Chapter 71

Canterwood Academy in Haaretz provides the best primary education in the universe to lifeforms based on chemistry. There Chokhmah and Binah mix the chemicals together to see what they get, hopefully without dropping the test tubes. The children know their classmates come from a wide variety of geographical regions across three worlds.

The only knowledge that is withheld from the children is how they are also selected from a variety of epochs in time. The only children who know this are of the b’nei elohim, but as with all the demigods in Chokhmah’s project they have strong inhibitions built into them against revealing anything about it.

This year from House Sala, young Prince Nelchael and hyz sister Princess Bikol from the royal household are permitted by Lilith to attend the Academy. They are brought east by steamship over Thalury and up the River Sabik directly to Canterwood, in what is perhaps the most comfortable journey for any of the children.

Abdiel Larund, heir to the Black Beard throne, is enrolled as well, together with a young Larund commoner named Muran. They had flown west by aircraft, which involved a heart-stopping drop over the four mile high Wall of God, buffetted by much turbulence.

From House Antero, Lilith selects Telan, son of Count Nerio, and also a commoner from among the Red Beards named Inanna, and they too had flown in. But none of the children of the Brown Beards, nor of House Gerash who occupied them, are invited to attend.

From the land of Haaretz at the foot of the Wall of God Yeshua chooses a girl named Dafla Elkana from Nath and the tribes that remain loyal to Chohkmah alone. And che chooses a boy named Kishar Tullis from Hamar, from among those tribes that had embrace Binah as the offspring of Chokhmah. And these children are brought to Canterwood Academy by horseless carriage, but this is over difficult unpaved roads.

From among the b’nei elohim another two children are chosen. The first was a very gifted boy named Edgar Shybear, the son of Jerry and Robyn Shybear. His special power is an extraordinary intelligence. Edgar is the pinnacle of Chokhmah’s long labors, a brilliant dagger to be pointed directly at the heart of Thaumiel. It only remains for that blade to be sharpened.

The second child is Hope Felton, the daughter of a very famous man named Mark Felton who had invented the Micro and created the Swarm. Hope is not an extraordinary thinker like Edgar, but her “power” (for each of the b’nei elohim had a unique and remarkable talen) seems to be the ability to produce any sound, as though she were a human parakeet perhaps. This is considered to be a relatively weak power, but Hope admits she is just a half-breed. Her father is not b’nei elohim. Her mother Victoria, however, can fly even without strap-on wings, something that Hope reveals with obvious pride.

The last two children, the jists named Murmi and Asael, don’t come from anywhere on Earth or Barbelo at all. They speak of a world with many moons, and how they often traveled between them floating inside ships that plied the darkness rather than the sea. Edgar and Hope already knew of such things, but the human children from Haaretz are filled with wonder at the stories of Murmi and Asael. Yet they do not become good friends with the two, for the children of the moons are very thin and too weak to run and play with the others.

Early in the first semester Yeshua, Lilith, and a number of Fallen Angels deliver a wide variety of musical instruments for the children to play, looking for talent in pretty much the same manner as throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks.

Telan Antero likes the physicality of the drum kit. Edgar eventually settles on the electric guitar, knowing it is capable of an astonishing array of sound. Kishar finds he can play a keyboard rather well with almost no instruction. Bikol Sala discovers that sha likes the electric bass. Everyone else tries the other instruments and learns they have no talent for playing them at all, including Hope, but Hope soon demonstrates that her real talent lies in her own voice. She can mimic any singer that she hears, and indeed any sound at all, which the others find to be surpassingly strange.

So Hope becomes the lead singer for a band that forms more-or-less spontaneously. Lilith asks them to think of a name. They eventually settle on Bite the Wax Tadpole.

In the place and time where Hope Felton comes from, everyone uses Micros to swap music for free through the Swarm, and so popular music as a business has collapsed into ruins, leaving only those enthusiasts willing to perform for free. On Barbelo and in the moons spoken of by Asael and Murmi, however, people bought analog recordings on spools of thread made from a plant native to Barbelo called deathsilk, which is as thin as the silk from a spider but somehow as strong as steel. It can cut anything except other strands of deathsilk, which must be cut with a very hot flame. Deathsilk is also used in blades which resemble violin bows. These swords are used only for slashing, not piercing.

The music of Barbelo, however, occupies a very narrow range between solemn hymns of Thaumiel to operatic post-battle lamentations. No one, in the entire history of Barbelo and its off-world colonies, has ever made music just for the sheer joy of it. Such a thing would be subversive in a way Thaumiel would be ill-equipped to counter. So Yeshua lays a challenge before the twelve children of Canterwood Academy: Introduce the people of Barbelo and the Jovian system to fun music.

Of the twelve children, only Edgar and Hope have heard the kind of “fun” music Yeshua is looking for, and fun it was indeed. There are melodies running around in Edgar’s head but to get the other children to play them he must invent a system of notation entirely from scratch. And that is precisely what the academy is for, not only to teach existing facts, but to teach the children how to think.

Seven of the children aren’t performers in Bite the Wax Tadpole, but Nelchael is a budding poet and hy steps in with song lyrics to go with Edgar’s melodies. The lyrics range from nursery rhymes to the brainless fun of Larund hill country bumpkins to the sweaty energy of Hazielite revival music.

But the thing that really brings the band together is a “field trip” to Earth, escorted by Hope’s parents Victoria and Mark Felton. After emerging from that forest pond with the earthen “C” berm everyone goes to a mountain lodge at Stampede Pass about a half hour east of the Green River Gorge area. Some of the more adventurous children put on skis and hit the slopes, while Asael, Murmi, and most of the females content themselves with riding on inner tubes.

All of them have a great time, but the outing inspires Kishar to write a song titled “Skiin’ USA” which serves as a template for a flood of other songs.

With Telan keeping time and Bikol stitching the song together harmonically on bass, Edgar carries the main melody line on guitar and Kishar keeps the whole thing chugging along with improvised chords on his piano. Hope sings Nelchael’s lyrics with a voice that is girlish but with rich undertones that belied her age. Other children makee costumes or paint cover art. Abdiel learns to operate a micro to record and edit their songs. So they all work to meet Lilith’s challenge.

Drivin’ all night on the leg from Amarillo
Hubby at home is he dreamin’ on his pillow?
Musta kilt me a half-dozen Armadillos
Racin’ home to find him in bed with a fellow

So begins Far Country on the first spool by Bite the Wax Tadpole, titled Stampede after the place where the children went skiing, a title which describes the wild proceedings to a T.

The spool is recorded live at a concert at Canterwood Academy. The concert is attended by Yeshua, Lilith, the Sala queen, most of the b’nei elohim, and perhaps five hundred others who are all there to see a child of seven singing in a grown-up girl’s voice about grown-up girl things.

The Whole Town’s a Rollin’ is the second song, and it’s the best one. After the silliness of the first song the band wants to hook the listener and show them right up front they are getting some serious energy and fun, which is focused mostly on Kishar tickling the ivory. Abdiel runs the soundboard while Nelchael, Inanna, and Muran stand off to the side and supply backup vocals.

Snow Bunny is a naughty ditty about a girl with loose morals hanging around the lodge that would have earned a quick ban on Barbelo had not Hope snarled some of the words to the song unintelligibly to deliberately mislead censors.

In the middle of the set the band plays the first song they ever recorded, Skiin’ USA, which features Bikol’s bass pushed way forward in the mix plus a sixteen bar call-and-response “duet” between Kishar on piano and Malekwa on guitar. Like most of their songs, it is an AABA 32 bar pattern with an eight bar bridge.

To balance the dumb but fun songs like Far Country there are smart, important songs like Responsibility Boundaries:

Can a dream bleed until it dies
Drained of all hope through skeptic floors?
Shall the living cut their losses?
Bow to merchants with empty stores?
How artistic is our healing
To grow hard crusts on shameful sores?

For the instrumental title Seven Humps Telan’s drumming is as organic and improvisational as usual, but swooshes up and down in pitch as he hits the skins near the rim and moved to the center. Hope is idled for this song, but she stands there dancing in place and swings her microphone in a circle.

Before the final song, which is a slow ballad, Victoria approaches Hope very closely so she can be heard over the noise. “Honey, you know you’re adopted, right?”

Hope nods her head. Adopted. No surprise. All children inwardly suspect that. Tell me something I don’t know, Mom.

“I adopted you because Robyn has a very heavy responsibility leading the b’nei elohim after Lilith is gone. There sha is in the third row. That’s your real mother. That’s the one and only Robyn Shybear. The beautiful yin wearing the yellow dress with dark brown-red hair. Do you see har?”

Hope does see har, but now it is time to sing the last song, Mom-Shaped Hole, which was supposed to be about Hope’s longing for Victoria while she was in school, but now it takes on a much deeper resonance for her.

I hope you can hear me
Nobody else can take your role
How can I go on now?
All I have is a mom-shaped hole

Hope sings the entire song with her eyes locked on Robyn, but she sees that Robyn never once looks directly back at her. Robyn seems to be having a good time, but sha only seems to look at the other children, or the people in the seats around har. And after the concert when the audience starts to filter out of the amphitheater Hope drifts off the stage trying to catch up to har, but too many people get in the way, and Robyn is gone.

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Chapter 70

“Stay on this dirt road until we get to where we’re going,” Lilith tells the group. “There’s many intentional and unintentional booby traps around here. Mine shafts and that sort of thing. Very dangerous. This land has been royally abused.”

Everyone casts a wary eye at the woods all around them.

“How does one become a living star?” Hunky asks har, sincerely curious. Haziel had never taken the time to explain.

“Didn’t you get the mummy and daddy talk, Hunky?”

“Please, Lilith. You know what I mean.”

“Well, stars don’t get around a lot, so we’re really just talking about phone sex. What happens to the female at the climax of star phone sex is some ripples go out from her, like on a pond, but the ripples are spheres, not circles, and they move at the speed of light. Months or years go by. If a ripple finds the core of nuclear material in another star that is hot enough, but not too hot, and isn’t already a living star, then it fertilizes the part of that core that is the right temperature. A layer of the core organizes itself into a girl eloah. Mom can do this exactly once, because she is transformed permanently into a male eloah. And we live for absolutely eons. That means ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine nine percent of elohim are male.”

“So it must needs follow that the competition for female elohim is terribly fierce,” Robyn says.

“You pegged it. This competition leads to all sorts of bizarre behavior from the males, and some of that is illegal and immoral. So we get our Thaumiels. I have a daughter myself, named Binah. We’re actually going to meet her now.”

They arrive at a pond of calm water surrounded by a berm of earth in the shape of a ‘C’ ring. Lilith jumps in without further ado, fully clothed, and the others know sha expects them to follow. The water is icy cold, but counter-intuitively it gets warmer and lighter the deeper they go. The group follows Lilith head first and the water grows comfortably warm. The bubbles change direction. They break the surface and can see varnished wooden decks, towels, plus a dozen striking women to help them out of the water and offer to dry them off.

“I’m using this body,” Lilith says, to give Yeshua a heads’ up. Simultaneously, Chokhmah says the same directly to Binah.

“I’ve met one of your people before,” Yeshua says with a smile when che recognizes Fred Aspin.

Freddy sits hymself down at Yeshua’s feet, and the others are shocked at the transformation of hyz swagger into genuine humility. Freddy says, “I apologize for what I said here before, Lord. I didn’t think you were real. I thought it was the drug.”

“No offense taken, Fred Aspin. Forget it ever happened.”

So Freddy stands back up and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you, ah…Jesus Christ.”

“The one and only,” Yeshua says.

“I can’t say she came into this universe out of love,” Lilith says, “but yes, Yeshua is the nephilim incarnation of my beloved daughter Binah. I changed him into a jen, like Mike.”

“How did we get to this place?” Mike Morrich asks Yeshua when the floor is open for questions. “How” is hez main thing. Mike has been left totally in the dark as to exactly how che had escaped Hanford and che is still sensitive about that.

“Does the concept of a wormhole mean anything to you?” Yeshua asks in reply, but Mike just shakes hez head. “Einstein-Rosen bridge? No? It’s a natural facet of living suns. We are endowed by our creator, the Old One, with links which go from daughter to mother star, bringing point A and point B close together no matter how far apart they really are in actual space. We usually just let them remain microscopic webs and use them to talk to each other. But we can fatten them up a little bit with the repulsive force of negative energy and move things through them. You just swam through one such tunnel linking that pond on Earth with this pool.”

“The link between myself and Thaumiel goes between his capital city and the headwaters of the Indian River at Greendome,” Lilith adds. But that place is too hot for us now. DECON is swarming all over. So we’re using Binah’s link now.”

“What is this place?” Robyn asks Yeshua next. Har talent is precognition so sha is all about “what”. Finding what combination opened the door, or what blackjack deal would pay off. The purple sky and second sun told har this wasn’t Earth.

“We’re on Barbelo, which is a mostly icy planet circling the cooler member of the pair of stars that are nearest to your sun, Sol. This land called Haaretz is a little colony my parent Chokhmah wrested from Thaumiel as part of this deal or that.”

“Why did you make this place?” asks Dory, a question about the relationships between elohim and humans, a question that harmonized with her new clairvoyance.

“It’s a transfer station between worlds. Travel between Sol and Centauri would take at least two years of ship’s time and five years of real time if you didn’t want to flatten your passengers. Even light takes four years. Keeping people happy that long takes a very large ship. We don’t have ships yet but we soon will. And there’s also a third place called the Land We Know that serves as a transfer station between times.”

“Are any of these ladies available?” asks Freddy Aspin, who had spent years in prison locked up with men. At least hy knows what hyz own priorities are.

“These women and yen are my priestesses,” Yeshua says. “My alleged followers do not permit females to perform ritual tasks on Earth so I try to compensate here. Others like Miss Ambe Omphal here are begotten in the Land We Know and have been between Earth and Barbelo many times. Occasionally I send begotten men or nephilim to the State of Washington and you get your Bigfoot stories.”

“The history of human beings on Earth is a painting,” Lilith explains, “and Yeshua is putting the final touches on it.”

“As for their availability as a date, don’t ask me, Freddy, ask one of them. It’s none of my business, really. And my sex life is none of yours. Besides, the Roman church always misquoted me. I never said celibate, I said celebrate.”

A set of waterproof luggage is brought to the Sacred Pool by the priestesses. Lilith invites Robyn to have a look thgrough them. “See if any of this gear won’t fly.”

Robyn holds up one minidress, which looks more like just a blouse. “Where’s the rest of it?”

“That’s the whole thing,” Lilith replies, and Robyn figures Lilith is joking and wonders why sha even asked har to look. The rest of the stuff in the luggage is what two women would need for an extended trip, packed very tightly. Yeshua’s ladies also set out a great deal of paper money. Robyn doesn’t recognize the design of some of the bills. Some of the dates are in the 1960s and 1970s, and Robyn is certain Lilith is joking now.

Jerry Aspin is mostly just admiring the priestesses themselves, especially Ambe Omphal, who looks very exotic to hym. Sha is very fair, as a yin of an ice world would be, with white hair, but hy cannot pin down har ethnic background. Later hy would learn that sha was a Fallen Angel from ancient Salem, and har origin therefore was simply Barbelo and nowhere else.

“I’m taking Robyn with me back to Earth,” Lilith says. “Mike, Freddy, Hunky and Dory will go to Nath and to points beyond. We will be in touch.”

“Who will show us the way to go?” Hunky asks.

“I have been given the task of accompanying you overland to the temple of Chokhmah,” High Priestess Omphal says, and Freddy makes a victory fist with hyz one fist.

When Robyn and Lilith traverse the wormhole again from warm water to cold, and commence to dry themselves off, Robyn looks around and says, “The trees look different, Lil, are you sure this is the right place?”

“It is different,” Lilith says. “Look up.”

Robyn follows the line of Lilith’s extended hand directly overhead and sees a yellow-orange sun, as though they were standing on the equator at equinox at noon. And behind that is a “sky” made of green and blue patches that is actually land. 

Lilith says, “Welcome to the Land We Know, where we change busses, or rather, wormholes. When we get back to Earth the trees will look different there too. We’re skipping April and May and going right on into June. We will also go forward in time twenty-five years to 1972.”

“You’re shitting me,” Robyn says, to God.

“I’m not. Wormholes from here bridge locations in space-time, not just space. And so far that is something Thaumiel has not pieced together. I’d like to keep it that way.”

“He’s a full-blown eloah. How can he not know?”

“You’re right Robyn, he’s an eloah, but he’s too stupid to understand most of the Lore of El. He relies on me for all his technical stuff. And Thaumiel doesn’t have improving human history for a modus operandi. He’s more interested in making ever more arcane rules until someone commits an error in ritual so he can say “see!”. Thaumiel thinks planet-dwellers will be a threat to the elohim someday and he wants any excuse he can find to destroy them. But neither myself nor Binah will accept his premise that humans ought to obey us, although we did at first, and that’s why we have the Torah, and that’s why Yeshua died in Jerusalem. That malformed question has been answered.”

Lilith’s drivers’ license says it was issued in 1973, which is ridiculous in 1972, and Robyn has none. So they can’t fly aboard an airline, and they can’t write checks, but they can buy a used car with cash on the barrel head, and using Robyn’s talent of precognition they can avoid being pulled over by the police. Robyn says, “But you just whisked me from Greendome to Washington State. Why not do that again, here to D.C.?”

“I want to take time to explain things to you, and let you see how things change over twenty-five years. Otherwise, when you try to use your precognition it will just be a flood of images that you won’t understand.”

“I’ll try to help, but why did you give me this power? It seems more fitting for yourself. Why am I tagging along?”

“It’s hard to explain,” Lilith says, “but I guess the way I could put it is I can’t see the forest for the trees. Yes your power ultimately comes from the elohim, but by necessity you are looking at time as though through a small pinhole. Am I right? Tell me, Robyn, what is it like for you, your power?”

“There’s this big…canvas, but every time I do something or even say something, I can see a ripple run up that canvas and change the paint that’s on it. Sometimes it’s a big ripple, like when you showed up with Mike Morrich, and the whole painting changes.”

“That’s why you’re tagging along, Robyn. I have too much information of all the different ways things can go, so I have no information. But you, with your pinhole view, can help me find the pivot points where we can do tiny changes and make big improvements.”

“So you can see that canvas also, you and Binah?”

“We’re painting that canvas, my daughter and I. And do you know something else about our art, Robyn? We are perfectionists.”

From the Seattle area they head back East on the same road Freddy took from Hanford, but it was decked out as a freeway now. Lilith said they would probably end up getting some cheap motel in the Tri-Cities because of their late start, but that bothered Robyn. She remembered the precariouys time when Hunky and herself made their way home to Greendome from there.

“Relax, it’s twenty-five years later. Doc Troch and Earl Roland are still around, but they have your dead body after raiding Greendome on your original timeline, so they’re not looking for you or Hunky anymore.”

“So if Haziel took possession of you, that means you’re just like us, right?”

Lilith flips the hair from the back of her head to show Robyn her connector. “My talent is shapeshifting, but when I’m in REM sleep I can’t hold that shape. It’s like when you try to sleep sitting up, when you dream you sag against your seat belt. When you see me then, I’ll look like I’m fifty years old, because that’s how old I really am. And you’ll see scars.”

“You look like a million bucks right now, Lilith.”

“Okay, twenty-five years later, President Truman is out, General Eisenhower went in. There was a bad war in Korea with China and the Soviet Union involved, America fought it to a draw with about thirty thousand GIs dead, and ever since then the Americans and the Soviets have kind of squared off for what they call the ‘Cold War’ where they just sort of growl at each other, or use proxies to fight.”

“So no third World War?”

“Not until next year, and that will be a very bad thing, Robyn, because both sides have the same weapons that were used on Japan at the end of the last world war. It doesn’t do human civilization a bit of good when the Cold War goes hot. You and me, we’re going to change that.”

“I don’t know how people could stand it, not knowing.”

“It’s not all bad, Robyn. The Cold War is a big contest to see whether a planned economy is better than an unplanned one, and competition leads to innovation. Ten years after your time the Soviets put a machine into orbit around the Earth, just above the atmosphere, and that scares the Americans into doing the same. A few years after that they start putting men into space too, which is something Barbelo already did about sixty years ago. In fact, I was on that first flight.”

Later they check into some no-name hotel in Kennewick, Washington and Robyn discovers the miracle of television, which sha heard was coming in 1947, but sha has never seen one before. This one was in color. They watch Columbo for an hour and a half, which they both enjoy a great deal (although Robyn knows how it is going to end before it gets over) and after that Robyn turns to Lilith and says, “Shapeshifter, huh?”

Lilith stands up and removes har military panties and bra. Robyn sees that sha has retracted har somewhat ample breasts to something less than even modest “A” cups, and there is new body hair, not just between har legs but on har legs and abdomen as well. In a deeper voice, with now looser vocal cords, Lilith says, “How do you like your fellows, Robyn?”

“I like lean, lanky men.”

So before Robyn’s eyes the soft subcutaneous fat-layer on Lilith thins out to reveal the underlying musculature, and Lilith becomes an angular male specimen of extraordinary beauty, like a cut diamond. Her cock starts to stand up in anticipation. The second pussy is closed by skin.

Robyn says with a gentle laugh, “I guess you’re the first female to know what it’s like on the other side of the great barrier reef. My husband Jerry was the first man to know.”

Lilith nods har head and smiles.  “I certainly understand a lot of very strange behavior by men and yeng now, not so very different from male elohim. And the star part of me understands a lot of very strange behavior by people in general now.”

So Robyn opens har arms and legs to gather Lilith in to harself, going crazy under har, and bringing forth to the Haziel part of Lilith sweet memories of Khondiel.

Yellowstone Falls is the most beautiful place Robyn has ever seen. Sha thinks it looks exactly like an abstract painting made real and three-dimensional before her very eyes. There are so many things to see in the park that the mere two days Lilith allotted for them to do so couldn’t possibly do it justice.

At Rapid City, after seeing Mount Rushmore, Lilith drives south and east on rural roads through the Great Plains, passing very near to Greendome again, crossing Nebraska and Kansas until they reach Route 50, which Lilith says they will take all the way to Washington DC.

Lilith speaks of how the young President who followed Eisenhower was assassinated and how the world came very close to World War Three when the Soviets tried to set up intermediate range nuclear missiles just ninety miles away from Florida.

Still, twenty-five years after World War II things aren’t all that different. Robyn can still cope. Sha does notice that men no longer wear hats. Lilith says that was a trend started by President Kennedy. Some women wear their hair piled up in what Lilith calls a “beehive” hairdo, and Robyn thinks it’s funny. Sometimes in the sky sha hears a loud roar. Lilith says the jet engines the Germans first put on their Messerschmitt-262 “Swallows” had finally trickled down to the public, replacing propeller motors on airliners.

“Ariel and Edgar would be all grown up now,” Robyn says.

“Don’t worry Robyn, you will see them both again, soon. As babies. And your mother as well.”

Approaching Kansas City Robyn hears her first Beatles song, “Ticket to Ride” and she starts tapping her feet.

“Do you like it?” Lilith asks.

“It’s incredible, who is it?”

“Four chaps from my home country who call themselves the Beatles,” Robyn smiles at how Lilith drops the ‘t’ and says “Bea’les”. “They no longer record music together, but when they did, they seemed to have stumbled onto something timeless, all right?”

Robyn smiles at how Lilith drops the ‘t’ and says “Awroi?”

Lilith says, “I mean a hundred years from now small children might listen to this song and say just what you just did, ‘It’s incredible, who is it?’”

“Only that they might listen? You’re not sure they will?”

“No. I can’t see past the decade of the Thirties in the next Century. But then, that’s precisely what we’re running about trying to remedy, isn’t it?”

In the morning, in a hotel in Kansas City, Kansas, Lilith lays out the clothes they are to wear now they are out of the sticks and “back East”. “You’ve been getting away with wearing your stuff from the Forties without too many second looks, but you can’t get away with it anymore.”

Robyn is puzzled “I see the blouse but where’s the skirt?”

“The blouse is the skirt,” Lilith says, with a wicked grin.

“You’re kidding!”

“No I’m not, look.” And Lilith opens the window curtain of their second floor hotel room to look down on a busy street on a sunny morning in the Nineteen Seventies. Robyn sees that Lilith definitely is not pulling her leg. Many of the women down there wear dresses so short their white knee boots cover twice as much skin on their legs than their hemline does. And many of the men in the city have hair so long they’d be mistaken for women back where and when Robyn came from.

So Robyn dutifully puts on the clothes and gets into the car, but sha feels funny about it, like in one of those dreams where you’re speaking in public and wearing only your underwear.

“In Israel, or Palestine to you, I did wear these kind of clothes in the Sixties before everything went to hell. Tel Aviv is really something. I had a lot of fun in my time.”

After that they are on the road again, making for St. Louis. Carly Simon sings about how vain her boyfriend is. Steely Dan wonders aloud if his college acquaintance is reelin’ in the years. Lilith says, “We’re on the other side of another war like the one in Korea. This one wasn’t fought by World War II vets, but by their sons. Most of them didn’t have a choice and they weren’t very happy about it. As you might have guessed from the clothing I’m having you wear the attitudes of many of these young people towards sexuality would shock the older generation, and I rather think that is precisely their point.”

As they cross the Appalachian mountains Lilith tries to explain how Robyn’s precognition works. Sha explains that a particle, like an electron, isn’t just a little dot moving through time, it’s more like a long line, growing like a crystal, and the exact point where it crystallizes is the present. From that point going forward, many other lines exist in a ghostly form, including the Primary, the most probable future, which is almost firm enough to be a crystal itself. “Time is a fire,” Lilith tells har, “and history is ash.”

After Robyn understands all that, sha wants to know how they can possibly loop back in time. “Wouldn’t we be walking into the middle of a bunch of hard crystals?” sha asks. “Even just the very air we breathe?”

Lilith says, “It’s like our bodies can dissolve the crystals of anything we touch, and set even the ashes of the past afire again. I myself looped back from 1978. But I can’t put the whole world in play again just by being back here. I’m looking for a crucial event that can give us leverage. That’s why we’re headed for Washington, D.C. I think I found just the thing.”

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Chapter 69

Haziel tries on some sunglasses during one of har ten hour down times. “How do these look?”

Sha and Senciner are in the center of three compartments in the tall, narrow space vehicle. Below them is the engineering space. Raziel and Beleth are on the top deck, having been minimally trained to operate the Big Board. If they encounter any emergencies they can’t handle, they are supposed to come below and alert them. It is Haziel’s sincere hope that nothing more complicated than propellant re-balancing crops up.

Senciner replies, “Blessed are the cross-eyed for they shall see God twice.”

“You blaspheme, Senciner.”

“Okay, then how about, ‘Blessed are the skeptics, for they make great scapegoats?’”

Haziel chooses a video spool from a wall cabinet and threads it through the viewer.

“Agent Y is a genetic freak, even for a human,” Senciner says when he notes har choice of entertainment. “He’s got YY sex chromosomes.”

Haziel shakes har head. “There are no YYs, only maybe YYXs”

“If I say he’s YY, then that’s what he is.”

“Well among humans there’s XX’s, XY’s and rarely XYY’s. But YY is impossible.”

“Haziel, no, besides, Agent Y is a fictional character.”

Haziel says, “Is it true what they say, Senciner, that too much testosterone makes yeng bald?”

“That’s absolutely one hundred percent correct. That’s why baldness is a sure sign of virility. You’re sweating, Haziel.”

“Yen don’t sweat, we glow. Besides it’s hot.”

“Ship’s internal temps are well within specs.”

Haziel drops into bed like falling timber, so very slowly under the low acceleration. “Come here, I want to test the testosterone theory.”

“You want a short little stub like me?”

“I once knew some fairly tall Fallen Angel babes who were married to tiny little runts.”

Blessedly, Beleth doesn’t come below until their lovemaking is well over and they have covered up once again. When sha does arrive sha says, “Please come upstairs, Raziel is very upset about something.”

What Raziel is very upset about is the amount of remaining propellant. A week of low but constant acceleration has depleted the tanks to 68%, and hy has just discovered that fact on hyz watch. “You failed to mention that we almost at the point of no return,” hy complains bitterly. With almost a third of their velocity-change expended, they would need another third to come to a halt, and the final third to return to Barbelo and successfully land.

“Because we were at the point of no return the instant we launched,” Haziel replies sweetly. “I thought you knew. And if you didn’t know, I’m still not going to feel the slightest bit guilty about it, Raziel, because you were the one who insisted that you and your wife replace Malkiel and Xaphon.”

“How could I possibly know?”

“Because your special weapon is set to detonate the instant it is detached from the ship,” Senciner puts in, hyz glance upwards indicating the long needle fixed to the very top of the ship like a church steeple. “You, in fact, were about to advise us of that fact to force us to abort the mission and return to Barbelo.”

Raziel holds hyz expression in check, but a slow grin infuses hyz features. “Fine, it’s all out in the open now, that merely pushes up my timetable a bit. Proceed with turnaround.”

“We will do no such thing,” Haziel says. “If the comet is allowed to strike Barbelo there will be a second Great Deluge and millions of people will die.”

“Then I will detach the special weapon and allow it to detonate now, in deep space. The Deluge will still happen, but we four will all die as well.”

“Husband!” Beleth exclaims. Such talk was well out of character for hym. She now fears hyz mind has somehow broken. And sha also fears for har own life.

“By all means do as you have threatened to do,” Haziel says. “But your very presence aboard this spacecraft tells me you do not have the courage to take your own life. Your plan was to ride out the Deluge up here, then return to Barbelo when it began to ice over, perhaps forage on the Larund or Sala food caches.”

“If you do not turn this spacecraft around I’m dead anyway.”

“You are dead even in that case,” Senciner says. “Yes we already know the special weapon will detonate the instant it comes off the rail, but we also know it will detonate after a very short amount of time under one full gravity. If we land on Barbelo, there no way you can run fast enough to get far enough away from the ship to survive the blast.”

“That last part is a little surprise from Thaumiel,” Haziel says. “He didn’t tell you that part, did he? You’re an intelligent yang, Raziel, but did you really think Thaumiel would permit you to carry off this particular sort of weapon unless it suited his purpose?”

“And what purpose is that?”

“To destroy whatever enclave you thought to seek refuge in after the Second Deluge,” sha says. “You know what we’re saying is true. Consider! We discovered the approaching comet, but did Thaumiel allow us to warn anyone outside of the House of Gerash?”

Raziel shakes his head. “No, and Thaumiel is content to let perish the less desirable parts of even the House of Gerash.”

“Such as soldiers like yourself who do not have a full retinue of wives,” Haziel mutters. “When I said this flight is a turning point in nephilim history, Raziel, I meant exactly that. The people of Barbelo will learn that we sacrificed our lives to divert a comet that Thaumiel was content to allow to strike the planet. He has no idea what’s about to happen to him. Everyone, even those in House Gerash, will know once and for all that he is an evil god.”

“We still have time,” Raziel dares to hope. “You can set back down on the planet and let Beleth and myself run free, and depart again before the timer detonates the weapon!”

“You just told me that Thaumiel is using the comet as an opportunity for selective genocide. Does that sit well with you, Raziel? Do you really feel no obligation to try to thwart such an evil god?”

Senciner adds, “I’m not blindly following Haziel, and neither were Malkiel and Xaphon. We know full well this flight is to be a one-way trip. It’s a chance to prevent a second Deluge and save the lives of millions of people.”

“In a way, Raziel, I’m glad you insisted on coming,” Haziel says. “I am quite fond of Malkiel and Xaphon back at the armory, who were displaced by yourself and Beleth, and now they will survive, if we succeed in changing the path of the comet.”

Raziel is miserable. He turns to Senciner. “This is easy for you in House Sala, with the irrational beliefs you have been taught by Haziel, but for me death is oblivion. When I’m dead I won’t even know that I’m dead or that I ever lived. So I must grasp every additional moment possible, no matter how great the cost to others.”

“Our lives and the lives of millions of humans and nephilim on Barbelo do mean something to us,” Haziel gently asserts, “and so does this mission. Whether that is also true for yourself and Beleth is entirely up to you. The thing has been set in motion. Nothing you can say or do will coerce myself or Senciner to turn this spacecraft around. Your greatest possible remaining span of life is now measured in days. But whether we succeed or fail is entirely in your hands.”

When Raziel and Beleth both show signs of failing to understand, Senciner explains, “We cannot watch you every moment of the short time remaining to us. We still have to sleep. You could sabotage the ship, perhaps blow out a hull panel and let all our air escape into space, or launch the weapon, which you assure us will result in instant obliteration. We can’t stop you, if you decide to thwart the mission out of spite. No one would ever know.”

Raziel can now see hyz death is going to happen no matter what hy says or does. The realization of the certainty of this is a psychological crisis of misery that peaks, then after hy sees Haziel’s look of sympathy for hym, fades gradually to end in a sigh. “Exactly how do you intend to deflect the comet?”

“We will ram directly into it,” Haziel reveals. “The weapon will go off on impact and vaporize at least half of it. The other half will enter a new orbit and miss the equatorial zone of Barbelo, or perhaps even miss the planet altogether. Thaumiel has no idea what’s about to happen to his stupid religion. Already Yeshua has departed Barbelo, giving Thaumiel the impression that che knows what’s coming and is very afraid. The Ark was recalled to Earth long ago, my avatar was destroyed by Thaumiel himself, and when this body dies my fold-line will retract through the passage and Thaumiel will finally be able to close it, blocking me and Yeshua from returning to Barbelo ever again. That too will be a turning point that will open the next act in our long conflict.”

“But as you draw near to the comet, you and Senciner will be very preoccupied, I imagine.”

“Very busy,” Haziel admits. “I’m afraid we will miss Malkiel and Xaphon very much before the very end. And that end will be better than most, Raziel. It will be very quick, and you will not suffer in the slightest way.”

“Then we will do what we can to help,” Raziel says, and hy permits hymself a wry grin. “Both Tabaet and myself. It will be…the excellent thing to do.”

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Chapter 68

Robyn, Jill, Hunky and Dory are wandering around in the tunnels underneath Greendome when a strange woman appears before them wearing some sort of army uniform none of them recognize. The woman also has a young black man in tow.

Jill assumes they are some of the DECON bastards who are looking for Robyn and Hunky, She draws her macro and lets the beam out for about a foot. Then she says, “Who the hell are you people?”

“I am your God, but you may address me as Lilith, dear Jill, who until recently was both Jerry Shybear and Rebecca Roland.”

“Sure,” says Hunky, 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 Jill doesn’t stow her macro, Lilith draws her own version and lights it off. It’s the original Golden Gift.

“Where did you get that?” Robyn demands.

“I created it, Robyn. That’s what deities do. I also gave Jill, when she was Jerry, the tools to make the one she has.”

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

Lilith says, I already told you how I know, Dory, but you must have a problem listening. Dory hears Lilith’s words both vocally and in a more direct way that can be heard by Dory’s mind at the same time.

And Dory sinks to her knees. “Haziel, I didn’t know it was you!”

Robyn and Hunky sink to their own knees as well. Jill isn’t sure what to do.

Lilith says, with a small amount of irritation, “Do stand back up, children, and do not drop to your knees before me again unless I command you to do so. Time is far too short for any of that fooferaw. I’m God. I already know I am great. I do not need the reminder.”

“Unless you command us to do so?” Jill says, incredulously.

Lilith draws near to Jill and says, “All of you children have been running loose toying around with your own little copies of my golden gift, 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 that you call the Boda, we shall have to step that up a bit.”

“Who is the young gentleman that you brought along with you, Lilith?” asks Dory.

Che steps forward and says, “I’m Mike Morrich. Lilith tells me we share something in common.” Che turns hez back to them and moves hez hair out of the way to reveal hez connector.

Hunky says, “We all seem to have some special power, now. What’s yours, Mike?”

“Lilith says I’m a healer,” che replies. “Sha says I’m filling a role that we lost when we lost Haziel.”

Jill gasps. “We lost Haziel?”

Lilith says, “Sha’s gone forever, but gone in the best way you can imagine.”

Robyn has been in a very mellow mood for several minutes. Her babies Ariel and Edgar were safe with Mom. Since the arrival of Lilith all the visions of immanent doom dropped out of her mind. Lilith senses this. Sha smiles at Robyn and nods. “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 I had to fetch Mike, and Freddy too. He will join us presently, or rather, we will join him.” Lilith turns back to face Jill. “Yes, I do issue commands and I expect them to be obeyed, yet none of you are my slaves, and each one 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.”

They all agree to take the first step, at the very least, which is to evacuate Greendome. One by one, Haziel embraces them and takes them instantly to a forested area south and east of Seattle, Washington, where the one Lilith named Freddy is waiting for them.

They are all assembled near an old wooden gate blocking access to an overgrown forest road. A police car is parked right there, and Freddy has the keys in his single hand. They see the other arm is just a stump.

After Lilith introduces Freddy to everyone sha says, “We are going to work to reverse certain evil deeds of an eloah named Thaumiel. You might have heard of him. He also goes by the name Satan.”

“The devil? He’s real?” Robyn finds that a little hard to believe, even knowing that God is real.

Lilith nods.  “He is quite the fucker, and lives up to his reputation. But here’s where you make your final choice. Follow me down this dirt road and we’ll go very, very far from here. Or you can stay here in America, take this car to town, maybe use your new powers to build a new life for yourself.

“I’m in,” Robyn declares right away, simply because Lilith is so fun. And Hunky and Dory immediately side with Robyn, because after all, they are the original Boda.

Mike Morrich accepts with no hesitation at all, because Lilith has already saved him from a painful death.

Jill takes a longish pause to consider it. At length, she says, “I’ve always felt like I was the one on the outside looking in. Not even marrying into the Boda worked. Well, now I’m going to make it official. Deal me out, Lilith.”

Robyn and Hunky and Dory look at Jill with exasperation, but they say nothing. Lilith nods, letting Jill go without an argument, because if she did raise an objection then her claim of a “choice” was void. But when this choice is made by Jill and accepted by Lilith, Robyn sees a mountain of events well up and focus around Jill, a very strange future indeed, a kind of alternate, darker, unhappier b’nei elohim that nevertheless serves Chokhmah and Binah well.

So that leaves Freddy Aspin, who ponders things for a bit as well, knowing that hy has a lot more options now with his new talent to start fires. And Jill isn’t half-bad looking to hym at all, especially considering how hy hadn’t been with a woman since hy was arrested for killing Oboe Man. But Freddy knows that the path hy is considering would only be extending hyz old life. Here was a clean break, a good way out, free of charge. So hy tosses the keys of the cop car to Jill and goes with Lilith.

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Chapter 67

Tabaet: …zero, we have commit, and we have liftoff at oh-two-thirteen universal time.

Raziel: Go all engines.

Beleth: We appear to have good thrust at this point.

Senciner: Haziel, we’re go here on the ascent. Begin your roll maneuver.

Raziel: Tabaet, at three clocks the dynamics computer says the trajectory looks good.

Beleth: I show ten ji in altitude at this time.

Tabaet: Roll complete and we’re pitching.

Beleth: Altitude twenty-two ji, velocity seven ji per clock.

Raziel: Ten clocks. The trajectory on my plot board is right on the preplan line.

Senciner: Through max vibration, and we’re go, Haziel.

Beleth: Husband, feel that weight!

Raziel: And the booster computer reports we are now through the region of maximum dynamic pressure.

Tabaet: We’re EDS MANUAL.

Senciner: Thirteen clocks and we are go.

Beleth: Altitude now two hundred seventy ji.

Raziel: Engine five out.

Tabaet: Raziel that inboard out was way early.

Raziel: Acknowledged.

Tabaet: Senciner, confirm number five engine down.

Senciner: Affirmative, Haziel.

Raziel: You don’t see any problem with that though, do you?

Senciner: Negative, not right now Raziel. All the other engines are go.

Tabaet: The early shutdown of the center engine will cause no problem, we will burn a little longer than normally scheduled.

Beleth: Coming up on five hundred ji altitude.

Senciner: Seventeen clocks. Trajectory’s good, thrust is good.

Beleth: We’re now six hundred ten ji high, seven hundred eighty, correction, seven hundred ji downrange.

Tabaet: Guidance initiate.

Senciner: And telemetry reports the guidance system is correcting our eighty ji error.

Raziel: The guidance is good and the lander computer is go.

Beleth: We’re now at an altitude of nine hundred thirty ji.

Tabaet: The little red balls are right back on the little white lines up here.

Beleth: We are at roughly four hundred ji per clock, twelve hundred fifty ji in altitude…two thousand two hundred ji downrange.

Raziel: And our cabin pressure is sealed at point six one, which is normal. Senciner, what was the story on engine five?

Senciner: I still don’t have a story on why that shutdown on five was early, but the other engines were go, and we’re go, we’re still looking good, our gimbals are good, trim is good.

Tabaet: Level sense arm time four eight clocks, nominal, predicted second stage cutoff seven zero clocks.

Beleth: We are now six thousand two hundred ji in altitude, eighteen thousand ji downrange.

Standing by for crew report of engine shutdown.

Beleth: ESD.

Raziel: Confirmed ESD, Captain.

Senciner: And the radar at first glance says we look good on the ascent ellipse and the boosters are in ‘safe’ so thank you, everyone.

Tabaet says to Raziel and Beleth, “We are also free of being overheard by anyone on Barbelo, so do you have any questions?”

“Senciner called you Haziel a couple of times back there,” Raziel mentions.

“That’s my real name. It wouldn’t do to be called that in the heart of Thaumieldom, even if Thaumiel himself knows.”

“Did your parents have a soft spot in their heart for the Haziel of the scriptures?”

“I am the Haziel of the scriptures.”

“How can I accept that as true?” Raziel asks. “Haziel hasn’t made a dent on history for two thousand years.”

“It was out of self-preservation. Every act of possession dilutes the personality of the one who possesses.”

“Yet everyone knows Thaumiel has possessed the Gerash Patriarch generation after generation since before the World War.”

“And Thaumiel has reaped dissolution. Little remains of his original psyche except his malevolence.”

“I do not understand,” says Raziel. “You say you avoided serial possession to avoid the fate of Thaumiel, yet you appear to be a yin of about forty years of age, not two thousand forty.”

“I will explain myself shortly, but first I’d like to ask you a question. Thaumiel has exactly ninety-two special weapons configured as missiles. How did you, a mere erel, manage to obtain one of them?”

“Your question tells me you do not doubt the weapon is genuine.”

“That should come as no surprise,” sha says. “We ourselves manufactured and assembled all ninety-two of these weapons, and Senciner has remotely verified the presence of the radioactive core.”

“Why would a Gold Beard like Senciner help do such a thing for Thaumiel?”

“House Sala is uniquely immune to such weapons,” Senciner says, “and with the design of these warheads, Thamiel is obliged to support the development of the means of delivery, such as the first and second stages of the round itself and even this vehicle we are traveling in right now. That is Haziel’s deeper purpose.”

“So you’re playing the long game.”

Haziel nods. “The only thing we do not know about your warshot is the code that is now required to arm it. So if you would only arm the round at this time, we can proceed to the next step, and I will answer your other question.”

Raziel floats to Senciner’s console and replaces hym at that position, where hy enters the code on a keypad. When Senciner resumes hyz place, hy confirms the warhead is armed.

“Thank you Raziel.” Haziel’s relieved glance takes in both hym and Beleth, and sha smiles. “Senciner and I welcome both of you aboard this historic flight, which is the first penetration into space by nephilim since before the Battle of Rumbek, and the first without using an avatar of the elohim.”

“Indeed,” Raziel says. “With the weapon now armed we could go head-to-head against the very avatar of Thaumiel right now.”

“But that is not our purpose and you know it,” Haziel says. “Senciner, begin moving to intercept the comet, accelerate to point zero three gravities.”

After Senciner complies with this order, Raziel prods Haziel. “Well?”

Haziel says, “It is true that Senciner and the rest of my people in the launch complex know that I am the original Haziel, and even Thaumiel knows it. He also knows that by using wormholes I can freely move from Sol to this system and back again. But I will now reveal something that even Senciner does not know and Thaumiel must never know: Chokhmah, that is, myself, and my daughter Binah have the ability to independently locate the end of a wormhole anywhere in the Sol system in time as well as in space.”

Even Senciner is shocked at this. Hy had assumed Chokhmah had simply taken possession of another yin in this time.

Haziel continues. “So, Raziel, Beleth, when you gaze at me you are indeed looking at the original Haziel of the scriptures, thirty-eight years old thank you very much, because I shaved two thousand years off the clock with just a wink, then came back to Barbelo through Canterwood.”

“If you say Thaumiel knows you are the original Haziel, then surely he must have deduced that you can move in time.”

“He assumes that I maintain eternal youth, as Binah does in the jen body she possesses.”

“Yet it is known you are bitter foes. Why would he allow you, a yin no less, and Gold Hair as well, free run of a White Beard missile complex?”

“This flight is a crucial turning point in nephilim history,” sha says, “which is to say, a pivot in the long story of the conflict between myself and Thaumiel. I’m here to make sure nothing goes wrong. And so far, I can say both Thaumiel and myself are quite satisfied.”

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Chapter 66

The transformation of Mike Morrich into a b’nei eloah takes a week and for the first time Earl Roland witnesses it happening before his eyes. He sees how a bump on the back of Mike’s head grows and cracks open to reveal the white bone cup. Photos of Mike’s crotch taken every few hours documents the change from human male to nephilim jen as female genitalia forms under hez penis. One of hez testicles crawls inside and becomes an ovary.

Blood and skin samples are taken from Mike by Amanda Chase and she witnesses how the pairs of XY chromosomes in every cell changes into XZ pairs. The X is replicated, then bonded to the Y with a second centromere. She finds the entire thing enthralling.

Lilith and Mike stay in a clinic very much like the one where Robyn and Hunky were held during the War, but they are not confined. Or at least, they are not made to feel as though they were confined. Roland imagines Lilith and Mike will be more communicative if they do not feel like captives, and indeed they are. Lilith, in particular, is quite free with har information, but much of it they find to be unbelievable. Meanwhile Freddy Aspin, who is merely on loan from the Colorado state pen, is indeed confined elsewhere on Hanford nearly twenty miles to the northwest across mostly empty land.

When Mike’s change is complete, Lilith asks, “Did you finally see what you wanted to see, Dr. Roland?”

“Indeed I did, Dr. Gervasi,” he replies, acknowledging har Ph.D in Levantine linguistics. “For three decades I had no subjects like yourself to study. Now I know I can make my own new subjects simply by injecting them with the fluid from existing subjects.”

“But what of your promise to Michael?”

“Ah yes, we promised to make his painkillers available to him as he dies of his cancer. Yes, we will continue to do so, for as long as he lives. But they will only be available for him here. I’m afraid he didn’t read the fine print.”

“And Freddy?”

“We have already obtained his reprieve. He will not be executed, but he must spend his entire life in confinement, and whether he does that here at Hanford or back in Colorado should make no difference to him. As for you, Lilith, are you not grateful you will not be deported to Israel? Certainly with the radiation and the famine that is a death sentence just as real as Freddy’s. You can stay here and help us to understand this thing too.”

Lilith walks over and gathers Mike Morrich into har arms in an embrace, and begins a gentle dance with hem. When they have turned so that Lilith is facing Roland once more, sha says, “I think I can do better for Mike than just make him comfortable as he dies. With Haziel dead, and Yeshua on Barbelo, the b’nei elohim can use a second healer. I think it should be Mike, and che can begin by healing hemself. And Freddy goes with us too. Hy can be our muscle.”

Before the eyes of Earl Roland, Amanda Chase, and Ian Trochmann, Lilith and Mike simply disappear from the clinic.

Their first stop is the cell where Freddy is being held. Lilith says to hym, “You’re not going back to the state pen, Freddy. Roland wants you to stay here so he can keep testing his damn drug on you. He wants to keep all of us here until we die. You should go, Freddy. You’ll find you have the power to do that now. I’ll meet up with you later.”

Then sha embraces Mike again, and they pop out of existence.

Freddy touches hyz hand to the bars of his cell, and discovers they are rapidly turning red hot.

When the Soviet Union nuked Reactor Row at Hanford in black ’73 they targeted the two active ones on the northeast end, but there were two other reactor complexes miles upriver. The one on the far west end escaped nearly unscathed. This was acceptable to the Russians from a strategic basis because that reactor was the oldest one, the B reactor used for the Nagasaki bomb, and it had already been taken out of service.

There are a handful of smaller buildings that are left intact in that area as well. They are too asbestos-ridden to economically tear down, and it was there, separate from Lilith and Mike and under tighter guard, that Freddy Aspin had been held by Pharmadigm under the terms laid down by Colorado corrections.

Moving north, Freddy encounters a chain-link fence still standing along the shore of the Columbia River, installed to keep boaters (casual or not) from entering the installation. Hy makes short work of the fence with hyz new “talent”, the same one that facilitated hyz escape from the building where they were holding hym. Apparently hy is a pyrokinetic now, though hy isn’t sure if it came from the drug or the screwy afterworld where hy saw Jesus. Hy’d much rather have Lilith’s talent, and just pop in and out of places.

Freddy had used hyz power to snuff out hyz guards back there too. Killing men no longer gave hym much pause. Hy already crossed that particular Rubicon in the war, and even more so when hy killed Oboe Man in Denver, although it was Freddy’s story, and hy was sticking to it, that hy just gave the street musician a short sharp shock, just like hy heard on that song on the radio, and it was Oboe Man’s face hitting the sidewalk that actually killed him. By all rights it should have been Involuntary Manslaughter, but no: it was a robbery, so they gave hym Murder Two. Then the New Confederacy came in and elevated even Murder Two to the death penalty, ex post fucto.

But killing the DoE’s two guards? No regrets. If Lilith wasn’t bullshitting hym, and hy had no reason to believe that sha was, then Pharmadigm and the Confeds didn’t intend to let hym or har or Mike go free for the rest of their lives. At least in prison Freddy figured hy wouldn’t be subject to experiencing dreams that physically hurt.

Later, Lilith would explain to Freddy (using concepts hy didn’t understand at first, like “Maxwell’s Demon”) that the energy hy conjured forth didn’t just pop into being from nothing but actually came from the ambient temperature of the fence itself, focused somehow by Freddy into a white-hot circle. This renders the galvanized steel wire soft enough that a gentle push on the now-frozen fence at the center of the circle gave Freddy a neat hole to walk through. Then hy is staring at Coyote Rapids at Hanford Reach, the last undammed section of the mighty Columbia.

Freddy isn’t a swimmer, and hy knows hy cannot set foot in the water here or hy’d be swept away and drown. There is the Vernita Bridge two or three miles upriver, but already Freddy can see the lights of Department of Energy police cars are crawling all over that whole area, guessing hyz move. Hy can see them clearly enough in the deepening twilight over miles of absolutely flat scrublands. Other flashing lights on power transmission towers scattered across the Hanford site pierce the darkness.

Any other convicted felon would move away from the colored flashing lights of the police vehicles, but Freddy has a new confidence that comes with hyz new talent, and every time he uses hyz talent hy learns more about it.

Freddy creeps upriver on the shoreline until hy can clearly see the bridge. Most of the squad cars are gathered together south of the river, but there is one car in the middle of the bridge where the cantilevered section spans the deepest water. So Freddy sees hyz problem. Hy knows hy can give them a taste of fire, even from a small distance, but how to get that one car together with the others?

Undetected, hy crosses under the bridge and looks at the scene from the west. Hy sees there are four cop cars parked in what passed for civilization around there, a small roadside parking lot with a few trees and a restroom. From a safe distance Freddy sets their gas tanks alight much the way a boy would burn ants with a magnifying glass in the sunlight. Scratch those four cars.

The cops in the fifth car mid-span see the flames and drive off the bridge to render aid. Two cops emerge with pistols drawn, leaving their car running with the keys in the ignition, the fools. Freddy changes his plan. In the dark it is easy for Freddy to scramble up to the rest area and make off with that last car. North over the bridge, then west, heading upriver on the far bank. And there is no way for the other cops to call it in. It is too hot to reach any of their radios, even if they are still working.

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Chapter 66

The world war on Barbelo unites the Middle Land under House Gerash and brings House Bellon under their direct rule. House Antero becomes tributary to the Empire of Thaumiel while House Sala, at the recommendation of Lady Haziel, radically decentralizes themselves over their entire land to become a uniquely undesirable target. Only the Black Beards of House Larund remain defiant and vulnerable to air assault from the avatar of Thaumiel.

But Thaumiel learns to hyz great consternation that the more hy assails House Larund, the greater their impetus to resist. He realizes his attacks are only stoking the fires of a relentless technological advance as the Black Beards focus on solving the problem of stopping the air attacks. Chokhmah encourages Thaumiel to keep going. So Thaumiel relents and takes his avatar out of the equation. The pace of innovation among House Larund cools to smouldering embers, but never truly goes out.

In time the pre-space faring inhabitants of Barbelo develop an elaborate Techno Age culture which begins under House Larund and spreads gradually to the other lands along the equatorial belt of the planet. The so-called Techno War breaks out some forty years later, abruptly ending centuries of peace. Houses Sala and Larund fight Houses Gerash and Bellon head-to-head, with House Antero caught in the middle as the objective and the Red Beard lands as the primary battle ground.

The Techno War begins as a brutal “railroad war” accompanied by hostile action between self-propelled wooden and iron steam ships on the various rivers and seas of Barbelo. Mass production using standardized parts rapidly equips both sides with arms and war matériel.

In terms of weaponry Family Larund and their Gold Beard allies have a clear qualitative edge, but a temporary superiority of defensive weapons technology over offensive weaponry soon brings movement to a complete standstill. As the conflict drags on, the introduction of chemical warfare and rapid-fire weapons makes the battle fronts intolerable. A generation of young yeng on both sides are chewed up like so much paper in a shredder.

Analog electronic computers are developed to aid in the direction of cannon fire and Barbelo runs into a rut where the digital electronics paradigm never occurs to them. Telephone and wireless radio are developed for more effective command and control of the battlefield. Submarines preying on supply ships ultimately decides the war in favor of the Empire of Thaumiel.

Since civilization on Barbelo is and always has been a highly militarized society, there is little in the way of civilian applications driving the advance of technology. Barbelo never experiences a golden age of radio and television, nor do they ever construct a global computer network comparable to the Swarm on Earth. The film industry of 20th Century Earth would be considered a decadent waste of time by the nephilim. Creativity on Barbelo tends to be expressed solely through printed literature and live performances. Science progresses solely as a spin-off of military research.

New weapons are developed to keep a second and far worse industrialized civil war from breaking out between the families. This process reaches a pinnacle when nuclear technology is developed, as well as rockets capable of delivering them to any point on the planet. After that, there is no possibility of the Gerash patriarch (the human extension of the Eloah named Thaumiel) being unseated from the throne by a direct assault.

Too bright to look at, yet giving almost no heat, the shrunken welding-arc white sun hangs in the purple northern sky as the warmer bloated orange sun sinks in the west. When the army truck driven by the Erel named Raziel tops a pass high on a terminal moraine he sees a sheer wall of slowly retreating ice across a wide zone of freshly uncovered land still being carved by melt.

Thirty ji tall, the blue-white ice barrier stretches left and right to sink over the horizon. This is the edge of the awesome Northern Ice that covers almost half the world. Behind Raziel’s truck lies a mere twenty-five hundred ji of unfrozen land reaching to the Southern Ice. The Ice is slowly melting over the centuries. Only in one place, near the capital city, do the two ice packs come close together across the narrow equatorial belt of Barbelo and kiss, but in the distant past, in the time of Haziel and the World War, there were three such bridges, dividing Barbelo into three lands.

The four-lane concrete ribbon winds down the other side of the pass and straightens out, a low elevated highway that disregards the shifting waters under it as it makes a beeline for the base of the wall.

Raziel’s passenger Beleth is hyz older sister and only surviving wife. Once hy had four wives, two of them hyz sisters, befitting hyz rank in the middle eschelon of the Army of Mastema. But as was so often the case in a harem situation, jealousies erupted, one wife was murdered by another, and Raziel himself strangled the guilty wife to death, more out of wrath that sha had brought hyz career to an abrupt halt than to avenge hyz dead younger sister.

A third wife died after an extended illness. Sha had been the sister of hyz opponent in the second ritual killing of the Cupel system mandated by the Law of Thaumiel from the time of the World War. Now, with only one yin to wager, advancement to flag rank was out of the question. Raziel is damaged goods and even hyz promotion to Hashmal is long overdue.

Raziel has been diverted from combat to a more sedate role in logistics, and in the supply world, after the self-reinforcing bravado of battle command fell away, hy felt a healthy fear of death return to hym. Raziel drove closer to the blue and white wall until it grew to half their world. They could see the cliff was literally vertical, and even a little more than vertical. “If one of those overhangs decide to sheer off right now,” hy points out needlessly, “we’re dead.” A high ridge of ice and snow that lay on both sides of the road attested to the constant clearing that was needed.

“Experimentalism,” Beleth says, without any sign of worry about the ice, “contrary to popular belief, can, if implemented properly, allow one of the freest possible societies.”

The dangerous period is short. Soon the highway enters a tunnel melted into the very base of the ice. The pale blue translucent walls grow darker until they are black. They are now safe, but to Beleth the tunnel is a kind of death anyway. The shrinking glow behind har could well be har last sight of Barbelo. From now until they departed the planet sha would know only caverns.

Raziel sighs. “Push for Experimentalism and you rank up there with King Melchizedek, who rallied hyz city under the banner of Haziel and killed thousands of hyz own people.”

“I rather think it was your own Army of Thaumiel did the killing.”

“Suicide by Thaumiel. You have to be pretty stupid and gullible and naive to think Experimentalism can work.”

“Why can’t everyone determine what is good for the public in Experimentalism?” Beleth suggests. “You can have Democratic Experimentalism. What do we have now? Traditionalism. One person can determine what is good for many, but the many cannot determine what is good for themselves?”

“Beleth, there is a fatal flaw at the heart of Democracy. People are naturally lazy. They want free stuff. In a pure democracy, everyone will simply vote themselves sustenance from the Commons and no one will contribute. The whole structure will come crashing down. This has happened many times before, which is why only Traditionalism has survived.”

Construction in ice is simple; it needs only a source of heat and a flexible conduit to whisk the melted water away. Deep within the ice the road twists this way and that, finally dumping out in a multilevel city of burrows, bristling with security.

“Look up tunnel 610 on the map, this isn’t familiar to me.”

“It’s coming up on the left. Ugh, I’m carsick now. I never could read and ride.”

“I was thrown off by that sign for 910.”

“This map has a blurb at the bottom that says, ‘with apologies to Zelebsel.’ Who’s Zelebsel?”

“Probably some poor fellow who trusted an earlier edition of the map.”

Tunnel 610 is interrupted by a series of several checkpoints and it was only Raziel’s credentials as a supply officer that gets hym through the gates with a long skinny gray box of ordnance strapped down on hyz flatbed trailer. Hyz manifest is not in order. It would not do to allow even a quick glance inside the box.

The road dead-ends in a large illuminated cave that is the lay-down area for supplies coming in and going out of the facility. Raziel is expected. The box is quickly forked off the truck and disappears inside the bowels of the facility.

Raziel and Beleth themselves are taken to a well-lit conference room deep within a maze of passageways carved into the ice. They are given warmer clothes to wear, because the chill is eternal and omnipresent. Space heaters would only melt the walls.

Presently they are joined by three yeng and a yin, and Raziel is mildly surprised when the yin begins speaking rather than one of the males. Sha says, “My name is Tabaet. These yeng are members of my team. They are Malkiel, Senciner, and Xaphon.”

“Your team?” Raziel gasps. “They answer to you? And Thaumiel permits this?

Sha smiles. “Thaumiel permits much, because we do many things for him that he could not have otherwise. The…equipment… you have delivered for us was designed and assembled right here.”

Raziel takes har awkward speech as a signal that someone might be listening to what was said in the room. And that presents a problem. It would be difficult conveying what had to be said while dancing around the actual words. Hy nods hyz head to indicate hy understood the situation.

Tabaet says, “I would extend a full welcome to you, but this is a classified project, and your yin is uncleared.”

“I will not send my wife away away,” Raziel insists. “Where I go, sha goes. You will have to get har a clearance. sha must be…fully involved…in the project.”

“That is impossible,” Malkiel says. “You must be content to train one of us to operate the…equipment. The project is of such a nature that only four people can be…fully involved.”

“It is a condition of bringing the…equipment…that I remain the sole operator. If you do not accept that condition, then you’ll have to content yourself with an inert mass.”

“Time grows short,” Senciner objects. “With any delay the risk grows.”

Raziel smiles. “It is the unique nature of this…equipment…that any reasonable delay is irrelevant.”

Tabaet sighs and comes to a decision. “Very well. We have a simulator. Xaphon will instruct you in hyz role, and Malkiel will instruct your wife. I will retain Senciner on the team. When you are both fully involved in the project, there will be opportunity to discuss this further.”

The yeng explode simultaneously with loud objections but a glance from Tabaet quickly silences them, and to Raziel, coming from a tradition that held yin to be little more than personal property, that is an impressive thing to witness. Beleth conceals a smile behind har hand.

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