TC017

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80 – SENATE

Everything Earl Roland said was taken directly from Jill’s memories and transfered to sixteen millimeter film using a kinetiscope, a television cathode ray tube connected directly to a movie camera. Video tape would have been easier but it did not become widely available until 1957.

The procedure also required a new device to actually map the thoughts, memories, and daydreams of Jill as a television video signal, but with thousands, not just hundreds, of scan lines, since film grain was so dense. This gadget was constructed by Edgar the Elder with suggestions along the way offered by Lilith.

At first the images they built up were indistinct, but they became more and more clarified as Jill learned to use it. She threw up an image of her father from the recent encounter. Each take was a performance demanding all of her attention. She had to concentrate as hard as she could to provide every detail of her conversation with Earl. Many takes were rejected because she had forgotten to animate the muscles in Earl’s face as he spoke, or mismatched the audio to his lips. Each new take was an improvement over the old. Pathways in her newly-modified brain kicked in to make the work easier as soon as they “caught on” to what she was trying to do.

It took two more weeks, and when it was finished they had a short black and white segment of video indistinguishable from the real thing, as though Jill had worn a television camera strapped to her head that day with her father. It wasn’t the entire discussion, just the juicy “smoking gun” part at the end that, it was hoped, would eliminate Roland as an irritant to the B’nei Elohim forever.

They also had a number of photographs printed from Jill’s memories of Jerry’s memories including Roland, Ed Conley, Jerry Shybear’s toes with a bolt cutter around them, and the condition of the flying saucer at the crash site.

Robyn strapped herself into the thing and made photographic hard copies of the people at the Hanford Clinic she was going to testify about: Dr. Gary Trochmann, Nurse Karen Ramsey, and Andrew Fulford, who was the man in the white scrubs, the “muscle” to make sure Robyn and Hunky behaved. She also made a photograph from her memory of the keypad that was used to open the door of the Clinic from the inside.

The only hard part would be explaining how the photographs were taken. Robyn decided she would commit perjury. She would say a camera was smuggled into one of her CARE packages from Jerry and Dory, disguised inside a box of cereal, and the film was carried out by herself when she escaped.

Jill’s pictures, of course, would be mixed with the ones she took with Jerry on their little lover’s get-away. Robyn had largely forgiven Jill for that. Water under the bridge.

“Are you sure this will work?” Jill asked Robyn when they packed everything carefully for the flight to DC, which would be by saucer since Robyn did know how to fly.

“It very likely will. We have evidence that Earl Roland is running a government inside the government. And the, you know, actual government, mightn’t like it. But it will be risky, Jill. We’ll have to surrender to US Marshals and walk right into the lion’s den, Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC. But if we play our cards right, we’ll be free.”

Somewhere over Wyoming Robyn came to a decision. She turned to face Jill and said, “I know you are in there, Jerry, but you must know that I consider our marriage to be dissolved. Till death do us part and all that.”

Jill nodded and bowed her head. Then she smiled and looked straight back at Robyn. “I understand. But I will still get to watch Edgar grow up, and that will be enough for me.” She watched Robyn accept this silently.

“You are B’nei Elohim, Jill, but Lilith says you show every sign of becoming what she calls the loyal opposition.”

“Lilith and I have never quite hit it off,” Jill said. “I feel like I’m always on the outside looking in.”

Robyn laid a hand on Jill’s hand. “She also says this mode you’ve cast yourself in will be good for us. Things will never get boring as long as you’re around.”

“That really wasn’t my father at the end, you know. I have happier memories.”

“Then let us celebrate your father,” Robyn told her, “the Earl Roland who was, before he ever heard of the Change.”

At the Capitol building Robyn and Jill were run through a metal detector, patted down, and their papers searched, but the search had not been thorough enough for security to discover the connectors at the back of their heads, hidden by their religiously-mandated pony tails. There was not enough concentrated metal in the things to make a metal detector get anything but get a whiff.

The CHAIRMAN: Please state your full name for the record, and tell us a little about yourself.

ROBYN: Yes sir. My name is Kimberly Anne Shybear. I was born in a small hospital in Black Diamond, near Seattle Washington. I am twenty-two years old. My father Erik Lokken served in the First World War, where he was shot on the Western Front and came home with only one arm remaining to him. He married a nurse named Clara he met over there in France. After the war he worked as a miner in the coal mines around the Green River Gorge, and that job killed him when I was just fourteen. I was a student at a private high school that was operated by my church, but I was not permitted to graduate, for reasons that I will explain shortly in my testimony.

Senator WENDEN: Thank you Mrs. Shybear. You heard the testimony of Mr. Evers just now. He said he found a young Indian named Jerry Shybear inside some metallic wreckage on his land. Any relation to you?

ROBYN: Yes sir, Jerry Shybear was my husband.

Senator WENDEN: And he lived with you in the Seattle area?

ROBYN: Yes, Senator.

Senator WENDEN: There is no record of a marriage license filed at the King County courthouse for a Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Shybear.

ROBYN: No sir, because I was a fugitive, for reasons that will come out in my testimony here today. I was wed by my pastor in the End Dome Church, in the presence of three other witnesses, but it could not be filed with the state. And now, of course, it doesn’t matter, even if I get all the legal stuff squared away, because Jerry is dead.

Senator WENDEN: So it is your testimony that Jerry Shybear is dead?

ROBYN: It is my testimony, sir, that Jerry Shybear was murdered by Earl Roland. But only Becky Roland can testify how and why, because Earl confessed the murder directly to her. All I can give is hearsay.

Senator WENDEN: Do you know how your husband came to be in New Mexico on July 7, 1947?

ROBYN: He said he was going to do some kind of Indian spiritual thing, a very long walk in the wilderness, perhaps a bit like when Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the desert. But how he ended up near Roswell I cannot say.

The CHAIRMAN: Can you tell the committee what is your present occupation?

ROBYN: I am a full-time mother, raising my son Edgar. He is a living reminder of my deceased husband, and I love him very much.

The CHAIRMAN: How do you support yourself?

ROBYN: My friend Rebecca Roland is helping me make ends meet. She is here today and like myself she iswilling and eager to cooperate with this panel, sir.

The CHAIRMAN: Why are you so eager to cooperate, Mrs. Shybear?

ROBYN: I want to clear my name.

The CHAIRMAN: Clear your name? Please explain.

ROBYN: When I was still in high school I developed a bone cyst on the back of my skull, in the shape of a little white cup. My mother took me to the doctor, but somehow it developed into a federal case. I was quarantined for almost two years at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation about two hundred miles southeast of Seattle. Senator, with your permission I would like to enter into the record this photograph of the interior of the clinic there at Hanford where I was imprisoned.

He nodded and waved for his assistant to go fetch it. Robyn gave her the photo, and after Boren looked at it, he gave it to the other senators on the panel to examine.

ROBYN: Senator, I also have pictures of my captors, with their names written across them. Chief among them is Doctor Gary Trochmann, and he was aided by a nurse Karen Ramsey, and a man named Andrew Fulford. These are the only human beings I saw for the entire time I was under quarantine. Doctor Trochmann said he took his orders from Earl Roland.

Robyn passed these photographs forward as well, to be filed in the official record of the proceedings. She deliberately neglected to mention that Hunky had also developed the bone cyst and was in quarantine with her because it clouded the narrative she was developing.

The CHAIRMAN: Mrs. Shybear, I have to ask how you managed to take these photographs. These could be from anywhere. If I use these images to drag these people in front of this committee, they could be innocents who know nothing of Hanford.

ROBYN: Sir, my friends sent me a camera inside a box of cereal, which in turn was sent inside a CARE package. I have no doubt, sir, that your staff will soon provide you a roster of everyone who worked at Hanford during the war, and you will find these three names on that list. When you bring them before this committee, you will see their faces match these photos, and that I was telling the truth. In the meantime, please accept that I consider my oath to be binding when I was sworn to tell this committee the truth.

The CHAIRMAN: Since you are seated before this panel today, Mrs. Shybear, I take that to mean you were not deemed contagious, and you were eventually released.

ROBYN: That is partially correct, sir. I was not contagious, this was confirmed by Dr. Trochmann, but I was not released. That is the important point that I want to testify to you here today, and it is my sincere hope that you call Dr. Trochmann here to confirm it officially. I am not contagious. This is just a bone cyst.

The CHAIRMAN: Will you approach the panel so we may examine for ourselves?

ROBYN: Yes sir.

She lifted her pony tail and presented the little white cup at the back of her head for their inspection. Before she did this, she had rubbed the inside of the cup with her fingers to break off all the little black graphite pins, knowing they would grow back later. To show the Senator fifty-five neat little black pins in a neat array would lead to a line of questioning she was not prepared to answer.

ROBYN: (after returning to her seat): I remained locked inside the clinic at all times, Senator. It became obvious to me that I would never be released. So I had to escape on my own.

The CHAIRMAN: Please tell the committee how you managed that, Mrs. Shybear.

ROBYN: First, Senator, with your permission, I would like to enter one final image into the record. This is a picture of the keypad that was used to unlock the door. It has sixteen buttons, labeled zero through nine, and ‘A’ through ‘F’. The combination to unlock the door is just four digits long. One of my captors, the gentleman named Andrew Fulford wasn’t very bright, I watched him punch the numbers one day: 7DFC. And this was the same number they used on both doors, the room in the clinic where I was held, and also the front door of the clinic. So one night I punched those numbers in and just walked right out of the clinic.

The CHAIRMAN: And you found yourself, no doubt, in the middle of one the the most carefully protected installations in the United States. How did you get out of Hanford undetected?

ROBYN: Oh, I was detected, all right, Senator. But I simply walked out into the river and floated downstream. So serious was this Earl Roland character about keeping me there, dead or alive, that he had his guards take several potshots at me with rifles. I had to keep ducking under the water until it carried me far downstream.

The CHAIRMAN: And what did you do after that?

ROBYN: The river wasn’t too cold, and not very deep. I could keep touching bottom with my feet, so I let it carry me down to the nearest town, where I got out and called my friends in Black Diamond. When they picked me up, they said the Army and the FBI was asking about me, and that I was a fugitive.

Sen. BORSCH: When did your association with Miss Roland begin?

ROBYN: It was about a year or two after my escape from Hanford, sir. Sometime in 1945, I’m not sure exactly which month.

Sen. BORSCH: And her last name, Roland, didn’t raise any red flags with you?

ROBYN: At the time, sir, she was going by the name Becky Hahn.

Sen. BORSCH: Thank you, Mrs. Shy Bear. Mister Chairman, with your leave I move to use the balance of our time remaining here today to question Becky Roland, but I reserve the privilege of calling Mrs. Shybear back as a witness if the testimony so requires it.

The CHAIRMAN: So ordered. Thank you Kimberly Shybear, you may step down, but please remain in the chamber until the hearing adjourns.

senate

81 – THE STING

High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus had only to say, “I would carry out an inspection of Hyperion,” and a whole cascade of events would be put into play. The personnel at both Palato and Hyperion would be ordered to put on their best uniforms. The commanding officer of a battleship would vacate his stateroom and order it to be made ready for the use of the Gerash patriarch.

When Asmodeus was taken to the battleship that was to host him, and when the battleship entered the ID Grid to transfer by fold-gate to the Sol system, to a man every member of the Navy of Mastema bowed and averted his eyes in solemn deference to the greatness of his lord. And Asmodeus loved all of this pomp so.

The battleship completed the transit and moved a few miles away from the ID Grid that orbited Hyperion to allow Asmodeus to watch it in operation through the large rectangular porthole of his stateroom while he was served lunch by stewards.

Lilith Gervasi appeared from nothing before him just then and said, “Asmodeus, that food looks delicious, would you mind if I joined you?”

And this unexpected appearance startled the White Beard patriarch to his great annoyance.

“El Shaddai in yet another body,” he said, for it was quite within his ability to detect the fold-line that linked Lilith back to the living star that was her real body, and as a further confirmation El Shaddai had spoken Lilith’s words directly to Mastema’s mind even as Lilith uttered them. Asmodeus pressed an intercom button and ordered a second meal to be hastily prepared, as well as a second web to sit in.

“What is this, the third body?” he asked, turning back to face her. “Always women. Talishi, and Tabaet, and now what?”

“Lilith,” she said.

“Let’s see, Talishi had been the daughter of a glassblower in Salem, Tabaet was a Larund rocket scientist with a death wish, so who was this Lilith person before you took over?”

“A warrior, remote descendant of Abraham. I’ve been looking for a replacement Princess Khondiel since the day you killed her at Nine Mile Wall. This way is better. I folded a serious ass-kicker and all her abilities directly into myself.”

“An ass-kicker? Then why bother wearing the body of a human female?”

“You don’t know this human female,” she replied.

“I hardly need to ask how you got here, of course, but only how you knew. I only made my decision to come to Hyperion a few hours ago.”

“As you probably suspected all along, Asmodeus, your entire organization is rotted through-and-through with my spies.”

The stewards came in to serve Lilith her meal and wine just then, so the conversation paused. Certain compromises had to be made to deal with the fact that the food and drink were to be consumed in free fall, but Lilith had to admit it was generally excellent.

When the stewards deferentially departed, Asmodeus asked, “What does bring you out here to my Jupiter colony, Miss Lilith?”

“I wanted to find out if you had heard the rumors about what’s happening at Hybla-Dia, in the gap between them.”

“Hybla-Dia? What rumors?”

“It is said the Beaters are building a ship with some new kind of motor, something created by a nephil named Ithuriel from the same principles that operate my signature weapon.” And to illustrate her point she held up the Golden Gift, but only in a way that did not threaten Asmodeus.

Asmodeus was disappointed. Essentially, going by what she was saying, Lilith was still mostly in the dark about the sub-macro that now drove and armed all of his capital ships, and she was relaying a rumor that the Beaters had somehow obtained a copy of the mysterious device for themselves. Not even that, were it true, would alarm Asmodius. He had an insurmountable head start over the Beaters. Still, it was informative to know the extent of what Lilith knew about it. He said to her, “I am very touched that you would show such concern for the well-being of my navy, Miss Lilith.”

“Yes, well, I’m really here to make sure that you realize that when the Beaters depart in their starship that I had nothing to do with it, directly. Our ancient bargain has been fulfilled to the letter.”

“What do you mean, starship?”

“Yes, that’s the word on the street. The Beaters are at Hybla-Dia getting ready to make the big jump into the dark. You really should look into it Asmodeus. Do you remember how I first found the humans, when they were just hunters? Do you think it would be more difficult for one of the Elohim who are not in your harem to find the Beaters after they arrive in a new star system and set up a colony? Embarrassing questions among El would be certain to follow.”

“Lilith, you are merely attempting to get me to start some heavy shit with the Beaters to weaken my fleet.”

She shrugged. “It’s your funeral, Asmodeus. I only wanted to direct your attention to the chain of events that led to this. At every point along the way, it was you, and not me, who enabled to Beaters to take the next step. Sorry to eat and run, mother, but I do believe you will be rather busy here for the rest of the day.”

And Lilith disappeared as quickly as she had come.

The CHAIRMAN: Miss Roland would you take the stand? Would you raise your right hand and be sworn? In this matter now in hearing before the committee, do you, Rebecca Roland, swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Miss ROLAND: I do.

Sen. BORSCH: Miss Roland, will you state for the record your full name and home address?

Miss ROLAND: Rebbecca Jeanette Roland, 129 Goode Street, Black Diamond, Washington.

Sen. BORSCH: Is that the only name you go by?

Miss ROLAND: No sir, my friends call me Becky. And as Kim testified I go under the name Becky Hahn recently.

Sen. BORSCH: Why did you use that name?

Miss ROLAND: Because my father asked me to use it. He wanted me to get close to Kimberly Shyear, but he knew that would be impossible if I used my real name.

Sen. BORSCH: And where are you now employed?

Miss ROLAND: My living expenses and allowance are paid out of a bank account that my father maintains.

Sen. BORSCH: For the record: Who is your father?

Miss ROLAND: He is Earl G. Roland, Jr. and he was connected with the Manhattan Project during the War. Today he says works for an agency called DECON but I don’t know anything about it.

Sen. BORSCH: Do you know why your father was interested in Kimberly Shybear?

Miss ROLAND: Yes sir, it was her bone cyst. He was obsessed with it for some reason. I love my father, but I’m not sure he’s entirely sane. He has a position of authority in the government, but he used it to take away the freedom of Kim, the freedom of Sophie Krause, and the life of Kim’s husband. I confronted him at his home in Maryland, and I brought a movie camera to film his confession, and he still told me everything, knowing that it was being recorded. His attitude was one of indifference. I hardly know my own father anymore.

Sen. BORSCH: Are you prepared to enter your film into evidence?

Miss ROLAND: Yes sir, and it is my sincere hope that this will clear Kimberly’s good name, and begin the process to give her justice for the death of her beloved husband and my good friend Jerry Shybear.

The Senate projectionist already had the film threaded through the gate of the projector and ready to roll. Boren asked for the lights to be dimmed, and they began to watch the movie.

To preserve the first moments of the film, Robyn had added the usual Academy leader that looked like a black and white radar screen counting down from five to zero.

Earl Roland stood in the middle of his own living room, wearing his usual black turtleneck shirt under a gray tweed jacket, with no tie. He was bald, with only a fringe of dark curly hair wrapped around the back of his head.

Jill was not seen, but her voice said, “You know how she got her bone cyst, Daddy, but you dance around the issue and refuse to look at it straight on.”

“You’re wrong, we did have a good look at it.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“RCS Zero.”

“Your company.”

He nodded. “Short for Radar Cross Section Zero. We used the government’s own engineers and labs at Hanford to analyze it, and learned to synthesize the white stuff on a large scale. It absorbs radar perfectly, at the same time being totally impervious to heat. We’ve already made a fortune selling the material to a fighter aircraft manufacturer to paint on the leading edges of their wings. It’s a goldmine for us. Millions of dollars, Becky.”

“So you lied. Kim wasn’t a source of a dangerous infection, she was your cash cow.”

“I don’t call it lying, Becky . I call it dealing with the world adaptively. When Kim escaped from Hanford the whole house of cards almost crashed around the ears of me and some very powerful people who are also involved in this. The only way to keep her from coming forward was to make her a fugitive.”

“A fugitive. So you lied to the Army, the police, and the FBI as well.”

“Don’t think ill of me, Becky . I’m your father. I did it all for you and your mother. Civil service pay is just not enough to give you two the things you deserve to have.”

“They won’t take me back, Daddy. I burned my bridges with Kim and her friends.”

“Stop that film!” a voice was heard, and everyone saw it was Earl Roland, the star of the movie.

Roland was accompanied by three thugs, one of whom advanced straight to the film projector. Another thug took his position near the switch that controlled the lights in Room 315. The last thug stayed with Roland. This last thug was Ed Conley, and Jill recognized him of course, from Jerry’s final memories.

“Father!” Jill cried out.

The thug near the film projector spoke a few words to the projectionist in hushed tones. The projectionist looked quite upset and left Room 315 in a hurry, speaking no words, leaving the thug standing there in his place. The film abruptly came to a stop, and the lights were turned back on.

Earl ROLAND: I think, dear esteemed Senators, that in your rush to get these ladies before your panel you moved a little too fast, and you didn’t give thought as to whether these hearings should be public, and not in secret session.

Senator BORSCH: The Senate answers to nobody but the American people. And you, sir, you are out of order. But thank you for coming, you have saved us a little time. I was about to ask my staff to prepare a subpoena to have you appear. We have many questions that require your immediate response.

Earl ROLAND (ignoring Borsch): Senator Boren, this is a matter of National Security. You will not allow that film to be shown in an open hearing.

Senator BORSCH: Mister Chairman, if I may, since I still have the floor. The gentleman will proceed to show the film, notwithstanding the objection by the intruder. And after we have seen the film, I think we should immediately discuss why the intruder should not be held in contempt of this body.

Roland turned to his thug next to the film projector and gave a hand sign. He began to unmount Jill’s movie and mount one of the films Roland brought along to be shown in its place.

Earl ROLAND: Very well, Senator, you are of course correct. We will immediately comply.

His other thug killed the lights, and the new film began to roll.

It wasn’t Jill’s film at all. In this short movie, the Republican Senator Jeremiah J. Borsch, Mister Family Values, who was also the pastor of a large church, was seen leaving a bar that was well-known to be frequented by homosexual men. The film showed him entering a cab with one of the well-dressed patrons of this bar. After that, the film, shot through the windshield of another car, showed the Senator being tailed. Through the rear window he could be seen kissing the man. And the film wound up with images of the Senator entering a seedy Washington no-tell motel with this man.

The hearing room erupted into a cacophony of disbelieving roars and hoots, bringing on a long spate of gavel-banging by Senator Boren before order was restored.

Earl ROLAND: Senator Borsch, I believe this film will be of some use to you on your Senate Select Committee on Homosexual Activities, which I understand you chair. I’m not one to judge, but in this day and age this sort of thing can be a real career killer.

Borsch looked at Boren and he had the answer to his unspoken question why Boren was allowing Roland to disrupt the hearing.

Earl ROLAND: Mister Chairman, I am prepared to show two more short films at this time, of a similar nature. One will be very useful to Democratic Senator Lee Wenden on his Senate Committee on Communist Influence in Government. The second film will be of some interest to you, Mister Chairman, in your other capacity as chair of the Senate Sub-Committee on Graft and Corruption.

Senator Boren said, “This hearing is on hiatus until further notice. The Master-At-Arms will take custody of Kim Shybear and Becky Roland, and transfer them into the custody of the Domestic Enemies Classification, Observation, and Neutralizaion Agency. That will be all.” And he punctuated the proceedings with a final sharp bang of his gavel.

Roland’s substitute projectionist gave his three short films to Senator Borsch, but in return he was keeping Jill’s movie. On his way out, Roland told Ed Conley, “I want the names and addresses of everyone who watched this hearing from the gallery.”

And shortly after this Roland learned a very important about taking any member of the B’nei Elohim into custody. And that lesson was, no matter how secure you make the cell to hold them, do not take your eyes away from the prisoners for even a moment, or they will disappear on your ass.

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82 – APOSTLE

Asmodeus couldn’t ignore Lilith’s claim that the Beaters were building a starship but he wasn’t ready to throw everything at them until he knew more. So he ordered an expedition in force as a kind a probe.

While Seraph Azael’s 4th Fleet in the Eggbeater was getting ready to sortie to the planet of Hybla, Cherub Hosampsich took Space Action Group 16 out of Palato. His force consisted of seven carriers and about thirty escort vessels from battleships to destroyers. The combined forces of Azael and Hosampsich represented a third of the entire Navy of Mastema. Turel’s frigate Exiler was part of this force.

The target of Hosampsich’s sortie was the undeveloped side of Dia. If Hosampsich could not manage to take it, at least he would make sure that there could be no hindrance from that world’s fighter units against Seraph Azael’s assault on Hybla with the main force.

It took three months for SAG 16 to reach the approximate position of the 4th Fleet and another eight months to reach the double planet of Hybla-Dia, during which time Azael too had gotten underway.

But when the battle was joined Hosampsich somehow failed to achieve the surprise that was a key element of his plan, and the Beaters seemed to have equipped themselves with the same sub-macros Asmodeus thought he monopolized. For three days waves of Beater and Loyalist fighters and shuttles smashed against each other over Dia. For non-critical hits on cruisers Valorous and Indomitable, and only sixty Beater fighters shot down, the Loyalists suffered three hundred fighters and shuttle-bombers lost of their own.

It was an unmitigated disaster for Hosampsich. The surviving fighters and bombers would only suffice to arm two of his seven carriers. The other five were sent home along with Hosampsich himself, and his escort ships were assigned to Azael. High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus ordered the 4th Fleet to delay the planned assault on Hybla and fall back, standing well away from the double planet, and enter force protection mode until it could be reinforced.

The Beaters had definitely gotten the attention of Mastema.

One moment Robyn and Jill had been buried in the deepest, darkest cell in DECON, and the next moment they were standing in the woods near End Dome with Lilith, and this actually made Jill angry. She said, “Nice, Lilith. You can zoom us around anywhere, anytime, but you still made us build the saucers and get around that way, and now Jerry’s dead after a saucer crash. Explain that, if you can.”

“The saucers will be important in a certain war that will happen in 1967,” Lilith said. “Ask Robyn if you don’t believe me.”

Jill glanced at Robyn, who nodded sadly. But she, in turn, asked Lilith, “Why did you bring us back to the woods near End Dome?”

“Lee Hanson, the Apostle before the split, made contact with Hunky and Dory and wanted to arrange a sit-down with you. He refused to meet in our building and Hunky refused to meet in his, so they settled on meeting in an old abandoned mine shaft in the side of End Dome Hill, which seems an odd choice for a sit-down, since we will be required to stand the entire time.”

And as a precaution Lilith handed Robyn and Jill their own copies of the Golden Gift lifted from other timelines.

“Jill needs to come along too,” Robyn said, hefting the weapon to get the feel of it again. “I made Jerry the Apostle, and now that he’s dead, but not really dead, she kind of inherits the job.”

“I thought as much, which is why I brought both of you here.”

The Reformed End Dome Church had made a few changes since departing the mother church. Lee Hansen had really laid down the law. He said no more card playing, no more dancing, and no more Demon Rum. The parishioners started to roll in sawdust on the floor of their new sanctuary and babble in tongues to be saved from the fires of hell. A deacon named Paul Bergin had been appointed the Apostle of the Whites and he began to handle snakes during services and go door-to-door in Palmer with tracts.

The “sit-down” was between Lee Hansen and this Paul Bergin on one side and Robyn, Jill, and Lilith on the other.

Hansen and Bergin were directly descended from families who had settled riverside Kanaskat and Palmer in the very beginning. Both men were white, of course, which was a departure from the tradition of the mother Church that the Prophet and Apostle would always alternate between the Red and White wings of the Church, but for the Reformed Church it was unavoidable. Robyn herself, by accepting Jill as the successor of Jerry, also broke this rule.

After they all met in the mine shaft with everyone carrying lanterns Robyn offered the required exposition prayer: “May El Shaddai bless this gathering of his righteous believers today, and may the peace that passes all understanding fill the hearts of everyone gathered together here, in the name of Yeshua, El Shaddai’s only Son.”

The irony was that El Shaddai was actually standing right there in the person of Lilith while the Prophet offered her prayer.

After Lee uttered his Amen he saw that Lilith was wearing a Star of David necklace. He turned to Robyn and asked, “Who’s the kike?”

Jill said, “If you had the slightest glimmer of who she really was you wouldn’t dare to speak of her in that way.”

Paul Bergin spoke up here as well. “The fuck are you?”

“This is Jill,” Robyn said. “She is the Apostle of the End Dome Church. And this is Lilith, who, if you care to believe it, is the human incarnation of the very eloah you purport to serve.”

“Then I’m not surprised at anything anymore, Kim,” said Lee. “Lilith is the name of an ancient demon. What happened to Peter Two Feathers and his wife? There’s been no news for years.”

“They are in a better place,” Robyn said, and Lilith smiled, recalling how Victoria had once said the same thing about Aliwe after returning to the Catwalk. Then Robyn asked her own question. “Why did you go out from us?”

Paul could make no objection to that query. He had to admit, after all, it was the Reformed End Dome Church that walked away. He replied, “The office of Prophet was void when Two Feathers married you off. The union of yourself and Jerry Shy Bear is disgusting. You’re not only not cousins, you aren’t even of the same race.”

“That whole cousin thing was always just a Church tradition,” Robyn countered, “not a dogma or even a doctrine.”

“Our founder, Pastor Mark Lange, believed otherwise, Kim. So there was persecution in state after state, and his pilgrimage clear across the United States to this place.”

“The founder was Chief Malekwa actually,” Lilith said. “In Barbelo I watched Yeshua give him the Golden Gift.”

“Look Paul, the demon speaks,” said Lee Hansen. “Captain Smalley would have taken it away from him if Chief Malekwa didn’t beg for sanctuary in Mark Lange’s wagon train.” He turned again to Robyn. “But we hear Jerry is dead now. Can’t say I’m choked up about that.”

“And no wonder,” Robyn said, “you do not even honor your own dead with the Golden Gift. Yet you do not seem overly concerned, even with the salvation of your very soul hanging in the balance. Will you return and help us rebuild the Temple?”

“Your half-breed son is an intractable barrier to reunion,” Lee said. “He’s a living affront to God’s eternal principle of racial holiness.”

“Racial holiness?” repeated God, shaking her head in disbelief.

“What are you talking about?” Robyn demanded.

“Thou shalt not amalgamate humans with animals,” Paul Bergin intoned, though from what scripture neither Robyn nor Lilith had any idea. Perhaps he had just scribbled it on black crayon on the wall. Jill wanted to walk out of the mine right there.

Lee clarified things a bit. “You must know that we do not recognize Peter Two Feather’s authority to change the laws of the Church to allow you to have married the late Jerry Shybear, may he rest in peace. That is the heart of the argument we have with the mother Church. Such sacred things must never change on a whim.”

Robyn wanted to tell him he was engaging in a bit of revisionist history, since Lee Hansen approached DECON before she was even married, but she controlled herself. Instead she said, “And I will tell you what argument the mother Church has against the Reformists. You said things to Roland that should never have been mentioned, things that no outsider should have ever known to exist. Our temple lies in ruins atop this very hill because Roland wanted to find the Golden Gift! Sophie and Dory had to extract the Ark of the Covenant from the ashes that our holy altar had become.”

Paul countered with, “Sophie and Dory! We know of a surety those two girls have unnatural affections.”

Hansen nodded. “It is an ancient sin. The apostle Paul explicitly condemned that particular moral defect in Romans chapter one.”

“Paul was just as deluded as you are,” Lilith said. “He complained that women were exchanging the natural use of their bodies for that which was against nature. But allow me to break the news to you gentlemen: Women are not objects to be used.”

Robyn added, “This racist streak of yours has divided the Church but it is all just a lot of silly nonsense over nothing. There are no races. There is only one human race. The Bible and the Endomion acknowledge only ethnicities. In the Sacred Scriptures we read only of peoples and kindreds and tongues, not Whites and Blacks and Yellow Menaces and the Red Man. The nephilim are called the White Beards and Red Beards and so on, but they are all the same race, and indeed they are the same species as humans, because they can still breed with us, and that will be true for thousands of years.”

Paul Bergin recovered somewhat. “What are you talking about Robyn? There are indeed races. I can see them with my own eyes!”

“You can? Then how many races are there?”

“I say there are three races: Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoloid.”

“Really? That makes the dark people in India and Pakistan the same race as the blond people in Scandinavia. And what about the aborigines in Australia? They have Caucasian and Mongoloid genes, but they are as dark as Negroids. If you go by appearance, Jews are identical to Arabs. Look at Lilith right here if you don’t believe me. Mexican people are a mixture of Mongoloid and Caucasian, just like my lovely son.”

“Brother Paul is right,” Lee Hansen said. “I see three races as well. They can be traced right back to the three sons of Noah.”

Becky caught Lilith’s eye on that remark and winked. “Noah.”

Robyn said, “The same thing happens with the colors of a rainbow, it all depends on who looks at it. Some see three colors, some see seven, some see even more. But it’s really a smooth continuum, you know. And arguing about where to set the dividing line is the biggest waste of time there is in this universe.”

“We see evidence in the Bible that dark skin is the Mark of Cain,” Paul said, “who was cursed for killing his brother Abel.”

“Apostle Bergin, there are different levels of pigments in human skin and that is a good thing. A ginger would not fare so well on the savanna in Kenya.”

“Or in New Mexico,” Jill muttered ruefully, still red from that walk.

Robyn continued. “Traits like color, or the epicanthic fold of Asians, are a vestige of the isolation of human settlements in ancient times. But now with the advent of air travel, I confidently predict that the entire human population, in just three hundred years, will have olive skin and dark hair like my son Edgar, if only people discard attitudes such as yours with respect to race. Consider that a sure bet from the Prophet of the End Dome Church.”

“So what is our meeting all about?” Hansen sneered, “just anti-Paul blasphemy from your pet demon? Just airing our grievances and moonbeam theories and going home? How do you propose to seal the breach?”

Robyn said, “Someday my son Edgar Shybear will be of an age to marry. I will ask him to marry a cousin from the White Wing. And I would ask his own child in turn to marry a cousin from the Red Wing. In only two generations there would be no more wings!”

It was, Jill thought, a beautiful dream, but it was precisely the sort of thing that would most offend these men. They could never admit the Native American branch of the Church was composed of beings who were fully human, because that would mean their hatred of them would disqualify them as God-fearing believers filled with his grace.

Lee Hansen was rendered speechless, his face more red with rage than the faces of the very Red Wing he refused to fellowship with. His mouth twisted up in a sour expression of disgust, for he had not taken to heart a single thing Robyn had said about race. How little he knew he actually was in the presence of his own God, and El Shaddai was not in the least bit amused by his attitude.

Paul Bergin spoke up for him. “Is that all you have to offer us today, Prophet Shybear?”

“Perhaps I reached for too much,” Robyn told him.

Lee Hansen found his voice again and said to Robyn, with finality, “There will be no reunification of the Red and White wings, not now, and not ever. With my Apostle as witness I now make this binding upon the Reformed End Dome Church for all time.”

Robyn suddenly moved apart from the men and ignited her copy of the Golden Gift. Jill and Lilith followed suit, and the three woman stood there, defiantly, with those hissing black blades the men could not mistake, for they had seen the original Golden Gift in action in the Temple sending the bodies of their blessed dead to the Elohim.

Lilith said, “It is the living God El Shaddai who curses you with a curse that will outlive your own oath, Lee Hansen, and it is El Shaddai who pledges perpetual emnity upon all who have gone out from the true Church!”

Then she and Robyn and Jill used their Golden Gifts to carve holes in the wall of the mine and departed from the Reformists. Three of the relics! Yet Hansen and Bergin dared not chase the women down.

“I feel like I had come into the middle of a very old argument,” Lilith said.

“I’m astonished,” Jill said. “Robyn laid out an array of carrots and sticks that could not be mistaken for an instant, and those two dummies still chose a course of action that undermined their own self-interest.”

“That is as true as anything can be, Jill. Perhaps someday you will think on this meeting today when you are looking at your own array of carrots and sticks.”

abuse1-454272

83 – JULIE

The B’nei Elohim were set apart from the rest of humanity in that each enjoyed a power that was unique to them and yet was firmly grounded in the operation of natural laws, not magic. Robyn, the Prophet of the End Dome Church, could see the future as a mental stack of events that assembled itself anew after each one of her significant choices, and yet this power relied entirely on the ability of El Shaddai and Bat-El, acting in concert, to pierce time.

Hunky was Aquawoman. Her own body could manufacture the oxygen she needed to stay alive in airless places, but this was actually delivered to her by El Shaddai terminating (in a very rapid sequence) a narrow fold-line in various locations throughout her lungs and delivering the oxygen directly there.

Dory was the Great Communicator. No matter where any B’nei Eloah was in the Green River Gorge area, they could be placed in direct contact with any other B’nei Eloah nearby through the agency of Dory. It was a pale shadow of the communication network that bound together the Elohim, the one that neither El Shaddai nor Bat-El could use because Mastema and Belial blocked them, but Lilith promised to eventually extend Dory’s power across a much larger range.

Jill’s power resembled the power of Yeshua to heal in that it relied on the transfer of invisibly small nanomachines to work. With a touch Jill could subtly alter a person’s brain chemistry, flooding the pleasure or reward center and thus registering her approval in a powerful way. This ability could be used as a tool for strong persuasion. Jill first tested this power at the clinic in Black Diamond, where she talked her way into a job as a triage nurse with no experience, no certifications, and only a generic two-year degree from a community college in Maryland.

Julie Pritchard walked in that first day looking pretty bruised. She claimed she had tripped on a vacuum cleaner cord and fell flat on her face but Jill knew without a doubt that she was being beat up at home. The other signs were all there and Jill was familiar with the dreary lot of them.

There were no open wounds so there wasn’t much the doctor could do for Julie except prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug as well as a strong analgesic to alleviate her discomfort. Five hundred milligrams of Damitol disconnected her from the pain and made her feel very fuzzy. “I’ve given you some pretty hefty painkillers,” he said, “so I can’t let you drive yourself home.”

“Then what’ll I do?”

He checked her questionnaire. “What about your husband?”

“No! He…can’t get off work.”

That was a terminological inexactitude, of course. Frank Pritchard was home and chronically unemployed. With the death of Erik Lokken and the Golden Gift gone missing, no more new coal seams were being opened up, and with that industry gone, and the virgin timber on the hills around the area already logged off, there really wasn’t much left over in the Green River area in terms of driving an economy. In Seattle they called it Gonorrhea Gulch.

It didn’t matter, because for all her adult life Julie herself, aside from her more steady employment and tips as a waitress, received an weekly annuity from her parents that helped her to pay the bills and the mortgage and there was even some extra mad money left over for her. Frank required her to fork it all over every Monday when she went to the bank. “If I ever find out you’re holding out on me, Julie,” he told her, “I’ll make you wish you had never been born. Don’t you ever forget it!”

And sometimes he’d freshen up her memory with a smack to the face.

Into the awkward silent between Julie and the doctor, Jill spoke up. “I’ll tell you what, Julie. If you can stay in the waiting room for about an hour until I get off work, I’ll drive you home myself.”

It was an easy wait. The Damitol disconnected Julie from boredom as well as suffering.

After Julie gave directions to her house, Jill said, “Look, Julie, I’d like you to watch which we we go. I want to show you something on the way home and make sure you know how to get there.”

“Okay, Jill.”

The thing Jill wanted to show Julie was a gray house with red trim in the new Eastpointe community south of Black Diamond, where the road to Enumclaw climbed up out of the Green River Gorge. “The very next time you think you’re about to have another ‘accident’ and hurt yourself, I want you to go there. It’s a B’nei Elohim sanctuary. Do you understand what I’m really trying to say to you?” And Jill touched her hand just then.

Julie was too shy to blurt out her answer, but Jill was satisfied by a nod of Julie’s head.

The opportunity to take Jill up on her offer presented itself immediately after Julie arrived home. Her husband Frank was there, slouched in front of the television. Garbage was beginning to pile up around him since it had been hours since Julie had been there to pick up after him.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“At the emergency room.”

“For a black eye? Bullshit! What did they do?”

“Nothing. Gave me some pills for the pain.”

“Give me the pills, Julie.” It was not a request. Terrified, she handed them over.

“How much did your selfish little splurge at the doctors run me?”

“I didn’t have any money. They said the bill would be sixty bucks.”

“Well shit, for sixty let me give you another shiner and make it worth it.”

She let out a yelp and jumped back, screaming, “No!” In terror, she fled from the house and fumbled with her keys to the truck frantically. She locked herself safely inside only seconds before Frank could reach her and kick the side of the door.

“If you don’t turn around and get back in the house right now, Julie, so help me God I’ll kill your fucking ass!”

After getting a few blocks away Julie didn’t race anymore. She thought she was safe now. There was only the one vehicle.

Frank went next door and asked his buddy for the keys to his car. “Just for a few minutes. Gotta catch me an errant wife.” That was a good enough reason, and Frank caught the keys tossed at him. “Thanks, buddy, I owe you a half-rack of beer for this.”

It was a quiet night with light traffic. Frank still saw what he hoped was her in the truck, stopped at a light far up the road. In his pursuit of her he would ignore such conventions as the rule of stopping at a red light. Eventually he got up on her rear end and followed her south out of Gonorrhea Gulch to the house Jill had shown her earlier. Pulling off to the side of the street he watched Julie go inside.

“Prolly one of those Pony hidey holes the guy on TV was talking about,” Frank muttered to himself. Visions of RE-ward money started dancing in his head. He went back to return his car to his neighbor, and thought about the call that would probably result in a shitload of RE-ward money.

When Julie was welcomed inside the Safe House a lookout was posted upstairs as a precaution. Sure enough, within the hour a police presence began to materialize on the street below. They weren’t advertising themselves with blazing lights or sirens but the sound of the sheriff’s radio dispatcher blaring out into the night from five or six cars sort of gave the game away.

A phone call to Dory was passed along to Lilith, and Jill materialized in the basement of the house, marveling that it had happened so soon.

Jill went upstairs and greeted Julie, then asked her to follow her back downstairs. A closet in the basement was actually the door of a tunnel leading next door to a closet in the basement of the house over there.

Julie grabbed Jill by the shoulder. “I want to tell you something. I want to admit something. I tried to be careful but I think my husband followed me here. I don’t know how. I think he’s the one who called the cops!”

“It’s all right, we’ve been at war for years. I’ll take complete responsibility. The important thing was to get you away from Frank. There’s almost no time left, Julie, so let me give you some plain talk. They hit you because there’s rarely any consequences. It’s a cycle. The woman gets hit, so her self-esteem plunges. With no self-esteem, she never leaves her abusive husband or boyfriend. He feels rewarded for hitting. That’s why when the woman actually does leave, a lot of them snap. They even kill.”

Julie nodded. “That was the last thing Frank screamed at me when I drove away from the house. Exactly!”

“And even if he doesn’t kill you physically, your fear of Frank is killing your spirit.” Jill placed a slip of paper in Julie’s hand with the address of another safe house in River City. “Here are the keys to a car behind the house next door. Tinted windows. It’s yours now. One that Frank won’t recognize. I bet he’s watching us right now, gloating over his handiwork, but he won’t spot you in this car. Take the back alley and get out of here.”

“Jill, I want to join your team. I want to make full payment, with my life if I have to, for what you’ve done for me.”

Jill smiled at her. “I’ll look you up, Julie, I promise.”

Julie evacuated by herself then, walking down the narrow tunnel, and found herself in the empty house next door. Soon a deputy knocked on the front door and told her to gather what she needed and evacuate the house immediately.

Minidress

84 – ROAD TRIP

Lilith drove Robyn on the Sunset Highway over Snoqualmie Pass. Just past Indian John Hill the trees turned off like a light. They had started from Black Diamond, naturally enough, but they had also started from the year 1956, a leap of nine years. It was Robyn’s first hop in time. The big thing Robyn noticed was the red Ford “Fairlane” Lilith was driving seemed to be a lot more gaudy than the cars she was used to seeing. It had lot more chrome, and a flashy stripe on the side. Lilith said, “I want to do this is stages, Robyn, a little at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed.”

After another, far more desolate pass they crossed the Columbia River at Vantage and climbed again to a vast arid plateau that was being reclaimed as farmland with irrigation, a legacy of FDR’s make-work “stimulus” programs inaugurated during the Depression and one that actually made sense. Lilith turned on the radio as they passed through Moses Lake and Robyn heard her first Elvis song, “Don’t Be Cruel” and her first Chuck Berry song, “Roll Over Beethoven”. So far the Fifties were nifty.

Lilith said, “Okay, nine years later, President Truman is out, General Eisenhower is in. There was a bad war in Korea with China and the Soviet Union involved, fought it to a draw with about thirty thousand GIs dead, and now the Americans and the Soviets have kind of squared off for what they call the ‘Cold War’ where they just sort of growl at each other for the next thirty or forty years.”

“So no third World War?”

“No, and that’s a very good thing, Robyn, because both sides have the same sort of weapons that were used on Japan at the end of the last one. Wouldn’t do human civilization a bit of good if the Cold War ever went hot.”

“But they don’t know it’s going to stay cold. I don’t know how they could stand it, not knowing.”

“It’s not all bad, Robyn. The Cold War is a big contest to see whether a planned economy is better than an unplanned one, and competition leads to innovation. Next year, in fact, the Soviets will put a machine into orbit around the Earth, just above the atmosphere. And that will scare the Americans into doing the same. A few years after that they’ll start putting men into space too, which is something Barbelo already did about sixty years ago. In fact, I was on that first flight.”

The year-long crossing from Palato to Hybla-Dia could often be far from eventless, as Lord Asmodeus was soon to learn.

Four months after Asmodeus got underway with his reinforcements the Beater frigates Resolute and Adventurous noted the impressive contact that Asmodeus’ force, arrogantly barging across the void with all radars hot, made on their passive sensors. When Resolute fired her first six torpedoes on the flagship Insolent and four more on Crusader, no one in the Loyalist Fleet was prepared for what was going to happen.

Resolute’s shots were well timed. Four of them ripped open Insolent from stem to stern; she exploded in twenty minutes, unfortunately not taking Asmodeus with her. Crusader was heavily damaged.

As she witnessed the scene, Adventurous was presented with a perfect shot at the other heavy-ship column; four torpedoes from her salvo blew up the limping battleship Crusader; only the lack of torpedoes in her aft tubes prevented even more destruction. She retired, certain of having splashed a battleship. The same did Resolute. The Loyalists, meanwhile, were too busy surviving to pursue their Beater assailants.

Lord Asmodeus was fished from space and transferred his flag to the heavy cruiser Tormentor. For a second time, the Beaters had gotten the attention of Mastema.

Yellowstone Falls was the most beautiful place Robyn had ever seen. She thought it looked exactly like an abstract painting made real and three-dimensional before her very eyes. There were so many things to see in the park that the mere two days Lilith allotted them couldn’t possibly do it justice.

At Rapid City, after seeing Mount Rushmore, Lilith did another hop in time again, another nine years, and they starting using a different car. It was a powerful 1965 Ford Mustang, as red as the Fairlane, and although the style was very different Robyn could kind of squint her eyes and see how the evolution had occurred.

Lilith drove south and east on rural roads through the Great Plains, crossing Nebraska and Kansas until they reached Route 50, which Lilith said they would take all the way to Washington DC. Lilith spoke of how the young President who followed Eisenhower had been assassinated and how the world had come very close to World War Three when the Soviets tried to set up intermediate range nuclear missiles just ninety miles away from Florida.

Still, twenty years after World War II things weren’t all that different. Robyn could still cope. She noticed that men no longer wore hats. Lilith said that was a trend started by President Kennedy. The women wore their hair piled up in what Lilith called a “beehive” hairdo, and Robyn thought it was funny. Sometimes in the sky she would hear a loud roar. Lilith said the jet engines the Germans had first put on their Messerschmitt-262 “Swallows” had finally trickled down to the public, replacing propeller motors on airliners.

Passing through one of the larger cities Robyn heard her first Beatles song, “Ticket to Ride” and she started tapping her feet.

“Do you like it?” Lilith asked.

“It’s incredible, who is it?”

“Four chaps from my home country who call themselves the Beatles,” Robyn smiled at how Lilith dropped the ‘t’ and said “Bea’les”. “They seemed to have stumbled onto something timeless, all right?” Robyn smiled at how Lilith dropped the ‘t’ and said “Awroi?” “I mean a hundred years from now small children might listen to this song and say just what you just did, ‘It’s incredible, who is it?’”

“Only that they might listen? You don’t know?”

“No. I can’t see past the decade of the Thirties in the next Century. But then, that’s what we’re running about trying to remedy, isn’t it?”

It was a small conference room but it had a window looking directly out onto the airport tarmac and it was private, so it suited Roland’s purposes just fine. After he was satisfied that all of the records generated during the captivity of Kim and Sophie at Hanford were secure aboard the plane, Roland told the Hanford Five that the police had finally picked up their two errant test patients and he asked her to go ahead on the plane to a facility in Arizona where he was confident security was much, much better. “I’ll meet you there,” he said, ever the consumate liar. “We’re taking the girls down by an Air Force C-130 and I want to ride with them.”

What capped it off for the Five were Roland promises of ample bonuses for all of them. “I know it’s been a long time but I want to put the same team back together again. I thought you all performed well, and I don’t blame you in any way for the girls escaping.”

So the project lead Dr. Trochmann rode with Dr. Robert Lessing who had assisted him during the evaluations, along with a medical technician named Andrew Fulford had been “muscle” inside the clinic and also a registered nurse now in her thirties named Kristen Ramsey who had helped care for Robyn and Hunky. Roland figured that eventually one of the folks would open a sun shade and wonder why they were flying out over the ocean to go to Arizon from Washington, but by then it would be much too late. Roland figured the longer his escapees remained loose the easier he could defend the expense of aborting the whole operation in this particular way.

“I’m Curt Raplee,” the pilot said as he began setting up equipment on a table in the conference room. The plane stood by itself out there now, and the Hanford Five were already aboard.

“Mr. No Name,” came the reply. “Do you have a family, Captain Raplee?

“No sir. There’s just me, and I was fixin’ to retire anyway.” He fiddled with some knobs. The plane started up and began to taxi forward under remote control. “I’m not even curious about who these people are. They don’t pay me to be curious, Mister No Name. There’s only one thing I’ve ever been curious about: Did the check clear?”

“That’s what your people told me. Because I can’t stand loose ends. I especially don’t like the kind of loose ends that walk around.”

“After this I’ll be a very rich, very distant and a very retired loose end, Mister No Name,” Raplee said in the dry manner of the banal wicked. There was a price that would buy any man, that would make any man give up his pretensions of morality or principle. Roland had found Raplee’s price. The pilot flicked on a small radio transmitter. The tower would not be able to tell he wasn’t calling from aboard the plane. He said, “Tri-Cities Control this is Air Maui zero one requesting clearance for takeoff, over.”

It was a small regional airport and his bird was the only one out there. A deft maneuver on his panel turned the plane and lined it up nicely at the head of the longest of three runways. When the go-ahead came back from the tower Raplee hit a button and the plane began to roll forward. Roland was amused that Doc Troch hadn’t even wondered why it was Air Maui to Nevada.

“OK, the automatic pilot has the bubble, from here on out, sir.”

“It’s amazing what they can get machines on aircraft to do these days,” Roland marveled as the plane climbed into the sky. “Maybe someday they’ll even make a machine to safely land one of the damn things.”

When Robyn woke up one morning in Kansas City Lilith told her it was 1973 and she laid out the clothes they would wear. “We’ve been getting away with wearing our stuff from the Forties without too many second looks, but we can’t get away with it anymore.”

Robyn was puzzled “I see the blouse but where’s the skirt?”

“The blouse is the skirt,” Lilith said, with a wicked grin.

“You’re kidding!”

“No I’m not, look.” And Lilith opened the window curtain of their second floor hotel room to look down on a busy street on a sunny morning in the Nineteen Seventies. Robyn saw that Lilith definitely was not pulling her leg. Many of the women down there wore dresses so short their knee boots covered more of the skin on their legs than their hemline did. And many of the men had hair so long they’d be mistaken for women back where Robyn came from.

So Robyn dutifully put on the clothes and got into the car, but she felt entirely funny about it, like one of those dreams where you’re speaking in public and wearing only your underwear.

Then they were on the road again, making for St. Louis. Carly Simon sang about how vain her boyfriend was. Steely Dan wondered aloud if his old college girlfriend was reelin’ in the years. Robyn said, “Okay, what is it this time, nine years again, or nineteen?”

“Only eight years this time, Robyn but what a change! We’re on the other side of another war like the one in Korea. This one wasn’t fought by World War II vets, but their kids. Most of them didn’t have a choice and they weren’t very happy about that. As you might have guessed from the clothing I’m having you wear the attitudes of many of these young people towards sex would shock the older generation, and I rather think that is precisely their point.”

As they crossed the Appalachians Lilith tried to explain how Robyn’s precognition worked. She explained that a particle, like an electron, wasn’t just a little dot moving through time, it was more like a long line, growing like a crystal, and the exact point where it crystallized was the present. From that point going forward, many other lines existed in a ghostly form, including the Primary, the most probable future, which was almost firm enough to be a crystal. “Time is a fire,” Lilith said, “and history is ash.”

After Robyn understood all that, she wanted to know how they could loop back in time. “Wouldn’t we be walking into the middle of a bunch of hard crystals? she asked. Even the air we breathe?”

Lilith said that their bodies could dissolve the crystals of everything they touched, set even the ashes of the past afire again. “But we don’t put the whole world in play again just by being back here,” she cautioned. “I’m looking for a crucial event that can give us leverage.”

“I don’t understand,” Robyn said. “I know I have a power, but that power comes entirely from you and Bat-El. Why am I tagging along?”

“It’s hard to explain,” Lilith said, “but I guess the way I could put it is I can’t see the forest for the trees. Yes your power ultimately comes from the Elohim, but by necessity you are looking at time as though through a pinhole. Am I right? Tell me, Robyn, what is it like for you?”

“There’s this big…canvas, but every time I do something or even say something, I can see a ripple run up that canvas and change the paint that’s on it. Sometimes it’s a big ripple, l like when you showed up with Edgar the Elder, and the whole painting changes.”

“That’s why you’re tagging along, Robyn. I have too much information of all the different ways things can go, so I have no information. But you, with your pinhole view, can help me find the pivot points where we can do tiny changes and make big improvements.”

“So you can see that canvas also, you and Bat-El?”

“We’re painting that canvas, my daughter and I. And do you know something else about our art, Robyn? We are perfectionists.”

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