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A01 - PHARMADIGM


Be a live patriot, not a dead traitor The Hanford site was nuked back in 1973 but it was the size of a county and large portions were still in use. The reactors were completely gone, of course, and Walla Walla downwind was still more or less a ghost town thirty years later, but contamination levels in the southeast corner along the Columbia River approached the slightly elevated levels of prior to the attack when the facility was used to make plutonium for bombs like Fat Boy. The New Confederacy contemplated shutting the place down for good, but there was still a lot of useful infrastructure, and private industry stepped up to keep the ball rolling. The isolation and security were attractive when large corporations meditated doing something that wasn't entirely kosher from a legal standpoint. So business at Hanford was good.

But Dr. Earl Roland was pissed. The head of the Center for Disease Control fumed with steadily mounting rage as Dr. Amanda Trochmann unspooled her presentation, and he quickly decided this was just a Pharmadigm screwup that had nothing to do with the CDC. Roland knew he and his team had flown all the way out from Atlanta for nothing.

Let me get this straight, he interrupted when Mandy was less than ten minutes into her digital slide show. You've got a new anesthetic you've made from the venom of black mombas or some shit. Phase zero trials with microdoses went okay, so next was phase one, volunteers on full doses with forty-eight hours of monitoring. Something went wrong and now you want CDC to quarantine the folks. Well, how about you bite the bullet and just pay them out? Lawsuits are part of doing business. Take it up with your shareholders, not the government.

We are not talking about money, Director Roland, Mandy objected. The subjects have all signed releases holding Pharmadigm harmless from any side effects.

This should be the Food and Drug Administration sitting here, Roland countered. Who's idea was it to call in the CDC?

My idea, Mandy admitted. This isn't just Pharmadigm's problem. There are genetic changes, including sperm and ova. Our drug created four little monsters and if they get out into the population they'll be everyone's problem, as I will shortly make clear. So please, Dr. Roland, allow me to resume the presentation.

Do make haste, Dr. Trochmann.

Thank you, Doctor. As I was saying, the first volunteer was a seventeen year old girl named Robyn Lokken, who is between her junior and senior years in high school. We did a complete physical before the clinical trial in Denver. She was moderately overweight but otherwise fairly healthy. Next slide. The reason Robyn gave for volunteering was financial. Her father was killed last year in the Canadian War and the money situation isn't so good for Robyn and her mother these days. Summer jobs are hard to come by, so she applied for this one. Pharmadigm computers spit her name out and we called her in. Next slide. As you already know, gentlemen anesthesiology is more of an art than a science. We're trying to bring the person on the operating table as close as possible to dying without actually crossing the line so they miss out on all the gory, agonizing parts. Our new drug targets only the gray matter of the brain. It completely shuts down the higher functions of consciousness, but leaves the involuntary functions like breathing completely alone. You don't even need to have an anesthesiologist attend the surgery. I swear to you, there wasn't one jot nor tittle on the instrument monitoring Robyn's brain waves under the drug. And yet she reported a long and rather vivid dream.

But that's impossible!

Yes, Doctor Roland, it is. Next slide.

A1 - ERIK


The Great Seal of the Islamic Soviet of Canuckistan Robyn Lokken knew she was dreaming even while she dreamed, which she judged to be a complete ripoff. She was moving through a dark tunnel and approached an intense white light. The white light actually wiggled and Robyn saw that it was just a flashlight being held by a New Confederate soldier who was waking her up in a tent.

Lokken, get your big dumb Norwegian ass up on the wire, you're late!

Robyn grabbed her rifle and her gear and stumbled her way toward the business end of the observation post. And she wondered how she even knew it was an observation post. There was no volition in any of her movements. Robyn realized she was somehow riding behind her father's eyes. And Erik Lokken knew she was in there.

The whole prairie was lit up by a flare, but it was fading. Corporal Street said, You missed a pretty hot fire fight. We got ourselves a visitor. The Corporal nudged the bayonet-tipped muzzle of his rifle toward a certain spot just as a fresh flare cast enough light for Robyn to see what he was pointing at. There was the headless body of a Canuckistani fighter lying there, and an up-ended pot of pink and yellow stew where his head and helmet should be.

Erik Lokken had seen this sort of thing countless times before. Adios motherfucker, was all Robyn had to say to the Canadian, and it came out in her father's voice. How'd he get through the perimeter?

Probably started crawling at sundown, the Corporal said. Now we know why they started irrigating this particular bean field this morning. The water covered the sound of him crawling.

Robyn took another look at the dead enemy. This fuck reminds me of staph. Superbug. We created it ourselves with our own antibiotics. All we did was kill the dumb bugs, left the smart bugs to breed, now almost nothing we got will touch 'em. I keep thinking that's all we're doing here too, with these guys.

Well, after this asshole came calling we've been watching with night scopes, and we haven't seen anyone else moving out there.

Famous last words. A dozen Islamists had been crawling toward the observation post inside the irrigation canal, invisible to infrared goggles under the cool water even as other jihadis drew the attention of Erik's unit by land. When the flares started this only slowed them down, forced them to move only between bursts. There were eight NC troops in the position, and two of them were sleeping. When the enemy came over the sandbag wall they outnumbered the Americans two to one. Only Erik survived the initial assault. They nailed the sleeves of one of Erik's arms to a stump. Another Islamist brandished an axe. God commands this, you understand. And the axe fell. Robyn screamed in pain. Dreams weren't supposed to hurt.

The enemy left Erik there to bleed out, and by dawn his unit pulled out of the area without even recovering his body, marking him down as 'Missing In Action'. Robyn's father had been the victim of a certain militia in Alberta devoted to spreading a very nit-picky version Sharia law throughout Canada. In their interpretation of the Qu'ran, the Confederates occupying any portion of the rapidly expanding Dar al-Islam were stealing the land, and faithful Muslims knew what to do with thieves. Off with their hands!

Now you know what happened to me, baby doll, Erik told her, mind-to- mind. MIA really means Murdered In Action, but Atlanta doesn't want anyone back home to know how bad we are losing the war.

I missed you, daddy. Robyn told him, but she would go on missing him. For her the dark tunnel was not a one-way trip. Not this time.

A2 - SOAP OPERA STARS


So the sun-worshipers were on the right track after all When El Shaddai came into her full maturity Binah injected a great deal of dark light into the reality-fracture that was the natural communication link between sisters. This caused the one-dimensional quantum foldline to expand to a diameter of about one fingersbreadth, and this only for a few milliseconds. It was just wide enough to allow Binah to pass a tiny seed for a remotely-controlled avatar through the shortcut in space.

After the nuclear material of this seed unpacked itself Binah explored the space around Sol on behalf of El Shaddai. Soon Binah reported the existence of life on the fifth-largest object. And this life was far more interesting than the plant life which Binah had found on Gorpai. Binah watched individuals perform burials of their dead, polish elaborate bone tools, fashion animal-hide tents to live in during the summer and apply pigments to make their caves beautiful in the winter. El Shaddai, reviewing the data, also noted they were ferocious hunters with a clever technique for fixing stone spearheads to wooden shafts by using a resin that was prepared by heating it. In fine, El Shaddai possessed the only form of life in all of creation that was fully awake aside from the elohim themselves.

At the time neither El Shaddai nor Binah nor Chokhmah realized the importance of this discovery. But Mastema was terrified. He knew if El learned of this, the follow-up investigation would quickly unravel the secret of Mastema's transgression here of breeding isolated elohim for the purposes of sex. So Mastema departed forever, to take refuge among his less troublesome stellar harems.

There was a warning from Mastema to Belial to remain silent to El about the new kind of life found on the watery world belonging to El Shaddai, lest Mastema go down in judgment and take Belial with him. The penalty for this greatest of sins among the elohim was death, a terrible thing for the nearly-immortal living stars. So for a long time after this Belial pondered what to do and said nothing to Chokhmah, Binah, and El Shaddai.

At length Binah suggested to Belial that it would not be impossible nor even particularly difficult for an avatar probe to reach one of the nearby suns within a relatively short span of time. Not to Binah's distant father Mastema, of course, but perhaps Binah would visit Barnard's Star or Ross 154 and reveal to him or her, through direct mind-to-mind speech, what was really happening here in Belial's dirty little sex enclave. And that Holy One would in turn notify this mysterious El.

Then Belial saw a narrow path that led out of his dilemma and he broke his long silence. To the three trapped elohim he said: Of all living things in existence, these human creatures alone are potentially dangerous to us because they are awake. If they are not dangerous now then perhaps they will be far in the future. Mastema knew they must be isolated and studied before their existence could be revealed to El and that was why the four of us were born in this place.

Binah remained dubious because Mastema refused to make contact to reinforce Belial's claim, and Belial realized his clever daughter Binah would never stop being a thorn in his side, so he made a risky bargain. He would grant Binah access to the fold-line network of all elohim, to know all that they knew, but this access would be uni-directional. Binah could never speak to any eloah on the network. Nor could Binah reveal any part of this lore to the other elohim in the enclave, nor even reveal that she had access.

The knowledge Belial presented to Binah was truly vast. And the first thing she learned was that El was not really a deity at all, but rather, the entire community of elohim in aggregate. El numbered in the billions and spanned the Milky Way. It was only a partial victory, but Binah realized there was still one very large loophole she could exploit, ultimately fatal to Belial. Nothing in the bargain precluded revealing the accumulated knowledge of El to the planet-dwellers.

A3 - AVATAR


White-haired Talishi of the House of Gerash The avatar of Binah made landfall near the pavilion during the height of Hellberry Days when the grassy Commons outside of the walled section of the city of Aramel was thronged with yeng and yen. The brief but furious growing season on Gorpai had offered up a record harvest and there was much cause to rejoice, but the unprecedented sight and ear-splitting sound of a fat white pillar as tall as a tree, descending on five columns of roaring fire brought the celebration to an abrupt end as the people scattered in utter panic.

The first dweller of Aramel to return to the vicinity of the pavilion was not a yang of the warrior caste, nor one of the elders on the city's ruling council, but a young yin maiden who still lived in the household of her father, a modestly well-to-do glassblower. She proved to be more valiant than any of the yeng who ran away, for curiosity overcame her fear. And Binah was selecting for curiosity.

The courageous yin saw how the object had five articulated arms with many joints, and between each joint was mounted smaller arms of identical make, and so on, like the progression of the structure of a tree from trunk to branches to twigs to leaf buds. The five arm trunks inverted to become legs, and the avatar of Binah settled to The ground. Fire ceased from the bells at the bottom of the five lesser pillars wrapped around the main pillar. The blast of the descent uprooted the light fabric of the pavilion tent and blew it far away. But the yin stood her ground at a discreet distance. She was curious about the intruder, but not stupid, and not eager to be burned.

A loud voice rang out from the avatar of Binah, saying, Yin of the House of Gerash, if you are willing, draw near to me.

The yin obeyed. She saw how by resting on the five legs the central pillar of the avatar of Binah remained about waist high above the ground. From underneath the central pillar a round hatch dropped open on a hinge to nearly touch the scorched grass of The Commons under it. Come up here, the loud voice said.

The brave yin squatted and squeezed between two of the outer pillars to look up inside the hatch. The central pillar was hollow. There was much light within, as well as many ribs embedded in the tunnel wall forming circular edges with sufficient space to rest the side of her feet or accept the grip of her hands. She obeyed the voice and crawled inside. While she climbed inside the central pillar the voice obtained her name. I am Talishi, daughter of Jophiel the glassblower, she said. The hatch below her closed of its own accord, and this too was marked by Talishi. The top of the central pillar flared out into a larger space with a seat and many windows, giving Talishi a commanding view of the grounds. Even now, only a handful of people dared to draw near.

Do not be afraid, Talishi, the voice told her. I am Binah, one of the Holy Ones co-eval with Belial. I have many things to tell you and many things to show you, if you can bear them, but only with your freely-given consent. If you stay, your life will never be the same again. If you go, then you can resume your life as before, and no harm done.

And Talishi replied, I will stay, Lord. In the mythology Talishi had been taught, Binah was the son of the Most High God.

Binah said, There are ropes laying about where you sit. Use them to make yourself secure. This is not to hold you captive, Talishi. You will see the reason for the ropes very soon.

When Talishi finished wrapping herself in the cords and making the knot snug, she announced this fact to Binah. And immediately the five smaller pillars around the central pillar ignited in flame again.

A4 - JERRY'S CASE


Jerry Aspin in one of his less-than-stellar moments

Naturally we were disappointed when Robyn reported having a dream, Dr. Amanda Trochmann said, resuming her slide show. But the benefits of this drug as a general anesthetic were initially judged by us to outweigh that possible side effect. After observing the girl for two days we did a complete physical on her again, with no changes noted, and I mention that because those two physicals will be important later in my brief.

Maybe the girl lied about the dream, Roland suggested.

We thought about that, of course and prepared a second volunteer. But as it turned out, it doesn't matter if she was lying about the subjective side effects of the drug, because there are objective side effects. We paid Robyn the five hundred dollars we promised and sent her home.

Then why is she here at Hanford?'

A week after the drug trial she sought us out because she was scared. But I'm getting ahead of myself, Doctor. Let's back up to the day Robyn was discharged. For phase one we had a ready pool of five candidates, and two of them were male. We wanted to try a male because there could be a gender differential in the response to the drug. We chose Jerry Aspin, who is serving a jail term for killing Oboe Man for his spare change.

Roland was astonished. You wanted to flush out Robyn's lies by using a convicted criminal?

I chose Jerry Aspin, Director Roland, because I realized we might have to abort the trial after two or three tests and he was the most anxious to continue. Jerry has every incentive to be truthful. He's on year eight of a fifteen year prison sentence. He was qualified for parole after seven years, but the first parole board shot him down because he had no extracurricular activities on the books. Volunteering for a drug trial can help prod the probation board to turn him loose. We called him in.

So what happened?

Just like with Robyn, he says floated through a dark tunnel toward a bright light, but this time he was in warm water, and when Jerry floated to the top and climbed out of the water, he was given some towels and a robe by what he says were some warrior women, and dried himself off on a dark wooden deck in a grove of trees under a glowing white sky. Jerry says he met Jesus, who was playing the role of his parole officer, but things didn't go so well and after a time Jerry re-entered the pool under his own will and swam back here to his hospital bed.

Crazy dream. That's some powerful stuff you whipped up, Dr. Trochmann.

Well, after the second test, the clinical trial of this drug as an anesthetic was officially called off. No one is going to sign up for a guaranteed Near Death Experience when all they want to do is sleep straight through an operation. Note that it gives you a dream of whatever you want the most. Robyn missed her father. Jerry missed female companionship and wanted to pass the parole board examination.

Dr. Trochmann, I'm sorry your research failed and your company wasted money. But what does any of that have to do with the CDC?

Directly, Dr. Roland. Directly. It would have been better if we had just closed up shop. But Pharmadyne management came up with a way to attempt to salvage our substantial monetary investment into the research of this substance. The team remained largely unchanged, but now we were to investigate the possibility of using the drug as a form of psychological therapy, maybe cure schizophrenia by inducing a controlled NDE. So yes, it was greed that got us in a jam and led to calling for a Federal response.

A5 - YESHUA


Jesus likes a spot of fresh air when he works. So you're Jesus.

The Savior was shorter than Jerry always imagined He would be, and not nearly as good looking as the Hollywood versions. He had brown skin, black eyes, and no beard. To Jerry's surprise the Lord wore no white robe, just something like tan striped pajamas, like they wear in Oman or Somalia. But His leather sandals were right out of the gospels. He was seated at a wooden desk near the Sacred Pool drinking wine and reviewing paperwork. But hearing Himself called by those two syllables made the Lord smile.

I am called Yeshua, but even that name, when it was given to Me, was changed somewhat from the old days in Canaan. Originally it was Hoshua, which just means 'salvation'. Please have a seat, Mr. Aspin.

Jerry settled in to a wide wicker chair in front of Jesus. Two armed female guards in green garb festooned with bird feathers stood behind Him, to his left and right, flashing thigh, but they made a point of ignoring Jerry with intense military bearing. Jerry had been in prison a long time and couldn't help but say, Both of you girls got pretty nice sticks.

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

On Christmas Day.

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

I never learned anything in a dream before. What are you reading?

I'm reading about the slow-motion train wreck that was the life of one Jerry Aspin. Oboe Man had, what, seventeen dollars in quarters?

I've paid my debt to society, Lord.

I'm a busy man, as you can imagine. Normally you get your outbrief from a close relative who preceded you. I only get the hardest of the hard cases. But they said to Me, 'here's another one like Robyn Lokken.'

And Jesus, reading the last page of Jerry's file, shuffled all the papers together and closed it up. Looking at Jerry with infinite sadness, He shook his head. It would do a great disservice to you were I to take a life like yours and extend it indefinitely.

Jerry just chuckled. Normally a final decision like that would set me to worrying a little bit, but this is all just a bad trip. I'm hallucinating all of this! I just have to wait until the drug wears off and goodbye to You. In fact, I can feel it wearing off already.

Ahhh . . . it's a drug. That explains what's going on. Clever! Binah told me you folks in the Twentieth would probably stumble on to something like this. We must craft an appropriate response.

Craft away, neither you nor your followers can stop me from doing this. And Jerry, shedding his white terry cloth robe, dove into the Sacred Pool and swam headfirst into darker waters, far away from the light.

A6 - THE HOP


The icy world of Gorpai, from the warm and snug avatar of Binah in orbit. When the avatar of Binah rose into the sky again over Aramel there was much shaking, and Talishi was gradually pushed back into her seat with greater and greater force. As the weight piled on, Talishi began to cry. She was brave, but she had reached her limit. After a time the shaking stopped, and Talishi was no longer pressed into her seat. She felt blessedly free, as though she were swimming. Only the knotted ropes kept her from bouncing around inside the small space at the top of the central pillar.

The avatar of Binah performed a half-rotation until the curved white bulk of Gorpai could be seen by Talishi outside of the many small windows, and the sky was no longer purple but black, yet it was not night, for the yellow and orange suns remained in place. Binah said, That is your world, Talishi. You see it is a spinning ball, and the suns do not tunnel under the ice like you have been taught.

I had thought it to be a ring, Lord, Talishi said. Some adventurers have reported penetrating the ice in the far west of the West Lands and arriving in the far east of the East Lands. To repeat their stories is discouraged.

The avatar made a curious sound Talishi could not identify. This was the manifestation of Binah's equivalent of a laugh, and Talishi expressed fear that she had somehow offended Binah. But Binah said, I am experiencing the delight of surprise. Intelligence to go with your fearlessness. Chokhmah will be pleased that I brought you.

Binah rotated the avatar to put the bright bulk of Gorpai and the two suns out of sight. Now Talishi could see stars shining brightly through the portals. The first thing you must learn, Talishi, is that stars are faraway suns. And her mouth opened in wonder, because she had never encountered that idea before. It greatly magnified the scale of her reality.

They flew in a curving path high over the northern Ice, and the narrow yellow and blue equatorial belt that was the inhabited portion of Gorpai passed over the horizon and out of view. Almost the entire world of Gorpai was covered in at least a thousand feet of ice. Precipitation was greatest at the poles, where the world-glacier was miles thick. And these giant icecaps moved very slowly, grinding the surface flat.

At the narrow equatorial belt, temperatures were warm enough to melt the ice. The great glaciers of the northern and southern hemispheres came to an end and huge chunks of ice sheared off, fell to the ground, and melted, the source of water for many rivers and lakes. As the twin ice packs advanced and retreated, they left behind long ridges of loose till piled in low terminal moraines. And rarely, active volcanoes formed under the ice and burned their way to the surface. Mount Anshar was one of these. The northern ice gave way around the bulk of Mount Anshar and closed back up again many miles to the south, forming a small territory of land in the shape of a teardrop which was free of ice. And it was here that the avatar of Binah reached landfall once again.

Thermal features abounded in the land of Anshar, keeping the many lakes and ponds from freezing despite the extreme northern latitude of the place. So far was Anshar from the inhabited places along the equator that not even Family Antero had discovered it when they roamed the northern ice before the Second Deluge.

When Talishi climbed back down through the central pillar and reached the ground again, she was startled, because someone was waiting for her there. It looked like a slender nephilim, perhaps a yin, who was encased entirely in featureless white, even the face, which remained perfectly smooth, with not even eyes to see or mouth to speak. Yet see and speak it could still do, for it said, Welcome, Talishi. Behold the avatar of Chokhmah. And it held its arms out for her inspection.

The avatar of Chokhmah pointed across the treeless flats to a large dwelling of glass and wood perched on a low rise. Chokhmah said, Talishi, there is only one structure in all of the land of Anshar and if you accept my offer it will belong solely to you. It is cold here. Accompany me to the house, where it is warm, and I will tell you many things.

The house was more glass than wood, with an outstanding view of the ever- changing fire torrents of Mount Anshar only five miles away across a pumice plain. But there was no danger of the lava engulfing the house, for a great chasm intervened. The home was heated by natural steam. The main living section was a single room, with an alcove above the kitchen where Talishi could sleep with some degree of privacy, although there was not another nephil anywhere for thousands of miles around. On the main level were plush cushions and a glass table of superior make. It was all far more luxurious in terms of comfort than anything found in the most lavish palaces of Gorpai, yet the decor was simple, with a stark beauty in a minimal way. But Talishi was already planning to make some changes herself.

The avatar of Chokhmah, requiring no cushion for comfort, simply seated itself on the floor to put its head on a level with Talishi's head. Chokhmah said, Belial styles himself a god, but we are really scholars. We study humans and nephilim. And we've started a stream of research independent from Belial. He sees you only as slaves. We other elohim see you as students, as well as teachers. The problem is that neither the avatar of Binah nor my own avatar can move among you without inspiring fear.

Binah has crafted a solution but it would work a grievous change in the subject nephilim that could never be undone, for the mind of the eloah would be joined to the mind of the nephil, and in the joining there would emerge a new mind wrought from the twain, yet the greater portion, seven parts in ten, would reflect the eloah who possessed rather than the nephil who was possessed. There would also be a physical change using the same link that allows we elohim to communicate with each other instantly across great distances, such that I would be immediately aware of whatever was experienced by the nephil who was possessed by me, and likewise, the body of that nephil would instantly respond to my will. A living avatar.

Binah suggested that to be ethical, the change ought to be made only to a nephil who was appraised of all these things, yet remained full willing to continue. So now, brave Talishi, here you are in Anshar, and it is time to make my proposal to you. I would join with a nephil and live among the people, teaching them, but also learning from them. Yet the thing cannot be done out of obedience to a divine commandment, but only as the free will choice of the person who receives the call and answers, because once the joining takes place, we can never be unjoined. Never.

And Talishi asked, If I accept this thing, what will become of me?

Chokhmah answered, You will no longer be fully yourself, but neither will I be fully myself. Instead, you will be a new person who is simultaneously both yourself and me, and we will both come to understand, as though we always knew it, everything that is known by the other.

Still Talishi hesitated, so Chokhmah said, Also, when your body dies, whether by violence or natural death, you shall continue to live where I am, for elohim are living stars, and our life will endure so much longer than the span of nephilim life that I cannot express it using symbols that you would understand. Your culture doesn't have the mathematics.

Then Talishi was aware not only of the huge gap in her own knowledge, which was expected, but of the equally large gap in Chokhmah's knowledge, which was not expected. And she did assent to the divine proposal. But Talishi did not say "yes" to Chokhmah in return for the promise of long life, but that both she and Chokhmah, together, would come to know many things.

Obviously no one in our pool of five volunteers is a winner, Amanda Trochmann pointed out at the conclusion of presenting Jerry's case. After all, who would volunteer to allow an unknown substance to enter their body unless there was little choice? We're not scraping bottom yet, but we're getting there. Next up was Jill Pennell, an orphan from some Asian country, maybe Vietnam, adopted by American foster parents. No one knows what her real name might have been, back in the old country.

And what was Jill's motivation for volunteering? Roland asked.

Money. Just like Robyn Lokken. But unlike Robyn and Jerry, Jill refused to discuss any part of her experience under the drug, even when she was told she would forfeit the five hundred dollars.

Maybe they showed her hell, Roland suggested. Unspeakable horror.

It doesn't matter. We suddenly had other more important matters to attend. While Jill was under the drug, she literally grew a foot taller, and we didn't catch it until after the test when she got up to go to the loo. And that's when she made another discovery, which speaks for itself.

The next slide was a photograph of Jill's shaven crotch. Mandy said, Jill now has two complete sets of female genitals, one above the other.

Impossible! Roland sniffed If this is a joke, I'm not amused.

This is no joke, and I will demonstrate that to you to your satisfaction, Director Roland. The same thing happened to Robyn Lokken, and that's why she came in.' Another slide, this time it was Robyn. Jerry Aspin grew a second penis and Corrections sent him back here. Yet another slide.

Movie make-up, Roland decided. These folks are just having a big laugh at Pharmadigm's expense.

But that doesn't explain the genetic studies. Here is an image of Jill's X chromosome from a white blood cell in a sample taken before the trial. You see that it is perfectly normal, a long capsule and a short capsule joined at a constriction called a centromere. This next slide shows Jill's X chromosome after the trial. You can see that it is now three identically short capsules joined by two centromeres.

Neocentromeres in humans are associated with chromosome breakage during cell division, Roland pointed out. It's a deadly mutation.

We have seen no evidence of genetic damage in Jill, other than this structural change. We are attempting to sequence the chromosome to verify that the change is purely structural, but the results will take some time, and it will take even longer to identify any new genes. Meanwhile, we are calling this changed chromosome a Z chromosome because the two constrictions are like the joints of a three-section set of numchucks. The chromosome can literally drift into the shape of the letter Z, or N."

What about the others?

Robyn's situation is identical. Every X chromosome in her body is now in this Z configuration. Jerry, being male, only carried a single X chromosome with two thousand genes, paired with a shorter Y with only eighty genes. His Y chromosomes are unaltered, but they are now paired with Z's. What we didn't have was video footage of the actual change. For that we needed to do a final drug trial with the fourth volunteer.

Your drug causes genetic damage and you gave it to yet another subject?

Lilith Gervasi is a Jew, she said, and Roland's objection melted away.

When Jill took Pharmadyne's Near Death Experience trigger drug the Powers That Be on the Other Side were ready for her. Jill went for a wild ride with Binah into deep space, and the speed of light was no barrier.

Barnard's Star calls herself Yefefiah, Binah said. She is one of the oldest elohim females. Eleven billion years old. She's a 'runaway' star, and she lives her life in stroboscopic time. Once every century or so she wakes up for a day, looks around, talks to the other elohim, and sees that her position in space has changed. In twenty of her days, she moves one light-year. So she's something of a tourist who flies above and below the plane of the galaxy over and over while it turns. Many among the elohim have tried to court her, but she has no time for them. Someday I hope to meet her.

Jill saw the thick planetary accretion disk forming around Epsilon Eridani. Next Binah took her to the Hyades star cluster in Taurus, and then the Pleiades cluster further on. There Jill could look back to see how the Earth's sun was snuggled in along the outskirts of Collinder 285, a formerly tight star cluster which was widely scattered now, but a few core stars remained close together, and men called it the Big Dipper.

Next Binah took Jill up and out on Yefefiah's projected track above the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, where the sun dimmed far below and was lost among the interstellar clouds which gave shape to the Orion Arm. Binah pointed out Rho Cassiopeia, four thousand light years away from Earth, a huge supergiant star 100,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Behold Mastema, my absent eloah father.

Jill learned there were 2 billion trillion stars in the visible universe, but only a tiny fraction of these were alive and awake. Then Binah took her further out and up, until she was looking at the forty galaxies of the Local Group, dominated by the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. Binah said, We count ten billion large galaxies like our own, and a hundred billion lesser galaxies.

And Binah took her even further out, and Jill saw that the Local Group was just a satellite of the Vega Supercluster, which had one hundred fifty large galaxies and a thousand dwarf galaxies, all bound together by gravity. It was a meta-galaxy made up of galaxies, with a core thirty-five million light-years away. And it was only one of 300,000 superclusters in the universe. But the whole Vega Supercluster was moving toward the Great Attractor near the Centaurus supercluster. Meanwhile the Sculptor and Phoenix superclusters formed part of a long wall of thousands of galaxy groups stretching across a billion light years of space.

Finally Binah showed Jill the Bootes Void, 300 million light-years across with no clusters inside it at all, only a few lonely galaxies scattered within. This was the structure at the largest scale of the universe: Walls of galactic superclusters, which formed the surface of large voids. The universe was built like a vast sponge. Binah said, You already know about the Chokhmah-Talishi merger, Jill. I would make the same request, that I may walk as a human being on Earth. You are absolutely free to accept or reject my request, for the change is eternal and irreversible.

Respectfully, Binah, I must decline, and remain who I am.

As you wish. I will send you back to Denver now, and you will remain Jill Pennell. However, you will go back changed somewhat, and that is not a matter of choice. It's something you signed up for when you agreed to participate in the drug trial. Your mind will be changed such that you will bind the others together by communicating through you, using pure thought, no matter how distant they are. Your body will be changed to bind the others together in that tried-and-true, surefire way that works for both planet-dwellers and elohim alike, which is of course sexuality.

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Strangers In Paradise