TC1U

TC1U1-COMET

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

But Thaumiel learned to his dismay that the more he assailed House Larund, the greater their impetus to resist. He realized his attacks were only stoking the fires of a relentless technological advance as the Black Beards focused on solving the problem of stopping the air attacks. So Mastema relented and took his avatar out of the equation. The pace of innovation among House Larund cooled to smoldering embers, but never truly went out.

In time the pre-space faring inhabitants of Barbelo developed an elaborate Techno Age culture which began under House Larund and spread gradually to the other lands along the equatorial belt of the planet. The so-called Techno War broke out some forty years later, abruptly ending the three centuries of the Long Peace. Houses Sala and Larund fought 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 began 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 equipped both sides with arms and war materiel.

In terms of weaponry Family Larund and their Gold Beard allies had a clear qualitative edge, but a temporary superiority of defensive weapons technology over offensive weaponry soon brought movement to a complete standstill. As the conflict dragged on, the introduction of chemical warfare and rapidfire weapons made the battle fronts intolerable. A generation of young men on both sides were chewed up like so much paper in a shredder.

Analog computers were developed to aid the direction of cannon fire but Barbelo ran into a rut. The digital electronics paradigm never occurred to them. Telephone and wireless radio were developed for more effective command and control of the battlefield. Eventually submarines preying on supply ships ultimately decided the war in favor of the Empire of Mastema.

Since Barbelo was a highly militarized society, there was little in the way of civilian applications driving the advance of technology. Barbelo never experienced a golden age of radio and television, nor did they ever construct a global computer network. The film industry of 20th Century Earth would have been considered a decadent waste of time. Human creativity on Barbelo tended to be expressed solely through printed literature and live performances. Science progressed solely as a spin-off of military research.

New weapons were developed to keep a second and far worse industrialized civil war from breaking out between the families. This process reached a pinnacle when nuclear technology was developed, as well as rockets capable of delivering them to any point on the planet. After that, there was no possibility of the Gerash patriarch (the nephilim 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 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 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.

A 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 living wife. Once hy had four wives, two of them hyz sisters, befitting hyz rank in the middle echelon of the Army of Mastema. But as was often the case in a harem situation, jealousies erupted, one wife was murdered by another, and Raziel himself strangled the murderess to death, more out of wrath that sha had brought hyz career to a 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 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.

RAZIEL
If that overhang decides to sheer off right now, 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.

BELETH (unworried)
Experimentalism, contrary to popular belief, can, if implemented properly, allow one of the freest possible societies.

The dangerous period is short. The highway enters a tunnel melted into the 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
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.

BELETH
I rather think it was your Army of Thaumiel did the killing.

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

BELETH
Why can’t everyone determine what is good for the public in Experimentalism? 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?”

RAZIEL
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.

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.

TABAET
My name is Tabaet. These yeng are members of my team. They are Malkiel, Senciner, and Xaphon.

RAZIEL (gasping)
Your team? They answer to you? And Thaumiel permits this?

TABAET
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 I would extend a full welcome to you, but this is a classified project, and your yin is uncleared.

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

MALKIEL That is impossible. 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.”

RAZIEL 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.

SENCINER Time grows short. With any delay the risk of failure grows.

RAZIEL It is the unique nature of this equipment that any reasonable delay is irrelevant.

TABAET 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.

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
e are at roughly four hundred ji per clock, twelve hundred fifty ji in altitude and two thousand two hundred ji downrange.

RAZIEL
And our cabin pressure is sealed at point six one, which is normal.

TABAET
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.

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
We are also free of being overheard by anyone on Barbelo, so do you have any questions?

RAZIEL
Senciner called you Haziel a couple of times back there.

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

RAZIEL
Did your parents admire the Haziel of the scriptures?

HAZIEL
I am the Haziel of the scriptures.

RAZIEL
Haziel hasn’t made a dent on history for two thousand years.

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

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

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

RAZIEL
I do not understand. 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.

HAZIEL
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?

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

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

RAZIEL
Why would a Sala like Senciner do such a thing for Thaumiel?

SENCINER
House Sala is uniquely immune to such weapons, and with the design of these warheads, Thaumiel 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.

RAZIEL
So you’re playing the long game.

HAZIEL
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.

HAZIEL
Thank you Raziel.

Haziel’s relieved glance takes in both hym and Beleth, and sha smiles.

HAZIEL
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.

RAZIEL
Indeed. With the weapon now armed we could go head-to-head against the very avatar of Thaumiel right now.

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

Senciner moves to comply with this order.

HAZIEL
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 to you 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
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.

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

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

RAZIEL
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?

HAZIEL
This flight is a crucial turning point in nephilim history, 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.

* * * * *

Haziel 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. Blessedly, Beleth doesn’t come below until their lovemaking is well over and they have covered up once again.

BELETH
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.

RAZIEL (bitterly)
When we relieved you for watch, you failed to mention that we almost at the point of no return. 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.

HAZIEL (sweetly)
ecause we were at the point of no return the instant we launched. 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.

RAZIEL
How could I possibly know?

HAZIEL
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.
RAZIEL
Fine, it’s all out in the open now, that merely pushes up my timetable a bit. Proceed with turnaround.”

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

RAZIEL
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 too.

Beleth is alarmed. Such talk was well out of character for hym. Sha now fears hyz mind has somehow broken. And sha also fears for har own life.

HAZIEL
Do as you have threatened to do, 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.

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

SENCINER
You are dead even in that case. 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.

HAZIEL
That last part is a little surprise from Thaumiel. 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?

RAZIEL
And what purpose is that?

HAZIEL
To destroy whatever enclave you thought to seek refuge in after the Second Deluge. 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 (shaking hyz head)
No, and Thaumiel is content to let perish the less desirable parts of even the House of Gerash.

HAZIEL
Such as soldiers like yourself who do not have a full retinue of wives. 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.

RAZIEL
We still have time. You can set back down on the planet and let Beleth and myself run free, and depart again before the timer detonates the weapon!

HAZIEL
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
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.

HAZIEL
In a way, Raziel, I’m glad you insisted on coming. 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.

RAZIEL
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.

HAZIEL
Our lives and the lives of millions of humans and nephilim on Barbelo do mean something to us, 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.

SENCINER
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.

RAZIEL
Exactly how do you intend to deflect the comet?

HAZIEL
We will ram directly into it. 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.

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

HAZIEL
Very busy. 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.

RAZIEL (with a wry grin)
Then we will do what we can to help. Both Tabaet and myself. It will be…the excellent thing to do.

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