so the doctors can take a close look. Apparently their brains aren't even alive anymore. Their heads are now opaque to x-rays. Part of the brain of both girls actually penetrate the skull and terminate in white oval cups made of repurposed bone. The cups have smooth inside walls and many short, fine black graphite bristles growing out of the cup's floor. It is an electrical connector with exactly fifty-five pins.

If the pins are crushed or snapped off they quickly grow back just like the lead in a mechanical pencil. The doctors try shaving off the whole external structure on one of the girls but it just grows right back. They manufacture a cable that fits the connectors perfectly. In time Kim and Hunky came to call it simply the Purple Cable.

The cable proves mostly useless. The staff read electrical signals from Kim and Hunky and print them on a fat roll of paper, but they don't know what to do with the information. Attempts to write information to the girl's heads using the same 15 millivolt level that was present on the pins only gives them bizarre total-body sandpaper static sensations they find very unpleasant and refuse to endure again.

The doctors do not dare to hook the girls together with the Purple Cable.

Still, they quietly discover, to their delight, that they each can now communicate with Dory with just a thought.

[dory]: WELCOME IN ON OUR LITTLE SHYBEAR FAMILY SECRET, LADIES. I NEVER IMAGINED YOU WOULD FIND OUT THIS WAY.


152 STRIKE

Dory explains how the B'nei Elohim has resources to help, but they can do no good until they know where Kim and Hunky are being held. The girls describe the interior of the clinic to Dory, but there are no windows, and they know nothing about its location.

[hunky]: THEY'LL NEVER LET US OUT OF HERE.

[kim]: WE CAN PUNCH EVERY COMBO ON THE DOOR. IT WOULDN'T EVEN BE BORING. AFTER THE FIRST TWO OR THREE TRIES WE CAN GO AUTOMATIC AND SNAP OUT OF THE TRANCE WHEN THE DOOR CLICKS OPEN.

[hunky]: THEY WILL CATCH US BEFORE WE EVEN GET STARTED. THEY ARE WATCHING THROUGH THE MIRRORS.

[kim]: HOW DO YOU KNOW?

[hunky]: REMEMBER WHEN I THREW BOOKS AT THOSE TWO LAMPS AND KILLED THE LIGHTS IN HERE? I COULD SEE PEOPLE SCRAMBLING TO KILL LIGHTS ON THEIR OWN SIDE THROUGH THE MIRRORS. I GUESS THEY AREN'T PERFECT ONE-WAY MIRRORS.

[dory]: GREAT. NOW THEY KNOW THAT YOU KNOW.

[hunky]: SHIT. YOU'RE RIGHT.

[kim]: WE CAN TURN THIS TO OUR ADVANTAGE. IT WILL TAKE A LITTLE ACTING ABILITY. WE HAVE TO EMBARRASS DR. TROCHMANN. WE HAVE TO MAKE HIM THINK THAT BEING CONFINED IN HERE, TWO GIRLS TOGETHER, AGE EIGHTEEN, WE'VE FALLEN IN LOVE.

Through Dory, who mediates, the girls agree to go on strike. Meaning they do not cooperate with their captors at all. They just sit there in the clinic all day and do nothing except eat, drink, use the restroom, and only speak to each other in Relbimian, the language of the Boda they invented years ago.The girls are interrogated together and separately about the words they are speaking.

They decide to keep the language to themselves as their own private thing. So the word thann, instead of a distance of about 1,700 feet, becomes duck. And the word chorzon, instead of a period of time of about six minutes, becomes perfume.

The girls keep these false words straight with their newly organized minds, and share any new false words they invent between themselves and with Dory by tagging them in Relbimian to keep each other updated. So there emerges two languages, a genuine Relbimian and the false Relbimian that Dr. Trochmann's team is hopelessly trying to piece together from Kim and Hunky's lies. Finally, Dr. Trochmann gets fed up and separates the girls totally.

Kim and Sophie go into scorched earth mode. There are two ways of dealing with all the dead time. Kim prefers to get tall. She imagines herself growing in size and the clock speeds up before her eyes. Her heartbeats run together in a butterfly flutter and become a quiet hum. She speeds up, cruises for a short while, then slows back down. Her muscles are a little sore from staying in one position for too long but four hours are gone.

Hunky thinks the time-lapse movie method is too gross because she can feel her bladder fill up and she doesn't like the way food feels moving through her intestines when she gets tall. She prefers to take a series of hourlong naps or little jumps in time with her consciousness simply turned off. Either way they choose, both girls are well disposed to play this waiting game with Trochmann.


153 INTERVIEW

Some people eat unnecessary meals from sheer boredom, but that was not a factor here, even with chubby little Kim. They only eat about every two days. Large meals, to be sure, but the other times when the nurse arrives to escort them (one at a time) out their locked doors to their meals they refuse to budge. Otherwise it would seem to them like they were continuously eating. So four meals, a couple showers, and many other stops to use the restroom or drink some water made for a rather busy day that compressed a full week of real time.

With Dory in the middle, both Kim and Sofie silently communicate with Jerry and many of the other B'nei Elohim in Greendome. Through them they learn that all of the B'nei Elohim native to Earth have been given what they call a Talent, and it was only a matter of time before the girls learned what these powers were. Peter Twofeathers assured them it was very likely that Chokhmah would give them something they could use to break free.

After a month of this strike Dr. Trochmann surrenders.

TROCHMANN: Ladies, time for a heart-to-heart, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

It would be the girl's last interview with this well-meaning technical director of the Kim & Sophie Project.

KIM: Time for everyone to tell the truth. So tell me, if we're not contagious why are we still locked in here?

TROCHMANN: This thing is indeed contagious, otherwise how did you catch it?

HUNKY: You don't seem too afraid to talk to us face-to-face. Nor does Nurse Ramsey.

TROCHMANN: We know it's not transmitted through the air, like by sneezing. Otherwise you'd be in total isolation. And telling us more would go a long way toward getting you out of here.

HUNKY: I don't feel sick.

TROCHMANN: Sophie, your brain isn't even alive anymore!

HUNKY How could we be having this conversation then?

TROCHMANN: I'll tell you what we know so far. Obviously it's artificial. It spreads just like a virus, but we've never seen anything like it before. When it gets in a nerve cell it sits there and learns the ropes. It learns everything that the cell does in response to chemical signals from other cells, to nutrients, hormones, everything. And it takes over the cell's job. It uses material found on hand to remodel the nerve cell into a white structure that straddles the length of the old cell but it's skinnier, more compact. No more sloppy life. No more proteins floating randomly in water, more like a deliberate design. Like a machine, but microscopic. Smaller than microscopic, even.

KIM: What do you mean, like a machine?

TROCHMANN: All those cells are dead. Both of you girls have been hooked up to an Offner Dynograph and they show nothing. Both of you are brain dead. So far it's only had an affinity for nerve cells but we've been watching to see if it starts attacking other tissues in your body.

HUNKY: Why can't we see our folks, even through glass?

TROCHMANN: That's a decision for Mr. Tolson. -154 DEAL

HUNKY: My father dotes on me, and he said he was talking to our congressman to get permission to see me.

TROCHMANN: Mr. Tolson knows about that.

KIM: So you're just going to keep us here forever.

TROCHMANN: We think this has happened to you for a reason and so far we haven't learned what that reason is. That's where a little more cooperation from you gals would be very helpful. For instance, we don't know what the connectors in the back of your skull are really for.

HUNKY: Sometimes I feel like some hidden things are getting more and more clear. I keep having the notion that we've been picked to be go-betweens or something. Like translators.

KIM: That's true, I sense that too. We want the one-way mirrors removed from our space.

TROCHMANN: What one-way mirrors?

HUNKY: Come on, Doctor. You think we're just two stupid girls, don't you? We've had a lot of time on our hands, being locked up in here, and we've found your two filthy peeping-Tom mirrors and people looking in on us.

TROCHMANN: I see there's no fooling you two. But the windows are not used for what you seem to be implying they are.

KIM: Look, yeah maybe we're infectious, and you've got some law that says you can take away our liberty and keep us in this quarantine of yours, but guess what? We're eighteen now. There are basic human and Constitutional rights we're both entitled to now.

TROCHMANN: Like what?

HUNKY: Like plain old-fashioned privacy! You wonder why we don't want to play any of your games anymore? We're tired of being watched by strangers and we're pissed off to find out you've been watching us all this time without letting us know.

For the first time he becomes aware that Kim and Hunky are holding hands, and he blushes. And the realization that he is blushing makes him blush deeper. Kim sees the opening and drives the point home.

KIM: Look, we're young women and you've locked us up in here together for a year, what did you expect?

Hunky scoots tighter against Kim.

HUNKY: I hope you know what we're trying to get at here, Doc. I hope you don't make us have to spell it out.

TROCHMANN: I see what you mean by privacy issues.

He is chastened by the realization that it had, indeed, been his fault that the girls are now much more than friends.

KIM: We should clear the way between us and continue to talk.

Trochmann's mood brightens at this breakthrough. He seems different.

TROCHMANN: There are some security things I need to change first, but then I'll let you have your privacy. Curtains on your side of the windows.


155 ESCAPE

That activity which Doctor Trochmann assumed they were doing with their new privacy they did not do. Kim knows Sophie is spoken for. But the girls remember he wanted to change the security arrangements before granting their privacy. There is only one change in routine as far as they can tell. In the past their tormentors seemed to have the code for the door memorized and they just punched their way out without a second thought. But now, very often they would take out their wallet, or look at a scrap of paper from their pocket before punching the buttons that would let them out. That could only mean they are now scrambling the code more frequently, perhaps weekly, to balance the loss of their direct view.

Hunky almost despairs but Kim explains to her that the change actually does not make their task any harder at all. They just have to pick a fixed range and try all the combinations in it, night after night, until the daily shifting combo happened to fall into that range.

It was a hex keypad, a four-by-four square with sixteen buttons numbered 0 through 9 and A through F. The girls also knew from listening carefully that the code was always just four taps. The problem is that there is a ten second delay after trying a number before the red light resets to the yellow light and it is ready to accept another try. Kim figures if they start at 600 pm and go all through the night to 600 am, trading off at midnight, they would just be able to do all of the Lucky 7's. That is, the whole range from 7000 to 7FFF. Then the next night pick a different range.

Kim starts pounding combinations, one after the other. And when she does, she senses a tower of future moments stacking on top of each other. Each floor of that tower is an attempt to punch the combination, topping out in a moment of joy, five days down the timeline, when she would hit the right combination and the door unlock. The joyous number was 1DFC. She read it right out of her memory of the future, but that memory hadn't presented itself until Kim started trying to punch out.

So Kim simply enters 1DFC and gets the green light after only punching in about ten different combinations. Hunky is impressed. There's a click, and the girls step out into the muted light of the rest of the clinic, hoping it is deserted for the night. Which it is. Hunky scoops up the Purple Cable hanging from the wall in the main room of the clinic and wears it around her waist like a belt. Then Kim does the same precognitive trick with the outer door. BF76 and click. They waltz out of the building and into the cold desert night of Washington State.

It wouldn't do to have the girls locked up inside the clinic in the not-sounlikely event of a fire, so for safety and also as a security precaution in the unlikely case they did get out, a guard is posted in a shack nearby with bright lights flooding the doorway. The escapees stand there illuminated like deer frozen on the highway. Fortunately for them the guard isn't expected to just stare at the outside of the clinic for the duration of his watch. Just staying awake is sufficient, it seems. So he has his back turned, hunched over a newspaper. Kim and Hunky creep around the outside of the clinic as quietly as they can until they are exactly 180 degrees around from the guard shack. Then they head straight out in the long shadow of the building.

There is no outer perimeter of eight foot high barbed wire fences or rolls of concertina wire or dogs or land mines as they feared since the clinic is intended mainly for treating Hanford's radiation burn victims. Soon they are trodding through sand and sagebrush on a gentle slope down to the shore of the Columbia River. Kim looks up into the clear and dark desert sky and gasps at the beauty of the white phosphor Milky Way above, more stars than she has seen in her life before. But she is wearing a tan and white dress and begins to shiver in the night time desert cold.


156 CALL

Shortly the girls come to a wire fence and Kim puts her hand out to spread the wires apart so they could crawl through, but quickly pulls back again when she senses that she is about to suffer an electrical shock. She looks at it for a moment and decides to try to roll under it. The task requires a little bit of burrowing into the sand to get more clearance.

Soon they are both through the electric fence and standing at the river's edge. In the moonlight they dimly see the roaring whitewater of the untamed stretch of the river called Hanford Reach. Neither girl knows where they are, but they both know they cannot set foot in the water right there or they would be swept away and drown.

HUNKY: How did you solve the lock so fast?

KIM: It's hard to explain. It's as though I can daydream the future. I saw the moment when I hit the right number, and then just read the number right out of my daydream. And also, just now, with the fence, I daydreamed being shocked.

HUNKY: So daydream our way out of here.

KIM: That's not how it seems to work. It's like we're on this kind of railroad track, and I can see that we're going to royally screw up if we keep doing what we're doing, but my daydream doesn't show me what we need to do to not get caught.

The interior of the clinic is monitored on one of the earliest installations of closed-circuit television in the United States. Only the best for the Manhattan Project. By 1 AM a call is made to the guard shack at the Allard clinic, and soon after that the word is out on the street that Kimberly and Sofia are gone.

Still half asleep, Clyde Tolson fumbles with the phone receiver and there is quite a pause before he remembers he is supposed to bring it to his ear and say hello.

SGT LASKER: Sorry to wake you up at this hour, Director Tolson, but you wanted to be informed immediately if the Zinter or Krouse girls escape. Both of them just did.

TOLSON: What time is it?

LASKER: One fifteen in the AM, sir.

TOLSON: And who are you?

LASKER: Sergeant Jim Lasker in Building 1002.

TOLSON: How did they get out?

LASKER: As far as we know, sir, they just punched the right combination on the door and walked out.

TOLSON: The sentry at the clinic dropped the ball. Have they been picked up yet?


157 SWEEP

LASKER: Not yet sir. But we'll get them. We've had some wires tripped on the riverbank near Nancy so we're concentrating downstream and northeast of the clinic. This is Hanford. There's nowhere for them to hide.

With 960 square miles of territory the Hanford site is large enough to require "town" names to identify places within it. The Manhattan Project has chosen to use mostly women's names. So there are places like Ruth, Edna, and Susie, which are nothing more than railroad junctions, really. The clinic is only a mile north of Helen, which is really just a large electrical substation and a cluster of warehouses.

Kim and Hunky are steered away from the Mulberry trees along the river by the electric fence and gravel pits connected by a maze of unpaved roads that make up the relative highlands of Nancy. There is a single rail line crossing the area from southwest to northeast.

The girls veer off the gradually ascending scrub-brush plain into a newly dug mile-long trench intended to hold contaminated water from the Q West reactor. This is a mistake, and Kim starts to get antsy. After they walk about halfway down the huge ditch, which is only wide enough to hold perhaps four cars side-by-side, a pair of headlights appears ahead and turns to line up on them directly.

Kim and Hunky throw themselves flush against the gritty trench walls. They could feel the cool moistness of the face of newly-exposed gravel, and smell the flinty odor of flint. The tiny rocks are somewhere between sand and small pebbles in size, and they are held together loosely by a sheen of underground moisture.

Hunky thought about climbing, but she discovered it would be useless to try because she saw the gravel face is unstable. In some places clods of dirt and gravel are actually overhanging, easily knocked down by the brush of a hand. In other places a single scrape would unleash a miniature slide of loose gravel, the tiny rocks piling around their feet. But that right there gave Hunky an idea. She began scraping the walls of the trench and deliberately pulling the gravel down over herself.

A third light mounted on the windshield and hand-operated by the driver is sweeping methodically up and down the slopes of the gravel pit as the vehicle slowly advances.

Hunky pulls Kim close to her until they are close enough to kiss. They both scrape at the walls until enough gravel has collapsed to leave only their heads and one arm free, each.

HUNKY: My turn, Kim. Don't ask me how I know this will work, I just know it will. Put your mouth against mine. No, this isn't what you think. My body will supply the air you need to breathe.

Then, as the MP's white jeep approaches very close Kim and Hunky engage in a kiss. Hunky completes their self-burial, hoping the soldier is too intent studying the sides of the trench to glance at the little ongoing rockslide ahead. Since the newly-dug trench is pretty unstable anyway there are many such piles of gravel along the walls.

Kim calms herself as much as possible, and breathes what Hunky gives her. Hunky, in turn, breathes what Kim gives her. It wasn't anything sexy, but it did seem to work. Like Kim's ability to see the future there is no immediate explanation for how it worked or even how Hunky knew it would work.


158 HIDING

After a few minutes of being buried alive Kim and Hunky push back through the gravel and tentatively take a breath. They dare no loud gasping, because the jeep is still very near, moving away maddeningly slow. But the red glow of tail-lights means that it has indeed passed by. In fact the driver did not even give the brand-new little landslides a second look, he was checking the nooks between the landslides where he figured someone could hide. Kim and Sophie patiently and quietly recover. The crisis of the first security sweep has passed.

After the guard's jeep leaves them far behind Kim and Hunky continue on their way east along the dry floor of the future waste-water sump. Their ordeal has not gotten them very dirty. The gravel they had buried themselves in was a lot like wet sand at the beach, only with bigger grains.

After about fifteen minutes of walking they stand where the jeep had been when they had first seen its lights. Railroad tracks were there. A white sign said "Bettie" in stenciled letters. Kim and Hunky decided to walk along the tracks, and though they didn't know it, the tracks are a good choice, because they would cross no trip wires, and there was no road paralleling the track, paved or not.

Two miles to the south across a sagebrush plain many yellow lights illuminate Hanford's main cluster of tritium production reactors. They are preparing the Fat Boy bomb that would be used on Japan on August 9, 1945.

At about 3 AM the girls reach the halfway point across the wide, flat tongue of land they are crossing formed by a northerly bend of the Columbia River. They reach a major rail junction identified on a sign as Ginger as well as a cluster of paved roads. In the distance to the southeast a few approaching vehicles can be seen by their headlights so Kim and Hunky hide behind some rolling stock on a Ginger side track.

They choose a low brown Union Pacific gondola car to climb into. With many other identical railroad cars sitting around it was a good place for them to hide as long as they laid down out of sight.

HUNKY: Even if we do manage to escape somehow, they will never stop looking for us. So you are going to have to change your name just like I did from Sophie to Hunky.

KIM: You're right. Okay. From now on call me Robyn. With a 'y'. But I'll never risk going to a judge to make it official.

HUNKY: Smart girl. You were always the smartest one, Robyn.

ROBYN: Dory isn't like you, Hunky. I know you know that.

After a moment processing what Robyn just said, Hunky crawls back in the gondola car to get as far away from her as she can.

HUNKY: None of your business. "Robyn."

ROBYN: She will never tell you so, because she cares about you more than she cares about herself. That's why I love her.

HUNKY: That's exactly why I love her too.

ROBYN: Okay, Hunky. So what I'm asking here is, given that Dory is the way Dory is, please never let her have to decide to throw away a lifetime of happiness for herself just to make you happy. All right? She doesn't deserve that.

Hunky says nothing, but just nods her head.


159 SWIM

Out in the night the army police are setting up a tripod. Television has been nearly perfected, but World War II intervened just before the technology could be rolled out to the public. Soon after the war TV would replace radio as the main source of family home entertainment. In the hands of the army, television permitted a kind of night vision. A bulky television camera could be modified to respond to heat rather than light, and when the image was displayed on a CRT, warm bodies would stand out in the night.

Once the camera was mounted on the tripod the soldiers stared at the green screen and began slowly sweeping the horizon all around Ginger. The dark boxes of many railroad cars crept across the screen. There was a pair of infrared sources out there in one car, but the cold steel walls shielded them well.

It was 3:30 AM. The second sweep by the military police was over and they bundled up their primitive night-scope and drove away. Kimberly Zinter had crawled into a rail car with Sophie Krause to hide from the Army but both of the girls were forever dead. Only Robyn and Hunky crawl out and go on.

They decide to stick with the train tracks and continue northeast. If anyone came again, with any luck they could hide in another one of the scattered rail cars. In a mile they reach a place where the tracks, a paved road, and a gravel road all come together. Now the gravel one ran parallel to the tracks on their right, making the girls feel a little exposed.

A half-mile after that a paved road took its place alongside. They both could see a hint of the coming dawn in the eastern skies. Robyn senses the available choices are becoming fewer and fewer.

The rail curves sharply north, then northwest for a quarter of a mile, then north again for about fifty feet before coming to a dead end. Here was an old forgotten boxcar, forlorn in the dim gray light of 5 o'clock in the morning. Now Robyn senses that there were only two paths open to them. They can hide in the boxcar and wait to be picked up, or they can hoof it across the sand.

They see a line of white cliffs about two miles to the east and guess that was the far bank of the river. They begin to grow hideously exposed and the light is getting slowly but steadily brighter. There is little else to do but to make for the water again and hope to find somewhere to hide.

They strike east. In eight hundred feet they cross a row of fence posts and trip over a single wire. The army has them on their lighted map again.

Five minutes after tripping the outer picket they cross a wide paved road on the brink of a gentle slope down to the river. They hear sirens. Blue flashing lights are visible to the north and south. Almost the entire Hanford police force is closing in like the jaws of a steel trap. Robyn and Hunky run downhill toward the river, kicking up sand. They meet that old electric fence again, and drop to worm themselves under the bottom wire. They hear dogs but once they get to the other side of the fence they figure they wouldn't have to worry about them.

When they girls get their first good look at the river current they both know they are in luck. Here it was not too fast and not too slow. Robyn senses they have completely run out of other options. So Robyn carves out for herself a new option by simply wading straight out into the water, and Hunky follows her. A grin breaks out on the faces of both girls. They are pleasantly surprised. It being the late summer, the water has baked in the sun behind a dam twenty miles upstream, and behind another dam before that. So it wasn't too cold. More like old bath water.


160 QUESTIONING

At this particular stretch the great river slows and silt piles up to form several islands. Seven miles per hour. It wasn't the dangerous speed of the whitewater at the rapids upstream, but it also wasn't still water backed up behind a dam, which would force them to swim for it. There was even a wide zone shallow enough to permit Robyn and Hunky to touch their feet on the bottom now and again. But their bobbing heads are very visible in the brightening dawn. There is a hard splash in the water a fraction of a second before they hear the sharp report of a rifle.

Up until that point it has been almost a game for Robyn and Hunky. It never occurred to them at all that they would be the target of shooters. Quickly they both dive under the water and repeat the same breathing trick that worked so well at the gravel pit. When they come back up again they hope they are beyond rifle range. But the southern group of MPs are getting out of their jeeps to look at the river with rifles in hand, and the girls are coming up on them fast. So they submerge once more.

One of the itchy trigger fingers on the bank thinks he sees something and fires a round. The sound of his shot sparks a barrage of blind fire by the other men. Robyn and Hunky pass through a gauntlet of instantly forming white bubble-lines as dozens of bullets lace the water. After they surface again well downstream it is followed by almost two hours of drifting along with their eyes darting and scanning the shore before the river carries them past a roadless marsh and they can begin to relax.

At the first community downriver from the Hanford site Robyn and Hunky crawl out of the water and shiver for an hour, dangerously near hypothermia as they dry out in the bright morning sun on the right bank of the Columbia River, just below the first few houses on the northern edge of the brand new town of Richland. Still soggy, their shoes squish as they slog their way through back yards and side streets and emerge on a thoroughfare named George Washington Way. In the bottom of one of Hunky's shoes is a twentydollar bill from her mother, sent by mail on her birthday and it is all the money they had. But now that they know where they are, it is enough to get some food and a bus ticket home.

They called it Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization. DECON was created in 1942 to administer the internment of JapaneseAmerican citizens in the western United States. Later, Italian-Americans came under DECON's surveillance, but they were not officially detained, thus revealing the essentially racist nature of the program. German Wehrmacht prisoners of war, however, were shipped to the United States and detained in DECON camps. And when Nazi agents attempted to commit sabotage inside the borders of the United States they were also placed in the custody of DECON for "questioning" after which they were summarily shot. As a result of these interrogations, DECON thought it prudent to develop dossiers on every US citizen of German descent.

DECON agents interrogate Dory and Jerry about Kim and Hunky. Two of these interviews are in an individual setting and one interrogation occurs when they are playing in Jerry's backyard tree house. During the final interrogation of Dory and Jerry a DECON agent invades their tree house, one who is an expert at reading body language, to look for any signs of collusion between Jerry and Dory. The interview turns sour very quickly. After a few minutes of their intransigence the DECON fellow says he thinks recent high school graduates were too old to be playing in a tree fort. And to drive home his point he unveils an army draft notice with the name of Jerry Shybear on it.

AGENT: I can make this go away if you say how Kim and Sofia might have gotten sick. Otherwise you show up at the draft board tomorrow morning.

JERRY: Honestly, sir, I've told you everything I know.


161 CARTEL

AGENT: Dory, will you help the gentleman out? War is hell. You might not ever see him ever again after tomorrow.

Dory has nothing to say. So the DECON guy shrugs and places the draft notice in Jerry's hand.

AGENT: Suit yourself, son. Go kill some Japs.

Then he leaves the tree house in a huff. He would have tried a bit harder if he hadn't thought pushing the kids was really like drilling a dry hole. But orders are orders.

Jerry's father had been eager to kill Germans in France in the Great War, but Jerry didn't want to kill Japs or anyone else for that matter. Che was willing to take his chances with the draft lottery the same as the next fellow, but apparently DECON can pull strings behind the scenes and rig the game. Jerry just wants to stay home and wait for something to break so he can see Kim and Hunky again. There is only one thing che can do but he is embarrassed to ask Dory for help so Jerry suggests a game of Cartel instead.

JERRY: And by Cartel I mean strip Cartel of course.

That raises the stakes a notch from losing little colored pieces of paper.

The dice fly high, and round and round the board they go. Soon Jerry buys up 42nd Street, Broadway, and Park Avenue, and all he needs is Wall Street for a Cartel. Dory scoops up the Appian Way, the Burma Road, and Easy Street, and all she needs is the Yellow Brick Road for her Cartel. But all along Dory is puzzled that Jerry wants to play a stupid game when he has just been drafted into the military. She doesn't seem to have her heart in it. After a while Dory also gets a half-Cartel going with Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard, but she also buys Bourbon Street and Main Street on a whim, and soon she is short on cash.

As the game continues they both get serious Cartels going but Jerry has some lucky rolls and avoids landing on any of Dory's properties, while Dory keeps landing on Jerry's stuff and starts to have a serious cash flow problem. She auctions off her belt and nylons for a little breathing space. After that Dory starts landing on Jerry's Cartels over and over again and she is methodically stripped of most of her cash. She starts showing more and more skin to stay in the game. Soon Jerry owns Dory's dark yellow dress with white polka dots, and when she lands on Jerry's properties again he gets her knit rayon undies and bra.

But Dory rallies a little bit near the end. The properties associated with her knee socks and little black Mary Jane shoes, which Jerry doesn't want, are enough to complete a second Cartel, creating a kind of death row on her side of the board. Soon Jerry is shirtless, and after another round Dory demands his pants. But Jerry simply puts on Dory's bra and dress, and when he is sufficiently covered, he drops trou and hands them over.

DORY: A man shalt not wear that which pertaineth to a woman. For all who do so are an abomination to the Lord!

But Jerry isn't having any of that.

JERRY: As you well know, dear cousin, I am not a man, or even a boy.

When che lands on the second part of Dory's Death Row with no more cash, Dory demands hez underwear, which che duly hands over. The game is over, but che totally is fine with that, because under the cover of Dory's yellow dress che slips into her panties and nylons and together with her bra che has everything che is looking for. -162 AARON

Che bids the girl adieu and leaves the tree fort with only his own sneakers covering his feet.Using mostly back alleys, he goes directly to the nearby house of the only homosexual he knows, Aaron Anton, and knocks.

Aaron is quite a specimen of male beauty and he is a little famous in his own way. He has posed in various styles of Jockey underwear for an illustrated catalog. When Aaron answers the door and sees Jerry standing there he is shocked for a minute.

AARON: No, no, Jerry, you're doing it all wrong. Come in, I'll show you what I mean.

In the bedroom Aaron methodically removes all of Dory's clothes that Jerry had won in Cartel and drops them on the floor. Then Aaron gets his first look at a naked jen.

AARON: One ball, Jerry? I'll be damned. Well, you know what we're both here for, right? So what's all of this girl shit, Jerry? That's right, lose the nylons, then get your ass into bed.

Aaron has Jerry lay on his back to pleasure him orally, which doesn't last very long at all. Aaron knows a few things. After only a few minutes Jerry lets his back arch, legs stiffen, eyes roll, and mouth lie wide open as he feels a release better and strangely different than anything he has ever done for himself.

When che has recovered from the orgasm Jerry rolls over and offers his body to Aaron to enjoy as he wills, but at that point, with the scrotum out of the way, Aaron sees that Jerry has two sets of genitalia, and one set, to his disgust, is that of a girl, glistening with anticipation. Even the airborne molecules give Aaron a bad reaction. All the sexual desire rushes out of him like air from a balloon. So Aaron just pats Jerry's ass with affection, lights a cigarette, and speaks with a decadent purr.

AARON: You're my first hermaphrodite. I wasn't even sure they were real.

JERRY: It, ah, runs in the family. You don't want to finish?

AARON: I always knew girls weren't where I was at, Jerry, but now I've really learned it. So, ah, we're finished here.

JERRY: Sorry.

Jerry scoops up Dory's clothes, thanks Aaron for the little visit, gets dressed, and leaves. The next day he shows up at the draft board and when he strips for his medical examination they see him standing there wearing Dory's pink panties and bra. The doctor is a local who was drafted himself.

DOCTOR: You want to tell me about it, son?

Jerry looks down at himself, then catches the doctor's eye.

JERRY: I guess I'm a, waddya callitt, a queer. A fairy.


163 PHYSICAL

The Army NCO in charge of the processing station as well as the doctor have heard this sort of thing before. They knew the slackers think it's an easy way out of getting drafted, at the cost of a little self-respect.

SERGEANT: Okay, son, if you're a fairy then who's your boyfriend?

JERRY: Aaron Anton.

SERGEANT: That checks out. We had that Aaron Anton fellow in here last month. Queer as a football bat.

DOCTOR: Everyone in town knows that Aaron Anton is queer as a football bat. Okay, Jerry, tell us something only his fuck buddy would know.

JERRY: He's got a funny birthmark. His whole dick is red, like it's got a rash.

DOCTOR: You could have seen that in the gym class locker room.

Jerry shakes his head.

SERGEANT: No, there's an age difference. Anton was out of high school before Shybear here ever became a freshman.

So the doctor makes a sour face and stamps Jerry's paperwork 4F, which means he can stay home and read about the war in the papers.

DOCTOR: Get yourself some help son.

He speaks with more than just a trace of disgust. Before 1973 homosexuality was considered a pathology by the medical community, perhaps a bit like schizophrenia. Jerry, however, considers hez mission a complete success. Che's not going to war, che's not even going to get a complete physical, which would lead to the Army discovering his bone cup and probably locking him in the same clinic where they put Hunky and Kim. So things were already looking up when he returned to see Dory again in the treehouse, and God was sitting there waiting for hem.

The Army is still scouring Hanford for Robyn and Hunky. It does not occur to DECON to watch the bus stations out of the nearest three towns until later that afternoon. The river has carried the girls much farther downstream than anyone could have walked in the same span of time, all at the relatively small expense of some wrinkled prune fingertips for both of them and a ruined dress for Kim.

By noon the girls are on a bus and well on their way back home to Greendome. Robyn's greatest desire is to rush into the arms of her mother, but her new precognitive abilities tell her the authorities would go there first, and in fact they already have her house staked out. The same is true for Hunky's house. They would be caught and it would be right back to Hanford. So while they sit on the bus making their way east at the wartime top speed limit of just 35 MPH, Robyn spends the seemingly endless time turning the dwindling options over in her mind.

Peter Twofeathers sits in his office in the Green Dome Temple pouring through the Buron, trying to find spiritual guidance on what he should do in the present circumstances, with the Church itself on the very cusp of schism. Then he remembers how Yeshua commanded his followers constantly to pray, so he pushes the Buron across the desk, clasps his hands, and leans forward in silent conversation with God. A middle-aged yin knocks when he's in the middle of his prayer and stares at him, as if sha's afraid sha's interrupting something.

-164 GOD

MICHAELA: God prefers it when you pray out loud, Peter Twofeathers. It takes more faith to do that, and truth be told, God can't really read your mind. At least, not unless you are one of the B'nei Elohim like your spouse Jaroah.

PETER: And you are?

Michaela comes further into the office and stands directly in front of Peter's desk, looking around at the things in the office.

MICHAELA: God.

PETER: God?

MICHAELA: Or Michaela, if you prefer. There's your Buron, right?

PETER: You're God. Sure lady.

MICHAELA: It is a wicked generation that demands a sign.

Michaela reaches into his file cabinet, where he has stashed the Golden Gift, and retrieves it, despite the fact that it was locked.

MICHAELA: The one and only Golden Gift, none the worse for wear. Please come in, children.

Soon Michaela is flanked by Dory and Jerry, who come into the office carrying their own chairs. Michaela pulls up the chair in front of Peter's desk and all three of them have a seat.

PETER: Give the relic back to me or I will call the police!

MICHAELA: I gave this gadget to Chief Wanica personally and now that he's dead I'm giving it to his direct descendant to keep it safe. Do the magic trick I showed you, Jerry.

Sha hands the Golden Gift to the boy, who is wearing short sleeves. He wiggles his fingers and the weapon is gone. Jerry opens his hands to show Peter they are empty.

Peter is now convinced Michaela really is God and starts a comedic struggle out of his seat to find some floor space to drop to his knees before har.

MICHAELA: Belay that, Peter. Sit back down and listen.

PETER: Command me, Lady Michaela.

MICHAELA: Do you know these children?

PETER: I do! Jerry Shybear is the grandchild of my sibling Eliah, and Dory Twofeathers is my own grandchild.

MICHAELA: Dory and Jerry are friends of Kimberly Zinter and Sophie Krause. Kim and Sophie have been held against their will by the American government, but now they have escaped, and they are coming home, but they are going to need your help. I'll let Dory explain the particulars of that to you. Also, I have an idea about what you should say in your next sermon. I happen to think your doctrine of only letting cousins get married is stupid, but I'll let Jerry explain the particulars of that to you.

And with that, Michaela was just gone, taking her chair with her. Dory and Jerry scoot their own chairs closer together in the sudden gap, fold their hands, set them on the desk, and smile at Peter.


165 PROPOSAL

In Pocatello when she and Hunky transfer to a bus that will take them into Wyoming, Robyn realizes the homes of everyone who had written to her and Hunky must also be staked out. Both girls remember that their mail was always opened and read before it was given to them, so they have no doubt DECON has logged the address of each sender. That rules out going to see Dory and Jerry, at least directly. And Robyn guesses DECON has the bus station in Greendome staked out as well, waiting for them. She brings all these concerns to Dory, mentally.

[dory]: IF YOU GET OFF THE BUS CLOSER THAN CASPAR YOU'RE GOING TO GET CAUGHT.

[robyn]: SO CASPAR THEN.

[dory]: JERRY SAYS HE MISSES YOU TERRIBLY AND HE WANTS TO KNOW IF YOU WILL MARRY HIM.

[robyn]: TELL JERRY CHE'S VERY SWEET BUT CHE ALREADY KNOWS THAT'S AGAINST THE RULES.

[dory]: WHAT IF THE RULES WERE CHANGED? WOULD YOU AGREE TO MARRY HIM?

Robyn thinks on how so much has changed for her and her friends over the last few weeks.Why would it be so hard to believe the Church would change its rules and let anyone get married, not just cousins? Then Robyn sees it. It's much easier to just coast along and assume the Church will never change than to face the scary possibility that Jerry loved her, or the even more scary possibility that she loved him too. She takes a leap into the dark.

[robyn]: IF JERRY CAN GET ME AND HUNKY OUT OF THIS JAM, AND CONVINCE TWOFEATHERS TO LET US GET MARRIED, THEN HE WILL HAVE PROVEN TO BE MY CHAMPION AND YES I WILL MARRY HEM!

In the United States of America in World War II there is wartime rationing of gasoline. Most people are entitled to only four gallons of gas a week. But Peter Twofeathers is an important clergyman who has to tend to his flock. He is allowed a Supplemental Mileage Ration C sticker which gives him up to an additional twelve gallons a week, the same bonus as doctors and mail carriers. That's a lucky thing, because his Chrysler Town and Country wagon only gets about fifteen miles per gallon, even with its relatively lightweight wooden doors. But it's enough to get over to Caspar and back. As soon as Peter makes his decision to do it, Robyn sees the way out of the trap as a vivid daydream in her mind.

That Sunday morning in Temple, Prophet Peter Twofeathers relates testimony on how he was immersed in prayer over the struggles of the Green Dome Church and God appeared to him personally. A quiet murmuring comes over the congregation as the flock tries to determine if he is joking or quite serious.

They realize Peter is very serious when he describes how God went straight to where he had hidden the Golden Gift, retrieved it, and gave it to the Church's new Extraordinary Lay Minister of Final Rites, Jerry Shybear. And Jerry takes that as his cue to come walking out onto the raised area before the altar carrying the gold relic on a plush green pillow.

The Bunners start standing up in their pews and making their way to the aisles so they can leave the service.

Twofeathers goes on to say that God thinks the Church doctrines on consanguineous marriage are, in Michaela's own words, "stupid". The trickle of departing Bunners turns into a flood.


166 AMATEURS

When Peter Twofeathers declares that he is setting aside that doctrine in a single case, so that Jerry Shybear may marry Kimberly Zinter, the Apostle Klaus Hansen stands up at last and joins the rest of the Bunners in leaving the sanctuary, never to return again.

That afternoon Jerry wakes up outside the town somewhere with a sore bump on his head. He's naked, lying flat on his stomach, and each hand and foot is roped off to stakes buried in the ground.Three men surround him, all wearing hoods to hide their faces.

JOHNNY SUNKEL: Where's the Golden Gift, Jerry?

Jerry recognizes the voice as belonging to that of Johnny Sunkel.

JERRY: In the temple, Johnny.

There's a whistle and a crack. Jerry grunts, more from surprise than pain, although there's enormous pain. He's not too terribly frightened, though, he already volunteered to be flogged by his mates on his vision quest just to see how much he can take. Jerry thinks he can take about five lashes. Any more than that and he must resort to certain measures available to any of the B'nei Elohim to sedate himself.

JOHNNY: That's the stupidest thing I ever heard of! Of course it's in the temple. Where in the temple is it?

JERRY: I don't know, Johnny. Twofeathers gives it to me.

The whip falls again and the skin on Jerry's back splits with a cloud of red mist.

JOHNNY: Bullshit! And you don't know my name!

On the backstroke Johnny Sunkel's whip hits one of the other boys and the kids screams, even though it just hits the back of his leg and he was wearing blue jeans. When the boy curses, Jerry recognizes the voice as belonging to Larry Porter.

SCOTT HILLING: You don't get to marry our white girls, Jerry. That was the arrangement going way back.

Jerry nails down that voice too.

JERRY: Your white girls, Scotty?

That earns Jerry another stroke. His grunt lasts a while longer this time, but then he almost laughs when the whip comes back and bites Johnny across the chest and it's his own turn to scream.

LARRY PORTER: You ain't marrying that Zinter gal. Tell us the wedding's called off Jerry.

JERRY: After I pass out make sure you keep going, Larry. Make sure I'm dead, and hide my body, because I'm in this club, see. We look out for each other. If they know you did this to me they'll pick over your feet for two or three days with a sledgehammer, blowtorch and knives like they were leftover turkey.

JOHNNY: This is gonna pinch some.

Johnny hurls the business end of his whip down on Jerry's back again, two more times, whistle and snap. They kept waiting for Jerry to scream, but instead they saw the white layer of fat underneath the split skin on Jerry's back and two of the boys start puking. -167 THANKSGIVING

Jerry figures it's time to make his move. With his right hand che reaches into the space-time pocket that always goes with him and comes back out of it holding the Golden Gift. Che extends the blade long enough to cut the rope binding hez left hand. Then with hez left hand che takes the Golden Gift and frees hez right hand.

Johnny hurls the end of the whip at him one more time but Jerry cuts it during the downstroke, leaving little more than a riding crop for Johnny to swing. Then Jerry cuts hez legs free. All three of the boys star running, but Jerry, with hez back feeling like it is on fire, is too damn sore to run after them.

Later, in the hospital, Jerry tells sheriff Roddy Walker the boys wore hoods and che couldn't see who did it to hem. Che does tell the sheriff the boys said they wanted him to call off his wedding with Kim.

Peter Twofeathers is ready to go pick up Robyn and Hunky. He brings his wife and Dory along, but first they stop at the hospital to see how Jerry is doing after his whipping. Dory asks the obvious, stupid question.

DORY: How do you feel?

JERRY: Not any better than the last time it happened.

DORY: The last time? You've been flogged before?

Jerry nods, and stares at Prophet Twofeathers.

JERRY: It's a boy thing, Dory. The Prophet knows.

PETER: Vision quest?

Jerry nods again, and Peter rolls his eyes.

JERRY: Come on, ladies, we've got a rescue to do.

After Dory, Peter, and Deborah leave, nine Kaleetan braves about Jerry's age pay a visit. Jerry's a popular fellow. River Rawdon gestures at Jerry, lying all bandaged up on his stomach.

RIVER: What the hell is this?

JERRY: The gift that keeps on giving. Keystone Cops, with a whip.

RIVER: Who did this to you, Jer? You know the rules. We gotta keep this from happening again.

JERRY: It was three Bunners. Johnny Sunkel, Larry Porter, and Scotty Hilling. I told 'em Thanksgiving is coming early this year.

River unsheathes his blade and holds it up, smiling. Plains Indians know something about torture.

RIVER: Gobble gobble.

In Caspar, Wyoming Robyn and Hunky get off the bus and walk over a little footbridge to a wooded bend of the North Platte river with dirt roads and trees where they can hide and minimize the number of homeless girl sightings until they see their rescuers. It would be just their luck to be busted by a cop for vagrancy on the very cusp of their freedom.

DECON does indeed have the bus station and Clara Zinter's house watched, but they do not have enough resources in place that early in the game to tail any of Robyn's friends. -168 CASPAR

Later when reported sightings of Robyn and Hunky come in from the public (their bedraggled appearance after the river swim at Hanford made them stand out), DECON has people crawling all over Greendome, Lusk, and Crawford, but Caspar, Cheyenne, and Rapid City are too far afield, they figure.

When Twofeathers, Deborah, and Dory arrive they split up and search the woods, calling Kim and Sophie by name. Robyn hustles out of a bush she's hiding in and faces Dory.

ROBYN: I'm not Kim Zinter anymore, Dory. Call me Robyn.

DORY: I don't care what you want me to call you, Robyn, or Kim, or pick a name out of a hat. It's good to see you again girlie girl!

They embrace tightly. Then Dory sees Hunky and rushes into her arms as well. Dory hasn't seen either of them for more than a year. Robyn asks about Jerry, and Dory mentions the hospital, which causes Robyn to make a strange face. Then Two Feathers starts his car and drives a half-circle around the little green space to the point closest to the Boda, where he throws open the doors and tells them all to get in. After they do, Two feathers steers his vehicle towards the outskirts of Greendome.

ROBYN: We escaped from the Army. Hunky and I. So now we're fugitives, I guess.

DORY: What do you mean a fugitive? So you left without checking out with them, big deal. This is a free country, still, mostly.

HUNKY: They took rifle shots at us. I lost count how many.

After she says that there is silence in the car until they pass the city limits.

PETER: You'll have to go underground. Literally underground. Jerry is prepared to help you do that, Kim, and you too Sophie and Dory, but this is the end of your life as you have known it.

ROBYN: I've already taken a big step on my new life, sir. I've discarded the name 'Kim' and now I answer only to Robyn.

PETER: Robyn what?

ROBYN: Just Robyn, sir. A single name, like Hunky. Sophie is just Hunky.

DORY: Hey, now I feel a little left out. Okay, so I'll make it official, I'll drop Twofeathers and just go by Dory now.

PETER: Klaus Hansen made his move.

He's referring to the second ranking clergyman in the End Dome Church, the Apostle he appointed from among the Bunners and now deeply regrets doing so.

PETER: He's helping the Army or the FBI or whoever it is that is trying to find you two girls. You won't be able to show your face anywhere near Greendome for a very long time.

HUNKY: Why don't you just fire him, sir? You are the Prophet, after all. He's just the Apostle.


169 HOSPITAL

PETER: I did, but the schism is already in full bloom. He's leading the Whites to go their own way and he's already made himself the Prophet of something he calls the Reformed Green Dome Church. There's a large faction of the Church that has never been able to stomach equality with the Red Wing. I thought making him Apostle would hush them up.

ROBYN: I figure the mandatory cousin marriage thing has always just been a bone tossed to the Whites.

PETER: That's correct. No Red will ever be able to marry a White as long as that rule exists. But rules can be changed, especially when God doesn't like them.

DORY: We saw God the other day, Robyn.

So here is the change Robyn was hoping for, coming from the mouth of the prophet of the Church himself, but looking inward and ahead with her new powers, Robyn still can't see her wedding to Jerry. It is all just a big blank, and she has no idea what that means.


Klaus Hansen, the former Apostle of the Green Dome Church and prophet of the Reformed Green Dome Church, comes to the hospital to visit Johnny Sunkel, Larry Porter, and Scotty Hilling. The doctor is still muttering about the "animals" who had slowly turned their six feet into just so much ruined hamburger, requiring a clean amputation of each one. Every time the boys are awakened, first by the sheriff, and now by Klaus, they take to sobbing miserably, not so much from the pain they were now suffering but from the memory of the pain they had already suffered, for two days and a night, as the tormentors worked in shifts.

Unlike themselves, who had been hooded and disguised when they tortured Jerry, yet were somehow rapidly identified, the ones who retaliated on behalf of Jerry wore no hoods at all, yet the victims refuse to identify them at all, other than to say they were "Indians".

KLAUS: Where's the Golden Gift?

JOHNNY: Jerry had it all the time.

KLAUS: You knocked him out, stripped him naked, hogtied him, whipped him, but Jerry had it, all the time. Where did he have it all the time? In his asshole?

JOHNNY: I don't know!

KLAUS: Did you mention he ought to call off his wedding to the Zinter girl, or did that slip your mind too?

JOHNNY: I did, but I don't think he listened to me! What's the world coming to when you can't even get a little respect?

KLAUS: Jesus H. Christ on a crutch!

Klaus is the Prophet of the Reformed Green Dome Church and the spiritual leader of the Bunners.

KLAUS: I guess it is true what they say, if you want something done right, you got to do it yourself.


The man's name is Tashunka and he remembers helping to field-dress bison that had been killed by Chief Wanica when the Golden Gift made its first appearance in North America. After he tells the Sheriff what he found, the Sheriff tells one of his deputies to get a flash camera and come along to the scene.

170 TRI-STATE

Outside of town, about a mile north and west of the hill of Green Dome, Tashunka walks the Sheriff right to the body inside a little fenced-off area nigh to the road. The body is naked, clearly female, with rolls of flesh that say she has been amply fed. The body is elevated, in a position that reminds the Sheriff of being crucified. Her feet are about six inches off the ground. Palms facing up, her arms droop back as far as they can go. Her head is also drooping back. There is a wooden post about six inches square, embedded in the ground, but cut with a sloping top, and her back rests on this.

The Sheriff tells the deputy to start taking pictures, while he goes back to his car to get pictures he already has. When he returns, he compares his photographs to the face of the dead girl.

RODDY: Sure enough, it's her.

Kimberly Zinter. DECON is looking for her, but now she is dead, the victim of murder, so whatever business DECON had with Kim died with her, and it is his business now to find out who did this to her and bring whoever it was to justice.

After the deputy finishes taking his pictures and writing down notes about the crime scene, he and Sheriff Roddy and Tashunka all pitch in, grab Kim's body, and lift her off the post to be laid gently on the ground.That's when the Sheriff reads what she has been pinned to.

RODDY: Fuckitty fuck fuck fuck!

It is the Tri-State marker, a little plaque where surveyors had decided the corners of two different states ran smack into the border of a third. That simple fact takes the investigation right out of Roddy Walker's hands. It is back to being Federal.


After the trip to Caspar and back again, Peter Twofeathers is driving his Town & Country station wagon on the east flank of Green Dome with his wife, Robyn, Hunky and Dory all aboard. They are only about a mile from Robyn's house and her long anticipated reunion with her mother when they see three figures on the side of the road waving for them to stop. One of them is Jerry Shybear. Another is Clara Zinter, Robyn's beloved mother. The other one has no clothes, no eyes, no mouth, and is as white as bone.A set of needles bristles from the top of its head like a Mohawk. Peter pulls over and they all get out.

Robyn runs immediately into the arms of her mother for a long embrace. No one else speaks for the longest time as they all stare at each other in shock.

DORY: Jerry, I thought you were in the hospital.

JERRY: I'm all better now. Meet Chokhmah, or at least the avatar of Chokhmah exactly as it appeared to Michaela in the story we all know from the Buron.

Obviously the little white dome inside the cairn isn't there anymore, because now it is back into a human shape and walking around.

CHOKHMAH: DECON has the bus station in Greendome under surveillance. They are contemplating abduction. But Klaus Hansen has Robyn's house under surveillance now and he's contemplating murder.

HUNKY: Murder? The Apostle of the Church?


171 OFF-ROAD

CHOKHMAH: Believe it. I sent Jerry to fetch Clara and bring her out here before Klaus could get to the house. But now we all need to get off this road before somebody else comes along and sees us. Peter, leave your vehicle here, you will never need it again. And follow me, everyone.

Chokhmah leads them across the road and over the side, where a footpath starts. They immediately begin to drop down the western flank of Green Dome and out of sight of any passers-by. By making this intervention, Chokhmah has once again bifurcated human history. The path where Roddy walker finds Robyn's body still exists, and goes on into its own future, but it wasn't this path. Yet both paths remained available to Binah to reach from heaven.

The first thing Jerry does when they are safely hidden over the side of the road is approach Robyn and take both of her hands in his.

JERRY: I hate the rule that says Greendomites can only marry cousins.

CHOKHMAH: I hate that rule too, Jerry. I never commanded it.

JERRY: That rule is keeping me from marrying the one I love, Lord. I have loved Kim...well I guess I better call her Robyn now...from the very first day I met her in school.

CHOKHMAH: And you, Robyn, do you love Jerry too?

Robyn thinks about it for what seems to Jerry a very long time. She is waiting for all the ramifications to pile up in her mind. Finally she speaks.

ROBYN: Yes I do, Lord. Very much.

CHOKHMAH: Will you marry this young jen, Robyn?

ROBYN: I will, Lord. But we have no marriage license!

CHOKHMAH: None will be needed, Robyn.I will perform the ceremony myself, and I am, as you may already know, God.

The trail switchbacks down into what the locals call the Grand Canyon of Indian River, a pretty little sandstone gorge very near the source of the stream. At the bottom of the canyon they follow the left bank up and up to a cave surrounding a pool of water. The pool constantly overflows its own brim and this is the source of the river. As soon as Chokhmah and his group of followers arrive in the cave, the water abates, and the pool no longer runneth over.

CHOKHMAH: I will go first. Hunky, you already know exactly what to do.

The avatar dives feet first into the pool and disappears.

HUNKY: You will be the first one, Robyn's mom. Don't be afraid! My body makes oxygen now. I'm going to hold you tight, and we're going to kiss. Breathe in what I breathe out, and I'll breathe in what you breathe out. It's a little hard to get the trick of it at first, but nod when you are ready.

After about a minute of literally sucking face with Hunky, Clara nods, then Hunky falls backwards into the pool taking the woman with her. A few minutes after that, Hunky resurfaces and climbs out of the water.


172 HEAVEN

HUNKY: Mrs. Twofeathers, I'd like to take you next. And so Hunky repeats the procedure for Jaroah Twofeathers, Robyn, Peter, Jerry, and finally Dory. When everyone is gone, the flow from the pool surges again, restoring the river once more.

They have arrived at another pool in heaven. The pool there is ringed by a deck of dark wood. Directly overhead, the sun is slowly brightening, for locally it is "morning". The surface of the land wraps completely around as a hollow sphere, with the far side draped behind the sun.

Surrounding the pool are little wooden sheds, like outhouses, where people who emerge from the pool can towel off and change into dry clothing. The new arrivals do avail themselves of these. Robyn and Jerry share one, Hunky and Dory share another.Inside each shed is a variety of folded and stacked clothing, from loose fitting robes to tight-fitting leotards and everything in between, colors mostly white and green.

When they emerge again they find a number of other people seated on chairs arranged in a half-circle around two chairs. Seated on the chair is a young man with soft, dark features and short black hair, wearing something that looks like striped pajamas similar to what men wear in the country of Oman. Michaela is seated next to him, but her white humanoid avatar is nowhere in sight.

MICHAELA: Welcome everyone to the Land We Know, also known as heaven. A special welcome goes out to our family members who have newly-arrived from Earth and have not yet met my only beloved son, Yeshua.

And the man seated next to Michaela stands up briefly to be recognized.

Some of the scriptures name him as Jesus Christ. He is actually the incarnation of my daughter Binah. In short, Binah possesses the body of the man you see standing before you, just as I possess the body of the yin named Michaela.

The newcomers are astonished to be in the presence of the very one they know from the Bible as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, alive just as the apostles attested, now two thousand years after his crucifixion. Yeshua is brown-skinned, with short black curly hair, and rather short. He is also beardless and looked nothing like his depiction in most paintings.

Yeshua doesn't wear the expected white robe. His clothing is woven from fibers not grown on Earth, for they are nearly impossible to soil and never developed the smallest wrinkles, yet unlike most artificial fabrics the tunic was much like cotton, and it is very efficient at permitting body sweat to breathe.

MICHAELA: About one thousand miles overhead you can see a small artificial sun that waxes and wanes to simulate night and day here. This place is a hollow sphere with nearly as much land as Asia. We call it the Land We Know because the physical laws that govern this place are established by myself and Binah and Thaumiel and we know it intimately. Some do call it heaven. But don't ask where we actually are, because it bears no relation to anything in the universe where Earth lies. No relation in space, and no relation in time.

Michaela sits down and allows Yeshua to stand up and speak.

YESHUA: What Michaela says about this place being outside of time is true. Know then, Robyn and Jerry, that some of the people seated here together with you are actually your children, and even your grandchildren! Jashen here was a young man in the century previous to yours, but you can see he is young still.


173 NUPTIALS

Everyone looks at Jashen, a figure from the earliest days of the Green Dome Church, and sees that he is indeed as young as Yeshua says.

YESHUA: Time can get mixed up here in the Land We Know, yet never forget it is all for a very specific purpose. I need not go over the ancient controversy between Chokhmah and Thaumiel at this time because you are all familiar with the Buron. All of you know our family history. But some of you do not yet know our goal.

Yeshua unrolls a star chart and places it on a stand so that everyone may see.

YESHUA: This is a star that men in your time on Earth call Lalande 21185. It is a close neighbor of both Chokhmah and Thaumiel, yet it a living sun that neither Chokhmah nor I have ever spoken to. Someday, humans, angels, and nephilim will travel there, even if Chokhmah has agreed in an ancient bargain with Thaumiel never to go there himself. My unique relationship with Chokhmah means the travel ban also encompasses myself. But one day soon some of you world-dwellers will draw very close to Yefefiah. Dory Twofeathers will begin talking directly to him about many things. After that, the story will change forever, for all elohim, nephilim, angels and human alike.

Dory perks up, startled to learn that she will have a central role in perhaps the most important event in history.

YESHUA: We call you the B'nei Elohim, which means the children of the gods. Everything you do, directly or indirectly, is in service of that goal as I have just outlined for you. Our enemy is Thaumiel, whose life as a living sun will be forfeit should you ever reach Lalande 21185.

Yeshua glances then at Peter and Jaroah Two Feathers.

YESHUA: Although you are not of the B'nei Elohim, Peter, I am in need of a real prophet in this part of the Land We Know called Haaretz, in the mold of Jeremiah or John the Baptist. But if you recall the scriptures, a prophet was never the safest occupation. There could be danger, for war is soon to be seen again in heaven. You could be killed. Yet if you are willing, I will bring the Change to you, even as your spouse bears the Change. After that, should you die, you would live again.

PETER: I will accept this Change, Lord. I be your Prophet in Haaretz.

Then with many of the B'nei Elohim as witnesses, Michaela sets aside the law of the Green Dome Church that requires all marriages to occur between first or second cousins. Sha calls Jerry and Robyn forward.

MICHAELA: For this one occasion, Red will be united with White. And if your love is real, and bears fruit, and we already see clear evidence gathered around us here that such will be the case, then your offspring will belong to both Wings of the Church, and so will their children in turn. As the generations roll on, and your sons and daughters marry whomever they love, the breach between both Wings of my Church will be healed. This is both a joy and a burden I lay upon both of you, Jerry Shybear, and Robyn, if you are willing to take it.

They both affirm that they would accept the burden. And so, with God literally presiding, Jerry Shybear weds Kim "Robyn" Zinter. They exchange vows, rings and kisses. Dory is a wreck, and even Hunky allows her tomboyish mask to drop for a short time and cries genuine tears of joy.


174 CABLE

But that same evening in Canterwood Hunky and Dory have something of a honeymoon themselves, and this one is special because Hunky has brought the Purple Cable from the clinic at Hanford. Hunky wanted to see how this affected their sex, the first they've had together in over a year.

DORY: Come on, Hunky. This will work a hell of a lot better without your jeans.

Tentatively, Dory peels them down her lover's legs and lets Hunky kick them the rest of the way off.

DORY Beautiful!

With the Purple Cable hooked up Hunky knows Dory believes that to be absolutely true. There can be no deception. Even with her knees somewhat apart Hunky's muscular thighs touch together, but that is exactly the way Dory wants them to be.

Dory kisses Hunky's legs and inner thighs gently, then kisses her tummy along the top of her cotton panties, and at each step she does exactly what Hunky wanted done to herself. In a way, being hooked up to Dory, Hunky was doing it to herself. Then Dory kisses Hunky through her white underwear directly on her damp sex. She savors the smell of her, and because there can be nothing hidden with the Purple Cable, Hunky knows that Dory really does love the smell of her, simply by sharing the experience and enjoying it herself.

Dory uses her teeth to slide Hunky's undies down off her ankles and then Hunky reverses herself, taking the sixty-nine position. Her solid thighs are splayed over Dory's face, so what to do? Dory begins to kiss them. She licks the two creases where Hunky's legs join together, and finally she nuzzles the textured lips of Hunky's slightly parted slit.

But with the Purple Cable, Hunky also literally is Dory, and she thinks that it is herself who is somehow on bottom doing the licking. When she is licking Dory it feels like she is licking herself. And Dory also feels she is somehow also on top licking her original self.

So with the Purple Cable there is no border between her own sensations as 'Dory' licking and being licked, and her sensations as Dory-being-Hunky licking and being licked. And there was no border between Hunky's sensations as Hunky licking and being licked, and Hunky's sensations as Hunkybeing-Dory licking and being licked. It becomes a swirling stew of identities where Hunky and Dory are being mixed up into each other, lost in each other, until their names actually floated free of the identities they were attached to.

They jam their faces tighter into each other's pulsing hips and thighs. Their body image literally becomes one as they simultaneously clamber into each other and at the same time are clambered into. The pleasure is continuous and climbs inexorably upward. The instant feedback of the Purple Cable seems to synchronize them. They rise in tension together, and their last fully voluntary act is to decouple their consciousness from their bodies, so they could savor what was happening at a rate five times slower than what was coming up their spinal cord.

Then there is a gasp.

DORY: Oh honey.


175 CLIMAX

It is all she can manage to say. There's a separation. She is Dory now, her name has returned to her. She is having her orgasm and her mind automatically and selfishly gathers every scrap of pleasure to burn leaving little to share. The intensity of her sweet burning wells up and goes absolutely right off the dial. Dory arches her back and every muscle in her body locks up for a moment. There's no breathing, no thought, and her eyes stare at a white nothing. Then she bends her head back into the blankets and commences thrashing and moaning as every nerve ending in her toes, her fingers, her face, and her scalp begin to fire with white hot signals of ecstasy. The pleasure feels like it is scrubbing every cell in her body.

But catching just the periphery of Dory's white-hot supernova immediately triggers the other identity to have a climax of her own. In that instant she is Hunky again. And all the pleasure she'd experienced up to that moment had given her no clue that there was capacity for much, much more. So Hunky's joy goes right off the charts too.

Then with stately precision their bodies synchronize together and move from the eye-crossing, toe-pointing ecstatic phase of their orgasm to the meaty part that squeezes out all the pooled blood from their hips.But since they are also cruising at a time reduction factor of five their automatic 0.8 second orgasmic contractions seem to happen every four seconds. Their pelvic muscles open up and clamp down, gather and squeeze, each contraction is like a separate orgasm in its own right. This goes on and on for two minutes. The pleasure is beyond belief, approaching the infinite. It fills every shred of their being even as the waves began to subside. They come down slowly together, caressing, snuggling each other, utterly tuned to each other, and tapering off with the same perfect attentiveness that defined this new kind of lovemaking. When they are finished they can't even say "Wow." Hunky and Dory would live almost forever, and for that entire time, all the time, they would have this Sharing.

DORY: I have to come right out and tell you, Hunky. I'm no longer a practicing homosexual.

Hunky looks a little worried for a moment.

HUNKY: Why do you say that?

DORY: Because now I'm so damn good at it!

HUNKY: On Earth as it is in heaven.

-176 SIT-DOWN

The Reformed End Dome Church makes a few changes after departing the mother church. Prophet Klaus Hansen lays down the law. He says no more card playing, no more dancing, and no more Demon Rum. The parishioners star to roll in sawdust on the floor of the barn that is their alternate sanctuary and they babble in tongues to be saved from the fires of hell. A deacon named Paul Bergin is appointed the Apostle to the Whites and he begins to handle snakes during services and go door-to-door in Greendome with tracts promising damnation.

Yeshua put Michaela, Jerry, Robyn, Hunky, and Dory back into the Earth timeline where Robyn was murdered. Once they arrived, Jerry Shybear put out feelers to the breakaway faction of the Church and arranged a parley. The "sit-down" was between Klaus Hansen and Paul Bergin on one side, with Jerry and Michaela on the other. Hansen and Bergin are directly descended from families who settled the area in the very beginning.

Both men are white, of course, which is a departure from the tradition of the mother Church that the Prophet and Apostle should always alternate between the Red and White wings of the Church, but in the case of the Reformed Church with zero Native American members it is unavoidable.

For the sit-down in the Temple rectory the required exposition prayer is made by the Apostle.

PAUL: May God bless this gathering of his righteous believers today, and may the peace that passes all understanding fill the hearts of everyone gathered together here, in the name of Yeshua, God's only Son.

There are amens all around. The irony is that God is actually sitting right there in the person of Michaela while the Reformed Apostle offers his prayer.

Klaus Hansen sees that Haziel is wearing a Star of David necklace. He turns to Jerry.

KLAUS: Who's the kike?

JERRY: If you had the slightest glimmer of who sha really is you wouldn't dare to speak of har in that way.

KLAUS: What happened to Peter Twofeathers and his wife? Why isn't Peter here?

JERRY: They are in a better place.

KLAUS: What does that even mean?

JERRY: God has called them home.

KLAUS: Then how did they die?

JERRY: How did Kim die?

Klaus has no answer, so Jerry asks a second question.

JERRY: Why did you go out from us?

Klaus can make no objection to the phrasing of that query. He has to admit, after all, it was the Reformed End Dome Church that walked away.

KLAUS: The office of Prophet was void when Twofeathers proposed to marry you off to that fat twat. The union of you and Kim Zinter was a disgusting thought. You're not only not cousins, you're not even of the same race.


177 SINS

JERRY: That whole cousin thing was always just a Church tradition, not a dogma or even a doctrine. In fact, it was essentially just Mark Lange's personal preference.

KLAUS: Our founder, the Prophet Mark Lange, believed otherwise. So there was terrible persecution in state after state, and his pilgrimage clear across the United States to this place.

MICHAELA: The founder was Chief Wanica actually. He took the Golden Gift from Chokhmah with his own hands.

KLAUS: Look Paul, the mud woman speaks.

Klaus called Michaela that because her skin is a rich mahogany. The angels of heaven are of Middle-Eastern stock and the sun over the lands of House Gerash sustains the need for a healthy expression of melanin.

PAUL: Captain Smalley would have taken the Golden Gift away from him if Chief Wanica didn't beg for sanctuary in Mark Lange's wagon train.

Michaela and Jerry glance at each other, puzzled by their opponents' fuzzy understanding of Church history.

KLAUS: But all this is moot now, we hear Kim is dead. I can't say I'm choked up about that.

MICHAELA: And no wonder, you do not even honor your own dead with the Golden Gift. Yet you do not seem overly concerned, even with the salvation of your very soul hanging in the balance. Will you return and seal the breach?

KLAUS: Perhaps that is possible now. Kim's betrothal to Shybear was a living affront to God's eternal principle of racial holiness.

MICHAELA: Racial holiness? What are you talking about?

PAUL: Thou shalt not amalgamate humans with animals."

From which scripture neither Michaela nor Jerry had any idea. Perhaps he had just scribbled it on black crayon on the basement wall. He was calling Jerry an animal. Klaus clarifies things a bit.

KLAUS: You must know that we do not recognize Peter Twofeather's authority to change the eternal laws of God to allow you to marry the late Kimberly Zinter, may she rest in peace, etcetera. That is the heart of the argument we have with the mother Church. Such sacred things must never change by merely human whim. And there is also the issue of Jerry's friendship with Hunky and Dory! We know of a surety those two girls have unnatural affections.

PAUL: It is an ancient sin. The apostle Paul explicitly condemns that particular moral defect in Romans chapter one.

MICHAELA: Saulus was just as deluded on this issue as you are. He complained that women were exchanging the natural use of their bodies for that which was against nature. But allow me to break the news to you gentlemen: One, women are not objects to be used. Two, She there was not enough information density in human cells to code for the exact wiring layout of the brain. There were simple basic rules that neurons follow in the womb when they grow and start hooking up their neighbors, but randomness plays a role. In the case of both handedness and sexual preference, which are independent, of course, this chaos resolves in the form of a bifurcated butterfly pattern with left-handedness and same sex attraction forming a lobe with somewhat less probability of occurring than the other.

178 RACE

Michaela pauses when sha realizes neither Klaus, nor Paul, nor even Jerry for that matter, understood a thing she just said. So she simplifies things a bit.

MICHAELA: The upshot? Fifteen percent of humans resolve naturally as lefties. Eight percent of male humans and five percent of female humans resolve naturally with same-sex attraction.

JERRY: Gentlemen, this racist streak of yours has divided the Church but it is all just a lot of silly nonsense over nothing. There are no races. There is only one human race. The Bible and the Buron acknowledge only ethnicities. In the Sacred Scriptures we read only of peoples and kindreds and tongues, not Whites and Blacks and Yellow Menaces and the Red Men. The angels of heaven are called the Black Beards and Red Beards and so on, but they are all the same race, and indeed they are the same species as humans, because they can still breed with us, and that will be true for thousands of years.

Michaela nods har head, affirming the truth of what Jerry just said.

PAUL: What are you talking about Jerry? There are indeed races. I can see them with my own eyes!

MICHAELA: Then how many races are there?

PAUL: I say there are three races: Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoloid."

MICHAELA: Really? That makes the dark people in India and Pakistan or even myself the same race as the blond people in Scandinavia. And what about the aborigines in Australia? They have Caucasian and Mongoloid genes, but they are as dark as Negroids. If you go by appearance, Jews are identical to Arabs. Mexican people are a mixture of Mongoloid and Caucasian. Even Yeshua is a lovely brown.

KLAUS: Brother Paul is right. I see three races as well. They can be traced right back to the three sons of Noah.

Jerry catches Haziel's eye on that remark and winks. Haziel winks back.

MICHAELA: The same thing happens with the colors of a rainbow, it all depends on who looks at it. Some see three colors, some see seven, some see even more. But it's really a smooth continuum, you know. And arguing about where to set the dividing line is the biggest waste of time there is in this universe.

PAUL: We see evidence in the Bible that dark skin is the Mark of Ham, who was cursed for seeing his father Noah naked after Noah got drunk and passed out.

MICHAELA: Apostle Bergin, there are different levels of pigments in human skin and that is a good thing. A ginger would not fare so well on the savanna in Kenya. Traits like color, or the epicanthic fold of Asians, are a vestige of the isolation of human settlements in ancient times, but that's changing.

KLAUS: So what is this meeting all about? Blasphemy from this crazy broad? Airing our grievances and moonbeam theories and going home?

His mouth twists up in a sour expression of disgust, for neither he nor Bergin have taken to heart a single thing Haziel and Jerry have said about sexuality or race. They refuse to discern they are actually in the presence of their own God, and God is not in the least bit amused by their attitude.


179 REINSTATEMENT

JERRY: You left the Church, we stayed. That gives us a bargaining chip. But if one certain condition is met, then I will step down and name you the Prophet of the reunified Green Dome Church.

KLAUS: What condition?

JERRY: I keep the Golden Gift. I perform the Last Rites as a deacon.

KLAUS: The relic needs to switch sides.

JERRY: Take the offer or walk, Mr. Hansen.

KLAUS: All right, but I have a few conditions of my own before Ill let you make me Prophet again. This idea Twofeathers had that Red and White can get married, we forget he said that. It never happened.

JERRY: Agreed.

KLAUS: Two. I'm naming Paul here to be the Apostle. That means both the Prophet and the Apostle are going to be white, from now on, and forever.

JERRY: Fine.

KLAUS: Three, this bitch with you, whoever she is, I don't want to see her around anymore.

MICHAELA: Don't you worry about that, Prophet Hansen. You will never, ever see me again, neither in this life, nor the life to come.

JERRY: Whoops.

KLAUS: Four, the Golden Gift doesn't leave this temple. I don't want to find out you've been loaning it out to dig more tunnels or some shit like what happened with Kim Zinter's father. And if I think of any more conditions, I'll let you know.

JERRY: In that case I'll make it official. You are now the Prophet of the Green Dome Church, and Paul Bergin is the Apostle.

180 FELT

After Kim Zinter's body is found draped over the Tri-State monument and the crime is reported up the chain by Sheriff Roddy Walker, Agent Mark Felt, a relatively new FBI hot shot currently assigned to a field office in Texas, is dispatched to the town of Greendome by Director J. Edgar Hoover personally.

Only thirty years of age, with an aristocratic air and look about him, Felt has already worked on a few occasions with Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation and Neutralization, or DECON, a secret agency headed by Hoover's closest associate Clyde Tolson while he ostensibly holds a position as the Associate Director of the FBI. His current job in Texas, in fact, consists of evaluating which cases of wartime espionage and sabotage warrant being transferred from Hoover's oversight, where the Constitution of the United States still applies, to the black hole of DECON where it simply does not.

If you're passing along blueprints of the latest proximity fuses to German spies, you go to DECON. If you're extorting wartime ration cards and selling them on the black market, the Bureau owns your ass. On the phone, Hoover tells Felt that the Greendome case is a basic homicide but it is compounded by special circumstances. For one thing, the body was found lying across three different states. Felt is to be in charge of the criminal investigation, but Hoover warns that DECON would probably assert certain protocols with respect to the classification of evidence. Felt's job is to navigate the minefield.

When Agent Felt arrives at the sheriff's office, Sheriff Roddy pours him his first cup of coffee and lays out the documents in his growing case file for him.

RODDY: The victim's name is Kimberly Zinter. She's a local girl, age eighteen. Her mother lives in town, but Kim hasn't been seen anywhere around Greendome for about a year.

MARK: Did you learn why that was the case?

RODDY: Apparently she and another girl named Sofie Krause have been in quarantine somewhere, and was either released or ran away. If she ran away, and she's still contagious, I found out about it only after me and my deputies were thoroughly exposed.

MARK: The Director told me the body of the girl was found by a local, lying on a marker, on the exact point where three different states meet.

RODDY: Yes. I figure the perpetrator did that deliberately, to elevate the case to your level. I'm therefore assuming this is premeditated murder.

MARK: Is the local who discovered the body a suspect?

RODDY: My investigation leads away from him, for reasons that will be clear in a moment.

MARK: Did you do an autopsy?

RODDY: I did the rudiments of one with a local doctor. Early this morning the Bureau sent out their own doctor. He's downstairs with the body right now. He doesn't seem to be concerned about infection, near as I can tell.

MARK: What did your local doctor come up with?

RODDY: The cause of death was heart failure after multiple penetrations with a knife through the chest, from the front. My doctor counted thirteen wounds.


181 PROCEDURAL

MARK: Did you find the murder weapon?

RODDY: The perpetrator tossed the knife some distance from the scene, but we found it by using a bloodhound. It was a kitchen knife, homemade, not store-boughten, with a unique handle carved from wood. The blood type on the weapon matches the blood of the girl and we have one set of prints.

MARK: Okay, I'll go down to see the girl in a minute, but first tell me if you can think of anyone who might have had a motive to kill this girl. What's the local situation, Sheriff?

RODDY: What we have here in Greendome, Agent Felt, is basically a onechurch town. Some have said Eleven A.M. is the most segregated hour in America, but that's just not true here in Greendome. The Church of Green Dome has two halves, a white half and a red half. By red I mean the Plains Indians. Two wings, but one Church. The two wings are kept separated by the central dogma of the Church, which is that only cousins may get married.

MARK: Are you a member of this Green Dome Church, Sheriff Walker?

RODDY: By birth, but I'm not in good standing anymore. You might say I'm a lapsed Greendomite. But I'm still plugged in, you might also say, and I hear things. Recently the Prophet of the Church, Peter Twofeathers, announced an exception to that cousin law so that the victim could marry a boy named Jerry Shybear. When he said that, half the white members of the church walked out of the service.

MARK: So that narrows it down by half.

RODDY: Later on that same Sunday three local boys tried to talk sense into Jerry with a bullwhip and put him in the hospital. After that some of Jerry's friends, we think, talked with the three boys who messed up Jerry and put them in the hospital too.

MARK: So are Jerry's friends in your holding cells?

RODDY: No. I don't know who they are. Jerry won't talk. The three kids missing their feet won't talk either.

MARK: Missing their feet?

RODDY: Some kind of Indian torture. The doctor considered it a kindness to amputate. Add to all that, Prophet Twofeathers has suddenly gone missing.

MARK: It sounds like things are getting out of control in your little town, Sheriff. Lets go downstairs and see the girl.

Sheriff Walker makes the introduction.

RODDY: Dr. Trochmann, this is Agent Mark Felt from the Bureau. Agent Felt, Dr. Ian Trochmann, also from the Bureau. Perhaps you know each other.

Mark shakes his head.

The doctor is in the middle of his autopsy, so with his gloved hands covered in Kim's blood he bypasses the traditional handshake.

IAN: How do you do, Agent Felt? I'm working under Tolson.

MARK: I understand. Did you confirm the cause of death, Doctor?


182 HOUSECALL

IAN: Fourteen wounds in the chest with a knife. Your own doctor missed one, Sheriff." He catches Felt's eye again and nods at a manila envelop. The agent puts on rubber gloves and extracts the murder weapon to examine it. As weapons go it is not as seriously dangerous as a hunting knife would be. The blade is thin, flexible, nothing more than a steak knife perhaps, but with a hand-carved handle.

MARK: Director Hoover told me Tolson might choose to classify evidence in this case. Is that true?

The doctor flips Kim's body over so she was face down, and moved her pony tail out of the way.

IAN: This bony structure is classified. That means, Sheriff, that you and your hometown doctor don't mention it outside of this office.

MARK: What is it?

IAN: I've been studying it for a year, and I still don't know.

MARK: A year?

IAN: All the way up to the day when Kim here and her friend Sophie escaped from quarantine.

MARK: Escaped? How did they escape?

IAN: That's classified too.

MARK: Classified because knowing the answer will damage the interests of the United States, or classified because knowing the answer will embarrass Tolson.

IAN: Both. The two reasons are the same. If that isn't obvious to you, Agent Felt, then a call to J. Edgar might be in order.

Deputy Bob and Deputy Bill knock on the door of the Zinter home and the door is opened by a girl who looks exactly like the murder victim.

BOB: Is Clara Zinter here?

ROBYN: No, she went away for a while. Her son-in-law was whipped, her daughter was murdered, I told her I didn't think Greendome was safe for her right now and she agreed.

BILL: Who are you?

ROBYN:Robyn Zinter. Kim was my twin sister.

BOB: Do you mind if we come in to ask some questions?

She opens the door wider and lets the officers in.

ROBYN: Have a seat, fellas. Would you like coffee?

This they kindly refuse, because they are already loaded up on joe.

BILL: If you don't mind me saying, Robyn, you don't seem to be too cut up after the death of your twin.

ROBYN: We haven't been close in years. I don't even live here in Greendome, I'm only house watching while my mom is away.


183 GARBAGE

BOB:: Where do you live?

ROBYN: I live in a place with a funny Indian kind of name. The Land We Know, they call it. Have you arrested Klaus Hansen and Paul Bergin yet?

BILL: Why should we?

ROBYN: Well, uh, because they murdered my sister!

BOB: How do you know that?

ROBYN: Means, motive, and opportunity.

She holds up the pinky of her left hand.

ROBYN: Means: My sister was killed with a knife from Klaus Hansen's kitchen. Today's Friday. Trash pick-up day. If you dig in his trash can you'll find the whole set.

BOB: We'll need a warrant.

BILL: Not after the trash lands in the truck.

Ring finger now.

ROBYN: Motive: She married Jerry Shybear. Any children they would have had could have married their cousins in both the Red or the White Wing of the Church. Klaus Hansen walked out of the Church for precisely that reason, and now I hear he's back in as the Prophet.

BOB: We didn't know they were already married.

ROBYN: Didn't you collect the jewelry she was wearing? Kim had both an engagement ring and a wedding ring.

She holds up har middle finger now.

ROBYN: Finally, fellas, opportunity: Kim was in the custody of the government for the last year or so, but she escaped, and came home. Klaus and Paul probably scooped her up at knife point.

BILL: Why do you think Klaus and Paul killed her, and not more of the same boys who whipped Jerry?

ROBYN: The boys who whipped Jerry didn't do it because they wanted to do it, they did it because they were told to do it. Those boys may not have talked to you, but they talked to Jerry's friends for a couple of days, and Jerry's friends aren't quite so reticent. The merciful thing you can do is arrest Klaus and Paul now before they have to talk to Jerry's friends too.

BOB: You're not under arrest, Robyn, but you seem to know a lot more about this case than you should know just by being Kim's sister. We don't have a warrant, but would you object to letting us take your fingerprints?

ROBYN: Not at all, officer. You'll find my fingerprints don't look anything at all like those of Klaus Hansen's wife.

Billy, go get the kit.

Later, Deputy Bob is deep in the middle of a garbage truck, up to his chest in trash, when the truck stops in front of Klaus Hansen's house.

-184 LEVELS

The trashman tosses two bags into the back of the truck where it is caught by Bob, then stands on a step outside of the truck as it moves along. He dips his head inside the truck to take a look.

BOB: Did you see Hansen?

TRASH MAN: He was standing on his doorstep, making sure his trash was unmolested until it was mixed with the rest, I figure.

We'll molest it at the station. Let me out when you round the corner.

Deputy Bill is waiting for him in a county mountie car.

At the station, Clyde Tolson has arrived. He has already taken his report of Kim's autopsy from Dr. Trochmann. Now Roland is explaining to Sheriff Walker and Agent Mark Felt that he is in charge of what he is calling the "Kim & Sophie Project" and he is still looking for Sophie. The stinking deputies come in and dump their stinking trash on the floor.

Sheriff Roddy starts to chews them out but Bob, wearing gloves, digs out of the trash a wooden block with several knives in it, all of identical make to the murder weapon. He sets it on a table.

MARK: Who?

BOB: Klaus Hansen. I think the print on the knife belongs to his wife. And I think Paul Bergin might be in on it too. A witness reports a confession.

MARK: I'll pick up Hansen with the sheriff. You and Bill get cleaned up and then bring in Bergin.

After Sheriff Walker throws Klaus in the slammer, Mark Felt compares the print taken from the murder weapon to the ones he got from Hansen's wife when the arrested him and he gets a match. He goes to the part of the station where the cells are located and speaks to Klaus.

MARK: You may have worn gloves during the murder, but the knife used to kill her came from your house. That's already Murder in the First Degree and the chair.

KLAUS: Ah, but the place where you found the girl means this case isn't county or even state.

MARK: We've already got that covered, Mr. Hansen. I'm from the FBI.

KLAUS: There's agent-level FBI, and there's director-level FBI. I want to go to the next level.

CLYDE: Talk to me.

Tolson has followed Felt and the Sheriff out to the holding pens.

KLAUS: Who are you?

CLYDE: Assistant Director Clyde Tolson. I've taken a special interest in Greendome lately.

KLAUS: I'm the Prophet of the Green Dome Church. I alone can get you in to witness the funeral of the girl. You will see the operation of what can only be described as a powerful weapon, one that exists nowhere else on Earth.

CLYDE: How about I storm the church and find this weapon anyway, without your say so?

185 SERMON

KLAUS: Because unless I sign off on the Last Rites, they'll bury the girl the old-fashioned way, in the ground, and nobody will see the Golden Gift. The Church half-expects me to do that anyway.

RODDY: Bullshit, Tolson. I don't care what he has to show you, this is Murder One. He's staying right there in that cell.

CLYDE: Agent Felt, would you mind explaining the facts of the matter to Sheriff Walker?

Mark Felt hesitates, because he knows the sheriff has a valid point. But he also knows who he's dealing with, and who stands behind him.

MARK: Sheriff, release Mr. Hansen from custody. Paul Bergin, however, isn't going anywhere. He will be investigated for federal murder charges. You understand, don't you, Mr. Hansen? The girl didn't commit suicide and drape herself on that tri-state marker.

Klaus sees the resolve in Felt's eyes and lowers his own eyes, and nods. Poor Paul.

The funeral for Kim Zinter is the first opportunity for the latest Prophet of the Green Dome Church, Klaus Hansen, to preach in his new role. He has nothing to say about Kim at all, nor her parents, nor how she has been missing for the last year , torn out of the lives of her friends and classmates. He doesn't even know the girl, and in fact despises her for marrying Jerry Shybear and thus ripping apart the One True Church. So instead of giving anything like a decent eulogy, Klaus starts a Bible study.

KLAUS: Please join me in turning in your Bible to the book of First Kings chapter eleven, verses four through eleven.

Jerry Shybear stands in front of Klaus in a white robe, but one step down, holding a large Bible open for the Prophet to read, marked with tabs.

KLAUS: For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded. Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, 'Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.

After this the people in the congregation thought the Prophet was through, but then he continued, to their dread.

KLAUS: Now turn please to the book of Nehemiah chapter 13, verses 23 through 27.

There is more page flipping, but it is much less eager this time.


186-DESECRATION

KLAUS: In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, 'Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?'

The prophet Klaus Hansen goes on and on, quoting favorite parts of the scriptures having to do with the "sin" of inter-marriage between races, until even most of the Bunners are in tears, desperately wishing he would stop. When the liturgy of the word finally gives way to the Final Rite everyone is greatly relieved.

Wearing white robes in hez role as the Minister of the Final Rite, Deacon Jerry Shybear stands over the embalmed body of hez wife, or one of them at any rate, which is laid on her back on the altar, and says a prayer.

JERRY: Lord, when Prince Melchizedek first came to Father Abraham, he used the Golden Gift as a sure sign of your divinity. In the years that followed, Gabriel, the Captain of your hosts, used the Golden Gift as a shield against the slings and darts of the enemy at Jericho. Closer to our own time the Golden Gift came into the hands of Chief Wanica, and through it today we now commit the body of our beloved sister in faith and my own wife, Kimberly Barbara Shybear, directly into your hands, and we eagerly look for the time to come when she will receive again in paradise the years that were taken away from her on Earth. Amen!

And before the eyes of everyone in the sanctuary Jerry uses the Golden Gift to make every scrap of Kim's body disappear, even taking swaths of the concrete altar with it, though Jerry carefully tries not to do so. Periodically a new altar surface needs to be poured and cured.

Clyde Tolson watches this astonishing sight, then gives the signal to go.

The sanctuary of the Green Dome Church is constructed like a wheel, with aisles forming twelve spokes. Clyde Tolson, Mark Felt, Dr. Trochmann, Sheriff Walker, his two deputies, Klaus Hansen, and five agents of DECON descend toward the altar, each in his own aisle, making straight for Jerry, who has already made the Golden Gift disappear into his little pocket of space-time. Sheriff Roddy Walker is the first to reach Jerry, and he tackles him, flipping the young man face down.

A fake Golden Gift falls out of Jerry's hand, and Dr. Trochmann reaches it first. Tolson makes the doctor hand it over to him right away. And he is angry to find it is nothing but an empty shell.

CLYDE: Where is it, you son of a bitch?

Jerry is already cuffed, but now he's being poked and prodded and rolled over and over by at least four different people. The members of the congregation are beginning to stream out of the temple, and even the Bunners are muttering, angry that Klaus Hansen actually permitted outsiders to witness and now defile the Final Rite.

At one point the five DECON agents tip over the altar itself in their search for the innards of the Golden Gift. Jerry is hauled down to the station, strip searched, body-cavity searched, and thrown into a cell.


187 ABOMINATION

Agent Mark Felton returns to the sheriff's station to interrogate Paul Bergin.

Clyde Tolson, Dr. Trochmann, and the five DECON men stay in the Temple and begin to tear it apart, looking for Kim's body and looking for Jerry's magic tricks. They find the storeroom directly under the altar, and they find the little anteroom with the stone floor where the cairn had been built II over the avatar of Chokhmah, but the white dome with needles is long gone.

In their frustration, DECON sets fire to the Temple and razes the entire structure to the ground. It is the Abomination that makes Desolate.

Around nine o'clock at night Jerry pulls his macro from the fold-space pocket that goes wherever he goes, and cuts his way out of his jail cell.

As an immediate result the entire Green Dome Church, including the Bunners, becomes an outlaw cult subject to official persecution from the United States government. Clyde Tolson opens a permanent DECON field office in town.

Before Klaus Hansen can be re-arrested, Jerry's friends with the sledgehammer, knives, and blowtorches gather together even worse instruments and forcefully invite Klaus to spend a week with them, a week he does not survive, although early on he longed for death to come. Paul Bergin, learning of this ordeal while in federal custody, considers himself most fortunate. 188 TRASH

At the Greendome home of Becky Hahn, a Sanitation Auditor mentions that in recent months she has gone from a seven dollar subscription to five dollar a month can, and he wants to know why.

BECKY: The war's over now and I lost my job to a returning soldier. You know how it is. Money never seems to go far enough. I had to get my budget more in line with my income and trash pickup was a big item.

AUDITOR: How did you manage it?

BECKY: Oh, you know, I just got a little smarter in the groceries I buy and in the way I prepare my trash. You can nest trash within trash within trash if you just give it a little thought. Is there a weight surcharge?

AUDITOR: Only if there's evidence of compacting, which you've so far managed to avoid. Would you mind if I looked in your backyard?

BECKY: Show me a search warrant.

AUDITOR: How about your husband, Miss Hahn? Is he home? Would he invite me out back?

BECKY: It's just me here. And even if I had a husband, he wouldn't be the sort of fellow who does an end run around his own wife.

AUDITOR: You say you're looking for work? You know, your future employer might blame the inconvenience of any greater scrutiny of their dumpsters on the uncooperative attitude of one of their new employees, if word got back.

The door is slammed in the Sanitation Auditor's face. And the way liberal judges are ruling nowadays, it would take more than going from a medium can to a small can to get a search warrant. So he leaves for the easier target next door who had gone from a family-size jumbo ten dollar a month can to the five dollar one. They certainly have some explaining to do. He makes a note that if Becky Hahn's trash was so much as one inch overflowing, to charge her the full seven dollars of the next can up in size.

Jerry, Robyn, Hunky, and Dory come out from hiding to join Becky in her living room. Doris Day is belting one out on the large radio that is the center of entertainment in the home. Hunky and Dory, as usual, are holding hands. Robyn is a few months along in har pregnancy and starting to show.

BECKY: That was very satisfying.

She is only a few years older than the four members of the Boda, and so blond that her hair is almost white, plus there is an outrageous storm of brown freckles all over her face and body. She is being meticulously groomed to be the first new member to join the Boda.

JERRY: It only gets better. Are you ready to go to your training house?

BECKY: Ready when you are.

Jerry brings out the Golden Gift. When he squeezes it the thing issues a black beam that hisses like an acetylene torch. He feeds a banana peel into the beam which gobbles it up with not a trace left over.

BECKY: Where did it go?


189 UNDERGROUND

JERRY: Each atom of the banana peel is scattered to a random point somewhere in a huge ball, fourteen miles wide and centered on your house. A couple three atoms of the banana peel might even be inside you, Becky, but you didn't feel them pop in.

BECKY: Why is it hissing like that?

JERRY: That's the air in the house being sucked in.

HUNKY: Let me show you a neat trick.

She tosses a bottle cap from six feet away. It would have missed, but the hissing air near the Golden Gift guides it into its doom.

BECKY: What is that dark beam?

JERRY: That's the actual Golden Gift effect.

BECKY: It looks like a black flame. Why is it shaped like a cone?

JERRY: It's because fresh air comes in from the edges, so the particles of the effect meet them sooner, but in the middle there's a vacuum created so the ray goes higher before meeting their first atom of air.

BECKY: Is that as high as it gets?

JERRY: Nope, squeezing harder makes it taller.

He makes the beam grow to three feet long.

ROBYN: It's good for cutting too.

Sha passes Becky's softball bat through the beam. The bat falls into two pieces with the middle section effortlessly carved out.

So with Jerry leading the way, he shows Becky how to open the Golden Gift to wide "umbrella" mode and cut a tunnel from her basement to the next door neighbor's house, which has no basement. The new tunnel is tall enough for them to walk through it without crouching. It ends with a little cavein of earth. A small ladder from Becky's garage is brought forward.

All of them quietly gather under the floorboards of House Ten and wait for the sounds of footsteps above to stop. When they do, that means everyone in the house has gone to work or school.

Becky and the Boda all enter through an access hatch in the floor of a closet that had been constructed to allow the owner to make an inspection under the house. The womenfolk remove to the kitchen.

DORY: Just grab a couple dinner plates. Just a couple of coffee cups. Not enough to raise alarms.

BECKY: I get it. Even if they miss them, they'll just assume someone broke them washing them or something.

Jerry takes care of the trash.

JERRY: I'm leaving just enough to fill a five dollar can.

BECKY: Why not zap all the trash?


190 HOST

JERRY: We learned our lesson the hard way. No trash raises alarms. Less trash just raises eyebrows. f your hosts here in House Ten go to a smaller can just like you did, you'll be saving them five dollars a month. So you can skim five dollars a month in value from this host. A little food from the fridge, a little beer, electric power. I'm going to show you how to tap into their lines safely. When you get seven or eight host homes on your grid they shouldn't even notice the drain of your own use.

BECKY: Ah, but living in caves underground, though.

HUNKY: It's not that bad. Most days you spend in houses while the occupants are away, just like we are doing right now. Besides, no one is looking for you yet. There's no reason you can't keep living out of your own house for the time being.

BECKY: Until I get caught.

ROBYN: If you get caught being the Trash Fairy, do what I did when you caught me. Try to convert them.

BECKY And if they refuse?

Robyn leaves that dangling. Any response might come across as a threat and frighten Becky away. Everyone sees the hundred dollars of cash lying on the top of a dresser drawer in the master bedroom, but it remains to be seen what Becky Hahn will do. Becky sees Jerry watching him. She looks at the money, then back at Jerry.

BECKY: What, are you crazy? We take that money and our whole structure comes crashing down.

Jerry Shybear breathes a sigh of relief. A hurdle had been passed. In that moment he believes he has won.

But in truth, Becky has all the money she could want or need. She lied to the Sanitation Auditor when she said she lost her job after the war. She lives on a bottomless allowance from her employer, but not even the Boda know about that. They accept her, however, because the missing avatar of Chokhmah, the white egg that had been concealed under the altar, came to Becky and infected her with the Change with a pinprick even as it had brought the change to Shy Bear so long ago.

Becky is something of a mystery to the Boda, but they knew if Becky ever truly became one of them and participates in the Sharing, everything about her would be laid out under the light of day. So they bide their time and guide her along.

Several months earlier, after they returned from heaven and were inserted into the timetrack where Robyn was murdered by Klaus Hansen, Robyn let Hunky and Dory the Golden Gift for a while. The girls started to dig under the ground just like Robyn's father Erik had once done, but they did it to create a network of tunnels between many of the houses in Greendome. Their happy pastime was to explore empty houses when the owners were away at work or else on vacations.

Due to the ongoing persecution of the Church by DECON, many of the houses on the Boda's network were never occupied and became "Safe Houses" much of the time, at least when realtors were not showcasing them to potential buyers. Becky had caught Robyn trying Hunky and Dory's game solo.

When the Boda's secret network grew more and more people were only using the small five dollar cans. The county government, which was thoroughly infiltrated by DECON now, made up for the shortfall by charging a flat ten dollars no matter what size can was used.

191 BABIES

The Boda retaliated by going to total trash disposal. One hundred percent of their host's garbage was zapped, and many of the citizens dropped weekly pick-up service altogether.

Citizens who cooperated with the Sanitation Auditors and allowed them to come inside their homes were punished by the Boda most severely. The Trash Fairy never visited them again. But those citizens who were ordered by a judge to allow a Sanitation Auditor to inspect their homes were not punished. Trash pickup continued through a small hole in the bottom of their trash can.

All of the citizens treated in this way resented DECON and the courts enough not to mention the neat round hole that had appeared at the bottom of their trash can.

The Boda wasn't just confined to the neighborhoods. A large fraction of the cost of doing any kind of manufacturing was in disposing of hazardous wastes. The Boda would do that for one company at ridiculously low prices, allowing that company to pass the savings on to the consumer and drive all their competitors out of business. Then, armed with their monopoly, prices would creep back up and the Boda would in turn squeeze them for a share.

Drilling for water costs five hundred bucks? The Boda will do it for one hundred. Drilling for oil costs ten thousand bucks? The Boda will do it for $200 with the Golden Gift and a ball of twine to hang it from.

In late spring of 1946 Robyn gives birth to her daughter Ariel Shybear. Because she is still essentially a fugitive, it has to be a home delivery. A hospital was just right out of the question. The entire Boda, including now Becky, does what they can for her but there is no solution for Robyn's labor pain. Between contractions she keeps saying it hurts like hell. But when it is all over Robyn has baby Ariel and the pain is forgotten.

Ariel is perfectly healthy and comes with a little pad of soft black hair. Robyn found that words would always fail to fully convey the greatest possible human experience, that of bringing another life into the world. To Robyn, baby Ariel was doll-like, dainty, ruddy, feisty, beautiful. Robyn loves to hold her face close to her own and sniff her soft baby scent, that special new person smell. Robyn can hardly believe she is Ariel's mother.

And Jerry's joy in Ariel is just as great as Robyn's, even if he could never grasp the full depth of har joy in giving life to the baby. One time Michaela tried to describe this joy to Yeshua after giving birth to Del, but it really is something that must be experienced to be grasped.

Clyde Tolson keeps tightening his noose on the Boda, and they continue to live like rats underneath Greendome. Robyn and Jerry have a second child, a jen this time, and they name hym Evan.

Late in June 1947 a US Marine C-46 transport plane crashes on the western side of Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range, and when word gets around, a private pilot named Ken Arnold volunteers to aid with the search.


192 SAUCER

While Arnold is circling the mountain on June 24 he spots a cluster of nine brightly glowing meteors rushing past his plane at supersonic speed toward remote Mt. Adams in the south. Because they are pieces of a fireball in the process of breaking up, they seem to be flying in formation, so Arnold assumes they are aircraft, and he interpreted their intermittent bursts of brightness to be sunlight glinting off polished aluminum. The pieces are of irregular shape and they are tumbling, which makes them appear to randomly hop up and down in the air stream.

After his flight Arnold tells a reporter that they flew like "a saucer skipping over water." This is the first modern sighting of Unidentified Flying Objects and it sparks a national obsession with "flying saucers" that borders on mass hysteria because people insist on identifying them as spacecraft operated by aliens. Perhaps it was just more fun that way.

By July there has been many more saucer sightings. Some are ordinary mistakes but most are outright copycat hoaxes. The reporter has somehow garbled Arnold's description. The pilot merely tried to convey that the objects moved like saucers, not that they looked like saucers. But it is too late, the erroneous quote is already in print, so everyone is "seeing" saucers.

In Greendome Jerry is working to adapt the Golden Gift to an air frame. Jerry's idea is to obtain powered flight by constantly sucking in air from an intake manifold on the roof of the vehicle, making the air simply "go away" and thus creating a bubble of low pressure over the vehicle. Theoretically this would create lift, much with like a helicopter, but with an ability to stay aloft indefinitely. Jerry is, however, stumped on a final body design. The first thing that comes to Robyn's mind is the big national flying saucer craze.

ROBYN: If we make it in the shape of a flying saucer, then even if people see us and report it, they won't be believed. If they photograph us in flight, they will be accused of taking a snapshot of a hub cap.

Jerry thinks that is a truly brilliant idea and he, with Hunky's help, builds a flying saucer powered by the Golden Gift. He spends a week teaching Becky, Hunky, and Dory how to use it, but Robyn is too busy with her newborn Edgar and her toddler Ariel to learn to fly. Jerry brings out his puppy-dog face, indicating to his wife that he wants to take Becky out on the saucer, and Robyn has to make a decision.

For a year and more Robyn has been using her power of prediction to keep anyone in the Boda from being picked up by DECON. Some mornings she'd say, "Don't go to that house today, Clyde'll getcha." She already knew Becky Hahn's real source of income and what will happen if they force the Sharing, so she never pushes for it.

She also knows Jerry is up for a tour of the national parks in the American southwest, a decent inspection of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the wind-carved sandstone marvels of Utah that would require at least ten days, just him and Becky alone in a saucer, and she knows they have hanky-panky on their mind, but that, bad as it is to Robyn, isn't the worst thing that can happen.

If Robyn doesn't let them go, there's no longer any scenario where the Boda avoids being captured by Tolson. Becky is that close to doing what she always intended to do. If Robyn does let them go, she knows they will both come back, in a manner of speaking, but not anything like the way they are now, yet a single path remains open for the Boda to stay free, if living under the town of Greendome could be considered free. So Robyn wishes them a happy trip.


193 MUSTANG

When things get boring between the national parks, Jerry and Becky fill in the time by having sex in a mesh hammock slung between hooks on the bulkheads of the saucer. Jerry figures Robyn, who can see the future (and therefore no hiding anything from her) is fine with it, seeing as how they hadn't had sex for months while she carried Edgar, which is hard going for a newlywed jen. Jerry discovers, to hez delight, that Becky's heavy helping of freckles extends over her entire body.

He had brought along the Purple Cable to enhance things like Hunky and Dory frequently reported, but Becky refuses to let him use it, and so her mind remains a mystery to hem even if her delicious body no longer is, inside or out.

The P51 Mustang fighter plane is a bomber escort that revolutionized the strategic bombing campaign over western Europe during the war. Bomber pilots called them, affectionately, their "little friends". Jet aircraft are coming on line now after the war, but the P51 remains in service as the most numerous fighter in the US Army Air Forces, which is still a few months away from being split off into it's own branch of the military called the US Air Force.

Unfortunately for Jerry and Becky, they are touring a part of the country that has large empty areas of land given completely over to military operations. In short order Jerry and Becky became acquainted with a P51 over the state of New Mexico. They don't have a chance. In the War, Mustangs shot almost 5,000 enemy aircraft out of the sky, and destroyed another 4,000 aircraft on the ground. It has six .50 caliber machine guns. Several rounds penetrate the crew canopy. One round hits Jerry in the leg. It is all he can do to get down to the ground without killing himself or Becky.

It is more of a crash than a landing, and it takes place on a ranch about thirty miles north of Roswell. This is to become the most famous "UFO incident" in history. Becky is shaken but not injured.

JERRY: I think the Golden Gift still works. You can hover us the hell out of here. Becky ties off his injured leg with his belt to try to stop the bleeding, trading a certainly lethal loss of blood for a possibly lethal blood clot.

BECKY: I still don't know how to fly this thing.

She had expressed no desire to learn, and even now, with Jerry's life on the line, she is too afraid to try.

BECKY: I'll just end up killing both of us. Besides, the airplanes will probably return and finish the job if we're flying again.

And sure enough, as soon as she speaks, the Mustangs fly overhead to confirm they are down.

There is still one thing Becky is willing to do, and it is an enormous thing. Both of them eye the Purple Cable. She snaps one end into her head, and the other end to Jerry's head, and then she begins to receive him. Jerry's memories and personality flood in. Becky's self is pushed down and flooded out, but there is the beginning of a creeping return as the edges of Becky soak back into the new memories of Jerry which now stand firmly in the center of her mind.

The threshold trigger levels between brain cells are being flushed of Becky's values and set to Jerry's values, but this is not fully accomplished. The neurons are even being physically rerouted to reflect Jerry's long-term memories but this too is not one hundred percent complete. 194 JILL

Feedback goes up the Purple Cable back to Jerry. From that instant he knows her great secret, that she is an actress hired by Clyde Tolson to infiltrate the Boda. Clyde Tolson who had imprisoned Robyn and Hunky at the Clinic, burned down the temple, and made all of them fugitives. Tolson was their implacable enemy, and Becky is a plant. At first Jerry is horrified by this betrayal. But with Becky's supreme sacrifice, giving up her very identity, Becky is saying to Jerry, "I am truly one of you."

A new person is emerging who has 71% of Jerry's brain wiring and 29% of Becky's original wiring. At one point Becky fully surrenders her original identity, and after that a new composite person stares out at Jerry and his crippled and bleeding body.

The new Jerry, filled with amazement lets his hands roam all over his new female body with the creamy, freckled skin. So soft and smooth! Half a woman before, but with a masculine bent, Jerry is fully a woman now, in body and spirit. The feminine instincts of Becky remain. Jerry is fully a she. And she decides to call herself Jill from that moment forward.

Simultaneously, both Becky and Jerry have completed the Name Ritual and are fully B'nei Elohim.

JERRY: Somebody will be coming.

He hardly needs to speak to Jill. They are almost exactly the same person, still linked by the Purple Cable.

JERRY: Leave before we're both captured.

JILL: You could suffer True Death.

True Death is a concept that Jerry alone has rolled around in his mind long before this. He knows a terminal mind-capture must encapsulate the moment of death. If even one second was allowed to transpire after the recording, then the individual bifurcated. One would go on, but the other would experience being extinguished.

JERRY: I trust you will move heaven and earth to make sure that is not so.

He removes the Purple Cable from his head, establishing the bifurcation, then gives the Golden Gift to Jill.

JERRY: Eliminate all the important parts of the saucer and all the controls.

Jill lights off the Golden Gift and sabotages the saucer in such a way that it is unrecognizable as a viable aircraft.

There is still a little water left over, enough for Jerry to drink until he is captured, and enough for Jill to fill two canteens. She also takes along a bag of trail mix to eat. But she is whiter than white, and she knows the sun is really going to kick her ass during the hike.

It takes the rest of the day and part of the following night for Jill to walk across the desert south to the town of Roswell. As she walks she contacts Dory to tell her about the accident, and has Dory wire money to her from the Boda's slush fund. Then she returns to Greendome by bus, which takes another three days with all the required bus transfers.


195 MOGUL

Cowboys find the wreckage in the desert while Jill is still on foot. They render what first aid they can and take Jerry to a small hospital in town. The movement of the horse-driven cart as he is carried out of there is terribly agonizing to him. The doctor saves Jerry's leg, but he is laid up in traction and can make no move to escape.

The 509th Bomb Group retrieves the saucer from the rancher's land and cranes it onto a truck. But it is just a pile of junk and there is nothing they can learn from it. There is no motor and no controls. It looks like a playground saucer made to entertain some children. And Jerry refuses to explain how it or he came to be there.

In the saloons, cowhands mention the "silver disk" they found and soon enough some reporters come calling. The Army press liaison tells them it is just debris from the crash of something they call project Mogul, and that Jerry Shybear was a local "Indian" who found it first, and shot himself in the leg when he thought he saw something move.

Then an Army general bitches about the leak of Mogul. Tasked to conceal the existence of Mogul, the first thing that comes to mind was the big national flying saucer craze, exactly what occurred to Robyn's mind. So the Air Force makes an official announcement that it had recovered the wreckage of a flying saucer. The press goes even more nuts, and the Air Force bureaucracy gradually realizes it had made a huge mistake.

On July 8 they go on the radio, retract the flying saucer claim, and say naw, it is really just a weather balloon they picked up. Americans were less cynical in those days and let this go, so the military successfully covered up the cover-up. Two years later when the existence of Project Mogul is declassified the Air Force says their original saucer statement is inoperative and that it had really been Mogul all along. Mogul is now the operative statement.

Mogul had been an experiment to send balloons with microphones and tape recorders high into the sky to listen for Soviet nuclear detonations, then pick up the recordings later after the balloons had circled the globe. So the press and the public let it drop again and the Air Force concludes they have successfully covered up the coverup of the coverup.

That was the last anyone heard of it until three things happened that took away America's virginity and put an end to the halcyon days when her leaders were looked up to and trusted implicitly. The first was the assassination of the President in 1963, which sparked a poisonous conspiracy mindset that only seemed to be validated by later events, especially the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam in 1968, when people realized with shock that the government had lied and victory was nowhere in sight in the Vietnam War, plus the cover-ups and incredible abuses of power of the Watergate affair.

Only after this vast attitude shift did people begin to read ominous things into the comedy of errors that took place at the beginning of the UFO era in 1947. Alien bases were then imagined to exist in the four corners area of the southwestern United States. An entire alphabet soup of imaginary government agencies were cooked up who were supposed to control all the top secret information on the alien presence, and even the information that these agencies existed was, conveniently, also supposed to be classified top secret. There were claims that projects existed to recover all downed flying saucers and claims that projects existed to overhaul and test-fly recovered flying saucers at "Area 51b3 sixty miles northwest of Las Vegas. And the very lack of evidence for any of these claims was considered the best proof that a conspiracy to hide the truth existed.

196 CONFESSION

Jerry Shybear is taken to a location in arid land but it isn't Area 51 (Groom Lake), since the government did not establish that base until 1955. There is even small a clinic much like the one at Hanford, but with much enhances security. Clyde Tolson learns from his mistakes.

When Jill returns to Greendome she gives Robyn the Golden Gift and the Purple Cable. Then she lays out the bad news first.

JILL: Jerry is either dead or in the hands of the enemy.

Hunky and Dory grow filled with grief and press Jill for answers. She answers truthfully, but the hardest questions come from Robyn.

JILL: I betrayed you, Robyn. We both did. Please don't ask me to Share up the Purple Cable, you won't like what you see.

ROBYN: So it was an affair.

Robyn had to admit to harself sha opened the door to that when she told Jerry he was welcome to his little saucer trip. Her marriage to Jerry should have come first in every instance.

Jill then starts to dribble out some good news she had allowed Jerry to take possession of her body, in the same way Chokhmah had taken possession of Michaela, or how Binah had possessed Yeshua. All of Jerry's memories until the moment of possession are intact.

JILL: But I am not Jerry, nor am I even Becky Hahn anymore. I must ask you to call me only Jill from now on.

This cheers up the girls somewhat. Both Jerry and Becky are still present with them. Jerry is dead, but he lives on behind Jill's eyes. And Jill herself has undergone an ad hoc version of the Name Ritual. The B'nei Elohim have truly added a new member even as they lost an old one. Still, Hunky and Dory both feel something about Jill isn't quite right. So Jill toggles back and lays out some bad news again.

JILL: I need to come clean with all of you, but it will be hard to accept. I worked for our old friend Clyde Tolson. I was planted by him here in the Greendome area so I could infiltrate your group.

Robyn knew that all along. She lets out a slow sigh, which sounds like dismay to Hunky and Dory. At least now it is out in the open.

DORY: Why did you do that to us, Jill? We loved you!

JILL: And I still love you, all of you. Enough to surrender my body and soul so that Jerry might live. Che's right in here! And I'm not finished giving. If there's a chance Jerry's still alive, I must find him. And if he is dead, that only makes it even more important that I find him.


197 LIGHTHOUSE

As the decade of the 1930s wears on Jews are systematically stripped of their civil rights on the European continent and begin to be moved into work camps that evolve into extermination camps, but nothing like that happens in Britain. There are even Jews in Parliament. The Gervasi family has been royal subjects for many generations, and Benjamin Gervasi is a meteorologist with a specialty in numerical methods of mesoscale forecasting.

Jews are rather rare in the United Kingdom. During the years of the Great Depression Benjamin Gervasi could only find work as a lighthouse keeper at St. Catherine's Lighthouse on the Isle of Wight, just a few miles off the southern coast of England. This job, however, has several good points associated with it, or so Benjamin thinks. First, his wife and eventually also his young daughter Judith aids him in his work. It becomes a family endeavor. Second, the lighthouse grounds double as a meteorological outstation. During daylight, they send by Teletype hourly reports of temperature, humidity, cloud height, cloud formation, wind direction, and wind force to the Meteorological Office in London. Benjamin derives some satisfaction to work within his chosen field.

Once a week when Benjamin is paid his salary, a small amount of petrol is also delivered to power the engine that turns the lighthouse shaft. He is never tempted to divert some of this petrol to his motorcar, as he had no motorcar, but he does have to keep an eye out for certain neighbors who do.

Every weekday morning little Judith trudges up the hillside to the nearest village for her Primary school, and sometimes her mother accompanies her when she needs to attend to shopping. On Shabbat they cease from their labors and remain indoors. Very rarely, Benjamin arranges transportation by bus and ferry, and they take such holidays as they can afford, sometimes even to the beautiful Lake District, camping in the high, treeless hills called fells that qualify as mountains in England.

In the lead-up to the War British scientists are tasked to create a death ray based on radio waves to take down German bombers. They never quite manage a death ray, but in their research they find that metallic objects at great distances can reflect a radio pulse and the time delay displayed on an oscilloscope is a very accurate indication of distance. Rotating an antenna can pin down a targets position. Thus is born RDF, or Range and Direction Finding. A network of RDF stations called Chain Home make all the difference in the Battle of Britain, which occurs over the summer of 1940.

Numerically the Luftwaffe has an edge over the Royal Air Force, but when the Luftwaffe attacks they have to hunt for RAF fighters, while the RAF (aided by Chain Home) knows exactly where the Luftwaffe is and can concentrate planes.

The Luftwaffe also has an edge when it comes to the quality of their aircraft, but with Chain Home providing early warning of attacks, RAF pilots can rest until they are scrambled, use less fuel, and put less wear and tear on their aircraft. As the Luftwaffe begins to take heavy losses in bombers and fighter cover, they try to attack some of the Chain Home stations, including one that is constructed nigh to St. Catherine's Lighthouse. But as the Gervasi family can attest, the antenna towers with their open structure are not very susceptible to blast damage from bombs. The few antennas that actually are knocked down are repaired within days while operators from nearby dummy stations broadcast signals that fool the Germans into thinking no damage was done at all.


198 CLARINET

The Luftwaffe tries flying lower, approaching England below the sight line of Chain Home stations, but the British uses smaller RDF systems intended to direct gunfire against ships, and German losses continue to mount at an unacceptable rate. So the Luftwaffe switches to night raids, knowing that even if they are detected the RAF can do nothing about it since the defending planes cannot see the bombers in the dark when it comes to actual combat. The British quickly miniaturize the RDF systems and install them on fighter planes, which rapidly ends German night bombing over England.

Since the battle takes place over the United Kingdom, if an RAF plane is shot down, the British pilot can bail out and be back in the air flying another plane, perhaps on the same day if he is not injured. But if a German pilot bails out over land, he is invariably captured, and if he bails out over the Channel he is likely to die from drowning or exposure.

When the Battle of Britain comes to an end in October 1940 the British have lost only about 500 airmen while the Germans have lost eight times that number. Nearly a thousand German pilots are captured. The Luftwaffe lose nearly 2,000 planes and Hitler shelves his invasion plans. Thwarted for the first time in the war, Hitler turns his gaze to the East and begins preparing the Barbarossa campaign against the Soviet Union.

The UK shifts emphasis from defense to offense, and during the course of 1941 it becomes clear to Bomber Command that night navigation to the correct target is a serious issue. In 1942 an electronic guidance system called Clarinet is developed that uses two highly directional radio beams, one transmitting Morse code dots and the other one transmitting dashes, to be received by a single bomber flying in the lead of the wave (to minimize the chance of the Germans reverse-engineering the system from a downed plane). They fly out along the dots, and when the lead plane encounters the strongest part of the dashes it drops a load of marker flares, and the bomber wave drops their bombs on these flares.

A Clarinet antenna was constructed inside Benjamin's lighthouse mounted to the central shaft. That way the white structure of the lighthouse would hide the antenna and the Germans would never suspect a thing. From time to time a targeting order comes to Benjamin over the same Teletype he uses to transmit his weather information. The message gives him a precise angle to position the antenna, a duration in time, and whether he was to use dots or dashes. The Gervasi family are quite busy throughout 1943 as the RAF focuses their bombing campaign on Hamburg and the industry centered in the Ruhr valley.

In 1944 a large number of American, Australian, En Zed, and Canadian troops are transported to the south of England to join the Tommies in preparation for the invasion of France, and to ensure their success a monolith of operational deception is built up that the world had never seen before nor since. False radio traffic is created to give the Germans the impression that Patton is gearing up to take the entire force over the narrowest part of the Channel where the white cliffs of Dover can be seen from Calais.

False plans are planted on a corpse that is allowed to wash up on a French beach. Admiral Sir Bertrand Ramsay, in overall command of the invasion, leaves nothing, absolutely nothing to chance. In the run-up to D-Day Sir Ramsay even pays a visit to Benjamin Gervasi in his lighthouse on the southern-most point of England.

The weather is quite murky and wet, so the Admirals inspection of the exterior of the lighthouse is necessarily cut short. While his driver waits in the car, Benjamin shows the Admiral the room where the Teletype and Clarinet transmitter are installed. Ramsay thanks Benjamin personally for his service to the King, and Benjamin, for his part, considers it prudent not to mention the assistance he receives from his wife and daughter.


199 FORECAST

BENJAMIN: That's my moving five-day weather forecast for Undercliff, Sir. That would be this little strip of land where the lighthouse is located. We are in a rain-shadow, you know. And also a fog-shadow, if you will. The weather here is typically not quite as immoderate as it is for you Overners.

Benjamin leads the Admiral into the white octagonal tower to inspect the Clarinet antenna. He takes him spiraling up the ninety-four steps to the top, where the huge crystal lens (chipped by a 1943 air raid) slowly rotates, and they can see for thirty nautical miles out to sea. The whole English Channel in fact is roiling with whitecaps from high winds which threaten to derail the invasion.

BERTRAND: And you do this weather forecasting as a sort of hobby?

BENJAMIN: Perhaps a bit more than just a hobby, Admiral Sir Ramsey. I'm trained as a meteorologist, and I'm a damn fine one, if you don't mind me carrying my own chair. But with the war I find myself. . .over-qualified for the task I currently occupy. Now I know we've all got to pull together to stop Jerry, and I'm sure other professional men are in the same predicament, but all the same, one must use the skills one has been trained to use, or ones mind gets in a bit of a rut.

BERTRAND: I see.

BENJAMIN: It's not a purely sterile pursuit as you might imagine it to be. By a strange fluke of geography and wind and water currents, the weather here at the lighthouse, which can be quite different from the rest of England or even the rest of the Isle of Wight, almost always corresponds to the weather across the Channel on the coast of France, in the Normandy area. I've checked it for years, in every season, and the match is very good, more than eighty percent of the time, well outside the possibility of coincidence. I plan to publish a paper about it after the war.

BERTRAND: Is that so? Remarkable! And what do you predict for Undercliff?

BENJAMIN: A twenty-four hour break in this weather, partly cloudy, winds drop to five knots. Then on the afternoon of the sixth of June we return to the same pattern. This forecast holds for here and the Normandy coast. Everywhere else along the English Channel there will be no twenty-four hour break. There will be only fog and rain and winds gusting to thirty knots.

Sir Ramsey is suddenly filled with great admiration for Benjamin Gervasi, because Eisenhower's chief meteorologist has predicted the very same short break in the weather over Normandy, using B-17 aircraft far out over the Atlantic to gather the data, but General Eisenhower is dithering as he is ever wont to do. The Admiral knows if he tells the General the doughnut hole in the bad weather is confirmed by a second independent source, it might be enough to make him decide to launch the invasion of France on the morning of June 6, just when the Germans will be letting their guard down with intelligence of a solid week of terrible weather.

BERTRAND: Does the strange correlation of weather between Undercliff and the French coast hold for the Pas-De-Calais?

BENJAMIN: Alas, no. I'm afraid that predicting the weather for Dover and Calais is more like a jigsaw puzzle, and my reports to the Weather Office are but one piece.


200 SCHAUB

The Admiral sighs, reluctant to proceed. There is one final duty Mr. Gervasi can perform for England. It saddens the Admiral to deceive the man, but there is no choice. It is, in fact, the main reason for his visit. The net of operational deception woven around Operation Neptune must be watertight.

BERTRAND: Then it is time to reveal the real purpose of my visit here, and why I have attended to this myself rather than send a staffer. What I'm about to tell you has the highest possible classification. You cannot mention a word of it even to your wife or daughter.

BENJAMIN Of course. I understand, sir.

BERTRAND Mr. Gervasi, the following three weeks will be very lively ones for you, Am afraid. You are no doubt aware that most of southern England has become one large armed camp containing millions of troops and all their supplies. As we get closer to the invasion across the Strait of Dover, which is set for June 20, you will find that your Clarinet task orders will be coming in at a much greater rate.

BENJAMIN: Daily rather than weekly?

BERTRAND: Twice daily, I'm afraid. We will soon be bombing the landing areas more or less continuously. Now is the time we must make our greatest effort. I needed to tell you this, Mr. Gervasi, lest you think something has gone terribly wrong. And I could not trust this information to others.

Benjamin assures the young admiral he understands his duty perfectly. And with that they part, but Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay feels thoroughly soiled.

The Germans are not complete idiots. A U-boat captain, gazing at the shore of the Isle of Wight through his periscope, notes that St. Catherine's lighthouse stops flashing for hours. He logs the start and stop time, and a clever intelligence agent in Berlin realizes this matches the start and stop time of the Clarinet signal originating from what they thought was a nearby tower. A second and third observation over the next two weeks verifies the anomaly.

In the early morning hours of June 3, 1944 a German submarine surfaces just offshore and commandos row ashore to raid the lighthouse, led by an SS captain named Felix Schaub who doubles as the political officer aboard the Uboat to ensure the loyalty of its crew to Hitler. On this occasion Schaub wears his black pre-war Schutzstaffel uniform for the psychological effect he knows it will have on the Gervasi family.

With Judith and Edith whimpering in terror, tied up and threatened with pistols pointed at their heads, Benjamin demonstrates the Clarinet system to Captain Schaub, but to Benjamin's great surprise the Germans neither destroy the gear nor try to remove it to their submarine. Instead, Schaub identifies each member of the Gervasi family by name and he tells them he knows they are Jews. He tells Benjamin that whether they live or die depend on the correct answer to precisely two questions.

SCHAUB: First, what is the target of the immanent invasion across the English Channel?

Benjamin stiffens in dismay. He is confronted with the choice of losing his family or betraying the trust Admiral Sir Bertrand Ramsay has given him. At the slightest nod from Schaub, the hammer is pulled back on the pistol pointed at Judith's head.


201 ABDUCTION

BENJAMIN: Calais.

Benjamin lets out the breath he had been holding for nearly a minute.

FELIX: Goot. And the timing?

BENJAMIN: June twentieth.

FELIX: I am a man of my word. Neither you nor your wife nor your daughter will be killed. Here is what I want you to do, Mr. Gervasi. From now on, when you get orders to operate Clarinet, you will carry them out, but you will be a little sloppy when you align the antenna. Not too much! Perhaps a fraction of one degree. Only enough to throw the bombing raid off by a few hundred yards. You will do this until the British government decides it will no longer prosecute its aggression against the Reich. And more importantly, you will tell no one that you are sabotaging the raids.

BENJAMIN: Or you will come back and kill us.

FELIX: Benjamin! I'm disappointed in you! What does a man have in this world if he fails to do what he promises? You have my word of honor that neither you nor your lovely wife Edith nor your beautiful daughter Lilith will be killed. But Edith and Lilith will now be taken to the farm near Saint-Malo in France where all the British Jews in the Channel Islands have been relocated.

BENJAMIN: No, I beg you!

FELIX: They will not be unduly mistreated there. But if we learn that a future air raid on Germany using the transmitter at this lighthouse is successful, things will not seem quite so good. But even then, my word will still hold! Lilith and Edith will be simply be transferred to a work camp deeper in France, perhaps even in Germany. Do you know, Benjamin, it really is astonishing how much work you can get out of a Jew with a whip.

Judith is taken in the submarine to Cherbourg, and by the evening of June 5 she is inducted into a French farm that has been dubbed a clinic for racial hygiene.

The lighthouse on the Isle of Wight is not the only Clarinet system that has been raided by Captain Schaub, but it is the only one whose operator remained alive after the raid. Schuab's report filters up to Hitler, and the final piece of deception in the Fortitude element of Operation Bodyguard is in place. Hitler reinforces the defenses in the Pas-De-Calais region and leaves only a skeleton force at Normandy. Calais, however, is a grand feint.

The real invasion takes place on the beaches of Normandy on the morning of June 6, 1944. Benjamin Gervasi's weather forecast has led Eisenhower's to give the order to go. Two Panzer divisions, which might have driven the invaders back into the sea, are kept on a leash by Hitler because he doesn't trust his own generals. Hitler himself sleeps until noon and doesn't release the Panzers until four PM, by which time the beachheads are relatively secure and Allied aircraft dominate the skies to the point of forcing German tanks to move only at night.

But for two months after the Allies are tied down in the Normandy region trying to break out of hedgerow country while the Germans attempt to contain them. The breakthrough is very near to the Saint-Malo area where Judith is being held. To prevent the liberation of the farm the Germans move everyone to a camp in France far from the front lines. It was not the first such move, nor was it the last, and Judith found that every camp was steadily worse than the one before.


202 APPELL

Benjamin Gervasi continues to operate the Clarinet system when orders came in over the Teletype, but he deliberately alters the requested target angle slightly, believing it to be the only way he can save the lives of his wife and daughter. The deception comes crashing to an end in September when Judith fails to register for secondary school. The constables came calling, finds evidence of the German raid, and notifies army intelligence, who in turn squeeze the truth out of Benjamin.

They find they do not have to squeeze very hard. Both Benjamin and Edith realize that Schuab's word did not hold. The area in France where he had told them he would take Judith had been liberated in August and there was still no word from her, or even about her. Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay intervenes personally to keep Benjamin out of prison, but the bombing command insists that the man be sacked from his lighthouse job for the duration of the war. Edith despairs of seeing her beloved daughter again, but Benjamin has a more firm hope, and justifiably so.

Patton's 3rd Army moves across France at an unbelievable pace, performing a rapid right hook that nearly encircles Hitler's forces opposing the invasion. Judith moves at least once a month, which is encouraging in a way, but the camps grow progressively worse the nearer she draw to Germany itself, until she arrives at an extermination camp called Ohrdruf-Nord deep in the heart of Germany proper, there to be worked to death constructing a railroad center that is never finished.

Along the way currency, gold, and jewelry (of which Judith has none) are sent to the SS headquarters of the Economic Administration. Watches, clocks, and pens are sent to troops on three fronts and civilian clothing is given to needy German families. Judith sees things that push far beyond any boundaries of human evil she previously thought must exist. And Ohrdruf isn't even the worst camp in the hellish constellation.

Many men have a taste for sixteen year old female flesh. Judith learns to trade her body for scraps of extra food. This becomes a problem during the terrifying and humiliating appells, or inspections that follow roll, when Judith is found to be wasting away at a slower rate than their companion prisoners. Judith is successful in feigning weakness, but it is more difficult to hide her extra weight, and suspicion is raised. The appell is stretched out to last the rest of the day.

The prisoners all wore thin clothing, and it was very cold, as the mornings often were in late March. The commander of the camp gave an order to flog the entire first row of prisoners simply because the exhausted and freezing women had poor posture. And Judith is in the first row.

Listening to the screams of the prisoners being whipped before her turn is almost worse than the actual punishment. Almost. Judith vows that she would not scream when it happened to her, and she begs God for the strength to make that vow hold true.

Judith is stripped naked and held by two female guards over a table while a third woman lays on the lash. The agony of the punishment is indescribable. Judith never attempts to describe it to anyone. But from the first stroke she completely forgets her vow, and she does scream.

Judith loses count of how many strokes she receives because she lost consciousness before it is over. She wakes up in the camp hospital in only slightly less agony than during the whipping, with my entire back feeling like it is on fire. It would take four days before she could get more than a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep at a time. Judith had lost a lot of blood and the slightest movement opened the scars and causes her to bleed again. So she could not be moved from the hospital or walk under her own power.


203 BEACH

The American forces draw very near and soon the entire camp descends into chaos. Judith is left behind. A day later she does manage to stumble out of bed for one final task.

Troops of the 89th Infantry Division of the US Third Army capture OhrdrufNord on April 4, 1945. Among the many thousands of dead Jews whose burnt or decomposing bodies are strewn about the camp, one female German guard also lies on the ground with her head nearly twisted off the spine. That guard is the one who had laid the lash on Judith's back.

After the war in Europe when Lilith has been sufficiently deloused and scrubbed, and has demonstrated her status as a British subject to the satisfaction of the Occupation, she is placed on a ship and sent home to her father. Meeting him on a dock at Portsmouth, Judith gazes upon him across a great gulf which is the memory of the unspeakable ordeal she has somehow survived. They are utter strangers to each other now.

On the dock and when he takes her home Benjamin tearfully begs his daughter to tell him what happened but the girl only shakes her head. Two days later, in his Portsmouth home, Benjamin catches a quick glimpse of the mass of whip scars on his daughter's back. It would be a long time before she could summon the will to begin to recover from her experiences.

After that Judith Gervasi does not sleep nights. Instead she stays wide awake, watching the coast with her war surplus Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle for Nazis who would never come. She suffers terribly from something 21st Century doctors would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Thus it is that Judith is fully awake when the avatar of Chokhmah makes a noisy descent on fiery flares, and lands on the beach nigh to the lighthouse.

This is precisely the same avatar that was destroyed by Demonstroke when it was carrying Princess Lilith during the war in heaven, extracted from the timeline in the same way Yeshua was bifurcated, resulting in one man who died and another man who lived. This is the same avatar that brought the Golden Gift to Wanica before changing shape to become a massive half-egg on the summit of Green Dome and later covered by the temple.

The avatar settles to the beach and a woman emerges, holding a baby. The manner of the woman's sudden appearance is entirely out of the ordinary, Judith thinks. Then again, so is standing watch all night every night. Judith realizes it is entirely possible she is not sane.

The female is not a Nazi agent or soldier, but Judith isn't taking chances, not after what she has suffered. She fires a round into the air from fifty yards to get the lady's attention and advances closer. Judith sees that the strange woman has white hair, but despite that she looked to be rather young, perhaps twenty. The woman watches Judith draw near with the rifle but she cannot put her hands over her head because she is nursing a baby.When they are close enough together that they can comfortably speak the woman speaks.

WOMAN: Please don't shoot again. As you can see I have a baby.

JUDITH: Who are you? You almost sound American.

WOMAN: My name is Robyn. And you are correct, I am from the USA.

Judith's rifle drops a bit from its sight-line on Michaela's head. It is now aimed at har heart.

JUDITH: So what are you doing here? And how did you get here? This thing that brought you, I've never seen the like.


204 MARKER

ROBYN: I am here to bring payment to a man named Benjamin Gervasi. As for how I arrived, I can explain it to you, but you would think me to be entirely balmy, rather than just yourself.

Judith lowers the rifle to point at the ground between them, and there is even the faintest glimmer of a smile.

JUDITH: Why did you bring a baby?

ROBYN: This is my beloved newborn son Evan. I'm so madly in love with hem I never let hem out of my sight.

That is quite enough. Lilith unchambers the round and slings her rifle over her back. But she wonders if "hem" is how Americans pronounce "him".

It is pre-dawn, and in the gloomy light that is beginning to gather Robyn can take a better look at Judith. The girl is about three years younger than she, but there is an aged look in her hollow eyes, as though she has already lived four lifetimes, and it haunts Robyn. A kind of Darwinian process in the camps has produced a girl who is able to outwit, bribe, or intimidate anyone to get what she needs to survive. Robyn sees the results right on Judith's surface features.

ROBYN: Do you still live here, at the lighthouse?

Judith shakes her head. The work camps had emaciated her body, and when she returned home to the Isle of Wight and was fed by her father, the weight came back in the form of strong, wiry muscles. She is eighteen but looks twice that.

JUDITH: Not at all. My father used to operate the lighthouse and runs a weather outstation, but he was sacked during the war. You mentioned payment?

ROBYN: I did. I should like to meet your father.

LILITH: He has sold his life to the Goy and betrayed the promise of God that our people should rule Palestine.

ROBYN: When you say your nation. I know you are not speaking of England, Judith Gervasi. You are a member of a people whose very right to exist is always being questioned.

Judith's eyes narrow at Robyn.

JUDITH: How do you know my name?

ROBYN: I know many things about you. I know that your father was used by the government to help deceive Hitler as to exactly where the invasion was going to take place. I know that you were taken to camps on the Continent by German frogmen. I know they tattooed a number on your arm and I know that you have come through such suffering and human degradation and evil that few could ever begin to understand the mere periphery of it, let alone sympathize with the core of your ordeal and your memories of it.

Judith shows Robyn the six numbers tattooed to her arm by the SS to affirm her assessment is correct.

JUDITH: The Crown owes a very large marker to my father, but he will not cash it in to obtain a thing, a concession of such little import it could not possibly disconcert the government in the smallest way. The Foreign Secretary refuses to allow Jews to immigrate to the British Mandate in Palestine. Not even Jews who are already British subjects. 205 NITON

ROBYN: Oil.

One word, but it explains everything. The Middle-East is awash in petroleum, but if the Arabs suspect the Jews will have an independent state there they will attack the wells owned and operated by the British. So the Balfour Declaration and the Churchill White Paper were torn up for the worthless pieces of paper they always were, and all bets are now off in the Holy Land.

JUDITH: The admiral who deceived my father is dead. My father is willing to let the whole matter go.

ROBYN: And yet I am not willing to let it go. Your mother and father deserve the recompense that the British government refuses to pay. And you, Judith, deserve something in the way of recompense as well, although there is nothing in heaven and earth that would suffice to repay for what you suffered. But I will make the attempt, if you will allow me.

Little Evan starts to cry. It is cold, dawn is just breaking, and che wants hez mother to take hem back to a place that was warm so che can go back to sleep.

ROBYN: Please, Judith, my baby is freezing. Let us go to your home. There is much I can tell you, as well as your parents.

Judith nods her head, and they begin to ascend the road to town from the lighthouse, stopping only once along the way to watch the avatar of Chokhmah ascending into the sky once more, a move to keep away the curious.

Niton is the little hamlet that looks down upon St. Catherine's lighthouse, and it is here that Benjamin and Edith lived and waited for word of Judith after Benjamin was sacked from his job. They know Judith doesn't sleep nights, and have elected to awake around three o'clock every morning waiting for their daughter to come home. This time they see that Judith has brought a visitor along, and Benjamin, at least, knows who it is.

BENJAMIN: Hello, Robyn. Please come in.

JUDITH: You've met before.

EDITH: When, Benjamin. When did you meet this young woman before?

BENJAMIN: Please, Edith, don't embarrass yourself. Robyn is practically a child, and a married one at that.

EDITH: Nevertheless I do expect an answer.

BENJAMIN: When do you recall it was, Robyn? November in 1943?

ROBYN: Yes, Benjamin, that time when I gave you a little black notebook with the weather data for Normandy.

BENJAMIN: A notebook with weather data for the entire year of 1944. Data I found to be accurate to an uncanny degree when 1944 actually arrived.

ROBYN: You still had to sell the ruse to Allied intelligence, Benjamin. They would have known you didn't have instruments in France to take measurements. How did you do it?

BENJAMIN: I used very small, if somewhat bold, deception. I told Sir Admiral Ramsay that there was a strange correlation of weather between Undercliff and the French coast directly across the Channel. He seemed to accept it.


206 PAYMENT

ROBYN: He did indeed, Benjamin, and so the invasion came off during a window in the poor weather while the Germans let their guard down. And that was reinforced by the deception Admiral Ramsay pulled on you, namely that the invasion was scheduled for two weeks later. The German officer who took Judith away reported that lie up his chain of command, and so Hitler was lulled into doing nothing until the allied beachhead was secure in Normandy.

BENJAMIN: Certainly it wasn't the only lie that made Hitler complacent.

ROBYN: Not at all, but it was a very big piece of the pie called Operation Fortitude, which no one in the public will even hear about for decades. But you must have read something about the weapon the United States used to wrap up the war in the Pacific. Without your help, Benjamin, the invasion called Overlord would have failed after only about two months and the war would have dragged on and on, until my government resorted to using those weapons in Europe. As it is, the war cost 56 million dead. It could have been more like 700 million dead.

BENJAMIN: When you came to me in 1943, Robyn, I listened to you, and agreed to your arguments. I accepted the notebook, yet still I do not understand how that notebook was made, nor who it is you represent.

ROBYN: It is enough to know that from time-to-time human history reaches a kind of bottleneck where small doings such as yours may be multiplied to deeply affect the next step. I work for one who is perfecting history as an artist perfects a work, and that one knows how to reward those who help.

BENJAMIN: Then you may tell that one that all those millions of people who will now not die is reward enough.

ROBYN: I believe you believe that, Benjamin, yet there is also your wife Edith to consider. Please accept this payment from the one your tradition names Michael, the champion of Eretz Yisrael.

Robyn opens a small black velvet bag and removes six relatively large diamonds, worth more than enough to keep Benjamin and his wife comfortable for as long as they both live. Benjamin gratefully accepts the stones. Then Robyn turns to speak to Judith.

ROBYN: There are not enough diamonds in the world to compensate you for your own part in this, Judith. But you saw the manner of my coming down there on the beach, and your eyes were not deceiving you. What would you do if I said I could take you to live in Palestine, and that you would be there within an hour?

Judith does not hesitate at all. She goes into her room and returns ten minutes later carrying a small tote bag with clothing and her personal effects. She also carries her rifle, but now she also had several boxes of .303 caliber cartridges carried on little straps.

Robyn also notes, with some satisfaction, that Judith goes into the kitchen of the little house and returns carrying in one hand a quantity of unleavened bread. That is the essence of the feast of Passover, to reaffirm the willingness of the children of Israel to respond without delay to the command of their God to depart a place. Deep down Judith might recognize who Robyn's employer might really be.

An hour later, on the beach, holding baby Evan in her arms as Robyn requested she do, and listening to Robyn describe the place where they are about to travel to has an effect that Judith would never be able put into words. After a few silent moments, as her body shakes with dry weeping, the avatar of Chokhmah arrives once more to land on the beach and Judith returns the child to Robyn.


207 KIBBUTZ

The lighthouse is on the absolutely most southern point of Great Britain. The avatar of Chokhmah whisks Robyn and Judith far to the east in the usual suborbital arc. At the top Judith experiences her first instance of freefall. Within minutes after the tug of gravity returns, the avatar lands on yet another beach, but this time it is the sandy strip of the eastern Mediterranean, and the sun stands at the zenith.

They are met by a number of Polish farmers who live a few miles inland from the sea at a kibbutz founded in 11943 named Yad Mordechai. The settlement lies on the coast highway only eight miles north of the Arab city of Gaza. Later, when the Gaza Strip is defined, Yad Mordechai would lie only two miles from the border.

Judith spoke no Polish, nor at that point has she learned Hebrew (which had been revived from extinction to become the official tongue of Eretz Yisrael once again). But all Judith needed to do was brandish the tattoo on her arm and it was enough for the pioneers. "Never again," they said to her. And Robyn parted from Judith and flew into the sky with no promise they would ever meet again.

The farmers were already acquainted with Robyn and seemed to be on good terms with her, much like Judith's father had been, and this proved to be a point of annoyance to Judith, particularly when the farmers refused to answer the many questions the girl would ask. Judith began to suspect she had been taken to her new home by an angel of God. That morning seemed to be like a dream to her. Still, much fighting lay ahead, and that would seem more like a nightmare.

When the Haganah completely abandons the coastal highway running south from Tel Aviv, Judith Gervasi's kibbutz at Yad Mordechai is completely cut off. Only two private aircraft maintain contact between north and south, carrying basic supplies and newspapers.

Judith is part of the Gahal, or immigrant soldiers. Most of the children in the kibbutz are called Sabra. That is, they had been born in Palestine and knew no other home. Judith is their guardian when their parents work the fields, both before and during the war.

Judith's kibbutz lies just west of the road that links Gaza to the Egyptian beachhead at Majdal. Egypt hurls two infantry battalions, one armored battalion, and an artillery battalion against them one dawn for an attack that lasts five days. It is Judith's baptism by fire, the battle that forges her into a fierce warrior. She would go on to fight in every one of her country's conflicts. It is Judith's unwavering belief that the Yishuv, the People, always come first.

Much enemy armor is taken out with the PIAT (Projectile, Infantry, AntiTank). Those Arab tanks which manage to breach the Yad Mordechai perimeter are set alight at close range with Molotov cocktails or attacked with hand grenades whose fragments would enter the tank through the view slit, wounding the crew and forcing them to retire. Other tanks are taken out with mines, and still others break down and are dragged out of range by armored cars.

But there are just too many Egyptians, and the shelling never ceases. After five days the settler's ammunition is spent. Judith helps bury their dead, and then helps carry the wounded through the Egyptian lines under the cover of darkness, along with all the remaining settlers. Yad Mordechai is abandoned, and in the morning the Egyptians burn it to the ground. But during those five days of resistance Tel Aviv is saved from being overrun. The stubborn defense at Yad Mordechai gives Tel Aviv time to bring in reinforcements and firm up the defensive line on the road between the city and Gaza.


208 HEBREW

On June 11, a truce called by the United Nations goes into effect and lasts until July 9. In nearly one month of war Israel lost 900 soldiers and 300 civilians. Between the first truce and a second one is ten more days of fighting. The IDF captures Nazareth, the home town of Yeshua, which has grown much larger than the original five hundred souls. The second truce lasts until October 15, and is followed by one solid week of fighting against Egypt. On the first day of that week Israeli war planes bomb the Egyptian air base at El Arish on the Mediterranean coastline of Sinai, and also cuts the railway from El Arish to Rafa.

After the third cease-fire takes effect on October 22, Judith and the Polish settlers who had taken her in move back into the ruins of Yad Mordechai and begin to rebuild the place. There would be renewed fighting in the winter, and a fourth and final cease fire, but Judith judges that the continued existence of her new nation is no longer in doubt.

On her collective farm after the War of Independence Judith Gervasi immerses herself in honest toil cultivating the fields and garden crops. She occasionally defends the settlement from gunmen who infiltrate from the nearby Gaza Strip to kill Jews simply for being Jews. Sometimes these attacks on Yad Mordechai are followed up by fierce IDF reprisal raids. Judith is mobilized as a sergeant in the IDF reserves to help guide the counterattacks.

Apart from her trusty British-made rifle Judith owns very little in the way of personal possessions. She has only her clothing, a radio she shares with the others in the Women's House, and other such modest things. There are tractors and jeeps, but they belong to the whole community. All the profits of the kibbutz are pooled together for the needs of the laborers. The children eat and sleep apart from their parents, and Judith, who is attending university part of the time, helps to educate them.

On July 23, 1952 there is a coup in Egypt deposing King Farouk, who has ruled his country since 1936. One of the coup plotters named Colonel Gamal Nasser steadily rises in influence to become the usual (if dreary through repetition) President-for-life.

Judith graduates from Hebrew University in 1953 and is commissioned a second lieutenant in the IDF. During her physical examination the IDF doctors noted the mass of keloid whip scars on her back, which limits her range of motion somewhat.They also note the six numbers tattooed on her arm and know exactly how she had been disfigured.

In the fall, Judith returns to Hebrew University to begin her academic work for a Master's degree. She is interested in the newly-revived Hebrew language, which had been essentially a dead tongue (like Latin) for more than two thousand five hundred years. After the Babylonian Vacation it fell out of everyday use by the Jewish people, and this was true even in the time of Yeshua, who had spoken the Syrian tongue called Aramaic. Over those twenty-five centuries Hebrew became a rather specialized language spoken only by the scribes and elders in synagogues, and in the Diaspora, when many Jewish communities lost contact with each other, the pronunciation of Hebrew naturally drifted somewhat.

There were marked differences between the way the Shephardi Jews and Ashkenazi Jews spoke Hebrew, and there had been some infiltration of influences from both Russian and Yiddish. When the Zion project was conceived, and European immigrants began to settle in the Levant with the aim of creating a Jewish homeland, the official pronunciation of Hebrew was decided by a committee. But it is wrong at many points, and Judith knew this because from time to time she speaks to certain folk from Haaretz who remember how biblical Hebrew had really been spoken. It only remained for Judith to prove it. This was the challenge that formed the heart of her Masters' Thesis.


209 SINAI

Soon after obtaining her advanced degree Judith received an elevation in rank to seren, which corresponds to captain in the Israeli Defense Force.

On July 26, 1956 Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, seizing control from the British. He closes the Straits of Tirin in the Red Sea, which effectively puts the southernmost Israeli port of Eilat under a blockade. At the same time he refuses to allow any ships bound for Tel Aviv or Haifa to transit the canal. The United Kingdom and France lay plans to take the canal back by force, and they are interested in getting Israel involved in this operation. Israel was already leaning toward a tussle with Egypt, the question was not if but when. Cross-border fedayeen raids from the Gaza strip had never ceased over the eight years Egypt had occupied it.

The French begin to arm the IDF, especially the air force. And in the third week of October Nasser moves part of his army into Gaza, including a number of artillery pieces, which are used to shell the Israeli settlements near the border, of which Judith's kibbutz of Yad Mordechai is the closest. Nasser also moves troops into the Sinai Peninsula, supplied with the latest Soviet military equipment.

On October 29 four Israeli World War II vintage P-51 Mustang fighter planes fly into the Sinai and cut, with their propellers, all the telephone lines connecting the Egyptian forces in Sinai to their home office in Cairo. On the same afternoon, 395 IDF paratroopers are dropped at Mitla Pass, only fifty miles from the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, a force commanded by Colonel Ariel Sharon crosses the border and seizes (after very hard fighting) three Egyptian positions along the 150 miles from Israel to the pass. Sharon then disobeys orders to halt and proceeds to take Mitla Pass, at a cost of 38 Israeli lives.

On October 31 an Egyptian frigate fires two hundred shells into Haifa from the sea, but a French destroyer drives it off. Two Israeli destroyers then chase it down and open fire, and later two Israeli warplanes damage it with rockets. The Egyptian ship surrenders, and it is boarded and towed into Haifa.

Israel fights a fierce series of tank battles for Abu Ageila, and after two days the Egyptians withdraw. From this position, Israel can supply its troops in the central Sinai without an attack from the rear.

On November 2 the IDF seizes El Arish on the Sinai Mediterranean coast, which completely isolates the Gaza Strip. By that same evening, the Egyptian governor in Gaza surrenders. The Israelis penetrate to within ten miles of the Suez Canal and take possession of forty Soviet-made T-34 tanks and sixty armored vehicles which had been left behind there.

Seren Judith Gervasi's part in the war begins at Eilat and runs down the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. The objective is to seize the guns at Sharm el-Sheikh and lift the closure of the Straits of Tiran. Her commander is Colonel Avraham Yoffe, and she is part of a motorized infantry brigade of 1,800 soldiers and 200 vehicles. Their route is along a camel track that was never designed to be used by wheeled vehicles. At one point at Wadi Zaala they all break out their spades, dig their vehicles out of deep sand, and push them uphill.

At Dahab Oasis they have their first firefight against the camel-mounted troops of the Egyptian Frontier Force. They also are supplied with fuel from boats sent down the Gulf of Aqaba from Eilat. Meanwhile, a detachment of Ariel Sharon's paratroopers advanced in a pincer movement down the Gulf of Suez, nearly doubles the size of the Israeli assault force.


210 LONDON

At Sharm el-Sheikh a huge battery of naval guns are positioned to block all shipping to Eilat. There, 1,500 Egyptian troops with their mortars and artillery hold off the Israelis for four hours of intense fighting, and it is over the course of those four hours that Judith puts forth her supreme fighting effort in this war.The big guns of the fort are disarmed by 9 AM that morning. The water route to Eilat is open once more. Israel achieved all of her war objectives in just one week, which is fortuitous, because the American President Dwight D. Eisenhower threatens to essentially bankrupt France and Britain if they do not wrap things up. IDF losses are 172 killed and 817 wounded.

Having lost the war, Egypt is compelled by the terms of the cease-fire to allow Israeli shipping to pass through the Suez Canal once more. Immediately, an Israeli destroyer squadron passes from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea to support Yoffe, his battalion commanders, Seren Judith Gervasi, and all their infantry at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

Not by word, correspondence, telegram, or phone call does Judith Gervasi appraise her father in England of any of the things that she had achieved since she parted from him, nor any of the historic events that transpire daily around her. But after the war, when the reserves were being demobilized Robyn came calling to visit before Judith had exchanged her Seren's uniform for the clothing appropriate for a collective farm. And Judith marvels that Robyn appears to be precisely the same age as when they first met on the beach at Underhill on the Isle of Wight in 1946.

Robyn embraces Judith, then stands back a bit to regard the woman with a friendly but appraising gaze.

ROBYN: Your father Benjamin and mother Edith, they will not live forever.

Judith loses her smile, for she knows what Robyn is asking her to do. It is something Judith has dreaded for years.

JUDITH: I'm not ready to tell him everything.

ROBYN: No, but you are, I think, ready to tell him something, and that is a vast improvement. Come. Please.

JUDITH: Will you tell me who you really are, Haziel?

ROBYN: You will learn everything, Judith. Everything! But only after you have also told your parents everything.

JUDITH: Why Robyn? Why must it be so?

ROBYN: Have you not discerned by now that I am healing your soul?

After a long pause, Judith nods her head.

ROBYN: Good! That too is a sign that what I have been doing is working.

With the money from the diamonds, Benjamin and Edith have moved to a nice home in an exclusive part of London. When Robyn arranges the meeting Judith's face crinkles up in a way that Benjamin cannot mistake, and this time there are tears, perhaps the first tears she has shed over all that time. Judith sobs. They embrace for a long time, and Judith weeps as she has never done before in her life, for she realizes that her mother and father have done nothing, absolutely nothing, to deserve the silent treatment that she has inflicted on them over all the intervening years. Judith had rationalized to herself that she was punishing her father for refusing to emigrate to Palestine, but that was nothing more than a huge lie she had made herself believe all that time, and Judith now marvels at her own capacity for self-deception.

211 CATHARSIS

JUDITH: Mum, dad. We have so much catching up to do, it seems.

BENJAMIN: Then let us do so, beloved daughter, over a cuppa.

Judith, for her part, is necessarily vague on answering her father's questions about how she managed to travel to Israel, since she herself didn't know the mechanics of that. But everything else she relates, in reverse order, starting from the recent Suez War and going backwards to the birth of her adopted nation.

BENJAMIN: And all this time, daughter, were there no gentlemen in your life? Have you never considered being married?

Judith comes to a dead stop there. The heroic accounts of an IDF Captain in the Arab-Israeli wars are over. Her father's innocent question dumps her directly into the pit of agonizing memories that smolder yet in the core of her soul.

JUDITH: How shall I proceed father? I am no stranger to the touch of man, but let's call it conditioning, shall we? The thought of physical love inevitably takes me back to the camps. You may draw your own conclusions, but that, I think is a mental scar far more long lasting than any of the physical ones I bear, and I know you have seen those.

BENJAMIN: I am so sorry, Judith!

JUDITH: Rather it is I who must apologize to you, father, and also to you, mum. At no time did you do or say anything that merited shunning from your own daughter.

BENJAMIN: Once, just once, I did see the scars on your back. Will you say anything about what happened to you?

Judith lowers her head for a long time, gathering the painful memories into a narrative for the first time since it happened. This is it, she thought. And I dread it so, but Haziel Robyn me to do this. And so Judith delves into the full horror of the camps, and relates her flogging, and ends with the tale of the murder of the guard who did it to her.

JUDITH: She was my first one, father, my first killing, but she was not my last one, not by a wide margin.

Benjamin closes his eyes and howls in despair, as Edith tries to comfort him. Yet Edith, too, is horrified by the words of her daughter.

The moment is too personal for a stranger to remain present. Robyn discreetly excuses herself and steps outside of the house.

JUDITH: And so you see, father, as I sit here in my IDF uniform, that the little girl you raised in that lighthouse is no more, replaced by a coldblooded killer, and we do not really know each other at all, do we?

After a few more words or parting, Judith stands up and leaves the house in turn. Looking around for Robyn, Judith sees instead an unclothed white human figure with no hair, no eyes or mouth. The figure draws near to Judith, who is not afraid. She reaches a hand out slowly as though to touch the mannequin-thing.

A needle springs out from the surface of the white figure to pierce one of Judith's outstretched fingers, and she draws back her hand in sudden pain. Then she experiences a rush of images, followed by the heat of the stretch of the eastern Mediterranean that Judith now calls home. Members of her Kibbutz retrieve her from the sand where she falls, but Judith does not awaken for more than a week. 212 FARM

In the week after Judith was pricked in the finger by the white walking avatar of Chokhmah Judith is radically changed. A bump at the back of har head grows and opened up like a flower, accompanied by some unavoidable discomfort. Now Judith sports a hard little cup. It was difficult for Judith to see it, but she can feel the growth with her fingers, and she tries to wear her hair in a way to cover it. But other changes happen. For instance, sometimes now there's a loud voice in her head.

[dory]: JUDITH, ROBYN IS WAITING FOR YOU OUTSIDE OF THE WOMEN'S HOUSE. PLEASE STEP OUT AND MEET HER.

Robyn is known to some of the other kibitzers, otherwise she would never have gotten so deep inside the perimeter. Abner Mizrahi and Leon Malka are standing together with har when Judith emerges from the Women's House. Everyone in the kibbutz is considered to be on one level, but Abner and Leon, who helped founded the hilltop settlement in the 1930s, are now twenty years later often the first faces the people glance at when difficult questions arise.

LEON: Judith, please greet our friend Robyn of the B'nei Elohim. We haven't seen here since she first brought you to us nine years ago.

JUDITH: Welcome back to our little farm, Robyn. You haven't aged a day!

MICHAELA: Thank you, Judith. May we walk together, you and I? There is so much to tell you. Leon and Abner, I hope you don't mind.

The men assure Robyn they do not, and so they walk the roads and pathways of the collective farm and Michaela shares all that she thinks Judith can bear.

JUDITH: Leon said you were of the B'nei Elohim? What did he mean?

ROBYN: That is what we call our organization. The progeny of the holy ones.

When Judith brings up the strange cup of bone that now sticks out of the back of her head, Robyn puts her mind at ease and shows her an identical cup hiding under her own black hair.

ROBYN: Indeed, this connector is the physical mark of the B'nei Elohim, which makes you one of us.

JUDITH: I do not recall asking to join.

ROBYN: Indeed, neither did I ask to join. Yet there are compensations. Why did you leave the Women's house just now?

JUDITH: I heard a...voice.

ROBYN: That was my friend Dory. You can communicate with any member of the B'nei Elohim through her, at any time, to obtain anything you want or need, literally anything at all. But the connector will make another very important thing possible. Before that happens, Michaela will in fact require your fully-informed consent.

JUDITH: Who is Michaela?

ROBYN: You already met har, rather recently, or at least one manifestation of har. Remember? The white figure, bristling with needles?

JUDITH: Then perhaps I should have asked what is Michaela?

-213 BOMBLETS

ROBYN: Before I can properly tell you, and expect some degree of belief, the B'nei Elohim should demonstrate something a little more convincing than a sub-orbital flight from the Isle of Wight to the coast of Israel. Embrace me for a moment, Judith.

After a wary pause, Judith does hug Robyn as she was asked, and feels slightly embarrassed that she didn't immediately comply.

ROBYN: Now say as clearly as you can, but entirely in your mind, "Dory, take us to heaven."

[judith]: DORY, TAKE US TO HEAVEN.

Immediately the warm daylight of Yad Mordechai is replaced by the darker, cooler scene of the Sacred Pool in Canterwood at night. Overhead is a strange dim sun, red on one side, white on the other, but barely visible now and giving little heat. There were no stars, but rather the lights of cities and towns scattered across the surface of the hollow Land We Know.

Judith sees about two dozen females wearing embroidered gray and white tunics that end mid-thigh, belts, red tights, and black boots. Some of them carry an ingot of gold in one hand. Each one of these females partnered up with another female who lifts something about the size and shape of a deck of playing cards, but these little things seem to be very heavy, since the females each cradle the thing with both hands.

Then in these pairs, two-by-two, the females with the gold ingots stand close to the females with the heavy little packages. A circle of light briefly surrounded them. This is the light of the Egyptian desert, and when the light flickers out the pair of females are gone.

JUDITH: Where did they go?

ROBYN: You must have wondered how I gave your father a notebook with the following year's weather observations.

JUDITH: Yes, that mystery has crossed my mind.

ROBYN: From here we can travel to any point in time as well as space.

Robyn brandishes her own copy of the Golden Gift and bids Judith to grab one of the little cartridges from a rack where it leans slightly off the vertical. A casual first attempt with one hand fails, the thing is so heavy it doesn't budge.

ROBYN: Don't be fooled by the small size, Judith, each one is fifteen kilos. Use both hands.

Judith does so, and finds that Robyn isn't kidding.

JUDITH: What is this? Gold?

ROBYN: A macro bomblet.

Judith has the strength of will not to immediately drop it.

JUDITH: Some strange kind of high-explosive?

ROBYN: Not at all. Just fifteen kilograms of plain water crammed into a metal case.

JUDITH: That's impossible. Water doesn't compress much at all.


214 RUNWAY

ROBYN: Dark water does compress, or rather, it can exist in a superimposed state. In fact, we could put any amount of water in that little box, but then you couldn't carry it. Shall we go?

Robyn stands close to Judith, and cool night-time in heaven is replaced with the warm day-time of the Sinai desert. They are standing in the middle of a runway at an Egyptian airfield.

JUDITH: I don't understand. You called this a bomblet, yet it contains only water?

ROBYN: Dark water, in a form that is quite unstable. The box keeps it suspended in that state. Seven seconds after the box stops doing that, the dark water becomes normal water again, and like you said, water does not compress at all. The result is an explosion quite out of proportion to the size of the weapon, yet there is no radiation at all.

Robyn uses her copy of the Golden Gift to make a slash in the ground at the place where four concrete slabs of the runway meet.

ROBYN: Three meters deep, and 'X' marks the spot. Drop the bomblet in the hole, please, Judith.

JUDITH: I've never caught wind of anything like this.

ROBYN: We call it a gift to ourselves, from further up the timeline. Ask Dory to move us somewhere safer, but near enough to watch.

The scene shifts. Robyn and Judith find they are on a small rise looking down on the airfield. Fighters and bombers are parked in the open.

JUDITH: I don't recognize any of those aircraft.

ROBYN: And no wonder, Judith, we've jumped ahead a full decade in time. It is zero seven thirty on 5 June 1967 and the third major conflict is about to start between Israel and the Arab nations that comprise the bad neighborhood of the Middle-East. In fact, it has already started. The cause of this war is exactly the same as the cause of the First Suez War. President Nasser is rolling the dice one more time. The Strait of Tirin is once again blocked by the heavy guns of the fortress at Sharm el-Sheikh, choking off the southern Negev town of Eilat from access to the open sea. Fifteen minutes ago, about two hundred IDF planes took off and flew out over the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to attack under the radar and catch the Egyptian pilots at breakfast.

JUDITH: Do they succeed?

ROBYN: On the original timeline they destroy a third of the original planes on the ground and even crater the runway to delay the takeoff of the rest, but of course when the IDF returns to reload and refuel, the Egyptians fill the craters with gravel and get their remaining planes into the air. Do you see over there, Judith? Those are Soviet-made MiG-21s, the equal or superior to anything Israel has flying. The Arabs are starting with three times the number of planes the IDF has, and this raid merely levels the playing field. The war goes on for a year, Tel Aviv is flattened, and at the end the State of Israel no longer exists. Now watch carefully.

A short moment after Robyn speaks, the macro bomblet explodes. The four concrete sections of runway are lifted into the air, then settle down in the newly-formed crater, with the edges on the other side of the slabs now raised a half-meter above the level of the runway.

JUDITH: I see it. This isn't a fill operation anymore. They have to demolish the old concrete and pour new slabs.


215 MAJOR

ROBYN: And what happened here has also just happened at ten other airfields across Egypt, with, as you saw, far more precision than could be done from the air, even with special penetrator bombs that won't be invented for yet another ten years.

JUDITH: Ah yes, the young ladies in the fetching uniforms. Why are you out of uniform, Robyn?

Robyn is wearing a black Hunky-Dory concert t-shirt and blue jeans.

ROBYN: I'm not one of the Fallen Angels, Judith. Oh, look, here comes your countrymen. Let's see if they have sharp eyes.

Waves of Israeli fighters come over the airfield. The first wave was supposed to bomb the airstrip, but they see the runway is already damaged far more effectively than their conventional bombs could do. The first wave veers off to double back, intending to use their bombs on aircraft instead.

The second wave uses their cannons to cut the MiG-21s to pieces as they sit parked on the concrete, or even as they taxi to attempt to use a runway that cannot now be used. The first wave of runway bombers return as a third wave and target three Tu-16 bombers. Nothing at the base remains airworthy, and the runway itself will take longer to repair than the war will now endure. The same scene is repeated across ten other airfields.

ROBYN: Judith, you can now go anywhere you wish, at any time you wish. When you are debriefed, tell your superiors this attack was the gift of the B'nei Elohim, and tell them we have designated you to be our only liason with the IDF. I think you will find your career taking a sudden and rapid turn for the better.

And before Judith's eyes, Robyn winks out of existence.

President Nasser tells King Hussein of Jordan nothing of the sudden loss of his entire air force. He tells the king it was the Israeli air force, rather, that has been completely destroyed. Proceeding on the basis of this misinformation the king orders his troops to cross the border and his planes to begin bombing targets in Israel. Syria and Iraq attack at precisely the same time.

Within two hours, Israeli warplanes drive back the invading forces and destroy the bulk of Syrian and Jordanian air assets with aerial dogfights and ground attacks. Four hundred Arab aircraft are destroyed in the first day of fighting, leaving about three hundred operational planes, but there are very few runways left operational from which to launch them, and none in Egypt. That fact alone decides the outcome of the war in favor of Israel. The rest is just icing on the cake

On June 6th, Nasser makes another phone call to King Hussein to tell him American and British planes destroyed his entire air force on the first day. Nasser half-believes that lie himself. To admit the Israelis had somehow decapitated his entire air force would imply that mere Jews were militarily superior to Arabs, which was, of course, utterly unthinkable. So it must have been the Anglo-Americans went his muddled thinking.

On the morning of June 7th Captain Judith Gervasi (now wearing an updated IDF uniform and packing the latest Uzi with a folding stock, both courtesy of the B'nei Elohim) receives orders to report to General David Elazar at his Northern Command, based out of Galilee, where she is to be given a field promotion to rav seren, or major, and command of a full battalion. Judith arrives at her duty station almost instantaneously, accepts her new rank insignia, and spends the rest of that day and most of the night evaluating the readiness of her troops and briefing her staff.


216 VICTORY

On June 8th General Elazar drives to Tel Aviv to get permission from Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin to attack the Golan Heights, lest the Syrians be left in a position to shell settlers from there after the war draws to a close. At first the proposal is rejected, but overnight it becomes clear the Egyptian army is in a state of disintegration. Moshe Dayan, the Minister of Defense, overrules Rabin and authorizes the Golan attack.

By June 9th Judith and Bravo battalion are in bitter hand-to-hand fighting against Syrians manning fortifications in the Golan Heights, which their enemy defends with impressive tenacity. But future President-for-life Hafez al-Assad, then the Minister of Defense in Syria, begins to fear for his own hide. He orders the Golan defenders to withdraw to reinforce his forces along the route to the capital city of Damascus, which lies only forty miles away from the front line.

As the Syrians give ground through the night, Judith's battalion advances, but the fighting remains fierce and exhausting. Still, the fact that Israel has total air supremacy makes the outcome inevitable. By the evening of June 10 it is all over. After only six days of hard fighting, Israel possesses three times the territory she did before the war.

No Egyptian forces of any strength remain to prevent the IDF from reaching Cairo even if they chose to do so, which they ultimately do not. Egypt's infantry has been reduced to thousands of thirsty, barefooted stragglers walking west to cross over the Sinai Canal. As long as they keep moving west, the IDF lets them go. Israel is already burdened with 7,000 Egyptian prisoners as things stand.

The whole Sinai peninsula is annexed by Israel, which completely isolates the Gaza Strip. Sharm is abandoned by the Egyptians in the face of a strong amphibious assault. A chain of IDF fortresses designed to block any future Egyptian attack is built along the east bank of the canal. This is called the Bar-Lev Line, but it is never staffed by appropriate numbers of Israeli troops, despite Judith's incessant warnings, and this foolish policy allows Egypt to attack once again in 1973.

The ancient capital of Jerusalem falls completely into Israeli hands after nearly two thousand years. Jordanian forces are driven east across the Jordan River, leaving the entire West Bank, also called Judea and Samaria, under IDF occupation. The State of Israel now controls the lives of a million Palestinian Arabs, and this is to come with its own host of problems well into any future the B'nei Elohim establish.

Syria loses their territory in the strategic Golan Heights. A helicopter takes IDF soldiers to the summit of snowy Mt. Hermon to take possession of the radar facilities there. This broad and tall mountain, whose snows are the source of the Jordan River, becomes the eyes and ears of Israel.

Total Israeli losses are about 700 dead. This butcher's bill is far smaller than had been feared on the eve of the war, but it is still a heavy burden for their families and communities to bear. Arab losses are much higher. In the Sinai alone there are 15,000 Egyptian corpses left unburied on the desert sands.

Israel, despite her relatively small population, has stabilized as the regional superpower of the Middle-East. A roughly equal number of Jews dwell in the United States, where they lived in conditions much safer than in Eretz Yisrael, but they were still of the Diaspora. They are not home in the land that had been promised to Abraham, and if the Jews had learned anything over the previous three thousand years it was that seemingly favorable conditions abroad were liable to change precisely because they, as a tribe, as a people, never changed. Something buried deep inside the rest of humanity could never accept that.


217 REMATCH

After the Six Days War Judith Gervasi learns that Robyn wasn't kidding about the privileges of being a member of the B'nei Elohim. Judith found that she needed only mention to Dory, mentally, that she wanted an office in Tel Aviv and she was immediately whisked there, to find her new office outfitted to precisely the specifications she had in mind but didn't yet vocalize.

But while the B'nei Elohim are willing to bend to her will in all things, Judith found the IDF and the Israeli government were much more stubborn, despite a low-level conflict that continued to simmer between Egypt and Israel over the Sinai peninsula. When the destroyer Eilat was sunk by the Egyptians in October of 1967, despite Lilith's fervent warnings that it would happen, she grows frustrated, closes the liason office in Tel Aviv, and emigrates to the United States to teach at a college on the Eastern seaboard.

Judith spends her weekends at the kibbutz in Yad Mordechai, but never mentions how she is able to travel back and forth with such frequency or ease. It is over one of these weekends at the kibbutz, in 1973, that another full-scale war between the Arabs and the Israelis begins.

Egypt crosses the Suez Canal on October 6 while Israel is basically shut down for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Egypt's attack consists of 240 warplanes and two thousand pieces of artillery, followed by eight thousand troops crossing over the Suez Canal. At the same time, six hundred Syrian tanks advance across the uplands known as the Golan Heights.

Mobilization orders go out to the reservists and regulars of the Israel Defense Force while the soldiers are at home, or attending synagogue, or even living overseas. Judith Gervasi, as an adjunct professor living in the United States, is sent a telegram, but she is already in Yad Mordechai and tarries a while to simulate the flight time from America.

Lilith reports for duty once more at General David Elazar's Northern Command on October 8, in uniform as a sgan aluf, or Lieutenant Colonel. At forty-five years of calendar age she is a little long in the tooth as combatants went, but Lilith had shaved ten years off her chronological age with a time jump. Also, Judith spends much of her time between Arab-Israeli wars conditioning herself for the next Arab-Israeli war, and is actually in excellent physical shape.

By Oct. 10 the Israeli counterattack in the Golan reaches the line from which Syria launched their attack on the first day of the war. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan wants to halt right there, thirty miles from Damascus, to avoid drawing the Soviet Union into the war. General Elazar, by contrast, wants to advance another twenty miles into Syria to set up a strong defensive line and stabilize the northern front. Prime Minister Golda Meir, who has been assured by the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Nixon had her back, sides with Elazar.

The Israeli thrust east from the Golan Heights into Syria begins on the 11th and pushes the Syrians back after fierce fighting. Early that evening, Judith's brigade is already six miles over the border into Syria. A few days later, the Christian commander of Syria's forces in the Golan is executed before a firing squad in Damascus for ordering the withdrawal.

Moshe Dayan goes on television at 2200 hours and reminds the Syrians that the road from Damascus to Israel is also the road from Israel to Damascus. But the next day Iraq enters the war, with fifteen thousand Iraqi troops shoring up the Syrian front. King Hussein of Jordan resists Arab pressure, however, and refuses to move against Israel in yet another war.


218 DEMOBILIZED

In Syria, all eighty tanks of one Iraqi brigade are destroyed by Israeli tanks and planes with absolutely no losses to the Israelis. Another Iraqi tank brigade is blocked by Judith and a demolition crew who arrive at two bridges the tanks needed to cross and slice partway through their support structures with blow torches, letting the weight of the tanks do most of the work. There are no tell-tale explosions. When the bridges collapse, fifty of the eighty tanks were stranded on a dirt island with fewer than ten tanks able to advance, which the IDF Air Force quickly takes off the board.

On October 16, sixty Iraqi tanks are hit on the Golan Heights and they withdraw. The Israelis hold their position just eight miles outside of Damascus and Lilith's brigade of infantry is an important part of this strong offensive line. The IDF also halts five miles west of the road from Damascus to Amman, Jordan, ready to block any late-minute entry of Jordan into the war with a flank attack. The Soviet Union finally grows alarmed at the setbacks experienced by their Arab client states.

At that point the Israelis begin to breathe a sigh of relief, particularly when equally spectacular results are starting to come in from the southern theater of war. But the religious extreme right in Israel, the Haredi, with none of their own boots on the ground (as usual), prevail upon the female Prime Minister Golda Meir to withdraw all female combatants from the front lines of the conflict. In the event she refuses they threaten to take Likud out of the temporary power-sharing arrangement of her Alignment party, which would in turn drive her from office. Meir quickly caves in, and Judith Gervasi is relieved of duty.

When she makes formal protest, General Elazar, demonstrating an extraordinarily short memory of Judith's legendary accomplishments for Israel over the years, barks at her.

DAVID: Give me one reason why I should not carry out these orders rotating you back home?

Judith bares her arm with the six tattooed numerals, 2 7 1 8 2 8. But it is not enough and she is immediately demobilized. She returns to her kibbutz near the Gaza Strip.

As the 1973 Yom Kippur war rages on, President Nixon orders an airlift of military supplies to allow Israel to keep fighting. The Soviets supply their Arab client states continuously throughout the war. To keep Judith away from the temptation to wage war against the Arabs by unofficial means, which is to say, by B'nei Elohim means, she is placed on an empty C-130 Hercules cargo plane on it's way back the United States.

In the Sinai, Israel loses two hundred tanks right away, but a pair of extra tank divisions are rushed forward to halt the Egyptian advance. Eighty percent of Israel's entire inventory of armor that is still operational is sent into the battle, but Egyptian troops using Soviet-supplied anti-tank weaponry hold the Israelis to a line five miles east of the Suez Canal. Meanwhile more Egyptian tanks and infantry massing on their side of the canal are protected from Israeli air attack by a tough shield of anti-air craft missiles guided by radar, again courtesy of the Soviet Union.

On October 13 the Egyptians try to break through two mountain passes in the Sinai. What follows is the largest tank battle on Earth since the 1943 battle of Kursk between Germany and Russia and the second largest tank battle anywhere, ever, involving nearly two thousand tanks. During the battle a total of 264 Egyptian tanks are knocked out, to Israel's ten. On the 14th another Egyptian attack on the Suez Canal is stopped with the destruction of 200 tanks and a thousand Egyptian soldiers killed.


219 NUCLEAR

The following day a third battle is fought at the meeting point between the Egyptian Second and Third Armies that serves as an administration area for both armies and headquarters for the 16th Infantry Division. Tanks fire at practically point blank range. Egypt loses 150 tanks to Israel's eighty.

Overnight an IDF parachute brigade establishes a toehold on the other side of the Canal. Two forward-deployed Egyptian anti-aircraft missile bases are taken out, allowing Israel to establish air superiority over the western bank of the Suez Canal.

A veritable conveyor belt of Soviet war supplies move by air to Egypt and Syria, while the Americans supply Israel from their own endless abundance. But when the Soviet Union sees the Arabs checked in the Golan and now in the Suez, and Nixon refuses to pressure Israel to allow the trapped Third Army to escape, Leonid Brezhnev begins airlifting Soviet troops to Cairo to supplement the Egyptians.

Passing through the strait of the Dardenelles, Soviet naval forces in the Mediterranean reach a total of 97 ships, including 23 submarines, while the US adds a third carrier battle group from Spain for a total of 60 ships. Three carriers in a theater always heralds war.

Nixon takes the US to DEFCON 3 and sends the 101st Airborne into the Sinai to counterbalance the Soviet troops, but events are moving fast and there is insufficient time to match the Soviets troop-for-troop. Nixon tells Brezhnev that sending any more troop transport planes would be crossing a red line, but Brezhnev calls his bluff.

Fighters from the USS Independence shoot down the next cargo plane hauling Soviet troops. Brezhnev replies with a nuclear-tipped torpedo round fired at the Independence. The United States didn't even know the Soviets had nuclear torpedoes. The weapon didn't even have to be close. The blast takes out the carrier, several support ships steaming alongside, and even damages the Soviet submarine that fired it. The Cold War has just gone hot.

Nixon orders weapons red and free on all Soviet forces in the Mediterranean, and the two sides slug it out. Both remaining US carriers are taken out, but the Soviet naval forces definitely come off much the worse. But this hardly matters at all. An exchange of ICBMs takes out the American and the Soviet capital cities, killing ten million people instantly and many more people after the fact. Then the two superpowers go back into their own corners to assess what is happening and see if the other side is willing to escalate.

A few more items on each side's laundry list are nuked, such as the Hanford site in the US where Robyn and Hunky were once held, and the Sevastopol navy base, but Brezhnev and Nixon are both dead, and cooler heads don't think losing more millions of lives would be worth what either side has gained by the war, which is precisely nothing. F


220 MIKE

By any stretch of the imagination the things Mike Morrich sees in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 1973 far surpasses anything Judith had witnessed or endured in the death camps. At seventeen, Mike is a pretty good kid. Sure he's a skinny young black man with a wild afro, but nobody living in the Seventies would look back a few decades later and say they were proud of their hair.

Mikes father has a civil service job, his parents are still together, and Mike loves both of them. If he had been born ten or twenty years later, he would have been the exception rather than the rule. So that Friday he's on the job site in a cavern which is dug under the city, a space intended to become an ornate Metro station when the system was slated to open just three years later, although it never would. Mike doesn't have any construction skills per se, and lacks the upper body strength in any event, but his job is simply to keep the area as clean as possible while the other men work. He does so with a great deal of youthful energy.

The lights go out and there is something like a long earthquake. An eerie white light reflects down one of the connecting tunnels and hot dust fills the cavern even as the light fades to red. But the light never disappears entirely. The city above was on fire. Mike Morrich and his co-workers are lucky, there are very few survivors so close to the footprint of the Soviet fusion warhead.

The yield and corresponding destruction is many times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. On Pennsylvania Avenue between the places where the White House and the Capitol building once sat is now a huge crater so hot the Potomac River continually turns to steam before it can fill the hole. Surrounding this is a ring of total destruction where the Supreme Court, the Treasury building, and all the famous monuments used to be.

When Mike steps out of the subway tunnel and looks to where his home used to be he sees the view is largely unobstructed, yet there is no way for him to locate exactly where it was. All the landmarks are gone. He knows in that instant that he is an orphan. There is no point in even trying to look for his parents. They are as gone as anyone can possibly be. So he turns and begins to walk in what he guessed was the next best direction, which is away from the pillar of steam that is ground zero. As he walks, he passes through a ring of human bodies that are almost recognizable, for they are charred black, and even the beer bottles and car windows lying at their feet are melted.

He passes through a ring of half-standing blackened buildings with white shadows along their base that had been people blocking the burning radiation of the initial flash. There Mike has to pick his way through the rubble of structures that had already been burned out just to exit to the next ring.

Mike passes through a ring of people who are still alive, but burned so badly they have no hope of recovery, and they are in such a state of shock that they feel nothing, make no sound, and would soon die. They are actually the lucky ones.

He passes through a ring of people who do make a sound, for each of them are immersed in a sea of absolutely unendurable agony that never stops. They have stripped themselves naked because clothes only make the pain worse, and their arms are held at a forty-five degree angle at their side, for if their arms touch their bodies the pain of the contact is too great.

Mike is forced to remain in this ring until the fires of the rings farther away burn themselves out. He hasn't been injured, but even as he walks the residual radiation of the blast does its invisible dirty work, tearing at the DNA in his body, so that in the end, five years later, he does in fact become a victim of the attack with a painful bone cancer. 221 CONFEDERACY

With Washington DC and much of the surrounding area devastated, America went through a profound political shift, far exceeding that of the Civil War. The United States was reduced to New England, New York, and everything north of the Ohio River as far west as Minnesota. The western half of the states of Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Northern California, including San Francisco, formed a new nation called Pacifica. Everything else was reorganized as the New Confederate States of America. There's not much the US could do about secession this time because the bulk of America's former military assets were concentrated in the south and on the West coast.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died a year before the attack, and his longtime close companion Clyde Tolson, as acting Director, didn't try to use Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization (DECON) dirty laundry to force Nixon to name him as the new Bureau chief. Instead, Nixon passed over Clyde and also number three Mark Felt to name L. Patrick Gray as the head of the FBI. He soon became known to less-than-admiring subordinates as "Three Day Gray" for his propensity to serve abbreviated work weeks. However, Tolson did use the dirt in the DECON files to ensure Congress appropriated funding, entirely off the books, to keep DECON in the black and not even the President knew the agency existed.

After the capital was destroyed and the FBI was decapitated DECON had a lot of surviving infrastructure. It naturally slipped into place to fill the role of internal security in the New Confederacy. Director Clyde Tolson survived, and his obsession with the B'nei Elohim survived with him, although the intensity of this obsession waxes and wanes. In 1978 the obsession began to wax again. But Tolson's longtime confidante in the investigation, Dr. Ian Trochmann, has been retired for years, and lives in Connecticut on the other side of what is now an international border. When Tolson decided to ramp up the B'nei Elohim project again he sought to bring Doctor Amanda Chase into DECON after an absence of twenty-four years.


The Hanford site in south-eastern Washington State where Robyn and Hunky were once held was also nuked in Black '73 but it is about the size of a county and portions are still in use five years later. The four reactors are completely gone, of course, and Walla Walla, downwind, is a ghost town, but contamination levels in the corner along the Columbia River closer to the Tri-Cities approach the only slightly elevated levels that existed prior to the attack. There has always been some radiation ever since the facility was established to make plutonium for bombs like Fat Boy, which was used at Nagasaki in World War Two. This corner is still in use.

Since 1964 the headquarters of DECON had been located here, or rather relocated, after the office in Greendome had been...compromised. Every day for a half-hour Tolson sits in an anteroom to contemplate a glass case displaying the dessicated black shape of the modified brain of Jerry Shybear. The amount of science DECON had been able to obtain by studying the onceliving subject was maddeningly limited, on account of the insufficiently advanced state of technology in the 1940s, 1950s, and even 1960s. But much had been learned since that time, and Tolson, fully aware he was in the twilight of his own life, thought to attack the problem one more time.

The New Confederacy is contemplating shutting Hanford down for good, but there is still a lot of useful infrastructure, a rail network, a power grid, and empty structures. The isolation and security are attractive when not only DECON but private industry meditated doing something that isn't entirely kosher from a human rights standpoint, such as aggressive human drug trials. In 1976 the Pharmadigm corporation began researching an anesthetic that, it was hoped, would revolutionize surgery by eliminating the anesthetologist and avoiding the danger of keeping the patient just on this side of death. Three years later the drug trials failed, and Pharmadigm began closing up shop.


222 AMANDA

Tolson thought the collapse of Pharmadigm's drug trials was exquisitely fortuitous for himself, if not for the company, since he knew Dr. Chase would never agree to see him otherwise. She left DECON in 1964 under lessthan-happy circumstances, and her clearance level precluded an explanation that would have averted her departure. Now, on the Saturday before what would have been her final week at Hanford, Amanda Chase agreed to be driven some distance across the huge installation to meet Tolson once more, because he was dangling a job.

Twenty-four years had taken the edge of any bitterness she still felt, and accepting a glass of wine from Clyde did much to smooth off much of what remained. But Clyde set about to move Dr. Chase from a state of neutral apathy to active alliance. All it required was the truth.

TOLSON: Despite the disagreement you think we had, Dr. Chase, over what to do with the subjects from Greendome, I still consider your genetic studies to be brilliant. Your discovery of the Z sex chromosome, and the way you made even a dummy like me understand it.

Amanda had shown Tolson an image of a normal X chromosomes from a white blood cell, a long capsule and a short capsule joined at a constriction she called a centromere. Then she showed a chromosome from a member of the Red Wing of the Church of Green Dome, and how it was three identically short capsules joined by two centromeres. It was like a set of triple nunchucks, and could drift into the shape of the letter N, or Z.

AMANDA: Some of my colleagues at the time put it down as a neocentromere, but neocentromeres in humans are associated with chromosome breakage during cell division, and it's a deadly mutation. Our subjects continued in good health.

CLYDE: And because the Z chromosome was a sex chromosome, we were introduced to four entirely new sexes. I remember that we decided to use the name for these sexes that the subject used for themselves. What were they, the ones with two genitals apiece? Yin, yang, jen, and something?

AMANDA: Ambi. But more to the point, sir, the sex chromosome could be, and indeed had already been, transmitted to offspring. There were ninety subjects in that mountain, and you assured me that we had them all.

CLYDE: We did, and I remember your recommendation to sterilize them.

AMANDA: The fertility rate, you understand? Left unchecked they would entirely displace our own species.

CLYDE: And do you remember my objection to sterilization? That it could be reversed?

AMANDA: Cutting tubes is reversible. Removing ovaries and testicles is not. Of course, I was not prepared to embrace the solution that you ultimately settled on, which is why I quit DECON, and also why I'm reticent to return.

CLYDE: Dr. Chase, I would be very disappointed if you were to imply I had those ninety people killed.

AMANDA: Yet overnight the mountain was cleared out, and not one of the ninety ever surfaced again. I understand that you had to maintain deniability, Director Tolson, but I couldn't be party to that.

CLYDE: And yet, Dr. Chase, I can assure you that only one of our subjects ever died in DECON custody, the first one. Jerry Shybear. This fellow right here.


223 FREDDY

And Tolson displays the modified brain of Jerry Shybear, the relic he has contemplated nearly every day since 1947. He rotates it to show Amanda the connector of white bone in the back, a cup with 55 pins.

CLYDE: You remember how all our subjects presented with this structure, of course.

AMANDA: Yes, and our idea was that the Z chromosome had something to do with it. But some of our subjects had the structure and no Z chromosome. I wanted to explore whether the genes that expressed as that structure were crossing from the Z chromosomes of the parents to the X or the Y of the children. But all that was cut short.

CLYDE: You might also remember how any information related to this structure was classified. The disappearance of the ninety subjects was also classified, Dr. Chase, but if you are willing to join me once more, I will tell you everything. I can say that what you feared is not what happened.

AMANDA: I would require evidence, of course.

CLYDE: Presently. First tell me what happened at Pharmadigm. Why are they letting you go?

AMANDA: Anesthesiology. It's more of an art than a science. We're trying to bring the person on the operating table as close as possible to dying with out actually crossing the line so they miss out on all the gory, agonizing parts. Our drug targeted only the gray matter of the brain. It completely shut down the higher functions of consciousness, but left the involuntary functions like breathing completely alone. You wouldn't even need to have an anesthesiologist attend the surgery. But during the drug trial the first subject reported a long and rather vivid dream.

CLYDE: Who was the test subject?

AMANDA: I chose a Mr. Fred Aspin, who was to be executed for the crime of killing Oboe Man for his spare change. I chose this Freddy Aspin because I realized we might have to abort the trial after two or three tests and he was the most anxious to continue. Freddy had every incentive to be truthful. He was on death row for killing Oboe Man. The company found an appellate court that was willing to give him a lighter sentence if he participated in our drug trial.

CLYDE: So what happened?

AMANDA: I'll let Freddy speak for himself. I thought you would be interested, so I came prepared.

Dr. Chase pulls a battery-powered Phillips cassette tape recorder out of her purse and sets it on the table between herself and Tolson.

AMANDA: A little background, first. Freddy Aspin was a soldier in the New Confederate Army who served in South Minnesota during the conflict that flared up there. You might remember the issues involved.

CLYDE: Yes, for one thing the United States insisted on retaining the original borders of the state, while the NCSA insisted on taking the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers as natural borders.

She nods her head, presses a key, and Freddy begins to speak.


224 MINNESOTA

"I knew I was dreaming even while I dreamed, and I thought, what a complete bummer! I thought I was moving through a dark tunnel and getting closer to a bright white light. The light wiggled. It was just a flashlight being held by a New Confederate soldier who was waking me up in a tent. He said, Aspin, get your dumb ass up on the wire, you're late!' So it was just a dream about Minnesota. It was, in fact, the day I got fucked up, in rewind.

"I grabbed my rifle and my gear and stumbled my way toward the business end of the observation post. There was no volition in any of my movements. Somehow I was just riding behind my own eyes. The whole prairie was lit up by a flare, but it was fading. Corporal Street said, 'We got ourselves a visitor.'

"He nudged the bayonet-tipped muzzle of his rifle toward a certain spot just as a fresh flare cast enough light for me to see what he was pointing at. There was the headless body of a Canuckistani fighter lying there, and an up-ended pot of pink and yellow stew where his head and helmet should be. I'd seen this sort of thing countless times before. 'Adios motherfucker!' was all I had to say to the Yankee.

"To Corporal Street I said, 'How'd he get through the perimeter?

"'Probably started crawling at sundown,' the Corporal said. 'Now we know why they started irrigating this particular bean field this morning. The water covered the sound of him crawling. After this asshole came calling we've been watching with night scopes, but we haven't seen anyone else moving out there.'

"Famous last words. A dozen Yankees had been crawling toward the observation post inside the irrigation canal, invisible to the sniperscope under the cool water even as other jihadis drew the attention of my unit by land. When the flares started this only slowed them down, forced them to move only between bursts. There were eight NC troops in the position, and two of them were sleeping. When the enemy came over the sandbag wall they outnumbered us two to one. I'm the only one who survived the initial assault.

"They wired one of my arms to some nails in a stump, tight! Another Yankee brandished an axe. And the axe fell. I screamed in pain. I was the victim of a certain unit of Rangers who were inspired by Muslims and the way they dealt with thieves. To them, New Confederates occupying any portion of Minnesota were stealing the land, and faithful Muslims knew what to do with thieves. Off with their hands!

"Dreams aren't supposed to hurt! It felt like the real thing, this dream. So you know what you can do with your so-called anesthetic! I didn't die there in Jackson, Minnesota, but in my dream I guess I did. I went to heaven, which was a forest with a pool surrounded by a wooden deck.

"The Savior was shorter than I always imagined He would be, and not nearly as good looking as the Hollywood versions. He had brown skin, black eyes, and no beard, but His leather sandals were right out of the gospels. He was seated at a wooden desk near the Sacred Pool, drinking wine and reviewing paperwork. The Lord pointed his hand, and I settled into a wide wicker chair in front of Him.

"Two armed female guards in green garb complete with bird feathers stood behind Him, to his left and right, flashing thigh, but they made a point of ignoring me with intense military bearing. I've been in prison a long time and I couldn't help saying, 'Both of you girls got pretty nice sticks.'


225 INTERVIEW

"Jesus told me, 'I'm reading about the slow-motion train wreck that was the life of one Frederick Aspin. Oboe Man had, what, seventeen dollars in quarters?

"'I've paid my debt to society, Lord,' I said.

"He said, 'I'm a busy man, as you can imagine. Normally you get your outbrief from a close relative who preceded you. I only get the hardest of the hard cases.' And Jesus, reading the last page of my file, shuffled all the papers together and closed it up. He looked at me with infinite sadness and shook His head. He said, 'It would do a great disservice to you were I to take a life like yours and extend it indefinitely.'

"I just chuckled, and said, 'Normally a decision like that would set me to worrying a little bit, but this is all just a bad trip. I'm hallucinating all of this! I just have to wait until the drug wears off and goodbye to You. In fact, I can feel it wearing off already.'

"Jesus said, 'Ahh, it's a drug. That explains what's going on. Clever! Chokhmah told me you people in the Twentieth would probably stumble on to something like this. We must craft an appropriate response.'

"'Craft away,' I said, 'neither you nor your followers can stop me from doing this.' And I shed my white terry cloth robe, dove into his Sacred Pool and swam headfirst into darker waters, far away from the light. What a crazy dream. That's some powerful stuff you whipped up, Dr. Chase! But never again!"

The interview was over. Amanda stopped the tape.

AMANDA: We have another subject lined up, a Michael Morrich, but after the test with Freddy, the clinical trial of this drug as an anesthetic was officially called off. The memory of Freddy's pain was so vivid he refused to take the drug again.

CLYDE: How do you know he's not lying?

AMANDA: As I said, Freddy Aspin was a convicted murderer on death row who has been promised, in return for participating in the research, the reduction of his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. By refusing to go on with the drug trial he forfeits this opportunity and goes back to Colorado to face the electric chair.

CLYDE: I understand. No one is going to sign up for a guaranteed Near Death Experience or even a lucid dream when all they want to do is sleep straight through an operation.

AMANDA: Yes. So Pharmadigm is closing up shop here at Hanford, and that's too bad for the other "volunteer", a Mr. Mike Morrich. It's a death sentence for Michael, in fact. He faces a slow and painful death by cancer and has no financial means to manage the pain. For his participation he was promised ongoing treatment. But now the whole project is canceled.

CLYDE: Yet there is still hope for Morrich and even Aspin. You are not the only acquisition I hope to pick up from Pharmadigm's going-out-ofbusiness sale. We're transferring the two "volunteers" over here. I've got another use for them, and I would like you to supervise the tests.

AMANDA: What do you mean, Mr. Tolson? What sort of tests?

Tolson adjusts the brain of Jerry Shybear to align with Amanda.

TOLSON: We've come across the first new case of what I term "Black Brain Disease" since the Greendome thing in 1964.

226 AGREEMENT

AMANDA: And what, exactly, was the '1964 thing' Mr. Tolson?

CLYDE: We all thought there were only ninety cases, and that we had custody of all of them. We were greatly mistaken. The ninety were not put down, as you seem to think they were, they were rescued by others of their kind.

AMANDA: Rescued? How?

CLYDE: Do you remember the interior of that mountain, the one called Green Dome? How it was rotted through and through with caves and tunnels? DECON didn't do that. Our subjects did, although we could never get anyone of them to reveal how they did it. Apparently the whole adjacent town of Greendome was a nest of underground tunnels as well. It only remained for one of them to connect the two networks.

AMANDA: How can you assure me this is all true?

CLYDE: Think of our own investment in Green Dome, how we built out using the existing tunnels. Then, after one day, we are forced to abandon the whole mountain as compromised, as compromisable. And so we meet here, at Hanford, in less suitable circumstances.

AMANDA: You said you found a new case. Is he or she alive?

CLYDE: I have in my custody one Dr. Judith Gervasi, a person of dual British-Israeli citizenship. She is an officer in the Israeli Defense Force and a former associate professor of linguistics at a college in New Jersey that has since shut its doors. She says she was born fifty years ago, in 1928, but she looks much younger, and is in nearly perfect physical condition, except for marks of torture that she received in the German death camps, and of course the bone cup.

AMANDA: I wonder what the Nazis thought about the bone cup.

CLYDE: She says she was changed after returning from the camps.

AMANDA: Why is she volunteering?

CLYDE: As you know, our countrymen tend to blame the Jews for making the Cold War go hot. We're not as bad as the Nazis, we're not putting them in camps, but deportation to what's left of Tel Aviv is certain death, and a wretched one at that, similar to what Mike Morrich is facing. Judith is co-operating with DECON to avoid that fate. And I find her to be the most co-operative subject we've ever had.

AMANDA: I would like to meet her.

CLYDE: Just say the word, Dr. Chase, join this project, and everything will be thrown wide open to you.

AMANDA: But what is it that you expect me to do?

CLYDE: Well, Dr. Chase, it turns out we were hunting down a dead end when we thought all the physical changes in the subjects were attributable to the Z chromosome, or genes from the Z crossing over to another one. Already with Judith I've learned a very interesting thing. One could extract a dark fluid from the center of the bone cup with a syringe, inject it into a dog, and the dog will develop the bone cup as well. I want you to supervise the same procedure, but with our friends Freddy and Mike.

AMANDA: I will accept the position, Director Tolson, but I need full access, or the science will be as compromised as that Green Dome mountain.

CLYDE: Then we have an agreement. Welcome back.


227 CABLE

Judith and Mike stay in a clinic very much like the one where Robyn and Hunky were held during the War, but they are not confined. Or at least, they are not made to feel as though they were confined. Tolson imagines Judith will be more communicative if she does not feel like a captive, and indeed Judith is quite free with her information. She is the first subject to reveal to him how the Change was initiate in her, a pinprick from a white apparition. This information led him to try the approach of using the fluid extracted from her bone cup.

Amanda performed the injection herself, first Mike Morrich, then Freddy Aspin, who is merely on loan from the Colorado state pen. Freddy is confined, unlike Mike and Judith, located elsewhere on Hanford nearly twenty miles to the northwest across mostly empty land. Based on what he knew from Robyn and Hunky in 1943, and affirmed by Judith, there would be a period of roughly ten days when the subjects would be in a deep coma. This again proved to be the case with Mike and Freddy.

One night during those ten days, when Amanda had completed her tests and questions, Judith dons a jacket and steps outside of the clinic for a walk. There is no guard this time, as there had been with Robyn and Hunky so long ago. Perhaps Clyde Tolson thought the outer fence was guard enough. And with Reactor Row blasted away, there was no array of yellow sodium lights to mar the view of the night sky. At some distance from the clinic, in the clear desert air Judith looked skyward and could see the ghostly white bands of the Milky Way.

MICHAELA: It's beautiful, isn't it, Judith?

Judith is startled, because Michaela had begun speaking without Judith being aware anyone was near. But she quickly recovers.

JUDITH: Robyn made a promise to me. She said I could obtain anything I wished to have, anything at all. I've begged Dory to take me away from this place but she has shut me out. And she says you are to blame.

MICHAELA: If you must be angry, direct your wrath at me, not at Robyn, and certainly not at Dory. There are things that must happen before you may leave.

JUDITH: Which things?

MICHAELA: Well, we must save Michael Morrich, for one thing. And we must save Freddy too. As for yourself, Judith, do you not know that you can leave at any time? You are the most powerful of the B'nei Elohim, it only remains for you to learn how to use your talent. And there remains a thing I would ask you to do for me. Let us sit together here on the ground.

Michael seats herself on the rocky soil, only sparsely vegetated with clumps of dry grass. Judith sits very close, facing her. And Michaela unravels the same Purple Cable smuggled out of Hanford by Hunky all those decades ago. Sha plugs one end of the cable into the bone cup at the back of har own head, and holds the other end out in front of Judith.

MICHAELA: There is so much I need to tell you and show you that words will not suffice, so I must use moving images. This will be like the cinema, Judith. But as in all things, you are entirely free to decline.

JUDITH: Tell me what I must do.

MICHAELA: Place the end of this cable into the connector at the back of your head and rotate it a bit clockwise and counter-clockwise until it slides into place.

Judith does what Michaela has bid her to do.


228 TOUR

Michaela showed Judith the Bootes Void, 300 million light-years across with no clusters at all, only a few lonely galaxies scattered within. This was the structure of the largest scale of the universe: Walls of galactic superclusters, which formed the surface of large voids. The universe was built like a vast sponge. Michaela moved towards the wall of one of the voids, thousands of galaxy groups stretching across a billion light years of space.

In passing Michaela pointed out the Sculptor and Phoenix superclusters, but moved toward the Vega Supercluster, which in turn was moving toward what Michael called the Great Attractor.

And Michaela takes them even further in, and Judith sees that the Vega Supercluster has a satellite called the Local Group with 150 large galaxies and a thousand dwarf galaxies, all bound together by gravity. It was a galaxy made up of galaxies, orbiting a core that is 35 million light-years away. And the Vega supercluster of which the Local Group was a part is only one of 300,000 superclusters in the visible universe.

And Judith learned there were 2 billion trillion stars in the visible universe, but only a tiny fraction of these were awake like Michaela or Binah.

Judith now saw more clearly the forty galaxies of the Local Group, dominated by the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.

MICHAELA: We count ten billion large galaxies like our own, and a hundred billion lesser galaxies.

Moving toward the Milky Way, Michaela points out Rho Cassiopeia, 4,000 light years away from Earth, a huge supergiant star 100, 000 times more luminous than the Sun.

MICHAELA: Behold Mastema, my absent eloah father.

Zooming into the Milky Way, Michaela takes them to the Pleiades star cluster near the constellation Taurus, and then the Hyades cluster further on. There Michaela shows how the Earth's sun is snuggled in along the outskirts of Collinder 285, a former cluster which was widely scattered now, but a few core stars remained close together, and men call it the Big Dipper.

Judith sees the thick planetary accretion disk forming around Epsilon Eridani, and she sees the mighty white star Procyon, twice the size of the sun, quite a contrast from dull red Cickas 5115, a star even more dim than Proxima. Michaela shows Judith the red-orange star called Lalande 21185, and how all of her efforts are geared toward getting Dory close enough to talk to the eloah whose physical body is that star.

Then they turn to Sol, and there is a subtle change. Judith can feel it. Everything up to that point had been a movie manufactured by Michaela. But now they were in the vicinity of the Earth's sun, things had somehow become much more real. It was, in fact real, the images were being provided through the moving end of Binah's fold-line from heaven. Judith learns to move this end at will, for this is the first step to teleportation. She must visualize the destination before she could step through. Judith tours the outer planets for a time, then ends looking out at the Earth.

MICHAELA: This planet alone in the galaxy, as far as we know, has the combination of a stable sun, a self-moderating climate, a magnetic field to shield it from cosmic rays, a large moon to dampen wobble due to precession, a large gas-giant planet to vacuum up most of the stray comets and asteroids, the optimum rate of spin to moderate both temperature extremes and stormy weather, an active geology to rebuild eroded lands, and a fully functioning water cycle. All of these things were necessary to lead to the development of human life.


229 GENESIS

Each one of these things are shown to Judith in turn. After that Michaela takes control. Together they plunge into the sea, and the view, by necessity, becomes cinematic again, because the world of the very small cannot be traced accurately with visible light.

MICHAELA: In the beginning the ocean of Earth was saturated with the ingredients of life. These are the amino acids and nucleic acids which form naturally on many planets or even in deep space following to the exquisitely tuned laws of chemistry selected by the Old One for this universe.

And Judith watches some of the amino acids slam into each other and stick together for a short time, forming random shapes, but these rickety structures are soon torn apart again. But some of the amino acids bind to nucleic acids which gives them more stability, and allows them to polymerize into chains. The chains are still subject to being broken, but the components of the chains tend to survive.

Floating underwater in the sunlight of a new star, buffeted by chains of wiggling crystal maggots, Judith watches a new structure assemble itself randomly from smaller chains. And this structure is capable of a very primitive form of replication. It methodically splits along the weak hydrogen bonds uniting the amino acids to the nucleic acids, and repairs the moving breach with raw molecules floating nearby. In a short time, two nearly identical structures are present, and each one is capable of replicating again. Two becomes four, four becomes eight, eight becomes sixteen. Life on Earth has begun. Random thermal collisions can still destroy the fragile structures, but now they could replace themselves with nearly identical children faster than they could age. And the changes in the successive generations permit evolution to occur. Those molecules with changes which hamper replication tend to be outnumbered by molecules with changes that accelerate replication.

MICHAELA: In just a century the entire ocean was filled with copies of these strands floating in a soup of food.

Judith watches competition begin. Broken pieces of the replicator are hoarded, since it is quicker to assemble partially-built sections than to build sections a block at a time. These hoards are raided by eating. The single-strand RNA-protein creatures gradually give way to more sturdy double-stranded DNA creatures with a kind of error-correction that can resist mutation, bringing evolution to a slower but more manageable pace. The RNA is re-utilized as messengers to carry the DNA information to complicated structures which assemble raw protein into an endless variety of molecular machines, including even a copy of the machine that translates the RNA. At this point life in the fullest sense has begun. After the sea has filled with life even the land is colonized by them.

MICHAELA: Here on this planet, alone in all the known universe, did a species evolve whose natural gait was to walk on two legs, leaving two hands free to manipulate its environment. It is a tragic misfortune that the first meeting of elohim and humans took place under the cloud of sequestration, but Milcom and Thaumiel set up a community of elohim isolated from the greater community as a kind of harem. I am committed to reversing that and restoring humans, nephilim, angels, and the other elohim in this bubble to full union with El, and one day with the Old One who is father of all.

JUDITH: Say what you would have me do, Michaela.

MICHAELA: My greatest disciple was a cherub named Lilith, a warrior who died when war came to heaven. To bring final defeat to Thaumiel I would bring Lilith to life once again by having her share the body of a human warrior. With yourself, Judith. In this sharing there would not be two persons, but only one, even as I, Michaela, am one with Chokhmah.


230 POSSESSION

JUDITH: What will it be like?

MICHAELA: I myself have done this once before, when I accepted union with Chokhmah. It will be unlike anything you can imagine. You and Lilith will not be two persons, but one new person. You will know everything that happened to Lilith in heaven, and she will know everything about your own life here, even to knowing your English and Hebrew, yet the new information will not seem a surprise. There are two things you must know before you decide. The first is that once we begin, you can never undo what happens. It's a road with no turning back.

JUDITH: And the second thing?

MICHAELA: Lilith will be the dominant factor in the new person that you become by seven parts in ten. You will still be in there, even as I remember being the young daughter of a glassblower, but the influence that you as Judith will have on the new person will be three parts in ten. I tell you this, in all truthfulness, for this will be the most important decision you have ever made.

Judith thinks long on the dark wreckage of her life and of her whole world, on how on occasions without number, especially after the destruction of Israel in 1973, she had contemplated ending her own life. But now Michaela, who was the very God of Israel, was confronting her with an ending that was not an ending, and a power greater than any human had ever known, and a purpose that would be the culmination of history. So she took the plunge.

JUDITH: Let it be as you have said, Michaela. You not only have my freelygiven as sent, you have my eager willingness to do this thing.

And so Chokhmah dumped the stored essence of Lilith down the Purple Cable to merge with the mind of Judith, and thought of how Judith's modified brain was changing physically to accommodate the new memories. For the nanotechnology organ that was the result of what Tolson called Black Brain Disease did not rely on ions jumping in and out of nerve cell walls like fans doing the "Wave" at a football game. Instead there were mechanical linkages on a molecular scale, fully integrated with more traditionally electronic circuitry.

When it was done, Princess Lilith started out at Michaela, still attached to har through the cable. The lifetime of memories as Judith did not astonish her, neither did her own lifetime of memories in heaven astonish that part of her that was Judith. The surprising thing was that she had been dead, and now she lived, though Michaela had said it would be so. Through the cable Lilith knew it was really Michaela, but she looked different. Older. Still, she leaned forward to embrace Michaela in love.

LILITH: Michaela! How long have we been apart?

MICHAELA: Ten years for me, since you were slain in the war. But closer to four thousand years in, I suppose I could call it, absolute time.

LILITH: Help me to understand, Lady Michaela, as you did so long ago.

MICHAELA: You already knew I could summon a fold-door, such as when I sent your brother to Earth. My daughter Binah can open a fold-door anywhere in time. Soon we will meet again in the world of our birth.

LILITH: How long must I stay here in the other world?

MICHAELA: Not much longer. When you leave you must take Mike Morrich with you. Freddy will be able to take care of himself. Don't worry about hiding anything from Tolson or Dr. Chase, it won't matter. Soon I will abandon this whole timeline and start again once more.

231 DISAPPEARANCE

For a week Lilith continued to refer to herself as Judith, and answered any questions that Amanda Chase posed to her, yet some of the answers seemed to be insane. At the end of the week Freddy's change is complete. The bump at the back of his head cracks open to reveal the connector. He emerges from his coma. A day later the same happens to Mike. DECON Director Clyde Tolson and Dr. Amanda Chase are present in the clinic to observe.

LILITH: Did you finally see what you wanted to see, Dr. Chase?

AMANDA: Indeed I did, Dr. Gervasi.

She at least acknowledges her Ph.D in Levantine linguistics, even if Clyde Tolson does not.

CLYDE: For three decades I had no subjects like yourself to study. Now I know I can make my own new subjects simply by injecting them with the fluid from existing subjects.

LILITH: But what of your promise to Michael?

AMANDA: Ah yes, we promised to make his painkillers available to him as he dies of his cancer. Yes, we will continue to do so, for as long as he lives. But they will only be available for him here. I'm afraid he didn't read the fine print.

LILITH: And Freddy?

CLYDE: We have already obtained his reprieve. He will not be executed, but he must spend his entire life in confinement, and whether he does that here at Hanford or back in Colorado should make no difference to him.

AMANDA: As for you, Dr. Gervasi, are you not grateful you will not be deported to Israel? Certainly with the radiation and the famine that is a death sentence just as real as Freddy's. You can stay here and help us to understand this thing too.

Lilith walks over and gathers Mike Morrich into har arms in an embrace, and begins a gentle dance with him. When they have turned so that Lilith is facing Tolson and Amanda once more she speaks.

LILITH: I think I can do better for Mike than just make him comfortable as he dies. The B'nei Elohim can use a healer. I think it should be Mike, and he can begin by healing himself. And Freddy goes with us too. He can be our muscle.

Before the watching eyes of Clyde Tolson, Amanda Chase, and two burly orderlies who served as guards, Lilith and Mike simply disappear from the clinic. Their first stop is the cell where Freddy is being held.

LILITH: You're not going back to the state pen, Freddy. Tolson wants you to stay here so he can keep testing his damn drug on you. He wants to keep all of us here until we die. You should go, Freddy. You'll find you have the power to do that now. I'll meet up with you later.

Then sha embraces Mike again, and they pop out of existence. Freddy touches his hand to the bars of his cell, and discovers they are rapidly turning red hot.

When the Soviet Union nuked Reactor Row at Hanford in black '73 they targeted the two active ones on the northeast end, but there were two other reactor complexes miles upriver. The one on the far west end escaped nearly unscathed. This was acceptable to the Russians from a strategic basis because that reactor was the oldest one, the B reactor used for the Nagasaki bomb, and it had already been taken out of service.


232 PYRO

A handful of smaller buildings are left intact in the area where Freddy was held as well. They are too asbestos-ridden to economically tear down, and it was there, separate from Lilith and Mike and under tighter guard, that Freddy Aspin had been held by DECON under the terms laid down by Colorado corrections. The "black brain" of Jerry Shybear was there, as well as the remaining syringes of black fluid that had been extracted from Lilith. Freddy didn't know that Clyde Tolson also used the holding facility to keep every file he had created from his lifelong obsession of Black Brain Disease, but it doesn't matter. Freddy burns it all down. Everything is gone in a fire so hot not even the asbestos could help.

Moving north, Freddy encounters a chain-link fence still standing along the shore of the Columbia River, installed to keep boaters (casual or not) from entering the installation. He makes short work of the fence with his new talent. Apparently he is a pyrokinetic now, though he isn't sure if it came from the second drug or the first one that took him to the screwy afterworld where he saw Jesus. He'd much rather have Lilith's talent, and just pop in and out of places.

Freddy had used his power to snuff out his guards back there too. Killing men no longer gave him much pause. He already crossed that particular Rubicon in Minnesota, and even more so when he killed Oboe Man in Denver, although it was Freddy's story, and hy was sticking to it, that he just gave the street musician a short sharp shock, just like he heard on that song on the radio, and it was Oboe Man's face hitting the sidewalk that actually killed him. By all rights it should have been Involuntary Manslaughter, but no: it was a robbery, so they gave him Murder Two. Then the New Confederacy came in and elevated even Murder Two to the death penalty, ex post fucto.

But killing DECON's two guards? No regrets. If Lilith wasn't bullshitting him, and he had no reason to believe that she was, then DECON and the Confeds didn't intend to let him or her or Mike go free for the rest of their lives, and who knows how many new ones as well. At least in prison Freddy figured he wouldn't be subject to experiencing dreams that physically hurt.

Later, a seraph would introduce harself to Freddy as Michaela and explain (using concepts he didn't understand at first, like Maxwell's Demon) that the energy hy conjured forth didn't just pop into being from nothing but actually came from the ambient temperature of the fence itself, focused somehow by Freddy into a white-hot circle. This renders the galvanized steel wire soft enough that a gentle push on the now-frozen fence at the center of the circle gave Freddy a neat hole to walk through. Then he is staring at Coyote Rapids at Hanford Reach, the last undammed section of the mighty Columbia.

Freddy isn't a swimmer, and he knows he cannot set foot in the water here or he'd be swept away and drown. There is the Vernita Bridge two or three miles upriver, but already Freddy can see the lights of security cars are crawling all over that whole area, guessing his move. He can see them clearly enough in the deepening twilight over miles of absolutely flat scrublands. Other flashing lights on power transmission towers that are scattered across the Hanford site pierce the darkness.

Any other convicted felon would move away from the colored flashing lights of the vehicles, but Freddy has a new confidence that comes with his new talent, and every time he uses his talent he learns more about it. So Freddy creeps upriver on the shoreline until hy can clearly see the bridge. Most of the squad cars are gathered together south of the river, but there is one car in the middle of the bridge where the cantilevered section spans the deepest water. Freddy sees his problem. He knows he can give them a taste of fire, even from a small distance, but how to get that one car together with the others?


233 CHOICE

Undetected, Freddy crosses under the bridge and looks at the scene from the west. Hy sees there are four cop cars parked in what passed for civilization around there, a small roadside parking lot with a few trees and a restroom. From a safe distance Freddy sets their gas tanks alight much the way a boy would burn ants with a magnifying glass in the sunlight. Scratch those four cars.

The cops in the fifth car mid-span see the flames and drive off the bridge to render aid. Two cops emerge with pistols drawn, leaving their car running with the keys in the ignition, the fools. In the dark it is easy for Freddy to scramble up to the rest area and make off with that last car.

North over the bridge, then west, heading upriver on the far bank. And there is no way for the other cops to call it in. It is too hot to reach any of their radios, even if they are still working. Then a girl's voice appears in his head and begins telling him where to drive.

He goes over the range of the Cascade mountains to a forested area near Seattle. Mike Morrich is waiting near an old wooden gate blocking access to an overgrown forest road, and he looks bored. A few paces apart from him Lilith is standing with Michael, and they are embracing in an extended passionate kiss. Freddy stops the car and steps out of it, carrying the key in his single hand.

FREDDY: That's kind of hot.

Lilith and Michaela reluctantly separate at Freddy's words, both grinning feebly. Freddy looks at Mike.

FREDDY: How long were they...?

MIKE: Long enough for the novelty to wear off.

LILITH: Hello Freddy. This is Michaela, who I suppose is responsible for what happened to you, and Mike, and to myself for that matter.

Freddy stares at Michaela, expecting an explanation.

MICHAELA: What Lilith has said is not entirely true. You and Mike both volunteered for the tests, but you had no idea what they would do to you. And now you are part of what I call the B'nei Elohim, the offspring of the Holy Ones, but the time when things are done to you without your informed consent is over. From now on you will have the complete power to choose your fate.

FREDDY: And what are you asking us to do?

LILITH: We are going to work to reverse certain evil deeds of an eloah named Thaumiel. You might have heard of him. He also goes by the name Satan.

MIKE: The devil? He's real?

MICHAELA: He is quite the fucker, and lives up to his reputation. But here's where you make your final choice. Follow me down this dirt road and we'll go very, very far from here. Or you can stay here in America, take this car to town, perhaps use your new powers to build a new life for yourself. You, Michael Morrich, need not worry about your cancer, you have already entered remission.

MIKE: Then count me in, if only out of gratitude for avoiding a painful death. I will follow you and Judith wherever you lead.

LILITH: Please call me Lilith.

234 POND

So that leaves Freddy Aspin, who ponders things for a bit, knowing that he has a lot more options now with his new talent to start fires. But Freddy knows that staying behind would only be extending his old life, the one that pretty much came to an abrupt pause when he killed Oboe Man. And here was a clean break, a good permanent way out, free of charge. So he tosses the keys of the cop car into the open window and goes with the others.

MICHAELA: Stay on this dirt road until we get to where we're going. There's many intentional and unintentional booby traps around here. Mine shafts and that sort of thing. Very dangerous. This land has been royally abused.

Everyone casts a wary eye at the woods all around them.

MIKE: How does one become a living star, Michaela?

LILITH: Didn't you get the mummy and daddy talk, Mr. Morrich?

MIKE: Please, you know what I mean.

MICHAELA: Well, stars don't get around a lot, so we're really just talking about phone sex. What happens to the female at the climax of star phone sex is some ripples go out from her, like on a pond, but the ripples are spheres, not circles, and they move at the speed of light. Months or years go by. If a ripple finds the core of nuclear material in another star that is hot enough, but not too hot, and isn't already a living star, then it fertilizes the part of that core that is the right temperature. A layer of the core organizes itself into a girl eloah. Mom can do this exactly once, because she is transformed permanently into a male eloah. And we live for absolutely eons. That means ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine percent of elohim are male.

FREDDY: So it must follow that competition for female elohim is pretty fierce.

MICHAELA: You pegged it. This competition leads to all sorts of bizarre behavior from the males, and some of that is illegal and immoral. So we get our Thaumiel's. I have a daughter myself, named Binah. We're actually going to meet her now.

They arrive at a pond of calm water surrounded by a berm of earth in the shape of a C ring. The water looked to be very cold.

MIKE: We're taking a swim? But Lilith just whisked us here from Hanford. Why not do the same and just go wherever we're going?

LILITH: We're going to heaven. I have to be able to see where I'm going before I go, and I can't even imagine where heaven is.

So Lilith and Michaela jump in without further ado, fully clothed, and the others know they expect them to follow. The water is icy cold at first, but counter-intuitively it gets warmer and lighter the deeper they go. The group follows Michaela head first and the water grows comfortably warm. The bubbles change direction. They break the surface and can see varnished wooden decks, towels, plus a dozen striking women to help them out of the water and offer to dry them off.

MICHAELA: Yeshua, meet Lilith, formerly Judith Gervasi. And with her as well is one Frederick Aspin, and also Michael Morrich.

YESHUA: I've met one of your people before.

Freddy sits himself down at Yeshua's feet, and the others are shocked at the transformation of his swagger into genuine humility.


235 DINORAH

FREDDY: I'm very, very sorry for what I said here before, Lord. I didn't think you were real. I thought it was the drug.

YESHUA: No offense was taken, Fred Aspin. Forget it ever happened.

FREDDY: Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you, ah, Jesus Christ.

YESHUA: The one and only.

MICHAELA: I can't say she came into this universe out of love, but yes, Yeshua is the nephilim incarnation of my beloved daughter Binah.

MIKE: How did we get to this place?

YESHUA: Some of the men in your world call it an Einstein-Rosen bridge. It's a natural facet of living suns. The Old One made us with links which go from daughter to mother star, bringing point A and point B close together no matter how far apart they really are in actual space. We usually just let them remain microscopic webs and use them to talk to each other. But we can fatten them up a little bit with the repulsive force of negative energy and move things through them. You just swam through one such tunnel linking that pond on Earth with this pool.

And for the first time Mike looks up to see the strangely-colored sun in the sky, and the land that exists behind the sun. So his next question is quite expected.

MIKE: What is this place? Is it real?

MICHAELA: We call this the Land We Know, because it was not discovered, like Earth was discovered. We made this place, Thaumiel and I, before Binah was born. And yes it is real. Some call it heaven. There are even angels here, and some of them are standing together with us now.

Freddy has a question of his own, and considering that he is heterosexual, and has spent years locked up with other men, even his question is expected.

FREDDY: Are any of these ladies available?

YESHUA: These women and yen are my priestesses. My alleged followers on Earth do not permit females to perform ritual tasks on Earth so I try to compensate here. Others like Dinorah here were begotten in the Land We Know and have been between Earth and heaven many times.

MICHAELA: The history of human beings on Earth is a painting, and Yeshua is helping me putting the final touches on it.

YESHUA: As for their availability as a date, don't ask me, Freddy, ask one of them. It's none of my business, really. And my sex life is none of yours. Besides, the church of Rome always misquoted me. I never once said celibate, I said celebrate.

MICHAELA: It is time, Dinorah. We will wait for you to bring the others.

Dinorah nods at Michael and gives Lilith a copy of the Golden Gift.

DINORAH: I will teach you how to use this weapon after we return to Earth.

Lilith squeezes the hilt and extends the black bar about a foot.

LILITH: No need, Dinorah. My brother Melchizedek showed me this relic once in the palace in Salem, four thousand years ago.


236 ALBUM

A census taken in 1950 reveals that the US population has exceeded 100 million people. In general it is a prosperous time in America. The rest of the world is still trying to rebuild after the incredible destruction wrought by the Second World War. America is the preeminent military and economic power on the globe, But the Soviet Union and China are rising to challenge her. The Korean War begins when North Korea invades the south. The US joins with forces from the United Nations to drive them back, and there are early successes, But when they come close to overrunning the country China rises to North Korea's aid with a large infusion of troops and drives the UN forces back to a bloody stalemate.

In the Fifties as in the Twenties there is a Red Scare in America, and the Senate investigates the alleged influence of the Communist Party on all aspects of the government and military. J. Edgar Hoover is more interested in tracking down communists than Greendomites, and so Clyde Tolson's obsession is put on hold for a time.

In the early years of the Fifties Jill, RoByn, Hunky and Dory singlehandedly invent the genre of popular music that would Be called Rock 'n' Roll a few years later and would dominate the music of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Only the fact that their influence remained confined to a few cities in the American great plains states leads music historians to attribute the creation of Rock 'n' Roll to Chuck Berry, or Elvis, or Little Richard, or even Bill Haley and the Comets.

Hunky-Dory songs are written mostly by Robyn using an AABA song structure, with Jill on saxophone for the solo B part and Dory on acoustic bass. The band uses no electric guitar in the early days. What audiences get is a lot of energy but not much in the way of sound fidelity. The tapes are recorded on a two track system But the second track was for overdubs, not a separate channel. So the resultant vinyl disk is monophonic, and a little noisy By later standards.

They do it just for fun and a little mad money. And they never really stop doing it, even much later when Jill's group and the mainline B'nei Elohim are virtually at war with each other. With Hunky keeping time and Dory stitching the songs together harmonically on bass, Jill carries the main melody line on sax and Robyn keeps the whole thing chugging along with improvised chords on her piano. Robyn sings her lyrics with a voice that is girlish yet with rich undertones that bely her youth. And sometimes the lyrics are fairly snarky.

Drivin' all night on the leg from Amarillo Hubby at home is he dreamin' on his pillow? Musta kilt me a half-dozen Armadillos Racin' home to find him in bed with a fellow

So Begins "Far Country" on the 1951 self-titled first album by Hunky-Dory. "The Whole Town's a Rollin'" is the second song, and it is considered by many to be the best one. After the silliness of the first song the Band wanted to hook the listener and show them right up front they were getting some serious energy and fun, which is focused mostly on Robyn tickling the ivory and wailing her lungs out.

The balance of the record consists of material the band had developed in school in the preceding decade, updated as best they could, but not so much to kill a nostalgic 40's swing vibe. They had toured together before, so Hunky-Dory was already modestly famous, but only locally, and their impact is regional, not yet national, and certainly not internationally. They hit the road and travel to cities as far west as Salt Lake, as far north as Winnipeg, as far east as Kansas City, and as far south as Tulsa. But it isn't all work. At one point everyone goes to a mountain lodge at Stampede Pass in Washington State. Jill and Hunky put on skis and hit the slopes, while Dory and Robyn content themselves with riding on inner tubes.


237 STAMPEDE

All of them have a memorably great time and the outing inspires Robyn to write a song titled "Skiin' USA" which would serve as a template for a flood of other songs. Hunky-Dory names their second LP "Stampede" after the place where they went skiing, a title which describes the wild proceedings of the album to a T.

Snow Bunny is a naughty ditty about a girl with loose morals hanging around the ski lodge, a song that would earn a quick ban on the radio had not Robyn snarled some of the words to the song unintelligible to deliberately mislead censors.

"Skiin' USA" features Dory's bass pushed way forward in the mix plus a sixteen bar call-and-response "duet" Between Robyn on piano and Jill on saxophone. Like most of their songs, it has an AABA pattern.

To Balance the dumb but fun songs there are smart, important songs like Responsibility Boundaries:

Can a dream Bleed until it dies Drained of all hope through skeptic floors? Shall the living cut their losses? Bow to merchants with empty stores? How artistic is our healing To grow hard crusts on shameful sores?

For the instrumental titled "Seven Humps" Hunky's drumming is as organic and improvisational as ever, but swooshes up and down in pitch as she hits the skins near the rim and moves to the center. Robyn is idled, but in concerts she stands there dancing in place and swings her microphone in a circle.

There is a ballad on the album that Robyn dedicated to her mother, knowing that she is in heaven, yet not dead, while she herself and her friends remain on Earth. She named it "Mom Shaped Hole".

I hope you can hear me Nobody else can take your role How can I go on now? All I have is a mom shaped hole

In 1952 Hunky-Dory begin to use more aggressive drumming from Hunky, with more creative fills, But the big change was in the Bottom end. Dory set aside her acoustic bass (which was always difficult to mic for concerts anyway) and picks up a Fender Precision electric bass, or P-bass. Dory's performance is often run through a spring reverb Box, which allows Dory to essentially duet with her own slapped-back notes. But the new bass takes some getting used to. Instead of standing up on an end-pin, it lies horizontally across her chest, supported with a shoulder strap. But it is easier to tune than her double bass and also allows her to get out of her seat and dance around the stage, leading to more visually dynamic concerts.

Jill sets aside her saxophone and picked up a solid-body electric guitar, which Dory teaches her to play after she is satisfied with her own electric bass technique. They still used the AABA arrangement of Rock 'n' Roll songs, but now Jill soloes the 'B' part on electric guitar rather than saxophone. She slits the speaker cones in her amplifier with a knife to create a ragged distortion that sounds (counter-intuitively) very good.

Jill's twangy guitar riff would become de rigueur in the British spy movies of the following decade. But there is also a Bavarian flavor to the songs, with Robyn the cute little madchen singing about gingerbread, pilsners, nut crackers and other whiter-than-white bread things. The rhythm and blues or what used to be called "race music" are left far behind.


238 TRAILER

One Friday night Hunky and Dory drive to the top of Green Dome to gaze at the lights of the town and make love in the back seat of their huge Detroit-made car, aided, of course, By the trusty Purple Cable. Pretty soon the whole car Begins to smell like a girl's gym locker room, and they can't even see the old foundation of the temple outside for all the condensed sweat on the windows. Hunky and Dory run through every trick in the lesbian sex Book, and then some.

Around about ten o'clock the moon comes out, and a Mexican AM radio station they know starts broadcasting at 250,000 watts, with the sound of a beer can top opening, a massive echoing chug, and an unearthly belch, carried By RF skip all across North America. The cross-country truckers and every kid at a drive-in hamburger joint or making out at Inspiration point like Hunky and Dory know that distinctive belch. It was Anchor Baby, a man who spoke at a machine-gun pace in a strange kind of street jive designed specifically to infuriate the grown-ups, and he played whatever the hell he wanted to. The first song he wanted to play that night was from Hunky-Dory, and that, more than anything, told the girls they had made it.

That summer the tour itinerary of the band is much larger than before, encompassing the entire western half of the United States. They even play a gig at the foot of the Matterhorn ride in Disneyland. The album created By Hunky-Dory in 1953 is called Suicide Club.

The nameless first album by Hunky-Dory had been recorded in a garage with egg cartons lining the walls to improve the acoustics. Their second album had been recorded in a professional studio, But they had to book time there, and they only had short slots, sometimes as brief as two hours, to lay down what they could. But for Suicide Club, the third album, the girls build their own recording studio with an eight-track system, and they actually live in it for three months while they create their record. And when they are finished, the studio becomes a source of income when other artists line up to get time in it.

The sound is exotic, morbid, even gothic, and certainly ahead of its time. Robyn trades in her piano for an organ. Dory starts using a store-boughten fuzz box between her bass and the mixer board. Jill picks up a sitar as often as she picks up a guitar. Hunky slows things down a Bit from the earlier days and develops a more stately, deliberate beat, but there's still a drum solo or two that is hotter than anything anyone else was doing at the time.

No less than five cuts on the record garner airplay including "No Love Lost," "Forever," "Pipe Dreams," and "All Or Nothing". But the biggest hit on the album is "Life and Death Are the Same" and this becomes the eternal war cry of the B'nei Elohim. Hunky-Dory puts this maxim to the test at a concert in the nation's capital.

After Hunky and Dory doll themselves up the bathroom of their trailer it's time for Robyn and Jill to squeeze into the tiny space. The privacy gives Robyn a chance to tell Jill something she's seen about their immediate future that perhaps the other two girls shouldn't learn.

ROBYN: Clyde Tolson will be there tonight. Should we call it off?

JILL: Does he get us, Robyn? At long last?

ROBYN: We get away, he gets you. But I see you coming away from this whole thing with Jerry's last memories.

JILL: What's the bad news?

ROBYN: Now I know Jerry's been dead since '47. And Tolson tortures you. -239 PRE-SHOW

JILL: Torture? How bad? Will I have to do an End of Cycle?

ROBYN: No, Jill, like I said, you come away with Jerry's memories, but you're going to lose a foot.

JILL: What's the alternative?

ROBYN: We cancel the concert, you keep your foot. But you don't get Jerry's last memories.

JILL: I thought you said he was dead.

ROBYN: Clyde keeps his brain around, like a trophy or something. I've told you before how the Change means it won't rot like a real brain does.

Jill finishes applying the last of her eyeliner.

JILL: How cool is this? I never learned how to put on makeup, but Becky does. Did. How about you, Robyn? Do you think you can play okay, knowing that Tolson's going to crash the party?

ROBYN: Oh yes. You and me both. Seeing our pal Clyde there will just add an angry edge to our performance. The other girls not so much.

They finish up and come out of the bathroom. Hunky and Dory have gone on ahead to the stage to get ready.

JILL: Then let's not tell Hunky and Dory what's coming, shall we, Robyn?

ROBYN: We won't have the chance to tell them anyway. Clyde isn't looking for Dory, he's looking for me, you and Hunky. We'll have to get to the stage the same way Hunky is going now.

And so Robyn and Jill pass from the backstage area to the public parking area by a roundabout way that avoids the DECON and police presence that's already being built up. They pack tickets to their own show and fall in with the throng of fans.

ROBYN: Shit, Jill, it's slipping!

Robyn had gotten past the half-hearted pat down at the box office without being stopped, But she had neglected to wrap the tape more carefully around her thigh, and a bottle of brandy slid down the inside of her long skirt and shattered on the concrete sidewalk.

Jill didn't break her stride or even look back. But her voice was filled with mock indignation.

JILL: You Brought that in here?

That brings knowing chuckles to some of the others walking on the crowded, landscaped path leading to the Carter Barron Amphitheater near Washington DC. The venue is built into a natural bowl in a hillside, with great acoustics. Jill is just hoping her own bottle of hooch wouldn't slip next.

As Jill and Robyn pick their way to their seats the rhythm section of the band is warming up, with Hunky beating out a long drum solo and Dory doing some live improvisation on bass. The "gimmick" of Suicide Club era HunkyDory is a sort of Bad-girl mystique. They encouraged the rampant rumors floating around that the lead singer is wanted By the authorities, which is in fact the case.


240 OVERTURE

Jill points out to Robyn that besides the usual concert bouncers there is now a heavy law enforcement presence around and behind the stage. They form a gauntlet up there, determined to intercept the mystery women before they show, if and when they showed up. They had already let Hunky slip through somehow, and that was probably why they were crowding the stage now, hoping to scoop up all three in one fell swoop. They apparently didn't have any orders from Tolson concerning Dory.

Jill wants to abort the whole thing, but Robyn says there is no stopping it now. She knows what's going to happen, and it's not going to be good at all, and that nearly breaks Robyn's heart, but she knows it's all part of the long-range plan that results in victory over Thaumiel.

The presence of DECON agents in their fedoras and DC city police add to the crowd's feeling of anticipation. Then, by an unspoken signal, part of the crowd suddenly rushes down to fill up the space in front of the stage. Jill and Robyn start diving over the newly vacated seats to join them, pushing their way through them right up to the edge of the stage. After a word from Dory to a couple of bouncers, Jill and Robyn are physically pulled up onto the stage.

The crowd, clued in on the mythos of Hunky-Dory, cheer the clever way Jill and Robyn bypassed the heat behind the stage, just as they cheered Hunky's move earlier, and they begin to grow excited.

Tubby low tones begin boinging out of the electric bass guitar Dory has strapped on, interacting with Hunky who is Beating the crap out of her drum kit, yet Hunky is improvising her rhythms in, and around, and under Dory's more precisely timed bass lines. This inversion gives Hunky-Dory their very unusual but organic sound. In a reversal of convention Dory keep perfect time on bass and Hunky's drumming is the human element of subtle randomness.

Meanwhile Jill and Robyn range all over the stage, dancing, doing the flashy legwork of putting on a good show as the roar and whistling of the crowd rise to a deafening level.

ROBYN: Good evening, Washington DC! I hope everyone is keeping warm. I'm Robyn. My friends Jill and Hunky and Dory are gonna play some tunes with me, starting with this old familiar favorite.

Robyn is interrupted by police and DECON agents swarming the stage from its perimeter, apparently on a prearranged signal. Clyde Tolson is with them. He moves close enough that Jill can hear him shout over the noise.

CLYDE: Becky, what the hell are you doing?

Robyn decides to appeal to her fans.

ROBYN: Hey folks, it looks like the police don't want us to play for you tonight! So what do you say to that?

The crowd expresses their great displeasure, booing, throwing stuff at the stage, pushing the security guys back and some of them even wedge between the Bouncers and clamber up onto the stage to confront the cops. A riot is a hair's-breadth away and Clyde Tolson knows it. He makes a chopping motion with his hand. The men release the band and return to their positions just off-stage. They know they can afford to wait.

The crowd cheers again, excited by this full-participation theater HunkyDory is putting on. Jill isn't sure how long they'd get to play before the hammer of the Law drops and Clyde moved in again so she told the band to play "No Love Lost".

241 CONCERT

The opening bars of the biggest hit from Suicide Club fills the stadium, and the fans go wild. Robyn starts belting it out.

Date her Mate her Take good notes And rate her You hypocrite! But you don't know There's no love lost!

Booze her Use her Try your Best To lose her Cruise holy writ For a reason why! There's no love lost!

Your goody-good book Bible Baptist bitches Are gonna know this time!

Eve was framed by Adam But blaming the victim Won't fly this time!

Jump her Pump her Then go ahead and dump her Tell yourself it's to save her soul. There's no love lost!

Stalk her Block her Get your flock to mock her She won't submit to the status quo! There's no love lost!

Dory launches into the blistering slapped bass solo that bridges to the middle third of the song. That was when the shots begin to ring out. Jill goes down on the stage, a bullet having struck her right leg. She marvels at the amount of pain, and cashing in on one of the benefits of the Change, she volunteers to render herself unconscious to avoid unnecessary suffering.

Three copies of Dinorah appear on the stage at the same time wielding the Golden Gift in full bloom, blocking any further bullets from striking the other members of the band. This is really one Dinorah, entering the same Earthly timeline on three separate heavenly occasions.

Three copies of Lilith also appear on the stage to embrace Robyn, Hunky, and Dory. And in pairs they immediately disappear again, Lilith and Robyn, Lilith and Hunky, and Lilith and Dory. Then three copies of Lilith appear again to take the three copies of Dinorah away to heaven as well.

Not very many people see clearly what has just happened, it was over so quickly amidst the mad rush of the audience trying to escape. Tolson doesn't want the other girls anyway. Not right at that moment.

Doctors stabilize Jill, removing the bullet from her leg which has entered below her knee and lodged in the muscle of her calf. The bone is shattered, and there's no way to set it. When she returns to consciousness she's in a room lit with red light, with a tiled floor, and a drain. 242 INTERROGATION

Jill is sitting on that tile floor, naked, her legs stretched flat out, with her arms wrapped behind her around a drum full of water. The Becky part of Jill recognizes Clyde Tolson, her old boss, and the Jerry part of Jill recognizes Aaron Anton, the only other person in the room. Jill decides to pretend she doesn't recognize Anton. There's no use giving Clyde free enlightenment about the Change.

CLYDE: Your own fame was your downfall, Becky. Your band? Hunky-Dory? I saw that article in Life magazine, recognized my old spy, and here I am. Do you want to talk about what's happened to you?

JILL: I know what's happened to me, Clyde. We call it the Change. My brain has been remodeled by some sort of virus from outer space.

CLYDE: You don't know that!

The source of the Change seems to be a sore spot with him, something his mind refuses to accept.

JILL: Fine, let's not talk about me. What happened to Jerry?

CLYDE: Jerry Shy Bear lived for a week after the Air Force picked him up at Roswell. We just wanted to ask him a few questions.

JILL: You asked how he got the Change and you didn't like his answers.

CLYDE: We just wanted to ask him a few questions, like I said, but he died. I don't know how it happened, but it was not my doing.

JILL: Let me get the story straight from him.

CLYDE: You didn't listen to what I said, Becky. I told you, he's dead.

JILL: But I'm betting you still have a souvenir from Jerry. A part of him that doesn't rot because it isn't really alive anymore. I'm betting your curiosity won out and you have Jerry's brain. Bring him out to me. They showed me what to do.

Tolson looked at her for a long time. Finally he opened a duffel bag and removed a crumpled black lump resembling a water bag, with one end narrowing to a connector.

CLYDE: People's Exhibit A.

JILL: Look at it! This is what happened to me! This is real! Can the United States do this yet? Can anyone in the world do this yet? Don't say the Soviets. Oh, that's what you've told everybody, enough times that you are even starting to believe your own propaganda. But no one on Earth has this kind of science.

CLYDE: We cannot know the answer to that, one way or the other!

JILL: No, you cannot know the answer because you refuse to let your mind be conformed to reality. We aren't the only ones in the universe, Clyde. We aren't as clever as we think we are.

CLYDE: Your brain has been affected just like Jerry. A strong delusion could be built right in. It could be an intended part of the Change.

Jill knew he would dance around and around the central reality of it, and never face it directly. He wasn't really sane anymore.

JILL: My belt was the required cable. You took it, so you must still have it.


243 QUESTIONS

JILL: My hands are tied, Clyde. You'll have to do the honors.

Tolson connected Jill to what was left of Jerry's brain and left the brain on the floor so he could stand back and watch the expression on her face.

Jerry's last moments were the most vivid. Like Jill he had been stripped naked, because that was an foolproof way to remove from a person their natural psychological shielding that would allow them to resist torture more effectively. His arms had been tied like Jill as well, bent back around a drum of water that refused to budge even under Jerry's strongest attempts to move it. His legs were spread straight out, including the one in a cast, and his ankles were held in clamps securely mounted to the floor.

Even if he reached into his fold-space pocket to produce the Golden Gift, there was no way for him to cut himself free before Tolson or his companion killed him, and then they would have the Golden Gift.

Jerry recognized Tolson's companion.

JERRY: Aaron Anton. That makes sense. You were never Red Wing, never White Wing, you weren't a member of the Church at all, yet you know enough about Greendome to help your new master rip the town apart.

Anton man was wielding a pair of bolt cutters. In response to Jerry's comment he closed the tool around the toe right next to the big toe on Jerry left foot. He looked eager to use the cutters, and he only awaited the signal from Roland.

AARON: I know this guy, Mr. Tolson. Gal. Whatever. A few years ago he showed up at my house in a dress looking to get laid. I sucked his cock, but I couldn't quite bring myself to fuck him. Not with an authentic pussy grinning back at me.

CLYDE: I'm Clyde Tolson, Mr. Shybear. I'm the director of Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization, or DECON for short.

JERRY: Kim and Sofie Krause told me about you, Clyde.

CLYDE: Aaron here does all my wet work now. This is really going to amaze you, Jerry, how much it's going to hurt. So I really suggest you start telling me everything you know about what's happened to you and your friends. Because you've got ten toes, Jerry, each one good for at least two bites. I remember what your gang did to those poor boys, and Klaus Hansen, and Paul Bergin. Now it's your turn, if you don't spill your guts.

So Jerry started to speak about the living suns which men have worshiped as gods, and how they would, from time to time, take possession of human beings to live as one of them. All of this seemed like so many lies to Tolson.

CLYDE: Obviously you're not taking this interview seriously at all, Jerry. So Aaron, indulge yourself. Go ahead and take the first chunk.

Jerry chose that moment to die. The record came to an abrupt end. But now Jill had all of Jerry's memories. The True Death held no power over him. Jerry was dead, but Jill had retrieved his final experiences. Even if she herself died here under the same circumstances, a future incarnation of Jill would make an extraordinary effort to obtain her final memories in turn. Immortal beings such as the B'nei Elohim could gnaw away at a problem for eternity. What matter if neither Yeshua nor Michaela nor any of the existing B'nei Elohim set great store in the True Death? Jill vowed to herself that if any brother or sister went down, Jill and the B'nei Elohim she would later rally around her would drop everything. They would move heaven and Earth to obtain their final memories.


244 BOOTS

In years to come, a continuous neutrino transceiver would add a measure of safety, but there would still be times when an extraordinary effort would be required to retrieve a fallen comrade from the True Death.

JILL: Hey Clyde, you tortured Jerry. You had Aaron cut a toe off.

And Tolson had confirmation that memories were transferred through the cable.

CLYDE: Nevertheless, you will tell me everything Jerry refused to tell me. Tell me about what they call the Golden Gift. And the flying saucers. And how your friends Kim and Sofie always manage to escape when they are caught. Where does Dory fit into all this, does she have the change too?

JILL: And if I don't, will Aaron chop my toe off too?

CLYDE: For starters. That drum is full of water, just like it was for Jerry. We'll use it to wash you down the drain, as soon as we turn you into pieces small enough to fit down the drain.

Jill sighed. She knew what she was in for. Robyn told her she came away from this minus a foot. So Jill gave Tolson everything Jerry already gave him, word for word, and nothing more. Tolson gave an eye signal to Aaron, and Aaron brought an axe down on her wounded shin. Before it could even register as pain, Jill slammed her consciousness down hard.

When she awoke, she was with Yeshua in heaven. She looked at the stub that was her right leg, saw that it now terminated in a metal latching mechanism with a smaller version of the bone-cup connector that was in her head.

YESHUA: Let me tell you a few things about time, Jill. It's not continuous. There is a smallest instant of time of a certain length, and no instant can be smaller. At each one of these instants, everything that exists makes a copy of itself a certain distance away in the arena that is both space and time. This line of copies grows at the speed of light.

He turned his head, and drew her attention to what he was staring at. On a rack nearby was positioned three pairs of knee-high boots, one pair red, one pair dark blue, and one pair black. Yeshua pulled down the dark blue pair, and offered her the heavy one first.

YESHUA: Now light itself travels at the speed of light, of course, but it does so entirely in space, not in time. So light does not experience the passage of time. You and I and everything that is not light also travel at the speed of light, but we do so mostly in time, only a little in space. Do you see, Jill?

Jill nodded her head, and installed the heavy boot on her short leg. It weighed exactly as much as her old ankle and foot did. When the connectors were joined, and the prosthesis firmly snapped into place, the boot could flex and bend like her good foot. But there were no individual toes.

YESHUA: So there's this Jill train, and that train came crashing to an end when you bled out under that axe. But I could take the caboose of that train, say after you passed out, but before you died, and bring it to another track, and that caboose grows to become another Jill train.

Jill puts the matching empty blue boot on her good foot.

JILL: Couldn't you have started another train before I lost my foot?

YESHUA: Yes, in fact that's what Chokhmah did with me. One copy of Yeshua experienced the crucifixion. I did not. But that copy of Yeshua who died so terribly suffered what you choose the call the True Death.

245 TALENT

Jill stood up and walked around to test her artificial foot. It was far better than she could have expected.

JILL: Thank you for this solution to my losing a foot, Lord. It is more than acceptable. But may I ask a few questions?

YESHUA: Certainly you may, Jill. You are a B'nei Eloah and entitled to answers, and artificial limbs, and so much more.

JILL: Why do you not share my concern over the True Death? It seems that you consider me neurotic on this point.

YESHUA: When did you never live, Jill?

JILL: I don't understand.

YESHUA: I mean, you never knew not being alive. You will never know not being alive. So to yourself, you are immortal. Your assumption that there is a thing you call the True Death is based on the erroneous premise that a person can experience death. But death is literally nothing. No one can experience it.

JILL: Do you not feel that the Yeshua who died on the cross would have suffered less if he knew his ego would not be snuffed out, that it would be retrieved and merged with another Yeshua who did not die?

YESHUA: Perhaps, but that Yeshua is gone, and does not even know that he once lived. So now there is only a single ego, and that is me.

JILL: I couldn't bear it. You may think it neurotic of me, but I think of it as a promise made to myself. I know that if I die as this ego, another Jill will retrieve me.

YESHUA: Even though I disagree with your analysis of the situation, I did try to accommodate you as best I could. By pulling you out between your faint and your death, there were no thoughts or experiences to generate a second ego that could suffer the True Death. All of the memories ever acquired by Jerry and Becky, or by Jill as the combination of both, are present within you now, and nowhere else.

JILL: Thank you, Lord, and I agree there was no way to avoid losing my lower leg and foot. But I have a second question. As Jerry, I had a talent. I could hide things of a reasonable size, such as the Golden Gift, in an invisible "pocket" that followed everywhere I went. Yet as Jill I did not inherent this talent nor any other, despite your assurance that I am one of the B'nei Elohim.

YESHUA: Let us say your talent was deferred until you came fully into your own, and that did not occur until just now when you obtained the last of Jerry's memories. I will compensate for the unfortunate delay. No other member of the B'nei Elohim were able to choose what talent they came to possess. But you alone will be able to choose what you can do. Shall you fly, Jill? Shall you be able to bloodlessly kill from a distance?

Jill looked down at her legs, and realized that not everyone would find making love to a cripple was attractive. One thought led to another, and after a moment she spoke.

JILL: Lord Yeshua, give me the ability to create disabling pleasure with a touch. Not merely the few seconds of an orgasm, but much more intense, and for as long as I choose.

YESHUA: I can do this, but it is a talent that is very dangerous to yourself.


246 INCORPORATION

JILL: Lord, I do not understand.

YESHUA: Well, consider what Tolson and Anton just did to you. How fortunate you are to have the choice to avoid experiencing that amount of pain. Most people cannot do so, and torturers know they can raise the level of pain to the point where avoiding it becomes a higher priority than keeping a secret. Indeed, that's why pain evolved, to reorganize your priorities and prevent you from coming to harm. But if I give you this talent without safeguards, then using the talent on yourself will become your highest priority, more than even taking care of yourself.

JILL: There is a curious thing where you can tickle another person, but if you try to tickle yourself, it doesn't work.

YESHUA: Yes, and will make your talent like that. Otherwise you will simply sit in a corner with a happy face running your hands all over yourself until you die.

JILL: I understand, Lord. You are entirely correct, of course.

YESHUA: And I suppose now you are thinking of a loophole. You're thinking how you can connect to another B'nei Elohim through the Purple Cable, and pleasure him or her, and you will experience the pleasure through the cable. But I say to you, Jill, that is simply another way to die, only you'll take someone else with you. And so I have to close that loophole as well. Do you still want to accept this talent?

JILL: I do, Lord, even with the restrictions as you describe.

YESHUA: Excellent. Now I would like to say you will not be joining Hunky and Dory and Robyn and your children where they are going.

JILL: Where are they going, Lord.

YESHUA: To the moon, Jill. To the moon.

JILL: Ah yes, the long range plan of Chokhmah to get humans or angels to a nearby star and spill the beans to the larger community of living stars. I suppose it must begin somewhere.

YESHUA: I will return you to Earth to a time about ten years after that concert that was so rudely interrupted by DECON. You will be the leading B'nei Eloah on Earth, but I suggest you do not try to live anywhere near Greendome again. I think it has become too compromised by Tolson.

JILL: And what shall I do, Lord?

YESHUA: There are still about threescore B'nei Elohim of the Red Wing who need a new home, but I think the old church model has run its course. In America, I think it would be better for you to reorganize the B'nei Elohim as a corporation. Certainly the government at every levels considers business to be far more sacrosanct than any religion, particularly one that has descendants of the original Americans among their membership.

JILL: Some of the B'nei Elohim are begotten, as some of the Red Wing are, or Evan and Ariel, or as Jerry was. Others are made, such as myself, or Hunky, or Robyn. Will more B'nei Elohim be made?

YESHUA: They will. You will soon see the way of it, Jill, and you will take measures to secure this source. And I do not even think you will need much in the way of support from the heavenly B'nei Elohim in building your company. I think your new talent will be such that you will be able to enlist your own support from anyone you run across, whether they are B'nei Elohim or not. But you knew that when you asked for it, didn't you?

247 SPLIT-UP

In heaven Michael Morrich speaks quietly with Yeshua about his new powers to heal people, including healing himself. Much of the discussion involves the limits to Mike's power. He cannot regrow a missing limb, but he can close wounds, cover burned skin with a temporary substitute, and knit bones together with an integral mesh that gives way as the bones naturally heal. He can stop infections nearly at once, and especially he can soothe any sort of pain. Tumors and clogged arteries stand no chance against Mike, but he cannot reverse old age, and he cannot bring back the dead.

As they speak Robyn, her jen son Evan, and Dory are waiting beside the Sacred Pool. Soon Hunky appears in the water, bringing Robyn's daughter Ariel to the surface with her. Both of the children, it was deemed, needed Hunky's help to cross from the pond in Washington State to heaven. Ariel and Evan are five and six respectively, just old enough that they should begin to attend school, and indeed this is exactly what Yeshua has in mind.

YESHUA: The children will stay here with me, and attend the Academy.

Freddy Aspin is mostly just admiring the priestesses who serve Yeshua, especially Dinorah, newly returned with Lilith with all the new people. Dinorah looks very exotic to Freddy, but he cannot quite pin down har ethnic background. Later he would learn that sha was a Fallen Angel from ancient Salem, and har origin therefore was simply heaven and nowhere else.

LILITH: I'm taking Robyn with me back to Earth. Mike, Freddy, Hunky and Dory will go to Nath and to points beyond.

HUNKY: Who will show us the way to go?

DINORAH: I have been given the task of accompanying you overland to the temple of Chokhmah.

Freddy makes a victory fist with his one fist.

A set of waterproof luggage is brought to the Sacred Pool By the priestesses. Lilith invites Robyn to have a look through them.

LILITH: See if any of this gear won't fly.

Robyn holds up one minidress, which looks more like just a blouse.

ROBYN: Where's the rest of it?

LILITH: That is the whole thing.

Robyn figures Lilith is joking and wonders why sha even asked har to look. The rest of the stuff in the luggage is what two women would need for an extended trip, packed very tightly. Yeshua's ladies also set out a great deal of paper money. Robyn doesn't recognize the design of some of the bills. Some of the dates are in the 1960s and 1970s, and Robyn is certain Lilith is joking now. Shaking her head, Robyn kisses Evan and Ariel goodbye, hugs Hunky and Dory farewell, waves at Mike and Freddy, then finally moves to stand near Lilith and the pile of luggage.

If what Robyn was told is to be believed, Lilith is THE Princess Lilith, of the Church of Greendome scriptures known as the Buron, although in a new body now.

When Robyn and Lilith traverse the wormhole again from warm water to cold, and commence to dry themselves off with towels they brought with their luggage, Robyn looks around.


248 RETURN

ROBYN: The trees look different, Princess, are you sure this is the right place?

LILITH: We've skipped April and May and went right on into June. We have also gone forward in time twenty years to 1973.

ROBYN: You're shitting me.

LILITH: I'm not. Michaela, or Chokhmah if you will, showed me this when she taught me how to teleport. Wormholes from heaven bridge locations in space-time, not just space. And so far that is something Thaumiel has not pieced together. We'd all like to keep it that way.

ROBYN: Thaumiel? He's a full-blown eloah. How can he not know?

LILITH: You're right Robyn, he's an eloah, but he's too stupid to understand most of the Lore of El. He relies on Chokhmah for all his technical stuff. And Thaumiel doesn't have improving human history for a modus operandi. He's more interested in making ever more arcane rules until someone commits an error in ritual so he point it out. Thaumiel thinks planet-dwellers will be a threat to the elohim someday and he wants any excuse he can find to destroy them. But neither Chokhmah nor Binah will accept his premise that humans ought to obey them, although they did at first, and that's why we have the Torah, and that's why Yeshua died in Jerusalem. That malformed question has been asked and answered.

Lilith's drivers' license says it was issued in 1977, which is ridiculous in 1973, and Robyn has none. So they can't fly aboard an airline, and they can't write checks, but they can buy a used car with cash on the barrel head, and using Robyn's talent of precognition they can avoid being pulled over by the police.

ROBYN: Michael said you just whisked him from Hanford to the west side of Washington State. Why not do that again, from here to D.C.?

LILITH: I want to take time to explain things to you, and let you see how things change over two decades. Otherwise, when you try to use your precognition it will just be a flood of images that you won't understand.

ROBYN: I'll try to help, but I always wonder why I have this power. It seems more fitting for Michaela. Why am I tagging along?

LILITH: It's hard to explain, but I guess the way I could put it is Michaela can't see the forest for the trees. Yes your power ultimately comes from the elohim, but by necessity you are looking at time as though through a small pinhole. Am I right? Tell me, Robyn, what is it like for you, to use your power?

ROBYN: There's this big canvas, but every time I do something or even say something, I can see a ripple run up that canvas and change some of the paint that's on it. Sometimes it's a big ripple, like when you showed up with Freddy Aspin and Mike Morrich, and the whole painting changes.

LILITH: Then that's why you're tagging along, Robyn. Michaela as both an angel and a living star has too much information of all the different ways things can go, so in a counter-intuitive way sha has no information at all. But you, with your pinhole view, can help me find the pivot points where we can do tiny changes and make big improvements.

ROBYN: So Michaela can see that canvas also, she and Yeshua?

LILITH: They are painting that canvas. And do you know something else about their art, Robyn? They are perfectionists.


249 ROADTRIP

From the Seattle area they head back East on the same road Freddy took from Hanford, but it was decked out as a freeway now. Lilith said they would probably end up getting some cheap motel in the Tri-Cities because of their late start, but that bothered Robyn. She remembered the precarious time when Hunky and herself made their way home to Greendome from there.

LILITH: Do relax, Robyn, it's thirty years after that. Clyde Tolson is still around but he hasn't had his mitts on a B'nei Eloah for twenty years. He's entirely given up on Nebraska.

ROBYN: So if Princess Lilith took possession of you, that means you're just like us, right?

Lilith flips the hair from the back of her head to show Robyn her connector.

LILITH: I was born three years after you were, Robyn, but I've only shaved ten years off my life by jumping in time. You've now shaved twenty.

ROBYN: All this is hard to fathom. At least, I've always found it so.

LILITH: Okay, leaving 1953, it's now twenty years later. You know about the war in Korea. Ever since then the Americans and the Soviets have kind of squared off for what they call the Cold War' where they just sort of growl at each other, or use proxies to fight.

ROBYN: So no third World War?

LILITH: Not until later this year, and that will be a very bad thing, Robyn, because both sides have the same weapons that were used on Japan at the end of the last world war. It doesn't do human civilization a bit of good when the Cold War goes hot. But you and me, we're going to change that.

ROBYN: I don't know how people could stand it, not knowing.

LILITH: It's not all bad, Robyn. The Cold War is a big contest to see whether a planned economy is better than an unplanned one, and competition leads to innovation. About four years after your last concert the Soviets put a machine into orbit around the Earth, just above the atmosphere, and that scares the Americans into doing the same. A few years after that the Soviets and the Americans start putting men into space too. Thaumiel has been doing the same for about fifty years now but he is confined to the outer solar system.

Later they check into some no-name hotel in Kennewick, Washington and Robyn discovers the miracle of color television. They watch Columbo for an hour and a half, which they both enjoy a great deal although Robyn knows how it is going to end before it gets over, and in fact she falls asleep before it is finished. For her it has been a long, surpassingly strange day.

The next stint of driving takes them into the Rocky Mountains and across northeastern Oregon and southern Idaho, ending in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where they stay at the Virginian and eat terrible pizza delivered from next door. But Yellowstone Falls is the most beautiful place Robyn has ever seen. She thinks it looks exactly like an abstract painting made real and three-dimensional before her very eyes. There are so many things to see in the two national parks that the mere two days Lilith allotted for them to do so couldn't possibly either of them justice.

At Rapid City, South Dakota after seeing Mount Rushmore, Lilith drives south and east on rural roads through the Great Plains, passing fairly near to Greendome again, crossing Nebraska and Kansas until they reach Route 50, which Lilith says they will take all the way to Washington DC.

250 STYLES

On the road one morning Lilith speaks of how the young President who followed Eisenhower was assassinated and how the world came very close to World War Three when the Soviets tried to set up intermediate range nuclear missiles just ninety miles away from Florida.

Still, twenty-eight years after World War II things aren't all that different. Robyn can still cope. Sha does notice that men no longer wear hats. Lilith says that was a trend started by President Kennedy. Some women wear their hair piled up in what Lilith calls a beehive hairdo, and Robyn thinks it's funny. Sometimes in the sky sha hears a loud roar. Lilith says the jet engines the Germans first put on their Messerschmitt262 Swallows had finally trickled down to the public, replacing propeller motors on airliners.

ROBYN: Ariel and Evan would be all grown up now.

LILITH: Don't worry Robyn, you will see them both again, soon. As babies. And you will see your mother again as well.

Approaching Kansas City Robyn hears her first Beatles song, Ticket to Ride and she starts tapping her feet.

LILITH: Do you like it?

ROBYN: It's incredible, who is it?

LILITH: Four chaps from my home country who called themselves the Beatles.

Robyn smiles at how Lilith drops the t' and says Bea'les.

LILITH: They no longer record music together, but when they did, they seemed to have stumbled onto some thing timeless, all right?

Robyn smiles at how Lilith drops the t' and says Awroi?

LILITH: I mean a hundred years from now small children might listen to this song and say just what you just did, It's incredible, who is it?'

ROBYN: Only that they might listen? You're not sure they will?

LILITH: No. Michaela can't see very far into the next century, which means neither can me or you. But then, that's precisely what we're running about trying to remedy, isn't it?

In the morning, in a hotel in Kansas City, Kansas, Lilith lays out the clothes they are to wear now they are out of the sticks and "back East."

LILITH: You've been getting away with wearing your stuff from the Fifties without too many second looks, but you can't get away with it anymore.

ROBYN: I see the blouse but where's the skirt?

LILITH: The blouse is the skirt

ROBYN: You're kidding!

LILITH: No I'm not, look.

Lilith opens the window curtain of their second floor hotel room to look down on a busy street on a sunny morning in the early Nineteen Seventies. Robyn sees that Lilith definitely is not pulling her leg. Many of the women down there wear dresses so short their white knee boots cover twice as much skin on their legs than their hemline does.


251 WASHINGTON

Robyn also sees that many of the men in the city have hair so long they'd be mistaken for women back where and when Robyn came from. So Robyn dutifully puts on the clothes and gets into the car, but sha feels funny about it, like in one of those dreams where you're speaking in public and wearing only your underwear.

LILITH: In Israel, or Palestine to you, I did wear these kind of clothes in the Sixties before everything went to hell. Tel Aviv is really something. I had a lot of fun in my time.

After that they are on the road again, making for St. Louis. Carly Simon sings about how vain her boyfriend is. Steely Dan wonders aloud if his old college acquaintance is reelin' in the years.

LILITH: We're on the other side of another war like the one in Korea. This one wasn't fought by World War II vets, but by their sons. Most of them didn't have a choice and they weren't very happy about it. As you might have guessed from the clothing I'm having you wear the attitudes of many of these young people towards sexuality would shock the older generation, and I rather think that is precisely their point.

As they cross the Appalachian mountains Lilith tries to explain how Robyn's precognition works. Sha explains that a particle, like an electron, isn't just a little dot moving through time, it's more like a long line, growing like a crystal, and the exact point where it crystallizes is the present. From that point going forward, many other lines exist in a ghostly form, including the Primary, the most probable future, which is almost firm enough to be a crystal itself. Time is a fire, Lilith tells har, and history is ash.

After Robyn understands all that, she wants to know how they can possibly loop back in time.

ROBYN: Wouldn't we be walking into the middle of a bunch of hard crystals? Even just the very air we breathe?

LILITH: It's like our bodies can dissolve the crystals of anything we touch, and set even the ashes of the past afire again. I myself looped back from 1978. But I can't put the whole world in play again just by being back here. I'm looking for a crucial event that can give us leverage. That's why we're headed for Washington, D.C. I think I found just the thing. But I need you to help me pin it down.

Robyn and Lilith run out of Highway 50 at the nation's capital and get a room on the fourth floor of the Howard Johnsons hotel on Virginia Avenue. After they get all settled in and the sun goes down, Lilith takes Robyn out on the balcony

LILITH: I brought you here to sensitize you, to let you practice what I need you to do. So please tell me what comes to mind.

Robyn was silent for a moment as she surveyed the stack of events that piled up in her mind. At length she spoke.

ROBYN: All this, the city, it's gone in a few months. H-bomb.

LILITH: In October there will be a war in the Middle-East that will spin out of control. It won't turn into World War III, but if you are able, Robyn, tell me what does happen.

ROBYN: There's chaos at first. Millions of people are dead, here and in Russia. The United States moves the capital back to Philadelphia, where it was in the very beginning.


252 ALTERNATIVES

LILITH: Do go on.

ROBYN: The states in the South and the mountain West take advantage of the opportunity and file for divorce. So you get two countries again, like way back in the Civil War, with America basically down to just New England and the states north of the Ohio River over to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, that area. The other side picks Atlanta to be their capital, and they get southern California, the Rockies, the Great Plains, and Dixie. They actually go ahead and call it the New Confederacy. But Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, they form a third country called Pacifica.

LILITH So look out towards the end of the century, Robyn. Tell me what happens.

ROBYN: Okay, so what's left of the United States still has the most people and industry and money, but militarily they're kind of weak. All the bases were in the south and the west. The New Confederacy has the most land and resources, but their culture and their political system isn't set up to allow their people to flourish, only large corporations. I remember from my school in Greendome how it was the same thing in the Civil War, men dying to keep cotton-growers in the money. Anyone who isn't white and Protestant will be basically non-citizens there. The New Confederates end up using the military they inherited to extort their neighbors, US and Mexico, the Caribbean, and try to bite off chunks of land. Everyone thinks they're assholes. But they wont mess too much with Pacifica, though, because that country inherits the west coast submarine fleet, a bunch of carriers and a crapload of nukes.

LILITH: Tell me about Pacifica then. That's where we shall have to live.

ROBYN: Pacifica is the smallest piece, with the fewest people, but in that country the people will come first. They will do some amazing things to make life on Earth a paradise, but the operative word there is Earth. The space program is entirely forgotten in all this, except for lofting some satellites. Everyone turns inward. And this, Lilith, if I understand Michaela's goals correctly, will not do.

LILITH: No, Robyn, it will not do at all. We must make some sort of change, if only to make sure the suffering of those millions of people will not come to be. But I'm entirely at a loss as to how to proceed. I need to find a place where events constrict in such a way that if we apply a small change it will prevent the Cold War from going hot in October. But only you can see time that way, how it does constrict.

Robyn desperately wants to help, or at least give Lilith the impression that she was trying to help. She looked across the well-lit street at a large array of striking, modern buildings with graceful curves, very unlike any architecture she had ever seen.

ROBYN: There's something about that place.

Robyn said that with more confidence than she really felt.

ROBYN: Something important, and the President is mixed up in it, but we are about a year too late and now I can't unravel what it was.

LILITH: Give me a date and we're there.

ROBYN: What day is it now? Some vacation, huh? I completely lost track.

LILITH: Today is Saturday, June 16, 1973.

ROBYN: So there you go, Lilith. Make it June 16, 1972.


253 WATERGATE

They bugged the wrong phone during the May 1972 Watergate break-in. It was just a secretary's phone mostly used by staffers to order in Chinese food, not the one used by the Democratic Party chairman that was clear on the other side of the office in a locked room.

The corresponding Operation GEMSTONE transcripts were useless and the Attorney General, loath to piss away $89,000 in diverted and laundered campaign funds, ordered a second break-in to square things away because the President himself insisted they keep collecting whatever information they could on his political enemies, around the clock.

On June 14 the GEMSTONE leader code-named Daddy got his Washington team back together and the Spook told the same group of burglars he used the first time to fly back up from Miami. It took two days to get everyone into place with the right equipment, mostly off-the-shelf stuff that couldn't be traced, but there was no written plan and no rehearsal.

This astonished the Photographer, a semi-retired CIA operative who had captained a boat for over three hundred missions to communist Cuba (some of which were extraordinary renditions of men who might have been his friends had he dared to lift their hoods). But his friend the Realtor, a fellow Bay of Pigs veteran, practically worshiped the ground the Spook walked on.

The Quiet Man walked nonchalantly through the front door of the Watergate office complex, signed in, took the elevator to the top floor, entered the stairwell, then used duct tape to cheat the locks on every door all the way down to the parking garage levels.

But the Quiet Man was a complete moron. He taped the doors horizontally, rather than vertically, so anyone and his dog could see it.

A private security guard named Frank Wills did see the tape, because his first task was always to check the basement doors for tampering when he came on to his shift at midnight. He pulled the tape off and called his supervisor, who told him to check the other doors and call back in fifteen minutes.

But what Frank did instead was go get some fast food across the street with a young intern who was pulling a late-nighter, a young lady that he was trying to make tracks with.

When the actual burglary commenced, it lasted for about seven minutes before they came back to their base of operations in Room 419 of the Watergate Hotel and told Daddy the duct tape on the B-2 garage level door was missing. Meanwhile the Locksmith and The Goon went around looking for another lock to pick.

The Realtor and the Spook told Daddy they wanted to abort the mission, be cause obviously a guard must have removed the tape. The Photographer said he was ready to do whatever Daddy decided to do. Daddy decided to cancel the evolution and try again two weeks later.

So the Quiet Man made his rounds again, this time removing the tape from all the doors. By the time Frank Wills finished his hamburger and actually did what his supervisor told him to do (check the other doors), there was no tape. He figured it had just been some lazy workman who taped the B-2 level door open that one time to save a few seconds of hassle fumbling for keys while carrying something big. Wills forgot about the entire episode.

But the third time was the charm for the burglars. On July 1 the GEMSTONE team returned one more time to the sixth floor offices of the DNC at the Watergate complex, bugged the correct phone, photographed ten rolls of film of the Realtor holding documents in his blue-gloved hands, and even made off with some blank stationary with Democratic Party letterhead.

254 MAILBAG

What they didn't find was evidence that Cuban President Fidel Castro was giving money to the Democratic Party, which is what they hoped to find. But that was okay, because President Nixon's master of dirty tricks, Donald Segretti, simply used the letterhead they stole and the photographs of various signatures to manufacture such evidence.

Tactically, there was little profit in any of this illegal activity, all it really did was turn what would have been a historic 49-state victory in November 1972 into an even more historic 50-state victory. But having avoided a messy second term scandal, Nixon was free to bring about what he called the New American Revolution, making the executive branch nearly omnipotent with a cabinet whose heads were supremely loyal to him. Congress he largely ignored. But this notion of an imperial presidency was going to bite America in the ass in October 1973 when the Yom Kippur War spiraled out of anyone's control, even that of an Imperial President.

Rewind to early Saturday morning, June 17, 1972. At 12:30 in the morning, Robyn and Lilith walk across the street from the Howard Johnsons and enter the parking garage of the Watergate hotel/office complex. Robyn led them one level down, and walked toward the door leading into the building. It was locked.

ROBYN: This is going to sound very strange, Lil, but if there's an empty mailbag sitting right here for the next hour, Washington DC will not get nuked..

LILITH: A mailbag?

ROBYN: Yeah, you know, like the kind a mailman carries.

LILITH: What's going on here anyway?

ROBYN: President Nixon sent some burglars here tonight. Well, not the President exactly, but men working for him did. If the burglars get caught, there's not going to be a nuclear war. Hell be too preoccupied by the scandal.

LILITH: Why would such a small thing become a scandal?

ROBYN: Because Nixon will abuse his power and try to cover it up, and that will be the scandal.

LILITH: So why don't we just call the police?

ROBYN: If we do, they'll get away. They've got a lookout posted in our hotel. In the room right next to ours, in fact.

LILITH: So how does a mailbag lead to them getting caught?

ROBYN: It's very complicated. If I try to explain, well run out of time.

LILITH: Fine, I'll go find a mailbag.

ROBYN: Empty one, Lil.

Lilith used her power of teleportation to pop into a nearby post office. She lifted a bag, dumped out the mail, and returned to the same spot in the parking garage where she left. Then she and Robyn went back across the street to their room and watched from the balcony. At one AM the balding Quiet Man pushed open the door from the inside, noted that the duct tape he had placed there before was missing. But he did not immediately assume a guard had removed it, because he saw the empty US Postal Service mail bag sitting there.

255 CHANGE

That made all the difference. The Quiet Man assumed a mailman had come and tried to use his key to unlock the door, but found the door was already accessible thanks to the strip of tape. The Quiet Man also assumed the mailman had removed the tape, but that he would be too busy delivering mail to think of reporting it to anyone. So he replaced the missing tape with another strip to cheat the lock, and of course being stupid he posted it horizontally, leaving it perfectly visible.

At about one thirty, the Watergate security guard Frank Willis pushed the door open a second time and saw another strip of tape along the edge there after he had removed the first. He said, What the hell? but left the second piece of tape in place. He left to call the police.

At 1:52 AM, Robyn and Lilith watched a junky car pull up across the street. Two informally dressed long-haired men got out of the vehicle and entered the hotel. Neither Robyn nor Lilith realized they were plainclothes cops using an unmarked car, and neither did Alfred Baldwin suspect anything, watching from the balcony right next door to them. Lilith scowled at Alfred, then went back inside the room, leaving Robyn standing out there.

Baldwin was more than a little nervous and he felt like he had to say something to explain to Robyn why he was out on his balcony watching the Watergate.

ALFRED: Beautiful night.

ROBYN: You have no idea.

It was getting late, but Robyn and Lilith watched the growing police presence at the Watergate complex from their balcony in the Howard Johnsons across the avenue. Their funny neighbor Mr. Baldwin had to check out quite suddenly.

LILITH: So did we do well?

Robyn looked dreamy for a few seconds.

ROBYN: Oh yes. This bust right here isn't enough to do in the President, at least until after the election, but he's going to try to cover it up, and he's going to botch the cover-up, and that will nail him in the end. He will have no choice but to quit his job or be impeached.

LILITH: What about the war in the Middle-East next year?

ROBYN: We still get that, and Israel wins, barely, but it doesn't go nuclear. No one goes nuclear, in fact, until well into the next century.

LILITH: But not far enough out for my purposes, I suppose.

ROBYN: We get more breathing room, but the space program just sort of peters out. The moon landings are never followed up. Then when they do start lobbing nukes around it's too late.

LILITH: Okay, who starts lobbing nukes around?

ROBYN: About ten years from now some Muslims in Lebanon start using suicide bombers. One guy goes out and takes hundreds of victims with him. They promise their soldiers lots of post-mortem sex. And it works! The US President pulls his Marines out, and this is seen by the terrorists as positive reinforcement for what they're doing. So when the new century comes in America pretty much goes into a permanent war against them, and its a very strange war that mostly stays off the front pages. Mostly its a David verses Goliath story.

256 SCENARIO

LILITH: But you cant un-invent the bomb.

Robyn nods her head.

ROBYN: You can't uninvent the bomb and sooner or later these suicidal assholes start getting some nukes, and there's no way to stop them. Eventually the West resorts to just sterilizing Islam from the entire planet but the West take a lot of damage too, and after that the world is in no shape to do much of anything in the way of star travel.

LILITH: So you're saying we just traded a dark future for an even darker one.

ROBYN: Oh, it's not all dark. There's some good things that will happen too. Communism goes away. People get smarter about their health, there's some traction on the war on cancer. People will carry around telephones with no wires, and they will use them to watch any movie or television show they want, whenever they want to watch them. These telephones will double as cameras. Movie cameras even. And all those pictures and movies and music and things they write about what they're doing will go up on this big, connected . . . thing . . . so all their friends and anyone in the world can see them. And that's how everyone will get the news or read books in forty years, even in the smallest villages of the poorest countries.

LILITH: With all that going for them, why do they kill the space program?

ROBYN: It costs too much and there's no more rivalry with the communist world to conquer space. Oh, they don't kill it dead, they just switch to sending robots to do it instead, take pictures of all the planets, so people can see them on their little telephones. That doesn't do us much good, does it?

LILITH: No it doesn't. We definitely must find a way to make the Americans reconsider rolling back their space program.

ROBYN: Then you should use reverse psychology, Lil. If they run into us up there telling them to go ahead and dial their program back, they'll do precisely the opposite.


257 RIDE

No one in the party except Hunky and Dinorah have ever ridden horses before, so there is a brief period of familiarization before they can set out. Seven folks begin the journey, but only five animals are taken, because Hunky and Dory are a unit, and Freddy Aspin wanted to ride pretty much glued to Dinorah. So Mike rides alone, but not by choice. Maris and Jae, members of the Fallen Angels, ride with the party on their own horses. Dinorah tries to assure everyone that the two yen are only a precaution.

DINORAH: I don't expect any trouble. Most of the bad fellows in Haaretz gravitate more toward the Saiph League.

Hunky and Dory missed Robyn more than ever, for if trouble were to come, she would know long before it came.

They take most of the day to cover thirty miles, with many stops to rest the horses and rub their own sore asses. Dinorah does not rush them at all. When the dense forest begins to thin out, and great vistas can be glimpsed through them at last, Dinorah says the place marks the informal boundary between Hamar and Nath.

Freddy sees a dark band on the horizon, and at first he thinks it is a storm. But soon he discerns it is a gigantic cliff. From a base of foothills that are already great mountains themselves, the cliff itself rises nineteen thousand feet. Freddy is impressed, and audibly indicates so.

DINORAH: That is the Wall of God.

DORY: The one Muriel declined to traverse.

DINORAH: Indeed, Dory. Yes.

The road bends a little to the left and right, and climbs gently down into a broad river valley. Far away to the left they can see a white line which is the sea, named Thalury. Dinorah told tales of the Jewish colonists who were brought to the Land We Know soon after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 587 BCE. She spoke of how some of these colonists remained faithful to Chokhmah and were known as the Roshites, longfathers of the modern day Nathans. She said other colonists gave dual allegiance to Binah as well as Chokhmah and became known as the Dishonites, ancestors of all Hamaris. But others fell away altogether, and became implacable foes to both the Roshites and the Dishonites, and these enemies were called the Elamites. They comprised the begotten of the Saiph League to that very day.

The travelers reach the city of Shedal well before dusk. The priestly sisterhood of Yeshua has a sort of motor pool there, but with horses. If they were in a real big hurry they could swap tired animals for fresh ones and keep going, but Dinorah suggests they all get lodging for the night instead. She gives the four B'nei Elohim sufficient coinage and invites them to find whatever suits their fancy.

DINORAH: We'll meet back here in the morning.

Poor Freddy. After a day staring at the back of Ambe's slender bare thighs wrapped around her horse, he had to settle for a date with Rosie Palms. And that was just not right. What was the point in getting out of prison? It was a situation that needed to be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

The following day is essentially a repetition of the first, but they follow the beach closely for half of the journey, bend inland, then come to Glenah. They are all getting better at riding, and don't complain so much anymore. On the third day they ascend a gently rising treeless slope of extensive grasslands, making for the city of Linan. Sometimes from the road they see large herds of cattle grazing nearby. And ever the Wall of God fills half of their horizon.


258 TEMPLE

From Linan it is one more stint of forty miles to the capital city of Nath where the heavenly temple of Chokhmah lies, and this structure is far more magnificent than even Solomon's original earthly temple had been. For Solomon's temple had been completed in seven years, but work on Chokhmah's temple in Hadal has never ceased in three thousand years.

In the heart of the Heavenly Temple is two chambers, and only the High Priest of Chokhmah, currently Jakun Ardath, could physically enter either one of these spaces, but the elaborate interior of the larger one, called simply the Holy Place, could be seen by the other priests briefly when they prepared Ardath on the day of the Feast of the Atonement.

On that day, the High Priest put on certain elaborate vestments, and was tied at the end of a rope, for when the High Priest entered the innermost chamber any defect in the ritual would result in his immediate death by Chokhmah, and the priests would need to pull him out by that rope around a corner while they averted their eyes from looking at the open door into the Holy of Holies.

But what all this secrecy really did was hide from the priests the fact that the Most Holy Place was not a second chamber at all, but a solid block of stone, with a false door set into it, and once a year Chokhmah created a wormhole passage for the High Priest to float through until he arrived at the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, a place where the High Priest weighed just thirty pounds.

When Dinorah, her two Fallen Angels, and the four B'nei Elohim arrived in Hadal, they entered a nondescript house in the heart of the city, and Dinorah carefully inspected the place to assure herself nothing had been disturbed.

Maris and Jae stayed behind to guard the house. Dinorah led Freddy, Mike, Hunky, and Dory through a narrow winding passage that went from the basement under that house in the direction of the Temple, but in eight hundred feet she encountered solid rock, much like the false door in the Temple Holy Place, and indeed, any unauthorized persons who stumbled on the house would come to the same dead end.

For Dinorah and the pilgrims, Chokhmah created something like a pipe, just large enough for a person to enter horizontally. And when the pilgrims entered this pipe they felt no weight, as though they were floating underwater. But after crossing through the pipe they could stand and walk again. They felt light and free, only a fraction of their original weight, and they bounded down the passage with joy.

When John F. Kennedy made a speech before Congress setting a goal for America to put a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth before the 1960s were finished, humans, angels, and nephilim from the Land We Know were already walking around the spectacular Taurus-Littrow Valley on the near side of the Moon scouting a location for Michaela's proposed settlement there.

The site is on the southeastern edge of Mare Serenitatis where an asteroid hit the Moon nearly four billion years ago and created a basin a thousand miles across. The rim of Serenitatis is a ring of mountains which collapsed in some places to create long valleys like Taurus-Littrow aligned toward the center of the Mare. The pyroclastic flows that filled this "Sea of Serenity" was accompanied by lava fountains which covered the whole area with tiny glass beads with bright colors such as orange and yellow. Some of the priestesses of Yeshua thought the beads were pretty and brought some home to Haaretz when their stint on the Moon came to an end.


259 CITY

The outer, southeastern end of the valley butts up against a large mountain called East Massif. In the south, there is a narrow canyon that leads to another valley. The west side of this canyon is the sheer wall of South Massif. Crossing north to the other side of East Massif, the advance party found another canyon leading to still another valley.

Beyond this valley is the Sculptured Hills, and to the west of those hills is a mountain called the North Massif. Between North and South Massif is a narrower exit valley about four miles wide, partially blocked by Family Mountain and a sharp fault ridge about three hundred feet high. Michaela's people had followed this scarp north.

The eastern foot of the sharp ridge forms a gentle ramp that leads up around the western slope of North Massif to some rugged back country where it is difficult for landing craft to safely land. This high country on the back side of North Massif is where Michaela chose to build the city of Taurus.

The staging area for construction was the Taurus-Littrow valley itself, and Apollo 15 Command Module pilot Alfred Worden photographed the area in 1971 from orbit with a large panoramic camera. He captured photographic evidence of what looked suspiciously like tracks of wheeled vehicles and some debris that did not resemble stones at all. But after looking at the photos some analysts suspected the tracks and debris were simply from boulders that had fallen down the face of North Massif in a recent (less than 20 million years) moon quake.

In any event, the area looked scientifically interesting. Apollo 17 was designated to investigate the area in December 1972, and the mission would bring along a professional geologist.

The room that doubles as the real Holy of Holies is located inside the city of Taurus, on the Moon. It is there that Robyn and Lilith meet the party they left behind in Canterwood: Hunky, Dory, Mike, Freddy and Dinorah. And the original Ark of the Covenant is in the center of the chamber, suspended by two poles which were pushed through four pedestals. Lilith is anxious to show everyone what they had built on the Moon.

FREDDY: How long have you been waiting?

ROBYN: We just got here.

LILITH: What a coincidence. Just like Yeshua timed it or something.

Soon everyone got their first view of Taurus from the south end, very high up near the ceiling. Lilith called it a cut-and-cover tunnel.

LILITH: Five hundred thirty-eight feet wide, just as high, and thirty-two hundred twenty-eight feet long.

MIKE: How did you cut it then?

LILITH: With the talent of a B'nei Eloah named Shyla who has the same power as this little gadget, but on a much larger scale.

Lilith held out the Golden Gift and she squeezed it. A black shaft grew out of one end, making a loud hissing noise.

Dinorah led Robyn, Hunky, and Dory into a small elevator that would take them to the floor of the city.

DINORAH: Please tell me, why does Freddy Aspin look at me the way he does? I know you've all seen it.


260 REUNION

ROBYN: Dinorah! Didn't your parents tell you about the birds and the bees?

DINORAH: Birds...and bees?

DORY: Jerry is a very naughty boy. He has spent the last eight years confined with other men in a prison.

Slowly, understanding dawned on Dinorah's face and she became silent with embarrassment.

The elevator door opens. Hunky, Dory, Robyn and Dinorah step out, where they are amid a throng of angels, nephilim, and humans, all looking up. They watch Lilith, Freddy, and Michael coming down slowly in the lunar gravity, actually wearing wings they had strapped on, and Hunky is jealous for having taken the elevator instead.

Michaela is there, clad in a beautiful white dress of knee length. Sha wore white sandals with straps wrapped around her legs up to the knee.

MICHAELA: Hello Robyn, hello Hunky and Dory. Welcome to our city of Taurus. Many preparations remain to be done, and war will come to heaven again. War will come to Earth and even here as well, but the shape of Thaumiel's defeat can begin to be discerned.

The royals from the time of the first war in heaven are also there, among them Gabriel and Phanuel, Sariel and Oriel, some with their original bodies, some of them reborn as children after having been slain and still filled with wonder at the reality of that.

Some of the elders of the Shybear family are present as well, still alive, still much younger than they had any right to be. Jashen Shybear the Translator is there with his Fallen Angel wife Leliel. Their jen offspring Mahlon the Lifter is also there, with his human wife Ahlai who never accepted the Change, and they are not very much older than Dory, despite being her grandparents.

Everyone watches as Lilith comes to a graceful landing, flaring her wings. Mike and Freddy watch her and try to copy the technique, with differing degrees of success, knocking over chairs and tables set out before the door of the elevator. But neither one are seriously injured, and both sport a grin for a long time afterword, remembering the experience.

Later Dinorah, high priestess of Yeshua, quietly comes to Freddy Aspin in an apartment high up in the wall of Taurus. Sha wears a borrowed two-piece bikini with yellow and white floral patterns, and Freddy thinks he has won the lottery or something. He gets laid for the first time since his arrest for killing Oboe Man, because he had not availed himself of even the most passable shemales in lockup.

But Dinorah is an angel, a yen, with two female organs demanding to be satisfied, and Freddy found sha had a correspondingly doubled sex drive. It never rains but it pours. Despite being desperately starved of sex Freddy discovers it isn't easy to meet the challenge presented by the astonishingly urgent physical appetite of Dinorah, which seems to keep growing faster than it can be extinguished. Not that attempting to sate Dinorah's hunger isn't fun, most athletic endeavors are. It takes half the night, and dessert for the sexual banquet is served first thing the following morning.


261 APOLLO-17

The timeline created at the Watergate complex in June of 1972 which would ultimately feature the fall of the Nixon Presidency, the fall of the Apollo Moon program, the fall the Soviet Union and fall of two buildings in New York City, ran for six months before it bifurcated again. At 5:26 PM EST on December 13, 1972, six days after leaving Earth and their third day on the surface of the Moon, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt made the final moonwalk of Apollo 17.

Gene Cernan had flown to the Moon before, on Apollo 10, with his commander from his Gemini 9 mission, Tom Stafford. On that mission Gene had even flown a lunar module to within nine miles of the Moon's surface, then returned to orbit, leaving the glory of the first landing to Neil and Buzz on Apollo 11.

He isn't exactly tight buds with his partner, Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who had bumped one of Gene's buddies from Apollo 17 just so the PR fellows at NASA could say they were shifting their focus from military test pilots as astronauts to scientists. But it is true. After Apollo 17 would come Skylab, a joint flight with the Soviet Union, and then the Space Shuttle program after that.

Like the two preceding moonwalks of the mission, this third one was to last for about seven hours. But it was to differ from the first two EVAs in a very important respect, not counting the fact that it was about an hour late getting started.

Robyn follows live television broadcasts of the mission from only a few miles away in Taurus City and she even follows the proceedings with the portable television in her truck as she drives down the flanks of North Massif to reach the floor of the Taurus-Littrow valley. So many stations on Earth were airing the moonwalk the only trick was to pick one station out with a dish.

Robyn drives her truck to the astronaut's current position near a large, dark, shattered boulder wedged in the wall of North Massif where geologist Harrison Schmitt is gathering samples. She is careful not to run over their fragile little electric Rover parked nearby.

That Boeing-built Lunar Rover contains a built-in navigation system that keeps track of every turn of the wheels and the total distance traveled. This system uses a new four-bit microprocessor, which is essentially a computer on a single chip. As the decade progressed on the new timeline, this invention would undergo further advances and become the heart of the Micro, sparking the Swarm Revolution.

The boulder being examined by Schmitt, which is in five separate pieces, lies beneath a long furrow of dents showing its recent plunge down the face of the mountain. Apollo 15 Command Module pilot Alfred Worden had photographed the area in 1971 from orbit with a large panoramic camera. He captured photographic evidence of what looked suspiciously like tracks of wheeled vehicles and some debris that did not resemble stones at all. But after looking at the photos some analysts suspected the tracks and debris were simply from boulders that had fallen down the face of North Massif in a recent (probably less than 20 million years) moonquake.

The truth was the staging area for construction of Taurus City was the Taurus-Littrow valley itself and it was impossible to hide from NASA what twenty years of construction did to the pristine lunar surface.

Robyn pulls her truck to a stop, pumps the interior atmo down to a near vacuum, then pops the door open to wait for the boys to come in. They haven't heard her pull up, of course. They are so busy examining the boulder it is thirty-six minutes before they look up from their task and notice Robyn parked next to them.

262 CERNAN

At that very instant a new timeline is created. Both of the astronauts utter some expletives and the live feed is cut. CBS cuts to Walter Cronkite for commentary. The live television blackout would last for about a halfhour. NASA and Uncle Walter claims technical difficulties.

Commander Cernan describes the situation to NASA. Phone calls are made to the Soviet Union asking them if they were operating in the same area and didn't tell anybody (the Russians think the American's joke is in bad taste. "Is not enough you win Space Race," they say, "now you rub it on?").

Cernan and Schmitt, watching their oxygen levels slowly bleed down, remind Houston they are still waiting for instructions. Houston says the mission commander, Cernan, may approach the truck, and perhaps even enter it, but Schmitt should wait outside and be prepared to hustle back in his Rover to the Lunar Module, which is about four long miles away.

So Cernan walks over to the truck, where he performs a complete circuit around it. There is only one space-suited figure seated inside, who is waving at him and motioning for him to come inside.

So Gene does step inside, and Robyn motions for him to have a seat. She closes the door and begins to re-pressurize the interior of the truck with pure oxygen at just 3 pounds per square inch, rather than 20 percent oxygen at 14 psi, which is the normal procedure for both NASA and the B'nei Elohim.

When the dials read the appropriate pressure Robyn removes her helmet and invites Cernan to do the same. The sharp spent-gunpowder smell of the lunar regolith assaults her nose, but she is used to it, and after And two lunar EVAs so is Cernan. Gene removes his own helmet.

GENE: You sound like an American.

Robyn notes Gene is rather gaunt, and prematurely gray for a man in his thirties.

ROBYN: I was born in Nebraska, Commander Cernan. I call myself Robyn, with a 'Y', and I don't use a last name.

GENE: Yes, but who are you?

ROBYN: One of my titles is Prophet of the Church of Green Dome. But I'm also the officer in charge of strategic planning for the Astrodynamics Corporation.

She brings out a three-ring binder with many documents and photographs.

ROBYN: The names and faces in this binder will probably mean nothing to you, but they will mean a great deal to certain people in the United States government. I am providing this information package for you to take home and run up your chain of command. A Mr. Clyde Tolson in particular, formerly the Deputy Director of the FBI, will understand what this means.

Cernan accepts the documents, and searches Robyn's face. She looks very much like an older version of his own daughter. He really wanted to like her.

ROBYN: The information I have provided you also describes some of the operations my company is carrying out here on the Moon. I am sure the United States will find grounds to object, but since Astrodyne is incorporated in the newly independent island nation of Barbuda there's not much the US can do about it. You could try working with us instead of fighting us for a change.

263 CHRISTMAS

GENE: You make it sound like this is an old argument.

ROBYN: Indeed. The tussle with Clyde goes back to World War II.

Cernan flips through the sheets of paper to scan the information Robyn was asking him to pass along. Old argument indeed, it seems to go back to the time of World War II. Inside the binder are five glossy color photos of the lunar surface that draw his interest. He pulls them out and asks what they are.

ROBYN: Images of each one of the previous Apollo landing sites, taken days or weeks after their departure. Note the missing ascent stage in each photo. We thought NASA might want a photographic record.

Cernan becomes quiet, and puts the photos back on the clipboard on the inside cover of the binder. He seems to be a little sad.

GENE: So this meeting, what is it, a fancy sales pitch? I'm just to be your go-between?

ROBYN: Basically, it all boils down to this, Commander: Everything the United States has done with its socialized government-financed space program, Astrodyne has already done faster and better with good old-fashioned capitalism. I can imagine this must come as a terrible blow to you, because your entire career has been building up to this moment, but that's the raw truth, justice, and the American Way, so there you go.

GENE: How long have you've been up here, Robyn?

She declines to answer that question, despite her strong wish to do so, because it would lead to questions about how a woman who looked to be only about thirty could be forty-seven years of age. She thought she could bullshit him with something about the geriatric benefits of living on the moon, but that would eventually unravel.

ROBYN: Let's just say John Glenn was not the first American to orbit the Earth, despite what you may have heard. Nor was even Gagarin the first human to do so.

GENE: Then how many of you are up here?

ROBYN: Oh, not many right now. Only about forty. We're just getting started. We are willing and eager to work with NASA on a contractual basis going forward. Our contact information is also in that binder.

Cernan feels embarrassed. All the effort spent by America, all the national treasure, and in the end it all means exactly nothing. The whole Space Race against Russia is just a little fart in a hurricane.

ROBYN: It's twelve days before Christmas, I've got about a hundred and fifty of your Earth pounds of presents for your geologist Mr. Schmitt out there. Rocks from right here at the North Massif, taken from various depths up to six hundred feet below the surface. Sulfur from a channel we call Yellow Rille. Documentation is provided with each sample with location, depth, every thing. Hopefully it will compensate for all the precious minutes you're losing talking to me.

GENE: I'm sure it will. For what it's worth, thank you, Miss Robyn.

ROBYN: Well, time marches on and your backpack, which you kept running in here by the way, won't run forever. So that's pretty much all I wanted to say to you, Commander Cernan. Thanks for taking this time out of your tait schedule to meet with me. Perhaps we will meet again someday on Earth.


264 GAME

GENE: I would like that very much. In the meantime, I would ask a small favor from you.

ROBYN: Just name it, sir.

GENE: My beautiful ten year old little girl's name is Tracy.

Cernan holds up again the image of the Apollo 11 site that was taken from very near the Eagle lander to underscore what he is saying in an oblique way.

GENE: I wrote her initials with my finger in the ground near the Challenger, but far enough away that the blast of our ascent won't erase it.

ROBYN: I can tell you are a man who loves his daughter very much. These pictures were taken to impress your bosses, sir. But I promise no one will ever come near your own landing site across this valley, unless your own people do later. Tracy's initials won't last forever, of course, due to micrometeorites, but close enough. A million years at least. That's much better than anything you could do for her Earthside. Take care and be safe, Commander Cernan.

When the two men return to Challenger and remove their helmets, Harrison Schmitt snaps a photo of Cernan for the history books. He looks haggard, exhausted, and just a little haunted. The young lady he met out there on the Taurus-Littrow valley floor with her sheaf of papers and bundle of rocks spells certain doom for NASA's manned moon program.

Apollo 18 and 19 are designated to explore the lunar far-side, but Cernan figures they would be canceled soon after he, Schmitt and Ron Evans return to Earth. The twenty-five billion dollars that had already been spent on the Apollo project now seemed like the biggest waste of money in American history.

When Robyn looks out along the new Timeline she sees that her idea of applying reverse psychology to the Americans is not enough. Apollo 18 and 19 were still going to be canceled, and the country is still going to turn its back on manned space exploration.

ROBYN: So what do we do, Lil?

LILITH: I think we can fix it without creating yet another timeline. The whole Apollo program was a proxy battle in the Cold War, right?

ROBYN: Right, and just after Apollo 8 the Soviets, sore losers that they are, knocked all the chess pieces off the board. They took their ball and went home.

LILITH: Well, then, Robyn, obviously all we need to do now is simply get the Soviets to come back to the game.


265 ASMODEUS

For many centuries peace reigned in the land of Haaretz, protected as it was by the ships of House Sala and Bellon on one side and the Wall of God on three other sides. Thaumiel had almost forgotten the Ark of the Covenant, the sacred golden chest that he knew to be the last remaining avatar of Chokhmah after he destroyed her flying avatar in the ancient war, along with the life of Princess Lilith.

But Thaumiel knew angels and nephilim and humans had begun to live and work in space, both in the vicinity of Earth, and at his colony of Jupiter, which could only be accessed through a fold-door terminating in his own temple at Eden. The Ark began to weigh in Thaumiel's mind once again. He believes the Ark is necessary for humans to communicate with a sun outside of Milcom's harem, should any of them contrive to make the awesome crossing to one of them. And he believes the words of Michaela to the effect that since Chokhmah and Binah shared a single stellar body they could never produce a new avatar again without killing one or the other, or both.

Flying machines appeared in heaven a number of decades before, making the Wall of God much less formidable as a barrier. Over a period of years Thaumiel, now clad in the body of the High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus Gerash, equips and funds a human warlord named Telan Blackseed in the Saiph League to make a strong bid to conquer much of Haaretz, with the ultimate goal of raiding the temple of Chokhmah in Nath where he knew the Ark of the Covenant to be located.

When Asmodeus deems that all is ready and orders the war to begin, Telan Blackseed personally leads the Army of the Republic in many boats across the lower reaches of the River Sabik, taking the town of Sadl Ferry in Menkal by surprise. Such is the strength of the invasion that Blackseed is able to divide his forces in twain, sending half of his men north to cut across Alodra and invade Menkal, while sending another half east toward the temple in Nath.

High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus hymself goes with this second wing in a truck, having first descended from the rim of the God Wall in a glider.

The famed Wall of Menkal which once enclosed that entire kingdom is breached in many places and is no longer actively defended, offering little in the way of a barrier to Blackseed. Eliath Wood in Menkal, however, remains undigested. Saiph League troops completely encircle the forest and begin to fight their way in, but a fair fraction of Blackseed's forces camp on a wide prairie between the forest and the roads to Shedal to prevent aid from reaching the refugees hiding among the trees, as well as to prevent the refugees themselves from fleeing south to Alodra.

The balance of Blackseed's forces come to grips with Menkalese infantry in the wide vale of the River Armak along a broad front. Both sides dig in and erect earthworks with elaborate trenches to protect themselves from gunshot, for soldiers on both sides realize that on the flat battleground there is absolutely no cover.

Thus the unfolding war threatens to grind to a standstill and become a contest of attrition. That it did not do so was attributed to new weapons technology held in reserve by House Gerash and applied against the older weaponry of Haaretz, which had always been something of a backwater in heaven.


266 PLAGUES

Yeshua punishes the invaders from the Saiph League with a series of plagues. The first plague is a heavy spill of rock oil which covers the Armak River with a brown syrupy layer, and many of the soldiers of Blackseed whisper that Binah has turned the river to blood. It is as bitter as blood at any rate, and the invading army is forced to dig new wells far from the river to drink.

The second plague is a grass fungus that exterminates all the horses and food animals who forage on the west side of the River Nanki (which means all the animals owned or captured by Lord Telan Blackseed) while the animals on the west side remain healthy. And this fungus also causes a loathsome and incurable skin disease in many of the invading forces from the Republic of the Saiph League.

The third plague seems more like a miracle at first. Yeshua contrives the first tides in heaven, such that there is exposed seabottom from the mainland to the isle of Sukai in Menkal. A great multitude from Suhair flee on foot over this new land bridge with their children, goods, and all of their animals.

Blackseed thinks to use the new land bridge as a way to conquer both Sukai and the larger island of Elendal beyond, and orders his forces to pursue the people with many of the new horseless chariots. But while the mud flats are dry enough for those who go about on two or four feet, those who travel in wheeled vehicles have more trouble. The Saiph League's motorized cavalry becomes stuck in the mud, and they cannot escape before Yeshua allows the sea tide to flood the area once more.

In retaliation for this plague Blackseed leaves no man or woman alive in the city of Akamar. He puts the people of that city under saws and harrows and axes of iron, makes their dead bodies pass through a brick kiln, and salts the earth nigh to the city.

Following the massacre of the people in Akamar, Yeshua sends upon the armies of Blackseed a great destruction of wind and fire, such a one as never had been known anywhere in heaven. But Telan Blackseed himself survives, and attributes these disasters to a chance confluence of those natural misfortunes which are prone to happen everywhere from time to time. Blackseed says Binah is a figment, and Yeshua a mere man styling himself as a god who deceives the people by playing to their ancient superstitions. "For Thaumiel and Chokhmah are the sole living elohim," says he.

Thus it comes to pass that the Saiph League occupies all of mainland Menkal, despite the plagues of Yeshua, leaving only a rump state on the islands of Elendal and Sukai. Blackseed deports all the surviving people to the worst lands in the Saiph Republic, while assigning the most choice lands in Menkal to the officers of his army. And after much bloodshed Rynet falls, and the way is clear to assail the Temple of Chokhmah.

But Telan Blackseed is not willing to actually smite the Temple of Chokhmah, and in the guise of Emperor Asmodeus, Thaumiel is angered by his reluctance to do so. Asmodeus himself rallies the army. Hy orders the yeng to loot the gold of the Temple of Chokhmah, and set the roof on fire, and tear the walls down stone by stone. And when the forces of Telan Blackseed draw near to the temple of Chokhmah, Yeshua and Michaela come to witness the desecration, but these elohim the soldiers touch not, nor dare to revile.

A death squad of five powerful men chosen by Asmodeus and armed with the latest weapons of House Gerash stand forth. Thrand Pikebreaker causes stones to move and fill the moat, which gives the death squad access to the wall of the temple. 267 ARREST

Magar Hardlash cuts a hole in the thick stone wall with a stolen copy of the Golden Gift to allow the death squad to enter.

Atol Ratrunner causes dark clouds of smoke to pile up over the temple, and these clouds hurl lightning bolts at the riflemen in the highest parapets.

Derian Elderwood causes strong whirlwinds of dust to rage about the death squad, obscuring them from any surviving riflemen.

Torr Stonespear causes the temple doors to splinter before the death squad with explosives, one by one, until they reach the chambers of the High Priest and slay him unarmed.

Their task complete, they stand at attention as Emperor Asmodeus and two Eyes of Thaumiel of proceed into the heart of the Temple in the wake of the death squad. Asmodeus is eager to take possession of the Ark of the Covenant, the only remaining artifact associated with Chokhmah. He knows Chokhmah often uses the Ark to communicate with her high priest. It sits in the center of the room suspended above the floor by two staves on four pillars.

But something is amiss. Asmodeus only feels 17% of his own weight. The passage back to Alodra transforms into a blank wall in Taurus City, and Asmodeus knows hy has been duped.

ASMODEUS: Wormhole. Clever.

Asmodeus and his guards are disarmed by the simple expedient of having Freddy Aspin set their weapons glowing orange-hot. They drop them to the deck.

ROBYN: Emperor Asmodeus, you are under arrest for war crimes, and, uh, entering Taurus City without leave.

Lilith strides a few steps directly toward Asmodeus and slaps his face, hard. It is so unexpected hy did absolutely nothing to fend her off.

LILITH: That is for killing me, accursed one.

Asmodeus turns his face back to Lilith.

ASMODEUS: And who are you?

LILITH: I am Princess Lilith of Salem.

ASMODEUS: Then you had better kill this body in turn, Princess, because whatever deal you're putting together here is now impossible. That slack just nullified it.

LILITH: Oh, no, you mustn't take that attitude, Thaumiel. You are bargaining for passage of your colonists to and from Jupiter.

ASMODEUS: Michaela and I already made that agreement just days before Binah came into existence. The bargain is done, and cannot be reversed,

LILITH: And what have you done since then, Lord Asmodeus? A trickle of traffic between your temple in Eden and the moon of Hyperion? I'm talking about moving them in ships rather than on foot. When we start taking this Ark, this avatar, to the stars wouldn't you rather send a whole fleet hounding after us rather than send a cluster-fuck of troops scrambling single-file down the worm-tunnel to your little moon?

ASMODEUS: This has to be another trick on the part of Michaela. Where is sha, by the way?


268 GLENN

LILITH: Sha's putting together a summit, a sort of high council. It will be the first and perhaps the only time the elohim will meet with the leaders of the angels and nephilim and humans of both heaven and Earth. I really think it would be in your best interest to attend. You won't have far to go, we're holding the conclave right here in Taurus City, very soon, and of course you will still be here when it happens because as Robyn just said, you are under arrest.

In the days just before Christmas, 1972, President Richard Nixon sends 130 B-52s and hundreds of smaller bombers to lay waste to Hanoi, Haiphong, and the whole vicinity, including airfields, rail yards, and (although perhaps not deliberately) even residential neighborhoods. The North Vietnamese government says the Americans are insane.

There is a thirty-six hour pause in the bombing for Christmas, and then it resumes. Although fifteen bombers are shot down and nearly a hundred airmen captured or killed, one hundred fifteen B-52s continue to bomb indiscriminately, around the clock. By New Year's Day the North Vietnamese can't take the bombing anymore and they return to the negotiating table. A month later a cease-fire is announced, and the war finally shudders to a halt.

A few days after the cease-fire in Vietnam, the judge in the case of the Watergate burglars, John Sirica, hands down ridiculously stiff sentences with the idea of making one of the defendants break and testify against their unknown handlers. The Quiet Man does break, and writes a letter to Maximum John that there is political pressure to get the defendants to remain silent and that other men are involved in the operation who were not identified during the trial. This breaks the cover-up wide open.

It comes out that the Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement official in the land, had directed the whole operation to break into the headquarters of the opposing political party and bug their offices. Counsel to the White House was enlisted to pay hush money and lawyer's fees for the defendants after the arrest. The head of the FBI, "Three Day Gray", was enlisted to steer the investigation by his subordinates away from the truth, and the President himself, only days after the arrests, claimed the break-in was a CIA operation in the interest of national security. And all of this is dragged out into public view because Nixon had bugged himself. He had secretly recorded every conversation made in the Oval Office since be coming President.

Soon after Vice-President Gerald Ford is sworn in to replace Richard Nixon after his resignation, fifty-three year old Astronaut John Glenn is asked to return to flight status with NASA after a hiatus of ten years. Although he had been preparing to make a run for the Senate as a Democratic Party candidate, Glenn instead flies on the Apollo 18 mission in a special nonpartisan observer role for the United States government.

Apollo 18 uses a Saturn 1B launch vehicle to pre-position a larger lunar module in orbit, one capable of carrying three men rather than two. It is to be latched to a larger command/service module carried by the usual Saturn-5 that can carry five men rather than three.

President Ford gives John Glenn carte blanche authority to make deals with the people already on the Moon who apparently are represented by the person who named herself to Gene Cernan as Robyn. This is not public knowledge at the time. Glenn is not assigned a role as Command Module pilot or Lunar Module pilot, but he checks out on both positions.

It is Richard Gordon who actually commands the mission. He had already attained lunar orbit as the Command Module pilot for Apollo 12 but never walked on the moon. Now he is to land on the surface with Glenn and Fred Haise, who had almost walked on the Moon once before for Apollo 13 but had to turn back around following an explosion.


269 APOLLO-18

Also flying on Apollo 18 are Vance Brand and William Pogue, who are space virgins. They stand port and starboard watch aboard the Command and Service Modules in lunar orbit for the three weeks the teams are to be separated.

The Soviet Union transmits to NASA the orbital elements for their Lunniy Orbitalny Korabl which was parked over the Moon about a week before Apollo 18 arrived. They say the craft is currently unmanned and don't want the risk of a collision, no matter how remote. The part about the LOK being currently unmanned was strange to the Americans, but the Soviets refuse to elaborate on this.

Soon after Glenn, Gordon, and Haise land, an electric truck identical to the one driven by Robyn and photographed by Harrison Schmitt arrives at the landing site and stops. After that, the truck driver finds the frequency the astronauts are using to talk to Mission Control and suggests, in English but with a Russian accent, that they follow him in their rover. Glenn and Gordon agree to go, and Haise is left behind to watch the Lunar Module. This precaution is deemed necessary because the moon is apparently crowded now.

The route they take is like a long dirt ramp up the North Massif. All the up-climbing takes a toll on the battery of the Lunar Rover. At about the eight mile mark, Gordon gets on the radio and says they have to turn around to recharge, or the rover would run out of juice. The Russian voice suggests it wouldn't be a problem and that they should keep going. Gordon reluctantly assents.

After thirteen miles, with many switchbacks, they round a hillock and see something like a wide garage door, which opens at the command of the lead truck. Both vehicles enter, and the garage door shuts behind them. It takes about a quarter of an hour to fill the space with oxygen, then two men get out of the truck wearing jumpsuits and boots, nothing more.

GORDON: Aleksei Leonov! And Oleg Makarov! I recognize both of you from photographs in our briefing. I knew you were out here but I didn't know you were landing. Where's your LK?

LEONOV: No LK, Commander. Astrodyne. We hitch ride down here.

There are brief introductions all the way around, then Makarov attaches a power cable to the truck. He brings another power cable over to the Lunar Rover and offers to plug it in, but first he must convince Gordon it is safe. What sells Gordon is how the cable fitting is exactly tailored to fit the rover. Someone up here has done their research.

The next space after the garage is literally a locker room, with large lockers for the NASA crew to stow their pressure suits and keep the keys on their person.

MAKAROV: This key for peace of mind, no?

And the space after that opens on a balcony looking down upon the vast green interior of Taurus City, lit by clever sun reflectors in the ceiling.

SENATOR GLENN: Damn that air smells good!

LEONOV: It better smell good. We pay for each lungful. They say, go fetch Americans, reduce line item on expense account.

MAKAROV: They call this cut-and-cover tunnel, but is big one.

Glenn and Gordon are getting their first view of Taurus City from the south end, very high up near the ceiling, much as Robyn and Hunky and Dory and Freddy and Mike had done two years prior. -270 GLIDE

LEONOV: One hundred sixty four meters wide, one hundred sixty four meters tall, nine hundred eighty four meters long.

GLENN: Does it have an ecological balance?

LEONOV: Not quite yet. You see how small trees are. But, I think, in time, yes.

Gordon looks at all the apartment balconies running along all the walls all the way to the other end, almost a full kilometer away.

GORDON: Is it dangerous here?

MAKAROV: There's no weather on moon, only moonquakes and meteors. Moonquakes are very small, you never feel one. Meteors bigger problem, but still small problem. Sometimes we patch ceiling. Save more money on air bill.

GLENN: I'm impressed. It's a compact and carefully designed space habitat that some how doesn't look compact and carefully designed.

GORDON: How do we get down there?

MAKAROV: That's fun part.

Makarov begins to strap some wings on himself. Leonov straps wings on as well, and shows Glenn and Gordon how to do it correctly. Glenn looks at the folds of fabric he is encased in.

GLENN: No time for flying lessons?

MAKAROV: Wing it!

And he kicks free of the ledge. When he jumps, the excess folds of his fabric wings inflate and Makarov glides slowly down under the one-sixth Lunar gravity. It looks like so much fun Gordon immediately follows him, and he is followed by Leonov. Like a baby thrown into a swimming pool Glenn is instantly required to adapt to the changing circumstances of his flight as soon as he leaves the ledge.

Makarov, with the ease of slightly longer experience, flies circles above and around the Americans to stay close enough to speak as they try to learn the ropes. They fly right over the business district where the glass and steel Church of Green Dome tabernacle, still under construction, shares a courtyard and fountain with an office building, also under construction. Of course both these structures run for many levels underground. Makarov begins to give them a guided tour.

MAKAROV: There's two-seater electric vehicle available from motor pool beneath future shopping mall. Ramp from motor pool leads to Taurus Highway, three miles of concrete run from one end of tunnel to other.

They all fly down a bit for a closer look at downtown. Leonov points to an infant skyscraper.

LEONOV: Astrodyne will not be run from there. Is just Potempkin village for bigwigs, so they think Robyn gives good meeting.

On the other side of the highway a hotel and a bank are under construction.

LEONOV: You see Obion street and City Administration complex where Astrodyne handles day to day operation.


271 LANDING

They continue to glide along, and drop very slowly. Makarov points out the lunar branch of Canterwood Academy, right next to a one acre site with a grade school for the children of the B'nei Elohim.

MAKAROV: Sometimes there you see girls kicking balls in effigy, and not just futbols.

GLENN: How charming!

The highway then curves gently through Cedar Heights, a forty-home development of big ranch houses for some of the middle-level B'nei Elohim members, and these homes, by contrast, are complete. The highway bends there to travel directly east to the other wall of Taurus City's canyon.

LEONOV: Only eighteen second drive. On foot, cross from one wall to other in two minute walk.

Bike paths lead down and around Mineral Canyon which is a thousand foot long stretch of whitewater in a deep chasm. There are eleven mansions there for the top B'nei Elohim members like Hunky, Dory, and Jill. And there is also a bridge where the Americans can see a big pretty two hundred foot artificial waterfall plunging into a grass bowl at the head of the river.

They are getting close to the ground now, and Robyn's estate looms ahead on a little hill. On the other side of the mansion Glenn and Gordon can see the road does an S curve past two sections of nine acre Lake Taurus and an apartment complex where the bike trail ends. The last two parts are the farm sector and the forest sector. The farm is thirteen acres of fruits and veggies plus a ten acre apple orchard with room for about three hundred head of cattle among the trees.

The forest sector beyond that was centered around Green Hill. That is the highest point on the tunnel's floor.

Makarov and Leonov land first in Robyn's backyard to show the Americans how it is done. Gordon follows them, and he finds he can deflate or inflate the wings at will to control his descent perfectly. He comes to a gentle stop on his feet right next to the cosmonauts and the Russians beam at him.

John Glenn is too happy to let the flight end just yet. He is overcome with the same feeling one gets on terminal cruise, when a plane's engines are throttled back near the end of a flight. There is a qualitative change in the background noise of his mind, an attitude shift.

Robyn's estate dances under his feet. Descending into the compound Glenn tries to finesse his landing with small forced deflations of his wings. Too much. Too fast. The three men watch him come down like a bat shot out of the sky. There was the swimming pool, screw it.


For the Summit the People's Republic of China is represented by Special Minister Liu Chou-Lai, who has been appointed and trained by the Communist Party solely for the event on the Moon. He and his aides had been transported to Taurus by Soviet cosmonauts a number of days before Glenn and his team arrived.

Robyn tells Liu Chou-Lai that in addition to representing China he was considered by her to also speak for the entire so-called Third World of nonaligned nations. Alexsey Leonov is to speak for the Soviet Union and those nations that are part of her sphere of influence, such as Cuba, Egypt, and Vietnam, also known as the Second World.

Michaela is present and represents the ultimate authority over what happens pertaining to the Sol system, while Thaumiel is present in the flesh of the ruling Family Gerash Patriarch, Asmodeus.


272 SUMMIT

ROBYN: Colonel John Glenn, I am Robyn. I'm the one who met Gene Cernan in '72. It was an honor to meet him, and it is really is an honor to meet you, the first Mercury pilot to orbit the Earth.

GLENN: Hello Robyn. I'm not sure it really such an honor to meet me anymore. It seems I wasn't the first American to orbit the Earth after all.

ROBYN: Alas, that is true. But welcome to what we're calling a Summit. I realize you haven't even had time to get yourself fully dry again after your dip in my pool, but I'm thinking of the limited time your people have for life support out there on the plain and in the sky overhead, so we will get started very soon.

GLENN: This city you name Taurus is a truly amazing accomplishment, Robyn, but what puzzles me is how you dug this big hole. I don't even see removed soil piled up nearby. There should be mountains of it.

ROBYN: We have discovered a way to temporarily turn normal matter into what we call dark matter. We call it dark because it doesn't interact with light. So chemistry doesn't apply to it anymore. It just goes away, sinks to the center of the moon or flies away into space. The process works great for trash too.

GLENN: That is a very important discovery. You must share.

ROBYN: Actually, no, Colonel Glenn, we must not. We are a group of very disgruntled American citizens, I've had to dodge federal bullets myself, for one thing. And by that I do mean actual, literal bullets, not metaphorical ones.

GLENN: But think of the possibilities! Roads, tunnels, we could save taxpayers billions of dollars. I'm afraid I must insist on this one point, Robyn. Astrodyne must share this discovery with the American people.

ROBYN: Well, you must also remember, Colonel, that although most of us up here were born in the United States, we consider ourselves stewards of the entire Earth, and when we share what we call the macro effect, we intend to share it with all of humanity, not merely the American people. In fact, we have already begun to share it, and very shortly Michaela will show you what I mean.

When the Summit actually began, Michaela presented documents to Glenn as well as Leonov and the Chinese Special Minister.

LILITH: This is my first action item, and it is for you as well as Commander Leonov and Minister Liu Chou-Lai. It consists of a warning to all mariners to stay at least a hundred nautical miles away from a new, large whirlpool that has formed about halfway between Tasmania and New Zealand's South Island. I have chosen to call this whirlpool Charybdis, just like the one in Homer's epic. The precise coordinates for the whirlpool is given in this document. Please propagate this warning to all the people of Earth.

GLENN: Whirlpool? What are you doing?

Michaela makes a small wave of her hand. Lilith brings out a tripod stand and unveils for the participants of the Summit a large map of the Earth, showing the contours of the continents as they are in the present day of the fall of 1974, and also showing contours of the land beneath the waves at the 2,000 fathom line.

MICHAELA: Venus, the second planet in the Solar system, is wrapped by a thick blanket of greenhouse gases that retain the sun's heat, making that planet far hotter than the Earth would be at the same distance.


273 TERRAFORMING

ROBYN: Why is that true, Michaela?

MICHAELA: The planet lacks the plate tectonics that we have on Earth, which takes carbon out of the air in the form of dead organic material and moves it under the surface. So that's the first problem. Venus has too much air, and not a drop of water.

Then Michaela gets up out of her chair and points at the map.

MICHAELA: The Earth will have five billion people within the next decade, yet only twenty-nine percent of its surface is dry land, and much of that is desert or frozen tundra unable to support human life. So the Earth has too much water, and too many people for the land that we do have. That's the second problem.

Then Michaela turns to face the delegates from Earth.

MICHAELA: We have already begun to solve these problems, gentlemen, but we estimate it will take more than two centuries to reach full completion. The first problem, with Venus having too much air, we have already started to address by the wholesale conversion of the atmosphere to dark matter in the same way we removed the lunar regolith to dig out this city. This will have the same effect as introducing plate tectonics to Venus. The carbon dioxide will be buried under the surface and we will reduce the atmospheric pressure by nearly a hundred-fold.

GLENN: What do you hope to achieve by doing that?

MICHAELA: Colonel Glenn, we hope to achieve nothing less than a second Earth. But for that we need to introduce water. A lot of water.

Sha points to a section of the map in the South Pacific.

MICHAELA: We have positioned the mouth of a fold-gate far under the sea, near New Zealand, right here. It will constantly be maintained at the level of the sea where the water pressure is just sufficient to overcome the air pressure on Venus, currently about ninety standard atmospheres.

GLENN: What is a fold-gate?

MICHAELA: A fold-gate is an artificial wormhole, an Einstein-Rosen bridge that lets us link any two points in space together as though they were one point. We have positioned the other end of the fold-gate on the north pole of Venus. This will create a flow of seawater to Venus where it will immediately turn to steam, and the sea salt will be precipitated out. Now, unfortunately, temperatures will remain too high for humans to live in the open on Venus for perhaps another century. We will have to live in enclosed structures that require the constant conversion of air to dark matter to sustain air conditioning, and it will be another century after that before terraforming of the north and south polar regions will raise the level of oxygen to a life-sustaining level. But after that, humanity will have a new planet that is quite comfortable in both of the polar regions, but there will be a large desert between them. I propose to place this new world entirely under the control of the People's Republic of China.

LIU CHOU-LAI: Why did you choose that remote spot for the.. what did you say? Fold-gate? Why not the South China Sea? Especially since, as you say, you are turning Venus over to us.

MICHAELA: That is too shallow, Minister Chou-Lai. When the Earth's sea level drops about twelve thousand feet, in about two hundred years, the world ocean, which is currently seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface, will be divided into precisely two halves.


274 LATTICE

Lilith helps Michaela flip over a page on the stand to show an entirely different map.

MICHAELA: South America will have two land bridges connecting it to Antarctica, as you can see here. At that time, the only water connection between the Pacific and Atlantic ocean water lobes will be right here, between New Zealand and Tasmania. This undersea basin will be the location of the greatest city on Earth in the 23th Century. It will be the crossroads for all sea transport, which is now and will always remain the most costeffective way to move goods from point-to-point on the surface of the Earth.

LEONOV: If you remove so much water I think will follow disruption. I see your map. No more Black Sea, no more Baltic Sea.

MICHAELA: That's true, Commander Leonov, but the change will occur at a very gradual pace, and the result will be that the land area of the Earth, as a percent age of its total surface, will be raised from twenty-nine percent to fifty percent. The people of Earth would begin to reap the benefits of that uncovering process almost immediately. New land would be exposed off the coasts, and much of this contains oil deposits which will become newly economical to tap. Florida would grow to more than double its width. The ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska that the ancestors of the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere used to cross over from Asia to North America would be permanently reestablished.

ASMODEUS: I don't believe it. Such a volume of transportation would be possible only if you have access to an unlimited flow of dark light.

MICHAELA: Nevertheless we are already doing it, so obviously it is not impossible.

She didn't mention, nor dared to mention, that the energy was borrowed from the future, much in the way a credit card essentially grabbed money from the future to apply it at a single point of time in the present.

ASMODEUS: You will outline this process to me.

MICHAELA: I will not. I am a disgruntled eloah, even as Robyn is a disgruntled B'nei Eloah and will not share with Colonel Glenn. But be of good cheer, Asmodeus. I do now at this time offer to move large ships between the Land We Know and Jupiter in the same way individuals now move between temples.

ASMODEUS: I refuse to accept that such a thing is possible! And even if you can do it, I would demand some measure of control, even as the small wormhole tubes we use today are anchored in the heart of our guarded temples.

MICHAELA: Then I propose we build a structure called an Identification Lattice. One end of a fold-gate will always be associated with the location of this lattice. Ships moving between heaven and Jupiter will pass through the lattice for identification before either one of us permit the actual link to come into existence.

ASMODEUS: That would be acceptable.

MICHAELA: Anyway, Colonel Glenn, terraforming Venus, setting up wormholes, that's pretty much what we here at Astrodyne have been up to, but enough about our petty issues. Let us now go on to your agenda items. What is President Ford's biggest concern right now?

GLENN: The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says non-governmental activities, such as your corporation, obviously, must operate under the approval and authority of a state which is signatory to the Treaty.

275 POLITICS

MICHAELA: And so?

GLENN: I can tell you now, speaking for the Ford Administration, that the United States would only extend such recognition quid pro quo.

ROBYN: Colonel Glenn, every employee of the Astrodynamics Corporation carries citizenship of the new nation of Barbuda in the Caribbean.

GLENN: Barbuda's statehood is not recognized by the United States and they are not signatory to the 1967 treaty.

MICHAELA: Commander Leonov, do you think Astrodyne could be placed under the legal penumbra of the Soviet Union to satisfy this treaty?

LEONOV: I think this request not impossible. Give us photos and names of people here, birthdays, I take home to Star City, then Kremlin. Who knows? Maybe next Korabl bring forty Soviet passports.

MICHAELA: Thank you, Commander Leonov. And so, Colonel Glenn, shall we proceed to your next item?

GLENN: We want to know why you are contracting with the Soviet Union to bring your people up here.

MICHAELA: Well, Colonel Glenn, probably because the Soyuz vehicle is an astonishingly reliable spacecraft. I think the role of the Soviet Union now and in the future be to provide ships linking together the worlds of the Sol System in a great transportation network. Most of the lesser bodies of the inner system would be theirs, solely, as well as a constellation of habitats and space stations they propose to build.

GLENN: But they are communists!

MICHAELA: Colonel Glenn, I can't think of anything more boring to me than what economic theory is practiced by the government represented by Alexsei Leonov and Oleg Makarov. The Soviet Union has been the first to respond to our request for a third party to provide transportation, but I've brought you and Minister Chou-Lai here to make the same offer. We already have a great demand for space transportation and it only goes up from here.

ROBYN: Let me ask you something, Colonel Glenn. I understand you were preparing for a Senate run before President Ford tapped you for this mission. Where would you say your politics fits on a spectrum between left and right?

GLENN: It's no secret that I'm a registered Democrat, but my politics I think would be somewhere in the middle. Maybe a little left of center.

ROBYN: I think it's safe to say that with the Watergate stuff, and with Ford giving Nixon a blanket pardon, that's a foregone conclusion the next President will be a Democrat, wouldn't you agree, Colonel Glenn?

GLENN: I would indeed agree with that assessment, Miss Robyn. I think right now the country just wants to do a healthy flush in '76 and move away from that whole terrible episode.

ROBYN: We have discovered that what we do up here on the Moon has a profound effect on US presidential politics. I think that the binder I gave to Gene Cernan back in '72 might have influenced President Ford to pick Clyde Tolson to be his vice-president instead of the more liberal Nelson Rockefeller, and we think that tossing some work to the Russians and Chinese up here will lead to more hawkish candidates in the Democratic Party winning the next election rather than the left-leaning peanut farmer we think you'd get otherwise.


276 BOTS

GLENN: And why is American presidential politics important to Astrodyne, Robyn? Didn't you say you were citizens of Barbuda? And didn't you just now make arrangements for Soviet passports?

ROBYN: Checks and balances are always a good thing, Colonel Glenn. As long as the Cold War never goes hot, which we must all be vigilant never to allow to happen, I think the rivalry between the U.S. and the S.U. is good for both. What's why we're rooting for the hawks of your political party. Competition spurs innovation. And a three-way competition is even better, hence the presence of the Chinese delegation. I think if the Cold War were to end with one country slipping into decline and the other becoming a fat, complacent world hegemony, that would be a tragedy for both.

As a matter of fact, Robyn knew it would be a tragedy because she had already seen how a single-superpower world played out in the timeline where she never showed up to meet Gene Cernan out in the Taurus-Littrow valley.

Emperor Asmodeus had heard enough and stood up.

ASMODEUS: Many gifts and agreements have been passed back and forth, but we have failed to reward the American people of Earth and this strikes me as very rude.

Silence fell over the Summit as everyone tried to guess what Asmodeus meant.

Asmodeus walked over to an inert silver robot with the size and shape of a little child.

ASMODEUS: I call this a Bot. It is designed to work on the terminator of an airless world, at the very transition between day and night.

Michaela knew that Asmodeus, as Thaumiel, had gotten the plans for his Bot from the Lore of the Elohim, and sha was mildly surprised to see it, for sha had grown used to being the sole user of that store of knowledge. But sha harself could find nothing about them using the access that Thaumiel had granted har. Perhaps Thaumiel had only given har a redacted set, Binah suggested. If Michaela could prove it, the ancient bargain would be off.

ASMODEUS: If El Shaddai permits, I propose to give the First World of Sol system to the Americans. They will be aided by many of these Bots. The terminator line moves at walking speed, so the Bots will never cease moving, but they will also gather together resources for export and to make more Bots. So close to the sun, this world is rich in energy, which the Americans will be able to transmit to the Soviets to power their ships. The Iranians also stand to benefit, since the main port for moving the American's products to their final destination will be the Second World.

Michaela nodded to Lilith, then moved closer to the Bot to pretend to examine it. Lilith spoke to Robyn in a clandestine way, by using Dory as an intermediary.

[lilith:] WHAT IS ASMODEUS DOING?

[Robyn:] I DON'T KNOW, BUT HY'S PLAYING IT BEAUTIFULLY, SAVING IT FOR THE END OF THE SUMMIT. HY'S THINKING OF COOKING UP SOMETHING WITH GLENN, BUT I CAN'T SEE WHAT IT IS. REMEMBER ON THE ROAD TRIP WE TOOK, WHAT I TOLD YOU ABOUT BLACKJACK?

Jill used to watch Robyn play blackjack in Vegas and wondered why she didn't take the House for everything they had. Robyn's open-mouthed astonishment was followed by the answer that consistently winning too much money would get Robyn on somebody's shit list and no casino in town would so much as let her walk through the door.

277 BLACKJACK


Besides, that's not how precognition works, Robyn said, taking this as a good opportunity to try to explain.

The first thing Jill needed to realize, Robyn told her at the time, was that the free will of herself and others was paramount, and it constantly obscured her talent for precognition. The other players could hit or stand and there was no way for Robyn to predict what they would do, and each choice affected what cards would be dealt to the players down the line, which in turn would affect their decision to hit or stand, and so on. The variables multiplied beyond Robyn's ability to sort them out. That's why she always waited until the seat was open at Third Base before sitting at a table. And by Third Base, Jill understood that to mean the seat that was serviced by the dealer last, just before he turned over his own cards. That way all the variables were reduced to just those affected by Robyn's own choices.

The only thing Robyn could see without fail, sha told Jill, is whether the dealer is going to get a blackjack, and if that happens Robyn sat out the hand with no bet but if she did that every single time they would catch on and toss her out on her ass. So sometimes Robyn lost a hand, but it was always just the minimum bet. Sometimes the cards were no help and there was no way to beat the dealer no matter what sha did. But Robyn never busted by going over twenty-one unless sha wanted to throw the watchers off her tail, the ones snooping on closed-circuit TV through cameras mounted over the table. And if sha could see sha was going to beat the dealer sha doubled

B `=down. The result after a few hours of relaxation and exercising har talent

was a mild buzz from her drinks and a few hundred dollars. Every night. Before sha moved into space Robyn considered gambling to be har primary occupation.

One thing had still puzzled Jill, however. Robyn had no problem predicting stock market crashes or recessions, and they had infinitely more variables than a simple blackjack game. The big stuff is actually easier, Robyn had told her. It's not about a single person telling a dealer hit or stand, it's about groups acting together, buying and selling things.

LILITH (after pondering) Perhaps your talent does not extend to predicting the future choices of an eloah.

ROBYN But we have no choice but to give Mercury to the Americans, or we ruin the spirit of the whole Summit.

LILITH (in a loud voice) Emperor Asmodeus is wise, for we were on the brink of being unforgiving hosts and snubbing the Americans. Therefore I grant title of Mercury to the American people, solely and permanently, and my gifts are without repent ance. Let it be as Asmodeus has proposed.

And so, with the Summit concluded, Glenn and Gordon return to Earth with the rest of the crew of Apollo 18, while Leonov and Makarov take the Chi nese representatives back home in two vehicles.

After arriving safely, the Soviet and Chinese delegations put the word out to the rest of the world to stay far away from Robyn was calling Charybdis, but the Americans say nothing. The Ford Administration is developing the narrative that only NASA is operating on the Moon, certainly not a private corporation such as Astrodyne, and any claims by the Soviets and the Chi nese that they were present on the Moon as well was officially dismissed as communist propaganda to antagonize the West.

Despite this, the western nations with blue water navies such as the United Kingdom and France do heed the warning from Liu Chou-Lai to stay away from C `=�


the whirlpool. But the United States seems to be like a stubborn child who insists on touching a hot stove precisely because his mother told him not to do it. The US Navy rushes directly to the vicinity with a submarine and promptly loses contact with it. This tragic disregard by the American gov ernment for the warnings of the B'nei Elohim is to become a persistent pat tern in the years to follow.

The destroyer Buchanan, a twenty year old Adams can, is ordered to cut short a port visit in New Zealand to investigate Charybdis. Perhaps if the Navy had flown aircraft to the location first, one hundred ten submariners and three hundred fifty destroyer sailors would have avoided death.

The submariners of the USS Bluefish suffer much more than the crew of Bu chanan. Their boat is airtight and able to resist the 90 atmospheres of pressure on Venus without being crushed. So she just lays on her side next to a blackened Buchanan and bakes the crew like so much salmon. Distress calls go out from Radio Central for an hour or two, and are intercepted, but the Navy refuses to believe the weak signals are crossing interplane tary space. From what they could make out from the frantic calls, the Navy guessed the submarine had gotten pinned in the fumarole of a new underwater volcano.

President Ford, who had the Glenn Report in hand and knows better than to think it was a volcano, orders a cruiser action group and one oiler dis patched to the area to keep lookie-loos out, whether by sea or air, lest they unmask his narrative.


The motivation for this ran far deeper than politics and was rooted in

Protestant theology. Although he started as a Midwest checked pants Repub lican, as President his cabinet was overrepresented by Southern fundamen talist Moral Majority types. John Glenn's reports from the Moon put them in a constant state of future shock. Holding the Bible to be the inerrant, literal word of God, they didn't know what to do with the knowledge that their God was really a vast female alien made of dense nuclei in the heart of the sun, and that Jesus was really the daughter of her and the devil.

There were anthropological considerations to take into account as well. From the long, sad history of the collision of colonizing European cultures with the more primitive aboriginal cultures in the lands they invaded, one could easily imagine Earth itself, in the aftermath of the arrival of an advanced alien civilization, becoming a sort of galactic Human Reservation utterly dependent on handouts and perhaps becoming a seedy haven for gam bling or other pleasures that might be forbidden elsewhere in the universe. A cover-up could buy time to prepare the world for the shock and perhaps prevent such a post-contact malaise from taking hold. This would be a le gitimate reason for the cover-up, but it was not the real reason.

There have always been those who seek to cling to safe and familiar things in a world that appears to grow more and more dangerous and complex every day. These relentless changes represented a quantum leap in the world's dan ger and complexity. To those who sought to steer America's schools away from teaching evolution and old earth geology and towards a curriculum of a spe cial creation of the Earth by God 6,000 years ago, the changes raised ques tions that their closed, self-contained, strictly Biblical theology could never answer.


For the Summit the People's Republic of China is represented by Special Minister Liu Chou-Lai, who has been appointed and trained by the Communist Party solely for the event on the Moon. He and his aides had been transported to Taurus by Soviet cosmonauts a number of days before Glenn and his team arrived.

Robyn tells Liu Chou-Lai that in addition to representing China he was considered by her to also speak for the entire so-called Third World of nona


ligned nations. Alexsey Leonov is to speak for the Soviet Union and those nations that are part of her sphere of influence, such as Cuba, Egypt, and Vietnam, also known as the Second World.

Lilith is present and represents the ultimate authority over what happens pertaining to the Sol system, while Thaumiel is present in the flesh of the ruling Family Gerash Patriarch, Asmodeus.

ROBYN Colonel John Glenn, I am Robyn. It really is an honor to meet you.

GLENN Hello Robyn. I'm not sure it's such an honor to meet me anymore. It seems I wasn't the first American to orbit the Earth after all. And I suppose you are, or once were, Kimberly Lokken, who met Gene Cernan during Apollo 17?

ROBYN Yes, I am she, but if you have read the information packet that gave Gene you know that I go by just Robyn now. Welcome to what I'm calling a Summit. I realize you haven't even had time to get yourself fully dry again after your dip in my pool, but I'm thinking of the limited time your people have for life support out there on the plain and in the sky overhead, so we will get started very soon.

GLENN This city you name Taurus is a truly amazing accomplishment, Robyn, but what puzzles me is how you dug this big hole. I don't even see removed soil piled up nearby. There should be mountains of it.

ROBYN We have discovered a way to temporarily turn normal matter into what we call dark matter. We call it dark because it doesn't interact with light. So chemistry doesn't apply to it anymore. It just goes away, sinks to the center of the moon or flies away into space. The process works great for trash too.

GLENN That is a very important discovery. You must share.

ROBYN Actually, no, Colonel Glenn, we must not. We are a group of very disgruntled American citizens, I've had to dodge federal bullets myself, for one thing. And by that I do mean actual, literal bullets, not metaphorical ones.

GLENN But think of the possibilities! Roads, tunnels, we could save taxpayers billions of dollars. I'm afraid I must insist on this one point, Robyn. Astrodyne must share this discovery with the American people.

ROBYN Well, you must also remember, Colonel, that although most of us up here were born in the United States, we consider ourselves stewards of the entire Earth, and when we share what we call the macro effect, we intend to share it with all of humanity, not merely the American people. In fact, we have already begun to share it, and Lilith will show you what I mean.

Lilith presents documents to Glenn as well as Leonov and the Chinese Special Minister.

LILITH This is my first action item, and it is for you as well as Commander Leonov and Minister Liu Chou-Lai. It consists of a warning to all mariners to stay at least a hundred nautical miles away from a new, large whirlpool that has formed about halfway between Tasmania and New Zealand's South Island. I have chosen to call this whirlpool Charybdis, just like the one in Homer's -


epic. The precise coordinates for the whirlpool is given in this document. Please propagate this warning to all the people of Earth.

GLENN Whirlpool? What are you doing?

Lilith make a small wave of her hand. Haziel's daughter Del brings out a tripod stand and unveils for the participants of the Summit a large map of the Earth, showing the contours of the continents as they are in the present day of the fall of 1974, and also showing contours of the land beneath the waves at the 2,000 fathom line.

LILITH Venus, the second planet in the Solar system, is wrapped by a thick blanket of greenhouse gases that retain the sun's heat, making that planet far hotter than the Earth would be at the same distance. The planet lacks the tectonics that we have on our world, which takes carbon out of the air in the form of dead organic material and moves it under the surface. So that's the first problem. Venus has too much air, and not a drop of water.

Then Lilith gets up out of her chair and points at the map.

ROBYN The Earth will have five billion people within the next decade, yet only twenty-nine percent of its surface is dry land, and much of that is desert or frozen tundra unable to support human life. So the Earth has too much water, and too many people for the land that we do have. That's the second problem. We have already begun to solve these problems, gentlemen, but we estimate it will take more than two centuries to reach full completion. The first problem, with Venus having too much air, we have already started to address by the wholesale conversion of the atmosphere to dark matter in the same way we removed the lunar regolith to dig out this city. This will have the same effect as introducing plate tectonics to Venus. The carbon dioxide will be buried under the surface and we will reduce the atmospheric pressure by nearly a hundred-fold.

GLENN What do you hope to achieve by doing that, Miss Lilith?

LILITH Colonel Glenn, we hope to achieve nothing less than a second Earth. But for that we need to introduce water. A lot of water.

Lilith points to a section of the map in the South Pacific.

ROBYN We have positioned the mouth of a fold-gate far under the sea, near New Zealand, right here. It will constantly be maintained at the level of the sea where the water pressure is just sufficient to overcome the air pressure on Venus, currently about ninety standard atmospheres.

GLENN What is a fold-gate?

ROBYN Yeshua is my boss, Colonel Glenn. He's a Jewish carpenter. And a fold-gate is an artificial Einstein-Rosen bridge that lets us link any two points in space together as one point. Lilith has positioned the other end of the fold-gate on the north pole of Venus. This will create a flow of seawater to Venus where it will immediately turn to steam, and the sea salt will be precipitated out. Now, unfortunately, temperatures will remain too high for humans to live in the open on Venus for perhaps another century. We will have to live in enclosed structures that require the constant conversion of air to dark matter to sustain air conditioning, and it will be another century after that before terraforming of the north and south polar regions will raise the level of oxygen to a life-sustaining level. After that, hu


manity will have a new planet that is quite comfortable in both of the polar regions, but there will be a large desert between them. I propose to place this new world entirely under the control of the People's Republic of China.

LIU CHOU-LAI Why did you choose that remote spot for the.. what did you say? Fold-gate? Why not the South China Sea?

ROBYN That is too shallow, Minister Chou-Lai. When the Earth's sea level drops about twelve thousand feet, in about two hundred years, the world ocean, which is currently seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface, will be divided into precisely two halves. South America will have two land bridges connecting it to Antarctica, as you can see here. At that time, the only water connection between the Pacific and Atlantic ocean water lobes will be right here, between New Zealand and Tasmania. This undersea basin will be the location of the greatest city on Earth in the 23th Century. It will be the crossroads for all sea transport, which is now and will always remain the most cost-effective way to move goods from point-to-point on the surface of the Earth.

LEONOV If you remove so much water I think will follow disruption. I see your map. No more Black Sea, no more Baltic Sea.

ROBYN That's true, Commander Leonov, but the change will occur at a very gradual pace, and the result will be that the land area of the Earth, as a percentage of its total surface, will be raised from twenty-nine percent to fifty percent. The people of Earth would begin to reap the benefits of that uncovering process almost immediately. New land would be exposed off the coasts, and much of this contains oil deposits which will become newly economical to tap. Florida would grow to more than double its width. The ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska that the ancestors of the original inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere used to cross over from Asia to North America would be permanently reestablished.

ASMODEUS I don't believe it. Such a volume of transportation would be possible only if you have access to an unlimited flow of dark light.

LILITH Nevertheless we are already doing it, so obviously it is not impossible.

ASMODEUS You will outline this process to me.

LILITH I will not. I am a disgruntled eloah, even as Robyn is a disgruntled nephil and will not share with Colonel Glenn. But be of good cheer, Asmodeus. I do now at this time offer to move large ships between Barbelo and Jupiter in the same way individuals now move between temples.

ASMODEUS I refuse to accept that such a thing is possible! And even if you can do it, I would demand some measure of control, even as the small wormhole tubes we use today are anchored in the heart of our guarded temples.

LILITH Then I propose two structures, one in each star system, and each one called an Identification Lattice. One end of a fold-gate will always be associated with the location of this lattice. Ships moving between the systems will pass through the lattice for identification before we permit the actual link to come into existence.

Anyway, Colonel Glenn, that's pretty much what we here at Astrodyne have -


been up to, but enough about our petty issues, let us now go on to your next agenda item. What is President Ford's biggest concern right now?

GLENN Robyn, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says non-governmental activities, such as your corporation, obviously, must operate under the approval and authority of a state which is signatory to the Treaty. I can tell you now, speaking for the Ford Administration, that the United States would only extend such recognition quid pro quo.

ROBYN Colonel Glenn, every employee of the Astrodynamics Corporation carries citizenship of the new nation of Barbuda in the Caribbean.

GLENN Barbuda's statehood is not recognized by the United States and they are not signatory to the 1967 treaty.

ROBYN Commander Leonov, do you think Astrodyne could be placed under the legal penumbra of the Soviet Union to satisfy this treaty?

LEONOV I think this request not impossible. Give us photos and names of people here, birthdays, I take home to Star City, then Kremlin. Who knows? Maybe next Korabl bring forty Soviet passports.

ROBYN Thank you, Commander Leonov. And so, Colonel Glenn, shall we proceed to your next item?

GLENN We want to know why you are contracting with the Soviet Union to bring your people up here.

ROBYN Well, Colonel Glenn, probably because the Soyuz vehicle is an astonishingly reliable spacecraft. I think the role of the Soviet Union now and in the future be to provide ships linking together the worlds of the Sol System in a great transportation network. Most of the lesser bodies of the inner system would be theirs, solely, as well as a constellation of habitats and space stations they proposed to build.

GLENN But they are communists! I thought Astrodyne was all about profit.

LILITH Colonel Glenn, I can't think of anything more boring that what economic theory is practiced by the government represented by Alexsei Leonov and Oleg Makarov. The truth is, now that we've committed the fold-gate to the transformation of Venus, we no longer have the means to move ourselves around. We now must rely on a third party for transportation. The Soviet Union has been the first to respond to our request, but I've brought you and Minister Chou-Lai here to make the same offer. We already have a great demand for space transportation and it only goes up from here. Let me ask you something. I understand you were preparing for a Senate run before President Ford tapped you for this mission. Where would you say your politics fits on a spectrum between left and right?

GLENN It's no secret that I'm a registered Democrat, but my politics I think would be somewhere in the middle. Maybe a little left of center.

LILITH I think it's safe to say that with the Watergate stuff, and with Ford giving Nixon a blanket pardon, that's a foregone conclusion the next President -


will be a Democrat, wouldn't you agree, Colonel Glenn?

GLENN I would indeed agree with that assessment, Miss Lilith. I think right now the country just wants to do a healthy flush in '76 and move away from that whole terrible episode.

ROBYN We have discovered that what we do up here on the Moon has a profound effect on US presidential politics. I think that the binder I gave to Gene Cernan back in '72 might have influenced President Ford to pick Earl Roland to be his vice-president instead of the more liberal Nelson Rockefeller, and we think that tossing some work to the Russians and Chinese up here will lead to more hawkish candidates in the Democratic Party winning the next election rather than the left-leaning peanut farmer we think you'd get otherwise.

GLENN And why is American presidential politics important to Astrodyne, Robyn? Didn't you say you were citizens of Barbuda? And didn't you just now make arrangements for Soviet passports?

ROBYN Checks and balances are always a good thing, Colonel Glenn. As long as the Cold War never goes hot, which we must all be vigilant never to allow to happen, I think the rivalry between the U.S. and the S.U. is good for both. What's why we're rooting for the hawks of your political party. Competition spurs innovation. And a three-way competition is even better, hence the presence of the Chinese delegation. I think if the Cold War were to end with one country slipping into decline and the other becoming a fat, complacent world hegemon, that would be a tragedy for both.

As a matter of fact, Robyn knew it would be a tragedy because she had already seen how a single-superpower world played out.

At the very end of the Summit Emperor Asmodeus stood up and said, Many gifts and agreements have been passed back and forth, but we have failed to reward the American people of Earth and this strikes me as very rude.

Silence fell over the Summit as people tried to guess what Asmodeus meant.

Asmodeus walked over to an inert silver robot with the size and shape of a little child. I call this a Bot. It is designed to work on the terminator of an airless world, at the very transition between day and night.

Lilith knew that Belial had gotten the plans for his Bot from the Lore of the Elohim, and che was mildly surprised, for che had grown used to being the sole user of that store of knowledge. Binah probed that store now and was even more surprised to find nothing on Bots. Belial had given access to a redacted set. If Lil could prove it, the ancient bargain was off.

Asmodeus said, If El Shaddai permits, I propose to give the First World of Sol system to the Americans. They will be aided by many of these Bots. The terminator line moves at walking speed, so the Bots will never cease moving, but they will also gather together resources for export and to make more Bots. So close to the sun, this world is rich in energy, which the Americans will be able to transmit to the Soviets to power their ships. The Iranians also stand to benefit, since the main port for moving the American's products to their final destination will be the Second World.

Lilith moved close to Lilith to whisper.

LILITH What is Thaumiel doing?

ROBYN-


I don't know, but hy's playing it beautifully, saving it for the end of the Summit. Hy's thinking of cooking up something with Glenn, and I can't see what it is. Remember what I told you about blackjack?

Jill used to watch Robyn play blackjack in Vegas and wondered why she didn't take the House for everything they had. Robyn's open-mouthed astonishment was followed by the answer that consistently winning too much money would get Robyn on somebody's shit list and no casino in town would so much as let her walk through the door. Besides, that's not how precognition works, Robyn said, taking this as a good opportunity to try to explain.

The first thing Jill needed to realize, Robyn told her at the time, was that the free will of herself and others was paramount, and it constantly obscured her talent for precognition. The other players could hit or stand and there was no way for Robyn to predict what they would do, and each choice affected what cards would be dealt to the players down the line, which in turn would affect their decision to hit or stand, and so on. The variables multiplied beyond Robyn's ability to sort them out. That's why she always waited until the seat was open at Third Base before sitting at a table. And by Third Base, Jill understood that to mean the seat that was serviced by the dealer last, just before he turned over his own cards. That way all the variables were reduced to just those affected by Robyn's own choices.

The only thing Robyn could see without fail, sha told Jill, is whether the dealer is going to get a blackjack, and if that happens Robyn sat out the hand with no bet but if she did that every single time they would catch on and toss her out on her ass. So sometimes Robyn lost a hand, but it was always just the minimum bet. Sometimes the cards were no help and there was no way to beat the dealer no matter what sha did. But Robyn never busted by going over twenty-one unless sha wanted to throw the watchers off her tail, the ones snooping on closed-circuit TV through cameras mounted over the table. And if sha could see sha was going to beat the dealer sha doubled down. The result after a few hours of relaxation and exercising har talent was a mild buzz from her drinks and a few hundred dollars. Every night. Before sha moved into space Robyn considered gambling to be har primary occupation.

One thing had still puzzled Jill, however. Robyn had no problem predicting stock market crashes or recessions, and they had infinitely more variables than a simple blackjack game. The big stuff is actually easier, Robyn had told her. It's not about a single person telling a dealer hit or stand, it's about groups acting together, buying and selling things.

LILITH (after pondering) Perhaps your talent does not extend to predicting the future choices of an eloah.

ROBYN But we have no choice but to give Mercury to the Americans, or we ruin the spirit of the whole Summit.

LILITH (in a loud voice) Emperor Asmodeus is wise, for we were on the brink of being unforgiving hosts and snubbing the Americans. Therefore I grant title of Mercury to the American people, solely and permanently, and my gifts are without repentance. Let it be as Asmodeus has proposed.

And so, with the Summit concluded, Glenn and Gordon return to Earth with the rest of the crew of Apollo 18, while Leonov and Makarov take the Chinese representatives back home in two vehicles.

After arriving safely, the Soviet and Chinese delegations put the word out to the rest of the world to stay far away from Robyn was calling Charybdis, but the Americans say nothing. The Ford Administration is developing the narrative that only NASA is operating on the Moon, certainly not a private -


corporation such as Astrodyne, and any claims by the Soviets and the Chinese that they were present on the Moon as well was officially dismissed as communist propaganda to antagonize the West.

Despite this, the western nations with blue water navies such as the United Kingdom and France do heed the warning from Liu Chou-Lai to stay away from the whirlpool. But the United States seems to be like a stubborn child who insists on touching a hot stove precisely because his mother told him not to do it. The US Navy rushes directly to the vicinity with a submarine and promptly loses contact with it. This tragic disregard by the American government for the warnings of the B'nei Elohim is to become a persistent pattern in the years to follow.

The destroyer Buchanan, a twenty year old Adams can, is ordered to cut short a port visit in New Zealand to investigate Charybdis. Perhaps if the Navy had flown aircraft to the location first, one hundred ten submariners and three hundred fifty destroyer sailors would have avoided death.

The submariners of the USS Bluefish suffer much more than the crew of Buchanan. Their boat is airtight and able to resist the 90 atmospheres of pressure on Venus without being crushed. So she just lays on her side next to a blackened Buchanan and bakes the crew like so much salmon. Distress calls go out from Radio Central for an hour or two, and are intercepted, but the Navy refuses to believe the weak signals are crossing interplanetary space. From what they could make out from the frantic calls, the Navy guessed the submarine had gotten pinned in the fumarole of a new underwater volcano.

President Ford, who had the Glenn Report in hand and knows better than to think it was a volcano, orders a cruiser action group and one oiler dispatched to the area to keep lookie-loos out, whether by sea or air, lest they unmask his narrative.

The motivation for this ran far deeper than politics and was rooted in Protestant theology. Although he started as a Midwest checked pants Republican, as President his cabinet was overrepresented by Southern fundamentalist Moral Majority types. John Glenn's reports from the Moon put them in a constant state of future shock. Holding the Bible to be the inerrant, literal word of God, they didn't know what to do with the knowledge that their God was really a vast female alien made of dense nuclei in the heart of the sun, and that Jesus was really the daughter of her and the devil.

There were anthropological considerations to take into account as well. From the long, sad history of the collision of colonizing European cultures with the more primitive aboriginal cultures in the lands they invaded, one could easily imagine Earth itself, in the aftermath of the arrival of an advanced alien civilization, becoming a sort of galactic "Human Reservation" utterly dependent on handouts and perhaps becoming a seedy haven for gambling or other pleasures that might be forbidden elsewhere in the universe. A cover-up could buy time to prepare the world for the shock and perhaps prevent such a post-contact malaise from taking hold. This would be a legitimate reason for the cover-up, but it was not the real reason.

There have always been those who seek to cling to safe and familiar things in a world that appears to grow more and more dangerous and complex every day. These relentless changes represented a quantum leap in the world's danger and complexity. To those who sought to steer America's schools away from teaching evolution and "old earth geology" and towards a curriculum of a special creation of the Earth by God 6,000 years ago, the changes raised questions that their closed, self-contained, strictly Biblical theology could never answer.

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Strangers In Paradise