churches over the issue of infant baptism and church-state separation.

English translations of the Bible appeared, and the new Church of England, controlled now by Parliament, rejected for use in the liturgy certain books of the Old Testament that had been authored in Greek and had been accepted by Rome and the Eastern Church for centuries.

After the Western Church divided, it began to sub-divide again and again over the smallest issues, such as whether women could wear slacks, or whether playing cards was a sin, or what color the hymnal had to be. Every new sect had their own doctrinal hobby horse to ride.

God never had a problem with cousins getting hitched. Milcah was married to her cousin, Nahor. They had a granddaughter named Rebecca, who later married Isaac, her first cousin once removed. Isaac instructed Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebecca’s brother. Jacob took two.

God himself commanded Zelophehad’s five daughters to marry their cousins so their inheritance would remain in the family. The accumulation of great wealth by families threatened the temporal power of the papacy. Pope Gregory I forbade Catholics from marrying their cousins.

Before the Civil War no American state banned cousin marriage. In the years following the war thirteen states did make it illegal. The United States is the only western country with cousin marriage restrictions. Twenty percent of all couples worldwide are first cousins.

Many animals including humans have evolved an aversion to mating very close within the bloodlines such as between a brother and a sister, or a son and his mother. First cousins getting together represents an optimum point between genetic diversity and sexual availability.

All of these scriptural, historical, and anthropological defences were preached by Pastor Mark Lange of Five Corners Free Congregation, who was deeply in love with his cousin Joanna. And all of this should have been a mere footnote in the annals of American Protestantism.

But Lange made it a doctrine of his church that a man could marry his cousin and no other. It was the mirror-image of Pope Gregory’s prohibition, but even in the minds of many who despised “Romanism” this made Lang’s church a cult, in the vein of the polygamous Mormons.

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“And leave our own farms?”

“Our horses have already been moved there so as to guard against thieves.”

“It wonders me why you are in such a hurry, brother Lange. For a decision of this import we must let the Lord make his will known. Let us pray on it, each one of us.”

There is no prayer better than work, but there is no work worse than burying the war dead where they fell. And when they were finished the flock was split in half. Fourteen families joined Mark Lange in seeking a quiet new life far from the threat of war, in Gettysburg.

When the horses of the parishioners were first evacuated to Pennsylvania it was Lange’s male cousins on his father’s side who took them and Mark paid them little mind. But when the horses were returned it was his cousin Joanna who brought them back, all by her lonesome.

Joanna’s own horse was groomed better than she was, yet Mark fell stone cold in love at first sight. He persistently had four-legged competition. On the way back to Gettysburg when the weather turned bad Joanna let her horse have the tent while she slept out in the rain. Joanna spent more time cleaning her horse than helping her mother clean the house. Mark thought the house was a sty, but the barn was neat as a pin. Joanna’s mother said she needed a male companion to quiet some of the rumors going around, so Joanna got a stallion. Joanna’s father looked askance when Mark began courting her but Joanna’s mother was overjoyed at her new interest in something other than equines.

One time a jealous Mark found a strange hair on her coat but Joanna got out of hot water when she produced the horse to match. At her bridal shower Joanna received a large number of gifts. Mostly they were actual bridles. When the happy day finally arrived and it was time to show up for her wedding Joanna came in late because she took too long cleaning the stalls. Mark Lange married her anyway.

Three centuries prior King Henry VIII grew tired of his wife so he asked Rome to release him from the marriage. The Pope refused so the king took England out of the Roman Catholic Church and started his own national church. Human will had become ascendant over divine will. After that it was like a dam had burst. John Knox founded the Scottish Presbyterian Church after a disagreement with Lutherans over the shared meal and church government. John Smyth founded the Baptist

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And all that day Little Mac watched what Lee was doing from the long slope up from the Potomac and refused to advance, even with a two-to-one numerical advantage. Were the forces ten-to-one in his favor he would still wire Washington and complain he didn’t have enough men.

The church near the bridge had become a field hospital for the Union army. Dried blood stained the interior walls, only to be overlaid with sprays of new blood. One doctor used ether to sedate men while another used a saw to hack off their limbs and throw them into a pile.

A messenger arrived at the church by horse and addressed the doctors. “Get your wounded on hoof or wheels, we’re pulling them back to Boonsboro.”

The pile of amputated legs and arms was set afire. Horse-drawn ambulances carrying the wounded began to toil north and east. Every bump in the road elicited screams from the men inside. No one who witnessed the convoy of suffering would say again they loved the glories of war, if ever they did.

Many of the local farmers found it prudent to move their work horses to a place far away from men of either army who would “borrow” them, permanently. So upon their leftover mules the parishioners of the little church rode out, when it seemed safe, to help bury the dead.

A hundred bodies lay near the church, but most bitter of all was seeing their beloved church riddled with holes revealing glimpses of the interior and how it had become a slaughterhouse. When they tried to enter the structure collapsed in ruin. Perhaps this was a mercy.

TC813: Pastor Karl Keller said, “Do not grieve overmuch, my friends. We will build a more beautiful church to stand in its place.”

“But what is to stop the new church from suffering the same fate, brother Keller?” objected Deacon Mark Lange.

“What do you mean, brother Lange?”

“I mean Virginia lies just over yonder river and last month there was a second battle of Manassas. This is a good place for an army to ford the river. What’s to stop a second or third battle of Sharpsburg? I say we rebuild our church at my uncle’s farm in Pennsylvania.”

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The Confederates were running low on powder and this fact was brought to the attention of the lieutenant commander leading them. He saw the bridge was lost so his priority shifted to saving his two pieces of artillery. He ordered a pullback with fresh troops in rearguard.

“Tell the commanding general we won a bridgehead here,” the federal general told a lieutenant when he saw the retreating gray backs. The junior officer saluted but he saw the bridge was stacked with bodies and refused the desecration of walking on them to get to his horse.

The messenger dropped into the creek bed and splashed across on foot, bypassing all the carnage on the bridge. After all, the water was only ankle deep.

Through binoculars General Lee watched the Federal lines from the saddle of his horse, dreading the butcher’s bill.

Lee’s face grew flushed with a combination of frustration and suppressed rage after he realized his invasion of the North had failed. He knew McClellan was over-cautious but there had already been a bad misstep when a copy of his battle plans fell into the enemy’s hands. The battle had burned itself out like a fire. There had never been such a bloodletting in America, but Lee knew a greater disaster was waiting in the wings. His army was surrounded on three sides by a bend of the Potomac River, and on the fourth by the Army of the Potomac.

Lee’s “old warhorse” General Longstreet came in to headquarters after early morning consultations with his five division commanders. First Corps was spread out from the town of Sharpsburg to points south. He reported the Union had made no surprise moves forward overnight.

“Thank you General Longstreet,” said Lee, but it only confirmed what he had already observed himself, so he issued the same orders he had given to Jackson commanding II Corps on his left. “An informal truce for the purpose of exchanging our wounded has held since sundown. You will begin moving First Corps back over the river immediately, whether this truce holds or not. But Pete, your retreat must be in good order. I do not wish to give those people over there the spectacle of the Army of Northern Virginia running in an undignified rout.”

General James “Pete” Longstreet snapped off a perfect salute, then rode away to issue his own orders. Soon all over the battlefield men broke down their tents. The Confederates began to cross pontoon bridges stretching from the little tongue of Maryland they still held.

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Something about B Wing stayed with Mark Felt for the rest of his life. Perhaps it was the variety of genuine articles dating back to the Civil War. Perhaps it was the way Sheriff Walker explained what he was looking at. Agent Felt found the experience profoundly immersive.

Apart from small raids the Confederacy took the war to Union soil on only two occasions, and both times the congregation that would later become one lung of the Church of Green Dome was caught in the cross-fire. It was as though Bobby Lee himself had a grudge against them.

Muskets fell like two waves of dominoes atop stone walls on the Blue and Gray sides of a quiet little creek. The instant the rifled barrels hit the horizontal they fired, burning men’s eyes with the pungent smoke of spent black powder. The walls bent to become a bridge. Union and rebel soldiers converged on foot, shooting as they came. As they merged the fighting changed to bayonet thrusts and finally even fisticuffs. The Federals had the greater initial momentum and nearly reached across the bridge before the rebels rallied to stop them.

The boys in blue trod backwards over a layer of bodies one deep. Some were dead, others writhed with broken bones or a lead ball lodged in their innards. A few of the fallen had survived the battle of Shiloh, where the war attained a high but stable plateau of savagery.

A tube loaded with canister shot was lined up on the long axis of the bridge and mowed down counterattacking rebels like grass to form a second layer of bodies. Some of the fallen boys in gray had survived the so-called artillery hell at Malvern Hill during the Seven Days.

Two guns were set up on the Confederate side of the creek upstream. One fired bursting shells that maimed the Union gunners and another fired several rounds of solid shot. The ones that didn’t hit the cannon bounced up the slope and into the walls of a little white church.

After the giant shotgun became a pile of splinters and dented steel another Rebel attack gained most of the bridge, which had become an abattoir. A colonel on the Union side was shot, but to the wonderment of his men he immediately stood up with a Minié ball in his Bible. With his divine sanction, the colonel led a series of new attacks but the only effect was to make the hill of twisting bodies on the bridge higher. Men standing on the pile swapped empty muskets for freshly-loaded ones handed up to them in the manner of a bucket brigade.

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All eyes turned to Dory, who nodded her head. “I’m with Hunky on this, Lord. Robyn becomes Mrs. Jerry Shybear. That’s point C.”

Michael said, “Why not? I never set down mandatory cousin-marriage. That was Lange.”

“It will split your church in two, Lord,” warned Peter.

“I know it will, Peter, and the external reality will finally conform with the internal reality.”

Peter tried to shine a good light on it. “Once the nomadic people of the plains had to choose between removing to the reservations or starving. The Church was a third way.”

“We can still save something of the Church,” said Michael. “We’ll move the remnant to another place. But for now, Peter, take these young people back to Headwater and announce the betrothal: Jerry to Kimberly. That’s the important thing. Do not use her new name Robyn.”

Peter bowed his head and said, “Yes, Lord.”

And the decision having been made, Robyn slipped into a daydream of the consequences. She croaked, “Oh, poor Jerry. Poor me!”

“Seeing all that, Robyn, will you still marry hem?”

She nodded in the affirmative. “But how will it happen, Lord? I’ll be dead.”

Michael did a little hand wave. “Dead? Tut tut. A temporary inconvenience. Remember how Yeshua was wiped off the face of the Earth and now he’s good as new? Come this January and you will be wed to Jerry. Yeshua will preside. It will literally be a match made in heaven.”

After the search under the altar fell through SAiC Tolson left the temple and took Sullivan with him. Special Agent Mark Felt was fine with that. Conflicting agendas were never productive. He helped the sheriff document the evidence that had been tossed out of the cairn.

That left only the B Wing of the temple to search. It was set up as a historical museum, although under the new management of Prophet Hansen the Kuwapi contribution to the Church of Green Dome had been stripped out. Some of the more valuable pieces were missing entirely.

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“No, Dory, what it means is that for the eleventh time in history, the community of elohim has received signals from planet-dwellers. But Gevurah only has a direction to Earth, not the distance. That comes later. Soon other elohim will pick up broadcasts from Earth and realize you are not out of reach. Ein Sof will have found the Students at last! And they will wonder how I can be a stable yellow sun in their midst yet remain unquickened, and things will grow sticky for Keter. Meanwhile all the elohim listen with rapt attention to the first soap opera, sponsored by Oxydol, the whiter, whiter soap, and they fail to understand a single word. But I have pinned the broadcasts down to 1933, so I know who Gevurah must be. Humans know him as Sirius.”

Jerry said, “I wonder if the elohim will be coming to visit us, now that they know we’re here.”

“They will send avatars, Jerry, like remote-controlled rockets, but only as flybys. After it gets a certain distance from an eloah the link is too thin to pass any propellant. So to finally answer Dory’s question, starting from right here at point B, you’re going to help me catch one of those incoming avatars at point Z and bring it inside myself. And that will not be easy at all, because they will be moving at seven-tenths of light-speed. And none of this can be forced upon you because all of this, all of human history, in fact, is nothing more than the greatest love story never told: overcoming every artificial barrier Keter and Daat and Chesed can throw up to block the wedding of elohim and humanity.”

When che heard these words Jerry swam out around Peter to face Robyn, stood up tall to brace his courage, looked her in the eyes, and said, “From the day we became lab partners in school I loved you. Every day you were gone and only Dory could reach you it tore me apart. Then Michael said we had one narrow chance to save your life and I couldn’t sleep for a minute until I saw you again, and when I did you were frozen half to death on that stack of steel. It was a life changing moment, Robyn. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Robyn waded out to face Jerry and took each of hez hands in her own. “And I love you too, Jerry. It’s true. I love you even after that time at Lake 13 and your lesson on nephilim biology. But we’re Church of Green Dome and you know there’s rules. Cousin Dory is for you.”

“Whoa,” said Hunky, clearing her throat and wading out a little bit too. “I know the scripture says never put God to the test but here’s a much smaller love story than human history, Lord, with much smaller artificial barriers. If you can’t fix this I won’t take your job.”

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