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75 – TUREL

Terel’s father Araphiel had been part of the first wave of colonists from House Gerash to get a foothold in the Jupiter system. He was a veteran of the Army of Mastema, a Hashmal with four wives. In his retirement, rather than accepting a landed estate at Magodon, Araphiel received a different subsidy in the form of a spacecraft, a cylinder somewhat larger than the Chivalrous given to Ithuriel. This was the frigate Exiler, designed for a crew of six.

Araphiel stuffed his four wives and all his children in Exiler and departed Palato through the fold-gate to the Sol system. He plied the four major moons and countless lesser moons, where he would land the frigate on the business end of the three engines wrapped around the main cylinder, looking for all the world like any random cover of the old school science fiction magazines that were contemporary on Earth at the time.

Araphiel traded in water and mined minerals, but over the years his wives and children began to die, one by one, because Jupiter was wrapped by a radiation belt that dwarfed the Earth’s own Van Allen belt, and it was correspondingly more saturated in radiation. Other sons, weakened by the radiation, would travel to Palato to make a bid for the rank of Ish in the armed forces of Sartael, only to be defeated, and their sisters became the wives of the victorious boys.

Lord Sartael was not concerned with Araphiel and his family situation in the slightest. His subsidy of the frigate Exiler was, in fact, an typically callous experiment. It was an attempt to breed a branch of White Beards who were resistant to the ionizing radiation of the Jupiter system. There were eggs that had to be broken as Darwin had his way and Araphiel’s family comprised not a few of them.

Eventually all the girls were either dead or farmed out, leaving none fror Araphiel’s youngest son Terel to wager in the Laraji, so he remained aboard the Exiler serving his father, and also his mother Adenaer. But she too had taken ill and succumbed to leukemia induced by the radiation years before her time.

After that, Ithuriel reached Ceres and passed along his discovery of the sub-macro to the military research wing of the Navy of Mastema. And when they had duplicated Ithuriel’s work, Exiler was recalled to Palato to receive three new macro engines that would fit in the gaps between the three old ones.

But there was a string attached. After the upgrade, Exiler was placed on reserve status in the fleet of Mastema, subject to be recalled at any time, which if it ever took place would sideline Araphiel and Turel somewhere for the duration. And if the Exiler was destroyed in battle, Araphiel would be permanently sidelined.

Araphiel countered with his own string and short-circuited Sartael’s radiation experiments on his family by using part of the electricity generated by the three macros to keep his ship lit up like a powered Faraday cage. After that the hull of Exiler was capable of turning away charged particles of any kind.

It was too late for Araphiel, of course, the damage was done. He would soon follow his wife into death, but the new shielding gave Turel and any family he chose to start a chance to live much longer and healthier lives, at least until the Navy of Mastema confiscated the ship and ended up losing it in the interminable wars with the Beaters.

Araphiel’s death was much more wretched than that of his mother or any of Turel’s sisters. The end had come while Exiler was in orbit around Io, and he had been charged by his father to give him a proper burial, not eject his body into space where it would soon by covered by sulphur dust and look ridiculous should any travelers find it again.

The orange and yellow and red pizza satellite of Jupiter called Io beckoned to Terel below. He landed on a powdery white gypsum plain and buried his father there. He didn’t bother to mark the location of the grave with a monument. Io was the most volcanically active body in the system. There were four hundred active volcanoes, and twenty of those were erupting even as Turel laid his the body of his father to rest under the surface. The debris from one of those hundreds of volcanoes would soon cover this burial site, perhaps with an entirely different substance, and render it incognito.

Io was a cornucopia of mineral wealth, but it was a violent place. Aside from the volcanoes there were constant moonquakes, gas vents, and geysers of molten sulfur caused by Jupiter’s tidal grip on the satellite interacting with the eccentricity of the moon’s orbit, which itself was maintained by a gravitational resonance with two other large moons of Jupiter.

When Turel returned to the interior of Exiler he found a strong return on radar about twenty-two miles to the southeast and thought it could be an outcropping of metal ore. Terel didn’t have a separate vehicle to check it out. He had to fire up his engines and use his whole ship to make a short hop to the contact.

When he arrived he found a fresh sinkhole, with some type of machine half-swallowed by it. Terel donned his spacesuit to make the short walk over and investigate.

If someone was inside, Terel at least knew why he hadn’t picked up a distress call. There was an antenna that had been snapped clean off. He picked up a stone and banged on the exterior, then set his helmet against the machine to hear any reply since sound could not travel well at all in Io’s extremely thin atmosphere. Presently there came a metallic return banging, so Terel interpreted that as an invitation to try the inflatable air lock in the rear of the large machine.

Inside was a very young woman Terel found to be extremely beautiful despite being knocked around a little by the walls of the tilting machine. “You’ve come to save me!” she yelped, throwing herself on him and squeezing him hard.

He took off his helmet. “My name is Terel.”

“Greidi,” she said, touching the hair rolled in at her shoulders that was as black as his own hair was white. She was, in fact, of the House of Larund. “I’ve been stuck here for days.”

“What is this thing?”

“This is one of my father’s topsoil harvesters. A sinkhole opened right up under me while I was working.”

“Why didn’t your father come looking for you?”

“I’m sure he is, actually, but I flew the harvester down from orbit and this looked like a good spot. My father and brothers don’t have a clue where to start looking.”

“Maybe I can pull you out.”

“It won’t do any good, I’ll still be stuck here, and maybe so will you. The front of the harvester is crushed.”

“Well, Greidi, get your suit on and we’ll walk over to my ship.”

“I don’t have a suit. Look, I live on my father’s ship. I just get in the harvester, come down here and drive around until it’s full, fly back to the ship, and my brothers empty the bins and get the harvester ready for the next day. I’ve been doing this since I was eleven and nothing ever happened. I never needed a suit.”

“Greidi, when you take such little regard for your own safety, you’re not thinking about those who love you. I’ll be back shortly.”

Terel went to his vessel and obtained something like a body bag, but with metal hose fittings on it. When he returned to the harvester, he laid it out and asked Greidi to crawl inside it. “This isn’t a full-up spacesuit but it’s the best I can do. It’s used by the navy to transport wounded in airless places. I’m going to carry you to my ship.”

So he zipped her up, plugged the bag into his suit to inflate it, and set out on foot back to his own ship, carrying her easily in the small gravity. With the farway sun glinting off his vacuum suit, Terel was literally Greidi’s Knight In White Shining Armor.

On his ship he plied Greidi with food. She was starving after being trapped in the sinkhole for so long. As he watched her eat and talk to him, stretching out the long bare legs of her seven foot frame and flashing smiles at him, Terel quietly and methodically fell in love. And a good thing too. He was luckier than he knew.

Most of the men available to Greidi were simple laborers. The ones who had any money or property were few and far between. Yet here was Terel with his own ship, and a fairly large ship at that. Obviously he was a man of means. She knew her father would be just as interested in Terel as she was, but in a totally different way. Not realizing that Terel was smitten already, Greidi didn’t even dare to hope she might land Terel. The trends were against it. Resigned to her fate, she told him where to go to rendezvous with her father’s ship.

Naseth’s ship, which was nameless, was roughly the same size on the outside as Terel’s, with without macros, which for the time being remained the monopoly of the Navy of Mastema. There was somewhat more living space inside Naseth’s ship than Exiler. The lesser volume of water tankage didn’t matter because Naseth never left the Jupiter system, where water was plentiful, especially at Europa which had an ocean of water under a thin crust of ice.

Terel returned Naseth’s daughter to him with his compliments and her virtue entirely intact. Joyous at her safe return, Naseth invited Terel to abide with him for a while so he could show his gratitude.

The Naseth operation was moderately well-to-do. Naseth, his wife, and their two sons (with help from Greidi) surface mined Io for the ever-renewing minerals that streaked the surface as the moon continuously turned itself inside-out.

Naseth was also a wise man, and he could see the love Terel had for Greidi written in the man’s eyes as plain as could be, even if Greidi herself, overcome with self-doubt, was blind to it. But Naseth thought of his own interests as well. He began to speak time and again how important his daughter’s role was to his family’s livelihood, how she had been a good earner for years, and what a struggle it would be if she ever left. Naseth’s transparent ploy nevertheless had the intended effect.

“Sir, I will serve you three years for the hand of your daughter Greidi,” Terel told him, taking the plunge. “Though it has been a very short time, I have already come to love your daughter, and over that three years I will only grow to love her much more.”

Naseth was definitely willing to accept Terel’s offer. He said, “Daughter, will you agree to this?”

Her heart seemed to skipped a few beats, but she quickly regained her composure. “Let it be done as he said,” said she.

So Terel lived and worked with Naseth’s family and put his own vessel at the service of Naseth until the three years of his servitude were fulfilled. The Naseths prospered ever more, and although Terel never touched the daughter of Naseth and broke the trust, the three years flew by as though they were as many weeks, because Terel loved Greidi so greatly.

During this period, Lord Sartael died, and the new High Lord Patriarch of the House of Gerash was Asmodiel. Turel feared that at any time the navy would call in their marker and demand he render up Exiler to them before he fulfilled his years of service to Naseth.

But it was not to be, and finally there came a day when Terel went to Naseth and said, “The days of my service are complete. Now give your daughter Greidi to be my wife, as you agreed.”

And Naseth said, “Yet a few days more, Terel. A ship orbiting a moon of Jupiter, one that Greidi has lived in for so long, is no place to hold a proper wedding.”

So when all was ready, Terel and the whole family of Naseth went down to Jupiter itself in a rented lighter to a platform on the balloon city of Onex.

Financed by the money from hydrogen scooping, and unthinkable only a decade before, the city of Onex was supported by three vast balloons in the supremely dangerous atmosphere of the planet, which nevertheless (or perhaps even as a byproduct of the danger) was a place of indescribable beauty.

Think of all the colors of a thunderstorm coinciding with a sunset on Earth, with vast pink thunderheads many miles high, lightning flashes, and dark cloud shadows sliced by sunrays in a glory, and you had the weather of Onex on a drab day.

Such beauty came with a steep price. The gravity on Jupiter was two and a half times more intense than on Barbelo. Some nephilim from Barbelo lived in the balloon cities precisely because the intense gravity, endured day after day, would condition them for great combat strength and endurance. But Turel and Greidi and the family of her father Naseth, who dwelt their entire lives in free fall or perhaps briefly on one of the Galilean moons with only a fraction of Barbelo’s gravity, would be absolutely unable to cope under the gravity of Jupiter without wearing hydraulically-powered open exoskeletons to stand up and move about.

And it was also a time of political tension on Jupiter. The new balloon cities collected hydrogen from the Jovian atmosphere with scoops and liquefied it. This hydrogen was a far more efficient propellant than water. A year before Terel’s wedding the Navy of Mastema destroyed the balloon city of Gildass with its attendant scoop to increase the value of the White Beards’ own Europa seawater. A state of war existed between the inhabitants of Jupiter and the Empire of Mastema.

Naseth was not a poor man. It was a lavish wedding, and especially lavish too was the scenery on Jupiter for the entire five hours of daylight of the Jupiter day. Against this incredible panorama, as Terel and Greidi exchanged lifetime vows to become man and wife, another balloon city, Jossis, was seen passing Onex a hundred miles away. They were like ships at sea, meeting for the very first time.

And the last time.

In a second missile attack, distant Jossis was destroyed in the full view of Terel and Greidi’s wedding party at the height of the reception.

The guests were horrified to see the supporting balloons punctured and thousands of people falling to their deaths deep in the churning depths of Jupiter, where the pressures rose beyond the imagination.

Thoroughly intimidated, the eleven surviving cities, including Onex, immediately scaled back their liquefaction operations to meet the demands of House Gerash. Terel fled Jupiter with Greidi and her family, and after that Turel took his bride to the Exiler parked above Io.

Greidi’s dowry was one of her father’s harvesters. With Exiler, Greidi’s harvester, and Greidi harself, Terel could immediately set up a rival operation to Naseth business. But he honored his father-in-law too much to deliberately strike at his living. So he left Io entirely and went to the next satellite out from Jupiter.

The Jovian moon Europa was just slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon, with a surface just six percent of the Earth’s total area, but there were almost no craters on Europa. The entire surface of the satellite was water ice about six hundred feet thick and only a hundred degrees Kelvin above absolute zero. Underneath that ice was a saltwater ocean sixty miles deep and as warm as a heated swimming pool.

Driven by tidal forces as Europa orbits Jupiter every three and a half days, the thin crust of the satellite was always cracking open in random places, allowing liquid water to be exposed to the vacuum of space and freeze. This made the surface of the moon a chaotic jumbled mess, There were icy ridges two hundred feet high alternating with ravines just as deep, all oriented at crazy angles.

It was impossible to build a road on Europa, and it wouldn’t last for very long even if one was attempted. So despite being one of the smoothest bodies in the Solar System, with no mountains to speak of, it was perhaps the most difficult place in the Jupiter system for colonists from Barbelo to get around, except by flying point-to-point.

But the House of Gerash didn’t take that into account when they barged into the Jupiter system first and took over Europa and what they thought was the sweetest meat. Mastema thought only of all that water, which his ships even with their new macro engines still required for reaction mass.

House Gerash soon found there were absolutely no other resources on Europa within easy reach. All the metals they required had to be imported. The only advantage Europa had over Ganymede or Callisto (which also had a mix of ice and rock) was that the ice didn’t have to chiseled out and melted first.

So Europa was a money pit, a black hole sucking up Asmodiel’s treasure and returning no profit to him at all. It wasn’t even suitable for a navy garrison. Hy operated Europa at a loss, therefore, perhaps only as a prestige showcase, just to say the White Beards had a toehold at Sol. The families of the Gerash clan who were established there lived largely on the Imperial dole.

Electrical power there was plentiful to be sure, obtained by taking advantage of the large thermal gradient between the frozen surface and the warm underground liquid reservoir, but on Europa it was a life where almost nothing could be thrown away. Every piece of garbage had to be weighed in the mind with regard to its possible value after being recycled.

So the colony languished, and after a time Asmodiel thought of it seldom, if ever. Europa rarely figured in the military conflicts of the colonies. The largest towns on Europa numbered only in the hundreds of souls. Family Gerash on Europa shattered into thousands of individual families living in homesteads or small communal farms with very little communication between each other.

Terel and Greidi had just enough time to establish their own homestead on Europa, and even beget a son named Lahatiel and a baby daughter named Noriel, before the Navy of Mastema came calling and took the frigate Exiler away from them.



Life in the Boda Underground wasn’t all business. In late spring of 1946 Robyn gave birth to her son, Edgar Shybear. Because he was to be born essentially a fugitive, it had to be a home delivery. A hospital was clearly out of the question. The entire Boda, including now Becky also, did everything they could to make Robyn comfortable but there was no solution for Robyn’s labor pain. Between contractions she said, “It hurts like hell.”

Anyone who had attended the End Dome secondary school in Selleck knew perfectly well the reason for a woman’s suffering in labor, and it wasn’t the curse on mother Eve. Humans were the only animals on Earth that walked upright. At every moment, they were faced with the threat of being disemboweled simply by standing up. So the hole in the pelvic floor had to be as small as possible to prevent that. At the same time, humans had the largest brains of any animal on Earth as a percentage of their total body mass. So the opening in the pelvis could not be too small, or the infant would be wedged in the birth canal and die. The baby’s skull did not fully form until after birth, so it deformed during birth to ease the passage, but the ordeal was still very dangerous for both, and very painful for the mother.

But when it was over Robyn had baby Edgar, who came with a little pad of soft black hair. Robyn found that words would always fail to fully convey this greatest possible of human experiences, that of bringing another human life into the world.

Edgar was ruddy, feisty, and beautiful. Robyn loved to hold his face close to her own and sniff his soft baby scent, that special new person smell. Robyn was Edgar’s mother! And Jerry’s joy in Edgar was just as great as Robyn’s, even if as a man he could never grasp the full depth of Robyn’s experience giving life to the boy.

But Robyn herself tempered the happy occasion. Speaking from her abilities of precognition which came with the Change she told her friends, “If leave our tunnels and Safe Houses and venture outside, we will be caught within a day. If we stay down here out of sight, we will still be caught, but in a week.”

This sobered everyone greatly, because none of them could think of a way to get out of the trap.

Four days after that oracle, Dory woke up to find her head bump had sprung open, revealing the same fifty-five pins that appeared on Robyn and Hunky, at the back of their heads. Then Hunky brought out the Purple Cable she had taken from the Clinic at Hanford and together with Dory she discovered the Sharing. First they joined together, skull-to-skull, through the cable.

“Come on, Hunky,” Dory said, “This will work a hell of a lot better without your jeans.” Tentatively, Dory started to peeled them down off Hunky’s legs and let Hunky kick them the rest of the way off. Even with her knees somewhat apart Hunky’s muscular thighs touched together, but that was exactly the way Dory wanted them to be. “Beautiful!” Dory gasped when she saw them, and through the Purple Cable Hunky knew Dory believed that statement to be totally true. There could be absolutely no deception in the Sharing, no phoniness.

Dory began to kiss Hunky’s legs and inner thighs gently, then kissed her tummy along the top of her cotton panties, and at each step she was doing exactly what Hunky wanted done to herself. In a way, being hooked up to Dory, Hunky was doing everything to herself, yet this was infinitely better.

Then Dory kissed Hunky through her white underwear directly on her damp sex. She savored the smell of her there, and because there could be nothing hidden with the Purple Cable, Hunky knew that Dory really did love the smell of her, simply by sharing the experience and enjoying it herself.

Dory used her teeth to slide Hunky’s undies down off her ankles and then she reversed herself, taking the classic sixty-nine position. Her own slender irresistible thighs were splayed over Hunky’s face so Hunky began to kiss inside them too. She licked the two creases where Dory’s legs joined together, and finally she nuzzled the textured lips of Dory’s slightly parted slit.

With the Purple Cable, Dory felt that she was Hunky, and she thought that it was she herself who was somehow on the bottom doing the licking. And while Dory was licking Hunky in return it felt like she was licking herself.

And Hunky also felt she was somehow also on top licking her original self. There was absolutely no border between their sensations as ‘Dory’ licking and being licked, and their sensations as ‘Dory-being-Hunky’ licking and being licked.

And there was absolutely no border between their sensations as ‘Hunky’ licking and being licked, and their sensations as ‘Hunky-being-Dory’ licking and being licked.

It was a swirling stew of identities where Hunky and Dory became mixed up into each other, lost in each other, until their names floated free of the identities they were attached to.

They jammed their faces tighter into each other’s pulsing hips and thighs. Their body image literally became one as they simultaneously clambered into each other and were clambered into. The pleasure was continuous, rising in pace as the sensations climbed inexorably upward. The instant feedback of the Purple Cable seemed to synchronize them. They rose in tension together. Time for them slowed to only twenty percent of its normal pace.

Then there was a gasp. “Oh honey,” Dory said. It was all she could manage to say. There had been a separation. She was Dory now, her name had returned to her. She was having her orgasm and her mind automatically and selfishly gathered every scrap of pleasure to burn leaving little to share.

Then the intensity of her burning welled up and absolutely went off the dial. Dory arched her back and every muscle in her body locked up for a moment. There was no breathing, no thought, and her eyes simply stared at nothing. Then she bent her head back into the blankets and was thrashing and moaning as every nerve ending in her toes, her fingers, her face, and her scalp began to fire with white-hot signals of ecstasy. The pleasure felt like it was scrubbing every cell in her body.

But catching just the periphery of Dory’s supernova immediately triggered the other identity to have a climax of her own. In that instant she was Hunky again. And all the pleasure she’d experienced up to that moment had given her no clue that there was capacity for much, much more. Hunky’s joy went off the charts as well.

Then with stately precision their bodies synchronized together again and moved from the eye-crossing phase of their orgasm to the part that squeezed out all the pooled blood from their hips.

But since they were also cruising at a time reduction factor of five their automatic four-fifth second orgasmic contractions seemed to happen every four seconds. Their pelvic muscles opened up and clamped down, gathering and squeezing, each contraction was like a separate orgasm in its own right, going on and on. The pleasure was beyond belief, approaching the infinite. It filled every shred of their being even as the waves began to subside.

But all good things must come to an end, They came down slowly together, caressing, snuggling each other, utterly tuned in to each other, and tapering off with the same perfect attentiveness that defined this new kind of lovemaking.

When they were finished they couldn’t even say “Wow.” But it occurred to both of them that they would always have this Sharing.

Later, meeting with the rest of the Boda in the tunnels, Hunky held up the Purple Cable and said, “Robyn, you gotta try this thing!”

But Robyn and Jerry and Becky were distracted, because a strange woman had appeared in the tunnel wearing an army uniform. The woman also had a young man in tow.

Jerry assumed they were some of the bastards who were looking for Robyn and Hunky, He drew the Golden Gift, let the beam out for about a foot, and said, “Who the hell are you people?”

“I am your God, but you may address me as Lilith, young Jerry Shybear.”

“Sure,” said Hunky, who was a woman of faith and easily offended. “God is an English woman dressed like a meter maid.”

“Dressed as a Lieutenant Colonel, rather, Miss Hunky, not a meter maid, and I am no longer English, I’ll have you know, but my new country doesn’t quite exist on this timeline, alas.” And when Jerry didn’t stow his Golden Gift, Lilith drew her own version and lit it off.

“Where did you get that?” Robyn demanded.

“I created it, Robyn. That’s what deities do. I also made the one that Jerry is pointing at me so rudely. In fact, if any of you are willing to accept it, the two weapons are really one and the same.”

“How do you know our names?” Dory asked, also growing angry.

Lilith said, “I already told you how I know, Dory, but you must have a problem listening. Allow me to remedy that.” And in that very instant, Dory began to have the power to communicate wordlessly with any member of the Boda who had experienced the Change. “That will have to do for now,” Lilith said, both vocally and in a more direct way that could be heard by Dory’s mind at the same time. “Later I will provide a solution that has unlimited range.”

And Dory sank to her knees, silently saying to Robyn and Hunky, the other two members of the Boda whose cup had bloomed, “Lilith is who she says she is: God!”

Robyn and Hunky heard that declaration in their minds and sank to their own knees as well. But Lilith said, with a small amount of irritation, “Do stand back up, children, and do not drop before me again unless I command you to do so. Time is far too short for any of that fooferaw. I already know I am great. I do not need the reminder.”

“Unless you command us to do so?” Becky asked, incredulously.

Lilith drew near to Becky and said, “We shan’t say what your name is quite yet, or shall we? And yes, all of you children have been running loose since toying around with my golden Ark, and you have stumbled onto a very unproductive path in my opinion. Rats living under people’s houses, is it? It’s far past time you had a little supervision. Your little club, your little group of three that you call the Boda, but with five members, we shall have to step that up a bit. From now on you are the B’nei Elohim: The offspring of the gods.”

“Who is the gentleman that you brought along, Lilith?” asked Jerry.

Lilith turned to face him, but Becky muttered to her back, “My name is Rebecca Hahn.”

Lilith ignored this and said to Jerry, “I’m shocked that a father would not recognize his own son. This is Edgar Shybear of course.”

Jerry gaped at her, and turned to study the young man more closely. He had to admit there was a slight family resemblance, but his newborn son had arrived much too recently for him to make the connection. Edgar the Elder found his voice and said, “Hello father.”

And Lilith said, “Jerry say hello to your own son, but from the Sixties. I brought him back here to the Forties to teach you something about the Golden Gift that he learned when he was a bit older than he is ‘now’ when he is still being breast-fed by Robyn.”

And Robyn, breast-feeding Edgar the Younger even as Lilith spoke, said, “I suppose if you really are God then time travel is not beyond your capabilities.” She was in a very mellow mood. Since the arrival of Lilith all the visions of immanent doom dropped out of her mind.

Lilith smiled and nodded. “Sorry about the delay, Robyn, and for shaving things so very close to the time when DECON was to come in here and take you all into custody, as you correctly foresaw, but it just seemed more graceful to make the introduction after the infant Edgar had already been born.” She turned back to face Becky. “Yes, I issue commands and expect them to be obeyed, yet none of you are slaves, and each of you is perfectly free to stay down here in the dark and snatch a few morsels from the homes above until DECON scoops you up. Or you can take your rightful place as demigods in my project. The choice is entirely your own.”



Barbelo exists in a double-star system circling the orange sun, the less bright of the two stars. From early in the space-going era of Barbelo nephilim managed only to send robotic probes to the system of the yellow-white sun, a crossing that took anywhere from six to nine years. These probes revealed the existence of a double-planet called Hybla-Dia in the habitable zone, but the required time-of-flight for the transit was somewhat beyond the ability of most nephilim to endure. Only a handful of Beaters starting from the swarm of asteroids between the two systems managed to win through.

But when Ithuriel reached his sub-macro breakthrough the transit time was reduced to just over a single year. At first, Asmodiel ignored Hybla-Dia and was content only to refit his entire navy with the new sub-macro engines and weaponry. But Ithuriel had leaked the secret to the B’nei Elohim from the very beginning, and Lilith made sure the technology found its way into the hands of the Beaters in short order. Colonists began to trickle through to the double-planet at a far greater rate than before, but still Asmodiel was not interested.

Ithuriel, who originally was Edgar the Younger, was revered throughout both systems as the father of the sub-macro, but Edgar the Elder, who had stayed behind at Taurus City, eventually stumbled on to his own signature invention. But it was a breakthrough of such overwhelming importance Lilith insisted that he share it with no one until he made contact with the Beaters directly, and even then only when he had been taken far away out of the grasp of Asmodiel.

So Edgar traveled to Barbelo by way of the Sacred Pool, then traveled to the ice, where he reached orbit over Barbelo in the same manner his younger self had gotten himself off-planet. He spent the first year making his way deep into the Eggbeater to reach his Beater handlers, and the second year had been spent aboard a cruiser named Superior on a crossing to the yellow sun and Hybla-Dia.

From space, during the final approach, Edgar beheld the double-planet. Altered by tides and mountain-building into teardrop shapes, Hybla and Dia, which were slightly uneven in size, came within four hundred miles of touching each other. Even from the distance Edgar was watching it was clear they shared a common atmosphere across the gap.

Iadiel, the Beater navigation officer, guided Superior into the space between the two planets. When they entered the atmosphere Edgar could hear the air howling against the hull.

At length Captain Armaros told Iadiel to kill the engines, and wind resistance gradually brought the ship to a complete stop to allow their special guest Edgar to take a very good look.

“Oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere,” the operations officer Zagiel told Edgar. “Lots of native plant life. A little heavy on the oxygen but quite breathable. Temperature is comfy warm. We call this zone Central. The gravity between the two planets is almost canceled out. From here we can go anywhere you want.”

“I thought your primary mission was to resupply Redemption,” Edgar said.

But Captain Armaros said. “It has been a very long crossing, and I thought you might want to experience a little time off the damn ship before rejoining us at the Redemption. It is entirely up to you, sir.”

Edgar looked at the tips of the “teardrops” where the pointy ends of Hybla and Dia nearly kissed. “Thank you very much, Captain Armaros. I believe I will take you up on your offer. If you would move toward the tip of Hybla and put the ship down a few miles from the summit, I am game for bagging the highest mountain ever discovered in the universe.”

The captain smiled at this suggestion and told his navigator to immediately comply with Edgar’s request.

“Captain, if you would,” said Zagiel,” now that we have safely arrived within the heart of Beaterdom in this system, I believe Superior can carry on nicely without requiring an operations officer. And it is not entirely safe for Edgar to make his ascent alone.”

“If you accompany our esteemed B’nei Eloah passenger on his impromptu liberty call you will have my enthusiastic permission.”

After the Superior drew near to the slope it took some amount of looking, but Iadiel found a ledge just wide enough to allow him set the whole ship down. Lukas and Bastian emerged from the bottom of the attached lander and threaded their way between two sub-macro drives to the surface of Hybla. They were wearing black working uniforms with short-sleeves, and carried small packs with water and food. After they moved further away from the ship, Iadiel used a few puffs of the thrusters to take off again. Then Superior began a steady burn that would take them upward, close to the exact gravitational null point were Redemption was being assembled.

Edgar and Zagiel ascended the biggest mountain in the universe without breaking a sweat. Close to their summits where the gravity of the double planet nearly canceled out the burden of climbers was light indeed. They bounced their way towards the top with graceful alternating touches of their feet and hands. Despite the steep slope of the wall here, in minimal gravity rock climbing was largely just a matter of intelligently choosing one’s route, more a ballet than a demonstration of endurance and strength.

Looking down Edgar saw the flanks of their mountain merge into the rest of the planet Hybla thousands of miles below. He saw undulating gray ridges and long skinny deep blue lakes, all partly obscured by clouds. Looking straight up, the identical but slightly smaller blue and green bulk of the neighboring planet Dia filled half of the sky with its own mega-mountain seeming to nearly poke him in the eye.

Looking out, Edgar saw a handful of other tourists with strap-on wings circling the mountain, rising on the winds. The distant orange sun of Barbelo hung out there in the vaguely greenish sky. That was the home star of all the nephilim, and even from Hybla-Dia it gave far more light than the full Moon ever did during the nighttime on Earth. Never was it ever truly night at Hybla, never was it truly dark with both suns under the horizon, for even in that case, Dia lit up half the sky.

A brisk wind was coming straight up from beneath them. The twin planets were tidally locked on each other, but as a unit they rotated, first once side facing the bright yellow sun and then the other. When the sun heated one planet, the air expanded and flowed toward the cool planet. When the twin worlds rotated 180° the winds flowed the other way. And so it went, back and forth, forever.

Even more astonishing than the view, Edgar saw a classic piston monoplane spiraling up the narrowing flanks of the Hybla super-mountain, rising under minimal power with the wind. When the plane rose up over the lip of the compact but flat summit plateau the pilot killed its engine, an actual internal combustion engine by the sound of it, Edgar thought. In the low gravity the plane settled to the ground with three slow bounces on its fat rubber tires.

The door of the plane opened and a woman stepped out with dark gray eyes, but there was no hair on her head at all. Edgar knew her for a Beater immediately. The Beaters, an incredibly shattered sub-set of humanity, possessed a wide variety of forms and appearances, a fact that never failed to disgust the Gerash patriarch.

“Hello,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting you to be up here, I almost hit you. My name is Araxiel.”

“I am Zagiel, and this is Edgar Shybear, from the Sol system.”

“Are you part of the Redemption project?”

Edgar judged it safe to say that they were, but mentioned he had been talked into this side trip first by the crew of Superior.

“I’m the person responsible for morale, welfare, and recreation,” she said. “Those tourists you see out there on the wing, I brought them here. And if you wish, I can bring you straight to Redemption now.”

“Say, actually, I’d like to give your plane a whirl,” Edgar said.

“Do you know how to operate a prop job?”

“Only from books. But on Earth I’ve got thousands of hours of flight time in a saucer. How hard can this be?”

The plane had two in-line counter-rotating propellers, so engine torque wouldn’t spin the body of the whole plane in the low gravity. Edgar was flying straight up. It took an hour to cross the two hundred miles to the null point, and he enjoyed every minute of it.

The gravitational null point was slightly closer to Hybla than to Dia. Nephilim lived and played there totally free of the bonds of gravity. Many sports involving nephil-powered flight were possible.

As Edgar came in he saw many self-contained houses floating in the air, maintaining their position with little automatic puffs of air. The Redemption, still only partially constructed, floated next to a green grassy round rock, and Superior in turn floated next to it. The Beaters had positioned a huge chunk from one of the mountain summits here as a home base “asteroid” and covered it with grass and shrubs.

Arrival procedures were quaint. Edgar killed the plane’s engines and maneuvered solely on their inertia with rudder and flaps. Zagiel stood on a strut of the plane and tossed a line, which was caught by some of Araxiel’s people after two attempts as they sat in a tree on the floating rock with their legs wrapped around one of the thicker branch. Working together, Araxiel and Zagiel drew the rope taut until the plane was fastened to the tree with only a short space to cross between them. Then it just hung out there and the end of the line.

Without an anchor like the rock, one traveled with the alternating wind as the rain condensed in clouds, so it never really rained. But the asteroid’s inertia allowed the rain to “fall”. It allowed the capture of rain in “ponds” which were really just big round globules of water. Some of this water was used in steam jets powered by burning wood to keep the green rock in the sweet spot. If they ever went unattended for very long the rock would drift to far toward either Hybla or Dia and crash.

When Araxiel and Edgar and Zagiel arrived at the rock they used handheld thrusters to get around until they were given strap-on wings by some of Araxiel’s subordinates. Edgar and Zagiel were taken out into the air to try to catch birds for dinner, but they couldn’t quite manage it. Some of the more experienced Beaters snagged meals for them.

“We never hunt for sport, only for food,” one of them said. “Here we have transformed our conception of a planet from an ‘it’ to be exploited to a mother with whom to have a relationship.”

As Edgar shared a dinner of barbecued but unidentified bird with Zagiel, the other Beaters asked him many questions about why he had come, but Edgar insisted his briefing not begin until he actually got aboard Redemption to allow the commanding officer, Atarculph, to gauge who should be allowed to hear it. But all of that would wait for the morning. In the meantime, Edgar enjoyed what was undoubtedly the best vacation of his life, and well-deserved, after a year in the confined spaces of Superior.

The briefing was given in the large space that would eventually be called the wardroom of Redemption, but for the time being it was missing many of the hull plates that would seal in the ship’s atmosphere, and it was therefore still open to the air that filled Central between Hybla Dia.

Edgar noted that Miss Araxiel was not present, but all of the officers of Superior were there, including Captain Armaros, Zagiel, Iadiel, and the others. Additionally, there were many officers present who would serve aboard Redemption when she was completed and got underway on her historic flight, including the man named Atarculph who headed the project and would lead the ship has her commanding officer.

Atarculph welcomed everyone to the briefing, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased at long last to welcome from Earth the newest member of our project, Lord Edgar Shybear, one of the legendary B’nei Elohim. It is Edgar who will make our voyage itself possible, as well as ensure immediate force protection in such a way that no harm should come to Redemption before she is ready to embark. I will allow him to explain what he brings to the table here at Central and the true reason behind I we have asked for such heroic efforts from each of you. Lord Edgar, if you will?”

Edgar floated to the center of the partially-completed wardroom and said, “Thank you very much, Atarculph, and I have to say the location you have chosen to construct Redemption is the most incredible place I have ever seen or even imagined. It will be a shame to leave it, really.

“By now it would be safe to say that humanity (and I include the nephilim) has finally grown up. We have outgrown our earlier period when we believed in the gods, and we are fully aware that those beings that we used to call gods, namely Mastema, El Shaddai, and Bat-El, are really just aliens with physical bodies which happen to also be suns. The Elohim live much longer than we do, but they, like us and every other living thing in this universe are born, live, and die.

“For much longer than humans have had the knowledge to leave written records behind there has been a Great Controversy between El Shaddai and Mastema, and though this Controversy has its origin in what passes for sex among the Elohim, and seems to us therefore to be trivial, for better or worse it has been the biggest factor driving nephilim history on Barbelo and human history on Earth. Bat-El, another Eloah and daughter of El Shaddai, was also born as a result.

“The bottom line of this Great Controversy is that both El Shaddai and Bat-El are blocked from contacting any of the trillions of other Elohim that live in our universe, not just in our galaxy but in many others that surround it. Mastema and Belial stand firmly across their only means of mind-to-mind communication with this larger community.

“We also know that the naval forces of the Empire are largely just support ships for a device that was constructed by Mastema himself long ago called an avatar, which he keeps at Palato as the ultimate guarantee of his power over Barbelo. And we know from history that El Shaddai also had an avatar, but that it was destroyed in our world war two thousand years ago. It would not be hard at all for El Shaddai to construct a replacement avatar and send this device to one of the neighboring stars, make physical contact with the star, and end the Great Controversy once and for all.

“But Mastema anticipated that move long ago, and struck a bargain with El Shaddai that he must never resort to that expedient. El Shaddai was never to make direct contact with the Elohim outside of the fold-space lines that were used to communicate with his two parents. In return for accepting this condition, El Shaddai was granted read-only access to the entire network of Elohim.

“In some ways this bargain merely made the misery of El Shaddai that much greater. After getting this one-way access he could see the nearly infinite community that he was being denied. And yet El Shaddai did not despair, because Mastema, in his arrogance, left humans and nephilim entirely out of his calculations. And he continues to do so to this very day.

“Some time ago I penetrated the secret of what we call the Golden Gift, a device made by El Shaddai to convert normal matter into dark matter. It was used as a weapon, but also an excavation tool. The way I like to demonstrate how it works is to use a set of coins to represent normal atoms, and I stand those coins up on their edge to represent the dark matter they become when passed through the beam of the Golden Gift. This discovery led to the sub-macro, and that in turn is what opened up Hybla-Dia to settlement by the Beaters. But while giving with one hand it took with the other, and the Navy of Mastema is also far more dangerous now.

“At this time I would like to take the opportunity to reveal a new discovery that I have made along the same lines, and again the way I would demonstrate the concept is using that set of coins. Make them lay on a table as all heads. That represents normal matter. Stand them up with a macro, as before, but give them an additional little push. They lay back down again on the table as tails. They’ve been flipped into mirror matter, or what we call on Earth antimatter.

“And that, as all of you are well aware, is the key to most powerful engines that can exist in this universe, and also the most powerful weapons. Far more powerful in fact than is possible even with the sub-macro. That is the technology I am now giving to you.”

Baradiel stood forth then, he who would be the chief engineer of the Redemption. He said, “Lord Edgar, are you making the claim that it will take less energy to create antimatter with this matter flipper than we will be able to obtain from the reaction?”

“Indeed that is the case. The input energy will be on the same order as that required to power any normal macro.”

“Then I must make the usual objection grounded in the Laws of Thermodynamics. With all due respect, Lord Edgar, you are coming across as one of those charlatans who offer to sell a machine to make energy from nothing.”

“And I will answer your objection, sir, by saying that the reaction is gamma rays, which represent an enormous increase in the entropy of the universe. When these gamma rays transform in turn to matter, let us say fermions, it will be equal parts electrons and positrons. The great imbalance we find ourselves living in, where the universe is almost exclusively composed of matter and not antimatter, will have been diluted a tiny bit.”

“I think I understand, Lord Edgar,” said Baradiel. “We can imagine the end state of the universe after extensively using this matter flipper as existing in a kind of heat death, when matter and antimatter are thoroughly mixed together, and flipping any given sample of this mixed state would merely result in the inverse, which would remain a similarly mixed state.”

“Precisely! Now it is the command of Lilith, the human incarnation of El Shaddai, to use this matter flipper only to prepare weapons for the defense of Redemption, and also for the engines of Redemption herself. She is not interested in the technology somehow reaching Asmodiel, who would only use it to continue the endless bloodshed in two star systems that he loves so much, and at a significantly elevated pace. No, our purpose is far more noble than that. Someday, when our children’s children begin to get traction on creating their new civilization underneath a new living sun that does not shine over Earth nor Barbelo nor Hybla-Dia, that living sun will unravel the Great Controversy at last. Mastema and all his wars will come to a final end. And so I find it a great honor to join your project to launch the first starship in history.”



Late in June 1947 a US Marine C-46 transport plane crashed on the western side of Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Range, and when word got around, a private pilot named Ken Arnold volunteered to aid with the search.

While he was circling the mountain on June 24 he spotted a cluster of nine brightly glowing meteors rushing past his plane at supersonic speed toward remote Mt. Adams in the south. Because they were pieces of a fireball in the process of breaking up, they seemed to be flying in formation, so Arnold assumed they were aircraft, and he interpreted their intermittent bursts of brightness to be the sun glinting off of polished metal.

The pieces were of irregular shape and they were tumbling. This made them appear to hop up and down in the air stream. After his flight Ken told a reporter that they flew like “a saucer skipping over water.” This was the first modern sighting of Unidentified Flying Objects and it sparked a national obsession with “Flying Saucers” that bordered on mass hysteria because people insisted on identifying them as spacecraft operated by aliens.

By July there had been many more saucer sightings. Some were ordinary mistakes but most were outright copycat hoaxes. The reporter had somehow garbled Arnold’s description. The pilot had merely tried to convey that the objects moved like saucers, not that they looked like saucers. But it was too late, the erroneous quote was already in print, so everyone was seeing saucers.

In Seattle Edgar the Elder and his father were working to adapt new home-built macros to an air frame. Edgar’s idea was to obtain powered flight by constantly sucking in air from an intake manifold on the roof of the vehicle, making the air “go away” and creating a bubble of low pressure over the vehicle. Theoretically this would create lift, much with like a helicopter, but with an ability to stay aloft indefinitely. Edgar was, however, stumped on a final body design.

The first thing that came to Robyn’s mind was the big national flying saucer craze. She said, “If we make it in the shape of a flying saucer, then even if people see us and report it, they won’t be believed. If they photograph us in flight, they will be accused of taking a snapshot of a hub cap.”

Edgar thought it was a truly brilliant idea and he, with his father’s help, built three flying saucers powered by the phantom process. He spent a week teaching Robyn, Hunky, and Dory how to use them. Some of the UFO reports mixed in with the recent public hysteria, therefore, were genuine sightings.

Robyn took baby Edgar and went with Lilith in one of the saucers to tour England, a trip they both estimated would take at least three weeks. It was partly pleasure but mostly business, from one deity to her Prophet. On that trip Lilith was to lay out the essential highlights of her grand plan to defeat Mastema.

Hunky and Dory took the other saucer to visit Alaska, but that trip was all pleasure and no business. So sparsely inhabited was that state that no UFO reports would be forthcoming from their trip.

That left just Jerry, Edgar the Elder, and Becky at the light industrial facility Lilith had arranged for everyone to hide out from Earl Roland.

Edgar the Elder had his head down over his macros. So Jerry offered to teach Becky Hahn how to fly a saucer. He invited her for a tour of the national parks in the American southwest. He figured a decent inspection of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the wind-carved sandstone marvels of Utah would require at least ten days.

When things got boring between the national parks, Jerry and Becky filled in the time by having sex in the saucer, in a mesh hammock slung between hooks on the bulkheads. He figured Robyn couldn’t really say anything. She was the one left him all alone with Becky.

Jerry discovered, to his delight, that Becky ‘s heavy helping of freckles extended over her entire body. He had brought along the Purple Cable to enhance things like Hunky and Dory frequently reported, but Becky refused to let him use it, and so her mind remained a mystery to him even if her delicious body no longer was.

The P51 Mustang fighter plane was a bomber escort that revolutionized the strategic bombing campaign over western Europe during the war. Bomber pilots called them, affectionately, their “little friends”. Jet aircraft were coming on line now after the war, but the P51 remained in service as the most numerous fighter in the US Army Air Forces, which was still a few months away from being split off into it’s own branch of the military called the US Air Force.

Unfortunately for Jerry and Becky, they were touring a part of the country that had large empty areas of land given completely over to military operations. In short order Jerry and Becky became acquainted with a P51 over the state of New Mexico. They didn’t have a chance. In the War, Mustangs shot almost 5,000 enemy aircraft out of the sky, and destroyed another 4,000 aircraft on the ground. It had six .50 caliber machine guns.

Several rounds penetrated the crew canopy. One round hit Jerry in the leg. It was all he could do to get down to the ground without killing himself or Becky. It was more of a crash than a landing, and it happened on a ranch about thirty miles north of Roswell. This was to become the most famous “UFO incident” in history.

Becky was shaken but not injured. “I think the macro still works,” Jerry gasped while Becky tied off his injured leg with his belt to try to stop the bleeding. “You can hover us the hell out of here.”

“I still don’t know how to fly this thing,” Becky said. She had expressed no desire to learn, and even now, with Jerry’s life on the line, she was too afraid to try. “I’ll just end up killing both of us. Besides, the airplanes will probably return and finish the job.”

But there was one thing she was willing to do, and it was an enormous thing. Both of them eyed the Purple Cable. She snapped one end into her head, and the other end to Jerry, and then she began to receive him.

Jerry’s memories and personality flooded in. Becky ‘s self was being pushed down and flooded out, but there was the beginning of a creeping return as the edges of Becky soaked into the new memories of Jerry which stood firmly in the center of her mind.

The threshold levels between brain cells were being flushed of Becky’s values and set to Jerry’s values, but this was not fully accomplished. The neurons were even being physically rerouted to reflect Jerry’s long-term memory but this too was not one hundred percent complete.

Feedback went up the Purple Cable back to Jerry. From that moment he knew her great secret: there was no such person as Becky Hahn. She was really Becky Roland, the daughter of their enemy Earl Roland who had imprisoned Robyn and Hunky at the Clinic, burned down the temple, and made all of them fugitives. Roland was their implacable enemy, and Becky was a plant. At first Jerry was horrified by this betrayal. But in Becky’s supreme sacrifice, giving up her very identity, Becky was saying to Jerry, “I am truly one of you.”

A new person was emerging who would have 71% of Jerry’s brain wiring and 29% of Becky’s original wiring. At one point Becky fully surrendered her identity, and after that a new composite person stared out at Jerry and his crippled and bleeding body.

The new Jerry let his hands roam all over his new female body with the creamy, freckled skin. It was a dream come true! He really was a woman now, in body and spirit. The influence of Becky remained and combined with his own inner impulse to be womanly. He was fully a she. And she decided to call himself Jill from that moment forward.

“They will be coming,” Jerry warned Jill, but he hardly needed to speak. They were almost exactly the same person. “Leave before we’re both captured.”

“You could suffer True Death,” Jill warned him in reply. It was a concept that Jerry alone had rolled around in his mind long before this. He had realized a mind-capture must encapsulate the moment of death. If even one second was allowed to transpire after the recording, then the individual bifurcated. One would go on, but the other would be extinguished.

“I trust you will move heaven and earth to make sure that is not so,” he said. He gave the Golden Gift to Jill and told her to eliminate all the important parts of the saucer, the macro in the roof, and all the controls.

When she was done, Jill used a screwdriver to attempt to open the Golden Gift, which triggered the defense mechanism. The blade ate most of itself, enough to make the task of reverse engineering it impossible. She stamped the tiny remnant under her feet.

There was still a little water left over, enough for Jerry to drink until he was captured, and enough for Jill to fill two canteens. She also took along a bag of trail mix to eat. But she was a ginger, and the sun was really going to kick her ass.

It would take a full day and part of the following night for Jill to walk across the desert south to the town of Roswell. From there she called her bank, had money wired to her, and returned to Black Diamond by bus, which took another four days with all the required bus transfers.

Cowboys found the wreckage in the desert the next day while Jill was still on foot. They rendered what first aid they could, and took Jerry to a small hospital in town. The movement of the horse-driven cart as he was carried out of there was agonizing to him. The doctor saved Jerry’s leg, but he was laid up in traction and could make no move to escape.

The 509th Bomb Group retrieved the saucer from the rancher’s land and craned it onto a couple of trucks. But it was a pile of junk and there was nothing they could learn from it. There was no motor, no controls. It looked like a playground saucer made to entertain some children. And Jerry refused to explain how it or he came to be there.

In the saloons, the cowhands mentioned the “silver disk” they had found and soon enough some reporters came calling. The Army press liaison told them it was just the debris from the crash of something they called project Mogul, and that Jerry Shy Bear was a local “Indian” who found it first, and shot himself in the leg when he thought he saw something move.

Then a general bitched about the leak of Mogul.

Tasked to conceal the existence of Mogul, the first thing that came to mind was the big national flying saucer craze, so the Air Force made an official announcement that it had recovered the wreckage of a flying saucer. The press went nuts, and the Air Force bureaucracy gradually realized it had made a huge mistake. On July 8 they went on the radio and retracted the flying saucer claim, and said it naw, it was really just a weather balloon they had picked up. Americans were less cynical in those days, so the military successfully covered up the cover-up.

Two years later when the existence of Project Mogul was declassified, the Air Force said their original saucer statement was inoperative and that it was really Mogul all along. Mogul was now the operative statement. Mogul was an experiment to send balloons with microphones high into the sky to listen for Soviet nuclear detonations.

So the press let it drop and the Air Force concluded they had successfully covered up the crash. That was the last anyone heard of it, until three things happened that took away America’s virginity and put an end to the halcyon days when her leaders were looked up to and trusted implicitly.

The first was the assassination of the President in 1963, which sparked a poisonous conspiracy mindset that only seemed to be validated by later events, especially the Tet Offensive in 1968, when people realized with shock that the government had lied and victory was nowhere in sight in the Vietnam War, plus the cover-ups and incredible abuses of power of the Watergate affair. Only after this vast attitude shift did people begin to read ominous things into the comedy of errors that took place at the beginning of the UFO era in 1947.

Alien bases were imagined to exist in the four corners area of the south-western United States. An entire alphabet soup of imaginary government agencies was cooked up who were supposed to control all the top secret in formation on the alien presence, and even the information that these agencies existed was, conveniently, also supposed to be classified top secret. There were claims that projects existed to recover all downed flying saucers and claims that projects existed to overhaul and test-fly recovered flying saucers at “Area 51″ sixty miles northwest of Las Vegas. And the very lack of evidence for any of these claims was considered the best proof that a conspiracy to hide the truth existed.

Jerry Shy Bear was taken to a location that was never disclosed, even to him. It was in arid land but it wasn’t Area 51 (Groom Lake), since the government did not establish that base until 1955. There was even a clinic much like the one at Hanford, but with much enhanced security. Earl Roland had learned from his mistakes.

When Jill returned to the B’nei Elohim she laid out the bad news first. “Jerry Shybear is either dead or in the hands of the enemy.”

Robyn, Hunky, and Dory were filled with grief and they pressed Jill for answers. She answered truthfully, but the hardest questions came from Robyn, and had to do with why Becky was traveling together with Jerry in the first place.

Lilith, for her part, already knew Becky’s whole story and just sat back to listen. The B’nei Elohim needed to work this out themselves.

“I betrayed you, Robyn,” she admitted. “We both did. Please don’t ask me to Share, you won’t like what you see.”

“So it was an affair.” Robyn had to admit she opened the door to that when she went off to England with Lilith. Her marriage to Jerry should have come first in every instance.

After that Jill dribbled out some good news: Becky had allowed Jerry to take possession of her body, in the same way El Shaddai had taken possession of Lilith Gervasi. All of Jerry’s memories until the moment of possession were intact. “But I am not Jerry, nor am I Becky Hahn anymore. I ask you to call me only Jill from now on.”

This cheered up the B’nei Elohim somewhat. Both Jerry and Becky were still present with them. If Jerry was dead, then he lived on behind Becky’s eyes. And Becky herself had undergone an ad hoc version of the Name Ritual. The B’nei Elohim had truly added a new member. Still, they felt something about Jill wasn’t quite right.

So Jill flip-flopped once again and laid out some bad news: “There never was any such person as Becky Hahn. My name was Becky Roland, and I am the daughter of Earl Roland, planted by him here in the Green River Gorge so I could infiltrate your group.”

“Why did you do that to us, Jill?” Dory wailed, hardly able to believe it. “We loved you!”

“And I still love you,” she said, “all of you. Enough for Becky to surrender her body and soul so that Jerry might live. And I’m not finished giving. If there’s a chance Jerry’s alive, I must find him. And if he is dead, that only makes it even more important that I find him.”






Washington, DC.

The hearing was in the venerable Room 315 of the Old Senate Office Building. It was ten o’clock, and Chairman Samuel L. Boren gaveled the hearing to order.

The first witness of the day was Mr. Michael Evers of Roswell, New Mexico, who operated a ranch that sprawled over many square miles of arid land to the northwest of that town of about 22,000 people. In his opening remarks he testified thus, from prepared notes:

“On July 7, 1947, two cowhands in our employ found a shiny metallic object in the desert that looked like two shallow stainless steel bowls which had been welded together, mouth to mouth. There were many large caliber bullet holes in the object. And when these cowhands of mine took a closer look, they found an Indian inside the contraption who said his name was Jerry Shybear. He was severely injured, with a shattered bone in his thigh and a bullet wound that he had somehow managed to staunch with a tourniquet and pressure. The cowhands brought the man to me, and I drove him to a doctor in Roswell to be treated. After that I asked my cowhands to show me where the disk had crashed, and I saw the object with my own eyes, both inside and out. The next day, the Army came out with two trucks, including a crane truck, and carted the object away. Later that evening the local newspaper carried a story that a ‘flying saucer’ had crashed on my employer’s land, which created a sensation I did not and do not want. These are the basic facts, gentlemen, but I am prepared to testify if any amplifying information is requested.”

The Chairman recognized Senator Lee Wenden, Democrat, from a state that bordered New Mexico.

Senator Lee WENDEN: Good morning Mr. Evers. Can you tell me how big this disk was that you found?

Mr. EVERS: Bigger than a car, sir, but small enough to fit, perhaps, inside a two-car garage.

Senator WENDEN: And you say there were bullet holes in the thing. Is it safe to say it was shot out of the sky?

Mr. EVERS: I don’t think so, sir. There was no odor of fuel. There was nothing in the way of a motor for the thing, or any controls to fly it. The thing was, as near as I could tell, identical perhaps to a toy ‘flying saucer’ a city might put together in a park for kids to play on, except for the bullet holes. It didn’t have the kind of damage one would expect to see if it crashed. There was no scattered debris.

Senator WENDEN: So you have no idea how this object got into the desert thirty miles from the nearest town?

Mr. EVERS: No sir, and the Indian, Jerry Shybear, said only that he found it, and crawled inside to look, and fell asleep, and that he had been strafed from the air by planes.

Senator WENDEN: Was Jerry Shybear still alive when you checked him in with the doctor in Roswell.

Mr. EVERS: He was alive, sir, and in my opinion, his wounds were not life-threatening. As far as I know, he is still alive. I left my number with the doctor, and told him I’d like to help if I could. This Jerry seemed like a nice kid, and I felt sorry for him, he was in quite a bit of pain when we took him in over some bumpy roads. There was no way to avoid that. To this day I haven’t heard anything from the doctor.

Senator WENDEN: Thank you, Mr. Evers. I yield the balance of my time to you Mr. Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Senator Wenden. Mr. Evers, you may step down.

There was a brief period of only ten years, from the close of the War until the introduction of the Boeing 707 when commercial air travel across the country used large four-engine propeller planes. They were noisy and slower than jets, and the tickets were expensive, but there was a certain charm about it that was soon extinct. Jill flew to the East Coast of the United States this way since she had chosen not to learn how to fly a saucer.

Lilith learned that Jerry had died in captivity, and this was foremost on Jill’s mind when she prepared to see her father.

Earl Roland was delighted to see Becky return to his Bethesda, Maryland home after nearly eight months apart. There had been no contact during that entire time and he had a million questions, beginning with, “How many people are we talking about?”

“Well, four, now, because Jerry’s dead. Not enough to warrant all your attention, Father.”

“Who’s the leader?”

“Lilith Gervasi. She’s an English woman in her forties with a military background. Then there’s Kim and Sophie and Dory, and that’s it.”

“Kim and Sophie are the ones who escaped Hanford. Dory is their accomplice. I want to bring all of them in, Becky.”

“Did you have anything to do with Roswell, Daddy? When Jerry was shot?”

“Of course not, dear, don’t be silly.” Her father pulled her close for a hug. He ran his fingers through her hair and felt the bump on the back of her head. “Do you want to talk about what’s happened to you?”

“I know what’s happened to me. We call it the Change. My brain has been remodeled by some sort of virus from outer space.”

“You don’t know that!”

The source of the Change seemed to be a sore spot with him, something his mind refused to accept. She said, “Fine, Daddy, let’s not talk about me. What happened to Jerry’s body?”

“Jerry Shy Bear lived for a week after the Air Force picked him up. We just wanted to ask him some questions, dear.”

“You asked how he got the Change and you didn’t like his answers.”

“We just wanted to ask him a few questions, but he died. I don’t know how it happened, but it was not my doing.”

“Let me get the story straight from him.”

“I’m sorry dear, I told you, he’s dead.”

“But Daddy, I’m betting you still have a…souvenir…from Jerry. A part of him that doesn’t rot because it isn’t really alive anymore. I’m betting your curiosity won out and you have Jerry’s brain. Bring him out to me, Father. Lilith showed me what to do.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.”

“No more lies! No more hiding the truth. I’ll go back to them, Daddy. Back to your enemies! I’ll beg them to take me back. You and I will be enemies and I’ll never return to you, unless you kidnap me too.”

He looked at her for a long time. Finally he opened a desk drawer and removed a crumpled white lump resembling a water bag, with one end narrowing to a connector. He laid it on the desktop. “People’s Exhibit A.”

Jill stared at him. For a moment she could not recognize him as her father. He was dead to her. Her father was dead and Jill didn’t know who this strange man was. Then again, in a very real sense his daughter Becky was dead also.

She grabbed it and showed him the 55 pin connector. “Look at it! This is what happened to me! This is real! Can the United States do this yet? Can anyone in the world do this yet? Don’t say the Soviets. Oh, that’s what you’ve told everybody, enough times that you are even starting to believe your own propaganda. But no one on Earth has this kind of science.”

“We cannot know the answer to that, one way or the other!”

“No, you cannot know the answer because you refuse to let your mind be conformed to reality. We aren’t the only ones in the universe, Father. We aren’t as clever as we think we are.”

“Honey, your brain has been affected. A strong delusion could be built right in, it could be an intended part of the change.”

This wasn’t her father anymore. He could hatch schemes centered around the strange Change that had happened to Robyn and Hunky, even send his own daughter to accept the Change, but he would dance around and around the central reality of it. He wasn’t really sane anymore, and this made the part of her that was still Becky Roland very sad.

Jill unlatched the Purple Cable that doubled as her belt and removed it from around her dress. She hooked up to what was left of Jerry’s brain and did the download while her father was watching.

Jerry’s last moments were the most vivid. He had been stripped naked, because that was an foolproof way to remove from a person their natural psychological shielding that would allow them to resist torture more effectively. His arms had been tied, bent back around a 55 gallon drum filled with solid concrete that refused to budge even under Jerry’s strongest attempts to move it. His legs were spread straight out, including the one in a cast, and his ankles were held in clamps securely mounted to the floor.

There were two men there to torment Jerry. One man was wielding a pair of bolt cutters. They were closed around the toe right next to the big toe on Jerry left foot. He looked eager to use them, and he only awaited the signal from Roland.

Roland said, “I’m Earl Roland, Mr. Shy Bear. Your friends Kim Lokken and Sophie Krause might have spoken to you about me.”

“Who’s this asshole?” Jerry said, with a single nod of his head at Roland’s companion.

Roland said, “Meet Ed Conley. He does all my wet work. This is really going to amaze you, Jerry, how much it’s going to hurt. So I really suggest you start telling me everything you know about what’s happened to you and your friends. Because you’ve got ten toes, Jerry, each one good for at least two bites, and after Ed gets done, he can start picking at your feet with a knife like it was leftover turkey.”

So Jerry started to speak about the living suns which men have worshiped as gods, and how they would, from time to time, take possession of human beings to live as one of them. All of this seemed like so many lies to Earl. “Obviously you’re not taking this interview seriously at all, Jerry. So Ed, go ahead and take the first chunk.”

Jerry chose that moment to die. The record came to an abrupt end. But now Jill had all of Jerry’s memories. There would be no True Death for him. Jerry was officially dead, but Jill had obtained his final memories. By doing this, she set a powerful precedent. No matter what happened, if a brother or sister went down, the B’nei Elohim dropped everything and worked to save his or her final memories. In years to come, a continuous neutrino transceiver would add a measure of safety, but there would still be times when an extraordinary effort would be required to retrieve a fallen comrade from the True Death.

“You tortured Jerry, Daddy!” Jill said, letting Becky come through once more. And Earl had confirmation that memories were transferred through the cable.

“That is what I wanted to spare you from. There were some things we had to know, and some things I’ve had to do that I’m not proud of. I’m sad that you had to learn about this whole mess.”

“And he died for nothing. He told you the truth!”

Roland offered up something in his defense. “But we didn’t kill him! He did that on his own.”

“He performed an EOC. That’s what Lilith calls it. End Of Cycle. We can kill ourselves just by thinking about it. But Father, don’t you dare tell me Jerry Shy Bear was to blame for committing suicide. Not when you had him tied up and helpless and were cutting his toes off.”

“I know they’re working toward a purpose. I need to know what they want. What are they really after, Becky? I know they’re in the waste management business, is that all they want, just money?”

“Money, Daddy? Is that what you thought when you offered me as bait, with my trust fund opened up to catch their eye?”

“You have to go back. You have to ask them to take you back.”

“Father, please listen to me well, because I want an answer. On this everything turns. Where did you get all of your new money? The truth, Daddy.”

“The thing growing from Kim and Sophie’s head, it was bone, yes, but there was also…a new kind of material made from carbon, the atoms arranged in ways we never thought of before. We still don’t know what they are, who made them, why, or where it came from.”

At that point Jill stood up and went to a corner of the room, and her head became very still, with not the slightest movement. Only her mouth moved to speak the words, “Go on.”

She did this because she wanted to record everything her father said, and it had to look like it was taken from a television camera mounted on a tripod. It was a sting. Jill got her own father to make a smoking gun film.

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Strangers In Paradise