Trish

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Just like Robyn and Hunky, Morgan Brooklyn went through the Change without asking for it to happen. A slender strawberry-blonde, Morgan was very feminine, just as pensive as her calico named Retardo-Cat. She wore pretty knee-length dresses and didn't even own a pair of jeans, except for hiking when she made a sole concession and wore cutoff shorts.

When Morgan spoke, which was not often, it was in a hesitant but carefully thought out manner. She hardly ever stuck her foot in her mouth. About the only emotion her blank little porcelain doll face would show was a constant impatience, as if she was eternally bored with the people and places she found herself stuck with. This appearance of ennui tended to limit her popularity when she was in high school.

In a few days Morgan Brooklyn would attend her graduation ceremony at Hazen High, where she had just completed her senior year. She had a license and the keys to her mom's car and a part time job in a checkout line gave her a little bit of gas money, but she knew better than to spend the summer just sitting behind the wheel. It wasn't in her plan. She had to get out and move her ass.

Morgan drove south and east and explored the roads between her hometown of Renton and Enumclaw, in the rolling rural areas at the foot of the Cascade front. Crossing the single-lane bridge at Franklin she ended up on a road that was closed by a large green metal gate where the pavement ended. Morgan parked there and got out to explore the gravel road beyond the gate.

A half mile beyond the gate the road forked, with the right hand climbing sharply uphill. That was the road to the summit of End Dome hill. She decided to keep walking on the main road, which was much more level.

A mile past the gate, the road came to an end. Trails led all over the place from there, and Morgan decided to follow one of them. Later, when she knew more about this place, she would realize how lucky she was that she didn't fall victim to the many dangers there.

In one well-hidden place there was a curious small round pond surrounded by grassy berms.

Choosing trails at random, Morgan ascended the northwest face of End Dome hill on a broad ridge and in her head there were only gentle thoughts of this timeless interval between the close of her term and graduation, and the vague idea, a common belief of youth, that she would live forever. As she drew near to a golden object suspended in a grove of cedars ahead, not in her wildest daydreams did Morgan imagine that real immortality was only a few steps away.

On the trails Morgan was well-protected by her big, intimidating Alaskan malamute, Molly. On the game trail that she had chosen to explore, Morgan's dog Molly ran ahead to the little cedar grove and was sniffing at something that looked like a treasure chest, covered in a layer of beaten gold film, with perhaps a dozen needles sticking out of the surface.

Molly let out a yelp of pain and backed off a bit. She was snorting, shaking her nose, then she started growling and barking at the shiny chest as a newfound foe.

By this time Morgan was coming up. “Whassamatter Molly? You get stung by a bee? Let me take a look.”

Just as curious as Molly had been, Morgan put her index finger close to a part of the gold-lined box that was needle-free, just as Robyn and Hunky had once done under the Temple sanctuary years before, and the exact same thing happened. Her finger was skewered by a needle.

“Freaking health hazard,” she said, and she planned to tell someone about it. For the time being, she comforted Molly by rubbing the dog's nose, and turned to walk back to the car. Morgan was no longer in the mood for hiking.

In a few days both Morgan and Molly both developed the classic white bump at the back of their respective heads. Three things saved Morgan from ending up in another government clinic and starting the whole thing all over again. The first thing was that she was too scared to tell anyone, even herself. The second thing was that she loved her dog very much, so she went to an animal hospital. And the third thing was this animal hospital had an employee who worked on macros for Edgar the Elder part time and knew about all these bumps. She steered Morgan to Jill, and all was made clear. The worst part for Morgan was that Lilith insisted that Molly had to be put down. She had never made allowances for the Change to happen to animals.

Much chastened, the B’nei Elohim relocated the Ark to a safer place on Sugarloaf Mountain west of Kangley where Lilith had purchased some land that could be fenced off good. All of them went together, even Lilith. As they carried the Ark, Jill introduced Morgan to Julie, with a black eye from her husband Frank that had nearly healed.

Julie had a bump to match Morgan’s, but it had already opened up like a flower. She said to Morgan, “The only difference between you and me is that I asked for this to happen to me, and you didn’t.”

When they had all reached a consensus on a good place to hide the Ark on Sugarloaf Mountain everyone gathered around in the little wooded glen, and Julie, at the bidding of Robyn, stood forth.

"Take control of your destiny, Julie” Robyn said in her role as Prophet. “Carve out your own free will. Discard your slave name of Julie Pritchard and select a single new name. But consider it well, for it shall be your name for all eternity. Remember, in the B’nei Elohim all of your actions have eternal consequences. So choose!"

"Let me be called Trish."

"You are Trish, forever the fifth member of the B’nei Elohim. Welcome to your new family! This is the ceremony of belonging, Trish. You are now fully one of us."

She wanted to shout Thank You! but no words would come out. The entire experience was too much for her and she burst into tears. And Morgan, witnessing the ceremony too, was suitably impressed.

After the debacle during the transit through the Eggbeater Asmodeus took much greater precautions, such as only allowing one picket ship at a time to operate search radar. As a result the rest of the crossing was relatively uneventful. A year after deploying from Palato the Imperial Loyalist forces entered Hybla-Dia's gravitational influence, moving toward a certain encounter with Beater naval power

Imperial minesweeping shuttles arrived in high Hybla orbit to sweep out a clear path. The sudden appearance of Gerash anti-mine craft spelled out to Seraph Atarculph, commanding the Beater forces, what was soon to come. He immediately ordered the execution of the defensive plan codenamed Backhand.

Asmodeus, after joining with the Central Force, taking command, and placing Azael into a subordinate position, split off the 2nd Battleship Division under the Cherub Ezqeel. The battleships Tormentor and Devastator, the cruiser Pursuer, and four destroyers were ordered to perform one revolution of Dia and meet Asmodeus again in a l ower Hybla orbit to envelop the Beater forces. Another force, that of Cherub Hochmiel, cruising from the edge of the Eggbeater with the remnants of Space Action Group 16, including the frigage Exiler, would meet them as well as a third prong. Timing was crucial.

As Atarculph’s Backhand plan developed the contact reports issued by Tormentor and Devastator made the job of SAG16 commander Hochmiel much easier. He preferred to fight the Beaters outright to the more laborious task of protecting the main body. Now, with the Beaters blundering in his direction to carry out Backhand, all Hochmiel had to do was sit and wait. Aboard the carriers Indomitable and Inquisitor, seasoned Loyalist crews flawlessly readied their fighters for strikes against the oncoming Beater Fleet.

Yet it was not any massive strike that dealt the worst damage to the Beaters but a single bomber, clinging closely to their returning search pickets and escaping detection, that singled out the light carrier Evader as its target. Furiously fired at by the light railguns mounted on the small carrier, the bomber planted an armor-piercing sub-macro bomb in the middle of the hangar bay. In her interior, the bomb wrecked fighters that had been intended to join the strike on Asmodeus, igniting severe fires inside her hangar deck.

Evader's aft magazines, heated by the blaze in the hangar deck, ignited in turn, sending metal splinters in all directions of the sky, killing 230 crew members and maiming many others. With her hangar deck fires relentlessly spreading forward, Evader’s commanding officer Ophan Kafziel decided to abandon his ship.

Seraph Atarculph left behind three destroyers to retrieve the marooned men and went on to carry out the Backhand operation undeterred. Even as Evader died, strikes from the Indomitable task group swooped down on the Center Force of Lord Asmodeus. Simultaneously came fighter strikes on Ezqeel's smaller, but still very potent force.

Indomitable's shuttles found Devastator, the largest vessel ever to ply space. Indeed, they could hardly miss her. Like a magnet, the super-battleship attracted the attention of the majority of Beater strike fighters. Half-ton bombs and a torpedo began to hit the battle wagon, but the giant continued on, seemingly impervious to the assault from the Beater gnats.

In the second wave only three more torpedoes won through to hit Devastor. But the third wave scored eleven bombs hits and eight torpedo hits along the superbattleship's length. Asmodeus, watching from his flagship Tormentor, grew alarmed and ordered the bulk of his Central Force to pull in close to come to the aid of Devastator.

The anti-matter weapon introduced to the Beaters by Edgar the Elder was so powerful it didn’t matter if it actually hit the Devastator, it just needed to get close. None had ever seen an explosion so unimaginably powerful. The dreadnought was completely obliterated. The capital ships that had been pulled in close to protect her were left dead in space. The smaller destroyers and frigates that had tried to form a bubble around Devastator were damaged in various degrees from lightly to serious, including the frigate Exiler, which was ordered to limp home with a convoy of other hulks. Even the survivors suffered from high doses of gamma radiation, All of this came from just one warhead. Once more the Beaters had the full attention of Mastema

Robyn and Lilith ran out of Highway 50 at the nation's capital and got a room on the fourth floor of the Howard Johnson's hotel on Virginia Avenue. After they got all settled in, and the sun had gone down, Lilith took Robyn out on the balcony and said, “I brought you here to sensitize you, to let you practice what I need you to do. So please tell me what comes to mind.”

Robyn was silent for a moment as she surveyed the stack of events that piled up in her mind. At length she said, “All this, the city, it’s gone in a few months. H-bomb.”

“In October there will be a war in the Middle-East that will spin out of control. It won’t turn into World War III, but if you are able, Robyn, tell me what does happen.”

“There’s chaos at first. Millions of people are dead, here and in Russia. The United States moves the capital back to Philadelphia, where it was in the very beginning, but the states in the South and the mountain West take advantage of the opportunity and file for divorce. So you get two countries again, like way back in the Civil War, with America basically down to just New England and the states north of the Ohio River over to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, that area. The other side picks Atlanta to be their capital, and they get southern California, the Rockies, the Great Plains, and Dixie. They actually go ahead and call it the New Confederacy. But Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, they form a third country called Pacifica.”

“So look out towards the end of the century, Robyn. Tell me what happens.”

“Okay, so what’s left of the United States still has the most people and industry and money, but militarily they’re kind of weak. All the bases were in the south and the west. The New Confederacy has the most land and resources, but their culture and their political system isn’t set up to allow their people to flourish, only large corporations. It was the same thing in the Civil War, men dying to keep cotton-growers in the money. Anyone who isn’t white and Protestant will be basically non-citizens there. The New Confederates end up using the military they inherited to extort their neighbors, US and Mexico, the Caribbean, and try to bite off chunks of land. Everyone thinks they’re assholes. But they won’t mess too much with Pacifica, though, because that country inherits the west coast submarine fleet, a bunch of carriers and a crapload of nukes.”

“Tell me about Pacifica then. That’s where we shall have to live.”

“Pacifica is the smallest piece, with the fewest people, but in that country the people will come first. They will do some amazing things to make life on Earth a paradise, but the operative word there is Earth. The space program is entirely forgotten in all this, except for lofting some satellites. Everyone turns inward. And this, Lilith, if I understand your goals correctly, will not do.”

“No, Robyn, it will not do at all. We must make some sort of change, if only to make sure the suffering of those millions of people will not come to be. But I’m entirely at a loss as to how to proceed. I need to find a place where events constrict in such a way that if we apply a small change it will prevent the Cold War from going hot in October. But only you can see time that way, how it does constrict.”

Robyn desperately wanted to help, or at least give Lilith the impression that she was trying to help. She looked across the well-lit street at a large array of striking, modern buildings with graceful curves, very unlike any architecture she had ever seen. “There’s something about that place,” she said with more confidence than she really felt. “Something important, and the President is mixed up in it, but we’re about a year too late and now I can’t unravel what it was.”

“Give me a date and we’re there.”

“What day is it now? Some vacation, huh? I completely lost track.”

“Today is Saturday, June 16, 1973.”

“So there you go, Lilith. Make it June 16, 1972.”

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