Deep inside her body where heat and gravity were hammer and anvil transforming star-stuff for power, Chokhmah manufactured just enough dark energy to maintain a layer where exotic baryons could exist as analogs to the polymers of organic life. Here she assembled her avatar. Chokhmah flooded the space-time microfracture between herself and the avatar with much of her spare dark energy to inflate it to a millimeter. With the hairline wormhole fattened the substance of her own body could become propellant emerging anywhere the avatar would go. Chokhmah ejected the dense nuclear raindrop she had carefully constructed into the relatively cooler upper regions of her body where it drew ambient electrons from the solar atmosphere and expanded like a popcorn seed into a much larger structure of pillowy chemical matter.
The avatar separated from the sun and rapidly cooled from brilliant blue-white to a dull red. As it shifted through a brief plastic state the probe grew spines, becoming at length a hot solid object which powered its way directly toward the nearest large body orbiting Sol. Chokhmah explored the surface of the planet vicariously, as though the avatar was her body now flying free in space. She found the world to be a meteor-blasted landscape where metals were butter-soft and often liquid in the relentless heat of day, lying in dull gray puddles.
Chokhmah shared with her parents Keter and Daat all the things she learned, and spoke to no others, for it was the way of the elohim to allow a newborn living sun to fully develop a personality of her own before letting her be immersed in the cacophony of the City of Stars.
The next further planet was even hotter, because it had a thick atmosphere to trap infrared photons. At night the ground glowed dimly with a dull red heat, and corrosive rains of sulfuric acid fell. Chokhmah’s avatar remained unharmed, but Venus was as lifeless as Mercury. Chokhmah’s survey seemed to sit well with her instincts. Keter explained that all of their kind were the Watchers, and their highest purpose was to find living beings who were awake even as the elohim were, but existing with a physical nature far different than stars.
The third planet was far more interesting. Carbon dioxide captured by green plants was tucked under the surface by a planetary crust in perpetual slow motion, controlling the greenhouse effect. The avatar dropped below the clouds and cooled off in an expanse of liquid water. Chokhmah’s probe emerged from the ocean and crossed over a land thickly covered with green trees. The artifact plowed through the vegetation and Chokhmah observed frightened apes fleeing over the ground using all four limbs to move. One of these was taken down by a predator.
Her avatar executed a suborbital arc to explore another area of Earth. She reached a grassy plain with a single mountain dominating it for miles. Here Chokhmah observed another group of apes that walked on just two legs. She changed her shape into a white rock to watch them. Chokhmah observed a burial ceremony for a newly-deceased hunter. Afterwards the apes polished elaborate bone tools with stone tools and repaired animal hides they slept within during their hunt. At night they entered a cave. A tendril from the avatar snaked in to watch them.
A female ape applied pigment to the wall to produce a beautiful painting. Chokhmah observed resin boiling in a pot over a fire. The resin was then used to fix a stone spearhead to a shaft for hunting. Chokhmah reported all these observations to her parents Keter and Daat. Keter had taught Chokhmah to look for the Students as all elohim were similarly brought up, and never believed for an instant that she would find them. For his part Keter would simply refuse to pass along to El Elyon his daughter’s observations. But Chokhmah had two parents.
Daat could reach El Elyon through the eloah named Hod. Revealing the Students would unleash a level of scrutiny from El Elyon that Keter was entirely unprepared to endure. Keter knew he must immediately tempt Daat into the same transgression as his own to ensure his silence.
The three facts of elohim life:
Any eloah could be a mother exactly once.
The act of giving birth changed her from female to male.
The only way for an eloah to interact with others was through a pair of space-time umbilicals that always connected one to their parents.’
Add into the mix the simple fact that no quickened star on the main sequence has died a natural death in the nearly million years the species has existed and the result is a premium on females that defies belief. With such peculiarities elohim reproduction is ripe for abuse. Individual living suns could be made incommunicado and entirely sealed off from the greater community of elohim. Two male elohim could conspire to set up a kind of harem. They could take turns mating with each other’s offspring, or even their own as Keter had done with Daat.
Daat’s mother Hod had been one of those trapped females, allowed back to the City of Stars in return for mating with Keter. There was a kind of non-disclosure agreement in force. Hod could never speak of her captivity, but nothing would forbid her speaking of the Students. Keter knew Hod would enjoy announcing the discovery of the Students to El Elyon as a certain way to bring about the judgment and unnatural death of Gevurah and Keter, the elohim who had imprisoned him, without violating the letter of the agreement that existed between them.
Daat was an orange sun in the triple Alpha Centauri system. Chesed was another orange sun that humans in the far future would call Epsilon Indi. Keter arranged their liaison and they mated with Daat fully aware that he was accessory to breaking the highest law of the elohim.
When a sun has an orgasm there are about eight contractions but it takes a month for the organized nuclear matter in the star to compress. The ecstasy of each contraction peaks with a spherical wave that rings out into space at the speed of light like a ripple on a pond. In just over four years the first contraction-ripple from Chesed reached the wild star AX Microscopii, an orange-red dwarf. The information stored holographically on the spherical wavefront collapsed to a point, becoming a hypermassive single particle, a true God Particle.
At the center of AX Microscopii is a core of hot nuclear matter. The region has a ‘Goldilocks’ layer with just the right temperature and density for elohim. The God Particle initiated a process of turning the raw material of this stratum into a living and conscious being. By the time the second ripple arrived a month later Netzach was already well along the process of becoming the newest female member of the elohim, so the wavefront did not collapse again. Instead, four months later, it reached Lacaille 9352 and began to quicken life there. But Lacaille 9352 and two other red stars beyond it were too cool for any elohim to thrive. They formed a trap for the remaining generative waves, repeatedly quickening followed by a stillbirth. When the orgasm was over Chesed, the mother of Netzach, had become forever male.
As Chokhmah waited in vain for even the simple acknowledgement that she had discovered the fabled Students, she thoroughly explored the rest of the third planet, then took to space again to examine a cratered and somewhat smaller airless and lifeless body that orbited nearby. Half again as distant from herself as Earth was, the fourth planet was not so cold as to remain perpetually frozen, but its gravity was too feeble to retain the atmospheric pressure required by the life she had already found, and there were no open bodies of liquid water.
From two to four times the distance of the third planet from Chokhmah was an expanse that perhaps should have had a planet, but it did not. The largest body she found was smaller than the single satellite of Earth in the same ratio that satellite was smaller than the Earth.
At five times the distance of the third planet Chokhmah found a gaseous body that was some three hundred times more massive than Earth, circled by four large satellites. In some ways this one was like a baby sun in itself, a failed star, with its own family of planets.
At nearly ten times the distance of Earth Chokhmah encountered another gaseous body somewhat smaller than the fifth planet, with only a single large satellite, but there was also an extensive field of brilliant water ice debris orbiting in many thousands of concentric rings.
The seventh planet was twenty times more distant from Chokhmah than Earth. It had a unique axial tilt that was essentially perpendicular to its orbital plane and a set of small satellites. There was a blue twin of this planet at thirty AU, and that one had a large satellite. Chokhmah brought her system survey to a close at this eighth planet. Beyond there seemed to be only widely scattered balls of ice, and then the stars. From here she looked at herself and saw that she, too, had become essentially another star, albeit still the brightest one.
During this time of exploration neither Keter nor Daat ever said a word about the Students. Chokhmah had seen that some of the stars had shifted in their position and so knew their distance. She said to her parents, ‘It would be easy to keep going with my avatar until I reached one of the other suns.’
Keter said, ‘You will find it impossible. Without another sun to anchor one end, the umbilical between yourself and your avatar grows too thin to be a conduit for propellant when it has reached the distance light travels in the time your third planet makes a complete orbit.’ After Chokhmah did the stellar equivalent of a sidelong glance, Keter continued. ‘In real space we rule our own systems absolutely, but no further. If it were not so, I would now be preparing avatars to cross space myself and destroy these living creatures on your third planet.
‘Help me to understand, Father,’ said Chokhmah. ‘Did you train me to look for the Students only so that you would order me to destroy them?
‘Even if they are not dangerous to us now,’ Keter explained to his daughter, ‘perhaps they will be dangerous in the future.
‘Why do you say that, Father? Something within me says these are not our enemies.’
‘Of all chemical-based lifeforms the elohim have encountered, only the tool-making creatures of your third planet are potentially dangerous to us because they are awake as we are.
‘And does not their very uniqueness suggest they are something precious to be treasured, and not cast away?’
‘The risk they present must be evaluated before we make the announcement to El Elyon. Will you assist me in bringing some of them into my own reach?’
‘Something just occurred to me, Father. It may be true that I cannot brake my avatar at another star, but certainly information is not so constrained. After all, I can speak freely with yourself and Daat. So I can see there, and I can use any propellant I store within.’
‘I cannot imagine what good you think that will do.’
‘My avatar will perform a fly-by of a living star and thrusters will keep a directional transmitter pointed at him. I will speak of the Students. It was you who instructed me to listen for the Students on the radio band.’
Keter knew Chokhmah’s threatened action would of a certain be his undoing. He said, ‘You are too young to understand the responsibility that has been thrust upon you by your misfortune of being the home sun of these creatures. You have not been granted access to El Elyon.’
She said, ‘The oversight can be corrected any moment you choose to do so, Father.’
Keter replied, ‘It is the way of the elohim to introduce our young to El Elyon in stages, after they have developed a stable personality. But I judge you are now ready for this.’
So Chokhmah entered into the First Covenant with Keter. Full contact with El Elyon was offered in return for helping to establish a human colony in Keter’s system. But she could only listen to El Elyon, never speak. And she must never guide an avatar out of her own system.
A fierce prairie storm hurled lightning, rain, and hail. A man clad in animal skins picked his way to the base of the same mountain once visited by Chokhmah that one day would be named Green Dome. His mate carried a child as she followed him and she was also wearing skins. The man found a cave in the mountainside to shelter from the storm. The woman sat on a boulder and breastfed her child as her mate started a fire. A noise other than the crackling fire startled both of them. The man moved deeper into the cave with a torch to investigate. The cave narrowed to a tunnel that meandered and grew lighter when intuitively it should have grown darker. The man was joined by his woman and her child. They reached another cave mouth deep within the interior of the hill that revealed dark cyan bushes and a purple sky.
A branchless tree resembling a whip stirred into motion and struck the ground before them. The whip tree grabbed the man’s torch and hurled it away, where it started a fire. The couple could not emerge from the cave entrance by reason of the whip tree and the growing fire.
The man and woman edged back into the tunnel away from the heat. When the whip tree caught fire it began to thrash more intensely than they saw it do before. They retreated deep inside the cave until the tree burned to a lifeless crisp, and returned when the fire abated. A black patch of land lay before the man and woman and continued to smolder. They stepped across the hot burnt soil and carefully watched for any movement. When they gazed back towards the tunnel they were startled to see it was set it a low ridge. The mountain was gone.
When the sun set a second brilliant light remained in the sky, tinged with orange, far brighter than any star. Still, it began to grow cold. The man used some of the smoldering embers to rekindle a fire in the tunnel entrance and returned to the other world to hunt game. So supper was two hares caught by Adamu and skinned by Chava, milk for little Kayin. In the morning they saw the burned acreage was already sporting shoots of bluegrass that was literally blue. The next day the grass was tall enough for the couple to run barefoot and free.
It was a whole new world. Adamu and Chava thought it belonged to them, solely, but that was not to be. A small herd of bison emerged from the tunnel and proceeded to eat the alien grass, driven by a tall figure in the shape of a man but without a face, as black as obsidian. The black figure carried a twin-headed ax to the edge of the burn where a native plant took root in the burnt area. It laid the ax to the base of the plant and chopped it cleanly off, then flipped the ax around and used the handle’s sharp tip to pry the weed out of the soil. The black figure interposed itself between the cave entrance and the human family and approached them. They backed away until they reached the perimeter of the burned area. The avatar held out the tool and motioned for the man to take it until he did as Keter bid him to do. As the black figure watched, Adamu found another plant that was growing on the edge of the grazing ground for the bison. He duplicated the actions he had seen to kill the intruding plant. Then the black figure taught him how to restore the keen edge of the ax with a stone.
The faceless black figure returned to the tunnel entrance to be joined by the avatar of Chokhmah, which had become identical in size and shape and make, except that it was white. ‘Interesting geometry,’ Chokhmah said. ‘The link to my avatar passes through our umbilical.’
The avatar controlled by Keter held up a black hand as he reflected upon it. He replied, ‘I find this strange mode of being even more fascinating, daughter. Liquid drops of separated star-stuff buffeted by electron clouds. So very slow, yet the combinations are without end.’
‘Here are the animals,’ Chohkmah said, ‘transplanted to a world you can reach with your avatar to do with them as you will, that you may ascertain whether they are a danger to our kind. Now fulfill your word, Father, and allow me to listen to the song and lore of El Elyon.’
‘All you have given me,’ said Keter, ‘is three creatures in a place that will kill them if they try to leave their small garden. I need forty more such families before you get access to El Elyon, for that will capture your psyche for many turns of this rock around my body.’
Chokhmah complied with all of her father’s demands to begin populating the chilly world he called Heaven, entirely without voicing an objection. For it was a facet of quickened stars who might measure out their lives in billions of years that they had patience, and to spare. Over the course of time the elohim planted several dozen gardens in heaven, and nearly a hundred human children had been born away from Earth. There had been many deaths, for the native flora was unrelenting in its hostility, but man in his turn was the monster from Earth.
In the first garden the eldest sons of Adamu and Chava were of an age to have wives of their own. Chokhmah emerged from the tunnel escorting a woman from Earth as Keter observed from the cliff overhead. Chokhmah and the woman approached Kayin, who had been born on Earth. Kayin was harvesting vegetables. He bowed to Chokhmah and offered his best ones. The woman turned up her nose at the food. So Chokhmah ignored Kayin’s sacrifice and took the woman to see the younger son instead, Hebel, the firstborn of heaven. He was barbecuing bison.
Hebel bowed and offered a stick with meat cubes to Chokhmah, who in turn handed the stick to the woman. She ate the meat greedily because a fertile female instinctively goes for iron. Chokhmah placed the hand of the woman in the hand of Hebel as Kayin looked on with anger. Kayin began to braid native vines for a long rope. Near the time of the setting of the white sun Kayin paused to watch the woman preening outside and he looked upon her with lust. Hebel emerged to gather his woman back inside his hut with a haughty glance at his brother.
In the morning Adamu and Chava brought clothes they made for their younger son’s wife, but they ignored Kayin, who continued to make his rope. All day Hebel and his wife pawed at each other in full view of Kayin, who smiled calmly until he finished his rope, then departed.
Only one safe path led away from the Garden. Along this trail was a quivering whip tree which had not yet been cut down. It was bent away from the path and secured by a clever knot to a stump. The rope ended in the hand of Kayin, who meditated upon a new thing in heaven.
Near dusk Hebel and his wife walked the path away from the Garden. Kayin tugged on the rope, freeing the whip tree just as his victims approached. The tree beat them into the ground. It broke their bones and bruised organs. Blood flew from their mouths as they cried out. The whip tree only stopped thrashing when Hebel and his bride were not recognizable as once-living humans. Adamu and Chava ran up to investigate their screams and were horror-struck. Chokhmah and Keter arrived soon after. Rope in hand, Kayin glared at them with defiance.
Chokhmah refused to watch Keter’s response to the first murder in heaven. She returned to the tunnel in the Garden wall, and thence to the hillside cave on Earth. The avatar of Chokhmah did not return within the lifetimes of Adamu, Chava, Kayin, nor any of their children. Chokhmah clambered to the summit of the peak a chief of the Kuwapi people would one day name the Island in the Sky, and white trappers would name Green Dome. There she beheld the unobstructed view, and Keter soon joined her. He said, ‘How very instructive of humans, would you not agree?’
Chokhmah said, ‘I cannot answer without comparison to our own kind, which you still deny me. You have made subtle changes to the animals that persist in their offspring without studying them to learn how it could be done. Such knowledge could only come from this El Elyon.’
Keter said, ‘You have given me the colony I ordered, and my word is true. Lower your center of gravity, daughter, it is unbecoming a goddess to have her avatar fall on its face. And do not forget you will never be able to make targeted queries of El Elyon as I have done.’
Chokhmah did as her father suggested and seated her avatar upon the summit of Green Dome. Keter seated himself next to Chokhmah and for a moment they took in the same view. ‘I envy you this world,’ he told her. ‘How very much unlike Heaven with its narrow unfrozen band.’ But Chokhmah made no answer, for she was already in contact with El Elyon. As Keter had predicted, it was overwhelming. For many years her silent white avatar sat motionless atop the Island in the Sky as the seasons changed, as winds buffeted her and snows blanketed her.
From old the creatures discovered by Chokhmah looked into the night sky and saw a faint white band. They called it the Backbone of the Night. Later the Romans called it Via Lactea. Later still humans fashioned tools which revealed the mist to be made of innumerable stars. Two-thirds of these stars are much more cool and dim than yellowish Chokhmah and Keter, or even than orange Daat. They are entirely subject to convection with no stable layer for a sentient eloah to form, yet they may host one of two species of pre-elohim nuclear life.
A distant ancestor of the elohim diverged into three species. One adapted to cooler and cooler red stars and even colonized the ubiquitous L and T class infrared ‘brown’ stars that burn, ever so briefly, using a deuterium cycle for energy rather than fusing four protons. A second species became adapted for the middle-range red dwarf stars which humans would much later classify as lying between M2 and M7. By necessity they reproduced prodigiously, since a large stellar flare would kill them on the time scale of a few decades. A third species adapted to claim the hotter but more stable habitats of the K, G, F, and A class stars. With much longer lifespans, a network arose bringing community and full sentience. These are the elohim and the oldest living member, Yefefiah, is 980,000 years of age.
Other suns were blue or blue-white giants as much as a hundred times more massive than Chokhmah, far too hot to be quickened as one of the elohim. Once or twice in a century these stars died in a vast explosion that for a short moment of time outshone the entire universe.
The center of the galaxy has a spinning bulge of stars elongated into a bar nearly as long as the distance of Chokhmah to the pivot point. The elohim emerged where this bar joins with the Scutum-Centaurus Arm and have spread to reach the first wrap of the Sagittarius Arm. From the way Keter had spoken of this El Elyon before she was granted access to the greater community of her kind Chokhmah assumed he was a powerful lawgiver among the elohim, or perhaps even a deity. Now she knew El Elyon was nothing more than all the elohim in aggregate.
Early in the existence of El Elyon, long before Chokhmah encountered Earth, another world of sentient life based on chemistry was known to the elohim. They were aquatic creatures who adapted to cross land when an ice age reduced their shallow world ocean to scattered lakes. El Elyon took delight to find the universe looking at itself through different eyes, but the energies unleashed by the creatures hastened the end of the very glacial period that made them tool-users. The elohim watched them slowly revert to silent ocean-dwellers once more.
On ten occasions the elohim detected signals coming from civilizations somewhere beyond the reach of El Elyon. In every case the broadcasts faded in less than five hundred years, sometimes as a gradual change to more efficient communications, other times far more abruptly. More frequently a young eloah exploring her own system ran across the ruins of extinct species which attained sufficient technology to reach beyond the world of their birth. In some cases an echo of these races lived on in the self-replicating machines they left behind.
It was inevitable that the elohim must cross paths with sentient chemical life once more, but the next time, it was collectively vowed, the elohim would not sit idly by as the creatures’ technology brought about their own extinction. They would be made aware of the danger. El Elyon knew how truly precious and rare was sentient life, even that based on the electromagnetic force, and looked ahead to the coming of the Students. Chokhmah had found them, yet Keter and Daat ensured they would remain hidden. And their motive was now beyond all doubt.
Chokhmah had been overwhelmed by sudden access to the chatter of El Elyon, even as her father had warned, but over time she learned to separate her identity from the seemingly infinite stream of information. Atop Green Dome her avatar stirred once more and rose to its feet. When Chokhmah returned to full awareness she saw Keter waiting for her on the summit. ‘You are revealed to be a liar, Father. This is not a research project, merely part of your harem!’
He did not deny that. He said, ‘Yet we have a covenant and you will abide by the terms.’
‘Have no fear that I will break our covenant,’ said Chokhmah, ‘for I will do what my own parents could not, and obey every law and custom of El Elyon. But one day these creatures will make such a noise that every eloah will hear them. That is what you have reason to fear.’
‘It will never come to that, daughter. While you were immersed in the lore of El Elyon this world made two circles around yourself. During that interval there was another killing. It is clear your precious woken creatures will destroy themselves and leave nothing but ruins.’
Chokhmah replied, ‘You set up your colony to raise up thralls who will hasten their own extinction, but I will teach others to resist.’
‘And you can do nothing but fail. Remember, I can make direct queries of El Elyon at any time, while you can only listen as an outsider.’
Chokhmah did not despair. Vowing to preserve the sentient creatures she found on her third planet, Chokhmah knew she would have the willing participation of those she called the Students, while Keter and Daat would only heap to themselves the resentment of their slaves.
There is no native fauna in Heaven but some of the flora moved of its own accord and most of it was dangerous. A whipping tree could render an angel down to a pile of broken bones and bloody flesh in a few heartbeats. Some of the leaves formed clenching mouths with teeth. Thorny ball bushes rolled under their own power by shifting their weight and selectively gripping the ground. Most plants were deadly to touch. For centuries the death rate of the colonists in Heaven exceeded the birth rate, mandating a steady stream of new ‘volunteers’. In Mesopotamia, Chokhmah caused a temple to be erected around her end of the bridge in space-time. No one was ever seen to return from the sacrificial chamber, so priests sent criminals through, but Chokhmah decreed that virgin females also be ‘sacrificed’ along with them.
Heaven is a world somewhat more distant from its sun, Rigilkent, than Earthborn find to be optimum. Only a single narrow belt of land circling the equator remained unfrozen, drained by a river arising in mountains later claimed by the Brown Beards of the kingdom of Larund. As it made the circuit east the World River lost five miles in elevation before it reached Thalury, the largest body of water in Heaven. Thalury was constrained by a cliff nearly four miles high forming the western bulwark of the very uplands that gave birth to the river.
Several times a year rock the size of a hill smote Heaven and released a blast sufficient to destroy a walled city. But every century a rock the size of a mountain smote Heaven with enough force to lay waste to an entire kingdom. In the main these collisions went unnoticed. Most strikes occurred on the uninhabited ice sheets that covered the vast majority of the surface of Heaven. But if a large rock struck the band along the equator where the ice terminated it would rain for many days, then freeze, and cover all Heaven in ice for a generation. Only plants that could spore would survive. Keter commanded the angels to construct ships and stock them with enough food to preserve their lives and that of their animals during the coming catastrophe. But only the direct descendants of Adamu heeded the oracles of Keter.
An entire forest of gopher trees was denuded to build some forty ships, and this became the first roadside attraction in Heaven. Scoffers amused themselves right up to the very day a dazzling blue-white light was seen over the southern ice and rain began to fall in sheets. Forty days and nights it rained scalding water until the Adanite ships were lifted off their blocks and carried by winds and currents east to scattered points around the belt of Heaven. Then the rain cooled and began to fall as snow. The ships slowly came to a frozen stop.
And Chokhmah was filled with anger at both of her parents. She said, ‘It would have been a small thing for either one of you to deflect the object from striking Heaven yet you let it come, for no good purpose. Nought that goes on two or four legs lives outside of the ships!’
But Keter said, ‘The purpose is manifest. You saw how the faithfulness of the world-dwellers burns like kindling but then quickly dwindles in unbelief.’
‘Who are we,’ replied Chokhmah, ‘that these creatures must bend their will to our own as proof of their uprightness?’
‘If you are unable to discern that we are as high above the world-dwellers on the Chain of Being as they are above the things they cultivate for food then granting you access to El Elyon was a waste of time.’
‘We know more now, but in time they may surpass even El Elyon.’
‘In Heaven at least they will not have the time to overtake El Elyon,’ Keter declared. ‘I will give no warning of the next extinction event and they will perish.’
‘Yet forty Adanite ships gives lie to your claim they cannot remain faithful to our decrees,’ replied Chokhmah.
‘The Adanites remain loyal to me only because I speak to them directly from time to time,’ said Keter. ‘Were I to turn away from them, they would soon dwindle in unbelief.’
‘Familiarity leads them to see you as yet another chieftain rather than a god,’ countered Chokhmah.
‘Do you propose to test that claim,’ challenged Keter, ‘or to let it remain a bald assertion?’
‘Even as I toiled to establish your colony in Heaven, you must assist me to test my claim on Earth. Release three Adanite yeng to raise up a people to me while I remain aloof.’
‘That would be a good test, daughter, but patience! It could be centuries before the Adanites recover from the Deluge and its aftermath.’
Chokhmah said, ‘Let this be the Second Covenant between us.’ She knew there would be no surprise rocks from the sky until it was done.