TC27


The b’nei elohim were set apart from the rest of humanity in that each enjoyed a power that was unique to them and yet was firmly grounded in the operation of natural laws, not magic.

Robyn, the Prophet of the Green Dome Church, could see the future as a mental stack of events that assembled itself anew after each one of her significant choices, and yet this power relied entirely on the ability of Chokhmah and Binah, acting in concert, to pierce time.

Hunky was Aquawoman. Her own body could manufacture the oxygen she needed to stay alive in airless places, but this was actually delivered to her by Chokhmah terminating (in a very rapid sequence) a narrow fold-line in various locations throughout her lungs and delivering the oxygen directly there.

Dory was the Great Communicator. No matter where any B’nei Eloah was in the Green River Gorge area, they could be placed in direct contact with any other B’nei Eloah nearby through the agency of Dory. It was a pale shadow of the communication network that bound together the Elohim, the one that neither Chokhmah nor Binah could use because Mastema and Belial blocked them, but Lilith promised to eventually extend Dory’s power across a much larger range.

Jill’s power resembled the power of Yeshua to heal in that it relied on the transfer of invisibly small nanomachines to work. With a touch Jill could subtly alter a person’s brain chemistry, flooding the pleasure or reward center and thus registering her approval in a powerful way. Alternatively, she could affect the pain center and register her disapproval if she wasn’t getting the answers she liked. This ability could be used as a tool for strong persuasion. Jill first tested this power at the clinic in Black Diamond, where she talked her way into a job as a triage nurse with no experience, no certifications, and only a generic two-year degree from a community college in Maryland.

Julie Pritchard walked in that first day looking pretty bruised. She claimed she had tripped on a vacuum cleaner cord and fell flat on her face but Jill knew without a doubt that she was being beat up at home. The other signs were all there and Jill was familiar with the dreary lot of them.

There were no open wounds so there wasn’t much the doctor could do for Julie except prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug as well as a strong analgesic to alleviate her discomfort. Five hundred milligrams of Damitol disconnected her from the pain and made her feel very fuzzy. “I’ve given you some pretty hefty painkillers,” he said, “so I can’t let you drive yourself home.”

“Then what’ll I do?”

He checked her questionnaire. “What about your husband?”

“No! He…can’t get off work.”

That was a terminological inexactitude, of course. Frank Pritchard was home and chronically unemployed. With the war over and the virgin timber on the hills already logged off, there really wasn’t much left over in the Green River area in terms of driving an economy. In Seattle they called it Gonorrhea Gulch. It didn’t matter, because for all her adult life Julie herself, aside from her more steady employment and tips as a waitress, received an weekly annuity from her parents that helped her to pay the bills and the mortgage and there was even some extra mad money left over for her. Frank required her to fork it all over every Monday when she went to the bank. “If I ever find out you’re holding out on me, Julie,” he told her, “I’ll make you wish you had never been born. Don’t you ever forget it!”

And sometimes he’d freshen up her memory with a smack to the face.

Into the awkward silent between Julie and the doctor, Jill spoke up. “I’ll tell you what, Julie. If you can stay in the waiting room for about an hour until I get off work, I’ll drive you home myself.”

It was an easy wait. The Damitol disconnected Julie from boredom as well as suffering.

After Julie gave directions to her house, Jill said, “Look, Julie, I’d like you to watch which we we go. I want to show you something on the way home and make sure you know how to get there.”

“Okay, Jill.”

The thing Jill wanted to show Julie was a gray house with red trim in the new Eastpointe community south of Black Diamond, where the road to Enumclaw climbed up out of the Green River Gorge. “The very next time you think you’re about to have another ‘accident’ and hurt yourself, I want you to go there. It’s a b’nei elohim sanctuary. Do you understand what I’m really trying to say to you?” And Jill touched her hand just then.

Julie was too shy to blurt out her answer, but Jill was satisfied by a nod of Julie’s head.

The opportunity to take Jill up on her offer presented itself immediately after Julie arrived home. Her husband Frank was there, slouched in front of the television. Garbage was beginning to pile up around him since it had been hours since Julie had been there to pick up after him.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“At the emergency room.”

“For a black eye? Bullshit! What did they do?”

“Nothing. They gave me some pills for the pain.”

“Give me the pills, Julie.” It was not a request. Terrified, she handed them over.

“How much did your selfish little splurge at the doctors run me?”

“I didn’t have any money. They said the bill would be sixty bucks.”

“Well shit, for sixty let me give you another shiner and make it worth it.”

She let out a yelp and jumped back, screaming, “No!” In terror, she fled from the house and fumbled with her keys to the truck frantically. She locked herself safely inside only seconds before Frank could reach her and kick the side of the door.

“If you don’t turn around and get back in the house right now, Julie, so help me God I’ll kill your fucking ass!”

After getting a few blocks away Julie didn’t race anymore. She thought she was safe now. There was only the one vehicle.

Frank went next door and asked his buddy for the keys to his car. “Just for a few minutes. Gotta catch me an errant wife.” That was a good enough reason, and Frank caught the keys tossed at him. “Thanks, buddy, I owe you a half-rack of beer for this.”

It was a quiet night with light traffic. Frank still saw what he hoped was her in the truck, stopped at a light far up the road. In his pursuit of her he would ignore such conventions as the rule of stopping at a red light. Eventually he got up on her rear end and followed her south out of Gonorrhea Gulch to the house Jill had shown her earlier. Pulling off to the side of the street he watched Julie go inside.

“Prolly one of those Pony hidey holes the guy on TV was talking about,” Frank muttered to himself. Visions of RE-ward money started dancing in his head. He went back to return his car to his neighbor, and thought about the call that would probably result in a shitload of RE-ward money.

When Julie was welcomed inside the Safe House a lookout was posted upstairs as a precaution. Sure enough, within the hour a police presence began to materialize on the street below. They weren’t advertising themselves with blazing lights or sirens but the sound of the sheriff’s radio dispatcher blaring out into the night from five or six cars sort of gave the game away.

A phone call to Dory was passed along to Lilith, and Jill materialized in the basement of the house, marveling that it had happened so soon.

Jill went upstairs and greeted Julie, then asked her to follow her back downstairs. A closet in the basement was actually the door of a tunnel leading next door to a closet in the basement of the house over there.

Julie grabbed Jill by the shoulder. “I want to tell you something. I want to admit something. I tried to be careful but I think my husband followed me here. I don’t know how. I think he’s the one who called the cops!”

“It’s all right, we’ve been at war for years. I’ll take complete responsibility. The important thing was to get you away from Frank. There’s almost no time left, Julie, so let me give you some plain talk. They hit you because there’s rarely any consequences. It’s a cycle. The woman gets hit, so her self-esteem plunges. With no self-esteem, she never leaves her abusive husband or boyfriend. He feels rewarded for hitting. That’s why when the woman actually does leave, a lot of them snap. They even kill.”

Julie nodded. “That was the last thing Frank screamed at me when I drove away from the house. Exactly!”

“And even if he doesn’t kill you physically, your fear of Frank is killing your spirit.” Jill placed a slip of paper in Julie’s hand with the address of another safe house in River City. “Here are the keys to a car behind the house next door. It’s got tinted windows. It’s yours now. One that Frank won’t recognize. I bet he’s watching us right now, gloating over his handiwork, but he won’t spot you in this car. Take the back alley and get out of here.”

“Jill, I want to join your team. I want to make full payment, with my life if I have to, for what you’ve done for me.”

Jill smiled at her. “I’ll look you up, Julie, I promise.”

Julie evacuated by herself then, walking down the narrow tunnel, and found herself in the empty house next door. Soon a deputy knocked on the front door and told her to gather what she needed and evacuate the house immediately.

Just like Robyn and Hunky, Morgan Brooklyn went through the Change without asking for it to happen. A slender strawberry-blonde, Morgan was very feminine, just as pensive as her calico named Retardo-Cat. She wore pretty knee-length dresses and didn’t even own a pair of jeans, except for hiking when she made a sole concession and wore cutoff shorts.

When Morgan spoke, which was not often, it was in a hesitant but carefully thought out manner. She hardly ever stuck her foot in her mouth. About the only emotion her blank little porcelain doll face would show was a constant impatience, as if she was eternally bored with the people and places she found herself stuck with. This appearance of ennui tended to limit her popularity when she was in high school.

In a few days Morgan Brooklyn would attend her graduation ceremony at Hazen High, where she had just completed her senior year. She had a license and the keys to her mom’s car and a part time job in a checkout line gave her a little bit of gas money, but she knew better than to spend the summer just sitting behind the wheel. It wasn’t in her plan. She had to get out and move her ass.

Morgan drove south and east and explored the roads between her hometown of Renton and Enumclaw, in the rolling rural areas at the foot of the Cascade front. Crossing the single-lane bridge at Franklin she ended up on a road that was closed by a large green metal gate where the pavement ended. Morgan parked there and got out to explore the gravel road beyond the gate.

A half mile beyond the gate the road forked, with the right hand climbing sharply uphill. That was the road to the summit of End Dome hill. She decided to keep walking on the main road, which was much more level.

A mile past the gate, the road came to an end. Trails led all over the place from there, and Morgan decided to follow one of them. Later, when she knew more about this place, she would realize how lucky she was that she didn’t fall victim to the many dangers there.

In one well-hidden place there was a curious small round pond surrounded by grassy berms.

Choosing trails at random, Morgan ascended the northwest face of End Dome hill on a broad ridge and in her head there were only gentle thoughts of this timeless interval between the close of her term and graduation, and the vague idea, a common belief of youth, that she would live forever. As she drew near to a golden object suspended in a grove of cedars ahead, not in her wildest daydreams did Morgan imagine that real immortality was only a few steps away.

On the trails Morgan was well-protected by her big, intimidating Alaskan malamute, Molly. On the game trail that she had chosen to explore, Morgan’s dog Molly ran ahead to the little cedar grove and was sniffing at something that looked like a treasure chest, covered in a layer of beaten gold film, with perhaps a dozen needles sticking out of the surface.

Molly let out a yelp of pain and backed off a bit. She was snorting, shaking her nose, then she started growling and barking at the shiny chest as a newfound foe.

By this time Morgan was coming up. “Whassamatter Molly? You get stung by a bee? Let me take a look.”

Just as curious as Molly had been, Morgan put her index finger close to a part of the gold-lined box that was needle-free, just as Robyn and Hunky had once done under the Temple sanctuary years before, and the exact same thing happened. Her finger was skewered by a needle.

“Freaking health hazard,” she said, and she planned to tell someone about it. For the time being, she comforted Molly by rubbing the dog’s nose, and turned to walk back to the car. Morgan was no longer in the mood for hiking.

In a few days both Morgan and Molly both developed the classic white bump at the back of their respective heads. Three things saved Morgan from ending up in another government clinic and starting the whole thing all over again. The first thing was that she was too scared to tell anyone, even herself. The second thing was that she loved her dog very much, so she went to an animal hospital. And the third thing was this animal hospital had an employee who worked on macros for Edgar the Elder part time and knew about all these bumps. She steered Morgan to Jill, and all was made clear. The worst part for Morgan was that Lilith insisted that Molly had to be put down. She had never made allowances for the Change to happen to animals.

Much chastened, the B’nei Elohim relocated the Ark to a safer place on Sugarloaf Mountain west of Kangley where Lilith had purchased some land that could be fenced off good. All of them went together, even Lilith. As they carried the Ark, Jill introduced Morgan to Julie, with a black eye from her husband Frank that had nearly healed.

Julie had a bump to match Morgan’s, but it had already opened up like a flower. She said to Morgan, “The only difference between you and me is that I asked for this to happen to me, and you didn’t.”

When they had all reached a consensus on a good place to hide the Ark on Sugarloaf Mountain everyone gathered around in the little wooded glen, and Julie, at the bidding of Robyn, stood forth.

“Take control of your destiny, Julie” Robyn said in her role as Prophet. “Carve out your own free will. Discard your slave name of Julie Pritchard and select a single new name. But consider it well, for it shall be your name for all eternity. Remember, in the B’nei Elohim all of your actions have eternal consequences. So choose!”

“Let me be called Trish.”

“You are Trish, forever the fifth member of the B’nei Elohim. Welcome to your new family! This is the ceremony of belonging, Trish. You are now fully one of us.”

She wanted to shout Thank You! but no words would come out. The entire experience was too much for her and she burst into tears. And Morgan, witnessing the ceremony too, was suitably impressed.

Linda Sunkel was nineteen and living on Seattle streets with her very young baby, Hailey, nursing her in alleys, selling blow jobs, living on whatever change she could get from passers-by, and furtively hiding from police, who would surely interpret her vagrancy as a form of child abuse and take the baby away from her. She never stayed in one part of the town for long, for she was afraid the police would soon come to notice her as an unwelcome fixture.

The existence of the safe houses ran by the B’nei Elohim for battered women and runaway teenaged girls became known to Linda by flyers pasted on telephone poles. She hesitated going to one of them, being neither a battered woman nor a teen, and thought she would be unwelcome there too, but positive word-of-mouth on the street gradually steered her closer and closer. All were welcome. Narcotic dependent ladies. Ladies who had no concept of personal hygiene. Even rowdy ladies, because no matter how rowdy they thought they were, Lilith and Hunky were rowdier.

Linda drifted south past the Seattle City limits and eventually came to one of the safe houses in Franklin down in the Green River Gorge. Soon she found there was no shortage of women willing to help her with baby Hailey. Indeed, it was rare that she even had to change her baby’s diapers.

But truth be known, Linda was just there for the handouts, and she expected to wear out her welcome in short order. To her surprise, the B’nei Elohim purse was nearly bottomless. If a gal was turned away, it was often only for lack of room in the house.

On the summit of End Dome Hill, amid the ruins of the Temple, Robyn presided over the ritual of belonging for Morgan Brooklyn to become fully B’nei Elohim. On this occasion Linda Sunkel was invited to attend as an observer, and she had been happy to oblige. It seemed such a very small thing to do in return for everything the B’nei Elohim had already done for her.

Robyn said to Morgan, “The Grays accept narrow horizons and the ebb and flow of cause and chance. In large numbers they become like a torrent of water filling the easy channels. Abdicating their responsibility to choose, they become a flood sweeping away everything in their path. Be a Green, Erin. A Green is a unique source of newness! A Green creates her moments afresh at each instant. A Green’s every decision is not just another link in the chain of cause and effect, but rather an anchor for a new chain of consequences. Greens thrive on the knife-edge between cause and chance, where meaningful complexity finds fertile ground. Will you join us, Morgan, to become an immortal surprise generator of the universe?”

“I will,” she said.

And just as she had seen Julie Pritchard become Trish, now Morgan Brooklyn became Audrey, the sixth member of the B’nei Elohim.

When they walked back down from the top of End Dome, Linda had many questions about what she had seen, and the other B’nei Elohim allowed Audrey to answer all of them to cement Audrey’s own sense of belonging to something new. “We call it the Change, Linda,” she said. “It is something that comes to us from outside of this world. All the cells in my brain are not really alive anymore, they are very complicated micro-machines.”

“And that cup at the back of your head? What is that for?”

“That is a way to attach machines directly to my mind.”

“What kind of machines?”

“Machines that don’t even exist yet.”

“May I touch it?”

Audrey allowed Linda to tug on the connector, and see that it was indeed deeply embedded in her head, and not just a prop applied with glue. Linda asked, “So what good is it for?”

“We have a cable that allows women who have been Changed to talk to each other, directly, mind-to-mind. There can be no lying in such an exchange, and I cannot even begin to tell you what it’s like in words. You have to experience it yourself, if that is what you choose to do one day.”

“So is that all you can do right now, is link yourselves together?”

“Did you know that Jill was once two persons, Linda? That she was once a woman named Rebecca and also a man named Jerry?”

“How did that happen?”

“Jerry was killed by our enemies, but Rebecca saved him. Everything that he was, all his memories, she pulled into herself with that cable. Then she became a new person who calls herself Jill, but she is still Jerry and Rebecca inside. Jerry didn’t really die! None of us can ever really die.”

A census taken in 1950 revealed that the US population had exceeded 100 million people. In general it was a prosperous time in America. The rest of the world was still trying to rebuild after the incredible destruction wrought by the Second World War.

America was the preeminent military and economic power on the globe, but the Soviet Union and China were rising to challenge her. The Korean War began when North Korea invaded the south. The US joined with forces from the United Nations to drive them back, and there were early successes, but when they came close to overrunning the country China came to North Korea’s aid with a large infusion of troops and drove the UN forces back to a stalemate.

As in the 1920s, there was a renewed Red Scare in America, and the Senate investigated alleged influence of the Communists Party on all aspects of the government and military. Lilith was glad the Senate was chasing Reds and was leaving her people alone for once.

In the early years of the Fifties Jill and the three newest members of the b’nei elohim singlehandedly invented the genre of popular music that would be called Rock ‘n’ Roll a few years later and would dominate the music of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Only the fact that their influence remained confined to a few cities the northwestern United States led music historians to attribute the creation of Rock ‘n’ Roll to Chuck Berry, or Elvis, or Little Richard, or even Bill Haley and the Comets.

The Jills’ songs were written mostly by the drummer Gina (formerly Linda Sunkel) using an AABA song structure, with Trish on saxophone for the solo B part and Audrey on acoustic bass. The band used no electric guitar in those early days. What audiences were getting was a lot of energy but not much in the way of sound fidelity. The tapes were recorded on a two track system but the second track was for overdubs, not a separate channel. So the resultant vinyl disk was monophonic, and a little noisy by later standards.

Every album by The Jills would have the same pattern: Exactly eight songs, with the second one a ballad, the seventh one an instrumental, and the last one a segue to the next album. Only the styles would change, sometimes wildly, and the band would consistently foreshadow the changing tastes in pop music by several years. They would rarely get credit for that, but the girls didn’t care. They were doing it just for fun and a little mad money.

After their album was compete they had far less difficulty distributing the LP and the singles, and getting radio play, than bands with less name recognition. The Jills were modestly famous, but only locally, and their impact was regional, not yet national, and certainly not international. They hit the road and traveled to cities as far west as Honolulu, as far north as Vancouver, as far east as Denver, and as far south as San Francisco. But it wasn’t all work. Along the way they also visited the Redwoods, the Hawaiian volcanoes, Glacier Park and Yellowstone Park.

The Jills were pretty tame and “square” for a band. They didn’t drink alcohol or smoke funny cigarettes, but regular cigarettes were ubiquitous, and the effect of second-hand smoke on children like Hailey wasn’t really apprehended at that time.

Hailey witnessed many of the children crying on her first day of school because they had never been apart from their parents, while she herself was very often away from her mother Gina, to be cared for by other b’nei elohim. And though she could not remember it, Hailey had even been cared for by the priestesses of Yeshua on Barbelo.

In the middle of the decade of the Fifties the Jills began to use more aggressive drumming from Gina, with more creative fills, but the big change was in the bottom end. Audrey set aside her acoustic bass (which was always difficult to mic for concerts anyway) and picked up a Fender Precision electric bass, or P-Bass. Audrey’s performance was pushed way forward in the mix and run through a spring reverb box, which allowed Audrey to essentially duet with her own slapped-back notes. But the new bass took some getting used to. Instead of standing up on an end-pin, it lay horizontally across her chest, supported with a shoulder strap. But it was easier to tune than her double bass and also allowed her to get out of her seat and dance around the stage, leading to more visually dynamic concerts.

Trish set aside her saxophone and picked up a solid-body electric guitar, which Audrey taught her to play after she was satisfied with her own electric bass technique. They still used the AABA arrangement of Rock ‘n’ Roll songs, but now Trish soloed the ‘B’ part on electric guitar rather than saxophone. She slit the speaker cones in her amplifier with a knife to create a ragged distortion that sounded (counter-intuitively) very good.

Trish’s twangy guitar riff would become de rigueur in the British spy movies of the following decade. But there was also a Bavarian flavor to the songs, with Jill the cute little madchen singing about gingerbread, pilsners, nutcrackers and other whiter-than-white bread things. The rhythm and blues were left far behind.

One Friday night Hunky and Dory drove to the top of Doll Hill to gaze at the lights of Puget Sound City and make love in the back seat of their huge Detroit-made car, aided, of course, by the trusty Purple Cable. Pretty soon the whole car began to smell like a girl’s gym locker room, and they couldn’t see anything outside for the condensed sweat on the windows. Hunky and Dory ran through every trick in the lesbian sex book, and then some.

Round about ten o’clock the moon came out, and a Mexican AM radio station they knew about started broadcasting at 250,000 watts, with a beer can top opening, a massive echoing chug, and an unearthly belch, carried by RF skip all across North America. The cross-country truckers and every kid at a drive-in hamburger joint or making out at Inspiration point like Hunky and Dory knew that distinctive belch. That was Anchor Baby, a man who spoke at a machine-gun pace in a strange kind of street jive designed specifically to infuriate the grown-ups, and he played whatever the hell he wanted to. The first song he wanted to play that night was from the Jills.

By the late Fifties the tour itinerary of The Jills was much larger than before, encompassing the entire western half of the United States. The Jills even played a gig at the foot of the Matterhorn ride in Disneyland. But despite the larger geographical footprint, in terms of total cities played their road show was slightly abbreviated compared to the earlier tour because little Hailey had to tag along too, and her summer vacation ran for only about three months.

The album created by the Jills in the fall of 1958 was called Suicide Club, which would have eerie reverberations a few years later when they operated a company called Cryoscan.

The nameless first album by The Jills had been recorded in a garage with egg cartons lining the walls to improve the acoustics. Their second album had been recorded in a professional studio, but they had to book time there, and they only had short slots, sometimes as brief as two hours, to lay down what they could. But for Suicide Club, The Jills built their own recording studio with an eight-track system, and they actually lived in it for three months while they created their record. And when they were finished, the studio became a source of income when other artists lined up to get time in it.

The sound was exotic, morbid, even Gothic, and certainly ahead of its time. Jill traded in her piano for an organ. Audrey used a store-boughten fuzz box between her bass and the mixer board. Trish would pick up a sitar as often as she would pick up a guitar. Gina slowed things down a bit from the earlier days and developed a more stately, deliberate beat, but there’s was still a drum solo or two that was hotter than anything anyone else was doing at the time.

No less than five cuts on the record garnered airplay including “No Love Lost,” “Forever,” “Pipe Dreams,” and “All Or Nothing” But the biggest hit on the album was “Life and Death Are the Same” and this became the eternal war cry of the b’nei elohim. In February 1959, after the Day the Music Died, The Jills would put this maxim to the test.

“Shit, Jill, it’s slipping!”

Trish had gotten past the halfhearted pat down at the box office without being stopped, but she neglected to wrap the tape more carefully around her thigh, and a bottle of brandy slid down the inside of her long skirt and shattered on the blacktop.

Jill didn’t break her stride or even look back. “You brought that in here?” she gasped, with mock indignation. That brought knowing chuckles to some of the others walking on the long, crowded, landscaped path leading to the Carter Barron Amphitheater near Washington DC. Jill was probably hoping her own bottle of hootch wouldn’t slip next.

As Jill and Trish picked their way to their seats their band was warming up, with Gina beating out a long drum solo and Audrey doing some live improvisation on electric bass. The “gimmick” of the Suicide Club era Jills was a sort of bad-girl mystique. They encouraged the rampant rumors floating around that the lead singer was wanted by the authorities, which was in fact the case.

Jill pointed out to Trish that besides the usual concert bouncers there was a heavy law enforcement presence around and behind the stage. They had formed a gauntlet up there, determined to intercept the mystery woman before the show, if and when she showed up. Trish wanted to abort the whole thing, but Jill said there was no stopping it now. The presence of DECON agents in their fedoras and DC city police merely added to the crowd’s feeling of anticipation.

By an unspoken signal, part of the crowd suddenly rushed down to fill up the space in front of the stage. Jill and Trish started diving over the newly vacated seats to join them, pushing their way through them right up to the edge of the stage. After a word from Audrey to a couple of bouncers, Jill and Trish were physically pulled up onto the stage. The crowd, clued in on the mythos of The Jills, cheered the clever way Jill and Trish had bypassed the heat behind the stage, and they began to grow excited.

Tubby low tones began boinging out of the electric bass guitar Audrey had strapped on, interacting with Gina who was beating the crap out of her drum kit yet still improvising her rhythms in, and around, and under Audrey’s more precisely timed bass lines to give The Jills their very unusual but organic sound. In a reversal of convention it was Audrey who kept perfect time and Gina drumming was the “human” element of subtle randomness.

Meanwhile Jill and Trish ranged all over the stage, dancing, doing the flashy legwork of putting on a good show as the roar and whistling of the crowd rose to a deafening level

“Good evening, Washington DC! It’s good to be out of the Seattle rain for a while. I’m Jill. My friends Trish and Audrey and Gina are gonna play some tunes with me, starting with this old familiar favorite–”

Jill was interrupted by police and DECON agents swarming the stage from its perimeter, apparently on a prearranged signal. Earl Roland was with them. He moved close enough that Jill could hear him shout over the noise to say, “Becky, what the hell are you doing?”

Jill decided to appeal to her fans. “Hey folks, it looks like the police don’t want us to play for you tonight! So what do you say to that?”

The crowd expressed their great displeasure, booing, throwing stuff at the stage, pushing the security guys back and some of them even wedged between the bouncers and clambered up onto the stage to confront the cops. A riot was a hair’s-breadth away and Earl Roland knew it. He made a chopping motion with his hand. The men released the band and returned to their positions just off-stage. They could afford to wait.

The crowd cheered again, excited by this full-participation theater The Jills were putting on. Jill wasn’t sure how long they’d get to play before the hammer of the Law dropped and her father moved in again so she told the band to play No Love Lost.

The opening bars of the hit from Suicide Club filled the stadium, and the fans went wild. Jill started belting it out.

Date her, mate her, take good notes And rate her, you hypocrite! But you don’t know There’s no love lost!

Booze her, use her, try your best To lose her, cruise holy writ For a reason why! There’s no love lost!

Your goody-good book Bible Baptist bitches are gonna know this time!

Eve was framed by Adam but Blaming the victim won’t Fly this time!

Jump her, pump her, Then go ahead and dump her, Tell yourself it’s to save her soul. There’s no love lost!

Stalk her, block her Get your flock to mock her She won’t submit to the status quo! There’s no love lost!

Trish had just launched into the blistering slapped bass solo that bridged to the middle third of the song when shots began to ring out.

Jill went down on the stage, bullets having struck each leg. She marveled that there was no pain. Gina, Audrey, and Trish dove into the crowd and scattered away. Roland didn’t want them anyway.

In a nearby hospital, after doctors had stabilized Jill, her father came calling. Jill remained under heavy guard, both to keep her in the hospital room and to keep her friends out.

“You’re thinking your own fame was your downfall, aren’t you Becky? You’re thinking I saw that artcle in Life magazine, recognized my own daughter, and here I am.”

“Naw, Daddy, we all know your DECON agency is watching us.”

“That film was the damndest thing I ever saw,” he said. “I’m talking about the one you showed in the Senate. At the time of the incident it rather faithfully recorded I don’t remember you bringing a movie camera to the house.”

“So you’re saying we faked it, Daddy?” Jill asked.

“No, Becky, it was real enough. I can only surmise that you took it from your own memories, somehow. Such a thing would be unbelievably useful to me at DECON. Think of the coercive pornography I could make from the head of some whore, with the President or Senator she’s sleeping with never realizing he’s being filmed!

Jill snorted. “Good luck with that idea, Daddy. The stuff we used to make the movie is literally out of this world.”

“Nevertheless, you will tell me all about it. And also you will tell me all about the Golden Gift. And the flying saucers. And where we can find the Ark of the Covenant. And how your friends always manage to escape when they are caught.”

“And if I refuse to tell you all that, Father? Will you run your own daughter through the wringer?”

“Becky, the doctors tell me that despite the bullet that lodged in your right leg they can remove it without much more damage. You’ll limp but you shouldn’t lose the leg. But I’m thinking, no, the surgery would involve general anesthesia, and I think I remember from when you were a little girl that you are allergic to that. I’m thinking the ether or chloroform or whatever they want to give you when they take the bullet out might kill you. Still, if we leave the bullet in your leg, that will kill you too, only slower. So I’m thinking the only option you have is that we must amputate the right one. Without anesthesia.”

“You would do that to your own daughter? Are you insane, Daddy?”

“Insane? Becky, I’m shocked. I’m only interested in doing what’s best for you. In fact, that left leg too, where the other bullet grazed you, I know the doctors say it doesn’t look too bad, but now that I can see it closer, I think it might need to be hacked off too, after they do the right one. They say, Becky, that most people can almost bear it when the doctor is sawing through the skin and the meat, but when he starts sawing through the bone, they can’t bear that part at all. So do yourself a favor and talk to me.”

But she did not talk to him, and right up to the point when the doctor commenced the procedure she kept expecting Lilith or Yeshua to yank her out of there with a fold-door, but it never happened.

She didn’t do an End of Cycle like she did the last time Roland tortured her, when part of her was still Jerry Shybear, but she did supply her own general anesthetic before the doctor started to cut, by simply switching off. Only during the evening after the surgery, when she was still unconscious in recovery and even her guard fell asleep for just a few seconds, did she get pulled out of there to safety.

When she awoke her doctor had been replaced by Yeshua, and the room had changed. Jill felt curiously light. “That took long enough, Lord,” she said, and she looked down at her legs expecting them to be good as new. But she had a pair of short stumps cut above the knees, wrapped in bandages.

Yeshua said, “I could have removed the bullet and saved the right leg, Jill, but I can’t make you a new leg, let alone two. That’s some father you have who would maim his own daughter.”

“Where am I, Lord?”

“This is the Moon, and it’s about twenty years down the timeline for you.”

“If you can manipulate time, Lord, then please go back to 1959 and talk me out of doing that concert so I don’t lose my legs. Or at the very least pull me out of that hospital before my father cuts ’em off.”

“I’m sorry, Jill. I can certainly do what you ask, but I must not do it. There’s a historical thread my mother and I call the Narrow Way that allows us to defeat Thaumiel and in that thread you must lose your legs to make it work.”

“But you’re talking about my legs!”

“I’ll make it up to you, Jill, after we win through to the other side. An eloah promises this! Besides, even if I do what you asked me to do, there would only be a copy of Jill who saves her legs. This original version of you, right here, wouldn’t get her legs back no matter what I did. I’m sure you know this must be true. You’ve thought about a similar situation many times when you developed your notion of a True Death.”

“Then why does your ‘Narrow Way’ require that I lose my legs?”

“I’m sorry, Jill, if I gave you that information, you might work to nullify your own role and the Narrow Way would be lost.”

“To hell with your Narrow Way, Yeshua! You’ve just lost me as a willing participant anyway. I’m going to whatever I can to fight you. I’ll even join with Thaumiel.”

“Jill, I told you I would make it up to you after all this is over, and there are some among the b’nei elohim who will make a far greater sacrifice than you with your two precious limbs. If that is still not enough for you, then proceed to the camp of Thaumiel and hurt your friends exactly as you described. But I will protect the Narrow Way.”