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It could not be hidden for long that the first space flight initiated by humans from Barbelo had been a suicide mission to avert an approaching comet and prevent a third Great Deluge. Nor could it be hidden that Mastema, now incarnated as the Gerash High Lord Patriarch Sartael, had prevented news of this comet from getting out to the other families. And the simultaneous secret flood preparations by the elite among the greater Gerash family also did not escape notice.

The rumor that elements of House Sala and Larund had conceived and carried out this flight to save Barbelo did much to win secret converts to El Shaddai. Some even said that Talishi herself had led the mission and had died in a successful attempt to divert the comet. All in all, Mastema had sustained a terrible propaganda defeat.

As Talishi herself had foreseen at the time of the flight, the event marked a major turning point in the history of Barbelo. From that day forward, Mastema was viewed as evil even by many members of Family Gerash, especially by those who were deemed unworthy to receive the same warnings that were given to the purebred family core. Mastema would still be obeyed from fear, but there would never again be any loyalty based on awe and respect. The incident ignited a deep and broad conspiracy lasting many decades to unseat family Gerash by any means. This conspiracy reached even into Mastema’s own armed forces.

Young Ithuriel departed the Canterwood Academy and traveled east to cross the River Sabik near Mount Menkant. A boy once known as Edgar Shybear, Ithuriel was the son and first child of Robyn and Jerry Shybear, but whether he was the eldest child was a matter of which timeline you were talking about and where you stood within that timeline.

Ithuriel was a second generation member of the B’nei Elohim, which was translated Son of God. This order was established by El Shaddai and Bat-El on Timeline Delta. The act of creating the B’nei Elohim created Timeline Epsilon.

Some people called the B’nei Elohim demigods, but they were really demiurges, craftsmen and craftswomen who tried to make the perfect vision of El Shaddai and Bat-El into reality. Each of them were each marked by a unique ability that set them well above human beings in some way. Call them real-life superheroes. In Edgar’s case his power was an extraordinary intellect.

On the Epsilon timeline Edgar Shybear, upon reaching early adulthood in 1964, penetrated the operating principle of the Golden Gift and duplicated it. He called his apparatus a macro, because it made quantum interactions manifest on a macro scale.

El Shaddai could have simply told Edgar how the Golden Gift worked, but then the young man would never have reached beyond his known limits to become Edgar. And Edgar was precisely what El Shaddai had been breeding for across four millennia.

Edgar’s macro was in turn brought back in time by Yeshua and inserted into 1947, which created Timeline Zeta. That was Ithuriel’s native timeline.

On the Zeta line young Edgar went to the Academy in Canterwood rather than recreating something his older self had already created. In this way advanced technology was pulling itself up by it’s own bootstraps. The ultimate goal was to break Mastema’s barrier isolating El Shaddai and Bat-El from the greater community of Elohim.

But that version of Edgar had gone rogue, and while he had not actually removed himself to the camp of Mastema, he no longer considered himself truly part of the B’nei Elohim. Yeshua allowed him to depart and renamed him Ithuriel. When Dory tried to contact him directly, Ithuriel simply ignored her.

The primitive space-going technology of the early period of expansion led to the complete remote reconnaissance of the two star systems belonging to the yellow and orange suns. Communications satellites were lofted. A permanent human presence in low orbit space stations followed, as well as tentative footholds on Barbelo’s nearest moon Palato. Underground water deposits, rich metal ores, and abundant sun power made the new colonies nearly self-sufficient.

It was not yet clear to the heads of the five families that human destiny lay in space. From the beginning space travel was militarized, and the nascent Navy of Mastema grew as rapidly as the off-Barbelo population grew. The avatar of Mastema formed the invincible heart of this Navy, and a powerful fort was constructed on the inner surface Palato with many guns and rocket emplacements orbiting ominously just over the heads of the entire Barbelo populace.

John Wayne once said, “Life is hard, it’s even harder when you’re stupid.” I follows that the inverse is true: Life is easy when you’re brilliant. Ithuriel had set himself the goal of reaching the land of House Larund, east of the Wall of God, and every decision he made led him inexorably closer to reaching that goal. Sometimes, unfortunately, those decisions came at the expense of less intelligent people he met along the way.

Knowing that Black Beard intruders always seemed to come to Canterwood from down the vale of the river Sabik, Ithuriel journeyed up that river to see what he could see. After tarrying for a time in the capital of Hamar, named Menkant, he dwelt in the city of Wazol for a year.

Every day Ithuriel explored a different part of the face of the Wall of God, which loomed just east of the city, looking for the fabled path that led to the top. He gnawed at the problem with his usual tenacity but looking for an end-point to the trail was a problem that could never be solved, since the end-point was deliberately obscured with heavy brush.

So Ithuriel thought outside the box and went off-trail, cross-country, marching through knee-high ferns in any direction he chose much like a ship sails at sea. He steered himself straight up the wooded slope that lay at the foot of the Wall and finally stumbled onto the very lower reaches of the Catwalk.

The Catwalk was a Cadillac of a trail, luxuriously maintained, but unexpectedly so. This was the fabled way Talishi herself had descended to Haaretz two thousand years prior.

Because Edgar was anything but stupid, he did not ascend the Wall of God on the Catwalk until he had properly prepared the tools and provisions he would need to make the attempt. Yet mental preparation was just as important, if not more so. Once on the Catwalk Edgar knew his world would be transformed from a plane into a single line. A single moment of panic, of giving in to the ever-present fear of falling, would be fatal.

Ithuriel’s immediate goal was to ascend out of Haaretz, but he had set for himself the ultimate goal of getting off Barbelo altogether. As he negotiated the Catwalk he tried to decide where he would go and what he would do.

At the Academy Ithuriel had learned the early settlements on Palato, which formed soon after Talishi’s suicide flight, had been grouped into three triads, each one under a triarch. Afterwards they were organized into a loose Palato League, which elected, when common action was necessary, a dictator appointed for a fixed period of time.

There was a federal assembly that levied taxes and troops from the triads. The Navy of Mastema occupied a large portion of Palato and requisitioned supplies and labor from the Palato League but otherwise stayed out of local affairs. Family Gerash also laid claim to tiny Rhene as a prison moon, and it’s even smaller sub-moon Minos to administer it.

Other immigrants who did not wish to attach themselves to the Palato League or the Navy of Mastema moved on to other, more sparsely-settled communities across the system of the orange sun. Chief among these was Xanthos, the largest moon of Barbelo, which lay beyond Rhene.

Others left the gravitational influence of Barbelo altogether and made the crossing to chilly Lemnos, the next planet out from Barbelo, or to one of Lemnos’ two very small moons, Unxia and Ianthe. Ithuriel considered all of these as possibilities for his ultimate destination.

The Academy at Canterwood was famed throughout Barbelo. Edgar need only to describe himself as alumni, verified by a single telephone call to Yeshua, and any job in Peshast was literallty his for the taking. So life for Ithuriel really was easy. The job he chose was spacecraft pilot for a Black Beard corporation called Astrodynamics.

A number of years before Talishi’s one-way flight to prevent a third great deluge a breathtaking feat of construction inside the Northern Ice of Barbelo had been initiated by House Larund, averaging fifteen miles a year. This resulted in the construction of a giant mass-driver, a sun-powered electromagnetic catapult for hurling vehicles to orbit. When this infrastructure was complete it became relatively cheap and easy to obtain access into space.

Simulators could only teach so much. After much classroom time it was time for Ithuriel to take his first flight, accompanied by a senior pilot named Nithael as instructor.

The shuttle was hexagonal in cross-section so it could fit inside the mass-driver. Wings and stabilizers lay folded up on the surface of the reusable shuttle for the launch, to be used on the return leg. The spacecraft typically carried six persons and a small amount of cargo, or in the case of Ithuriel’s checkout flight, just two persons and much more cargo.

After getting underway, there was two minutes and thirteen seconds of brain-flattening hell in the mass-driver tunnel at six gees. As the shuttle neared the end of the tunnel, it passed through a series of automatic airlocks designed to bring the local pressure from the near-vacuum of the majority of the tunnel to the full atmosphere at the tunnel mouth. During this sequence the shuttle slowed and Ithuriel and his instructor were hurled forward in their straps.

At 365 miles east of the boarding station the shuttle passed the final coil and broke into clear air, but with enormous horizontal velocity. The shuttle became surrounded by a teardrop of superheated air that thinned and cooled. Soon after that the sky appeared to turn black and the planet seemed to gradually drop away from the shuttle until orbit was reached.

On the whole was a frightening ride to the uninitiated but it was actually very safe and it led to the development of space at a far greater pace than would occur when Earth followed suit about one hundred years later.

Palato was roughly 500 miles across, and roughly 50,000 miles away from Barbelo, which made it appear roughly the same size as the Earth’s single moon did from the surface. When Ithuriel had performed a perfect landing at the designated place, and the metal roof had closed overhead to form a seal so the docking structure could be pressurized, he helped Nithael unload the cargo from the shuttle.

An Eye of Mastema appeared soon after that, and said the modern day equivalent of precisely the same query the Eyes had made of Sibelius outside of Salem when he was smuggling Princess Khondiel into the city: What man of ye be the loadmaster?

“I am Nithael, and I command this shuttle.”

“I know you, Nithael of the House of Larund, but who is the boy?”

“He is called Ithuriel, and my superiors at Astrodyne ordered me to check him out as a shuttle pilot.”

“One so young?”

“Ithuriel claims to have attended the Academy in Canterwood,” Nithuriel said with a shrug. “From what I hear of that school, his claim is not so far-fetched. He performed flawlessly.”

“It is said that no child of House Bellon or House Gerash may attend the Academy,” said the Eye. “And so I find it curious indeed to find a Canterwood graduate on Palato so close to the Navy of Mastema. What say you, boy? What is the truth here? Why have you come?”

“I came only to be certified to fly,” said Ithuriel. “Astrodyne said go to such-and-such a place with this cargo and so I came.” He stared steadily at the Eye of Mastema and began to silently count numbers in his head.

At the count of eleven the Eye said, “Nithael, you may return to Barbelo in your shuttle, but this boy will stay on Palato to answer all such further questions as I might have. If I find his answers to be unsatisfactory I will pass word to your employer below, which you should take to mean it would be unhealthy for you to return to Palato ever again. The Lord Sartael does not love accomplices of spies.”

Ithuriel did not learn the name of the Eye of Mastema was Hogarth until somewhat later after he had spoken to Sartael himself.

Hogarth was famous for a certain type of investigation internal to the Army and Navy of Mastema. It used to deeply cut into the Gerash annual budget for troops to go out on early retirement with a bogus disability claim, only to be seen the first weekend chopping wood in their back yard. Often a visit from Hogarth was all it took to make these ailments miraculously clear up and the man returned to duty, such that his nickname among the Eyes of Mastema became “Jesus” although this was never said in his earshot. And if the ailments didn’t clear up, he made sure they really had a disability to go out on. In either case (and Hogarth had no preference either way) the number of false claims fell to zero.

So Hogarth was something of a bogeyman on Palato. Men who passed him in the corridors glanced down at the floor and went out of their way to avoid brushing against him.

Ithuriel, per interrogation protocol, had been stripped completely naked and it was at that time that Hogarth discovered the bone cup breaking the skin at the back of his skull, complete with 55 dark pins about the diameter of the lead in a mechanical pencil. Brushing the pins had broken them off as easily as the aforementioned pencil lead, but in only a few hours they had grown back to the same length.

Ithuriel had nothing to say about the cup. So Eyes of Mastema manhandled the boy into a chair and bound him with straps.

Hogarth withdrew a gadget from a case for Ithuriel’s inspection. “This beauty shoots a little post under toenails or fingernails up to the first knuckle. Now usually, when you get injured your body lets you know with a shot of pain, but after a while your pain is handled with endorphins because your brain is saying, ‘Yes, I know about the damage, it’s being taken care of.’ But not with this toy. No, no, no, no! The post that will be under your nail is a particularly nasty toxin that takes many hours to dissolve away, so the body never stops getting messages that it’s being injured. Let’s just say no one ever volunteered for another one. But there is a first time for everything. Nothing would interest me more than to see how you do with all ten fingers and all ten toes on fire. So I have twenty questions, young Ithuriel. Let’s proceed. What is that white cup on the back of your head and how did you get it?”

Ithuriel said nothing. He was bored. Obviously this Eye of Mastema had no clue that torture simply didn’t work with the B’nei Elohim. And so Hogarth applied the device to Ithuriel’s forefinger, which went SNICK! And Ithuriel immediately slipped into self-induced general anaesthesia which would last for the duration of the toxin.

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