80 – SENATE
Everything Earl Roland said was taken directly from Jill’s memories and transfered to sixteen millimeter film using a kinetiscope, a television cathode ray tube connected directly to a movie camera. Video tape would have been easier but it did not become widely available until 1957.
The procedure also required a new device to actually map the thoughts, memories, and daydreams of Jill as a television video signal, but with thousands, not just hundreds, of scan lines, since film grain was so dense. This gadget was constructed by Edgar the Elder with suggestions along the way offered by Lilith.
At first the images they built up were indistinct, but they became more and more clarified as Jill learned to use it. She threw up an image of her father from the recent encounter. Each take was a performance demanding all of her attention. She had to concentrate as hard as she could to provide every detail of her conversation with Earl. Many takes were rejected because she had forgotten to animate the muscles in Earl’s face as he spoke, or mismatched the audio to his lips. Each new take was an improvement over the old. Pathways in her newly-modified brain kicked in to make the work easier as soon as they “caught on” to what she was trying to do.
It took two more weeks, and when it was finished they had a short black and white segment of video indistinguishable from the real thing, as though Jill had worn a television camera strapped to her head that day with her father. It wasn’t the entire discussion, just the juicy “smoking gun” part at the end that, it was hoped, would eliminate Roland as an irritant to the B’nei Elohim forever.
They also had a number of photographs printed from Jill’s memories of Jerry’s memories including Roland, Ed Conley, Jerry Shybear’s toes with a bolt cutter around them, and the condition of the flying saucer at the crash site.
Robyn strapped herself into the thing and made photographic hard copies of the people at the Hanford Clinic she was going to testify about: Dr. Gary Trochmann, Nurse Karen Ramsey, and Andrew Fulford, who was the man in the white scrubs, the “muscle” to make sure Robyn and Hunky behaved. She also made a photograph from her memory of the keypad that was used to open the door of the Clinic from the inside.
The only hard part would be explaining how the photographs were taken. Robyn decided she would commit perjury. She would say a camera was smuggled into one of her CARE packages from Jerry and Dory, disguised inside a box of cereal, and the film was carried out by herself when she escaped.
Jill’s pictures, of course, would be mixed with the ones she took with Jerry on their little lover’s get-away. Robyn had largely forgiven Jill for that. Water under the bridge.
“Are you sure this will work?” Jill asked Robyn when they packed everything carefully for the flight to DC, which would be by saucer since Robyn did know how to fly.
“It very likely will. We have evidence that Earl Roland is running a government inside the government. And the, you know, actual government, mightn’t like it. But it will be risky, Jill. We’ll have to surrender to US Marshals and walk right into the lion’s den, Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC. But if we play our cards right, we’ll be free.”
Somewhere over Wyoming Robyn came to a decision. She turned to face Jill and said, “I know you are in there, Jerry, but you must know that I consider our marriage to be dissolved. Till death do us part and all that.”
Jill nodded and bowed her head. Then she smiled and looked straight back at Robyn. “I understand. But I will still get to watch Edgar grow up, and that will be enough for me.” She watched Robyn accept this silently.
“You are B’nei Elohim, Jill, but Lilith says you show every sign of becoming what she calls the loyal opposition.”
“Lilith and I have never quite hit it off,” Jill said. “I feel like I’m always on the outside looking in.”
Robyn laid a hand on Jill’s hand. “She also says this mode you’ve cast yourself in will be good for us. Things will never get boring as long as you’re around.”
“That really wasn’t my father at the end, you know. I have happier memories.”
“Then let us celebrate your father,” Robyn told her, “the Earl Roland who was, before he ever heard of the Change.”
At the Capitol building Robyn and Jill were run through a metal detector, patted down, and their papers searched, but the search had not been thorough enough for security to discover the connectors at the back of their heads, hidden by their religiously-mandated pony tails. There was not enough concentrated metal in the things to make a metal detector get anything but get a whiff.
The CHAIRMAN: Please state your full name for the record, and tell us a little about yourself.
ROBYN: Yes sir. My name is Kimberly Anne Shybear. I was born in a small hospital in Black Diamond, near Seattle Washington. I am twenty-two years old. My father Erik Lokken served in the First World War, where he was shot on the Western Front and came home with only one arm remaining to him. He married a nurse named Clara he met over there in France. After the war he worked as a miner in the coal mines around the Green River Gorge, and that job killed him when I was just fourteen. I was a student at a private high school that was operated by my church, but I was not permitted to graduate, for reasons that I will explain shortly in my testimony.
Senator WENDEN: Thank you Mrs. Shybear. You heard the testimony of Mr. Evers just now. He said he found a young Indian named Jerry Shybear inside some metallic wreckage on his land. Any relation to you?
ROBYN: Yes sir, Jerry Shybear was my husband.
Senator WENDEN: And he lived with you in the Seattle area?
ROBYN: Yes, Senator.
Senator WENDEN: There is no record of a marriage license filed at the King County courthouse for a Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Shybear.
ROBYN: No sir, because I was a fugitive, for reasons that will come out in my testimony here today. I was wed by my pastor in the End Dome Church, in the presence of three other witnesses, but it could not be filed with the state. And now, of course, it doesn’t matter, even if I get all the legal stuff squared away, because Jerry is dead.
Senator WENDEN: So it is your testimony that Jerry Shybear is dead?
ROBYN: It is my testimony, sir, that Jerry Shybear was murdered by Earl Roland. But only Becky Roland can testify how and why, because Earl confessed the murder directly to her. All I can give is hearsay.
Senator WENDEN: Do you know how your husband came to be in New Mexico on July 7, 1947?
ROBYN: He said he was going to do some kind of Indian spiritual thing, a very long walk in the wilderness, perhaps a bit like when Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the desert. But how he ended up near Roswell I cannot say.
The CHAIRMAN: Can you tell the committee what is your present occupation?
ROBYN: I am a full-time mother, raising my son Edgar. He is a living reminder of my deceased husband, and I love him very much.
The CHAIRMAN: How do you support yourself?
ROBYN: My friend Rebecca Roland is helping me make ends meet. She is here today and like myself she iswilling and eager to cooperate with this panel, sir.
The CHAIRMAN: Why are you so eager to cooperate, Mrs. Shybear?
ROBYN: I want to clear my name.
The CHAIRMAN: Clear your name? Please explain.
ROBYN: When I was still in high school I developed a bone cyst on the back of my skull, in the shape of a little white cup. My mother took me to the doctor, but somehow it developed into a federal case. I was quarantined for almost two years at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation about two hundred miles southeast of Seattle. Senator, with your permission I would like to enter into the record this photograph of the interior of the clinic there at Hanford where I was imprisoned.
He nodded and waved for his assistant to go fetch it. Robyn gave her the photo, and after Boren looked at it, he gave it to the other senators on the panel to examine.
ROBYN: Senator, I also have pictures of my captors, with their names written across them. Chief among them is Doctor Gary Trochmann, and he was aided by a nurse Karen Ramsey, and a man named Andrew Fulford. These are the only human beings I saw for the entire time I was under quarantine. Doctor Trochmann said he took his orders from Earl Roland.
Robyn passed these photographs forward as well, to be filed in the official record of the proceedings. She deliberately neglected to mention that Hunky had also developed the bone cyst and was in quarantine with her because it clouded the narrative she was developing.
The CHAIRMAN: Mrs. Shybear, I have to ask how you managed to take these photographs. These could be from anywhere. If I use these images to drag these people in front of this committee, they could be innocents who know nothing of Hanford.
ROBYN: Sir, my friends sent me a camera inside a box of cereal, which in turn was sent inside a CARE package. I have no doubt, sir, that your staff will soon provide you a roster of everyone who worked at Hanford during the war, and you will find these three names on that list. When you bring them before this committee, you will see their faces match these photos, and that I was telling the truth. In the meantime, please accept that I consider my oath to be binding when I was sworn to tell this committee the truth.
The CHAIRMAN: Since you are seated before this panel today, Mrs. Shybear, I take that to mean you were not deemed contagious, and you were eventually released.
ROBYN: That is partially correct, sir. I was not contagious, this was confirmed by Dr. Trochmann, but I was not released. That is the important point that I want to testify to you here today, and it is my sincere hope that you call Dr. Trochmann here to confirm it officially. I am not contagious. This is just a bone cyst.
The CHAIRMAN: Will you approach the panel so we may examine for ourselves?
ROBYN: Yes sir.
She lifted her pony tail and presented the little white cup at the back of her head for their inspection. Before she did this, she had rubbed the inside of the cup with her fingers to break off all the little black graphite pins, knowing they would grow back later. To show the Senator fifty-five neat little black pins in a neat array would lead to a line of questioning she was not prepared to answer.
ROBYN: (after returning to her seat): I remained locked inside the clinic at all times, Senator. It became obvious to me that I would never be released. So I had to escape on my own.
The CHAIRMAN: Please tell the committee how you managed that, Mrs. Shybear.
ROBYN: First, Senator, with your permission, I would like to enter one final image into the record. This is a picture of the keypad that was used to unlock the door. It has sixteen buttons, labeled zero through nine, and ‘A’ through ‘F’. The combination to unlock the door is just four digits long. One of my captors, the gentleman named Andrew Fulford wasn’t very bright, I watched him punch the numbers one day: 7DFC. And this was the same number they used on both doors, the room in the clinic where I was held, and also the front door of the clinic. So one night I punched those numbers in and just walked right out of the clinic.
The CHAIRMAN: And you found yourself, no doubt, in the middle of one the the most carefully protected installations in the United States. How did you get out of Hanford undetected?
ROBYN: Oh, I was detected, all right, Senator. But I simply walked out into the river and floated downstream. So serious was this Earl Roland character about keeping me there, dead or alive, that he had his guards take several potshots at me with rifles. I had to keep ducking under the water until it carried me far downstream.
The CHAIRMAN: And what did you do after that?
ROBYN: The river wasn’t too cold, and not very deep. I could keep touching bottom with my feet, so I let it carry me down to the nearest town, where I got out and called my friends in Black Diamond. When they picked me up, they said the Army and the FBI was asking about me, and that I was a fugitive.
Sen. BORSCH: When did your association with Miss Roland begin?
ROBYN: It was about a year or two after my escape from Hanford, sir. Sometime in 1945, I’m not sure exactly which month.
Sen. BORSCH: And her last name, Roland, didn’t raise any red flags with you?
ROBYN: At the time, sir, she was going by the name Becky Hahn.
Sen. BORSCH: Thank you, Mrs. Shy Bear. Mister Chairman, with your leave I move to use the balance of our time remaining here today to question Becky Roland, but I reserve the privilege of calling Mrs. Shybear back as a witness if the testimony so requires it.
The CHAIRMAN: So ordered. Thank you Kimberly Shybear, you may step down, but please remain in the chamber until the hearing adjourns.
81 – THE STING
High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus had only to say, “I would carry out an inspection of Hyperion,” and a whole cascade of events would be put into play. The personnel at both Palato and Hyperion would be ordered to put on their best uniforms. The commanding officer of a battleship would vacate his stateroom and order it to be made ready for the use of the Gerash patriarch.
When Asmodeus was taken to the battleship that was to host him, and when the battleship entered the ID Grid to transfer by fold-gate to the Sol system, to a man every member of the Navy of Mastema bowed and averted his eyes in solemn deference to the greatness of his lord. And Asmodeus loved all of this pomp so.
The battleship completed the transit and moved a few miles away from the ID Grid that orbited Hyperion to allow Asmodeus to watch it in operation through the large rectangular porthole of his stateroom while he was served lunch by stewards.
Lilith Gervasi appeared from nothing before him just then and said, “Asmodeus, that food looks delicious, would you mind if I joined you?”
And this unexpected appearance startled the White Beard patriarch to his great annoyance.
“El Shaddai in yet another body,” he said, for it was quite within his ability to detect the fold-line that linked Lilith back to the living star that was her real body, and as a further confirmation El Shaddai had spoken Lilith’s words directly to Mastema’s mind even as Lilith uttered them. Asmodeus pressed an intercom button and ordered a second meal to be hastily prepared, as well as a second web to sit in.
“What is this, the third body?” he asked, turning back to face her. “Always women. Talishi, and Tabaet, and now what?”
“Lilith,” she said.
“Let’s see, Talishi had been the daughter of a glassblower in Salem, Tabaet was a Larund rocket scientist with a death wish, so who was this Lilith person before you took over?”
“A warrior, remote descendant of Abraham. I’ve been looking for a replacement Princess Khondiel since the day you killed her at Nine Mile Wall. This way is better. I folded a serious ass-kicker and all her abilities directly into myself.”
“An ass-kicker? Then why bother wearing the body of a human female?”
“You don’t know this human female,” she replied.
“I hardly need to ask how you got here, of course, but only how you knew. I only made my decision to come to Hyperion a few hours ago.”
“As you probably suspected all along, Asmodeus, your entire organization is rotted through-and-through with my spies.”
The stewards came in to serve Lilith her meal and wine just then, so the conversation paused. Certain compromises had to be made to deal with the fact that the food and drink were to be consumed in free fall, but Lilith had to admit it was generally excellent.
When the stewards deferentially departed, Asmodeus asked, “What does bring you out here to my Jupiter colony, Miss Lilith?”
“I wanted to find out if you had heard the rumors about what’s happening at Hybla-Dia, in the gap between them.”
“Hybla-Dia? What rumors?”
“It is said the Beaters are building a ship with some new kind of motor, something created by a nephil named Ithuriel from the same principles that operate my signature weapon.” And to illustrate her point she held up the Golden Gift, but only in a way that did not threaten Asmodeus.
Asmodeus was disappointed. Essentially, going by what she was saying, Lilith was still mostly in the dark about the sub-macro that now drove and armed all of his capital ships, and she was relaying a rumor that the Beaters had somehow obtained a copy of the mysterious device for themselves. Not even that, were it true, would alarm Asmodius. He had an insurmountable head start over the Beaters. Still, it was informative to know the extent of what Lilith knew about it. He said to her, “I am very touched that you would show such concern for the well-being of my navy, Miss Lilith.”
“Yes, well, I’m really here to make sure that you realize that when the Beaters depart in their starship that I had nothing to do with it, directly. Our ancient bargain has been fulfilled to the letter.”
“What do you mean, starship?”
“Yes, that’s the word on the street. The Beaters are at Hybla-Dia getting ready to make the big jump into the dark. You really should look into it Asmodeus. Do you remember how I first found the humans, when they were just hunters? Do you think it would be more difficult for one of the Elohim who are not in your harem to find the Beaters after they arrive in a new star system and set up a colony? Embarrassing questions among El would be certain to follow.”
“Lilith, you are merely attempting to get me to start some heavy shit with the Beaters to weaken my fleet.”
She shrugged. “It’s your funeral, Asmodeus. I only wanted to direct your attention to the chain of events that led to this. At every point along the way, it was you, and not me, who enabled to Beaters to take the next step. Sorry to eat and run, mother, but I do believe you will be rather busy here for the rest of the day.”
And Lilith disappeared as quickly as she had come.
The CHAIRMAN: Miss Roland would you take the stand? Would you raise your right hand and be sworn? In this matter now in hearing before the committee, do you, Rebecca Roland, swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Miss ROLAND: I do.
Sen. BORSCH: Miss Roland, will you state for the record your full name and home address?
Miss ROLAND: Rebbecca Jeanette Roland, 129 Goode Street, Black Diamond, Washington.
Sen. BORSCH: Is that the only name you go by?
Miss ROLAND: No sir, my friends call me Becky. And as Kim testified I go under the name Becky Hahn recently.
Sen. BORSCH: Why did you use that name?
Miss ROLAND: Because my father asked me to use it. He wanted me to get close to Kimberly Shyear, but he knew that would be impossible if I used my real name.
Sen. BORSCH: And where are you now employed?
Miss ROLAND: My living expenses and allowance are paid out of a bank account that my father maintains.
Sen. BORSCH: For the record: Who is your father?
Miss ROLAND: He is Earl G. Roland, Jr. and he was connected with the Manhattan Project during the War. Today he says works for an agency called DECON but I don’t know anything about it.
Sen. BORSCH: Do you know why your father was interested in Kimberly Shybear?
Miss ROLAND: Yes sir, it was her bone cyst. He was obsessed with it for some reason. I love my father, but I’m not sure he’s entirely sane. He has a position of authority in the government, but he used it to take away the freedom of Kim, the freedom of Sophie Krause, and the life of Kim’s husband. I confronted him at his home in Maryland, and I brought a movie camera to film his confession, and he still told me everything, knowing that it was being recorded. His attitude was one of indifference. I hardly know my own father anymore.
Sen. BORSCH: Are you prepared to enter your film into evidence?
Miss ROLAND: Yes sir, and it is my sincere hope that this will clear Kimberly’s good name, and begin the process to give her justice for the death of her beloved husband and my good friend Jerry Shybear.
The Senate projectionist already had the film threaded through the gate of the projector and ready to roll. Boren asked for the lights to be dimmed, and they began to watch the movie.
To preserve the first moments of the film, Robyn had added the usual Academy leader that looked like a black and white radar screen counting down from five to zero.
Earl Roland stood in the middle of his own living room, wearing his usual black turtleneck shirt under a gray tweed jacket, with no tie. He was bald, with only a fringe of dark curly hair wrapped around the back of his head.
Jill was not seen, but her voice said, “You know how she got her bone cyst, Daddy, but you dance around the issue and refuse to look at it straight on.”
“You’re wrong, we did have a good look at it.”
He nodded. “Short for Radar Cross Section Zero. We used the government’s own engineers and labs at Hanford to analyze it, and learned to synthesize the white stuff on a large scale. It absorbs radar perfectly, at the same time being totally impervious to heat. We’ve already made a fortune selling the material to a fighter aircraft manufacturer to paint on the leading edges of their wings. It’s a goldmine for us. Millions of dollars, Becky.”
“So you lied. Kim wasn’t a source of a dangerous infection, she was your cash cow.”
“I don’t call it lying, Becky . I call it dealing with the world adaptively. When Kim escaped from Hanford the whole house of cards almost crashed around the ears of me and some very powerful people who are also involved in this. The only way to keep her from coming forward was to make her a fugitive.”
“A fugitive. So you lied to the Army, the police, and the FBI as well.”
“Don’t think ill of me, Becky . I’m your father. I did it all for you and your mother. Civil service pay is just not enough to give you two the things you deserve to have.”
“They won’t take me back, Daddy. I burned my bridges with Kim and her friends.”
“Stop that film!” a voice was heard, and everyone saw it was Earl Roland, the star of the movie.
Roland was accompanied by three thugs, one of whom advanced straight to the film projector. Another thug took his position near the switch that controlled the lights in Room 315. The last thug stayed with Roland. This last thug was Ed Conley, and Jill recognized him of course, from Jerry’s final memories.
“Father!” Jill cried out.
The thug near the film projector spoke a few words to the projectionist in hushed tones. The projectionist looked quite upset and left Room 315 in a hurry, speaking no words, leaving the thug standing there in his place. The film abruptly came to a stop, and the lights were turned back on.
Earl ROLAND: I think, dear esteemed Senators, that in your rush to get these ladies before your panel you moved a little too fast, and you didn’t give thought as to whether these hearings should be public, and not in secret session.
Senator BORSCH: The Senate answers to nobody but the American people. And you, sir, you are out of order. But thank you for coming, you have saved us a little time. I was about to ask my staff to prepare a subpoena to have you appear. We have many questions that require your immediate response.
Earl ROLAND (ignoring Borsch): Senator Boren, this is a matter of National Security. You will not allow that film to be shown in an open hearing.
Senator BORSCH: Mister Chairman, if I may, since I still have the floor. The gentleman will proceed to show the film, notwithstanding the objection by the intruder. And after we have seen the film, I think we should immediately discuss why the intruder should not be held in contempt of this body.
Roland turned to his thug next to the film projector and gave a hand sign. He began to unmount Jill’s movie and mount one of the films Roland brought along to be shown in its place.
Earl ROLAND: Very well, Senator, you are of course correct. We will immediately comply.
His other thug killed the lights, and the new film began to roll.
It wasn’t Jill’s film at all. In this short movie, the Republican Senator Jeremiah J. Borsch, Mister Family Values, who was also the pastor of a large church, was seen leaving a bar that was well-known to be frequented by homosexual men. The film showed him entering a cab with one of the well-dressed patrons of this bar. After that, the film, shot through the windshield of another car, showed the Senator being tailed. Through the rear window he could be seen kissing the man. And the film wound up with images of the Senator entering a seedy Washington no-tell motel with this man.
The hearing room erupted into a cacophony of disbelieving roars and hoots, bringing on a long spate of gavel-banging by Senator Boren before order was restored.
Earl ROLAND: Senator Borsch, I believe this film will be of some use to you on your Senate Select Committee on Homosexual Activities, which I understand you chair. I’m not one to judge, but in this day and age this sort of thing can be a real career killer.
Borsch looked at Boren and he had the answer to his unspoken question why Boren was allowing Roland to disrupt the hearing.
Earl ROLAND: Mister Chairman, I am prepared to show two more short films at this time, of a similar nature. One will be very useful to Democratic Senator Lee Wenden on his Senate Committee on Communist Influence in Government. The second film will be of some interest to you, Mister Chairman, in your other capacity as chair of the Senate Sub-Committee on Graft and Corruption.
Senator Boren said, “This hearing is on hiatus until further notice. The Master-At-Arms will take custody of Kim Shybear and Becky Roland, and transfer them into the custody of the Domestic Enemies Classification, Observation, and Neutralizaion Agency. That will be all.” And he punctuated the proceedings with a final sharp bang of his gavel.
Roland’s substitute projectionist gave his three short films to Senator Borsch, but in return he was keeping Jill’s movie. On his way out, Roland told Ed Conley, “I want the names and addresses of everyone who watched this hearing from the gallery.”
And shortly after this Roland learned a very important about taking any member of the B’nei Elohim into custody. And that lesson was, no matter how secure you make the cell to hold them, do not take your eyes away from the prisoners for even a moment, or they will disappear on your ass.
82 – APOSTLE
Asmodeus couldn’t ignore Lilith’s claim that the Beaters were building a starship but he wasn’t ready to throw everything at them until he knew more. So he ordered an expedition in force as a kind a probe.
While Seraph Azael’s 4th Fleet in the Eggbeater was getting ready to sortie to the planet of Hybla, Cherub Hosampsich took Space Action Group 16 out of Palato. His force consisted of seven carriers and about thirty escort vessels from battleships to destroyers. The combined forces of Azael and Hosampsich represented a third of the entire Navy of Mastema. Turel’s frigate Exiler was part of this force.
The target of Hosampsich’s sortie was the undeveloped side of Dia. If Hosampsich could not manage to take it, at least he would make sure that there could be no hindrance from that world’s fighter units against Seraph Azael’s assault on Hybla with the main force.
It took three months for SAG 16 to reach the approximate position of the 4th Fleet and another eight months to reach the double planet of Hybla-Dia, during which time Azael too had gotten underway.
But when the battle was joined Hosampsich somehow failed to achieve the surprise that was a key element of his plan, and the Beaters seemed to have equipped themselves with the same sub-macros Asmodeus thought he monopolized. For three days waves of Beater and Loyalist fighters and shuttles smashed against each other over Dia. For non-critical hits on cruisers Valorous and Indomitable, and only sixty Beater fighters shot down, the Loyalists suffered three hundred fighters and shuttle-bombers lost of their own.
It was an unmitigated disaster for Hosampsich. The surviving fighters and bombers would only suffice to arm two of his seven carriers. The other five were sent home along with Hosampsich himself, and his escort ships were assigned to Azael. High Lord Patriarch Asmodeus ordered the 4th Fleet to delay the planned assault on Hybla and fall back, standing well away from the double planet, and enter force protection mode until it could be reinforced.
The Beaters had definitely gotten the attention of Mastema.
One moment Robyn and Jill had been buried in the deepest, darkest cell in DECON, and the next moment they were standing in the woods near End Dome with Lilith, and this actually made Jill angry. She said, “Nice, Lilith. You can zoom us around anywhere, anytime, but you still made us build the saucers and get around that way, and now Jerry’s dead after a saucer crash. Explain that, if you can.”
“The saucers will be important in a certain war that will happen in 1967,” Lilith said. “Ask Robyn if you don’t believe me.”
Jill glanced at Robyn, who nodded sadly. But she, in turn, asked Lilith, “Why did you bring us back to the woods near End Dome?”
“Lee Hanson, the Apostle before the split, made contact with Hunky and Dory and wanted to arrange a sit-down with you. He refused to meet in our building and Hunky refused to meet in his, so they settled on meeting in an old abandoned mine shaft in the side of End Dome Hill, which seems an odd choice for a sit-down, since we will be required to stand the entire time.”
And as a precaution Lilith handed Robyn and Jill their own copies of the Golden Gift lifted from other timelines.
“Jill needs to come along too,” Robyn said, hefting the weapon to get the feel of it again. “I made Jerry the Apostle, and now that he’s dead, but not really dead, she kind of inherits the job.”
“I thought as much, which is why I brought both of you here.”
The Reformed End Dome Church had made a few changes since departing the mother church. Lee Hansen had really laid down the law. He said no more card playing, no more dancing, and no more Demon Rum. The parishioners started to roll in sawdust on the floor of their new sanctuary and babble in tongues to be saved from the fires of hell. A deacon named Paul Bergin had been appointed the Apostle of the Whites and he began to handle snakes during services and go door-to-door in Palmer with tracts.
The “sit-down” was between Lee Hansen and this Paul Bergin on one side and Robyn, Jill, and Lilith on the other.
Hansen and Bergin were directly descended from families who had settled riverside Kanaskat and Palmer in the very beginning. Both men were white, of course, which was a departure from the tradition of the mother Church that the Prophet and Apostle would always alternate between the Red and White wings of the Church, but for the Reformed Church it was unavoidable. Robyn herself, by accepting Jill as the successor of Jerry, also broke this rule.
After they all met in the mine shaft with everyone carrying lanterns Robyn offered the required exposition prayer: “May El Shaddai bless this gathering of his righteous believers today, and may the peace that passes all understanding fill the hearts of everyone gathered together here, in the name of Yeshua, El Shaddai’s only Son.”
The irony was that El Shaddai was actually standing right there in the person of Lilith while the Prophet offered her prayer.
After Lee uttered his Amen he saw that Lilith was wearing a Star of David necklace. He turned to Robyn and asked, “Who’s the kike?”
Jill said, “If you had the slightest glimmer of who she really was you wouldn’t dare to speak of her in that way.”
Paul Bergin spoke up here as well. “The fuck are you?”
“This is Jill,” Robyn said. “She is the Apostle of the End Dome Church. And this is Lilith, who, if you care to believe it, is the human incarnation of the very eloah you purport to serve.”
“Then I’m not surprised at anything anymore, Kim,” said Lee. “Lilith is the name of an ancient demon. What happened to Peter Two Feathers and his wife? There’s been no news for years.”
“They are in a better place,” Robyn said, and Lilith smiled, recalling how Victoria had once said the same thing about Aliwe after returning to the Catwalk. Then Robyn asked her own question. “Why did you go out from us?”
Paul could make no objection to that query. He had to admit, after all, it was the Reformed End Dome Church that walked away. He replied, “The office of Prophet was void when Two Feathers married you off. The union of yourself and Jerry Shy Bear is disgusting. You’re not only not cousins, you aren’t even of the same race.”
“That whole cousin thing was always just a Church tradition,” Robyn countered, “not a dogma or even a doctrine.”
“Our founder, Pastor Mark Lange, believed otherwise, Kim. So there was persecution in state after state, and his pilgrimage clear across the United States to this place.”
“The founder was Chief Malekwa actually,” Lilith said. “In Barbelo I watched Yeshua give him the Golden Gift.”
“Look Paul, the demon speaks,” said Lee Hansen. “Captain Smalley would have taken it away from him if Chief Malekwa didn’t beg for sanctuary in Mark Lange’s wagon train.” He turned again to Robyn. “But we hear Jerry is dead now. Can’t say I’m choked up about that.”
“And no wonder,” Robyn said, “you do not even honor your own dead with the Golden Gift. Yet you do not seem overly concerned, even with the salvation of your very soul hanging in the balance. Will you return and help us rebuild the Temple?”
“Your half-breed son is an intractable barrier to reunion,” Lee said. “He’s a living affront to God’s eternal principle of racial holiness.”
“Racial holiness?” repeated God, shaking her head in disbelief.
“What are you talking about?” Robyn demanded.
“Thou shalt not amalgamate humans with animals,” Paul Bergin intoned, though from what scripture neither Robyn nor Lilith had any idea. Perhaps he had just scribbled it on black crayon on the wall. Jill wanted to walk out of the mine right there.
Lee clarified things a bit. “You must know that we do not recognize Peter Two Feather’s authority to change the laws of the Church to allow you to have married the late Jerry Shybear, may he rest in peace. That is the heart of the argument we have with the mother Church. Such sacred things must never change on a whim.”
Robyn wanted to tell him he was engaging in a bit of revisionist history, since Lee Hansen approached DECON before she was even married, but she controlled herself. Instead she said, “And I will tell you what argument the mother Church has against the Reformists. You said things to Roland that should never have been mentioned, things that no outsider should have ever known to exist. Our temple lies in ruins atop this very hill because Roland wanted to find the Golden Gift! Sophie and Dory had to extract the Ark of the Covenant from the ashes that our holy altar had become.”
Paul countered with, “Sophie and Dory! We know of a surety those two girls have unnatural affections.”
Hansen nodded. “It is an ancient sin. The apostle Paul explicitly condemned that particular moral defect in Romans chapter one.”
“Paul was just as deluded as you are,” Lilith said. “He complained that women were exchanging the natural use of their bodies for that which was against nature. But allow me to break the news to you gentlemen: Women are not objects to be used.”
Robyn added, “This racist streak of yours has divided the Church but it is all just a lot of silly nonsense over nothing. There are no races. There is only one human race. The Bible and the Endomion acknowledge only ethnicities. In the Sacred Scriptures we read only of peoples and kindreds and tongues, not Whites and Blacks and Yellow Menaces and the Red Man. The nephilim are called the White Beards and Red Beards and so on, but they are all the same race, and indeed they are the same species as humans, because they can still breed with us, and that will be true for thousands of years.”
Paul Bergin recovered somewhat. “What are you talking about Robyn? There are indeed races. I can see them with my own eyes!”
“You can? Then how many races are there?”
“I say there are three races: Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoloid.”
“Really? That makes the dark people in India and Pakistan the same race as the blond people in Scandinavia. And what about the aborigines in Australia? They have Caucasian and Mongoloid genes, but they are as dark as Negroids. If you go by appearance, Jews are identical to Arabs. Look at Lilith right here if you don’t believe me. Mexican people are a mixture of Mongoloid and Caucasian, just like my lovely son.”
“Brother Paul is right,” Lee Hansen said. “I see three races as well. They can be traced right back to the three sons of Noah.”
Becky caught Lilith’s eye on that remark and winked. “Noah.”
Robyn said, “The same thing happens with the colors of a rainbow, it all depends on who looks at it. Some see three colors, some see seven, some see even more. But it’s really a smooth continuum, you know. And arguing about where to set the dividing line is the biggest waste of time there is in this universe.”
“We see evidence in the Bible that dark skin is the Mark of Cain,” Paul said, “who was cursed for killing his brother Abel.”
“Apostle Bergin, there are different levels of pigments in human skin and that is a good thing. A ginger would not fare so well on the savanna in Kenya.”
“Or in New Mexico,” Jill muttered ruefully, still red from that walk.
Robyn continued. “Traits like color, or the epicanthic fold of Asians, are a vestige of the isolation of human settlements in ancient times. But now with the advent of air travel, I confidently predict that the entire human population, in just three hundred years, will have olive skin and dark hair like my son Edgar, if only people discard attitudes such as yours with respect to race. Consider that a sure bet from the Prophet of the End Dome Church.”
“So what is our meeting all about?” Hansen sneered, “just anti-Paul blasphemy from your pet demon? Just airing our grievances and moonbeam theories and going home? How do you propose to seal the breach?”
Robyn said, “Someday my son Edgar Shybear will be of an age to marry. I will ask him to marry a cousin from the White Wing. And I would ask his own child in turn to marry a cousin from the Red Wing. In only two generations there would be no more wings!”
It was, Jill thought, a beautiful dream, but it was precisely the sort of thing that would most offend these men. They could never admit the Native American branch of the Church was composed of beings who were fully human, because that would mean their hatred of them would disqualify them as God-fearing believers filled with his grace.
Lee Hansen was rendered speechless, his face more red with rage than the faces of the very Red Wing he refused to fellowship with. His mouth twisted up in a sour expression of disgust, for he had not taken to heart a single thing Robyn had said about race. How little he knew he actually was in the presence of his own God, and El Shaddai was not in the least bit amused by his attitude.
Paul Bergin spoke up for him. “Is that all you have to offer us today, Prophet Shybear?”
“Perhaps I reached for too much,” Robyn told him.
Lee Hansen found his voice again and said to Robyn, with finality, “There will be no reunification of the Red and White wings, not now, and not ever. With my Apostle as witness I now make this binding upon the Reformed End Dome Church for all time.”
Robyn suddenly moved apart from the men and ignited her copy of the Golden Gift. Jill and Lilith followed suit, and the three woman stood there, defiantly, with those hissing black blades the men could not mistake, for they had seen the original Golden Gift in action in the Temple sending the bodies of their blessed dead to the Elohim.
Lilith said, “It is the living God El Shaddai who curses you with a curse that will outlive your own oath, Lee Hansen, and it is El Shaddai who pledges perpetual emnity upon all who have gone out from the true Church!”
Then she and Robyn and Jill used their Golden Gifts to carve holes in the wall of the mine and departed from the Reformists. Three of the relics! Yet Hansen and Bergin dared not chase the women down.
“I feel like I had come into the middle of a very old argument,” Lilith said.
“I’m astonished,” Jill said. “Robyn laid out an array of carrots and sticks that could not be mistaken for an instant, and those two dummies still chose a course of action that undermined their own self-interest.”
“That is as true as anything can be, Jill. Perhaps someday you will think on this meeting today when you are looking at your own array of carrots and sticks.”
83 – JULIE
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 End 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 El Shaddai and Bat-El, 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 El Shaddai 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 El Shaddai nor Bat-El 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. 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 death of Erik Lokken and the Golden Gift gone missing, no more new coal seams were being opened up, and with that industry gone, and the virgin timber on the hills around the area 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.”
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. 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. 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.
84 – ROAD TRIP
Lilith drove Robyn on the Sunset Highway over Snoqualmie Pass. Just past Indian John Hill the trees turned off like a light. They had started from Black Diamond, naturally enough, but they had also started from the year 1956, a leap of nine years. It was Robyn’s first hop in time. The big thing Robyn noticed was the red Ford “Fairlane” Lilith was driving seemed to be a lot more gaudy than the cars she was used to seeing. It had lot more chrome, and a flashy stripe on the side. Lilith said, “I want to do this is stages, Robyn, a little at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed.”
After another, far more desolate pass they crossed the Columbia River at Vantage and climbed again to a vast arid plateau that was being reclaimed as farmland with irrigation, a legacy of FDR’s make-work “stimulus” programs inaugurated during the Depression and one that actually made sense. Lilith turned on the radio as they passed through Moses Lake and Robyn heard her first Elvis song, “Don’t Be Cruel” and her first Chuck Berry song, “Roll Over Beethoven”. So far the Fifties were nifty.
Lilith said, “Okay, nine years later, President Truman is out, General Eisenhower is in. There was a bad war in Korea with China and the Soviet Union involved, fought it to a draw with about thirty thousand GIs dead, and now the Americans and the Soviets have kind of squared off for what they call the ‘Cold War’ where they just sort of growl at each other for the next thirty or forty years.”
“So no third World War?”
“No, and that’s a very good thing, Robyn, because both sides have the same sort of weapons that were used on Japan at the end of the last one. Wouldn’t do human civilization a bit of good if the Cold War ever went hot.”
“But they don’t know it’s going to stay cold. I don’t know how they could stand it, not knowing.”
“It’s not all bad, Robyn. The Cold War is a big contest to see whether a planned economy is better than an unplanned one, and competition leads to innovation. Next year, in fact, the Soviets will put a machine into orbit around the Earth, just above the atmosphere. And that will scare the Americans into doing the same. A few years after that they’ll start putting men into space too, which is something Barbelo already did about sixty years ago. In fact, I was on that first flight.”
The year-long crossing from Palato to Hybla-Dia could often be far from eventless, as Lord Asmodeus was soon to learn.
Four months after Asmodeus got underway with his reinforcements the Beater frigates Resolute and Adventurous noted the impressive contact that Asmodeus’ force, arrogantly barging across the void with all radars hot, made on their passive sensors. When Resolute fired her first six torpedoes on the flagship Insolent and four more on Crusader, no one in the Loyalist Fleet was prepared for what was going to happen.
Resolute’s shots were well timed. Four of them ripped open Insolent from stem to stern; she exploded in twenty minutes, unfortunately not taking Asmodeus with her. Crusader was heavily damaged.
As she witnessed the scene, Adventurous was presented with a perfect shot at the other heavy-ship column; four torpedoes from her salvo blew up the limping battleship Crusader; only the lack of torpedoes in her aft tubes prevented even more destruction. She retired, certain of having splashed a battleship. The same did Resolute. The Loyalists, meanwhile, were too busy surviving to pursue their Beater assailants.
Lord Asmodeus was fished from space and transferred his flag to the heavy cruiser Tormentor. For a second time, the Beaters had gotten the attention of Mastema.
Yellowstone Falls was the most beautiful place Robyn had ever seen. She thought it looked exactly like an abstract painting made real and three-dimensional before her very eyes. There were so many things to see in the park that the mere two days Lilith allotted them couldn’t possibly do it justice.
At Rapid City, after seeing Mount Rushmore, Lilith did another hop in time again, another nine years, and they starting using a different car. It was a powerful 1965 Ford Mustang, as red as the Fairlane, and although the style was very different Robyn could kind of squint her eyes and see how the evolution had occurred.
Lilith drove south and east on rural roads through the Great Plains, crossing Nebraska and Kansas until they reached Route 50, which Lilith said they would take all the way to Washington DC. Lilith spoke of how the young President who followed Eisenhower had been assassinated and how the world had come very close to World War Three when the Soviets tried to set up intermediate range nuclear missiles just ninety miles away from Florida.
Still, twenty years after World War II things weren’t all that different. Robyn could still cope. She noticed that men no longer wore hats. Lilith said that was a trend started by President Kennedy. The women wore their hair piled up in what Lilith called a “beehive” hairdo, and Robyn thought it was funny. Sometimes in the sky she would hear a loud roar. Lilith said the jet engines the Germans had first put on their Messerschmitt-262 “Swallows” had finally trickled down to the public, replacing propeller motors on airliners.
Passing through one of the larger cities Robyn heard her first Beatles song, “Ticket to Ride” and she started tapping her feet.
“Do you like it?” Lilith asked.
“It’s incredible, who is it?”
“Four chaps from my home country who call themselves the Beatles,” Robyn smiled at how Lilith dropped the ‘t’ and said “Bea’les”. “They seemed to have stumbled onto something timeless, all right?” Robyn smiled at how Lilith dropped the ‘t’ and said “Awroi?” “I mean a hundred years from now small children might listen to this song and say just what you just did, ‘It’s incredible, who is it?’”
“Only that they might listen? You don’t know?”
“No. I can’t see past the decade of the Thirties in the next Century. But then, that’s what we’re running about trying to remedy, isn’t it?”
It was a small conference room but it had a window looking directly out onto the airport tarmac and it was private, so it suited Roland’s purposes just fine. After he was satisfied that all of the records generated during the captivity of Kim and Sophie at Hanford were secure aboard the plane, Roland told the Hanford Five that the police had finally picked up their two errant test patients and he asked her to go ahead on the plane to a facility in Arizona where he was confident security was much, much better. “I’ll meet you there,” he said, ever the consumate liar. “We’re taking the girls down by an Air Force C-130 and I want to ride with them.”
What capped it off for the Five were Roland promises of ample bonuses for all of them. “I know it’s been a long time but I want to put the same team back together again. I thought you all performed well, and I don’t blame you in any way for the girls escaping.”
So the project lead Dr. Trochmann rode with Dr. Robert Lessing who had assisted him during the evaluations, along with a medical technician named Andrew Fulford had been “muscle” inside the clinic and also a registered nurse now in her thirties named Kristen Ramsey who had helped care for Robyn and Hunky. Roland figured that eventually one of the folks would open a sun shade and wonder why they were flying out over the ocean to go to Arizon from Washington, but by then it would be much too late. Roland figured the longer his escapees remained loose the easier he could defend the expense of aborting the whole operation in this particular way.
“I’m Curt Raplee,” the pilot said as he began setting up equipment on a table in the conference room. The plane stood by itself out there now, and the Hanford Five were already aboard.
“Mr. No Name,” came the reply. “Do you have a family, Captain Raplee?
“No sir. There’s just me, and I was fixin’ to retire anyway.” He fiddled with some knobs. The plane started up and began to taxi forward under remote control. “I’m not even curious about who these people are. They don’t pay me to be curious, Mister No Name. There’s only one thing I’ve ever been curious about: Did the check clear?”
“That’s what your people told me. Because I can’t stand loose ends. I especially don’t like the kind of loose ends that walk around.”
“After this I’ll be a very rich, very distant and a very retired loose end, Mister No Name,” Raplee said in the dry manner of the banal wicked. There was a price that would buy any man, that would make any man give up his pretensions of morality or principle. Roland had found Raplee’s price. The pilot flicked on a small radio transmitter. The tower would not be able to tell he wasn’t calling from aboard the plane. He said, “Tri-Cities Control this is Air Maui zero one requesting clearance for takeoff, over.”
It was a small regional airport and his bird was the only one out there. A deft maneuver on his panel turned the plane and lined it up nicely at the head of the longest of three runways. When the go-ahead came back from the tower Raplee hit a button and the plane began to roll forward. Roland was amused that Doc Troch hadn’t even wondered why it was Air Maui to Nevada.
“OK, the automatic pilot has the bubble, from here on out, sir.”
“It’s amazing what they can get machines on aircraft to do these days,” Roland marveled as the plane climbed into the sky. “Maybe someday they’ll even make a machine to safely land one of the damn things.”
When Robyn woke up one morning in Kansas City Lilith told her it was 1973 and she laid out the clothes they would wear. “We’ve been getting away with wearing our stuff from the Forties without too many second looks, but we can’t get away with it anymore.”
Robyn was puzzled “I see the blouse but where’s the skirt?”
“The blouse is the skirt,” Lilith said, with a wicked grin.
“No I’m not, look.” And Lilith opened the window curtain of their second floor hotel room to look down on a busy street on a sunny morning in the Nineteen Seventies. Robyn saw that Lilith definitely was not pulling her leg. Many of the women down there wore dresses so short their knee boots covered more of the skin on their legs than their hemline did. And many of the men had hair so long they’d be mistaken for women back where Robyn came from.
So Robyn dutifully put on the clothes and got into the car, but she felt entirely funny about it, like one of those dreams where you’re speaking in public and wearing only your underwear.
Then they were on the road again, making for St. Louis. Carly Simon sang about how vain her boyfriend was. Steely Dan wondered aloud if his old college girlfriend was reelin’ in the years. Robyn said, “Okay, what is it this time, nine years again, or nineteen?”
“Only eight years this time, Robyn but what a change! We’re on the other side of another war like the one in Korea. This one wasn’t fought by World War II vets, but their kids. Most of them didn’t have a choice and they weren’t very happy about that. As you might have guessed from the clothing I’m having you wear the attitudes of many of these young people towards sex would shock the older generation, and I rather think that is precisely their point.”
As they crossed the Appalachians Lilith tried to explain how Robyn’s precognition worked. She explained that a particle, like an electron, wasn’t just a little dot moving through time, it was more like a long line, growing like a crystal, and the exact point where it crystallized was the present. From that point going forward, many other lines existed in a ghostly form, including the Primary, the most probable future, which was almost firm enough to be a crystal. “Time is a fire,” Lilith said, “and history is ash.”
After Robyn understood all that, she wanted to know how they could loop back in time. “Wouldn’t we be walking into the middle of a bunch of hard crystals? she asked. Even the air we breathe?”
Lilith said that their bodies could dissolve the crystals of everything they touched, set even the ashes of the past afire again. “But we don’t put the whole world in play again just by being back here,” she cautioned. “I’m looking for a crucial event that can give us leverage.”
“I don’t understand,” Robyn said. “I know I have a power, but that power comes entirely from you and Bat-El. Why am I tagging along?”
“It’s hard to explain,” Lilith said, “but I guess the way I could put it is I can’t see the forest for the trees. Yes your power ultimately comes from the Elohim, but by necessity you are looking at time as though through a pinhole. Am I right? Tell me, Robyn, what is it like for you?”
“There’s this big…canvas, but every time I do something or even say something, I can see a ripple run up that canvas and change the paint that’s on it. Sometimes it’s a big ripple, l like when you showed up with Edgar the Elder, and the whole painting changes.”
“That’s why you’re tagging along, Robyn. I have too much information of all the different ways things can go, so I have no information. But you, with your pinhole view, can help me find the pivot points where we can do tiny changes and make big improvements.”
“So you can see that canvas also, you and Bat-El?”
“We’re painting that canvas, my daughter and I. And do you know something else about our art, Robyn? We are perfectionists.”
85 – TRISH
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.
After the debacle during the transit through the Eggbeater Asmodeus took much greater precautions, such as only allowing one picket ship at a time to operate search radar. As a result the rest of the crossing was relatively uneventful. A year after deploying from Palato the Imperial Loyalist forces entered Hybla-Dia’s gravitational influence, moving toward a certain encounter with Beater naval power
Imperial minesweeping shuttles arrived in high Hybla orbit to sweep out a clear path. The sudden appearance of Gerash anti-mine craft spelled out to Seraph Atarculph, commanding the Beater forces, what was soon to come. He immediately ordered the execution of the defensive plan codenamed Backhand.
Asmodeus, after joining with the Central Force, taking command, and placing Azael into a subordinate position, split off the 2nd Battleship Division under the Cherub Ezqeel. The battleships Tormentor and Devastator, the cruiser Pursuer, and four destroyers were ordered to perform one revolution of Dia and meet Asmodeus again in a l ower Hybla orbit to envelop the Beater forces. Another force, that of Cherub Hochmiel, cruising from the edge of the Eggbeater with the remnants of Space Action Group 16, including the frigage Exiler, would meet them as well as a third prong. Timing was crucial.
As Atarculph’s Backhand plan developed the contact reports issued by Tormentor and Devastator made the job of SAG16 commander Hochmiel much easier. He preferred to fight the Beaters outright to the more laborious task of protecting the main body. Now, with the Beaters blundering in his direction to carry out Backhand, all Hochmiel had to do was sit and wait. Aboard the carriers Indomitable and Inquisitor, seasoned Loyalist crews flawlessly readied their fighters for strikes against the oncoming Beater Fleet.
Yet it was not any massive strike that dealt the worst damage to the Beaters but a single bomber, clinging closely to their returning search pickets and escaping detection, that singled out the light carrier Evader as its target. Furiously fired at by the light railguns mounted on the small carrier, the bomber planted an armor-piercing sub-macro bomb in the middle of the hangar bay. In her interior, the bomb wrecked fighters that had been intended to join the strike on Asmodeus, igniting severe fires inside her hangar deck.
Evader’s aft magazines, heated by the blaze in the hangar deck, ignited in turn, sending metal splinters in all directions of the sky, killing 230 crew members and maiming many others. With her hangar deck fires relentlessly spreading forward, Evader’s commanding officer Ophan Kafziel decided to abandon his ship.
Seraph Atarculph left behind three destroyers to retrieve the marooned men and went on to carry out the Backhand operation undeterred. Even as Evader died, strikes from the Indomitable task group swooped down on the Center Force of Lord Asmodeus. Simultaneously came fighter strikes on Ezqeel’s smaller, but still very potent force.
Indomitable’s shuttles found Devastator, the largest vessel ever to ply space. Indeed, they could hardly miss her. Like a magnet, the super-battleship attracted the attention of the majority of Beater strike fighters. Half-ton bombs and a torpedo began to hit the battle wagon, but the giant continued on, seemingly impervious to the assault from the Beater gnats.
In the second wave only three more torpedoes won through to hit Devastor. But the third wave scored eleven bombs hits and eight torpedo hits along the superbattleship’s length. Asmodeus, watching from his flagship Tormentor, grew alarmed and ordered the bulk of his Central Force to pull in close to come to the aid of Devastator.
The anti-matter weapon introduced to the Beaters by Edgar the Elder was so powerful it didn’t matter if it actually hit the Devastator, it just needed to get close. None had ever seen an explosion so unimaginably powerful. The dreadnought was completely obliterated. The capital ships that had been pulled in close to protect her were left dead in space. The smaller destroyers and frigates that had tried to form a bubble around Devastator were damaged in various degrees from lightly to serious, including the frigate Exiler, which was ordered to limp home with a convoy of other hulks. Even the survivors suffered from high doses of gamma radiation, All of this came from just one warhead. Once more the Beaters had the full attention of Mastema
Robyn and Lilith ran out of Highway 50 at the nation’s capital and got a room on the fourth floor of the Howard Johnson’s hotel on Virginia Avenue. After they got all settled in, and the sun had gone down, Lilith took Robyn out on the balcony and said, “I brought you here to sensitize you, to let you practice what I need you to do. So please tell me what comes to mind.”
Robyn was silent for a moment as she surveyed the stack of events that piled up in her mind. At length she said, “All this, the city, it’s gone in a few months. H-bomb.”
“In October there will be a war in the Middle-East that will spin out of control. It won’t turn into World War III, but if you are able, Robyn, tell me what does happen.”
“There’s chaos at first. Millions of people are dead, here and in Russia. The United States moves the capital back to Philadelphia, where it was in the very beginning, but the states in the South and the mountain West take advantage of the opportunity and file for divorce. So you get two countries again, like way back in the Civil War, with America basically down to just New England and the states north of the Ohio River over to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, that area. The other side picks Atlanta to be their capital, and they get southern California, the Rockies, the Great Plains, and Dixie. They actually go ahead and call it the New Confederacy. But Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, they form a third country called Pacifica.”
“So look out towards the end of the century, Robyn. Tell me what happens.”
“Okay, so what’s left of the United States still has the most people and industry and money, but militarily they’re kind of weak. All the bases were in the south and the west. The New Confederacy has the most land and resources, but their culture and their political system isn’t set up to allow their people to flourish, only large corporations. It was the same thing in the Civil War, men dying to keep cotton-growers in the money. Anyone who isn’t white and Protestant will be basically non-citizens there. The New Confederates end up using the military they inherited to extort their neighbors, US and Mexico, the Caribbean, and try to bite off chunks of land. Everyone thinks they’re assholes. But they won’t mess too much with Pacifica, though, because that country inherits the west coast submarine fleet, a bunch of carriers and a crapload of nukes.”
“Tell me about Pacifica then. That’s where we shall have to live.”
“Pacifica is the smallest piece, with the fewest people, but in that country the people will come first. They will do some amazing things to make life on Earth a paradise, but the operative word there is Earth. The space program is entirely forgotten in all this, except for lofting some satellites. Everyone turns inward. And this, Lilith, if I understand your goals correctly, will not do.”
“No, Robyn, it will not do at all. We must make some sort of change, if only to make sure the suffering of those millions of people will not come to be. But I’m entirely at a loss as to how to proceed. I need to find a place where events constrict in such a way that if we apply a small change it will prevent the Cold War from going hot in October. But only you can see time that way, how it does constrict.”
Robyn desperately wanted to help, or at least give Lilith the impression that she was trying to help. She looked across the well-lit street at a large array of striking, modern buildings with graceful curves, very unlike any architecture she had ever seen. “There’s something about that place,” she said with more confidence than she really felt. “Something important, and the President is mixed up in it, but we’re about a year too late and now I can’t unravel what it was.”
“Give me a date and we’re there.”
“What day is it now? Some vacation, huh? I completely lost track.”
“Today is Saturday, June 16, 1973.”
“So there you go, Lilith. Make it June 16, 1972.”
86 – BREAK-IN
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.”
Lord Asmodeus was a quick study. After witnessing what the Beaters could do to his forces when they bunched together, he ordered them to stay far apart. But this nullified any possible coordination of his fleet. The battle became a free-for-all. Asmodeus sacrificed coherence in his force for the only prospect of victory he had left.
But in retrospect it was a good decision. Asmodeus may have fancied himself a tactical genius, but he was really a hopeless amateur, and releasing his tight grip on his forces allowed far more competent men to salvage something of the battle.
As Ezqeel pressed his vessels into orbit around Hybla, he fired on the destroyers on his flanks and sustained no damage from the torpedoes they fired. At this point the battle began to shift back in favor of the forces loyal to Asmodeus.
Ezqeel’s cruisers opened up on Atarculph’s forces with railguns, delivering devastatingly accurate fire.
Desperately, Intrepid attempted to extract herself from the danger facing her. Realizing that no assistance would be forthcoming from the Beater ship closest to her, Luminary, and her own survival was unlikely in the face of such overwhelming fire, she dropped to a lower orbit over Hybla. As she did so, two torpedoes impacted on her submacro engines. Having taken the coup de grâce, Intrepid exploded.
Each Loyalist ship had fired between 60 and one hundred rounds. Valorous was disabled by the explosions of these shells and torpedoes and began to burn uncontrollably. Ezqeel, aboard his flagship cruiser Pursuer, realized his targets were too smothered with smoke and debris to target them accurately anymore and ordered a general cease-fire.
As the twisting, burning hulk of Valorous passed Indomitable, the men aboard Indomitable realized they had badly misjudged the other vessel’s course. Franticly, they attempted to avoid a collision, but Indomitable’s bow buried itself in Valourous’ stern. Indomitable had her hull breached by the impact and her bow deformed. Slowly, the two carriers parted again and Indomitable fell back.
At some point in the middle of all this confusion, amid the new and unexpected tactical reverses suffered by the Beater fleet, Edgar the Elder overcame the objections of his companions and assumed direct command of the starship Redemption. The vessel got underway from the gravitational null point between Hybla and Dia called Central where she had been constructed several weeks before she was fully ready to deploy.
Atarculph was just as surprised and dismayed as Asmodeus to see the anti-matter engine of Redemption kick in and the vessel begin to accelerate relentlessly at one full gee out of the system.
Asmodeus threw everything he had left at the fleeing Redemption in a suicidal bid to stop it. And Atarculph thew everything he had left in a suicidal bid to stop him.
They bugged the wrong phone during the May 1972 Watergate break-in. It was just a secretary’s phone mostly used by staffers to order in Chinese food, not the one used by the Democratic Party chairman that was clear on the other side of the office in a locked room.
The corresponding Operation GEMSTONE transcripts were useless and the Attorney General, loath to piss away $89,000 in diverted and laundered campaign funds, ordered a second break-in to square things away because the President himself insisted they keep collecting whatever information they could on his political enemies, around the clock.
On June 14 the GEMSTONE leader code-named “Daddy” got his Washington team back together and the “Spook” told the same group of burglars he used the first time to fly back up from Miami. It took two days to get everyone into place with the right equipment, mostly off-the-shelf stuff that couldn’t be traced, but there was no written plan and no rehearsal.
This astonished the “Photographer”, a semi-retired CIA operative who had captained a boat for over three hundred missions to communist Cuba (some of which were extraordinary renditions of men who might have been his friends had he dared to lift their hoods). But his friend the “Realtor”, a fellow Bay of Pigs veteran, practically worshiped the ground the Spook walked on.
The “Quiet Man” walked nonchalantly through the front door of the Watergate office complex, signed in, took the elevator to the top floor, entered the stairwell, then used duct tape to cheat the locks on every door all the way down to the parking garage levels.
But the Quiet Man was a complete moron. He taped the doors horizontally, rather than vertically, so anyone and his dog could see it.
A private security guard named Frank Wills did see the tape, because his first task was always to check the basement doors for tampering when he came on to his shift at midnight. He pulled the tape off and called his supervisor, who told him to check the other doors and call back in fifteen minutes.
But what Frank did instead was go get some fast food across the street with a young intern who was pulling a late-nighter, a young lady that he was trying to make tracks with.
When the actual burglary commenced, it lasted for about seven minutes before they came back to their base of operations in Room 419 of the Watergate Hotel and told Daddy the duct tape on the B-2 garage level door was missing. Meanwhile the “Locksmith” and “The Goon” went around looking for another lock to pick.
The Realtor and the Spook told Daddy they wanted to abort the mission, because obviously a guard must have removed the tape. The Photographer said he was ready to do whatever Daddy decided to do. Daddy decided to cancel the evolution and try again two weeks later.
So the Quiet Man made his rounds again, this time removing the tape from all the doors. By the time Frank Wills finished his hamburger and actually did what his supervisor told him to do (check the other doors), there was no tape. He figured it had just been some lazy workman who taped the B-2 level door open that one time to save a few seconds of hassle fumbling for keys while carrying something big. Wills forgot about the entire episode.
But the third time was the charm for the burglars. On July 1 the GEMSTONE team returned one more time to the sixth floor offices of the DNC at the Watergate complex, bugged the correct phone, photographed ten rolls of film of the Realtor holding documents in his blue-gloved hands, and even made off with some blank stationary with Party letterhead.
What they didn’t find was evidence that Cuban President Fidel Castro was giving money to the Democratic Party, which is what they hoped to find. But that was okay, because President Nixon’s master of dirty tricks, Donald Segretti, simply used the letterhead they stole and the photographs of various signatures to manufacture such evidence.
Tactically, there was little profit in any of this illegal activity, all it really did was turn what would have been a historic 49-state victory in November 1972 into an even more historic 50-state victory. But having avoided a messy second term scandal, Nixon was free to bring about what he called the New American Revolution, making the executive branch nearly omnipotent with a cabinet whose heads were supremely loyal to him. Congress he largely ignored. But this notion of an imperial presidency was going to bite America in the ass in October 1973 when the Yom Kippur War spiraled out of anyone’s control, even that of an Imperial President.
Rewind to early Saturday morning, June 17, 1972. At 12:30 in the morning, Robyn and Lilith walked across the street from the Howard Johnsons and entered the parking garage of the Watergate hotel/office complex. Robyn led them one level down, and walked toward the door leading into the building. It was locked.
“This is going to sound very strange, Lil, but if there’s an empty mailbag sitting right here for the next hour, Washington DC will not get nuked..”
“Yeah, you know, like the kind a mailman carries.”
“What’s going on here anyway?”
“President Nixon sent some burglars here tonight. Well, not the President exactly, but men working for him did. If the burglars get caught, there’s not going to be a nuclear war. He’ll be too preoccupied by the scandal.”
“Why would such a small thing become a scandal?”
“Because Nixon will abuse his power and try to cover it up, and that will be the scandal.”
“So why don’t we just call the police?”
“If we do, they’ll get away. They’ve got a lookout posted in our hotel. In the room right next to ours, in fact.”
“So how does a mailbag lead to them getting caught?”
“It’s very complicated. If I try to explain, we’ll run out of time.”
“Fine, I’ll go find a mailbag.”
“Empty one, Lil.”
Robyn saw Lilith shift a little bit, change her position slightly, but she was carrying an empty mailbag. Lilith had used the worm-tunnel to pop into a nearby post office, lifted a bag, dumped out the mail, and returned to the same spot and instant that she left.
Then they both went back across the street to their room and watched from the balcony.
At one AM the balding Quiet Man pushed open the door from the inside, noted that the duct tape he had placed there before was missing. But he did not immediately assume a guard had removed it, because he saw the empty US Postal Service mail bag sitting there. He assumed a mailman had come and tried to use his key to unlock the door, but found the door was already accessible thanks to the strip of tape. The Quiet Man also assumed the mailman had removed the tape, but that he would be too busy delivering mail to think of reporting it to anyone. So he replaced the missing tape with another strip to cheat the lock, and of course being stupid he posted it horizontally, leaving it perfectly visible.
At about one thirty, the Watergate security guard Frank Willis pushed the door open a second time and saw another strip of tape along the edge there after he had removed the first. He said, “What the hell?” but left the second piece tape in place. He left to call the police.
At 1:52 AM, Robyn and Lilith watched a piece of junk car pull up across the street. Two informally dressed longhaired men got out of the vehicle and entered the hotel. Neither Robyn nor Lilith realized they were plainclothes cops using an unmarked car, and neither did Alfred Baldwin, watching from the balcony right next door to them. Lilith scowled at the man, then went back inside the room.
Baldwin was more than a little nervous and felt like he had to say something to explain to Robyn why he was out on his balcony watching the Watergate. “Beautiful night.”
“You have no idea.”
87 – BREAK-OUT
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 Fifities 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.
They were young white American women playing sensuous but ghettoized rhythm and blues “race music” mixed with the fun of hillbilly music, the conscience of folk, the swing of boogie woogie, and the energy of gospel music, and 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 Bat-El on Barbelo.
In the middle of the decade of the Fifities 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 mädchen 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 End Dome 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.
The battle over the starship Redemption, of a necessity, became strung out on a line. Redemption herself led the way with a significant head start, accelerating toward the place where Barnard’s Star would be in the eight years of real time (and two years of shipboard time) it would take to reach it under one full gravity, with a brief period of free fall halfway as the ship turned around.
Asmodeus had gambled a third of his entire Navy on a bid to stop the starship but he had badly bungled the assault in the face of fierce Belter resistance. Only a remnant, equivalent to a single carrier battlegroup, remained for the final push. These assets Asmodeus ordered after Redemption in a suicidal push, though in the heat and confusion of the moment the commanding officers did not realize they were on a one-way trip as they hurried to carry out the commands of the Gerash patriarch.
The seraph Atarculph, in overall command of the Beater retaliation, had been caught flat-footed by the sudden change of plan, with Redemption getting underway without his orders or his presence aboard her, but after his initial fit of rage he began to see the wisdom of Edgar’s move and committed all the forces under his own command to stopping the Navy of Mastema.
Redemption tore away from the system of the yellow sun at a remorseless full gravity of acceleration that never ceased. The ships commanded by Asmodeus could make better than that, but only for a very limited amount of time.
While disaster loomed for the patriarch’s last remaining carrier the Inquisitor, commanded by Ophan Bashkir, the same held true for Ophan Gadreel of the Beaters commanding a destroyer squadron. In the perfect knowledge of standing no chance against Hochmiel, he nevertheless committed himself to the battle with five ships from two sides. Their spread was incredibly successful. Torpedoes mortally wounded the Imperial carrier, disabling her engines and ending her run. At the same time, several torpedoes from the carrier’s escorts plowed into the lead destroyer Luminary, blowing her to pieces after a matter of minutes and killing Gadreel.
No longer gaining on the starship, the ailing carrier launched four frigates, the smallest ships of the line in the fleet but the largest that could be embarked aboard Inquisitor. They began to accelerate anew after Redemption, and once again began to draw near to her.
Coming up behind the were the fighters of Bashkir’s Beater destroyer force. Random course changes by the Imperial frigates enabled the little ships to escape damage for an unduly long amount of time, but inexorably their fate closed in. Three of the vessels were ripped into pieces by railgun shells and and left burning.
A fourth frigate, the Accuser, disabled and no longer gaining on Redemption much like the carrier that launched her, released the single fighter she carried to continue the stern chase and then focused on damage control. But it was all for nought. Although Accuser was no longer actively involved in the stern chase, she like all the other vessels Asmodeus dispatched after the starship continued out of the system on the last course and speed they held before being disabled, and no rescue would be forthcoming.
The operations officer of the Redemption noted the lone approaching fighter and informed Edgar the Elder. “What is the position angle relative to our stern?”
Since there were only two ships involved in this particular incident, they could be considered to exist on a plane, as though they were vessels at sea. The operations officer Hashmal Verchiel said to Edgar, “Captain, the track is approaching at a relative bearing of 187.”
“Make a temporary course change, Verchiel. Starboard seven degrees until we lose the track, then resume course.”
And it was at that time that the Loyalist fighter pilot learned that the stack of hot protons and gamma rays that Redemption was using to tear out of the star system made one hell of a defensive weapon. He did not survive to relay this lesson to Asmodeus in a post-sortie outbrief
It was getting late, but Robyn and Lilith watched the growing police presence at the Watergate complex from their balcony in the Howard Johnson’s across the avenue. Their funny neighbor Mr. Baldwin had to check out quite suddenly.
Lilith asked Robyn, “So did we do well?”
Robyn looked dreamy for a few seconds. “Oh yes. This bust right here isn’t enough to do in the President, at least until after the election, but he’s going to try to cover it up, and then he’s going to totally botch the cover-up, and that will nail him in the end. He will have no choice but to quit his job or be impeached.”
“What about the war in the Middle-East next year?”
“We still get that, and Israel wins, barely, but it doesn’t go nuclear. No one goes nuclear, in fact, until well into the next century.”
“But not far enough out for my purposes, I suppose.”
Robyn said, “We get more breathing room, but the space program just sort of peters out. The moon landings are never followed up. Then when they do start lobbing nukes around it’s too late.”
“Okay, who starts lobbing nukes around?”
“About ten years from now some Muslims in Lebanon start using suicide bombers. One guy goes out and takes hundreds of victims with him. They promise their soldiers lots of post-mortem sex. And it works! The US President pulls his Marines out, and this is seen by the terrorists as positive reinforcement for what they’re doing. So when the new century comes in America pretty much goes into a permanent war against them, and it’s a very strange war that mostly stays off the front pages. Mostly it’s a David verses Goliath story. But you can’t un-invent the bomb, and sooner or later these suicidal assholes start getting some nukes, and there’s no way to stop them. Eventually the West resorts to just sterilizing Islam from the entire planet but we take a lot of damage too, and after that the world is in no shape to do much of anything in the way of star travel.”
“So you’re saying we just traded a dark future for an even darker one.”
“Oh, it’s not all dark. There’s some good things that will happen too. Communism goes away. People get smarter about their health, there’s some traction on the war on cancer. People will carry around telephones with no wires, and they will use them to watch any movie or television show they want, whenever they want to watch them. These telephones will double as cameras. Movie cameras even. And all those pictures and movies and music and things they write about what they’re doing will go up on this big, connected . . . thing . . . so all their friends and anyone in the world can see them. And that’s how everyone will get the news or read books in forty years, even in the smallest villages of the poorest countries.”
“With all that going for them, why do they kill the space program?”
“It costs too much and there’s no more rivalry with the communist world to conquer space. Oh, they don’t kill it dead, they just switch to sending robots to do it instead, take pictures of all the planets, so people can see them on their little telephones. That doesn’t do us much good, does it?”
“No it doesn’t. We definitely must find a way to make the Americans reconsider rolling back their space program.”
“You should use reverse psychology, Lil. If they run into us up there telling them to go ahead and dial their program back, they’ll do precisely the opposite.”
88 – EUROPA
The Jovian moon Europa is just slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon, with a total area of just six percent of the Earth, but the similarity with Luna pretty much ends there. For one thing there are almost no craters on Europa. The entire surface of the satellite is water ice about six hundred feet thick and only one hundred degrees above absolute zero. Underneath that ice is a saltwater ocean that is sixty miles deep and as warm as a heated swimming pool.
Driven by tidal forces as Europa orbits Jupiter every three and a half days, the thin crust of the satellite is always cracking open in random places, allowing liquid seawater to be exposed to the vacuum of space and freeze. This makes the surface of the moon a chaotic jumbled mess, just like a weld that is moved while it solidifies. There were ridges two hundred feet high alternating with ravines just as deep, all oriented at crazy angles.
So it is impossible to build a road on Europa, and it wouldn’t last for very long in any event. Despite being one of the smoothest bodies in the Solar System on a large scale, with no mountains to speak of, on a small scale it is perhaps the most difficult place in the Jupiter system for nephilim colonists to get around upon except by flying.
But the House of Gerash didn’t take that into account when the Navy of Mastema barged into the Jupiter system first and took over Europa and what they thought was the sweetest spot. They were thinking only of all that water, which their ships with their nuclear fission reactors (and later sub-macros) required for propellant.
But the White Beards soon found there were absolutely no other resources on Europa within reach. All the metals they required had to be imported. The only advantage Europa had over Ganymede or Callisto, which both had a mix of ice and rock, was that the ice didn’t have to chiseled out and melted first.
So Europa became a money pit sucking up the Gerash patriarch’s treasure and returning no profit to him at all. It wasn’t even suitable for a navy garrison. Asmodeus operated Europa at a loss, therefore, only as a prestige showcase, just to say the White Beards had a toehold at Sol. The families of the Gerash clan who were established there lived largely on the Imperial dole.
Power was plentiful even without Asmodeus’ precious sub-macros, obtained by taking advantage of the large thermal gradient between the frozen surface and the warm underground liquid reservoir, but on Europa it was a life where almost nothing could be thrown away. Every piece of garbage had to be carefully weighed in the mind with regard to its possible value after being recycled.
So for nearly a hundred years the colony languished and Asmodeus thought of it seldom, if ever. It rarely figured in the military conflicts of the colonies. The largest towns on Europa numbered only in the hundreds of souls. The names of the colonists grew strange, and they drifted far from the law of Mastema. The Cupel testing system was entirely forgotten. Family Gerash shattered into thousands of individual families, living in homesteads or small communal farms with little communication between each other.
But it did not escape the notice of the Navy of Mastema, based out of Hyperion, that part of the surface of Europa was streaked with color. Some of the colonists had realized the sea salts in those areas were rich with minerals such as magnesium or iron or even gold that could be painstakingly extracted by electrolysis. Some families started operations to extract these minerals, and they not only went off the Gerash dole, they even turned a tidy profit in their own right.
The Patriarch naturally demanded a cut of these profits in taxes. Some of the families paid out of loyalty to Mastema. One such family belonged to Terel, the husband of Greidi and father of Lahatiel and Noriel. Most other families turning a profit on Europa did not pay up, judging it would be far more troublesome and expensive to extract these taxes by force than would ever be obtained by the Navy.
But they forgot the ancient principle of “kill one to warn a thousand”. The Patriarch began sending warships down on raids to cower the rest of the homesteaders into paying their taxes. These official raids were carefully planned to avoid hitting the families of those who paid the temple tax as required by the law of Mastema. But some of the ships were commanded by officers who were not quite so meticulous, and wanted a piece of the action for themselves. They conducted unofficial raids, and some of these, unfortunately, resulted in assaults on loyal tax-paying subjects.
The mining operation belonging to Terel was spotted by the Navy of Mastema from above by examining their waste stream, the melted discolored water they dumped on the surface to freeze, leaving an unavoidable tell-tale sign someone was living and working below. The Hashmal named Hanziel, commanding the frigate Exiler, didn’t know Terel dutifully paid a quarter of his prophets to the Empire, but the odds were against it and in either case, their payments did not redound directly to the account of the offers and men of the Exiler. So to Hanziel this made the homestead a perfect candidate for a raid.
Hanziel timed his raid for one of the periods when the waste stream was observed to have diminished, which they took for a sleep period. Europa was tidally locked on Jupiter and “night” lasted for almost two standard days, so it was impossible to tell when the locals were asleep otherwise.
What saved the family was Terrel’s strict policy that at least one member stand watch while the other two members slept. That, and also the fact that the airlock, the sole entrance to their homestead, was rigged with an alarm.
At the time of the raid, Greidi was on watch near the top of the main shaft. The ice cave network that was her family’s home was two hundred feet below her, and the warm, inky surface of the Europan sea was three hundred feet below that, sending up billows of condensed water vapor that made it difficult to see anything in the main shaft.
When the first bluecoat stepped onto the portico Greidi hit a control stud that tipped the floor on that level forty-five degrees from the horizontal. Taken completely by surprise the spacer slid into the main shaft and began to fall toward Europa’s ocean, but was arrested by his safety line.
Beware the female whose loved ones are endangered. Greidi reached out with a sharp blade and severed the line, causing the man to fall. Any scream was muffled by the helmet of his vacuum suit. Whether or not he survived the impact, his heavy suit made him sink like a stone toward the rocky core of Europa, which was yet another sixty miles below the water’s surface.
For her part, Greidi hightailed it down to the family living quarters to awaken har husband and children. Her escape was done by using a ladder with a safety lanyard sliding in a safety rail between alternating footrests. She took them five at a time to get completely out of the main shaft before the airlock cycled and another intruder arrived.
When two more bluecoats emerged from the airlock they called out for their companion in the white steam but got no response. Then they saw the cut line and realized there was trouble. An attempt to report this to Exiler failed. There was a film of heavy metals that had precipitated out from Terel’s waste stream on the surface above and formed a Faraday Cage which blocked all radio signals out of the shaft. The wise thing to do at that point would be to abort. But the intruders knew Hanziel was not a wise man. So they proceeded slowly down the shaft under high alert.
When they got to the multi-level series of tunnels that formed Terel’s home they dropped one at a time, alternating on point while the other man covered him. On the third level, Terel let the first exposed man have it with a stunner, a weapon which was actually a living plant from Gorpai. The dart penetrated his suit and gave the yang three minutes of total paralysis. All voluntary motor functions and even breathing was disabled. He couldn’t move his mouth to warn the other yang, he couldn’t even blink. The stunner wasn’t used as a weapon of war in Asmodeus’ armed forces, but it was often used to render a victim helpless and conscious for torture.
The other man above him wasn’t a soldier per se but merely the lander pilot, a Europan colonial who was more or less drafted into the robbery “mission”. He assumed the other one below, who really was a Barbelo spacer, was merely rendered speechless by what he saw, and curious himself, he dropped down to see what it was. And Terel hit him with the stunner too.
After they were both tied up Terel demanded, “Where’s your unit?”
The reply he got from the spacer was a stream of obscenities, beginning with what he planned to do with Terel’s wife, who was standing there covering all of her loved ones.
Lahatiel couldn’t abide the insult to his beloved mother. He kicked the man’s chair into the white abyss of the central shaft. This time Greidi could hear a scream, for a very long time. It was the first time Lahatiel killed a man, but not the last, by a wide measure.
The third intruder, the civilian became very co-operative after witnessing what had happened to his companion. He said, “Our mother ship is hovering directly overhead.”
“That’s much better,” Terel said. “You’re not really in the Navy, are you? You have a remarkably better attitude. What’s your name?”
“Karayan. The hashmal was short-handed, so I was pressed into service.”
“So you are a Jovian civilian?”
Karayan nodded, affirming that Terel’s guess was correct.
Lahatiel kicked the chair, but not hard enough to send it over the edge. Nuriel spat on him. “A curse on your beard,” Greidi told him bitterly. “That you would do this to your own people.”
“From the very beginning I had no choice, madam. The punishments…”
After Terel learned there were only three more men aboard the ship hy said, “So that makes your ship a corvette?”
“Frigate. But we came down in the lander, Exiler Sidekick.”
“Exiler Sidekick? Your frigate is the Exiler?”
“What irony,” Greidi said. “Asmodeus gave that ship to my husband once, then ‘borrowed’ it back to fight the Beaters. Now we are the victim of a raid by the very same vessel!”
“I see one just narrow way out for you, Karayan,” Terel said. “You do not have to die like your two friends. All you have to do is fire up your lander and take myself, my wife, my son and my daughter up to the Exiler.”
Karayan thought about it for a moment. Lahatiel helped hym along hyz thought process by drawing near to him and tapping his feet. “You’ll never make it,” Karayan said. “They’ll know something is wrong right away.”
“That’s why I’m hoping you are a very good actor, Karayan. You need to get on visual, ship-to-ship, and give the performance of your life. Immediately. Because your very life is at stake.”
“And after that where can you go? The Empire will never stop looking for you.”
“Never mind about that. Will you fly us up?”
“It’ll be crowded. And what about the other men on the Exiler?”
“No one has to die. I’ll give you the lander and you can all fly away.”
Five heartbeats later Karayan said, “Then we do have a deal, sir.”
Before docking, the commanding officer of Exiler raised Corporal Karayan on intership VHF and ordered hym to make his report. Karayan said, “Gold, sir! There’s so much the ravmalak told me to take a load up here and go back for more. And there were only four locals in the hole. We finished them off easy.”
“Excellent work, Karayan. We’ll get ready to receive you.”
So anxious were the other three men on the Exiler to see the gold they were all present when the lander docked with the frigate and the hatch swung open. That made things easy for Terel and Lahatiel. They didn’t have to go though the warship looking for strays. But they did have to hit the men with their stunners several times before they were all stuffed into Exiler Sidekick, the hatch was closed, and the lander was cast off into space.
Lahatiel never learned what happened to the spacers after they departed. Perhaps the three overcame the one, wriggled free, and killed Karayan when he succumbed to sleep. He hoped Karayan was the only one who knew how to fly the lander, because that would have preserved his life. Perhaps they found a settlement somewhere on Europa and sold the lander. Or perhaps they realized that the consquences of returning to Hyperion without a ship would be uniquely unhealthy. Mastema expected all of his officers and men to protect his warships with their very lives if necessary.
The cost to Asmodeus for molesting Terel’s family was one frigate and it’s associated lander.
Giving the lander to Karayan meant that Terel and his family could not return to their homestead to get their possessions. On very short notice they were forced to leave almost everything they owned behind. All they had left was the clothes on their back, the frigate, and everything aboard her. Lahatiel and Noriel went through the ship cataloging whatever they found while Terel flew on to the distant outskirts of the Jupiter system to see if he could find Greidi’s father.
89 – CONCERT
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 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 POE LEECE 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 thing 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. 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 Bat-El, 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 Mastema 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 Mastema.”
“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 Mastema and hurt your friends exactly as you described. But I will protect the Narrow Way.”