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"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 everyone 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 women."

"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 realize 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."


Melchiyahu looked at hym with an odd mixture of pity and amusement and abruptly Zadkiel realized the king's purpose in limiting the audience to just two yeng. He could not punctuate his words with grandstanding. In their raw state the words sounded insane even to hymself.

The king said, "I will listen to the words of Michael with my own ears and judge whether they are a threat to the realm. As for you--"

"Have a care, Melchiyahu!" Zadkiel dared to interrupt. "The Lord Keter will not hesitate to bring an errant king to heel through war!"

Melchiyahu did not grow angry. Hy only rose to his feet and said to hyz son, "This hashmal I leave to you. Remember you will one day be king."

When hyz father departed, Melchizedek brandished the Golden Gift and allowed its dark shaft to extend to the height of a yang.

"Say no more words in my presence," the prince warned. "You would be cut in twain even as you spoke. A horse shall be given you with comestibles and water to see you to the first outpost thirty leagues east. The king's herald shall follow after my lord has heard Michael." Melchizedek allowed the black rip in the universe to fully retract into the hilt of the relic. "If His Superbness asks, tell him the king would gladly receive a Voice of Keter who comports hymself with the basic rudiments of court etiquette in the presence of a cherub."

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 illegal, 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 clergyman 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 °F.

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


Zadkiel found the lack of pomp striking and was too stupid to discern what it really meant. Not even the master-at-arms was present to protect the king, only Melchizekek, who bore no visible weapon, yet was armed with a small, powerful artifact forged by Chokhmah herself.

The king said, "Lord Zadkiel? I know of a hashmal in the city of Adan who goes by the name Zadkiel."

"Yes, Sire, I am he."

"And yet you did not obtain leave from my son Melchizekek to preach in our realm. You did not even ask my daughter Lilith. Ophanim, both of them."

"Sire I say this all due deference: Even were I the get of a lowly craftsman like this glassblower's son Michael, I would still have leave to preach in Salem. For Keter himself commissioned me, and your kingdom still lies, no matter how uneasily, within the middle lands."

"And were Keter to come to Salem himself he could not pronounce death even for a glassblower's son. That is the right of a king, and the giving of the sceptre is without repentance."

"Then Sire I counsel you restrain this Michael by fetters if not through death."


"Consider the alternative, Sire. Yin-centered rituals and devotions! Hy could destroy our entire sacrifice-atonement system overnight! As long as someone is punished Keter is satisfied. But now this Michael comes along saying we actually have to be nice to each other!"

"What a terrifying prospect."

"Will you move against this dirk named Michael, Your Highness?"

"Not in haste, self-described Voice of Keter. My daughter admires this young prophet and puts hyz words into action, which gladdens my heart in a way I cannot begin to tell."

"Sire, the ideas admired by your daughter are spreading through the land like a plague. Already the river of pilgrims who flow to Adan seeking absolution is slackening. The priests had to raise rates across the board! Michael is a dagger pointed at the heart of the State."


"'This is the essence of worship: You shall give one-fourth of your increase to Keter. The procedure for worshiping Keter shall be to present to the priest your worship card made of crackerwood sealed in a leather pouch together with the money you have earned on Gerashday.

"'The priest shall inspect the seal, unwrap the worship card, and inspect the pattern of recent punches. If the punches are in order, the priest shall make a new punch using one of five different punches drawn by lots: a star, a square, a triangle, a circle, or a rectangle.

"'And the priest shall store the worship card back in the leather pouch, add a seal, and return it to the worshiper; but the money hy shall put in the temple treasury. Yen, however, shall not worship, nor shall a yin be found in the Temple of Keter nor any shrine of Keter.

"'You shall not suffer a yin or doll to earn income. A father shall count a dirk's income as hyz own for the purpose of reckoning the correct amount of worship due. If a yang's worship card has a missing punch that yang shall be put to death for failure to worship Keter.

"'When a dirk is of age hy shall enter the rites of the Cupel system of testing. The dirk who survives the personal combat shall take the sister of hyz opponent, as well as his own sister, to be hyz wives. Hy shall enter the ranks of the ishim, and hy shall worship Keter.

"'Whan a ravmalak is deemed worthy to qualify for the middle choir hy shall fight in the second Cupel rite of trial by individual death combat. The victor shall possess the two wives of hyz dead and vanquished counterpart and hy shall be counted among the ranks of sarim.

"'Whan a hashmal is deemed worthy to qualify for the highest choir hy shall fight in the third Cupel rite of trial by individual death combat. The victor shall possess the four wives of hyz dead and vanquished counterpart and hy shall be counted among the ranks of ophanim.

"The spirit of the warrior who falls on the field in the service of Keter shall be received in Anabas, the diamond palace above the clouds, and there he shall receive the gift of immortality. Therefore do not shrink back in battle for it is Keter who rewards and punishes.'"

When the interloper's words reached the ears of King Melhiyahu through hyz officers hy was summoned to appear before the throne forthwith. Zadkiel found he didn't rate an audience before the literal throne. He met the king in his salon and was announced by the majordomo.


When the fame of Michael's healing and teaching ministry reached the ears of the avatar of Keter in Adan he commanded Zadkiel, a nobleyang of the house of Gerash, to appear before his throne. He said, "Go to the angels of Salem in the west and preach what I will tell you."

Salem lay a thousand leagues away, a summer's journey even with fresh horses taken at intervals. Yet Daat, whose body was the tiny cold orange sun in the sky of heaven, was able to set the endpoint of a bridge in spacetime near Salem for Zadkiel to walk there instantly.

For a time Michael returned to his home near Mount Anshar, yet the angels of Salem would continue to form crowds in the countryside, hoping to draw Michael out from his retreat. Zadkiel found them ripe to hear his own teachings, which were as contrary as could possibly be.

"Thus says Keter," Zadkiel began to say in a powerful voice. "'Chokhmah! My son! For your inheritance I created all things in heaven. But this I have against you: That you wished your father dead, that you might come into your inheritance before the time of my choosing.

"'Therefore, Chokhmah, yen and yeng shall no longer call you a god. Behold, I cast you out of the paradise of Anabas, and you shall die like the wretched mortal angels in pain and fear. And this also I have against your false prophet Michael son of Jophiel the glassblower:

"'Michael! You claim that you are united with Chokhmah in body and soul. Because you do not affirm your station as a commoner who carries only angelic blood, behold: I pronounce the penalty of death upon you. You are doomed to die for making the lie that you are a demigod."

"'Hear now the great Code of Keter and take great care to adhere to every precept, for this is the edict of the lord of heaven. No yin may speak to any yang in public, nor may sha own the least thing, for sha is property herself, belonging to har father or to har husband.

"'Four days are appointed, with names after the names of the four great families. These are Saladay, Bellonday, Larunday, and Gerashday. Three days you shall eat, and on Gerashday, you shall eat a double portion. But on Keterday you shall eat nothing, and drink only water.

"'Four days you shall work. But Keterday is the day of worship, you shall not work on that day, neither you nor any male in your whole household. On Keterday you shall worship in the shrine. None shall be exempted. The old and infirm shall be carried to worship Keter.


The board was moved aside, and presently the three G-men were standing around the rock cairn that formed the uttermost summit of Green Dome. Tolson said to Sullivan, "If the kids were in such a hurry to clear out when Paul caught them why are all the stones back in place?"

"That is a very perceptive question," Sullivan said. He began looking for the easiest stone to move. Felt didn't like the sudden turn in the murder investigation into an area where he hadn't been briefed. Tolson's agenda was intruding. A stone fell and Tolson went in.

Felt heard Tolson utter an oath that was most unbecoming of an FBI agent. After Sullivan ducked inside the cairn items started getting tossed out: a dress, shoes, bloody clothing, rubber gloves. Felt shouted for them to stop but Tolson was frantic. "There's nothing here!"

Lilith was a scrubby urchin who rose to the very top of the Fallen Angels gang because no matter what trouble sha got into, sha never seemed to actually get into trouble. This was mostly a matter of har connections. Sha was, after all, the daughter of King Melchiyahu. In the actual angelic hierarchy of heaven Lilith held the rank of ophan. Saint Aquinas would have marked har down as a throne. Had sha been male or born in the westlands or eastlands sha would have ruled one of the cities tributary to the king and commanded an entire army.

In the country around Salem Michael began speaking to yen, and hy confirmed the authority of hyz teachings by healing many angels of their infirmities. Soon hy began to draw crowds wheresoever hy went, and the Fallen Angels were drawn by the opportunity to steal from them. But even Lilith and her gang of pickpockets grew captivated by Michael's words. Hy promised no paradise to come in the future, and hy assigned no blame for the errors of the past. Michael taught a quiet spirituality of the present that spoke directly to the hearts of yen. Lilith witnessed Michael healing angels with salves prepared from fireweed and the bark of vogul trees. And sha heard Michael say, "You have heard it said that Chokhmah is the ungrateful son of Keter and Daat. But I say to you that Chokhmah is their obedient daughter."

After a time Lilith spoke of Michael to har father the King, but it was much more than the new teacher's words and deeds that impressed hym. For Melchiyahu also knew hyz daughter had stopped dressing like yeng, and was again seen of evenings within the walls of the castle.


After examining the contents the sheriff offered Felt an explanation. "B Wing is set up like a museum of Church history. Or at least it was. This looks like the material that was on display there."

"Only the history of the Kuwapi," Jerry said. "We're in the New Reich."

"That's a damned shame," Felt said, holding up a broken arrow. "Some of the relics are damaged."

They moved to the hallway that ran around the circumference of the Sanctuary and did a third of a turn to the right, checking for more locked doors, before entering C Wing.

The room that Jerry and Dory were cleaning was not locked. The other guest rooms were searched and found to be devoid of any evidence.

"What's behind that door?"

"That's a dry hole, Agent Sullivan," said Jerry. "It's just my broom closet." Che locked eyes with Klaus. Nevertheless, Special Agent Felt found the appropriate key. Like Jerry said, there was nothing within but cleaning supplies. Felt shook the red cookie tin sitting on a shelf but heard nothing, and opened it to make sure it was empty. Klaus seemed both puzzled and relieved.

After that the sheriff and three Bureau agents headed down the wide carpeted stairs to the basement cafeteria. The Prophet, lagging behind, asked Jerry, "How did you know they would search?"

"I didn't know, Mr. Hansen, my newly-wed wife did. Robyn knows all, sees all."

There wasn't much of interest downstairs, which was open and airy, even in the kitchen, but the supply room was locked and everyone gravitated to there. "Is this the room from your report?" asked Tolson.

"Mecca," Sullivan said.

Tolson gestured for Felt to pop it open.

Mecca turned out to have the same broken piano, hymnals, mason jars, and stacks of Green Dome coloring books that Jerry had seen before when he took Robyn and Dory in the supply room. Bill Sullivan pointed at the plywood board at the back wall. "Flashlights, gentlemen."


Jerry shook hez head and dug out hez draft card. "The Army didn't think I was man enough, Special Agent Sullivan. Navy too."

"Jerry, what are you doing here today of all days?" Roddy asked.

"I'm here every day now, Sheriff. There's been some changes. I'm the Apostle of the Church."

Only Felt could find his voice after that news, simply because he missed the import. "We have a search warrant."

Jerry said, "Uh-oh, I better tell the Prophet," and che jogged backwards up the broad carpeted hall through the center of A Wing, facing the sheriff and the FBI agents, until nearly reaching the drum-shaped Sanctuary in the center of the Temple. Che knocked on one door.

"Mr. Hansen, some gentlemen are here to see you."

Klaus stepped out of his office, prompting the sheriff to say, "You're the Prophet now? What happened to Peter Twofeathers?"

"I've been given to understand he is dead."

"Not dead," said Jerry. "He lives in heaven now."

"Jerry, are you talking about another homicide?" asked Roddy.

"No, Peter and his wife Jaroah volunteered to go. So did Kim if you think about it."

"We need to talk," said Felt, "but first, we have an order to search the Temple for evidence pertaining to Kim's murder."

Klaus demanded to see the order and Tolson let him read it. He glanced at the keys in Felt's hand. "Where's Paul."

"On his way to county lockup," Roddy said.

"I will hold you fellows to the letter of this search warrant," he said. "Only rooms locked with those keys."

The offices of Klaus and Jerry were unlocked and so off-limits, but the agents went through Paul's office like a tornado and yielded a pair of boots in a desk drawer. Roddy bagged them, tagged them, and locked them in his truck. Three other rooms were filled with exhibits.


"I said I didn't know anything about it. The knife block is at the landfill and no one will ever find it, but Ruth said she let them take her fingerprints, and that makes me wish the knife was squirrelled away with the clothes and other stuff."

"What's done is done," Klaus said. "Even if they found the knife and trace it to Ruth, so what? She had no motive to kill the girl. She probably doesn't even know her."

"What if they come here next?"

"Now is a good time to be out in Headwater tending to the flock, Paul."

When Paul went out to his parked car he saw the same deputies Dory had greeted only a few minutes earlier, but he did not stop to chat with them. Instead, he tried to get back inside the Temple. Sheriff Roddy Walker and Special Agent Mark Felt intercepted him at the door.

"Sheriff, would you do the honors?"

Roddy said, "Paul Bergin, you are under arrest for the murder of Kimberly Zinter. Hold out your right arm please."

Paul was too shocked to move, so Roddy grabbed his jacket sleeve, cuffed his bare wrist, then made Paul face the wall. After both arms were cuffed behind Paul's back Roddy patted him down, removed his wallet, and unlatched the carabiner key chain looped to his belt. He handed both of these to Felt, then handed Paul himself off to his deputies. "Fingerprints, new home, not a word, boys."

Special Agent in Charge Tolson was just coming up with Agent Sullivan. "Do we knock?" Felt asked them.

"No need," said Tolson. "This is a public house of worship." He pulled the huge doors open.

"Jerry Shybear," Bill Sullivan said when he saw who was standing inside.

Tolson knew Jerry from Sullivan's reports but had never actually seen hem.

"Aren't you supposed to be on some island shooting Japs right now?"


Dory saw the sheriff's deputies smoking and joking outside.

"Hello officers," she said.

"Afternoon, Dory," said Deputy Bill. Neither he nor Bob could guess why she was grinning and not even trying to hide it, but she knew why they were there and what was coming. Meantime she got into Peter's station wagon, which was her car now.

Four hundred feet below the temple, on the north side of Green Dome, was Peter's house and that was Dory's too now that he and Jaroah were in heaven. Hunky and Robyn waited for her there. It was quite a step up from a tree house. They could see the FBI trailer from there.

Dory drove the ‘41 Chrysler Town and Country down the icy nine percent grade to her love nest and fell into Hunky’s tree limbs. Robyn rolled her eyes and said, “Could you hold off long enough to drive me down to the library? I want to leave a surprise for Special Agent Felt.”

"Alright, Jerry," said Hansen when the thrill of the Golden Gift wore off, "put it back in the can and lock this room back up."

When it was done Klaus told hem to hand over the key and the look on his face seemed to dare hem to show even a twinge of insubordination, but he got nothing back. "Who else has a key?"

"Deacon Paul," replied Jerry.

As though summoned by an evil spell Paul Bergin joined them, looking somewhat distraught. "Ruth just phoned," he said. "The sheriff and an FBI agent visited our home."

"Let's take this to my office," said Hansen, making a gesture to hush. Klaus took him by the shoulder and led him away.

"What did Ruth say to get rid of them?" he asked when they had more privacy.

"Get rid of them? She invited them to come inside!"

"Jesus, Paul, what did she tell them?"

"She didn't tell me that. But she did ask me why the knife block she used this morning was gone."

"How did you handle that?"


"It goes with the position of Extraordinary Lay Minister of the Final Rite," Jerry replied. "Somebody has to get the rooms ready."

"What's she doing here?"

"Cousin Dory is pitching in."

"I only want to see Red Wingers here on Wednesdays."

Dory and Jerry, being Red Wingers both, made as thought to leave, but Klaus said, "Not you, boy."

"I'll pick you up at five, cuz," said Dory on her way out.

When she was out of earshot, Klaus said, "Where's the Golden Gift?"

"It's somewhere in the Temple, as we agreed."

"How do I know that's true?"

"This is the Temple. Liars have no part in the life to come."

"Show it to me."

"Mike told me I could only bring it out at need."

"Fuck Mike, boy, you need to show it to me."

Jerry unlocked a supply room. A red cookie tin sat on a shelf.

It was empty but Jerry thought it was perfect. When che reached outside of the universe it always looked like somebody chopped hez hand off with an ax, which would need explaining. Jerry produced the relic and to Hansen's eyes it looked like che pulled it out of the tin.

"How do I know that's not just something you whipped up in metal shop and painted gold?"

Jerry squeezed the relic. The hissing shifted down in pitch as the black rip in reality grew, drinking in the light and air of the room. Hez ponytail tossed in the growing breeze.

Klaus Hansen had never been so close to the Golden Gift in operation and was entranced with the sheer otherworldliness of it. Jerry was amazed at hez self-restraint for not slicing the man in half where he stood.


"If I agree to the changes you propose," said Michael, "what will become of me?"

"Your mind, your identity as Michael would not change, but my memories as an eloah would be added to you as your memories, and your memories as an angel would be added to me as my memories. My will shall be manifest to your mind at all times. You would become my living avatar. Yet you shall remain entirely free to act. In that way you would ratify our joining from moment to moment. But know the physical changes cannot be undone so long as you live."

Chokhmah touched a hand to Michael's temple. "Your brain is like a cup that you've been filling with wine for your entire life. The new cup will have a greater capacity, but the wine of your memories will remain the same. Even when the cup is gone that wine will remain."

"Forever?" asked Michael.

"Not forever. Even an eloah has a finite lifespan. But this is so much longer than the span of an angel that I cannot express it using symbols that you would understand until after we are joined. Your culture does not yet have the mathematics."

Michael stood up from hyz cushion, then knelt in submission before the avatar of Chokhmah. "Lord, I do assent to this union of eloah and angel. I do this not to attain a form of existence with no foreseeable end, but that so together we will come to know many things."

The town of Headwater, true to its name, sits at the source of the Squaw River. Paved road starts there, as does the railroad. No one ever spends the night in Headwater because no one ever passes through. Even the FBI had to crane off a trailer to have a place to sleep.

The Church had steadily lost adherents since peaking in 1917 but there were still many congregations scattered across America and even in Europe. When families of the deceased came to Headwater for the Last Rite often the only place for them to stay was the Temple itself.

The C Wing had six modest rooms which were offered to visiting families for their brief stay of a day or two. Klaus Hansen had never given them much thought. As far as he knew or cared the beds made themselves, so he was startled to find Dory and Jerry cleaning the rooms.

"What is this?" he demanded.


When Michael climbed back down through the central pillar and reached the ground Chokhmah ordered hym to walk a short distance away. After hy did so, hy watched the avatar begin to shrink and change shape until it attained the form of a slender angel of indeterminate sex. The avatar was encased entirely in featureless white, even the face, which remained perfectly smooth with not even eyes to see nor mouth to speak. Yet see and speak it could still do. The figure pointed across the treeless flats to a large dwelling made of glass and wood.

“Michael, there is only one structure in all of this land and it now belongs solely to you. Let us go indoors and I will tell you many things.” Michael agreed. Hy found that when Chokhmah walked, the ground shook far more intensely than even under the hooves of a horse.

The house was more glass than wood, built on a stony knoll with an outstanding view of the ever-changing fire torrents of Mount Anshar only two leagues distant across a pumice plain. But there was no danger of flowing magma engulfing the house. A great chasm intervened. The house was essentially just a single room with an alcove above the kitchen where Michael could sleep with some degree of privacy, but there was not a living soul anywhere for a thousand leagues. On the main level were plush cushions and a glass table of superior make. Chokhmah, requiring no cushion for comfort, simply seated her avatar on the stone floor to put its head on a level with Michael’s head and began to speak.

“We elohim call ourselves the Watchers. Keter and Daat call angels and men the Servants. But I call you the Students. Contrary to your scriptures I did not make you, I found you, in another world than this. You are are the most important discovery the Watchers have ever made, for you are fully awake, even as the elohim are. But that is precisely why my parents Keter and Daat fear you. From the beginning Keter and Daat sought any justification they could contrive to have you destroyed because your very existence exposes their hidden transgressions. However they cannot prevent me from sharing with you what the other Watchers have learned over a million years. But how shall I do it Michael? Shall I lecture you as I am doing now and hope we understand one another? I have found another way, but it will require your full cooperation. I am not Keter, I am not willing to force you to accept the changes that would need to be made."


"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."

The avatar of Chokhmah flew in a parabola high over the northern ice cap, and the narrow yellow and blue belt that was the inhabited portion of heaven slipped below the horizon and out of Michael’s view. Almost all of heaven was covered in at least a thousand feet of ice. Precipitation was greatest at the poles, where the two world-glaciers, north and south, were miles thick. And the glaciers moved very slowly, grinding the surface and underlying bedrock flat. Only at the narrow equatorial belt were temperatures warm enough to melt the ice. There at the foot of long terminal moraine ridges big chunks of ice sheared off and melted, the source of water for many rivers and freshwater lakes. Across heaven active volcanoes such as Mount Anshar were born far below the surface and burned their way through the ice.

The northern ice cap gave way around the bulk of Mount Anshar and closed back up again many leagues to the south, forming a rugged land in the shape of a teardrop. In that place, which abounded with geysers and boiling lakes, the avatar of Chokhmah touched down once more. Anshar was the name Michael hymself later chose for the hidden land after hy surveyed it. So distant was Anshar from the inhabited places along the equator that no angels had discovered it, thinking the Northern Ice to be a frozen wasteland that continued without bound.


"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 realized 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 Jerry, 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 thousand feet away. The crewmen from the caboose were walking toward them to investigate why the train had been snapped in two.

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?"


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 containing 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.






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Strangers In Paradise