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MDA: In the days leading up to Christmas in 1972 President Richard Nixon
sent one hundred twenty-nine B-52s to lay waste to Hanoi, Haiphong,
and points in between, including airfields, warehouses, rail yards,
and, in an unfortunate misfire from a damaged bomber, even a hospital.

MDB: Eleven of the big bombers were shot down and ninety airmen were
either killed in the crashes or captured alive. There was a thirty-six
hour pause in the bombing for Christmas, and then it resumed. The North
Vietnamese government said the American president had gone insane.

MBC: The remaining B-52s continued to assail Hanoi around the clock,
losing four additional planes. By January 1 the North Vietnamese
couldn’t take any more and returned to the negotiating table. A month
later a cease-fire was announced, and the war shuddered to a halt.

MBD: Robyn, who could see how things would play out a few years up
the timeline, told Judith the North Vietnamese had basically just put
the reunification of their country on pause long enough for the Americans
to claim victory and leave. And that sent the wrong signals to Nixon.

MDE: In the fall when the Israelis and Arabs became embroiled in another
one of their wars, Nixon, if not otherwise distracted, would fall
back on the bad instincts reinforced by Vietnam and escalate the conflict
to the point of a limited nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.

MDF: But Nixon would be otherwise distracted, thanks to the midnight
handiwork of Judith and Robyn in a stairwell of the Watergate hotel in
Washington, DC. Robyn said rotating a little piece of gray tape 90
degrees and smoothing it back down would save millions of human lives.

MDG: The Attorney General of the United States, the top law enforcement
official in the land, had approved an operation to break into the
headquarters of the opposing political party and wiretap their phones.
Later when one of the bugs stopped working he ordered its replacement.

MDH: That’s where the little piece of tape came in. After picking the lock
on the stairwell door to Suite 600, the intruders placed tape over the
latch so they wouldn’t have to repeat the procedure. At Robyn’s
suggestion, Judith left the tape in place, but she made it visible.

MDI: A security guard found the tape, tore it off, and threw it away.
He thought very little of it other than making a point to give the
same door a tug when he made his pass down the stairwell a half hour
later. The lock had been picked open again, and there was more tape.

MDJ: That led to a phone call to the police and the arrest of five
burglars. The Counsel to the White House was enlisted to pay hush
money and lawyer’s fees for the defendants after the arrest. The head
of the FBI was ordered to bury evidence and squash the investigation.

MDK: All these measures seemed to work. Watergate stories were
relegated to page A9. Nixon won reelection with the biggest plurality
in American history. Judith didn’t want to doubt Robyn’s precognitive
abilities, but this critical alteration had seemed to wobble into a dead end.

MDL: But a few days after the cease-fire in Vietnam, the judge in the
case of the Watergate burglars, “Maximum John” Sirica, handed down
ridiculously stiff sentences with the idea of making one of the
defendants break and testify against their unknown handlers.

MDM: When that hit the papers Robyn told Judith, “The buns are in the
oven now, and when they come out again in March Nixon will have more
to munch on than he can possibly swallow.” Judith decided to take a
wait-and-see approach because so far Robyn seemed to be batting zero.

MDN: Then there was Robyn’s suggestion they try to get in on the ground
floor of a opportunity that promised to transform society like nothing
has done since the harnessing of steam power. But bad hiring decisions
required Judith to intervene personally, which was never good.

MDO: A man likely to be a much more suitable candidate for Robyn’s
project was identified and agreed to be interviewed. At roughly the
same time Captain Eugene Cernan sent a message through FBI Associate
Director Mark Felt requesting to contact the leadership of Astrodynamics.

MDP: Judith knew it would make for a busy day but she decided to
attend to both of these visitors at the company’s workshop. And she
would allow Robyn to be present as well, hopefully so she could say, “See, I
told you so!” when things played out the way she promised they would.

MDQ: The place in Washington State where the Enumclaw and Black Diamond
Highway crossed the Kent-Kangley Road was called Four Corners but
there wasn’t much there aside from a lumber yard, a grocery store,
a gas station, and one modest strip mall with a dentist and a cafe.

MDR: Astrodyne leased the vacant office between Dr. Tsugawa’s practice
and Nancy’s Noodle Nook. Sometimes locals wandered in by accident,
thinking it was one or the other. Vinyl lettering went up on the glass
that formed the front wall denoting the place as ‘Epoch Electronics’.

MDS: After that locals sometimes came in thinking the place sold hi-fi
equipment, but there was only an unfurnished space where visitors were
greeted by a receptionist, and if they weren’t expected, they were
quickly turned around. The door out back opened only from the inside.

MDT: One cold wet day in February 1973 Gary Kildall visited the place,
but he was expected. The receptionist, one Dory going by her name
placard, looked to be of Indian descent. Certainly she was wearing
what appeared to be native garb to keep warm whenever the door opened.

MDU: Gary thought if she stood up she might easily prove to be the
tallest woman he had ever seen. Dory verified who he was, somehow,
before he even gave his name. There was a solid sound of steel moving
within steel. “Thank you for coming here today, Mr. Kildall,” she said.

MDV: The door to the left of her cubicle slowly began to pivot open
without human intervention. It seemed deceptively massive in the way
it gradually slowed to a nearly imperceptible stop before it could
crash through the adjacent wall. “Please go ahead and enter the shop.

MDW: “Everyone is really looking forward to meeting you.” So Gary went
through the door down a short hallway and entered the unpartitioned space
that Dory called the shop. A Teletype was clacking along in the middle
of a print job. To Gary’s delight he saw it was a model 33 ASR.

MDX: That model, as Gary well knew, was ubiquitous in the United
States Navy. It was turning a stack of blank perforated-edge paper into
another stack of finished printout. A large spool of paper tape with
holes punched in six-bit binary code was providing the data to be printed.

MDY: A woman in a blue shop smock was manually reeling up the spent
tape after it fed through the reader. Her smock wasn’t buttoned up.
Gary could see that she wore a black concert tee and blue jeans.
He thought one of the guitarists silk screened on the shirt looked like Dory.

MDZ: The woman spooling up the data looked a bit little like a football
player. In fact she really had been one back in high school. “I’m Sofie
Krause, AKA Sabotage,” she said with a broad smile. “They let me handle
the tape because if I touch anything else I’ll just break it.”

MEA: Then Gary saw where the data had originated. There was a blue-green
cabinet six feet high, six feet deep, and two feet wide. His prospective
employers had a minicomputer, a PDP-1, one of only about fifty ever
made. Another woman wearing a buttoned up smock stood over there.

MEB: He couldn’t tell what she was wearing under the light-blue
cotton lab coat but he guessed from her bare calves that it was a dress.
Her hair was a much darker brown than that of the first woman, with hints
of red. Like any ginger or borderline ginger her skin was quite pale.

MEC: For her part Robyn thought the well-dressed bearded visitor very
much resembled her father when he was roughly the same age. She
imagined if there was a Collier’s encyclopedia entry for “Dad” then
his photo would be featured as the very quintessence of all dads.

MED: Gary saw there was one other woman in the shop, one with hair that
was very dark. She looked like a female biker and was wearing what
had to be the most expensive leather boots he had ever seen. They
were black, went up over her knees, and were articulated at every joint.

MEE: Her thighs weren’t bare, but her thigh muscles were evident, and
he could tell she was a runner. In fact, it was entirely possible she
ran miles in those boots. They looked that functional. The skin on
her face was darker than her two friends, but not darker than Dory.

MEF: Everything that wasn’t tucked into the boots except her hands
and face was covered in deep red leather with zippers everywhere for
pockets and for basic access to the garment. It was was glossy and richly
red, like fresh blood. Her forearms were covered with more black leather.

MEG: “It’s her outfit, I know,” said Robyn. “People always stare. But
she’s homesick and that getup makes her feel like she’s home in, ah,
Salem.”

“Salem, Oregon?”

“No. Much, much farther away. I’m Robyn, incidentally. This is Judith
Gervasi, who in fact owns our company.”

MEH: “I have no choice, really,” Judith said. “I’m the only person
around here who can actually obtain a bank account without being
arrested or thrown into bedlam, and before you ask, I include Michael in
that assessment.” Gary smiled at that, and he wondered about her accent.

MEI: The underlying mode sounded British, but there was a strangely
otherworldly overlay, as though she had spent much time in a country
nobody had ever heard of. He nodded at the computer next to Robyn. “So
Green Acres does have a PDP-1. I thought my friends were kidding.”

MEJ: Sofie and Robyn chuckled at that remark, but Judith, being indeed
both British and otherworldly, was mystified to silence by the reference
to an American sitcom. Into this awkward little moment of silence he
dropped his own name. “I’m Gary Kildall, Miss Gervasi.”

MEK: “Thank you for accepting our invitation, Mr. Kildall. Your
reputation is such that we wouldn’t dare make a useless waste of your
time.”

“Thank you. Some friends of mine told me you had a DEC minicomputer
squirreled away in here but I wasn’t sure I believed them.

MEL: You should know them. They all said they were on your payroll
for a time. And I think I can take an educated guess why they aren’t
working for you anymore.

“I fired them,” she said, “for very good cause. But I’m surprised your
friends did not try to scare you off.”

MEM: “Not at all, Miss Gervasi. I think they might have been a little
embarrassed, like they screwed up a really good thing they had going
on. But I have to admit, when I prepared to come here I couldn’t find
anything about Epoch Electronics. You’re not even in the Yellow Pages.”

MEN: “Oh, that’s just something we put on the window so people didn’t
think this was a vacant space and try to break in, perhaps to have a,
what do they call it Sofie? A ‘kegger’? Some have still tried. Not
that they got anywhere breaking that glass. That’s not local stuff.

MEO: The name of my company is Astrodynamics. Sometimes we shorten
that up to Astrodyne. You may be thinking you came here for a job
interview, Mr. Kildall, but it’s really the other way around. We’ve
already decided you’re the man for the job and we just need to convince you.

MEP: But I am curious, sir, why you’re in the job market. Just curious,
you understand.”

He said, “I crapped out in the draft lottery but I’ve been working it
off by teaching at a Navy college down in Monterey, California. They
cut me loose to finish my doctorate at U-Dub.

MEO: To my great misfortune I find myself with a slight cash-flow
problem lately. When I was down in California I was moonlighting as a
consultant at Intel, you see. But I’m from up here in Seattle originally.
I flew back up in my own plane and that’s a pretty expensive hobby.

MEP: My buddy pals said you had deep pockets and the work was right
up my alley.”

He fell silent, but the Teletype 33 was still running. To avoid
letting the pause grow too awkward Judith nodded at the machine and
said, “Please, Mr. Kildall, go have a closer look.” And he did.

MEQ: After he took a moment reading the printout he said, “I know what
this is! I teach this in the Navy! These are the orbital parameters of
Soviet satellites. This is how our Navy ships know when a spy satellite
is overhead so they can shut down everything and avoid detection.

MER: Judith tilted her head with a dubious look and said, “That was a
very good try, Mr. Kildall, but please look at it again. This has
nothing to do with signals intelligence.”

His face turned a little red and he looked at the printout again, for
a bit longer this time.

MES: Then he said, “No, belay my last. These two-line elements aren’t
Earth-centric, they’re sun-centric. And the names: 1866 Sisyphus. 1620
Geographos. You’re interested in asteroids.”

“Not just any asteroids, Mr. Kildall. Please take another look. The
third time’s the charm.”

MET: He returned to the busy Teletype to look once more. This time he
searched for patterns in the data. When he thought he found a common
thread he said, “You’re worried about Earth-crossers, asteroids which
draw nearer to the sun than we do and might smack into us one day.”

MEU: “We should all worry about those asteroids,” said Robyn. “We’ve
only found a fraction of what must be out there.”

“Now, now, Robyn,” said Sofie. “We’re not worried about asteroids.
Mr. Kildall might as well know we’re looking for a good one to grab
and bring back here.”

MEV: “True enough,” said Judith. “But Mr. Kildall, color me impressed.
Now I shall I tell you what it is exactly we’d like you to do. You see,
have the best logistics in the business and that is no idle boast.
When you watch it in operation you are simply not going to believe it.

MEW: Anything you tell Dory to order, no matter how expensive or rare
it is, absolutely will be here overnight, beg steal or borrow. It is
only necessary that your item actually exists. You could tell Dory
to get you the Hope Diamond, and the next morning you would have it.

MEX: We want you to use our supply chain to turn that big box there,
our so-called ‘minicomputer’ as big as three coffins stacked on top
of each other, into a box the size of a piece of luggage. Then we
will have the world’s first microcomputer. Will you do it, Mr. Kildall?

MEY: “So take something that costs as much as a lakefront home on the
east Side and turn it into something that costs as much as a used
car, so anybody can have one? Yes, I can do it, and I will do it,
Miss Gervasi, but remember, when I do, there goes the whole neighborhood.”

MEZ: “My friend Robyn here is something of a visionary. She says this
will change everything. We asked some of your friends to help us, but
they used our parts and some girls we hired as assemblers to build these
stupid boxes that make free calls and cheat the phone company.”

MFA: “Let me guess, that was Wozniak.”

“And his mate Steve Jobs. I heard they sold a hundred of their boxes
for one hundred fifty dollars apiece. I do hope they managed to save
most of it. They might just be able to pay their lawyers enough to
avoid conviction for embezzlement.

MFB: After I fired them there was another fellow working here who
actually did earn his keep. He wrote a program to simulate an 8008
microprocessor on our mini. Show him that tape, Sofie.”

Kildall watched her dig around in a wheeled Vidmar, find it, and hand
it off to Judith.

MFC: “Unfortunately this isn’t a one-size-fits-all simulation, it’s
actually set up to compile statistics on vehicular flow so cities can
adjust the timing on their traffic lights. Then your friend used our
supply system to order everything he needed to build a portable version.

MFD: We built that traffic analyzer for him and the whole time we thought
it was our microcomputer. While he was working hardware, another bloke
used our PDP-1 to host BASIC on an 8008, but we don’t have that
tape. I don’t much fancy playing the victim. I fired both of them.”

MFE: “You must be talking about the Gates and Allen show.”

Judith nodded. “I heard they went into business for themselves, something
called Traf-O-Data, but it’s not going anywhere. I sent a copy of
their own tape to Olympia, where they have big iron and some clever fellows.

MFF: It’s going to be be tough selling their new box when every city
from here to Spokane can just send their data in for Olympia to crunch.
Robyn already told them what I’ll tell you now: people think about money
when they don’t have it, but we have it, so we don’t think about it.

MFG: Essentially, we have infinite money. But we don’t have a deep
knowledge of technology. That puts you in a very good negotiating
position, Mr. Kildall. Your friends clearly did not believe we were
sincere in our attitude about money and about what we are trying to do here.

MFH: “How do I know you won’t cast me aside after I deliver the goods?”

“I’ll retain the patents for the hardware, just to keep my skin in
the game, you understand? But software patents are still a gray area
legally. So you will be a full partner when it comes to the licenses.

MFI: You and I will be equal co-owners of anything you write on my
time. If you decide to sublet to a third party I will not block the
transaction or try to undermine you in price. You can have all this
in writing, if you wish, but really, Mr. Kildall, that will not be necessary.

MFJ: “I do have a couple of unavoidable obstacles though,” he said.
“First, I have another year on my teaching gig down in California and
there’s no way out of it. It’s an obligation I have to Uncle Sam. So
the fall of this year and winter and spring of ’74 are basically a wash.”

MFK: “That’s not a problem at all. We can lease office space down
there and have a little shop just like this up and running in no time
at all. Instead of going back to Intel you just stay with us.”

“Okay, but then there’s my whole excuse for going on hiatus to come
up here.

MFL: Like I said before, Miss Gervasi, they cut me loose to finish my
own academic work at the University of Washington.”

“I fully understand where you’re coming from, Mr. Kildall, I really
do. I have a Master of Arts degree myself, in linguistics, from Hebrew
University.

MFM: I submitted my dissertation prospectus to the PhD Supervisory
Committee but soon after that I was horribly sidetracked.” She turned
to wink at Robyn, who knew she only did that on Alpha Track right
before the Yom Kippur War, which still half a year away on this track.

MFN: “But I know you’re a very clever fellow, Mr. Kildall,” Judith
said. “I’m sure you will find a way to mesh your work for us here and
your work in academia so they are one and the same. And when you’re
all done, our chief engineer will be a doctor in computer science.

MFO: What do you think, Sofie?”

“I think playtime is over. No more Romper Room. The grownup is in the
building.”

“And you, Robyn? How is this day shaping up?”

“This was a big deal, Judith, the last major alteration before
Chokhmah wins. We’re already on Delta track now.”

MFP: Gary seemed puzzled by Robyn’s words, but then again the entire
interview had been conducted with an air of unreality. “I’m sorry
Robyn, I don’t think I follow you.”

She said, “Gordon Moore, one of the big shots at Intel, said something
important about ICs a few years ago.

MFR: He predicted the number of transistors that can be crammed onto
one piece of silicon would double yearly. I think that was a little
too optimistic, and it should be every two years, but still, with a
compound rate like that, a computer the size of luggage is only the start.”

MFS: At that moment the paper data tape spooled out and the Teletype
stopped chattering. Sofie went over to look at the printout. “We have a
winner, Judith,” she said, “and naturally it’s a no-name.” She looked
at Gary. “Robyn is talking about a computer you can wear as a watch.”

MFT: “No, I’m talking about a computer that floats on the cornea of
your eye. Moore’s observation will stay true year after year, smaller
and smaller, until we butt up against the quantum granularity of matter
itself and even then some smart kids will keep the show going somehow.

MFU: So the meat of what I’m saying, Mr. Kildall, is that this day is
going to become legendary, one for the history books, and it’s only
half over.”

“Oh That’s right,” Judith said. “Dory just told me your Captain
Cernan arrived a little early. He’s waiting next door at Nancy’s.”

MFV: That last bit puzzled Gary even more. He didn’t remember hearing
Dory say anything since he stepped into the shop.

“So are you in, Mr. Kildall?” But Judith already knew he was in
from what Robyn just said about the new timeline.

“Just call me Gary, please. Yes, I’m in.”

MFW: How did I get so lucky?”

“Good fortune all the way around, Gary. I’ll leave it to Sofie and
Dory to negotiate your salary and other such details, and to step you
through the paperwork. Robyn, let’s go eat and see your famous
astronaut. Dory told Nancy to cook our usual.”

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Apollo

MAA: At 5:26 PM EST on December 13, 1972, six days after leaving
Earth and during their third day on the surface of the Moon, Eugene
Cernan and Harrison Schmitt made the final moonwalk of Apollo 17.

Gene Cernan had flown to the Moon before, on Apollo 10.

MAB: That flight was with his commander from the Gemini 9 mission, Tom
Stafford. On Apollo 10 Gene flew a lunar module to within a tantalyzing
nine miles of the Moon’s surface, then returned to altitude, leaving
the glory of the first landing to Neil and Buzz on Apollo 11.

MAC: He wasn’t exactly tight buds with his partner, Harrison Schmitt,
a geologist who had bumped Gene’s pal Joe Engle from the flight so
NASA could say the program was shifting from hot dog military test
pilots trained to do science to professional scientists trained to fly.

MAD: Like the two preceding moonwalks of the Apollo 17 mission, the
third one was to last about seven hours. But it would differ from
the first two EVAs in a very important respect, not counting the
trivial fact that it was about an hour late getting started.

MAE: Robyn had been following live television broadcasts of the
mission from only a few miles away at Taurus Base. Now she followed the
mission with the television in her truck as she drove down the flanks
of North Massif to reach the floor of the Taurus-Littrow valley.

MAF: So many stations on Earth were airing the moonwalk the only
trick was to pick out one station with a selective receiver.

The landing site of Apollo 17 was on the southeastern edge of Mare
Serenitatis where an asteroid hit the Moon nearly four billion years ago.

MAG: The unimaginable violence of the collision created a basin four
hundred miles across. The rim of Serenitatis is a ring of mountains
which have collapsed in some places. This results in a corona of long
valleys like Taurus-Littrow aligned toward the center of the Mare.

MAH: The pyroclastic flows that filled the “Sea of Serenity” had been
accompanied by lava fountains which covered the area with tiny glass
beads bearing bright colors such as orange and yellow.

The outer, southeastern end of the valley butts up against a large
mountain.

MAI: In the run-up to Apollo 17 NASA took to calling this mountain the
East Massif, and the name stuck. In the south, there is a narrow
canyon that leads to yet another valley. The west side of this canyon
is the sheer wall of South Massif.

MAJ: Crossing north to the other side of East Massif is another
canyon leading to still another valley. Beyond this canyon is the
so-called Sculptured Hills, and to the west of those hills is North
Massif. Between North and South Massif is a narrower exit valley.

MAK: This valley is about four miles wide, partially blocked by Family
Mountain and a sharp fault ridge three hundred feet high. The eastern
foot of that sharp ridge forms a gentle ramp leading up and around
the western slope of North Massif to some rugged back country.

MAL: In that area, where it would be too difficult for landing craft
to safely touch down, Judith Gervasi chose to build Taurus Base from
a deep “cut-and-cover” tunnel, with macros doing the cutting. A layer
of lunar soil was carefully groomed to cover and disguise the ceiling.

MAM: Robyn drove her truck to the current position of the astronauts.
There was a large, dark, shattered boulder wedged in the foot of North
Massif where geologist Harrison Schmitt was gathering samples. She was
careful not to run over their fragile electric Rover parked nearby.

MAN: That Boeing-made Lunar Rover contained a built-in navigation
system that kept track of every turn of the wheels and calculated the
distance back to the Lunar Module. This was a safety feature. If the
Rover became inoperative, the astronauts would have to walk to the LM.

MAO: This system used Intel’s new four-bit microprocessor, the 4004,
which was essentially a computer on a single silicon chip. As the
1970s progressed, this innovation would undergo further advances and
become the heart of the Micro, sparking the Information Revolution.

MAP: The boulder being examined by Schmitt, which was in five separate
pieces, lay beneath a long furrow of dents showing it’s recent
plunge down the face of the mountain. Apollo 15 Command Module pilot
Alfred Worden had photographed the area in 1971 from orbit.

MAR: Using a large panoramic camera, Worden captured photographic
evidence of what looked suspiciously like tracks of wheeled vehicles
and bright debris that did not resemble stones at all. But analysts,
making inquiries of the Russians, concluded the anomalies were from
natural processes.

MAS: They said the tracks and other debris were probably from boulders
that had rolled down the face of North Massif in a “recent” (less than
20 million years) moonquake. The truth was, Worden had found evidence
of Taurus Base construction, but the floor of the valley was pristine.

MAT: Not even Robyn, with her gift, could sense a significant divergence
of the present Beta timeline, the one Michael and Yeshua found so
unsatisfactory. She pulled her truck to a stop, pumped the atmosphere
down to a near vacuum, then popped the door open to wait for the boys.

MAU: Cernan and Schmitt hadn’t heard Robyn roll in, of course. And they
were so busy it was sixteen minutes before they looked up from their
tasks and noticed Robyn’s truck parked next to them. Both of the
astronauts uttered sharp expletives and the live feed was hurriedly cut.

MAV: CBS cut to Walter Cronkite for commentary. The blackout would
last for nearly an hour as NASA claimed technical difficulties. Robyn
used her talent as a B’nei Eloah to probe her own future. Time was
“lazy” as she well knew. You had to kick it in the pants to change it.
:
MAW: Without this inertia, this reluctance built into time, Robyn
would be a boiling nexus of change. Everything she did, no matter how
small, would make all of reality bifurcate, even as her own personal
consciousness, her single point of view, persisted in just one track.

MAX: Robyn noted, to her dismay, that even her interference in the
final Apollo mission didn’t change things sufficiently to prevent it
from being the final mission. She saw that NASA would simply swear the
astronauts and flight control crew to silence, and cover it all up.

MAY: Robyn waved for them to come inside. There was plenty of room for
at least one astronaut to be seated next to her, even fully garbed as
they were. The sun illuminated her face and they could see they were
dealing with a young woman. Cernan described the situation to Houston.

MAZ: A phone call was made to a contact in the Soviet Union asking if
they were operating in the same area and didn’t bother to tell anybody.
The Russian thought the American joke was in particularly bad taste.
“Is not enough you win Luna race?” he said. “Now you rub it on?”

MBA: Cernan and Schmitt, who were watching their oxygen steadily spend
down, gently prodded Houston they were still waiting for instructions.
At length C. Gordon Fullerton, the CAPCOM for that phase of the mission,
said Cernan could approach the truck, and perhaps even enter it.

MBB: But he ordered Schmitt to wait outside and be prepared to hustle
back in the Rover to the Lunar Module, which was then about four miles
away. So Cernan walked over to the truck and performed a complete
circuit around it. There was only the one woman seated inside.

MBC: This woman was wearing a vacuum suit, and she was waving at him,
motioning for him to come inside. So Gene, now free to oblige, did so.
She gestured for him to close the door and when he did, she began to
re-pressurize the cab of the truck with pure oxygen, to just 3 psi.

MBD: When the dial read the appropriate pressure Robyn removed her
helmet and invited Cernan to do the same. The sharp spent-gunpowder
smell of the lunar regolith assaulted her nose. She wrinkled it and
said, “Do people ever imagine what the moon smells like? Oh, no.”

MBE: But Robyn was used to it, and after two lunar EVAs so was Cernan.
When he removed his own helmet his first words to her were, “You sound
like an American.” Robyn looked him over and saw Gene was rather gaunt,
and thought it was a shame a man in his thirties was going gray.

MBF: She said, “I was born on the high plains, Commander Cernan. Smack
dab in the middle of the country, or close enough as never mind. My
name is Robyn, with a ‘Y’. Just Robyn, no last name.”

Cernan’s ice seemed to melt a little. He said, “Then forget ‘Commander’.
I’m Gene.”

MBD: “It’s an honor to meet you, Gene,” she said. “I represent a privately
held corporation named Astrodynamics. Sometimes we just call it
Astrodyne. It’s nothing mega. We’re based out of Seattle, but we have
a few offices around the world, and, believe it or not, even up here.

MBE: “We’ve been watching you fellows drop by over last the few years,
but this is the first time you’ve come within driving distance. I
couldn’t resist dashing over for a chit-chat, as brief as it must be.”

“So tell me Robyn, what does your Astrodynamics Corporation do?”

MBF: “We’re not focused on the bottom line, Gene, at least not to the
mindless level you would expect. We’re actually about the business of
philanthropy. Thirty years ago we were a church. We see human history
as a work of art, and we are making an endeavor to perfect it.

MBG: Now humanity leaving the Earth and spreading out into the
universe is much closer to perfection than staying home with all our
eggs in one basket, to use the cliche, especially when you consider
the powerful weapons we now have, and the sheer insanity behind making them.”

MBH: Robyn showed him a binder containing many documents and photographs.
“The names and faces in this dossier will probably mean nothing to you,
but they will mean a great deal to certain people in the government.
Please accept this package and run it up your chain of command.”

MBH: Cernan took the documents, and as he did, he searched Robyn’s
face. He really wanted to like her. “Why are you giving this to me?”
he asked.

She said, “Think of it as a list of serious grievances we have with
the United States going back for more than a hundred years.”

MBI: “I feel like I’ve stepped into the middle of an old argument,”
Cernan said as he flipped through the binder to briefly sample the
information. Old argument indeed. Some of the documents, just as Robyn
said, were on age-yellowed paper dating back to the Reconstruction period.

MBJ: Robyn said, “If you have the time during your flight home, Gene,
please take a deeper look at that material. I think you’ll see why
we didn’t find it a good idea to get permission from the government
of the United States before coming up here and doing what we have done.”

MBK: “And aside from whatever you’ve done up here, Robyn, what else
have you done?”

“Stuff. You know that Watergate thicket the President has got
himself in? That was us. Unlucky for him, lucky for everyone else. It
prevents something much worse than the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

MBL: Within the binder were also five sets of color photographs that
drew Commander Cernan’s interest, with the negatives clipped to them.
He pulled them out and asked what they were.

“Images of each one of the previous Apollo landing sites, taken very
soon after departure.

MBM: Note the missing ascent stage in each photo. We thought NASA
might want a photographic record.”

Cernan became quiet and put the photos back inside the binder. He
seemed to grow a little melancholy. Competing with the Soviet Union
now seemed like a farting in a hurricane.

MBN: Robyn sensed this and tried to brighten him up. “It’s twelve days
before Christmas. I’ve got a hundred and fifty of your Earth pounds of
presents for Mr. Harrison Schmitt. Rocks from right here at the North
Massif, taken at depths up to six hundred feet below the surface.

MBO: There’s also sulfur from a channel we call Yellow Rille. Documentation
provided with the samples have original location and depth. We don’t
boast any trained geologists but Judith Gervasi has experience with
archaeology in the Middle-East. Some of the same principles apply.

MBP: Hopefully all this will compensate for the precious minutes
you’re losing talking to me.”

“And why are you talking to me, Robyn? Is this just a fancy sales
pitch? Am I to be your go-between?”

She smiled and shook her head. “Basically, it all boils down to this,
Gene:

MBQ: You may be impressed that Astrodyne got to the moon before Apollo
11, but the way we get here takes a strange shortcut. We specialize
in some things but not in others. Your lunar lander out there, even
your mothership orbiting overhead, we don’t anything like those.

MBR: So we were willing to forget all the dirty laundry when America
was on the fast track to coming up here and possibly teaming up with
us. We could have built something together. But in the end the whole
Apollo program was just so you could stick it in the eye of the USSR.

MBS: The interest of the American people started to wane right after
Apollo 11. The space race was just a big Cold War stunt and after you
‘won’ it started to look like spending a lot of money for nothing. Now
to be fair, the Soviet Union lost interest as well, after you ‘won’.”

MBT: Robyn noticed a feeling of well-being that bordered on giddiness
and looked at the cabin pressure. It had crept past 4 psi of pure
oxygen. Cernan’s spacesuit was still running, and pushing fresh air
through his collar ring into the interior of the truck. She bled it down.

MBU: “Then Nixon canceled Apollo 20 and ordered the reconfiguration
of the third stage as Skylab,” Robyn said, resuming where she had paused.
“After that Nixon even canceled Apollo 19 to shift funding to the
Shuttle. It seemed to us that America wasn’t looking outward anymore.

MBV: Then we visited the Soviets and told them there was a hard currency
waiting for what they had to offer, or potentially had to offer. So the
moon race is a variation of the story of the tortoise and the hare,
with the hare putting one toe over the finish line and turning back.

MBW: But the tortoise is closing in now, and he’s bringing a nuclear
third stage. What did you do with your third stage, Gene?”

“We let it crash onto the moon.”

“That’s right, and one more reason we’re glad things are winding up
with NASA. We live and work here, you know.”

MBX: “We didn’t know that, Robyn. And it was for seismic research.”

“Okay, Gene, but dig this: The Soviet third stage is fired three times,
once for Earth orbit, once for translunar injection, and once more
for the return. Their vehicle is just that third stage and a lander.”

MBY: They’re coming down with a crew of four and the whole crew gets
to land. So they’re doing it after you, but they’re doing it better.
Now if the only reason you’re going to the moon these days is for rocks,
I’m sure the Soviets can sell them directly to you for much cheaper.”

MBZ: At that Robyn drew a sudden breath of air and paused briefly.
What she had just said to Gene Cernan were the magic words. It took
another Sputnik moment to get America to react, but react America did,
or rather, she shortly would. The purpose of Robyn’s visit was fulfilled.

MCA: Nothing, absolutely nothing drove technological innovation faster
than war, even the faux war-by-proxy of the Cold One. Robyn had
rekindled it. Reality had diverged and the Moon Race was back on.
“Welcome to the Gamma track,” she muttered to herself softly.

MCB: “I can imagine all of this must come as a terrible shock to you,
Gene, because your entire remarkable career has been building up to this
mission, but that’s the raw truth so there you go. The bottom line is
that NASA does not need to follow up your flight with Apollo 18.”

MCC: “Then, Robyn, I would say you are in luck. Apollo 18 has indeed
been canceled. Dr. Schmitt out there was supposed to be on that flight,
but he bumped one of my buddies to be the Lunar Module pilot on this
one, to my great displeasure. This mission truly is the last one.”

MCD: “I’m sorry about your friend, Gene. I didn’t know that. We’ve been
disconnected from things Earthside, just a bit.” “How did you get up
here anyway?” “It’s a way nobody else has thought of doing yet, but
even so, as I said, it’s a shortcut. Easy ways always make you weak.”

MCE: “I’m not sure I follow.”

“Okay, suppose you’re Captain Kirk at Starfleet Command, and you need
to go to the moon. Do you ride the starship Enterprise to get out
there?”

“No, you just beam up.”

“Bingo, Gene. That’s about as close as I can get to telling you what’s
going on.”

MCF: “Okay, but what I don’t understand is how you are willing to work
with the Soviets. You told me you were born in America.”

“Why would that be a problem, Gene?”

“Because they’re…communists!”

“Actually,Gene, they’re just socialists. Communism is the theoretical
end state.

MCG: “People can espouse utopianism, and claim to be utopians, all
while still living in a crapsack country. We’re negotiating with the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And frankly, competing theories
of economics bores the hell out of me. Yet wars are fought over them.

MCH: Besides, who owns your moon buggy?”

“The American people do.”

“You see? Socialism. That dog-eat-dog every-man-for-himself and the
devil-take-the-hindmost stuff doesn’t really work all that well up
here, any more than it works on the aircraft carriers you served on.

MCI: The American model even makes it worse, because the taxpayer’s money
gets shoveled out to the lowest bidder, or even to an incompetent
contractor who happens to be in a district where somebody needs
votes. That’s how the Space Shuttle is going to bite NASA’s ass someday.

MCJ: But, time marches on, Gene, and your backpack, which you have kept
running by the way, won’t run forever. That was pretty much all I
wanted to say. Thanks for taking this time out of your tait schedule
to meet with me. I think we will meet again on Earth in the near future.”

MCI: “I would like that very much, Robyn” he said. “In the meantime, I
would ask a favor from you.” “Anything, Gene. Just name it.” “My beautiful
ten year old little girl’s name is Tracy,” Cernan told her. “I wrote
her initials with my finger in the ground near the Challenger.

MCJ: “I did it far enough away that the blast of our ascent won’t erase
it, but now that I know you’re here I’m worried that new footprints
might erase her initials.”

“I can tell you love your daughter very much,” she said. “I promise
no one will ever come near the Challenger.

MCK: We’ll make it off-limits to the Russians too. Your Tracy’s initials
won’t last forever, of course, due to micrometeorites, but close enough.
A million years? That’s much better than anything you could do for her
Earthside. Take care, Gene, and have a safe journey home.”

MCL: They put their helmets on once more and made sure of the seals before
Robyn pumped the air out and motioned for Gene to leave. When the men
returned to the LM Harrison Schmitt snapped a photo of Cernan. He
looked haggard, exhausted, and perhaps just a little bit haunted.

MCM: To his mind the young lady he met out there with her sheaf of
papers and bundle of rocks and all the things she said spelled slow
but certain doom for NASA’s entire manned space program, not just
the moon shots. But true to her words it was not the last time they
would meet.

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Time’s up

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Kiss

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Pride

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Checkup

LDA: Judith Gervasi’s door wasn’t locked. At mid-day there came a
knock, and Amanda Chase entered the area of the lab set aside as
Judith’s living space to find her eating lunch. Amanda herself
brought a white cardboard box that had been given to her by Dr. Trochmann.

LDB: “Hello, Judith? I’m Doctor Amanda Chase. I came to have a look
at you but they said you were having lunch, so I thought I’d have my
lunch too before we started. If you’d rather eat alone just say so,
and I can leave.” Judith merely smiled and waved at a second chair.

LDC: Dr. Chase sat down and started unpacking what they had given her
to eat. She looked across to Judith and asked, “What are you having?”
“I’m having what passes for roast beef, in America,” she said. “But
I’m not really complaining. In the army I’ve had much, much worse.”

LDD: “In the army? Were you in the British army, or the Israeli?” “I
hold the rank of Sgan Aluf in the Tsva ha-Hagana le-Yisra’el, or the
Israeli Defense Force. This puts me above a major but below a
colonel, but none of that really matters if I’m the last one left alive.”

LDE: Amanda’s eyes sank to her food, and she said, sheepishly, “I’m
sorry.” Amanda saw that she, too, had been given a plate of roast beef
wrapped in foil, along with potato wedges, greens, and a small can of
pineapple juice. She ate for a bit, then laid eyes on Judith again.

LDF: “Your chart says you were born in 1928. I don’t know how you
managed it, Judith, but I was born in ’48 and frankly, you look like
you are my age.” “I did not lie about my age, Dr. Chase. I have
passports from two countries that were satisfied with other documents.”

LDG: “Aside from that, after we have lunch and you give me the
physical you came to do, you will find the indelible evidence of my
stay at Ohrdruf-Nord, which would indicate I was born before the end
of the War, at the very least. And you will be glad you ate first.”

LDH: Amanda was much chastened. She said, “Please, Judith, I did not
mean to imply you were untruthful. But your youthful appearance is
absolutely remarkable. If I look like you do in twenty more years it
would be a most happy state of affairs. I wonder, how do you manage it?”

LDI: “There is a trick to it,” Judith said, “but Roland and Trochmann
have already asked you to believe in six impossible things before
lunch. You are here to evaluate my health, including my cognition,
and if I told you my secret there is a chance you would misdiagnose me.”

LDJ: “Very well, Judith, if my own cognition does not fail me I shall
not inquire about this subject again, and your concern for a possible
misdiagnosis, by itself, argues well for your mental health. I shall
make a note of that. Fair enough?” And Judith nodded with her assent.

LDK: So they finished their lunch with only small talk, then Amanda,
with Judith’s permission, proceeded to the examination, starting with
her vital signs. She was also checking for any damage Judith might
have allowed to happen to herself by the ability to ignore pain.

LDL: “They told me you can choose not to endure pain,” Amanda said.
“Is that true?” “Yes, it’s true,” Judith replied. “It seems to be
part of the position description for the B’nei Elohim.” “The B’nei
Elohim?” “Yes. That is Hebrew for ‘offspring of the holy ones.’

LDM: Think of it as my coping mechanism. I like to think there is a
purpose to what happened to me. At any rate it sounds better than
White Brain Disease.” “Well, Judith, pain is also a coping mechanism.
It’s how your body, once damaged, avoids further damage. It’s a gift.

LDN: I can tell you that people born without the ability to feel pain
rarely live to see their twentieth birtday. If you have the ability
to turn pain off at will, it does not bode well for a long life.”
“I have learned that pain is a gift that can be abused,” Judith said.

LDO: “So think of my adaption as a defense mechanism against that
abuse.” When Judith lifted her blouse to allow Amanda to listen to
her breathe with a stethoscope the whip scars were revealed. Amanda
could not stop herself from taking a sudden gasp of air at the sight.

LDP: There were at least a dozen cross-crossing weals, and some were
raised as long unsightly ridges called keloids. “This happened to you
in, where did you say it was? Nordruff?” “Ohrdruf-Nord,” corrected
Judith. “April 1945. Nothing in my life prepared me for this. Nothing.”

LDQ: “Have you ever talked through this with anyone before?” “Oh yes,
there is a certain acquaintance who has helped me in so many ways I
cannot tell. After the war I wanted to hunt down the rats who did this
and got away, but hy convinced me that the army was a better choice.

LDR: “But the one who did this.” Judith made a gesture to the scars
on her back. “I did her a treat, oh yes I did, on the day the camp
was liberated.” “How did you come to be there, Judith? Germany?
Poland? I thought you were a subject of Her Majesty.”

LDS: “My family lived on the Isle of Wight, in the English Channel.
We were abducted, my mother and I, and taken to a camp in Cherbourg,
France. That camp was just a camp. But before it could be surrounded
by the invading allies we were taken further east to a work camp.

LDT: The allied armies kept coming, so we kept moving, and ended up
in the kind of work camp where you were worked to death. And still
Patton came on. That’s how we ended up at Ohrdruf-Nord, which was a
satellite of Buchenwald. No more work, just a living hell, until death.”

LDU: “I’m not really a student of history,” Amanda said, “but all this
sounds so horrible, Judith. I don’t know how you came through it.” “I
like you, Dr. Chase. I want you to remember that when this is over
and I’m no longer here to tell you.” “What do you mean, Judith?

LDV: “Do you imagine something is going to happen to you?” “You are
going to add David and Jerry to the ranks of the B’nei Elohim, and
after that we’re all going to walk right out of here.” “Do you really
think so, Judith?” “Why not? Three others did precisely that.”

LDW: Judith smiled at the sheer naivete of Amanda. “I’m here under
official quarantine, am I not? How did Kimberly Shybear and Sofie
Krause escape? Were they cured and released? And why did Tolson let
Rebekah Redstar go? You’re not asking the right questions, Dr. Chase.”

LDX: “You must be mistaken, Judith, at least in part. I’ve seen what
Director Roland claims are the remains of Kimberly Shybear. So she must
have died in quarantine, no?” “No. Germany was not the only country
to operate concentration camps. Kim was once held in an American one.

LDY: Weren’t you even curious what happened to the previous subjects
of this particular research project?” “Dr. Trochmann told me only
that they ‘lost contact’ with two of them.” “What a strangely
passive way to put it,” Judith said. “Wouldn’t you like to know more?”

LDZ: When Amanda had no answer, Judith said, “I believe in your heart
of hearts that you do. At the very least, it will keep you from being
entirely blindsided when three B’nei Elohim walk out of here in
our usual spectacular fashion, right under your very noses.”

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Brains

LCA: In the conference room of the lab where Dr. Amanda Chase was
introduced to Director Earl Roland her eyes kept drifting to what she
thought were two detailed models of human brains cast in white plastic,
sitting in the center of the long table. “May I have a closer look?”

LCB: “Most certainly,” said Roland, grinning, as he pushed both of
them closer to her side of the table.

Examining both of them quite thoroughly, she said, “They are both
remarkably accurate, except for this structure at the back. I fail to
see the point of making that.”

LCC: Roland’s grin became an full smile after that remark. “Ah, you
must think these are sculptures of some sort, or perhaps casts made
in plastic of a mold taken after the demise of a living person. But
what you have in your hands are actual relics, Dr. Chase.”

LCD: Amanda eyed both Roland and Dr. Trochmann with a quick flash of
indignation, which they fully expected. She said, “The color is all
wrong, no matter what solution you used to preserve them. Brains of
this age would be an unsightly dark yellowish-brown. And softer.”

LCE: Trochmann said, “Dr. Chase, do you see the pins inside the cup
of bone shaped like the letter ‘D’?”

She looked closely, but shook her head. “I see none.”

“Oh, you must be looking at Gabriel Shybear,” said Roland. “The other
one belonged to Kimberly Shybear.

LCF: That one still has the pins.”

Amanda looked at the other relic and saw rings of black pins arranged
with geometric precision. It was the precision which spurred her
unbelief.

“The pins you see would grow back if they were broken off, at least
they would in a living subject.

LCG: There was a subject named Rebekah Redstar who was also afflicted
with this change. She held Gabriel’s brain in her hands even as you
are holding Kim’s in your own, and sabotaged it. She broke off all
the pins. So we learned they do not grow in a subject who is dead.”

LCH: She said, “Even healthy living things do not develop with such
mechanical precision, yet you say this is a disease? Or perhaps a
mutation? So much the worse for your claim.”

Roland said, “If you look more closely, you will see where we cut
tissue strips as samples.

LCI: We have examined these samples under extreme magnification, and
there is always more detail. But it is the nature of the detail
which is most interesting. How did Director Tolson put it, Ian?”

Trochmann remembered well. “He compared it to a bridge across a
stream.

LCJ: He said that nature, with all the time in the world, still only
made bridges by mindlessly rolling boulders into a rough line, or
maybe having a log drift downstream and get caught by boulders, and
that is what we see with how evolution made our nervous system.

LCK: But this is like someone poured concrete over the boulders, then
cut up the log for timber to build a functional and efficient truss.”

“So you think this is artificial,” mused Amanda.

Roland said, “That is something I’d like to find out. And if so, who
did it, and why.”

LCJ: Dr. Trochmann asked a question. “Dr. Chase, in your professional
opinion, what is the mechanism by which human beings store long-term
memories?”

She thought about that for a moment, then said, “Even now, we only
have a variety of competing models, all in a state of flux.

LCK: And when you talk about them, you have to specify what level
you’re referring to. For instance, I am of the opinion that what we
call autobiographical memory is stored, at the highest level, in the
dream format. But you may be asking about the lowest, physical level.”

LCL: Trochmann nodded his head, so she continued.

“The brain has layers upon layers of neurons arranged in networks
that are connected more or less randomly, but order can be imposed on
them in much the same way you can tread through a field of grass and
create paths.

LCM: So every time you get behind the wheel of a car, your movements
seem almost automatic. You call it ‘muscle memory’ but it’s really
your mind rehearsing some well-worn paths in the grass. But other
paths double back around and make loops. These are nagging memories.

LCN: You might find yourself rehearsing something you did in the past
that was very stupid, something that nobody else in the world but you
remembers, yet you process them with emotions of regret, or shame.
Those are the loops. But they’re important in making you who you are.”

LCO: “Thank you, Dr. Chase. And would you find it safe to say that
three years after death, a human brain could not, by any means, still
retain memories in any meaningful way?”

“Not even three minutes after death,” said Amanda. “It begins to turn
to slurry almost immediately.”

LCP: “And yet Deputy Director Tolson reported that a woman named
Rebekah Redstar, who exhibited the same D-shaped cup at the back of
her head, was able to connect herself to the brain of Gabriel Shybear
with a cable prepared specifically for that purpose.

LCQ: Director Tolson reported that this Rebekah, after making
contact with Gabriel’s brain, knew about and reacted to actions and
conversations that only he, Gabriel Shybear, and Director Roland had
witnessed, words and events which had been conveyed to no others.

LCR: Amanda shifted her glance to Earl Roland, as though seeking
confirmation, which he provided simply by not objecting to what Dr.
Trochmann said.

Trochmann continued. “We have concluded that that these brains are
preserved in both the external and internal sense.”

LCS: Amanda chewed on that, then said, “Do we all agree these are not
living brains?”

Trochmann and Roland both made affirmation of that.

“And you told me these pins at the back, if they were damaged, would
grow back, but only if the subject was still alive.”

Both men agreed.

LCT: “In that event, gentlemen, I fail to see how these relics can be,
as you claimed, preserved in an internal sense. It takes a great
deal of energy for neurons to propagate information. The brain alone
consumes fully a fifth of all the energy used by a human body.”

LCU: “Science has advanced quite rapidly over the last thirty-five
years,” said Trochmann, “but we knew, even in the beginning, the
dynamics of this change. It moved from neuron to neuron and retained
all the pathways, but the ion channels were replaced with something else.

LCV: Instead of atoms of potassium and chlorine and sodium being pumped
in and out of cell walls to make a wave, like letters moving on a
marquee, you have long gadgets with sliding rods. It’s mechanical
now, not electrical. Memories are stored in the position of the rods.

LCW: That, at least, is what we discovered when we put samples of
these relics under an electron microscope, and if you care to take
your own samples, Dr. Chase, and have a look for yourself, it is most
certain you will find that to be true as well.”

LCX: Amanda removed her glasses to rub her eyes as she shook her head.
Director Roland interpreted this as an expression of exasperation.
He said, “Dr. Chase, we are pleased that you have joined our project,
and it is my sincere hope that you will help us finally crack this nut.”

LCY: “But if you believe we are executing a complicated ruse for
some obscure but nefarious purpose, we are ready to let you take all
the time you need to investigate all the evidence for yourself, with
any apparatus you require and under any conditions you name yourself.”

LCZ: “There is no need,” said Amanda. “I know how important you are,
Director, and I cannot imagine why you would spend decades carrying out
an elaborate practical joke. Besides, considering what you now have
planned, certainly I will see the transformation myself, first-hand.”

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Amanda

LBA: The isolation and security at the Hanford Site was attractive
when corporations meditated doing something that isn’t entirely kosher
from a legal standpoint, even under the lax laws of the NCSA. Dr.
Amanda Chase was fully aware of this state of affairs.

LBB: But she didn’t understand why she had to leave her rented car
parked at the checkpoint called Rattlesnake Barricade.

“Government or company vehicles only,” said Dr. Ian Trochmann, her
sponsor, as he drove her to the lab. “I didn’t make the rules, Dr.
Chase.”

“And my visitor badge?” she asked.

LBC: He glanced down at his own permanment badge clipped to his front
pocket. “There is a good chance you will choose to part ways with
Pharmadigm after you learn a bit more. Your recruitment involved a
number of necessary deceptions which, professionally, you may not
accept.”

LBD: “What do you mean?”

“First, Dr. Chase, tell me what you know, or rather, what you think
you know about Pharmadigm.”

She thought about that for a moment, or rather, she thought about how
to get it across in a way that Dr. Trochmann, professionally, would
accept.

LBE: “I know Pharmadigm is a pharmaceutical, as the name suggests.
It’s not one of the big ones, but it’s been around for about thirty
years. It began, so it is said, when government insiders privy to
taxpayer-funded research met with venture capitalists to monetize it.”

LBF: “So it is said. Do you think it is true?”

“Thirty years is a long time. Things change. There are prestigious
organizations with much shadier pasts. Did you know, Dr. Trochmann,
that many ballet schools in Europe centuries ago were really just
fronts for cathouses?”

LBG: “Can you think of a major product that is produced by
Pharmadigm?”

“Nothing in the literature stands out, but science marches on even
through a string of failures. I recall a potential anti-anxiety drug
that actually had a reverse effect. It caused a very intense anxiety.”

LBH: “Oh, that compound has proved beneficial after all. Suppose you
wanted to ask questions but you have a tough customer, so you bring
out the standard toolkit for asking questions. Without the drug, you
have to use the tools. With the drug, you can just show the tools.”

LBII: That seemed to set Amanda back a little.

Trochmann said, “The company called Pharmadigm, which you imagine to
be a pharmaceutical, is in fact a shell corporation, a front, managed
by what used to be the Special Projects section of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation.

LBJ: Special Projects had always been run by the Deputy Director,
Clyde Tolson, who insisted that we call it DECON, for Domestic Enemies
Containment, Observation, and Neutralization, but Hoover was more in
tune with the political niceties and never let him make that official.

LBK: But Hoover died in ’72 and Tolson died in the ’73 attack on
DC, and there was, as you know, a re-org. Earl Roland was Deputy under
Tolson, and he became Director concurrently with DECON stepping into
the role for the New Confederacy the FBI formerly had for the US.

LBL: I worked for Tolson from the very beginning, during World War II.
Back then there was a…well, we treated it as an outbreak. A contagion.
The details are so bizarre that you will imagine we are having you
along for a massive joke, but it is most certainly not a joke.

LBMM: You will have every opportunity to examine the subjects, the
decades of accumulated research and all the other evidence for yourself,
under any conditions you name.”

“Is that why I was hired? You are reaching out with this information?
You just want to be believed?”

LBN: “On the contrary, Doctor Chase. Your field is neurology. You
completed your residency under Dr. Paul Brand, who was well-known to
us. It was he who discovered leprosy patients were losing toes and
feet due to their neuropathy rather than to the bacilli.

LBO: “I heard that Dr. Brand went over to Pacifica in the, ah, re-org.”

“Alas, no one is perfect, Dr. Chase. If you choose to work with us
you will find we are dealing with a disease of both the central and
the peripheral nervous systems. You are well qualified to consult.”

LBP: She said, “I was hired to oversee human trials of a new kind of
anaesthetic.”

“That much is entirely true,” said Trochmann. “There will indeed be
human trials. And you will find the subjects gain the ability to
consciously choose to ignore any level of pain.”

LBQ: “You said this ‘outbreak’ first happened in World War II? If it
is still an issue why has nothing remotely like it appeared in the
literature? I would have most certainly been alert to any reports of
patients with the ability to voluntarily override pain.”

LBR: “Between 1942 and 1950 I was able to examine only four persons
afflicted with what I call White Brain Disease. We have the remains
of two of these. We lost contact with the other two and we have been
unable to locate them ever since, but we know they remain alive.

LBS: Four years ago, a woman named Judith Gervasi was brought to our
attention. She presents the first confirmed case of White Brain
Disease we have seen in nearly three decades. As with the others, we
are exercising our authority to hold her in a mandatory quarantine.

LBT: Miss Gervasi was born in the United Kingdom, but she also holds
an Israeli passport, for what that’s worth, as there really is no
Israel anymore. Like the four other subjects, she is most reticent
when it comes to questions about how she contracted her strange ailment.

LBU: We recently learned, however, that a very dark fluid drawn from
the patient is capable of inducing White Brain Disease in test animals
after about a week. So it can cross species. And yes, we are now ready
to commence human trials, which is where you come into the picture.

LBV: It was Director Roland who thought we should be ‘reaching out’
with this problem. He hopes that a fresh set of eyes and a fresh
mind, one from outside of DECON, might help us reach a more productive
state and finally discern what the hell is going on with all this.”

LBW: They arrived at the desolate location where the town of White
Bluffs once existed, before all the townspeople were ordered to move
away in the spring of 1943. Only two structures existed here, the
DECON lab, and a shack for the guards who watched the lab overnight.

LBX: “So here we are at the lab, and the Director himself is waiting
for you inside, if you still want the position. If not, I will drive
you back to Rattlesnake Barricade for a friendly parting of our ways,
I’ll hand over a check for your time already spent, and no harm done.”

LBY: Amanda said, “I’ll stay, Dr. Trochmann. You’ve certainly made me
curious, and it would be a shame to waste the weeks of prep I went
through for this job. But what puzzles me is the usual non-disclosure
agreement seems to have been omitted. Or perhaps it was just forgotten?”

LBZ: Dr. Trochmann turned off the engine and smiled. “Think back to
the anxiety-inducing drug, Dr. Chase. Somehow, DECON has never seen
the need to get a formal non-disclosure agreement in writing. Somehow
a informal understanding by all parties has always been sufficient.”

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David

LAA: By any stretch of the imagination the things David Morrich saw in
Washington, D.C. on October 19, 1973 far surpassed anything Judith
had witnessed in the Nazi death camps, but somehow they affected him
far less. Perhaps he was wired differently, or made of sterner stuff.

LAB: At seventeen, Dave was a good kid. Sure, he dropped out of school
just before his senior year, to the great consternation of his father,
but Dave figured the kind of work he could find after one more year of
school wouldn’t be all that much different from his situation now

LAC: Sure he was a skinny young black man with a wild afro, but nobody
living in the Seventies would look back a few decades later and say
they were proud of their hair. Dave’s father had a civil service job,
his parents were still together, and Dave loved both of them.

LAD: If he had been born ten or twenty years later, he would have been
the exception rather than the rule. That Friday he was on the job site
in a cavern dug under the city, a space intended to become an ornate
Metro station when the system opened just three years later.

LAE: Overtaken by events, it never did open. Dave didn’t have any
construction skills per se, and he lacked the upper body strength in
any event, but his job was simply to keep the area as clean as possible
while the other men worked. He did so with much youthful energy.

LAF: On October 19 the lights went out and there was something like a
long earthquake. An eerie white light reflected down one of the
connecting tunnels and hot dust filled the cavern even as the light
faded from purple to red. But the light never disappeared entirely.

LAG: The city above was on fire. Dave Morrich and his co-workers were
lucky. There are very few survivors so close to the footprint of the
Soviet fusion warhead. The yield and corresponding destruction is
many times greater than the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombs.

LAH: In the Tidal Basin next to where the Washington Monument once
stood was now a dry crater so hot the Potomac River continually
turned to steam before it could fill the hole. Surrounding this was a
ring of destruction where the White House and the monuments used to be.

LAI: When Dave stepped out of the subway tunnel and looked to where
his home used to be he saw the view was largely unobstructed, yet
there was no way for him to locate exactly where he was. All the
landmarks were gone. In that instant he knew that he was an orphan.

LAJ: There was no point in even trying to look for his parents. They
were as gone as anyone can possibly be. So he turned and began to walk
in what he guessed was the next best direction, which was direcly
away from the pillar of steam that was ground zero.

LAK: As he walked, he passed through a ring of human bodies that were
almost recognizable, but they were charred black, and even the beer
bottles and car windows lying at their feet were melted. After that
he passed through a ring of half-standing blackened buildings.

LAM: These buildings had white “shadows” along their base that had
been people blocking the initial flash. There Dave had to pick his
way through the rubble of structures that had already been burned out
just to find a hole to make his way to the next ring.

LAN: Dave passed through a ring of people who were still alive, but
they were burned so badly they had no hope of recovery, and they were
in such a state of shock that they feel nothing, made no sound, and
would soon die. They were actually the lucky ones.

LAO: He passed through a ring of people who do make a sound, for each
of them were immersed in a sea of absolutely unendurable agony that
never stopped. They stripped themselves naked because clothes only
made the pain worse. Their arms were held at a forty-five degree angle.

LAP: If their arms touched their bodies the pain of the contact grew
too great. Dave was forced to remain in this ring until the fires of
the rings farther away burned themselves out. He hasnt been injured,
but even as he walked residual radiation did its invisible dirty work.

LAQ: With Washington DC and much of the surrounding area devastated,
America went through a profound political shift. The United States
was reduced to those states which remained loyal during the Civil War,
basically New York, New England, and the swath embracing the Midwest.

LAR: The western half of the states of Washington, Oregon, and
Northern California, including San Francisco, formed a new nation
called Pacifica. Everything else in the south, the plains, and the
mountain west was reorganized as the New Confederate States of America.

LAS: Tolson’s DECON project still had a lot of surviving infrastructure
and in the vacuum left by the FBI it became independent. DECON, in
fact, grew to occupy the role of internal security in the NCSA. J.
Edgar Hoover died in 1972 and Tolson died in the attack on DC.

LAT: But Special Agent in Charge Earl Roland, who was the technical
director of the DECON project, survived. Tolson’s obsession with the
B’nei Elohim lived on in Roland. Every day for a half-hour or more he
sat in an anteroom of the DECON headquarters in Greendome.

LAU: There he silently contemplated a glass case displaying the
dessicated white shapes of the modified brains of Gabriel and Rebekah.
The amount of science DECON had been able to obtain by studying
the brains of the once-living subjects was maddeningly limited.

LAW: Images made with the electron microscope revealed that every
molecule in every brain cell had been replaced with a kind of
articulated plastic that did not degrade like the organelles and
components of living protoplasm. Yet it remained beyond analysis.

LAW: The Hanford site where the Trinity and Nagasaki “Fat Boy” bombs
had been assembled was itself nuked in Black ’73 but it was about the
size of a full county and large portions were still in use five years
later. The “N” Reactors on the site was completely gone, of course.

LAX: Walla Walla and the tri-cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland,
all downwind, were still more or less ghost towns, but contamination
levels in the southeast corner along the Columbia River approached the
slightly elevated levels of just prior to the attack.

LAY: This corner was still in use. The New Confederacy was contemplating
shutting the place down for good, but there was still a lot of useful
infrastructure: a rail network, a power grid, a number of empty
structures. Dave Morrich ended up here with two other individuals.

LAZ: A company called Pharmadigm told Dave he would be among the first
human beings to receive an experimental drug. He had little choice.
The cancer that developed after the DC strike was in his bones now.
It was agonizing, and he had no way to manage the pain.

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Underground

KAA: A Greendome Sanitation Auditor greeted Rebekah Redstar at the
front door of her home and mentioned that in recent months she had
gone from a seven dollar subscription to five dollar a month can, and
he wanted to know why. She asked, “Do I really have to explain it
you?”

KAB: “What do you mean?”

“I mean your side blames our side for the Temple fire, right? So I
lost my job. A lot of other Red Wingers did too. You know how it
is. Money never seems to go far enough anymore. I had to fiddle with
my budget and trash pickup was a big item.”

KAC: “How did you manage it?”

“Oh, you know, I just got a little smarter in the groceries I buy and
in the way I prepare my trash. You can nest trash within trash within
trash if you just give it a little thought. Say, there isn’t a weight
surcharge, is there?”

KAD: “Only if there’s evidence of compacting, which you’ve so far
managed to avoid. Would you mind if I looked in your backyard?

Rebekah was a little too savvy for that. “Show me a search warrant, ”
she said firmly. “How about your husband, Miss Redstar? Is he home? ”

KAE: “Would he invite me out back?”

“It’s just me here, Rebekah said sternly. “And when I do find a
husband, he won’t be the sort of fellow who does an end run around
his own wife.”

“Did I hear you say you’re looking for work, Miss Redstar?” he tried
again.

KAF: “You know, your future employer might blame the inconvenience of
any greater scrutiny of their dumpsters on the uncooperative off-duty
attitude of one of their new employees, if word got back to them.”
“Get a warrant, clown! she barked. I know my rights!”

KAG: She slammed in the Sanitation Auditor’s face. Damnation! he
thought. And the way the liberal judges were ruling nowadays, it
would take more than going from a medium can to a small can to get a
search warrant. So he left for the easier target next door.

KAH: Rebekah’s neighbors had gone from a family-size jumbo ten dollar
a month can to the basic five dollar one. They certainly had some
explaining to do. He made a note that if Rebekah Redstar’s trash was
so much as one inch overflowing to charge her the full seven dollars.

KAI: As soon as the door slammed shut, Gabriel, Robyn, Hunky, and
Dory came out from hiding to join Rebekah in her modest living room.
Doris Day was belting one out on the radio that was the center of
entertainment in the home. Hunky and Dory, as usual, were holding
hands.

KAJ: Robyn was a few months along in her pregnancy and starting to
show. “That was very satisfying,” Rebekah told them, “just like you
said it would be.”

“It only gets better, Gabriel Shybear told her. Are you ready to go
to your training house?”

“Ready when you are.”

KAI: Gabriel brought out the macro he had duplicated for Rebekah, a
perfect copy of the Golden Gift. He squeezed it to obtain about a foot
of the hissing black shaft and fed a banana peel into it. The shaft
gobbled it all up with not a trace left over. “Where did it go?”

KAJ: “Mike says it’s not magic,” Gabriel said, “but it’s rocket
science so it might as well be. Hy says whatever it touches turns into
a kind of matter that doesn’t respond to anything except gravity. So
as far as we’re concerned it’s gone. I mean it’s just, gone.”

KAK: “Why is it hissing like that?”

“That’s the air in the house being sucked in, Gabriel explained. Robyn
said, “My father had one of these in a cave, and it ate all the air.
He suffocated and died.” That gave Rebekah pause. “I knew he died,
Robyn, but I never knew how.”

KAL: “Let me show you a neat trick, Hunky said, in a bid to lighten
things up a little. She tossed a bottle cap from six feet away. It
would have missed, but the hissing air near the macro effect guided
it in to its doom.” :It’s good for cutting too, Robyn said.

KAM: She passed Rebekah’s softball bat through the purple light. The
bat fell into two pieces with the middle section effortlessly carved
out. “What is that dark beam?”

“That’s the macro in action,” said Gabriel. Not even light can
escape.”

“Why do you call it a macro?”

KAN: “That’s more rocket science. Mike says this black shaft is a
microscopic quantum effect that operates on a macroscopic scale.”

“Is that as long as it gets?”

“Nope, squeeze harder and it gets longer.” Gabriel tripled its length.
“If you squeeze even harder it does this.”

KAO: Che tipped the shaft away from hez friends to keep them safe and
made the shaft balloon out as a cone. The hissing became a terrifying
roar. Che turned it off two seconds after letting it form. Then Gabiel
said, “Let’s go down to your basement, Rebekah, and get to work.”

KAP: With the macro on wide beam Gabriel cut a tunnel from Rebekah’s
basement to the next door neighbor’s house, which had no basement.
The new tunnel was tall enough for them to walk through it without
crouching. It ended with a little cave-in of earth.

KAQ: A small ladder from Rebekah’s garage was brought forward. All of
them quietly gathered under the floorboards of House Ten and waited
for the sounds of footsteps above to stop. When they did, that meant
everyone in the house had gone to work or school.

KAR: Rebekah and the Band all entered through an access hatch in
the floor of a closet that had been constructed to allow the owner
to make an inspection under the house. The womenfolk went to the
kitchen. “Just grab a couple dinner plates,” Dory told Rebekah.

KAS: “Just a couple of coffee cups. Not enough to raise any alarms.”
“I get it,” Rebekah said. “Even if they miss them, they’ll just assume
someone broke them washing them or something.”

“Right.”

Gabriel took care of the trash. “I’m leaving enough for a five dollar
can.”

KAT: “Why not make all the trash disappear?” Rebekah asked him.
“We learned our lesson the hard way. No trash raises alarms. Less
trash just raises eyebrows. Now if your hosts here in House Ten go
to a smaller can just like you did, you’re saving them five dollars
monthly.”

KAU: “So you can skim five dollars a month in value from this host.”
“Value in what?”

“A little food from the fridge, a little beer, electric power. After
this I’m going to show you how to tap into their power lines safely,
so you don’t have to pay for electricity.

KAV: “When you get seven or eight host homes on your grid they
shouldn’t even notice the drain of your own use.”

“Ah, but living in caves underground, though,” Rebekah murmured, as
though she were having second thoughts. “It’s not that bad,” Hunky
said.

KAW: “Most days you spend in houses while the occupants are away,
just like we are doing right now. Besides, no one is looking for you
yet. There’s no reason you can’t keep living out of your own house
for the time being.”

“This is just temporary anyway,” said Robyn.

KAX: “Most of the men in the Red Wing are on site in Franklin, in that
ghost town Michael bought in Washington, building new houses on the
old foundations. Everyone is selling their houses to White Wingers,
who are snapping them up, happy to be rid of you.

KAY: But we can’t move too fast. The People are already taking a hit
on the home prices they’re fetching. If you sell too fast the prices
will fall even more. But not as much,” and here Robyn smiled wickedly,
“as their own prices will tank after we’re all gone.”

KAZ: Everyone saw the hundred dollars of cash lying on the top of a
dresser drawer in the master bedroom, but it remained to be seen what
Rebekah Redstar would do. Rebekah saw Gabriel watching him. She looked
at the money, then back at Gabriel. “What, are you crazy?

KBA: We take that money and our whole structure will come crashing
down.” Gabriel Shybear breathed a sigh of relief. A hurdle had been
passed. In that moment, in fact, che believed che had won.

KBB: Several months earlier when Gabriel gave Hunky and Dory their
own macros and told them to think of something to do with them, they
started to dig under the ground, just like Robyn’s father had once
done, but they did it to create a network of tunnels between houses.

KBC: Their happy pastime was to explore empty homes when the owners
were away at work, made all the more happier by their custom of
“breaking in” each new addition to their network. Sex is a powerful
motivator. Their constellation of homes soon numbered in the dozens.

KBD: Some of the houses on their network were never occupied and
became B’nei Elohom “Safe Houses” most of the time, at least when
Realtors were not showcasing them to potential buyers. Hunky was the
one who came up with the idea of getting rid of their host’s trash.

KBE: Special Agent Mark Felt was long gone, with his mission complete,
and even Bill Sullivan had been reassigned, but Clyde Tolson still
hung around Greendome like a dirty old man leering an elementary
school playground, digging up “clues” and corrupting the town leaders.

KBF: When the mayor complained about the sudden shortfall in trash
pickup revenue, Tolson recommended charging a flat ten dollars no
matter what size can was used. Gabriel retaliated by making one
hundred percent of his host’s garbage disappear.

KBG: Many citizens, including not a small number of White Wingers,
dropped weekly pickup service altogether. Citizens who cooperated with
the new corps of Sanitation Auditors and allowed them to come inside
their homes were punished by Gabriel most severely.

KBH: The Trash Fairy never visited them again. But those citizens who
were ordered by Judge Porter to allow a Sanitation Auditor to inspect
their homes were not punished. Trash pickup continued through a small
hole that suddenly appeared in the bottom of their trash can.

KBI: All of the citizens who were treated in this way resented the
authorities enough not to mention the neat round hole. So the town’s
next move, again at the advice of Clyde Tolson, was a ten dollar
surcharge on electric power for every home not subscribed to trash
pickup.

KBJ: Gabriel Shybear countered with a simple gadget that, in
combination with a macro, ate electrons rather than air. Tie your
circuit to earth ground for a source of free electrons, and Gabriel’s
gadget constantly disposed of them. You got a steady current flow.

KBK: The electricity was ran through an inverter, phase-matched to the
AC line current, and soon many houses went off the official power grid
for good. This wasn’t, strictly speaking, free energy. The dark energy
powering all macros came, ultimately, from Chokhman and Binah.

KBL: The activities of the B’nei Elohim was not just confined to the
neighborhoods. A large fraction of the cost of doing any kind of
manufacturing was in disposing of hazardous wastes. Gabriel would do
that for one company at a ridiculously low price.

KBM: This allowed said company to pass the savings on to the consumer
and drive all their competitors out of business. Then, armed with a
monopoly, prices would creep back up and Gabriel would squeeze them
for a share. Drilling for water costs five hundred bucks?

KBN: Gabriel will do it for one hundred. Drilling for oil costs ten
thousand bucks? Gabriel will do it for two hundred with a macro taped
in the on position and a ball of twine to hang it from. And such was
the life of the B’nei Elohim in Greendome as the year 1943 ran out.

KBO: By late fall the homes in Franklin were complete and the Red Wing
was migrating out of Greendome by train, six families a week. And a
curious thing happened. The Squaw River, which debouched full-grown
from the western slope of Green Dome, slowed to a mere trickle.

KBP: Then even J. Edgar Hoover got tired of Clyde Tolson wasting time
with his obsession on the high plains and called him back to DC. A war
was still raging. Or perhaps he just missed him. When Robyn began to
have labor pains she could visit Dr. Wahkan without fear of capture.

KBQ: “I’m glad you came in,” he said. “You won’t need to be sedated
because you can choose to isolate your conscious mind from any pain
but it’s still going to kick your ass. Your body, your subconscious
mind is still going to know something is going very wrong.”

KBR: “Why is that, Doc?” she asked. “Why can’t we just drop ’em like
cows do and carry on?”

“Because humans are the only animals on Earth that walk upright,
on two feet. At every moment we are faced with the threat of being
disemboweled simply by standing up.

KBS: “So the hole in the pelvic floor has to be as small as possible
to prevent that. At the same time, humans have the largest brains of
any animal on Earth as a percentage of their total body mass. So the
opening in the pelvis cannot be too small, do you see?”

KBT: Robyn nodded. “Otherwise the infant would get wedged in the
birth canal and die.”

“Correct. The baby’s skull does not fully form until after birth, so
it actually deforms during birth to ease the passage, but the ordeal
is still very dangerous for mother and child.”

KBU: “Assuming we both survive, what am I in for?”

“You mean, what are you going to get?”

Robyn nodded.

“Well, Gabriel is a jen, hez sex chromosomes are X and Z. You’re are
X and X. So there’s a fifty percent chance you’re going to get a
beautiful and human baby girl.”

KBV: “And there’s a fifty percent chance you’re going to get an
equally beautiful baby nephil. Flip the coin again. Heads che’s an
ambi, like Doriel’s mother. Tails che’s a che like hez father Gabriel.
I could have tested for it earlier, but now it’s so close there’s no
point.”

KBW: Robyn’s husband and her two closest friends stayed close to her
during the whole ordeal. Once, just once, she let herself be in full
contact with the worst of the labor pain, and she quickly retreated,
thankful that she could retreat. The Change had completely spoiled
her.

KBX: When it was over she was holding a baby girl. Gabriel suggested
they name her Ariel, and Robyn agreed. Ariel was perfectly whole and
healthy and came with a little pad of soft black hair. Robyn found
that words failed to fully convey this greatest of human experiences.

KBY: Robyn loved to hold Ariel’s face close to her own and inhale her
soft baby scent, that special new person factory-fresh smell. She
was Ariel’s mother! Gabriel, too, was filled with joy to be Ariel’s
father, but he felt sliced out, somehow, from the pure joy that Robyn
felt.

KBZ: As hez thoughts trended along this line che realized that as
things stood, there was no remedy for hez vague dissatisfaction. So
much potential was going to waste by biological inevitability. As
long as che remained wed to Robyn che could only be a father, never a
mother.

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