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by Sam E. Hime


For thirty years, four months, and five days now, the Chaldeans had incarcerated him.
     Zeke could hardly believe his eyes. Three loud thunderclaps high in the sky had made him look up. The only cloud he saw was unlike any other. It looked to be composed of fire. "What the hell?"he muttered. A verly strong dust devil, nearly a twister, howled by going north. He looked back at the cloud of fire. It seemed to be feeding on itself, burning inward. From the center of the glowing flame, a bolt of lightning shot.
     Zeke covered his eyes. Mortal men could'n understand the ways of God, and this was surely the handiwork of God.
     When he looked again, the sky was clear, and he started working on his mind to convince himself it had been his imagination. God would'n reveal himself to a lowly, imprisoned prophet.
     There was no way for him to know he'd just seen the first of three satellites burn up. The second would'n come along for a hundred years. No one would see it because it exploded over an ocean. The third came hundreds of years after the second, and was also unseen.

Chapter one A Semblance of Privacy

     The hull'd been compromised during re entry. It may have been just a tiny fissure before, but the heat opened it.
     "Is it responding?", asked the cap'm.
     "Affirmative sir, it's flying okay, but we have redlights, and drag aft. We're gonna'hafta' set down somewhere and affect repairs", replied the ensign.
     "Nut'n but mountains here. Can we land in that clearing?"
     "Perhaps, sir". Deftly, the ensign hovered, then descended until the landing gear touched. The fuel was cut to the atmospheric ramjets, and the axial turbines whined down.
     The turbines compressed air, and blew a hydrogenated mist into the ramjets. The ramjets had no moving parts, and worked like pulse rocket motors, nearly identical to a Teutonic Dictator's[whose initial cathode broadcast from the athletic games(that had'n transpired here yet)was the first signal ever received from this continuum]initial vengeance weapons. The term"buzz bomb"had'n been coined here yet either.
     The atmospheric ramjets could'n be used in space. They had to have a non-inert, inflammable gaseous operating environment to breathe.
     The stairs unfolded. The captain, ensign, and two crewmen went out to survey the ship's exterior. Gages within their headpieces told them the air was comparable to the air on the home planet, but had more nitrogen in it. The four took off their helmets, and turned off their gaspax'. The headgear was almost square, three of the sides and the top a gleaming metallic, and the faceplate simulacrum. The gravity was denser here than there, making them all waddle.
     "There it is", the captain said, pointing to a small tear on the bottom of the craft's stern stabilizer section. In space it'd be fatal, sucking the oxygen out of the craft.
     "Can one of your guys weld that shut?", the captain asked the ensign.
     "Not before nightfall. By the time we got our equipment out today, it'd be dark. That was a pretty intense meteor shower we went through. I want to look this thing over in the light and run an ultrasound, to be sure there are no more defects"
     Nearby, a goat bleated. "What's that?"
     "It's a carbon base life form humanoids here have domesticated".
     "Why are they all lying down out in the open like that?Seems like it'd be cooler to sleep in the shade".
     "Look closer cap'm. See the lesions, sir?and all the insects?All but the one standing are expired".
     The captain was horrified, "What killed them?Are the humanoids carnivorous?"
     "A sickness is spreading amongst the herbivorous creatures here. The humanoids are omnivores. I don't know if they eat diseased animal corpses. They use the follicles and dermis in textiles".
     The captain said, "I did'n know there were humanoids in this sector".
     "Yes sir;there are, but if you don't bother them, they won't bother you".
     "Then I suggest we get back inside before we unwittingly aggravate an aborigine".
     On the way in, the ensign observed, "It's gotdam'near a desert out here, perhaps we oughta'seed the clouds with the hydrogen we pumped aboard from that Hydrolic Cloud on the way in". Hydrogen was the most plentiful of elements in this quadrant of the pluraverse.
     The captain replied, "Yeah, we should. But that's heavy hydrogen. Hydrogen particles here only have one molecule. Our's'd sublime directly into dry ice, then melt into nothing. The friction built up while falling would make it explode when it hit the surface. When do you reckon the meteor shower we came through will hit here?"
     "Two planetary revolutions, I'd guess. I'll consult the charts and make sure".
     The captain turned on the intercom, "All hands hear this. Turn in and get some rest. We'll make repairs tomorrow, then resume the mission". The mission was mapping this miserable phlegmsphere from space to see where minerals lay. A satellite ordinarily woulda'been used, but three had already been sent here, and either went into an improper orbit and burned up, or overshot the coordinates, missing the place altogether. In this plane, timewise, the ill fated satellites would have been centuries apart.
     The cartologists had deployed one before beginning the survey with retractable panels to gather in light, amplify it, then beam it down if they should need it.
     Electromotive emissions from a transmitter on board would penetrate the planet crust, then bounce off the molten ferronickle core. The signals would easily pass through any life form that might be in their path, with no ill effect to it. Only greatly repeated, practically antiguous bombardment from telemotive waves would instigate tumority in an organism. Return waves would record mineral deposits therein.
     They'd spotted a number of concentrations. The smaller of two major oceans had tons of manganese nuggets on bottom. Robotic subs could rake them up. While teams mined the radium ore, and robot craft harvested the manganese, a facility could be built to draw in sea water, and pull from it gold, silver, manganese, magnesium, iridium, and more. In short, trillions of lodars worth of geologic bounty.
     Inside, one of the crewmen who'd gone outside was searching a locker. "Dam'!"
     "What'sa'matter?", his cohort asked.
     "Gotdam'logging ships are not equipped for tish". Then he smiled, "Here we are", and pulled out a gleaming, oversized pistol, "I have some stun darts in my duffel bag".
     "I don't follow you".
     "How long we been aboard this ship?"
     "Lessee. . . a long time".
     "You been thinkin'any prurient thoughts?"
     "You been thinkin'bout the bearded clam. . . ?"
     "Gash, moisture oyster. . ya'know. . the snatch man!Gads!Are you dense?You been aboard this vessel too long to be sure!"
     "Yeah, but how. . . "
     "If livestock's here, they's men to watch'em, an'wimmin'ta'watch the men".
     "You gonna'bring a female humanoid down with the dart. . . "
     "Maybe two. . . and put the seminal vesicle to them. . . you know. . . the old in and out. Are you with me?"
     "I don't know. . . They're kinda'homely, ain't they?Dirty too. . . . "
     "Aw, you can scrub'em off. Take a canteen or three, an'some soap or smellum'. They'll hafta' have a fire going tonite for illumination. So, are you with me?"
     "Yeah, I'm in".
     After the crew turned in, the two letharios slipped out. The stairs retracted into the vehicle.
     "Now, smartass;how the muck are we gonna'get back in?"
     "If this pistol is set right, it'll fire a signal close enough to the frequency that extends'em to lower them. We can't very well leave'em down. Something might wander in there".
     They walked downhill, and soon saw firelight.
     "Okay now, dummy up. Try and be quiet".
     The fire was in a pit surrounded by rocks. As the pair surreptitiously crept close, they saw figures sitting around the blaze. They drew closer, and could tell by the flickering glow that two of those facing them had no facial hair. The gun made a chung! noise. Everyone sprang up and the chung! sounded again. Before the heatherns got ten cubits from the fire, the first one darted fell. Not much further, the second one collapsed.
     The crewmen emerged from the brush and rolled the girls over.
     "You gotcher'knife?"
     "That depends on what you're gonna' do with it".
     "We gotta'get these garments off. I don't see any buttons, or zippers er' nut'n".
     "Alright, here", and he handed it to him. "They prob'ly had'n got zipper technology here".
     The one kneeling cut both rainments up the middle. "Pee Ewe!When are these sunza'beeches gonna'figger'out they can make soap outa'the drippins'off the meat they eat?Did you remember the water?"
     "Yeah, here`tis". The cutter handed the blade back, took the water jug, and sloshed it onto the women, lathered it up, and washed the visible dirt off. "It still stinks!"
     "I got some tawlet'water, too".
     "Splash that on'em".
     He did, then said, "It still stinks".
     "Don't be so critical! Breathe in through another orifice! Which one do you want?"
     "Don't matter. They look the same to me. I'll take whichever one you don't want. First help me get a levity belt on her, so I can move her over to the other side of the fire".
     "To have some semblance of privacy".
     "You ashamed of something?"
     "No, but you know".
     "No, I don't know".
     "I'll tell ya'later. How long they gonna'be out?Either one of'em could kick both our liddle'gray asses"
     "Long enough if we don't dawdle. We gonna' hafta' wheel and deal smartly".
     "Go to it. Don't linger".
     So they moved her. Each strolled through the short forest more than once.

Chapter Two The Hedge Aflame

     These same two guys were assigned the tasks of fixing the tear, and checking for holes. They drug out a tank that had filtered through Noble gases on the way here, keeping both helium and argon, but discarding the radon, xenon, neon, and krypton. The apparatus separated the aerosols into tanks. A hose from the argon tank would exude it slowly, displacing the oxygen, and permitting the weld to take place in a microenvironment devoid of air.
     The insulated cable carried electricity from the auxilary generator to the stinger torch. The venerium hull was grounded already. The ship's direct current instrumentation was grounded on the same bus bar as it was. The torch nozzle had a sharpened duranium electrode in its'center. It would sustain an arc indefinitely when the polarity was reversed and short circuited. It's melting point was much greater than the thin hull's.
     They got all their tools out before any conversation.
     "That wad'n entirely unpleasurable last night, eh?"
     "No, it wad'n. If you ever tell my mate;or if you ever get joined and tell your mate, then she tells my mate, I'll beat your ass".
     "Aw, don't worry. How many times did. . . you know. . . copulate?"
     "Four. She wad'n so bad after I washed her off. How'bout you?"
     "Three. That river sure is low. I noticed high water marks where it's crested in the past. And that sea we passed over;at low tidal ebb, one could walk across it in one place".
     "If it came a turdfloatin rain, those sandy red banks river would erode sump'm fierce. Topsoil would be washed downstream, and turn the water crimson. No one'd be able to drink it for days. Let's hurry up an'get this thing fixed. It's too hot to muck out here! Cap'm says we better stay here`til the meteor storm is past".
     The one to do the repairs fired up his arc, after donning a headpiece with a filter glass faceplate to watch the work safely, and not burn his eye. A built in fresh air blower attachment would prevent any inhalation injury.
     The other man went to the far side to keep from seeing the glare, and get the ultrasound started. Watching the arc would muck one's eye up. Looking at it, and breathing the aerosols the arc evolved had been blamed for hallucinations and mental illness back home.
     Back home, how he missed it!But he was doing necessary work. Silicone base life forms need energy too, especially on an island planet. If enough sub surface ores were spotted here, a processing facility would be built to refine them. There were uses for every element at home.
     Manganese made venerium alloys ductile. Gold was used in the wiring of minute electronics. Radium had myriad uses. Silver was utilized in celluoid. Magnesium had photonic uses.
     Neither saw a grubby man in a vermillion poncho enter the clearing, and fall to his knees.
     By the time the welder was through, the bearded guy was gone.
     The fornicaters had problems of their own. The dried vegetation by the welded area was afire. The flames nearest the ship they stomped on, the rest burned itself out.
     There did'n seem to be any other exterior damage. There were a few dents, but nothing that would warrant immediate reparation. The sonogram would show any bad spots invisible to their naked eye. They put away their tools, and went in to catch a few winks. If they were to be here another night, there might be more wool to be had.

Chapter Three Again

     In the captain's quarters, he and the first mate were discussing the possibility of dumping excess heavy hydrogen(they could get more at the first Hydrolic Cloud they saw in space), and taking on a load of water at the river they'd seen to seed a planetary cloud formation.
     They had to keep some to run on`til they got to a Magellinic cloud. The ship's solar panels broke the hydrogen atoms down, and powered the ship by a process of hot fusion. They could drop the remaining light hydrogen when they took on more heavy. It would be solid by then, but would'n hurt anyone unless collided with. That could'n happen in an optimally preplotted course.
     The ship's engine matrix did'n care if it was fed heavy or not. It'd get better mileage out of spatial hydrogen, but it'd run on water. It would have to be thawed in space, but that wad'n difficult.
     The first mate did'n like the idea, "Cap'm, what if there's a mechanical malfunction and we go into the water?"
     "We'll float!"the captain snapped. "Besides, anything that can withstand outer space can gotdam'sure go underwater". He added, "Anyway, we need to rinse those holds. Some of that residue in there's prob'ly liquid metal by now. This way, we dump most of the old, rinse out the bays, and give these poor bastards some rain". His voice got hard, "Don't you be questioning my orders, and asking me what if. I don't want to hear what you can't do, or don't wanna'do;I'm more interested in what you can do. We're gonna'do it like I said. Is that clear?"
     "Yes sir!"
     "Good, you're dismissed".
     "Yes sir!"
     "Make it count!This is our last night here", he hissed. The pistol discharged with a chung!, and the natives hunkered around the campfire scattered. The female darted fled, but slowed and fell. When they walked to her, she was unconscious. It was one of the two they'd had last night Cleaned up, she wad'n ugly at all.
     There was a crackling noise in the bushes.
     The pistolier said, "Take cover!"
     A figure emerged from the bush and knelt by the prostrate body. In the feeble light, it could be discerned it was the other female who'd been darted the preceding night. A chung! sounded, and the woman sprang up, ran a few steps and crumpled.
     By coincidence, or outrageous fortune, the pair were twin sisters. They were the first offspring their mother produced. That genetic trait allowed their ovi to accept the seeds others woulda' rejected. Firstborns of any phylum have a tiny internal difference their younger siblings don't. The anomaly is more pronounced in males than females.
     In males, the anomaly is intestinal;in females it's cervical.
     Both women would become pregnant and have girlchilds. One would be named Zipra, the other Hager.
     As the two crew went back to the ship, an event of truly comic proportions took place. The one with the pistol stopped to empty his bladder, and whilst the other stood waiting, he was ambushed by a local. If there was a reason, the bushwhackee knew not what it was. One second he was standing alone, minding his own business, the next it was as if he'd been hit with a stick. The one who'd been draining vein heard the commotion as he was concluding things, and set the pistol at a lethal frequency on his way there. If it was an animal, he'd kill it, but he could hear gutteral verbal inflections, indicating it was a bushman.
     When he burst into the clearing, the two were rolling around so, he was afraid to risk a shot. Finally, they broke apart long enough for him to fire a pulse round into the tribesman. He hit him in the hip section, and put him down. The shootist went over, and made sure he was still breathing. His compadre'had'n moved either. He went and bent over to check him out, and heard, "What's your excuse?Savin'ammo?"
     "I did'n wanna'kill the sawm'beech, an'you'da not understood if I fired before I had a clear shot, and hit you by mistake. Besides you were doin'okay".
     "Well, it was touch and go there for a nimit".
     "Are ya'hurt bad?"
     "Ever hear of anyone bein'hurt good?I'm all right. But I would'n want any of what we've experienced here to get around. Might cast aspersions on us".
     "Don't worry. What happens in the field, stays in the field, I always say. Did you understand any of what he was jabberin'through your pharnyx?"
     "Only two things:I think he was sayin'his name was Jake, and he thot'I was a spirit".

Chapter Four Tadpole Tornado

     The two crewmen got back in their craft, and had a catnap. At dawn, the atmospheric turbines whined to life, and the ship took off. There were no clouds. The captain ordered the bays dumped, one at a time. It was run out through drains to assure uniform diffusion. The holds were airtight, so the heavy hydrogen was an extremely dense gas`til it hit air. It took longer to disperse, but safety was a concern even on barbarian planets. When the stuff had been dumped, they whipped the craft over the river they'd seen, and eased down to the water. The ship stretched from shore to shore. They took on a full complement of water, then lifted off.
     "Sensors indicate multiple life forms in the H20 we just took on, cap'm", said the ensign.
     "What is the size of the life forms?"asked the captain.
     "Approximately one ducat in diameter, thousands of them. They seem to be eggs of some kind. Some of them are exiting the case as we speak, sir".
     "How long`til we get back to our previous dump site?"
     "Not long sir. About fifteen nimits. There are clouds there now".
     "Any idea what these organisms are?Can they hurt us?"
     "No sir, they don't appear to pose a threat. They seem to be a reptilea amphibia. Most in different stages of development. Definitely multicelled".
     "Very well. Don't scatter it this time. Just dump it and let's go".
     "Yes sir. Look down there, Cap'm. That gathering of people appears to be fleeing from those in the animal drawn conveyances. They are gonna'get caught too".
     "Can we help them out?"
     "We could siphon a charge off the moon we activated, and use it to ignite a timed incendiary cyclonic helix between'em. The delay would keep'em apart`til their luna comes around and pulls the tide in".
     This planet had one natural luna. Soon, it was to pass through the lifestar's light. The shadow it cast would be tremendous.
     The satellite they'd deployed stored energy, and could beam it to any coordinates in the same hemisphere it hovered over. The ship's coordinates read out by the pilot's, so a delayed firestom was no mean task.
     Back in the engine room, two mechanics were talking, "There are three things I wonder. One is;If we said we would'n re enlist unless we were guaranteed to be allowed to do a hitch or three here, could we?You know they're gonna'build an extracting facility to monger these ores. "
     "Number two is;Could we make it through OCS?"
     "Number three is;What is this'semblance of privacy'crap?"

Chapter Four Basalt Tablets

     Jethro never had seen so many flies. The goats were dying off rapidly, so the flies had plenty corpses to feed on. That was prob'ly why too everybody had these mucking boils on'em Gotdam'flies fed on bloated goat carcasses, then landed on people.
     How was he gonna'get all five of his daughters married off with his herds withering?The only way to entice some idiot into matrimony was with the promise of a token herd.
     What about this guy Zipra, his eldest, had latched onto, what was is name?Moosey, or sump'm like that. He must not have good sense, the girls had found him out wandering the the plains, bareheaded, and without provisions. If a person did'n wear a hat in the day around here, the sun'd cook their brain.
     Still, his daughters had told him Mosley(yeah. That was his name!)had singlehandedly kicked the asses of three water thugs at one of his wells. That spoke well of him. Water was a precious commodity these days.
     Jethro thought Mosley and Zipra were sweet on each other. She'd told him Mosley was a spiritual extremist, almost a zealot, but that could be overlooked if he'd confine his sermons to the goats, if there were any left.
     Zipra had been the first of his five girlchilds. He had wanted sons, but it wad'n to be. After the fifth, he quit trying. Zipra was somehow different from her sisters. She had a dark beauty that made him wonder initially if she was his. The definition of real hope is, when one's wife has a baby, one knows it's hers;the husband really hopes it's his also.
     Mosley could'n remember exactly where the white fire had been. It had been near a cave. He recalled walking out of a cavern into a clearing, and things got fuzzy from then on.
     After scaling the hill and looking a while, he lapsed into a delirium, wandering about the summit shouting to himself, "I did as commanded!What have I left undone?!"
     It was in this state his friend Josh found him. Josh was a stoneworker by trade, but was between jobs at the moment. He'd come to see his friend Mosley, hoping he knew some local builders in need of a mason. The gal Mosley shacked up with told Josh to look up on this hill. There was a mob of people at the base of the mountain that told him Mosley was up here.
     Josh found him, got some food in him, and soon he was fast asleep. Josh built a fire for warmth, and to see by in the coming night. Perhaps Mosley would be verbal in the morning.
     He was. "So, what's up?", Josh asked.
     "Oh, my head. I had a vision up here a while back. A burning shrub told me to bring my brethren here".
     "That would explain the crowd down there. I hate to tell you this Mosley, but shrubs, even burning shrubs, can't speak".
     "This one did".
     "OK, if you say so. Did it say why you were to lead these people here?"
     "I think it was to get a codex. What's the date?"
     Josh told him.
     "I've been up here a week. How long would it take you to cut me two slabs of rock and etch some words on'em?" "About a week apiece. All I have is a hammer and a set of chisels. What are the words?"
     "I'll think'em up while you cut. There's some layered looking granite in yon cave".
     "Too hard. I'll need some basalt or flint. Obsidian would look good, but it's hardern'hell to work. "

Chapter five The Refinery

     It is exceedingly difficult to define the term'time', without using the term itself in the nomenclature. One definition might go:Time is a total of the flexible increments used to measure life.
     Twelve years passed here. Not even one went by there. Time is an elastic commodity. It was getting to the point where more time went by here, for lesser spans there. It had once been possible to view this place(with visuscope)from the home habitat, but the two galaxies were racing away from one another so fast even the most powerful visuscope could'n see it any longer.
     In the current period of passage, the topographical files were read, and the appropriate machinery launched there, waiting to be towed here much like a freight train. Each component had a tractor projector on one end, in order that a transport could snag the first piece by the end opposite, then each could grasp the one behind it.
     The gravity there was less than it is here. A cargo fired into orbit only needed half the thrust to slip the bonds of gravity a payload requires here.
     Assembled, the series of gigantic barges looked like a synthetic islet. It was moored at the deepest point of this dead, inland sea. The machinery that comprised the islet had been towed here in sections. tractorily descended to the surface, sunk in a spring fed lagoon, assembled underwater, then bailed out by pump`til floatation was achieved. The diving suits were almost identical to flight suits, but had much less insulation.
     This was the saltiest sea on the planet, about nine times saltier than any other, and tectonically located right on a break in the plates. Gases sometimes boiled from the fault.
     Usually, they were assimilated harmlessly into the ambient air.
     The seawater was so thick with minerals, the global survey had shown it as land. It was lower than the big oceans on either side of it. Only a few simple aquatic life forms could survive here. Complex life carried in with the millions of lagons of freshwater died upon contact with the thick water. All the water washed in evaporated back out.
     On one side of the island, seawater was drawn into, and traveled to the processing plant through a humongous submerged pipe. The brine passed through a paramagnetic field, standing all molecules on end, then entered an ionizing chamber where metals, and numerous mineral chlorides were separated. Treated water went through ozone generation next. A natural dome not unlike an underground cavern ashore only a short distance from the works had been filled by virtual pipeline with the clean water in case it was ever needed, then capped and cemented. A sharp, forceful blow in the right spot would break the cap. It was pressurized. When the bung plug was broken, the contents would freeflow until internal hydraulic tension equaled standard biosphere burden.
     After the synthesized groundwater spring was completed, a floating tank tied to the barges was stocked. Whenever the tank filled, the potable water discharge first supplied an automated irrigation system that fed a greenhouse. After watering the covered botanical garden, and replenishing the facility's water, the desalinated water was vaporized to cloak the outpost in a perpetual fog, then released as mist to rise and be assimilated into clouds, falling onto the surrounding plains. The natives were in the midst of a famine. The region was verily petrochemically active.
     The shores were covered with brightly colored volcanic rock monoliths worn down and weathered into shapes some would call art. The stone cliffs were riddled with caves. The naturalized inhabitants had built four villages on the banks, three of them at the water's edge.
     Behind one of them, called Modos, were spectacular naturally occurring sodium columns. If a large quantity of toxic gas ever bubbled up near one of the towns, and there was no wind to dissipate it, there would be mass asphyxiation.
     The majority of the workers'food was grown hydroponically. All were vegetarians. In addition to the technical workers stationed there was a pair of enlisted men that maintained the garden, performed maintenance chores, and prepared food for everyone.
     Besides the pair of enlistees, a squad of eight technicians was stationed at the post. Two were civilian specialists, six were junior grade officers, and could each do one another's task. When every piece of equipment and the submarines were working properly, two men could oversee the entire operation. Two techs monitored the works in three daily shifts.
     The tour of duty was a complete cycle of this sun. During that annum, a supply ship would come four times to bring mail, deliver pre-ordered parts to repair anything that had broken down, and carry the boullion in orbit back. The next one, on the way in, was to stop overhead, and release fungal milt in vast numbers. The spores were so light, some would be suspended in clouds and fall with precipitation. Wind currents and breezes would scatter the remainder. The fruit of the fungus was edible, and was hoped to sustain nomadic bands wandering in the bush.
     An electrified fence insulated against itself enclosed the barges. If anything ever spotted the compound and tried to get in, it'd be in for a shock. The fence fabric was non metallic on the bottom so it might extend into the water without charging surrounding fluid.
     The mainland could be seen from the artifice. There was a warehouse where boullion was stored in the approximate center of the complex. The roof slid away so the blocks could be launched into apogee orbit from there after being cast into solid blocks the diameter of the intake pipe. Element portions and salts were encased in metallic jackets the diameter of the solid stock. Whenever a half dozen of either accumulated, they were stacked, fillet welded together, had four solid fuel rocket motors strapped to them(only three if all were hollow casings), and were sent on their way. On top of the missile, a mounted, tractor beam projector was covered by a nose cone that came off when the beam actuated. There they'd stay`til a return shuttle or supply ship pulled them home.
     A harbor facility housed a fleet of robotic submersibles working, as did the processing plant, all seven rotations. The undersea boats collected mineral nodules littering the seafloor with mechanical claws. Intricate sensor circuitry ran them. They were fueled by a nuclear fission much like solar fire. A tank of pressurized helium was manually filled every other day, and hydrogen atoms were extracted from the water surrounding the vessel, which also cooled the mechanism.
     Of the crew that manned the works, two had been on the expedition that first mapped this world. The eldest was called'One', and the younger'Won'. They'd been mere conscripts then, but went to Officer's Candidate School and got commissioned soon after returning home.
     Of the ten who manned the outpost, only these two would venture out. They took with them pulse rifles that fired a bolt of electricity along a rail of alternating magnetic poles, and slung it off at incredible speed(it was fatal to any but the biggest of lifeforms), and a sidearm that transformed noise into sonic waves. The handheld weapons would break up solid rock.
     The two men weren't supposed to, but sometimes took a submersible to the mainland, ostensibly to hunt. The submersibles could be used as a boat by merely not diving. From topside, a lone rider would look as if he were walking on water.
     Because of the desert climate, it never got cold. Most of the time it was hot. It was destined to get a lot hotter in the future. This was a binary star system. One of the stars was dead, and put out no visible light, but retained a residual gravity. It cranked out a lotta'ultraviolet waves and enough gamma rays to nourish fibroid tumors in an organism. It was thought that when the lifeless sun imploded, a black hole would be formed, perhaps making a shortcut from here to there.
     The star that lit this system was a white dwarf. The combined gravities of both jostled stellar ice floes from frozen gas formations every twenty five hundred solarial cycles or so, which peppered all the systemic spheres. This one had been hit hard enough to make the poles switch places many times in it's four and a half billion solar cycle age. One planetoid a little further out in this solarium, had been smacked hard enough to make it heel over ninety degrees. The next to the next to the last iceberg to hit this world had extinguished huge reptiles life forms on land and in sea.
     The next to the last impact had caused the planet to wobble on its'axis enough to put the northern hemisphere into an arctic attitude. Sea level worldwide had fallen dramatically as ice coated the upper reaches of the globe. Incredibly, the most recent celestial collision had righted the list.
     The white dwarf would turn into a red giant in ten or fifteen millenia. When it did, the two closest planetoids would be assimilated into it. All the waters on this world would dry up. The winged creatures were, in fact, descendents of the huge land reptiles aforementioned.
     No winged animals flew over the waters because there was no animal life in it to prey on.
     When they'd gotten most of the minerals out of this sea, they'd move to one of the great oceans.
     There were three of the robotic subsurface craft in a big freshwater lake not far from here. There wern't near the pickings there as here in this dead sea, but there were some.
     In time, everything, even the three subs in the galatial lake, would be ferried to the Eastern Ocean.
     It was gonna'be tuff' levitating all that equipment overland.
     It was a good thing they were going to be able to do it from the air.

Chapter Six Divine Rationale

     The tribe was starving. If thirst did'n get'em first, some people were gonna'die of malnutrition. Mosley was thinking this lying down before falling into a troubled sleep. He immediately went into a dream wherein two, short Nubians approached. One told him where to find water. The other told him to search well drained, sloping meadows in the early morning and food would be found. When he awoke, the sky was a rosy pink. He arose and started walking to the spot where the angel'd said the water was. That's what they were;angels within a vision. Mosley had always thought they'd be taller, and have wings. If there really was sustenance where they said, that'd prove they were angels.
     He came to the place One had shewn him. It looked at first like an ordinary rock, but looking up close, he saw a drop of water fall from an outcropping. A mob had followed him, grumbling about their hunger.
     Mosely told them, "Get your wineskins and goat bladders, and behold!"Using his staff, he forcibly smashed the portruding rock. It fell off and water squirted out like no one had ever seen. After drinking his fill, he walked to an adjacent meadow. Soft, rounded, white protuberances seemed to be everywhere. He picked one and examined it. The raw spot where it had broken off turned dark blue as he watched. He put it in his mouth and chewed. It could use a bit of honey or sugar, but wad'n bad.
     Josh had been with him since the mountaintop excursion, and now walked up beside him.
     "Man alive!What is all this?'
     "You just said it. 'Man uh':food".
     On this day, One and Won were applying greasepaint to their faces on the way to the shore. The pair actually had a thriving trade with the indigenous peoples. They had learned the language. What a bunch of harking, spitting, snorting, and gagging noises it was!
     They each donned light gloves, made a few wraps around their heads with some crudely woven cloth of local manufacture, making certain that a loose veil obscured their black faces, and shook out a billowing, seamless robe.
     After putting on the robes, they looked like Bedouin traders of short stature. The flowing robes were not only cool, but concealed their weapons. Thieves abounded in this place. There had been multiple attempts to rip them off, all of which had ended badly for the perpetrators. One and Won had found it wise to watch each other's back, and keep their eye out for trouble.
     "Where too, today?, Won asked well before getting to shore.
     "Those mounds we saw on the way in with the laying lion figure by them".
     Won produced a small shiny packet. He pulled the cord from it, and it inflated into a raft. A small argon cylinder blew it up, then fell off when empty. It filled the raft thru a one way valve that acted like a check, prohibiting leakage. One chunked the empty cylinder back into the sea. As thin as the cannister was, the hard salinity would soon devour it.
     The sub would'n go all the way to the beach, so the two would go the last twenty five or thirty feet by raft. They'd consign the sub into the shallows to await their return. Once on shore, Won took the raft, which was not heavy, into a nearby cave, and leaned it up against an inside wall. One pulled a tarp off a mode of transportation hitherto unseen in this world.
     It looked to be just a box on wheels. One opened a hatch and the two got in. When One flicked a switch, lights on the instrumentation panel came on, and a cool breeze began to blow. One used his battery to do those things, and maneuver the cart out of the cave.
     The cart wad'n quite six cubits long by five cubits wide. The rounded roof was plasticene, and enclosed many solarial collectors. One had jotted down the coordinates of the mounds in the air, and simply keyed them into the on board module. . A projector on the front shone a track made up of conjoined, segmented, magnetite poles forward, and a pusher in back continually changed polarity to propel the cart by magnetic repulsion, similar to the way the rifles One and Won carried fired. The wheels left the ground as they gained momentum.
     After the coordinates were in, the vehicle plotted the best course around any obstructions. A refrigeration system cooled the interior. Collectors on the roof soaked up light, charging batteries to provide instrumentation and miscellaneous customer service.
     They had'n gone far before they saw a multitude of black, winged reptiles flying in circles up ahead. As they got closer, a bad smell filled each's nostril. There were heaps upon piles of building materials looking like they'd been thrown haphazardly about. Some had arms or legs sticking out that had been denuded to the bone by scavengers.

Chapter Seven One & Won Make Two

     As they continued on their way, they passed several of the curious four sided mounds. Some were never completed. The rise was too steep. The structure woulda'collapsed under it's own weight if it had been finished. Before long, they came upon one that had started out like the ones they'd seen, but a reduction had been made in the slope during the buiding. They passed two more in which the correction had been incorporated before work started, and they looked good.
     The two mounds and Lion statue were visible long before they were arrived at. When they got close, One and Won disembarked the cart and closed it. No one could open it without the small black box One now punched commands into. The cart rose until it was out of sight. There it would stay until remotely summoned. They walked on in.
     They saw a man they knew, and hailed him. "Yo Josh!Can we talk?"
     "Yeah, I'm on my lunch".
     "Then, why ain't you eatin'?"
     "Ain't got nut'n to eat".
     "Try this", and One reached into his billowing robe, bringing out a small rectangular packet. The packet was a ration for emergency, and did'n taste bad. He unwrapped it and handed it to him.
     "What is it?"Josh asked.
     "An appetizer. What are these structures, Josh?"
     "These are both gonna'be a new design of a four sided polyhedron, like a cube cut in half diagonally. The engineers have been trying to build them for years, but the slant was too pronounced. Most fell in on themselves before they were finished". "Yeah". said One, "We passed a few on the way in like that. Someone figured out pi though. We passed some good ones, and these are gonna'be okay".
     "The learned man who developed the proper technique is to have his own structure here. It will not be quite as big as these two, but will be so aligned as to assure his ascension into the proper sky palace".
     "Be that as it may Josh, what are these two buildments to be used for?"
     "They will house the remains of our greatest kings, and will have shafts and tunnels through which they can be ejaculated into the heavens".
     "What's the story on this stone Lion out here?"Won queried.
     "That's what I am working on", Josh said with pride, "the rains of the great flood wore the face so, that it's been decided to change the leonine head into a man's visage".
     "Betcha'got to build a lotta'platform to get up there, huh?"asked One.
     "What if I could show ya'a way to get up there without ladders or ramps?'
     "You'd be the man of the hour", Josh told One.
     One reached into his robe, pulled out a belt, and put it on over his garment. With a touch to a dial, One became airborne. By working the knob, he went up higher than the statue, then drifted down like a feather.
     "I'll leave it with ye Josh. Just don't forget where ya'got it".
     The two berobed turned to leave, but had'n gone a few steps before Josh hailed them. "Wait! Will it work on these blocks?This cracked one needs to be moved out of the way. "
     "You mean it's no good?"One asked.
     "Gonna'be broke up and the pieces remolded", Josh told One.
     "Then stand back. Tell your buddies to clear the area".
     Everyone got back. Those who had'n thot'One was a son of the gods when he levitated, did when he pulled something from beneath his clothing, pointed it at the block, spoke one sharp, incomprehensible, syllable;and the block exploded. When the dust cleared, it could be seen nothing larger than a square cubit was left in the heap of rubble.
     "I'll getcha'a bigger belt, and you can move those big blocks with it. I'll bring it out in a couple days". With that, One and Won started back toward there carriage. One pulled the black box out, and signalled for the cart to descend, so it'd be there waiting and cool.
     "Lock and load, Won;we have visitors". The craft had descended, but was now surrounded by a band of ragged, mean looking fellows.
     When they got close enough to parlay, One said, "We have come for our property". The one who musta'been the leader said, "This, Sahib?What is it?How much is it worth to you?Perhaps we can make an arrangement". He said something so low only those close to him could hear it, and two men on either side of him began to move to flank the Nubians.
     "How much are your lives worth to you?"One asked. "If those men encircle us, first you, then they will die like the swine you all are". Then he muttered to Won, "If you can get two of those behind us, I'll get this guy, then do an about face. If they ain't running by then, we'll each get one".
     One's robes opened, and a crack! sounded. Fire erupted from the robber chief's chest. He did'n have time to shout. A smell of cooking meat wafted through the air. Immediately behind One's crack! came two more, and the smell got stronger. By the time One turned, the remnants of the gang were in full retreat.
     One and Won got into their coach, and started back. By pure coincidence, they came up behind a pair of panic stricken thieves fleeing for their lives. One of them, sure they'd come to finish him off, fell prostrate and sobbed hysterically.
     They passed over him and leaned back to enjoy the refrigerated air.
     Before long, Won felt the coach slow, and asked one, "What now?"
     "It may be a trick. There's a guy laying out here bleeding. Setting the cart down, he got out and drew his rifle from its'berth within the robes. "Cover me"
     One walked up to the figure, clad only in a loincloth, and after prodding it with his toe, motioned Won to inch the cart forward. "Someone, maybe the same bunch we made contact with, beat the mucous outa'this guy. He'll die if we leave him here. Help me load him up. You can sit on him`til we get close to Harromog. I'll go in and get a pack animal, come get
him, and leave him off at an inn there. "
     "I don't like the idea of you going in there alone. Let's lay this guy out in here, an I'll come with ya'. Even if he awoke, he culd'n get out, and no one could get in".
     "Good thinkin'"
     So they went to a cave behind Hammorrog, propped the wounded man up in the cart, left the cooling unit on, lowered the lid, and walked past phantasmagorical sodium columns into town.
     Modos and Hammorog had been growing together. The blanket of Hydrogen Sulfide and Carbon Dioxide that smothered Modos brought the merger to a screeching halt. Modos few survivors moved to Hammorog.
     One and Won found a livery on the outskirts of town, and rented two donkeys. They had long since gotten a goldpiece, made a castamp from it, then used some of the gold extracted from the sea to punch out three hundred coins. They paid, left a deposit, then went and got their charge.
     They draped him across one ass, One got on the other, then Won followed them almost to town in the cart. Before getting there, Won took it up to a hundred feet to wait. One would beep him when he was ready.
     One rode the jackass to a rundown looking wooden building that had'Come Inn'scrawled above the entrance. He went in and stood briefly by the door, letting his eye adjust to the light, and to be sure no bushwhackers hid anywhere in the room. When he felt safe, One walked over to a crude, rough hewn table where a man he assumed was the proprietor sat. "You provide lodgings?"
     "Yes Sahib, I do. How may I be of service?"
     "There is a man on that animal outside who needs to be looked at by a doctor". One paused, reached into his robe, withdrew a leather bag, and dumped several coins on the table. "If you will house, feed, and see to it this man gets medical attention, I will leave you this many coins again next time I am here. Is that satisfactory?"
     "Yes Sahib, verily satisfactory".
     "Two more things. First, if you or one of your crew will return these animals to the stable, you may keep the refunded deposits".
     The innkeeper could'n believe his good fortune. "Yes, yes, and the other?"The Nubian wore a veil, so his features could not be seen. His speech was fluent and meticulous. The landlord decided later it was the voice that sent chills up and down his spine.
     One said slowly, "I shall return in a fortnight. If this man tells me he was molested in any way, you will wish you had never been created".
     One walked out of town, signaled Won, and wondered why so many of the local humanoids at least in this town were asexual.
     They got to the cave, stowed the transport, and got the raft as the star was waning. As Won pushed away from the shore, One raised the submersible. When both were aboard, Won fired a round into the raft, then lay it on the deck. The two pulled off their robes and headresses, then used the robes to wipe their faces. When that was done, Won tossed the robes on the flattened raft, and rolled it up. It would be trashed at the compound.
      The sub stopped at the entrance to the complex, and One pressed a button on a remote that slid open a section of the fence, allowing them to enter. After passing through, the gate closed. The attitude of the planet now hid the star under it's curvature, but magnificent pink and golden light lit red and grey water vapor formations in the aerospace quadrant the lifestar had vacated. Dusk turned to darkness, and an automated wicker hydraulic lighting system waxed lively.

Chapter Eight Begin the Begats

     Ackbar the Elder had seen many strange things, most of them since becoming a royal builder(at a cladding ceremony not far from here, the whole outside top had fallen off a shrine, killing hundreds of contract laborers), but never any stranger than the short Nubian who scaled a building block taller than himself, wrapped a band around it, then flew it like a magic carpet to the upper tier of the buildment;a task that he woulda'had to pay many workers a days wages to do.
     Once the Nubian had placed the block, he removed the band from it, strapped it on himself, then leaped from the toppa' the structure, stopping a cubit from the ground, then stepping down.
     Surely this man was a son of the gods, maybe he was a bygod!He was chummy with a class B stonecutter named Joshua the Younger. Might be a good man to know.
     If the blocks could all be moved like that, these two constructions would be finished in no time!The potential savings in labor payroll alone were staggering. Even moreso if the rock were portaged overland from the quarry in the same fashion. Magic, that's what it was. . . .
     Alan begot Moe. Moe begot Lare. Lare begot Curle. Curle begot Amos. Amos begot Andy. Andy begot Sophia, and her sisters, one of which was named Deb. Deb begot Noel. Noel begot Ray. Ray begot Eva and her sisters, one of whom was known as Zjazja.
     Abe begot Ike. Ike begot Jake. Jake begot Levi. Levi begot Marian. Marian begot Mosley. Mosley begot Eli. Eli begot Dale. Dale begot Bob.
     One begot Zipra. Zipra begot Gershum. Gershum begot Judy, and her sisters.
     Won begot Hager. Hager begot Paris. Paris begot Zorro. Zorro begot Ezrum. Ezrum begot Ara. Ara begot Idi. Idi begot Adab. Adab begot Nasa. Nasa begot Osom. Osom begot Bream Bream begot Bose. Bose begot Rachel, and her sisters, one of whom was an Ethiopian Queen.
     Rufe begot Obe. Obe begot Jame. Jame begot Dave. Dave begot Sol. Sol begot Uri. Uri begot Bori. Bori begot Rob. Rob begot Aba. Aba begot May. May begot June, and her sisters.
     Liam begot Oz. Oz begot Ham. Ham begot Bone. Bone begot Egg. Egg begot Bacon. Bacon begot Sage. Sage begot Jody. Jody begot Ace. Ace begot Zeke. Zeke begot Chas. Chas begot Mona, and her sisters, one of whom was named Lisa.
     Mona begot John. John begot Jess. Jess begot Som. Som begot Rob. Rob begot Bud. Bud begot Lou. Lou begot Elba. Elba begot Raza. Raza begot Sana. Sana begot Aza. Aza begot Elias. Elias begot Elaine. Elaine begot Jane and Ned. Jane begot Liz, and Ned begat Angel.
     And so it came to pass, in the year Zero, that a young woman, Liz, was come upon by Angel, and a supernova exploded in a galaxy far, far away. Liz was passed out in slumber at the time, and thus was unaware that she'd been come upon. She was engaged to Joe Seffe, a simple woodworker of modest ways and means. After the betrothal, it soon became evident she was with child. That was cool by Joe;he had wanted kids anyhow. He already had a three year old son named Joe the younger, living with him. Joe junior's mother had gone her own way, leaving the lad with Joe senior.
     It worked out well that Liz pooted out Chris nine months after she and Joe got hitched. He thought it was his!As was Liz indisposed at the time of conception, so did she.
     The supernova had burned down to a mere nova by the time of the birth, but was still visible, appearing to be in the western night sky. It could'n be viewed in the daylight, only during the hours of darkness. It could be seen burning brighter than the stars around it.
     The boy was named Chris. He grew up on the banks of a Kinnarethean Lake, often bathing and swimming in it. At it's deepest point, it wad'n even two hundred cubits in depth. There were strange repetitive weather patterns locally affected by the water body. A person who was observant could almost predict storms.
     In the olden days, it had been called The Chinnereth Sea, but it wad'n a true, briny, sea. Joe Seffe's parents had left him the lakefront home when they expired. Joe and Liz had more children there.
     They had two more boys they named Jud and Pete. Jud was often called Tad, and Pete Sam. Liz and Joe begat some girlchilds too.
     Chris'childhood was much like that of any boy, the only exception being a recurring, twin nightmare that lasted a score of years unchanged. He dreamed that in the deepest, darkest reaches of an airless void[out beyond the'parameters'of the'known universe'(neither of which anyone knew what was), where it was colder than a witch's left breast], a mighty stone was racing at phenomenal speed towards the world, and would bring the end of mankind with it when it got here. Always accompanying the dream was a vision somehow separate but simultaneously included, of three small particles bound together. One was apart from the pair, but all three were inexorably bonded as one, each tiny sphere with smaller particulates revolving around it. After a decade, Chris'heard', in the dream, what he inexplicably knew was the vision's name. It was a special high draw lick mole a cue all, whatever that was.
     Chris was reared to always remember and never forget one day would be his last. He looked around, and saw multitudes of peoples paralyzed with fright by that verily knowledge. He thought if anybody could engineer a dogma fantastic enough to suggest that the physical end was, in fact, really a new beginning, much human suffering could be relieved by allaying the anxiety folks felt about their certain demise.
     After years of having the dream and thinking, Chris came to the conclusion that he was capable of doing it. The groundwork was already in place. Since way before his arrival here, certain factions had taught some kind of existence continued past one's expiration and the manner the deceased had conducted their life more or less governed their status there.
     There was much political strife in those times, much of it due to spiritual unrest. Many different factions had interpreted what were generally agreed upon as sacred writings in different ways. There was no central authority reputable enough to endorse any one rendition and clear it up.
     When Chris attained the age of reason(his nineteenth birthday), he left home and journeyed to Upper Chaldea, then went through Persia into a land where the people believed life always changed, but never ended, one's status in subsequent lives was determined by their actions in the previous cycle.
     That night, Chris had the same dream but jerked awake before it was finished. It was him!His purpose here was to clear the spiritual air!To found a religion that would unify all sects and rifts in the ranks of those who wanted to believe. It was almost supernatural!Even though his dream had'n finished, he knew two new bits of data. They had come to him while asleep.
     It wad'n a rock speeding at the world:it was ice. And it wad'n a special high draw lick mole a cue all. It was a spay shall high draw lick mall uh cue all. It still wad'n entirely clear to him, but it was becoming so. He started back from whence he'd come that verily night. The stars were all brilliant, but one seemed to be brighter than all the rest.
     Chris followed it and thought, 'Somewhere, out there, is god. It is said god made the world, and the sun that lights it. Man came from the ground. All the plants we eat came from the ground, nourished by god's sun and rain. The animals we eat the flesh of, ate vegetation. When we die and are interred, our bodies decay in time, and are reclaimed by the soil. All mankind are brethren. If The Adam and Eve tale is to believed, we have all been born of an incestuous relationship. We are all children of god!So, I am a son of god!'
     Chris had never wholly subscribed to the supernatural mumbo jumbo of which most contemporary religions spake. It was magic, but now, for the first time in his life, he saw how the God concept would not calculate sensibly without magic. "Thus", he shouted into the night, "I am The Son of God!" He could see with incredible clarity that each person was their own good and bad god(s). God was a euphemism for living. The good god was life, the bad god was death. Good was love, happiness, joy, gladness, and hope;bad was, sadness, anger, fear, and despair. Goodness was positive and wholesome. Evil was negative and empty.
     He then saw a sight he never even imagined;much less expected. The bright star was coming straight at him. He thought of running, and prob'ly would have if his legs woulda'cooperated. Fear had glued his feet to the ground.
     The bright light was not really shining he saw. It descended and the brilliant light in front went off. Chris could tell now that the thing was like a mirror all over, it reflected everything. His fear had abated somewhat, but was rekindled when a staircase miraculously appeared and three small figures came down it and approached him.
     They were perhaps five cubits in height. The darkness prevented his seeing their features. None of them had any hair. The one who walked ahead of the other two put a mechanism over his lower face, and said, "Be not afraid. We are friends and mean thee no harm". With a start, Chris realized he wad'n fearful any longer. "Who are you?"he asked.
     The one who'd spoken again put the thing to his face and answered, "We are not of this world. Our forefathers came here long ago to explore, find, and refine mineral resources. They depleted this region, and have moved to the Eastern Ocean. There were left behind two watercraft, one in a dead, inland sea, and one in a galatial lake. We were going to check them and saw thee ambulating".
     "What do ye want with me?"
     "A machine called a photonic spectral analog on board scanned thee, and found thou to be carrying at least one pair of chromosomes, plus a few genes not normally found in humanoids".
     "What is'scanning'?"
     "Hast thou ever viewed a picture?"
     "You mean like a painting?"
     One of the other midgets said something Chris did'n understand. The one speaking to Chris cocked his head towards the voice. He still held the machine, and when he replied to the pair of dwarfs, Chris heard two voices:a gibberish from the speaker, and from the mechanism;"If they had'n mastered photography yet, he dam'sure won't know what a camera is". Then turning to face Chris, he said, "Yes, kind of like a painting".
     "What's a humanoid?"
     "Thou beist a humanoid".
     "What's a jean, and a kromoso?"
     "They are ribonucleic markers that indicate some of thy predecessors may have been our forebears. We would like thee to come with us. We will take thee wherever thy wishest to go, and would like to run a painless test on thee to determine if the spectral reading was factual. Willst thou come hither?"
     "Yes, I will come". He felt as though he'd been born to have this adventure, and followed them up the steps. He was led into a sort of lounge area with three chairs. He sat in one. Chris felt relaxed. The guys he'd followed in had disappeared, leaving him alone. A pair of doors silently parted ahead of him, and a figure short in stature, face veiled, and in a flowing robe entered. The figure sat down opposite him.
     Putting something to it's face, the apparition said, "Do not be alarmed. Our features differ from thine. In order to be sure we, "and as if on cue, the doubled door opened again to admit two more whitecladden, berobed apparitions, "cause thee no distress, we have covered ourselves. May we procure a trimming from one of thy claws?"
     "It's analysis will enable us to discover thy lineage".
     "If ye say so", and he offered up his hand. "Dost thou glean any meaning from the words spay shall high draw lick mall eh cue all, or the known universe?"Chris noticed when he spoke, the one holding the device turned its'neck to hear his words from it. He heard an exclamation and some excited babbling. Most of it was incomprehensible, but he picked out a few phrases that came from the vocal mechanism. One was:"A hydrolic molecule!If there's no photography here, how could he know about molecular structure and astronomy?"
     The spokesman asked him:"From where heard ye these words?"
     "I heard them in a dream. What do they mean?"
     "The first worded group is an alchemystical expression for the third smallest particle there is. Here, it represents water, a building block of life. The term universe denotes other worlds out there", and it beckoned toward the sky. "Everywhere we have found water, we have found life. Hast thou dreamt of anything else?"
     "Indeed I have. First, tell me, why are we talking in such antiquated speech?"
     "We sought to communicate with thee in thy own tongue. Have we offended thee?"
     "Good. Let me adjust this device, and I shall relate to thee a rudimentary explanation of this stratum of this universe".

Chapter Nine The Esen

     Back home by the Geneserean Lake waters, Chris started recruiting a secret society of people who thought like he did. The first two members were walking the shore on a day when Chris was having a morning dip. When he emerged from the lake, the two were strolling by. Chris said hi, they reciprocated by saying hello back, and a confab resumed.
     They introduced themselves as Andy and Sid. They asked Chris where he lived, and already being there, he shew them. He asked them in and the three talked for hours.
     Sid and Andy liked Chris right off, and set up a meeting with him, them, and two of their chums named Jon and Jay. Jon and Jay still stayed with their father Zeb. Zeb was hoping the two would move out. Zeb was delighted when his sons announced they were going to live with Chris, his brothers, Andy, and Sid. The young men were pooling their resources, and renting a hall in Caperton, a small, nearby town. They decided to call themselves'The Esen'.
     They soon recruited three new members;Matt, an accountant, Mark, a teacher, and Tom, a speculator. Now they were nine, for Chris'brethren Jud, Pete, and Jim(Joe jr. )took up with them. Not long after leasing the place, four new members joined them:Sim, Phil, Bart, and Paul.
     Sid's and Andy's mother was sick with a mysterious illness, and had been hospitalized numerous times. Physician's had failed to diagnose her. Some thought it psychosomatic. One constant symptom was Fibromyalgia coupled with a low grade fever.
     Chris accompanied Andy and Sid on a visit to her. Chris was a charismatic young man, and the ailing woman highly susceptible to suggestion. Without either knowing it, Chris hypnotized
her. Not knowing she was mesmerized, he told her she would get better and soon be on her
feet. To everyone's astonishment, she got up at that moment, and walked under her own power.
     She told one of her close friends about it, the friend told a couple of her associates, and so on. In short order, Chris became known far and wide as a skilled holistic healer who wielded extraordinary powers. People with a variety of afflictions came from near and beyond to be seen by him. Those who were posessed of hypochondria and superficial lunacy(to be human is to be mentally ill), Chris made whole. Even those who could not be healed he gave the best medicine there is:hope.
     Chris had'n known it, but he was a captivating public speaker. Soon, crowds came regularly to hear him talk. There were hills on one end of the lake. He found that by ascending a hill and speaking loudly, his voice could be better heard by the masses. A message of contentedness and joy began to take shape. One of his diatribes went:
     "If everybody made at least one other person happy, there'd only be one saddened soul amongst us, and I'm willing to be that one.
     Silence is golden. By saying nothing, one greatly diminishes the chance of saying the wrong thing. Honesty is not always appropriate. What one dud'n know can hurt them.
     There are always multiple truths. There is not always a single truth. Sometimes, there is no such thing as'the truth'. One never hears anyone say'the lie'or'the falsehood'
     Joyous are they that are impoverished, for posessions slow one down.
     Glad are those that are rueful, for their grief will be balmed.
     Joyous are those who practice restraint, for only fools rush in.
     Blessed are those that wait, for watched waters over fire never boil.
     Joyous are the innocent, for they must be too young to feel guilt.
     War is woe. Joyous are the pacifists, for they shalt not engage in woe.
     Occasionally, the darkest gloom precedes the brightest light.
     Live but one day at a time. Heaven and hell are states if mind here and now.
     What goes around comes to pass.
     A sojourn of great distance always begins with an initial step. Treat others as ye would like to be treated. He who has the gold, makes the rule.
     Whatever happens is the will of god. If it wern't, god would'n allow it to take place. I happen to know for a fact, we are not alone.
     If a specific act is thought about, it is as if that act has been committed.
     Blessed are the deniable, for they shall no doubt be denied.
     When the going gets tough, the tough get tuffer'.
     One can never have too many friends. There is no such thing as an infinite resource, or a hopeless situation. Nothing is ever over, `til it's really and truly over.
     For every expenditure of energy, there is a reaction. Like a waterfall.
     He who fears death dies a thousand times each day.
     Blessed are the sick, for they shall get well.
     The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Joyous are the emaciated, for they're not overweight. Fat is worn better by men than women, but women are superior to men in some ways.
     Blessed are the chaste, for they shall be celibate.
     Blessed are the blind, for they cannot see.
     Them that desire something shall never have anything.
     Birds of like feather often band together. If any man be not with us, he be against us.
     Anxiety is useless. Worry accomplishes only harm.
     Too much sweet wine sometimes turn good people sour.
     In the highest of Hosannas, the first will be the last, and the final shall be the former
     Hate recoils upon those who practice it"
      About this time, Chris'oldest sister came to Caperton to be wed. Her and her prospective husband decided on a small service, without many guests. She chose Chris to give her away, and the groom selected his younger brother as best man. A gorgeous bridesmaid named May caught Chris'eye. The attraction was mutual.
     The service was held in a church on the East side of town. There was to be a small reception afterwards. It was to be catered. A foodstuffs vendor named Ali supplied what was agreed upon. It was soon seen by all he'd not brought enough wine to bib satisfactorily. It was Chris who came up with a solution. He had never tasted any wine that he could have characterized as having a good flavor. He got a glass of wine before it was all supped up, and excused himself, citing the urge to purge. He took the glass of wine with him. Alone in the toilet, he set the glass on a shelf, stepped away from it, and took a small black box from his robe. He held it out in front of him, and pressed a button on it. The glass and its'contents vanished.
      High above the earth, in a scout ship manned by four, on a teleportation platform, the glassful of wine appeared. Two guys were in the room. One took the glass, and sniffed it.
     "Pee ewe!What is this?Liquid bodily waste?", he handed to the other.
     The other smelt it, "Dam'sure smells like it, don't it?I wonder why he wants it replicated?There's already an inexhaustible supply down there, if all of'em would urigate in a container. Might take a while to fill. I guess he's in a hurry. How much does he want?"
     "Did'n say. We could fill one of those drums drinking water is distilled in".
     "That's an idea. I'll go get one if you'll put this in the alkyd tester and analyze it".
     "Deal. What coordinates do we send it back to?"
     "Same ones it came from, I guess. They ought to still be in the monitor. We don't hafta'be exact. Just get it close. Put a parachute with a barometric actuator that'll pop before it hits the surface. If it dud'n brake somehow, the barrel might burst when it hits. Send a valve with it too".
     Chris rejoined the group about the time the grumbling about the wine deficit reached a pinnacle.
     He ameliorated it by announcing more was on the way. In under five minutes, a loud crash was heard in the rear of the edifice. Everyone dashed back to see what it was.
     'It', was a pewter cask that had apparently fallen from the sky. It sheared a limb a cubit in diameter off a full grown tree and knocked a hole in the drum. It came to rest in an arboreal fork in a lateral angle. The top bunghole(which had been blown out)was nearly apical, and the contents ran out on the ground until the serous level was under the opening. Chris picked up off the ground, and stabbed in the bottom a self tapping spigot. He screwed it in manually. An O ring on the spigot would prevent any drippage. He used a pocketknife to cut free a fabric attached to the container by cords. Chris pocketed the knife and cloth, then filled a goblet and said, "Here is the wine I promised". The guests were awestruck.
     "It's a miracle!", someone said.
     "Is he a candidate for positional cloning?", the captain asked.
     "He is".
     "Is there enough material in that digital clipping we took to do so?"
     "Yes sir, there is. A sequential genetic nucleotide can be isolated and concentrated into a carbonated chromosomal subregion. It might mutate perditionally, but maybe not. I'll start multiple duplicate genomes just in case, and destroy the extras when I'm sure I have a viable embryo".
     "Then get goin'on it. By starting now, if we need him later, we'll already have'im".
      When Chris and his followers returned to the West Side, May came with them. She took up residence near their headquarters. She wanted to join in the group, but Chris had decreed from the beginning it was a gentlemen's only club.
     It was impossible not to tell Chris and May were smitten with one another. She was a fiery redhead whose father had been a Celtic chieftain. He had been killed in a pillaging raid by a fierce Icelandic Tribe known as The Berserkers.
     May's mother was a Druidian Mystic that emigrated to Palestine after her husband's death. In the Hebrides, she'd been accorded regal status because of her husband's exalted positionand her ability as a seer. She had amassed a fortune in gems and gold. Even after paying for her and her daughter's passage, securing living quarters, plus educating her daughter, the former queen was still wealthy.
     Chris had confounded most modern day secular scholars, and was regularly interrogated by agents of the entrenched orders. The three main sects were'The Fair is sees', the'Sad ewe seas', and the'Not at all sees'. The three secular groups were all the time scheming and setting verbal traps, hoping to catch Chris in them. In one such episode a'Fair is see'asked him, "Chris, lemme'ask you sump'm:it is written in our forefathers sacred texts, and I hear you have said, 'If your right eye offends you, pull it out and chunk it away;an'if your right hand does sump'm bad, cut it off. Id'n that a bit extreme?possibly even dangerous?There'd be a lotta'one eyed, naturalized lefties walking around, you know what I'm sayin?"
     "I've been misquoted on that, I never would have advocated something so absurd".
     A'Sad ewe sea'asked him, "It has been written, An ear for an ear, and a toe for a toe. Whadda'you think about that?"
     Chris answered, "I can't see how it could help anybody to lose an ear, eye, toe, or hand. I think that may be as absurd as the diddy about clawin'out an eye, cuttin'off extremities, and/or gnashing one's teeth".
     Fair is see, Not atoll see, and Sad ewe see as one exclaimed, "Blasphemy!"
     Afterwards, a Not at all see paid Chris a visit and inquired, "You have said that life should be lived one day at a time, and there is no physical heaven or hell. What do you mean?"
     "You are paraphrasing my words. It is verily easy to take my speech out of context when the wording is altered. What I meant is, live each day as if it were your last, and one day, it will be".
     A Fair is see approched Chris the next day and asked him a trick question. First, he asked him if he was familiar with the scriptural tale in which two female bears are commanded by God to attack and maul a crowd of delinquent children, then:"Why would a merciful God do such a thing?"
     "That is a rhetorical question as far as I'm concerned. At any rate I can't answer it. Perhaps the animals went mad when touched by the complex finger of God, as did the herd of swine which ran into the sea here a while back".
     Chris had responded in the only safe way he could. If he had endorsed the mauling, he woulda'come across as a potential child abuser. If he'd condemned it, he would of been criticizing Yaaway.
     Not long after the Fair is see left, a Not at all see scribe came to call. He asked, "You have said, 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'and that men wear fat better than women. What meanst ye'?"
     Chris snorted derisively and shook his head, "You guys, you never get my words right. Sometimes, I just want to throw up my hands and walk away. Food can be a replacement for many things. I meant that if a woman plies her man with extra helpings of foods rich in oil, he will become obese, and the obese are more likely to fall out than the slender. Live by the lard, die by the lard. An old male can get away with a lot more rotundity, and just about every physical characteristic of aging than an older female. It's a societal idiosyncrasy".
     That verily same day, a Sad ewe sea dropped by The Esen Hall and asked Chris, "It is written, 'Drink waters from thine own cistern'. Is that God's way of telling us to imbibe our own urine?"
     "Not no, but hell no. You can drink yours, but I'm not gonna'drink mine. Call me picky, but, to each his or her own".
     The next day, Chris was surrounded by a crowd as he spoke He knew verily well that both Fairisee and Sadusea had spy scribes in the throng. Chris spake a'Parable of the Good Nubian'.
     "Once long ago, there was a traveler beset by robbers, and sorely thrashed by them, then left out in the sun to die. A Samarian Fair is see passed by, recognizing the plight of the man but giving him a wide berth, and walking around him cause he did'n wanna'get involved. A Samarian Sad ewe sea walked upon the scene shortly therafter, and he also gave the beaten man no succor.
     A lowly Bedouin Nubian Trader came on the man, washed his wounds, and took him to the next town. The Nubian placed the man in the care of an innkeeper, instructed the hotel proprietor to get the victim medical attention, and nurse him back to health. When next The Nubian came to the inn, he bought the recuperated man a suit of clothes, a beast of burden, and gave him a purse of gold thrice the worth of that the thieves stole away.
     That is the way all people should act towards one another".
     On the morrow, a Fair is see came to him and asked, 'You have been heard to say, 'Blessed are those that wait'. Why?"
     "Why what?"
     "Why should those who wait be blessed?"
     "Because, in time, they will learn patience. The vast majority of life is made up of waiting. Children should be taught how to wait properly for that reason".
     Not long after the scribe left, a Sad ewe sea came unto him to query:You are said to have said, 'For every deed there is a consequence, likened to a waterfall'. What is the repercussion of falling waters?"
     Chris replied, "You are twisting my words. I think I said, 'For every cause, there is an effect'. The resultant backlash of falling rapids would be manifested in the reservoir into which they spill. The water said rapids cascaded into would be marginally hotter. The temperature increase would be the effect of the cause".
     As his reputation grew, Chris heard himself called a radical heretic, and a social revolutionary. He went to May, and asked her, "Will you elope with me?"
     "Tonight?", she gasped.
     "No, but soon. I want us to sail to Gaullia, be married, and have many children".
     "What shall we do for money?And besides, id'n Gaul ruled by frankish hooligans?"
     Chris reached into a flowing white tunic and withdrew a leather pouch. He opened the drawstring and poured out a sampling of the contents, golden coins so bright and shiny one's reflection could be seen in them.
     "How much is there?", she breathed.
     "More than enough. I can get more, too, should it be needed".
     "Where did you get it?"
     "I can't tell you. A man's got to have some secrets. Since Julius Ceasar conquered Gaul, there is a crude brand of law and order. The Romans have run The Turks, Goths and Vandals out".
     The Cap'm strode into the cryogenic laboratory, and before someone could say, "Officer on deck!", or, "Ten-hut!", he said:
     "As you were"He asked his chief genetic engineer, "How's it coming?"
     Rather than tell, the gene specialist motioned for him to follow and said, "Walk this way, sir" They went to a transparent plasticene, oblong case resting on it's narrowest end. There was a human in it that was a dead ringer for Chris. "He's almost fully matured. How soon will we need him?"
     "I'm not exactly sure, but I want to be prepared for any contingency", the cap'm told him. "How much more growth time is required?"
     "I'm not positive, not much. I'm not accustomed to working with carbon base clones. We made one in school, but that's been long ago. I destroyed the other embryos after this one went through puberty".

     Chris got all The Esen together in a second story banquet room of a Caperton Beanery to announce his intention to abdicate and disband the organization, but could'n bring himself to do it, so they all ate heartily instead. Afterward, everyone was stuffed, and all but May trod to Olive Mountain to walk it off. It was one of the hilltops from which he had spaken to the desperate local masses when he first started ministering. There was a rock garden at the top.
     He stopped at the bottom and told them:"Y'alle hang out here. I'm gonna'go up into the garden and meditate". When he got out of their sight, he reached into his tunic, and pulled out the same small black box he'd been given by the gray midgets.
     At the foothill where Chris left his friends, Sid shouted, "Look!"
     An unusually bright shooting star seemed to be coming straight at them. The men fell prostrate. Nobody saw the scout ship land on the summit.
     When the stairs extended, the captain, two of his crew, and Chris'doppelganger descended them. The captain had the mechanical voice box in one mandible. When he looked back and spake, Chris heard gibberish delivered in the unmistakable voice of command, and faintly from the automated larynx, "Let's go guys, the longer we linger;the greater is the chance we'll be seen".
     The look alike wore a bright white robe, and appeared to be in a daze. Two crewmen took him by either arm after coming off the stairs, and more or less steered him toward the rock garden. There they left him, and they, their captain, and Chris rapidly scaled the stairs. The staircase retracted into the vessel, and it left in a flash.
     Chris asked the captain, "Why did'n he say anything?"
     The captain replied through his voice box, "Because he'd not had any language skills programmed into him. We thought it would be better that way. Where dost thou want to go?"
     "To my place".
     She saw him from a long way off, but May could scarcely believe what she was seeing. Chris was slowly being lowered from the clouds in an aquamarinish colored beam of light. She watched in fascination`til he touched down, gave an exaggerated wave, and the column of color vanished.
     Chris walked to her and jokingly asked her, "You did'n know I could fly, did ya'?"
     "Whaa. . . how. . . ", she stuttered.
     Chris put a finger vertically over her lips and said, "Shhh, are you ready to go?"
     "I've not packed any garments or anything".
     "We'll buy new rainments, and anything else we need. We'll travel overland to the coast, then book passage by ship to Gaul. It's a Roman territory now. We'll procure a tract of land and purchase or build a home unless we can find a vacant estate. During the journey, I'll tell you about how I got wise to and escaped from a snare my opposition set for me tonight. It's pro'bly going down about now".

Chapter Ten

     Back on a foothill of Olive Mountain, a squad of centurions, and Chris'half brother Jud came upon several sleeping forms. As the slumbering men awoke, Sid(being a master swordsman) hopped up, drew his sword, and slashed at the legionaires. James grabbed his arm before he swung, deflecting the blow, and causing him to drop the weapon. The blow was stopped by one of the Roman shields. A metal shard from the graze shot off and hit one man on the ear. James may have saved his friends lives. If Sid had wounded one of the Romans, they would have slaughtered them all. The metallic splinter that had stricken the man's ear resulted in only a minor flesh wound. The distraction it made helped The Esen members also by allowing them to come fully awake and raise their hands to show they posed no threat.
     Chris came down from the hilltop, and Jud ran to him, meeting him halfway. Jud embraced him like he was greeting a long lost relative. The two men walked the rest of the way down in silence. When the pair got to the others, the soldiers took Chris into custody as an enemy of the state.
     Crucifiction is a horrible way to die. There may be no good way to go, but being crucified is definitely a bad departure. Throughout the Middle and Far East, hundreds of thousands of men have been so executed over the years, and all were ghastly. Usually, an executionee was tied to the cross, ropes around the arms, legs, and midriff.
     The Capernian was nailed to the cross. There's a chance the hands will tear free, so the nails were driven in below the wrists. He had a rope tied around his midriff and torso. One long spike passed through both feet impaling the man just above a sign that read, "Ringleader of The Esen". He was stripped naked to humiliate him. He had said nothing intelligible throughout the preceding torture and nailing. He screamed at the pain, but uttered no proper wording.
     Soldiers there at'Skull Hill'(the place of death), gambled for the man's robe. No one could identify the cloth or find a seam in it. The winner took a heavy spear, and delivered a crushing blow to each thigh of the former owner of the robe, breaking his legs so he'd sag on the cross, impairing his breathing, perhaps hastening his expiration, then stuck the spearpoint into the hepatic artery so that if he did'n smother on the rope, he'd bleed to death. It sounds cruel, but was actually humane.
     The congregation of The Esen, minus Jud(whom none knew where of), took delivery of the crucified corpse as soon as the final breath rattled.
     "What'll we do with him now that we got'im", asked James. No one had funds to buy a proper interring.
     Sid spoke, "Give him to me. Andy and I will do what must be done". They had a boat in the lake. If they rowed out to the deepest part, weighted the cadaver sufficiently, and gave it a nautical burial, no one would ever be the wiser.
     Andy told Sid, "You know brother, that we two are the only ones who know what really happened to Chris of Caperton?We could say anything. As long as we agreed on our story,
nobody could refute it. Whatever we tell the others is what'll go on the record".
     The Gaullic Midwife had flaming red hair, and skin the color of rich cream. She was not only a midwife. Midwifery was but one of her skills. She was not only a lovely middle aged woman, she was a soothsayer and a prophetess. That's how she'd met the man whose child she was about to deliver. He had an aura about him, an energy that had'n ever been, and may never be categorized
     She had the same dynamism around her. They passed one another in the street one day, and each felt a power disruption.
     The local peoples had labeled her a witch, she was that good. In the cold winter months, she worked as a maid or general practitioning nurse, and from that came the midwifery. When her and Chris had met on that Frankish Street, he'd asked her to come to work for him as a domestic servant. She had consented quickly. She felt it was meant to be. If she were younger, her and Chris may have gotten romantically intertwined.
     It was another daughter she caught and began to clean after making certain the child's airway was clear and that it was breathing. This was Chris and May's third child, their first daughter.

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