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When the pressure came up to the three pounds of pure oxygen that was standard inside the city of Taurus, the High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus, his son Apollyon, and the forty-one officers accompanying them stepped out and dropped a flight of stairs to the main floor below. All of them longed to shed their spacesuits once and for all but they dared not, fearing that they would all be suffocated by Robyn with the touch of a button. Soon Asmodeus and his nephilim found themselves in a labyrinth of passageways without a clue of where they went.

The maze of corridors opened up into a roomy area, like a food court in a shopping mall, and there Asmodeus’s commando team ran into the first members of the B’nei Elohim prepared to stop them. It was a small squad led by Chuck, the son of Chayn and Gordon and the cousin of Victoria. Chuck and his three Girl Guards pointed their weapons directly at Asmodeus face, and no wonder, his elaborate regalia clearly marked him as the most senior nephilim present.

Chuck made signs for Asmodeus to lift the faceplate on his helmet so he could see who he was. When Asmodeus complied, Chuck recognized his fuzzy face and uniquely braided white beard. He said, “Well, well, it’s the Gerash Patriarch himself. Tell your team to let their guns drop to the floor, Asmodeus, or you’ll get it. Now!”

Asmodeus carefully complied. He and his team did nothing which might make Chuck or his girls squeeze the trigger on their weapons.

“Good, Sire, now reach over and slowly unsheathe your sword halfway out with your right hand. Halfway out only, mind you Sire. That’s perfect. Okay, now grab the hilt with your left hand so that when you pull it out, the sword’s tip is pointing back your way and not my way.”

When Asmodeus had done all this Chuck motioned for him to pull the sword the rest of the way out of its sheathe.

“Slowly, Sire. Slowly now! I know you’re tricky, Lord Asmodeus. Okay, now hand it to me.”

When he was about to give Chuck his blade, Asmodeus’s thumb hit a switch on the hilt and the cap on the very bottom flipped up to reveal a lens. Chuck looked at it in astonishment. A powerful laser in the hilt instantly blinded him. Her eyes slammed shut, but there were bright spots dominating his vision, and there was also great pain. “Ah, dammit! Damn you! I’m blind!”

What followed was a fierce tussle where Chuck’s three squad members had the better of it at first because they were still armed, while Asmodeus’s people had to scramble on the floor for their weapons. Asmodeus ducked and rolled and swerved to avoid being burned.

Eventually Asmodeus’ sheer numbers prevailed, as they must. Seven members of his group were hit before Dory’s three girls were shot. As for Apollyon, he was hiding behind an obstacle.

Chuck was still alive, but he groped around in his blindness. None of his girls were left alive to provide imagery of the scene to Dory via the Swarm. Asmodeus decapitated Chuck with his sword without a word of warning while he was crawling around on the floor, blind as a bat. Then he put his still-living head, dripping with blood, into a gray translucent metallic bag and closed it with a yellow sticker.

“I know you can still hear me, man of the B’nei Elohim,” he said to him through the bag, not knowing precisely who he was, “but as you have discovered by now, it’s hard to upload your memories with neutrinos through the material of this bag. You’re my insurance. So let’s see what extraordinary lengths your friends will go to in capturing your final memories to let you avoid the True Death.”

And he gave the bag containing Chuck’s head to young Apollyon to carry for him while some of his other officers carried took point and rearguard.

Obviously the whole area was rigged for sound, because now doors magically opened in front of them, indicating the way the B’nei Elohim wanted the Emperor to go. The thick doors they already passed through refused to budge. The weapons of the Imperials would take too long to cut through them and they would run out of power at any rate. Grenades could do it, but there were too many doors and too few grenades, and it might break the air-tight integrity of the city. Only two floors separated the bulk of the city with its park-like flora from the hard vacuum of the surface of the moon.

As they proceeded through the doors they were silently bidden to use, Asmodeus noticed a scarcity of girl scouts along the way. Instead of presenting themselves for slaughter they seemed to back off as if on orders. The only exception to that rule was Chayn Shybear, the mother of Chuck, who approached Asmodeus with arms raised and palms forward to show she had no weapons.

Asmodeus thought she closely resembled the woman named Joy who served him long ago on Barbelo, but her hair was very different.

When she had drawn near, she sank to one knee, lowered her face, and said, “I am Chayn, Lord, the daughter of Robyn. Command me.”

Asmodeus thought the resemblance to Joy extended even to the woman’s voice. He said, “Command you? Would you attempt to deceive a god?”

“Deceive you, Lord? Far be it from my mind. Not all of the B’nei Elohim share the same aims of El Shaddai and Bat-El, as my Lord has already discerned by the service of my brother Edgar. Name the thing you seek, Lord, and I shall try to get it for you with no further violence.”

“I have come for the Ark of the Covenant.”

Chayn suddenly raised her face to see if Asmodeus was serious. “The Ark? My Lord has been tragically deceived if he thought the Ark of the Covenant to be here on Luna.”

“Then where is it?”

“In a space station we call Midway, Lord, which is in orbit some four thousand miles above the second planet of this star system.”

“I don’t believe you!”

“I speak only the truth to my Lord,” Chayn protested. “He will not find the Ark of the Covenant in Taurus City.”

“And yet, I would see the tabernacle, the meeting tent where El Shaddai always insisted the Ark should be kept. Where is this tabernacle, woman of the B’nei Elohim?”

“I can show you that, Lord,”

And there was a place in the two-story thick structure that comprised the ceiling of Taurus where the floor had been replaced by thick glass, such that one could look down past one’s feet at the floor of the city. It was easy for Asmodeus to identify what he was seeking.

The Tabernacle, or Meeting Tent, was constructed by materials and labor which was donated by artisans from Israel, Hamar, and Nath. The required materials were gold, silver, brass, fine linen, goats’ hair, rams’ skins dyed red, badgers’ skins, shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod and the breastplate. With these materials, craftsmen made the tabernacle, the staves to carry the Ark, the altar and its staves, all the altar’s vessels, and the showbread. They made the candlestick for the light, the incense altar, and the hanging for the door at the entrance of the tabernacle.

There was a glass elevator leading to the floor of Taurus but it was only large enough to hold two nephilim, laden as they were with weapons and spacesuit backpacks and a bag carrying Chuck’s head.

Asmodeus hesitated for a moment to think. Then he stepped inside accompanied only by his son Apollyon, who carried the head of Chuck. For a delicate few moments they would both be trapped at the mercy of B’nei Elohim operators who if they chose could run the capsule to a dead stop halfway down the tube, then kill both of them with laser light fired through the glass tube. But nothing like that happened because Chayn was being covered by the officers Asmodeus left behind, as the Emperor’s life insurance.

The forest sector of Taurus City was arranged around 300 foot tall Green Hill, the highest point on the surface. Asmodeus could see foot trails spreading out like a web from the summit as they descended. One side of the hill had a farm with 13 acres of fruits and vegetables plus a ten acre fruit orchard with room for about thirty head of cattle among the trees.

On the other side of the hill were tall pines and about a thousand foot long stretch of whitewater in a deep chasm. This was a part of Taurus deliberately sculpted to be wild, which was quite a valuable commodity in space. There was a deep human (and nephilim) need to be immersed in chaos periodically to balance the sterile order of technology.

The scenic drop ended with a gentle stop in an abandoned station on the hilltop. The castle of Robyn was at the far end of Taurus’s central park perched on a slightly lower hill. Beyond the castle was a small “downtown” modeled after small cities on Earth, and beyond that was the far end of the city.

Asmodeus and his son zigzagged down Green Hill on paths between a creek and a stretch of road on another piece of rugged “wild” land between the two mile-long walls, which were more than five hundred feet apart. Soon they found themselves surrounded by perhaps fifty well-armed members of the Girl Guard in a large level area at the base of the hill, where the Tabernacle had been set up. A tall, muscular woman with short hair was at the center of the ring of women, and she pulled a sword from a sheath held in the hands of another woman and stepped forward to meet the intruders.

“I’m Hunky,” she said. “Robyn is indisposed at the moment, Emperor Asmodeus Gerash, so if you came all the way here because you want a piece of B’nei Elohim ass you’ll have to settle for Number Two.”

Asmodeus hesitated. He was nearly exhausted, for one thing. And for another, while Hunky was no substitute for Lilith or Del as a commander on the field of battle, in a one-on-one situation Hunky was said to be far more fierce than either of them. Still, despite Hunky’s nephilim Amazon body frame, in Empire dogma she was nothing but a silly and weak female. The Emperor could not back down in the sight of his son without contradicting many centuries of patriarchy bluster, and Hunky knew it full well. This situation was reinforced when the rest of the officers in the party of Asmodeus arrived to observe, with Chayn in tow, after having come down to the city floor two-by-two.

Humans, demigods, and Fallen Angels arranged themselves as spectators on balconies and alcoves, in nooks and crannies all around the open space. Whatever happened, it was going to be even better than a game of Freeball, which was the official sport of the B’nei Elohim.

Intrepid television journalist Andrea Mitchell rushed to the scene with a crew bearing lights and camera gear, yelling “Wait!” Immediately she had her Interworld crew set up their equipment, while a half-dozen girls attended to both Gordon and Abaddon with make-up.

“Asmodeus’ divine and imperial dignity was at a breaking point. “What is this?” he yelled.

Andrea gaped at hym. “Do you realize how many people are watching this war, Sire? Do you want to look like hell on camera? And she motioned for the girls to continue to make Asmodeus and Hunky look good but ridiculous.

Finally Asmodeus and Hunky were left unmolested by the make-up crew. In a sign of contempt for his foe, Asmodeus bypassed the traditional opening formalities of salute and counter-salute. He set down the macro and simply stood there with his blade in hand and tried to stare Hunky down. Few could withstand the withering gaze of the Patriarch of the White Beards.

So Hunky, in reply, also bypassed the traditional opening formalities. She skipped the stupid alpha-male bluster that always reminded her of rams beating their heads together. She was thinking of that crap where the opponents circled around one another and talked trash while they made little quick thrusts and parries to gauge their opponent and tried to shake loose an opening. Don’t men always have to do that? she thought. Even in a fist fight they will always begin by throwing their open palms against each other’s chest, saying “Come on!” over and over again until they make each other angry enough to start throwing fists.

But the B’nei Elohim Girl Guard knew closed fists were lousy weapons and open hands even more so. At Shangri-La in the Green River Gorge, also known as Boot Camp, they were trained to grab their foe immediately and actually pull them closer, bringing surprised male face (or testicles) into raised female knee or lowered female skull.

So it was that Hunky, in her very first move, simply threw her sharp steel blade into Asmodeus’ chest like one of those oriental throwing stars. No fanfare. No boasting. No playing with her food which from much past experience even her B’nei Elohim associates expected her to do. In fact, Hunky’s move was totally unexpected, therefore it could not fail. Some of the women gathered there were disappointed, but when Del reviewed this memory later on the Swarm she would have high praise for Hunky indeed. The point was to kill the emperor, not jerk off.

Standing there with Hunky’s sword penetrating his heart, Asmodeus’s face was a grimace of pain and shock. He could not believe what had just happened to him, yet the agony was so intense he could not even speak.

It’s not fair! I wasn’t ready! Hunky cheated and skipped all the customary preliminaries!

Apollyon saw that his father’s wound was mortal. Asmodeus turned to his son and tried to speak, but no words came out. Before he could die, Apollyon was determined to let his father see that his son was determined to complete the mission. He pointed a gun at the bag containing Chuck’s severed head and stood forth so everyone could see him. Bring forth the Ark of the Covenant or this man’s final memories will be lost forever.

Chayn caught Hunky’s eye. “I tried to tell them the Ark wasn’t here.”

Hunky, for one, was not willing to allow Chuck to suffer the True Death. She yelled, “Everyone hold! Point your weapons at the deck. Nobody try anything.”

“Excellent,” Apollyon growled. This move was the only way he could save his life, but he also saw a chance to at least salvage his father’s mission, now that his father’s life was forfeit.

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