Apollo2

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MAA: At 5:26 PM EST on December 13, 1972, six days after leaving Earth and during their third day on the surface of the Moon, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt made the final moonwalk of Apollo 17. Gene Cernan had flown to the Moon before, on Apollo 10. MAB: That flight was with his commander from the Gemini 9 mission, Tom Stafford. On Apollo 10 Gene flew a lunar module to within a tantalyzing nine miles of the Moon’s surface, then returned to altitude, leaving the glory of the first landing to Neil and Buzz on Apollo 11. MAC: He wasn’t exactly tight buds with his partner, Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who had bumped Gene’s pal Joe Engle from the flight so NASA could say the program was shifting from hot dog military test pilots trained to do science to professional scientists trained to fly. MAD: Like the two preceding moonwalks of the Apollo 17 mission, the third one was to last about seven hours. But it would differ from the first two EVAs in a very important respect, not counting the trivial fact that it was about an hour late getting started. MAE: Robyn had been following live television broadcasts of the mission from only a few miles away at Taurus Base. Now she followed the mission with the television in her truck as she drove down the flanks of North Massif to reach the floor of the Taurus-Littrow valley. MAF: So many stations on Earth were airing the moonwalk the only trick was to pick out one station with a selective receiver. The landing site of Apollo 17 was on the southeastern edge of Mare Serenitatis where an asteroid hit the Moon nearly four billion years ago. MAG: The unimaginable violence of the collision created a basin four hundred miles across. The rim of Serenitatis is a ring of mountains which have collapsed in some places. This results in a corona of long valleys like Taurus-Littrow aligned toward the center of the Mare. MAH: The pyroclastic flows that filled the "Sea of Serenity" had been accompanied by lava fountains which covered the area with tiny glass beads bearing bright colors such as orange and yellow. The outer, southeastern end of the valley butts up against a large mountain. MAI: In the run-up to Apollo 17 NASA took to calling this mountain the East Massif, and the name stuck. In the south, there is a narrow canyon that leads to yet another valley. The west side of this canyon is the sheer wall of South Massif. MAJ: Crossing north to the other side of East Massif is another canyon leading to still another valley. Beyond this canyon is the so-called Sculptured Hills, and to the west of those hills is North Massif. Between North and South Massif is a narrower exit valley. MAK: This valley is about four miles wide, partially blocked by Family Mountain and a sharp fault ridge three hundred feet high. The eastern foot of that sharp ridge forms a gentle ramp leading up and around the western slope of North Massif to some rugged back country. MAL: In that area, where it would be too difficult for landing craft to safely touch down, Judith Gervasi chose to build Taurus Base from a deep "cut-and-cover" tunnel, with macros doing the cutting. A layer of lunar soil was carefully groomed to cover and disguise the ceiling. MAM: Robyn drove her truck to the current position of the astronauts. There was a large, dark, shattered boulder wedged in the foot of North Massif where geologist Harrison Schmitt was gathering samples. She was careful not to run over their fragile electric Rover parked nearby. MAN: That Boeing-made Lunar Rover contained a built-in navigation system that kept track of every turn of the wheels and calculated the distance back to the Lunar Module. This was a safety feature. If the Rover became inoperative, the astronauts would have to walk to the LM. MAO: This system used Intel's new four-bit microprocessor, the 4004, which was essentially a computer on a single silicon chip. As the 1970s progressed, this innovation would undergo further advances and become the heart of the Micro, sparking the Information Revolution. MAP: The boulder being examined by Schmitt, which was in five separate pieces, lay beneath a long furrow of dents showing it’s recent plunge down the face of the mountain. Apollo 15 Command Module pilot Alfred Worden had photographed the area in 1971 from orbit. MAR: Using a large panoramic camera, Worden captured photographic evidence of what looked suspiciously like tracks of wheeled vehicles and bright debris that did not resemble stones at all. But analysts, making inquiries of the Russians, concluded the anomalies were from natural processes. MAS: They said the tracks and other debris were probably from boulders that had rolled down the face of North Massif in a "recent" (less than 20 million years) moonquake. The truth was, Worden had found evidence of Taurus Base construction, but the floor of the valley was pristine. MAT: Not even Robyn, with her gift, could sense a significant divergence of the present Beta timeline, the one Michael and Yeshua found so unsatisfactory. She pulled her truck to a stop, pumped the atmosphere down to a near vacuum, then popped the door open to wait for the boys. MAU: Cernan and Schmitt hadn’t heard Robyn roll in, of course. And they were so busy it was sixteen minutes before they looked up from their tasks and noticed Robyn's truck parked next to them. Both of the astronauts uttered sharp expletives and the live feed was hurriedly cut. MAV: CBS cut to Walter Cronkite for commentary. The blackout would last for nearly an hour as NASA claimed technical difficulties. Robyn used her talent as a B'nei Eloah to probe her own future. Time was "lazy" as she well knew. You had to kick it in the pants to change it. MAW: Without this inertia, this reluctance built into time, Robyn would be a boiling nexus of change. Everything she did, no matter how small, would make all of reality bifurcate, even as her own personal consciousness, her single point of view, persisted in just one track. MAX: Robyn noted, to her dismay, that even her interference in the final Apollo mission didn't change things sufficiently to prevent it from being the final mission. She saw that NASA would simply swear the astronauts and flight control crew to silence, and cover it all up. MAY: Robyn waved for them to come inside. There was plenty of room for at least one astronaut to be seated next to her, even fully garbed as they were. The sun illuminated her face and they could see they were dealing with a young woman. Cernan described the situation to Houston. MAZ: A phone call was made to a contact in the Soviet Union asking if they were operating in the same area and didn’t bother to tell anybody. The Russian thought the American joke was in particularly bad taste. "Is not enough you win Luna race?" he said. "Now you rub it on?" MBA: Cernan and Schmitt, who were watching their oxygen steadily spend down, gently prodded Houston they were still waiting for instructions. At length C. Gordon Fullerton, the CAPCOM for that phase of the mission, said Cernan could approach the truck, and perhaps even enter it. MBB: But he ordered Schmitt to wait outside and be prepared to hustle back in the Rover to the Lunar Module, which was then about four miles away. So Cernan walked over to the truck and performed a complete circuit around it. There was only the one woman seated inside. MBC: This woman was wearing a vacuum suit, and she was waving at him, motioning for him to come inside. So Gene, now free to oblige, did so. She gestured for him to close the door and when he did, she began to re-pressurize the cab of the truck with pure oxygen, to just 3 psi. MBD: When the dial read the appropriate pressure Robyn removed her helmet and invited Cernan to do the same. The sharp spent-gunpowder smell of the lunar regolith assaulted her nose. She wrinkled it and said, "Do people ever imagine what the moon smells like? Oh, no." MBE: But Robyn was used to it, and after two lunar EVAs so was Cernan. When he removed his own helmet his first words to her were, "You sound like an American." Robyn looked him over and saw Gene was rather gaunt, and thought it was a shame a man in his thirties was going gray. MBF: She said, "I was born on the high plains, Commander Cernan. Smack dab in the middle of the country, or close enough as never mind. My name is Robyn, with a 'Y'. Just Robyn, no last name." Cernan's ice seemed to melt a little. He said, "Then forget 'Commander'. I'm Gene." MBD: "It's an honor to meet you, Gene," she said. "I represent a privately held corporation named Astrodynamics. Sometimes we just call it Astrodyne. It's nothing mega. We're based out of Seattle, but we have a few offices around the world, and, believe it or not, even up here. MBE: "We've been watching you fellows drop by over last the few years, but this is the first time you've come within driving distance. I couldn't resist dashing over for a chit-chat, as brief as it must be." "So tell me Robyn, what does your Astrodynamics Corporation do?" MBF: "We're not focused on the bottom line, Gene, at least not to the mindless level you would expect. We're actually about the business of philanthropy. Thirty years ago we were a church. We see human history as a work of art, and we are making an endeavor to perfect it. MBG: Now humanity leaving the Earth and spreading out into the universe is much closer to perfection than staying home with all our eggs in one basket, to use the cliche, especially when you consider the powerful weapons we now have, and the sheer insanity behind making them." MBH: Robyn showed him a binder containing many documents and photographs. "The names and faces in this dossier will probably mean nothing to you, but they will mean a great deal to certain people in the government. Please accept this package and run it up your chain of command." MBH: Cernan took the documents, and as he did, he searched Robyn’s face. He really wanted to like her. "Why are you giving this to me?" he asked. She said, "Think of it as a list of serious grievances we have with the United States going back for more than a hundred years." MBI: "I feel like I've stepped into the middle of an old argument," Cernan said as he flipped through the binder to briefly sample the information. Old argument indeed. Some of the documents, just as Robyn said, were on age-yellowed paper dating back to the Reconstruction period. MBJ: Robyn said, "If you have the time during your flight home, Gene, please take a deeper look at that material. I think you'll see why we didn't find it a good idea to get permission from the government of the United States before coming up here and doing what we have done." MBK: "And aside from whatever you've done up here, Robyn, what else have you done?" "Stuff. You know that Watergate thicket the President has got himself in? That was us. Unlucky for him, lucky for everyone else. It prevents something much worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis." MBL: Within the binder were also five sets of color photographs that drew Commander Cernan's interest, with the negatives clipped to them. He pulled them out and asked what they were. "Images of each one of the previous Apollo landing sites, taken very soon after departure. MBM: Note the missing ascent stage in each photo. We thought NASA might want a photographic record." Cernan became quiet and put the photos back inside the binder. He seemed to grow a little melancholy. Competing with the Soviet Union now seemed like a farting in a hurricane. MBN: Robyn sensed this and tried to brighten him up. "It’s twelve days before Christmas. I’ve got a hundred and fifty of your Earth pounds of presents for Mr. Harrison Schmitt. Rocks from right here at the North Massif, taken at depths up to six hundred feet below the surface. MBO: There's also sulfur from a channel we call Yellow Rille. Documentation provided with the samples have original location and depth. We don't boast any trained geologists but Judith Gervasi has experience with archaeology in the Middle-East. Some of the same principles apply. MBP: Hopefully all this will compensate for the precious minutes you’re losing talking to me." "And why are you talking to me, Robyn? Is this just a fancy sales pitch? Am I to be your go-between?" She smiled and shook her head. "Basically, it all boils down to this, Gene: MBQ: You may be impressed that Astrodyne got to the moon before Apollo 11, but the way we get here takes a strange shortcut. We specialize in some things but not in others. Your lunar lander out there, even your mothership orbiting overhead, we don't anything like those. MBR: So we were willing to forget all the dirty laundry when America was on the fast track to coming up here and possibly teaming up with us. We could have built something together. But in the end the whole Apollo program was just so you could stick it in the eye of the USSR. MBS: The interest of the American people started to wane right after Apollo 11. The space race was just a big Cold War stunt and after you 'won' it started to look like spending a lot of money for nothing. Now to be fair, the Soviet Union lost interest as well, after you 'won'." MBT: Robyn noticed a feeling of well-being that bordered on giddiness and looked at the cabin pressure. It had crept past 4 psi of pure oxygen. Cernan's spacesuit was still running, and pushing fresh air through his collar ring into the interior of the truck. She bled it down. MBU: "Then Nixon canceled Apollo 20 and ordered the reconfiguration of the third stage as Skylab," Robyn said, resuming where she had paused. "After that Nixon even canceled Apollo 19 to shift funding to the Shuttle. It seemed to us that America wasn't looking outward anymore. MBV: Then we visited the Soviets and told them there was a hard currency waiting for what they had to offer, or potentially had to offer. So the moon race is a variation of the story of the tortoise and the hare, with the hare putting one toe over the finish line and turning back. MBW: But the tortoise is closing in now, and he's bringing a nuclear third stage. What did you do with your third stage, Gene?" "We let it crash onto the moon." "That's right, and one more reason we're glad things are winding up with NASA. We live and work here, you know." MBX: "We didn't know that, Robyn. And it was for seismic research." "Okay, Gene, but dig this: The Soviet third stage is fired three times, once for Earth orbit, once for translunar injection, and once more for the return. Their vehicle is just that third stage and a lander." MBY: They're coming down with a crew of four and the whole crew gets to land. So they're doing it after you, but they're doing it better. Now if the only reason you're going to the moon these days is for rocks, I'm sure the Soviets can sell them directly to you for much cheaper." MBZ: At that Robyn drew a sudden breath of air and paused briefly. What she had just said to Gene Cernan were the magic words. It took another Sputnik moment to get America to react, but react America did, or rather, she shortly would. The purpose of Robyn's visit was fulfilled. MCA: Nothing, absolutely nothing drove technological innovation faster than war, even the faux war-by-proxy of the Cold One. Robyn had rekindled it. Reality had diverged and the Moon Race was back on. "Welcome to the Gamma track," she muttered to herself softly. MCB: "I can imagine all of this must come as a terrible shock to you, Gene, because your entire remarkable career has been building up to this mission, but that’s the raw truth so there you go. The bottom line is that NASA does not need to follow up your flight with Apollo 18." MCC: "Then, Robyn, I would say you are in luck. Apollo 18 has indeed been canceled. Dr. Schmitt out there was supposed to be on that flight, but he bumped one of my buddies to be the Lunar Module pilot on this one, to my great displeasure. This mission truly is the last one." MCD: "I'm sorry about your friend, Gene. I didn't know that. We've been disconnected from things Earthside, just a bit." "How did you get up here anyway?" "It's a way nobody else has thought of doing yet, but even so, as I said, it's a shortcut. Easy ways always make you weak." MCE: "I'm not sure I follow." "Okay, suppose you're Captain Kirk at Starfleet Command, and you need to go to the moon. Do you ride the starship Enterprise to get out there?" "No, you just beam up." "Bingo, Gene. That's about as close as I can get to telling you what's going on." MCF: "Okay, but what I don't understand is how you are willing to work with the Soviets. You told me you were born in America." "Why would that be a problem, Gene?" "Because they're...communists!" "Actually,Gene, they're just socialists. Communism is the theoretical end state. MCG: "People can espouse utopianism, and claim to be utopians, all while still living in a crapsack country. We're negotiating with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And frankly, competing theories of economics bores the hell out of me. Yet wars are fought over them. MCH: Besides, who owns your moon buggy?" "The American people do." "You see? Socialism. That dog-eat-dog every-man-for-himself and the devil-take-the-hindmost stuff doesn't really work all that well up here, any more than it works on the aircraft carriers you served on. MCI: The American model even makes it worse, because the taxpayer's money gets shoveled out to the lowest bidder, or even to an incompetent contractor who happens to be in a district where somebody needs votes. That's how the Space Shuttle is going to bite NASA's ass someday. MCJ: But, time marches on, Gene, and your backpack, which you have kept running by the way, won’t run forever. That was pretty much all I wanted to say. Thanks for taking this time out of your tait schedule to meet with me. I think we will meet again on Earth in the near future." MCI: "I would like that very much, Robyn" he said. "In the meantime, I would ask a favor from you." "Anything, Gene. Just name it." "My beautiful ten year old little girl’s name is Tracy," Cernan told her. "I wrote her initials with my finger in the ground near the Challenger. MCJ: "I did it far enough away that the blast of our ascent won’t erase it, but now that I know you're here I'm worried that new footprints might erase her initials." "I can tell you love your daughter very much," she said. "I promise no one will ever come near the Challenger. MCK: We'll make it off-limits to the Russians too. Your Tracy’s initials won’t last forever, of course, due to micrometeorites, but close enough. A million years? That’s much better than anything you could do for her Earthside. Take care, Gene, and have a safe journey home." MCL: They put their helmets on once more and made sure of the seals before Robyn pumped the air out and motioned for Gene to leave. When the men returned to the LM Harrison Schmitt snapped a photo of Cernan. He looked haggard, exhausted, and perhaps just a little bit haunted. MCM: To his mind the young lady he met out there with her sheaf of papers and bundle of rocks and all the things she said spelled slow but certain doom for NASA’s entire manned space program, not just the moon shots. But true to her words it was not the last time they would meet. MDA: In the days leading up to Christmas in 1972 President Richard Nixon sent one hundred twenty-nine B-52s to lay waste to Hanoi, Haiphong, and points in between, including airfields, warehouses, rail yards, and, in an unfortunate misfire from a damaged bomber, even a hospital. MDB: Eleven of the big bombers were shot down and ninety airmen were either killed in the crashes or captured alive. There was a thirty-six hour pause in the bombing for Christmas, and then it resumed. The North Vietnamese government said the American president had gone insane. MBC: The remaining B-52s continued to assail Hanoi around the clock, losing four additional planes. By January 1 the North Vietnamese couldn’t take any more and returned to the negotiating table. A month later a cease-fire was announced, and the war shuddered to a halt. MBD: Robyn, who could see how things would play out a few years up the timeline, told Judith the North Vietnamese had basically just put the reunification of their country on pause long enough for the Americans to claim victory and leave. And that sent the wrong signals to Nixon. MDE: In the fall when the Israelis and Arabs became embroiled in another one of their wars, Nixon, if not otherwise distracted, would fall back on the bad instincts reinforced by Vietnam and escalate the conflict to the point of a limited nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. MDF: But Nixon would be otherwise distracted, thanks to the midnight handiwork of Judith and Robyn in a stairwell of the Watergate hotel in Washington, DC. Robyn said rotating a little piece of gray tape 90 degrees and smoothing it back down would save millions of human lives. MDG: The Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement official in the land, had approved an operation to break into the headquarters of the opposing political party and wiretap their phones. Later when one of the bugs stopped working he ordered its replacement. MDH: That's where the little piece of tape came in. After picking the lock on the stairwell door to Suite 600, the intruders placed tape over the latch so they wouldn't have to repeat the procedure. At Robyn's suggestion, Judith left the tape in place, but she made it visible. MDI: A security guard found the tape, tore it off, and threw it away. He thought very little of it other than making a point to give the same door a tug when he made his pass down the stairwell a half hour later. The lock had been picked open again, and there was more tape. MDJ: That led to a phone call to the police and the arrest of five burglars. The 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 was ordered to bury evidence and squash the investigation. MDK: All these measures seemed to work. Watergate stories were relegated to page A9. Nixon won reelection with the biggest plurality in American history. Judith didn't want to doubt Robyn's precognitive abilities, but this critical alteration had seemed to wobble into a dead end. MDL: But a few days after the cease-fire in Vietnam, the judge in the case of the Watergate burglars, "Maximum John" Sirica, handed down ridiculously stiff sentences with the idea of making one of the defendants break and testify against their unknown handlers. MDM: When that hit the papers Robyn told Judith, "The buns are in the oven now, and when they come out again in March Nixon will have more to munch on than he can possibly swallow." Judith decided to take a wait-and-see approach because so far Robyn seemed to be batting zero. MDN: Then there was Robyn's suggestion they try to get in on the ground floor of a opportunity that promised to transform society like nothing has done since the harnessing of steam power. But bad hiring decisions required Judith to intervene personally, which was never good. MDO: A man likely to be a much more suitable candidate for Robyn's project was identified and agreed to be interviewed. At roughly the same time Captain Eugene Cernan sent a message through FBI Associate Director Mark Felt requesting to contact the leadership of Astrodynamics. MDP: Judith knew it would make for a busy day but she decided to attend to both of these visitors at the company's workshop. And she would allow Robyn to be present as well, hopefully so she could say, "See, I told you so!" when things played out the way she promised they would. MDQ: The place in Washington State where the Enumclaw and Black Diamond Highway crossed the Kent-Kangley Road was called Four Corners but there wasn't much there aside from a lumber yard, a grocery store, a gas station, and one modest strip mall with a dentist and a cafe. MDR: Astrodyne leased the vacant office between Dr. Tsugawa's practice and Nancy's Noodle Nook. Sometimes locals wandered in by accident, thinking it was one or the other. Vinyl lettering went up on the glass that formed the front wall denoting the place as 'Epoch Electronics'. MDS: After that locals sometimes came in thinking the place sold hi-fi equipment, but there was only an unfurnished space where visitors were greeted by a receptionist, and if they weren't expected, they were quickly turned around. The door out back opened only from the inside. MDT: One cold wet day in February 1973 Gary Kildall visited the place, but he was expected. The receptionist, one Dory going by her name placard, looked to be of Indian descent. Certainly she was wearing what appeared to be native garb to keep warm whenever the door opened. MDU: Gary thought if she stood up she might easily prove to be the tallest woman he had ever seen. Dory verified who he was, somehow, before he even gave his name. There was a solid sound of steel moving within steel. "Thank you for coming here today, Mr. Kildall," she said. MDV: The door to the left of her cubicle slowly began to pivot open without human intervention. It seemed deceptively massive in the way it gradually slowed to a nearly imperceptible stop before it could crash through the adjacent wall. "Please go ahead and enter the shop. MDW: "Everyone is really looking forward to meeting you." So Gary went through the door down a short hallway and entered the unpartitioned space that Dory called the shop. A Teletype was clacking along in the middle of a print job. To Gary's delight he saw it was a model 33 ASR. MDX: That model, as Gary well knew, was ubiquitous in the United States Navy. It was turning a stack of blank perforated-edge paper into another stack of finished printout. A large spool of paper tape with holes punched in six-bit binary code was providing the data to be printed. MDY: A woman in a blue shop smock was manually reeling up the spent tape after it fed through the reader. Her smock wasn't buttoned up. Gary could see that she wore a black concert tee and blue jeans. He thought one of the guitarists silk screened on the shirt looked like Dory. MDZ: The woman spooling up the data looked a bit little like a football player. In fact she really had been one back in high school. "I'm Sofie Krause, AKA Sabotage," she said with a broad smile. "They let me handle the tape because if I touch anything else I'll just break it." MEA: Then Gary saw where the data had originated. There was a blue-green cabinet six feet high, six feet deep, and two feet wide. His prospective employers had a minicomputer, a PDP-1, one of only about fifty ever made. Another woman wearing a buttoned up smock stood over there. MEB: He couldn't tell what she was wearing under the light-blue cotton lab coat but he guessed from her bare calves that it was a dress. Her hair was a much darker brown than that of the first woman, with hints of red. Like any ginger or borderline ginger her skin was quite pale. MEC: For her part Robyn thought the well-dressed bearded visitor very much resembled her father when he was roughly the same age. She imagined if there was a Collier's encyclopedia entry for "Dad" then his photo would be featured as the very quintessence of all dads. MED: Gary saw there was one other woman in the shop, one with hair that was very dark. She looked like a female biker and was wearing what had to be the most expensive leather boots he had ever seen. They were black, went up over her knees, and were articulated at every joint. MEE: Her thighs weren't bare, but her thigh muscles were evident, and he could tell she was a runner. In fact, it was entirely possible she ran miles in those boots. They looked that functional. The skin on her face was darker than her two friends, but not darker than Dory. MEF: Everything that wasn't tucked into the boots except her hands and face was covered in deep red leather with zippers everywhere for pockets and for basic access to the garment. It was was glossy and richly red, like fresh blood. Her forearms were covered with more black leather. MEG: "It's her outfit, I know," said Robyn. "People always stare. But she's homesick and that getup makes her feel like she's home in, ah, Salem." "Salem, Oregon?" "No. Much, much farther away. I'm Robyn, incidentally. This is Judith Gervasi, who in fact owns our company." MEH: "I have no choice, really," Judith said. "I'm the only person around here who can actually obtain a bank account without being arrested or thrown into bedlam, and before you ask, I include Michael in that assessment." Gary smiled at that, and he wondered about her accent. MEI: The underlying mode sounded British, but there was a strangely otherworldly overlay, as though she had spent much time in a country nobody had ever heard of. He nodded at the computer next to Robyn. "So Green Acres does have a PDP-1. I thought my friends were kidding." MEJ: Sofie and Robyn chuckled at that remark, but Judith, being indeed both British and otherworldly, was mystified to silence by the reference to an American sitcom. Into this awkward little moment of silence he dropped his own name. "I'm Gary Kildall, Miss Gervasi." MEK: "Thank you for accepting our invitation, Mr. Kildall. Your reputation is such that we wouldn't dare make a useless waste of your time." "Thank you. Some friends of mine told me you had a DEC minicomputer squirreled away in here but I wasn't sure I believed them. MEL: You should know them. They all said they were on your payroll for a time. And I think I can take an educated guess why they aren't working for you anymore. "I fired them," she said, "for very good cause. But I'm surprised your friends did not try to scare you off." MEM: "Not at all, Miss Gervasi. I think they might have been a little embarrassed, like they screwed up a really good thing they had going on. But I have to admit, when I prepared to come here I couldn't find anything about Epoch Electronics. You're not even in the Yellow Pages." MEN: "Oh, that's just something we put on the window so people didn't think this was a vacant space and try to break in, perhaps to have a, what do they call it Sofie? A 'kegger'? Some have still tried. Not that they got anywhere breaking that glass. That's not local stuff. MEO: The name of my company is Astrodynamics. Sometimes we shorten that up to Astrodyne. You may be thinking you came here for a job interview, Mr. Kildall, but it's really the other way around. We've already decided you're the man for the job and we just need to convince you. MEP: But I am curious, sir, why you're in the job market. Just curious, you understand." He said, "I crapped out in the draft lottery but I've been working it off by teaching at a Navy college down in Monterey, California. They cut me loose to finish my doctorate at U-Dub. MEO: To my great misfortune I find myself with a slight cash-flow problem lately. When I was down in California I was moonlighting as a consultant at Intel, you see. But I'm from up here in Seattle originally. I flew back up in my own plane and that's a pretty expensive hobby. MEP: My buddy pals said you had deep pockets and the work was right up my alley." He fell silent, but the Teletype 33 was still running. To avoid letting the pause grow too awkward Judith nodded at the machine and said, "Please, Mr. Kildall, go have a closer look." And he did. MEQ: After he took a moment reading the printout he said, "I know what this is! I teach this in the Navy! These are the orbital parameters of Soviet satellites. This is how our Navy ships know when a spy satellite is overhead so they can shut down everything and avoid detection. MER: Judith tilted her head with a dubious look and said, "That was a very good try, Mr. Kildall, but please look at it again. This has nothing to do with signals intelligence." His face turned a little red and he looked at the printout again, for a bit longer this time. MES: Then he said, "No, belay my last. These two-line elements aren't Earth-centric, they're sun-centric. And the names: 1866 Sisyphus. 1620 Geographos. You're interested in asteroids." "Not just any asteroids, Mr. Kildall. Please take another look. The third time's the charm." MET: He returned to the busy Teletype to look once more. This time he searched for patterns in the data. When he thought he found a common thread he said, "You're worried about Earth-crossers, asteroids which draw nearer to the sun than we do and might smack into us one day." MEU: "We should all worry about those asteroids," said Robyn. "We've only found a fraction of what must be out there." "Now, now, Robyn," said Sofie. "We're not worried about asteroids. Mr. Kildall might as well know we're looking for a good one to grab and bring back here." MEV: "True enough," said Judith. "But Mr. Kildall, color me impressed. Now I shall I tell you what it is exactly we'd like you to do. You see, have the best logistics in the business and that is no idle boast. When you watch it in operation you are simply not going to believe it. MEW: Anything you tell Dory to order, no matter how expensive or rare it is, absolutely will be here overnight, beg steal or borrow. It is only necessary that your item actually exists. You could tell Dory to get you the Hope Diamond, and the next morning you would have it. MEX: We want you to use our supply chain to turn that big box there, our so-called 'minicomputer' as big as three coffins stacked on top of each other, into a box the size of a piece of luggage. Then we will have the world's first microcomputer. Will you do it, Mr. Kildall? MEY: "So take something that costs as much as a lakefront home on the east Side and turn it into something that costs as much as a used car, so anybody can have one? Yes, I can do it, and I will do it, Miss Gervasi, but remember, when I do, there goes the whole neighborhood." MEZ: "My friend Robyn here is something of a visionary. She says this will change everything. We asked some of your friends to help us, but they used our parts and some girls we hired as assemblers to build these stupid boxes that make free calls and cheat the phone company." MFA: "Let me guess, that was Wozniak." "And his mate Steve Jobs. I heard they sold a hundred of their boxes for one hundred fifty dollars apiece. I do hope they managed to save most of it. They might just be able to pay their lawyers enough to avoid conviction for embezzlement. MFB: After I fired them there was another fellow working here who actually did earn his keep. He wrote a program to simulate an 8008 microprocessor on our mini. Show him that tape, Sofie." Kildall watched her dig around in a wheeled Vidmar, find it, and hand it off to Judith. MFC: "Unfortunately this isn't a one-size-fits-all simulation, it's actually set up to compile statistics on vehicular flow so cities can adjust the timing on their traffic lights. Then your friend used our supply system to order everything he needed to build a portable version. MFD: We built that traffic analyzer for him and the whole time we thought it was our microcomputer. While he was working hardware, another bloke used our PDP-1 to host BASIC on an 8008, but we don't have that tape. I don't much fancy playing the victim. I fired both of them." MFE: "You must be talking about the Gates and Allen show." Judith nodded. "I heard they went into business for themselves, something called Traf-O-Data, but it's not going anywhere. I sent a copy of their own tape to Olympia, where they have big iron and some clever fellows. MFF: It's going to be be tough selling their new box when every city from here to Spokane can just send their data in for Olympia to crunch. Robyn already told them what I'll tell you now: people think about money when they don't have it, but we have it, so we don't think about it. MFG: Essentially, we have infinite money. But we don't have a deep knowledge of technology. That puts you in a very good negotiating position, Mr. Kildall. Your friends clearly did not believe we were sincere in our attitude about money and about what we are trying to do here. MFH: "How do I know you won't cast me aside after I deliver the goods?" "I'll retain the patents for the hardware, just to keep my skin in the game, you understand? But software patents are still a gray area legally. So you will be a full partner when it comes to the licenses. MFI: You and I will be equal co-owners of anything you write on my time. If you decide to sublet to a third party I will not block the transaction or try to undermine you in price. You can have all this in writing, if you wish, but really, Mr. Kildall, that will not be necessary. MFJ: "I do have a couple of unavoidable obstacles though," he said. "First, I have another year on my teaching gig down in California and there's no way out of it. It's an obligation I have to Uncle Sam. So the fall of this year and winter and spring of '74 are basically a wash." MFK: "That's not a problem at all. We can lease office space down there and have a little shop just like this up and running in no time at all. Instead of going back to Intel you just stay with us." "Okay, but then there's my whole excuse for going on hiatus to come up here. MFL: Like I said before, Miss Gervasi, they cut me loose to finish my own academic work at the University of Washington." "I fully understand where you're coming from, Mr. Kildall, I really do. I have a Master of Arts degree myself, in linguistics, from Hebrew University. MFM: I submitted my dissertation prospectus to the PhD Supervisory Committee but soon after that I was horribly sidetracked." She turned to wink at Robyn, who knew she only did that on Alpha Track right before the Yom Kippur War, which still half a year away on this track. MFN: "But I know you're a very clever fellow, Mr. Kildall," Judith said. "I'm sure you will find a way to mesh your work for us here and your work in academia so they are one and the same. And when you're all done, our chief engineer will be a doctor in computer science. MFO: What do you think, Sofie?" "I think playtime is over. No more Romper Room. The grownup is in the building." "And you, Robyn? How is this day shaping up?" "This was a big deal, Judith, the last major alteration before Chokhmah wins. We're already on Delta track now." MFP: Gary seemed puzzled by Robyn's words, but then again the entire interview had been conducted with an air of unreality. "I'm sorry Robyn, I don't think I follow you." She said, "Gordon Moore, one of the big shots at Intel, said something important about ICs a few years ago. MFR: He predicted the number of transistors that can be crammed onto one piece of silicon would double yearly. I think that was a little too optimistic, and it should be every two years, but still, with a compound rate like that, a computer the size of luggage is only the start." MFS: At that moment the paper data tape spooled out and the Teletype stopped chattering. Sofie went over to look at the printout. "We have a winner, Judith," she said, "and naturally it's a no-name." She looked at Gary. "Robyn is talking about a computer you can wear as a watch." MFT: "No, I'm talking about a computer that floats on the cornea of your eye. Moore's observation will stay true year after year, smaller and smaller, until we butt up against the quantum granularity of matter itself and even then some smart kids will keep the show going somehow. MFU: So the meat of what I'm saying, Mr. Kildall, is that this day is going to become legendary, one for the history books, and it's only half over." "Oh That's right," Judith said. "Dory just told me your Captain Cernan arrived a little early. He's waiting next door at Nancy's." MFV: That last bit puzzled Gary even more. He didn't remember hearing Dory say anything since he stepped into the shop. "So are you in, Mr. Kildall?" But Judith already knew he was in from what Robyn just said about the new timeline. "Just call me Gary, please. Yes, I'm in." MFW: How did I get so lucky?" "Good fortune all the way around, Gary. I'll leave it to Sofie and Dory to negotiate your salary and other such details, and to step you through the paperwork. Robyn, let's go eat and see your famous astronaut. Dory told Nancy to cook our usual."


LAA: By any stretch of the imagination the things David Morrich saw in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 1973 far surpassed anything Judith had witnessed in the Nazi death camps, but somehow they affected him far less. Perhaps he was wired differently, or made of sterner stuff. LAB: At seventeen, Dave was a good kid. Sure, he dropped out of school just before his senior year, to the great consternation of his father, but Dave figured the kind of work he could find after one more year of school wouldn't be all that much different from his situation now LAC: Sure he was 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. Dave's father had a civil service job, his parents were still together, and Dave loved both of them. LAD: If he had been born ten or twenty years later, he would have been the exception rather than the rule. That Friday he was on the job site in a cavern dug under the city, a space intended to become an ornate Metro station when the system opened just three years later. LAE: Overtaken by events, it never did open. Dave didn't have any construction skills per se, and he lacked the upper body strength in any event, but his job was simply to keep the area as clean as possible while the other men worked. He did so with much youthful energy. LAF: On October 19 the lights went out and there was something like a long earthquake. An eerie white light reflected down one of the connecting tunnels and hot dust filled the cavern even as the light faded from purple to red. But the light never disappeared entirely. LAG: The city above was on fire. Dave Morrich and his co-workers were 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 or Nagasaki bombs. LAH: In the Tidal Basin next to where the Washington Monument once stood was now a dry crater so hot the Potomac River continually turned to steam before it could fill the hole. Surrounding this was a ring of destruction where the White House and the monuments used to be. LAI: When Dave stepped out of the subway tunnel and looked to where his home used to be he saw the view was largely unobstructed, yet there was no way for him to locate exactly where he was. All the landmarks were gone. In that instant he knew that he was an orphan. LAJ: There was no point in even trying to look for his parents. They were as gone as anyone can possibly be. So he turned and began to walk in what he guessed was the next best direction, which was direcly away from the pillar of steam that was ground zero. LAK: As he walked, he passed through a ring of human bodies that were almost recognizable, but they were charred black, and even the beer bottles and car windows lying at their feet were melted. After that he passed through a ring of half-standing blackened buildings. LAM: These buildings had white "shadows" along their base that had been people blocking the initial flash. There Dave had to pick his way through the rubble of structures that had already been burned out just to find a hole to make his way to the next ring. LAN: Dave passed through a ring of people who were still alive, but they were burned so badly they had no hope of recovery, and they were in such a state of shock that they feel nothing, made no sound, and would soon die. They were actually the lucky ones. LAO: He passed through a ring of people who do make a sound, for each of them were immersed in a sea of absolutely unendurable agony that never stopped. They stripped themselves naked because clothes only made the pain worse. Their arms were held at a forty-five degree angle. LAP: If their arms touched their bodies the pain of the contact grew too great. Dave was forced to remain in this ring until the fires of the rings farther away burned themselves out. He hasnt been injured, but even as he walked residual radiation did its invisible dirty work. LAQ: With Washington DC and much of the surrounding area devastated, America went through a profound political shift. The United States was reduced to those states which remained loyal during the Civil War, basically New York, New England, and the swath embracing the Midwest. LAR: The western half of the states of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, including San Francisco, formed a new nation called Pacifica. Everything else in the south, the plains, and the mountain west was reorganized as the New Confederate States of America. LAS: Tolson's DECON project still had a lot of surviving infrastructure and in the vacuum left by the FBI it became independent. DECON, in fact, grew to occupy the role of internal security in the NCSA. J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972 and Tolson died in the attack on DC. LAT: But Special Agent in Charge Earl Roland, who was the technical director of the DECON project, survived. Tolson's obsession with the B'nei Elohim lived on in Roland. Every day for a half-hour or more he sat in an anteroom of the DECON headquarters in Greendome. LAU: There he silently contemplated a glass case displaying the dessicated white shapes of the modified brains of Gabriel and Rebekah. The amount of science DECON had been able to obtain by studying the brains of the once-living subjects was maddeningly limited. LAW: Images made with the electron microscope revealed that every molecule in every brain cell had been replaced with a kind of articulated plastic that did not degrade like the organelles and components of living protoplasm. Yet it remained beyond analysis. LAW: The Hanford site where the Trinity and Nagasaki "Fat Boy" bombs had been assembled was itself nuked in Black '73 but it was about the size of a full county and large portions were still in use five years later. The "N" Reactors on the site was completely gone, of course. LAX: Walla Walla and the tri-cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland, all downwind, were still more or less ghost towns, but contamination levels in the southeast corner along the Columbia River approached the slightly elevated levels of just prior to the attack. LAY: This corner was still in use. The New Confederacy was contemplating shutting the place down for good, but there was still a lot of useful infrastructure: a rail network, a power grid, a number of empty structures. Dave Morrich ended up here with two other individuals. LAZ: A company called Pharmadigm told Dave he would be among the first human beings to receive an experimental drug. He had little choice. The cancer that developed after the DC strike was in his bones now. It was agonizing, and he had no way to manage the pain. LBA: The isolation and security at the Hanford Site was attractive when corporations meditated doing something that isn't entirely kosher from a legal standpoint, even under the lax laws of the NCSA. Dr. Amanda Chase was fully aware of this state of affairs. LBB: But she didn't understand why she had to leave her rented car parked at the checkpoint called Rattlesnake Barricade. "Government or company vehicles only," said Dr. Ian Trochmann, her sponsor, as he drove her to the lab. "I didn't make the rules, Dr. Chase." "And my visitor badge?" she asked. LBC: He glanced down at his own permanment badge clipped to his front pocket. "There is a good chance you will choose to part ways with Pharmadigm after you learn a bit more. Your recruitment involved a number of necessary deceptions which, professionally, you may not accept." LBD: "What do you mean?" "First, Dr. Chase, tell me what you know, or rather, what you think you know about Pharmadigm." She thought about that for a moment, or rather, she thought about how to get it across in a way that Dr. Trochmann, professionally, would accept. LBE: "I know Pharmadigm is a pharmaceutical, as the name suggests. It's not one of the big ones, but it's been around for about thirty years. It began, so it is said, when government insiders privy to taxpayer-funded research met with venture capitalists to monetize it." LBF: "So it is said. Do you think it is true?" "Thirty years is a long time. Things change. There are prestigious organizations with much shadier pasts. Did you know, Dr. Trochmann, that many ballet schools in Europe centuries ago were really just fronts for cathouses?" LBG: "Can you think of a major product that is produced by Pharmadigm?" "Nothing in the literature stands out, but science marches on even through a string of failures. I recall a potential anti-anxiety drug that actually had a reverse effect. It caused a very intense anxiety." LBH: "Oh, that compound has proved beneficial after all. Suppose you wanted to ask questions but you have a tough customer, so you bring out the standard toolkit for asking questions. Without the drug, you have to use the tools. With the drug, you can just show the tools." LBII: That seemed to set Amanda back a little. Trochmann said, "The company called Pharmadigm, which you imagine to be a pharmaceutical, is in fact a shell corporation, a front, managed by what used to be the Special Projects section of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. LBJ: Special Projects had always been run by the Deputy Director, Clyde Tolson, who insisted that we call it DECON, for Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization, but Hoover was more in tune with the political niceties and never let him make that official. LBK: But Hoover died in '72 and Tolson died in the '73 attack on DC, and there was, as you know, a re-org. Earl Roland was Deputy under Tolson, and he became Director concurrently with DECON stepping into the role for the New Confederacy the FBI formerly had for the US. LBL: I worked for Tolson from the very beginning, during World War II. Back then there was a...well, we treated it as an outbreak. A contagion. The details are so bizarre that you will imagine we are having you along for a massive joke, but it is most certainly not a joke. LBMM: You will have every opportunity to examine the subjects, the decades of accumulated research and all the other evidence for yourself, under any conditions you name." "Is that why I was hired? You are reaching out with this information? You just want to be believed?" LBN: "On the contrary, Doctor Chase. Your field is neurology. You completed your residency under Dr. Paul Brand, who was well-known to us. It was he who discovered leprosy patients were losing toes and feet due to their neuropathy rather than to the bacilli. LBO: "I heard that Dr. Brand went over to Pacifica in the, ah, re-org." "Alas, no one is perfect, Dr. Chase. If you choose to work with us you will find we are dealing with a disease of both the central and the peripheral nervous systems. You are well qualified to consult." LBP: She said, "I was hired to oversee human trials of a new kind of anaesthetic." "That much is entirely true," said Trochmann. "There will indeed be human trials. And you will find the subjects gain the ability to consciously choose to ignore any level of pain." LBQ: "You said this 'outbreak' first happened in World War II? If it is still an issue why has nothing remotely like it appeared in the literature? I would have most certainly been alert to any reports of patients with the ability to voluntarily override pain." LBR: "Between 1942 and 1950 I was able to examine only four persons afflicted with what I call White Brain Disease. We have the remains of two of these. We lost contact with the other two and we have been unable to locate them ever since, but we know they remain alive. LBS: Four years ago, a woman named Judith Gervasi was brought to our attention. She presents the first confirmed case of White Brain Disease we have seen in nearly three decades. As with the others, we are exercising our authority to hold her in a mandatory quarantine. LBT: Miss Gervasi was born in the United Kingdom, but she also holds an Israeli passport, for what that's worth, as there really is no Israel anymore. Like the four other subjects, she is most reticent when it comes to questions about how she contracted her strange ailment. LBU: We recently learned, however, that a very dark fluid drawn from the patient is capable of inducing White Brain Disease in test animals after about a week. So it can cross species. And yes, we are now ready to commence human trials, which is where you come into the picture. LBV: It was Director Roland who thought we should be 'reaching out' with this problem. He hopes that a fresh set of eyes and a fresh mind, one from outside of DECON, might help us reach a more productive state and finally discern what the hell is going on with all this." LBW: They arrived at the desolate location where the town of White Bluffs once existed, before all the townspeople were ordered to move away in the spring of 1943. Only two structures existed here, the DECON lab, and a shack for the guards who watched the lab overnight. LBX: "So here we are at the lab, and the Director himself is waiting for you inside, if you still want the position. If not, I will drive you back to Rattlesnake Barricade for a friendly parting of our ways, I'll hand over a check for your time already spent, and no harm done." LBY: Amanda said, "I'll stay, Dr. Trochmann. You've certainly made me curious, and it would be a shame to waste the weeks of prep I went through for this job. But what puzzles me is the usual non-disclosure agreement seems to have been omitted. Or perhaps it was just forgotten?" LBZ: Dr. Trochmann turned off the engine and smiled. "Think back to the anxiety-inducing drug, Dr. Chase. Somehow, DECON has never seen the need to get a formal non-disclosure agreement in writing. Somehow a informal understanding by all parties has always been sufficient." LCA: In the conference room of the lab where Dr. Amanda Chase was introduced to Director Earl Roland her eyes kept drifting to what she thought were two detailed models of human brains cast in white plastic, sitting in the center of the long table. "May I have a closer look?" LCB: "Most certainly," said Roland, grinning, as he pushed both of them closer to her side of the table. Examining both of them quite thoroughly, she said, "They are both remarkably accurate, except for this structure at the back. I fail to see the point of making that." LCC: Roland's grin became an full smile after that remark. "Ah, you must think these are sculptures of some sort, or perhaps casts made in plastic of a mold taken after the demise of a living person. But what you have in your hands are actual relics, Dr. Chase." LCD: Amanda eyed both Roland and Dr. Trochmann with a quick flash of indignation, which they fully expected. She said, "The color is all wrong, no matter what solution you used to preserve them. Brains of this age would be an unsightly dark yellowish-brown. And softer." LCE: Trochmann said, "Dr. Chase, do you see the pins inside the cup of bone shaped like the letter 'D'?" She looked closely, but shook her head. "I see none." "Oh, you must be looking at Gabriel Shybear," said Roland. "The other one belonged to Kimberly Shybear. LCF: That one still has the pins." Amanda looked at the other relic and saw rings of black pins arranged with geometric precision. It was the precision which spurred her unbelief. "The pins you see would grow back if they were broken off, at least they would in a living subject. LCG: There was a subject named Rebekah Redstar who was also afflicted with this change. She held Gabriel's brain in her hands even as you are holding Kim's in your own, and sabotaged it. She broke off all the pins. So we learned they do not grow in a subject who is dead." LCH: She said, "Even healthy living things do not develop with such mechanical precision, yet you say this is a disease? Or perhaps a mutation? So much the worse for your claim." Roland said, "If you look more closely, you will see where we cut tissue strips as samples. LCI: We have examined these samples under extreme magnification, and there is always more detail. But it is the nature of the detail which is most interesting. How did Director Tolson put it, Ian?" Trochmann remembered well. "He compared it to a bridge across a stream. LCJ: He said that nature, with all the time in the world, still only made bridges by mindlessly rolling boulders into a rough line, or maybe having a log drift downstream and get caught by boulders, and that is what we see with how evolution made our nervous system. LCK: But this is like someone poured concrete over the boulders, then cut up the log for timber to build a functional and efficient truss." "So you think this is artificial," mused Amanda. Roland said, "That is something I'd like to find out. And if so, who did it, and why." LCJ: Dr. Trochmann asked a question. "Dr. Chase, in your professional opinion, what is the mechanism by which human beings store long-term memories?" She thought about that for a moment, then said, "Even now, we only have a variety of competing models, all in a state of flux. LCK: And when you talk about them, you have to specify what level you're referring to. For instance, I am of the opinion that what we call autobiographical memory is stored, at the highest level, in the dream format. But you may be asking about the lowest, physical level." LCL: Trochmann nodded his head, so she continued. "The brain has layers upon layers of neurons arranged in networks that are connected more or less randomly, but order can be imposed on them in much the same way you can tread through a field of grass and create paths. LCM: So every time you get behind the wheel of a car, your movements seem almost automatic. You call it 'muscle memory' but it's really your mind rehearsing some well-worn paths in the grass. But other paths double back around and make loops. These are nagging memories. LCN: You might find yourself rehearsing something you did in the past that was very stupid, something that nobody else in the world but you remembers, yet you process them with emotions of regret, or shame. Those are the loops. But they're important in making you who you are." LCO: "Thank you, Dr. Chase. And would you find it safe to say that three years after death, a human brain could not, by any means, still retain memories in any meaningful way?" "Not even three minutes after death," said Amanda. "It begins to turn to slurry almost immediately." LCP: "And yet Deputy Director Tolson reported that a woman named Rebekah Redstar, who exhibited the same D-shaped cup at the back of her head, was able to connect herself to the brain of Gabriel Shybear with a cable prepared specifically for that purpose. LCQ: Director Tolson reported that this Rebekah, after making contact with Gabriel's brain, knew about and reacted to actions and conversations that only he, Gabriel Shybear, and Director Roland had witnessed, words and events which had been conveyed to no others. LCR: Amanda shifted her glance to Earl Roland, as though seeking confirmation, which he provided simply by not objecting to what Dr. Trochmann said. Trochmann continued. "We have concluded that that these brains are preserved in both the external and internal sense." LCS: Amanda chewed on that, then said, "Do we all agree these are not living brains?" Trochmann and Roland both made affirmation of that. "And you told me these pins at the back, if they were damaged, would grow back, but only if the subject was still alive." Both men agreed. LCT: "In that event, gentlemen, I fail to see how these relics can be, as you claimed, preserved in an internal sense. It takes a great deal of energy for neurons to propagate information. The brain alone consumes fully a fifth of all the energy used by a human body." LCU: "Science has advanced quite rapidly over the last thirty-five years," said Trochmann, "but we knew, even in the beginning, the dynamics of this change. It moved from neuron to neuron and retained all the pathways, but the ion channels were replaced with something else. LCV: Instead of atoms of potassium and chlorine and sodium being pumped in and out of cell walls to make a wave, like letters moving on a marquee, you have long gadgets with sliding rods. It's mechanical now, not electrical. Memories are stored in the position of the rods. LCW: That, at least, is what we discovered when we put samples of these relics under an electron microscope, and if you care to take your own samples, Dr. Chase, and have a look for yourself, it is most certain you will find that to be true as well." LCX: Amanda removed her glasses to rub her eyes as she shook her head. Director Roland interpreted this as an expression of exasperation. He said, "Dr. Chase, we are pleased that you have joined our project, and it is my sincere hope that you will help us finally crack this nut." LCY: "But if you believe we are executing a complicated ruse for some obscure but nefarious purpose, we are ready to let you take all the time you need to investigate all the evidence for yourself, with any apparatus you require and under any conditions you name yourself." LCZ: "There is no need," said Amanda. "I know how important you are, Director, and I cannot imagine why you would spend decades carrying out an elaborate practical joke. Besides, considering what you now have planned, certainly I will see the transformation myself, first-hand." LDA: Judith Gervasi's door wasn't locked. At mid-day there came a knock, and Amanda Chase entered the area of the lab set aside as Judith's living space to find her eating lunch. Amanda herself brought a white cardboard box that had been given to her by Dr. Trochmann. LDB: "Hello, Judith? I'm Doctor Amanda Chase. I came to have a look at you but they said you were having lunch, so I thought I'd have my lunch too before we started. If you'd rather eat alone just say so, and I can leave." Judith merely smiled and waved at a second chair. LDC: Dr. Chase sat down and started unpacking what they had given her to eat. She looked across to Judith and asked, "What are you having?" "I'm having what passes for roast beef, in America," she said. "But I'm not really complaining. In the army I've had much, much worse." LDD: "In the army? Were you in the British army, or the Israeli?" "I hold the rank of Sgan Aluf in the Tsva ha-Hagana le-Yisra'el, or the Israeli Defense Force. This puts me above a major but below a colonel, but none of that really matters if I'm the last one left alive." LDE: Amanda's eyes sank to her food, and she said, sheepishly, "I'm sorry." Amanda saw that she, too, had been given a plate of roast beef wrapped in foil, along with potato wedges, greens, and a small can of pineapple juice. She ate for a bit, then laid eyes on Judith again. LDF: "Your chart says you were born in 1928. I don't know how you managed it, Judith, but I was born in '48 and frankly, you look like you are my age." "I did not lie about my age, Dr. Chase. I have passports from two countries that were satisfied with other documents." LDG: "Aside from that, after we have lunch and you give me the physical you came to do, you will find the indelible evidence of my stay at Ohrdruf-Nord, which would indicate I was born before the end of the War, at the very least. And you will be glad you ate first." LDH: Amanda was much chastened. She said, "Please, Judith, I did not mean to imply you were untruthful. But your youthful appearance is absolutely remarkable. If I look like you do in twenty more years it would be a most happy state of affairs. I wonder, how do you manage it?" LDI: "There is a trick to it," Judith said, "but Roland and Trochmann have already asked you to believe in six impossible things before lunch. You are here to evaluate my health, including my cognition, and if I told you my secret there is a chance you would misdiagnose me." LDJ: "Very well, Judith, if my own cognition does not fail me I shall not inquire about this subject again, and your concern for a possible misdiagnosis, by itself, argues well for your mental health. I shall make a note of that. Fair enough?" And Judith nodded with her assent. LDK: So they finished their lunch with only small talk, then Amanda, with Judith's permission, proceeded to the examination, starting with her vital signs. She was also checking for any damage Judith might have allowed to happen to herself by the ability to ignore pain. LDL: "They told me you can choose not to endure pain," Amanda said. "Is that true?" "Yes, it's true," Judith replied. "It seems to be part of the position description for the B'nei Elohim." "The B'nei Elohim?" "Yes. That is Hebrew for 'offspring of the holy ones.' LDM: Think of it as my coping mechanism. I like to think there is a purpose to what happened to me. At any rate it sounds better than White Brain Disease." "Well, Judith, pain is also a coping mechanism. It's how your body, once damaged, avoids further damage. It's a gift. LDN: I can tell you that people born without the ability to feel pain rarely live to see their twentieth birtday. If you have the ability to turn pain off at will, it does not bode well for a long life." "I have learned that pain is a gift that can be abused," Judith said. LDO: "So think of my adaption as a defense mechanism against that abuse." When Judith lifted her blouse to allow Amanda to listen to her breathe with a stethoscope the whip scars were revealed. Amanda could not stop herself from taking a sudden gasp of air at the sight. LDP: There were at least a dozen cross-crossing weals, and some were raised as long unsightly ridges called keloids. "This happened to you in, where did you say it was? Nordruff?" "Ohrdruf-Nord," corrected Judith. "April 1945. Nothing in my life prepared me for this. Nothing." LDQ: "Have you ever talked through this with anyone before?" "Oh yes, there is a certain acquaintance who has helped me in so many ways I cannot tell. After the war I wanted to hunt down the rats who did this and got away, but hy convinced me that the army was a better choice. LDR: "But the one who did this." Judith made a gesture to the scars on her back. "I did her a treat, oh yes I did, on the day the camp was liberated." "How did you come to be there, Judith? Germany? Poland? I thought you were a subject of Her Majesty." LDS: "My family lived on the Isle of Wight, in the English Channel. We were abducted, my mother and I, and taken to a camp in Cherbourg, France. That camp was just a camp. But before it could be surrounded by the invading allies we were taken further east to a work camp. LDT: The allied armies kept coming, so we kept moving, and ended up in the kind of work camp where you were worked to death. And still Patton came on. That's how we ended up at Ohrdruf-Nord, which was a satellite of Buchenwald. No more work, just a living hell, until death." LDU: "I'm not really a student of history," Amanda said, "but all this sounds so horrible, Judith. I don't know how you came through it." "I like you, Dr. Chase. I want you to remember that when this is over and I'm no longer here to tell you." "What do you mean, Judith? LDV: "Do you imagine something is going to happen to you?" "You are going to add David and Jerry to the ranks of the B'nei Elohim, and after that we're all going to walk right out of here." "Do you really think so, Judith?" "Why not? Three others did precisely that." LDW: Judith smiled at the sheer naivete of Amanda. "I'm here under official quarantine, am I not? How did Kimberly Shybear and Sofie Krause escape? Were they cured and released? And why did Tolson let Rebekah Redstar go? You're not asking the right questions, Dr. Chase." LDX: "You must be mistaken, Judith, at least in part. I've seen what Director Roland claims are the remains of Kimberly Shybear. So she must have died in quarantine, no?" "No. Germany was not the only country to operate concentration camps. Kim was once held in an American one. LDY: Weren't you even curious what happened to the previous subjects of this particular research project?" "Dr. Trochmann told me only that they 'lost contact' with two of them." "What a strangely passive way to put it," Judith said. "Wouldn't you like to know more?" LDZ: When Amanda had no answer, Judith said, "I believe in your heart of hearts that you do. At the very least, it will keep you from being entirely blindsided when three B'nei Elohim walk out of here in our usual spectacular fashion, right under your very noses."


The transformation of Mike Morrich into a b'nei eloah takes a week and for the first time Earl Roland witnesses it happening before his eyes. He sees how a bump on the back of Mike's head grows and cracks open to reveal the white bone cup.Photos of Mike's crotch taken every few hours documents the change from human male to nephilim jen as female genitalia forms under hez penis. One of hez testicles crawls inside and becomes an ovary. Blood and skin samples are taken from Mike by Amanda Chase and she witnesses how the pairs of XX chromosomes in every cell changes into XZ pairs. The X is replicated, then bonded to the Y with a second centromere. She finds the entire thing enthralling. Lilith 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. Roland imagines Lilith and Mike will be more communicative if they do not feel like captives, and indeed they are. Lilith, in particular, is quite free with har information, but much of it they find to be unbelievable.Meanwhile Freddy NF Aspin, who is merely on loan from the Colorado state pen, is indeed confined elsewhere on Hanford nearly twenty miles to the northwest across mostly empty land. When Mike's change is complete, Lilith asks, "Did you finally see what you wanted to see, Dr. Roland?" "Indeed I did, Dr. Gervasi," he replies, acknowledging har Ph.D in Levantine linguistics. "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."

"But what of your promise to Michael?"

"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." "And Freddy?" "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.As for you, Lilith, 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 hem.When they have turned so that Lilith is facing Roland once more, sha says, "I think I can do better for Mike than just make him comfortable as he dies.With Haziel dead, and Yeshua on Barbelo, the b'nei elohim can use a second healer. I think it should be Mike, and che can begin by healing hemself.And Freddy goes with us too. Hy can be our muscle." Before the eyes of Earl Roland, Amanda Chase, and Ian Trochmann, Lilith and Mike simply disappear from the clinic. Their first stop is the cell where Freddy is being held. Lilith says to hym, "You're not going back to the state pen, Freddy. Roland 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 hyz hand to the bars of his cell, and discovers they are rapidly turning red hot. NG 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. There are a handful of smaller buildings that are left intact in that area 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 Pharmadigm under the terms laid down by Colorado corrections. 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. Hy makes short work of the fence with hyz new "talent", the same one that facilitated hyz escape from the building where they were holding hym. Apparently hy is a pyrokinetic now, though hy isn't sure if it came from the drug or the screwy afterworld where hy saw Jesus. Hy'd much rather have Lilith's talent, and just pop in and out of places. Freddy had used hyz power to snuff out hyz guards back there too. Killing men no longer gave hym much pause. Hy already crossed that particular Rubicon in the war, and even more so when hy killed Oboe Man in Denver, although it was Freddy's story, and hy was sticking to it, that hy just gave the street musician a short sharp shock, just like hy 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 hym Murder Two.Then the New Confederacy came in and elevated even Murder Two to the death penalty, ex post fucto. But killing the DoE's two guards? No regrets. If Lilith wasn't bullshitting hym, and hy had no reason to believe that sha was, then Pharmadigm and the Confeds didn't intend to let hym or har or Mike go free for the rest of their lives. At least in prison Freddy figured hy wouldn't be subject to experiencing dreams that physically hurt. Later, Lilith would explain to Freddy (using concepts hy 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 NH 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 hy is staring at Coyote Rapids at Hanford Reach, the last undammed section of the mighty Columbia. Freddy isn't a swimmer, and hy knows hy cannot set foot in the water here or hy'd be swept away and drown. There is the Vernita Bridge two or three miles upriver, but already Freddy can see the lights of Department of Energy police cars are crawling all over that whole area, guessing hyz move. Hy can see them clearly enough in the deepening twilight over miles of absolutely flat scrublands.Other flashing lights on power transmission towers scattered across the Hanford site pierce the darkness. Any other convicted felon would move away from the colored flashing lights of the police vehicles, but Freddy has a new confidence that comes with hyz new talent, and every time he uses hyz talent hy learns more about it. 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. So Freddy sees hyz problem. Hy knows hy can give them a taste of fire, even from a small distance, but how to get that one car together with the others? Undetected, hy 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.

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Strangers In Paradise