Retro      Star

Before the Lakota recorders, Jason the captain of the Argo, who led the Argonauts' expedition to regain the Golden Fleece, foresaw this apparition heading for Earth:

R E T R O S T A R

D I R E C T O R Y

A N D

L I N K I N G

P A G E

RETROSTAR, OR, THE CIRCULAR WEB:

Chronicles of a Twin Earth, Sun, and Solar System Under Siege

Dedicated to Gabriel Tall Chief who first blew the horn and to M.G.Y. who couldn't hear it...


Retro Star

WELCOME TO THE TWIN EARTH(S)!

AND WELCOME TO VOLUME I, FATAL CONVERGENCE!

The great, state of the art, "unsinkable" Ship of the World has set sail on its maiden voyage with its cargo of fools, both fabulously rich and contemptibly poor, educated and uneducated, moral and immoral, beautiful and ugly, tall and short, nice tempered and ill-tempered, with nice teeth or with bad teeth, brown eyes and blue, or black and hazel--a complete human spectrum if there ever was one assembled together on one huge vessel. Certainly, there was more than room enough on this one. As tall as a New York skyscraper of that day, she was a city afloat, all the social classes present and working more or less amicably together to get to their destination, the New World's portal of New York, where they would part and, except for the super rich, never see each other again. Yet as sometimes happens with management at the highest levels, arrogance sets in, and just a tinge will do, impairing judgment and producing flawed decisions that, in the Titanic's case, proved just as fatal as it once did for the once mighty Titans who committed hubris and lost Atlantis.

Sailing full steam ahead to New York and, ignoring every warning, straight into an ice field...

Aboard the doomed liner a little girl in First Class lay in bed, troubled with a dream about people, some she could recognize, splashing about in nasty cold, icy water, screaming, while her nanny sat beside her reading a naughty French novel of romance in a Gothic castle.

Kiowa sages recorded the Great Canoe's sinking on their cowhide calendar.

Ero the Cybernaut also gazes into the devouring mouth of the Red Star:

In its path, planets and stars and entire galaxies are consumed by the red-flaming star:

CHRONICLE ONE, PART I, VOLUME I, FATAL CONVERGENCE, RETROSTAR

Dr. Pikkard, Dutch Genius/Retrostar's Cosmic War Challenger # 1

At certain points in the war, Dr. Pikkard's greatest creation, the intrepid e-butterfly named Wally, is the lone combatant:

Our RetroStar Chroniclers:

Gabriel Tall Chief, confined to bed in a children's hospice the remaining days of his CP-shortened life, shone like a pure blue star of heaven (which is awarded to those who fall in battle) in a red-star-dominated world. Which was more powerful? Only time and events will tell:

Gabriel's disciple and dream-weaver and dream-rider, Horace Brave Scout, who gathered the "fragments" of the chronicles that remained after Gabriel died and made a great leap for mankind.

Horace Brave Scout playing "Amazing Grace."

The Series of the Twin Earths is available on disk or can be electronically transmitted. The series consists of: RETRO STAR, Vol. 1, Fatal Convergence, Vol. 2, Cloud and Avalanche, Vol. 3. Battles of the DUBESOR, Vol. 4, Lost Chronicles; Part Two, Unchronicles, Vol. 5, Natal Convergence, Vol. 6, Beyond the Rapture, Vol. 7. Final Wars...Convergence at Orion

A "Letter to Agent, Outlines, and Overview and Marketing Strategy" of the Series":

Agent Letter, Outlines, Strategy

A Last Word Count in ANNO STELLAE 1997: 1,400,000

Outlines for VOLUME I, RETROSTAR:

CHRONICLES 1-24--WHAT'S IN THEM?

CHRONICLE ONE--WHAT'S IN IT?


CHRONICLES TWO TO SIX--WHAT'S IN THEM?


CHRONICLES SEVEN TO NINE--WHAT'S IN THEM?


CHRONICLES TEN TO TWELVE--WHAT'S IN THEM?


CHRONICLES EIGHTEEN TO NINETEEN--WHAT'S IN THEM?


CHRONICLES TWENTY TO TWENTY-THREE--WHAT'S IN THEM?


CHRONICLE TWENTY-FOUR--WHAT'S IN IT?


OUTLINES, CHRONICLES ONE TO FORTY-FIVE


OUTLINES, CHRONICLES FIFTY-EIGHT TO SIXTY TWO


Main Game Players (Earth II):

1. Ever wondered why the Titanic was named that? It wasn't the luxury liner's colossal size alone, her namesake was The Titans (Atlanteans) who lost Atlantis, on both Earths; then tried repeatedly to re-assert their rule over Earth II; they are a superhuman species that has turned vampire and lives almost indefinitely. Their major downfall, besides arrogance that led to hubris, was constant in-fighting and power struggles as this claimant and that claimant for the throne duked it out, with no gloves and no holds barred.

2. The Ten Stones of Fire (Starlike, Jeweline, Super-intelligent, Alien Entities), each performing as OP, or, Opposing Player, with the aim of conquering and destroying the Earths, I and II, and their respective universes.

3. Dr. Pikkard's Computer Wargame, represented by Wally, an electronically-created, free-roaming butterly who fights for humanity's survival against the Alien(s)

4. Human "Alphabetic" or A-Z Champions, also a subgroup called DUBESOR, or the Rosebud Champions

5. Yeshua, the A and Z, the Alpha and Omega, and the Aleph and Tau (also known as FC, the so-called "Forbidden Category")

EVEN BEFORE THE TITANIC'S SPECTACULAR MAIDEN VOYAGE DIVE TWO AND A HALF MILES DOWN IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC TO THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS, RECORDED IN CHRONICLE ONE, SOME CLUES ARE GIVEN US. FOR INSTANCE: ON BOTH EARTH I AND EARTH II A CERTAIN CHOICE OF A YOUNG RUSSIAN ARISTOCRAT'S FIANCE (UPPER CLASS, KREMLIN-BORN AND BRED DAUGHTER OF A COURT PHYSICIAN, KNOWN LATER AS ONLY THE "OVERLY POSSESSIVE" WIFE OF THE NOBEL PRIZE-WINNER COUNT LEO TOLSTOY) PREPARED THE WAY OF THE ALIEN ENTITY ON EARTH II AND THE DRAGON ON EARTH I: FOR THIS CHECK OUT SCENARIO I. THEN RETURN FOR SCENARIO II, WHICH REVEALS THE GREAT RECORDER HIMSELF, CHRONICLER GABRIEL TALL CHIEF. FINALLY, SCENARIO III, WHERE A KREMLIN STARETZ (PROPHET) REVEALS YEARS BEFOREHAND WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE ILL-STARRED 20TH CENTURY OF BOTH EARTHS, WHEN SOMETHING WORSE THAN THE H5N 1 STRAIN OF THE BIRD FLU VIRUS IS INFECTING THE TWINS, SO THAT THEIR INTERTWINED FATES ARE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER.

(Chronicles Completed unmarked; Chronicles Not Yet Available Marked IP, In Progress)

Volume I Fatal Convergence

Retrostar Contents

Scenario I: CHRONICLE OF SOFYA'S CHOICE

SCENARIO I

Scenario II: CHRONICLE OF THE MEDICINE SPEAR

SCENARIO II

Scenario III: CHRONICLE OF THE KREMLIN STARETZ--EARTH I

SCENARIO III

CHRONICLE ONE, A. S. (ANNO STELLAE, Year of the Star) 1912 1. The Belfast Colossus 2. Night of the Tornnarsuk

PART I, CHRONICLE ONE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

3. "What, have we hit anything?"

PART II, CHRONICLE ONE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

4. Pursuit 5. Mystery Stone

PART III, CHRONICLE ONE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

The Carnelian/Sardius

CHRONICLE TWO, A. S. 1918 Visions from Space

CHRONICLE TWO, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE THREE, A. S. 1924 1. The East Gate 2. Carter's Pill

PARTS 1-2, CHRONICLE THREE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

3. Carter's Royal Sphinx Turkish Cigarettes 4. G-EAOU

PARTS 3-4, CHRONICLE THREE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FOUR, A. S. 1939 1. The Polar King 2. Convergence in Tinsel Town

CHRONICLES FOUR AND FIVE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FIVE, A. S. 1967 1. "Act of God" 2. Letter to ANNO 5931 3. The River of Time's End

CHRONICLE SIX, A. S. 1969 1. The Chevy Chase Inscription 2. A Different Drum 3. Signature of the Drum 4. Miracle at Project M

CHRONICLE SEVEN, A. S. 1985 1. "Switched off?" 2. Epitaph for a Lost Ship

CHRONICLE EIGHT, A. S. 1986 1. "Roll Program." (Challenger) 2. STS 51-L Sequence of Main Events 3. Dear Mr. President:

CHRONICLES SIX, SEVEN, AND EIGHT, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE NINE, A. S. 1987 1. Black Tuesday II 2. Spackle in the Sky with Diamonds 3. Tempest in a Teapot? 4. Mouse or Lion? 5. "Now you see it..." 6. Skylab II: the Year of Sol 7. Enigma of the Gleba 8. Catamaran and Mouse 9. Last of the Great American Icons

CHRONICLE NINE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TEN, A. S. 1994 1. "And so if he sign rosebud. It just a game." 2. "A lot of 'mind games,' yeah?" 3. Kamamoto's Mind Game 4. Butterfly's StartUp

CHRONICLE TEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

5. "It's All in the Frequency."

"It's All in the Frequency," CHRONICLE TEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE ELEVEN, A. S. 1996- 1. Flyby of the Blue Centaur 2. Hantsbo's Main Chance

CHRONICLE ELEVEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

3. The Thief in the Night (Earth I) THE THIEF IN THE NIGHT, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWELVE, A. S. 2024 1. A Question of Any 2. A Matter Under Advisement: The Triliths of Orion--Part I

CHRONICLE TWELVE, PART I, RETROSTAR

A Matter Under Advisement: The Triliths of Orion--Part II CHRONICLE TWELVE, PART II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE THIRTEEN, A. S. 2113 1. A Childish Phase 2. Reformed 3. Q.U.I.P.

CHRONICLE THIRTEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FOURTEEN, A. S. 2145 1. Fresh Ice 2. The Ultimate Weapon 3. The Unstoppable Chill 4. Nils the Red

CHRONICLE FOURTEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FIFTEEN, A. S. 2146 1. Head #41 2. Plots and Counterplots

CHRONICLE FIFTEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE SIXTEEN, A. S. 2155 1. "First Citizen" 2. Red Bladed II, Retrenchment, and the Mole

CHRONICLE SIXTEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE SEVENTEEN, A. S. 2165 1. More Crowns for the Emperor 2. Convergence of Kings

CHRONICLE SEVENTEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE EIGHTEEN, A. S. 2170 1. Convergence in Greece: Beyond the Roche Limit 2. Marching Trees 3. Workin' for the Man 4. First the Foie Gras, Then... 5. Old is In, New is Out! 6. Another Domecraft Scratched! 7. Homecoming to Chillingsworth-opolis! 8. A Mongolian Interruption 9. Bisbee on Alert! 10. Chillingsworth's Zombie

PART ONE, CHRONICLE EIGHTEEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

11. Crisis Control at the Olde Guildhall 12. "Sorry, folks, no Tube today" 13. Visions and Portents 14. Last Breakfast at the Chillingsworthies 15. Fleeing Birds, Floundering Fishes 16. Chillingsworth's Contingency Plan 17. Chillingsworth's Personal Test 18. Black Death II 19. Our Lady of the Angels--Vacancy 20. Palms, More Palms, and Fire Jaguars

PART TWO, CHRONICLE EIGHTEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

21. "What, has the plumbing been hit too?" 22. "Hull bloody world's fallin' apart!" 23. Final ESCape 24. 19.9999999999999...Chthonic Complications 25. The Arctic Fox 26. Seemingly Doomed 27. Death of the Rose? 28. Counterclockwise 29. Birdman of Our Lady's 30. Cause: Unknown

PART THREE, CHRONICLE EIGHTEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE NINETEEN, A. S. 2171... 1. Hermon's Folly 2. Crazy John from Ivujivik

CHRONICLE NINETEEN, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWENTY, A. S. 2251 1. Ice and Fire 2. Singer of the Stone

CHRONICLE TWENTY, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWENTY-ONE, A. S. 2382 1. A Plain Dutch Boy 2. The Good Ship Argo 3. A Mill Worker! 4. Shafted CHRONICLE TWENTY-ONE, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWENTY-TWO, A. S. 2390-91 1. "Work, woman!" 2. Wooden Wings 3. The Big Little Apple

CHRONICLE TWENTY-TWO, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWENTY-THREE, A. S. 2392 1. Leamis's Good Turn 2. The Mountain Climbed! 3. The Contract 4. Dendrochronology--the Professor's Folly 5. Just What the Doctor Ordered 6. Decline in a Dutch Paradise? 7. Vent and Rip

PART 1, CHRONICLE TWENTY-THREE, RETROSTAR

8. The Perfect Getaway 9. "A River flowed out of Eden..." 10. "Discoverer of Lost Atlantis" 11. Cave of Cannibals 12. Visitors to Earth 13. The Mary Celeste Avenger 14. "We three kings of Orient are..."

PART 2, CHRONICLE TWENTY-THREE, RETROSTAR

15. The Paper Chase 16. Outings with Anne 17. The Kilpaison Female Temperament 18. King of Ellis 19. The Break 20. The Treasure Room 21. The Professor's Wargame

PART 3, CHRONICLE TWENTY-THREE, RETROSTAR

22. The Gray Fox Speaketh 23. "Was it in his contract?" 24. A Dream and a Face 25. Atlantis--will she ever come? 26. Four Cents Saved, Four Cents Earned 27. "Low bridge! Everybody down!" 28. Rebirth of the Atlantis

PART 4, CHRONICLE TWENTY-THREE, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWENTY-FOUR, A. S. 2393 1. Convergence in Wioteheka Wi 2. Fool's Day 3. A Good Deal 4. Losers, Weepers 5. Fritz the Farmer 6. Cloaks and Daggers 7. Escape of Department 13 8. No Ordinary Day 9. The Tramp CHRONICLE TWENTY-FOUR, PART I, VOL. I, RETROSTAR

10. Dr. Pikkard's Papers 11. Van Donkt to the Rescue 12. A Charmed Life? 13. Black Tuesday III 14. Fritz, Loti, the Domine, and Plenty of Nothin' 15. Choices 16. Dead Man's Cheque 17. Star of Jamaica 18. The Trouble with Wednesday II 19. Battle of the Atlantis PART TWO, CHRONICLE TWENTY-FOUR, VOL. I, RETRO STAR

20. "Ship up!" 21. Reunion Amidst the Stars 22. "Nach Palestine, Reno nicht!" 23. The Open Porthole 24. "Ship down!" 25. Ship Across! 26. Taken for a Ride 27. The Mystery Youth 28. Second Thoughts 29. Visitations in the Night 30. Angels! 31. A New Olson? 32. "Who will stop it?" 33. Hodgkins the Magnificent 34. "I've failed!" 35. The Plain People 36. Anna Invicta 37. Pieter and the Blue Centaur

PART THREE, CHRONICLE TWENTY-FOUR, VOL. I, RETROSTAR


(Chronicles completed: unmarked)

Volume II Cloud and Avalanche

Contents Book One

CHRONICLE TWENTY-FIVE, A. S. (ANNO STELLAE, Year of the Star) 2415 Breath of the Red Star

CHRONICLE TWENTY-SIX, A. S. 2433 Star Song

CHRONICLES TWENTY-FIVE AND TWENTY-SIX, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWENTY-SEVEN, A. S. 2444 1. Three "Pearls" 2. The Dragon and the Dragoman 3. Farewells 4. The Liverpool Express 5. The Sphinx and Lady Anne 6. Letter of Marque 7. The Enchanted Islands 8. The Compleat Angler 9. Anne's Discovery 10. Pluto's Ball 11. Deliverance 12. The Reverend's Journey 13. Nemesis III 14. The Devil Man's Medicine 15. La Calaca 16. The Mail Bag from La Boca 17. Change of Administration

CHRONICLE TWENTY-SEVEN, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE TWENTY-EIGHT, A. S. 2457 1. Diana's Expedition 2. Dr. Celman and the Papers 3. The New Atlantis 4. Artiste with a Gun 5. The Captain's Cross 6. Artiste at Work! 7. The Scarlet Woman 8. Madmen and Savages 9. Island of the Moon 10. Jaguars, and Glyphs

PART I, CHRONICLE TWENTY-EIGHT, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

11. Day One 12. Day Two 13. Day Three 14. Papadoc 15. Dzong kunu! 16. The Shrine in the Square 17. Celman's Escape 18. John Canoe's Discovery 19. The Fatal Asterisk 20. Convergence on the Lago Negro 21. Homecoming in 3C 295 PART II, CHRONICLE TWENTY-EIGHT, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

RE-LOCATION OF EARTH II

Book Two

CHRONICLE TWENTY-NINE, A. S. 2458 1. Much Ado About a Key 2. Much Ado About Moons

Chronicle Twenty-Nine included in link below

CHRONICLE THIRTY, A. S. 2460 Terra 2, Alpha Centauri

CHRONICLES TWENTY-NINE and THIRTY, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE THIRTY-ONE, A. S. 4130 The Blue Chair

CHRONICLE THIRTY-TWO, A. S. 4133 The Sixth Hour

CHRONICLE THIRTY-THREE, A. S. 4146 The Dreaded Day

CHRONICLES THIRTY-ONE, THIRTY-TWO, THIRTY-THREE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE THIRTY-FOUR, A. S. 4148 1. "Have you ever heard such nonsense?" 2. The Power of Life and Death 3. Thirty Silver Pieces 4. A True Diplomat!

CHRONICLE THIRTY-FOUR, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE THIRTY-FIVE, A. S. 4149 1. A Dish of Rue 2. "God go with you, dear Auntie!" 3. One Major Hindrance 4. Higher Ground 5. The Trial

CHRONICLE THIRTY-FIVE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE THIRTY-SIX, A. S. 4150 1. Street Women 2. The Golden Bowl 3. The Miracle 4. Noahdiah's Daughter 5. The Widow's Mites 6. Convergence on the Viaduct 7. Tower Ghosts 8. The Lustration 9. Falling Towers 10. The Tablets of Destiny

CHRONICLE THIRTY-SIX

CHRONICLE THIRTY-SEVEN, A. S. 5909 The Tower of Eder

CHRONICLE THIRTY-EIGHT, A. S. 5913 The Road to Enaim

CHRONICLES THIRTY-SEVEN and THIRTY-EIGHT, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE THIRTY-NINE, A. S. 5918 1. The Many-Colored Robe 2. The Pit of Dothan 3. Twenty Pieces of Silver 4. The Iron Collar 5. The Wilderness of Shur 6. Visions of the Night 7. The Beak of Nebel 8. City of the Moon 9. The Cobra's Den 10. Thief in the Night 11. A Fruitful Bough

CHRONICLE THIRTY-NINE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY, A. S. 5920 Woes

CHRONICLE FORTY-ONE, A. S. 5923 Joseph the Steward!

CHRONICLES FORTY AND FORTY-ONE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY-TWO, A. S. 5926 1. War! 2. The Gold Harp 3. Daughter of the Desert 4. The Voice of the Pomegranate 5. The Scorpion's Sting 6. Sleepless in Paradise 7. The Road to Babelen 8. The King and the Prophetess 9. Angel of Death 10. The Gray Dove 11. Horsemen in Pairs

CHRONICLE FORTY-TWO, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY-THREE, A. S. 5927 1. Rising Waters 2. The Death of Heaphes 3. More Falling Gods 4. Into the Pit 5. "Will you and your god slay him too?"

CHRONICLE FORTY-THREE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY-FOUR, A. S. 5929 1. Signet, Cord, and Staff 2. Joseph's Prison 3. "Forbidden Vases"

PART I, CHRONICLE FORTY-FOUR, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

4. Judah's Return

PART II, CHRONICLE FORTY-FOUR, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

5. Two Prodigals 6. Zenobia's Return 7. A Ring of Red and Black 8. The Lowest Pit

PART III, CHRONICLE FORTY-FOUR, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY-FIVE, A. S. 5931 1. The Per-aa Dreamed 2. The Per-aa's Secret 3. The Ka of Narmer 4. Doors of Brass

PARTS 1-4, CHRONICLE 45, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

5. The White Lady PART 5, CHRONICLE FORTY-FIVE

6. Tamar's Children 7. Imhotep's Signet 8. The Sinking Ship 9. M.G.Y. Calling PARTS 6-9, CHRONICLE FORTY-FIVE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

Book Three

CHRONICLE FORTY-SIX, A. S. 6098 1. A Second OP? 2. Pher's New Army 3. The Two Serpents, Part I

The Topaz

CHRONICLE FORTY-SIX, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY-SEVEN, A. S. 6286 1. Waters of Blessing 2. Mosheh's Fire-Chariots 3. The Rod of a Ready Deliverer 4. The Pen of a Ready Writer

CHRONICLE FORTY-SEVEN, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY-EIGHT, A. S. 6679 1. Lightning over Kedesh 2. Under the Tamar Tree 3. Tinker's Nail

CHRONICLE FORTY-EIGHT, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FORTY-NINE, A. S. 6688 Greener Pastures

CHRONICLE FIFTY, A. S. 6699 The Gleaner CHRONICLES FORTY-NINE and FIFTY, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FIFTY-ONE, A. S. 6700 Two Wives and an Attitude CHRONICLE FIFTY-ONE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FIFTY-TWO, A. S. 7074 1. The Dove 2. The Fish 3. The Ship 4. The Worm and the Vine

CHRONICLE FIFTY-THREE, A. S. 7504 The Topmost Twig CHRONICLES FIFTY-TWO and FIFTY-THREE, VOL. II, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FIFTY-FOUR, A. S. 7506 1. The Lost Dream 2. The Colossus 3. The Fourth Man 4. "O God, how long?" CHRONICLE FIFTY-FOUR, VOl. II, RETROSTAR

(Chronicles Completed unmarked)

Volume III Battles of the DUBESOR

Book One

CHRONICLE FIFTY-FIVE, A. S. (ANNO STELLAE, Year of the Star) 7537 Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin CHRONICLE FIFTY-FIVE, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FIFTY-SIX, A. S. 8033 Iskander's Secret CHRONICLE FIFTY-SIX, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE FIFTY-SEVEN, A. S. 8507

Notes on Algol, Gorgons, and Nergul

1. U the Dire Knight PART ONE, CHRONICLE FIFTY-SEVEN, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

2. Lords of Ahpikondia PART TWO, CHRONICLE FIFTY-SEVEN, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

3. Molu and the Gorgons PART THREE, CHRONICLE FIFTY-SEVEN, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

4. 02K05 00340 00000000000150000000001000000010 5. Peninah's Comeuppance PART FOUR, CHRONICLE FIFTY-SEVEN, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

6. Molu and the Gorgons, Part II 7. The East Gate Regained? PART FIVE, CHRONICLE FIFTY-SEVEN, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

Book Two

CHRONICLE FIFTY-EIGHT, A. S. 8732 1. Chiron's PQ Plan 2. Elektra's Comeuppance BOOK TWO, CHRONICLE FIFTY-EIGHT, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

3. Mink and the Flying Horse 4. Uwe's Last Farewell 5. The Wandering Paiute PART TWO, CHRONICLE FIFTY-EIGHT, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

6. Wally and the Nano-Queen 7. Michael's Last Trump PART THREE, CHRONICLE FIFTY-EIGHT, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

(Chronicles in Progress marked)

Book Three

THE LOST CHRONICLE, A. S. 9117 The Goatherd Who Turned King BOOK THREE, VOL. III, THE GOATHERD WHO TURNED KING, Retro Star

Book Four

CHRONICLE FIFTY-NINE, A. S. 10, 272 The Blind Man Who Could See BOOK FOUR, CHRONICLE FIFTY-NINE, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE SIXTY, A. S. 10,282 1. The Shadow Line 2. The Lacquered Wardrobe 3. A Pilgrim's Heart BOOK FIVE, PART ONE, VOL. III, CHRONICLE SIXTY, RETROSTAR

4. Talulah's Star PART II, VOL. III, CHRONICLE SIXTY

5. South by Southwest 6. The Gray Wolf 7. Lux ex Tenebris

PART III, AND CONCLUSION, VOL. III,K CHRONICLE SIXTY

CHRONICLE SIXTY-ONE, A. S. 10,995 1. Five Stars for the Long Road

CHRONICLE SIXTY-ONE, PART I, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

2. ARGO Unrequited 3. Pilgrim, Bluebird, Starboy CHRONICLE SIXTY-ONE, VOL. III, PART II-III, RETROSTAR

Part III,

CHRONICLE SIXTY-ONE, VOL. III, PART III CONTINUED, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE SIXTY-ONE, VOL. III, PART IV, AND CONCLUSION

4. Zu the Birdman 5. The Tiger of Hagi

CHRONICLE SIXTY-ONE, PART IV-B, THE TIGER OF HAGI

6. The White Stone

Book Five

Just as a classical Greek epic does not begin at the beginning but in the middle, so the Retrostar chronicles of Gabriel Tall Chief and Horace Brave Scout do not end at the ending--no, they finish exactly here: This is the Last Piece of the Whole Puzzle, Ariadne's Thread for the Labyrinth, Alexander's Sword for the Gordian Knot, the Checkmate, the Royal Flush, the Golden Key in Quinn's search for the meaning locked into his father's sand painting game...all rolled into one grand finale, one classical drama's catharsis and denouement, and...you must join the ARGO and decide for yourself if you really want to find what all men want but are maybe seeking in the wrong places and even dead-ends:

CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, A. S. 10,999 Voyage of the ARGO V: Quest of the Cybernauts PART I, CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

Part II, CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, VOL.III, RETROSTAR

PART III, OPTION NUMBER THREE, CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, RETROSTAR

PART IV, CHAMPION DAVID WILKERSON, CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

PART V, NONE OF THE ABOVE, CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, UNCHRONICLE I, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, UNCHRONICLE II, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

EPILOGUE I EPILOGUE I, "LAST TO LEAVE...," EPILOGUE FOR VOLUMES I-III, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

(Chronicles Completed unmarked, Chronicles In Progress marked)

Volume IV Lost Chronicles, Secret Chronicles, Mystery Chronicles, Unchronicles, Twin Chronicles with Appendix by Horace Brave Scout

Book One CHRONICLE OF THE INUNDATION, A. A. S. "Year of the Metamorph" How a small, big-winged, thirsty creature with only a sip of water on its tiny mind set in motion events that created the lake-like Mediterranean Sea--the vital body of water around which most of the earliest and greatest civilizations of mankind were birthed.

CHRONICLE OF THE INUNDATION, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

SECRET CHRONICLE A. A. S. (Ante Anno Stellae, Before Year of the Star) 100,000 The Flamesteeds of Ara How the cherubic magistrate and Mercy-seat guardian, Uran, joined forces with Michael against the take-over of Universe I by the rebel archangel. How the other two cherubs fought to quarantine the equal threat to Universe II that was posed by the corrupted star-stones.

SECRET CHRONICLE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE CRYSTAL BRIDGE A. A. S. 9, 500, Battle For the Bridge How Lucifer, the fallen archangel, fails to seize the vital Gate of Ara, which controls access to the twin Universes; how he makes up part of this loss with vindictive destruction, and goes on to attack the new species the Enemy has planted on what he sees as his exclusive domain, a planet in his allotted sector, Universe I. How going up against Michael a third time, for the control of the interplanetary bridge connecting Earth I and II, he is worsted by the loyalist forces commanded by Michael. It is a terribly humiliating and painful setback (almost as bad as being thrown out of heaven by the triumphant Michael and his armies!). Yet human beings, taken in by Lucifer getting them to rebel against the Enemy, remain his to control and manipulate any way he chooses. He has succeeded in stamping out all fearers of God, except for one man named Noah. That one man should be no problem, Lucifer reasoned. What could one man do against him? He, Lord Lucifer, had won the battle for Earth I--or so it seemed to him.

CHRONICLE OF THE CRYSTAL BRIDGE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE STAR ORACLES (EARTH I) A. A. S. "The Day of Enoch" The Man Who Was Taken Up How Enoch, son of Lamech, cultivated a relationship with the Most High God when most men of his generation worshipped many gods and lived immorally and violently. How the Most High God was so pleased with Enoch that He reached down one day and took Enoch bodily into heaven, but before that day Enoch was given divine signs that signified the meanings God had put in the stars to guide all men back to the truth and to warn them of the coming of His Son, the Dragon-Destroyer.

CHRONICLE OF THE STAR ORACLES, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE HARVEST TIME, Part I A. A. S. 3,301, Year of the Sky Reaper, Harvest Time How no serpent can change its stripes and how a simple shepherd-farmer is confronted with an Atlantean plasma-harvesting expedition. How Lime Flower, Yew Tree's wife, and family coped with being dragged off from their village to slavery in Crooked Tree Village far down from the mountains and on the river plain, and how they were rescued by a God who was unlike all other gods of woods and trees and stones and brooks they had known and worshipped. VOL. IV, CHRONICLE OF THE SKY REAPER, PART I, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE

(EARTH II)

A. A. S. 1230-1200, Voyage of the Argonauts-- How the now extra-terrestrial, vampire race of the Atlanteans, working behind a convenient screen of (to their perspective) petty geopolitics of humanity, sought to stop Jason of Iolkos, also called The One-Sandalled, from gaining the Golden Fleece and returning a hero to Greece. All it needed was such a man of this caliber to unify the whole country of Achaea (at present a hodge-podge of rival city-states and kingdoms ruled by lesser men), which would then be a major setback to the expansion of Ilios and its snake goddess, the major player the Atlanteans had chosen to promote in their grand strategy to regain an Earth II recontructed to their liking.

PART I, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

PART II, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

PART III, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

PART IV, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

PART V, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

PART VI, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

PART VII, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

PART VIII, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

"NONE OF THE ABOVE," CONCLUSION, CHRONICLE OF THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE

CHRONICLE OF JASON'S CAPE A. A. S. 1228, Medea's Lost Love How a royal princess and Jason realized it was better to part and not marry rather than form a new ruling Achaean-Colchian dynasty, and how Medea wisely, without her champion Jason to defend her, let the throne of Colchis go and retired with a few servants to the life of a quiet life as a farmer and vintner and remained childless.

CHRONICLE OF JASON'S CAPE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE TWO SERPENTS, PART II A. A. S. 1230-1200, The Horse of Tenedos How two serpents were released to cause havoc in the Upper World. How two ways of life, two sets of gods, two worlds collided at Ludim's chief city, Ilios, later called Troy (Troas) by the Romans. How the poets, chiefly Homer, celebrated the conflict in terms that glorified the heroes on both sides and capitalized on the abduction of a beautiful queen that supposedly sparked the conflict. How Atlanteans, continually meddling in human society for their own advantage, paid a prior visit with a burning "stone" that could have, if finished in construction and put to great effect in the war, have finished the Achaeans in their bid for mastery of the ancient world centered on the Aegean. How, then, the Two Serpent-Armed Goddess was deposed in the bud by the "Horse of Tenedos" and a new world was free to take shape that was not the one the Atlanteans would have chosen. How these vital affairs played out in the coming of Yeshua, and the Good News of that coming was able to be spread universally by the Greek language (not the mother-goddess's language of the Ludim, which would always be spoken locally, not universally like Greek).

CHRONICLE OF THE TWO SERPENTS, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF HORSES OF ISRAEL, A. A. S. 984, The Budding Sopetet How a prophet of Israel, destined to be one of her greatest, was born in Tishbe of Gilead, a village so small it was a flyspeck on the map, and how he suffered early hardship and rough training in Life's School of Hard Knocks, and how he came to confront the king of Israel, Ahab, because he took a foreign, idol-worshipping wife from the wicked heathen city of Sidon.

CHRONICLE OF THE HORSES OF ISRAEL, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF LION-KING, A. A. S. 686, The Wounded Lion, How the king of Assyria, though he was styled "King of the Universe," was badly mauled in a campaign against a tiny kingdom called Judah, and how he returned home without his army (which had mysteriously perished in camp in a single night) only to find his country stirring with rebellion against his tyrannical and disastrous rule.

CHRONICLE OF THE LION-KING, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE VISIONS OF DIVINE MEMORY A. A. S. 537 How the prophet of Israel, grown old, took ship from Joppa to the Iktis, the port city of the Isles of Tin in the Extremity of the West, taking not only his loyal servant Uthai but the Good News of the holy name and saving goodness and almighty power of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to idol-worshipping tribes who burnt people as sacrifices in tree-high haystacks. How the prophet shared with them his divine visions of things and worlds to come.

CHRONICLE OF THE VISIONS OF DIVINE MEMORY, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF LIMERICK II A. A. S. 270 A Cruise on Joseph's Canal How two Irish Celts from the Gaelic Kingdom of Limerick serving as mercenary soldiers in Ptolemy II's army encountered a late and fading memory of a Great Deliverer who kept the land of Kem, Mizraim, the Land of Red and Black, from starving to death in the "Years of the Fat Hyena" when all crops failed for seven years in a row and the hyenas and other scavangers grew fat on the multitude of dead and dying animals and even the bodies of people left unburied in abandoned villages.

CHRONICLE OF LIMERICK II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF CLEOPATRA A. A. S. 31, The Horse of Antirrhodus and the Burning Eye How the last ruler of the royal Macedonian line of Ptolemy in the Land of the Red and Black sought to stop Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus, the grand-nephew of the late Julius Casesar of Roma, from seizing her kingdom so that she could reign as Empress over East and West, with herself deified as the Goddess Isis's incarnation, thus heading the world's state religion. How she retrieved from the world-famed Museum of Alexandria's archives certain old books that contained plans for a super-weapon invented by a race of "Orthrysians"--reputed to be demi-gods from the distant past who had paid her predecessor, the Macedonian pharaoh Ptolemaeus II Philadelphus a state visit with this all-powerful weapon as a "gift" in exchange for certain concessions.

CHRONICLE OF CLEOPATRA, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE STAR OF THE ROSE A. S. 4 -, Wan Li and the Star-Men of the Zoziash How Wan Li, a wealthy merchant of the kingdom of Kuo in the lands of the East, met a prince of stargazers, and together in a caravan they followed the star of the coming King of the Jews--which first appeared in the Sign of the Fish set in the heavens by the Creator of heaven, the earth, and all things and creatures int them; how they met the wicked king in the West, and yet found the young Child born King of kings and Lord of lords, Whose star led them to his house in the little town of Bethlehem of Ephratah-Judaea; how Wan Li and the Star-men worshipped the divine Child, and gave Him royal gifts, then returned secretely without telling the wicked king the whereabouts of the precious Child, and how all their lives were changed forever by the mere sight and Presence of the holy Child.

CHRONICLE OF THE STAR OF THE ROSE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE NATAL STAR A. S. 1-30, The Naked Brave How the Light-Bringer, Lucifer the Covering Cherub who hovered above the Throne of God and kept the Stones of Fire, lost his place in heaven after seeking to be Supreme Deity and was cast out by Michael the archangel and his loyalist forces. How the Messiah, only Son of the Great Father Spirit, leaving the Great Council Fire to live and fight for his Father on Earth (lost to Lucifer and his allies), stripped off his skin and scalp, leaving them shining in his Father's sky-lodge, and how like a star they went seeking for him on Earth.

Reunion How the Messiah, the Bright Morning Star, was rejoined by His stellar glory after his great Victory, and how one of the thieves crucified beside him on a cross shared in the Yeshuas' incomparable splendor.

CHRONICLE OF THE NATAL STAR, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE RIBBON-BEARER A. S. 30, Part I, Tsedahh's Quest How heaven's most insignificant angel was given the task of finding the Universe's most significant tree.

CHRONICLE OF THE RIBBON-BEARER, PART I, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

2. Secret Sharers How two secret disciples of Yeshua, the condemned and executed Messiah-claimant, were unwitting participants in the greatest drama of the ages, and how one, Joseph of Arimathea, took the news of that Event to the Earth's far corner, the coasts and isles of Britain, and how he gave a lasting apostolic blessing to safeguard the land against heathen barbarians after his departure.

CHRONICLE OF THE RIBBON-BEARER, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

3. A New Name How Tsedahh the Ribbon-Bearer retrieved the ribbon and after loosing it above Jerusalem was appointed Keeper of the Tree of Life for eternity, and how he received a new name and a glorious, bright make-over.

CHRONICLE OF THE RIBBON-BEARER, PART III, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT A. S. 33, The Forsaken Stream How Yeshua took a towel and wash basin of the lowest household slave and taught his disciples what the Messiahship truly meant on the eve of his trials before the Jewish Council, Pilatus Pontius, and Tetrarch King Herod. CHRONICLE OF THE SUFFERING SERVANT, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF SAUL IN SELA, (OR, PAULUS IN PETRA) A. S. 35, The Eighth Pillar of Wisdom How the budding apostle (who would change his name to Paulus) received a revelation about God's grace directly from the Source, and how it changed his entire perspective on life and the course of his life, not to mention the direction and whole ethos and spirituality of Western Civilization and even the world at large.

CHRONICLE OF SAUL IN SELA, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE THIRD HEAVEN A. S. 49 How two apostles, Paul and Barnabus, reached Lystra in Asia Minor with the Good News of Yeshua, but were hideously stoned when the people, incited by anti-missionaries, turned against them after first proclaiming them gods, Zeus and Mercury (Barnabus called Zeus because of his substantial size and Paulus, being small, called Mercury). How in death (for Paulus was killed) Paulus was taken to view heaven, but was restored to life and sent back to finish his mission on Earth by Yeshua Himself.

CHRONICLE OF THE THIRD HEAVEN, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE HORSE OF TROAS A. S. 50, Philippi Calling How Paulus and two companions, Silas and Lucanus, all believers in Yeshua the Messiah, paused at Troas Alexandria on the coast of Asia Minor (Ionia) to rest and pray. How this epic site where two world-views and their respective gods and goddesses had fought for supremacy 1,180 years before became an even more epic launching point for Paulus's Gospel, for from this jumping-off point to all of Europe a new world was launched at the same time that would overturn the seemingly all-powerful, pagan Roman Empire itself.

CHRONICLE OF THE HORSE OF TROAS

CHRONICLE OF PAULUS AND SILAS IN PRISON A. S. 50, Birth of a Church and a New World How Paulus received a vision in the port of Alexandria Troas (a city near ancient Troy on the NW coast of Asia Minor) of a man of Macedonia urgently calling him to cross over with the Gospel, and how he and Silas were treated in Phillipi of Macedonia and how the city's jailor and his whole family were converted, which was the start of not only a new church but a new world.

CHRONICLE OF PAUL AND SILAS IN PRISON, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

UNCHRONICLE OF THE CHAINED APOSTLE, A. S. 63, Paulus in Britain How Paulus and Silas journeyed to the Estremeity of the West, also known as the Isles of Tin, to bring the good news of Christus to the pagan (and sometimes Jewish) inhabitants. CHRONICLE OF THE WEARY ANGEL A. S. 65 "Welcome, O Sweet Angel of Death" How Paulus, summoned back to court in Rome by the magistrate (a cynical man and Roman pragmatician) handling his case, found the innocent man somehow deserving of death, and how the condemned apostle greeted death by beheading in such a way that the unjust judge could hardly believe his ears when he questioned his aide about Paulus's last words.

UNCHRONICLE OF THE CHAINED APOSTLE and CHRONICLE OF THE WEARY ANGEL

CHRONICLE OF THE FOUR CROSSES A. S. 289, 1. The Theban Insurrection, 2. The Tenth Man How a chief killed his best warriors out of pride, but in doing so made them even greater warriors in the country of sky lodges, where they held the river ford against the raiding Red Dog Star while he suffered everlasting shame for his deed.

CHRONICLE OF THE FOUR CROSSES, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE M-Q WILD GOOSE A. S. 349, Wan Hoo the Kaikonaut and the Rocket Chair How a son honored his ailing, aged mother and went to find the potent herb on the moon to cure her and make her live forever, thereby becoming the first man to attempt to fly there on a "wild goose" (the rocket-propelled chair he invented).

CHRONICLE OF THE M-Q WILD GOOSE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF EIRE'S MESSIAH A. S. 389, The Slave's Gift How Magonus Sucutus Patricius, a young, licentious, shallowly-believing Christian Briton of the noble Roman curiale class, was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish raiders, then later escaped from slavery in Ireland and returned home by a ship trading Irish wolfhounds, only to be accosted in a dream by an Irishman, Victoricus, begging the noble servant youth to return and bring light and deliverance to the lost and despairing people of the Emerald Island.

CHRONICLE OF EIRE's MESSIAH, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE PAY-BACK A.S. 410, The Fall of Roma, A.S. 1453 - Lamentations with Sacqueboutes How the Burgundians reaped what they sowed; how when barbarians they first shared in the destruction and sack of Western Roma led by the Visigoths of Alaric, then benefited by the very civilization they helped destroy, becoming rich and powerful and even Christian in the formerly Roman territory they seized; how the East Roma emperor came to them seeking help against the Moslem Turks attacking his capital city, all that was left of his empire; how he went back to Constantinople without the Burgundian's aid, and how later the Burgundians lost not only their once glorious realm (full of music and feasting and courtly manners) and shining destiny but were reduced to Dijon, a brand of mustard.

CHRONICLE OF THE PAY-BACK, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BLACK-ROBE A. S. 735, Herald of the Parousia: Bede of Wearmouth-Jarrow How a young brave of the Anglo-Saxons found refuge in a great stone tipi filled with holy men, and how he became a recorder of great things, and how he saw even greater things at the end of his life, which when written his frightened scribe thrust secretly, he thought, into the fire, only it refused to burn--things such as a future world ruler with his throne in London, a royal family renamed Windsor, and even a "people's princess, the glossy Cow Bird beauty called Diana.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLACK-ROBE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BROKEN EAGLE FEATHER A. S. 878, A Refuge from the Storm How a mighty chief of a tribe fought tribes that came from the east stealing his people's horses and burning their tipis, and how, led by the wisdom of an old woman on the marsh-girt Isle of AEthelney, he found a way to save his country, Wessex, which grew and became the mighty, Christian nation called England--a nation which came to possess power to obtain a vast realm and change the world. CHRONICLE OF THE BROKEN EAGLE FEATHER, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE WASICHU'S COMING IP A. S. 1620, The Mayflower How pale-skinned, strange newcomers who sailed a great canoe named for a flower and who wore many thicknesses of buckskins settled in a place with bad spirits but learned from us the Vanished People how to plant and produce plenty to eat.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLACK PRIMSTAV A. S. 1707, Chronicler of the Messiah How a rather ordinary Norwegian dairyman, Dreng Bjornsson, began a new Norwegian calendar stick, carving it to replace the old one that had been handed down to him. How the calendar stick became the opportunity for the enlargement of Dreng Bjornsson's vision of the world and the future as well, in the most unexpected way.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLACK PRIMSTAV

CHRONICLE OF THE WASICHU GHOST DANCER A. S. 1755, Bullets That Turned to Raindrops How a young chief trained his spirit with such wisdom and prudence that even bullets could not touch him (and later he would lead the new nation that formed after he achieved victory with arms over the superior forces of the British).

CHRONICLE OF THE WASICHU GHOST DANCER, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE DIVER'S CASQUE A. S. 1768, Angel of the Lake How Gouveneur Morris, a great leader of the Wasichu who helped write the Great Covenant of his people, when a young man was rescued from drowning in a sporting dive in a lake located on the Morrises' Manhattan island estate.

CHRONICLE OF THE DIVERS' CASQUE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE ASSASSIN A. S. 1775, The Lieutenant's Aim How a British sharpshooter had the commanding general of the break-away American colonies's arm dead in his gunsights, but, despite all his training and the 1,000 pounds paid him, could not bring himself to pull the trigger on what he saw to be a true king and a man of noble soul.

CHRONICLE OF THE ASSASSIN, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE GREAT WHITE FATHER'S PASSING A. S. 1799 How George Washington, who could have ruled the brand-new United States of America as a king but declined a third term and everything else smacking of kingship, spent his last day of life busily inspecting his estate and the well-being of its servants and workers; how he fell ill from a chill caught from five hours exposure to the raw weather, and how the unscientific medicine of the day not only failed to help but hastened him to his death; nhow the Dream he had dreamed was reviewed by an aged black woman of devout faith, and how the Dream fared along with the great one who dreamed it.

CHRONICLE OF THE GREAT WHITE FATHER'S PASSING, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE GARDENE OF DESTINYE A. S. 1850, Holiday at Castle Edzell How an eight year old girl from Abbotsbury solves the castle's greatest mind-game, a puzzle left over from the Age of Titans and later amended by Joseph of Arimathea and the 17th Century Tradescant brothers that was reputed to hold a key to the future well-being, even the preservation, of the British Isles.

CHRONICLE OF THE GARDENE OF DESTINYE, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE WASICHU BROTHERS' WAR A. S. 1863, Christmas at Andersonville How the white brothers of the North and South fought, and how the brother of the North, after terrible setbacks administered by the South's genius in war-craft and chieftainship, finally prevails--but in a Christmas play in a prison camp, not on the battlefield.

CHRONICLE OF THE WASICHU BROTHERS' WAR, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BELZONI EXHIBIT A. S. 1865, Part I, The Colossus of Thebes, Part II, Twenty Minutes After Ten, Part III, "Where are you taking the Colossus, my good fellow?" How the reputed Colossus of Thebes representing the Pharaoh of the Hebrew Captivity came to Washington and was given a Presidential visit, and how the dying President, a Colossus to come, came to view the end in turn of the future Washington City. CHRONICLE OF THE BELZONI EXHIBIT, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF TWO BROTHERS A. S. 1865-, Giant Footprints How the Wasichu flooded the land of the Lakota, and how a young pioneer Wasichu "sodbuster" on a Dakota Territory homestead saved the life of a Rosebud Lakota chief who was Gabriel Tall Chief's great-grandfather.

CHRONICLE OF THE TWO BROTHERS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BLACK SHIP'S CREW A. S. 1877, Escape from Wolverton How two delinquent boys escaped from a rural Californian reform school and were enlisted in a computerized wargame far in the future after one of them killed the other.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLACK SHIP'S CREW, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE GREY DOVE A. S. 1878, Wings over Te Aute How Te Hapuku and Karaitiana, two of the greatest warriors and chiefs of the Island of the Long Cloud, who had fought a bloody war over selling land to the white Europeans and opposed each other as bitter enemies for twenty five long years, were finally brought together by a compassionate intermediary, Sir George Grey, Premier of New Zealand, as Chief Te Hapuku lay dying in his lodge; how the wonders of the far future were unveiled before the amazed premier as he was given the secret meanings of the wonderfully intricate wood carvings of the Maori people--carvings that, to the Maori, contained not just the future but the power, the mana, of the world.

CHRONICLE OF THE GREY DOVE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY BRIDGE A. S. 1889, Norton's Grand Vision How a self-crowned "Emperor of the Americas and Protector of Mexico" in San Francisco envisoned a great bridge spanning the Bay, that not only would carry the commerce of men but their hearts' forgiveness and reconciliation. CHRONICLE OF THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY BRIDGE, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE LISTENING HEARTS A. S. 1912, 1. Wrestlers at the Brook How a Welsh miner left his home and job and followed a divine call to Swansea to establish a training camp for prayer warriors.

CHRONICLE OF THE LISTENING HEART, PART I, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

2. The Premonition How a mother in Second Class aboard a luxury liner on its maiden voyage in the North Atlantic could not sleep because the ship had been called "unsinkable," and spent most of three days voyage sitting up and praying.

CHRONICLE OF THE LISTENING HEART, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

3. "Sweet dreams, Mademoiselle!" How a rich, little girl in First Class aboard the doomed ship dreamed what was going to happen, and how her French governess calmed the girl and wished her sweet dreams only a few minutes before the vessel was fatally struck and sent to the bottom of the sea.

CHRONICLE OF THE LISTENING HEART, PART III, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE TIGERS' FEAST A. S. 1919, The Mirrors of Versailles How a Paris peace conference of the victorious Allies after the Great World War brokered a total disaster of a treaty at Versailles that, unforgiving and punishing Germany beyond any nation's endurance, automatically produced the Second World War, and how the famous mirrors of Versailles framing the conference room, being totally objective and honest, reflected a far different scene than Clemenceau, Wilson, and Lloyd George wished to portray to the anxious, watching world.

CHRONICLE OF THE TIGERS' FEAST, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE RAT STAR AND THE EXODUSTER A. S. 1919, Convergence in Kansas How a young black Kansas farm girl, Pearl Shoey, painted barn rats red to get rid of them, and saw then a red-glowing star that afterwards she thought must of changed her beloved Pa, because he seemed never the same after the red star touched him with its light. CHRONICLE OF THE RAT STAR AND THE EXODUSTER, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE ICE BIRD--PART I A.S. 1922, Shackleton's Third Expedition Continued How Sir Ernest Shackleton, famed polar explorer, on a solo day trip doing reconaissance for his third expedition south to the Pole by way of McMurdo's Dry Valleys--a 1,500 square mile tract of ice-free terrain--finds a strange, mastless ship, which he enters just as a polar cyclonic storm strikes, rndering the area uninhabitable. Christening it ENDURANCE II, after his last ship, the three-masted barkentine ENDURANCE that was crushed in the ice of the Weddell Basin, he sails on a pre-determined curse to the stars in the north, the Constellation of Orion, with a mission he does nt know until he reaches his destination.

CHRONICLE OF THE ICE BIRD, PART I, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE TRAVOIS A. S. 1919-1939, The War Between Wars How the First Horse, Ian "Breaks Eggs, " learned many things from Second Horse, until both could pull the travois together to the place chosen for the Great Council Fire of the End-Time.

CHRONICLE OF THE TRAVOIS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF YELLOWSTONE DAYS A. S. 1928, Song of the Golden West How the rollicking, high-spirited, hard-working girls and boys serving the crowds at Yellowstone, easily the premier national park of America, enjoyed a moment of innocence and beauty so rare in the world, not realizing it was all over for them and their generation in but a few months, with the Wall Street stock market melt-down of '29 just one incident in the long road backwards to the Stone Age.

CHRONICLE OF THE TIME ROCKET, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF RAGNAROK A. S. 1937, Singer of the Ancient Seer How a bard left the Emerald Island to look at old vellum books and paintings preserved by the Benedictines in a monastery in Padua, Italia, and how they warned him about a second great world conflict of the Wasichu nations, which would usher in the new world order and the rise of a lion-bodied, man-headed Beast, the False Messiah, who would seize world power and crush out all the light of liberty and decency in Civilisation. CHRONICLE OF RAGNAROK, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE MOUNTAIN TOMB A. S. 1938, Eugenio's Secret How a Basque fighting with the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War found ancient scrolls and artifacts in a tomb that were older than even Eskual Herria, the Basque homeland that predated every other nation and nationality in Europe.

CHRONICLE OF THE MOUNTAIN TOMB, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE OSLO TAPESTRY A. S. 1938, Katrine's Secret How a Norwegian woman, living alone, grew so desperate about her bone-dry spiritual condition that she would do anything, even take pictures of simple leaves and shadows in her garden, if it would help restore her faith--pictures forming a tapestry portraying events to come that would have astounded the world if all of them had been made public.

CHRONICLE OF THE OSLO TAPESTRY, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE RUINED CATHEDRAL A. S. 1940, Winter of the Soul How Coventry was sacrificed, along with its ancient cathedral and much of its population, by a decision of Churchill who aimed to let the bombers through without any warning to Coventry in order to make the Nazis believe their secret code had not been cracked by Britain's code breakers at Bletchley House. How a half-literate scrubwoman in the smoking ruins of the Cathedral found the means to confront the unspeakable tragedy of losing practically everything in the bombing and firestorm that destroyed Coventry; that is, her husband, children, neighbors, city, cathedral, even her house and job.

CHRONICLE OF THE RUINED CATHEDRAL, VOL. IV. RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE SEA LION A. S. 1940, 1. Convergence at Abbotsbury How a pious, elder daughter caring for an aged, ailing mother, prayed the right prayer, effectively throwing a switch to a most powerful blessing 1,900 years old.

CHRONICLE OF THE SEA LION, PART I, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

2. Winter's Grace How a Welsh "College of Intercessionary Prayer-warcraft and Fasting," founded by a former coal miner, succeeded in turning the major events of World War II, starting with the Battle of Britain.

CHRONICLE OF THE SEA LION, PART II, RETROSTAR

3. No Wings But a Prayer How Sir Francis Cecil, hereditary Lord St. Aubyn of the Mount of St. Michael, Cornwall, while squadron commander of Spitfires in the Battle of Britain, was struck wingless by enemy fire but continued flying, and how he was taken out over the coast where he witnessed an even greater event taking place off the notoriously stormgirt Chesil Banks.

CHRONICLE OF THE SEA LION, PART III, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

4. Ivy's Grand Slam How a little English girl in Portsmouth changed her bedtime prayer and turned back an incoming V-2, setting it on a trajectory that almost took Shickelgruber out of the war.

CHRONICLE OF THE SEA LION, PART IV, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT, A. S. 1940- , How on Earth I Elijah, a Romanian boy growing up in a brutalM Communist-ruled country, found a miracle-producing faith just like Jason the Argonaut's to stand up against the impossible odds of confronting a militaristic, atheist dictatorship destroying his beloved homeland, and how he made a new life for himself, succeeding after tens of thousands before him had been slain in the same attempt to win freedom.

CHAPTER 1, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 2, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 3, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 4, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 5, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 6, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 7, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 8, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 9, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 10, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 11, CHR0NICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 12, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 13, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 14, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 15, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 16, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 17, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHAPTER 18, CHRONICLE OF THE PILLAR OF LIGHT

CHRONICLE OF THE ORACLE OF MENO A. S. 1938-1941, St. Roderick's Secret How a Basque patriot, deserting the Loyalist army in the Spanish Civil War, became a free lance secret agent for the British side against the Nazis, luring Shickelgruber into the race for a Super-Bomb while withholding vital information that would have made the Nazi project a success.

CHRONICLE OF THE ORACLES OF MENO, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE RAG DOLL A. S. 1943, Christmas at Auschwitz How a young, brilliant, blind chemist, soon to perish in a gas chamber, afraid it was all for nothing, was given unmistakable proof her life was divinely touched. CHRONICLE OF THE RAG DOLL

CHRONICLE OF THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY'S SECRET PANELS A. S. 1944, Questioning the Sphinx How nuns guarded what came to be known as the world's most famous tapestry, the one detailing the Norman invasion of England in 1066, and how an American nun, an expert in tapetries, discovered additional panels that had not been sewn onto the masterpiece--panels that had been kept secret for the obvious reason they were found so disturbing because they were so prophetic about the world to come.

CHRONICLE OF THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY'S SECRET PANELS, Vol. IV, Retro Star

CHRONICLE OF THE BROKEN GLASS A. S. 1945, 1. Legacy How the victorious chieftains at the Potsdam council meeting from Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union, in the name of peace started the "War of Ice," and how Britain's "Tube Alloys" nuclear project came to nothing with suppression and disappearance of vital M-2 intelligence, and President Truman's ace in the hole, the Manhattan Project's Super-Bomb, fizzled at Alamagordo--apparently forcing America to join forces with Britain and Stalin's Russia to fight on to the finish with conventional forces against Premier Hideki Tojo's best troops and, unknown as yet to the Allies and their war planners, a whole nation swept by Kamikaze, the "Divine Wind".

CHRONICLE OF THE BROKEN GLASS, PART I, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

2. The Pack Rat How a peddler of information, selling whatever he dug up to the highest bidder, happened on a deadly superweapon--one of three that Senhor Averinata had offered the British--that later would be used to help tip the scales against America in favor of the United Nations and a world government. To the Jews the crushing of the wine glass in a Jewish wedding recalled the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in ANNO 70, but to the Basques, it meant the whole universe was shattered--never ever to be put back together as it had been. (How could he barter and trade the destinies of whole nations as if they were trinkets and trifles? Peddlers, like foraging rats, consider only the present moment, and the penny or two gained or lost--never the long haul, which is, for a peddler, far to frightening to even consider in a rodent-type mind. Without the ship, the rat would drown in the open sea. Yet it infests the ship, spreads its diseases with its own dirt, and gives the crew a deadly plague, and the ship, without anyone to guide it to safety, strikes a rock and sinks, drowning the rats who caused the disaster. This has happened countless times. Their own nature, thus, gnaws off the rope that holds them above the pit. Pity the civilization where such men, such vermin, proliferate and gain high office! And you can always tell the end is near when such are numerous and run free, from deck to deck!).

CHRONICLE OF THE BROKEN GLASS, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

3. The Angels of USS Indianapolis IP How on July 29, following the successful test of a new death ray in the first week of July, that dissolved atomic structures and could fuse human flesh to metal, a battleship was loaded with the deadly "gadget" and sailed for Tinian, an island in the Marianas Chain. Locked in a steel box bolted to the deck of the captain's cabin, the weapon that would knock the Japanese on the home islands to their knees would be assembled in the secret facility at North Field on Tinian, then deployed by aircraft over the first test cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, the two most revered cities in Japan and the centers of Japanese cultural life. How the best laid plan of the war came to naught, with details of immense tragedy and even angelic intervention that were so explosive in nature they could never be revealed to the American public.

CHRONICLE OF THE BROKEN GLASS, PART 3, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

4. The Divine Wind How Operation Downfall, the invasion of the Japanese home islands, ultimately succeeded but without superweapons proved so costly to America and Russia that they had cause to recall King Pyrrhus of the Greek kingdom of Epirus, who conquered Roman armies on their home turf but sustained such heavy losses he complained in his famous statement known for its unforgettable pathos, "Another such victory and I am ruined!"

CHRONICLE OF THE BROKEN GLASS, PART 4, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE HORSE OF NAKING A.S. 1947, A light in Prison; A.S. 1950, Victory in Shibuya How a flier with Colonel Doolittle on his surprise raid of Tokyo afterwards was himself surprised to find there was a way out of the all-consuming hatred he felt for the Japanese guards who were starving and torturing him and other P.O.W.s.

How the mission commander of the Japanese squadron that devastated Pearl Harbor's naval force met the flier after his release and how a great light was passed from the dark hole of Nanking to the former mission commander in Tokyo"s Shibuya Train Station.

CHRONICLE OF THE HORSE OF NANKING, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE WINTER SACRIFICE A. S. 1947, 1. Winter's Child How deeply the alien star's rays penetrated postwar America, and how an old farmer's beloved son was killed in the Wioteheka hi, Month of Terrible Moons. 2. Plain View Farm How two deaths in a fiery plane crash were needed to thaw the frozen hearts of two other men.

CHRONICLE OF THE KILLER BEAR'S DESCENT A. S. 1951, The Bear and the Lamb How Djugashvilli fared, while on the operating table in the Kremlin, as a small army of surgeons desperately tried to preserve his life after a massive sroke; how they failed and Djugashvilli, an atheist, found himself still alive, imprisoned in an Afterlife cell which could only be described as hellish. How things got progressively worse for him, as he encountered a strange Jew wearing a prayer shawl and next faced a Judge sitting on a throne so immense it couldn't be anyone less than God sitting upon it, and how he was judged by the testimonies of thirty or so millions he had had tortured and slain, and how after that he found himself shunted into a burning lake of blast furnance intensity, and how he, like all the others in it, were forgotten.

CHRONICLE OF THE KILLER BEAR'S DESCENT, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE MAN LIKE A BRIDGE A.S. 1956, The Search How a young woman of the First World discovered the way back to her lost childhood faith, a faith that carried her all the way to Third World Cameroon wilderness in West Africa where it finally set its roots deep and briefly bloomed. CHRONICLE OF THE MAN LIKE A BRIDGE

MYSTERY CHRONICLE OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY A. S. 1962 The Phantom Ship How Lt. Greg Culpepper's life and career took a radical turn and plunge to the bottom of society after a storm at sea and his sighting of the R.M.S. TITANIC going down as he was inspecting the lighthouse facilities at Cape Disappointment and North Head on the mouth of the Columbia River, Washington State. MYSTERY CHRONICLE OF THE 50th ANNIVERSARY, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF EDYTH'S GOLDEN CROSS A. S. 1963, A Truth Not Told How Miss Edyth Hamilton, humanist, classicist, and world-renowned authority on Greek and Norse mythology, was strangely confronted on her deathbed with certain false premises that undergird her whole life-work.

CHRONICLE OF EDYTH'S GOLDEN CROSS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE LADY OF THE SPARROWS, A Tale of Old New York and Central Park A.S. 1964, Lucky's Big Strike How Lucretiza Tisdale, a spinster lady in her nineties, fed the sparrows of Central Park faithfully every day and how her death under the wheels of a beer truck brought changes, through the very sparrows she had given soda crackers, that she could not otherwise have achieved at her age and with her insignificant, sparrowlike strength.

CHRONICLE OF THE LADY OF THE SPARROWS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE FIGHTING ANGEL, PARTS I AND II A. S. 1963 How the Swensons, a young American newlywed couple, in training for the mission field, took a break from language school in Paris, and came to a crisis of their relationship and a man's faith in God on and beneath the Mount of St. Miguel, the Fighting Angel.

CHRONICLE OF THE FIGHTING ANGEL, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

PART II: How the Swensons came to share their Christmas with the Fulani Tribe in Cameroon, West Africa, and how their cheer spread from there as far as the stars to a lost tribe of the Alpha Centaurii.

PART II, CHRONICLE OF THE FIGHTING ANGEL AND CHRONICLE OF THE LOST TRIBE (VOL. VI, NATAL CONVERGENCE, "A FULANI CHRISTMAS," RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE REVIVAL OF HAGIA SOPHIA A.S. 1968 How Lidia, a Greek Orthodox nun, ventured from her safe refuge in a convent in Athens, to return by tourist boat to her lost homeland in the Turkish nation that had forced her family to flee for their lives in the savage. almost genocidal war that broke out between the Greeks and Turks after World War I. How she learned things she did not expect from her day trip and contact with the enemy occupying her people's chief city and seat of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople and East Rome. How she received a gift she would always treasure--and ceased feeling herself robbed by the Turks though they had taken her Greek homeland as their own and pushed out virtually all her fellow Greeks.

CHRONICLE OF THE REVIVAL OF HAGIA SOPHIA, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE SHOW ME STATE'S PROPHET (EARTH I) A. S. 1966, Elijah's Mantle How young and aspiring Brad Bright Jr. dreamed of becoming a prophet to "Holy Spirit-led, on-fire" Pentecostal churches in Missouri, his home state. How his promising life was cut short by a fatal collision with a tree when he was driving his truck home from a church youth meeting, and how his dream of ministry was defeated only temporarily, as a bit later he was brought back to serve with Elijah's mantle in the war against the AntiChrist Beast and his prophet during the post-Rapture Tribulation Period.

CHRONICLE OF THE SHOW ME STATE PROPHET, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE GIANT CHIEFS A. S. 1972, Two Sayings of Uwe Hantsbo Regarding the Atlanteans: Elektra's Sad Fate, and Atlantis on the rocks, anyone? How the Earth's tribe of original giants that stood like the tallest trees on Earth lived in a vast land that sank beneath the Eastern Sea.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLUE BRIDGE SALIENT A. S. 1973-1978 Even while the armies of France, Britain, and America struggled unsuccessfully in southern Asia to push back the communist forces from the north, a greater battle was being fought among the stars. How Atlantean star fleets combined with the red star and other star-stones to force an entry into the Great Nebula in order to destroy the protective forces centered at the Blue Brige. How, nearly successful, they were rebuffed, forcing an Atlantean subcommander to retreat to Earth.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLUE BRIDGE SALIENT, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF HANTSBO'S NOTES A.S. 199?, On the Bipedal Workforce of 1994tk66--A Flying Texas How Uwe Hantsbo discovered on a planetoid a most interesting cache of mutants, freeze-dried specimens of the very kinds that had been proposed by a Washington geographical society in its magazine to be authentic human prototypes proven by science and archeology. The only problem, as Hantsbo points out, is that they were found all mixed together, obvious contemporaries, not separated by millions of years or mere hundreds of thousands as was said to be the case by the East Coast Brahmin evolutionists entrenched in the powerful, elitist geographical society.

CHRONICLE OF HANTSBO'S NOTES, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE ICE BIRD, PART II A. S. 1973, Voyage of the PRION Inspired by Shackleton's legendary heroism, how an exlorer from New Zealand set out to be the first to circumnavigate Antarctica in a small boat solo, and stumbled into an unknown "Devil's Triangle" of ancient Atlantean orgin just off East Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf that changed his course so radically he was propelled in space and also time as far as an ancient Atlantean outpost opposite the gate of the Great Nebula of Orion--the very site of what Tennison the Poet Laureate of Britain described as holding a "vast mystic charm." CHRONICLE OF THE ICE BIRD, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

MYSTERY CHRONICLE OF THE WHITE CANOE A. S. 1977, Fairwind in Deep Waters How a young electric plant operator of mixed working class and New England blue blood background takes a cruise into the unknown mysteries of time and space aboard what had first seemed a New York based cruise ship on its way to Peru.

MYSTERY CHRONICLE OF THE WHITE CANOE, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE ICE BIRD, PART III A. S. 1978, Cavendish in the Sky with Diamonds A somewhat crusty curmugeon of a retired journalist, in remission from cancer but angry over the recent loss of his wife to the same disease, reflected on the supreme irony of his life. He had planned his retirement so differently! He had just begun writing poetry, meditations, and music under a nice nom de plume when his new, promising, third career of letters and music was stopped right in its tracks by a disaster in his own home: his wife had taken deathly ill. Cancer! Now he was too sick to go on writing and composing--even though the time to do it was his again, lying heavy on his weak, trembling hands. Feeling like the icy, polar coulds of Global Freezing would hang over his head until he died, he goes out into his ruined and half-frozen back yard and changes places with a Prion, a polar bird that has wandered into his garden and died. Somehow the bird in death becomes him, giving him wings of a starship that can touch the farthest stars and Orion, Gateway to the Morning, where something bright and shining with destiny for everyone on earth seemed to open to him.

CHRONICLE OF THE ICE BIRD, PART III, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF FOXY PASSES A. S. 1983 How Skip Cavendish, alias Stuart Hawkins, wrote a poetic tribute to "Foxy," a local political icon, and, drawing upon his first career in vaudeville, made a last and notable performance at the Capitol theatre before a packed house of State socialites, government leaders, and the wealthy. How the very people preyed upon Hawkins's former schoolmate, Franklin Delano "Foxy" Benedict, the state capital's foremost "facilitator" and master of the incurably corrupt government patronage system, watched in growing disgust and anger as their bizarrely costumed impresario tore Foxy's mask off in verse after verse; how the old fox could still run (or at least roll) from his pursuers, but he still could not escape his and his enemy Cavendish-Hawkins' destinies being woven together in a strange, future cyber-world that neither could have imagined, long after Foxy and his nimble "smarts" had suffered an Ichabod-like fate.

CHRONICLE OF FOXY PASSES, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE LADY OF THE ANCHORED A.S. 1983 On the Trail of St. Paul How Prunella, a sedate altar guild woman from the Midlands, England, on tour with a cruise ship company in the Middle East, finds release from a crushing depression over the accidental death of her daughter.

CHRONICLE OF THE LADY OF THE ANCHORED, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE SURVEYOR OF THE QUEEN'S PICTURES A. S. 1983-, The Knight of Darkness How Sir Anthony Blunt and his fellow Cambridge-educated colleagues became involved in a secret spy ring inside the British secret services, serving not Fascism but Soviet Russia during part of the Second World War and for some years of the following Cold War with Soviet Russia. How Sir Anthony "retired" from being a double agent to being the Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, with the responsibility for all the Queen's artworks in the royal palaces, but how he was exposed as a spy and found guilty but was allowed to retire with some dignity to his home, while his co-conspirators fled to Soviet Russia. How in dying they singly and together discovered an Afterlife their Darwinistic beliefs had denied was possible, which delegated them to a new venture just as exciting as betraying their own country and serving her arch enemy--a contest involving the Golden Fleece and a rival ship called the Argo.

CHRONICLE OF THE SURVEYOR OF THE QUEEN'S PICTURES, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE FURLED SAIL, THE UNQUEST OF LARRY PRUFROCKSKI, A. S. 1986, The Man Who Never Launched Forth How Larry Prufrocksi, a union man and a railway worker from the Pacific Northwest, took one of his periodic tours abroad, this time a tour to Russia, Siberia, and Mongolia, naturally encountering a set of new circumstances, but meeting them with his same characteristic determination never to be changed by any of them. And he wasn't changed--right up to the moment his Air France flight, on its return to the U.S., swerved back from Long Island and vanished in what was thought to be an northern extension of the Bermuda Triangle. Pieces of the wreckage were found, however, and enough fusilage so that some artifacts and possessions of the doomed passengers were retrieved by the investigative teams. Among the items was a travel journal, kept by Larry, telling about the entire tour in his usual neat, square-lettered, no-nonsense style of writing, the same style he used for making out railway reports. Sent by mistake to the lone tour member who survived, a woman who had been kept behind in Moscow due to a sudden stomach problem, the journal was sent on to the surviving family, with her comments and condolences entered in the unused pages.

CHRONICLE OF THE FURLED SAIL, THE UNQUEST OF LARRY PRUFROCKSKI, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE SACRED COWHIDE PAINTER A. S. 1987, Ira's Letter to the 11,000th Century How an artist's paintings for a B.I.A.-Lakota Christmas arts and crafts competition were preserved for a tribe of Wasichu lost seemingly forever among the lodges of the stars.

CHRONICLE OF THE SACRED COWHIDE PAINTER

CHRONICLE OF THE LION'S DESCENT, A. S. 1995, "The Lion's Descent," Part I, "The Lion's Legacy," Part II, How a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who was a very nice and likable gentleman became responsible for a once great and godly nation's descent into self-destructive depravity and violence and also for more deaths of Americans than were slain in the death camps of Himmler and Hitler (Earth I), and how he fared in Hades (Hell) after his death.

CHRONICLE OF THE LION'S DESCENT, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF UWE HANTSBO'S NOTES A. S. 199?, On the Bipedal Workforce of 1994tK66, A Flying Texas How Uwe Hantsbo points out certain rather glaring flaws in the evolutionary timeline and evolutionary theory after seeing the flaws in question with his own eyes, frozen specimens of hominids and so-called human precursors, flying aboard a Texas-sized hunk of rock; how their existence supports his own view that highly intelligent, highly terrible ante-humans he names as the Atlanteans were responsible for the Dachau-like work camp on the asteriod.

CHRONICLE OF UWE HANTSBO'S NOTES, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE GREAT WEAVER PEOPLE A. S. 1997, The Secret of Dream Catching How Horace Brave Scout wanders the Southwest and finds his life-guiding vision among the caves and baskets of an extinct tribe. CHRONICLE OF THE GREAT WEAVER PEOPLE

CHRONCLE OF THE UTERO-NAUT A. S. YEAR OF THE CHILD, PART I, Orientation How Shawnta, a 19 year old wannabe careerist like her single mom, was processed at the local abortion mill newly opened in her black neighborhood.

CHRONICLE OF THE UTERO-NAUT, PART I, RETROSTAR

PART II, The Argonaut How Shawnta's unborn child (no such thing as "fetus" ever existed on earth), genius that he was, got going with the name of Jason on a very promising career that might well have benefited the whole society and probably the world, but was rudely interrupted by an abortionist's foreseps, scizzors, and vacuum--but also how the Master Plan created by the FC kicked in with a contingency plan to restore Jason's life and future.

CHRONICLE OF THE UTERO-NAUT, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE PEARLY GATES A. S. 1998, How a Pearl Was Made How a farmer's daughter's experiences in life and her decision to be forgiving came to form one half of a gate of heaven.

CHRONICLE OF THE PEARLY GATE, PARTS I-II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE GRAND PUZZLE--Earth I A. S. 2001- How Anatoly, a survivor of a notorious Nazi death camp where Anne Franke and her sister perished along with tens of thousands of other Jews, spent his convalescence and waiting period to go to Israel by playing the lottery after the camp was in the hands of the Allies; how he shattered the laws of probability by never losing and always managing to win back his stake; how this impossible gambling feat came back to haunt him in the last minutes of his life as he lay dying in a Denver hospital, but how the Hound of Heaven led him to win the Jackpot of life, the greatest prize of all.

CHRONICLE OF THE GRAND PUZZLE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE LOST CITY A. S. 2002, Last Breakfast in the West Wing; Melt-down on Pennsylvania Avenue How the Wasichu of the U. S., in moral and political decline over against the British Commonwealth ever since Potsdam despite the highly-publicized moon and space programs of NASA, are struck by an invisible enemy and lose all their chiefs at once, and chiefs from the rest of the world come and set up a new council fire for the nation on Manhattan Island.

CHRONICLE OF THE MILLION MAN FLESH-EATER, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE DEAD MOVIE QUEEN A. S. 2003, The Burning of Coburn How a Hollywood legend found that all her fame, fortune, and feisty feminism couldn't erase the incredible after-death reality that was evidently turning against her--not only did she find she existed when she should have dissolved into nothingness, but all sorts of strange, powerful beings seemed intent on judging her and then throwing her into what appeared to be a Pacific Ocean set on fire.

CHRONICLE OF THE DEAD MOVIE QUEEN, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF MOSHE, HONORGUARDSMAN A. S. "Night of the Iguana" How on Earth I, Moshe Benlevi, a young Israeli soldier, a freedom-loving Sabra, was chosen to be a part of Michael Jayson's honor guard in Israel when the EU President arrived there for the signing of his "eternal peace" accord he had brokered with the Palestinians and the Israelis. How Moshe tasted sour grapes in the deal and decided to stop the world (at least his slice of it) and get off, but how he was intercepted by someone he hadn't included in his life's equation.

CHRONICLE OF MOSHE, HONORGUARDSMAN, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF DJUGASHVILLI'S SERVANTS A. S. 2024 The Titan of CNNC A hostile takeover by Ted Hunter of a competing Christian network, Alpha-Omega, backfired tragically for him when his wife, converting to Christianity right in his own penthouse on top the CNNC Towers in Manhattan, took A-O's side in opposing him. A takeover that was supposed to be routine, thanks to his billions and an army of corporate lawyers, became a living nightmare when he met a world-class power player in A-0 that more than proved his match.

CHRONICLE OF DJUGASHVILLI's SERVANTS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE FALLEN GIANT A. S. 2024, How the Dominion of Canada, like the Humpty Dumpty the ill-starred egg man in children's nursery tales, broke up due to the disastrous effects of resurgent glaciation but could not be put back together; how it gained an ephemeral capital called Flin Flondia, once called the "Sunless City," in a book by that name.

CHRONICLE OF THE FALLEN GIANT, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT A. S. 2170-, 1. Idylls of the King

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT, PART I, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

2. The Panther's Jaws

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT, PART II, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

3. Women and Children First!

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT, PART III, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

4. Le Morte D'X-2914000?

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT, PART IV, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

5. "Merry Christmas from Lyonnesse"

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT, PART V, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

6. Wotoo's Black Box; The Duck King

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT, PART SIX, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

7. Last Wagon Train to Avalann How the Royal Tribe of Windsor fared in exile on a base off Charon, Pluto's moon, and how they adapted to the loss of Earth and the dissolution of the monarchy

CHRONICLE OF THE LAST CAMELOT, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE STAR CHAMBER A. S. 2363, Christ in Atlantis? How Professor Pikkard was tried before a university panel for his heretical views and found guilty without evidence to refute his case.

CHRONICLE OF THE STAR CHAMBER, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF CHRISTUS TRIUMPHANS, Parts I, II, & III A. S. 2392, The Christmas Factor How Dr. Pikkard, meditating on the mystic Teilhard Chardin's visionary commentary on a medieval painting portraying a "standing" not a "hanging" Christ on the Cross, went on to reflect as well as the Incarnation of Yeshua, and how he concluded that a mystic thread connected all things, even to the blood of the human body, but that he had to wait for a "later" and "younger" talent to make it known scientifically. How, unknown to him, that younger visionary came to be his own predecessor, a Darwininian Establishment-challenging young man named Behe in the 20th-21st centuries, along with his contemporaries, Gabriel Tall Chief and Horace Brave Scout, who traced golden threads and lesser threads in a grand "blood cascade" of their own in the chronicles they brought forth.

CHRONICLE OF CHRISTUS TRIUMPHANS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

Re-Location of Earth II

Book Two

CHRONICLE OF YOSEF'S PILGRIMAGE A. S. 4117, Flight to Avaris How Yosef and his young wife Maryam, with Maryam's newborn Yeshua the Promised Messiah of the Jews, fled from troops and spies of Herod the Great to safety in Mizraim, and how they journeyed back to Nazareth, their natal city, once Herod was dead.

CHRONICLE OF YOSEF'S PILGRIMAGE

CHRONICLE OF THE SECOND RESURRECTION A. S. 4150, Secret Sharers, Part II How the Second Zechariah the prophet, slain in the temple courts alng with many other prophets and saints, rose from the dead as a sign of the resurrection of the Messiah way back in A.S. 30, and how he went into the holy city and appeared to many, after which he was triumphantly escorted by angels to heaven's paradise--a spectacle first recorded, with certain new additions to the Resurrection Rolol, by Secret Sharer Josheph of Arimathea.

CHRONICLE OF THE SECOND RESURRECTION, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

UNCHRONICLE OF THE CHRISTMAS PLAY A. S. 4 6 5 ?, "Merry Christmas from Lyonnesse," A Play, How a miserly, cruel banker seeks to destroy a whole town he has foreclosed on, closing down the only means of employment, the town mill, and how a small girl, Emily Cogwell, revives faith and hope in the people by refusing to give up her own in the bitter circumstances of poverty and homelessness, and how she turns and saves the banker when he experiences a change of heart after seeing her standing alone in the town square holding the Nativity Scene's Christ Child doll.

UNCHRONICLE OF THE CHRISTMAS PLAY, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE DRIED SPRINGS IP A. S. 4760, A Chief's Son Named Laughing Waters How an old chief and his old wife who had no children were promised a son by God, and the old woman laughed, yet later she conceived and gave birth to a beautiful son she named Minnehaha.

CHRONICLE OF THE PEARL DIVER A. S. 5927 -, Shipwreck of Dreams How a despised half-breed, part Keftiuan and part Myceneaean (both nations bitter enemies in the world) and Prince Daedalus do not get along and almost come to blows over the pretty orphan girl Theseus runs off with, and later after the girl's death (and the shipwreck of Theseus's dreams) how they find a way past hatred and revenge. CHRONICLE OF THE PEARL DIVER, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE FIRE WATER MAKER A. S. 5931, The Chosen How a brewery malt masher got herself a mighty warrior as a husband, and how her head was knocked in by other poor women, and left to die, but a great chief's prayer gained her the ear of the Most High and she was healed. CHRONICLE OF THE FIRE WATER MAKER, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BLESSINGS OF THE BREASTS A. S. 5932-, The Wayward Vine How the births of two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, comforted and cheered Joseph in the land of his bondage, but how his beloved wife and companion's heart turned toward her people and away from her husband.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLESSINGS OF THE BREASTS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

TWIN CHRONICLE OF THE AMBUSHED MAIDENS, TWIN CHRONICLE OF THE AMBUSHED BRAVE A. S. 5934, 1. Dawn Flower

TWIN CHRONICLE OF THE AMBUSHED MAIDENS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

2. The Prince of Gilead

TWIN CHRONICLE OF THE AMBUSHED BRAVE

How a chieftain's daughter and her maid-servant fought for their virtue; how the maid-servant escaped to safety and found a young man she could make her husband; how a prince, robbed of all his wealth, was left for dead in the desert, and how he found a greater wampum.

CHRONICLE OF THE BITTER ROOT A. S. 5938, Abdullah's Return How good times fattened Abdullah but did not improve his character, and how resentment and blood revenge took root in his heart, and how he could not rest until he avenged his brethren's deaths on the head of the chief of those he held responsible--Joseph. CHRONICLE OF THE BITTER ROOT, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF FAT WOLVES AND HUNGRY PEOPLE A. S. 5941, Part I, A Bruised Reed and a Broken Staff; Part II, The Return of the Brothers How the little family tribe of Joseph's father began to starve in their desert hogans and needed to go for provision in another country where there was said to be abundant food and water, thanks to a most far-seeing ruler in it who had set aside one fifth of the harvest for seven straight years of abundant harvests.

PART II, CHRONICLE OF THE FAT WOLVES AND LEAN PEOPLE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE FAR-SPEAKING VASES A. S. 5931-, 1. Secret Diary of Ipu-Pheres (cont. by Benohe-Pheres); A. S. 5942, 2. Letters of Ipu-Pheres, Jonathan H. Thompkins, and Bertha Mae 3. Letter to Reader by Editor of the 23rd Edition of RETRO STAR series. How spirit-house shamans who have not yet been born could talk to people in stone tipis which had long since vanished under the ice. CHRONICLE OF THE FAR-SPEAKING VASES, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS A. S. 5957, Jacob's Last Testament How all his sons received their future shares in the Promised Land and how his blessings in some cases seemed more like curses; how Jacob's embalmed body was carried back to Ken'an and buried with his father's bones. CHRONICLE OF THE BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BLESSINGS OF THE EVERLASTING HILLS A. S. 6011, The Kingdom Pledge How Joseph, on his deathbed at age 110, prophesied that his bones would not lie forever in Mizraim, but they would be gathered to his fathers in the Promised Land by his people. How seventy five years of great blessing followed Joseph's death, but then enslavement of the Hebrews began. How blessed was the one piece of ground, the field outside Shechem, owned by the people of Jacob and Joseph. CHRONICLE OF THE BLESSINGS OF THE EVERLASTING HILLS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF A CLOUDY AND DARK DAY A. S. 6719, A Mighty Chief Called Barley Cake How one young brave was chosen by God to fight tribes of thousands of enemies that oppressed and starved his people, coming every year and taking all their food away. CHRONICLE OF A CLOUDY AND DARK DAY, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE GIANT-SCALPER A. S. 6852, The Runt of Ephratah How a tribesman of tiny Ephratah, smallest portion of a small country, he himself youngest in his family and despised by his brethren, killed and scalped a giant warrior and became the chieftain of the whole country and one of the most famous kings in human memory and whose second name is spread over the whole earth.

CHRONICLE OF THE GIANT SCALPER, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

CHRONICLE OF THE CHIEFTAIN'S DAUGHTER IP A. S. 8732, Elektra's Contingency Plan--Implemented How a chieftain's daughter lost her last sky-canoe and seemingly all her people but found a tribe who didn't know better and took her along with them.

CHRONICLE OF THE CHIEFTAIN'S DAUGHTER

CHRONICLE OF THE NIGHTENGALE A. S. 9,857, The Boy Who Sang a Lion to Sleep How a castaway son of a canal beggar and a prostitute became the savior of his sea island home city and people of Baton Roo, when they faced their greatest peril and were about to be destroyed by an armada of hundreds of ships and thousands of cannons.

CHRONICLE OF THE NIGHTENGALE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

FROM THIS CRUCIAL POINT ON, COMES THE FINAL WRAP-UP CHRONICLES, WHICH INVOLVE BOTH TWIN EARTHS AND THEIR RESPECTIVE UNIVERSES, AND EVERYTHING INHABITATING THEM, PLANTS, ANIMALS, HUMANITY, DEVILS, LUCIFER, WALLY AND HIS LONE SUPPORTING CRAY...THERE IS NEW MATERIAL YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS, ALREADY APPEARING.

CHRONICLE OF THE SEVEN STARS, THE GREAT WHITE CHAIR, AND THE END OF EARTH'S SKY-TRAIL AND THE GREAT LAST COUNCIL FIRE (EARTHS I AND II) Z-Point II

GREAT LAST COUNCIL FIRE, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

1. Z-Point Deferred: Battle of the Seven Stars How, on Earth I, the "Light Bringer" Lucifer attacks the Seven Agensl of the Seven Cburches, determined to gain absolute control of Earth I, and how he uses this attack as a feint in order do the most damage he can to his true objective: the Blue Bridge of Orion that contains, he senses, to the Plan of Restoration for both Earths and their Universes.

CHRONICLE OF THE SEVEN STARS, VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

2. Part I: The Sentencing Trial: The Great Assize Part I How all the people who had done bad things were shown what they had done and were cast alive into the mouth of a Star-Eater along with all the spirit-creatures that lodged inside the enemy stars. Part II: City of Destruction How the cities and nations were judged and then their names and official seals and insigne cast into the Pit, and all memory erased in the mind of God of their former existence.

CHRONICLE OF THE GREAT WHITE CHAIR, VOL. IV, RETRO STAR

Part II, CHRONICLE OF THE GREAT WHITE CHAIR, "CITY OF DESTRUCTION, the "Emerald City", VOL. IV, RETROSTAR

CHRONICLE OF THE BLUE BRIDGE LINKING CHAMPIONS--EARTH I AND EARTH II How the Bridge once linking the Twin Earths was restored in the Cavern of the Great Nebula of Orion, a work that spanned the ages and completed the destiny of both worlds; how the choice to forgive by one wounded human being, a pioneer Exoduster's daughter from a farm in Kansas, joined the two half-spans together forever.

CHRONICLE OF THE BLUE BRIDGE LINKING CHAMPIONS

2. Homecoming of the City of the Great Chief IP How the council gathering of the Lamb of God, finished after an eternity of careful construction, came down from heaven and set upon the center of restored Israel, where the Nail-Pierced One and his tribes would rule the Earth's nations for a thousand years until the Final Reaping of the Earth.

Volume V Beyond the Rapture--An Eschatology Lived,

Chronicled by Horace Brave Scout

CHRONICLE OF THE GREAT CHIEF'S RETURN A. S. 200? How Yeshua comes to Earth I, unexpectedly to most people, gathers those few "Wise Virgins" who are prepared, and leaves those who were tremendously successful followers, they thought, only to find themselves lumped with the ungodly in a world society racing toward the abyss. How Heloise Turnbull, the televangelist, lost her world-wide organization and wealth along with her husband and family but found new life and a new ministry in Israel where she fled to escape the collapse of everything she had achieved.

PART ONE, BOOK ONE, JACOB'S TROUBLE, "THE VOICE FROM THE GROUND"

"Thief in the Night," Part Two, Beyond the Rapture

"The Spin Shamans," Part Three, Beyond the Rapture

"luv heat and the marcyz boyz," Part Four, Beyond the Rapture

"Hard Choices, Part Five, Beyond the Rapture

"The Wailers at the Wall," Beyond the Rapture

"Shelter from the Storm," Part Seven, Beyond the Rapture

"A Covenant God," Part Eight, Beyond the Rapture

"The Lion Unleashed," Part Nine, Beyond the Rapture

"Retreat to Petra," Part Ten, Beyond the Rapture

Book II:

Book II, Yom Kippur, Chapter 1, Volume V, Beyond the Rapture

Book II, Yom Kippur, Chapter 2, Volume V, Beyond the Rapture

Book III

Book III, The Seventh Day, Chapter 1, Volume V, Beyond the Rapture

Volume VI Natal Convergence

by Horace Brave Scout

CHRONICLE OF THE LOST TRIBE A. S. 1,136,786 How the Alpha Centaurii discovered an archive of Late Twentieth Century artifacts in a time capsule, and information revealing a Magnum Mysterium that revolutionized everything, to the point where they chose the dreaded White Martyrdom, a final search of the Universe for what they had lost, in which they discover what Ira Sulkowsky has already shown them in.... "The Christmas Factor" 61000202A-Z, Subfile A1, "Dogon Star Child"

61000202A-Z, Subfile A2, "Lakota Nativity" 61000202A-Z, Subfile A3, "A Victorian Christmas" 61000202A-Z, Subfile A4, "Christmas with James Dean"

"Subfile A4: Christmas with James Dean, A Requiem with Poinsettias" 61000202A-Z, Subfile A5, "A Fawn in Winter" 61000202A-Z, Subfile A6, "A Fulani Christmas"

"A Fulani Christmas," Vol. VI, CHRONICLE OF THE LOST TRIBE, RETRO STAR

61000202A-Z, Subfile A7, "Street of Dreams" 61000202A-Z, Subfile A8, "Winter Rose"

CHRONICLE OF THE LOST TRIBE, WINTER ROSE, VOL. VI, RETROSTAR

61000202A-Z, Subfile A9, Act III, "Christmas from Lyonnesse"

61000202A-Z, Subfile A10, ACT III, "Joseph's Letter"

CHRONICLE OF THE LOST TRIBE, VOL. VI, "Joseph's Letter," RETROSTAR "Natal Convergence!"

Volume VII Final Wars...Convergence at Orion by Horace Brave Scout IP

How two major battles fought for Orion and its secret "Skunk Works" resulted in the destruction of the chief project, the Blue Bridge, to the point where only half survived in each Universe; and how a single act of an individual was strong enough to unite the two halves into one whole, thereby completing the bridge and defeating the opposing players.

Epilogue II EPILOGUE II, "THE HARROWINGS OF HADES AND HELL," RETRO STAR

NOTE OF FRIENDLY REMINDER TO DOWNLOADERS: THIS CONTENTS PAGE DOES NOT LIST A GREAT MANY COMPLETED CHRONICLES, SO THERE IS NO WAY DOWNLOADING CAN OBTAIN THE COMPLETE RETRO STAR SERIES. THERE IS, I AM INFORMED, A CERTAIN STARLIKE ALIEN ENTITY THAT IS BEING FEATURED BY SOMEONE, AND THIS OF COURSE IS MY OWN COPYRIGHTED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY--"BORROWED" FROM MY OWN STABLE OF STAR-STONES, OR ALIEN ENTITIES. HAVE FUN, WHILE WE GIVE YOU A BIT OF LOOSE LEASH! WHAT IS GIVEN TO PUBLIC DOMAIN HERE IS JUST ENOUGH TO OPEN A WINDOW ON THE SERIES AND ITS POSSIBILITIES TO WHOMEVER IS SERIOUSLY INTERESTED.

Earth I's supercontinent, which may have contained all the continents which presently exist:

Earth II's lost first civilization, Mukalia, and its continent:

For Chronicle Sixty-Two's Unchronicle I, in which Ero flies the Wally-programmed copper dome of the City of Destiny's old Union Train Station to 19th century Chicago just as the Uproarious Hog Butcher of the World erupts in the Great Chicago Fire, and next to the 21st century's dramatic debut with Puppet Master Osama bin Ladin's Muslim terrorists wreaking destruction on the World Trade Center, then a direct hit on the Pentagon, followed by a near take out of the White House, go to Unchronicle I.

CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, ANNO STELLAE 10,999, QUEST OF THE CYBERNAUTS

UNCHRONICLE I, CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

UNCHRONICLE II (THE CHRISTMAS PRODIGAL; THE HOUNDS AND THE BLACK PANTHER), CHRONICLE SIXTY-TWO, VOL. III, RETROSTAR

Ero, a Greek from Seriphos, the Olympic Torchbearer for his island, hadn't the slightest inkling at the time he was waiting for his relay to bring the torch to him to run with to the next relay, that he was about to embark on a much greater adventure than the Olympics could possibly provide him. He was dreaming of Olympic glory, even gold medals to hang on his chest, but meanwhile other forces greater than his personal dreams were at work to undo them and thrust him into worlds and tests and challenges unknown.

In the 20th-21st centuries The New York World Trade Center in lower Manhattan featured in its multi-structured complex two main twin towers, called North and South Towers. The North Tower with its signature mast of a towering TV antenna, struck first by a gang of Muslim Saudi Arabian terrorists-on-hire-for-jehad in their hijacked commercial jet was carrying 20,000 gallons of jet fuel and a load of captive passengers along to their unknown fate (many thought they would be returned to the airport and released eventually, as the hijackers promised them, and only when they were killing stewardesses did they have second thoughts about their ultimate destination). The South Tower was soon in the same shape as the North twin, being struck by yet another hijacked commercial jet carrying passengers and 20,000 gallons of jet fuel.

In cyberspace, Ero the Olympic Torch Bearer turned Alien Entity-challenger was given a ringside view of the catastrophes, as his flying dome zeroed in on the site of what was to be called Ground Zero. He flew up while the Towers were still standing, burning from the top down for a number of floors, but still stupendous and impressive as the once tallest buildings in the world, which these were until surpassed by the Sears Tower in Chicago.

The South Tower, though mortally struck after the North Tower, was first to collapse. Yet who could foresee it? It had to happen to be believed. It was unthinkable until it fell and bit its own dust before the eyes of the watching, horrified world. And the people inside the doomed Tower were just as incredulous, that anything like that was going to happen to it, and to them. But for the souls caught above the second jet's impact zone, it was a little more desperate in appearance. Smoke and fire were driving them outward, to gasp for air at the windows, which they broke out to escape the toxic fumes if they could.

Once they had done that, it was impossible not to look down to the ground, if they could see it at all--far, far, far, far below--almost a thousand feet below their frantically searching eyes, in fact. Was there anyone coming to rescue them? Where were the helicopters? The phone lines were jammed, the cellphones useless in their hands, as they kept punching numbers or redial. But some reached home, or loved ones, or 911, for all the good that would do. They could only scream, or cry, or--if they mustered the emotional control-- cooly recite their own epitaphs: "I am on such an such number floor, waiting for someone to come and get us down from here." Or, if less controlled, voices shouting or screaming about fire, smoke, at the window, trapped, no one coming. The voices got more frantic as the people became more hopeless. "Is anyone coming? Gotta get out of here soon--flames, smoke, it is too hot to stay here, I have to--"

And then, facing tsunanmi-like, moving walls of approaching flames and smoke, they had to scream or shout their last words and goodbyes, throw their useless cellphones away, and start, Lord have mercy, jumping. It was better to jump than burn alive. Right? Was it really? They didn't have time to meditate on their choices. The all-consuming firewall, billowing and shapeshifting into a roaring dragon, was coming at them with a fury--burning ferociously hot, its nostrils emitting flame and smoke like blast furnaces.

People further from the windows were being caught in it, toasted black, incinerated before their eyes, when they hestitated jumping and tried to run back through the flames to try and get to the stairs.

Jump! Now! Don't burn like that!

Try make a decision like that: It isn't rational, there isn't time to think, fear is pounding like jackhammers in your heart and ears and your skin feels like lead on your arms and legs, electric lead, somehow liquid, covering you, yet vibrating your bones into jelly--shaking you and paralyzing you with dread--yet... Don't burn like that! Jump out! NOW! That was what their instincts demanded (overriding their sense of self-preservation or fear of heights, even this height they were at), or be burned to a crisp in a second!

So they obeyed, heaving their fear-paralyzed bodies like solidified sacks of readi-cement out the windows somehow, and when falling, falling, they began to face that they were already dead, even as the ground, all too soon, rushed upwards with a terrific noise and wind at them, as if they were hurled through a wind tunnel turned on end. It wasn't fair, they were only office workers at their jobs--who did this to them? But all that didn't matter now! They were going to smash up just the same.

They knew only one thing--not their murderers, not some court trying their case, not some judge awarding punitive charges on their behalf, not some Congressional board of inquiry droning on and on in Washington about the incident, no, none of that: they simply had to now face whatever it felt like to impact the cement on the ground. Flesh against cement, blood against stone--bone? It was instantly pulverized, their blood spraying out like a fountain, their whole physical form dissolved into a collapsed blob that had once been a human being, with a name, a career, a family, a future, and...it was all nothing now, but a blob in a pool of blood on the ground, which people were screaming at and trying to run around to get away from as quick as they could. It is not a pretty thing to see human beings, all sizes and ages, drop and smash on the cement of the World Trade Center Plaza like so many eggs from the upper floors of the Towers--pop, pop, pop! Viva Osama bin Ladin! Happy news is on the way to cheer him. It will exceed his highest expectations. His twenty two wives, Zuhrah, Fatima, Gubdugah, Beepee, Shellah, Filippa, and all the others, will be so happy for him, and give him many more children to add to the 22 he already has in his quiver. How the Americans will be humbled when they see their towering, gleaming WTC destroyed--the fabulous New York in shambles and a mass panic, and Washington too aflame with the Capitol and Pentagon destroyed and five-star Pentagon generals running hatless down the streets after their screaming secretaries with their skirts burned off their big, fat, milk-white American buttocks!

They brought it all on themselves, after all--defying Allah the Compassionate, defying His Prophet, for whom Saudi his motherland was holy and inviolate, until the Infidel Americans had come, his country betrayed by the king, and set up their military bases, contaminating holy ground with their infidel feet, urinating on the Sacred Motherland as they stood, feet set far apart like like camels, and sprayed the whole countryside!

This smashing and burning of the WTC was just the start of what he would do to them, to drive them out of Saudi, back to their nasty holes, and leave Holy Saudi alone forever! This was just the beginning. After all, the Americans themselves, many of them in the universities and in the media, said they were deserving of such a thing as this for America's alliance with Israel and its mistreatment of the Palestinians (though Palestinians were donkey dung, not much better than infidels)--so, Allah be praised, he was only giving them what these infidels, pigs, and monkeys, said they wanted, said every day on American TV they all deserved.

Ero did not have to deal with the likes of Osama bin Ladin, fortunately, as the flying mast carried him quickly toward the exit of the photo-cell. Bursting through into the inner Eye of the Vampire Bat, the mast nearly collided with a photo-cell dealing with John Barth but instead of neo-orthodoxy's poisoned world, Ero converged with the photo-cell that swept him down into Atlantis II. Below him stretched mind-numbing, level plains, deserts, arrid vastnesses that seemed to have no end: the waterless, aluminate hardpan Nullabora barrens, which culminated in the East Erg, a field of mountainous sand dunes. Here in the east of Atlantis II, there was only one way to cross the Nullabora and live to tell about it, and that was by train, the legendary Tea and Sugar.

So for Ero the Torch Bearer, the wannabe but never-will-be Olympic champion, it's off to Atlantis II on the Re-located Earth! Rather, it's Kastorr, Wally's Cyberspatial version of it. Or to be more precise, it's the Carbuncle, with the Sea of Doubt-encircled palace-residence of the Vampire, its eyes whirling within with a photo-celled universe made up of things that never happened.

But the entire thing is based on an option, a road not taken by Ero--remember? He didn't choose to pick it up, so none of the following actually happened to him. Yet that is not to say the events are not important--far from it! It is an incontrovertible truth, a foundational truth, that things that do not happen are often more important and lasting than things that do happen. Ask any man who forgets to remember his wife's birthday or their anniversary. That fatal lapse, his failure to do anything, will never be funny or amusing to her. She will never let him forget it either. She could possibly forget his card and flowers and other endearments, if he had done right by her, but she can never forget what he did not do on that particular date. Things undone are often unalterable, or unforgivable. They work lasting, even eternal effects.

So too with the road not taken, the option not chosen. Life for most everyone is full of such roads and options not taken or chosen--and we all live with the unpleasant, serious to fatal consequences. They are most often unavoidable consequences, made worse because we cannot see the gigantic engines of nothingness, of anti-matter, producing all the evil that is ruining us in this other dimension--just because we failed to do something! It doesn't seem fair to us--but when is the Universe fair? It's unfairness, its inequality, is probably the kindest thing in the Universe, producing the most good eventually--since we could all be equally poor, or equally miserable, or equally stupid at the same time--and then what good could possibly come from that?

Unfairness is a wonderful thing and equality (as equality is enjoyed by pond slime algae, every alga the same in the same circumstances) is hell for intelligent, sentient beings. So let the Universe continue to operate unfairly, if we know what is good for us.

It is the thing we choose not to do--that is the real hitch, the thorn in the Rose of life, the rub, the fly in the ointment. Like the aboriginal boomerang, it will come round to, not just haunt us, but knock our silly heads off! Boomerangs, after all, were not playthings. They were used to hunt wild game like roos, emus, and wombats. That brings us round to Ero, who is winging down via his cybersptatial argosy, his own personal Argo, the detached mast from the Union Station Dome.

Beneath an enormous, burning, searingly bright, virtually cloudless sky, he sees an aging diesel-electric train moving steadily at 50 mph across a seemingly horizon-less plain that can claim no features, it is so flat and level and barren. There is not the slightest reason to put a curve in the track, so it runs absolutely straight, with a deadly monotony that has driven many a trainmaster either alcoholic, or suicidal, or out of his mind.

The Tea and Sugar, a mixed-goods train delivers track supplies and transports work crews called fetlers, as well as pay to other train maintenance people at small depots and settlements strung along the 1,000 plus miles of track.

Just as he was about to descend toward it, the Port Ulu to Multan flight flew across his own flight path.

Unable to alter the flight plan encoded by Wally in the Kater's Compass, Ero converged with the old prop airliner. At the last moment, the guidance system in the Compass sensed an obstacle, and Ero was turbo-thrusted up over the plane, directly in view of the airliner's startled pilots.

Seeing this UFO, the pilots entered it as such in their log, but without any means within hundreds of miles that could be sent to investigate, they continued on their way to Multan.

The train is the single narrow ribbon of life drawn across a seemingly limitless stretch of its opposite. No wonder the tiny groups clustered along the tracks at widely separated intervals, rush to the trackside or depot (if they have a depot) at the first telltale sound or tremble of the rails. Sometimes only three people, a single family, greeted the train, but it stopped for them, to keep them supplied with the necessities, at cost, lest the entire coastland become uninhabited, and left open for conquest.

The dome mast, guided by his programmed compass, follows the train for some distance, and a river bed, normally dry, is reached. A flash flood, hundreds of miles away, has sent water far down to the coast, where wild boys from some neighboring tribe have been playing in it when Ero appears and scatters them witless off the bank and into the muddy water.

Damon Santiago Coxie, a free lance photographer from Poseidonia, thirtyish and experienced in his trade, is aboard, this trip across the Nullabora, the "Big Empty" as the desert plain is called by natives.

He had done his homework on this southermost stretch of country and its one highway, the double gauge track, that carried travelers 310 miles without a single jog. Normally, there should be few surprises--but somehow Damon wasn't so sure this time.

Geologists and cartographers knew it technically as the South-Eastern Erg, but the people who actually live there, suffering the hellishness of it, call it by name, perhaps hoping to personalize it a bit and make it a little more bearable.

After all, humanity has that trait, naming things to better get control of them But the Nullabora, controlled? Damon thought. What a silly idea. It can only be endured, with the patience of a hapless lizard that ran too far after a fly, and now is frying out in the open on sizzling hot hardpan, its sightless eyeballs shrinking and blackening in their sockets. The lizard controlled nothing, after all, and the fly got away, flying and buzzing about until he eventually ran into a smarter lizard.

A free-roving photographer for the Poseidonian Government Tourist Office, this isn't his first trip photographing the world from a train--but he knew the Tea and Sugar on the uttermost southern edge of the continent would be different from the other stretches of track and their mountain-climbing narrow gauge rails. The Herukan-Ratnan authorities, anxious to gather tourist revenues from this vast wasteland to help pay for its upkeep, issued visas to Publica-texans and other rich "Outlanders," but that did not mean they would not plant a spy or two aboard the train, just to keep their activities in view. Photographers, as a tribe, have an innate sense about such things, and so it proved, the moment he climbed aboard at Port Olu (also called Port Abdullah, "Ulla" or "Olu" for short), he suspected, way down in his gut, a sea-change was in store for him in the itinerary. A railway in such a depopulated, barren wilderness as the Nullabora was bound to collect some strange types, he knew. They were the detritus, the flotsam and jetsam, of society, washed in by hardship and bad times somewhere else where they could no longer afford to live, or maybe they were even just one step ahead of the law, fleeing from the authorities after some murder or robbery?

The train carried the usual consignment of railway workers, and common contract laborers, the "fetlers," but there were passengers, second class and even a few first class fares like himself.

First class proved a crashing bore, he soon found, the usual wealthy foreigners, over-dressed for the Nullabora, stuffing in too much rich food than was good for them.

After a glance into the stuffy society of the dining car, he crossed with relief to the second class compartments. Soon he found the types he had hoped to photograph--"original aborigines," such as Ismail the rabbit hunter. Returning to his old haunts from Port Ulu, after selling his collected, dried rabbit skins to a furrier who lined the robes and gloves and even the turbans of the imans and nobles who lived in the far, colder north, Ismail had provisoned himself anew with tobacco, tea, and some other luxuries, and was enjoying his trip back to nowhere, where he roamed alone and wifeless and relatively happy for having nobody but himself to account to.

Damon always conversed with his subjects while photographing them--as he wanted to know the personal details of their lives, and something of their soul struggles, that would help him get the best picture, help him seek the unique quality of that person that made the person individual. So he asked the wandering, one-legged rabbit-hunter who was stumping through on the car where Damon was taking pictures, asked him about his rabbit-hunting, which the man was very happy to tell him about. Damon knew he would react this way, as few Nullaboreans would want to tell the secrets of their past, or their former lives before they fled to the wilderness to escape all manner of things.

Giving Damon a conspiratorial wink, he drew him aside to a place between the two cars, where the wind was roaring and the wheels clattering as if they might be coming off, but where there was no chance they would be overheard.

"Oh, it's a bloody life, mate! My peg leg hurts something bloody awful at times, as if I still have a leg there! I can hardly sleep at times, but I can't help having it along, I have to walk on somepin! But the skins are good here--the best on the market in Port Ulu! They pay me well there! I make my trip in every couple months, with all I collect (dried to toast by this bloody sun and wind out here), and get my pay, and head for the bloody Rabbit and Wolf Club in town, and when I wake up a couple days later wherever they happen to throw me--I always search for my secret stash in my wooden leg, and, sure enough, they hadn't thought to look there! I made too many mistakes losing my money to the bouncers at the bloody club--so I learned, and made my secret hideaway, and save what I need to return to the bloody Nullabora and start over!"

"But what are you going to do, when you're too old for roaming around alone?" Damon burst out. "Who's going to take care of you in your old age? What then, mate? Have you got any money saved for that eventuality?"

Ismail grinned, drew a glass flash out of his shirt, and offered Damon a swig. Damon smiled, shaking his head, and the rabbit-hunter uncapped the flask and took a draught, wiped his lips afterwards with his dirty back hand, and put the flask back.

"Oh, that! Hey, luv, I donna worrie 'bout things to come--I just live now, this bloody crook day, not tomorra, mate! I only got todayya!" He laughed, throwing his head back at his own witicism. Damon had to laugh too. The man's merry laugh was infectious. Since that was about as good a explanation as he had heard from others like him, Damon wished him good fortune with the rabbits and their skins and went back to the car, to finish his picture taking. He knew that the rabbit-hunter was just making a brave face for him, as both of them knew his fate: someday, maybe not long from this day they rode the Tea and Sugar together, his bones bleaching out on the endless plains somewhere amidst the salt pans and salt lakes and rocks and lizards, his death unnoticed and his grave unmarked.

The Second Class compartments were jammed, of course, presenting the starkest contrast with the quality folks in the First Class cars. But here was life! Life in all its rawness, desperate need, and primitive, tooth and claw struggle, with survival of the fittest, that is, the most brutal and violent elements--just the thing he wanted for his spread on the Nullabora and its inhabitants, animal, vegetable, and human.

Gazing at the compartments, Damon had to wonder how so many bodies could be crammed into such small spaces, without complaint! But the reason for the uncomplaining masses was clear. All they had to do was glance out the window. If anyone created a nuisance or threatened anyone or robbed someone, out he was thrust by the train's guards, who did not bother with niceties such as court and judge to decide the case. Out he went--which was certain death, in a few wretched hours. Everyone knew that--as signs in the train declared the warning against "Social Evil," with an itemized list of infractions that would be tolerated. Women too, even travelling without menfolks, were protected, as to touch any women in a way to make her protest was to earn swift capital punishment, or, if not the sword at the neck, the same thing: thrown off the train at 50 mph.

Damon took a group picture, wondering how he would engage any of the men and women (he saw few children), as they were all withdrawn into themselves, avoiding conversation with each other while they endured the long, long, monotonous rail trip to the single-gauge transfer depot which served as the entry gate to the Mountains of the Moon (the notorious border country of Ratna and Heruka where people could escape the government authorities indefinitely, if they could find some means of sustenance in the free and lawless mountain towns and villages).

Damon, experienced as he was, and no fool, was always on his guard, however. There was safety on the train--sort of. Robberies and murders still took place, despite the guards and the capital punishment they administered any malefactors in transit. Seldom patrolling the dangerous corridors, their justice was sporadic and quick but little enough administered to strike any real fear into the troublemakers onboard.

Human bones bleaching white along the tracks testified to that fact--and they weren't malefactors thrown out, usually, they were victims of crimes committed on board the speeding train by the thugs who travelled the line purposely as a way to make a living by preying upon the lowest classes of the Herukan-Ratnan Duarchy--as the poor could afford no bodyguards, and the police did not much care what happened to anyone below First Class status. Knowing life was very, very cheap on the Tea and Sugar, Damon took special care as he neared the walkways between the cars, where such crimes were most likely to occur. A quick knife thrust, their valuables seized, and the victim was then pushed from the train, and nobody was the wiser.

Knowing all about this, but reasoning that they, as train personel, were at lowest risk of being made targets, kitchen scullery workers still took their vegetables and fruits and other menu items out to the area between the cars, when they wanted some space to work they couldn't find in the boiling hot kitchen. This was not particularly foolhardy. Normally, during the day there was little danger of being assaulted. But one worker, paring sweet potatoes and yams while he daydreamed about his sweet little bride to be waiting for him at Port Yosef, let down his guard a bit too much, perhaps.

The unfortunate fellow, Daniyel Modesto ibn-Quail, got his throat slit with a razor, and he and his potatoes were thrown overboard, after his engagement ring was taken and his pockets rifled for the petty cash he was carrying.

Ero, however, was better situated to see the skullduggery going on than most everyone else aboard the Tea and Sugar.

The moment the train passed after the body was dumped, he maneuvered his Kater's Compass enough to allow him to land, and he ran to the body and looked for signs of life. Obviously, the fellow was a goner, so he heaped up sand and rocks with his hands, making a makeshift burial for the remains. Then, remounting his spiked transport, he flew off toward the distant train.

Aboard the train, life proceeded as usual even with the absence of one worker in the kitchen. The first class diner head cook was angry, though, to find his special potatoes for dinner had gone vanishing into thin air!

Though he did not hear about the scullery worker's disappearance, already Damon had noticed a considerable thinning out of passengers in some compartments, where he spotted the roughest looking blokes. Why didn't the other passengers report the killers? Of course, there was only one reason: they would be targeted next by the cutthroats aboard. It was best, smartest, to keep silent, and hope to go unnoticed until they reached the transshipment center, Port Yosef.

Passing from one car to another, an elderly padre made his rounds, mainly among Second Class, and he included the fetler's car as well, as he preached to everyone who would hear him the Gospel of Y'shua.

Up from the deep south, some said he was from the Argentine empire, Padre Noaik was a strange sight in his black robe, tattered dust-coat, and clerical collar and big wooden cross at his neck. Year after year he visited the Tea and Sugar, giving out the Gospel invitation, calling all to believe and to be saved from damnation and hell. It was a brave invitation, to be sure, since he was an infidel in these parts, lands which were under the moon and sword of Isma, and had been for many centuries.

But the padre did not seem to mind the stares or the hostility of some toward infidels and foreigners, or even the threats of an occasional iman passing through, for he was an amiable man, grinning ear to ear as he greeted people and tried to get them into conversation on spiritual needs they might have.

Damon met him when the padre came to visit the fetlers, just as he was going to pay them a visit too to get some pictures.

Damon had to ask him how the Gospel was doing lately. "Had any converts, Padre?" he inquired.

"No, not this trip yet, but there are a few onboard I am working on--they'll come bye and bye--if not this trip, then the next. I feel it is just going to happen, I see it in their eyes, mate! They can't hide it from me. They're seeking the truth!"

Damon chuckled. "My, you missionaries don't give up easily, do you! What keeps you going like this, year after year! You might be retired, at your age, sir, and take life's comforts, if you have a wife and home, that is."

The missionary shook his head. "No, our order is completely celibate, we don't marry while we wear the Cloth, and it is a good thing too. You can't do what I do and have a sweet, little wife pining away at home for you, and this keeps me from thinking that way too and wanting to get this business over with as soon as possible so I can scoot back to the lovin' arms of the good wife! No, this is the best way for me! I've lived all my life this way--and the end is soon coming--I can see the Celestial City shining just up the track! Until then, just me and Y'shua and the Word! My job is to meet as many people asd I can, even if only once. That way they can't say to the Lord, 'I didn't have a chance.' I tell the lads that when I go to heaven I'm going to tell Y'shua, 'I have a whole string of lads from along the line, and they want to come in too.' They listen to that. I think rough men can be softer inside than a woman. They know everything is crook, and it shouldn't be that way. I tell them, 'You keep on the rails, and you'll get there.' to me, the line is holy ground."

Damon nodded. "I can see you do find your calling fulfilling. It is written all over you--you're happy. Few men can claim that--happiness and fulfilment!"

Damon's eyes grew more sober and he looked away toward the Nullabora. "I am not certain even I could claim that, and I have everything I want and money can buy!"

Padre Noaik did not miss a beat, the moment Damon admitted he was not as assured of his happiness as his manner would have people believe. He stepped closer to the photographer, helping him as he gathered up his gear. "We should talk, soon as you get your pictures. How about it? I can be of help, if you care to take the time."

Damon shrugged. "I wouldn't want to waste your valuable time, Padre! I have no problems--none that I can't handle. It's just that I feel a kind of empty feeling, no matter what I do, or how many pretty women I take to bed, or how many drinks I put away--that empty feeling nags me each time, and I can't seem to make it go away. Have you got any medicine for that?"

Padre Noaik smiled. "Well, now, I got just the thing for you--no medicine, but it's the real cure for the heart and soul: the Word, Y'shua himself! He only can fill that place in you that is aching and crying out inside you like that. You see, son, there is a God-shaped hole in every human being's heart that only Y'shua can fill. It takes a long time for some to find it out. I am here to tell you how to fill it. So as soon as we can talk, I will give you all the Word you need to know, so you and Y'shua can get together! Okay? You'll never regret it if you do! I can promise you that, lad!"

Damon, stiffening his resolve, once he had all his equipment in hand and was ready to make his invasion of the fetler's quarters, smiled. "Well, maybe! I didn't commit myself, so we'll see how this session goes. If it goes well, then I can spare you five minutes or so. Is that a deal?"

The padre slapped Damon's shoulder. "Fair enough! I'll pray for you, that you have a good session. And a good session, is that you come out of this alive, with your pictures and camera intact!"

Damon laughed. "Thanks, I'll need your prayer then! I hear from everybody this is a pretty rough and nasty bunch! People tell me that when they're not working, all they do is fight, drink, and fight again! Nothing but animals and low life--but ought to give me some interesting pictures, if I can get them to cooperate, that is!"

That said, Damon was about to knock, when the padre caught his hand. "You think you're dealing with gentlemen? You bloody knock like that, and they'll give you a bloody fist in the face when the door opens. That's just for laughs, for openers. No, if you value your life, son, just push right in like your're somebody big and important on the Tea and Sugar line, and then just set up and start taking pictures, and boss them around too some so they respect you. They'll not bother you much then, and think they might get some nice free cold drinks out of you, if they let you do your thing. I know these boys, been working with them for years. I would introduce you to them first, but they won't care a fig about your credentials, son--for if I do that, then you're just a nabob in fine clothes and got a good job and money they don't have, and they'd just laugh in your face, then throw you and your camera out after smashing you up a bit for fun just to teach you not to meddle lightly with fetlers. No, the only way for you is to bluff 'em, push right in like a big boss, and don't let them think twice about you."

Realizing the padre knew the fetlers better than anyone, Damon's jaw tightened, then did as he was advised. The moment he was inside the fetler's car, Damon was distinctly aware he had landed in a no-man's land, in a kind of zoo or even a wild animal's den, where the laws of civilized society, even as relaxed as they were in Second Class, did not apply at all here.

He was on his own! Anything could happen to him! He could fight, yes, but with so many, would he get out alive?

The dim, smoke-clogged air stung his eyes, and then he saw that the room was packed by bodies of young, unwashed, utterly debauched "lads," most of them playing pool or drinking or lying in vomit on the floor, as his nose already told him--too many for that small a space, too, crammed in with too many beer cans and bottles and butt cans and half-eaten meals thrown in a corner, the smell of spilled, stale bread malt beer blending with the reek of an over-flowing toilet and rank human sweat.

Coming in unannounced like that, the padre was right, they paid him no more attention than lounging wild beasts would of the flies buzzing around the garbage and butt cans. As for the butt cans, Damon nearly fainted as he drew his first breaths, as they were putting out a terrific stench in the over-heated room with the tightly closed windows, not so much of cigarette ash, as urine--and just then he did see a fetler grab one, rather than bother to go to the latrine in the car, and pay nature his respects.

Damon was weak in the knees when he at last stood outside the fetler's car, leaning against the next as he thanked his fates for being so kind to him, as to cross paths with a praying missionary! Where was Padre Noaik! He looked around, going into the next car, but the missionary was no where in sight. How disappointing! Damon wanted to tell him how he had gotten some fine pictures of the fetlers, and they would be worth a bundle when he got the negatives back to his studios and then sold them to the Government Tourist Office.

Going to his own room in First Class, he was showering and trying to clean himself of the reek of fetler's den when he felt the train slowing.

"What depot next was it?" he idly wondered. He didn't have his map out--so he wasn't at all sure. How about a repeat of the last stop, a flyspeck of a depot called "Forest"? Whoever named it that was drunk. It wasn't but a few thorny bushes, termite mounds, and salt, aluminate pans glaring in the sun for miles into the distance! Why risk it? Would he bother going out now that he was feeling in urgent need of some relaxation in the diner and the adjacent "refreshment car," as the train's unregistered saloon was called? Why bother getting all his gear together, pulling on his clothes, and going out again--he had done some real slumming to get some good pictures of the fetlers, and could take a nice little breather, couldn't he?

Yet a free lance cannot afford to pass up opportunities, particularly on such a long and monotonous stretch as the Ulu to Port Yosef line! He knew that, so he groaned and quickly rinsed the scented soap off, used plenty of fine, freshly laundered cotton towels, and jumped into his clothes, grabbed his equipment, and got off with the disembarking passengers.

He just caught sight of a tattered dustcoat and white clerical collar as they vanished round a corner of the first of few low-slung bungalows, tin-roofed houses of railway workers that constituted the metropolis of Pimba, population fifteen.

Hurrying to catch up, he wasn't fast enough, he found, for the missionary was no where in sight when he was standing on the depot town's main street. He could take in the entire street with a glance, for the entire road stretched not quite a quarter mile to where a sandy, tire and can-strewn playground was started but not finished, the desolation not quite relieved by a brightly painted red and green striped water tower that supplied the flyspeck town's people and kept alive a few struggling palm trees, vegetable gardens and whatever livestock and chickens were sheltered from the blasting heat and wind of the Nullabora by high walled yards.

Two of the houses caught his attention, however. One was an unregistered watering hole, an illicit tavern, which the authorities winked at for a certain sum, of course. He knew this was the business at hand when the door flew open, and the proprietor in a dirty apron and a upper body showing the hairy pelt of a black bear roared, hustling a no longer solvent and paying patron to the street.

With his hand gripped on the fetler's britches, the tavern keeper gave him a violent heave that send him flying, then bouncing and rolling across the hard ground.

Damon went over to the fetler lying prone and unmoving, and thought he might try to help him. "Hey, you, are you all right, mate?" he asked, touching the fetler's arm. The fetler didn't move, so he asked agin. All of a sudden the fetler came back to life, but Damon's concern wasn't reciprocated with gratitude. All he got was a curse, and some spit, as he bent over the fellow. Leaving him alone to lie in his wretched state, Damon continued on, wiping his face with his clean handkerchief. Why kick a man when he is down? He couldn't do that--he has his own pride to think of!

"Imagine that? Spit on by such low, dirty scum as that fetler!" he thought, as he continued down the only street in town. "What he didn't do for a good picture!"

As Damon left, the fetler, minding his own low reserve of pride, hauled himself up and sat. He then rose to his feet, almost fell over on his head, but caught himself somehow. Brushing some sand off his face, he started hobbling back toward the tavern, then paused. His fists were clenched for action, and he has his knife stuck handily in his ankle sheath, but he decided he might wait on vengeance a bit--until he could walk better, that is.

Instead, he continued on by the tavern and on down the street, his feet stepping where the photographer before him had stepped, more or less. He knew the way by heart, and could find it with his eyes shut. She had always been there waiting, with her delights to be paid for, one by one. Most times she took his whole check, cashed it herself by going to the paymaster, when she took his and a stack of other fetler checks in.

He knew she put out for all the others, just as she did him, but he tried to forget that. But would she remember all the good pay he had showered on her the last two years? Didn't she owe him something for that? Wouldn't she give him a little love on credit? He had had plenty booze. He just needed a little love right now--just a little lovin'.

So Eryk made his way to his trackside lover's domicile. He turned in at the gate, knocked the code that alerted the dragoman a patron of long standing only knew, and the dragoman opened up at once.

The dragoman's glance was not so friendly, however, and Eryk, even in his bedraggled, sodden state, could see that much.

"She home? Well, then, get outa the way! I'm goin' in!" he said, and went forward, or sort of fell forward, then got his balance again somehow, and continued to the door.

Going in, he found his old lover where she was usually to be found. It took a few minutes, but he wasn't getting anywhere fast, when she pushed him away and got up and went to the window, as if to call the dragoman to come and throw him out. "Wad'z the matter, babe?" he said.

"What's the matter?" she echoed him. "What's the matter? You're the matter! You're too drunk to even walk straight! And where's your money? Tell me, did you bring any money, then where is your check? Show it to me first! You get nothing from me without cash or a check!"

The fetler tried to get off the bed, but wasn't making much headway. "Aw, don't you start that, woman! You know me! I pay good money! You know that! Why treat me like a dude? I'm a--"

She turned around, spitting out the words. "You're getting out of here, right now! I can smell it! You're flat out busted, aren't you? What I heard was true then--you're on the Tea and Sugar blacklist! The company will never hire you--you're a dead man! They were tired of paying you for the trouble you caused them all the time. You piece of garbage, you lying little animal--now you come here, after pissing in your pants, and you want something for nothing! You think to use me like a little fool, do you?"

There were other, more choice things she added to her list. But she was interrupted. There was a knock on the door, unlike any heard before in the house. It rang right through from the entrance to the back room. It startled them both. The lady of the house went to the door, opened slowly, and her eyes met with someone she hadn't seen before.

He seemed to be a mighty fine prospect, by the looks of him, and she was interested immediately. There still might be something for her that day that would please her, for all the trouble she had just endured with the "reeking piece of garbage" that was the down and out fetler!

A few minutes before, as the fetler turned in at his lover's door, Damon was about to reach the last residence and turn around, to return to the train, when he took a second look--the particular house he was examining was high walled like the rest.

But Damon's eyes were particularly sharp, and what made this one different, it had a gate guard, of sorts, who was at that moment examining Damon head to foot, through the big door's judas window.

"Well"? Damon asked, a little annoyed by the beady-looking, ratlike eyes. "Do you find me interesting, mate?" he said. "Or don't you have anything better to do than stare at strangers in town?"

The rat eye in the judas did not waver. But a very dirty thumb appeared round the edge of the gate, which was ajar, and with a jerk indicated the direction of the house in a way that told Damon this was the kind of house that offered a certain pleasure to the weary traveler. It was, Damon knew from experience, the sort that any man with sufficient money could buy.

The moment he passed through the gate, it slammed shut with a horrible creaking sound and clatter of chains and locks. The gate man, really a dragoman in striped green and red pantaloon costume and high, badly stained red turban with dirty egret feather, not to mention the long curving sword at his belt, led Damon toward the entrance of the house.

"She's puttin' out royally today, Effendi. Tea and Sugar's here for one hour doing retail and paying out fat checks to the workers--plenty time for what you're be payin' for." As long as you keep payin', she'll give out, and you can stay as long as you like, Effendi!"

Then the dragoman slouched away toward a snarling dog, sore-covered, almost hairless wolfhound which was chained to a tree. "And if you don't leave when your money runs out, Effendi, well, me and this doggie here will see you do right by her! And I got the key to the gate, remember. I'll let the beast gnaw your bones right to the marrow! He's always mighty hungry, that one! Hasn't gnawned a fine gen'lmun like you for quite some time!"

Damon's blood boiled by this time, but he decided it wasn't worth risking damage to his equipment to pound some respect into the insolent dragoman. Besides, he was curious as to the madam of the establishment. Was she young and pretty? Or old and diseased, with half her teeth knocked out and missing? He had to find out. That was the stock in his trade anyway: his innate curiosity, applied with randomness, and the unexpected--sometimes the remarkable--happened, which often gave him him his best shots.

Going forward, he reached the door, and just then it slid partly open, and Damon paused, watching as the woman of the house came into view.

Without a word, after she looked him over from head to foot, she turned and left the door ajar, and that was enough sign, enough invitation, and he followed her in.

She had a plan of her own, and led him right to the back bedroom where an unwelcome guest was waiting impatiently for them, and ready to pick a fight.

The fetler, though he saw immediately that he was facing a much bigger antagonist than he had bargained on, stood his ground, leaning casually against the high bedstand (you might say for support).

But even this fetler knew when his game was up, when he considered what the trackside whore now had in her arsenal (not to mention the dragoman and his dog). He soon quit trying to stare Damon down, and shrugged and made his way to the door, as slowly as he could to save his pride. His former lover wasn't going to let him strut out with his male ego intact, and followed.

Damon waited as he heard them exchange parting obscenities at the door, then it slammed, and the whole house shook, and dust came out of the wall.

He laughed, and settled himself down on the sofa.

Storming to the gate, the fetler grabbed an iron pipe and beat off the lock and half-demolished it, then broke out as the dragoman shouted and tried to get the dog off its chain in time to do him some damage.

But the fetler was quicker, as his rage brought back all his strength.

He was fit to go and do the same to the train what he had just done to the woman's gate. If he had met anyone, just anyone, at that moment, he would have murdered him or her.

Fortunately, the townlet was bare of inhabitants, in the street, and slowly he cooled, as he turned toward the train, and thought better of confronting the guards and all their knives and firepower with his lone knife.

Hopelessness settled back down on him like Kismet--unshakable, unbeatable, ineluctable. A black cloud with vampire like wings, sucking the life out of his very soul!

It was unspeakable wretchedness--that was its essence, and he had drunk the worst effects of it away, as long as he could, but now it had come back with a vengeance to suck out the last shreds of his soul.

He sank down on the sand and gravel, beheath a broomwood tree, and thought of falling next on his knife. Why not? He had nothing to live for.

He drew out his knife from his ankle sheath, and gazed at it. A couple more moments, and he would have done it, but life is never a tidy thing. The padre, making his rounds in the little wannabe railway town without much of any positive response to his preaching, had finished and was about to turn back to the train, when the despairing fetler heard his shuffling footfalls.

The padre was startled when a voice whispered hoarsely to him from the shade of the broomwood tree.

"Padre! I got something to tell you I think you will want to hear!"

"Oh, do you now?" He went over toward the man, a fetler he saw, lying against the grizzled, half-dead broomwood.

"What is it, son?"

The fetler grinned up at the padre. "Some friends are asking for you to stop by right away. They live in that place over there, with the gate and guard, and want you to go right in and tell them all about Y'shua--you know, the one you are always preaching to us fetlers about. Will you do it, padre? They are such thirsty, needy souls! Such sinners! They want to repent of their sins! Go right now, won't you, padre?"

The padre looked doubtfully in the direction the fetler indicated with his knife. Then back to the fetler. "You don't be fooling me, son? I know the type of lady that runs house. Her reputation makes her well-known all along the line from Port Ulu to Port Yosef. She doesn't want my kind around, and she made it very plain a time back, by sending that dog of hers to drive me off. But if you give me your word, I'll go. Do you give me your word as a man?"

The fetler lunged to his feet, and stuck out his hand. "Sure, padre, sure, I give you my solemn word! On my honor, I'm telling you the truth! Now go, father--they're waiting for you, just as I said! Don't disappoint them, go, for they want to know how to be saved, they don't want to be damned and go to hell like me and all my fellow fetlers!"

The padre shook the fetler's hand, grinned, then turned and made a beeline to the establishment that had never once permitted him to give a word there.

He did not have any trouble getting in, as the gate was no longer a barrier. Once inside the compound, the dog with its fangs bared was about to come at him, but the dragoman, seeing the man's holy robes, grabbed the chain in time and held him back.

"God bless you, good man!" the padre said, tipping his hat, and proceeded to the door.

As he knocked, there seemed to be no response. Then the door opened a crack, and that was all the padre needed, "Feliz Navidad!" he declared, with all the love and cheer in him.

For this was Christmas Eve, the night before the Navivity of Y'shua.

The fetler, meanwhile was enjoying his little joke at the padre's expense. What a joke it was, indeed! Imagine, he thought, how they would like it, being interrupted in bed by a preaching padre!

As he sat there, savoring the thought, he grew aware gradually that the night had fallen, as the stars were coming out in the purplish dusk, and a chill wind was beginning to stir the sands, and other signs too--swallows came flying to catch the insects that rose at that evening time.

A star of particular brilliance was shining, its rays reaching all the way down to the huge, wind-blasted, twisted and half dead broomwood tree.

Not aware of the source of the star rays, nor caring even to look up, the fetler was totally unaware that it was Ero, who was glowing with a sort of St. Elmo's Fire, whether by Wally's doing or by chance or even Y'shua's, as this could be the same Nativity Star, by its brilliant appearance, that once shone upon his nativity in Bethlehem long before this time (not not ever entirely forgotten by his followers). The fetler rose, felt stiff in his legs, and wondered what was keeping the padre so long. But just as he was going to head back to the train, he saw someone coming--his long dust coat flapping and giving the padre away.

The sight had an unusual effect on the fetler. He had thought to laugh when the padre came and called him to task for fooling him, and being false to his word like that--but now he was not in the mood for laugh. Instead, He felt very much sorry for how he had pulled the wool over the padre's eyes, and wanted to slink away. But the padre had seen him, and was heading straight for him, so it was too late.

Before the padre could say anything, the fetler hung his head, and said, "I shouldn't have told you a story, padre! It was a low thing to do to you--and you probably caught hell for going in there like that and preaching to them,k when you weren't invited."

Padre Noaik clapped the fetler on the back, and grinned. "No, not at all--they were really pleased, when I told them all about the meaning of Yeshua's birth--in fact, it made quite an impression on them. That is why I took so long. They had a lot of questions. I think I will be seeing her again, but the fella is travelling on, he said, and might not be back for some time. He didn't convert, but he said he would be thinking about what I said. I left after prayers for them, and hurried so I wouldn't miss you and could tell you how well it went. Thanks for carrying their invitation to me! It really made a fine day of it for me!"

The fetler could not believe his ears. "You mean they didn't tell you?"

The padre's grin did not waver. "Tell me what, son?"

The fetler stared at the padre, and he was about to say something, but decided, no, why not let sleeping dogs lie? The padre didn't need to know he had played a joke on him.

Yet he couldn't let the padre go somehow. "Padre, I been meaning to talk to you, to ask you a question. Can you spare a little time. I know the train is going now, in a couple minutes, as the whistle blew twice, and that means they will soon be boarding.

"Walk along with me!" the padre said. "We can talk as we go. Now what is it?"

Somehow his prepared speech seemed so inadequate. He had thought to make an apology, but when we tried to start, it occurred to him that the padre wasn't the one to whom it really needed to go. It was someone far off, very far off.

So he asked a different question, closer to the issue at heart.

"Padre, is it every to late to make up with my papa? I said some wicked things, and stole some money too from my papa, and took off to have my fun with it in the big cities over here, and then took a job on the railroad when the money ran out. Here I am-- all my money gone, no friends who still stand by me anymore, and no job either! I--"

The padre stopped, and touched the fetler's arm. "It's not too late. I am a father myself, of sorts, with many sons like you to look after, both here and in my own country. I know how your papa must be feeling, with you gone, and not knowing if you are dead or alive. He'll be waiting for you, maybe looking out on the road every day, hoping to see you come home. Why not go and make it up with your papa and mama? From what you just told me, you got nothing here to hang on to--why not return home where they love you and want you, son? Do it now. Don't put it off!"

The fetler could not say any more about it--he was so overcome with his feelings, and they could not be expressed. The padre knew when not to press a hurting soul, and with a short prayer, he departed, leaving the fetler to gather his thoughts as to what he should do.

The train whistle tooted a third time, a final long blast, and then began moving slowly off. Seeing this, the fetler suddenly made up his mind. Everything came clear in a flash. Yep, he could do it! He could play the man and go home and ask his papa to forgive him for badmouthing him and stealing his papa's money he had saved up for buying special breeder bulls to build up the herd. He would ask to be taken as a hired man if his papa would have him. That way he wouldn't be starving, and he could work for his living, as he knew the work on a ranch as well as anyone.

But to do that he needed a ride on the Tea and Sugar! Home was a thousand and more miles off--and the train would take more than half the distance. So he ran with all his might, and caught the train just as it was gathering speed and might have been out of reach, if he hadn't sprinted the last fifty yards like he did.

Pulling himself up and onto the side of a car, he clung to it as he got his breath back, then when he saw no one was coming after him, he climbed up and lay down on top, exhausted. He knew he had to be careful to stay out of sight, as the guards would either shoot him, or throw him off head first if they caught him. Fortunately, he knew their movements, and how to elude them.

Port Yosef's walls came in sight finally of the train, but they first had to pass by the garbage dump, where the ruins of Roman antiquity, because they were judged immoral after the conquest by Isma of the entire area, were thrown out. Theodora, a Roman empress famed for her making fortunes with her own perfumery in the palace, fared no better than the emperors' statues. Scavenger cats lounged in her presence, where once only jeweled and perfumed courtiers of the imperial palace, with their ladies, had been allowed.

Once inside the walls of Port Yosef, the double gauge line ended at its terminus, the ornate, Multan kaliphate-era cast iron railway station.

Here another single gauge line and a train, first taking on additional guards to safeguard the mail and the gold shipment from Port Yosef (where several mines operated) to Multan, awaited all passengers and their baggage continuing on into the Mountains of the Moon. Since Ero's Kater's Compass was programmed to follow the train onward, Ero had no choice in his intinerary, except for slight alterations, which could last but a short time before the original flight plan was reinstated.

The Tea and Sugar train's passengers disembarked, and many got on the single gauge passenger and freight train, which was called the Multan Orient Express, but which was hardly an express, for the train's journey was long, torturous in its climb up and over the mountain passes, and involved uncountable stops at villages and towns tucked away in the mountains.

As the train climbed upwards from the plains, Ero had time to drop down to certain vantage places to await it, as it made slow progress on the steeper grades and the numberless switchbacks. He was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the Mountains of the Moon, for this was his first exposure to them. White sentinels scratching the sky, the white limestone that composed them had been thrust up from the seabed in a gigantic, violent upheaval when the continent of Atlantis was volcanically reborn.

The Port Ulu to Multan Orient Express climbed laboriously the many thousands of feet to the pass as Ero followed. Beyond the pass, if an avalanche did not carry them away or destroy the track ahead, lay bandit-infested crags, that would have to be passed before they reached civilized, inhabited regions, with villages and towns that clung to the sides of the mountains like the nests of swallows.

The guards get busy, however, trying to run down several stowaways. One is the laid off fetler, Eryk Woodbee from a Brazos ranch in the Pulblicatexa, who has climbed aboard, and spends time either in the unattended baggage car or on top the train, wherever he can elude detection best. As for the fetlers in their private car, he knows they want nothing to do with him--so he doesn't even try to sponge on them, as they would just throw him out if he tried.

Pilfering some food one day from a service tray set for pickup by a diner car attendant in the window of the kitchen, he is spotted and the pursuit is on.

Train guards are called at once, and go to work in their expert way.

It is just a matter of time before they corner Eryk or run him down inside the train or outside. He will be forced to jump sooner or later or be captured, or worse can happen to him--as there will be no mercy, since train hopping without paying fare was regarded as social evil, a big enough crime in that harsh society to warrant summary execution.

Facing a jump off the train and over a cliff, or capture and slow torture and execution in some execrement-oozing pesthole of a country prison, Eryk, sorry only that his papa will never know what happened to him, takes the third option left to him. He keeps standing as the train heads toward the tunnel, which is fitted with very effective "man-guards," which have the same function as cattle guards except that these are fatal iron spikes embedded in the tunnel entrance and ceiling.

The guards, unfortunately, have forgotten this particular approaching, man-killing tunnel. In the excitement of the chase, with the fox so close to their snapping jaws, the hounds find it is too late to drop down for cover between the cars. Forced to fall flat on the roofs of the cars, they have to take their chances with the stabbing man-guards.

The prodigal does not survive, but neither do the foolhardy guards, as not one of them makes it alive through the tunnel.

Helplessly watching all this going on atop the Multan Orient Express, Ero worked at his guidance system with the popup on his compass, but couldn't get it to respond fast enough for him to intercept the guards and rescue the fetler.

Ero, at last getting the Kater's Compass guidance system to obey his instructions on the popup, descends and then pulls the dangling fetler off the spike. That was the least he could do for him, he thought. But what now? Where could he take the body? Where could he give him a decent burial?

He flew up higher with Eryk aboard, and landed temporarily on a cliff edge, while he sought Help on the popup. Prompted for a name, he searched the pockets of the fetler, and found a leather wallet, empty except for some lottery stubs, a couple coupons for government emergency food rations issued at Port Ulu, a few phone numbers, but no address or name. The last thing he almost threw away was only a half torn and rumpled pink slip. Reading it, he found the name and address he needed: Eryk Woodbee, Lazy W Ranchero, Brazos, Publicatexa. It was a Tea and Sugar company notice, firing the fetler, with no option of rehire.

The map provided by Help was all the guidance system needed, and the flying mast pole was soon aloft, bearing Ero and his burden toward the northwest.

Dusk, then nightfall descended, and finally Heruka's coast was reached. But the mast continued on its flight unerringly across the Straits of Floyda, and then toward the even wider gulf that separated the two Turtle Islands. East and West Turtle Islands were now all that was left of North America after it split in two at the north to south Mississipi fault line.

Turning west, no longer travelling north, the mast took them over the water to the Rio Brazos and followed it up to the towering domes of the huge Ceylon Nuclear Station. Beyond the fenced reserve a few miles, nestled among the low, dry, acacia and prickly pear-covered hills and grassed slopes, lay the Lazy W Ranchero. Here Ero set down in the dawning light of a new day, and he carried Eryk's body to an acacia and lay him gently down.

He tried to give the fetler a last bit of dignity, his hands folded properly, and his hair straightened, and his shirt made more neat, the best he could do for him, and just as he did that he heard baying hounds and cattledogs. "You're home, Eryk!" he murmured. "You're home at last! They'll take care of you now. But I'm afraid your papa's heart will be broken. But at least he will know what happened to you."

He turned and saw that some ranch hands, mounted on horses, and a pack of dogs were coming on fast to investigate. That was all he needed--Brazos ranchhands who wouldn't like anything about him, a total stranger, flying in on a wingless plane shaped like a flag pole! But there was no way he could explain himself and his flying machine to them, so he jumped back on the mast, and got away before they could intercept him. A few bullets actually winged his mast, but that was all they could do before he was out of reach, well on his way back to see how the Multan Orient Express was doing.

While Ero was away, the train continues on, with half its security force eliminated, and is now rendered more than vulnerable to the bandits. There was supposed to be double the force granted for the express train from Port Yosef to Simla, but the major general of the city's army garrison, at the behest of the local emir (who had a weakness for luxury and bribes) had overruled the station master and reduced the allotment at the last moment, citing a more dire need of guards on other sections of track.

The feared confrontation comes quite soon after the train clears the tunnel, minus three luckless guards.

The engineers sees a large object on the tracks ahead, and it is a boulder, far too big for the train to push out of the way without derailing the engine itself.

He is forced to halt the train on the tracks, a most dangerous proposition on a stretch where fifty bandits can hide within a few feet of the track and still be completely invisible until they rush out in a surprise ambush.

Stalled, with only half its guards, the train fell easy prey. Twenty some bandits rushed out, with twenty more following them a few minutes later, and began shooting whomever showed the least resistance, while robbing everyone of their valuables, car by car, as they made their sweep along both sides of the train to keep anyone from escaping.

They filled bag after bag with loot, and even though these male low caste passengers were mostly all poor farmers, laborers, and like, the women, many of whom carried the rights of inheritance to property. These womenfolk wore the family's wealth, passed down from one generation to the next, all turned to heavy gold bracelets and necklaces.

Whenever a guard was captured or shot, he was dragged out and dispatched with a curved, hammered steel sword, decapitating him as a warning to guards on the next train following to not put up so much resistance, lest they suffer the same fate.

The heads were thrown alongside the track, while the bodies were pushed over the cliff.

Damon heard enough from the confused passengers to realize that attacking bandits were responsible for the stalled train, as well as the big commotion of screaming and yelling and gunshots at the rear.

He stepped out to take a look, and did not like what he saw. The bandits would soon reach the First Class cars and do the same to them as they had done to the Second Class compartments. It was going to be a bloody massacre, by the sounds of it.

He had to think fast as to his options. At first he thought he might organize the men to resist, then reconsidered. The bandits were organized and trained for this attack, whereas the men on board were civilians and would not fight as an organized unit. They wouldn't follow orders well, and the bandits would not be held back long, if at all.

As for the fetlers, who were all fighters, they didn't fight together either, and were drunk, so they'd be no good either. In fact, those who did come out to look to see what was going on, were so bleary eyed, they just stumbled back into their car to do some more drinking, or pass out again. One even staggered out, stark naked, and wasn't even aware of it, before another fetler pulled him back into the car.

It was hopeless to resist, Damon saw, so he must flee at once. He announced this to the others in First Class, but they wouldn't think of it. The fools were calling for the conductor and the guards to come to deal with the problem, and were assured that would be sufficient protection against a mere band of ruffians.

Damon tried a final time to make them see the grim reality. "But we just lost three guards a bit ago in the tunnel, and now the bandits are killing all the others they can find. We have no real defense left to us. The bandits will be here in a few minutes, when they finish butchering Second Class and raping all the women they think are pretty enough. If you value your lives, you must get out now and climb up into the rocks and hide wherever you can, or they will capture you, and take everything. That is just for starters! Then they either hold you for ransom, or they may just shoot the lot of you for fun, but they will make you all beg for your lives first."

"Remember, he repeated, eying the ladies, "they are raping the women, both young and old."

If Damon thought that reason or even common sense would get some of them to run for it with him, he was mistaken (and even a man of the world, like Damon, could misjudge his fellow humanity's capacity for folly and irrationality). Not a man or woman wanted to risk such a thing. Run into the hills without a shred of dignity like a wild animal? Leave the train? Forsake the only bit of civilization in this barbaric quarter of the mountains? Unthinkable! They thought it best to try to bribe the bandits, and--thinking that their money would satisfy the ruffians enough to persuade them to let them alone--were assured they could deal with the nuisances.

"You might all be sorry you didn't take my advice," Damon said. "But don't say I didn't warn you when they start slitting your throats or shooting you!"

Then, grabbing his camera equipment, film, and leather jacket, he jumped from the compartment and quickly climbed up into the crags. When he was sure he was high enough to elude easy capture, he stopped to catch his breath and to take a look down to see what was going on with the hostages on the train.

There was a deafening sound of an explosion mid-train, and fire and smoke that billowed far up from the blast, and then the yells of the bandits as they ran and ransacked the ruined car.

"That must be the one with the gold shipment," Damon thought.

The bandits, after loading up with as much as they could carry, including the best food and drink on board from the diner, tossed the sacks of the gold they couldn't take along into the ravine next to the train, intending to return for it. Then they struggled off with their treasures, vanishing among the big rocks.

After a wait, seeing no more bandits, Damon climbed down from his perch, and went to see if he could help the people. He badly wanted to find Padre Noaik, but he was no where to be seen, and so he thought the padre must have turned back at Port Yosef. Hadn't he said something about distributing Christmas gifts at Port Ulu to the widows and families of drowned sailors? Well, then, there was no help coming from such a fine man, he thought--no words of comfort from a true man of God--which he couldn't not deny the padre was. As for the imans on board, he knew they were worthless for such a task--being in the business of exacting obedience to religion, not relief of unspeakable human distress.

Just as he expected, Damon found the passengers all in an uproar and in total chaos. The train engineer was shot in the leg, and useless, and the conductor dead, which left the fireman, but he was hiding somewhere. What to do? He knew Simla lay ahead, but it was miles off according to his map. Somehow they had to uncouple the wrecked, blown up car, and all pile into the other half of the cars connected to the engine, and then get it to pull them the rest of the way to civilization and help. There were too many hurt people, many in bad shape. He had to get them in to a hospital to save them. Besides, the food and water on the train would soon run out, and they would starve, since the track had been sabotaged further down, no doubt, to keep any authorities coming with soldiers from Port Yosef to reach them and retrieve the gold shipment.

Seeing he had to try anyway to restore order before he attempted anything more, Damon began shouting orders, and gradually the men began to hear him above the uproar and start to do what he told them.

Taking many hours more than normal, the badly hurting train limped into Simla, the fabled mountain city, set amidst a cluser of dormant volcanoes, which a famed poet, Ibn-Ziz Al-Abdullah, described as the place where all dreams end--but the swan song, his last poem before he was beheaded, cut into pieces and fed to the sultan's songbirds to make them sing sweeter, was more hopeful:

"Simla my beloved city where the End is a New Beginning...

for though dreams die like the swan after many a summer's glide on time's river,

come, look! see the lilies bloom again amidst the tumbled stones of bygone giants!"

Well, the dream of a peaceful trip had definitely ended for all on board, and many feared to board the next train out, if they still had the means to pay the fare. Those who were wealthy could wire for money to be sent, of course. The others had to find relatives or friends, if they could, in the city. There were a few almshouses run by the brethren of the Cross of Yeshua, which the government permitted to operate for the sake of the poor and needy and ill, as the government of H-R did not normally provide such social services, nor could it afford them as well as the support of a bloated government bureaucracy and the sultans and kaliphate in Multan. The caliphate was now suspended by the Leftist governments that gained power over the sultans, but still the expense of the bureaucracy and all its departments and agencies, not to mention the military and the arms race with Publicatexa and the CSA which had gone nuclear, sapped the resources of the dual kingdoms and short-changed the poor where relief was concerned.

Despite the underlaying discontent and poverty of an over-taxed citizenry, Simla clung to its old vestiges of charm and opulence. Once, for centuries, it had been the winter playground of the sultans and their huge entourages filled with hundreds of courtiers, and hundreds of concubines in harems. Scented, jeweled, the city was a shining place in its heydey, and some of that glitter still shone even in the eye of the bedraggled train passengers who climbed down from the train with Damon--some very thankful for all his genius of organizing the train and getting them back to civilization, but most not even looking at him in parting.

Damon, who thought himself Number 1 anyway, didn't mind ingratitude! He did not owe them anything-- and if they didn't acknowledge their debt to him for all he did after the bandits left--well, that was just plain old human nature, as he viewed it. One thing he knew, nothing can change human nature, the one constant in the universe. He knew a pig could be washed, given a pedicure, dressed in nice clothes, scented with the best perfumes, its teeth cleaned, hair groomed, decorated with bows on its tail, etc., and even set at a table with spotless linen and crystal, but the pig was still a swine, and would behave again like one if given the chance. All the costly, nice stuff you did for that guttersnipe was utterly wasted! He wasn't going to change, no matter how much caring and compassion you lavished to pretty up a filthy hog. The moment you let it, it would go and jump right back into the stinking muck and mire of the pigsty--and would be loving it better than anything you had tried to do to improve its life and circumstances!

As Damon made his way through Customs and security posts and then proceeded into the the winter capital of the bygone kaliphs, taking shot after shot of the still impressive marvels, Damon encountered the gazes of the local women, who turned and stared at him, as though they had not seen the like before in those streets. Or maybe they had, and he was familiar somehow? In any case, though his male pride was stroked, it made him a bit uncomfortable, as he seemed to be attracting too much attention. Surely, the authorities, who, like the whole breed in these provincial towns, didn't much like strangers anyway, might pick up on that and want to question him.

Trying to blend in more with the crowd by not taking anymore pictures, he continued on, only to meet some goons in long dark overcoats blocking his way into the main merchantile quarter called the Grand Suk.

They were too many for him, and were all armed to the teeth. Damon saw the wisdom of not fighting so many. They hustle him into a car and take him, hands bound, to a mountain hideaway where he is interrogated in his skivvies by anonymous captors. They seem to think he is Agent X, since he has the exact looks of him!

His inquisitors are disgusted, as they learn nothing, as he keeps insisting he is Damon from Poseidonia, which they evidently don't believe, as they work him for hours on that point, before throwing him into a monk like cell, with a small bared window (no glass in it), and only a metal frame bed with a blanket on it to keep him from freezing.

He realizes what kind of room it is: a cold storage for the old sultan's ski lodge! That is why it had no windows, and was so thickly insulated and had an iron door to it.

He has to find a way out soon, he realizes, as it dawns on him they have left him to freeze to death. They gave him a blanket, obviously, just to prolong his agony, not to keep him alive indefinitely. Notwithstanding, the thing he misses most is his camera and film. Without them, he feels like the whole experience is worthless, and his trip on the Tea and Sugar and all those unforgettable shots...well, he tries not to think about it. A realist, he knows he will only make himself feel worse than he already feels.

All he has is a bucket for a toilet and an old army issue steel bedstead and one blanket. What can he use to get out? In his apprentice days he had done some photography work once in a prison and learned some techniques the prisoners used to attempt escapes. There was a chance he could use their ideas now to make an escape artist out of himself! What did he have to lose?

He set to work. The bed was not so easy to tear apart, however, but he went at his work with a fury that made up partly for his utter lack of wrenches. He grabbed one end and smashed the other against the concrete wall until it began to come apart. He kept at it, and finally the bolts were loosened enough, and he could work one of the bars free from the frame. When he had his bar, he felt he had a chance to survive after all. With it he attacked the vent, for it wasn't really a window. He busted out the frame, after savaging it for some time, and then finally there was an opening he might possibly wedge his body through. But he was 6 ft. 4 inches, and not exactly slender either at the shoulders. What was he to do? He had to try, this was his only way out, unless he cold bust his way through the iron door, which was bolted on the outside.

Pushing out some of the blanket first, he climbed up and began trying one part and another of his anatomy, seeking the best way to begin his exit procedure. It could not be described, the way he wriggled and squeezed and pushed and collapsed back in exhaustion, to try again. He felt like he was scraping off all his skin and trying to make a jelly fish out of a vertebrate, though the blanket saved part of his body from a lot of abrasion as he was squeezing out.

Finally, he hit on a possible way to get one shoulder out, then his head, then slowly, inch by inch, most of the rest of his shoulder, which he kept lying as flat as he could make it lie, and moved his stomach and torso out as well, sideways, a sort of snake like maneuver that eventually got a major portion of himself out, inch by inch, until finally the main part was free, and it was now just a drop to the ground, which was snow-covered, and able to take a twenty foot drop without breaking any bones, though he did not like the snow and ice one bit as he slammed into it.

Escaping from his near freezing confinement in the boarded up ski chalet that once belonged to Prince Yazmir Wallid bin-Alfonzo, a sultan's playboy son, was going to give him a severe test of his survival skills. Getting out of the building was just the appetizer for the main course of the tortures on the menu. Damon's camera and gear, and all his clothes have been taken to keep him from trying to escape (which was thought sufficient to keep him helpless and vulnerable), and so he has only his bed blanket to shield him from the polar temperatures of the wind and snows of the high elevation. He is exhausted and unable to find his way down without using the road his captors are patrolling. Maybe they are not patrolling it, but he cannot take that chance. They'll shoot him on sight, he knows. Sitting down he is trying to conserve his last reserve of body heat and strength, but he is about to give up all hope of getting out of there alive when some musk oxen pass him.

The musk oxen, with their single track minds set on finding pasture, pay him no attention at all. He might be just a rock or clump of ice and snow to them, for they had better things than lone, blue-skinned, shivering humans on their mind obviously, as they continued without pause on their way. Suddenly, Damon recalled something from a stint he had done for a Natural Science magazine, in a piece about musk oxen. They migrated! When crossing from pasture to pasture, they climbed up into the higher elevations, as they knew all the passes, and they did not stay where there was no grass and starve, but continued on until they reached another fresh pasture on the alpine slopes further down. This was his chance! They would lead him down far enough so that he could make it the rest of the way to civilization! He wouldn't freeze to death after all! The musk oxen would lead him, if he could keep up with them!

Damon followed the musk oxen, and, sure enough, they led him to the unfrozen pastures further down where he could survive. It was a long walk, but he made it out of the mountains and into Jaisalimur, a city on the highway leading to Multan.

Panhandling alongside some beggars he found working a busy corner of banks and shops (his size preventing them from running him off), he got himself a meal or two to keep going, and kept looking until he found a Sisters of Mercy almshouse. Imagine, reduced to the level of dirty beggars! It was a terrible blow to his pride, as he had never dreamed of that happening to him. As smart, good looking, and resourceful and strong as he was, he had always been the head, and everyone else the tail! But what other way did he have to get himself some decent clothes? It was no crime to go around naked, with only a dirty blanket to cover himself, for there were plenty beggars that did that--but unless he could prove he was registered for begging, they would arrest and throw him in jail, since vagrancy was a felony, punishable by beatings and months of brutal slavery in a workhouse prison.

But even with all his precautions to keep a low profile, he was being watched, and as soon as he finished cleaning himself up and putting on the old but clean wool suit along with shoes provided by the charitable Sisters, he no more stepped into the street on the alley behind the almshouse then a car started up and moved toward him.

Four men in black jumped out before he could run, and within seconds he was face down on the dirty pavement, cold steel pressing against his neck as his hands were tied behind his back. Hustled into the back seat, two men slammed in beside him, and the sedan roared off. A few blocks further, after some twists and turns and other evasive maneuvers that would keep Damon from ever knowing the location, the car pulled into a warehouse somewhere in the fishmongers' district (by the odor of it), and he was dragged out, taken to a warehouse office reeking with a H-R delicacy, pickled fish guts. Then holding him they started to work on him, pouring hard liquor into him (H-R rotgut, he could tell by the nauseating aftertaste of petrol and crankcase oil). He couldn't drink a drop of it, so they gave it to him like a patient being forcefed in an asylum for violent cases of lunacy, pushing the neck of the bottle far enough down to get the stuff past his gagging throat.

He was drowning, gagging and retching up as much as he swallowed, it seemed, but they eventually stopped to see if he needed a quart or two more. His eyes rolled in their sockets and he nearly passed out right there, and the leader nodded, and he was grabbed and crammed into a small car with a driver alongside, the engine going, and then he was driven out, but once on the street, the driver yanked him over into the driver's seat, clamped his hands on the steering wheel, and the gas pedal was rammed down with a steel weight that kept it floored.

Its engine roaring, the car rocketed off with Damon hanging to the wheel. Speeding down the avenue, he was fortunate it was not one of the busier streets, as it careened up along the curb, knocking over sign poles and scraping the buildings in between before flinging back toward the street, then hitting two more lightpoles in succession before the engine and crankcase split, and the radiator exploded in a geyser of steam and water, mixed with oil from the engine.

The sedan with the dark tinted windows following him turned away and vanished into a sidestreet as a police wagon gave chase to Damon, catching him only as the engine blew with the radiator.

Hauling Damon out, a cop tried to make him give his name, but he couldn't get the syllables out coherently, and he had no idea what had happened, or who had done this to him. The police took him to the station, and he was put in a drunk tank to dry out while they decided what to do with him.

Since he had no identification on him, they had a real problem, and had to give him strong coffee and wait until he was sober before they could learn enough to pass sentence.

When early the next day Damon was recovering enough to give the police an account of his actions, they still could make no sense of it. They came to the conclusion he was a spy, since his telltale Poseidonian accent betrayed him as a foreigner. But, forgetting his pride after his humiliating ordeal the night before, he pleaded with them, that he was being taken for a spy, but he was only a photographer on assignment in H-R who happened to look like someone who might be a spy. Was that his fault if some stranger happened to approximate his looks?

Where are your credentials, your passport, your camera equipment? he was challenged.

He had nothing to prove, therefore, he decided to tell them everything, the whole truth.

Just the same, Damon used all his powers of persuasion, and he was indeed telling the truth, fact by fact, and he thought surely the more experienced among his questioners could tell a story-telling liar who couldn't get his facts straight and consistent from one who was trying earnestly to cooperate. He left in all the things he didn't really know for sure, without trying to clear up any mysteries or fill any gaps--which he knew would give him even more credibility, than if he embroidered his story to make it more believable and the rough edges all polished off.

He was right. His crazy tale that was the whole truth struck just the right chord of believability, since he didn't try to clean it up, or make it believable.

The Jaisalimur police commissioner was such a man to spot the truth when he heard it, an astute judge of human character good or bad, and one look at Damon convinced him this was not a run of the mill criminal, for he knew the hardened, diehard criminal elements of his precinct well enough. There was no such air of sullen defiance to this young man. He had to be an "innocent," not at all a professional law-breaker. But what about his "innocence," was that an extremely sophisticated, professional cover for some other role for which he was in the country? Was he a foreign spy on a mission of espionarge against the H-R? Yet how could a spy make such incredible blunders as this man has just committed? Spies did not usually land in their assigned countries so poorly trained as this one! Perhaps there was some truth to the wild tale he was telling about being taken for a spy by the real spy ring in the area? He knew there was such a ring, specializing in extortion, money laundering, prostitution, and even some political lobbying and bribery to finance their espionage, and had been seeking to track it for years now--but there were just too many highly connected informants, traitors to H-R, giving them tips to keep them out of his reach! But now...perhaps, if turned loose, the spies would get close enough to him, with his own men following, for him to catch the real culprits? It was worth a try, he decided.

He instructed the police station chief to let the man go with a warning. This was welcome news to the chief. Whatever the man really was about, he was proving a big nuisance, to say the least. He wanted nothing to do with a foreigner, who had driven drunk down a street, destroying some property, but killing no one. Could they recover the money for the damages? Obviously, they could not. This man had not a dinar on him! What about a stint in the workhouse? But that didn't earn them anything--it just kept the prison system going, and the police got nothing for their trouble handling him. So they decided to wash their hands of him, with the warning that a second incident would land him in prison, in the chain gangs of the workhouse, indefinitely!

And the police put men out to follow him, with orders to call the Commissioner immediately if contact was made with the spy ring.

After this shakedown, feeling rattled to the bone, Damon needed a comfortable rest and a decent place to clean up, so he went and took a room at a hotel, ran a bath, tried to wash off the whole experience of the day. He nearly fell asleep in the tub, but climbed out, toweled off, then fell into bed and lost consciousness immediately. But he did not sleep very well, and, pulling on a shirt, he rose while the city was still asleep.

He left his lights off in his single room, in case anyone was watching him. Going to the balcony, he looked out carefully, wondering if there were any taxis available. No, it was still too early, and they hadn't even pulled up at the entrance for the first business of the day. He would have to walk, and risk being picked up again! Best wait for a taxi, and then he would have a chance getting out, amidst the thick morning rush of traffic.

To be ready, he completely dressed and went and sat in a chair, dozing from time to time as the time slowly passed.

A few hours later, when the hotel's staff busy was preparing breakfast and putting finishing touches to the buffet and the tables, and the lobby was stirring with guests going down to the dining room, Damon thought it was just right to make his break for freedom, rather than wait any longer. Breakfast, he could catch on the run somewhere.

He had chosen the right time, he saw quickly, as the taxi he climbed into headed off from the curb into the morning traffic. Where just a few hours before there wasn't a single vehicle, the whole square was jammed with all kinds of vehicles, pedestrians, and sheep and other animals on their way to market. It was a pandemonium, so common in those parts, colorful, forever changing, yet always the same swirl of life in a provincial town that was fairly prosperous but had once seen more glorious days, if the huge Roman era ruins that studded the city still had anything to say about it.

The congestion continued even after the cab took him miles down the road from the city. Deciding to make it more difficult for anyone still on his track, Damon spotted a bus at a stop beside a fuel station, and called a halt. Paying the cabbie, Damon ran to the bus and jumped on. Wherever it was going, as long as it wasn't going back to Jaisalimur, was good enough for him.

Arriving at the metropolis and H-R capital city, Multan, Damon needs money fast if he isn't going to be arrested for vagrancy and sent to a prison workhouse. To wire his bank, Damon does the only thing he can do to quickly get the needed dinars, he sells a gold filing to a goldsmith (who extracts it on the spot and weighs it, before paying out the money to Damon.

He wires for funds from his bank, which soon arrive, and then he goes and outfits himself in a fine new suit, silk shirt and silk tie (sewn and tailored on the spot in a mens wear shop). Looking like himself again, he takes care of his other needs at a good hotel, but he doesn't get very far in his quest when he encounters a startlingly exact carbon copy of himself.

So many unbelievable things had already happened, things that made the Tea and Sugar a tea party in comparison, that he was half-prepared for this event. Hmmmm...this should give him some very interesting information, he thinks, as he regains rational thought after his initial novelty wears off a bit. But the man staggers and collapses right in front of Damon. Damon finds the cause, a dagger thrown and sunk into his twin's back, killing the fellow and also any chance Damon could find out from him why he (and no doubt his look-alike too) is being pursued.

Still trying to track down his pursuers as well as the elusive Agent X who is the cause of all his troubles of mis-identity, Damon headed for the train depot, to take an express home to Poseidonia, as direct flights from Heruka-Ratna to his homeland were prohibited for security reasons. Poseidonia had no desire to import H-R's fleeing dissidents--and H-R reciprocated in like manner, so there was left no real escape route for dissidents of any kind or stripe, unless they like to swim for it in shark-infested water. Anyone crossing the borders while eluding the border controls and without proper documents was arrested and sent back--usually to imprisonment and execution. Bandits preyed on these illegals too, letting them go for huge ransoms if they could pay it, and, if not, then they were dumped, hands bound, at the gate of some garrison's camp.

Thus, with such stringent controls in place, Damon would never fly into the Port Andros airport terminal, which handled only H-R traffic, or government-approved international flights from the northern tier of countries. That was probably a wise decision on his part, as air marshalls were ordered to take him into custody on sight--an easy matter in the confined spaces of an aircraft or even in the terminal. But the train station, huge and rambling, crowded with thousands of travellers and railway station and train personnel--he could easily pass through without being apprehended.

It is just as well he didn't fly, for he encounters some First Class distractions in First Class, and a train, not a plane, is the ideal place to deal justice to them, he had found on numerous prior trips. One such distraction even comes to pay him a special visit in his reserved cabin. A wealthy socialite, married to an aged Consul-General in the allied Republic of Baton Roo adjunct to the CSA embassy in Port Andros, has a hunger for young, handsome men and a more than passing interest in the dashing, Rhett Butler-ish Damon, but is she really on his side, or acting as an agent for the same people who are seemingly bent on destroying him? Only time, and events, will tell what this femme fatale is really up to.

Arlena arranged for Damon to be let off the train at a particular spot, which was no where on the map, it was in in agricultural country run by big estates, but she assured him he would meet Agent X there, simply by waiting for him on the road next to the track.

After some other assurances from the very capable, experienced Arlena, that need not be detailed here, Damon left the train when the engineer, in return for a bribe from Arlena, slowed and stopped the train just long enough for him to leap down.

The train pulled away, and Damon found himself the only human being standing on a lonely stretch of uninhabited country, without a single farm building or any sign that humans lived anywhere within less than twenty or thirty miles.

He felt chilled, for some reason, and for the first time after a woman's love soiled and dirty somehow, even with Arlena's expensive perfume still lingering in his nostrils. He had had married women before, preferred them for their knowing how to please a man--so it had never bothered him before. Why now? What did it make if she was someone else's wife--as long as the husband didn't find out about it and come hunting for him with a cocked heater. Funny, Padre Noaik came to mind then and there, but he dismissed the preaching missionary from Argentina, who said to Damon he couldn't run from Yeshua no matter how far he went--Yeshua was still there waiting for him to "climb aboard His Glory Train".

"Nothing doing, Padre!" he had responded at the time. "I'm too young for religion and got my whole life ahead of me, so maybe later, but not now!"

Even though the padre's appeal struck a chord in him, he wasn't about to climb aboard Yeshua's heaven-bound "Glory Train " now, at any rate. He was his own man--had always been. Even if he had lost some control over his life lately, he wasn't about to surrender all of it to anybody, as long as he had anything to say about it!

Growing increasingly edgy, he was there for about twenty minutes when a car appeared a long way off, and he watched it approach like a little black bug growing bigger and bigger, even as his curiosity grew about it, but not so curious that he did not take precaution to leave the train track, cross the road and continue on into the field. When he thought he was far enough away and might escape detection, he crouched down to watch the car as it neared. The sedan with the dark tinted and curtained window in the back stopped, and Damon felt a chill, only he was glad he had taken the precaution, for he had a chance at least of getting away if it was what he suspected it was. But he was mistaken, he saw. A man got out, exchanged places with the driver, drove off, and then the former driver remained standing there, wearing a farmer's work clothes. So he was only a farm worker?

This was strange to Damon. Where was his tools or equipment? Why did he come here to such a isolated spot? But as he waited he heard another car coming, and this it came on much faster than the other, and skidded to a halt. Immediately the man leaped in, the car door slammed, and the it sped off on squealing wheels in the opposite direction!

Damon, without any time to do anything, realized this had been his chance, and he had blown it royally! He ran back to the road, and was gasping for breath, feeling himself the biggest fool in the world for muffing his big chance to end the wretchedness of a cat and mouse chase, when he heard a strange whump-pity-wump, whump-pity-whump sound, growing louder and louder.

Then he realized what he was hearing, before he even saw it. The H-R military, he had read somewhere, had earlier employed as its first line of defense a certain Dutch-invented aircraft, the gyrocopter, as its gunship. The gyro had proved serviceable for many other uses as well in campaigns, but with the advent of jets and rockets, it was instantly obsolete, a museum piece. Selling off the deposed sultan's jewels and other royal state treasures to finance the changeover, Heruka-Ratna was just too poor to junk all its gyroplanes, however, so most of its gyro-fleet was outfitted as cropdusters after the military hardware was janked out.

Gazing in the direction of the sound, Damon was bored before he even saw it, and was wondering what direction he should start walking when he noticed the crop-duster was not doing what crop-dusters ordinarily did--dust the fields with either insecticides or fertilizer. This one was headed straight for him!

Damon did not stop to wonder about it. He started running, away from the road, which was too open, and gave him no protection. He hope to find a gulley or ravine to jump into for cover, but no such luck! The fields were rolling, but not one hole appeared as he ran. The gyro quickly narrowed the gap between them, and Damon turned his head and saw the thing was going to swoop and squash him like a potato bug if he didn't do something.

He narrowly leaped aside just in time as a wheel came down.

Tumbling in the dirt, he lay there a moment, heard the gyrocopter turning and then start its approach to finish the job.

Leaping up, Damon dashed in the opposite direction, trying to zig zag like a game hare chased by trained hounds. Why didn't they just shoot him? he wondered. But no bullet ripped into him, and he realized they were enjoying the chase so much they didn't want to make it too easy for themselves.

He was just about to run out of steam and collapse in exhaustion when he tripped over an iron hoe left lying in the field.

Snatching it up, he started running again, but the gyroplane was going to get him this time, he knew. What could he do? All he had was this old iron hoe!

He stopped, wound up like a discus thrower, and with all his might flung the hoe straight into the approaching whirling screw-blades.

The moment he did that hefell flat to the ground, hugging it for dear life.

The gyroplane passed over him with a deafening roar of wind and screw-blades and motors. Nothing touched him, though about a couple inches of soil was lifted all around Damon's sprawled form and the sweep of the rotary screw-blades was strong enough in suction to tear up the plants in a big swath along the plane's path.

Damon couldn't see a thing in the blinding whirlwind of dust, but he could still hear. The gyroplane was climbing, or wanting to climb, but there was a grinding, snapping sound this time, followed by a much louder smashing of metal blades colliding with each other. The dust had cleared somewhat, and Damon caught a glimpse of the stricken gyro. It was still trying to climb, but the grinding and smashing sounds were worse, joined by a tremendous rattling and drumming and a final ear-splitting screech, as the whole superstructure tore itself apart. The gyro, flinging huge sections of its screw-blades like a disintegrating grass-mower and automated cocktail swizzle, sank toward the ground, and it hit hard, and Damon saw a flash, and before he could duck down and shield his head in his hands, the whole aircraft exploded in a ball of fire and billowing smoke.

Unable to keep from looking, he saw several gyronauts struggle out of the wreckage, all in flames, and run in different directions, then collapse and flop about, still burning.

Horrified, Damon tried to get to one of the fliers, and it was too late anyway, for the man was dead, his eyes burnt to a crisp in their sockets. Smell of charred flesh and uniform was in the air, and wafted over Damon as he approached. Damon pulled his coat up over his face, but still smelled burned human flesh--and he was sick, and upchucked his stomach's contents--and that helped a little.

Nothing nasty or filthy or revolting he had seen so far in his wide travels equalled the stench and horror of this crash scene, the high octane petrol fumes mixing with the odor of fried, boiled, barbecued, filleted, and scrambled humans. Having seen the men actually burn to death, he naturally wanted only to get as far away as he could.

But he was unsure what direction to go? Return to Multan via the train track or the road which more or less followed the railway line's route? He could find a way out from there, no doubt, on either a plane, or train, or bus, even on foot. But would it be safe for him? He doubted that very much, for there were many watching eyes in Multan alerted to his description.

That left the train or taking the roads away from Multan toward his homeland. He suspected the train would not be any safer than Multan, and possibly a greater danger, so he started walking. If anyone came driving his way, he decided to get off and hide and let it go by before continuing. He might even walk at night, and hide by day in whatever shelter he could find.

That seemed a good idea, and he felt he had made the best decision he could. If only he could reach a town or some farmstead where he could hire a driver and car. He had enough money to get home, as long as he wasn't robbed. Dividing up his money, he put some in his shoe and left some in his wallet. He had lost his travel bag somewhere in the field, but had no desire to search for it. His watch too had come off his arm, the band had probably broken in is many falls and tumbles. He would have to have it repaired, first chance he got, so he put it in his pocket until then.

At first it felt rather good to walk off his stiffness and soreness, even the bruises felt a little better.

After an hour he was in the first of the foothills of the mountains, feeling thirsty and hungry, when he heard the sound of a vehicle, from the direction in which the train had gone, headed for the Poseidonian border. It didn't sound like a standard motor, more like the racket of small farm machinery, but he climbed up into the rocks near the road, and was out of sight when it started to come into view. He was right, it wasn't a car or truck but a motorized cycle with a sidecar.

He waited and could see the driver, a man with goggles, wearing a leather cap and body suit also of leather, the type used by hired taxi-cycles in Multan that were thick as the flies there. But the passenger made his heart beat faster. There was something about her--Arlena? She had sunglasses on, and a jacket, but it was her, he could tell, as she wasn't wearing a hat or scarf and her hair was the same color and style, it couldn't be anyone else.

They were about to go by when he stood up, throwing a small rock down across their path. The cycle skidded to a halt, then they were looking up to where he was standing. He climbed down, jumping onto the road, and walked over to them.

Arlena stood up in the sidecar, and tried to get out, and her driver hurried cut the motor on the cycle and hurried round to help her down, but Damon reached her first and she stayed where she was.

"Damon! So glad I found you! Come on with me, I will take you back. That is why I hired this nice man here--I had an idea you might be in trouble of some kind. And I saw the wreckage back there! How terrible? Whatever happened?"

Damon wasn't going to explain anything to her, he was glancing at her driver, and the looks both of them exchanged only increased his suspicion and sense that something was afoot.

He smiled, however, and acted as casually as he could. "What do you mean wreckage? I didn't see it. I've been walking since I left the train, for no one showed up like you said--he must have missed the assigned meeting time, right? I thought you knew what you were talking about--that someone would be sure to be there--but I saw no one!"

Arlena seemed troubled, but quickly smiled. She motioned for him to come close, for a private conversation. When he bent over to her, she continued. "Oh, it was just those men I told you about I overheard talking on the train in the corridor, who must have meant some other place for the meeting, or I got the information wrong. They really did seem up to some mischief, and after what I knew about the Grey Wolves going to stage a coup, it seemed credible enough that the agent you are seeking is the one they want to stop collecting information on them. But, darling, the important thing is you weren't involved in that flier's accident back there?-- how wonderful! It looks like such a dreadful accident! It doesn't seem like there could be any survivors, and the police will be here to look into it, no doubt."

She glanced back up the road toward Multan. Then with a look of anxiety toward Damon. "Get in, darling! We have no time to waste. They will be coming soon, and wanting to know the cause for the crash, since they would naturally think we were witnesses of it, and we need not be questioned for hours if we leave now. Damon, we can talk on the way--but we will go to the next town and get a room there. I think I know of a hotel, and it is clean enough. You can wash up there and--"

She looked more closely at him head to foot.

"My, you have gotten dirty! Your suit! You look like you have been rolling in the fields like a regular farmhand! Whatever have you been doing? Has those men you told me about been after you again?"

She swung the sidecar's door open, and beckoned to him to hop in beside her (as if there was room for more than one passenger in the single passenger cab).

Still Damon hesitated. The driver inspired no confidence in him whatsoever, he looked like an assassin who would just as soon kill him, given enough money to do the job. Besides, Arlena's favorite perfume, jasmine, was washing over him, bringing back memories of her lying beside him, but the horrors of what had happened shortly afterwards were also assailing his senses--it was all so fresh to his mind--he couldn't bring himself to trust her again.

Suddenly, seeing the driver had left the key in the cycle's ignition, he had an idea, that solved his quandary.

"There's time for a cigarette, dear. I must have one first."

Arlena fumbled in her purse, taking out a cigarette case and a lighter. She lit a cigarette and took it from her mouth and handed it to him--just the way she always did it to please a lover.

Damon jerked his head toward the driver who was watching them intently. "How about him? He's seems to be a good fellow, driving you all this way just to pick me up! Give him a little reward for his trouble. I insist on it!"

She handed her cigarette case to Damon, and he let the driver take one, along with the lighter.

"Thank you, Effendi, thank you, M'lady," the driver said, bowing to each while smiling and revealing some gold teeth in front.

Arlena gave him a tiny smile and a little wave of her hand to the driver, which Damon saw, and the driver handed back the cigarettes and jeweled platinum lighter and stepped away a few yards, standing with his back to them as he drew on his cigarette.

Arlena reached out and took Damon's arm, pulling him closer. She looked up into his face. "Darling, it will be nice tonight when we reach the next town. I will make it up to you--your not finding that man you are looking forward. I was so worried it might not work out, so I had to come and find out for sure if you were still here in the area. I couldn't leave you like that--not knowing!"

Damon's eyebrows narrowed, but he was still smiling. "I am so glad you did. You saved me a very long, tiring walk! I might have caught a ride with someone, but there is so little traffic along here, it might have been a long time, even days, before someone would stop for me."

"So you are coming!" she said brightly, moving aside to make room for him.

"Not so fast, darling!" he said. "Let me finish my cigarette. I don't like the ashes blowing back into my face!"

"Of course!" she laughed. "Finish your cigarette then! But we really should be going as soon as you do!"

As Damon was aware now, it was the time to act. And drawing on his cigarette he took a few silent steps around the cycle, paused, smiled back at Arlena, and took a few more steps behind the driver, who was standing enjoying Arlena's expensive, scented cigarette at the edge of the road, his back still turned to them. Without a shoulder, the road dropped off into a small ravine about twenty feet deep at the bottom--a drainage for the fields--with some water and mud in it. Then the driver did something that provided the perfect set-up, he leaned over to pull up his sock or retie his boot lace.

This was too good an opportunity to waste. Damon leaped the rest of the way and the driver a got a kick in the rear that sent him tumbling down the slope. Then Damon ran to the cycle, and hit the starter with his foot, and the engine, after a couple hard hits, ignited and roared to life. Before Arlena could do anything, Damon jammed his foot on the gas and the cycle leaped and bolted off up the road, its tires spinning. A few more moments it was beyond the reach and even the hearing of the driver, who was still struggling to get out of the ravine.

With the roar of the motor and the wind in his ears, Arlena's screams and protests did not bother him in the least, and eventually she remembered her dignity as a Consul-General's wife and stopped. From then on she sat sullenly looking at him as he drove them up and up into the mountains, following the road as it moved more or less toward Poseidonia in the east.

With the Baton Roo Consul-General's wife his captive, Damon drove the cycle's four cylinders as hard as he could, hoping the fuel aboard would be enough to get them to the next town. There was another small tank aboard the sidecar, but was there anything in it? He didn't want to stop to find out. If the motor began sputtering, he would stop to look. Until then, he didn't want to give Arlena a chance to jump out and run away from him. He still had some questions he wanted to ask her, when he got her to a safe enough place where they wouldn't be interrupted.

He was thinking hard as he was driving. What was Arlena's real motive in coming back for him anyway? Was it to find him dead or alive? Just to verify his remains or actually to save him from his pursuers--the hired assassins who were no doubt hot on his trail now, once they heard about the crash or saw the wreckage of the gyroplane. After her bad advice to him nearly cost him his life, he did not have a shred of confidence in a single word of hers--everything she said could be a lie just to set him up for a take-down.

And how had she heard of the crash? If she had searched the field first round the crash scene, she knew that he had escaped somehow, and had gone in search of him back on the road. And it had paid off--she had found him, or rather he had let her find him.

But what then? What was this driver she brought with her going to do once they found him? He was carrying something, by the looks of that bulge under his arm.

Damon glanced back at Arlena, who sat, her head down as far as possible from the now chill, mountain air, her jacket collar up round her neck and part of her clothing pulled up shielding her face to keep warm.

Thinking that a cycle fitted up for passengers might have a luxury or two, he was right. The cycle had a switch for a heater, and he found it and gave her some heat. She looked up surprised, and then snuggled down in the cab, and seemed to be resting as they continued the climb.

Without having to worry about her freezing, he had only himself to be concerned about, as the wind was cold, and his suit was wool but not warm enough.

The grade was increasing, and the climb was slower, but he kept going, with high white peaks rising all around them, and a cliff edge meeting the edge of the road without any guardrails.

He was so surprised, not pleasantly either, when he saw a car headed his way from the heights above. He saw the vehicle rounding the curve above them, so he spun the cycle and cab around, and tried to outrun the car before the killers could see them and begin chase.

What did he have to lose by his maneuver if he was wrong? Nothing! But if he was right? He wasn't going to go meekly to the slaughter this time, if he had anything to do with it!

He glanced back once and saw Arlena's eyes were wide open, and she was looking back, almost as if she meant to climb and jump out, the moment he slowed down.

Giving her no chance, he continued, then saw a road, or what had been a road in centuries past, once level, but now sloping steeply down. It was not much more than a goat track, but there were what looked like ancient stones set up to mark its borders, but which were the remains of pedestals that had held the giant winged raptors that once guarded the processional road to the site. Arlena's face was pale white as she gripped the sides of the cab for dear life as they bounced and bumped down the fragmented roadbed, hitting stray stones which threatened to overturn the cycle and throw them over the side and down the cliffs toward the ground far below.

He had to use the brake most of the way, and then finally he couldn't go any further. The road dead-ended at an enormous stone platform set with the shell of a ruined temple, only columns remaining, atop some huge stone figures he had never known were there. He had seen great stone colossi of the gods of Mizraim, and photographed them for a travel magazine, in the far southwestern part of H-R, but these near the border of H-R and Poseidonia were a mystery to him. It seemed possible to him a recent earthquake had set off a massive landslide that uncovered the ruins--that had happened before in other places--but nothing on this scale had ever been seen in these mountains. If only he had his camera, and he wasn't running for his life! It was a photographer's wildest wish-fantasy--being first on the scene to shoot a world-class ruin, a Wonder of the World from the ancient past, that represented a complete mystery.

The fame of his discovery would spread world-wide in hours--and he could name any price for his pictures!

He cut the motor, and waited, as an ashen-faced Arlena tried to get out of the cab. It had been a horrible, rough, bone-bruising ride down, and she was shaken, and struggled to get the cab open. She was quite a sight, and he felt pity for this woman, so sophisticated, so used to luxury and having things her way, with servants answering her every need. Now she was in the utter wilds, in his control. He went round to her side, and opened it, and then helped her down, trying to be as gentle with her as he could.

"Are you crazy?" she said, her face full of fury, making it even more beautiful somehow. "Where are we? Why did you drag me here to this awful place? You've nearly killed me!"

Damon had to laugh, despite her anger at him. "Sorry! I couldn't waste any time getting here. Your friends--of maybe friends of your friends-- were coming down to get me and finish me off--I saw their car ahead of us back up there. I thought I'd best pull off to this sweet little garden spot and let them drive by, if you don't mind, darling! We can leave in a few minutes, when I see the coast is clear."

Arlena, to her credit he thought, did not show any resentment that he had found her out, that she might not be acting in his best interests.

She flicked open her cigarette case. "Light mine for me, will you?"

He did so. Then he stood watching her. After a few moments, she turned to him. Her voice was different, more resigned and matter-of-fact than before, as if she knew he knew the game was up, so why pretend any longer?

"Well, I can't tell you their identity, or precisely what government they work for, but they caught me with a fellow they planted on me, and they photographed us and then blackmailed me. They threatened to tell my husband, show him all the photographs they had, and so I had to cooperate or be ruined! I had to do whatever they told me to do, only I didn't know I would have this feeling for you when I did what they said, let you in my cabin--I guess I hadn't met someone like you before, and that made me do a stupid thing--I really didn't want you killed by them--no! I knew the man you were being taken for--and I thought--well, it didn't work out. The fates were against it. Damon, you've got to believe me, I am telling truth this time! This is the real woman, the real Arlena, talking to you! Not someone trying to manipulate you! I'm done with that. Believe me, Damon!"

He found her gripping his shirt in front, and he gently but firmly unfastened her hands and pushed her back away a few feet. "You will have to do better than that, sweetheart," he said coldly.

"The story is just too good, too neat. You have much more to tell than that. But I am certain you won't want to tell me the rest--it would be too, ah, damaging?"

Arlena gave him a look that might have killed him, and the marvel to Damon was that she looked all the more alluring and provocative. "All right, have it your way! After what happened to you back there, I suppose you think you have every right to treat me like this, suspect me, even when I am telling you the truth! I admit I have some of it coming! But what would you do, in my place, if you were blackmailed? I had to go along with them if I was to keep from being exposed by the scandal they would create."

She looked at him with narrowed eyes, in her sidelong glancing way. "But, darling, what do you intend to do now? You have no way out of here really? They will watch the road both coming and going. In fact, they may find this place--then what? Where will you run? It is a cul de sac. There are nothing but cliffs all around us, and these old, barbarous statues or gods, or whatever they are, down below us! I am your hostage, is that it? What good will I do for you? You can't demand ransom for me--they will never pay it! I am nothing to them. Let me go! You can just leave me here and escape. Why drag me along?"

Damon had no time to answer her questions or try to reason with her. It was a question of survival now, not a time to talk.

Having ditched the cycle-cab behind a rock to hide it, Damon tries to find another way out of the trap, but there isn't but one way: down!

It seems to Damon that if they can just climb down out of sight, they stand a chance of eluding the goons hunting him. He helps Arlena down the side of the cliff, along the very earthquake fault that has recently opened and shifted. It was, in fact, the same shifting that has only days before uncovered the entire temple, statuary, and archives complex constructed by the Atlanteans before the catastrophe that sank Atlantis to the sea bottom in 10,000 B.C. Once the complex stood in a capital city situated on a plain, with a big river winding through, right in front of the colossi honoring the emperor, but the whole landscape has been terraformed drastically, by a number of factors, into something radically different.

They reach a ledge where Arlena can rest a moment, but she turns to Damon when he wants to continue, pushing his hand away. "I'm not going any further. I can't! Please don't force me, it won't work! You have no chance of getting away, with me along! You know that as well as I--so let's not be stupid. This is where we part. It has to be.

Damon wouldn't hear of it. "No, no, I won't let them find you here, who knows what they will do, if they think you helped me escape?"

Arlena laughed. "It doesn't matter, Damon. They'll catch us both, and we'll die together--is that what you want? No, you have to go on your own, and I won't be the cause for you being caught and killed--that is...unnecessary. I can't think of that!"

Damon peered closely at her, and saw she was resolved, but he wouldn't give up. "We've just begun to try this way--a little more, we can be sure they can't reach us, and then maybe they will grow tired of this and let us go. They might think we fell and killed ourselves, if we just keep out of sight."

Arlena shook her head. "They won't give up that easily. I know them that well. They won't suppose anything, and won't be satisfied. They have to report to their superiors, and so they can't take back stories. They must have us, dead or alive.

Damon sighed, and couldn't think what to say next to dissuade her. But he had to know something. "You know them, you said. Who are they? Why are they hunting me down like this? And I keep running into someone who looks like my twin brother? is that the reason? The last twin I ran into was knifed. But they still kept chasing me. So what is going on?"

Arlena looked into his eyes and did not look at all afraid of her very dim prospects, but smiled. "I have a little theory, that's all. See if it seems to make sense to you. As a complete outsider to espionage, I just suppose they came across your face and pictures in some magazine, and someone decided to copy you, make a clone of sorts with an agent, and maybe more than one. They could use the Damonsth to penetrate the target country's security net, all because you were known to travel widely and your identity was therefore very useful. It would help to cover the agents, who would be penetrating key installations, so if apprehended, they could use your identity, which was a real one, not a counterfeit which the H-R authorities could quickly check out and find were bogus. They didn't care about you. So when you stumbled into the midst of their operations, you had to be eliminated, as you were exposing the whole operation. You may have two more than one country's secret service after you, as you were doing them each more damage than you could imagine!"

Damon was stunned. What other explanation could there be? Arlena had guessed right. He was a pawn for secret services, only a wretched pawn! They had stolen his identity, so now he was a nonentity, actually. His identity was now his death warrant. He would be shot on sight. And he had done nothing--his identity was now made a capital offense, just because he was born who he was. All his life was a zero, far as they were concerned. They didn't care what he had been, or would be, or anything about his dreams and ambitions. He was just a face and identity to them--nothing more--and once no longer an asset, they considered him a bloody nuisance and liability to be liquidated.

Damon felt all his self-assurance crumble, as all his individualism meant nothing as long as he was a target of the secret services of H-R and who knows how many other countries! What could he do now? He couldn't change their view of him, or their objective which was to liquidate him like a bug.

The reality, however, is forcing them to face it, no matter what the complexity of his identity problem. They are on a narrow ledge of a cliff, and this is the last time they will see each other alive. He tries to tell her how sorry he is, but she stops him.

"For once, Damon, I've slowed down enough to have some second thoughts. This is what I have put off until now. I've got to do something to help someone else--even if it doesn't help me. What good is both of us dying? And I really have nothing to return to? Nothing! They've destroyed me already. You might as well try to escape if you can. Don't try to rob me of one good thing I can do with my life, the last bit of it, by staying here. I've been a selfish woman all my life, and only self-gratification mattered--and I used everyone I could to amuse me. But you are different. I see something about you I really liked. But I am not the woman for you. I maybe could be, if I had changed in time, but there is no chance of that now. You must go! So go!"

Leaving Arlena, as she won't have it any other way, Damon makes his way carefully across the cobra headdress of the colossus, fortunate to have cracks made by earthquakes that give him hand grips.

The foreign agents (or are they H-R's secret police?) send the first man down to pick off Damon and rid themselves of a nuisance. As for Arlena, they might find her useful if she comes willingly. If not, she is to be share Damon's fate. Parted, Damon and Arlena present two separate targets, however. But it is Damon they want-- precisely for the reason Arlena has hinted at during their last words together.

Damon decides to lure his tracker to overstepping himself. He feigns a hit, and screams with pain. Hearing him, the hitman makes every effort to finish him off, and he does what Damon is hoping he will do, he takes too much of a risk and slips. The poor man screams all the way down the face of the statue, then there is silence on the far rocks below. One down--how many to go? Damon isn't going to wait to see, and continue across the eye and over to the other side of the cobra headress, hoping this will put out of range, or at least deflect their shots.

He no sooner reaches the right side, when he feels sands and bits of stone raining down, and realizes someone is coming down that way for him.

Time to move? But where? This time he decides to cross over to the monolithic nose, if he can. Maybe he can crawl up inside a nostril? At least he wouldn't be so exposed on the outer surface.

As Damon is descending as fast as he can, Arlena is approached by an agent, who decides to haul her in first before proceeding to deal with her lover boy.

She will be easy, he figures, as he climbs down to where she is sitting and waiting for him, well aware of him, since he is breathing heavily as he makes his careful moves.

Arlena has already decided what would work best, based on her particular talents. "I'll let him dig his own grave," she thought grimly.

"I can see what's on his pea brain!"

It took some time but he finally reached her perch. But first he decided to have a little fun with her if he could. Why not? He worked hard for a living, why not enjoy a little R& R with this classy little tush? It wasn't often that types like her crossed his path. He usually had to resort to back alley sluts he had to shell out a lot of cash for, and they were toothless hags compared to her! Who could blame him? Besides, the boss was up in the car and what he didn't know didn't hurt him!

She looked so frightened of him and where she was, that he saw he wouldn't have to work very hard to convince her, that he was due something for getting her out of such a jam as she was obviously in.

"Your boyfriend left you high and dry, I see!" he called over to her in his friendliest manner. "Some fine gentleman he is! Well, I can fix that! I'll get you outa here safe and sound, just trust me! I'll take care of it just perfect for a lady like you, just you see!"

She didn't say anything, but he could see she wasn't going to resist, so he proceeded to edge her way, talking to her all the while.

"Don't be afraid, missy, you're in mighty good hands now, sweetheart! Just you relax, I know just how to handle a woman of high class like you, so you don't have to worry your pretty little head any--nossir!"

Finally, he reached her, and she seemed so helpless and utterly grateful to him, he put his arms out around her and sort of overplayed his role of knight rescuing a damsel in distress, perhaps. Going for his first kiss, he let down his guard, in any case, and the next thing he knew her knee caught him sharply in the groin, and the steel cleat on her high heeled shoe came crashing down simultaneously on his left temple, just above the eyebrow.

Stunned, he didn't know much else, except that someone gave him a push and then he was falling like a stone down the cliff--which was only a momentary sensation, true, but disturbing, nonetheless, as the rocks gravity rapidly pulled toward him looked most unforgiving and mean and nasty.

The temple at the apex is a cenotaph that once contained the now vanished god-emperor's visera in golden urns, for ceremonial visits by a priesthood perpetually at their duties, but the facility at the bottom of the colossi contains a working archives of items that are splendid, despite the many thousands of years buried beneath the sea, then riding out the millennia encapsulated within the rising mountains of the Atlantis II. With their own power source, they have withstood the crush of sea waters, and the cold of sunlessness without diminishing a degree in lustre and strength, but these crystals--for such they appear--are yet of a sort Damon has never seen before and so could not possibly appreciate.

The moment he enters, however, he discovers he is in a radically different world than the one he had just left.

He had been all over the three inhabited continents--East Turtle Island and West Turtle Island, Ismanliya the White Continent in the middle, and Argentia-Panamania, photographing and exploring all sorts of wonders, natural and man-made, but nothing he had seen, not even among the architectural glories of ruined Mizraim to the southwest that stretched for over a thousand miles along the great river Ioteru, equalled what his eyes beheld. He could not take it in--it was so strange and eerie and yet so living and full of purpose and intelligent design--even in the ruined state he found it. The crystals--for such they seemed--lay tumbled about on the floor, some lit up, others quite dead or asleep. He was intrigued with the repulsive animality of the huge statues inside. Were they ancient gods? Or vanished heroes or great leaders of this long dead culture? They looked Mizraimite, but were they? These were different somehow, and he sensed a far greater age and antiquity about them. These were seemingly for real, they were not merely statuary. He almost expected them to start moving as he gazed upon each one he met. But why so animalistic? Apparently, the ancient culture represented here, whether human or something else, blended with animals, but did not like animals for themselves, no they combined with them to create a new species of some kind--and he sensed a horror in it--his humanness was repelled by it, not drawn to it. These species were devoid of all human feeling--but they were now grown terribly fierce and cold and pitiless--so the mixture, the hybridization, was a horrible thing.

But who created this new monstrous race of giant, immensely powerful beings who could construct such a place as this and stock it with their ingenious, inscrutable treasures? He had to find out somehow, if he could, even while he knew the spies were still out to hunt him down, and there might be more coming than the ones he had already eliminated.

After Ero enters and, his mouth hanging open from amazement, exploring the archives, Ero approaches the monolith-guarded archives, taken there by the guidance system Wally installed in the stripped down, otherwise useless Kater's compass.

But instead of pausing, the masthead-Argo bot that Wally provided him for his travels continues its ascent, shooting up up over the monoliths, just as he sees a woman hanging to a ledge, about to drop off onto the rocks below.

He must do something to help if he can--being Ero, he cannot do otherwise. The Greek he is rises up, his true manhood and its instincts intact, and so he cannot watch a fellow human being destroy herself.

Ero works at the popup feverishly, to direct the mast-head back down. Wally the programmer had provided Zoom In, Zoom Out, and other directional modifiers, but the program was deliberately made difficult, to keep it from being used too much, and Ero was swearing in Greek as he navigated through Wally's "helps" to get the mast where he wanted it to go.

Damon wastes no time, he knows that there may be assassins on his tracks, so he isn't going to stand in one place and provide a convenient target. But the place is vast, and there are so many objects that he cannot take time to examine in detail. He passes through open doorways into one vast hall after another, all filled with things he had never imagined existed.

The three spies detailed to round up Damon and Arlena, dead or alive, were not reporting back to their chief, who sat waiting impatiently in the car.

Pedro Incarceracion Federales, known in his shady vocation as The Shadow because of his ghostly, whispery voice and his cat-like agility as he stalked his prey, kept his window cracked for sounds of what was going on. Starting out as a secret agent for Poseidonia, then capitalizing on that experience and upgrading to counter-agent for H-R, finally entering the rarefied heights of international espionage as a counter-counter-agent (few agents, indeed, lived long enough to attain that level of treachery and double-crossing) for suitable compensation by both the CSA and Publicatexa, Federales had done well for himself. The only hitch, the thing that stuck in his craw, was the poor material he had to work with! The goons he had to do the drudge-work of the business were always messing up! They simply couldn't figure anything out, he had to tell them everything, and then they didn't follow his instructions correctly. It was one thing and another, always having to fix what they bungled!

He sighed! It was just too quiet out there, and something had gone wrong again! When he could hear nothing more for some time, he had to assume things were not going to get any better for his team whom he knew were no better than nincompoops. Even if ugly morons had all been given plastic surgery and made to look like him (he, the Shadow, wasn't going anywhere unless he had several decoys along!), no amount of expert cosmetology could give them a boost in IQ.

Now he would have to check in to it personally. This was a bloody nuisance--he didn't need anyone if they were going to bungle a simple little assignment like this! One dude and a snooty little broad running off together--rounding them up should have been a no-brainer! Why, he should have gone alone and done the job himself, making sure it was done right! Now he would have to clean up the mess they had made of it!

Getting out of the car, he decided to strip down and dress in his working clothes--just in case. In his profession, he knew being prepared was everything. Better fighters than himself, he knew, were dead meat if they came unprepared. He pulled out the trunk in the back, which had his personal gear which he let no one use but himself. Slipping out of his clothes, he pulled on his black body suit, which was a close,seamless fit, with nothing that could be grabbed or catch on something. A cap covered his head. He slipped on special shoes, and threw his alligators in the trunk, along with his fine, tailored, mohair suit, and silk shirt.

His equipment was topped by a customized luger in an underarm holdster and a long, razor-sharp knife in a sheath completed his weapons. Last of all, he pulled on leather gloves, with a spare in a pocket on his left thigh.

Taking a 150-200 coiled length of thin, light, but very strong rope, he headed for the cliff edge. Leaning over, he quickly sized up the best spot for descent.

Heights didn't bother him. He knew that he would be able to deal with anything he found below--he had scaled many tall buildings before with only a rope to get somebody his employers wanted assassinated--but was surprised when he saw the flying mast, with a woman and man aboard! What kind of aircraft was that? It was maybe the latest innovation of the enemy powers he was supposed to be fighting--but whatever it was, it gave him cause to consider what he was dealing with. His men? They were no where in sight--obviously, the chumps had been too footloose to make it down this steep a cliff, and hadn't made it to the target, for he was looking at the target right now, getting away!

Not if he could help it! With a rock, he drove his pronged anchoring nail down in the hard ground, fastened his rope to it, pulled with all his might, and then threw the rest of the rope over the edge. It was more than enough to get him to the bottom, or close enough anyway. He wasted no time. In a flash he was flying down the cliff face.

He came down just a few feet from the mast, and then giving a kick off a statue, he swung right down over the mast, and then dropped the rest of the way down to it.

Damon is amazed at the sight of a king, a giant in size, encapsulated in a crystal, for what specific purposes he could not determine, of course.

In yet another particularly huge rockcut chamber, Damon finds a giant crystal, bigger than any others he had seen. This one is sending out globes or spheres of glowing blue energy, and they are moving one after the other toward a seated figure on a throne on the other side of the hall. The figure seems closer than it is, he will find. The globes do not diminish in size, that is only the effect of the distances.

Watching the spheres or globes passing from the crystal to the throne and its occupant, Damon begins to wonder why it was set up to do that. He left the crystal and went to find out if he could. As he approached the throne, it grew in size, and continued to enlarge, until he found himself reduced to a very small person in comparison with the statue, or whatever it was. Why energize a stone statue? he had to wonder. Seemed like a total waste of energy to him.

Yet as he looked up at the statue, he was astounded at what he saw. It did not look like stone, no more than it looked human. A sort of colossal hawk sat on the golden and jewel-encrusted throne all enclosed in a thin crystal sheath much like a butterfly pupa in a chrysalis. But this was no butterfly in the making. The hawk had legs and arms like a man, only the head was not a man's but a hawk's, with a huge raptor's beak!

Appalled, Damon could not stand to look at it, but he had to. He had to find out what it was, and why it was being fed the globes. Even as he watched, a globe passed to the hawk-giant and dissolved, and the monster shuddered a bit and seemed to glow a little brighter.

Then the beak moved, and the eyelids quivered, as if they were about to open. This was not just horrible, but frightening to watch.

Backing away, Damon turned. His devil-take-the-hindmost-daring, gone. He had never even imagined a monstrosity like this one could ever exist--half-human, half-raptor, and of giant size. What kind of civilization had birthed it, pasting human and animal together liked that to make one monstrous being? The Indian tribes had stories they told and retold, he knew, that spoke of a bygone age when superbeings stalked the earth and ruled it--but those were only myths laughed at by his teachers in school, and he hadn't taken any of them seriously--until now. The Indians also described how the Earth was located in another quarter of the sky, the Indians, and was burning up and dying from too much heat from Brother Sun, and Raven had come to the rescue of people and animals and tied the Earth with strong leather cord to the tip of his arrow, and with his bow shot them all to a new home in the heavens where they could revive their strength and hunt the buffalo again.

The Indian tales gave this and other information he had to think over some other time, if he survived to think about them, that is. Whatever the species was that manufactured such monsters, he wanted nothing to do with it! Where they entirely without sense? For all their marvels, they couldn't have anything the least good to offer humanity--and if they let humans live, he thought, it would be just to grove at their feet and serve them as slaves!

He ran back all the way to the crystal, and crouched down along the side for cover. What if the beast suddenly woke up and stepped out from its chair and saw him! Wouldn't it go after him like a bird of prey would a rabbit? He would be torn to shreds by that beak in a moment or two!

Feeling defenceless and totally exposed, Damon thought hard about what to do. He needed to get clear of the giant raptor, he decided, before it woke up completely, saw him, and tried to run him down. This was, after all, its territory, its palace, not his. He didn't know his way around, as it must know.

Still crouched down, trying to keep out of sight of the thing, Damon was thinking about making a dash back to the entrance when a crazy thought flashed into his mind. No! he thought immediately. He couldn't do such a thing. Why take a chance like that?

But the thought kept coming--"Stop its feeding from the energy prism and starve the dormant White Land king to death!"

Damon almost burst out with a laugh. How? Could he move the giant crystal, the empowering prism that fed the abomination in its chrysalis? The crystal looked like it weighed tons. He only wanted to get out of the place, then report it once he was safe back in civilization. Let the government confiscate the gold and jewels and artifacts--he knew he could live nicely on his fame for discovering the site--without having a lot of wealth to protect and keeping a bodyguard the rest of his life.

The creatures most preferred seemed to be predators, the bigger the better, as Damon viewed a shark looking completely alive though embedded in a giant crystal.

He also sees a lion, though it is much bigger than any he had seen before.

And just beyond the lion is a bull elephant, which looks to him as if it were still alive, its ears flared and ready to step out of the crystal and crush him with one foot or grab him with its trunk.

It was strange how earthquakes and upheavals at various times destroyed some rooms and their menagerie of crystal-preserved monsters, but left others completely intact and everything in them in perfect condition. Water had also run out drains, if any significant amounts had ever gotten in--as the place had evidently been perfectly sealed in its location deep in the bedrock. As for the sealed entrance, that had been swept away only in the latest earthquake, and if not for the quake that sheared off the face of the surrounding rock sufficiently, he could never have found the way in through a secondary, unsealed entrance.

Even being raised thousands of feet by upthrusting volcanism and coming to rest inside a mountain, that did not destroy the facility, it was so well anchored inside the solid rock--with an ingenious system of giant levers that kept most of it both level and free from damaging rocking back and forth.

He came to a hall that contains nothing but hundreds of glowing mirrors, or such they appear. But the mirrors are flickering with scenes, not imaging their surroundings. The largest shows a vast panorama, a riverine plain studded with cities. As he watches, it takes him closer into the scene, descending into one of the cities, and he sees the inhabitants going about their business as usual. The architecture of the structures is strange, mostly geometric, with a great many columns, and squares and avenues set with statuary of immense sizes, but somehow familiar. Where had he...? Yes, of course! The buildings most resembled the pyramids and cones and obelisks of Mizraim, did they not? In addition, strangest of all, there were hundreds of others that looked like immense sundials, or solar panels--though they weren't reflective, and he could not guess at their uses or purpose. Mizraim once had avenues such as these, too, set with giant sphinxes, rams, hawks, lions, bulls, and all sorts of other creatures the Mizraimites worshipped as gods. But most impressive than even the temples and public buildings were schools of wisdom and learning, where the astrologers and wisemen ruled hundreds of neophytes and trained them in the secret lore of the power crystals.

The resemblance in everything he saw, the Mizraimite connection, was almost uncanny, though in the projected scene the buildings were not just massive stone concretions but crystal structures, and so massive that even the smaller ones could comfortably house any number of Mizraim's Houses of Eternity and temple complexes.

As for the inhabitants, they seem to be mostly slaves serving the golden, jeweled nobility and aristocrats, the elite ruling class of masters and mistresses of the super-race who sometimes appear in public, but mostly are hidden deep within the palaces and temples and pleasure pavilions of the city.

Hadn't he also caught glimpses of gangs of slaves, chained together, working the fields outside the city? They all appeared humans, with no superhuman powers, but their masters? Were they human too? Or something else? He could not tell, except that they preferred animals to humans and blended with them in new hybrid beings they themselves created. Whether or not human, the only thing certain was that the governing class was oppressing the human slave class in the most hideous way--making them do all the work of supporting them in the upmost luxury amidst magnificent settings while most of them scarcely had a rag to cover themselves.

Meanwhile, the air was thick with flying globes and disks of all kinds. They mystified him, until he saw one being boarded by the ruling classd. A transporting machine of some kind! he realized. Fashioned of a special material found on asteroids and rarely, only in tiny amounts, on earth, it absorbed its energy at one of the conelike structures, then rose and flew out the top, vanishing into the clouds, flying swiftly and without a sound. What an advance this represented in fuel, technology and aircraft! His world had nothing to compare with it! He watched a number of events being staged, all sorts of nobility present, with the emperors and empresses in attendance at a number of them in special pavilions. In one more private ceremony, a chief astrologer greeted the Queen after performing the secret rite that only her eyes could see that insured the safety of herself while travelling in her newly finished and staffed cosmic chariot to other stars and back. The few human slaves allowed were put to death immediately afterwards, of course.

It surpassed the world's nuclear physics and rocketry. There were even cities set apparently in space on unknown planets in distant star systems he could not identify, all reached by those huge blue hollow disks they used for space travel as well as terrestrial air travel.

Was it a paradise of perpetual peace and happiness? No, he saw that they were well prepared for war, and there were continual revolts and struggles for the throne within and outside the ruling dynasties and royal families. Assassinations, rival claimants fighting it out, it was a cycle that embroiled the country in war after war. One weapon as especially favored, a crystaline obelisk that shot death rays far out and burned and exploded enemy aircraft and flying spheres.

If they were so advanced, it was one thing to fight among themselves, but why did they have to press and crush the whole weight of their civilization down on the backs of their wretched human slaves? Why couldn't they just use their incredible wisdom and crystals to make a paradise for everyone, not just a tiny elite at the top? It certainly appeared they could do it, since they were so adept at creating the most wonderful transporation imaginable as well as beautiful, clean, elegant cities that all looked like jewels to his eyes set amidst perfectly laid out parks and gardens and pools?

Damon wonders why there are so few food transports into the city. What staples do they consume? He sees the endless streams of workers and slaves, in and out each day, for none but the household staffs are allowed to remain in the incredibly glowing, magical-looking metropolis at night. As for the slaves, they are not only transporters of farm and factory goods and all kinds of animals for the zoos and for household pets (snakes of all kinds and crocodiles and sharks seemed to be the most popular of the exotic pets), but vintners, bakers, cleaners, domestic and household servants, gardeners, entertainers, musicians, artisans, construction crews, and... food!

Cobras appear to be most venerated, even sacred, for he sees they are allotted whole temples and the priests serve them.

If this wasn't bad enough, he sees a chained line of boys and young men being taken, bound by the hands, and being made to kneel for their turn at a grisly kind of milking station.

A vein is opened up in the neck or arm, and blood is drained from each one into containers, and taken away to the master and mistress of various households waiting for their favorite power drink.

Damon has the answer ot his question. Blood-sucking Vampires! So that is how they get their primary food source! Fresh fruits brought in each day and the other condiments added to them were nothing but dessert served after the main course: human blood! That proved to him that they could not be human--they treated human beings as nothing but cattle to be disposed of any way they choose.

They were also cruel sadists that enjoyed inflicting pain.

For entertainment at parties and special events drawing thousands of these gilded and jeweled vampires, huge tanks, many of gold-inlaid marble-like stone, were filled with starved sharks or crocodiles and South American piranha, and human slaves--men, women, children, babies (they particularly liked using babies) were thrown in. Thousands were sacrificed in this way, as the lords and ladies were served sherbets and other cool desserts and chilled wines in the viewing stands, oftentimes by relatives, wives, mothers and family of the perishing slaves.

What he was seeing, he would soon find was helping prepare him for more horrors to come. The facility of archives, while under construction, was even pictured, with the slaves being driven down to the excavation by armed guards. The bedrock beneath the soil was the actual site, four or five hundred feet feet down, a place where the archives, once sealed, would forever be secure, no matter what happened to to the surface world.

The slaves, however, had no stake in the imperial dreams of glory preserved forever in such archives. He could tell that they knew they were not going to be leaving the site--that they were digging their own graves, not just working an some imperial underground building project.

Knowing he can't spent all his time there, Damon forces himself away from the viewing crystal, and continues on exploring in the labyrinth of the archives. How far does it extend into the mountain? A half-mile? A mile or more? He has to find out before he leaves, he decides. He found it rough going in a ruined hall, where many of the pillars had fallen and littered the floor with debris. But a big crystal had also been broken, and a chip from it made a very convenient source of light he could transport.

He was soon sorry he continued, rather than turn back. The terminus of the facility was most chilling to see, he was not sure he was able to stand looking at it. But he forced himself, in order to know exactly what he was dealing with. The entrance to the chamber he came to at the end of the series of halls and viewing chambers was a natural, untouched cave. The bricks that had blocked the entrance had fallen down, and he could now go in. Holding the crystal chip to light up the cave, he took a few steps into it, and saw uncountable skulls and bones of what had to be the wretched human slaves used in construction.

To keep the exact location a state secret, they had been shut up in the place and left to die, after their work was done, apparently. No chance was taken that they would report the way in to the facility, despite the fearsome guardians put in as security that should have kept any intruders in check. After a few moments, seeing as far as the light from the crystal he held permitted him to see, he had enough and stumbled back out.

Even after thousands of years, the smell of death and decaying dead men's bones, even a certain sense of the stark horror and fear experienced by the doomed men, sickened and appalled him. He could hardly walk after he left the hellhole.

He was trying to sneak by the raptor when he saw that it was fully aware of his presence this time. Its eyes were following his movements! He tried to hide behind a crystal, but the blood in his veins froze as he saw the monster rising to its feet.

Damon could not stay where he was! He had to try to escape, now or never!

He made a dash out of the chamber, past a very dead giant guardian-cobra (it had not survived the cold in its dormant condition, despite the energizing it received from a crystal), but a guardian raptor (not the king, but full giant raptor), revived enough to detect his alien presence, was swift, too, and as Damon rushed toward the entrance, he could hear the movements of the thing behind him, close on his heels.

He knew better than to pause or turn around to look, he just kept going. At full speed he burst out of the entrance, and kept going, trying to get to the cover of some boulders large enough to hide him.

There was a deafening screech as the raptor reached the open air and the sunlight, which stunned the creature for a few moments, giving Damon the window of time he needed to find a hiding place. There were shadows on the ground, moving right across the ground, that cause him to glance up as he ran for hiding. He saw the flying mast moving first to one side and then another, banging against the cliff, knocking off some of a statue's features, and two men aboard the mast fighting.

Ero had just caught Arlena, as she fell or threw herself from the ledge above, and found she was wasn't even conscious--that the surprise of a black-suited assassin joining them made it impossible to fend him off.

All he had one arm free, as he held to Arlena to keep her from sliding off the mast, and with one hand he had to defend himself and Arlena against a professional killer.

The only thing that helped them was the instability of the mast, which was not programmed for three occupants, with no adjustment being made by the guidance system for the added weight. The mast swung violently to the right and smashed against a giant's nose, chipping it. Then it swung violently in the opposite direction, nearly throwing Ero and Arlena off, and also making it impossible for the assassin, whose knife, meant to finish Ero off, sliced empty air.

Below them, Damon finished his dash to safety, squeezing into a crevice between two boulders, and he looked out and saw the mast overhead swinging and bucking from side to side as though it were a Publicatexan long-horned steer trying to throw its riders. What was this thing? He recognized Arlena, but not the two men with her, though he realized that one--the dark one-- was probably one of the agents aiming to snuff him.

The imperial archives' security raptor was poking with its beak and scratching about the base of the statues for Damon, at the same time, for it had recovered enough sight to ferret him out of his hole.

But the commotion overhead distracted it from Damon, and he was left alone as the monster thought it had sighted its quarry.

It began to beat its humongous wings, though the air pressure now was so low it was not going to fly as easily and swiftly as it had thousands of years earlier in a far different kind of world. Leaping upwards, however, it gained some height as the mast dropped almost within the grasp of its huge, snapping beak. Some flaps of its wings put it even closer to the prey.

What Damon saw next took his breath away, for he was sure the raptor was going to succeed. The mast-bot swung again, to one side and then another, dropping further down, and then gave a violent jerk--at the same moment that Ero gave his assailant a kick right in his sternum--and the spy chief sailed into the air, head over backwards, straight into the open beak of the giant raptor below.

So much for the popup and its half-hearted "weaponry"--"Put in Recycle Bin," "Delete," "Reserve For Other Uses"!--instead of "Kill," "Vaporize," and "Exile to Antarctica".

Yet Ero chalked up his winning score a little too soon. An agent of the Shadow's caliber, who had put hundreds of enemy agents and any number of world leaders six feet under, wasn't going to go whimpering and limp-wristed into final retirement, even when shaken by the beak like a mouse being played with. No, he was going out--if he had to--with his boots on!

Cursing from the pain of the crushing beak, he still managed to free his C.S.A.-made luger and pumped a whole clip of rapid-fire rounds into the monster's head.

As the soft-headed slugs tore through its brainpan, the fowl security dick screeched to high heaven, flapping its wings, without letting go of its prey. Then it closed its beak with a snap like a steel trap, severing the hapless Shadow cleanly in half, who thusly ended his long, nefarious career with his designer boots on, not lying back with an iced absinthe in hand, a chocolate-hued Jamaikan mistress in the other, in a lounge chair beside a posh Jamaikan hotel's pool as he had planned.

The next moment the wounded raptor collapsed, fluttering and throwing itself at the giants' feet, screeching and croaking all the while in its death-agony.

But since immortal monsters of Atlantis I, even with craniums full of lead like this raptor, do not expire so easily, having already lived thousands of years and thousands more in a dormant state, it wasn't a death-agony--not yet anyway. When Ero got control back at the mast, and was trying to fly Arlena anyplace where he could let her down before she awoke and saw him and maybe had a heart attack, the monster revived. He could see it running, flapping its wings frantically, then sail off a cliff, nearly colliding with mountain peaks as if it wanted to get away at any cost from whatever the nasty thing was that had pierced its skull and given it such a splitting headache.

Ero had more things to be concerned about now than a two-winged monster from the prehistoric past flying into a world where it clearly did not belong and could not fit. Arlena, who hung limply in his arms, would soon regain consciousness. What then?

He had to think fast about his next actions. If she should see him, what kind of shock would that be after what she had just been through? How could he explain himself and Wally's impossible flying contraption to her? He was supposed to remain beyond the glass ceiling Wally had set, which, like a one-way window, kept him invisible, but which he could see easily see through without being observed. That worked perfectly well as long as he kept on the other side of the window, but now that he had directly, again, involved himself and was no longer a spectator, he was about to change things dangerously beyond Wally's programming, to the point where anything not very nice could happen. He would be responsible. Was he prepared for that?

He had second thoughts about diving in to her life. Glorious as this woman was in his arm, she was not his. He had absolutely no right to her, he knew. Damon was somewhere below, hidden by the rocks, no doubt watching them, anxious to get to her.

Ero thought then that he could let her down on the ground, but how would she get back up to the road? It would be a dangerous climb for her, perhaps impossible. No, he had to take her back up, even beyond where she had been when he first saw her. He would find a spot where he could leave her, but not so hidden that Damon could not find her easily.

He had to move quickly, he knew, and Wally's trusty popup this time made the necessary adjustments in the guidance system, and in a few moments they arrived at the top of the statues and hovered over various possible landing sites. He scanned the vicinity of the temple ruins, and moving closer saw the agent's car standing empty, a door left open and keys in the ignition, and thought for a moment of putting her in it where she would be comfortable until Damon could reach her. The spies had all been eliminated, so there was no chance they would return and find her there. He was about to set down but then saw something else, a cycle with a sidecar, parked behind a big rock. That was just the place for her. As for agents' vehicle, he knew Damon could drive it back to town, since the keys were in the ignition.

He soon gently laid her in the back of the sidecar. It was hard to leave such a lovely woman, but he knew it was best.

His involvement in her life finished, Ero ran back to his lance-like mast, and shot up to his perch just above the glass ceiling and then waited. He watched Damon far below making his way back up the cliff.

Should he help him? No, he decided to let Arlena's rescuer do his own rescuing. He was making good progress up the cliff, much better than his going down it.

It took little time for Damon, with the motivation he had after seeing Arlena carried up over the cliff face by the same guy who had kicked the spy chief into the raptor's mouth. Who was he? What was he up to? Damon had to find out, if he killed himself trying--and falling from the cliff was the least thing in his mind as he scrambled upwards. With some final, crazy moves, he lunged and pulled himself up over the cliff edge and lay for a moment, exhausted, gasping for breath.

Through his half open eyes, he saw the car, its door open, and he thought Arlena must be in the car. He ran toward it, but, no, it was empty. Slamming the door, he called her name, and dashed this way and that, when he thought to check the cycle, and there she was! Her eyelids were fluttering, and shot open, and they fixed on his face as he was running toward her.

She started to cry, then shook off his hands as he tried to pull her up from the sidecar. "No, I'm all right. Leave me here! I'm just fine."

Damon, who had seen the reason for her being in the sidecar, was full of questions, but she wasn't hearing any. She glanced toward the spies' vehicle. "Are they coming back, Damon? Maybe we ought to leave now, before they do!"

This practical advice brought Damon to his senses, for he was beside himself with worry for her.

"I'll take care of it! Just wait a minute here, and I will be back."

He already knew what he would do. The spies were unable to return for it, he knew, but others might.

Climbing half in the driver's side, he left the door open and started the motor, set it in gear and revved it with the brake on, then released the brake and dove out as the car leaped forward.

Spinning wheels and throwing dust and gravel behind it, the heavy touring car lurched onwards to its doom like a tank, letting nothing in its path stop it from reaching the edge of the cliff.

Then, briefly, relative silence, as the car became airborne.

It was hard ground for Damon when he rolled on it, but the sudden terrific sound of a big metal object crashing and exploding down the side of the cliff was most welcome to his ears. He stood to his feet and dusted himself off, then wasted no more time on a slight feeling of satisfaction concerning the final disposition of the spies and their gear. After all, he could not rightly credit himself entirely with the success. Whoever the fellow was who had helped them out--he was no where to be seen--but that was just as well. "Three's a crowd," he thought. He might as well forget what he had seen whoever it was who had come to their rescue. How could he explain what he saw logically. It was impossible, he knew. So he gave up trying.

Returning to Arlena, he found her wide-eyed.

When she saw he was all right, she was furious. "Why, why didn't you tell me what you were going to do? I thought--"

Damon laughed. "Sorry, I was wrong, honey. I will explain everything from now on. But first we have to get clear of this place as fast as possible. Where these goons came from there are bound to be more just like them! And they like to keep in touch, I take it. They will be missed, make no mistake about it! And they seem to have had enough reason to kill me, without this too!"

Damon leaped on the cycle. His head was bursting with the incomprehensible marvels he had seen in the underground halls and temples, but there was no time to tell Arlena about them now. Perhaps, later? Kicking as hard as he could down on the starter, the engine sprang to life, and with Arlena handing on in her sidecar, they jolted up the slope toward the road while Ero followed them, discreetly hovering just on the other side of the glass ceiling in order to remain invisible.

It was good they left when they did. The whole landscape shuddered as they were moving upwards, and puffs and clouds of dust shot up from fissures and widening cracks, as the hill and cliff began to slip, disintegrate and move south. Revving the motor for speed, Damon sent the cycle climbing in high gear, regardless of the rough, steep grade, and hoped poor little Arlena could hang on in the jolting sidecar and not be thrown out. They came to a crack, which was rapidly becoming impassible for any motor vehicle. But they could not stop now, they might not make it across the crack in time before it opened up a hundred feet or more in depth. Was the whole mountain side going to slide off into the valley? It looked that way!

Shouting to Arlena to hold on hard, he kept going, and the cycle hit a rock and the wheel went up, the cycle and sidecar with it, and they barely cleared the huge crack, which was the fault line in quake, for everything south of it was moving downwards and fracturing to pieces at the same time.

The spinning tires caught in the dirt and gravel on the other side of the crack, and they pulled away from the danger and soon were topside, up on the road. But Damon wasn't sure that was a safe place to be, so they continued on down the road a mile, then he pulled over. He rushed to Arlena, and lifted her out. She collapsed immediately, so he held her up with his arm, and they looked back and saw a huge column of dust and debris filling a large part of the sky, exactly where they had been a a minute or so before.

What was left of the temples and all the strange artifacts inside the underground chambers? Damon wondered. Probably nothing. Or they were all buried so deep, they would never again be uncovered by a landslide. The secrets they held were safe forever, unless he told the world, and he wasn't about to say anything, lest the bodies of the spies be uncovered and whatever country had sent them out would be looking for him again. Let them think he too was buried there! Maybe he could change his identity enough to live a relatively normal life, if he did it quietly enough. At any rate, it was time to get Arlena back to civilization! But which way should they go?

He was thinking about this a moment, when he realized that it was not all dust, there was smoke, and where there is smoke, there has to be fire! The quake generated by the shifting fault line in the Moon Mountains, it had crushed the crystals no doubt, something they were not going to take lightly. The incalculable energies pent up in them were now releasing--without any control whatsoever. They were like nuclear bombs exploding from under all the debris pile, one after the other lifting thousands of tons of rock and blasting them hundreds of feet into the air.

The ground and the road beneath them was shuddering with each concussion, and the hillsides nearest them were beginning to break off and slide down over the cliffs. Would the road get buried too or entirely break away and take them with it? They had to get out of there if they could, immediately!

It did matter now to Damon which direction they took--they had to put as much distance as possible between them and the melt-down of the crystals if they were going to survive. Getting Arlena back into the sidecar, by sweeping her up and putting her there without a word, he leaped to his seat on the cycle, gunned the motor into life, and they were off down the road.

It was only a few miles later that he saw a car up ahead. His heart sank. It had stopped, and seemed to be waiting for them.

Damon pulled over and cut the motor. He took the keys. He knew all he had was his bare hands to fight with, he had not taken the time to search the spies' vehicle for any hardware, so he was not defenceless. If he was going to have to fight, he thought Arlena might have a chance, if she would run and hide somewhere in the rocks.

Arlena was more recovered now, after a short time feeling the breeze on her face riding down a real paved road instead of a rocky obstacle course or goat track, saw what he was doing, however, before he could give her last instructions, and called out to him.

"No, it's my car! I always have it parked, my driver waiting for me, wherever I plan to get off the train, ready to take me home, as I cannot be traced so easily that way, should my husband ever get suspicious or "receive certain information" and hire a detective. He can trace me very easily on a train, but not in my own car, taking my own way home. But this time, since I was interfered with, I sent for it ahead of my planned destination, to meet me here on the road instead. No doubt he's been searching for me all up and down it. Let's go. My driver will take us back. Don't say anything. Not one word, or he'll remember you and he'll be made to talk or bribed to talk. I'll explain who you are. It will be worthless if he ever has to give it to someone. He won't ask anything more, and I can trust him not to say anything. That's why I kept him--he doesn't ask questions and he has few words to say about anything. Just to make certain of him, I pay him well to keep him happy with the arrangement! I kept having to fire chauffeurs, just to find one that was reliable, but this one, I've been able to keep him for some months now."

Damon wasn't so sure. He remembered a former hired driver, who was somewhere down the road, no doubt furious he had lost his cycle and probably ready to kill the borrower on sight if he could.

"Half all right," he said to Arlena. "You ride in the car, but I will ride right along you in the cycle. That way if everything goes as it should, I will not need this for a getaway. Besides, I want to return the cycle to its owner, who is just a poor fellow who has to make a living with it--right? Or is he just another spy friend of yours?"

He winked slyly at her, and she shot him a look that told him she was angry, outraged he should suggest such a low-bred thing!

Yes, he was being altogether rude to her, deliberately provoking her. But how could he tell which way the wind really blew with a woman like Arlena? Had she really turned a new leaf and wasn't going to cooperate any longer with the spy rings so she could keep up her secret love life--after all, blackmail and the fear of exposure can do strange things to character, he thought. Beautiful and alluring as she was, he wasn't going to be her fool if she changed her mind. This little test wouldn't hurt. Let him see just how she acted when she had things back in her control, in the palm of her little hand, once again. Then he might decide whether to accompany her the rest of the way, in her car, with her driver.

Damon escorted her to her car, a luxury, customized Zinzind, or Z-Series saloon with all walnut and leather interiors, bar, telephone, intercom for instructing the driver, and other amenities enclosed in a private, glassed in compartment for herself in back. He waited for her to be seated comfortably, then watched the driver as he mixed her the drink she requested, inserted a fresh rose the driver took from a refridgerator for the vase nearest her, opened a box of chocolates, and arranged her cushions for her, all the things a chauffeur would do for a wealthy employer.

Once all this was completed, the driver, who had a choirboy's innocent look and did not look to Damon like any threat, tipped his hat to Damon but was visibly surprised when he did not join his employer in the back compartment and stepped back away. The driver closed the door and went back around and got in behind the wheel, still glancing back at Damon standing beside the car on the road as if he thought he might change his mind. Arlena turned her head away from Damon, who smiled and waved as the car moved forward at a sign from her.

She must have given another word to her driver, for the car suddenly accelerated and left him in choking in its exhaust and dust.

"No, you don't! Not even a good-bye, huh?"

He dashed back to the cycle, and a moment or two later, he was barrelling it down the road after the limo.

It was just as well they did not waste any more time back where they had been, for yet another explosion erupted, something close to an H-bomb that obliterated that entire stretch of road and a couple mountains in the vicinity.

The terrific roar behind him caused Damon to turn his head, and he saw it--a huge, mushrooming cloud where the mountain road, and surrounding mountains had been.

But he could not stop, Arlena's car was pulling away from him so he had to keep the cycle going for all it was worth, or be left in the dust.

He had just pulled up over the last hill when for a brief moment he saw the bridge in the distance--or, rather, what was supposed to be a bridge over a gorge, but there was only a big gap where it had been.

The momentary image flashed upon him, then he was speeding down the road, wondering if he had really seen the bridge gone or not. A few hundred feet more it began to dawn on him, and horror began to flood him.

The bridge had collapsed? It was gone? Was he mistaken? After all, he had only caught a brief glimpse of where it was supposed to be, perhaps he was wrong, it wasn't the place, and the bridge would soon come in sight.

He continued on, pushing the cycle to the limit to narrow the gap between him and Arlena, and keeping his eye peeled at the same time for the bridge in the distance that was supposed to be there, but maybe wasn't.

But there was no sign of the bridge, it was too low in the distance to be seen, and they weren't climbing anymore hills so he could take a look far enough from its vantage to make sure his eyes hadn't played a trick on him.

Not knowing was bad enough, but what if the bridge was out? He had to try to stop Arlena. But every time he pulled up behind her, he was spotted, and her more powerful vehicle accelerated and he was not able to get close enough to yell to the driver to stop.

He pulled up again when her car slowed, but she accelerated again, driving him crazy, for he was frantic by now, certain that the bridge was indeed gone, and shouting himself hoarse as he tried to be be heard, though it was useless to do it, they couldn't possibly hear him.

All he could hope was the authorities had found out in time to set up roadblocks ahead. But that too was unlikely, he knew, for this was so far out from any town or city, they might not even know. And when had it happened? Perhaps it had just fallen in the latest quake, and there had been no time to react to it.

His blood seemed to freeze and alternately boil in his veins as he chased in vain after Arlena. She played a cat and mouse game with him, letting him get only so close, then pulling away once again. He couldn't stop her teasing him at the cost of her life! But he couldn't give up--or should he? Maybe she would stop in time for him to warn her? He thought of one last way he might possibly get her to quit playing her deadly game.

It was worth trying! He braked and then pulled over, and waited. Every minute dragged in the most painful way, as his heart pounded and he could hardly think straight, wondering if what he did was working or not. Had she noticed that he was no longer playing her game, and stopped to wait for him ahead on the road?

He waited ten more minutes, then couldn't bear not knowing, and started ahead, going slowly, for he didn't want to start the chase again the moment she saw him coming.

There was no sign of her car for the next mile, and the next too. The bridge wasn't too far off by now, he knew, and dread grew with each passing moment, which he fought with all his might. The bridge towers rose up into view, but they seemed damaged. But that didn't mean the span was gone, even if the towers were somewhat damaged. He still had some grounds for hope, he assured himself.

Not a single car or vehicle met him. That wasn't good. He couldn't deny that was a bad sign, indeed. No posted soldiers either. The road was empty as he moved along it, slowing the cycle as he could not bear to see what he dreaded most, an empty stretch of road all the way to the place where the bridge was supposed to be.

One hope remained--perhaps his eyes had seen wrong, there really was a bridge span, even if the superstructure was damaged. After all, he had only the briefest impressions way back in the mountains, and the light was maybe playing tricks. He hoped with all his might that...the last fifty feet were an agony. Only then did he come to a row of rocks someone had dragged there, an improvised roadblock. Who could have done it? Arlena and her driver? No, that didn't seem likely. They would have been there, waiting for him, unable to go on any further. But who else could have done it?

He couldn't stay on the cycle anymore. He pulled over and letting the motor run, let the kickstand down, and began walking the rest of the way.

His feet dragged like those of a terminal patient in a hospital, taking his last walk in the corridor. He was not even aware of breathing. All time seemed to stand still. He heard every cricket, drumming on his ears, and the singing of other insects, high pitched and painfully piercing his brain, stabbing at him as he heard his own heart laboring inside his chest, beat after beat.

His eyes did not lie. The bridge had collapsed into the gorge, which was hundreds of feet deep. A river ran in it, deep, ugly with brown, silty waves, and swift.

The wind whipped at him as he crept to the edge of the broken off span. He crawled the rest of the way and looked over the edge. His eyes were so blurred with the effect of the wind in his face, and the horribleness of what he feared was so overpowering, he could see nothing but dirty water sweeping below him, the missing span broken up and washed downstream or drowned by the deep water.

If there were parts of it visible, he wasn't able to see them, as his eyes were too watery, and he didn't want to see any more, he turned and crept backwards, then turned and lay on the broken bridge, face down, for how long, he was not aware.

He had forgotten the cycle completely, and only gradually did he hear the motor and remember he had left it running. Getting to his feet, without a look back at the river, he made it back to the cycle, staggering part of the way as if he was drunk. When he reached it, he collapsed against it and stood there, unable to comprehend what had happened, for he could not think she and her driver had escaped death in the river.

After a while, he heard the sound of aircraft, and eventually the sound came closer, and it was a gyroplane. He did not move, and the gyro circled the bridge site a couple times, then moved toward him. Then he saw it was going to land on his side, and he stood watching it as it did so, settling down a couple hundred yards up the road from him, and presently two men came walking from the craft toward him. They were government soldiers, by the looks of their uniforms.

He told them why he was there, looking for his lady friend, who had been travelling the road just ahead of him in her own car, and that both she and her driver had vanished. The soldiers eyed Damon, then went to take a look down into the river, and returned, shaking their heads. "No one will live who falls in," he was told, as if he couldn't figure that out himself. Asked if he had seen any traffic on the road, he made no mention of the spies and the huge chambers full of crystals he had seen but told them he had seen the road was gone further up, so there would be no traffic down to the bridge, at least from that side.

An hour later, their reports were completed, and they had asked him all the questions demanded by their superiors at HQ, but Damon, who had no license for the cycle and no identification, had to be taken in to be further questioned at their army base commander's office. There he told them everything, his profession, and reason for visiting H-R, and that he was on his way back to find the owner to return the cycle his lady friend had hired. But when he came to the bridge it was gone, and the car she was being driven in had evidently plunged off the bridge into the river. As for the rocks someone had laid down as a roadblock, he had no idea who had done it. Perhaps because he was believed, and they felt so sorry for him, he was still surprised when he was released and led out, and told to find his Consulate if he needed help or money for travel back to his own home country. One of the soldiers was detailed to drive him back to Multan, as he was a courier with copies of the completed reports to the commandant at the Multan army garrison concerning the bridge.

It was a long, tedious journey in the army jeep, a shockless vehicle which jolted Damon with every bump in the road. They drove along in complete silence, the soldier smoking his entire pack of cigarettes after offering Damon one, and Damon was grateful that the soldier had nothing to ask him after all the questioning had drained him of every possible fact on the subject of himself and Arlena and her driver and the car they were in when last seen.

Let off in the city center, Damon turned toward his last hotel where he had been known. He was glad he had been careful to leave a good impression with the staff and concierge, for he was hoping he might be able to make a call from there, since they might still remember him at the desk and allow him the hotel's courtesy phone at least.

Numb as he still felt from the shock of losing Arlena like that, he hardly cared about what happened after that, he felt like he was just going through the motions while he completed these arrangements.

Recognized by the smiling concierge, he was soon given the courtesy phone without any hesitation and told he could call as much as he pleased, as he was fully trusted. Calling numbers he could remember of his family, he started with his father and mother who would be anxious about his whereabouts, since he had not contacted them for days. Indeed, they were anxious about him--though used to long weeks of waiting for word for him while he was off on long photographic or filming safaris in isolated areas. This time, however, they were more than anxious, as they had heard radio reports about tremendous quakes and explosions, perhaps volcanic, in the mountains they knew he would be passing through.

Relieved though they were to hear his voice, he had all he could to assure them he was perfectly all right, and would be coming soon, provided they could wire him the needed monies direct to his hotel. Deciding not to worry them too much by telling them about the bandits and later the explosions that nearly engulfed him and Arlena, he only gave out about how he had lost his wallet, camera gear and prized shots all along the Tea and Sugar train route, and his money and identification. The losses of all that were due to problems he did not specify, but which they thought, he knew, were connected with the reports on the radio. This accomplished, he reassured them he was fine, and was just going to check in and would get some rest, before leaving for home in the morning on the next train or plane.

He was shown to his room on the third floor by a porter, who then went and returned bringing him some pajamas and bathrobe and toiletries he might need while his clothes were cleaned by the hotel staff. After thanking him, Damon closed and locked the door, glad he was in a safe place to spend the night and not out in the open being chased by two sets of spies who obviously wanted to draw blood.

Back on the road to the bridge, how could Damon have guessed that Ero was observing the entire chase from beginning to end. Seeing how it was going to go, he decided he must intervene one last time--even if it did shock Arlena more than a little, when he came down on the span, stopping her car just in time.

The driver would not even get out of the car, he was so tranfixed at the sight of Ero and his mast-bot, but Arlena did. She started walking toward him, evidently not afraid of man or beast, or whatever he was.

Then something happened that Ero did not consider. The driver, who had been observing both of them with wide eyes, hit the accelerator, no doubt by accident, and the car leaped forward. Before Ero could do anything, the car plunged off the span, though the driver tumbled out at the last moment and lay sprawled on the pavement. The fellow sprang up the next moment, took another look at Ero, yelled something, then dashed round the mast and Ero and, screaming at the top of his lungs when Ero ran to stop him, jumped off the bridge. Ero was appalled. He had no idea the fellow would be so terrified he would lose all his wits and jump. He ran to the mast, and tried to get it to take him in pursuit of the driver, but he was having no success, having interfered too often with the guidance system, and he saw Arlena was trying to get away from him too. He motioned to her without any attempt to pursue her, though he didn't speak her language, and could only make signs to her she might understand.

She stopped trying to get away from him, and he approached her, and found her weeping as she glanced down toward the spot where the driver had gone over the edge. Ero went to the edge, searching the water, but there was no sign of any car, much less the witless fellow.

He went back to Arlena, and it took her a little while to compose herself after seeing her driver drown himself. Next, she was glancing anxiously up the road. Ero understood she was looking for Damon, wondering when he would get there.

But Ero had other ideas, knowing that he could remain there, meddling in things, without losing his berth on the mast-bot. Was he prepared to stay on the ground indefinitely and take his chances with all sorts of hostile people who wouldn't understand or appreciate his presence? Hardly! Pulling some rocks away from the sides of the road to make a temporary roadblock, he was satisfied that would be enough to stop Damon, and then turned to Arlena. She understood, and seemed relieved.

It was time for him to go. He could do nothing for the driver. As for Arlena, she had been on the mast once before, without knowing it, and he offered her a place on it as he boarded it made it move toward her.

Using the translator on his popup, he typed in his message to her, and Wally's HELP and translator came up with just the right words, or a good approximation, for she nodded the moment she looked where he was pointing on the screen. Yes, she wanted a ride home!

As to destination, he pointed four ways, and she understood and pointed north. That was all he needed, and he gave the instruction to the guidance system.

That decided, it was only a moment before they were airborne. She wasn't terrified by the flight on a mast-bot, but he noticed when he glanced at her that she was determinedly looking away from the bridge, as if she didn't want to see Damon reach it and find her gone.

Would Damon understand if he found no car there and only the roadblock? Obviously, not! But there was no help for that, Ero thought. Only then did he look at her again and see her eyes were wet. Women! They were all the same. Why did she want to leave, if she felt that way about Damon?

The mast carried them swiftly northward, with the huge smoke and dust cloud from the underground complex still filling half the sky while government gyroplanes and other aircraft circled it, and they were soon descending toward Port Andros, which shone brightly at the end of the peninsula, now that the shallow sea water between the island port and the coast had been filled in as well as bridged with a causeway and road.

It wasn't a good idea to approach too closely, Ero decided, lest he be fired upon, so he set down on the outskirts in the midst of palm trees and hoped they would go undetected. She could walk from there to the nearest house and call for a cab or hired someone to driver her to town. Either way, she was able to make it safely home, he decided.

Arlena did not seem to want to remain a moment more on the mast than necessary, and did not look back as she hurried away, leaving him without a word.

What sense did she make out of him coming to her aid like that? he wondered. He would never know, he could only guess. And he had other things more important than to spend his time guessing. With Arlena taken care of, and still very sorry about her driver, though nothing could have stopped him from jumping, Ero returned to his main duty station, the tracking system in the popup locating Damon in Multan.

Meanwhile, Damon did not want to go anywhere but back to his room, not just to wait for money to arrive so he could pay the bill and leave as soon as possible for home, but to be alone to think over the astounding things he had seen. What did it all mean? He knew somehow that all his education had been laid on the wrong foundation. This revelation in the mountains of the prior civilization created by a superrace that enslaved humans and drank their blood like vampire bats confounded all his training, his entire view of the world was thrown into a wastebasket. He would have to start all over! But from what point? Where was "God"--if there really was such a One ruling the earth--in all this? Ismanic religion did not say one word that explained what had happened to the world, if what he had seen was real, and he knew it was real.

His world had been turned upside down! But words and warnings from Padre Noaik now came to mind, and entered into this most bewildering issue. Did the grinning padre from South America, from the Argentines, have the answer to unlock the entire mystery that gripped his mind and thoughts like a tightening vise? Was this Yeshua he kept preaching about as the God of all the Universe, the Lord of the Earth, really what he said? Who was right? Isma or the padre's? His teachers or the padre? He hadn't cared much to find out the truth before, because he had never encountered such a major contradiction as he had just viewed deep in the mountains. It was now apparently destroyed, or reburied so deep nobody could ever get to it to explore and itemize its contents, but he couldn't forget what he had seen and experienced there.

Lying down on his bed after a bath, he did not want a meal sent up and just wanted to rest. His pajamas and robe lay neatly on a chair nearby, but he felt too warm for them. and decided to try to sleep if his thoughts would only calm and allow him to drift off. His thoughts of Arlena, losing her like he had, did not help much. The hours went by slowly, as he heard the hotel quieten for the night, while the religious police goons made their rounds outside to clear away the drinkers and take them to wherever they took them, as well as arrest hoofers who were not operating from the government taxed brothels.

At last, however, in the wee hours, he began to doze off, lying with his uneasy dreams beneath his mosquito net.

A light flashed upon his face to one side, and he awoke feeling cold steel pressed against his head. It made him wince, and for a moment he didn't know what it was, and then it came to him: it meant big trouble. Someone had gotten in! He was in his hands, whoever he was!

The light flicked off, and the mosquito net was wrenched back away from the bed.

"Get up!" a voice growled.

The gun barrel still pressed to his head, Damon tried to sit up. He could smell the man's cigarette breath on him, so his face was close to his own.

"Please, let me get something on."

"Forget that, you won't need clothes where you're going!"

The savage, snarling voice made Damon's blood freeze in his veins.

Barely able to move in his panic, he swung his legs out of bed and rose to his feet. Meanwhile, the gun was still held smack against his head the whole time and his skull was hurting already.

"Lay down on the floor, face down!" the voice barked.

Damon had no choice, and did as ordered, though the tile was cold enough to make his vitals recoil for a moment from it.

Damon heard the door open, and some footfalls come in the room and stop. The door closed, softly.

"Well?" said a voice new to Damon.

"It's him," said the first voice.

"Good, he's caused me no end of trouble. You leave now and wait for me in the car. I want to make sure he is out of the picture myself. He won't be messing up my operation, after all the pain I went through to look like him!

The gun pressed to Damon's skull withdrew, and the next thing he heard was the door opening and then softly closing.

Some footfalls, and Damon was about make a move to jump his assassin, but the hit-man was quicker.

"Don't move."

Damon stayed where he was, thinking fast, but unable to come up with with any strategy. This was the most helpless state he had ever been in, his entire life. How could he have prepared for it or avoided it? It was even too late to think about that now.

"Look at me," the man said, turning a small torch on himself.

"Damon raised his head and saw...recognized, with a nasty jolt, HIMSELF holding a gun directly aimed at his own face, only the eyes were not his, they were utterly cold, pitiless, strange--like a predatory animal's eyes set in a little doll's head, made all the more repulsive in the greenish light.

"Why are you attacking me like this?" Damon asked. "I don't even know you, even if you do look a lot like me."

The Damon look-alike laughed. "I can tell you, since soon you won't be able to tell anyone a single word. Your looks and identity and even your role as a magazine photographer were a useful cover, to a certain point, in penetrating some rather sensitive installations, but you had to run across our tracks once too often and mess everything up for us. We had to get rid of the original, which you are. We should have done it at the start, but we slipped up and lost you for some time. Then our competitors in this racket were on your track too, as you probably could tell. They didn't know what you were about, obviously, and let you go a time or two. But at last we have you, and you won't get away this time. Now shut up! No more questions!"

Again the gun was pressed against Damon's skull.

What was he to do? Was this it? The end of the cat and mouse game? He was done for, wasn't he? So he clenched his hands together as he had seen it done, praying to the same Yeshua the padre had offered him once upon a time back with the old Tea and Sugar train. "Yeshua!" he cried. That was all he could get out in the time he had left....CLICK...then, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!

The fake Damon swore, and rattled the gun, then was pulling out another clip to insert when Damon saw his chance and gave his would-be killer a kick that sent him rolling and crashing against some furniture.

Scrambling to his feet, Damon did not wait, and kicked out the big shuttered door to reach the balcony.

He fell out against the iron railing. But that didn't stop him from swinging down over the railing, to drop onto the next balcony.

Cut and limping, he found the balcony door unlocked and went in, flicked on the nearest light, and the screaming woman in the bed soon brought the hotel staff running to see what was happening. Could anything be better than that?

Of course, though his life was saved, a naked and bleeding Damon had a lot of explaining to do in the next hour to both the hotel manager and the police. But when the police examined Damon's room and found how the lock had been tampered with, they began to believe his story about the unknown assailant and what he had done to make his escape. And there was another even more serious disruption in the hotel: a fatal accident that they were already investigating. A third floor hotel cleaning man was being questioned. He told about a hotel guest, he thought, leaving about that time there was so much noise in Damon's rooms, but dressed in an overcoat, hat, and gloves, which he thought odd for guests of that hotel. And the man was in such a hurry to leave, he dashed by the elevator boy, who was holding the door open to the elevator cage for the cleaning man to polish, without seeing that there was no elevator at that level. The elevator, not in service, had been taken down to the basement by another cleaning man for loading up more cleaning supplies.

In Damon's room there was even a smashed nightstand and broken lamp and water glass, to confirm what Damon had said about kicking his attacker and hearing him crash into something in the dark.

When the police finished their report and decided not to take Damon but let him go, the hotel manager apologized profusely to him, and a nurse and doctor at the hotel's expense was called to care for his cuts and bruises and any broken bones. A guard was set by the hotel staff outside his door, so he wouldn't have to fear any more intruders the rest of that night or the next day either while he recuperated and rested.

When the doctor came, bringing a nursing assistant, he soon had Damon in bed, bandages and gauze dressings top to bottom, and then on leaving gave Damon strict instructions to rest for several days until he checked his condition again. As for the nurse, she and a head nurse and another nurse, were to be on hand to care for him, and report his condition if he were not responding well enough. After all, he had suffered a broken rib, and two others cracked, and numerous cuts, bruises and abrasions.

Before the doctor left, the head nurse and another nurse arrived. The doctor turned the case over to the head nurse, and the pretty nursing assistant was now to take their orders. They would look after him in shifts, to see that everything went well, as the doctor had given orders that he not be disturbed and enjoy complete rest and quiet.

Resigned to staying in bed for a while, Damon could not argue with the doctor, as he felt the terrific jabbing pains in his ribs whenever he moved, so he knew he couldn't walk. And every part of him seemed sore, after his tumble from one balcony to the next. If only the other two nurses were something to look at--but one was ancient, and the other, the head nurse, looked like a veteran army sergeant, a regular battle-ax.

The sweet little long-haired nurse was efficient, if a little girlish in her looks. She paid him no personal attention while caring for him, but he tried to get her to answer his questions and find out more about her, but it was very difficult and frustrating, as the other two nurses, were constantly eyeing them, and giving her things to do that took her away from him and the bedside.

The only time he could get closest to her was when he had his scheduled bath in the morning, and the dressings were all removed for that, and new ones applied.

This procedure required all three, so he then was able to speak to her. The bath was the worst part first. After they stripped off the bandages, which was agony enough, he had to walk to the bath which they had drawn, stark naked! Stabbed with pain, he could hardly make it, but they supported his arms, and he gasped and finally collapsed in the tub and they bathed him. He felt just like a helpless baby! The self-sufficient, born free, free-ranging, lone black panther now met his match, in this whole situation. But what could he do? He couldn't get himself dressed nor could he even walk more than six steps without doubling up!

But later, with his dressings back on his wounds, and his chest wound with the gauze bandage, he was given something to eat. This was his chance, as the other two never lowered themselves to feed him. They seemed to like best stripping off his bandages and seeing him turn pale and gasp with pain!

But though he could only get a few words exchanged with her while she served him his food, he made the most of it. with this young woman in the crisp, white nurse uniform.

The older women were so dictatorial and mean to her! They were so lazy and made her do all the menial tasks, and then spoke harshly, ordering her about in a way it make his blood boil. Yet she didn't snap back, not once, though they made her do all the hard work! How could she stand such treatment? Was she their slave just because she worked for the doctor? He was mystified by her. She somehow kept her cool composure, and not once did he see anger or resentment flicker in her face. He had to find out more if he could.

A few days passed (with the torturous daily strippings and baths), and he found out that her name was Natalia de Silva and she was a follower of Yeshua, as her father, brother, mother, and herself had listened to a travelling padre a year or so ago, and had come to faith in Yeshua, the One he had introduced to them.

So the grinning padre had touched base with her too! It had made all the difference in their lives, she told him. That gave him much to think about, as he mended from his injuries and the nurses and doctor had him begin walking the corridors for exercise--and then even took him into the courtyard garden after a trip down the elevator.

With so many people around him constantly, it was safe enough. The spies? Evidently, they saw it was a lost cause, losing their Damon look-alike, the only reason for the operation. What did they care now what happened to Damon? They had lost too many agents in the blow-up in the mountains lately to recoup their losses quickly. They would only waste more time and men for nothing, even if they could take him out--though they were all a bit leery of him now, thinking he led something of a charmed life.

The day came when the doctor put away his instruments after checking his patient out head to foot, and declared he was dismissed (along with all the charges) as his patient (courtesy of the hotel) could go if he liked. The head nurse and the other older nurse were tiring fast of him too, he could tell, as he wasn't passing out from pain anymore in their arms after they wrenched off his bandages. Damon was now a free man, and soon could leave the hotel, wearing only the soft cast of the big bandage around his ribs for a couple weeks more. As long as he didn't try anything really strenuous, or bend and pick up anything heavy he could buy himself another camera and return to his profession without having to defend himself from all sorts of unknown, unnamed assailants. But that wasn't the thing uppermost on his mind anymore. They had suffered such losses in the mountains, they probably would leave him alone for quite some time, he thought. Even Arlena--she was no longer a center of his feelings--for a nurse like the one he had, she had stolen his heart, bit by bit, as she cared for him and answered his questions in her slow, sober way.

As Natalia was tidying up the room in preparation for leaving him, he decided to take the opportunity now that they were left alone. Getting her to laugh and forget momentarily her nursing, that was the first time he felt they really connected. He told her about some of the crazy things he had experienced on the Tea and Sugar and then in the mountains, leaving out the worst parts, and she was fascinated. The expression in her eyes changed at the same time to unprofessional admiration and something else. He saw she thought he had lived a life of wonderful adventures, unlike her life, which was one of service to her family and to her employer.

"My family is anxious to have me return home so they can see how I am, but I'll be here a few more days at least, and will go on walks to get my strength back, so if you come to visit me you can walk along with me. I can tell you more stories in the meantime. Would you like that?"

Her eyes lit up even more, she nodded, then seemed to remember her place and duties and grabbing her things he hurried away.

As he made his first walks outside the hotel in many days, he wondered if Natalia would ever return. Maybe her family would not permit her to visit a stranger like this, even though she had been one of his nurses. Ratnan family life was quite strict and traditional in such matters, compared with Poseidonia's. Parents served as the go-betweens in any dating that took place, and usually there was no dating before marriages that they arranged. Yes, she would have to do a lot of explaining before they let her go alone to even walk with him in the public street!

After severals days of walks, feeling better, he decided he would be able to leave soon, and he was getting tired of making and receiving calls all the way from home, and the hotel was being imposed upon, granting him so many courtesty calls. If he had paid for the service, it would cost him a small fortune! They were good to bear all his doctor and medical expenses, and had even given him free board and room all that time he had been there, so he did not want to overstrain his relations with them.

Not that he wasn't able to pay, now that his family had wired a good part of his savings. He always put a part aside from all his sales to magazines of his photography, so it had mounted up to quite a sum, not enough for retirement yet, but close. He would be able to buy his camera equipment in Multan, where the prices were lower than at home, and also a nice little runabout, with one seat and a large trunk for his clothes, gear, food, water, gas, and othe supplies. No chance would be taken of anyone jumping him on a flight or on a train! He preferred the car trip, as he could get used to his new camera on the way home, in preparation for new assignments.

He was turning back toward the hotel, watching the traffic carefully so he wouldn't have to jump out of the way of anything and hurt his healing ribs, when he saw Natalia! She was walking his way after getting out of a car that had dropped her off at the hotel entrance, which was just a stone's throw from him.

She saw him, and waited for him to reach her. "Couldn't we walk along the street a little further down--there are too many eyes on us here," he said. She nodded, and so they turned away and proceeded down toward the ruins of a Coliseum.

They were almost there, without saying more than a few words, when a man hurried over to them. He showed Damon his badge and card. "Effendi, please give me a moment. We have found you at last! You were at the hotel, when we checked there. But they said you went out walking along these streets, and I just now found you! Here is the camera and film you lost, turned in to our headquarters a few days ago, with apologies for not returning them sooner, as we did not learn your residence until today. Well, here your items are. Do you care to check them? Let us know if they are satisfactory to you."

Damon was astonished as he took the camera bag, and the man's card. He had thought his camera and film utterly lost! But were they really his? Was it some trick? But everything seemed to be as he had left it, as he quickly looked into the case. He knew the approximate number, and the way he marked the little containers before he sent them into a trusted developer--and as far as he could determine at the moment they checked out."

"Thank you so much," Damon said, "and how--"

"We are glad you are pleased. Have a good trip to your home country, for I expect you will want to return home after your accident, yes? Now I must go, as my duties call me!" The man tipped his hat, smiling, and then disappeared back into the traffic and pedestrians swirling around the Coliseum at that busy time of day.

Damon and Natalia stood looking at each other.

Natalia had a way of looking deeper than most people, however. She could see something tugging him in his heart, and she must now let him go--as she could not keep him if she bound him too tightly.

"I prayed you would get your things back, no matter how hopeless it seemed. What an expense, to have to buy all your needed equipment again, but Yeshua has spared you that! But now you can go and travel and do your fine work! I am happy for you!"

The instant Damon prayed, something like sheet lightning, only invisible and dark and furiously angry, surged through the whole length and breadth of the photo-cell, and Ero felt it too.

He had almost reached Multan when the navigation of his mast-bot was commandeered and overridden by new instructions (what source it had, he had no idea). But the mast turned abruptly and headed for the interior, in the direction he had come, and continued on until it came to a lake set amidst low lying forested slopes. He was just in time to see the emerald, as it was rising after a cooling bath.

The emerald sensed his presence immediately, as it paused, then moved slowly away, gathering speed as Ero followed (he had no choice as the mast was re-programmed, and wouldn't respond to any of his popup instructions).

Suddenly, another jewel-like entity shot up into the sky, and now there were two! They did not turn but continued on, faster and faster. And he was pursuing, though he didn't know what to do if he ever caught up with them. Then something stranger happened. A copy of himself was created, perhaps to make it more difficult for them to deal with him, and so now two Eros and two mast-bots were matched with the two star-stones.

What could these things be? he wondered.

Now the popup came back to life, and there was his answer. It did not explain everything, for it was more in the nature of an advisory.

"CONINUE TRACKING THE EMERALD AND TOPAZ. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STOP OR INTERCEPT THEM, FOR THEY WILL AVOID DIRECT CONFRONTATION IF THEY ARE NOT AGGRESSIVELY INTERFERED WITH. THEY ARE WORLD-DESTROYERS, THAT IS THEIR MISSION AND OBJECTIVE. I HAVE MY CHAMPIONS TO DEAL WITH THEM, BUT YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MUCH OF WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN AND EXPERIENCED SO FAR.

The answer had come to quickly, it was as if his thoughts were being read. Could Wally do that? He had seemingly thought of everything, but this time it seemed different. Ero had a hunch, and he thought right then to ask another question, using the popup. "Who is issuing this instruction?"

"I am Yeshua."

That information hit him like a thunderbolt. But Ero had a spark of the Greek in him, which meant he was not satisfied until he knew the full truth, and nothing less would satisfy the Greek spirit in him. So he asked again.

"What purpose is it I have been shown all these things?"

"PEOPLE WILL VIEW YOU SOMEDAY, PEOPLE OF ALL KINDS LIVING IN DIFFERENT TIMES AND DIFFERENT WORLDS, WHO ARE YET THE SAME, PRISONERS AND SLAVES IN THEIR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES, AND WHEN THEY SEE YOU EXPERIENCE THESE THINGS, THEY WILL SEE THERE IS HOPE OF RELEASE, OF LIBERTY. THEY WILL ALSO SEE FAITH IS A CHAMPION WHO CAN SAIL ACROSS ANY SEA OF DOUBT, NO MATTER HOW VAST AND STORMY, AND NOT DROWN, OR CLIMB ANY MOUNTAIN, NO MATTER HOW HIGH AND IMPOSSIBLE, AND NOT BE DISCOURAGED OR DEFEATED UNTIL THE SUMMIT IS CONQUERED."

Ero didn't have another question. What could be better than the last words? From the burning, falling towers to the present moment when Damon seemed out of danger and his enemies falling back on all sides, there seemed a purpose that ran through everything he had witnessed, shining like a single golden thread in a dark tapestry, or like that threat of Ariadne's that led Theseus in the Labyrinth of long ago. And Yeshua had laid out the whole course of his journey--it shone with purpose he could now see. He was content. He had even seen the black panther, surrounded by the hounds and the hunter, climb Yeshua's tree, and been saved from pursuers who were too strong for him to handle. It was indeed time to go. Yeshua's battle with the evil stars would continue, no doubt, but, as he said, he had champions selected to fight them with his aid.

There was only one thing. He would have liked to return to Multan and see how Damon was doing, but it was not to be. The photo-cell was targeted for deletion by the host (whose anger Ero had felt like a red-hot tongs and then a freezing cold bath), and so Ero was swiftly on his way to the exit. Only he had forgotten something. What about his double, his twin? He had not followed. What did that mean? Ero wouldn't know even if he had wondered about it. From this moment on their cyberspace odysseys were about to change radically.

Arlena? She had made her decision to change her ways back on the side of the cliff, and she stuck to it. She returned home, and found her husband was gravely ill. He was also too ill to be revengeful when he heard her confession of her affairs and acknowledged he had known and was just biding his time to divorce and disgrace her as she deserved. But now he needed her to stay and help him in his sickness--from which the doctors gave him no hope of recovery. No one else would be his choice to attend him in his remaining days--even though they had plenty money and could hire any number of servants and nurses for him. Will you stay? he asked her. "Let us forget what happened, and start again. If you would, you could be a comfort to me. I--I don't want a stranger here with me, not when I am so weak and not able to go out anymore."

"Yes, I will stay," she said. "You are a good man to forgive me. I will do whatever I can as long as you need me. So go and lay down, I will bring you something, whatever you want. I will get your medicines too as they are needed. But first I need to go and change what I'm wearing. Somehow I don't feel this is my sort of dress anymore."

As Arlena went to her own suite of rooms to pull off her black silk gown and slip on something more suitable for attending a very ill man, she couldn't hardly believe what she had just done and said. The Arlena she had been just a short while ago wouldn't have even considered such a role as she had now chosen. A servant to her own husband? That Arlena would have flung some sarcasm at him and left the house to head to the nearest party of her social set, or maybe taken another extensive trip somewhere in first class accommodations. But that...it was over! And she was so thankful it was. She had become a monster, and no longer wanted to remain that way if she could help it.

She took a look in the mirror at her new self, wearing a nice little suit of clothes she had intended to give a maid, but which fit her perfectly. She plucked the diamonds from her arms, and put them away. Then she went down to the kitchen, startling the help with her appearance. Kitchen maids, butler, dragoman, all stared at her.

"Hello, everybody! I will be taking my husband's food and drink up to him, and administering the medicines too, from now one. Could someone point out to me where I can find the items I will need?"

"Why, Madam, yes, of course!" the butler almost shouted, beside himself. He bowed, and she had to stop the rest from bowing.

"None of that is necessary. Just regard me as one of yourselves from now on, and let me come and go without paying attention to me. I will try to keep out of your way, for I know you all do a lot of work, fine work, for the household. Now...?" She picked up a tray from the counter, and a maid, suppressing another bow, quickly led her to the pantry and the medicine cabinet, showing her where everything was so she could take what items she wanted.

Soon she was on her way up the big, curving marble staircase to her husband's rooms, managing to carry the tray without spilling the water and juice and the bowl of soup. Getting it all the way to him without mishap, she was very proud of herself! It was the first such thing she had ever done for him, or anybody. She had always had servants to do such things for her, from childhood and on to married life. But how she loved it! She positively glowed with accomplishment and purpose and meaning. Even her husband noticed it as he lay back on his pillows. He raised his head slightly as she came in the room and set the tray longside him on the bed. As she went to leave, he caught her hand.

He had never done that before, and she waited.

He seemed to just want that, and no more, and when he let her go, she went out into the hall. Fortunately, no servant was in the area, so she could just have a cry, not so much for him, but for the change in her...it was so awesome, it took her breath away, and her whole body was shaking. "Could I really be loving another, in doing these simple, domestic things? Could this be genuine love, giving and not taking for once? I feel that somebody is here, helping and guiding me! Who could it be?"

She somehow recovered her composure and walked to her own rooms down the hall on the same floor, shut the door, then before she turned in for the night, she itemized her schedule for the next day to fit her husband's, so that he would lack nothing in attention. Setting her alarm clock for an early hour, she climbed into bed. For the first time, she didn't feel any need for her sleeping pills. She was at peace with herself, there were no churning emotions gnawing at her heart and mind all night long unless she anesthetized them first with her sedatives. She closed her eyes as her head lay on the pillow, and slept like a baby until the alarm rang.

The next morning she found, after attending to her husband, that he needed some more medications for pain. She went to her own medicine cabinet for the sedatives and pain killers she kept there--but there weren't enough for him. As she shut the cabinet door and locked it, she heard a rustling of wings in the louver a maid had left open in the bath. Hearing it again, she went into the large tiled bath to see what it was, and saw the shadow of a bird, perhaps a crested swallow, drop a pieces of thread and some twigs on the casement.

The moment she saw it time stopped. She heard a delicate, strumming sound as of a harp, and then quiet footsteps. Turning, there was no one, but the footsteps continued toward her then paused. The little bird building its nest in her bath window, the footsteps, though no one was visible, and the strains of music. It was like she was in a dream, catching her by surprise, and it was a dream of being loved beyond her wildest dreams.

A moment or two passed like that, while she did not dare draw her breath, and then as the swallow flew off, it was over, without fanfare, just as it had begun. Yet she felt different somehow. Her checks were wet. She reached up, and realized her eyes were streaming.

"It was Him!" she thought. "He really came here, here to me!"

She could hardly walk, as the realization of what had happened struck her head to foot. After seeing to her teary face, restoring her eye makeup, she went out soon as she could to the family's pharmacist who operated nearest their gated embassy. It was in the old quarter of the city, and the sidewalks were non-existent or very narrow at best.

Not wanting to attract attention, she left her big car locked and parked by the curb, which she had driven herself, and walked the rest of the way. Suddenly, she found her route blocked by three men. She was about to step around them and risk being hit in the street by trucks and pedicabs and bicycle traffic when one of the men, the biggest of them with an ugly, bushy mustasche, called her name.

Shocked, she paused and looked back. "Wait and hear what I have to say, or you may regret it, sweet lady."

Infuriated that a common stranger should speak to her this way in the street, she kept going.

"Your husband will feel the edge of my knife if you don't do as we say!"

The menace in the man's voice was enough this time, and she turned around. "All right, what do you want? Do you think you can threaten me and my husband the Consul-General? I will call the embassy and they will deal with you--accosting me like this in the public street! This is an outrage!" she spat at them.

The man smiled, a chilling smile for a canary or mouse to see.

"Just do as we say and..."

"Nothing doing!" she flung back at him. "I don't go into public cafes with low, dirty wretches and dogs like you!"

But she stopped anyway, as a truck was blocking the traffic ahead momentarily. The man dropped his cold smile, then continued. "The matter is simply this. Your lover boy the photographer is carrying some rather interesting films back to his home country. You must go and meet him, and when you have the films, we will arrange to pick them up, in exchange for this, that no harm will come to you and your beloved husband up sick in bed on the second floor of the east wing of your fancy mansion! If you refuse--well--we cannot assure you of your own personal safety, nor can we speak for your husband's. Besides that, before we cut him to pieces before your eyes, we will first inform him, of course, with photographs, of your lovers! Would you want that to happen? So what do you decide?"

Arlena was stunned. She thought it was all over--her shady involvement with these various gutter rats of the espionage and secret intelligence services. Whom did they represent? Her own country's--the City-state and Republic of Baton Roo? Or H-R, or Poseidonia, or Publicatexa, or Panamania and the Argentines? Who could tell?--they were all present, fighting to gain access to each other's state secrets in the White Continent. It didn't matter now--they would kill her and her husband if she refused. What could she do? Betray Damon once again, luring him into some hotel so she could get his films and then they'd probably kill him too, even with his films in their possession. She was beside herself, as she stared at them and was pushed by foot traffic and narrowly missed being struck by passing bicycles and pedicabs who were both swerving aside and swearing at her at the same time.

Feeling faint in her legs, she staggered up on the sidewalk and put her hand on a lamppole for support. The leader of the three grabbed her by the hand, squeezing and twisting it at the same time. She screamed, but another hand was quickly clapped over her mouth, and then her fighting Baton Roon instincts, plus the thought she was truly needed by her husband, took over, she bit hard, right to the bone, while giving a kick that sent her attacker and would-be kidnapper into a crouched position, his face green, and nothing coming from him but groans. The men with him leaped to grab her, but she was too quick, and ran toward her car, then changed her mind, and dashed into a crowded cafe, and went straight to the manager's desk. She knew the cafe and they knew her from previous liaisons and assignations arranged for their premises, and were well paid to keep her arrangements there secret. She called the CSA embassy colonel in charge of the guards to send his men immediately, as the local police would be too slow and not well equipped for these professional killers.

The two men pursuing her backed out when they saw her on the phone, with the manager and some waiters standing by her side. Though they hung about for several minutes, they fled at the first sight of the CSA embassy guards.

Even after the incident outside the pharmacy, Arlena was not afraid to return as often as she needed more morphine for her husband's pain, which had increased and needed massive doses to keep control of it--and the government had stiff restrictions set on the amounts she could buy at any one time, forcing her to go out often for it. Nobody, she was determined, was going to deter her from doing what she wanted to do--the last good thing she could do--for the husband she had married but not been faithful to.

She did not even take a male servant along for protection. Her car was in traffic one day, hedged in by the pedicabs and bicycles and wagons, when she saw an open space ahead, and before she reached it, another car came at her from that direction.

Arlena, her thoughts fixed on her husband's sinking condition, paid it little attention when a car swung right next to hers, the pedicabs swerving to avoid them both--and then rapid gunfire raked her vehicle all along the side.

The embassy car lurched to the side and crashed against a parked car. Police rushed up, saw the embassy flags on the bigger car, pushed everyone away and Arlena was taken out of the wreck, but she was gone, killed instantly in the gunfire.

As for the assassins, they had instantly sped away, driving a lot of other traffic to either side and against the walls of buildings.

As for the incident, which had happened under his jurisdiction, the Poseidonian president soon issued an official apology to the CSA and the Baton Roons, but it was not enough. The CSA demanded a full investigation, and sanctions of various kinds were threatened if the criminals were not found and executed. Receiving the CSA's demands, Poseidonia was up in arms too. Its leaders were infuriated at the way the CSA and the Baton Roons reacted, because the governments involved knew full well the realities, that all sorts of organizations, some foreign agencies operating in the country illegally, others carrying out secret missions no government could divulge facts on, couldn't be held accountable for the killing of the Consul-General's wife. On her way to the market to purchase something, she had just blundered into the wrong place at the wrong time and an unfortunate mishap had occurred--it was regrettable, but that was all. As far as the Poseidonian government was officially concerned, even her death was no justification for demanding things that could provoke a hot war!

At least, that was the official spin on the event. In actuality, considering the secrets of state that had been stolen and were in the form of contraband films of nuclear weapons and missilery, it really was justification for all-out war, and everyone at the highest levels knew it, and trembled behind their smiling exteriors and the uniforms with all the showy medals and epaullets, wondering what might happen next if the incident escalated even further.

The CSA would not be satisfied with mere words--squadrons of the best equipped fighters and bombers headed south toward Multan as if on a bombing mission, and as if H-R was believed to be behind the incident, not Poseidonia. H-R, on Red Alert, mobilized defense forces and sent up interceptors. Missiles were put on stand-by for a command to fire from Multan's Supreme Commander. Poseidonia, the venue of the assassination, was also in deep trouble with the CSA. Was this the pretext the CSA wanted to use to start the all-out attack and war many in its government had advised for years to happen. But it was not going to be any surprise, as H-R would retaliate immediately with all its weapons, many of them now converted to nuclear. Would the CSA be able to sustain a bloody repayment for whatever it could do to both H-R and Poseidonia?

It was a cliff-hanger, an impasse. The sabres were rattling on all sides, but no one knew just how it would go, or who would give the order to stand down. All sides were just to proud to do that.

The Baton Roo Consul-General himself was too ill to be reached for comment. He never knew anything about the incident, in fact. He passed away quietly and apparently without pain in his sleep the same day.

That same day, which was to be her last, Arlena had been attending her husband as usual, seeing that even the flowers were refreshed with new blooms, and paused at the door going out. Everything had been done to her satisfaction, he was restling as comfortably as he could be--and yet she wondered if she could do anything more. She had risen an hour earlier as usual, to make herself a beautiful as she could for his sake, put on her finest gown and jewels and perfume, before going with his breakfast, water, and morning pain medicine.

As she stood there, gazing at her suffering husband with her sad eyes, it almost seemed she heard a voice speak to her. "I will take care of him while you are gone. Good and faithful servant, do not fear for him."

Feeling relief at the words spoken in her heart, she had gone out, not knowing it was her last glance and that her wifely work of love was finished.

What would they do to him if he had caught them? Fortunately, he did not find out, as they had more important things to deal with than a cyber-bot and its rider.

As Ero II, following Damon and his hay merchant friend, penetrated into Poseidonia, he had a great view of the whole of riverine Poseidonia, the Mesopotamia of the White Continent.

It was a wonderful feeling to be on his way at last, with 12 cylinders barrelling away under the hood of his Le Baron Phaeton-Packard-like speedster. But the sound you would expect from such a powerful engine chewing up the miles was minimal, as the heavy car raced over the rough roadway, its customized double shocks absorbing the bad pavement and giving him a luxurious gliding sensation that went well with his euphoric sense of freedom.

Damon was making good time when the whole landscape seemed to rise a few feet then settled back down, and then, pulling over as soon as he safely could, Damon saw IT--the cause of the colossal eruption. In the very area he and Arlena had fled, a Big Daddy of a crystal had exploded, with H-Bomb ferocity. Seeing the cloud was dropping things that could easily crush a small town or village, he realized he better put as much distance as he could between him and IT, or he wouldn't make it out of the White Mountains!

Damon checked his gas gauges for his double tanks. He had extra aboard in the trunk as well, but knowing fuel stations were far apart--and you never knew which one would be open or closed when you pulled up--he decided to refill his tanks even though he still had plenty gas.

Going by the map showing towns, garrisons, and country fuel stops, he found the nearest one to him only after some difficulty. It was several miles off the highway, occupying a ranchero's main house. He found two children playing in the dirt out front, and they fled at first sight of him. He got out and went cautiously to the front door, rang the big brass knocker, but nothing happened. After some minutes, he decided to go round the house to see if the station operator was out back in the gardens or the in the various outbuildings tending to whatever lifestock he kept.

After leaving the fuel stop, he continued on and made good time on the highway, eating up the miles. He checked his account, and he had made four hundred miles that day, and except for the fuel stop he could have made another 100, it took so long on that detour to get the gas he wanted. He drove by what looked like an abandoned jeep.

The moment he saw it, he wondered if it really was abandoned--though he had seen such wrecks often enough and thought nothing about them. This time, however, he felt something was different. Should he go back?

Against his own will, he did. He felt he was wasting his valuable time, but he had to make certain it really was abandoned. What he found was a surprise. He was so glad he had listened to whatever had spoken to him and obeyed.

Shown into the headquarters office of the commandant, Damon found himself before a seated captain. The captain must have been unused to rising to inferiors, but this time he forgot himself, as he simply stared at Damon for a moment or two. Then he bounded up, extending his hand to Damon, introducing himself. "Forgive me, I am so surprised at this meeting someone like you, Effendi, I have forgotten my polite manners. I am Captain Marduk Koresh, Commandment of the Northwest Garrison #47 Headquarters. They call this Camp Koresh, of course--but that is just a convenience. I myself never call it that. When I leave here, it takes another man's name, so why should I have my name put up only to be taken down?"

Damon introduced himself. The captain seated himself, then continued. "This is most unusual, so I am so happy to have you in here to tell me all about it in private. Please be seated, here in my best chair reserved for the general when he inspects us, Effendi. Now would you have something to drink? Some tea in iced water? Chilled wine? Anything you like, we will have it brought to you from the cafe outside the gate, the canteen isn't good enough for you! We want you to feel most comfortable and at home. Now back to how you found my poor soldier. They were on patrol and were attacked by bandits come on a raid from the mountains, and left to die. One was dead, we have seen it already--a patrol sent word even as you were arriving here. Then you took him all the way here, out of your way, no doubt, not sparing yourself the inconvenience. Most unusual! Except for your compassion, he would have died like his comrade--like two dogs in the gutter! What may we do for you in exchange? All the garrison is talking about what you did, bringing this man back to us alive. No one ever dared do that before, or cared about someone else like that to do it. But first do me the honor, tell me your story yourself of the incident."

Damon was just explaining how he had noticed the jeep, seemingly abandoned, when he first noticed it as he drove by, and, feeling something was wrong, he backed up. He went over to the jeep, and found vultures were about to hop down and dine on a dead soldier lying beside the wheels alongside. He had been shot in the head and chest, and left. But he heard a groan coming from around front, so he went to look and found another soldier. He too had been shot in his left side, but he was still alive. Obviously, bandits didn't care to finish him off by wasting another bullet on him. They hadn't even bothered to slit his throat, thinking a slow, more painful death would be nicer. He tried to get him to speak, but he wasn't conscious, so he went and got some water from his car and tried that. It poured uselessly from the man's mouth, so he didn't want to drown him and decided to take him in to a hospital, but where would that be? He got the soldier to the car, then started driving as fast as the car would take the rough roads. He saw a sign, the garrison's, and left the main road and came to the town that adjoined the garrison. As he got to this point, an aide interrupted them, calling the commandant's attention to an incoming call from the western regional military reserve headquarters, and the general himself was on the line.

"Excuse me, Effendi, I have a call, it will just be a minute or two, please relax with something to drink while I am gone," the commandant said, and left Damon. Some minutes passed, while another aide served Damon iced water and tea which he enjoyed, feeling very refreshed with two glasses he was given. When the commandant returned and sat back down at his desk and gazed at him, Damon felt somehow there was a drop in the temperature--it was a degree or two colder, for some reason.

The room did not seem to warm up even when commandant smiled, perhaps too long, and Damon, who was very keen on observing human behavior, caught a certain frigid control in the man's demeanor, along with reserve and--what? Calculation? Plans of some kind in the making?

"Now where did we leave off? Oh, yes, I recall--but," the commandant rose up abruptly from his desk, extending his arm, "but by all means come with me now. You will be tired from your long trip by car, and after all you have done, please do me the great honor of sharing a humble dinner my wife and daughters will have prepared for us. I already made the arrangements. Please do not disappoint them by turning down our invitation, Effendi! They will be crushed if you do not come for dinner, after all the excitement you have caused her with your act of compassion in this wretched backwoods we find ourselves in here. It is most exceptional! Most natives hereabouts would not dare to be seen with a government soldier in his bad condition in these parts, lest they be thought accomplice to the bandits! Ha! Many of them are--we know it too--so they are right, we would hold them accountable and punish them severely!"

Damon knew how brutal the "backwoods" society could be from previous travels, did not want to interrupt his journey in the captain's company. "Sir, I really cannot! You are most kind to invite me, but my dear family is anxiously awaiting me, and--"

The commandant went to Damon and the door opened to them to go. "You can at least come and tell the rest of your story to my wife and family--surely you have time for that! I will then let you go on your way, if you still must go! Please, I beg you, let us have just a few more minutes of your time, Effendi!"

Damon was amazed. He had not thought anything of his act. He had done what he felt anyone should do, for someone who would obviously die if he didn't get to a hospital soon. Was he a monster to just drive on and do nothing? But here they were treating him like he was some kind of hero. And all he wanted was to go on his way, having done his simple, humane duty to an unfortunate man.

Yet the commandant's pleadings could not be put down either. Perhaps, it would do no harm, he thought. "Just a few minutes then, sir," he said, rather reluctantly. "But that is all I can stay for."

The commandant then bustled him out of the garrison headquarters, with soldiers saluting them, and then led him on foot back of the building and several army barracks and a canteen, through a gate, then into his own private area, a compound that actually lay outside the garrison's chain linked fence and watchtower.

It was so different there from the garrison buildings. There was grass, with luxuriant palms and fruit trees, and a white-plastered, two storey adobe house set amidst a garden, with a pool outside the front door.

"You will find my stable out back holds some promising racers, so allow me to show it to you before we go in to meet the family," the commandant said.

Not able to object out of politeness, Damon gave way to this too, though he was anxious to get away soon as possible.

Around back of the house were some outbuildings, and one was a stable, and inside it a stable man jumped up from sitting on a pile of fresh hay and fodder for the horses. The commandant had to tell Damon about each horse as it was brought out of its stall, and then finally they could go.

"Exceptional horses, sir!" Damon commented, quite surprised at the quality of what the captain had to show. Indeed, they were--evidently, the commandant was not the usual outback commander scratching a living on a small military salary but raising world-class thoroughbreds for the races in the capital, to which thousands from several countries flocked regularly every year and a lot of money changed hands.

"If we win even the second prize with my favorite," indicating a particularly beautiful black stallion, "I can resign this paltry position here, and I can retire as a major to a nice stone house on the coast someplace, with a beach and a boat, gardens and pools, and all the nice things I would like to have! Being a high goverment official's third son, I was born to it--not this fly-specked garrison and wretched town of clay and straw bricks! This desert is a dusty, dirty place, not fit for a pig! This is the reason for this stable and all the work it takes to raise these fine horses and train them. It's our only chance of escape to a better life. But now, let us stop in at the house."

The moment Damon stepped inside, he saw a banquet table all spread on a big table in the biggest room downstairs, everyone waiting for them."

He protested. "But, sir, I really can't stay! You are all too kind..."

But the commandant's pretty, three teen-aged daughters and wife rushed forward, and he found it impossible to get away. He was soon seated at the table, at the side of the commandant in the place of special honor, and the family was plying him with questions about his career as a photographer and all the amazing sights he had seen in his travels across the world north and south, east and west. When the dinner of lamb, beef, chicken, all barbequed and served with spicy-sauced rice and peppers, was over, the commandant asked if he could just spare a few more minutes, could he show a few of his pictures to his daughters who were so anxious to see his latest work? They had seen his pictures and read his name in various magazines, and had collected them all, after seeing his picture once and finding him very young and handsome.

Damon smiled at the girls, but had to shake his head. "I'm so sorry to disappoint you. None of the recent shots I took have been developed. I have to wait until I get home to my own dark room."

He saw the girls' faces fall immediately, but it was the truth, he had nothing to show.

One girl, however, looked pointedly at her father, who spoke up. "But you have films along," do you not? I see you carrying a bag--isn't that carrying your camera and some films of shots you have taken?"

"Yes, of course."

"Well, then, there is no problem," the captain continued. "You can still develop a few of his pictures for his daughters who were so avid to see them that they would not sleep if they missed seeing them!"

"How is that, sir, do you have a photographer good enough in this town to do the quality work I must have? You see, they must be the grade that magazines will accept, or I will have wasted all my time and expense getting those shots."

The captain waved the objection aside. "Yes, yes! I wouldn't think of subjecting your films to anything this town can do--the photography shop here would ruin them for sure! But we need not go to him."

The girls now were whispering and laughing among themselves, Damon noticed.

Damon did not know how to refuse the commmandant's daughters after all the homey hospitality he had just shared, but how was he to show them pictures when all he had was his unfinished films? He waited, and the captain, after holding him to all this suspense, making such a dramatic moment out of so trivial a question, finally came out with it in a grand way.

The commandant rose magisterially, as if the announcement he was about to make demanded his full military authority bearing upon the matter. He then explained that the house was singularly equipped. It had a small dark room for Damon's professional use, which had been left there from the previous tenant, a captain who spent nearly all his time there as an amateur photographer when not drinking, neglecting even his duties at the garrison. Everything was just as the captain had left it, the angry general sacking him for incompetence and sending him on his way to another, even more isolated duty station in the Poseidonian Eastern Ergs. Poor fellow! The general let him take his personal items in a couple bags, but he was hustled from the house before he could pack it all his household things and his prized dark room equipment. These things were all in the house and were sold off, with the general receiving the compensation, but the dark room was forgotten in the sale, and survived intact, with everything left just as it was when its owner was thrown off the premises.

"What bad Kismet!" the captain nearly shouted. "Have you ever witnessed the like? I almost could feel sorry for him, that old drunkard! Served him right, but just the same--run out of here like a chicken chased by a pack of dogs! Really so undignified for an officer, it is quite--quite--"

All the while the captain went on in this way, having himself a good laugh at his predecessor's calamity, his daughters were giggling among themselves, and even the captain's wife was having a hard time not joining in. Only Damon was feeling as if the rug were being pulled from beneath him, and a big hole was opening at his feet!

It was now late, and the commandant urged Damon to stay the night, as the roads were most dangerous at that hour, just after dusk. He might not make it back to the main road in fact. Couldn't he just stay the night, take some time to develop a few of his pictures they could all enjoy seeing, then take a leisurely rest in a good bedm, and go safely on in the morning? They had just the room prepared for their honorable guest!

Of course, the captain's family all chimed in, urging him to stay.

Wondering how he could have been such a fool as to give in to the first urgings of the commandant, Damon resigned himself to staying the night. He smiled as best he could, and took his camera case and was shown to the dark room. It was exactly what Captain Koresh had described. He had all he needed to develop a roll of film.

It was the last thing he wanted to do! But he was trapped. "I might as well get it over with as soon as possible!" he thought, gritting his teeth to keep from swearing.

Shutting the door, he set to work. Twenty minutes later he was removing the first pictures from the chemical developing solution in the pan and then laying them out to dry on a rack.

When he turned on the light he picked up the first one to look at it. He didn't recognize anything!

He was astounded by what he saw. What on earth were these military type installations? They looked like nuclear labs and testing laboratories for weapons and secret aircraft and missiles. He saw himself in the picture taken with his timer and tripod, with some stunningly beautiful women at his side, arm in arm with what looked like factory operators along with high H-R military brass, generals, grinning at the photographer! He was absolutely bewildered. He had never been to such places. He knew none of the people. Could this be his now deceased look-alike's shots? How had he gotten his films? It wasn't his camera case after all? It was this other fellow's? Or had his films been inserted in his own case to fool him all the better, so that he would unwittingly transport the films back to whoever was waiting for them? As for the women, obviously the fellow had used them as decoys to embed him into the good graces of the men in charge of those secret military weapons installations and bases so he could take pictures while the generals in charge were conveniently distracted and entertained!

What was he to do? How many more such spy films did he have in his bag? Was it a mixture as he suspected? He had to check some of the others to find out. Time was passing. He had to come up with something he could show the household. How else could he explain all the time he had just spent. Could he lie, that the pictures had not turned out? Would they believe that?

No, he felt he could not lie, so he snatched another roll of film to develop. Hardly able to breathe, he developed a few pictures, and when they had dried, he turned to look at them. Tea and Sugar! The whole film roll obviously was Tea and Sugar shots. Putting the spy shots away in his bag, he took the Tea and Sugar pictures to show the family, and tired as they were of waiting, it seemed to be sufficient, and they all soon went off to bed. As for the other two dozen or so rolls, they would have to wait for his own dark room.

Later, Damon, finding his room to his satisfaction, did not feel at all easy as he lay, still fully clothed, on his bed. He knew he had a bombshell in his camera case, which was just waiting to go off! What would he do with it? Other things bothered him too. The commandant was just too friendly the entire time from the moment he met him. Was this all his attempt to delay him at the post? What was that general's call about anyway? Was it about him? Perhaps that explained the coolness he detected in the commandant's eyes, if not his manner? He felt on edge, tense, waiting for something to happen.

Going to the window, he looked out and saw the stable roofs. Then he remembered. He had seen a gate that opened on the open desert ground beyond, where the horses had room to stretch their long legs and were raced. If he could get to that gate, he could leave the place, unbeknownst to the commandant. As for the stable keeper, he would take care of that when he came to it. Perhaps a bottle of wine his host had "thoughtfully" put in his room? If not that, maybe a little bribe would do it. Stable men were notoriously low paid and despised. They came and went as hirelings without any status. They could have little loyalty to a horse breeder, who usually kicked them around like dogs.

Waiting for a hour just before dawn, when everyone seemed sound asleep, Damon gathered his camera bag and, hardly bearing to breathe, crept like a silent shadow out of the house. In his pockets he had some of the wrapped sausages left in his room in a basket with the wine, which his host had packed for him for his journey, and these he threw to the yard dogs that came leaping from their kennel to stop him. A few barks were all the noise they made before they soon they forgot all about him being a stranger and became his friends, thanks to the sausages.

The bottle of fine, imported wine proved just the thing too for the next watchman on the premises. Lifting a lantern to see who was disturbing his sleep, the stable man, with scarcely a bow and a grin that exposed the stumps of yellow teeth ruined by his chewing tobacco, snatched at the bottle the moment it was offered. He slunk off to a dark corner of the stable, and Damon was free to roam around as he pleased.

First, he made a little show of looking in the stalls of each horse, and acting as if he had come just for that, and later when he checked on the stable man he found him far gone in his cups. It was time! Could he take a horse out and ride him to the next town down the road? It was very tempting. He could make quite a distance on one of these fine Arabs of the captain's! Yet he heard "no" in his spirit--so he couldn't. It had to be Yeshua guiding him, he felt. Besides, he thought, "What if his horse, unused to a stranger like himself, threw him? That could happen, as a lot of horses would reject an unknown rider. He would be badly hurt, since his ribs were barely healed. No, he had to go on foot. That would have to do. He knew he shouldn't dare try to get to his car, which was probably guarded night and day. It might not have been left where he parked it either--it could have been hotwired and impounded by the captain to prevent his escape.

Damon went to the gate he had seen previously, found it unlocked but chained, and let himself out. On such a clear night, with so much moonlight gleaming across the whole desert landscape, he had no trouble finding a dry wadi that was easy to run on. Besides, his ribs were not completely healed. They were hurting some even now after the time he was bringing the soldier in, so he had to be careful. But once he started running, he realized he needed to keep on, even if it grew painful. He had to make it back to the main highway. He couldn't trust the access road, he knew. In confirmation to that, he heard a voice, as it were, telling him that he had chosen the way of safety and that his enemies would be looking in the wrong places.

He stopped to rest and also give his hurting ribs some relief, and then saw three jeeps heading toward the highway from the garrison and town.

He looked and was shaken with relief. A close call! It was a good thing he had not tried to get away via the access road! Even if he had retrieved his car somehow, it would have been a hot chase to get out of town. With that many after him, they would have kept at it until they rounded him up and taken him into custody. He would be in a garrison jail at this very minute, awaiting whatever fate the military decided, perhaps a firing squad if he was prejudged a foreign agent, caught red-handed with pictures of secret weapons factories.

So that was the captain's aim and the reason for the general's call! Capt. Koresh had obviously waited until the hour when he thought Damon would be most sound asleep before making his pounce, only to find his bed empty. Had he also discovered his stable man drunk out of his wits and figured out the the way he had escaped? Perhaps not at once, but he soon would after a search of the area. Damon knew he had to cover the 4 or 5 miles as quickly as he could, then pray Yeshua would send someone, anyone but the military, to take him as far away as he needed to elude the captain and general's dragnet. As for his fine car, a 12-cylinder speedster he bought for half its value from a bankrupted playboy prince, he could replace it. The films and his own freedom (if not his very life) were the valuable things now.

How he prayed, consequently, just as earnestly as he had prayed face down on the cold tile floor at the hotel with a brain-blaster pressed to his skull!

Well, it had worked well once, why not again? he thought. He really needed Yeshua's help again, to escape the soldiers who would surely be sent out on the roads to intercept him.

So as soon as he reached a spot near the highway, he knelt down and prayed earnestly. It was simple and short. "Please, Lord Yeshua, send me the best way out of here, whatever it is, whoever it is. I desperately need your help right now!"

Then he gathered his courage and his camera case and went to the roadside to wait. He wasn't going to let the soldiers catch him, so he looked far as he could down the road just beyond the access road, so he could keep an eye on whoever was coming on either road.

He saw a sedan approaching on the highway. As it came closer he saw there was a man at the wheel, no one else in the car, and it was a nice car. He would have a nice ride if the fellow stopped for him. That has to be it! he thought. It must be Yeshua's choice for me. I can't wait any longer! Please, Yeshua, make him stop!"

The car did not slow up instead when the driver saw him, and whizzed by, leaving Damon bewildered, wondering what had gone wrong.

He smacked his fist in his palm. "I've got to get a ride, and that was probably the only one for the next hour or so! What am I going to do now?"

He was right, or it seemed so. He waited quite some time more for a vehicle to come, an hour or so, and the dawn was now turning the whole landscape different colors. Soon the full light of day would be breaking. He felt so exposed, being so close to the garrison camp. He wondered if he should just start walking, off the side of the road, rather than stay there, visible for over a mile.

Not sure what to do, he was watching when he saw some dust or smoke cloud approaching him from the access road. What was it? A dust devil. There were dozens like what he saw, and they came and went all the time across that torrid landscape which bred them like the desert bred rabbits and coyotes.

The dust devil grew bigger gradually, with a lot of strange knocking noises and hisses and grinding sounds, and it turned out to be an old vehicle, an army vehicle sawn off and somehow attached to an old, wooden wheeled hay wagon!

What was this? A hay merchant?

Damon was astonished when the contraption stopped, expelling a huge cloud of steam and fumes and smoke, with a terrific clattering noise of protest from the engine, such as it was.

The driver got out, a strange looking man to Damon's eyes. Looking like nobody he had ever seen, the fellow did not pay any particular attention to Damon, but didn't seem to be unfriendly either. Damon went over to him as he was tinkering with the motor with a stick he held. He whacked some ailing part or other, and then the smoke and clatter subsided somewhat. The man seemed satisfied and turned to get back into the cab of this truck, which had no doors or windows. Since he was a big man, there was no room for any rider beside him. What was Damon to do?

The driver hadn't spoken one word to him, so Damon went right up to him again. "Can I get a ride to the next town, sir? I will pay you well!"

The man smiled, but did not say a word. He just jerked his head, indicating the back of the truck, and Damon stood back as the truck began to pull away slowly, the driver stomping a foot pedal to put it in first gear, the only gear it would function in. "Hey," he thought, "I need a ride. Yeshua! What should I do!"

He felt almost a kick in the pants as the hay wagon part began to pass him.

Then he realized what he must do: he went and jumped on. But the back board that served for the territory of the hayman's dog did not serve for two occupants at the same time, and the dog began to snarl at him.

"All right, all right, don't mind me, dog!" Damon said, rising up, and he climbed back into the big pile of hay, and the dog settled back down too, with a moan or two.

Riding there, it was really quite comfortable, and he felt rather sleepy too, despite some fumes now and then from the smoking engine up front.

The hay truck and wagon moved slowly, with a kind of swaying motion too and all sorts of creaks and groans. Damon had heard about an ancient, tribal people called

: gypsies in that part of the country, making a living by all sorts of trades such as this, delivering hay or wood in desert country to the outlying garrisons and occasional rancheros and fuel stations, or mending pots and pans, selling trinkets and and little hand mirrors and bottles of cologne and sundry domestic cleansers, whatever business they could drum up in the sparsely populated regions of the western wilderness and foothills of the border with H-R.

He knew from the past accounts taught in school that the gypsy people were not always so lowly in social status. Once it they high and mighty and ruled cities and had princes and courts--but somehow, perhaps grown prideful and corrupt, they lost it all, descending to the lowest level of society, where they had stayed until now, working at jobs nobody else wanted. They had their own language, though, and kept their ancient ways and customs despite the culture around them--and people left them pretty much alone, unless they were missing a chicken or something from their yard or house, and then people wanted them to move away from the area, blaming them for whatever was missed and calling them thieves.

Was the funny old fellow at the wheel a gypsy? He wasn't selling anything but hay, it seemed, and he certainly was a loner, not like the other gypsies with the usual horde of children and the harried wife carrying a baby at her breast. Whatever he was, he was simple and friendly, even though he was speechless. Why? Was he missing his tongue? A deaf mute? Or was he just a harmless, old, simple-minded imbecile? Yet he could make this incredible truck-wagon of his run--he had to have some smarts to do that, and operate a business of sorts too. The man's dog didn't look starved in the least either, and hopped off the backboard now and then just to run and get some exercise, before hopping back on and taking another snooze.

Though crawling along at a snail's pace, and the engine requiring water or oil or a whack of the stick every ten miles or so, they were making progress, and despite his urgency, Damon was enjoying the relaxing journey in the hay mow. As desert jack rabbits sped by them along side the road, however, he had to wonder how long it would take him to get to another town. There he he could find a bus or perhaps buy a new car. Thinking about this and other things, he was surprised when the truck grinded to a halt, its first gear complaining all the way. Was it breakfast stop? He had noticed the sausages and even some bread and cheese hung up on a line to keep them from the dog and other critters. There was a water bag out front, cooking their drinking water too.

Damon decided to wait and let the driver deal with whatever it was. Then he heard something he dreaded, it was a sergeant issuing commands.

Damon dove under the hay, and then heard the truck begin to go through its routine of all sorts of explosions up front. This time it was far worse than usual, it was life threatening. A huge cloud of steam and fumes and dark smoke erupted like a volcan o, along with the clattering and screaching of gears and parts that probably did not fit each other and couldn't possibly recognize each other, being composed of wood and metal, wire and anything else the driver had gerrymandered to make do for the original engine's parts. It was so bad in fact that the soldiers and their sergeant backed away from it, and not even the sergeant could give the order for them to move forward.

The sergeant's cursing the hay merchant and his truck from a safe distance only made his watchdog mad and brought him out snarling and pulling at his leash to get at the soldiers. For his size, you would think he was a lion, he acted so ferocious and fearless. The sergeant had his pistol drawn and would have loved to shoot the dog and teach it a lesson in manners, but the fumes were choking him and his ears were blasted with deafening backfiring from the tortured engine. Finally, his face twisted with disgust. He jerked his thumb, with some suitable execrations, and sent the hay merchant on his way without an inspection. It was just a waste of time anyway, the sergeant thought. That old man had been coming for years with his loads of hay, and been no bother, except to spread all his fumes over half the garrison whenever he came to deliver a load to the Captain and whoever else could afford fine quality fodder.

Strangely, as soon as the hay merchant had his rig down the road out of sight of the soldiers, it quietened down, and they proceeded leisurely on as before. Then they stopped for the night, and their second meal of the day. As with breakfast, the hay merchant went through his routine of pulling off the road into a relatively sheltered and level spot. Then he started a little fire with some wisps of hay, adding to it whatever he could find in the vicinity. When he had a good fire going, he went to the hay wain and pulled out some boards, taking out from beneath whatever commodities he wanted. He might even pull down a sausage from the rope up above, if he wanted a special treat for himself and his dog.

Not asked for help, Damon watched all this with amazement. Now he knew why the hay mow was so shallow. He had only a foot or two hay in the back there to cover himself with, which he had discovered when he went to hide in it. The hay stack was nothing but a cover! Beneath it was the merchant's real wares, he suspected, the reason for his travelling about the countyside. Beneath those planks under the hay, what couldn't the gypsy merchant be keeping out of sight and beyond the reach of tax collectors? Perhaps he would soon find out too, as soon as they stopped again in some town or village on the merchant's itinerary.

Damon's suspicions were correct, he found, when the next day after breakfast they headed back down the road and came to Zenjirli, a legendary fortress city guarding a main trade route to the west.

Damon knew the place, having photographed the centuries old but well preserved Assyrian walls and defensive towers that were the main attraction. Built to garrison the Assyrian empire's border where the barbaric mountain tribes, who were mostly bandits and raiders by profession, were apt to sweep down on Assyria's outlying towns and hamlets just beyond the high desert, Zenjirli survived the long ages and played pretty much the same purpose.

Famed for their vast military machine and fighting prowess on horseback as well as their ability to besiege the greatest walled cities, the Assyrians were even more famous for their savagery when waging wars to carve out an empire. They especially liked to cut off the heads of the people of captured cities, pile them in huge pyramids outside the gates of the city, and then they burned everything down and what slaves they took they put fish hooks in their noses and led them off tied to a single, long string. No wonder theyw ere so hated! he thought. Their enemies were kept at bay by fear, but not even fear could surpass the desires for avenging what the Assyrians had done to all the nations and peoples they could reach with their burning and looting and raping armies. In o ne day the capitals of Assyria were overwhelmed by the allied Elamites and Babelites and the Assyrian heartland wiped out, so that the capitals could not even be found anymore, they were so deep under the sands and rubble.

Zenjirli, located so far out from the major destruction, was not leveled like all the larger cities. It survived under Elamite administration with an Elamite governor installed. Then it passed to other kingdoms, one after the other, on up to modern times. The twenty or thirty foot thick ancient walls, built to last forever, were still useful to keep the bandit bands out, so they were maintained almost the same as the Assyrians had left them. The city's population gave away its Assyrian roots, with all the hooked noses and black, coarse, curly hair and beards of the men. Other than the walls and that physical throwback in the men to the past, it was much the same as any other Poseidonian country town, Damon recalled. But now he was coming in a very different manner. He was entering the life of the town as an unknown, and he wished to keep it that way. He did not dare to show his camera and identify himself as the well-known photographer, as no doubt there were eyes watching for his reappearance and he would be quickly reported, for a reward, to the authorities who were out to haul him in.

Hadn't he been connected in some way with the mysterious eruptions in the mountains? Poseidona had heard all about it, and was buzzing with speculation about it, no doubt. And the secret services were probably in the thick of the effort to bring him in. Without any fault of his own, he had become the most wanted man on the White Continent.

He was disappointed though when the "hay merchant" pulled through the city gate, which was a narrow squeeze for the big hay wain, and then found a space wide enough in an alley and then gone promptly to sleep after pulling an old rug over his head as he slumped down across the truck seat.

"No supper?" Damon wondered. The dog too seemed to know the routine whenever they hit town, and he too took a few turns round on top the back gate, then settled down for the night after a couple growls and groans.

Wondring if he might safely hop off and go in search of an eatery, Damon could not decide and then his eyelids drooped, and he too dropped off to sleep, as the city around them closed its shutters with a bang and went to bed early, with no real night life except for a constable or two and watchman making his rounds on the walls and in the main streets. A couple time in the night the dog awakened at someone approaching, snarled like a tiger, and sent whoever it was packing--and then the silence resumed and they could sleep.

But it was still pitch dark when Damon heard a commotion up front, the hay merchant evidently was up and at it very early, a hour or more before dawn.

Deciding to stay where he was, comfortable in the hay, Damon couldn't, after a few more minutes, as the hay merchant came and began cranking up the impossibly engine.

The engine restarted somehow, and slouched and rattled its way through the alley to the open square beyond. There they halted, with the hay wain turned outward.

Damon wondered what was next, and soon found out, as the gypsy came pulling at the boards under the hay, and then began spreading whatever he took out on the back gate.

It was still too dark for Damon to see anything, so he just stayed where he was.

But the hay merchant handed him some slices of a sausage and an apple and a cheese of some kind, and Damon took it and it asked no questions.

Damon would have liked some eggs and bacon rashers with it, but he thought he might go for something more in the neighborhood. He rubbed his chin and felt the rough beard he was growing. He felt he needed a bath too, and wanted badly to clean up in a nice hotel suite after riding so long in the dusty hay. But he thought about it. Wasn't it good his appearance had become so unkempt? He didn't look his old self, but that would help him elude detection. He might even look quite like a gypsy as he now was, but he could really pass for one if he just tied a scarf around his neck, pulled on a wool cap, and added some jewelry to his wrists or neck.

Waiting for more light, he heard voices approaching, mostly women coming in to the square with carts heaped with vegetables, baskets, pots, even live chickens, and some sheep.

It was the city market! He had photographed it once, he recalled, but in far different circumstances. Now he was part of it, and could observe it as it really operated from his vantage point in the hay merchant's wagon. That was really a different role for him--becoming one of the common people, observing them as one of them instead of an affluent foreigner who comes to mix with them just to take photographs like he would with animals and exhibits in a zoo or circus and then fly off somewhere.

Women now came, singly and in groups, to the truck, and there was light enough for them, so they began picking among the items, discussing them loudly with one another, not caring that he was listening, as he looked like any gypsy would look they had seen before. Fancy little hand mirrors, gaudy jewelry, cheap perfumes, scarves with brilliant colors, all sorts of cheap but gilded trinkets, and toys and dolls for children--the women chatted and laughed as they went gaily through the merchant's display on the back gate board while he sat nearby with his dog on a piece of old rug he used for a blanket at night.

The various women who decided they wanted something, would bargain with him over the price, and Damon watched the gypsy hold his own with them, with an amazing repertoire of hand signs and gestures that the women seemed to recognize.

When the whole business of the price was concluded to the satisfaction of both parties, the money was cast up into a big bucket he kept hanging a little higher up from his wares, higher than anyone could comfortably reach, so it wasn't within the children's grasp. A number of times the women paid, not with coin or paper cash, but in eggs, or cheese, bread, and even some woven goods. The hay merchant took them cheerfully, and put them away immediately under the boards.

The market women all seemed to know the hay merchant, and the buying and selling went quite briskly and uneventfully for a time, but as the dawn came, the women drifted back to their own spots to tend to their various wares for the busy morning ahead.

By noon they would be packed up and on their way back to their various homes to tend their families, and work in their gardens and care for various livestock, whatever they had been able to make a go at in in this frontier.

As soon as the market women went back to their work, however, the gypsy sprang up from his carpet, threw it into the truck cab, and went to work putting all the unsold items back under the planks beneath the hay, and then went to the cab, climbed in, and the dog too hopped back on the back gate and, without any inquiring constable detaining them or some city authority demanding the local customs tax on sales, they were off!

Damon was glad he hadn't run off, or he would have missed his ride. He had intended to find a bus or even buy a car if it was good enough, but had second thoughts and stayed with the hay wain. He knew perfectly well that he wouldn't have made it out of town. He would have been recognized and arrested if he once showed himself like that in a business transaction. Any barber too would have reported him, for barbers knew all the talk and gossip of a wide arrea, and would alert the authorities to their customer being a wanted man.

Snuggling down in the hay wain, Damon decided he had best stick with the mute old gypsy trader as long as he could, at least until he could hop onto some city transportation nearest his home where he could travel anonymously among many other passengers. Here in the frontier towns, there weren't enough people passing through for him to travel alone and not be noticed and stopped for interrogation by the police.

Why couldn't he speak normally anyway.? he wondered, as the cart and truck moved slowly out of the city and down the road, before the authorities got their uniforms on squarely, their pants pulled up and all their buttons buttoned on their flies. Was he born that way? Or had something happpened--a blow to the head, paralysis, who knew? Yet the old man seemed to get on quite well without uttering one word to anyone. He used all sorts of signs, made by his eyes, hands, facial expressions, and even a shrug, and communicated what he wanted to say.

"I don't even know his name!" Damon thought. "I would like to pay him something too, but he doesn't seem to care if I pay or not for the ride he is giving me. Should I bring it up myself? Why, I don't even know his name!"

When the gypsy merchant stopped for the night, in a lonely place far down the road and a little off the road where there was no chance of being disturbed, Damon determined to see if the man would take some money--just to see his response.

It was too dark when the gypsy finished making camp, however, so Damon had to wait for morning, as the old gypsy turned in without supper, and Damon went to bed, but not without cutting off a piece of sausage hanging nearest him. That would take care of his hunger pangs, he knew. So it did. He rose early with the old man before dawn, and recalled his intention of the night before.

The old man just stared a brief moment at the money Damon held out to him. A quick shrug, and he went back to his business of getting them back on the road. That was that!

"He doesn't want it!" Damon thought. "What on earth! Doesn't he want to make some money off of carting me half across the country! Without him I would probably be rotting in some jail, or worse. I owe him a great deal for my freedom. His truck and cart are a perfect cover for me, and maybe I can reach to a big enough city where I can melt into the crowd and find a cab or another car that will get me home safely."

But he soon found the itinerary was firmly in the hand of the hay merchant, not his. Being a stowaway, he could not demand any change for his own benefit, of course. The hay merchant went wherever he pleased, and when he pleased! Damon realized he would just have to be patient, and hope that they would get to a substantial city further toward the coast. But the hay merchant seemed to prefer the outlying country, the half-civilized towns scrabbling for an existence on the mounds and ruins of past civilizations, for he was always turned away from the direct routes and main highways to wander off on what looked like ox-cart trails.

They never starved, however, despite how forsaken and depopulated the countryside was, being mostly high desert or shrubby wilderness. The gypsy always seemed to have enough food in his portable larder, even if they got nothing from the town. One thing he could comfort himself with was that the patrols were few in those areas, being not thought important enough for soldiery and expensive garrisons. They met few government or army vehicles, and then they didn't detain them or even take the trouble to inspect the hay merchant's truck and hay wain, particularly since it always kicked up such a fuss with extra amounts of explosive backfirings from the "engine" and huge clouds of smoke.

How did he manage that? Damon wondered. Did they all know him and thought him completely harmless--a nuisance but nothing more? One thing seemed sure. None of the authorities they met with wanted to inspect something that promised to blow up in their faces--so the hay merchant was waved on at the few checkpoints they did encounter in the out of way places they were visiting. But, there was an old story too, well-known in Poseidonia, that gypsies were thought bad Kismet and even baby snatchers (they would put their babies in the place of precious Poseidonian children!). That is why they were never allowed to settle in towns and cities, and were exiled to the roads and rivers, always moving about, staying seldom more then a day or so in anyplace they stopped to trade.

After a week of this, Damon was wondering seriously if he would ever make any progress home. He was about to jump ship too, being disgusted with the gypsy's meanderings which seemed to have no purpose at all to them. The very day he decided he had had enough, the hay merchant turned in at what looked like nothing more than a goat track and took a couple turns around some ridges of rock and there it was, an Argentine ranchero! But what a ranchero!

Set with high towers useful for spotting enemies afar off making raids, the old Elamite fort, long abandoned, had been found and made over into a home for the gypsy's big, extended family and his wive and all their children. He had evidently come up from the Argentines originally, or had travelled there and liked what he saw and wanted it in Poseidonia. Some colonial-style Argentine features had been added to the facade and the parapets of the walls, but pretty much everything else was left the same--since moving ten, even twenty foot thick walls around was out of the question. There were cattle in neat pens with white painted adobe walls, and Argentine gauchos in charge. The fort-house had a classic Argentine ranchero house entrance with pillars, and shuttered windows and wooden verandas and balconies. Walled gardens, date palms, fruits of all kinds, flowers, fountain pool, it was clearly a nobleman's estate and haciendo. But who was he? What were they doing here at his house? They were certainly going to be run off for intruding on this man's private paradise, Damon thought.

The strangest thing happened the moment the truck came to a snorting, puffing, smoke-billowing stop. The dog jumped at its lease, barking furiousy, and all the household came running out. Children were first to reach the old man. "Daddy!" they all cried, for there was no mistaking the universal word though translated into many languages. Women came next, followed by many white-garbed servants. They all greeted him a like they were his family. Then, last of all, a woman appeared at the manor house's entrance between the big white pillars. She waved, but did not come forward. Instead, the old gypsy dropped his neatly folded carpet rug he used at night to sleep under and hobbled as fast as he could to her, and she threw her arms around him, and he did the same to her.

Damon, stared at by the children, who were jumping up and down, all laughing and shouting things he couldn't comprehend in their Romany language, stood with his mouth hanging open. Who and what was this odd man who had carted him all round western Poseidonia without charge in his raunchy old rattletrap and then brought him home to a grand mansion like this?

The gypsy trader and his family were not in any hurry, as it turned out, to send Damon on his way. Once home, the gypsy did not want to deprive his children of a guest they thought fascinating. The children took over and had to show Damon everything on the ranchero, every animal--horse, chicken, pig, ostrich, the bird house in the garden tower stocked with cockatoos and parrots of every kind, with pens nearby for pet turtles--every toy too, not to mention the best shaded pools to fish in on the nearby stream that ran from their artesian well--every thing that children delight in. Damon showed them some things too--his photographic gear and how to take pictures of them and their prize animals.

When they finally let him go, one of the bigger boys took him on horseback to the distant ridge where the stream from their artestian spring joined other springs and became a tributary leading to the great river beyond that ran all the way to the eastern sea.

Damon knew the area well enough from previous photography tours (what part of the White Continent wasn't he conversant with?), and he knew the main highway would be just over the next ridge, and a town lay down that road half way to the river. It was large enough for him to hire or even buy a car, and he could travel the rest of the way in the way he preferred--alone, with his camera and film beside him, not exposed to loss or robbery. Since the films he knew had been added to his were so hot, he had all the more reason to travel alone and incognito.

Fortunately, he had enough money wired him for this last leg of the trip home. He had almost emptied an account he had, thinking he was out of his mind to do so, but now it was a big help to have the extra cash he needed to replace the car he had lost.

The gypsy's elder son, Mariano, got them horses from the big stable and led him the rest of the way, just short of the town. Mariano had been silent most of the way, his face unhappy, but had several times already urged Damon to stay. Damon was just like a big brother to him. There was plenty of good paying work with his father, they needed someone like Damon to take charge of the hired men--since his father was gone so much of the time trading and travelling. His sisters too were pressing him to keep Damon. He would be like a member of the family, he had fitted in so well. Couldn't he reconsider and stay? Why did he have to leave?

It was hard, to refuse the boy. Damon liked the gypsy's family, every one of them. They had accepted him completely, not like his own family, particularly his father who had never accepted his choice of career. He really felt at home for the first time among the gypsies. Their way of life really appealed to him--an isolated ranchero with its huge, open spaces, fine riding horses, and the camaraderie among the cattlemen and ranch hands--it was wonderful to think about sharing that and forgetting all the stresses and strains of big cities and the dog-eat-dog life that went on there. But he couldn't. He had "promises" to keep, he felt. This was just too easy for him, if he remained with the gypsies. He felt he had a challenge he could not shirk. What was it? He didn't quite know. Besides, if he stayed, wouldn't he just draw the hounds down on them all, and his adopted family would suffer. No, it was best to go, and draw the hounds pursuing him as far away from these kind-hearted gypsies as possible.

So Damon and the sad-faced Mariano exchanged the special handshake and the pecular Romany word for friends taking leave of each other, and Damon was on his own. Mariano gave a slap to the rump of Damon's horse, a beautiful black stallion, which flew off back toward the ranchero. A moment later Mariano leaped up on his own horse. Damon took the time and watched the boy on his pinto gallop away back to the little paradise up on the high desert plateau, a rider and his horse growing smaller and smaller, then vanishing amidst the mesquite and joshua trees.

Damon knew no such happy home as this one of Mariano's, his own being urban, set in a big city beside the river (once a royal city took, with streets of palaces and government buildings set in parklike settings), where he had grown up in a waterfront villa. There he had always known all the comforts and privileges of a well-to-do family whose father was a successful physician to high government officials. Yet it was not satisfying to something in his spirit and heart, so he had determined to find another line of work, a trade by which he could travel and seek out how the rest of the world did things, and perhaps he might find the thing or person that would fill the need he felt deep inside that his father's house and the life they knew could not. Choosing photography against his father's wishes, he had stepped down in society with such a trade, but it was a great way he found to make a lot of money if one was good enough at supplying the magazines with the shots of the exotic places their readers demanded. Yet it hadn't given him everything on a deeper level.

He envied the boy, his simple, carefree existence, but he recalled the lot of most gypsies he knew of, how they were so despised and downtrodden, with scarcely anything to enjoy in life like what he had seen. What was the old gypsy's secret? He couldn't talk, but he made the best of it, operating a trade route that worked well for him because he could keep his profits from being robbed from him and others couldn't. He had a good reason for his silence: no tongue. It had been a shock to Damon to find that out, coming out from the back of the hay wain to see what the gypsy was doing, and finding him asleep at the wheel, his head thrown back on the seat, his mouth open.

He was horrified and backed away, taking silent steps until he was out of sight. Then he knew: the rumors were true that he had heard years before, how gypsies were treated when a mob in town or some city wanted to have some fun with them. It was a cruel age, he knew, when innocent, mild, gentle people like this man and his family were had to fear such atrocities from the society around them. He didn't like it anymore. He hardly felt like a Poseidonian or wanted to be one.

What could he do anyway to change it? Nothing!

He walked in to town and headed for the main business district, where he knew he could find anything he wanted. You could always find a group of dealers and procurers, gathered there to arrange business ventures and sales, big or small. Money could buy anything, and if it wasn't in the town, it would soon be brought in, for these man had wide connections.

That very day he was on his way home, making good time too on the highway. The only problem was that someone had spotted him, he soon found out.

Their vehicle was more powerful and faster than his. They were soon racing neck and neck, and had guns drawn at him, while forcing him to the edge of the road.

Damon knew he had no choice but one. He wasn't going to be captured again--for if all these goons wanted was the contraband spy footage, then his life was expendable. They wouldn't want him around afterwards to squeal about it.

Knowing what would happen to him--he'd soon be dead meat for a bunch of vultures to dine on--Damon jammed the gas pedal down, the car reached 80-90-100 and beyond--then he swung sharply to the left, shot down the incline of the road bank, uprooting some shrubs on the way, and then went airborne as his wheels cleared the edge of the levee.

The car turned and flipped over as it struck the water some fifty yards out from the river's edge.

The river was full of 100 foot high lanteen sails, which was not unusual as the traders were always active at this time when the river was full of snow melt and they could sail up the tributaries and reach towns that were out of reach most of the year during the long, hot, rainless summers.

Since Poseidonians, though riverine in their culture, accustomed to a lot of water due to the two great rivers that watered the canals that traversed most of their country's farmlands, despised river folk and their ways as an inferior class, the boatmen were a class unto themselves, made up of mostly upcountry tribes, Persians, Hittites, Elamites, and the like. These peoples had all been defeated unconditionally, their various empires destroyed and their capitals and chief cities buried by sands, ashes and rubble--but the various nationalities survived the bloody wars somehow and lived on and made do with commerce and trading on the rivers.

A Persian merchant boat was nearest the spot where Damon's car went under and on its way downriver. It was a surprise that added some interest to their tedious day of work on the river keeping their boat off the sandbars and drifts of submerged logs and debris, but they had seen other vehicles miss the road and land in the river before. Perhaps this was just another such mishap of a drunk driver, the boatmen thought, and whoever was nearest and quickest might win a reward for making a rescue of the driver. They even had winches aboard to pull up vehicles, if they weren't too heavy and the winch didn't break! Trucks were out of the question, but cars--yes, they could do most of the smaller kinds. That work of course had to bring a substantial reward. Also, Persians, who had been renowned for ages as horsemen, out of necessity to find new ways of making a living rather than ruling and taxing others far and wide, learned a new thing, they become expert divers. They could retrieve valuable items from the vehicles too, even if they couldn't be raised. It was a chance to turn a nice profit, and perhaps make the entire voyage a success before they even delivered their shipment of sugar cane to the warehouse down on the docks at Poseidia's port.

Rustem was the one to seize the opportunity, and rather than wait for his uncle, who owned the vessel, to decide who was going to do it, he decided it was his turn, being on the portside where the vehicle had gone in.

Thrown headfirst into the water at breakneck speed, Damon had no chance to do anything, and was knocked unconscious.

All he saw was that he was in the cycle-cab, and he and Arlena were dodging a lot of nasty-looking hooks and sharks. Where was it? He had no idea. The air was so murky, full of dirt, and yet the cycle-cab ran just like it always had. He thought he was doing a good job so far when suddenly he must have grazed a hook for he felt yanked violently by the arm and everything went black.

Yes, he was hooked! Rustem's tatoo described him well. He worked on the man he had found about ten feet down in the water, just above where he couldn't see anything in the dirty water. The car was sending up bubbles where it sank, so he knew where it was when he went back, but first he had to haul the drowning man up to the surface and up onboard the boat and then push the water out of him.

As soon as the drowned man revived enough to get his first breaths, Rustem wasted no more time on him. His uncle and the other boatmen took over watching Damon revive while Rustem leaped back into the water and dove to the car.

A short time later he was back, he hadn't found much, just a soggy case of some sort.

It hadn't actually been in the car, but was thrown out, yet somehow it had landed on the car's hood. Rustem couldn't see exactly what it was, but he had brushed against it, then realized it might be something the driver had brought, and not a piece of wood or other debris in the river. Pulling its straps round his neck, he pushed off the car and rose quickly to the surface and then made for the Xerxes the Great King, the leaky old sugar boat his rich uncle owned and operated.

When Rustem climbed aboard, he found the man whose life he had saved was moving, puking up dirty river water but apparently going to live. That made him very happy, as a dead man wasn't a very good catch. Once he had gone and hauled in someone who had been under too long, but this one--he had just a good dunking, that's all. He's soon be fine, once he got his breath back and dried out some. Wouldn't that deserve a nice reward surely? He hoped he would be grateful for being rescued and pay him handsomely. Others might have let him drown, rather than risk their own lives in the shark filled river. Anyone who could operate his own motor vehicle had plenty money, he knew. Most of his own people walked or rode bicycles and thought a hired pedicab ride a special treat. Even his uncle didn't own a car, and he was considered well off.

Together with his uncle and his little brother, Rustem gazed at his nice big fish as he flopped about, spitting out the last of the dirty water he had swallowed.

Recovering once most of the water was out of him, Damon sat up, dazed but aware of his company for the first time. He wondered how he had gotten aboard what looked like a an old lanteen sail boat. He had blacked out, and this was the first he knew of anything since being thrown out of his car as they both went airborne. He said a few words to the young fellow in the diver's loin cloth who seemed friendliest, but the fellow shook his head, and Damon tried some words of various other languages he had picked up along the way. The fellow grinned and nodded vigorously when he tried a Persian word.

Persians! Damon thought. Well, that was progress. They maybe could understand a few more words he knew from that language, if he could think more clearly and remember them. Maybe now he could get some help out of his predicament.

He tried to rise up, but his whole body now began to hurt. He had seemingly wrenched every muscle in his body, so he lay back down and just lay there, resting for a few moments. He tried again, but the pain was worse. His eyes clouded, and he felt like he might pass out from the pain.

Rustem, seeing his fish wasn't doing very well, went for an extra blanket his uncle kept in case it was needed, and brought it and covered Damon, who was now shaking from cold and shock from the accident.

Rustem's uncle returned to his business, getting the boat safely to the port to drop off the sugar cane, and so the boat returned to the main channel as Damon rested, and continued swiftly on its way with the big sail added to the current's push.

Later, when he was free for a moment, Rustem brought Damon something to eat, just some dried figs and a piece of smoked fish. Damon couldn't get the fish down, and the dried fruit stuck in his throat, so Rustem got him some wine, not very good, but better than river water right now for someone who had drunk far too much of it to stomach a drop more.

The wine seemed to warm him, and Damon went back to resting and slept. Rustem decided he didn't need his own blanket and laid it over Damon so he had two to keep him extra warm, as cold wind from the high desert could sweep down and nights could get chilly even on the river.

Damon dreamed again of Arlena and himself, but the dream changed. He was no longer trying to take her through an obstacle course of hooks and sharks but showing her his father's beautiful villa, room by room. After a tour of it, Arlena turned to him and said, "It is a nice house your father has. He wants to leave it to you someday, he says. You are the head of the family when he passes. Yours is an old, important family, I take it, with a fine name and fortune. You should be happy to be back safe with your family again. Why don't you stay and make them happy? They all seem so relieved you are all right. Haven't you had enough adventures for a lifetime? Why don't you do as your father desires and settle down? As for me, I am going back to Port Andros. I am needed there."

"No, don't go, I want you here!" he cried, but she faded, and Natalia took her place. What a shock that was! At the same time, he realized his heart told him, here is the one you really want for your wife. But...what about his career in photography? It got him into too much trouble-- especially with the spy pictures--and he couldn't expose Natalia to such danger! If he stayed in one place, he would be an easy target, and she wouldn't be safe beside him. He had no choice, he had to travel and keep on the move, to be one step ahead of whoever was pursuing him..."

Natalia didn't agree. "But, Damon, it's not necessary to live like that!" she said. She smiled, telling him that they could trust the Lord Yeshua for their protection. "With Yeshua, you see, we don't have to run from them, no matter how many they are! We have power in Him. We don't have to go it alone. That is what you have always done. Gone through it alone, taking your chances, trusting in luck. Has it worked? Has it?"

Thinking she was crazy, she didn't know what she was talking about, he was trying to tell Natalia not to come any closer to him, when she too faded and men jumped at him from the shadows. It was the same old thing. Would he ever have his private life again? Not since his identity had been stolen had he been able to go one day without a pack of baying hounds hot on his trail!

He was twisting in his blankets, kicking and hitting at leaping shadows when Rustem ran over and seized his arms, holding him until Damon came back to his right mind and subsided.

When Damon realized where he was, he was relieved and closed his eyes again, his hand lying on an object he only gradually realized was his camera case, only it was so soggy it felt like a dead river carp.

Hours later Damon awoke again, and found himself lying in the rough woolen blankets, feeling better and more rested than before. His wet pants had been pulled off by someone, and hung up on a rope leading to the sail and fluttered like a tattered flag. Was that all he had left to wear? His shirt was nothing but shreds, not fit to wear. He hoped his pants would be. Otherwise, all he had was a blanket. It amused him somehow. He was back to what he had when he escaped from that mountain lodge--his bare skin and a blanket! Well, at least he was alive! But could he get safely home, where at least they had the authorities to protect him? Out here in the country, police administration was spotty and corrupt at best. The capital was still far off, and the central government took little interest in law in order in the outlying provinces, except to maintain garrisons and bases at strategic sites along the border with H-R.

He thought about his benefactors, these simple boat men. Wouldn't they now be at risk, giving him refuge and shelter? He ought not to expose them to attack. What should he do? Ask them to drop him off as soon as he could make it on his own two feet? His ribs were calming down, he felt, after all the wrenching he had undergone in crash into the river. It was a wonder he had not rebroken them!

As he was wondering what was best to do, his thoughts drifted into cloudiness and he was fast asleep again, not knowing it was broad day and the sun was pouring down on the ship and the river. Only when he felt the burning sun on his blanket did he waken and crack open his eyes.

Just as he did that, a shadow passed over, very fast, a fighter or spy. He saw that his clothes had been dried, then folded neatly, even if they were no longer good to wear. The contents of his pockets too, were neatly displayed--wallet, coins, paper money, identification papers, and his pearl-handled pocket knife. He might be able to wear his socks and pants, but not much else he saw lying out beside him. But the thing that concerned him most: the camera case. How was it? It had been emptied, the contents dried too in the sun. All the film contridges were present, but the camera was ruined of course. He could replace it, but the films could not be replaced. They should be all right in the water proof cartridges, he thought. Even the spy footage which had gotten him into a world of trouble! Even if he ditched it, nobody would believe him, they would just think he had hidden the films away somewhere. He knew there was no way now he could dispose of them. What was he going to do? How was he ever going to separate himself from them and survive? With them, he was a dead man, and without them, he was a dead man. They were like a death sentence, and he had done nothing to deserve it!

Just as he thought about the top secret photos, another shadow darted overhead, travelling from downriver. It was no doubt an aircraft coming from the big government air base outside the capital. Was it sent out to search for him and this particular boat? He had no reason not to consider it. But what was he to do? Hide under the sugar cane?

He sat up, rubbing his face and eyes to get the sleep out. He felt so much better. His body didn't hurt all over. He still had some bruises and some scrapes and his clothes were just what he saw before him, but he was going to be all right, he realized. But for how long? He had to be moving, or someone was going to be meeting him at the dock wherever this boat came to land--he knew for certain. They had to be tracked. But why didn't they just send a boat out to intercept him? Just as he thought that, a dark painted motor boat, low in the water, was indeed headed their way.

Oh, no! Damon thought. He jumped up, forgetting his tender ribs, and pulled on his pants. He wasn't going to be arrested without his pants on! He stuffed his wallet, money, and identification in his pockets, then turned to see if he could get anyone's attention, to see if something could be done to stop whomever was in the approaching motorboat from dragging him off.

Just then Rustem leaned out on that side and saw the strangers and their weapons, and he rummaged quickly under the sugar cane, and brought out his own answer to the challenge, a silver-engraved antigue firearm. He also pulled out a wooden casque, scooped with his hand, stuffed the huge barrel with all sorts of sharp projectiles. Then he leaped up, facing the strangers, his finger cocked on the trigger by the time the motorboat came alongside. The helmeted and heavily armed government soldiers aboard, or men who were dressed in government uniforms at any rate, shouted up to Rustem. It was clear what they wanted. They had onboard a wanted criminal, they said. "Hand this state traitor down to us immediately or pay a severe penalty."

Rustem didn't flinch. He stood and did not answer.

The officer shouting at him shook his fist. He glanced up at the boat's flag that had a Persian fire altar, then down at Rustem with contempt. "Put down your rifle! We will shoot both of you if you resist, you dirty, little miscarriage of a Persian bitch!"

Rustem shook his head, as if he could not comprehend, but his face was red, hearing what they had called him. The shouts got more angry, and their rifles were pointed at him, but Rustem kept his rifle pointed at the whole group. He had more than enough nails and tacks and glass shards in his firearm to deliver them all a nasty surprise and a hard reproof, if they persisted in threatening him and his uncle's ship.

Damon, watching this whole scene, heard a throat being cleared, and someone, it turned out to be Rustem's uncle, who was standing up on the cross mast, muttering equal sentiments about the stranger spitting in the direction of the government men's parents and wives and daughters. The next moment, as if that was a signal, Rustem's firearm discharged, accidentally or purposely, it did not matter. The men in the boat and their colonel-uniformed commander caught the contents and were screaming and writhing in the boat, while it began to drift away. They never got a single shot off at Rustem in return. Rustem's uncle spat again, as if saying "Good riddance to filthy rubbish!"

Rustem turned back to Damon, as if in apology for the fuss. He went and pulled a blanket up over Damon's shoulders, and waved his hand to the bedding as if Daman should go back to his rest and leave the rest of the voyage to Rustem and his uncle.

What could Damon do now? The trouble was taken care of. The government would think twice about approaching this boat again. But maybe they would have an even greater force awaiting them at the port. Well, if that was so, Rustem's expression was carefree, smiling as before, and he evidently lived in the moment and didn't worry about the rocks and turbulence in the river ahead as long as he had smooth sailing now.

Sitting back down as his host had suggested, Damon saw Rustem going back to his duties, scrambling like a monkey with his little brother up the tree-tall mast to adjust the sail.

After some lunch that Rustem's little brother brought him in a piece of sail, Damon ate, drank some wine, then rested some more. The hours passed as they continued down the river, the current sufficient and strong to carry them even without the sail. There were no more flyovers. It seemed the world had forgotten them, after the government boat had gone, its men too badly cut up to try again take Damon off.

The hours slipped into dusk, while Damon rested comfortably.

Then he heard something scraping against the hull. A moment or two later, fingers showed, then a hand and a head as someone came aboard from a small boat.

Rustem jumped down and put his arm over the other man's shoulders, as they greeted each other in the energetic Persian fashion.

Just as formal as a Persian nobleman, Rustem showed their guest around the ship, then turned to his passenger who was sitting up, watching them.

Rustem introduced them. "Sasan will take you to land, and any place you ask him. He can get you safely anywhere. You may trust him with your life!" At least that was what Damon understood in the mixed Persian and Poseidonian Rustem used.

Rustem then did something that Damon knew was a custom of some kind with these Perisans. He put Sasan's hand across Damon's which he had taken, as if to say, "You are in hand, so do all he tells you."

He then went and got an identification paper of Damon's that contained his home address, and showed it to Sasan, who nodded, took the paper and handed it to Damon. With a single glance at Damon, Rustrem left them, vanishing up into the sail and rigging.

Damon stared at Sasan, not sure what he should say or do. He was struck by the man's kindly eyes. Sasan in turn looked long at Damon, as if taking his measure as a man.

Sasan seemed to be satisfied by what he saw, for next he cocked his head toward his boat, then when Damon seemed not to understand, took Damon's hand, and led him over to the side like a child.

Damon did not know what was going on, but he let Sasan lead him down into his boat. It was a small one, too, and Damon almost upset it. But when Damon was lying down in the bottom where Sasan put him, with a carpet covering him from sight, only then did he untie his mooring rope from the ship and cast off.

Slowly the boats separated, then Sasan began plying the oars, and they quickly turned over toward the shore.

Damon lay rocked in the bottom of the boat, not uncomfortably, and wondered where he was going. Would Sasan be able to get him all the way home?

How capable was he anyway? Though he had some paper money, what good was it if he couldn't show his face? Perhaps Sasan would cash it for him, or pay for cabs or bus and train fares which they were going to need. He knew they had to be at least 100 miles out, and possibly more, from the capital, though he had to guess, not knowing the river like Rustem and Sasan and the other Persian mariners evidently knew it.

Wondering how dangerous it was, he took the risk of being seen and peeked out, just to see the light again.

He couldn't see the shore, but he could hear shore birds were growing louder with each passing minute of Sasan's strong oaring, so they couldn't be far off. He wondered where they would land, and soon found out. It was an isolated spot, an old Roman ruin where there would be few people at any time of day.

Damon was surprised when Sasan left his boat, tying it up at a place where a ladder had been sunk with iron rungs into the stones. They climbed up the seawall and started across the vast square which was empty except for pieces of the colossal statue of whatever Roman emperor had once stood there after conquering all the way to the Eastern Great Sea.

Wondering if he was a fool to put his life in the hands of a stranger like this one, Damon lost some of his hesitation as soon as they crossed the open square and went down some stairways and then turned into a corner under one of them. There was a lot of straw and old tarpaulins, which Sasan pulled off, revealing a small, badly dented and dusty car.

With wide eyes, Damon watched Sasan jump in, start it, and then back out, the engine backfiring and throwing out a lot of smoke that reminded Damon of the Gypsy's old claptrap. The back seat lay down, and here Sasan led Damon, and he climbed in, finding there was just enough space for him if his knees were drawn up. As soon he was positioned, Sasan pulled a tarp pulled over him, hiding him from view just as he had been in the boat.

Damon didn't like the trip in the car one bit, it was just too bumpy in the back of the car, and Sasan drove like a madman.

He felt sick to his stomach by the time Sasan pulled up somewhere in a garage, the door pulled down the moment they were inside.

Damon didn't care who saw him, he sat up. Sasan was out of the car, and was talking fast with a lot of hand gestures to a man dressed like a mechanic in soiled overalls pulled over his other clothes. It looked like any auto repair shop, with pieces of car frame here and there on the walls, and headlights on a shelf, and all sorts of wrenches and equipment and the stains of oil everywhere.

The mechanic came over to the car and opened up the back, and Damon climbed out, sore and not a little annoyed after the rough ride.

The mechanic didn't smile, but turned and Sasan pointed to Damon to follow him as the man led the way, taking a door way that had been covered up with a car hood stood up against it. Behind it was a stairway that led up. Damon climbed the stairs with them, and they reached a room which had a single light, and a bed and some clothes and a few other items that looked like slippers and a man's cap and head covering.

The bathroom in a tiny niche of the room was visible, without a curtain. Damon didn't like the looks of it, and Sasan grinned. The mechanic left them and went back down the stair.

"What is this place?" Damon burst out. "Where is this? I'm not staying here! There isn't even a window! I've got to be able to look out. I can't stand being confined in a small space. It reminds me of--"

Rustem shook his head, smiling, at Damon's protests. He picked up the clothes lying on the chair next to the bed, and handed them to Damon, who understood but didn't want them. He looked them over. Even if they weren't to his taste, they were clean and close enough to his size to be comfortable. He decided he might try them, after a momentary struggle. He pulled on the shirt of plain white muslin. It felt good. He also thought to try the shoes. They were slip ons, and fit enough to wear. But one item he objected to. He wasn't going to put on the head cloth, which resembled those worn by the outlying desert tribes, but Rustem insisted, by holding it up for him to take.

Frowning, Damon tried it on, and with a few adjustments by Rustem to get it just right, giving it the look tribal men thought fashionable, Rustem seemed pleased, and then showed him the mirror, holding it up for him.

What did he look like now?" Damon thought. A common tradesman from the tribes! No one would look twice at him in the street. Tribal people people were always coming in to sell things in the markets, wherever they didn't get too much trouble from the local police. Poseidonian housewives liked to buy from them, however, for their prices were generally low, and they sold handcrafted articles and beautiful, tribal weavings, items they couldn't get in the stores.

Feeling like he would not mind his new set of clothes so much after all, Damon took a look into the small bathroom, found a shower and used it, then redressed himself, and by this time Sasan had found a dinner for the two of them. It was native dishes of Persian kind, a lot of rice pilaf and lamb bits and some hot pepper and spicy pickles, with carafe of wine. They sat on the bed, with the chair as a table, and enjoyed it, as the food was hot and well-prepared--as good as any Damon had tasted even in the better restaurants.

Finished, Sasan did not stop to put anything away. Even though Sasan looked tired, he moved quickly enough, leading Damon back down and out of the garage, this time they were going on foot. It was a small town, and they crossed it in minutes, and on the outskirts they came to a shed, where a motor boat was kept. Unlocking the chain on it, Sasan drew the chain into the boat, then took the driver's seat, and the other was for Damon. This time Damon wasn't made to hide. He sat up, wearing the head cloth and in his clothes he wasn't going to look like himself.

Sasan took an oar, and polled the boat out of the shed and into the river, and then let it drift for a while away from shore, and when they were beyond the town he started the motor, then climbed back into the driver's seat, and they were off!

The wind gusted and blew off Damon's head cloth, and Sasan laughed when Damon snatched for it, but couldn't catch it in time.

They quickly ate up the miles as they raced along, passing many a trader and now and then an incoming, seagoing ship or fishing boat. The river traffic was increasing, Damon noticed as they neared the capital. But Sasan did not slow up. He did turn off the river, however, taking the first of many canals that intersected the city. Once in the maze of canals, the going was slower, as the canals were more closely patrolled by police and there was a lot of local traffic as well. Wasn't he taking a chance coming in like that? Damon wondered. Sasan didn't seem to be worried or concerned, as Damon glanced at him from time to time. He felt so exposed, sitting up front there, as they headed down a canal Damon knew was taking him directly to his father's villa. It was located right across from big government buildings of the Foreign Intelligence Ministry, he knew. He had never been concerned about that before, but now it seemed the worst neighbor his father could have ever picked.

What if he was spotted, after all the trouble taken to get him this far. The Persians--Rustem, his uncle, and then Sasan and his mechanic friend, they had all put themselves at risk for his sake--and for what? They hadn't indicated they wanted one thing from him in return. Would they take any money? He had to try. Mere thanks seem to be a shabby return for all their help and the danger they had faced because of his company and harboring him from the authorities. He got out his wallet and saw he had a good amount left. Sasan could have it all, as far as he was concerned. He had earned it!

They had come in sight of his father's villa when the unexpected happened. Sitting tensely, watching for any government or police boat, Damon felt like time was standing still.

Then suddenly a strange shaped, motorless aircraft flew down and blocked their path. It was manned by what looked like an ancient Hellene-- an extinct race of people who had lived on the Middle Sea, on the eastern islands in it, as well as far south, adjoining what had been ancient Mizraim! What was he doing?

Sasan who couldn't have seen anything like that in his wildest dreams was just as startled, and he jerked the wheel to the left, and they swung round the obstacle, but they had no sooner approached Damon's home when he saw the landing and porch were occupied with a waiting committee of uniformed men, all seemingly armed with rifles.

Sasan did not miss a beat. He gunned the motor, made a sharp u-turn, and they were off at full speed, pursued by a government patrol boat and the Hellene on his motorless, flying spike! Damon hung on, the spray soon drenching him as Sasan swung the boat violently down one canal and another, swerving round other boats. At one turn they almost lost control, but made it, but their pursuer wasn't as good at the wheel as Sasan, for they heard a sickening crash. A big smoke cloud burst behind them too, and they knew the men in it didn't have a chance to get out.

Sasan kept going, however, without a glance back. Damon couldn't help it, though. Then he saw the spike with the man holding to it following.

Vaguely, he recalled something like that, way back in the White Mountains. It had happened, yes, but he had put it from his mind. Hadn't he seen this thing before? What did it have to do with him? What was it anyway? Sasan wasn't any help. He had seen it, but had made no comment. But then, Sasan didn't say anything if he could help it in Poseidonian, leaving him to try and figure things out with just sign language.

They turned again, as Sasan did not like to stay any considerable time in any one canal. But this was not a good decision, they soon found out. A line of gunboats blocked the canal. Sasan turned back around, and raced to get out of the trap.

But they weren't going to escape the dragnet after all, both saw at the same time. The way ahead was also blocked by boats that slid into view from the sides.

Just then the spike and its rider swooped down, and the Hellene aboard reached and grabbed at Damon. Realizing what was meant, Damon caught the man's hand, and the moment Damon was pulled up, danging for a few moments as he scrambled aboard the strange aircraft, Sasan dove from the boat.

The boat shot straight ahead, ramming into the cordon of boats, blowing up and scattering the men aboard as they leaped into the water.

Meanwhile, Damon was being lifted high and beyond the city, but he got off a glance or two back to see how Sasan was doing, and couldn't see a sign of him. Or was it he who was climbing out and running off? It was only a momentary glimpse, but he hoped it was.

But there was much bigger trouble brewing, Damon soon discovered.

The international furor over the Consul-General's wife's assassination in Port Andros, or was it something else? Whatever it was, it had come to a flash-point even in the last seconds of Damon's near capture. As they shot upwards, taking a westerly course, there was a blinding flash and Damon was fortunate he wasn't looking directly at it as many did and were blinded as a result.

The whole world seemed to be coming to an end in the next seconds as a monstrous cloud erupted, pulling upwards most of the capital into its churning column of smoke and debris.

Damon, sinking down at the mast, realized what was happening, though he had always thought no one would be stupid enought to start a world war with nuclear weapons.

Well, the worst was happening. His world was self-destructing, and his family? His family? They were close to epicenter. There was no possibility of escaping alive. He could bear the thought. He clung to the mast, shattered by what he knew was taking place.

The shock wave spread out, and they too did not escape. In a moment they wee tumbling, in three different directions.

Yet something just as unexplainable as the spike's first feint at interception back down on the canal--a gigantic Hand, though invisible to the eye, caught each of them and the mast as they were tumbling, in such a way they came to rest, as in slow motion, without any broken bones or hurt to themselves. Ero II and Damon climbed back aboard the mast, and then it began flying again as before!

The only thing different was that they were far away from the last position, but would the mountains alone be sufficient barrier to the radiation the explosions of nuclear-armed missiles had unleashed? Damon soon had his answer. They were leaving this radiation-contaminated world altogether, the two of them, shooting through what looked like a portal to another world or dimension--only instead of another photo-file, they found themselves settling down on the apex of a domed building, their mast-bot turning several times around and refastening to the dome just like a lid on a canning jar.

This happened much to the surprise of the lone occupant, Crazy Dan still playing solitaire at his table set beneath, and he dropped his cards for a few minutes just to stare at it. Eventually, when he couldn't figure it out, he went back to his cards, which was about the only thing he was good at these days since he retired from the car dealership.

Saved from the nuclear destruction that the Vampire, with considerable help from two of its star-stone siblings, had ignited to eradiate the growing germ of faith within its own eyeball, the two champions, feeling little like champions, looked around from their perch. Damon was not recovered from seeing his world destroyed, and he was not able to comprehend what he was seeing. Yet Ero had been there before, and he did his best to help Damon, and reassure him that things were going to get better, if they did not lose hope. As for his family, they did not know yet what had happened to them. Perhaps, they still could find out.

Comforted by that thought, Damon tried to deal with the present challenges of landing in such a strange city, the City of Destiny. What Destiny did it offer? He had seen his own destiny destroyed before his eys--was there a better one in return for the burning ashes of his own world?

As the mast did not seem like it was going anywhere soon, and the Kater's Compass did not respond to Ero's questions, they realized that they might have to explore the city on their own.

They soon decided they might as well climb down the dome and the building to street level and take a look around.

Ero had climbed up on the west side, but this time they climbed down the north side, which put them on a flat roof of the train depot's offices. Here they found a metal, roof-access ladder that let them get down to the ground.

They were right on time. A grand reception was waiting for them, though they could see no one present!

A gala platform of tented material, with heraldic banners, materialized. The banners were the most remarkable they had ever seen, of two main kinds. The first featured a magnificent golden rampant lion, crowned. The second kind showed two axes on a blood-red background.

The two candidates for knighthood, who did not know they had already served their apprenticeships and been approved, walked around looking at each item. What was this all for? they wondered, glancing back at each other.

Suddenly, they heard, rather than saw, a multitude of people around them, as if they were standing in a great pillared hall, with thousands of courtiers and knights taking their places for the entrance of the great Lord of the people and nation.

Then there silence, and the sound of footsteps. They could hear the footsteps and see the impression of them in the carpet as someone invisible walked by them toward the front, and sent to the pavilion and turned around and faced them.

A mighty roar erupted all around the two candidates, that almost knocked them off their feet. People were cheering and shouting a single name. "Yeshua?" wasn't it? both candidates thought. Yes, it was. There could be no mistaking it. Gradually, the calling of His name receded, and there was a thump, three times, of the lictor's standard on the ground, and again, dead silence. The hair on the back of the candidates' necks stood up, they could feel thousands of eyes turned to them. It seemed they were waiting for their response, but what should it be? The candidates had no idea.

Damon felt a nudge against his shoulder, looked, but Ero hadn't done it. He saw no one else could have done it. Again he felt his shoulder being nudged. Realizing that this was something bigger than he could see, he took a few steps forward, then continued until he stood at the base of the pavilion. A red cushion appeared at his feet, and he knew what it was for this time. Wasn't that the sort of thing the candidate for knighthood knelt on before he was dubbed a knight by the king or queen or the castle lord?

He felt a gentle pressure on his shoulders, as if two hands were being pressed there, and he realized it was what he thought! He knelt.

Damon's heart slowed. He could hardly draw a breath, and he felt as cold as if a bucket of ice water had been thrown suddenly in his face. He would have sweated, though cold as he was, if he could sweat in cyberspace, realizing then that a life and death choice of some kind was being set before him, a test of his character and life that would allow him no appeal if it went badly. And it was what he felt, he soon discovered--a test, the most serious one he had ever faced.

Would he pass the Trial of the Candidate? Unlike medieval candidates, he had not spent the whole night before the Test in solemn fasting and prayer, kneeling alone before the Cross and the altar in a chapel, but had been running for his life in a speedboat, Sasan at the wheel, chased by gangs of spies and government police down the canals of Poseidia!

What was that going to do for him now? His knees felt very weak, gone to water. Now he knew why the cushion was there and he was kneeling, because there was no way he or any other candidate could manage to stand up at such a moment! He felt it was all over with him.

For the first time he heard a voice! It had the tone of a commanding officer's too! A general, or a field marshal, would sound so authoritative, Damon knew. He had met and photographed several such in private sessions attended only by a few chosen aides, but this commander sounded even more impressive. His voice seemed to penetrate his whole being and then flood out into the world, causing the whole world to stand still and listen.

At the sound of that Voice, Damon felt like he was standing alone on the docket before the Supreme Judge of the Universe, not just a commander or even a commander-in-chief.

He wanted to flee, to bolt, to even spring up into a tree, but he had no strength to do it!

The Voice was speaking, in perfect Greek too, and Damon heard every word of what was the "Test of the Three Vows".

"Candidate, wilt thou vow Honesty, Courtesy, and Probity, and be always ready to deny yourself and defend the weak?"

What on earth was "probity", Damon wondered with consternation. He knew what the first two and the last entailed, but...there was no time to be consulting the dictionary, he had to answer, he felt, with a nudge at his shoulder to reinforce that impression.

"Candidate! Wilt thou vow...?" the lictor prompted.

"Yes!" Damon blurted out. "Yessir! I mean...ah--"

Again, he felt someone nudge his shoulder, a little sharply too, as if a sword was being used, since no one was asking him what he meant other than "Yes" or "No."

He had no time to think about it further. The second Test Question came, riveting his attention.

"Candidate, wilt thou pledge thyself to Lady Purity, and wilt thou defend her virtue and honor always?"

Damon relaxed a bit. This was easy! He thought of Natalia immediately. Was she all right? Would he ever see her again? He was a long way off, he knew, and that was all he knew about his whereabouts. How could he find his way back to her? No doubt she was waiting faithfully for him to return! He knew now, at this very moment, he loved her, and that there was no one else he could marry or devote himself to in marriage. And, yes, he wouldn't run after any other women--he would give that up for Natalia. She was more than worth it! It wouldn't be easy, but he was going to do it! Deny himself! Why had it taken him so long to get to this point. Was he so independent, he hated to give up his free-wheeling, self-indulgent lifestyle and all the willing, pretty women for anyone, even one such as Natalia? But now he had made his decision, and he was going to see it through!

Damon felt another nudge, this time on both shoulders. He remembered, with as start, where he was. But he had forgotten the question! What was the question? All he could see in his mind's eye was Natalia. She was beckoning to him, and he was holding back from her. But his heart said yes! yes!" Another voice sounded, not the same as the first, perhaps the Candidate Avocate who was present in Spirit, announcing: "The Candidate has pledged troth from the heart! He has vowed to remain pure for her hand, and throughout the time of his union with her he will remain faithful to her, loving only her as his wife and helpmeet. Let it be written in the record!"

Again the first Voice sounded. Damon felt relieved beyond words. Apparently, his unspoken vow had been heard and approved by higher authority.

It was now the time for the third question of the Test, the climatic one that decided whether Damon would pass and become a Knight or not. Two right answers so far would not win him knighthood. He had to answer all three perfectly.

As if the whole congregation present were well aware of the gravity of this very moment, the very air was rigid with suspense. Everything hinged on his handling it rightly. The whole scene was deathly still, and a preternatural silence it was, as if it were the dawn of the eight day, the day after the Week of Primal Creation, when all the Earth was reformed and given order and all the living species, with Man installed as the reigning Sovereign.

"Candidate, wilt thou vow to be faithful to thy vows even unto death?"

Damon's heart dropped down in his chest the moment he heard it. The flesh of his entire body was screaming and crawling, as if it wanted to leave his bones and muscles! This was, for Damon, the hardest question of all! The first wasn't so bad. The second was a piece of cake. But this one! This had put its finger on something he would admit to no one! He knew for sure he wasn't up to it. His heart sank even further. He had never, never been faithful to anyone or anything in his entire existence, had he? But there was one thing, he couldn't lie about it! He despised liars, and knowing how despicable liars were and anxious to save their wretched hides. But he knew he would have to live with himself knowing he was a cowardly liar, a cheat, an imposter. What kind of life would he have then, if he made himself a miserable liar? It would be like being chained in a deep, dark dungeon, with evil spirits calling him dirty names, day in, day out! So why should he try to fool anybody now? He couldn't bear to live like that--though many people he had known had chosen to, for the sake of sparing themselves some calamity or even a small inconvenience!

"I--I can't...!" he gasped out.

"It's impossible for me!"

At the moment he said that, there was a tremendous stir, as if the whole invisible host of nobles and knights of God present were struck aghast--as if no Candidate before him had ever dared say anything of the kind.

Damon felt he was finished! He had blown it utterly! He was disgraced. He was was disqualified. What now? Would they drag him out and throw him into a dungeon somewhere, to live out the remainder of his days in chains? But, still, he felt he had said the right thing, the only thing he could say honestly, even if it exposed him in all his weakness--something he had never revealed to anyone before--that for all his strength and bravado about being a man's man, he really couldn't say he could stand up to torture on, for example, a cross and still remain true to his vows. Every man had a breaking point, didn't he? He knew he would break too, if the pressure was great enough.

"Yes!" the Voice thundered, answering in Damon's stead. "For man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. The Candidate has vowed these three times in solemn assembly, before the Father, the Son, and the Paraclete! Recorder, write it in the book!"

The congregation of witnesses exploded as the tribunal lictor thumped the base of his standard for order in the assembly. There was no other word for what had happened: it was "sensational".

Still gasping, Damon felt hands on him, holding him upright on the cushion. He felt so faint he was liable to pass out right where he was. When the rejoicing and congratulations for Damon died down, the ceremony concluded.

This was not altogether pleasant, either. It was not pleasant at all, in fact. Even with his head down, Damon could see the diamond sword being uplifted, as if his head might be severed in the next instant. Instead it was lowered slowly, and touched...not his head, not his shoulder, but his heart..

Damon felt a blazing warmth spread through his chest and through his entire frame from head to feet, making him feel as if he was going to explode with strength and power, and he also felt ...what? Joy? Yes, it was joy!

"I, Your Lord and God, will be your Strength and your Strong Tower, your Mighty Fortress, just as I have been in the past, so will I be to you in your coming battles. Be of good cheer, and rise! You are now a Knight of the Order, the Axes of Honor. Stand and receive your garments and weapons!"

Springing to his feet a true champion, Damon waited with great expectation. But the entire scene went instantly dark, and he was left standing seemingly alone in pitch darkness. Was this how it was going to be?--a lone warrior struggling against dark forces that were hiding somewhere in the night enfolding him? Perhaps so!

But he was deceived by appearances. He was not forsaken. He found himself instantly garbed head to foot in chain mail and a tunic, holding a spear with a standard and a shield, with a helmet and sword to complete his knightly equippage. It was wonderful gear, though somewhat antiquated, as he understood warfare. Nevertheless, he knew he could do some damage with it! Just give him some practice and the opportunity to prove his prowess, and he knew he could wield a sword with the best of them!

Yeshua again spoke, but this time it was a private audience. He awarded the hero a new name, inscribed on a white stone, which no one else would know or see. After several more words in from Lord Yeshua, Damon stepped aside to wait for the second Candidate to be interviewed.

Then the light flashed back on, and the awesome Knights Tribunal continued.

Ero II had watched Damon go through some sort of medieval age ceremony, without seeing who was performing it, and then the lights went out momentarily, it was completely black, but Damon stood there, highly visible, or was it someone else in his place? He was dressed completely different, with two axes set along side his head on a metal helmet, wearing a shining green and cobalt blue tunic over a chain mail body suit. He wore a sword, and in his right hand held a spear holding a standard emblazoned with the two axes on a red background. In his left hand he held a shield emblazoned with two axes on the same blood red background. What was going on? Ero marvelled. He tried to move from his spot, but something seemed to hold his feet fast where he stood, as if he were set in concrete!

After a short time, while Damon seemed to be talking and being talked to, he stepped backwards, bowed deeply, then moved to one side of the carpet and stood quietly and glancing back toward Ero.

It was Ero II next who felt like he was being propelled forward to the base of the Judge's pavilion. The concrete was gone, he could move his feet again. It felt like someone had given a push to his shoulder, as if a page were at his side who knew all the fine details of the ceremony and testing, giving him the nudges so he could perform the right moves according to the tribunal protocols.

He started forward and then paused at the base of the pavilion. The cushion, rich in plush red velvet, encrusted along the edges with what looked like diamonds, was still there waiting for him. He realized what it was for. He knelt on it.

Then as he waited, totally awed by what was happening, he saw Yeshua appearing before him, for he had been there all along, Ero knew, but was not visible to his eyes until then, for some reason he could not understand.

He dared not look up, but saw only the fringes of his robe, his hands up to his open holed, red nail-pierced wrists, and there was one thing more, a glittering white sword, an incredible weapon seemingly cut from a single diamond, blazing with light and fire in the right hand.

The sword was so blindingly bright that Ero couldn't look at it! What was he going to do? Cut off his head? Ero II wondered just as Damon had before him. He really didn't think that would happen, but he had never been knighted before, and it was too far back in Greek culture, hundreds of years in fact since Greeks were knighted at various courts in the medieval Byzantine times.

The candidature "ceremony" was brief and demanded sharp attention. There was nothing casual about it. It felt like he had been summoned to appear at a military event, a tribunal of the highest order-- in every detail, extremely solemn, perfect in execution, and almost frightening lest anything not be done not just right according to regulations, thereby bringing dishonor to the commanding officer, the Judge that presided over the Tribunal.

Ero was surprised when the same things did not happen to him as to Damon his brother-warrior. He was given no mail suit, tunic, spear and standard, and no sword! How was he going to fight the enemy? Presumably, that was what this ceremony was all about, to equip them for a coming battle or war of some kind. It wasn't just a ceremonial, he felt, considering how solemn it was being conducted. This was a matter of life and death, he knew for certain. He couldn't see, but he felt the presence of thousands of people, who sounded like all warriors and soldiers, by the sound they made. He could hear them, sense them, and so he knew he wasn't imagining there was a huge assembly gathered round about for an imminent war.

Wondering what role he could possibly play, Ero was even more surprised by the test questions. He was first asked,

"Candidate, wilt thou forswear all earthly, mortal shields and ramparts and trust in Me alone?"

That astounded Ero the Olympic Torch Bearer. What? No shields or protective mail suit? No anything?

But he thought again, "Warriors, even the best, still die with such things in their possession, they can still be conquered and slain, so really, such things do not save a man from a more powerful enemy. What then can I trust in?" Suddenly, it flashed upon him, how Yeshua had come through for him, time and again. It hadn't been his own bow or arrow that had saved it, it had been Yeshua. Surely, that would never change. Yeshua had been proven faithful, always. He had only one answer he could give: "Yes! to the question.

Then he waited, afraid he would be told he was wrong, that he was being ignorant, presumptious, without common sense, thinking he could go forth into battle without any normal gear.

The lictor thumped his standard, declaring: "The Candidate has answered rightly. For it is written: "His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day..."

The assembly erupted in rejoicing for the Candidate's success at Test Question 1. Ero took a deep breath.

The Judge's voice thundered again:

"Candidate, wilt thou tell the number of all who were saved in the ark Noah sailed?"

This question nearly knocked Ero off his cushion! It was so unexpected, as it had nothing to do with warfare--at least it seemed as far fetched as it could be! Bible was not his strong point, as he hadn't been raised in a home where the Bible was read more than one or twice a year, and usually it was by the priest at the church in Seriphos too. He had been told some of the events by his nurse as a child, so he knew some things. But details like this that Yeshua was asking?

What was he going to do? Guess? But a mistake would cost him the candidature? He would not be able to join and continue on with his warrior-brother, Damon. What would he do then? He knew he was utterly lost, for his destiny was tied up with Damon somehow, and he couldn't let them be parted now!

Fortunately, as he wracked his memory in the few seconds allotted him to answer, he recalled in sharp detail what the family's nursery maid had read from the old family Bible Storybook. There was Noah, of course. Then his wife. And he had some sons too. How many? Two at least! And weren't they married? There were at least six in the family. But what if there had been three sons, that would make eight altogether, right? Now which was it, six or eight? Six or eight?

He didn't know it, but he was so bothered, that he was mumbling, even speaking out loud, and it tumbled out "...eight? eight?"

There was an ominous silence. Ero thought he was a goner, he was flat wrong. Oh, if he had only opened his Bible more! He was so terribly ignorant of the Bible--how could that be justified before Yeshua?

In a daze, he heard the lictor thump the standard pole, making him shudder with a sense of doom, and then the lictor announced: "Candidate has answered rightly! Eight souls were saved from the waters of the Great Flood in the ark!"

What was that? He had answered right? Could he believe his own ears? His nurse had saved him, by reading those stories to him over and over, so that he never forgot them, though he had not thought about them for years.

Ero felt faint, and a hand steadied him as the assembly again voiced its joy for him. Gathering himself together, Ero squared his shoulders and prepared for the final and climactic question. It came, amd literally blew Ero's hair back.

"Candidate, Who is the ark by which men are saved from the Great Floods, the one by water, and the coming one by fire?"

Now Ero, like his people, was extremely quick-witted and clever, and loved words games and tongue twisters and hair-splitting in rapid fire verbal repartee practiced in towns and villages everywhere across his homeland, but this stumped him. An ark was a "who"? He knew an ark was a "what"! It was wood, so high, so long, so wide, filled with rooms for the animals on board, and quarters for Noah and his family, with storehouses for the food supplies. What on earth did Yeshua want?

How could a boat, or an ocean-going vessel such as the ark, made to float but not sail, be a "who"? That meant it was really a person! That was logically impossible, patently absurd!

"Oh, Lord!" he exclaimed, at a total loss. He finished now!

The lictor thumped his standard. "The Candidate for noble knighthood has answered rightly. The Lord is the Ark, by which all men are saved from the Great Floods!"

This time Ero, hardly able to stand, could hardly believe what he was hearing. What had he said? He had answered right? Didn't they know he--? But he could see the ceremony was not over, except for one thing. He was to be equipped for the coming battle, was he not?

Ero stood and watched an Olympic torch appear in Yeshua's hand. Yeshua held it out to Ero, and Ero took it with a trembling hand.

The Tribunal hall went instantly dark, and Ero stood there, with the torch glowing bright, while the lictor quoted from the Scriptures:

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

It was impressive, doubtless, Ero thought. But is this all? Is this all I have to defend myself with?

No body armor?

No sword?

Not even a helmet?

From the most ancient times, every Greek that went into battle had at least a spear and a shield, even he didn't have a stitch of clothing to keep off the cold at night. A lighted Olympic torch? He glanced down, however, at the stem, and saw an inscription. It was in Greek! What it said was his answer, he discovered as he read it. He knew he would not need anything more. He had everything he needed. It was more than he had expected, in fact.

Ero was given his new name, inscribed on a white stone, presented by Lord Yeshua, and, after Lord Yeshua dubbed Ero a knight of the Order, the Axes of Honor, the lictor gave a final three thumps, and the assembly was concluded.

Ero and Damon were left a moment later, free to go, but they lingered, looking over each other's equipment.

Ero was excited. He had followed Damon his newfound brother for a long time, and now he had a thousand questions he wanted to ask him. Here was his chance. To think he would be able to share Damon's adventures, no longer just an observer, but standing side by side with him through thick and thin! He hoped Damon felt the way he did--and from the looks of him and the way he acted, he thought he did.

They did not have a long time to get really acquainted. They both felt they must be on their way, as the pavilion was now disappearing, piece by piece, and even the Union Station was crumbling! Something like a leaf fluttered by Ero, and he grabbed at it. It was one half of the Kater's Compass--but it was shriveled up like an autum leaf, no longer any good. He let it drop, wondering how anything once so powerful and helpful could be nothing now, but turned back to Damon. Damon threw back his helmet and grinned.

"Let's go explore what there is here! This gear is meant to be used! Well?"

Together they set out, and discovered that in just a few moments the entire City of Destiny had crumbled away, or been transformed into something very different: a huge castle mount that filled the whole skyline with forts, walls, towers, and defensive gates.

Awestruck, the two brother-warriors now joined, stood taking it in. It was a glorious sight. But what were they going to do on this new, unexplained quest? They had no idea.

After gazing at the castled mount, they decided to go and find out if they could.

In high spirits they set out, feeling as though they were both homeward bound--as a minstrel at a shining court in a grand hall full of knights and nobles, holding a golden rose from the king's hand, once described it:

"I am homeward bound! But I cannot tell

How near may the haven be,

Or if many storms may be may beset my barque

Ere I gain the Crystal Sea;

But I know that my Pilot is near at hand,

And that is enough for me.

I am homeward bound!

And the sun sometimes shines

out of the golden west,

Till it almost seems like the gate of home

And I think I am near my rest;

But if long or short may the voyage be

Still my Pilot knoweth best.

And I know I shall reach the port at last--

The haven where I would be,

Where the storms of life shall distress no more

And there, by the Crystal Sea

The loved ones whose earthly voyage is o'er

Are waiting to welcome me.

I am homeward bound! 'Twill be 'Home Sweet Home'!

I shall see my Pilot's face;

Not a stranger there in a far off land--

I shall feel His blest embrace;

And shall know more fully than e'er before

All His sovereign love and grace."

Malevolence was always not far removed, and its eyes were keen to detect and watch the knights-errant approach the gates of its bastion, Mount Defiance. They were not going to enter them so easily, if it could be helped! Possibly, they might not even make it through alive.

A typhoon blew up against the coast, its roiling black clouds rapidly climbing the slopes above the northern shores round the Mount. It happened so fast that the champions were taken by surprise. Even as they stood and looked at it, they realized in a few moments that they were in a struggle for their very lives.

The light went out, and then downpours that pounded them, along with chilling sleet, soon made the road vanish before their eyes. Water rushed around their ankle and legs as it ran to escape down to the bay. But they remembered their objective and plunged on into the darkness and flood.

It almost seemed that part of the world at least had liquified and was going to slide down as a mass into the bay and be drowned. If only they could reach higher ground! was their single thought in all their struggling.

Ero kept his torch held up, determined not to let it be swept away. As long as the light remained to light the path, he had hope they would make it to safety.

Ahead of him somewhere was Damon, who got separated from him, though he was just a few steps away. Just then Ero nearly fell headlong as he stumbled over somthing. The torch nearly flew out of his hand.

In the shrill roaring of the wind, which sounded like an asylum of maniacs all screaming for their blood, Ero thought he heard a groan or a cry. He wasn't sure where it was coming from. Yet was it that log he had stumbled over? Was it no log at all but some unfortunately human being?

Ero turned around and held out the torch, feeling more with his feet, trying to stay upright and not be knocked down as he searched. Then he found what he was seeking: a man, fallen on the ground, on the verge of being swept over the side and thence down the steep slopes that tumbled into the bay. Ero grabbed the man by the hand, holding him back as the streams pulled him downward, and then Damon too appeared, and he too helped get the man back on his feet. Together they pulled the man with them toward the slopes of the Mount where they stood more of a chance of finding shelter.

The man was now unconscious, and silent, but they would not let him drop, even if he was a dead weight.

Was he gone? They did not know. But perhaps there was some life in him, if only they could find shelter, and revive him there.

At that moment, when their hopes seemed vain, a greater light than the Torch flared into brilliance that almost knocked them flat. In the brilliant light their eyes were struck and dazzled to near blindness, but then they began to see there was Someone standing the light, and by degrees they made out colors too... royal purple, as of a king, predominated. Was this a great king? Could it be Lord Yeshua?

Ero and Damon were certain of it. Lord Yeshua was not going to let them die there, along with the poor old man in their arms. Yeshua was Master even of the greatest storms, which they discovered when it lost intensity and began withdrawing from them on both sides. The water stopped rushing over the roadway, and they were able to sink down on their knees, in relief as well as to pay homage.

The encounter was so brief, it was over before they could form any thoughts about it. But they knew it was Lord Yeshua who had raised his mighty sword and stilled the storm. Its deadly assaults were quenched! They knew they could make it now to the village they had spied from afar, whose chimney fires even now were burning. The storm evidently had not reached to the village, covering only the roadway where they had been walking so blithely just a few minutes before they saw the first black clouds of the typhoon climbiing up toward them.

It did not take them long, even carrying the old man, to reach the Mount's village, which nestled on its doorstep.

From a distance it looked idyllic and so peaceful they thought it must be a place of friendly, even kind souls.

"Not a drop of rain fell here!" remarked Damon to Ero. "There's not a single sign of any storm here, no damage from the weather!" agreed Ero. "Will they believe us when we tell them about it? But Yeshua commanded us to warn them, nevertheless, of the burning Flood to come, the fire next time that will consume everything we see, this mountain will split wide open and the castles on it and the village beneath it will be swallowed by the fiery streams that boil out of the earth, killing all the people and their animals. They must flee this place, seek refuge in the Ark of Yeshua, or be destroyed in the fires Yeshua said were coming soon. We must tell them before we travel on!"

As they entered the first lanes that wound down to the village square, they did not feel much of a friendly spirit, despite their first impression.

Eyes peered at them coldly in the windows or between cracked shutters in the windows, and no one came out to help them or ask what they might need. Not a drop of rain had struck the town, amazingly, wheras the knights were drenched, shivering, their hair wet, and the old man himself half-alive after being nearly drowned!

Looking everywhere for someone to ask directions from, Ero and Damon exchanged glances and then continued looking. The town seemed all the more hostile to them even as they approached the center. Wasn't anyone going to come out and at least say a word to them?

They could hear dogs snarling, leaping up against doors and gates, and Ero and Damon braced themselves for attacks, but none came out, as if the owners could see they might lose them if they were loosed.

Finally, the knights stood in the square, facing a single large building or house that might be an inn. As they started toward it, the old man in their hands groaned, opened his eyes, and as they paused, he recognized the place.

"Take me there!" he croaked. "They know me well. I always celebrated there after leaving the king's castle with his gifts. I haven't been able to return there, being too old, and the way up is so hard these days, and the queen prefers younger singers these days... but who are you, sirs?"

Then the man's eyes turned up, and he sank back in their hands. Hurrying, the knights carried the old man to the door, and it was flung open in their startled faces. A woman with a big cloth tied round her chair, and a floury apron wrapping her large middle, thrust her hard-boned face out, screaming something like "Who's causing trouble here at my door? Git thee--"

She eyed the knights up and down, but then saw what they were bringing. Her expression changed. It did not become kinder, but she jerked her thumb, thrusting open the door wide as she stood aside, wiping her mouth with her flour-caked and stained apron.

The knights looked in, saw many faces gaping at them, but there was a fire burning in a huge, smoke-blackened hearth, the clasthing sound of crockery and metal cups clanking on tabletops and many men dining with their assortment of womenfolk, all crammed elbow to elbow from one end to the other of the large public room, and it was clear what this place was: a public inn and taverna in full spate. Half the town must have been there! The smell of sweat from unwashed bodies and stale beer and cheap perfume, mingled with thick tobacco fumes and smells of rancid food kicked under tables a nd chair, it made the knights want to hold their noses. Was there none other? Ero and Damon did not like the looks and manner of the mistress of the establishment. She evidently did not like their looks either. Damon was dressed as a proper knight, to be sure, and Ero, well, he was a near naked slavey or serf acting as the knight's attendant--a common enough sight in the village, nothing remarkable about that. They had seen their share of lackeys treated worse than dogs, hardly fed, scantily clothed, and groveling at the heels of their masters worse than any dog!

Should they enter, or try some other place? But the village was not likely to have another place, or anything better, they realized. As for their burden, it was his interests they were seeking, not theirs, so they went in.

The moment they got him indoors and lay him down on a bench, the inn's mistress barked orders, and her servants rushed to get a room and bed ready for him upstairs, along with suitable quarters for the knight next to him, and a straw pallet thrown on the rush-strewn floor for the slave-page.

"But where, pray tell, are your horses and palfrey?" the woman screamed at them. "Have you come unhorsed to my stables? I never heard of such a thing! What has happened to the good man's mount? He always comes with fine apparel and an embroidered blanket on his horse, with plumes on its head, and ascends the mount and sings to the court of the high lords and ladies of the castle! So where are his good horse and jaunty equippage!"

Ero and Daman stared at each other. What was she talking about? All they had of the man's possessions was the troubadour's instrument, still covered with leather tightly corded, so it might not be ruined after all if it were laid out carefully to dry. As for a horse and whatever else it carried? Had it gone over the cliff?

They shook their heads. Damon spoke first, finding the language close enough to understand to what he had been spekaing in Poseidonia, even though their accents were so thick and coarse. "Madam, I have no knowledge of his horse or equipment. Was it lost in the storm perhaps, or was he robbed?"

The woman screwed her fat-pillowed neck and made big owl eyes round about her, and then threw her thick, big bellied body back in a laugh that rocked her whole frame, and set the entire company laughing with her at their expense. "'Was it lost in the storm perhaps?' she jeered, cocking her head and neck one way and the next, her hands on her hip and her elbows akimbo as if she were dancing. "This fine gentleman and noble knight saith, 'Was it lost in the storm perhaps?'"

The room exploded, and wine and beer flagons flew through the air, dashing their contents against the walls.

Damon's face flushed dangerously as he eyed the woman, but Ero did not make a move, and Damon resisted his own anger. How dare they insult him! He came from a noble family in Poseidia and bore a mighty sword, did he not? Yeshua had dubbed him a knight in full regalia. Yet he had to wait, as Ero touch his arm for caution.

The woman in the breakmaker's apron and cap sneered right in his face. "Methinks," and she jerked her head and indicated the whole watching group with her thought the same thing as she, "you, sire, are the robber of this good man!"

Damon stiffened, and even Ero's hand did not hold him back now. He was on his own.

"Methinks," she went on, her eyes gleaming, even as they glanced pointedly at his sword and his hand hovering over the hilt, "you are the dastard, the montebank, the dirty jackanapes that has dealt him a terrible loss this day, taking his horse and all he carried with him to the Castle yonder. What of that? How do you acquit yourself! Say!"

He looked at them with contempt, without a twinge of fear. He knew he could do them far more damage than they could do him and Ero, though whatever damage he inflicted on the men, he would not strike the fat old shrew of a woman, however offensive she was. But what about the man whose life they had come here to save? He had no chance of surviving if there erupted a deadly brawl.

It was terrific how he struggled in a brief moment to master his rage. But he conquered it evenso. He even bowed his head to her in deference.

"You do well, Madam, to seek the best interests of this unfortunate gentlemen. We found him lying close to death on the road, his head under water, unable to help himself. Of horse and possessions, we saw nothing. We carried him here immediately. Will you help him, and please accord us quarters too, or we will go and look elsewhere? But please do what good you can for this man, we beg of you. Then we will leave here in peace, when we see he is taken care of."

Mistress Follie, for that was her name, hearing his civil speech, seemed to be at a loss, her jaw dropped open.

"Why, I--" she began. "We all saw no storm hereabouts you claim did this, but there are some signs of wet on him, 'tis true..." Then, frowning, she turned upon the assembly, who were all standing with knives and swords drawn, ready for the moment to spring upon Ero and Damon.

Disgust and disappointment in her expression, she thrust herself through them, scattering some to either side, as she went toward her kitchen. Swearing, she sent her maids scurrying to do the work to get the three guests accommodated, and then vanished into the kitchen.

Relieved, as it had been a severe test indeed for Damon's self-control, Ero and Damon followed the porter, or whatever he was, that led them up the rickety wooden stairway into a narrow, badly lit hallway that in turn twisted and turned through the upper rooms. Some rooms were open, and scenes in them were things that both Ero and Damon glimpsed with disgust--as this was not just an inn, but a bawdy house in full progress.

The porter stopped before a door, then kicked it open, and they all went in. There the knights found a big, four poster bed with a tattered, moth-eaten canopy with faded heraldic patterns of some bygone dynasty and lay the old man out on it, and the maids quickly had him in thick wool blankets, and were then hurrying to get some hot coals in brass foot pans to put in with him to bring life back to his limbs.

Was the old man going to live? Ero and Damon watched, as they worked to revive the fellow, and finally they seemed satisfied and went for some food and drink from the kitchen when it seemed he would not die but live a while more.

Ero and Damon had no desire to remain in such a foul and unfriendly place, but they denied their own wishes and feelings to see that the rescued man would receive the help he needed to recover his strength. So they stayed close by him for the next few days, and it was an ordeal for them the entire time, as the inn carried on with all its ribald partying by drunken debauchees day and night. Crimes and thefts and follies and immoral acts that could not be described--none of it dared come in the door that Damon and Ero guarded like two fierce sheep dogs.

At last the man regained enough strength to speak to them and even move about the room with Damon or Ero holding his arm. He started telling them more about his life--how it had once been easy, with much gold flowing from his rich patrons into his money belt, but with advancing age, his voice had grown thin even as his beard lenthened, and the king's women particularly did not invite him up so often to sing of lovers' exploits and whatever else they thought might amuse them at their parties. As for all the noble songs and lays, the Song of Roland, El Cid, Arthur and the Round Table--they no longer wanted to hear them, much preferring the racier tunes and lyrics about adulteries and betrayals. If he had been able to find another line of work, he would have done it. But abject poverty stared him in the face, whenever he sickened of what he was singing about, and he could not stop for fear of it.

"I am feeling my strength increase apace in my bones again," he remarked to the knights, as a maid came with his dinner and set it down beside him on a small table.

He waved her away when she went to try to feed him as before, but she went to the door, still listening to him as she stood in the shadows.

"Later, later perhaps! I'm not hungry at the moment--how they stuff a person around here! Now, perchance you gentlemen will be quitting this place, and I shall lose your good company! But I pray thee, abide with me a bit longer. I have something for you to consider-- will you do that? I cannot ask you to do anything for me, but I will do something for you, if you are willing?"

"We ask nothing of you, sir, but that you be of good health and prosper as you once did! We perceive you have a good heart, and wish you success, but we must be going as Our master has commanded that we go and tell the words he gave us to the whole mount." "Your lord commanded you what? What were his words to thee? Pray tell me--"

But they could have held back their words to him, for when they went to explain the Lord Yeshua's commandment--to warn the people they met to flee to the Lord's ark, lest they be all consumed in the coming fires--they found he had dropped asleep.

Yet less than an hour later, he awoke, and his eyes were bright. He got out on the bed in his nightgown, waving aside the dinner tray offered him. "I had a most refreshing dream, my lads! I would tell thee the dream, but no matter! Some other time! First straightway to the business I have to broach with thee!"/h3>

Ero and Damon listened as the old man, a court minstrel, who played his lute and sang the verses he had composed that amused the castle audiences and the king and his court, offered them a position with him in his entourage. They would assist him at the court, and draw many a eye of the ladies, who would all the more gladly have him, an aged singer, when attended by such noble knights. If either or both sang, that would also help. Did they sing? Did they compose courtly verses?"

Damon shook his head, but Ero could not say he did not do such things. He too was a poet and a singer, and he listened to the minstrel describe his offer and the duties it entailed. Would he join him in his singing at the castle? He could also use Damon as a knight attendant. All they needed were some mounts suitably decorated and plumed to make a splendid showing at the castle. "But all my fine clothes and velvet and brocade capes and plumed hats and gold-engraved sword--except for my lute, they were all lost, with my horse!" the old man suddenly lamented. "Alas, the cruel waters swept them away!"

"Not all lost," Damon smiled. "We have been away for a few hours and climbed down the cliffs and found your fine things.

Damon went on, as the old man seemed close to tears but anxious to hear how they fared. "Your fine things are now drying in the kitchens, and most seem to be all right, and you can see for yourself what can still be of use to you. Your horse too is in the stable, and will be mending from his bruises and cuts. He wasn't lame, and should be recovered soon."

The old minstrel was delighted. He had go at once, hanging on Damon and Ero's arms, to see for himself in Mistress Follie's kitchen.

PLEASE RETURN FOR MORE OF THE ADVENTURES OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE AXES OF HONOR AS THEY COME ON-LINE SOON.

About the time Ero II and Damon are embarking on their duties of service as Knights of the Axes of Honor, commissioned by Lord Yeshua to do battle with the Axes of Dishonor that ruled the City of Destiny's Castle Mount and all its forts, Ero I is soon to be involved with an entirely different set of challenges. He as yet has no idea what he was going to encounter next, of course. There is no explanation from pop-ups as yet. Yet he isn't particularly worried. This photo-file seems to have landed him a a nice, green country, quite unlike most of the White Continent, he finds. It is most pleasant to the eye. He likes the look of its gentle, rolling hills and winding rivers and streams, with a line of low mountains on the horizon. What kind of country was it? Would he find it inhabited? What era was it? Where they civilized? Or barbaric and backward in culture? He knew he would soon find out. He wondered how Damon was faring, but that was somebody else's concern now--somebody who looked surprisingly like himself, he recalled from the brief look he had of him before he was whisked away to other worlds. He had helped Damon all he could (even going beyond the perimeters that Wally had set), but whether that would bring Damon to his destiny, that was something he could not know. Just the same, he hoped it would be a good journey for the young gentleman with the camera--that the best was yet to be.

Retro Star and Twin Worlds Timelines


Brief Account of the Twin Earths

Bridges of Destiny


Star Map of the Re-Located Earth, Twin Earth Atlas, Stellar and Terrestrial


Argo, Ships of the Line


Volume IV, Appendix, Part I


Volume IV, Appendix, Part II


Map of Holland America


Extraterrestrials and Terrestrials


The Algol Invasion & Client Species


The Star-Stones, the Evil, Scheming, Destroying Jewels of Fire, & Other Fatal Jems:

Universe Terminator: The Sardius, or Carnelian, Red Star, Stone of Fire, Fiery Stone, the First Alien Entity, Wormwood, Wormstar, Retrostar


Curses attached to certain diamonds and other precious jems--are they fiction or real? The late Vera Boch beautifully illustrated the malevolence and deadliness that lurked in the most alluring and costly jewels:

The Topaz


The Black Crystal and the White Ship


The direct effect on the human Intelligence Quotient by the vampires of environmentalism and Global Warming propaganda (which are based on bad science mixed with hysteria mixed with toxic socialist political opportunism).

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