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70 – NUPTIALS

The Army was still scouring Hanford for Robyn and Hunky. It did not occur to DECON to watch the bus stations out of the nearest towns until later that afternoon. The river had carried the girls much farther downstream than anyone could have walked in the same span of time, all at the relatively small expense of some wrinkled prune fingertips for both of them and a ruined dress for Kim.

By noon the girls were on a bus and well along on their way back home. Robyn’s greatest desire was to rush into the arms of her mother, but her precognitive abilities told her the authorities would go there first, and in fact they already had her house staked out. The same was true for Hunky’s house. They would be caught and it would be right back to Hanford. So while they sat on the bus making their way west at the wartime top speed limit of just 35 MPH, Robyn spent the time turning the dwindling options over in her mind.

Robyn realized the homes of everyone who had written to her and Hunky must also have been staked out. Both girls remembered that their mail had been opened and read before it was given to them, so they had no doubt DECON had logged the address of each sender. That ruled out going to see Dory and Jerry, at least directly.

Robyn didn’t quite “see” it yet as a daydream of the future, but she had a good guess DECON probably had the bus station in Seattle staked out as well, waiting for them. So the only chance Robyn could envision was to make a phone call to Prophet Two Feathers before they arrived in Seattle and explain their predicament to him.

In Ellensburg when the bus was delayed for about an hour, Robyn got out and made a call to the head of the End Dome Church from a pay phone with the last of Hunky’s spare change.

Peter Two Feathers recommended that the girls not go all the way to Seattle but remain in Ellensburg instead. It was only about two or three hours to the east, over the mountains. He offered to drive out and meet them at a public park he knew was close to the bus station. At her urgent request, Peter also promised to bring along Jerry and Dory, taking great care to make sure he had shaken any tails.

Robyn thanked him with great sincerity, hung up, and made her way together with Hunky to the nearby park, where they could hide in the bushes and minimize the number of homeless girl sightings until they saw the Prophet and their friends. It would be just their luck to be busted by a cop for vagrancy at the very cusp of their freedom.

DECON, or Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization, did indeed have the bus station and Clara Lokken’s house watched, but they did not have enough resources in place that early in the game to tail any of Robyn’s friends. Later when reported sightings of Robyn and Hunky came in from the public (their bedraggled appearance after the river swim made them stand out), DECON would have people crawling all over Black Diamond, Franklin, Palmer, and the cities between there and Richland too.

In the short space of time available to him Peter Two Feathers was able to round up the other two members of the Boda and take them by car over the mountains. His wife Deborah went along for the ride.

In the United States of America in 1943 there was wartime rationing of gasoline. Most people were entitled to only four gallons of gas a week. But Peter Two Feathers was an important clergyman who had to tend to his flock. He was allowed a Supplemental Mileage Ration C sticker which gave him up to an additional twelve gallons a week, the same bonus as doctors and mail carriers. That was a lucky thing, because his Chrysler Town and Country wagon only got about fifteen miles per gallon, even with its relatively lightweight wooden doors, so he was going to burn eight gallons on this one trip alone.

When they arrived in the downtown core of Ellensburg they split up and searched the park, calling Kim and Sophie by name. Robyn hustled out of the bush she was hiding in and faced Dory.

“I’m not Kim Lokken anymore, Dory. Call me Robyn.”

“I don’t care what you want me to call you, Robyn, or Kim, or pick a name out of a hat. It’s good to see you again girlie girl!”

They embraced tightly. Then Dory saw Hunky and rushed into her arms as well. Dory hadn’t seen either of them for more than a year. Jerry saw them too and rushed over to take his turns hugging Kim and Hunky and telling them how much he had missed them, which they already knew well from his letters. Then Two Feathers started his car and drove a half-circle around the park to the point closest to the Boda, where he threw open the doors and told them all to get in.

“We escaped from the Army,” Robyn told them as Two Feathers steered his vehicle towards the outskirts of the city. “Hunky and I. So now we’re fugitives, I guess.”

“What do you mean a fugitive?” Jerry asked. “So you left without checking with them, big deal. This is a free country, mostly.”

“They took rifle shots at us,” Hunky said, to underscore Robyn’s assessment of being fugitives. “I lost count how many.”

After that there was silence in the car until they passed the city limits.

“You’ll have to go underground,” Peter Two Feathers finally told them. “Literally underground. I’m prepared to help you do that, Kim, and you too Sophie, but this is the end of your life as you have known it.”

“I’ve already taken a step on my new life, sir,” she said. “I’ve discarded the name ‘Kim’ and now I answer only to Robyn.”

“Robyn what?”

“Just Robyn, sir. A single name, like Hunky. Sophie is just Hunky.”

“I feel a little left out,” Dory said. “Okay, so I’ll make it official, I’ll drop Fuchs and just go by Dory now.”

“You girls knock yourselves dead,” Jerry said. “I’m staying Jerry Shy Bear.” But deep inside he secretly wished he had been born a Jeri Shy Bear.

“Lee Hansen made his move,” Peter said, referring to the second ranking clergyman in the End Dome Church, the Apostle he appointed way back in 1917 and now deeply regretted doing so. “He’s helping the Army or the FBI or whoever it is that is trying to find you girls. You won’t be able to show your face anywhere near the Green River Gorge area for a very long time.”

“Why don’t you just fire him, sir?” Hunky said. “You are the Prophet, after all. He’s just the Apostle.”

“I did, but the schism is already in full bloom. He’s leading the Whites to go their own way and he’s already made himself the Prophet of something he calls the Reformed End Dome Church. There’s a large faction of the Church that has never been able to stomach equality with the Red Wing. I thought making him Apostle would hush them.”

“I figure the mandatory cousin marriage thing has always been a bone tossed to the Whites, sir,” Jerry said.

“That’s correct,” Peter agreed. “No Red will ever be able to marry a White as long as that rule exists. But rules can be changed.”

“That rule is keeping me from marrying the one I love, sir,” Jerry said. “I have loved Kim — well I guess I better call her Robyn now — from the very first day I met her in school.”

“And you, Kim, do you love Jerry too?”

She thought about it for what seemed to Jerry a very long time. She was waiting for ramifications to pile up in her mind. Finally she said, “Yes I do, sir. Very much.” Only then did she see the consequences.

Peter Two Feathers found a pawn shop on the outskirts of town and pulled into the parking lot. He went inside and bought two cheap rings. Then when they were well out of town he went off the main highway and drove to the end of a dead end gravel road that looked out upon the jagged peaks of the Cascade Range far to the west.

So with Hunky and Dory and his own wife as witnesses, the Prophet Peter Two Feathers set aside the law of the End Dome Church that required all marriages to occur between first or second cousins. He said, “For this one occasion, Red will be united with White. And if your love is real, and bears fruit, then your offspring will belong to both Wings of the Church, and so will their children in turn. As the generations roll on, and your sons and daughters marry whom they love, the breach between both Wings will be healed. This is both a joy and a burden I lay upon both of you, if you are willing to take it.”

They both affirmed that they would accept the burden. And so, with the Prophet presiding, Jerry Shy Bear wed Kim “Robyn” Lokken. They exchanged vows, rings and kisses. The sun was sinking in the west behind thunderclouds piled high and the whole scene was lit by an otherworldly pink and orange. Dory was a wreck, and even Hunky allowed her tomboyish mask to drop for a short time and cried genuine tears of joy. Of course, marriage licenses had to be skipped.

For his wedding gift to Robyn, Peter Two Feathers appointed her the Apostle of the End Dome Church in the place of Lee Hansen, who had led the faithful into schism. This he did with the same absolute authority that he used to permit her to marry Jerry Shy Bear.

For his wedding gift to Jerry, Peter Two Feathers bequeathed to him the Golden Gift, without which Lee Hansen had no Church no matter what he did or said. He retrieved the object from the back of his station wagon, in the wheel well for the spare tire, and held it up for everyone to see.

“This is the Golden Gift, the most sacred relic of the Church of End Dome,” Two Feathers said. “It was made by the very hand of God. Prince Melchizedek wielded this as a weapon in the time of Abraham, and Michael wielded it when Jericho fell. With this relic, we have sent countless bodies of the faithful who have fallen to sleep directly back to God.”

Peter Two Feathers squeezed the Golden Gift to extend the opaque black beam of annihilation and demonstrate how it worked. “Yet this is also a tool. With it you will be able to move underground as easily as you move through the air. No walls, no safe, no fortress made by man will be inaccessible to you. Your father, Robyn, used this relic to honeycomb the bedrock throughout the Green River Gorge area to access coal. But it is no longer safe from the enemies of the Church as long as I possess it. Neither am I, now that I think about it.”

Tanks

71 – YOM KIPPUR

Egypt crossed the Suez Canal on October 6, 1973 while Israel was basically shut down for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Egypt’s attack consisted of 240 warplanes and two thousand pieces of artillery, followed by eight thousand troops crossing over the Suez Canal. At the same time, six hundred Syrian tanks advanced across the uplands known as the Golan Heights.

Mobilization orders went out to the reservists and regulars of the Israel Defense Force while the soldiers were at home, or attending synagogue, or even living overseas. Lilith Gervasi, now an adjunct professor stateside, was notified by telegram and arrived in Israel Oct. 8, in uniform as a sgan aluf or Lieutenant Colonel.

Lilith reported for duty once more at General David Elazar’s Northern Command. At forty-five years of age she was a little long in the tooth as combatants went, but Lilith, who spent much of her time between Arab-Israeli wars conditioning herself for the next Arab-Israeli war, was actually in excellent physical shape.

By Oct. 10 the Israeli counterattack in the Golan reached the line from which Syria launched their attack on the first day of the war. Moshe Dayan wanted to halt right there, thirty miles from Damascus, to avoid drawing the Soviet Union into the war. General Elazar, by contrast, wanted to advance another twenty miles into Syria to set up a strong defensive line and stabilize the northern front. Prime Minister Golda Meir, who had been assured by the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that Nixon had her back, sided with Elazar.

The Israeli thrust east from the Golan Heights into Syria began on the 11th and pushed the Syrians back after fierce fighting. Early that evening, Lilith’s brigade was already six miles over the border into Syria. A few days later, the Christian commander of Syria’s forces in the Golan was executed before a firing squad in Damascus for ordering the withdrawal.

Moshe Dayan went on television at 2200 hours and reminded the Syrians that the road from Damascus to Israel was also the road from Israel to Damascus. But the next day Iraq entered the war, with fifteen thousand Iraqi troops shoring up the Syrian front. King Hussein of Jordan resisted Arab pressure, however, and refused to move against Israel in yet another war.

In Syria, all eighty tanks of one Iraqi brigade were destroyed by Israeli tanks and planes with absolutely no losses to the Israelis. Another Iraqi tank brigade was blocked by Lilith and a demolition crew who arrived at two bridges the tanks needed to cross and sliced partway through their support structures with blow torches, letting the weight of the tanks do most of the work. There were no tell-tale explosions. When the bridges collapsed, fifty of the eighty tanks were stranded on a dirt “island” with fewer than ten tanks able to advance, which the IDF Air Force quickly took off the board.

On October 16, sixty Iraqi tanks were hit on the Golan Heights and they withdrew. The Israelis held their position just eight miles outside of Damascus and Lilith’s brigade of infantry was an important part of this strong offensive line. The IDF also halted five miles west of the road from Damascus to Amman, Jordan, ready to block any late-minute entry of Jordan into the war with a flank attack. The Soviet Union finally grew alarmed at the setbacks experienced by their Arab client states.

At that point the Israelis began to breathe a sigh of relief, particularly when equally spectacular results were starting to come in from the southern theater of war. But the religious extreme right in Israel, with none of their own boots on the ground (as usual) prevailed upon Prime Minister Golda Meir to withdraw all female combatants from the front lines of the conflict. In the event she refused they threatened to take Likud out of the temporary power-sharing arrangement of her Alignment party, which would in turn drive her from office. Meir quickly caved in, and Lilith Gervasi was relieved of duty.

When she made formal protest, General Elazar, demonstrating an extraordinarily short memory of Lilith’s legendary accomplishments for Israel over the years, barked at her, “Give me one reason why I should not carry out these orders rotating you back home?”

She bared her arm with the six tattooed numerals. But it was not enough.

As the 1973 Yom Kippur war raged on, President Nixon ordered an airlift of military supplies to allow Israel to keep fighting. The Soviets supplied their Arab client states continuously throughout the war. To keep Lilith away from the temptation to wage war against the Arabs by “unofficial” means, she was placed on an empty C-130 Hercules cargo plane on it’s way back the United States.

In the Sinai, Israel lost two hundred tanks right away, but a pair of extra tank divisions were rushed forward to halt the Egyptian advance. Eighty percent of Israel’s entire inventory of armor that was still operational was sent into the battle, but Egyptian troops using Soviet-supplied anti-tank weaponry held the Israelis to a line five miles east of the Suez Canal. Meanwhile more Egyptian tanks and infantry massing on their side of the canal were protected from Israeli air attack by a tough shield of anti-aircraft missiles guided by radar, again courtesy of the Soviet Union.

On October 13 the Egyptians tried to break through two mountain passes in the Sinai. What followed was the largest tank battle on Earth since the 1943 battle of Kursk between Germany and Russia and the second largest tank battle anywhere, ever, involving nearly two thousand tanks. During the battle a total of 264 Egyptian tanks were knocked out, to Israel’s ten. On the 14th another Egyptian attack on the Suez Canal was stopped with the destruction of 200 tanks and a thousand Egyptian soldiers killed.

The following day a third battle was fought at the meeting point between the Egyptian Second and Third Armies that served as an administration area for both armies and headquarters for the 16th Infantry Division. Tanks fired at practically point blank range. Egypt lost 150 tanks to Israel’s eighty. Overnight an IDF parachute brigade established a toehold on the other side of the Canal. Two forward-deployed Egyptian anti-aircraft missile bases were taken out, allowing Israel to establish air superiority over the western bank of the Suez Canal.

A veritable conveyor belt of Soviet war supplies moved by air to Egypt and Syria, while the Americans supplied Israel from their own endless abundance. But when the Soviet Union saw the Arabs checked in the Golan and now in the Suez, and Nixon refused to pressure Israel to allow the trapped Third Army to escape, Leonid Brezhnev began airlifting Soviet troops to Cairo to supplement the Egyptians.

Passing through the Dardenelles, Soviet naval forces in the Mediterranean reached 97 ships, including 23 submarines, while the US added a third carrier battle group from Spain for a total of 60 ships. Three carriers in theater always heralded war.

Nixon took the US to DEFCON 3 and sent the 101st Airborne into the Sinai to counterbalance the Soviet troops, but events were moving fast and there was insufficient time to match the Soviets troop-for-troop. Nixon told Brezhnev that sending any more troop transport planes would be crossing a red line, but Brezhnev called his bluff.

Fighters from the USS Independence shot down the next cargo plane hauling Soviet troops. Brezhnev replied with a nuclear-tipped torpedo round fired at the Independence. The United States didn’t even know the Soviets had nuclear torpedoes. It didn’t have to be close. The blast took out the carrier, several support ships steaming alongside, and even damaged the Soviet submarine that fired it. The Cold War had just gone hot.

Nixon ordered weapons red and free on all Soviet forces in the Mediterranean, and the two sides slugged it out. Both remaining US carriers were taken out, but the Soviet naval forces definitely came off much the worse.

But this hardly mattered. An exchange of ICBMs took out the American and the Soviet capital cities, killing ten million people instantly and many more after the fact. Then the two superpowers went back into their own corners to assess what was happening and see if the other side would escalate.

A few more items on each side’s laundry list were nuked, such as the Hanford site in the US, and the Sevastopol navy base, but Brezhnev and Nixon were both dead, and cooler heads didn’t think losing more millions of lives would be worth what either side had gained by the war, which was precisely nothing.

By any stretch of the imagination, the things Mike Morrich saw in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 1973 far surpassed anything Lilith witnessed or endured in the camps, but somehow they affected him far less. Perhaps he was wired differently. That didn’t make him inhuman.

At seventeen, Mike was a pretty good kid. Sure, he dropped out school just before his senior year, to the great consternation of his father, but Mike figured he kind of work he could obtain after one more year of school wasn’t much different from the work he could obtain now, so what was the point? Sure he was a skinny young man with a wild afro, but nobody who lived through the Seventies could look back and say they were proud of their hair.

His father had a civil service job, his parents were still together, and Mike loved both of them. If he had been born ten or twenty years later, he would have been the exception rather than the rule.

So that Friday he was on the job site in a cavern dug under the city, a space intended to become an ornate Metro station when the system was slated to open just three years later, although it never would. Mike didn’t have any construction skills per se, and 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 a great deal of youthful energy.

The lights went out and there was something like a long earthquake. There was an eerie white light reflected down one of the connecting tunnels and hot dust filled the cavern even as the light faded to red. But the light never disappeared entirely, for the city above was burning. Mike Morrich and his co-workers were lucky, there were very few survivors so close to ground zero directly under the fireball of the Soviet fusion warhead.

The yield and the corresponding destruction was many times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. On Pennsylvania Avenue between the places where the White House and the Capitol building once sat was now a huge crater so hot the Potomac continually turned to steam before it could fill the hole. Surrounding this was a ring of total destruction where the Supreme Court, the Treasury building, and all the famous monuments used to be. When Mike 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 it was. All the landmarks were gone.

Mike knew in that instant that he was an orphan, there was no point in even trying to look for his parents. They were as gone as anyone could possibly be. So he turned and began to walk in what he guessed was the next best direction, which was away from the pillar of steam that was ground zero. As he walked, he passed through a ring of human bodies that were almost recognizable, for they were charred black, and even the beer bottles at their feet were melted.

He passed through a ring of half-standing blackened buildings with white “shadows” along their base that had been people blocking the burning radiation of the initial flash. And it was there that Mike had to pick his way through the rubble of structures that had already been burned out just to exit to the next ring.

Mike passed through a ring of people who were still alive, but burned so badly they had no hope of recovery, and they were in such shock they felt nothing, made no sound, and would soon die. They were actually the lucky ones.

He passed through a ring of people who did make a sound, for each of them were immersed in a sea of absolutely unendurable agony that never stopped. They had stripped themselves naked because their clothes only made the pain worse, and their arms were held at a forty-five degree angle at their side, for if their arms touched their bodies the pain of the contact was too great.

Mike’s chances of making out of the city were good. He hadn’t been injured, but even as he walked the residual radiation of the blast did its invisible dirty work, tearing at the DNA in his body, so that in the end, fifteen years later, he would in fact become a victim of the attack in the form of an unbelievably painful bone cancer that would ravage him for two years, were not the B’nei Elohim to intervene.

temple

72 – DESECRATION

In the forest near End Dome Hill the Prophet Peter Two Feathers took his 1941 Town and Country wagon to an abandoned mine shaft entrance that had never been boarded up. He and his five passengers all got out and left it there. When DECON searchers found the vehicle they would assume Robyn and Hunky were hiding inside the mine, and that would occupy them for a fairly long while.

Robyn asked Two Feathers to walk with her a short distance apart from the others so she could speak to him privately. What she had to ask the Prophet might not be something that he would choose to share with his wife.

When they were out of earshot she said, “Thank you for giving Jerry the Golden Gift, but we also need to get the Ark.”

“Ah yes, the Ark of the Covenant hiding under the altar, the one you naughty kids found when you were playing where you ought not have been playing. That will prove a bit more difficult than smuggling out the Golden Gift. I could hide that in my pocket. The Ark will need two people to carry out.”

“Does Lee Hansen know about it?”

“He does, but it’s not a priority for him like the Golden Gift, which he must have to carry out Last Rites in his apostate group. No, to him the Ark is just a pretty relic that would add a little class to the temple, if anyone else knew it was there. As it is, only the Prophet and the Apostle know it is there, unless Hansen has been shooting his mouth off to his people. And also you kids know about it, now.”

“Why do you hide it, sir?”

“There’s no way we could protect it, if people outside of the Church thought it was the genuine deal. And if they thought it was fake, the Church would be ridiculed even more than she is. Lee Hansen doesn’t care about the Ark right now, but his people are always watching me, pretending to be loyal parishioners. If they saw me and my wife carrying it out of the temple, then the Ark would suddenly become something Hansen was very interested in. But why are you interested in it, Robyn?”

“It shoots needles out, like a cactus. Poked me and Hunky. That’s how we got these.” And she lifted her pony tail to show Two Feathers the seven-sided bone cup with black pins that protruded from the back of her head. “It changed us.”

“And you would let your other friends be changed the same way?”

“I won’t tell you that I think it’s God’s desire that we spread this change, but…no, I will tell you that. Yes, I think that’s what we are supposed to do. And I think this change is the reason I know that.”

“Well, as I told you, Hansen’s people are watching me. So if we are to get the Ark out of the temple, it will be entirely up to you young folks. As for myself, and my wife, we need to make ourselves very scarce.”

“Where will you go, sir?”

“Do you remember your Wednesday School, Robyn, and what they taught you from our scriptures about the Sacred Pool?”

“I know there is a pond somewhere around here where the Endomion says Shy Bear and Inge Lange slipped under the water, lived for a time in the other world, and returned hours or days later, but years older. To be honest, sir, I always put that story down with the walking on water bit, or the talking snake bit. So perhaps you made a bad call making me the new Apostle.”

“What would you say if I told you that I have immersed myself in that same pond, and visited the other world, and returned again?”

“I don’t know, sir. Are you telling me that?”

“I am indeed. Didn’t you think it odd that I would make you the Apostle of the Church, and give your husband the Golden Gift?”

“It did seem a bit out of character, sir. But not so much, if you were told to do it in this other world.”

“Then know this, Robyn, that I will return once more to the Sacred Pool, but I will also take Deborah, and we will not return to this world ever again. From your perspective, it will be as though the two of us had died. And you must know what that will mean for yourself.”

“It will mean that I am elevated from Apostle to Prophet.”

“Exactly, Robyn. Please forgive me if it seems I have thrust all this responsibility on you without adequate preparation. But if you are right that this change you spoke of was supposed to happen, then I do not think it will be long before you are made fully aware of what’s going on and made fully ready to handle it.”

Hunky’s plan involved the same deacon of the Church who had found them inside the cubby hole and locked up the supply room to keep them from returning. Dory would doll herself up and distract him with a little sex appeal while Hunky ransacked his office and got the key.

It worked perfectly. Dory was quite a tart when she wanted to be, chatting the deacon up with her suggestive talk while sitting close to the deacon in a Temple pew and letting the hem of her skirt rise just so. Meanwhile Hunky tried all the keys and found the one that opened the door to the supply room, which she removed from the chain before returning the rest of the keys to their exact original position in the deacon’s office.

Everything was set for that evening. They would come to the sanctuary in the middle of the night to pray, then after making sure no one was watching, they would unlock the supply room, get the Ark, and scram. Dory stored a flashlight in her purse to get ready for the raid. They never needed to do any of it.

If one dived to the bottom of the pond near the foot of End Dome Hill, and if Bat-El was willing, then a connection was made to a twin pool in Canterwood. Bottom flipped to become top. Peter Two Feathers, his wife Deborah surfaced in Yeshua’s pool in Barbelo, climbed out, and were steered to nearby changing rooms where they could towel off and change into dry white robes.

When they emerged again, Yeshua was waiting for them. Peter dropped to one knee in worship, and his wife dropped to hers to follow what her husband was doing.

The Savior was shorter than Deborah always imagined he would be, and not nearly as good looking as the Hollywood versions. He had brown skin, black eyes, and no beard. To Deborah’s surprise the Lord wore no white robe, just tan striped pajamas like men wear in Oman or Somalia. But his leather sandals were right out of the gospels. He was seated at a wooden desk near the Sacred Pool drinking a white wine and reviewing paperwork.

Deborah asked, “Are you Jesus?”

Hearing himself called by those two syllables made the Lord smile. “I am called Yeshua, but even that name, when it was given to me, was changed somewhat from the old days in Canaan. Originally it was Hoshua, which just means ‘salvation’. Please have a seat, Mr. and Mrs. Two Feathers.”

Peter and Deborah settled in to wide wicker chairs in front of Yeshua. Two armed female guards in green garb festooned with bird feathers stood behind him, to his left and right, flashing thigh. They were Fallen Angels who had survived the passage on the Catwalk when Talishi came to Haaretz, and remained behind to serve the incarnation of Bat-El.

Yeshua continued his story, which Peter had also heard and figured the Lord had probably told a thousand times before. “The southern kingdom of Judah got to re-write history, and they called God Yahweh, so in the stories they cooked up in the Babylonian Captivity they said Moshe changed Hoshua’s name to Yehoshua, which means ‘Yahweh is salvation’. But languages drift. A thousand years later it was shortened to just Yeshua and that’s when I was born.”

“On Christmas Day,” said Deborah.

“No, on Leap Day, as it turns out! The name Yeshua was too girly for the Greeks so they added an ‘S’ on the end. Also the Greeks had no ‘Y’ sound in their alphabet, but they tried to approximate it the best they could, and they came up with ‘Ee-ay-soos’. When it was translated to Latin, it came out I-E-S-U-S. Finally, in the Middle Ages in England, they started to use the letter ‘J’ because names that started with ‘I’ were too girly for them.”

“Thank you for teaching me that, Lord,” said Deborah. “I had no idea that was true.”

Yeshua broke bread in their presence and had the Fallen Angels set the bread on trays next to where they were seated. “Deborah, if Peter has already spoken to you then you might know I have invited you both to stay here in Barbelo, in this world.”

“Yes, Lord.”

Yeshua poured his wine into two more glasses and bid his Fallen Angels to carry the goblets to his guests as well. “Things are not so good back in the Green River Gorge right now,” he said. “Your life expectancy, had either of you stayed, would have been measured in days, and the quality of that life would have been non-existent.”

“What are we to do here, Lord?” Deborah asked, genuinely curious.

“You are to learn many things, at first,” Yeshua said. “And after that, you will teach. This, I think, will give you full and meaningful lives for as long as either of you shall live.”

“As long as we live, Lord?” asked Deborah. “Is this not heaven? Are we not to live forever as the scriptures promised us?”

Yeshua smiled gently “There’s a time for everything to end, Deborah. Just open your eyes and look at the world. Leaves turn crispy and brown, then they fall to the ground where they turn rotten and black, and eventually they become part of the living soil. Even the whole tree succumbs to this cycle when it is time. The old and decrepit are always recycled to form part of the new and supple.”

Even Peter was disturbed by this talk. “So the eternal life promised to us in the Bible is a lie?” Peter asked, almost panicking. It was a terrible thing to have one’s innermost doubts confirmed.

“’Eternal’ is an adjective describing the complete character of one’s life, not it’s duration,” Yeshua insisted. “That is all I taught, and nothing more. The B’nei Elohim tell me latter-day humans have something called the Telephone Game. That might give you an idea how my doctrine got twisted into a message promising unending but empty time for believers. So replace the word ‘eternal’ with ‘sacred’. Then if you follow my teachings, you will attain to sacred life. Do you see?”

“How did such a thing get mangled like that, Lord?” asked Peter.

“Saulus did it, mostly. You know him as Paul. He was bringing my basic ideas to the Greeks who already had notions of a ‘soul’ that existed apart from the body and he created a rather clever synthesis that persists to this day. But I will say, Peter, Deborah, that the trillions of other elohim out there in space anticipated we would find planet dwellers someday. There’s a place very much like heaven already waiting for you, if we can win past Mastema’s formidable road blocks.”

“But even there, I suppose,” Peter added with a kind of melancholy resignation, “in a second life people will live a normal span and die, because as you are now trying to teach us, Lord, that is the way of all things.

Yeshua nodded, and turned back to make gentle eye-contact with Peter’s wife. “Deborah Two Feathers, we as individuals do not enjoy persistence, but the cycle itself persists forever from season to season. Don’t you see? And if you were to somehow contrive immortality by incantation or potion or hidden quality of some sacred burial ground, you would no longer be a child of the world. You would no longer belong in reality! You would be alien to life itself, just like a stone smuggled into a nest of bird’s eggs.”

DECON found Peter’s car of course, and searched the network of mine shafts accessed by that old entrance, but they found nothing. It was like Robyn and Hunky had dropped off the face of the earth, and they had accomplices, because DECON knew Peter Two Feathers and his wife owned the car. And that couple could not be found either. In their frustration, DECON set fire to the Temple and razed the entire structure to the ground.

It was the Abomination that makes Desolate.

Overnight the entire End Dome Church became an outlaw cult subject to official persecution from the United States government. Lee Hansen’s people had said too much and now Earl Roland didn’t just want Robyn, he wanted the Golden Gift.

The following day Hunky and Dory shifted through the ashes on the summit of End Dome. The rocky cairn had protected the Ark from the immolating fire well enough.

Staves threaded through brass rings permitted the Ark to be carried without Hunky or Dory drawing near to the outer surface and being skewered by one of the needles. Later, when they had the device well hidden in the woods near the Sacred Pool, Dory allowed herself to be skewered by the thing anyway, so she could be just like Robyn and Hunky.

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