TC08A

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The freight train between Cody and Billings was not scheduled to make a stop in Powell but on this occasion the engineer stopped to phone in the broken light at the Heart Mountain internment camp. That gave the friends of Kim and Sofie a very brief window to save them.

The train was a half mile long and nobody knew exactly which car the girls had chosen to stow away on. One of the last images Dory had was the kind of rolling stock with an open top, about half the height of a box car. The girls themselves were unconscious from exposure.

Peter drove beside the motionless train for a quarter mile before reaching the first run of gondola cars. Everyone got out of the station wagon and began calling Sofie and Kim by name but no heads poked over the sides of the cars. Jerry used handrails to climb one of them. Jerry didn't see the girls, he saw a railcar filled with inch-thick sheets of steel stacked to within a foot and a half of the top. Same with the next car back. But the car after that had two piles of rags huddled against the front wall that could have been Kim and Sofie.

Jerry climbed back down and pointed at the correct gondola car. "They're in that one!" he told Dory, sprinting toward it. He hoped he was right. There was only the light of a waxing gibbous moon for him to see. Then disaster struck: the train began to move once again.

Instantly Jerry had the relic that Michael called the Macro in his hand. He squeezed it until the hissing shaft, pitch black on near black in the night, reached its maximum extension of about ten feet. If he squeezed harder it would begin to retract as a shield or dome. When the railcar con- taining the girls approached, Jerry swiped the active Macro effect through the coupling. This caused an inch-wide swath of steel to disappear. The half of the train with a locomotive continued to accelerate, while the rear half began to slow to a halt.

Peter moved his vehicle in reverse to follow the part of the train that was left behind, while Jerry and Dory followed on foot. Dory felt a great sense of relief. No matter what happened now, Kim and Sofie were not on a one-way trip into eternity by way of the Rockies.

When the rear half of the train rolled to a complete stop Jerry told Dory to get up there and make sure it really was the girls he saw. Dory climbed to the top, saw it was indeed Kim and Sofie, and burst into tears from the raw emotion of seeing them again after so long.

"I'm going to cut them a slide," Jerry said, and he let the Macro bite into the lip of the open gondola car.

"You're too close," Dory warned. "You'll slice their feet."

The front half of the train was slowing to a stop. The engineer had real- ized something was wrong.

Jerry put another nick about two feet aft of the first one and Dory told him that was better. So he made a cut about three feet wide and danced out of the way as the wall of the gondola car and tons of steel spilled to the ground. The chute was as smooth as a mirror. Peter Twofeathers joined Jer- ry, ready to catch the girls when they came down the slide. Dory dragged Kim to the cut first and let her go. Kim was wrapped in blankets and a man's clothing. Not so much as a single atom of iron was sticking its head up to impede her drop.

Dory waited for Peter and Jerry to pile Kim into the station wagon before dragging Sofie to the slide. She could see two flashlights dancing a thou- sand feet away. The crewmen from the caboose were walking toward them to investigate why the train had been snapped in two.

W When Peter and Jerry were ready Dory pushed Sofie off the railcar into their waiting arms. Dory thought better than to just slide down after her. After everyone was safe in the car Peter drove perpendicular to the tracks so the men with flashlights wouldn't see the plates.

Jerry saw that Kim was wearing some short fellow's clothes and flannel coat under a blanket and she looked for all the world like a homeless bum, but everything smelled clean. The car stank worse than Kimberly did. Che dug to reach skin and found she was dangerously cold.

"No wonder they nearly froze to death," Dory said. "There was just over a foot of steel between them and sixty miles an hour of cold November wind, at two in the morning, in Wyoming. Poor Kim. Poor Sofie."

"Poor Hunky," Sofie corrected, stirring awake under Dory's hands.

"Hunky? What?"

"They'll never stop looking for us," Hunky said. "We decided to change our names. Kim is Robyn now."

Jerry still had a comatose Kim, or Robyn, on his hands. "What did you do, Dory?"

"Skin to skin, Jerry, that's the secret to it. I know you want to."

"Naming yourself Hunky Krause won't hide you from the FBI," Peter said.

"Just Hunky," she said. "One name."

"Hunky-Dory," said Dory. "Cute."

"And I want a secret code name just like in the Galaxy's Fall trilogy," she went on. "Call me Sabotage. I can break things."

The way home doubled back southwest. As Peter was driving past the Heart Mountain "relocation center" Robyn stirred to life, as if sensitive to the mere proximity of her former prison. Luxuriating in the attention Jerry lavished on her she purred, "I like this afterlife."

South and east of Cody lies the Big Horn Hot Springs, which are said to be the largest in the world. They form the heart of Wyoming's oldest state park, which is a sort of little brother to Yellowstone. There's even a herd of bison who stick around for the free eatins.

After Pearl Harbor driving just for the sake of taking a road trip was il- legal, and worst than that it was considered unpatriotic. The purported health benefits of the mineral hot springs in Thermopolis were a viable loophole but gas rationing still took a bite on tourism. So when a clergy- man of the Church of Green Dome arrived in town with four young adults, an X ration sticker on his windshield, and more than nine hundred dollars in cash, it took very little time to find four rooms clustered around a small private pool at a toasty 104 B0F.

Hunky and Dory sat close together playing footsie under the translucent water. Robyn and Jerry sat across from the girls and Peter between them.

"Are we safe, stopping here?" Jerry wondered.

Robyn nodded. "Tolson probably knew we were gone right away but it was dark. By the time we were in Cody, Tolson was searching around the camp for two dead girls in hospital gowns and stolen blankets. I reckon about right now he's trying to make heads and tails of that damaged rail car. That we might be here hasn't entered his wildest thoughts."

An air bubble the width of the pool surfaced, broke, and suddenly everyone was soaking in fizzy water. The head of a sixth person surfaced and every- one instinctively knew it was Michael, even Hunky and Robyn, who had never met hym before. They all stood up in the water.

"As you were, everyone," said Michael. "Except Dory and Sofie. You two should remain untangled until this is over."

"Lord, we've agreed to use 'Hunky' for Sofie's new name," said Dory as she sank back into the water. "And Kim is 'Robyn' now. They're both wanted wom- en."

"Yes you are," agreed Michael. "Robyn, did you tell your friends how long Tolson will be looking for you?"

"Not yet, Lord, but now is as good a time as any to tell them. Thirty years."

That brought a wail of despair from Hunky, and Michael turned hyz attention to her.

"Hello Hunky. Robyn already knows me because she can remember the future, and I met Jerry, Dory, and Peter while you were still captive, but we've not met. Please tell us what you already know about me."

"I know you are the one named Michael in the Holy Buron," she began. "How I know that I can't explain. I suppose it's part of this change I signed up for when I let my finger be skewered up on the hill after Robyn went first. I know you're the best fit for what we think of when we think of God, and I know it's not a very good fit at all. I know your real body is the sun, and you share that body with Binah. And I know those things because now I real- ize the Buron is true after all."

Michael shook hyz head with rue. "I wanted to see what would happen if my holy book was about things that really did happen."

Peter Twofeathers came to Hunky's defense here. "I think when people read the stories in the Bible of talking snakes and talking donkeys, then anoth- er story in another ancient book with talking animals rings true. I'm speaking of Aesop's story of the boy who cried wolf."

Michael laughed because what Peter said was true and hy had never thought of it that way. Of course Hunky and Robyn would think the Buron was filled with poetic language and parables and allegory after being told many pas- sages of the Bible were written in a similar mode.

"Lord," ventured Jerry, "may you not think it impertinent to ask, but when you appeared in the pool just now it made me think of when you took me and Dory to the top of Green Dome in a moment. Why could you not have gone to the camp yourself and brought our friends home?"

"You're Begotten, Jerry. Your family helped you discover you are the Magi- cian. But the Made are on their own. Without a crisis to overcome Hunky wouldn't be Sabotage, she would just think she was unlucky. Robyn wouldn't be the Seer, she would just think she was crazy. And now here you are, safely at point B after escaping from point A, bathing in milky water that smells like brimstone, but not to get clean I imagine."

"Some say this water has health benefits, Lord," said Peter. "We just did- n't want to spend another night in the car."

"What awaits at point Z, Lord?" asked Dory. "Will you say why the b'nei elohim exist, and why we can do the things we do?"

"You already know the ancient controversy, Dory. I am blocked from communi- cating with any eloah on the other side of my parents, and so is Binah. But we can listen, and last year about when Pearl Harbor was attacked there was even bigger news. Have you ever listened to Ma Perkins?"

"Land o' Goshen, Lord, there ain't a hull lot of folks never heard Ma."

"I see you have. And now so has the eloah named Gevurah."

"Oh, that is wonderful news, Lord. That means you've won!"

"No, Dory, what it means is that for the eleventh time in history, the com- munity of elohim has received signals from planet-dwellers. But Gevurah only has a direction to Earth, not the distance. That comes later. Soon other elohim will pick up broadcasts from Earth and realize you are not out of reach. Ein Sof will have found the Students at last! And they will won- der how I can be a stable yellow sun in their midst yet remain unquickened, and things will grow sticky for Keter. Meanwhile all the elohim listen with rapt attention to the first soap opera, sponsored by Oxydol, the whiter, whiter soap, and they fail to understand a single word. But I have pinned the broadcasts down to 1933, so I know who Gevurah must be. Humans know him as Sirius."

Jerry said, "I wonder if the elohim will be coming to visit us, now that they know we're here."

"They will send avatars, Jerry, like remote-controlled rockets, but only as flybys. After it gets a certain distance from an eloah the link is too thin to pass any propellant. So to finally answer Dory's question, starting from right here at point B, you're going to help me catch one of those incoming avatars at point Z and bring it inside myself. And that will not be easy at all, because they will be moving at seven-tenths of light-speed. And none of this can be forced upon you because all of this, all of human history, in fact, is nothing more than the greatest love story never told: overcom- ing every artificial barrier Keter and Daat and Chesed can throw up to block the wedding of elohim and humanity."

When che heard these words Jerry swam out around Peter to face Robyn, stood up tall to brace his courage, looked her in the eyes, and said, "From the day we became lab partners in school I loved you. Every day you were gone and only Dory could reach you it tore me apart. Then Michael said we had one narrow chance to save your life and I couldn't sleep for a minute until I saw you again, and when I did you were frozen half to death on that stack of steel. It was a life changing moment, Robyn. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

Robyn waded out to face Jerry and took each of hez hands in her own. "And I love you too, Jerry. It's true. I love you even after that time at Lake 13 and your lesson on nephilim biology. But we're Church of Green Dome and you know there's rules. Cousin Dory is for you."

"Whoa," said Hunky, clearing her throat and wading out a little bit too. "I know the scripture says never put God to the test but here's a much smaller love story than human history, Lord, with much smaller artificial barriers. If you can't fix this I won't take your job."

All eyes turned to Dory, who nodded her head. "I'm with Hunky on this, Lord. Robyn becomes Mrs. Jerry Shybear. That's point C."

Michael said, "Why not? I never set down mandatory cousin-marriage. That was Lange."

"It will split your church in two, Lord," warned Peter.

"I know it will, Peter, and the external reality will finally conform with the internal reality."

Peter tried to shine a good light on it. "Once the nomadic people of the plains had to choose between removing to the reservations or starving. The Church was a third way."

"We can still save something of the Church," said Michael. "We'll move the remnant to another place. But for now, Peter, take these young people back to Headwater and announce the betrothal: Jerry to Kimberly. That's the im- portant thing. Do not use her new name Robyn."

Peter bowed his head and said, "Yes, Lord."

And the decision having been made, Robyn slipped into a daydream of the consequences. She croaked, "Oh, poor Jerry. Poor me!"

"Seeing all that, Robyn, will you still marry hem?"

She nodded in the affirmative. "But how will it happen, Lord? I'll be dead."

Michael did a little hand wave. "Dead? Tut tut. A temporary inconvenience. Remember how Yeshua was wiped off the face of the Earth and now he's good as new? Come this January and you will be wed to Jerry. Yeshua will pre- side. It will literally be a match made in heaven."

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