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.
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.
Tabaet: Standing by for crew report of engine shutdown.
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.”