Darkness spreads beneath the stars
and, in the wind, a silent eulogy
sung soft and sad above the children
who’ll sleep forever from the scars
of Manifest Destiny.

Out upon the mountain ledge, Jon searched the hills that lay quietly before him, hiding the sunset. Dark cumulus clouds prowled along the horizon, gathering like a pride of lions for the kill. Their fiery eyes flashed challenges to those in their path, and their low rumbling songs bespoke a hungry royalty. Soon the rain would come. Tears from the heavens. All creation seemed somber and ominously aware of one fact. The Fanatic had finally achieved world control in the early hours of 2010.
Sitting with his knees pulled up, he leaned back on the rock, and wandered through the labyrinth of his thoughts, adrift on the rising wind. It seemed so long ago, when everything had been peaceful in his life. He cursed the storm with all the futility he felt. It bothered him not knowing where the Fanatic was getting all his power. And why he felt such a presence of evil and disaster. The Fanatic seemed to summon an eclipse of civilization – an eclipse of the sun and man – leaving only the chilly moonlight to feed all who would survive.
‘And who am I to try and challenge him?’ Jon thought. ‘What power could I possibly use? What sign is there that I could succeed at all?’ He shook his head and laid it upon his propped fists. ‘Where are the answers?’ Then, with a smile, he asked himself, ‘Where is my Obi-wan Kenobi?’
A warm hand touched his shoulder.
“Jon? Are you okay?”
Sarah had climbed out onto his sheltered ledge, and, putting her hand in his, searched his face. Then, she turned to watch the approaching storm with him.
“Wow… Incredible… As powerful as the Fanatic seems to be, but without the Dark Intent. This whole thing seems like just a very bad nightmare.”
“One that’s as real as the rocks we’re sitting on, unfortunately,” he replied quietly.
“Come on, Jon. Let’s go back in.”
He kissed her gently as she turned to him. “The moon shines in your eyes, Sarah, like a light in the darkness. Its depth echoes your own. I am lucky to have you near. Hold me for a while, then we can return.”

Behind them was the Cave. It lay within a solid fist of subterranean rock, which had once been a familiar landmark near Louisville. Its scarred and touristed innards now lay closed to all except the wealthiest spelunkers. It was here that Jon had built an underground resistance center, beyond all explored areas, sealing off previous entrances and creating his own. His resistance group, first formed back in 2004, had grown from a handful of friends to an organization of over 10,000 contacts worldwide.
Tonight, Jon was to speak to all the members stationed here at the Cave, particularly to the many recruits who had recently been allowed entrance. District leaders from around the country, and a few from other countries, were also present. The meeting hall was crowded. Benches were packed and the rocky walls were speckled high and low with 200 people or more. As Jon entered the room, the talking settled down to whispers, following him ever more quietly until he reached the podium.
“Friends, we are all here for the same purpose. We are here to organize a coup against the Fanatic’s government. Your reasons are your own. However, let me give you all the latest info we have on him, so ideas can be examined as to the best way to proceed with our plans.
“All the Western countries have acknowledged the Fanatic as a world leader. But we know him to be a leader whose subversive techniques and brain-altering maneuvers outdo, in subtlety and horror, anything previously used in Nazi, Russian or Asian regimes. The decimation of communist countries is getting worse by the hour. The Fanatic has caught them off-guard, for they were not expecting a Western initiative of world control. In the Western countries, all civil rights have been suspended indefinitely, thus neutralizing the power of sympathizers and left-wing opposition. In the United States, Cartels, and other Mafia-type groups, have formed the core of his political-economic machinery. The right-wing extremists, specifically the Revelationist Christians, have become his dreaded Enforcers. There has been a systematic massacre of all Amish, Native American, East Asian, and other pacifist or new-age groups, under the guise of eliminating dangerous ‘cults’. The Radical Black Coalition controls labor and production, forming City Sentinel watch-groups, whose nefarious actions are sanctioned by the Fanatic’s administration. Jewish people either subtly control his finances in alignment with him, or have gone underground. Emigration is difficult, and the safest places seem to be in the mountains or caves of remote areas.
“To identify his followers, skin-graft implants are surgically applied to the back of the right hand. To refuse means to relinquish your life to his Enforcers… and eventually die, if you’re lucky. ID cards are the only way to purchase anything… and are only given to those with that implant. We can copy these when necessary.
“Worldwide devastation has also occurred. South America and Africa have been cleanly neutron-bombed. Without allies or enemies, they died unnoticed and unavenged. China and Russia have been hurriedly cast into defensive roles, having lost any offensive gambit. Western Europe has welcomed him with open arms, for the Fanatic has finally established an apparently peace-filled ten-country government. “Here, in the US, the public, not wanting to commit itself to an pro-active decision, has let its representatives follow their mercenary and survival instincts in support of this government.
“Now, let’s talk about our position as Resistance fighters. Our central bases are underground, both physically and politically. We have our own technologists in psychonics: brain-alteration, uncovering truth, and recovering the minds of those who have been ‘altered’. We check all who work here, or request sanction from the outside. Not one of his Enforcers, so brain-changed themselves, can get through our psych-scan undetected. Their thought patterns are unique, and when placed under proper stress, are visible codes, easily read by our technicians.
Ten years ago, we realized the inevitability of a world government. We knew that, only before its actual establishment, could an underground be organized and concealed effectively and efficiently. We know there are still many people in these United States that have not been caught and ‘converted’ by the Fanatic’s forces. Most of these are in the 10-23 year-old age group, who took flight when the Chaos broke loose in 2009. We must find them and enlist their aid. We also need to develop a better way of infiltrating the Fanatic’s organization, if we hope to destroy it.
“My name is Jon. My friend, Mike, and I coordinate this whole operation, with the help of many others. Matt, my brother, is the head neurophysicist, and his assistant is Ky Ming, a Tibetan monk expertly trained in the various uses of psychonic healing and psychopuncture points. Our communications person is Sarah, native of once was Jamaica before the Fanatic destroyed it. Steven and Riki run the transporter systems. Jamison is in charge of security. At the tables in the center, you will meet in groups, headed by our district coordinators, to discuss options, issues, and creative solutions. Go now, and may peace be with you. Thank you.”

Later that evening, grateful that the meetings were finally over, Sean and Benj took a break before heading back to their Baltimore base. The coffee mugs were warm in their hands, with coffee almost as strong as their friendship.
“You know,” Sean chuckled, “it’s all your fault I’m here in the first place. Just think of where I could be… Florida, Paris, Colorado…”
“Yeah, that, too. No sense of humor, those followers of his. They’re worse than him, you know. He’d be nothing without them. It’s so disillusioning to see them excuse their own actions by blaming him, or passively accepting their own loss of control without even trying to assert their independence. I wish I could show them they have another choice, if they want.”
“They don’t. They couldn’t or wouldn’t see it, Sean. And you, of all people should understand that. It was hard enough during the Chaos, and it’s worse now. Want some more coffee?”
“No; I’m about coffee’d out. Let’s go see if RapCD is ready, so us coordinators can all go meet with Jon.” (At 13, RapCD had changed his birth name from ‘Rhapsody’, given to him by his Jazz-singing mother.)
As they walked through the calcite-sparkled limestone corridors, their memories of the Chaos were reflected back to them, muted and dim, casting a deepening silence about them. It was not so long ago…


A glimpse, and then reality
enshrouds the Truth,
somewhat as political expediency
enshrouds the booth.

The Chaos had hit late in 2009. Beyond the usual fluctuations in the Market and D.C., nothing had seemed different. There hadn’t been any clue, at first, except that some eager Independent had won the national presidential election. His words had triggered it. He may not have had solutions, but he had a way of making people feel he had control. People needed that. They elected him President.
Social involvement had become almost non-existent; nothing beyond 2 or 3 people at most. All aspects of national survival had been left in the hands of a few, making it hopeless to expect any change. They had the poor in the palm of their hands, the middle class under their thumbs, and the rich in their pockets.
Then, suddenly, this man had begun really being listened to. Maybe the stress-pitch of life had finally found its limit. In any case, people began listening, and everyone who did listen could feel something in the way he talked. It might have been the background music, his charismatic voice, or sheer desperation, but lots of people felt uplifted, relieved, saved. To them, it had been a very rational move to jump from the hopeless apathy that had plagued the nation (and themselves) into his belief in their importance and destiny as a great people, a great nation. For Jon, it was all his worst fears coming true. For Sean, it had been a spark igniting the innocent timber of his soul.

Baltimore: November 2009

“Sean? Where are you?”
“Here, Mom. What’s the matter?”
“Your father just called from work. He sounded frightened. Very frightened. The union is going on strike, and he’s certain that neither they nor management can afford this. Still, the strike is imminent, and he’s afraid it’s going to get terribly violent this time. He says he can feel all hell’s going to break loose with this. In any case, he told me to have you stock the root cellar with plenty of essential goods. I’m going to go get your brother out of school, so we can all be home together.”
“Yeah, Mom. Everything’s seemed pretty gangsta, lately.”
As his mother pulled out of the driveway, Sean turned to survey the root cellar. It wasn’t more than 6’ by 9’, but it held a lot. The shelves had already been stocked up with fruit and vegetable preserves, boxes of dehydrated foods and milk, and some bottles of wine and water. His mother was worst-case scenario person, and was always preparing for something to happen. This, however, may have been a fortunate use of that particular talent. As he set the camping equipment in the corner, footsteps sounded behind him.
“Hey, Sean!”
“Hey, Benj! Wazzup, dude?”
“The Man’s talkin’ on the radio, and, boy, you should hear what ‘e’s sayin’ now. You been listenin’ to ‘im?”
“Yeah; it’s hard not to. But I haven’t had the radio on this afternoon. I wish I knew his angle.”
“What d’you care? Say, ‘e’s got a rally goin’ tonight. Seems t’have rallies goin’ on everywhere. And ‘e’s promisin’ us Blacks control in the city, and in labor.”
“Y’think he’s on the level?”
“Whassit matter? More’n I got now. More’n you got now.”
“But I’m not Black, Benj. What’s he got for me?”
“Dude! Thought y’believed in the Second Comin’…”
“So! Watcha’ waitin’ for? This is it, Sean! ‘E’s got world peace in ‘is ‘ands. ‘E’s got the power, man. I seen it! That is, unless y’don believe ‘im…”
“Well, it don’t feel right, Benj. I mean, supposin’ you’re wrong. Supposin’ we all are.”
“Yeah, but y’know y’don have nothin’ to lose.”
“Yeah, I know. What time’s the rally?”
“8, down to the Park. Wanna go?”
“Well, pick me up, first, ‘k?”
To Sean, it seemed that things sure could get complicated fast. Could it be that Benj was right, that there was nothing to lose? For the best part of an hour, he thought about the Man, and himself, as he slowly inventoried the cellar. Suddenly, he heard a car race up the driveway. He turned quickly, noting the different engine sound.
“Where the hell’s your mother’s car?!”
“She went to the school to pick up Steve.”
“Damn, Sean. Doesn’t she know what’s going on in the city? Don’t you? Everyone’s gone crazy. The company fired every last striker, and now they’re all rioting. Christ, every street is filled with them. It’ll take a miracle to settle this mess!”
“Wait til 8,” Sean muttered.
Looking back towards the city, they saw the smoke rising from various buildings. His father somberly spoke, “And it’s not only here, Sean. Nationwide, I’ve heard, the unions have agreed to strike. All of them. Nationwide! What happens if management refuses everywhere? Fuck, can’t they see what’ll happen?”
Sean looked at his father, surprised by his cursing and vehemence.
“Look, Dad. Let me go the way Mom was headed and see if I can find her. I know the shortcuts and alleys real well. It’s be easier that way.”
“No! You stay here. I’ll just take the car on over by the school. It’ll be faster.”
As soon as he left, Sean took off. He knew he had to go, too. He decided to go down Second Street, past Benj’s house, figuring he might need a little help. Cutting through backyards and sidestreets, he began noticing that there were many, many sympathy strikers on the loose, too, running wildly with looted goods. It finally began to dawn on him just how serious this strike was going to be.
“Wazzup, Sean?”
“My mom went to pick up Steve at school! With all that’s goin’ on, I’m scared she’s gonna be in trouble. Think y’could help me see?”
“Sure. Let’s cut through Riley’s store and out the back.”
The smoke was getting pretty thick now, and the plant next to the school was already burnt almost to the ground. The fire and police departments were so short of personnel that only the most important buildings and people were being protected. Still, it looked like the whole city would burn to the ground before sunset. Everywhere, gangs of workers, and other angry people, were venting their anger on whatever and whoever got in their way.
“Ain’t that ‘er car, Sean?”
“Yeah… God! Benj! All the windows are smashed! Wha… What’s happened?!”
“Sean, maybe we’d best just get lost of ‘ere. C’mon. It’s too late, now.”
“What’re y’talkin’ about?" Running to his mother’s car, Sean threw open the door and staggered back in shock. “Mom!!? What’ve they done to you? Mom…??”
“Sean! Come away from there, will ya? C’mon! Y’can’t help her now! Move!”
“No! I can’t just leave her. Mom?… I can’t…no… I’ve gotta do somethin’. Benj? Benj? Why??”
“Later, man. C’mon! We been seen!!”
Grasping Sean’s wrist, Benj dragged him into the back of Gus’s pool hall, as shots ricocheted near them. Running desperately, they slipped into the back storeroom, unnoticed for the moment.
“’Ere. Sit down.”
“My God, Benj! My own mother! What’d they go and do a thing like that for?!”
“Damn, Sean, y’re 16; y’can understand this.”
“No, I can’t! I don’t! It’s not fair! It’s not right!”
“That’s not what I meant. Look, I’m real sorry it happened, really. But they’re all crazy out there. ‘Ere, y’can have this extra gun I’m carryin’. Just don’ go crazy with it. We’ll need ‘em to get home safe.”
“But they can’t get away with it! They raped my mom and killed her! Now they gotta pay!!”
“Sean, man, grow up! Y’can’t kill ‘em all. We all take our own chances, make our own choices. We gotta sit tight and wait, else we’re not gonna get out of this alive, either.”
“What about Steve?”
“Y’know Steve can handle ‘imself. Pretty street-smart, that one. More’n you.”
“I do know. But there’s so much happenin’ so fast. Scary.”
“And it’s only jus’ started. I been tryin’ to tell ya, dude, to get out of that bubble y’live in. How long y’figure you was gonna last?”
“Don’ know. Don’ care. What’m I gonna tell my dad?”
“Don’ worry ‘bout it. It’s you I’m worried ‘bout.”
“Me? I’ll make it.”
“Not by yourself, y’won’. Not ‘less y’start openin’ y’eyes. Y’re not seein’ things the way they are, Sean. I got answers, if’n y’ wanna ‘ear ‘em.”
“Are things really that bad? I mean, really? Or does it just seem that way?”
“No, man, y’don’ unnerstand. Y’re such an astro sometimes. C’mon. I got somethin’ to show you. Y’know, y’re right about the Man. ‘E’s jus’ plain e-vil. I jus’ waited ‘til I was sure o’ y’commitments, y’know?”
They’d been friends almost 6 years now, and Sean was still puzzled by Benj’s ideas and ways of doing things. Benj always seemed able to read his mind, too. Sneaking down back streets, carefully avoiding the roving mobs, they finally came to a tenement building set back from the street on the East side. The air was still. Behind the crashing of glass and crackling flames, the night began to smother the day’s madness in a smoky black cloth.
“Hey, Benj! In here, man, quick! Hey! Who’s that wit’ ya?”
“’E’s clean, RapCD. Friend of mine. Name’s Sean.”
They entered a candle-lit room, moving to a corner to sit down. The windows had all been blacked out. There were maybe 9 or 10 people in small groups talking, cautious and excited. But Sean knew he didn’t dare ask any questions. Not yet.
“Listen, Sean. I known you a long time. Y’re honest, and smart most times. But y’don know much about yourself. I was kind of waitin’ for you to maybe figure some things out on y’own, but there’s no time left for that now. Where you’re at is an underground station, of sorts, like a rebel place. I don’ really want ya t’leave, so listen real close. Y’re either part of the rebellion or not. We’re workin’ against the Man. Choose.”
“Y’gotta be kiddin’?”
“Sh… listen. I saw y’weren’t turned on to the Man no matter how I tried persuadin’. We need help. Y’wanna hear the rest? Y’know we can’t let y’leave now.”
“Hey, Benj! Lil Stevie just blew in. Got a message for ya.”
“Steve? My brother, Steve?”
“Yeah, Sean. I’ll ‘splain it all after. Over here, Lil Stevie.”
“Benj, Ma said they’re closin’ off the city in an hour or so. They’re getting’ everyone to that rally. I hear the Man’s promisin’ the strikers a lot o’ stuff, and they’re suckin’ it up big time. And he’s talked to management, too. They’re gonna be searchin’ all the buildings, makin’ sure everyone’s there. One way or another. We need to move. Looks like this is it. Sean? Sean?! What the hell are you doin’ here? Benj, he don’ understand!”
“Cool y’jets, Lil Stevie. ‘E’s my friend, remember? I figure ‘e’s got a good chance of makin’ it wit’us. With ‘em, ‘e might as well be dead. I’ll take care of ‘im. Go tell Mike the message and see if y’can’t get cleaned up a little.”
“Benj? What is all this? Are you all crazy? All this underground rebellion stuff? And now Steve is mixed up in it, too. How’d that happen, and when were y’gonna tell me? Y’been messin’ with my mind, Benj, so level with me!”
“Sean, listen. I tol’ you I was jus’ waitin’ to see how your thinkin’ was ‘bout the Man. You’re my best friend. I wouldn’t lie to you. D’ya think I would? Trust me, man. It wasn’t that important that y’knew what was goin’ on. I needed ya to get y’stuff together first. This’s been goin’ on most of 2 years now. Lil Stevie, he ‘ung out ‘ere whenever ‘e could – though we made ‘im go to school. ‘E jus’ got in on the ground floor. ‘E knew before we got real organized what was goin’ on. ‘E’s a clever boy.”
“He’s only 10, for chrissakes!”
“Age don’ matter, Sean. When ya gonna see that? It’s where y’mind’s at that counts. Now, before y’start asking more questions, we gotta pack up. Y’coming or not?”
“Yeah, I guess. What about all the rest of the people out there?”
“Forget ‘em. They make it or break it themselves. They make their choices. And we can’t stay ‘ere any longer. We can’t afford to get caught. Anyways, we gotta dismantle the psych-scan, and it ain’t safe to pick up stragglers without usin’ it.”
“C’mon, Benj. Quit messin’ with the gringo, and let’s go.”
“Stuff it in your taco, Riki. I’m comin’, and so is ‘e, right, Sean?”
“If y’say ‘no’, y’dead, whitebread,” RapCD muttered under his breath.
“Sure, I’m comin’”
Then, one of the young men stepped into the center of the room, and spoke.
“Ok, listen, all of you. We’re leavin’ now. Everyone split different ways, and meet out at Crosby Lake pier.”
Benj whispered to Sean, “Stay wit’ me. We’ll take the way past Gus’s again.”
The darkness of the night kept them hid, while behind them the eerie glow of blazing buildings silhouetted the city. Sean remembered the pier they were heading for, as they drew near the woods surrounding Crosby Lake. Suddenly, a figure stumbled out in front of them and fell.
“Carey? Carey, where’s Mike? You all right? Wha’ happened?”
“They were there, Benj. Some of the Enforcers. At the pier.”
“Did they get anyone?”
“Mike yelled the Code before they got him. I think anyone close took off.”
“All right. Take it easy, Carey.”
“Benj, we’re pretty close to my place and there’s a root cellar out back. It’d probably be safer than out here.”
“Yeah, that’s right. ‘K. You take Carey there, and I’ll see how many of our people I can find. I’ll have ‘em knock twice, then once. Got it?”
“Yeah, Benj. Careful, dude.”
It seemed an eternity before they made it to his home, and the silence made him jumpy. Checking the house, Sean noticed that everything had been ransacked, with no sign of his dad. He motioned to Carey to stay back, as he snuck up to the cellar. It was very quiet in there, too. Pulling out the gun, Sean opened the door very slowly. Nothing. But it had been looted, too, and there wasn’t very much left. At least it would be safe, for now. He didn’t figure they’d come back after searching once. Not for a while, anyway. Carey settled down in the corner, as Sean searched for some water and bandages for her cuts.
There was nothing left to do but wait, and Sean began thinking about just what the hell he was doing. As he considered all this, he opened a wine bottle that had been overlooked.
“What’s your name?”
“Huh? Oh, sorry. Name’s Sean. Steve’s my brother. Wanna drink?”
“Thanks. I’m Carey. Mike’s my husband.”
“Well, don’t worry. They probably won’t do nothin’ serious. Just rough him up a bit, and let him go.”
“Are you for real? You really are an astro. Geesh. Where’ve you been the last couple of years?”
“What d’ya mean?”
“Listen. These people that work for that president, they’re called Enforcers. They use terrible brain-altering techniques that haven’t been seen by most people since Hitler. The stuff they use kind of makes you lose your mind – blanks it – so they can fill it with his propaganda, his words, making you a true believer in his messianic status. I wish I were kidding, Sean, but I’m not.”
“But, how do they get away with that?”
“Well, nobody seems to realize what’s happening. Just like you. They’re all sitting back saying it can’t happen here. It can’t happen to us. But it does, and they don’t see it beforehand, and can’t realize it afterwards. That’s what that rally’s about tonight. They’ll get everyone gathered together, and then play some of that soft, hypnotic, subliminal music while a tape recording of his speech is run. Then, after they’ve got the audience mesmerized, they have this serum they inject. It seems to cause a trance and euphoria. It leaves them very open to suggestion. And a desperate need for direction and identity. Somehow, his words provide that. It’s a very strange and dangerous serum.”
“Do you figure they took Mike to that rally?”
“Yeah. God, I hope he can get away…”
“Look. I’m gonna try and get him. You know, the element of surprise and everything. Benj and his friends will be comin’ soon, but the time to act is now. I know that park well, so I’ll be safe enough. Sh… don’t say ‘no’; just say ‘good-by’.”

When Sean got to the park, he could almost feel the music before he heard it. It was that type of thing. Thousands of people were just sitting there, listening to it. He could hear the Man’s voice, but just barely. Off to the side, some men were huddled about, and he got the feeling that Mike was probably the center of attention. Sean made his way around there, figuring that with some diversionary tactic Mike could take off. He could see that they were only questioning him right now, and didn’t even have him tied. Then Sean remembered his gun. Nice diversion. If he could kill a few, they’d all come running his way, leaving Mike to escape. It seemed his only chance. Leveling down on the biggest one, he fired.
Everything seemed to break loose at once. Sean aimed at the other who was holding Mike, and hit him lethal. Then, he decided he’d better make tracks himself. Crawling back into the park bushes, Sean heard them running and searching, going past him several times. He figured if he buried the gun and acted like one of them, there’d be no problem. No one would ever know.
Then, suddenly, two hands grabbed his shoulders. He had no idea where they came from, but he wasn’t going to stay easy. Kicking and punching, Sean fought furiously to free himself, but it was no use. They were dragging him up to the platform, and calling all their people back. Listening, he couldn’t believe what they were saying.
“People, friends, we want you to know that these communist spies will not be tolerated. This one has killed two of our men. He does not want your to be free of government control. He supports the government that has complete control: he is anti-American and anti-Christian. He doesn’t believe in our new President. He comes from those who seek to kill the president. What shall we do with him?”
The people were crazy. They began yelling things like ‘lynch him, lynch him’. Then, Sean realized they were talking about him. No way he intended to stay. Again he fought to get himself clear of them, but the two Enforcers held him tightly. Then, another one of them kicked him in the groin. Doubled over in pain, Sean never saw the needle until it was too late. And he was almost certain it was his father’s hand on it, before everything started fading.
His thoughts raced in fear and disbelief. His mind became hazy and light. And then, there was something else. Emptiness. He felt like he was being drained of everything he ever was: every emotion, every thought, every feeling, every sense of time and place and identity. Soon it seemed that there was nothing left in his mind, only some words and music quietly filtering in, just beyond his grasp. And panic. He felt like he was jumping out trying to grab those words, just for something to hold on to. Desperately trying to grab any semblance of life or meaning. It was just a void here. And the panic was growing more intense. He felt himself pleading for the words he could almost hear. Begging. Sobbing. For just a few words. Just something. He really needed to hear them. And so, he was given a few. But his mind’s craving was unquenchable. He pleaded for more and more, louder and louder. And soon, it became that way. He could feel the words and music getting louder and closer. He could feel his messiah reaching out to save him. He couldn’t stop his craving. Whatever his messiah wanted, he would give. And still the craving arced through his body in such ecstatic pain that his mind screamed for more.

Suddenly, there was nothing.

And he screamed and screamed until he died.

INNER LIGHT: Chapter 3

No matter how far you walk,
How deep you hide,
How lost you become,
You can never lose your self,
Nor be loosed from it.

In a different tenement basement, less than a mile from the Park, Benj and Carey whispered above the comatose form of Sean.
“Benj, how is he?”
“Don’ know. Hasn’t moved for a week now. Don’ know how long ‘e can last this way.”
“I wish he hadn’t gone. It was my fault. I should’ve stopped him. He didn’t really understand what was happening.”
“I think ‘e did when ‘e got to the Park. ‘E could’ve run, or joined ‘em, but ‘e didn’t. All we can do is wait.”
RapCD stepped into the room. “Benj, Mike wants to see you.”

“Yeah, Mike?”
“Look, I think we’d better see if we can’t get him down to the Cave. They’ve got devices there and a psych lab. They’ve got Ky, and Sean’s not going to make it without Ky.”
“It don’t usually work that way, does it? The serum, I mean?”
“No… but when we counter-attacked to get him, the music and words were cut off abruptly, before he got the full indoctrination, and it left him in a void. Psychologically speaking, it should’ve killed him. Why he’s still alive is beyond me.”
“Damn! Well, ok, I’ll get Lil Stevie and RapCD to help me get him down to the Cave. RapCD’s car is registered, so maybe if we stick to the back roads we can make it there in one piece.”
“That sounds all right. You know the procedure. You know what to do if you’re caught. Are you all fitted with ID’s?”
“Hang in there, Benj. We’re all praying for him.”
“Thanks, Mike. Look, you and Carey take care. Ma will contact you when it’s safe enough on the outside. I’m sure things will be calming down soon.”
“Well, don’t you worry, either. Just get yourselves down there safely. And give my regards to Jon. Riki?”
“Is it clear out there?”
“For now. According to the CompuNet radio, the Fanatic’s got the strikers and management around here happy as fat cats, so they’re all back to working. Never knew what hit them, I’m guessing. God! I don’t know where he gets the power…”
“You’re close…”

Benj was worried about Lil Stevie. He hadn’t said much since that night, and had often been seen looking in on his brother. Never more than a few seconds, but Benj could see how deep he had been hurt. While RapCD was busy driving, he turned to Stevie.
“Hey, man, y’can’t keep it all locked up inside. Wanna talk about it?”
“There ain’t nothin’ to talk about, Benj. I quit playing family two years ago. Walkin’ around with stars in their eyes, pretendin’ people were really good inside and that things were just meant to be coped with. What the hell do I care? It was a dumb fool move he made. He’s got no smarts. He’s 16 and still sucking astro-turf.”
“’E knew what ‘e was doin’. And don’ forget ‘e’s a damn good friend.”
“Maybe. Maybe it’s just easier for you not havin’ to live with him. That’s why I stayed with Ma most the time. She’s got it altogether, you know? She ain’t like…”
“Stevie! Listen, my man. Ma is my mother. Y’got to understand that your parents and Sean, they’re just people, too. They make mistakes. You make mistakes. We all do. Don’ hold it against nobody not being perfect. What the ‘ell you want? Y’know y’re runnin’ just as much as y’brother. Jus’ a different direction. Sean kept ‘is runnin’ inside and ‘e built walls to keep from getting ‘urt. ‘E wasn’t any different from you or me. D’ya even know what y’re runnin’ from?”
“I thought I did. ‘Til you started talkin’. Jus’ leave me alone.”
Steve didn’t say another word for the rest of the trip. He concentrated on watching for Enforcer groups, and listening to the GPS-modified scanner. He’d know if anyone or anything got within 5 miles of the car. Benj didn’t push Steve to talk, either. And he wasn’t going to say anything about their mother, yet. Steve was just beginning to realize that he could be hurt by the world around him, despite the fact that he rejected it.

“Someone’s down by the lower Cave entrance, Jon. Must be Benj and them from Base 3.”
“Thanks, Sarah. Are Matt and Ky set up for Sean?”
“Ky is. Matt’s still working on the anti-serum. Shall I have security escort them straight to the lab?”
“Yes. I’ll be going down a little later.”

Gently, Benj and RapCD carried Sean to Ky’s lab.
“Lay him on his stomach, guys, with his head here. Yes. Good. I’ll need to be alone now.”
Ky adjusted the tiny laser mechanism, aiming it at Sean’s brain. He held the remote for the laser in his right hand. Each emission was needlepoint fine, and tuned to one of seven mind-sensitivity points. Ky had Sean’s life in his hands now, and he talked – quiet and intense – as he manipulated the sequencing buttons and powers of the tiny laser with one hand, and touched Sean’s temple with the other.
“Sean, you are lost in the eclipse of your soul. The darkness you feel assumes its mastery over you, convinces you of your death. But you need not believe it. If you want to live, if you choose to accept the truth of yourself, believe you can survive. Reach out to the eternal light – it lies within and surrounding all creation. It is, as it ever was, the flame of your soul, that which is you. You must reach for the light, and accept it into yourself. Come, Sean, look to the light…reach for the light…you must try to reach the light… you can touch it… you must try…take the light into your mind…control the light… you must reach out, Sean, try…see the light…the light is you, Sean…the light is you… touch it…let it touch you…yes, that’s it…don’t be afraid to move…it will not hurt…let it become one with you…let it touch you…accept the light, Sean…accept the light… it is part of you… it is you…come closer…it’s all right… I will leave only when you are ready, not before…trust me… trust the light… touch it, Sean… yes, there…see… it does not hurt…feel the light…feel it become one with you…you and the light…coming closer… meshing gently… you and the light… closer now… absorb the light…let it absorb you… good, Sean…let the force within the light become yours…accept it as your own…become the light, Sean… become the light… the light is you… the light is you…”
“The light is me…the light is me…I am the light…I am…the light… I am..”
“You are Sean McAlister.”
“I am Sean… McAlister…the light…I am the light…I am…”
“Sean McAlister.”
“I am Sean McAlister…I am Sean McAlister…”
“Yes. Now, sleep, Sean McAlister. Everything will be all right. You and the light are one. Everything is as it should be and you are well, now.”

Ky turned off the psychopuncture machine, and lay back in his raggedy blue easychair. It alone stood out in rebellion to the white and chrome austerity of the rest of the room. It was his. And from it he oft-times meditated for hours, far away from the lab, far away from the Cave, far away from the Chaos. Back to the war-torn village of Chen Soo. And the school. And the tiny bamboo hut. Master Li had taught him the secrets of life there. Taught him the rigorous ideas of self-discipline and mind control. Then he had shown him the stars. Master Li had said, “What else there is to learn, young Ky, will come from the lights up in the sky, and in your meditations with the Creator. Someday, when you are ready, you will see the lights and know them. And perhaps they will teach you as I have. Watch the stars, and never forget what you have learned here.”
It was soon after that when the American leader had the major world governments usurped, and massacred anyone who stood in his way, including Master Li. Although Ky was hidden quite well from the intruders, he would never forget the enigmatic smile on his master’s face when they cut him down. Ky did not understand such mindless and senseless violence. He had left his village, retreating into the hills, searching for an answer. Then, a few nights later, one of the lights had come to him. He had been taken to the stars and taught their truths. When finally he had been returned, it had been to this Cave. Here, he knew his karma lay. He knew that all that was to be for him would happen here, or spring from his associations here. And, indeed, it had. He learned that one other, here, had also visited the Star Masters. Their teachings had already been quite useful in desensitizing some of the worst brain-altered victims brought here. It had worked tonight.
It was then he noticed Jon.
“Ky, how is he?”
“He’ll be fine. He has cured himself now. He need only accept and rise.”
“I don’t quite understand what you mean. What do you add to this machine that gets you in farther than anyone else? No one can handle it like you.”
“Truth. I have learned many of life’s truths, Jon. Here, and from the stars, like you. Someday, you will realize all that you know. If it is your wish. And it is – that much I have learned of you. But it is something I cannot teach you. It is something you must experience for yourself. And you will. I have seen it.”


I am a stranger to your world
Not understanding
Why you smile or cry or hold me
Why the stories you have told me
Leave me wondering
Who you are…

Base 3: Baltimore, January, 2010

“Carey, is the mind-scanner set up?”
“Yes, Mike. Ma says she’ll be over tonight with her group of kids, some of them new. Riki’s out looking for those that lit out last month, and are still hiding in the city. You don’t think any Enforcers will find us in here, do you?”
“Not for some time. And, besides, we have enough contacts to know if they even get close. They probably figure we’ve left town.”
“Well, I would. Hey, look! Riki’s found a bunch of kids. Better tell Dave to get the equipment ready. I’ll set up security.”
“Riki, my little senorita, what’re you trying to do… start your own army?”
“No army…just a bunch of scared little muchachoes from the ‘Y’ CD shelter.”
“Well, take them into Dave first, and then I’ll talk to them.”

“Ok, Mike. Dave says they’re all clean, but he’s still checking out one who seems to have been worked over by the Enforcers.”
“The rest of you guys just sit down for now and we’ll see what we can do for you. If you want to work, instead of run, we’ll take care of you. But if you want to go back to living the way you were, we’ll have to have a long talk. First, let me give you a quick overview of who and what we are. We are not part of the Enforcers. We are not allied with the Fanatic. We are an underground resistance force, like a rebel unit. The Fanatic is powerful and extremely intelligent. He has access to all communication, purchasing and transportation transactions. Later, you can read the press releases that give a more in-depth understanding of him. Ones that never got into the papers. I guess you could compare him to Hitler, except that there’s much more depth and power to his evil. His cleverness and sinister devices have people eating right out of his hands. He uses a technique that brain-alters everyone in his fold… and you, if you’re found. He gives them an implant on their left hand and ID card. He’ll trace you through your social security numbers, so your capture is only a matter of time. Food and merchandise are regulated through the use of those ID’s. So, I guess it comes down to how long you can scavenge and avoid his Enforcers. Some of them are pretty damn mean. They’ll try the new psychoprobes and psychopuncture just in case you might know something… or just for the hell of it. They also use electroprobes and laser knives. If you think I’m trying to scare you, you’re right. You’ve got to know what you’re up against to make a rational choice.”
“Hey, man…”
It was their apparent leader who stood up before Mike. Short, wiry, and confident, she looked squarely at him.
“The name’s Mike.”
“Whatever… Mike. These here are my main people, and we all stick together. I been seein’ what you say is true, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we’re tired of runnin’ like sewer rats. Tell us what we need to do.”
“Ok. First, Carey, here, will take down your names and background. Then, I’ll take care of indoctrination.”
“I need to talk to you alone.”
“Sure. The rest of your people should start giving Carey their names and then she’ll give them our ID mark. Afterwards, she’ll set you all up for some eating and sleeping.”

“Now, what can I do for you…?”
“Tripp; the name’s Tripp. Look, my friend, the one you got in that other room, he ran into a, uh, an Enforcer group, I guess you call them. He’s been real astro’d since we sprung him. I can’t seem to reach him. Do you guys have anything to break through?”
“Do you know if he got spiked? Was there any mark on his arm?”
“No, no… he was holdin’ his head, and just shakin’ it back and forth, and rockin’. His eyes still starin’ at nothin’. He don’t even know me. Look! You just gotta do somethin’. And, uh, there’s something else. He was a little strange even before. You know what I mean? He didn’t know much. He couldn’t learn fast, ‘cept like he could kinda read people’s minds. You know, like Twilight Zone’d. And he could tell whenever those creeps were close, and just where to hide from them. And he understood me. He just accepted me like I was, you know, and didn’t ask for nothin’ but friendship. We got very close. He was no match for the school system. And lots of kids laughed at him. So I became his protector, kinda. Like his big sister, or something.
“Then, four weeks ago or so, all hell broke loose. I guess you know. These creeps came walkin’ through the school, tryin’ to herd us all into the auditorium. Well, Paolo (that's his name), he just knew something was screwy again. He grabbed my hand, and got me to head for this little room in the school basement. I signaled my people as we went, so there was about 12 of us, finally – these here that you see – that ended up here. About 20 minutes went by and nothing happened, so we figured we’d made it, even though we didn’t know from what. Then, Paolo looked at me as if to say good-by, and indicated for me to leave the school by the back alley about 5 minutes after he did. I was just about to grab him, when he lit out. I decided to trust his idea and waited 5 minutes, then left. We made it to our meeting place in the ‘Y’ basement, but Paolo didn’t show. So then we all backtracked our path real careful-like until we spotted him. Those goons must’ve cornered him before he even made it out of the school. That’s why they weren’t covering the school’s back door when we left. Anyways, there were two of them standing by him: one had a some kind of electrical machine; the other one had a , well, like a gun – but no bullets… maybe some kind of laser thingie. Every once in a while a tiny beam of light would come from it aimed right at Paolo’s head. I don’t know what it did, but Paolo would scream like in a horrible nightmare. They had him strapped down so he couldn’t move, but every time this guy would shoot his gun, Paolo would squirm and jerk like he was in terrible pain. God, it was awful! The door was locked, so I picked it and we crashed in. They had just turned back to Paolo, so we caught them unawares with these laser knives that Paolo had made us, and then booked. We’ve been in that ‘Y’ basement for over a month now, taking turns rummagin’ for food and tryin’ to figure out where the hell to go, who to trust. Thank God your girl, Riki, found us. So, anyways, you can fix him, can’t you? I mean, you’ve got to… I need him… Please?”
“Well, Tripp, we’ll do all we can for him. Believe me. Dave is an expert in psycho-technology. He’s the best we got. Trained by our top technician in the field. And we can move him to the main headquarters, if need be. But come with me, first. Let me get you signed in, and then I’ll go talk with Dave. Carey, this is Tripp.”
“Hello, Tripp. How old are you?”
“Do you have any family?”
“Well, you’ve already signed in my sister, Micki. We’ve been scared to go home since those punks stormed the school. They’ve been all over the city. Paolo didn’t have any family. He’s a ward of the state, and we were just about to become his foster family.”
“I’m afraid we may not be able to find your parents. The Enforcers have gone through all the businesses and residential districts in the area.”
“But my parents are self-employed… Do you think, maybe…?”
“I couldn’t say. Where do you live?”
“342 Chestnut Ave. About a mile north of the city, off Mt. Hope Street.”
“Hey, Riki! Has RapCD checked back in yet?”
“Yeah, he came in for a quick snack before scouting some more.”
“Tell him to see me before he leaves.”
“Tripp, did you have any place on your property where they could’ve hid, say, for a month?”
“Well, there’s a narrow crawlway under the garage, that you can get into from the basement. I guess if they knew something was wrong, they’d go there.”
Turning, Mike caught RapCD with half an apple in his mouth.
“All right. RapCD, look, I want you to scout around north of here, then check out this address specifically. There’s a crawlway under the garage, entered from the basement. If anyone’s there, let them know that we’ve got their kids safe, and they should come. Last name’s ‘Younger’.”
“Gotcha.” Leaning forward, he tossed for 2, chucking the apple core into Carey’s wastebasket.
“Now, Tripp, let’s get you an official ID card in our underground. Carey?”
“Ready, Mike. Don’t worry, Tripp. There’s nothing to this. It’s a permanent stamp, using a phosphorescent chemical. We etch a triangle into your right palm that can be made visible by specially designed hand lasers, and the entrance machines at each headquarters. It makes you one of us. There’s food in the other room and cushions to lie down on. Looks like you could use a little resting up.”
“And, if you’d like, I’ll come talk with you in a little while.”
“Sure. Ok.”

Dave could tell that even though he knew his words could be heard, they were being denied. He knew he wasn’t breaking through to Paolo’s thoughts. Paolo was resisting him, too much, too hard, more than he’d ever had to deal with. He wasn’t sure he could bring this young man back.
“Paolo…Paolo… listen to me…I am your friend…my name is Dave. Tripp is ok… everyone is ok… no one is going to hurt you…if you can hear me, blink your eyes … come on, Paolo, you can do it… I won’t hurt you…I’m your friend…listen to me, Paolo…”
But in Paolo’s mind, Dave’s words barely knocked softly on walls that had all but given up. Paolo’s thoughts fought in desperation: ‘Nothing. I must feel nothing, see nothing… run…run… I shall run to the corners of my mind and they shall never catch me. They shall never touch me. They have destroyed all who knew me. But wait… Who comes? Who seeks now to destroy me?… Dave?… I know no Dave… and my friends are all dead. There is no one left. Leave me alone. You have destroyed the walls I live behind and beyond. You have crippled even those thoughts I held deepest, and had most carefully hidden. There is nothing left but ruins. Smoldering ruins. There is no one here. Everyone is dead. The darkness creeps in with welcoming arms. I shall lie myself within them and sleep. Let this black peace consume me. Let me sleep. Please let me sleep…’
Dave felt the boy’s life slipping from his grasp, and saw his machines echo that perception in flattening peaks.

“Yeah, Dave?”
“I’m losing this one. See his energy draining on the EEG patterns? If it was the psycho-probes they used, as I believe they were, then any electric shock will only make him worse. I sure wish Ky were here. And we don’t have enough time to send Paolo to him. I think that only someone extremely close to him might be able to break through. And if they can’t, I’m afraid he’s going to die.”
“I’ll get Tripp right away. She’s very close to him.”
Tripp rushed to Paolo, and noticed the concern and helplessness in Dave’s eyes.
“What’s wrong?”
“I can’t get through to him, and he’s letting himself die. He fights my efforts to bring him back. It’s up to you, now. Try and reach him. You are very special to him. Hold him, rock him, talk to him… see if he’ll come back for you.”
Tripp looked over at the crumbled frame. He was leaving her. She could feel the coldness as she drew near. She had to get him back. She had to reach his mind. Had to.
“Paolo… it’s Tripp… remember me, Paolo?…Please, Paolo, let me come in like before… touch my mind with yours…tell me what’s wrong…C’mon Paolo… I love you…please…please…at least let me say good-by…”
And the gentle, desperate words filtered through to Paolo’s mind, stirring his thoughts like dried autumn leaves in the wind.
‘Who wakes me from my sleep? … a light… a distant light… reaching in to me… so familiar…so gentle…no! no! it’s a trick!… no, no, no! I will refuse to feel, to see… there is nothing.’
“Paolo, no, don’t run! It’s me… remember…reach out once more and remember… I won’t hurt you…”
‘The light moves closer… so persistent and desperate… I seem to remember this… it feels so warm…I must touch it once before I die…I must… Tripp?…Tripp?… Oh, my God, it’s you… hold me, Tripp… can you hear me?… hold me if you hear, please?… Hold me, Tripp… hold me forever… don’t let the nightmares come any more…please, Tripp?’
“Paolo… Paolo, I’m holding you as tight as I can. I hear you, Paolo… like I did before… in my head… tell me what happened… tell me so the hurt will go away.”
‘Too much pain… explosions… every time I thought of someone… when I thought of you…all of a sudden my mind was ripped apart in blinding, fiery explosions until there was nothing left…explosions! …explosions! … explosions!…I let them kill you.. everything is destroyed… everyone gone…dead… it’s too painful to remember.. there’s nothing left…everything is dead, and I wish I were, too.’
“Paolo! Listen to me! I’m not dead! I’m not. You’ve got to touch me, Paolo. Open your eyes and see me. I’m here. Just like you. I’m holding you. There won’t be anymore explosions. We’ve killed them and we’re alive. Listen to me, Paolo, please? Look at me, touch me, just once… try… c’mon…try real hard…it’s me…it’s Tripp… and I love you.”
Suddenly, his eyes opened. “Tripp? For real… Tripp…oh, I’m sorry…so sorry… I didn’t mean to let them hurt you… I didn’t mean…”
“Paolo! I’m all right! C’mon, look! Really look at me!”
“You…you are alive! Oh, Tripp, what have they done to my mind? You’re ok… and… I love you, too… I have for so long… but I never know how to say stuff…”
“Paolo, Paolo, I’m so glad you’ve come back. I was afraid you were going to die. But, hey now, listen. It’s time for you to get some decent rest. It’s all right… just go to sleep. We’re safe here. And I won’t ever leave you again… I promise.”
She held him then for an hour or so, gently rocking him, and holding him tight. After he was soundly sleeping, Tripp laid him on Dave’s cot. He weighed much less than she, and looked so much more vulnerable.

Later, as Tripp left Dave’s office and her sleeping friend, Carey came over to her.
“Tripp? You look completely drained. Is he all right? Are you?”
“Yeah…yeah, I guess so. Paolo should be ok now.”
“Like some coffee?”
“Sure. Thanks, Carey.”
“C’mon. I’ve got a little room over here where we can talk alone.”
Carey led Tripp to a small room with a couple of stuffed pillows on the floor. They sat down, and Carey spoke softly. “Must’ve been pretty rough, running and hiding. And all those kids depending on you like that,” Carey said, expressing her concern for the troubled and exhausted person sitting before her.
“I suppose. It wasn’t that bad. I just did what I had to do. That’s all.”
“C’mon. You did a good job. You saved those kids’ lives. Take credit for it.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Why should I? I didn’t do anything special.”
“But what?”
“But what’s bothering you?”
“You’re running right now. Trust me and stop.”
“I can’t.”
“What’ll happen if you do?”
“Just forget it, ok?”
“It’s not important.”
“But you are. You’re important. You can’t run for the rest of your life.”
“Can’t I?”
“You’ll just be hurting yourself. I don’t want to see you do that.”
“People are important to me. I believe in them. And I believe in you. Can’t you see that it’s only you that you’re running away from? What is it that you can’t accept, Tripp? Paolo?… Is it Paolo? It is, isn’t it? C’mon, talk to me, Tripp.”
“I let them hurt him. I let them almost kill him. What good does it all matter? I blew it. I left him unprotected and they hurt him. I can’t face him. How can I live knowing what I’ve done. I just don’t want to be here anymore. I let him down. I don’t deserve to be so alive. I don’t…”
“Hey, take it easy. It’s all right. He knew what he was doing. You’re his friend, not his mother. He’s got a will of his own, you know. You did what you could. And you did save his life. Don’t hurt him now by punishing yourself. I don’t think he could take it. Besides, you’re not supposed to be perfect. Just real. Just human. Like everyone else here. Is being real so awful scary?”
“It’s just that, well, we’re so close, you know. He’s got nobody else. I was the one he trusted and then I let him down. I don’t know that I can accept that.”
“Your own judge, jury, and executioner, huh, Tripp? Well, remember when you pass a life sentence on yourself that a lot of other people who care will be hurt by that. And that’s not like you. You know it. I know it. Look, why don’t you get some rest now, and think it over. If you want, we can talk some more later, ok?”
“Yeah. Thanks. I appreciate it, Carey. I really do.”
Carey took Tripp’s hand and held it for a few moments, trying to give her the strength she so desperately needed and the friendship she so desperately denied.


Often, when it is still,
And I can feel the tide of future-past,
I know His Will…
And I can see the falling of the Mast.

The Cave, April, 2010:

“Hey, check out the Reuters morning news article… Someone catch it, while I print it?
“Sure, Jon,” cam the genial reply, as a young woman reached for the slowly growing sheet. “Where do you want it?”
“Be nice, Sarah. Anything important there?”
“Just the Man’s monthly propaganda speech. Won’t he ever quit?”
“When the going’s so good? C’mon… Hey, Matt, want to hear the “latest from the Sadist?”
Drowsily, a young man emerged from his cocoon of sheets and blankets, mumbling words like misplaced incantations.
“I think he said, ‘coffee’.”
“I think you’re right. Here you go, Matt… instant morning go-get-em juice.”
“Sarah, why don’t you go get our two new recruits, while Matt is getting himself together. Perhaps they, too, should here this ‘speech’. Then, we can email it out to the rest of the Cavies, and our outside Network.”
Returning a few minutes later, Sarah introduced the two to Jon and Matt.
“Peter, Lysha, welcome to our group. This is Jon, our fearless leader, and his brother Matt, our head psych-tech engineer. Coffee’s hot, so make yourselves comfortable while Jon reads the monthly propaganda speech from the Fanatic.”
Dramatically poising himself, and mimicking the Man’s voice, Jon proceeded to read it.
“ ‘To my American friends:
Individual freedom is the cornerstone of our world democracy. We must crush any treacherous conspiracies against this, wherever we find it. Whether it is communist, fascist, or fanaticism of any kind, if it is against our American Christian values, it must be extinguished. These evil people have cast us into inane and murderous wars, and these must be ended, at any cost, to preserve every man’s God-given right to be free. It is these evil people who have inflicted us with inflation and broken economies; have infiltrated and undermined businesses with their self-centered fanatical demands. It is they who seek to wreak asunder the very fiber of the good and uprighteous people of this country. And I am dedicated to the preservation of that fiber, at any cost. I am dedicated to you, good people. Together, with one truth, we shall prevail… and so, I enjoin your allegiance to our holy cause… to bring peace to this nation, and to the world.’”
“Damn his rhetoric!”
“Damn good, unfortunately.”
“How many people will swallow this, Jon? How many will not see through it?”
“Too many, I expect. Whether they really believe him or not, it does sound good and many millions have already accepted it as truth. Not enough for him, though – he wants us all.”
“Jon, he’s outdoing Hitler’s charismatic calls, and no one seems to see it! They listen and follow him like sheep, destroying everything that limits him! Everything – every place – every person! They absorb his fiery speeches into their hearts and minds, and act on them! We’ve just got to stop him!”
“Hey, take it easy, little brother. We’re working on it. We all are. You know that. But we can’t close the people’s ears; we can’t make them think our thoughts; we can’t choose for them. It’s true he sounds worse than Hitler. But, then again, Hitler sounded pretty good, and there are people today who still think he was right. Peace, prosperity, and a cause to live for… a pride in themselves and their country. What more could you ask for? And it doesn’t ever seem to matter who has to get hurt or killed for people to bring that into their reality.”
Peter spoke up. “You mean, the Man’s given them an ethical license to purge themselves of the anti-Christian filth, as he calls it. And, unfortunately, anyone he doesn’t like, or his people don’t like, quickly become evil, and have to be exterminated. He’s building an empire of peace and love here and worldwide, at any cost. The Enforcers protect his laws by interpreting them to achieve whatever end is expedient. And everyday he turns more innocent sinners into his fold, giving them new visions, and then taking control.”
Jon looked intensely at Peter. “You sure seem to know a lot about him.”
“I, uh, have inside information… I defected. I was… an Enforcer.”
All attention re-focused on the words and the speaker. Peter, blond with blue eyes and solid frame, stood carefully opposite the slight and wiry, Jon, whose dark features were filled with a fiery intensity. Peter softly repeated himself, “I was an Enforcer, and I have come to give you some help.”
Sarah spoke first. “That’s a very dangerous confession to make, friend, and not so easy to believe.”
Jon was quietly looking past Peter, organizing his own disrupted thoughts, and keeping a watchful eye on Matt. “If you are what you say you are – a defector – then there is much to discuss. But if you’re proven a spy, then I’m sorry for you. Sarah, get security down here.”
“You let him sweet-talk you like that?? You let one of his murderous disciples sit there and mock us?! I’ll kill him first! He won’t leave here alive! And he doesn’t fool me! I’ll kill them all before their wretched tongues burn with that fire!!”
Too late! The frenzied figure of his brother leapt at Peter, and reached in maddening fury for his throat. “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you, you bastard of the devil!”
Desperately, Jon wrestled his brother off of Peter, and pinned him against the floor. Sarah stood quietly, her laser knife aimed squarely at Peter’s head.
“Sarah, will you please go with these security guards, and escort Peter to the holding cell, and Lysha to an adjacent confinement area? Stay with the guards. I’ll be there soon. Thanks.”
“Matthew, Matthew, it’s all right. Come, look at me. What happened to our parents is over. You can’t bring them back in futile revenge. Try to understand. It was the Fanatic who directed their killing. It is the Fanatic we must destroy. Think! If this Peter is as he claims, we could have an information source of incalculable worth. We could get information that could lead to dismantling the Fanatic’s organization. We could learn their plans, their codes, and their positions. Maybe we could even find the Man himself. And that’s what you want, isn’t it, Matt? That’s what we both want. And, if Peter’s a fraud, I will let Ky recover what information he can, before we kill him.”
“I’m sorry, Jon. I – I didn’t mean to react like that. I just wasn’t expecting him to say that. I hate Enforcers! But, I will get the Fanatic, and maybe this is our break. Even if it kills me, that Man’s going to pay. So, thanks, bro. Thanks a lot. And besides, I need to find out how Peter managed to pass through our mind-scan. It shouldn’t have been possible.”
“Forget it. We’re all kind of stressed out. We all need a break. Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps this guy will give us one. Go on now, and I’ll talk to you later.”
Walking towards the holding cell, Jon considered the reliability of this clever newcomer. How had he eluded the Fanatic’s brain-altering as an Enforcer? And, if he had not, how had he eluded our own mind-scan? Strange man, this Peter...

The silent limestone walls stretched on before him, perforated occasionally by openings into uncharted pathways that few people have ever explored. He knew that Drift, his spelunker cousin, had provided a team that constantly investigated, mapped, and secured new areas. He was glad of that, for he had never enjoyed the cramped and darkened corridors of stone, no matter above or below the earth. And it would be easy enough for the Fanatic to send someone searching here. He had created holding cells down one of these pathways, which had ended in a solid wall. He hesitated outside the one that held Peter. Sarah was waiting for him. “Sarah, would you take Lysha back down to the tech lab? Have them redo a security check. If she’s still clean, go ahead and take her through admin. Keep on high alert, and stay with her for now. Take Jackson and Cooter with you. I’ll catch up later. Ok?”
“Sure, Jon. Be careful, please?”
“No problem. You, too.”

Jon opened the door, and walked in. Peter was sitting, head down, on the far bench. Jon approached him, keeping his distance and resting his hand on his holster.
“Perhaps you ought to start from the beginning.”
“Well, I’m not sure where that is. It isn’t easy. It’s been such a long time. Such a very long time.” He paused. “With nowhere to run. No one to talk to. I’ve kept Lysha from their brain-altering machines with money, and got skin-implants the same way. But I never knew how long it’d be before someone would slip up, or sell out.”
“How did you get here?”
“It was quite by accident, I assure you. Such a slip could have killed me, or worse, but I guess I was pretty desperate. I was just wandering through a museum up in Boston, not looking at anything in particular, when the caretaker came up behind me. I hadn’t even heard him coming…”

Boston Museum of Science, February, 2010

“You seem troubled, son.”
“I’m not troubled. I’m just thinking. I’ve got work to do. There’s nothing wrong with being here,” Peter said, attempting to quickly cover his anxiety and tension.
“Yes, I know. But not many stay so long. Perhaps you would like a cup of coffee?”
“No. I mean, ‘yes’. God! I don’t even know what I want anymore.”
“You want to talk, maybe?”
“Talk? About what? And who are you anyway? How do I know if I can trust you? How can I tell?”
“How can you ask such questions like that if your brain has become ‘enforced’?”
“I’m loyal! There’s nothing wrong with me! I’m just tired.”
“Don’t be scared, son. It didn’t work on me, either. I’m not really ‘enforced’, and I’m trusting you with my life. Trust me.”
“How do you know it didn’t work on me?”
“Because I feel the same way, and because none of them ever have any doubts. Tired or not.”
“I guess I’d better watch myself a little better, huh?”
“Well, don’t worry about it right now. But if you’re truly interested in getting out of the Fanatic’s reach, and want to escape to the Resistance, I can help you.”
“What good would that do? They’d just kill me for a spy.”
“But are you interested?”
“Well, yeah, I guess so. I mean, yeah, for real, I am.”
“All right. Then, when you reach it, or they find you, let Jon know that his uncle Sy sent you. Tell him to contact me.”
“You know Jon, their leader?? Don’t you know you could be killed for that, after their psychic extractions, of course…”
“I told you I trusted you with my life. This is important for you. Now, you can tell the authorities. Or maybe you can do something worthwhile with your life.”
“What’s worthwhile? Is there any right or wrong anymore? What if there’s nothing different on the other side?”
“What have you got to lose? I can only offer hope.”
“Well, maybe I’ll take your offer up. Maybe. Can you tell me where to contact them?”
“I can get you close enough. You need to go to Kentucky. They’re located somewhere beneath the rubble of what used to be Mammoth Cave. If you’re a good spelunker, you can get to where they are.”
“In the cave?”
“Somewhere. You’d just have to take your chances.”
“Well, you’ve given me something to think about. I won’t turn you in, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I’m not worried about that at all. Good luck. And remember that it won’t be wise for you to be seen with me, anymore.”
“Good-by, then.”

Back at the Cave, April, 2010

“Uncle Sy?”
“Yeah, that’s what he said, anyway.”
“I don’t remember an uncle Sy.”
“He seemed to know you. Really. Are you sure you don’t know him?” There was a note of desperation in Peter’s voice. Jon tried to think of his relatives in that area.
“Wait a minute… I bet that’s old Josiah. He was always such a cunning man; always knew more than he let on; always seemed working on many levels. Yeah, I bet that’s him. Josiah… Sy… Ok.. maybe that’s it. So, now what?”
“Well, now I’ve laid it on the line. My life is yours, as his was mine. Your brother, Matt, didn’t pick up my so-called brain-altering for the same reason it never stuck in the first place. I was an ‘un-enforced’ Enforcer. I would guess the implants got overlooked after we passed the mind-scans.”
“All right. Look, I’m sorry about the security, but I’ve got to keep it tight. You understand.”
“Sure. I don’t suppose you get many surprises like this.”
“Damn right, I don’t. Not that live to tell the tale. I’ll take you to your temporary quarters while we wait on admin and other security details. I’ll have to keep a guard outside your door, too. I’ll talk with you later. Rest for now.”
Jon walked pensively back to his room, and clicked on his walkie-talkie. “Matt? Would you c’mon up to my room for a minute? Thanks.”

“What’s up, Jon?”
“Interesting information. Do you remember Uncle Sy? You know, Josiah, our clever uncle up in Boston?”
“Yeah, somewhat. Doesn’t he work at some boring museum?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. It seems he sent Peter down here. Something about their brain make-up that couldn’t be ‘enforced’ or brain-altered. On either one of them. He trusted Peter to help us, and not betray him. And he wants us to contact him.”
“But how do we know that he’s not working for the Fanatic? Or both of them?”
“I’ll just have to go, Matt. There’s no choice. It must be something very important for Uncle Sy to ask me to risk myself. And we need to keep this just between you and me. Besides, if he were really an Enforcer, he have had Peter trailed. I’m having Drift and his team look into that right now.”
“Why not let me go?”
“You’ve got to run the mind-scan. You’ve got to learn how to make some kind of antidote for the Fanatic’s serum. If Peter’s story holds up, perhaps you can use his blood as a start. And map his psych-waves. See what’s different. That’s far more important right now. Don’t worry. This could be another break for us.”
“Hey, why not take Ky with you? He’s got a sixth sense when it comes to Enforcers. You know you shouldn’t go alone. Please?”
“Sure. Maybe you’re right. Anyway, I’ll check in with you before I leave.”

After Matt left, Jon buzzed Sarah to come to his room. He explained to her all that had occurred and his upcoming journey to Boston.
“And what if he’s one of them, Jon?”
“There’s no other way to check. Besides, I’ve got to know what’s happening. I’m pretty sure that wily old man is not an Enforcer.”
“They may catch you. Oh, Jon, I don’t want you to go!”
“But I have to.”
“I know… but I don’t want you to…”
Gently, he took her into his arms and held her there a long time. He stroked her long curly hair and soft skin, kissing lightly in descending movements. They kissed and made love as if time were limitless, letting their passion fill the tiny room. It filled them – mind, body, and spirit – until they were one and overflowing. All that had been separate coalesced into one. And Light touched their love, and found it good.

Before he left, Jon went out to his ledge – to be alone, to seek some peace, to hopefully find some answers. Wrapping the first of the evening’s shadows about himself, he let his thoughts wander away on the pastel trails of sunset.
Once in a while, in his deepest meditations, he seemed to hear comments or responses to his questions. He felt a Presence; and a sense of being somewhere else. He felt ‘someone’ whom he called ‘the Captain’. Jon shared this knowledge with no one, for he himself could not be sure this weren’t his own wishful thinking. He perceived him to be nearby tonight, so he asked his questions.
“Captain? Give me a hint of where to go from here – there are so many loose ends… with Peter, and now Josiah – I feel lost again. Whom do I seek out?”
“Your friend, Ky Ming, and your uncle Sy Newcombe – seek them, for they have access to the answers you seek, if they will but work together, combining their minds and resources. There lies between them the ability to create a safe portal, affecting the destiny of your people. I am not free to tell you more.
“It’s time I returned you to your ledge. There will be no conscious remembrance of the details of our meeting. Good-by and good fortune.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
The abruptness and clarity of the dream caught Jon off-guard, amazed him, and pervasively roamed his thoughts until night had completely fallen.
“Jon…Jon… Hey, what’s with you?”
“Oh… Matt…sorry, I must’ve dozed off.”
‘It was one of those dreams again, wasn’t it.”
“Yeah, let’s go inside. Did you say Ky was going with me?”
“Uh-uh. He’s all packed and waiting for you at the north-east exit.”
“Good. Thanks, Matt. Take care of things while I’m gone. I’ll contact you as soon as I can. As soon as it’s safe. Take care of yourself, ok?”
And he was gone.

WEB OF LIGHT: Chapter 6

There is a River
flowing out from me…
it is my sacred Light –
MotherEarth’s own fiber…
that connects me to her Web
and gives me Sight.

After meeting with Josiah at the Museum, Ky and Jon return to the Cave to discuss the possibilities for the device they had constructed.
“Ky? There’s something I don’t understand. This project, this machine that you and Sy have created at the museum… what effect does it have on the person using it? I mean, I understand basically what goes on – the transference of someone’s consciousness to another person in another time and place – but what influence does it have on both those individuals, consciously and subconsciously?”
“Well, very little physically. The transferred consciousness cannot influence the mind or body of the person in which they have become co-habitors. However, the experience does have an impact on both selves. Both Sy and I believe that all our experiences are linked to the growth and increasing awareness of our inner selves. This, then, is another such experience. Some people need these activities to achieve a balance in their karma. Some just need to mature, to acquire wisdom, to gain a better perspective of the Truth. Some people just need to meet their true selves.”
“Can you, like, put that a bit more scientifically. A little less esoteric, if you can.”
“Ok. Well, what we have constructed is a portal, using a crystal that begins vibrating at the level of our current physical being. Then, the vibration increases to that of Spirit, or Light. See, our souls are built around the essence of Light, and manifested into Being. These terms I cannot explain with science. They are beyond science, and into the world of quantum psychonics. In any case, the body becomes invisible to our eyes and frees the soul to be teleported to another Being, in some other time/space/ dimension. We believe, your uncle and I, that the soul will be drawn naturally to that situation or experience which the self has yet to reconcile at some level. This is true of all our experiences. The T-system, as we call it, is but another channel, or opportunity, to do this. It can, therefore, serve a double purpose, if the sojourners are prepared mentally for the trip. It takes them away from this dimension, where their existence is being purged, and it can help them become more aware of their inner wants and needs. Sy and I, having found a few refugees, briefed them as best we could, and then sent them on their way. Safe, somewhere else. Hopefully. And, although they will return somewhat changed, it will not be noticeably so, and their memories will be held silently within their subconscious.
“In another time, such a machine might provide much entertainment in the granting of fantasies… or, in the hands of someone with evil intentions, might create mass insanity or instant purges. Therefore, it is best that only Sy, Matt, and I, understand how to assemble it. We need to build another one, but materials are scarce. Particularly, the precious gems we use. However, as museum curator, Sy feels he will be able to get hold of enough for one or two more T-systems. One should be installed here in the main headquarters, for obvious reasons. The only thing I am worried about is that the tremors have become increasingly stronger along the Appalachian western range, and I think we should move to a different location before we set it up.”
“Do you have a place in mind?”
“Well, yes, in the Pyrenees. The Basque people, which live isolated up there, are holding a neutral stance, and would accept our establishing a base, according to communications I’ve had with them. Also, Sy says that there are rumors the Fanatic is moving to Paris. Being in the Pyrenees would keep us close… with a chance of moving first, so as to keep our movements more clandestine.”
“What about the Austrian Alps?”
“I’m afraid he’s already infiltrated most of the Alpine countries. They may believe they’re neutral, but they’re also close to being in his control.”
“You’ve been keeping well-informed, I see. Ok, I’ll make a rough draft of your report, and coordinate efforts around here to support it. And you’re right about moving out of here. One of the lower equipment rooms caved in last night, injuring three personnel. I’ve also noticed some people getting hyper about the small running cracks and movements in all the lower levels. Even Drift was trapped for a while by a shifting sheer wall of rock that came up between him and his team. He said he smelled sulfur, too. Not good. I’m thinking we need to move very soon. Can the current T-system transfer us all to the Pyrenees?”
“Well, yes. It can be adjusted and focused for just spatial-matter movement. But we have too many personnel and materials to first get to Boston and then transported out, without being seen by the Enforcers. Perhaps Matt can set up a temporary one here, and by using both machines, we might successfully relocate without notice. However, someone still must get to the Pyrenees to establish a T-system reception base, before we start this.”
“Why can’t we just transfer everything over there with the knowledge you have now?”
“The way it works now, we have definite coordinates to send someone to an exact person, place, and time, so that their minds don’t end up locked in rocks, or rivers, or whatever. With all the mountains and unfamiliar terrain, we would have no guarantee where anything might materialize.”
“And if I could get you spatial coordinates?”
“Then I would go.”
“Good. I have a contact at our French base who’s half-Basquen and could get us that information. I’ll let you know as soon as I have it.”
“All right. In the meantime, I’ll be preparing for my trip back to Boston – and to the Pyrenees.”
“Oh, and I’d want Steve to go north with you. It’s not safe to travel alone, and he’s good with ‘acquiring’ materials that you and Sy might need to establish a T-system here. Have you briefed Matt?”
“Yes. I’ve given him all the schematics and necessary knowledge to construct and manage a T-system. Should anything happen to Sy or I, he will still be able to get you to the Pyrenees, or at least out of the Fanatic’s reach. See you later.”
“I don’t expect I’ll see you again until I get to the Pyrenees. Good luck, Ky.”

Somewhere around Springfield, Massachusetts, about 1 a.m., Ky noticed that the vehicle behind them had not changed speed nor direction for a very long time.
“Yeah, Ky?”
“We’re being followed.”
“I seen ‘em.”
“On this next curve, I’m going to slow down enough for you to jump out. Get on to Boston. Just keep heading east, and you’ll get there. Good luck.”
“Sure, man.”
After pausing long enough to drop Steve off, Ky accelerated and dimmed his lights. The vehicle behind him accelerated, too. Ky continued on for a few miles, when he saw an opportunity to jump out and let the car go on. Unfortunately, the vehicle following did not realize quickly enough that Ky’s car had veered off the road and into the local river, and thus, ended up sinking into the darkness in more sense than one.
Ky disappeared like smoke into the night, and started walking east. But when Enforcers surrounded him, he smiled enigmatically, knowing this would give Steve a needed advantage. He had no worries about the Enforcers; he knew them well. They would wait until morning to do any serious work, and so it was. They threw him into a cell, locked it, and went back to their cards and beer. Ky went into a deep meditative state in order to contact Sy, and inform him of Steve’s pending arrival, and possible danger. After receiving a sense of acknowledgment, Ky then focused his energy on unlocking the cell, and casually walking out of the jail, subtly diverting his guards’ attention elsewhere. Time to get to Boston, now, and the Pyrenees.


What you weave has more than once been woven;
What you choose has more than once been chosen;
The Wheel is filled with echoes of your steps;
The Earth resounds with echoes of your breaths.

Boston Museum of Science, June, 2010

“Mr. Newcombe?”
“Couldja show me where your travel exhibits are?”
“Underwater and underground spelunking, and such?”
“Yeah, that. I heard ya got some interesting stuff, techy stuff.”
“That’s true. Come with me. I’ll show you.”
It seemed to Steve that they were wandering in circles, but finally they entered what looked to be an office. After Sy closed the door, Steve let him feel for the raised triangle in the palm of his right hand. Satisfied, the old curator pushed a button, revealing a hidden doorway behind a shelf of books. It led to a basement workshop.
“We must move quickly, Steve. You were spotted earlier. Your description has been flashed over every telecom device within 30 miles of here. You can’t stay here.”
“But Jon tol’ me I could work wit’ya, and bring stuff back t’the cave. Important stuff. So wha’sup?”
“They’ve been tipped off. You’ll need to disappear, at least until things cool off some.”
“Oh, that’s cool. I know how to distappear real good.”
“No… you don’t understand. You can’t leave here.”
“So, dude, how am I gonna distappear? Just vanish, like?”
“This machine here will safely transport you to another place and time. I think if you stay for just a few weeks, you can return then and work with me.”
“What? But…”
“Enough talk. I’m sorry to rush you, but they’ll soon be suspicious of my absence, and I’m sure they’ve tracked you close to the museum. So far, I’m not a concern for them. I intend to keep it that way. You’ll find this a safe person and time for you. He’s a young scribe in Wales, during Medieval times. You shouldn’t have too much trouble there. Just stay quiet and wait. Now, step into the booth, and I’ll take care of the rest.”

Wales, 654 A.D.

Against a giant oak he sat, as midnight darkness cloaked the clearing. The whole night seemed to move in towards the rough-stone altar – a curious and cold accomplice of this particular Druid fellowship. Soon they would be arriving – the Ones who seemed could control others’ minds and actions. But he was alone, now, deep within the thickets, trying to figure out why he was still here, why he was still staying. If they ever found him…
Suddenly, a rippling of light and sound rushed through his mind. A sense of ‘presence’. He was terrified that one of the Others had discovered and possessed him. But he couldn’t move. More and more filtered in, as if an entire entity had truly taken control of his mind. Then, quietly, the ‘presence’ sat back in a wee corner of his mind, and left him alone. Strange, that. He could re-focus on the clearing. He still had control.
He soon forgot the experience, as They had come – dark-robed spectres of the night – and, circling about the altar, had begun a low, rhythmic chanting. It had a lulling, summoning effect, and he could feel his mind drawn to it, though he remained where he was. He dared not move, lest he be discovered; so he watched until just short of sunrise when They vanished, as the night before the dawn. Then, he left, too, 50 pence richer on a bet.
Wesley was not quite 15. During the day he worked as a scribe’s apprentice for a few pence a week. All his activities followed his moods. He ate and dressed and work as he felt like it, not looking for any commitment beyond himself. He never considered himself as part of a family, for they were all farmers caught up in themselves and their living, with no time for him. They would not have understood him, anyway. He was forever and always drawn into dares and adventures.
Down the corner from the scribe’s room was a little pub where, come the twilight hours, some of the villagemen would gather. Foaming mugs of dark beer and slices of cheese and pumpernickel bread were scattered about the dim-lit tables. He enjoyed sitting alone in a corner watching them talk, with hands and hearts – exposing their real selves to those who could see as he. He knew them all in this manner, and was not impressed. They sought nothing. They asked questions that had only their own answers. They complained of taxes, crops, and women… and all this, just to talk. They knew they would talk and listen to the same things the next night and forever, and nothing would change their lot. But if they didn’t talk, they would go insane. After all, what else was there? But it was fascinating just to watch the interactions – speakers and listeners – and the emotional bond that was intricately built up and dissolved in a few hours. Each one of them so uniquely reacted and reached out. He watched their hands, and their eyes, and their manner of speaking, and knew them deeper than they knew themselves. No one else really seemed to look, or listen, and perhaps that’s what made it safe to come back every night, exchanging pieces of their lives. He could sit way into the midnight hours, fascinated by the interplay, although sometimes he drifted into his own thoughts, traveling miles and years away.
He remembered the other night, when he had felt that other ‘presence’ in the glade, but there was little evidence of anything since then. As he drifted off, he was suddenly brought back to the present by a strong hand upon his shoulder.
“Mind if I join you?”
“You seem lost.”
“No. No. I was just sitting here. I’m not lost; I’m just not interested in getting involved in all their ramblings. But I like to watch.”
“Would you like to go for a walk? I’d be interested in what you see in there. And you could probably use a change of pace.”
“Sure. Why not?”
He did not know what compulsion teased him to go, nor what it was that seemed to beg him not to, but he ignored the last, and left with the older man. It was nigh onto the midnight hour as they stepped out onto the road. Its dusty finger vanished quickly in the dark, giving no direction at all.
“Here; let’s follow this path a ways. It circles back to town. My name’s Lucien. Of Windsor.”
“Wesley of Lockshire…sir.”
“What do you do, Wesley?”
“I’m a scribe’s apprentice. I write on my own, but it’s under Master Richard’s name. It’s only important to me that I write. Not the publicity. Could use the coin, though.”
“So, well, that’s interesting. What do you write of?”
“Oh, people, thoughts, nature. Stuff I pick up hanging around or going for walks. Whatever happens to interest me.”
“People interest me, too. They claim so little control over their destiny, preferring to let the whims of others influence their own life, even though they maintain they know what they’re doing.”
“Maybe they don’t want the responsibility of being in control.”
“You’re wise for such a young one.”
“It’s just an obvious observation.”
“My friends would argue with you. However, it seems to me that a keen and insightful observer that has the opportunity to do much more with his thoughts, should. You’d make a good teacher.”
“Nobody wants to hear or learn about themselves.”
“Perhaps. But there are some. You just have to know how to reach them. And be willing to give a value-for-value lesson. Learn as well as teach. You’d have to be confident of yourself and not hold secrets you couldn’t handle exposed.”
“I think I’ll stick to writing.”
“No. It’s just that I’ve better ways to spend my time.”
“For now, perhaps. In any case, we’ve come back to the village. Think over what I’ve said and maybe I’ll see you on the morrow’s evening.”
And so it was that, although he was in a poor mood to be staying at the tavern that next night, Wesley was there anyway. Though he wished Lucien would not show, part of him sought the adventure that would surely come, anticipating the secrets there seemed to be to share. He quickly dismissed a vague warning that nudged him, in a fearful way, as if reminding him that somehow, somewhere he already knew Lucien, or had seen him before. His mind was filled with that ecstatic sense of danger, that rush of betting against the Dark, and he shoved what little wisdom he possessed into the deepest corner of his mind. He had read somewhere that the gods of frustration and despair could take control this way, and apathy gave them power. Still, he was convinced of his own invincibility and ability to protect himself. He decided to stay, and see if Lucien showed. It was time to see what that man had in mind for him.
Time worked itself slowly past the midnight hour, and still Lucien hadn’t come. Wesley felt like a fool, setting there waiting on someone else, and began doubting his own intuition. Feeling stupid, he got up impatiently, ready to leave.
Lucien, half stepping through the door, signaled Wesley to come with him. It was fascinating, the secretive and foreboding aspects that were overshadowing all his thoughts. He rose to leave, believing he had nothing to lose in this venture. He tossed a ha-pence to the tavern keeper for the ale, and walked quickly into the night.
Lucien seemed darker than the night, carrying the blackness like his cloak. And then Wesley remembered where he had seen him… at the ceremony in the glade he had witnessed a few nights ago.
“Would you like to meet a few friends of mine? We’re having a meeting down in the glade. You know, just discussing people and thoughts – whatever. You could find it kind of interesting. But that’s up to you, of course.”
“Sure.” Well, Wesley knew quite well it was up to him, but there was something in the way Lucien said it that made him feel like he’d be a fool not to – what could it possibly hurt? Except that he knew just what place they were going to… and he was afraid to refuse.
So, Wesley walked beside him down that path, taking the right fork instead of circling back to the village. There was a new moon in the south, giving more substance to the dark, and he could see nothing beyond his hand. He felt that something inside him had to be reconciled. He knew it was nothing simple that was about to happen, but he could not fathom the depths he would be taking so very soon. Suddenly, Lucien seemed to pick up on his thoughts.
“The stars have much in store for you, Wesley. It is wise to take advantage of them while you still have control. Someone is not very pleased with you. But that is within you, as is the power to set it free. There is conflict begun and not resolved in your mind. Meet it, or you will have to return again.”
Puzzling over his words, Wesley did not see the fire until they were in the glade. It blazed sullenly from atop the stone altar. Alone and silent, it commanded his attention and he neither saw nor heard those who stepped into the glade, to the left and behind them.
“Welcome, brother Lucien. Who is that with you?”
“A willing friend from the village. He comes to learn and teach. He comes also to seek himself.”
“Did we not agree, Lucien, that there were to be no more outsiders? You had no right bringing him here.”
“He is with me. Life is always changing, Darius, and we need to understand it. Besides, we need fresh blood, and he has been here before.”
Sulkily, the one called Darius moved back, as Wesley shivered to the words ‘fresh blood’, and Lucien’s knowledge of his past visit.
“Come; let us make our circle and talk with the newcomer.”
It came to Wesley, a bit late, that all of them – and there were about 15 – were dressed as Lucien, in black-hooded cloaks that reached to the ground. It was almost impossible to distinguish them from the night, and – indeed – they seemed to be just pieces of it come alive, through the spirits, for all the haunting feelings that were going through his mind.
“It’s not important that you know our names, yet, Wesley. Consider us as just friends with whom you need not fear discussing whatever thoughts have brought you here.”
And, addressing the others, Lucien said, “Wesley is an astute observer of the villagemen. He understands them perhaps better than we. And they are not important to him. He realizes his importance lies solely within himself. He understands, as you would agree, that each person alone is responsible for what happens to him. We are not keepers, but masters seeking our own truths. Is that not so, Wesley?”
“Well, yes, sir, that’s kind of the way I see it. I mean, I see their interactions as self-serving. You know, their need to speak, to have someone listen and not question. They’ve set their goals, as we all have, and there’s little deviation from them. But their goals are similar to sheep’s goals, with plenty of opportunity for others to control their destiny. They seek others to be responsible for their loneliness.”
“And are you lonely?”
“Until we reach our goals, aren’t we all?”
“Is not loneliness of our own creation?”
“Is not loneliness easier to handle than closeness?”
“Are you not your brother’s keeper?”
“Can we judge who needs keeping?”
“Your mind seems as quick as your tongue.”
“Only hypocrisy slows it down.”
“Are you willing to belong to our group, Wesley?”
“Hush, Darius, he is perfect for me. Let him answer.”
“I belong to nothing, no one.”
“Are you afraid of the closeness?”
“No, no. I think it is the control.”
“But we believe as you do. Our meetings are philosophical and self-serving. We belong to ourselves.”
“I don’t know.”
“Make your decision. The future does not wait for you. If you are your own control, then tell me what you will choose. If truly, as you say, you seek yourself, then stay. You will find many answers here.”
“Then I will stay. I am honored, Lucien.”
“Lucien, we must talk.”
“As you wish, Darius. Fletcher, talk to the boy.”
Lucien and Darius stepped through the darkness as if absorbed by it. Wesley could no longer see or hear them, so he turned his attention to Fletcher. He wasn’t much older than Wesley, but his eyes seemed to penetrate to the innermost depths of Wesley’s soul.
“Do you have any friends in the village?”
“No. I seek out no one, Fletcher.”
“But are there any who talk with you on occasion?”
“Well, no. I guess I discourage most who would talk with me, because I don’t give them what they want to hear.”
“Any girls?”
“Sure. You know. There’s got to be some in the village you fancy. How about the cute miller’s daughter?”
“Well, I never thought about it really.”
“Perhaps you’d prefer me.”
“You’re pretty abrupt, aren’t you?”
“Honesty teaches fastest.”
“Well, actually I’ve not thought about anyone beyond myself, so I couldn’t answer you.”
“Be ready to answer me the next time. I may get deeper.”
“We all build walls differently.”
“You’re staying then?”
“I may return.”
“You will find you don’t have much choice.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s not important. Here comes Lucien.”
“Well, Fletcher, did you learn anything?”
“Perhaps as much as I taught…”
Wesley could feel the word, ‘Master’, come next, though Fletcher did not say it, and there certainly seemed that aura about Lucien which would command that.
“Well, Wesley, I think you have had quite a night. Shall we return to the village?”
“Yes. I am ready.”
As they were returning, Wesley noticed that already the eastern sky was lightening. There would be no sleep for him tonight. Master Richard always expected him at sunrise, and he could not afford to lose this job. As they walked back to town, he began thinking of Fletcher’s words and the miller’s daughter – Adrian, he thought her name was.
Turning abruptly from his thoughts, he found himself staring at the glowing jewel on Lucien’s hand. And he could not look away.
“You will come tomorrow night. I will meet you at the glade.”
As Wesley fought to regain his control, he heard himself say, “Yes, Master.” The next thing he knew he was in front of the scribe’s room, unable to remember anything specific, his whole being vaguely unsettled. Instead of going straight in to Master Richard’s room, he walked to the pub for a dark beer to shake the stickiness from his mind.
“Apprentice, forgive me for speaking, but is there something wrong?”
“You are so pale.”
“I – I’ll be fine, thank you.”
Filling his mug again, she gave him a troubled look, and then hurried into the back room. Women, young women especially, were not permitted to socialize beyond wifely duties. There were unfortunate penalties for those who did. And this girl was not married yet. It was the first time anyone had shown any honest concern for his well-being, besides Lucien. Her name was Elizabeth, the innkeeper’s daughter, and she was betrothed to Ronald, the leathersmith. He left an extra ha-pence for her as he headed for Master Richard’s room.
It seemed an extraordinarily long day, and he was exhausted when evening came. Sitting in the tavern corner, he dozed amidst the myriad conversations, comforted by their presence. Suddenly, he awoke to a black silence. Somehow, he was sitting against the huge oak tree in the glade north of town. He felt disoriented. And scared. How had he gotten here? Perhaps someone in the tavern would have seen him leave. He must go back and ask.
“Ah, so you choose to come again, aye, Wesley?”
“Of course it is of my own choosing.”
“So? Then how came you here?”
“None of your business.”
“Perhaps you will concede that there are powers stronger than your will.”
“Very well. It is not important, anyway.”
“What is it you seek, Fletcher?”
“Only companionship.”
“And if I choose not to stay…?”
“You are here, are you not? Besides, you need not be afraid. The closeness and secrets we offer will teach you much of yourself. This is what you seek, is it not?”
“Come, then, I have a gift for you before we join the others at the circle.”
There was something pulling in his words. Fletcher’s inner strength bested his own. And though he sought to refuse, he could not. Wesley knew then that his loss of control had stemmed from just not caring at all what happened to himself – a lethal boredom, as it were.
They walked farther into the woods, for about 100 yards. There, tied to a tree, was the young girl who just yesterday had been chased out of town for being caught socializing a little too intimately with one of the married townsmen. The miller’s only daughter had now shamed his name. He thought she had been lucky not to be caught by the villagers. Now he was not too sure.
“What is this, Fletcher?”
“Why, it’s a girl, Wesley.”
“That I know. Why do you have her tied here?”
“Because she is your gift. She is worth nothing anymore. No one will have her. She may as well be dead. So I saved her for you. She was trying to kill herself, but then you would not understand that. So, here, take her for yourself.”
“In all due respect, though your gift is most gracious, I cannot accept it.”
“You must.”
“She has already paid for her indiscretion. Let her go.”
Then Wesley pulled his dagger out, and carefully moving behind the tree, keeping Fletcher in his sight, he cut her bonds. But she did not run.
“Get out of here, Adrian!”
“I have no reason. I must pay for my sins until I die. You cannot save me.”
“Don’t you understand? You are free to go! Don’t accept the judgment of others.”
“It is you who do not understand. I am not free.”
“I’m sorry…” and grabbing his dagger, she plunged it deep within her heart, dying in his arms before Fletcher could get beside them. Wesley heard his whisper, ‘Run!’, before she gave up her spirit.
“Wesley, you shall pay for this.”
“But I have done nothing wrong.”
“We shall see what Darius has to say about this.”
“Lucien has left for a while in his sorcerer’s meditation. Darius is my benefactor. He will understand how to deal with you.”
As if he had heard all this, Darius materialized out of the darkness behind Wesley.
“What’s wrong, Fletcher.”
“He would not take the gift I brought him.”
Darius smirked. “Perhaps he does not like women.”
“That’s not true!”
Fletcher laughed. “What are you afraid of, Wesley?”
“He’s a virgin, Fletcher.”
“What? Oh, I am sorry, Master Darius, I did not realize…”
“It’s all right. He is a fine gift for me. Lucien will not be returning for a few hours, so I shall spoil his secret conquest. Watch, Fletcher, and I will show you how to deal with him.”
Darius smiled, and brought his glowing ring past Wesley’s eyes. In that instant, he transformed himself into the most beautiful woman Wesley had ever seen. Her fiery eyes, green with desire, teased him, and drew him close. He felt all control vanish as her naked beauty touched him, and slowly darkness consumed them both.
Suddenly, startled, Wesley awoke in the dark tavern’s corner – alone, cold, and sweating. His mind was in a million shattered pieces – cutting and bleeding with thoughts and emotions he held sacred. He was hoping it had all been a dream, but he could not know for sure. What he did know was that he had to get out of this town and fast.
“Apprentice, are you still here?”
“Forgive me, I am leaving. I must have dozed off.”
But as he stood up to leave, he collapsed and could not raise himself from the floor. Elizabeth ran to get some cool rags and a blanket, for he was beset with fever and chills.
“You must leave me, Mistress Elizabeth. Your father will not understand.”
“I do not care what my father thinks. I care about your health. You are very sick. Let me lay this blanket about you.”
Gently, then, she tucked the blanket beneath him and laid cold cloths on his forehead.
“That was a very brave thing you did for Adrian.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Do not be naïve, apprentice. My uncle is in your group. He returned a half-hour ago, and I overheard my father and him speaking of Darius’ boasts. You are in grave danger. You must hide.”
“I cannot hide from Lucien. He is too powerful.”
“True. Then you must leave as soon as you are able. Before the sun rises.”
“Why are you so concerned for me?”
“Is it not natural? Did you not risk your life for Adrian?”
“I lost more than my life, I fear.”
“What do you mean?”
“It is not important that you understand. But, you are right, I must leave. I wish I did not have to. You have been so kind. Why does no one stop what the group does?”
“They are all scared for themselves. You can understand that, can’t you? But I am not scared. I would see them all burn.”
“You let your emotion mess up your thinking.”
“Do you not care what they have done to others like you and me, and what they will do?”
“People make their own choices.”
“Is what you’re doing of your own choosing?”
“It has to be. I am what I am. That’s enough, isn’t it?”
“Then you do not care for me?”
“I did not say that.”
“Don’t you have any feeling for anybody?”
“Everyone lives out their own destiny.”
“You would leave me to them?”
“They won’t touch you.”
“You would stop them?”
“They would have no reason to bother you.”
“That reasoning will haunt you someday, apprentice.”
Suddenly, emerging from the tavern’s shadows, stood Lucien.
“Innkeeper,” he yelled up the stairs, “come here immediately. Your daughter has violated this young man. She must be punished.”
“Lucien, are you crazy? We were doing nothing.”
“Check out his clothes, innkeeper. You will find them wet and torn.”
“But, Lucien, did not Darius tell you what happened?”
“He told me you raped Fletcher’s virgin and killed her. You ran away before they could catch you. You should have known I would find you.”
“That’s a lie, Lucien! You can’t believe that!”
“It does not matter. Innkeeper, shall I take your daughter now, or shall she, and you as well, be publicly humiliated come the morning. It would not go well for your business.”
“Will you take good care of her, Lucien?”
“As if she were my own daughter.”
“Then it is better, my daughter. At least you will not be shamed for the rest of your life. As for you, apprentice, I shall kill you…”
“No. He also shall come with me. He is with our group. He shall be properly disciplined.”
“As you wish. Still, if I see him again, I will kill him.”
“Enough for words, innkeeper. We shall leave now.”
Again he flashed his jeweled ring, and all about was a void without time or dimension. Wesley did not regain consciousness until the following evening. They were in some sort of cave, bound and gagged. Lucien was sitting quietly near his campfire, deep in thought. Wesley struggled to break loose, and his angry thoughts broke through Lucien’s meditations. Slowly he rose, and come over to loosen the gag.
“What is it you wish, Wesley?”
“I could ask the same thing.”
“I needed to use you.”
“You set me up?”
“In order to fulfill the ceremony.”
“What ceremony?”
“It is time to offer a gift to our Lord of Darkness.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It is not important, as you say. Darius almost ruined everything, but now I can continue with this ceremony.”
“But why the girl?”
“Fool! I needed a virgin!”
“But, you told the innkeeper, that… Lucien, what are you going to do with this girl? You said she would not be humiliated!”
“And she will not. She will remain a virgin.”
“Until she dies, Wesley.”
“She’s the gift, isn’t she, Lucien?”
“I told you, you were smart.”
“But you can’t do that..” And then, as realization dawned on him, he said, “I was meant to be the gift, wasn’t I, Lucien? I was your virgin.”
“My goals are self-serving, as I have said, as you have agreed. I will be given all the power of Darkness through the gift of this girl’s untarnished soul. And it hurts no one else. Now it is better if she dies. Her reputation will only insure her a life of suffering and misery. If you had not let Darius ruin you, you could have been my gift. I would have been very proud to sacrifice such a fine boy as you to my Prince. But, no matter, the girl is just as good. You do not care about her, Wesley, do you?”
“And if I do?”
“Then you have become no better than the villagers. You are not listening to the stars and spirits, Wesley. You are being misguided by your heart. No good can come of that. Only a life of suffering and superficiality.”
“I think I would choose that, if this is the alternative.”
“It is too late. You are a partner, now, to this ceremony. Join me, or I will give you back to Darius. There is no escape for you here.”
“All right, Lucien, as you wish. Show me what I must do.”
“Here is your robe. Undress and put it on. The girl will sleep yet an hour more, and we have much to prepare.”
Lucien sat back quietly, waiting for Wesley to get ready. As he watched, he understood the delight Darius must have felt, and knew the boy would be good comfort for him. Unfortunately for Darius, he had missed a golden opportunity to serve the Dark Prince, which he would have to pay for. But Lucien would make no such mistake in his quest for that praise in service.
“I am ready, Lucien.”
“Good. Take these potions with you, and follow me.”
Wesley swept the cold ashes from the altar top and began anointing it with herbs and essences, some of which he had never heard. A clean linen cloth was then lain across it, and atop that, a black silk sheet. Again, more essences were poured and sprinkled on, and then a red silk sheet was added. It was fully dark outside now. Lucien came walking from the cave with the girl limp in his arms.
“This is your initiation ceremony, Wesley. Here; lay her upon the altar. You will be responsible for this. It is your first deed for your Lord. Now take off her robes and sprinkle these potions on her, as I read from the book:
“Oh, Prince of Darkness, come to us tonight. Accept our gift for your enjoyment, and initiate as well this new believer in your truth. Grant me your most powerful sanction for this gift. Amen to your power, that is greater than all. Come now as we pray for your acceptance.”
“But I do not choose acceptance!” Wesley spurted out.
“It is too late. I have chosen for you.”
Suddenly, the altar burst into flames, and, as Wesley leaped to save the girl, he felt a part of himself being pulled back across time and space, never to return here. The light-essence that was Steve had left.

As Steve returned, he could hardly wait for his whole Self to re-materialize. He burst out of the portal machine, hyped up about what had happened to Wesley and Elizabeth.
“Please, Sy, send me back! I have to know! I have to know what happened to them! To her..”
“There is nothing you can do now. It is too late.”
“How do you know that?”
“Is it not enough that I know?”
“I need to see. I need to know on my own. Can’t you understand?”
“Yes, I can. Come, then, and watch through the portal.”
As Steve watched, Sy touched a few buttons on the console, and a holographic picture came alive before them. There it was… the Welsh glade, dim-lit by the altar’s flame. Steve could see neither Wesley nor Elizabeth, but Lucien he recognized, bowed before the altar. Suddenly, a figure appeared, clad in glowing black, materializing from the flames.
“Lucien!” The deep voice thundered from the depths of hell. “Lucien, what have you done?”
“Oh, Master of Darkness, Lord of my soul, hear me. I have delivered to you, one pure soul…”
“…and one defiled by man…”
“…but who would serve you…”
“…if he had not died in virtue…”
“…but a child with the gift of darkness’ power, if I could but have another chance to cultivate it…”
“…once more, Lucien – yes, you will have the chance. The boy’s soul as yet still lies open to you, though the time dimension is almost 1500 years hence, in your years. He still has not learned his own power, nor does he care to use it. Perhaps, Lucien, you can possess his soul, but beware if he ever becomes enlightened – he is more powerful than you. He kept himself and the girl from me.”
“Oh, most merciful Master; I will find the boy and bring him to you. And the girl as well. You will see. You will not be disappointed in me.”
“I’d better not be.”

Suddenly, the vision in the portal went dark - a palpable blackness of endless Dark - and Steve looked at Sy in bewilderment.
“What did he mean?”
“You, my son; you are whom he meant.”


It is not Truth, in itself,
that is elusive…
But rather our willingness
to shape it to our cause.

The Cave, April, 2010

Jon had decided that Peter’s ability to be a double agent should be used at once, if he were willing. There were several Enforcer stations within a hundred-mile radius of the Cave, and if Peter could work his way among them, say as a supply officer or something, no one would be the wiser, and Jon could have important information on their moves and the jeopardy of the Cave’s existence.
Jon wanted Peter to acquire some of the Fanatic’s serum for Matt, in order to work effectively on an anti-dote. The Resistance was getting recruits, but not in the quantity and speed that was needed. Jon wanted to add to the ranks, even if it meant kidnapping them right from underneath the Enforcers’ grasp.
But Peter himself had an ulterior motive for agreeing to such a task. His sister had refused to come with Lysha and him, and he was afraid she would be captured by one of the Enforcer groups in the area. He needed to find her.
The Fanatic had reaped quite a harvest of converts among the elderly and small children, because their minds had not been swift enough to outmaneuver his Enforcers and his Message. The brilliant coup of the labor and management Chaos had netted more than two-thirds of the country: peaking their adrenaline and emotions at the Rallies; lulling them with his Music; catching them off-guard with the Serum shots. The fear of death kept most of the others still – for those who realized what was happening and ran, were shot. And so, they sat still… for something worse, much worse, much more sinister, called "Moonlight Serum”.
The majority of people hiding from the Fanatic were generally between fifteen and fifty years old. These were the ones for whom both sides searched. But with an antidote to the Moonlight Serum, Jon knew his forces could not only counteract the serum’s effects, but also pervade the Fanatic’s evil system and destroy it.
Lysha cornered Peter early one morning at the snack bar.
“Peter? Can’t I go with you?”
“Lysha, you know you’re vulnerable to the Serum. What would happen if the Enforcers found out? We’ve been over all of this so many times. Why can’t you realize what they could do to you? Why can’t you realize that they could make you tell them everything about this place?”
“Oh, the hell with this place! You just don’t understand! There’s nothing for me to do around here. It’s boring. And you’re never around. What do you expect me to do? I can’t even breathe down here.”
“Find a job that interests you. Get involved. Talk to some of the girls here. I know it’s no fun living underground, but what alternatives do we have?”
“I’m coming with you, Pete. I’m coming, or I’ll leave without you. I’ve had it. This damn place makes me sick. I want to be with my own kind, with my friends.”
“Lysha, you can’t do that! What is it you really want?”
“My friends are all up there. I’m tired of being alone, being bored, and cooped up all the time down here. I want to go shopping and have some fun!”
“Your friends have all changed. They’re addicted to that Fanatic’s serum. You know that.”
“Only because that’s what you’ve told me. Maybe that’s some good stuff. Maybe it’s better than coke or glass. Maybe I want some, too.”
“Maybe I should take you out, but I just haven’t because I need to protect you, and this group, as well.”
“I don’t need your protection, Peter. And I don’t give a damn about this place!”
“All right. All right. I’ll talk to Jon, and see what we can do. But, please, if you do come, be discreet about what you talk about with your friends.”

Peter talked to Jon later, and explained to him the reasons he needed to have Lysha accompany him. It was a risk, but it was better than her trying to escape here, and at least he could keep an eye on her. Peter hoped it was something she would outgrow. He really had enjoyed her company, and her light-hearted approach to the despair in the world. He knew when he talked with her, however, that she had no concept of the Resistance, or why it even existed. He had thought he could give her awareness and insight. He had thought he could change her. He was finally discovering that he had no power to do that; she had to choose to change her own perspective… and she hadn’t.
Now, he thought, if she saw first-hand what the people she called her friends were doing, she would understand. He hoped so. He really did. Because if she didn’t, then after they returned, she would have to endure a brain-altering herself, to protect the Resistance. It wouldn’t change who she was, just what the Enforcers could recover if she defected or were caught. He didn’t want that for Lysha. He loved her and wanted to marry her when things cooled down in the world.
Station #29, 12 miles west of the Cave, was where Peter was due today. The lead Enforcer there was a guy known as Chad. Peter had encountered him a few times before – before his defection – and, although they were on speaking terms, they thought very differently. Peter did his supply job, and asked nothing more. But there was something about Chad that made him physically ill, and it was all he could do to keep Chad’s suspicions off him. Chad enjoyed his psych-altering and psych-probing vocation a little too much for Pete. And he hoped that when Lysha could see the torturous and sadistic methods he used, she would finally see the light.
It was pretty quiet that morning, when Peter and Lysha arrived. Chad was lounging on the lawn. Peter didn’t see any of the others around, however, and could just discern laughter amid the painful moaning of some new captive.
“Morning, Pete. Who’s the lovely lady with you?”
“Friend of mine. Lysha, Chad. Chad, Lysha.”
“My pleasure, I’m sure. How long have you been hiding her, Pete?”
“Not long. Let’s go check supplies. We can talk over coffee.”
“My, aren’t we touchy this morning. You go check supplies with DK. Lysha and I will go fix coffee.”
When DK and Peter returned to the kitchen, Chad and Lysha were already talking over coffee. It was all Pete could do, just to hope that Lysha had kept her head, and not talked of anything confidential. Suddenly, a scream pierced the air, dying out in agonizing silence. Ron burst into the room, and pulled Chad aside.
“Chad? I tried everything: the probe, the needle, the psycho-puncture. She only mumbled, ‘Riki…Riki…’. I know she was in the Resistance, but she wouldn’t give names or places. We just started playing around with her, when she pulled Checker’s knife from his belt, and killed herself.”
“You idiot! How could you be so stupid! How do you expect me to get any information, if you let them kill themselves! What the hell were you doing anyway?”
“Well, we just figured she’d give out the info before we did her.”
“Well, you thought wrong! Get the body out of here… I’ll talk to you later.”
“Come on, Lysha. Let’s get out of here. I’ve got the supply list. I don’t need to listen to these games.”
“Games, my man? You, of all people, should know better than that.”
“But, Chad and me just got to talking…” Lysha replied with a pout.
“Oh, all right. This time…”
“Come back again, huh, Lysha? I’ll show you all around. That is, if Peter isn’t jealous…”
“He doesn’t own me, Chad.”
“Good-by, Lysha.”

After they had gotten into his 4 by 4, and were a bit down the road, Peter turned to Lysha. “Didn’t you hear what happened? That girl died because of him!”
“It wasn’t his fault. That stupid friend of his messed up. And, besides, I think he’s cute. And if I were with him, he could protect me. He said so. And at least I could be outside and talk with interesting people. Go shopping once in a while.”
“Lysha, they kill people, or make slaves of them! They torture for the fun of it! What’s with you?”
“That’s what you say! I didn’t see any of that. You’re just jealous, Peter. You just don’t want anyone to get close to me. You don’t want me to have any fun.”
“That’s not true! I’m trying to protect you from this hell around here.”
“The hell is in the Cave. And Chad is so charming. He’s invited me back, you know.”
“I know. I know. For now, Peter, I’ll stay with you. But I’m not promising anything.”


Feel the music sifting through you, saturating your lost mind,
as each thought is caught and broken,’ til all thinking has resigned,
And the Void is filled with visions of a truth so clandestine
that its Evil is accepted as the Speed for peace of mind.

Kentucky, May, 2010

Beth walked dazedly from the woods, her thoughts blinding and confused, stumbling over themselves. Two days ago, she had run out of drugs and contacts. People were stranger than ever, trying to look at her hands, and asking for identification. She had had the money, but no one was selling. Talk on the streets was of a newer drug, better than crystal meth, but right now any kind of speed would do. Her body was wracked with the pains of withdrawal, and she wandered aimlessly on.
Suddenly, a figure stepped in her path.
“Somethin’ wrong, little lady? Name’s Dram. At your service.”
“I – I need a fix.”
“Yeah? Of what?”
“You got cash?”
“How ‘bout a card?”
“A what?”
“Nevermind. I got what y’ need, but it’s pretty expensive.”
“So, nothin’. Now take it easy on this stuff. It’s pure, and straight from the lab at UK. I need the cash you’ve got.”
“Look… I don’t think I can slam it myself. I – I’m too shaky. Can you do it for me? I – I really really need it.”
“Put the cash in my hand, then, little lady, and I’ll do you up proper.”
Gently, then, he had the girl lay down as he slammed the speed into her arm. Dram counted the bills, as he organized the wad she was carrying. Over $500! He had gotten quite rich in the last few months, hanging around cities weakened by drugs. And after cleaning up in this area, he was heading south. He still had several vials of pure methamphetamine left. The University of Kentucky, where he did his research, had been changed into a Military Academy, and he had just managed to escape with all his lab stuff before the Enforcers had taken over. Time for him to move on, again…
He had a message in his pocket that he took out and read again, as he walked on. It was from another girl he had met and spoken with over a cappachino… no speed freak at all… kind of intelligent, intense, and rebellious… fascinating… but he couldn’t stay anywhere long. He knew that. She had told him that she was wanted by the Enforcers, and that she could see her death in the tarot cards she carried with her. She had asked him to find her sister from the map and message she had given him. She had spent the night with him (a very nice night, he recalled), but early the following morning he heard voices down in the lobby that he knew were Enforcers. He skipped out the back door and ran. She was already gone.
Now here he was with a map most likely to the Resistance. His mercenary instincts quickly calculated how much he could get for that info – but it meant the risk of being caught and ‘converted’. He decided maybe he’d just try and find this ‘Riki’. Her sister was well worth it.
Beth’s thoughts exploded in her mind. ‘God! God? Are you dead? Am I? Where is this curious thing called Light that you talk so much about? Why is it always the darkness that vomits from my mind, tossing its sleazy coating about my thoughts? God! Where’s my stash? I need more! The darkness comes again, and I can’t fight it…’
“Hey, Chad! Look over here! Some kid’s OD’d by woods. Think we should call for help?”
“Do you see an implant?”
“Then, let’s just bring her in. We got room for her.”
The house at Station #29, in its peeling Victorian elegance, sat uncomfortably among the muddied 4 by 4’s, and denim-clad youngsters, as Peter drove up. His youngest sister’s trail had led in this direction. So he had decided it was time to re-check the supply inventory here.
“Hey, man, wassup?”
“Not much, DK? You?”
“Well, Ron killed himself foolin’ around yesterday, but Chad said he wasn’t foolin’. And there’s this kid. Some girl ‘bout 12, I guess. I found her OD’d out by the woods. Real trip she’s on. Ain’t come back either. Know anything ‘bout that?”
“Some. Just like the Serum stuff, but different. We usually make the trip, you know. Can you take me to her?”
“Sure, dude.”
As they entered the room, soft music drifted about Peter in its lulling way and it was a moment before he heard the words in the background. Chad always used an MP3 device, modified to play specific tones and frequencies with subliminal texts. It was no wonder he was such a highly ranked Enforcer. He was good at it. As Peter listened, he could hear the voice of the Fanatic feeding his victims new truths and allegiances to fill the void left by the Moonlight Serum. It had already netted almost half the world, and coincidentally was an amazing substitute for any drug… bringing ecstasy to a new level for the addicts bought and caught by the Enforcers.
Trying not to look anxious, Peter walked over to where the girl lay, leaving DK by the door. He damned Chad for his efficiency, for already beginning the brain-shift. Then, looking closer at the girl, he realized it was Beth.
“DK, get my bag from the car, and hurry. This kid’s almost dead.” As DK left, Peter turned down the volume on Chad’s infernal machine.
“Whatcha doin’, Pete?”
“Huh? Oh, hi, Chad. Look, this kid’s in bad shape. I need some quiet to check her out. DK’s gone for my bag.”
“Yeah, sure, man. Just quit touchin’ my machine. Unless you’re in need of a booster shot, and it’s botherin’ you. That machine of mine has brought back some pretty gone speed-freaks. You be careful interferin’ with my work, hear? I don’t like it, and I think you best be considerin’ what I don’t like.”
“Cool it, Chad. If you want this kid to be listenin’ to the Man, you’d better let me do my job. Can’t convert the dead ones, can you? Bad for the quota.”
“Since when do you know so much about psychonics?”
“Since five years ago, when I decided to diversify… keep me in the loop and alive, you know. And I like to keep in practice.”
“Just you watch your step real careful around here. No one’s gonna protect you from me.”
“Hey, Pete! This what you want?”
“Yeah, thanks, DK.”
“Want me to stay?”
“No, that’s ok…”
“Yes, I do. You just stay put, DK, until he’s done… and watch him.”
“Sure, Chad. Whatever you want.”
“I want.”
Peter tightened up inside, cursing Chad, and knowing he’d have to watch the dosage he have Beth, or she’d be waking up, recognizing him. With the Fanatic’s technology, it wouldn’t take long to discover her relationship to him. Peter had to figure out some way to get her out of here. Chad would have her completely re-psyched in a day or two. Instead of waking her, he gave her a smaller dosage that counteracted the speed’s effect in her system, and would let her sleep for a few hours. He tried not to think how it was that he had been the one to connect Beth with crystal meth.
“DK? How about that coffee now?”
“Yeah. She ok?”
“I hope so.”
Walking from the room, Peter closed the door carefully behind him, hoping that Chad wouldn’t realize his machine was still turned down, at least for a while. DK was always in such a haze, he was lucky to know if he was alive. Yet even as they reached the kitchen, he could hear the music up loud again, besieging Peter’s own thoughts, and bringing back his own bad memories of it.

He had slammed and sold meth at 14, because, living in a society gone mad and hopeless, he was bored and loved the money. His parents had been rich, but more like absentee landlords, who would send emails to him from their travels. His late night missions netted him hundreds of dollars, and interesting contacts. He didn’t know about the Enforcers, who had been just beginning to organize and legitimize their groups, sanctioned by this new president. One of his best friends, unknown to him, turned out to be an Enforcer. He had told Peter he had something gangsta he should try – something better than ‘glass’ and much cheaper. Peter figured he could make a killing with it on the streets, so he asked to see it. Suddenly, his friend had grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. He told Peter to slam the stuff, or he’d break his arm and do it himself. So, when his ‘friend’ released him, Peter slammed it. He figured, ‘Why not?’
The stuff was called Moonlight Serum. It caused an initial breakdown of mental resistance, and never failed. Peter could feel his mind slipping out of his grip. His thoughts began echoing through darkening corridors, watching words from somewhere beyond himself absorb his life-spirit, and hearing them chant mesmerizing incantations in the cave of his soul. He was caught up in his own thoughts… and someone else’s.

‘Darkness within new-formed walls…how high these walls…and so dark…my mind free…in captivity…my eyes wander from wall to wall and back to me…Music… soft music…tugging at my thoughts…whispering of life, hope, light… I hear a voice:

“I am the morning light. I am your messiah. I have come to save you. I am your escape – to light again. If it’s a cause you wish to have, I shall give you mine. If it’s truth you wish to find, I shall show you mine. Come to me, my child, for I can fulfill your wishes and give them new meaning. Come. Come. Come to the morning light. I am waiting for you. I have released you from your worldly bonds. Come, child, follow my light. If you listen, I shall set you free. If you do not, I shall condemn you to eternal darkness and pain. Come, child, follow me to the morning light.”

‘How the words float through my mind! I wish I could grab them to see if they’re for real. They cast mosaic images of light upon the darkened waters of my mind. Light! Light! How long has it been since I’ve seen you? And if I open my eyes, will it all disappear? So much darkness…so much darkness…I need some more light…some more speed. Got to slam some more. Got to… There… see now… see how the words are becoming much clearer. I feel more in control. The darkness is more gentle now. I feel like a part of the music’s soft rhythm, alone with its promising legacy. Teach me, messiah. I have returned for your healing. I do not wish to wake. Touch me and make me one with you. I will not fight. I do not want to. I am yours!’

But, even in his delirium, Peter overheard them talking once, while they were checking on his progress. He had heard someone call him a sucker… another kid to use for world conquest… another pawn to make money, find Resisters – do the dirty work. And so it was that he decided right there to resist the effects of this drug as much as he could. Somehow, with his peculiar psyche composition, the Serum wasn’t working as effectively and efficiently as it should. The trouble would be convincing the others that he had been brain-altered… that he was one of them. It was painful listening to all that music and those words. It was torturous taking that Serum, and not surrendering to its comforting call. But he made it. And here he was, trying to save his own sister from a similar fate, before he blew his cover.

“Enjoying your coffee, Pete?”
Chad’s sarcastic words broke through his thoughts.
“Sure. Why?’
“ ‘Cause you’re leaving, that’s why. You deliberately left that machine on low. I believe that, and you’re damn lucky I can’t prove it. Don’t worry, though. I left her with a full hypodermic of Serum that’ll keep her nice and quiet, at the perfect subconscious level. She’ll use it, too. She’s a genuine tweaker if I’ve ever seen one. They’re the best quota-fillers I’ve found. Seems like you’re a little too interested in her welfare, man. What’s the matter? Know her? Getting a little on the side? Lysha not putting out for you? Well, I wouldn’t blame her. And, you didn’t even bring this time. Jealous, Pete? She’s probably just talking all about me, and you’re afraid of losing her…”
“Shut up, Chad. You don’t know what you’re talking about. And so what if I’m a little interested in that girl… you’ve got plenty of whores to keep you happy. You don’t need any more. Besides, you know taking an addict off drugs cold turkey can kill them. Don’t you care that you could kill her?”
“Win some, lose some. It’s not likely, though. Seems it works quite well, substituting the Serum for their cookies… and with the Word, well, I just keep on gathering recruits like bees to honey. The more they feel the need to slam, the more they shoot my Serum. It makes it so much easier breaking down the mental barriers that way. I don’t usually go in for that force-slam torture method. Too messy. Bothers my conscience. Seems like it’d be easier to make them addicts first, then introduce the Serum and brain-altering is a snap. And, DK, he can spot speed-freaks a mile away. What a great operation I’ve got! But then, you wouldn’t understand…”
“No. I wouldn’t. You and your sadistic methods make me sick. You use the Fanatic’s plan as an excuse for your own pleasure.”
“Get out, Pete. Get out before I forget you work for him.”
Peter looked squarely at Chad, then turned and left. He drove far enough to be out of sight, and pulled onto a dirt road. Peter had to figure out how to get Beth out tonight. Chad was too suspicious to be around any longer. He’d probably turn Pete in to his superiors in the morning, if he didn’t come looking for him personally.
A few hours later, he decided that if he could make it appear like Beth had broken out by herself, his cover might be good a few days longer. He waited for darkness, and then cautiously approached the house. The window to her room was unlocked, and he stepped carefully through it and into the room. Beth lay on the bed caught deftly in the Fanatic’s net, slowly dissolving in the Serum’s poison that carried His Word.
Pete carried the anti-dote that Matt had finally been able to isolate from his blood, but it had yet to be tested in the field. Considering the state Beth was in, Pete decided it was worth the risk to see just how good Matt’s talent was. She had become almost completely oriented to the Fanatic’s words, and never realized Pete’s presence.
Gently, he carried her comatose body to the car. Just as he reached it, the kitchen light came on. ‘Too late, Chad’, Peter said to himself. ‘I have her now, and you’ll just have to get your damn kicks with someone else. I swear I’ll get you some day – you and that Moonlight Serum you enjoy crippling children with.

DARK TOUCH: Chapter 10

The Raven had the answer right
When, in the middle of the night,
Spoke, “Nevermore!”
And left the dark room empty.

Peter saw no one follow him, as he drove on through the night, heading east. He figured to get to Baltimore before Chad could stop him, diverting his attention from the main base.
Beth began to stir in the back seat, deliriously mumbling as if in pain, but Peter dared not stop now. Instead, he tried to talk to her, hoping she might recognize his voice and awaken from her stupor. It was after about a half-hour of her ramblings that he realized Matt’s anti-serum might have worked. The ramblings were less of the Fanatic’s vision and more of cursing. Perhaps, then, there was hope!
Peter felt heaviness in the night air. It was overcast and cold. He could feel the snow long before it touched the darkness, and his windshield. He knew this would be a very, very long night.
There seemed to be no apparent shift to daytime, as the snow continued its quest to cover the world horizon to horizon. White below him. White above him. And dark silhouettes of trees and buildings taping and patching the two together. It was a very lonely scene. Without time. Almost void of emotion and life. Drained, stark, each piece turned inward selfishly. Peter abruptly stopped his thoughts. He wondered if he were really just mirroring his own inner feelings instead. He turned his concentration to driving on an almost invisible road. And still, he saw no one behind him.
Finally, they made it through the mountains, coming down through Fredricksburg, Virginia. Soon, they would make it to the Baltimore station, he hoped. Hopefully to relax. Hopefully to discover that Beth had not been harmed by the Serum. But he did not realize that Chad had had his car fixed with a remote transmitter. He had no idea his position was also being monitored by a station not far from his destination. He had no idea that, through his innocent direction, Base 3 in Baltimore would become a burned out pile of embers – its occupants killed, captured, or scattered to the four corners of the city.

Chad had known that Pete was a key to making a big score. He just didn’t know how big, and he couldn’t prove it, but he knew. He needed to get Pete alive, but he had realized too late that the young girl had been the bait. Still, he had gotten the GPS bug onto Pete’s car without his knowledge. He needed Pete, in order to unlock the secrets of the Resistance. He was confident of that. And then, personally, he wanted to destroy Pete – very, very slowly. So, through the night and snow and darkness, Chad flew his private jet to D.C. Near evening of the second day, word reached him that Pete had stopped, and had been in one place for more than two hours. This was it. It was time to move. Chad sent a scout to see exactly where the place was, whether it was a public building, and how many people appeared to be there.
It was not long before the scout returned.
“Chad, there’s about 15-20 people, mostly kids, in a back-alley tenement on 3rd Street. And, Chad? Pete’s there.”
“Good. Get me a 30-man SWAT team, ready to crash in ten minutes.”

It was two days later that RapCD drove his car into the lower passageway of the Cave. He’d used his cellphone to relay ahead – a cellphone specifically re-wired to only one frequency and encrypted. Medics were waiting to open the car doors even before he had stopped. Jon opened RapCD’s door.
“RapCD? What the hell happened up there?”
“They must’ve followed Peter. Somehow, I don’t know. All of a sudden, they’re everywhere. Killed Jins. Hurt Mike real bad – laser gun to the gut. And they – they took Carey – alive – with three of the kids. God! It was terrible. They were all over, like roaches on cookies. Ma escaped to this kid’s cellar, and is holed up with the rest of the kids.” RapCD hooked his thumb behind him to indicate his backseat riders.
“Introduce me?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry. This here’s Tripp. And her friend, Paolo.”
“Glad to meet you. Why don’t you go on in with Sarah, and let the medics check you out. I’ll come see you later.”
Jon realized that Riki was sitting in the passenger seat, very quietly.
“You ok, Riki?”
“Good enough. Better than most. Need to decompress.”
“Why don’t you and RapCD walk with me back to my room.”
“Yeah, Jon?”
“Where is Peter?”
“Damned if I know. In all the – the mess, he and his sister disappeared, or got away or something."
“Disappeared? Like in ambush?”
“Don’t know. Didn’t seem that way. Pretty heavy thought, Jon.”
“You don’t know him like I do. And who’s this sister of his?”
“Well, he said he found her at that station near here, kidnapped her, and then took off for Baltimore, in case he was being followed…if you catch my drift. She sure had been on something. Anyways, he said he didn’t think anyone was following him, and he needed some time for Matt’s anti-serum to work. It wasn’t no two hours later when all hell broke loose…”
His voice faded into sorrowful silence.
“He’s bound to return to one of our stations in the next few days…”
“If he’s alive; if he hasn’t been caught…”
“If he hasn’t defected. Again.”
“Well, they sure seemed to be looking for someone specific.”
Riki, who had been listening and letting RapCD give the whole account of what happened, noticed he had left out an important piece of information. After he had left for his quarters, Riki pulled Jon aside.
“What is it, Riki? I’ve got to go see Mike.”
“It’s very important. You remember all what that boy just told you happened?”
“Well, he left out one important part.”
“His brother, Dave. He blew himself and all his equipment and machines up, so those Enforcers couldn’t get any information on us. There was nothing left. Nothing. Must’ve used a good batch of plastics.”
“No wonder he seemed so out of it. I mean, more than usual for him. Riki, can you see that he gets a sedative and keep him company until I can come talk to him?”
“Roger, that, Capitan.” And she gave a half-hearted salute, as she turned down the soft-lit hallway.

It wasn’t until after the raid was complete, and he had failed to capture Peter, that Chad realized there was yet one other way. Lysha. He knew she had a crush on him. All he had to do was nurture it. With Peter away, this time he’d have the whole story – with details yet – and he smiled to himself to think of the fun he would have with her. He flew determinedly back to his station in Kentucky. They had captured a few in their raid, but mostly too young: easy to convert, but not worth much for information. He just left them with his friends in D.C. All except the one who had taken the cyanide pill. He knew she was important. But she lay in a portable ICU cubicle behind his seat. If she lived, and he doubted it, it would be a long while before he could question her, anyway. So it had to be Lysha. He smiled again, and, impatient to set his plan into action, he pushed his jet faster into the night.

Two weeks later, Paolo sat outside on Jon’s favorite ledge with Tripp beside him. He was glad Jon had shown him this. It was almost as if a vision of his was coming to life. But he wasn’t sure he could share it. He just knew that he wanted to.
“Did you, did you, like, really mean it. The ‘I love you’ stuff?”
“I – I don’t know. I just don’t. I think I do, sometimes. Then I’m not sure.”
“Cuz I’m different, maybe. Scares you.”
Tripp didn’t answer him right away, so he continued.
“It’s ok. No matter. Best friend is good enough. Cared for me. It’s enough.”
“Oh, Paolo. It’s not just you. It’s me. I don’t feel like I can let anyone close. Sometimes I think I’m so stupid. Emotionally, you know? Can’t explain it, really. Fear is pretty powerful, when you don’t know what it is. I mean, rebelling against society and rules and such. Cool stuff. Protecting you. Cooler, yet. But, when you got hurt, I found out how close I’d gotten to you. Too close. Scary. I thought you might tell me to go away with the love stuff. So I just can’t let anybody love me… too big a risk.”
“You take me as I am. Let me take you as you are. Ok?”
“You’ll get the wrong end of that deal.”
“My choice. Trust me. I trust you.”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Need to know. Need to follow your heart. I have to move on, now, and I want you to come with me.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Look up at the stars. See? Same, yet different. Each one. Like us. Like our friends. The answer’s there. And in us. Special light. In all of us. I know. Look. Over there. See the star. See it move. It’s coming, Tripp. It’s coming for us.”
“That’s not a star. That’s a … that’s a spaceship or something. C’mon! Let’s get inside, quick!”
“No. Not inside. Not be scared. This one comes before to me. I seen it before. In my dreams. It’s ok. Watch.”
Paolo stepped quickly down the rocky slope to where the land leveled out. The ship was hovering over him now, waiting. Looking up, he whispered, “Thanks for coming when I asked. We’re ready to go home now.”
“Paolo! Don’t be crazy! Get away from there! Paolo! Please, come back here!”
Tripp ran towards him, as the beam of light descended.
“Stay, Tripp. Stay with me. Nothing else matters. I want to go home, now.”
“But… I don’t understand. I’m scared to death! Can’t we just leave?”
“Trust me. Please? Take my hands, and trust me. Ok? No more running, you and me. No more running. No more scared. Let’s go home.”
Tripp nodded imperceptibly and took his hands. Quietly, gently, the light beam absorbed them and brought them within the ship, leaving the field empty-handed. Jon watched from the ledge until they were gone. Then he turned and left, too.

Peter did return. But Jon had him stay in his room, under maximum security, until he could be sure of Peter’s role in the destruction of Base 3. And it was three weeks before he was even allowed visitors, beyond Jon and Ky. Still, Ky and his psychonic expertise were proving Peter’s innocence, to no avail. No one would talk to him. After Jon was convinced of Ky’s results, he released Peter from maximum security, but Peter wouldn’t even leave his room. Jon decided he would allow Peter to join the group raiding the Fanatic’s headquarters in D.C., in an attempt to show trust in him. He sent Sean and Benj in to his room to brief him, and kind of relieve his depression. He was supposed to meet with Sy, again, who was in D.C. now, apparently on museum archives business at the Smithsonian. There were reports that his sister had made it to Boston, and had been successfully hidden through the T-system before Sy left there.

Later that day, Peter did leave his room, and walked over to Lysha’s. He had heard nothing from her since he had returned. Now he told her of his new assignment, and how excited he was to be working again. But when he had finished explaining, Lysha lost her temper.
“I’m tired of hangin’ around waitin’ for you. I’m leavin’. I’m leavin’ you and all your stupid boring friends. I’ll get out of here, and don’t you even bother comin’ after me. Go play your stupid war games. I’ll find me a real man.”
He told her how foolish it would be to even try getting out of here. They’d catch her and put her under guard or worse. She didn’t care. She turned on him, leaving him standing there with nothing more to say.
After she left, Peter sent word down to the ComCenter, telling Jon about Lysha’s intentions. He wearily left her room and walked down a deserted corridor. He was no longer trusted, or cared about. In fact, there were several who hated his being there, and were quite open about it, regardless of Jon’s okay. Especially, Mike. He’d been instrumental in the death of at least two people, and the capture of at least four more. And Beth was lost to him again. He knew that she’d probably made it to Boston from the rumors, but still… he hadn’t had any time to ask for forgiveness, or explain himself to her. He didn’t even know how he had escaped that sudden attack by Chad and his Enforcers. It just seemed that one moment he was with Dave, and the next moment in an alley two blocks away. He could’ve sworn he’d heard Sy’s voice calling him, and leading him away from the carnage. But he never saw him. And, of course, no one believed him. He didn’t believe it himself. He must’ve run, and then blanked the cowardice from his mind. He wished so much that Sy was here now, that he could talk with him. He needed someone who would listen, without judgment, to what happened, and maybe explain it. He felt so confused. He decided to follow one of the spelunker trails, deep down in the cavern, until his head cleared.
He remembered the trail he had taken so long ago, it seemed, in order to get here. He took a small lantern from a ledge, and stepped out onto the narrow pathway. The forever of darkness stepped back behind the stalagmites and stalactites as the lantern light filtered through the tunnel. The pathway stretched into the midst of the calcite sculptures, and he wandered aimlessly through them.
Life’s purpose seemed to elude him now. His emotions were running amok. His mind was in pieces whirling frantically, driving the reality of his senses into oblivion. His soul felt as black as the caverns. He wanted to toss the lantern away and just walk. To go ahead and just step off into a chasm, and let the cavern claim him as its own. It didn’t matter anymore. Finally, he reached a point where he no longer could see the dim lights of headquarters behind him. Now he was alone. He walked on a little further until he found a small cave, and sat down in its lap. He extinguished the lantern, and let his thoughts run insanely free.
He knew he had to see Sy again. He couldn’t wait to have some assurance that there were good reasons for all that was happening to him. He closed his eyes.
Suddenly, he could hear Sy’s voice. But when he tried to listen, he could hear only the faint drips of cave water off stalactites. He lay his head down on his arms, trying to visualize Sy. Trying to remember that first day they met. Again, he heard his voice. This time he didn’t try to listen, he just let himself be part of the dream, if that’s what this was. Then, the words became clear.
“Peter, don’t be so distressed. All unwinds with good purpose, and in control. Your sister was here. She is safe. She was the reason for all you have done. She is the key to stopping the Fanatic. If she so wills. Your mission is fulfilled. Do not be so destructive with yourself. Trust me. I will see you soon. Now, return to your room and prepare for your destiny.”
Peter felt a lightening within himself, as if some heavy weight had been lifted from his heart and soul. It didn’t matter to him if it were or not a dream. He knew everything would be all right now, somehow.

CHILD OF THE SUN: Chapter 11

For they shall sure condemn
those who believe they hear
that more than righteous harmony
of God’s almighty Sphere.

Boston Museum of Science, late May, 2010

It was dark. The moon was keeping to itself, and even the stars seemed to fade away from the young girl. They shied away like frightened bystanders, and she could feel no real kinship with them. She had no idea how she had managed to make it to Boston, but Peter had said to come here if anything happened. He said the curator of the Museum was a good contact. But all this running was too much. The darkness was beginning to infringe upon her mind.
No time left to wonder – it was fact now. She had scanned headlines as she traveled north. Without an implant, without the paid allegiance and card, she and others like her had been declared enemies of the state. Enemies of world peace. It had become open season for the Fanatic’s vigilantes – shoot to kill those who refused to conform.
She ran on. Running, running, beyond the limits of exhaustion, running to stay alive, in the slushy spring of Boston streets. Grimly, she realized that all this running had actually caused her body and mind to become clean and sober. An unsettling thought. She kept hearing footsteps, slowing cars, whispering voices. She knew the Enforcers, or their vigilantes were waiting for her around every corner. She knew she was being paranoid. And, it wasn’t fair! She wasn’t even using meth anymore. She remembered that Peter had told her to find the Museum of Science and use the back door. Things then exploded into chaos and destruction, and she had learned nothing more, but how fast and clever she could be. Finally, she saw the front steps of the Museum just across the street. She knew she needed to quickly get around to the back, because she could feel her enemies very close behind her. She knocked on the back door, and turned back to look, trying to decide whether to keep running or wait.
“Come in, Beth.”
Startled, she whirled about in panic.
“How do you know my name?”
“No time to explain. Come with me quickly. We must hurry. You’re being followed.”
“Duh…” Well, at least it wasn’t paranoia, she mumbled to herself.
The old man vanished into the darkness before she could say more, and she followed him, warily, not knowing for certain just who or what he was. Hopefully, this was Peter’s contact. Hopefully. Still, it seemed her only chance, anyway, seeing headlights as the back door closed securely.
Polished mahogany walls enhanced the hall’s darkness, as she followed the old man to a hidden set of stairs, descending into a dusty basement. In a corner, softly humming and lighting the windowless room, a machine calmly waited. It drew her attention, as the old man quietly bolted the door.
‘Bolting the door!’ she thought to herself… ‘Fuck this!’ Fear grabbed a hold of her mind, and she moved to escape.
He touched her shoulder, as if he knew what she was thinking.
“Come, child. I am your brother’s contact. I mean you no harm.”
“Yeah, right…What’s going on? This does not look safe. And I might have to kill you for bolting the door. Give me a reason not to.”
“Didn’t your brother explain who I was? I am not one of them. My name is Sy Newcombe, the curator here. I am not here to deceive you, nor to capture you for reward money, or any other devious ploy. I, like your brother have been able to resist the brain-alterations of the Fanatic’s Enforcers. So I joined the Resistance led by my nephew, Jon. You, yourself, were drawn here by a mind-link between us, the same mind-link that kept your brother safe during the attack. Don’t judge me so harshly, child.”
“I’m no child! I’m 14 years old, and I understand stuff very well, thank you. No one controls me. No one ever will. Except, well, maybe like drugs, but I’m free of them now, too. So, just what are you?”
“I’m a quantum psychonics scientist, in my spare time. With a couple other people, I have created a portal machine to help those like you escape.”
Pointing at the machine with its lighted panel and booth, he looked at her.
“It’s your alternative, if you wish.”
“To running, to being captured, to never feeling safe.”
The words worked miracles on her desperate mind.
The booth grasped her curiosity. It seemed to be but a glass cylinder, enclosed on both ends by panels of light. This? An escape route? Right…
“Here, look at these while I explain it to you.”
She followed his gesture to a stack of CDs, shuffling through them.
“They’re actually people from the past, from different times and places from here and now. Some even from places some people don’t believe exist. At least, according to the history you’ve been taught. Choose one whom you would like to experience, in a time you’re interested in, and I’ll do the rest. You’ll live your life as part of that person’s mind, knowing their thoughts, feeling their emotions, but unable to alter any of that person’s destiny.”
“Can I ever come back? Do I die with that person, too?”
“No, you can return. The past is merely a dimension – an illusion of memories. You tell me how long you wish to leave for – and I program it. Automatically, you will be returned at that time, no matter what is happening, as long as nothing has happened to the machine, of course. But there will be other machines operating by the time you need to return, and any of them can bring you back. I’ve been doing this for the last six months. Most of the Resistance fighters coming through here have chosen to experience people similar to themselves, and left for three to five years. So, go ahead and pick one.”
Beth looked at all the Life CDs: Dante, Socrates, Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Sacajawea – how fascinating! But who to be? There were none that seemed to fit her. Wait a minute… here’s one. Right age, interesting experiences… strange… the feelings that touched her mind, sending chills down her back. She felt a gentle compulsion – one she couldn’t deny.
“Beth? Is this the one you want? Are you sure? For two years?”
She could hear his words form inside her mind, and could feel his fingers loosen the CD from her grasp, but it was all she could do to answer, “Yes, I’m sure.”
Gently, then, he inserted the disk into the machine and led her into the glass booth. Light. A sensation. Not seeing but feeling it. Surrounding her. Within her. Eclipsing her mind. And her being. She became the light. Pulsating, yet still. Disintegrated, yet whole. Infinite, yet with a tangible thread of identity unbroken. Drifting. Timeless… without direction. An eternal tide spanning the universe. Melting now. She felt herself melting. Re-becoming part of a consciousness. Not alone, though. She didn’t feel alone. There were other thoughts here, but apart from her. They didn’t acknowledge her yet. But, in essence, she had arrived…

France, 1429 A.D.

Warm, bright sunshine. Cool, green grass. How long it seemed since Beth had enjoyed those! Fields of summer crops were spread casually beneath the sun. Large, friendly creatures walked nonchalantly beside her. Much larger than the wild dogs she remembered, and less scary. And yet, she had almost forgotten ‘dogs’. Panicked, she called out, ‘Sy! What’s happening to my mind? My memory is almost gone! I – my thoughts… of what was… you didn’t tell me I would forget! All that I once knew is being sucked into some unreachable corner of my mind… and you, too, Sy; you are fading as well! Sy, don’t leave me alone!’ The soul of a lonely, frightened child cried out, only to hear the cries echo off a new-formed dimension.

“Pierre, where are you?”
“Over here, Joan.”
“Come help me with these stubborn cattle, will you?”
“You’ve never had any trouble with them before. What’s the matter?”
“I – I felt a strange fear, Pierre. It’s gone now, but perhaps it was a premonition.”
“You’ll be all right. Perhaps you should concentrate more on being a young lady, and less on the fields and St. Michael.”
“Oh, laugh if you will. But it won’t be the ladies who protect you from the English.”
As he turned back to the farmhouse, leading the herd, she noticed the teasing gleam in his eyes disappear, and realized herself the sadness and fear he must feel.
“Why, St. Michael? Why must this be so? What must be done? Tell me while I watch the sun gather in its daylight harvest.”

France, 1431 A.D.

“We’ve done it, Etienne! We really have! After three years of striving to lift the people from their kneeling cushions, Paris is in sight. Orleans. Patay. Reims. The forts and cities between and about… all in our grasp now! When will we see Paris, Etienne? Soon? It must be soon, you know. We need to have Paris. Etienne, why do you look at me like that? What news have you heard? It can’t end now! It just can’t! We’re so close. I can feel it!”
“No, Joan, it cannot be. The king is retreating to Sully-sur-Loire, and we must follow. It is not for us to defeat them. That must be for some other time. Come, there’s some trouble at Compeigne, and it’s on our way. Perhaps we can do something there. Look at me, Joan: a woman now, your eyes afire, your heart enshrouded. Listen to me. It is not I who would deny you anything. I love you, Joan. Don’t turn away. It is nothing to fear. I would not hurt you. You’re free to do as you wish. I would not touch the wings of a butterfly as beautiful as you. But, we must be on our way.”
Anguished thoughts tore through to touch Beth’s own, enwrapping them until she could feel the deep, dark sadness surround her as well. Joan’s thoughts, meshed in a noble if naïve tapestry, guided her destiny in a way Beth did not understand. But, now it seemed they were strangers no longer, and Beth could hear St. Michael answer Joan in prayer.
Set back in rolling hills, the Oise River flowed serenely – its reflected illusions moving to their own reality. Spring had kissed the trees and flowers into life – tiny, green, pink, and yellow buds peeked beyond their winter covers. There was a gentle quietness in the air… an awakening that softly stretched throughout all living things. Only the most sensitive of animals had felt the shadow’s chilling whisper touch the day.
Shattering, splintering the river’s quiet nap, frantically retreating horses plunged through – not caring if their riders were still attached.
“My horse! Pierre, my horse! They’ve killed him… and – and I cannot run… oh, Etienne… they’re too close…leave me, please, or they’ll have you, too…Good St. Michael protect us all.”
Kneeling in prayer, a small figure silently awaited the formality of capture. There was no way to escape just now, but there would be other times. She wished she could know if Etienne were yet alive, though. She wondered if he and Pierre might finish her mission. It was very important. As they bound her hands, she knew their chains could never bind her to their creeds and doctrines, even though they would surely try. Beth knew all too well Joan’s determination. It touched her own.
One evening, two weeks later, in her dark tower prison, Joan prayed in desperation. “St. Michael, please answer me. Why am I ridiculed, with a trial of faith, when it should be treason? This castle, with walls that mock your power, echoes of a fate pre-determined. Is it so? I have tried to escape. I have succumbed to dark feelings and tried jumping from this window. I had tried to block your face, banish you from my thoughts, but I cannot. I cannot deny you, as they would wish. Nor pretend you speak English, as they insist. They would refuse me to listen to you, in any case because I’m not an Elder or Bishop. But I cannot deny what has always been a part of me. I cannot deny you. They threaten me with torture and find it makes no difference. They cannot destroy my faith, if I do not wish it so, St. Michael, and they never shall. And now, these English sympathizers (my own countrymen!) have handed me over to the English for punishment. But for what reason? At least I’ve been granted permission to make my confession and receive communion, finally. But I just do not understand, St. Michael. I am not a heretic. I believe in their God. What are they afraid of? Why do they demand my life? Is this what you had planned? I’m scared. So scared. Don’t leave me, St. Michael. The night is so dark, and I feel so all alone.”

On that last morning in May, 1431, the sun seemed so much brighter, as if to diminish the blaze of the executioner’s torch. He lingered once, then touched it to the pyre. Flames reached through to Beth’s mind… and essence. Grasping. Twisting. Wrenching emotions loose in searing viciousness. Thoughts ripped apart in agony. Fire. Surrounding. Engulfing. Melting, disintegrating, and then… light. Light! All-consuming light – everywhere. And a voice, gently whispering, “Come back, child.”


For mind and heart
the kiss was made,
And so, the soul
was twice betrayed.

Although Lysha ended up lost several times, crawling through the cavern tunnels, she finally found the way out that she had marked on her way in. She didn’t understand what had gotten into Peter. He was behaving like some little kid playing soldiers. It certainly didn’t seem mature to be hiding in caves and plotting to kill people. Maybe Chad would help her understand. Or maybe he wouldn’t be so infuriating as Peter had become. He certainly was cuter.
Late that night, Lysha arrived at Station #29, walking into Chad’s office. Of course he had seen her coming. He had been waiting. He greeted her with a smile, and courted her with wine and charming conversations. He listened attentively as she explained how she only wanted to be free… that she just wanted to talk to friends and go shopping… that she only wanted to do what was best for her and Peter. She didn’t want him hurt, and she wished Chad could help her. She had to get him out of that cult group before he was killed or something. They had messed up his mind with all kinds of left- wing, anti-Christian, terrorism talk. It was a stupid thing, and not like Peter at all. She wondered if Chad could help. He just smiled… and assured her he would do his very best – for her, and Peter. But especially, for himself.

Jon received the message about Lysha’s disappearance, but there was no way of canceling the raid. He sent out scouts in an attempt to find and detain her, certain that she was headed toward Station #29. Still, he didn’t want his people going too far beyond the Cave and being observed, either. He doubled security at all the main entrance points.
Sy had already managed to get inside D.C. headquarters, by searching for archives at the Smithsonian, and then, blending with the personnel entering the Fanatic’s base of operations. Peter was with him. Their intent was to capture the Fanatic, alive. Peter and Sy would be in position tomorrow night. He, Jon, would stay here, with Sarah. The raid party, that left this evening, consisted of Matt, Sean, Benj, and RapCD.

This had all been planned to coincide with a new moon, so that the darkness would provide the greatest concealment. A few windows were lit, but no voices could be heard. There was no sign of either Sy or Peter, but neither were there signs of Enforcer troops. Only two guards patrolled the front of the building, and so Matt signaled he was going in. He whispered to RapCD.
“I’m going in. Take care of the guards.”
“Benj, you and Sean work your way halfway through from the back entrance. No prisoners. Keep it quiet, and we’ll meet you back here in 30 minutes. I’ll work half way in from the front. RapCD, you’ve got guard duty. Don’t let anyone in or out. Ok! Let’s go!”
It didn’t take long for Benj and Sean to take care of their half. It seemed no one had expected them, so no extra personnel were hanging around. They had permanently silenced 6 troopers by the time they were halfway through. Quietly, they backed out, working their way back to RapCD. They waited then, for Matt, Peter, and Sy, to come out. But nothing happened. It didn’t seem safe to hang around here for very long, but Matt’s orders were to not come looking.
Another ten minutes went by, and they were through just worrying. RapCD decided to work his self closer, and see if he could figure out what the problem was. Benj and Sean watched him, scared for him, desperately hoping that Matt, Pete, and Sy would come walking out. RapCD was sliding along the front wall, just moving through the door, when an AK-47 ripped through the night’s silence, tearing RapCD down forever. Benj and Sean knew, then, that they had been betrayed. Somehow, their plan had been anticipated. The Enforcers had been waiting for them. Set them up pretty. And chances were that the others were prisoners or dead. There was no time left to figure out the how’s and why’s. They knew they had to get themselves out of there, fast, and it wouldn’t be easy. But staying around here was a one-way ticket six feet down. They decided to head north towards Rockville, in case the Enforcers were staking out the way that they had come, or tracking them the way they were going. At least, there had been a contact in Rockville. Neither of them was certain anymore about whom to trust.

Just before dawn, they stopped to rest, having run until exhaustion consumed them. Carefully, they had made camp, out of sight, in a deep and densely covered ravine. A small fire, concealed behind a boulder, illumined their faces. They were only a few miles from where their contact was supposed to live.
“God, that was terrible, Benj! They must’ve known! I was so scared you were gonna get killed. And RapCD…he never even had a chance.”
“Yeah…. I was scared, too. And worried. I didn’t want you to… well, you know I almost lost you once.”
“Benj, I – I …” and Sean broke down sobbing, wishing for all the world to be held, but not knowing how to ask for that.
“I’m sorry. I’m so tight I can’t control my thoughts or my emotions.”
“It’s all right. I understand.”
“How can you?”
“I know that emotions are very strange and powerful. I know that if you never experience them, you’re never prepared for them. And you’ve never let yourself experience who you are. You’ve just done and been the ‘Sean’ everyone expected. It’s time to know yourself. Like I know you.”
“How can you know me?”
“I love you, man.”
“I love you, man.”
“I don’t know what to say..”
“I’m not asking you to ‘say’; I’m asking you to feel.”
“I’m scared, Benj.”
“It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to be you.”
“I think I love…. Watch out, Benj!”
Suddenly, Sean threw himself in front of Benj, saving him from certain death, as a knife zipped through the air, and into Sean. Then there were the sounds of running feet, and shouting. Benj knew they better not be taken alive, with the Resistance information they both had. But Sean collapsed in his arms, and he lay him down, his own face wet with tears he could not control. After camouflaging Sean's body with leaves and branches, he ran desperately into the night, trying to outrun the Enforcers and his tears.

“Jon! We just received info from our contact in Rockville. Benj sent it.
The text message says: ‘Been betrayed. Peter, Matt, Sy – caught or killed. RapCD and Sean presumed dead. Enforcers waiting for us.’ My God, Jon! How could they have known?!”
“I’ll kill the bitch! It was Lysha, I just know it! Where’s Mike?”
“In psychonics with Ky.”
“Get him!”
“Just get him, dammit!”

As Mike entered the room, Jon wheeled and faced him, rage building to a crescendo within him.
“Damn little whore! Wait til I get my hands on her! She’ll wish she’d died a long time ago!
“Jon. Come on. Clear your head. Killing her won’t bring back Matt.”
“Who the hell cares!”
“You do. I do. Remember what you told me, when they took Carey. Play it cool, keep low, until we can destroy the Man behind all this.”
“I was wrong. You listened. I’m not. Are you coming or staying?”
“Jon, listen to him, please? You’re not thinking straight.”
“Stay out of this, Sarah. She’ll pay; by God, she’ll pay!”
“Hey, all right, my man. I’ll come with you, but let’s at least plan this some, ok?”
Mike grabbed Jon by the shoulders, and searched his face for some peace, some reason, that he could work with. Their friendship went back over ten years, all the way back to that point of disillusionment of growing up in a dying country. They had planned and recruited for this Resistance, five years before the Chaos. Now events seemed destined to destroy them, too. He held him close now, letting Jon’s angry desperate tears mix with those he had held since Carey’s capture. Strength grew from the dissipated rage, and both knew their friendship’s depth could never be touched by anyone or anything.
“I’m sorry, Sarah. Really. And thanks, Mike, I…”
“No need for words. Let’s just figure this out.”
“All right. All my money goes on that girl, Lysha, getting tangled with Chad Devonshire, the head Enforcer at Station #29. She was looking for hot blood, and I’m sure Chad just reeled her in. And maybe Peter; there’s no sign of him, either. If this is where the connection is, we may just find out what happened to Carey, as well.”
“Describe the station, Jon.”
“Let’s see… according to Peter, there’s woods surrounding it on three sides, open to the south. At night, two people could get close enough to it to blow it like Independence Day.”
“Tonight – it’s got to be right now! Before they move out. I’m sure they’ll be expecting retaliation.”
“You’re both crazy! They’ll kill you, if you don’t kill yourselves in the explosion. And what if you’re caught? What good’s it all going to do? You’re putting this base in jeopardy, too!”
“Sarah, my sweet little Sarah… I love you. But, listen, it’s all right. It’s something I have to do.. right now. They may already know where this base is, anyway. We’ve got to him them before they get that information out.”
“It’s not all right. And, I’m afraid, Jon.”
“Shhh… don’t be. Mike will take good care of me. Right, Mike?”
Chuckling, Mike replied, “Sure. You don’t think I’d let anything happen to my main man, do you? He ain’t getting out of this that easy. We’ll be back by morning. If not, well…”
“If not, then get all personnel out and destroy the Cave. Send Ky to the Pyrenees, with the coordinates I’ve logged in, so he can build a base and T-system for us. Tell him what’s happening. If we don’t come back, you have the command, with Ky. When he leaves, it’s all yours, love. Brief him as soon as we leave. Now, give me a kiss woman. Your man is off to war.”
“Take care, Jon. I love you. And take care of Mike, too.”


To a strange land, strangers come -
Sharing truths with those who find
That wisdom lies beyond the knowing -
And knowing lies beyond the mind.

The Cave, July, 2010

“How long are you going to wait, Sarah?”
“I know we can’t stay here, Ky. I – I just keep hoping, you know.”
“But, you’re right. it’s time. No matter how I feel. Tell everyone to pack up the base.”
“I’ll have Riki set up the coordinates for my transfer to the Pyrenees, then. Talk to you in a bit.”

Deep in the cave’s lower pockets, Drift heard movement, and quietly unholstered his classic Baretta. Deftly, he worked his way over to where the sound of footsteps and clothes brushing limestone walls seemed to originate. Sighting a lone figure, he drew the Baretta and aimed it at the intruder’s head.
“Stop right there, mate.” The cavern chamber echoed his soft Australian drawl. “’Oo do you think you are, ‘ikin’ in all stupid and lookin’ to die.”
“Whoa. Wait – wait – just a minute. Gimme a minute to explain.”
“Gotcherself a whole 10 seconds, mate.”
“Jon’s ring. Look… I got Jon’s ring. He told me to come here. He gave me directions.”
“Righty, then. An’ ‘ow do I know ye dinnt kill ‘im?”
“Umm… well… he said I’d most likely end up meeting … please, don’t shoot… he said I’d end up meeting a scrawny piece of oz-meat not fit for Roo barbies.” He stood still, waiting for the shot to come. But, it didn’t.
“ ‘E said that, did ‘e?”
“Right, then. Where’s ‘e at?”
“Don’t shoot, ok? Look, he was pretty near dead. He said to tell you to tell Sarah to get out of here now, and if he lived, he’d find you.”
Drift moved closer to the young man, who looked pretty ragged and bloody himself. “The ring?”
“Yeah, here. You’re not gonna shoot me, are you?”
“Ain’t decided.” And he hadn’t moved his Baretta away from its target, either. “What’s yer name, anyway?”
“Ummm…. Dram?”
“Damn. You say it like yer not sure, boy.”
“No – no… just a little nervous looking at that magnificent classic you’re holding. Dram’s my name. Really.”
Drift chuckled. “Come on, mate. Let’s move on up to the main level HQ.”
So, with Drift behind him and directing his moves, Dram gradually ascended an unmarked limestone ledge, no wider than his hand. Soon, they stepped through a narrow crevice in the rock wall and into a large open room, the size of a ball park.
In his gentlest voice, Drift spoke out.
“Yes, Drift?”
“This boy 'ere, 'e brought news o' Jon. And 'is ring…”
“What? Where’s Jon?”
“Ma’am, he was bleedin’ badly. The whole place was blown to bits and burnin’. There wasn’t no one left alive, not anywhere. I looked, ma’am. And then, I seen him. And he called me over. And he’s says, ‘Are you an Enforcer?’ and I say, ‘Not on my life’, and he says, ‘Take this to Sarah. Tell her I’ll meet her when I can.’ And then he coughs and seizes up a bit, and then gives me information about meeting this man, here.”
“Right as I can see it, Sarah. Seems so to me.”
Fighting her tears, she looks at Drift. “Take him with you, then. We’re packing out of here. Bring him down to Riki, but watch him, ok?”
“Y’ got it, Sarah.” And the two of them set off down the dim-lit corridor.
Dram remembered the message he was carrying in his pocket. It had been for a girl named Riki, from her sister. He just might be able to redeem himself yet. When they entered another smaller room, a young Hispanic woman stood up and greeted Drift, while measuring him. “Who’s the gringo?”
“Apparently, ‘e’s the lone survivor of Jon and Mike’s raid on the station. Brought back Jon’s ring and information. I already talked with Sarah.”
Reluctantly, Dram spoke up. “You’re Riki?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I – I have a message for you. From your sister. We chatted over a cappachino. She said the Enforcers were closing in on her. She said her Tarot cards showed her death, and so she gave me a message for you. And information that you were here, somewhere.”
“From Maria?”
“Do you know if she’s alive?”
“No. I don’t. But… well… I just don’t know. All I know is that she didn’t think she’d be living much longer. Here’s her message.”
Dram handed Riki a very rumpled, folded piece of paper.
Riki opened it, and tears began rolling down her face, cascading down her front, as she crumpled into a chair.
“I’m sorry. I wish I had gotten here sooner, but…”
“Nevermind. What you did is a good thing. She says here to trust you. She must’ve liked you a lot.”
“We enjoyed each other’s company. She was a very amazing woman. I wished I could have been a different kind of person.”
“She was strong-willed. It wouldn’t have mattered. I’m glad she had someone that she could talk to, at least for a while. Thank you for delivering this. It’s good to know that she loved me. We hadn’t spoken to each other for a few years. We were different as sisters.”
“Both strong-willed, though.”
“Yeah, that.”
“Ok, mates, I ‘ate to say this, but we gotta get packed and outta here in less than an 'our.”
“Right, Drift. Let’s get on, then. He can help,” Riki stated, indicating Dram.

Jon, laying half-dead outside the burning station, watched the sky without seeing, trying to sort out his thoughts. Nothing made sense anymore. His brother, Matt, was gone – maybe dead. Mike had found Carey still alive, but as he held her, Chad had cut them both down with a laser gun. At that point, he’d just detonated the plastics as he jumped out the window. He barely remembered some young man, speaking with him before he passed out. But everything else was a blank. He yelled out to the star-filled sky above him.
“God! Where are you, God! I don’t understand! Aren’t we doing the right thing? Aren’t we the good guys? Aren’t you supposed to be helping us? I thought you were with us? What the hell’s the use? Does my dying help somewhere in this confusion you’ve created?”
Suddenly, a bright, glowing light appeared at the horizon, crossing gradually right to left in a huge arc. Brighter than any star. Jon could not turn his eyes away from it. He felt drawn to it, somehow. Something more keen than fascination was holding him; something powerful and commanding. The light moved towards him, and then stopped, hovering over him in the darkness as if by a string. Jon felt the hesitation, and knew it was more within himself than in the light. He had seen this light before. He knew it was the one from his dreams. It was the Captain, in his spacecraft.
It was not as if Jon had not heard reports of spacecraft. Or of mysterious disappearances. Even Sarah had shared her experiences of the Others with him. She had told him that just before the Fanatic had neutron-bombed South American, and consequently, the Islands, they had come to warn her. She had trusted them. In her legends, she had understood their purpose, and being neither fearful nor skeptical, she had walked right up to the one hovering closest, raised her eyes, and been lifted into the light. She knew from the frequency of the light that this ship was one of the “good” ones – that did not interfere, nor experiment, nor seek ulterior gains. A few of her friends had followed, but most had been shackled by their own fear, and could only stare or run. The ship had then brought Sarah and her friends here, to this Cave, knowing they would be accepted and taken in.
This ship, though, Jon could feel reaching into his thoughts – it had come for him specifically – and he could hear the Captain, in his mind, talking on the bridge of the ship.
“Helmsman, how long before we reach our destination?”
“20 parsecs, sir.”
The Captain thought to himself how glad he was that this was his last stop. The sister ship would be arriving soon, and then he could go home. He stood pensively, re-examining the thoughts and feelings he had experienced on this tour – about this planet. How useless the missions seemed to be… If only one could prove successful, there would be hope. And yet he knew that success could not be realized for still a couple more years. If only there were some clue, some way of knowing that what he was doing was not in vain. He pondered why so many denied them, or classed them with conquistadors, time-travelers, or swamp gas. He knew that there were others who had spacecraft that deserved to be suspected as terrorists, but his people didn’t believe in that use of power. It seemed like such a sad reflection of this planet’s culture, and philosophies. Yet, perhaps, there was some hope. He knew that these people were not all obsessed with such primitive anxieties; there were some who saw and knew his people for what they really were. He had escorted two, just recently, to the supply ship heading back to Antares, and others in the past couple of years. Some he had coordinated efforts with the Orion Network to transport them back to Sirius-4 and Sirius-5. And, now, this young man, who – for some reason – was especially important. This young man needed to be rescued, immediately, for he had life-threatening injuries. This young man was a possible future prospect for leader of this planet – if he, and it, survived the Change.
“Captain, we’re standing by for contact.”
“Lieutenant, have you picked up his auric cognitive patterns?”
“Yes, sir. They have become more powerful. He can hear us now, I believe. His telepathy has developed to a high degree, although he seems delirious.”
“Can you monitor his thoughts?”
“Yes, sir. Would you like them on open mike?”
“Done, sir.”
“So. You’re back again. So what? It doesn’t even matter anymore if you’re real or illusion. See? See what you’ve done? See what this world has come to? Why don’t you stop all this, and let us know who or what you really are? No, that might make sense. Why don’t you just sit there and watch us annihilate ourselves… Maybe you’re just waiting to take over when we’re through. I thought there was some significance to your missions. Some divine directive. I should’ve known… I should’ve known…”
“Captain? He’s lost consciousness.”
“Yeoman, transfer log readings to our sister ship as she draws near. Lieutenant, beam him aboard. I think it’s time to let him know.”
“Aye, sir.”
“Log transfer complete, sir.”
“Then let’s go home. Helmsman, set coordinates, and make it so. Ah, Antares, how I miss your warming light.”

From out the small porthole, the land lay before Jon like a semi-crystalline emerald sea – alive: moving and becoming. Off to the right, there seemed to be something growing. He watches as it sculpted itself from a lump of green fluidness into a beautiful plant. Self-creation. It stretches and grew until the stem and petals became transparent, then brittle, and this dissolve into dust. Soon another from began to emerge, unique in its design from the other, and Jon felt hypnotized by curiosity and anticipation. Finally, looking away, Jon began to notice that all which was evolving from the radiant green ‘land’, was also in some stage of this transformational cycle. Fascinating!
He turned to see who had projected his formal name into his own thoughts.
“I’m the one you call ‘Captain’. Do you remember? We have landed at my home planet of Antares-2. You needn’t speak unless you are uncomfortable with telepathy.”
There was a definite similarity of ancestry here, unless Jon was seeing only what he wanted, or was intended to. The Captain was slightly over 5 foot tall, lean – much like himself, with slanted eyes and very small nose. It was hard to tell the color of his skin. It appeared ashen gray, but somewhat iridescent, and reflective of the greenness of this planet. It didn’t really matter.
“The Council of Antares-2 wishes to speak with you. But, it has been a long trip, even with a portal. We will relax first. There is a sand boat ready with fishing gear and food. You will come?”
“Yes, Captain. Thank you. There is much I would like to discuss.”
“Later. Quiet your mind and learn. I have brought you clothes, and some medication, to help you adapt to our planet… as well as heal your wounds. I will return in 10 minutes.”
Rivers of silicon-sand flowed very slowly through crevices etched in the land. The sand moved as if by a dense fluid current, which flow was controlled by the constant creation and re-creation cycle at the river’s banks and deep floor. There was no way of perceiving depth in this river, though, and touching it, Jon was reminded of the queasy feel of quicksand.
“Captain, your boat.”
“Dismissed, Corporal. Come, Jonachim. There is nothing to fear. Relax. Sit down and take this fishing rod. See what you can catch, if only a nap.”
The double suns were quite warm overhead, and the slow smooth movement of the boat filled Jon’s mind with a peace long abandoned. The rod lay gently in his hands, as the exhaustion of the trip, and previous events, overcame him. When he awoke, one of the suns had set already, and the Captain had caught four fish – or something of that nature. They were fat eel-like creatures with teeth and scaly skin – terribly unappetizing.
“Their meat is delicious. You will eat now?”
“Well, I guess I am hungry. I could sure use something.”
Deftly, with a pocket laser, the Captain stripped the fish of all but its meat, and set it on a solar cooker. From the box beside him, he pulled out other strange food items, and set them about the fish. Then he brought out two bottles.
“A toast. As you say, ‘to life’.”
“To life.”
The drink was mellow and warm, unlike anything Jon had ever known. And the fish was delicious, as the Captain had said. It had a taste like marinated catfish, with a bit of bayou seasoning. No wonder they could overlook its appearance. And a little more of that drink, and Jon could overlook a lot more.
“It is time, Jonachim, to get ready. The Council awaits us. We have two hours to prepare for them, you and I. Come join my family and I at home, and I will brief you.”
“Can you give me an idea of what’s going to happen?”
“Somewhat. You’ve been selected to lead your world when the Fanatic’s rule ends.”
“What? Why me? And what if there’s nothing left?”
“That is not for me to judge or explain.”
“Wait for the Council, Jonachim.”

The Council addressed him formally.
“Jonachim, son of David and Rachel, brother of Matthew.”
“I am here.”
“Captain, do you stand beside this individual?”
“I do.”
“Have you informed him as to our intentions?”
“I have.”
“And will you guide him in their implementation?”
“I will.”
“Then so shall it be. Be seated. The Council will see for itself your qualities, Jonachim, son of David and Rachel, brother of Matthew. Following that, we will proceed with the indoctrination.”
Suddenly, Jon’s mind was stripped of all its walls and defenses. All was laid open to the probing telepathy – no, more like empathy, in a holistic sense – of the Council. Had there been anything to hide, he could not have concealed it. And as they touched and evaluated each vial of his life’s experiences, he, too, relived them. The thoughts and emotions were catapulted with him back through time. Then… Jon could see his parents, again, as they told Matt and him what was happening… what they must do… how they had tried to tell the former president, too… but the Enforcers had already infiltrated D.C…. even before the Fanatic’s election… and had been determined to eliminate any opposition, by any means… the car! Jon could see their car, now… ‘No!’ he heard himself yell, ‘No! Don’t get in the car! Don’t get in!… Mom!… Dad!… Don’t get in!… Oh, my God! It’s going to explode!… all over again!… not again!…. not again! No, Matt! Get away… No… there’s nothing we can do… nothing…’ The helplessness surged again through Jon, and he could not keep from weeping.
It was two hours before their mind probings were complete. They seemed satisfied with who and what he was, and proceeded to explain their own coming role, and his.
“We cannot decide life and death, nor interfere, but we can provide opportunities, or alternatives, for those whose wish to live is equalled by their wisdom in living it. You can see how all this is quite dependent on your free will, and ours. The Creator’s Plan cannot be changed. But we can change within it. We will help you when we can, where it’s asked, but we cannot intrude or interfere. Nor would you wish us to. Although you may not understand, we just ask that you accept us for what we are. If you seek guidance, it is yours. There is much more sadness to touch your life. But joy and success, as well. Much must be sacrificed for truth and light to persevere. Use what wisdom you have, and can acquire from our meeting. We cannot, yet, offer either skills or technology. Do not ask it of us. What happens now is your choice, somewhat influenced by the choices of so many others. Your choice, however, is not determined by them nor dependent on them. So, choose wisely, Jonachim. It’s your life, and your planet, that you seek to save.”
“And just what do you get out of this?” Jon asked, a bit tired and irritated at the seeming arrogance. A hush fell over the Council.
“A fair question. Your question doubts our motives. What is it you doubt, in truth, Jonachim?”
Noting the sharpness of the response, Jon quickly rephrased his question.
“Honorable Council members, why have you chosen my planet? What is it you gain from this experience, and my help? For what purpose have you touched certain peoples I have known?”
“It is our responsibility.”
“But why THIS planet? Are there not millions of other planets filled with life, needing guidance, providing opportunities you seem to seek?”
“It must be your planet.”
“But why?”
“So it has been decreed.”
“Decreed? By whom?”
“In your words, Jonachim? It has been decreed by God… the One Creator of all that ever was, is, and will be.”


Found ‘neath the sand
of an ancient cave,
A prayer engraved in stone:
“Tis wise to know
your enemy’s heart;
much wiser to know your own.”

The boy tugged on Ky’s sleeve, as he gradually became aware of his surroundings. Apparently, the coordinates had been right. Snowy peaks guarded this Basque village completely, and neither French nor Spanish influences were particularly discernible. Again, Ky felt the impatient tug, and he looked down into the dark blue eyes that beckoned him. Although he didn’t understand the language, the intent seemed to blaze in his mind, and he allowed the boy to take him to a large building, half-cut from the mountain. At the door, the boy indicated that Ky should go in – refusing to go in himself. Hesitating, Ky entered the door.
He had noticed, outside, that part of the river running through the village had been re-directed into copper aqueducts that ran in an accordion fashion beneath a huge glass lens. Now, as he entered this particular building, he realized that this construction provided for a wonderful sauna effect. Curious, he touched the water in the sunken bath, and found it steaming hot.
“Thar-gon! Why have you returned?”
“Returned? Thar-gon? You must be mistaken.”
“Ah, then, you do not remember?”
“I do not know you. Should I?”
“It was a very, very long time ago. It was better to forget, I’m sure. But wait. I’m being a most ungracious host. Come into the sitting room with me, and we’ll talk.”
They walked farther back into the mountain, and entered a small room. Diffused light filtered in, and hand-woven carpets covered the walls, floor, and ceiling in exotic designs. The wall-rugs depicted a large volcanic island – seemingly larger than Australia – lush and fertile, with beautiful cathedrals and strange aircraft. Scattered about were what looked to be mythological creatures. Off to the right was a pyramid – seemingly plated in gold. The floor had a portrait of deep-sea habitations and many unusual plant and animal life-forms. The ceiling displayed constellations, this solar system, and others. The whole room seemed to be a conglomeration of ancient legends and cultures. In the center of the floor, a low table with cushions around it lay holding silver cups, emblazoned with ruby-dragons. The men sat opposite each other, and the Basquan began to talk.
“I am Laz-dar, as you don’t remember. Presently, I am one of the Elders here. I have come a long way, since we first met.”
“Tell me when that was.”
“Well, reckoning with your time system… about 25,000 years ago.”
“Twenty-five thousand? You must travel through time, then.”
“No. Not like you’re thinking. I do not ever die; I merely change the body around me. Within this village, especially within the Elders, remains the knowledge of opening up the memory, so that each of us can see and understand our progress and regress from the Creator in each lifetime. When it all becomes as it was, we will be One with Him again.
“When we first met, so long ago, we were friends – Sons of Light – but, because you were rich, you surrounded yourself with materials things, despising the weakness of people. You were bound more and more by that wealth. Soon, also, you gave us up to appease your addiction to riches and power. At the point where you were asked to join allegiance with the Sons of Darkness, I cam to you, begged you, to remember, to see what you were doing to yourself. You cast me out into the streets, and I saw you no more.”
“What happened then?”
“I do not know.”
“And I do not remember. I would like to know.”
“I do not think you should. Coping with all the successes and failures, loves and betrayals, since your first creation until now, would be a very traumatic experience. Once this is practiced each lifetime, it is not so dangerous and overwhelming. Without a guide, it would be impossible, in any case. Some unfortunate ones who had stumbled onto this method, tried it… and either went completely insane, or died.”
“Still, it is important to me, though I’m not sure why.”
“Well, perhaps later. Let us toast to now, and whatever destiny has brought us together for. Now, tell me what barbaric machine brought you here, anyway. Your thoughts aren’t strong enough to transport you here, I can see that. And it’s quite impossible to come through the mountains… to find this village by physical means. I saw no aircraft. Has your technology finally reached that level we knew so long ago?”
“My ‘machine’, as you call it, has no equal that I know of.”
“Knowing you, I would expect not.”
“It allows my mind and de-materialized body to travel through time and space. Obviously, it works. I’m assuming, of course, that I did not travel through time. This is 2010, isn’t it?”
“Who knows? We have little concern with labels and time. It restricts our freedom.”
“It concerns me. I need to build another one, in order to bring my friends over here. We have to destroy the Fanatic who now rules the world. He had said he would return, this time to rule the entire planet. And he has!”
“Then you do remember!”
“Feelings. Just feelings. I don’t know why I said what I just did. I need to find out more, Laz-dar, for both our sakes. But mainly for mine, so that I might amend and reconcile the differences between us.”
“Thar-gon, I think there is someone here who can help you better than I. Come, I will show you to the Old Man. He will know.”

“Welcome, friend Ky.”
There was a warmth to the foreign words that held his name, and strangely Ky did not think twice about the Old Man knowing who he was. It had suddenly occurred to him, that he had been conversing the last half hour in a language he didn’t even know. Somehow, through some untapped part of his mind, Ky had either picked it up intuitively, or had remembered from what Laz-dar had said was his life from 25,000 years ago. It had come back without effort – so much so that he hadn’t even realized it.
“Sit, Laz-dar, you also should listen.”
The two young men sat upon woolen cushions facing the Old Man. Indeed, he seemed as old as the mountains outside, and as craggy and still. Ky felt as if he had known the Old Man before, and so he asked, “Where have we met before?”
“This is at least the third time. When you were Thar-gon, I was your Chief Counselor. Then, as Aradjek, I was a wizard, and you were my apprentice. I was the Teacher for your Master Li, though you did not know me. And now, you have come to me, as Ky. You have changed much, and for the wiser. But I fear your mission here will not be entirely successful. There are yet dark clouds in your mind. These will touch your life in the near future. All has not been balanced in your life spirit. To live, you will need to understand this. To succeed, you will have to sacrifice that which is most precious to you.”
“Excuse me, Wise One, but what does this have to do with me?”
“Laz-dar, you are essential for Thar-gon to understand his darkness. As you did before – and gave up. And once, destroyed him. His is still eclipsed by his own pride and ego, as are you. You will be his guide. You, too, need this lesson.”
“What is it that I must do?” Ky asked apprehensively.
“First, go to the mountains, and release all your thoughts and emotions. Let nothing remain. Forget all you know. You must unshackle yourself from all you believe is reality. It is not.”
“But what of my friends, and the T-system, and the Fanatic.”
“Their destiny is already written. What needs to be done, will be done. You will see. All will be as the Creator wants. Not us.”
“But I must bring them here. There is little time.”
“Time is merely a construct of your mind. Think, Thar-gon, think what you must do – what you must learn, before you can successfully help them. The Fanatic is much more powerful than you. Than your friends. But you and two others do hold the resources to defeat him, if the three of you manage to mature to your fullest potential. This Fanatic, he is but a pawn of Lucifer, the fallen Angel of Morning Light… the third most powerful force ever to be. You cannot hope to defeat him, or destroy him, alone. Only can you hope to become more wise, more understanding of Truth, until He – who was created before Lucifer, comes to challenge him for the entire people of this world. Then, dear Thar-gon, then you will be needed.”


Defining war in terms of peace,
Killing till the killers cease…
What kind of man is this today
That drops a bomb, then kneels to pray?

2012 A.D.

The Fanatic had bought world peace, now. His Enforcers ruled Europe, Asia, and North America. Africa and South/ Central America had been neutron-bombed, and were gradually being re-designed to accommodate his minions. Japan, Hawaii, and Malaysia were underwater, having been victims of cataclysmic quakes and tsunamis. Two months ago, Vesuvius devoured southern Italy, and the northeastern seaboard of America had dropped one hundred feet, creating a new shoreline some seventy-five miles inland from Maine to Maryland. Subsequent techtonic shifts had done similar destruction to the western coast of Europe and the southern states of America. Florida was an island. After the great Madrid quake in 2011, the Great Lakes had drained into the Mississippi, redesigning all the bordering states. The western states also had a new inner shoreline, with islands where the Cascades and Sierra Nevada Mountains remained. The Pacific Ocean had reached in to create the Mohave Sea, lapping at the edges of the Rocky Mountains, and leaving islands along the Mogollon Rim and Hopi Mesas. The weather was completely unpredictable, fluctuating in intensity and frequency without warning in quite unexpected places. There had been a shift in poles, and electromagnetic machines were unreliable, if they worked. Migrating animals, slow to re-adjust to the shift, were tragically marooned or killed in the devastating storms. To the people who chose to remain informed, it appeared that the Fanatic had the power of the universe in his hands, and used the weather to systematically eliminate his enemies, and subdue the populace, at large. Everyone was relieved with the achievement of world peace… at least those that weren’t trying to survive the lethal climatic and techtonic changes. No one appeared concerned where the Fanatic was getting his power. Most just wanted peace, so that they could get on with their lives. No one wanted to look too close. With everything feeling quite transient, no one was brave enough to risk their sanity or their life. It had been amazingly simple, the way the Fanatic’s people had infiltrated the key countries. Working their quiet way – using money and power – into the political, economical, and military positions. Now, the world was disease-free, at peace, without poverty. What more could one ask for?

The Resistance had covered all the remaining continents, but the opportunity to get close to the Fanatic’s headquarters still seemed remote. With land changes making the East Coast an uncertain and untenable place, the Fanatic had moved his headquarters to Paris, France. It was more of a problem for the Resistance to move. It had been almost six months before any word arrived from Ky. And even with that, the message had been very evasive. He had, however, sent information of an established base, and the coded coordinates within the Pyrenees.
There was no time left to lose. Jon would go over first. And then, Sarah. Riki’s instructions were to wait for their okay, before sending all the rest of the personnel and materiel over, except in an emergency.
They materialized on a deep valley floor, high in the Pyrenees. The air was clear and crisp. Early autumn had set in, and the oaks, elms, chestnuts, and maples had begun transforming into their sunset colors. The ground was covered in golden aspen leaves, crackling underfoot. It was a quiet day – no breeze stirred among the trees. They had timed the jump, so they would arrive mid-morning. And hopefully would materialize near the base Ky had constructed. They found nothing.
“There has to be something here, Sarah.”
“There is… we just haven’t found it. These were the coordinates Ky sent.”
“We assume that.”
“Well, true, we don’t know for sure if the message were sent from Ky, but who else could’ve sent a message from here… Who else knows?”
“It could be an ambush. The Fanatic might have gotten to Ky.”
“No. Not Ky. His mind…”
“Would pique at the evil conceit of the Fanatic… would know if his own mind were being monitored by him… would not have brought us here… I agree.”
“Anyway, I can sense that something is here, Jon.”
“Yes, me, too. Let’s split up, and see what we can find. Keep in touch, Sarah.”
Sarah nodded, and set off to the western edge of what seemed to be a box canyon. Jon decided to scout south, into a thick stand of cedar trees. Sarah had never seen such beautiful forests. Or such magnificent mountains, reaching through the clouds and gluing bits of sun-crystals to their peaks. She had never seen the colors of autumn, nor smelled pine and deciduous forests, or even breathed such clean air. It was exhilarating and sense-fulfilling. There was a peacefulness that completely absorbed her.
Suddenly, a crackling of leaves beneath her feet changed to a hollow thud as she stepped forward. She stepped again. Another hollow thud. Quickly she scraped the leaves away from the area with her feet. A thick wooden board, about 4 x 8, lay flat on the ground, and – imbedded at an edge – was a large brass ring. Sarah reached over, and pulled up on it. Nothing. Not even a budge. Sarah looked around for some heavy branch she could use as a lever. Jon was too far away to help, right now. So she worked alone. She pried upwards with the branch, but it broke without any movement of the wood. Drawing her laser knife, Sarah tried to burn through the wood. Amazed, she stepped closer, as it still lay untouched and unscarred. Then, she knelt down to inspect the board up close. Etched in the wood – or whatever substance it was – were the words:

If you hold
no hate or fear,
Say who you are
and enter here.

Trembling, but sure of herself, she called out: “Sarah Dupree stands here.”
This time, when Sarah pulled on the brass ring, the board lifted as if it were balsam wood. Revealed below were stairs carved from granite leading down to a torch-lit room. She unhooked her walkie-talkie, and pushed the homing beacon on. Then she laid it on the grass beside the door, and headed down the stairs.
Halfway down, she lifted one of the torches from its bracket, and continued on until she reached the bottom. She noticed that the torchlight was somehow non-consuming – not a real fire, but something else. Then she realized that the wooden door was closing, but there was nothing she could do about that, and walked on.
This was the Base. She knew it. As well as if Ky were right here, in front of her. Out of some gigantic heart of granite, rooms and corridors and stairs had been laser-carved. Ledges ran two feet above the floor in every room, providing seating and such. The temperature was a comfortable 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
But where was Ky? Sarah relaxed on a ledge, trying to open her mind, and ease a telepathic link to him. Slowly, a vision came to her, and she could see him, pointing to the wall opposite her. She had seen the etching there, but it had meant nothing to her. Now, Ky motioned her to lay her right palm flat on the wall, just below the etchings. And she realized that a slight imprint of a palm was already there. The next moment, she was in another room, completely unlike any she had thus far found. This one was entirely carpeted, and warmer.
It was a small room, maybe 8 x 10 feet, and one of the walls was covered with what looked like a movie screen. Opposite it sat a remodeled easychair (like Ky’s old one, mused Sarah). There were console controls set into each arm. The other three walls were covered with books. A desk was crammed back in a corner.
Sarah sat down in the chair, attempting to assimilate all that had occurred in the last two minutes. With a start, she realized that a vision of Ky was forming on the screen. It seemed like a hologram. It seemed as if he were really standing there! And when he spoke, she felt absolutely confirmed that, indeed, somehow, he were right there.
“Don’t be frightened, Sarah. It’s just me in a form I can telecom to you. I can’t tell you where I really am, or what I’m doing. And I can’t come back to you for quite a while, if at all.”
“But, Ky, what is this room?”
“My masterpiece – a present to you. And Jon. You can telepathically connect to anyone – past, present, future; fact, fiction, or fantasy. You know, for advice, or help, or just companionship and conversation.”
“And what about you?”
“That’s what I like about you, Sarah. Always more concerned about others. Not overwhelmed by changes and new things. I’m all right. I just have other ways I have to travel. I can’t explain it, Sarah. But I know, somehow, you will understand. Deep down. I wish I were there, but, no matter… there is much to be done to stop this Fanatic. Before we’re all destroyed. Go get Jon, and bring all the others over. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Good-by, Sarah.”
And, in that instant, he was gone.
As she walked back through the wall that let her in, she met Jon, sitting there, as if waiting, with two Basquans.
“I knew you were close, Sarah, so I waited. These are two guides sent from the village where Ky had been residing. Their names are Maarl and Llwrynser, and they will escort us to the village’s Elder.”
“Jon, I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve got so much to tell you.”
“We can talk on the way. This has been a very interesting day, for sure.”

Having learned and accomplished much in his last six months – including creating a new Base nearby, Ky was now ready for what the Old Man had said would either bring honor to his soul, or eternal death… of sorts. Laz-dar had asked for a twelve-hour lead-time up the mountain, to do what he had been instructed to do beforehand, reassuring Ky that he would blaze a simple trail for him. It was late afternoon when Ky arrived at the point where Laz-dar’s markings ended. There was no sign of him outside the cave’s entrance, so Ky went in.
Laz-dar had lasered out an old cavern in such a way that there was continual warmth within a specific 20’ square area, about ten feet from the opening. Beyond the transparent walls of heat, the chill clung to the rocks, eager to engulf warm-blooded souls who lingered a bit too long. In the back, the cavern tunneled far into the mountain’s heart.
A note had been left by Laz-dar, explaining that they would meet again soon enough. He had told Ky that the warmth of his mind and soul would keep the heat-shield intact. He encouraged Ky to begin his meditations, and wished him well.
The Old Man had told Ky that he must fast, so that nothing physical would distract him from his inner quest for self-knowledge and peace. The snow itself would provide water, and warmth had already been established. He was alone, disconnected from the world’s chaos… trying to find peace within his own. He sat upon the floor – surprised again at its warmth – and gradually slipped to the very depths of his mind. He felt himself traveling, subconsciously, deeper than he’d ever gone before. It was then that he realized he had never gone any farther, because he had accepted this as good enough. Had he not been farther than anyone he knew? Even beyond his Master? Was he not powerful enough? Of course, pride had numbed his soul, and there had seemed no reason to go farther. But now, apparently, there was.
It had been a long, long time since he had felt the kind of fear that was nibbling at the edges of his mind now. A really long time. But there was no turning back. His mind, eclipsed in a darkness of unknowing and hesitation, seemed like the cavern itself tunneling far, far, back into his soul. The illusion of his mind, as the cavern absorbed him, became his reality, until he could no longer distinguish between the two. There was no need to. As he walked cautiously back into its depths, there was a sense of some other presence within. Some thing or some one that he would have to deal with before he could return.


Revenge wraps the self in blackness,
Fills the heart with malice,
Corrodes the very fiber of the soul…
Fires the mind’s destruction
Lost in hate’s construction…
So, who will save the remnants of the Whole?

On a crisp October morning, with the bright sunlight pausing before it reached over the concrete wall, throngs of people cheered and shouted for the commandos to fire.
“It’s too bad that we had to meet again like this, Peter. I had hoped, perhaps, that we would have some time to talk some more.”
“I know. But I’ve come a long way. I’ve seen much to open my eyes and mind. I’m willing to die for that.” “Perhaps it will not have to be. The Captain has returned. Can you feel the energy shift?”
“I feel peace. I feel all at peace, Sy. And that’s all I need to feel…”
“Ready ARMS!”
Tongues of laser fire attacked the figures in disintegrating fervor. Nothing remained. No one knew they had missed. No one had seen them vanish. No one had seen the bright light of the Antarean ship fade into the sun with the prisoners. But, of course, they weren’t meant to.

Deep within the cold, slimy fist of one of Washington, D.C.’s relic CD shelters, Matt sat – broken by drugs and psychopuncture, chained to its mossy walls. His cell was a forgotten storeroom at the corridor’s furthest depth, a level below all the others. He saw no one. He heard no one. The mildew and fungus clung to the walls like drool from death’s own mouth. Darkness… in its damp and chilly cloak… enwrapped his thoughts like the manacles on his wrists…
‘Surrender’, the walls whispered… ‘Surrender, and be at one with the rat here…friends now… for he is as captive in your presence as you are within your hunger… do not eat him, teach him… to find sustenance of any sort… rustling…searching…demanding your food to appear… at the last, you are fine company…
‘Time is gone…sun and moon mere memories of some lost art… Listen, rat, hear the eternity of the man’s thoughts envelop him as he seeks it to preserve his sanity… teach him, rat… teach him to survive… before… what was before… is lost… beyond hope of being found by blinded eyes… and he is frustrated… tired of yanking at impregnated chains… trapped and useless within their grasp…
‘There is nothing left… already they have taken from him all but what you and he share, rat… you are brothers, now… see… see the similarities they have manifested in him… soon they will have him looking the same as you… perhaps you can teach him how to handle the growing pain… as they slowly destroy all you envisioned him as, once… no longer quite man… not yet quite rat… he needs only to survive… help him.’

Dust, quiet dust, paced Matt on his southern journey, clinging to his ankles and toes, unrevealed in the evening’s shadows. Above, the moon was reaching out in a ruddy shining, a bloodstained aura upon the desolate land. The Fanatic had won.
Matt had survived long enough to learn the rat’s secret of escaping the cell. When next the guard had come to escort him up to the laboratory, he had ripped his throat out, and left his remains for the rat and his friends. This was the not-to-obvious danger of encouraging rat-like behavior in a human.
No one seemed to notice Matt, anymore. Even the rats had gone, released from their charge, and loneliness gnawed at his mind and heart. There were distant homesteads out there – small ones – for he had seen them, with their frightened occupants. But beyond that, there seemed to be no one, nothing else but deserted concrete beaches for miles. He couldn’t believe this was really Virginia. The people hid in the night, in the darkness that was Matt’s reality and escape. They had become islands unto themselves. And just as well. No one talked anymore. It wasn’t safe. No one looked or interacted. It was that way everywhere, it seemed. Matt listened to the drunks and addicts who babbled through the crumbled, crumpled boulevards at the edge of the ocean. They spoke of nevermores, and drank and slammed until the nevermores blended into the darkness. They never saw him, of course. Not when he listened, nor later, when he was hungry. After all, food was food.

Surely you might think him mad, for he acted less man than rat. Then, maybe, that you are mad, when you chance to see his appearance in the twilight. But ‘tis neither you nor him. It was the Fanatic; or rather, the one who enjoyed being his scientist more malevolently than zealously – using chemutators and psychoprobes. He used them until Matt came to accept the ratness, and reject what humanness remained. He used them until Matt began giving up what information he had… until the ratness re-designed his brain and he could offer no more. That was a mistake on the scientist’s part, but one he did not dare share with the Fanatic. The scientist believed he had succeeded, even though Matt had escaped. He knew Matt was not human anymore, and so, he believed, not a threat. In his own way, the scientist had succeeded: Matt had become more rat than man. What the scientist had not realized was that Matt, with the survival instincts of a rat, refused to cease his search for the scientist, until he could make the scientist experience, personally, that which he had created.

In the pre-dawn hours, lying in the dusty red clay shoreline, Matt found the remains of a week-old print-out of a news bulletin.

Dateline: 27 January 2012
Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Interim world government established
today in Paris, France. Representa-
tives of each country wishing to es-
tablish communications and trade are
to arrive no later than three months
from date above. There is some need
for re-drawn geographical maps. Any
pilot with photographic experience;
preferred. Apply Capitol City Muni-
cipal Bldg., Norfolk. Today’s weath-
er: temperatures about average- high:
113, low: 92. Chance of rain: 0-again.
The frigate, Arey, is looking for more
crew members. Small pay given when
docked. Destination: Bordeaux.

The Arey! Now, that could take Matt to where he needed to go. His mission was not finished yet! He needed to find that scientist. Yet, the vision remained distant and vague. He could not remember any details, only that he worked for the Fanatic – and those piercing malicious blue eyes. He must sail on the Arey. He knew it. He must play the sailor game, until she docked in France. Then, then, he would get revenge!
Although the makeshift pier seemed beaten and crippled from the cataclysmic storms, its inner strength kept it reaching out to the wayfaring ships that would come. It glistened, now, with the surf that constantly challenged its right to exist. Nestled close to the pier lay the Arey, strangely radiant in soft red and green lights. It had barely become visible in the last mile, so concealed it was in the foggy morning. Dressed in dark blue denims and watch cap, Matt grabbed hold of the Jacob’s ladder and boarded her, duffel bag over his shoulder.
“Who goes?”
“I, a seaman, ready and willing to work, if you’ve still got room.”
“Come, ahead, then. There’s few enough that want to work. What’s your name?”
“Evan Skriver. But I’m known to most as ‘the Rat’.”
“And why is
that?” “Because I’m as quick and as clever as any man you’ve seen.”
“All right. You sign aboard, here… but – any trouble – and you’ll be feeding the leviathan. Got it?”
“No problem.”
“You’ll find an empty rack below decks, here at mid-ship. The first-mate is aft by the helm. Check with him first, and then catch a nap. You’ll be called for your watch soon enough. Keep us clear of the leviathans that stalk the ocean now. We’ll be sailing at sunrise."
Matt was glad that dim lights were all the Arey was using. If he kept low, and worked all the graveyard shifts, there would probably be no trouble at all. He hoped. He volunteered to take those shifts when he met with the first-mate, and he seemed considerably relieved to hear that news. Apparently, no one relished the idea of seeing a leviathan in the dark. Still, Matt slept well, with thoughts of Paris and revenge in his dreams.

Four months later, the Arey docked, none the worse for wear, after a near-contact with a hungry leviathan. Matt’s keen rat-vision had saved them, by seeing it early enough to outmaneuver and outrun it. He was amazed at the size, clearly a Jurassic fossil come to life. It dwarfed the ship, as if it were but a canoe, and chased them for several furlongs. But the Arey held the advantage, and arrived safely in Bordeaux. Matt couldn’t believe it. He had actually made it! And Paris would not be far away.
Shadows wrapped themselves snugly about the Arc d’Triomphe – one of the few landmarks in one of the few cities left intact after the Fanatic’s rise to power. But, of course, Paris was the Fanatic’s headquarters. Soon, Matt could see that massive palace, looming arrogantly out of the darkness, aglow with a million Solar-lites, to highlight the golden exterior, and the Fanatic’s immense wealth and power. Matt had hid the last three nights in the ruins of Café Louis, on the Rue de la Nuit. It was a tiny sidestreet, leading to the back of the palace. He had finally discovered the pattern the guards were using, and knew it was time to act. Matt could feel his thoughts rushing eagerly in for the taste of victory – in more ways than one – and could barely keep any rational control at all.
There! Now! Time to move! He slipped quickly into a darkened corner of the palace, and began pulling himself up through the tough ivy vines. It would’ve been impossible for a man… but he was more than that. The scientist was working late in the laboratory, again, leaving his window open to the cool, night air. And Matt. He watched him in his despicable wretchedness working on another victim, searching for a scientific break-through – maybe. The scientist was engrossed in applying the tiny psycho-probes into the seven lifepoints, and had already begun the intravenous injection of the special catalyst used by the chemutator. The chemutator, itself, sat humming nonchalantly nearby, its wires and tubing tying the victim to it like a spider’s web. Eagerly it awaited the throw of the switch, and the surges of electricity that would rip through the probes simultaneously with the flow of the catalyst. The chemutation would transform the victim into whatever life-form the scientist had chosen… somewhat. It had yet to manifest a perfect transmutation. But, for the scientist, the experimentation was fun, in a very cruel and sadistic manner of thinking. In time, he would be able to give the Fanatic a pure specimen. In time.
Fortunately, tonight, the poor soul he was using looked already broken and deeply apathetic – almost catatonic. He seemed numb to the pain. Still, when the switch was thrown… No! He would move before that! Timing – perfect timing. He would bide his time, and then act without hesitation… Now!
The scientist turned, fear and hate tightening his body. Then those evil eyes became like blue ice, as he reached for his laser.
“No. Not this time. I have returned for my revenge.”
Matt lunged for his throat, grasping it with one claw, as he ripped the laser from his hand with his other. His jaws closed on Bastione’s throat, and the blood tasted sweet. But, no, this was not what he wanted. Carefully, Matt squeezed his throat until he dropped, alive but unconscious.
Swiftly, he removed the probes and tubing from the young woman. Already the chemicals had infiltrated her whole system and, unfortunately, she would die… most likely. But it was better than what would have happened. Matt knew that. He set her gently down in the corner, and turned his attention to Bastione.
“Ah, Bastione. When you awake, you’ll wish you were dead. I assure you.”
He wasted no time, nor gentleness, gagging and strapping him to the table. Then, he woke him up.
“Now it is your turn. I will ungag you soon enough so you can scream – for they will only assume it is one of your victims. You shall pay a heavy price for your deeds. Here, here are your probes.”
Before Matt had been captured, his deftness and dexterity had been unmatched. But now they were cluttered by the rat-like quality of his hands. Unintentionally, Matt’s insertions were extremely painful, but he felt no remorse. He had no idea, either, of what the chemutator had been programmed to produce. He didn’t really care, and, of course, neither did the machine. Matt attached the intravenous needle, as Bastione tried frantically to free himself from the table. The catalyst began to flow, and Matt rigged it so that it could not be shut off. He deliberately kept his hand on the voltage switch, as he spoke to the scientist.
“Now it is your turn to suffer for all the evil you have done. It will go very slowly and painfully, Bastione. The door is barricaded now, and when I throw the switch, I’m going to watch you change into whatever bastard life-form you had chosen. So, why don’t you beg for your life, Bastione? Or have you no idea of what this pain is like? I might release you, now, if you tell me where the Fanatic is.”
The scientist remained silent, although his eyes reflected both fear and hatred.
Matt threw the switch.
Because the scientist had not been prepared for such pain, and because he also knew what the ultimate consequences would be, Matt knew inside of two minutes, where the Fanatic was. But he didn’t set Bastione free. He had to have revenge. He had to. He adjusted the switch to automatic, and then broke it, so it couldn’t be turned off. He took the gag off, and let the scientist scream, as he slipped back out the window.
Matt climbed down to the first floor. The Fanatic was in the first room at the end of the corridor – a brightly-lit corridor. But Matt did not care anymore. There was no cautious thinking. There was no cautious move. The Fanatic owed him. Not only for himself, but also for his parents. He burst through the door, a pocket plastic explosive in his hand. Twelve guards pulled their lasers on him. And behind them, the Fanatic stood, grinning. A new and crudely built T-system was to the right of Matt, functioning as if they were about to use it. In one motion, Matt grabbed a disk, pushed it in, and tossed the explosive. He could only hope that he would be teleported before everything exploded into a million pieces. Even though he might never be able to return, he didn’t figure it mattered much. He didn’t want to return as a rat-man anyway. What else was there?

The dusty sunlight laid heavy upon the afternoon, and the centurion could feel the sweat nagging his whole body for relief. But there was to be none. Not for a while. He had garrison duty for another hour. Fortunately, a small breeze was creeping in off the sea known as Capernaum, in these parts, winding itself in curiosity through the sand-rock buildings and narrow alleys, until it finally brushed across his face.
The centurion was back in his quarters when the essence-that-was-Matt entered his subconscious. Because of Matt’s own disturbed psyche, Talmus fell into a deep paranoid depression. His friend brought him to the legion’s medic, but nothing seemed to work. No herbs or potions seemed to affect Talmus at all. No requests to Hermes, their god of Healing, helped. He was ordered confined to the brig, his commanders fearing that somehow he had found disfavor with the gods, and that Pluto now possessed his soul. Talmus’ friend, Clavius, did not want to believe there was no hope. He searched all Capernaum, finding neither physician nor friendly advice. After all, he was a soldier, a Roman soldier, on Palestinian soil by force. He could understand their hostility and mistrust, but he wished it were not so. As evening came upon the land and curfew drew close, Clavius decided to try one more door. Cautiously, a young woman peeked through the door-window at him.
“Can I help you, sir?”
He knew the question was in Hebrew, and cursed himself yet again for not taking the time to learn the language of an occupied country. For what seemed the twentieth time, he took out the parchment upon which he had drawn his sick friend, and the need for a physician. He handed it in through the window and waited. When she returned a few minutes later, she opened the door and offered him a seat at their table. Her brother stood mistrustingly close behind him. She drew on the parchment, indicating that as today was the Sabbath, no one would help him anyway. She indicated a physician a few houses away, but Clavius shook his head, already having been turned down by him. He searched her eyes for any sign of hope, but found none. Then her brother motioned for him to leave. Just as he had reached the door, he heard her say something to her brother. His retort was short and angered, but he held onto Clavius’ shoulder, so that he had to wait. The woman was drawing upon another piece of parchment in an excited manner. She finished and hurried over to him. The sketch showed the hills to the west, and the road that ran from Capernaum to them. To the right of the road, near the hills, she had drawn a small house. She tried to explain to Clavius that a healer – not a physician – was staying there, but such distinctions were impossible when neither one spoke the other’s language, nor understood the other’s culture. But, he had hope, now. Whatever, whoever it was. Clavius left, then, and walked the darkened streets to the west side of the city. He was not sure himself what he hoped to find, nor even what he hoped to accomplish after finding this physician. It was already after curfew, and no Jew would want to be out, if he cared to live long.
A cool breeze off the sea wandered with him, and the stars shined brightly down on him – the full moon: the goddess Diana in a beautiful white gown. A dim light shone from what seemed to be the only window in a small shepherd’s hut. As he reached to knock, a young man – about his age – opened the door, and invited him in. He could feel a sense of alarm from the other young men seated at the table, but not in the one who had answered the door. Clavius unrolled the parchment, signing as best he could, and then asked, “Venite?”
Without hesitation, the one, who had first greeted him, nodded his head and made to leave. He spoke a few calming words to the others, and then the centurion and he were off to see his friend. Soon, they were at the back of the prison, quietly arriving at the cell where Talmus lay sleeping. Clavius unlocked the door, and they walked in. The young man did not seem to fear whatever might be here. Gently, he spoke with Talmus, reaching out to whatever spirit inhabited his mind. The calming effect broke through to Matt, and he could feel his Self being released. He felt peace and freedom. He felt himself in the Presence of Light he had never experienced before. He felt himself drifting to whatever destiny awaited him. His soul was no longer eclipsed by hate. In response, and subsequently, Talmus began to reach out from his own darkness. He saw his friend standing beside him, with a stranger – a Jew.
“Who is this, Clavius? And why am I here in the brig?”
“Something happened to you, Talmus. You had become possessed or something. You had become unmanageable and dangerous. There was no physician, Roman or Jew, who would or could help. I thought Pluto had taken you. I was afraid you were gone. Then, just tonight, I was directed to this Jew, a physician whom they say gets his power from the gods, from Jupiter himself. Now I see it is true.”
“I am glad I could help.”
“You speak our tongue?!”
“No. You hear it that way, so we may understand each other.”
“Then do you hear Hebrew as I speak?”
“It is as if you were speaking Hebrew.”
“I don’t understand, but I thank you anyway. Is there any way we can repay you?”
“Put down your swords, and follow me. Listen to my words. Act as I do. If not now, then tomorrow – whatever tomorrow you choose. I’ll be waiting.”
And then he left, and vanished into the night.


Far away and long beyond, across the Web, still lies the bond
once fired strong between the two -that chanced to break before 'twas due.
How deep the chasm and the loss, that none may build a bridge across!
But out from those hearts spun a twine, Light-forged in Spirit's own Design.
And so,from distance, time and space, the Wheel returned to that far place
where once death won, but wins no more: this Time the bond creates a Door.

Boston, May, 2012

Steven had orders to pack up the T-system in Boston, and get on over to the Pyrenees base before the Enforcers closed in. They had become extremely efficient in detecting any activity or personnel unrelated to them, by monitoring any electronic emissions. He would have left already, but a young girl was due back today, and he needed to wait. As soon as she returned, his orders were to transfer immediately, rigging a timed explosive to destroy the T-system afterwards. Suddenly, it began to light up, and he knew she was coming back.
Beth’s thoughts reassembled, as the mirages before her hardened. The glass cylinder encompassed her, guided her back to a place she barely remembered. The torch still blazed in her mind, and she could not keep from crying. Beth knew, no matter what, that the depth of sadness and pain would be with her forever.
“St. Michael? Why is it I still feel your presence? What words do you whisper in my mind? I’m no longer Joan. I’m no crusader, or martyr. And yet, and yet, I feel like I have changed. I feel your strength and your wisdom surround me as it did not so long ago. What is it you wish, St. Michael? What cause carries you with me to this dimension? The past is fading so quickly, yet I cannot shake your link.”
“Hey…Beth… c’mon. Come back. It’s all right. C’mon, you got t’shake it off. Sit over here for a while. Why are you cryin’? It’s not supposed to hurt you… are you ok?”
“I guess I’ll be all right. Just let me rest a minute and get my head together. So much on my mind… so much fading. Who are you, anyway? And where is Sy? I heard him call. I heard his voice.”
“I’m alone. Steve’s my name. I’ve been workin’ here close to two years or so. I’m afraid I got some bad news for you, though.”
He paused until she asked him to go on.
“Just after you left, there was an important mission to catch the Fanatic at his headquarters in Washington, D.C. They were betrayed. The Enforcers captured your brother, Pete, and Matt, and Sy. They killed RapCD and Sean, my brother. No one knows what happened to Matt or Benj, but Sy… he… he was executed as a spy… and … and so wasn’t Peter. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, my God! Not Peter! Why? How could they?”
“Not they, really. She. His girlfriend betrayed him… and the operation. Now the main base has moved to the Pyrenees, and the Fanatic has moved to Paris. I have to transfer us over there as soon as you’re ready to trip again.”
“Are the Pyrenees close to where the Fanatic is?”
“Yes, why?”
“He must be destroyed this time.”
“Well, of course. But what are you talkin’ about… this time?”
“St. Michael guides me now… as he did in this last place. I’ll know when the right time has come, and we’ll finish him – this time for good.”
“We? Are you all right? Maybe you need to lie down for a while. I think we got a few minutes, and you’re talkin’ weird.”
“You don’t understand. We must march on Paris again, and destroy him.”
“You and that ‘we’, again. You got a mouse in your pocket? Don’t you know you’re in the 21st century, now? Marchin’… get real. And you just can’t up and kill him, anyways.”
“I can and I will.”
“But that’s dumb. You’ll be killed before you even get close!”
“And that upsets you?”
“No. I mean, well, it’s just…”
“And this Fanatic – does he upset you also?”
Cornered by emotions he had never had to deal with, Steve retorted defensively, seeking to deny them, and Beth.
“He is what he is. I just do what I gotta do.”
“Without wondering why?”
“Why, what?”
“Why you’re fighting the Fanatic…”
“Who cares?”
“Then it doesn’t really matter to you, does it? Even though he killed your brother, and his friends… your friends.”
“I am what I am.”
“And that is…”
“No sucker for idealistic martyrs. Go ahead to Paris if you want, but I’ll be damned if you’ll go alone. You’d probably screw up all of Jon’s plans for some religious delusion or somethin’. So, you go with me, or you don’t go at all, from here.”
“Then you shall come with me. Perhaps it is meant to be, although your ego and pessimism are outrageous.”
“I’ll follow you over.”
“Follow? Are you afraid for us to go together?”
“You can’t send two people over at the same time!”
“So you say… When you are ready, we’ll know each other as well as if we had traveled that way.”
“Yeah, right. Just get in. I’ll be right behind you.”
“I’ll be waiting.”

Pyrenees: June, 2010

The base in the Pyrenees Mountains was completely staffed, with the arrival of Steve and Beth from Boston, and Drift from the Cave. Dram and Riki, having sent all personnel through, had gone out and stolen two F-16’s, from the military base in Louisville. Dram had been in the Air Force ROTC at the university before the Enforcers closed in, and had taught Riki how simplistic the flying had become with computerized autopilots. You fill in a flight plan, and the jet practically flies itself. He had, himself, forged excellent documents, and with his charisma for fast-talking, and his last vials of pure methamphetamine, he had managed to get permission for a short recreational fly. He didn’t tell them it would be a short recreational jaunt across the Atlantic, of course.
Now, at the Pyrenees base, his days were filled with training others to fly them, as well.
Jon had only seen Ky once since they found the base, and that had only been on the screen in their private room. Ky had warned Jon not to interfere with what would be happening, because he himself and two of Jon’s Resistance fighters would be controlling factors in the unfolding destiny of the planet. He couldn’t explain it. He didn’t understand it himself. He tried to explain how the power released from his own self-healing would be enough to interfere with the Fanatic’s own power, and thus enable those who might destroy him, to succeed.
Steve knocked on Jon’s door, and hearing a welcome, walked in.
“Just letting you know that I did set off the explosives to the Boston T-system when Beth and I ‘ported over.”
“Good, Steve. No problems?”
“No. Well, uh, maybe. I don’t know…”
“That definite, huh?”
“Well, it’s just that, none of us really know Beth that well, and I’m not sure that serum, or anti-dote, or whatever she was on, didn’t kinda, you know, mess her head up a little. Know what I mean?”
“You want me to talk to her?”
“Yeah. Well, you see, she talks of some mission to destroy the Fanatic, like she couldn’t do way back wherever she was in the T-system. I mean, real serious and all. Like with St. Michael. Like that.”
“Ok. I think I understand. Where is she now?”
“Well, we, uh, we were short of room, so she’s kinda sharin’ mine.”
“Sharing?” Jon looked bemusedly at Steve.
“Knock it off, Jon, ok? The girl’s weird.”
“All right. I’ll go talk to her right now.”

Jon considered all that this might mean – feeling within himself a sense of dreadful knowing. He remembered Ky’s admonition not to interfere with one of his own crew, who was seeking to kill the Fanatic. And yet, what if the girl were just burned out? What if it wasn’t her? How much could he risk?
Still, before he even got to the room, he knew. He knew he couldn’t stop her. He knew when he opened the door, that his future, their future, lay right in her hands. And he was at a loss for words. As he walked in, he found Beth sitting in the middle of the bunk, as if she were waiting for Jon. She looked straight up into his eyes.
“Do you know me, Beth?”
“You’re Jon, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, that’s right. The guy supposedly in command around here.”
“Yeah, well, you’re somewhat beyond my command, it seems. So isn’t the fate of most of the people here.”
“You know, then?”
“No, not really. It’s just a feeling I have, with information I’ve been given. I have a sense of what is going to happen, and you appear to hold all the cards.”
“I only know what I feel I must do. St. Michael came with me back from where I was, you know, with Joan of Arc, and all. I’ve got it to do. And there’s nothing either you or me or anyone else can do about it.”
“Joan of Arc, huh? Well, I suppose I understand. But could you please kind of keep me informed about what’s happening with you?”
“Ok. But, you know, when it’s time, I’ll just go. Don’t try to stop me.”
“I won’t. I don’t think I could if I wanted to. Well, thanks for talking with me, Beth. I’d better get back to work. See you later.”

Jon couldn’t wait to leave that room. He was having a hard enough time adjusting to his maturing precognition. But, with Beth, he could feel a different kind of force – strong and fearless, challenging death and the devil himself. Martyrs made him jumpy. And he already knew what was going to happen with Beth, just by meeting her.
Later that evening, as Steve was on break from his shift, Jon took him aside and said that he should just accept Beth as is, or ignore her. And yet, Steve felt like Jon was holding something back. Somewhere in the midst of their conversation, Jon had suddenly looked at him in the strangest way. Then he had shaken his head and left. Steve had shrugged this off, as he returned to work on the T-system’s preventative maintenance needs.
Steve had learned the T-system inside and out now. As he worked tonight, he recalled the holographic images that Sy had produced within the cylinder after he had returned from his trip. He remembered how distraught he was, and felt less annoyed at Beth. He had tried to reproduce the specific sequence Sy had used on the console buttons, to no avail so many, many times. He thought about how much he missed Sy, though he had only known him a couple of years. He paused, remembering their first meeting. Suddenly, within his thoughts, a voice broke through.
“Steven, push the 1,7, and 3 buttons simultaneously as you press the power storage release. And believe you can make what you want to appear. You must believe to the point of knowing, in order to achieve this.”
Steve knew the voice to be Sy’s. No one else called him, Steven. But where was that voice coming from? Where was Sy? He was so distracted by the thought of him being nearby that he almost forgot what he had just heard. He thought back to Sy’s words: ‘1,7,3 buttons … same time… power storage release’. He went around to the front of the machine, and stared at the buttons. What if it works? Then he cursed, realizing he had just doubted himself, using the word ‘if’. What would he do when images appeared? Who would they be? Past or future? Good or evil? Just what did he want to see? And why? He felt like he must’ve stood there for a good fifteen minutes, trying to answer himself honestly. Suddenly his fingers pushed down – his curiosity cloaking an unnamed fear.

The Welsh glade again came into view – he knew it would – deep inside he had known. A miniaturized village and countryside lay obscured by the night. A single flame was all he could see, and he assumed it must be the altar’s fire. A lone Druid seemed to be pacing just within the flame’s outer edge of light, and Steve watched him intently. It was Lucien.
“Wesley, I know you are near. I know you can hear me. We are together again. I have forgiven your poor judgment and past mistakes, for you were young. You are again being misled by your emotions. There is no logic in desiring death or in doing others’ bidding. You alone have control over your life. But you are letting others dictate your path. Do not fall, Wesley. Not this time. You are an important part of our world. But you cannot wait any longer. You have played long enough. You must make your move. And I am waiting. Choose, Wesley.”

A crack of lightning – an arc of electricity – lit the room. And all was gone.
Steve, too.

Steve looked unsteadily about in the darkness. All was cold and empty. The sun was rising slowly behind him. With a start, he realized that the landscape lightening around him was not Welsh, but Parisian. The shadowy edifices were not sylvan with stone altars, but concrete, steel and glass monuments. He found himself standing beneath the Arc d’Triomphe.
And, with a dawning of his own soul, Steve also realized that Lucien’s presence was here. He knew – and was frightened. He knew, then, that Lucien somehow was the Fanatic.
“Wesley… Steven..”
It was a different, softer voice, he recognized from so long ago.
He turned to see her holding her arms out to him. Overcome with joy, he ran to her. As soon as she held him, they both disappeared.

In the next moment, they reappeared in the T-system room. But, then, he realized he was holding Beth.
“I don’t understand.”
“I told you we were destined to be together. We have met many times before. I finally realized that your name in French is Etienne. I remember you from my journey with Joan of Arc. So, when I saw you leave, I was afraid for you. It wasn’t time yet. I set the T-system timer for five minutes, and went after you. I was glad you hadn’t wandered too far.”


Roll away the dark moon
From in front of the sun,
That Light replace Darkness
And Peace replace Hatred
And Lucifer’s Shadow be gone.

Two days later, the first news of the explosion in the Fanatic’s palace arrived, and excitement burst through the Resistance base. None were aware of Matt’s role in that. However, a few hours later, a text-mail appeared on Jon’s telecom-link. It had been a mortal wound, all right, and he should have died. But he hadn’t. Jon knew then that the act had not played itself out yet, and he would have to be patient. All of them would have to be patient – and it wouldn’t be easy. He broke the sobering news to his crew.
He also received an interesting voice-mail, not knowing anyone who would be trying to contact him. He was quite puzzled. When he retrieved it, and realized who it was, he hooked it to intercom, so everyone could hear.
‘Hey, this is Benj. I made it to Ma’s, and we’ve relocated deep in the Appalachians. Sean has come out of his coma through some real weird magic around here. Kind of spooky, but good. Hope to hear from you soon.’
Everyone listening cheered.
A week later, their spirits were again lifted by the curious event that had occurred when Riki had engaged the T-system that morning to do a preventative maintenance check. From out of nowhere, Matt had re-materialized – alive and well, and as normal looking as any person could be. Jon could hardly contain his joy.
“Matt!! God, am I glad to see you!!”
“Me, too, Jon!”
“Are you ok? I mean, I thought you were dead. I thought the Fanatic had destroyed you.”
“He had.”
“But… you’re here…. What aren’t you telling me, Matt?
“Let me say hi to all my friends. Then, we can go for a walk, ok?”
“Sure… anything. Damn, I’m glad to see you alive!”
After Matt went through hugs, and back slaps, and handshakes, and tears, he walked away with Jon. Briefly, he spoke of being captured, tortured, and the rat-experiment. He talked of his escape, and life on the Arey. And he told of his visit to Paris, and the Fanatic’s palace.
“That explains the explosion, then…”
“Is he dead, then?”
“No. Oh, it was a mortal wound. But it just wasn’t time for him to die, I guess. Too much Dark power interfering here. Scary, that is.”
“You’re right. It is scary.”
Then Matt explained his trip through the Fanatic’s T-system, to Capernaum.
“I don’t know how I got back, Jon… how I’m here… what happened…”
“Isn’t it enough just to be here? Accept the fact that there was a good reason. Someone upstairs was taking care of you, obviously.”
“Well, yeah, that… for sure. I just don’t know… it’s something inside me… I’ve changed with all this.”
“You seem pretty well exhausted. Would you like to get some sleep?”
“No. No, Jon. My mind’s too hyped up with thoughts and feelings, spinning inside me, drawing me somewhere else. I need some time… away… by myself.”
“Well, when you’re feeling better, perhaps you can give me an idea of how to get through the Fanatic’s defenses, since you have. Maybe we can end all this.”
“I’m not interested in him anymore, Jon.”
“He’s not my problem… not my issue.”
“I don’t understand.”
“No more revenge for me. No more hate. I’ve got to find me. I’ve got to go away for a while.”
“Matt, I can’t let you go outside wandering all by yourself.”
“Quit trying to protect me, Jon. I mean, thanks for always being there, but I’ve got to grow up. I’ve got to find my Self. I’ve got to leave, and you can’t stop me.”
Jon stared at him. “You’re right, I can’t. Go, then, and be careful. Stay safe. I hope you find what you’re looking for, brother of mine.”
“I will. Thanks, Jon.”
As Matt left the Pyrenees base, two Basquans met him.
“We will be your guides, if you wish.”
“Do I know you? You seem familiar.”
“Because of you, we no longer wear swords; we no longer engage in war; we have a debt to repay. Come with us, Matthew, and you will remember.”

Hunger was no longer a problem for third-world countries, or anyone, for that matter. The Fanatic had seen to it that the world was well-fed and at peace. But there was a sense of a different kind of impending coup. People were not staying content with this higher standard of living, and the peacefulness of world politics, especially in countries that had never experienced such a wealth of good living. They were hungry for action now. Even the survivalists of the original first-world countries were restless. People like that had always thrived on the aggression-oppression cycle, and the pendulum was swinging their way. In Asia, where so many wanted more of what the industrialized countries had, they began walking west. To new frontiers. To where the grass was greener... or so they thought. It started as a small stream, and curiously, the Fanatic didn’t seem to be paying attention.
The Fanatic didn’t seem to mind what Jon could see was a dangerous precedent. He could feel it. It scratched dissonantly against the very fibers of his soul. Why wasn’t the Fanatic doing anything? And that kind of thinking forebode even worse thoughts, and Jon was worried. Somehow, the Fanatic had managed to set the stage for some morbid play, and had cued the players, subconsciously. Now he was sitting back watch the tragedy unfold. And there was nothing Jon could do.
The Asian immigrants, mostly from China and India, were beginning to pour into Iran, Iraq and Syria now, spreading westward like a plague of locusts. And as each country asked the Fanatic for help, their pleas went unheard and unanswered. The trickle of humanity was beginning to swell into a raging river.
The Mid-Eastern countries began looking for help from other countries… ones that understood how to handle immigrants on a large scale. Both the US and Russia delivered troops to various countries. And, at first, it worked. But, still, they could not hold back the mass of people, without using lethal force. Even then, when the killing started, the immigrants just kept on walking – right over the ones who had been killed.
When the Fanatic had brought about world peace, all weaponry – particularly nuclear devices – had been confiscated by his Enforcers. The Mid-Eastern countries and their allies had to depend on ground troops and cavalry to stem the tide of immigrants. Along with small guns, and other minor artillery, they attempted to stop a tsunami of people. It wasn’t working. They kept on coming – thousands and thousands of them, with no end in sight. There were billions of them, Jon knew. And they weren’t walking like lemmings, as much as they were marching like the deadly army ants of Brazil.
Suddenly, there was news that one of the Far-Eastern countries had acquired a nuclear weapon. The beginning of the end had come. It was only a matter of who had it. Which nation. There was much speculation, of course, but no one knew for sure. Then, just as suddenly, a whisper broke the news. China! And it was being aimed at either Moscow or Washington, D.C., depending on the rumor. Obviously, China did not expect any retribution, but rather conquest of the world for her own people. However, no sooner had the warhead been launched, when both major powers launched missiles of their own, quite mysteriously acquired. Between short-wave radio and telecom accounts, Jon felt the planet couldn’t survive. When the bombs began hitting, the poles suddenly shifted the prophesied 90 degrees. Everywhere – within everything – the shuddering of the planet was felt, continuing for the longest time. Jon held Sarah, and waited.
Strangely enough, it had been a limited strike. Only a few nuclear weapons exploded. Someone was manipulating the whole thing. And that someone was the Fanatic. Although each country had sent a limited number of weapons to insure their own survival, none apparently realized that the Fanatic had predetermined that limit. Because of the Dark Power behind his rule, he hadn’t destroyed the planet. He had merely brought the population down to a controllable number. Conveniently. He was no fool. No bomb even touched Western Europe. But it alone – of the entire world – went completely unscarred.

That evening, as Jon lay with Sarah in their bed, the intercom broke into their peace.
“Jon? This is Riki. Look, Beth just took off in one of the F-16’s, about a minute ago. She had all the proper clearance and authorization papers, but it just doesn’t seem right… what’s going on?”
“Riki, send Steve after her. I know what she’s up to, but I don’t think it’s time, yet. Not alone.”
“We’re on our way up.”

“Come in, NSF-9. Come in. You are ordered to return to base. NSF-9, reply. Beth, c’mon. Answer me. It’s Steve… Beth?…”
“There’s nothing to say, Steve. I know what I’ve got to do. It’s time. I couldn’t finish it before and we lost. We should’ve taken Paris when we had him cornered. I’ve got him now.”
“Beth, he’s more powerful than you. I’ll lose you again!” Steve heard himself say… and the emotions poured over him.
“But not more powerful than you… or us, together. You’ve got to come with me. Trust yourself.”
“I – I can’t say no. I feel so close to you now. I can’t leave you again. I – I guess I’m going in with you… all the way, this time.”
“I’m glad, Steve.”
Suddenly, words forcefully crashed into Steve’s mind. And he knew the voice. From somewhere. Somewhere beyond his consciousness, he knew. And his thoughts were answering those he heard.
‘Wesley… so we meet again… I’ve been waiting for you.’
‘Stay out of this! I’ve got a job to do.’
‘You’ve got nothing to do, and nothing to lose by turning back. Save yourself. You know you will be killed. Your emotions have made you soft and naïve. You are weaker than I. Let her be a puppet martyr. Her insanity will be your death sentence.’
‘You can’t stop me now!’
‘You do not want to die.’
Suddenly, in front of his eyes, the brilliant jewel ring materialized, and Steve felt himself weakening under that power, his self becoming numb.
‘You do not want to die. Land the jet at my headquarters and I will take you home. Come, Wesley, your friends are waiting for you. I do not want you to die. I care about you like my own son. Please don’t sacrifice yourself for nothing.’
The words were lulling him into belief. But, somehow, from somewhere, a small light of resistance had grown in Steve. He cared now who controlled his life, and what happened to it. He controlled it. He had chosen what he was doing now. And so, this time, he jerked himself back, fighting by believing his will was stronger than Lucien’s. He knew it was.
Reluctantly, the jewel vanished.
‘You are a fool, Wesley. You alone cannot kill me. Now, you shall die.’
His thoughts broke from Steve’s mind like the crack of a whip. Suddenly, the Fanatic’s headquarters loomed directly in front of Steve. There was no turning back, and he had no desire to. Although his aircraft began tearing apart under the impact of invisible blows of anger, he realized that through some other force, the palace’s shields had come momentarily down. He fired his nuke rockets. “This one’s for you, Lucien.”
Beth had fired hers as well, and there was no escaping the explosions’ force.
“Yes, Steve?”
“Tell St. Michael that I’m coming, too.”
“He knows, Steve, he knows… thanks.”
A sudden blinding flash of light stripped their identity away from them. A nothingness engulfed their minds… a soft darkness pervaded the silent disintegration of all their thoughts and beingness. But they felt no fear. The dim warmth slowly transformed into a glowing light. They could feel it reach out and touch them. They could feel themselves become part of it, and then all of it. One with the Light. Peace radiated within all that they were. And they could hear St. Michael whisper, “Welcome home, Children.”

“Sarah! What just happened!”
“Their transmission just stopped. I don’t know. I’ll try to contact our base in Paris. Come in, Rene´… Come in! Base 7, this is Base 1. Come in!”
“What the hell are you guys doing?”
“Listen. Just tell us what happened to the Fanatic, and his headquarters. Get some visual on it quick!”
“Well, whatever happened was big. The shock wave knocked out half the city. Not the Cathedral. Not the Arc, fortunately. The ground’s still trembling, and there’s fire everywhere. You tell me what happened.”
“Two of our crew took off in F-16’s. We loss contact with them just as they neared the palace.”
“Ok. Let me see what I can find out. I’ll be back with you in a sec. Base 7 out.”
About five minutes later, the com-link jumped to life.
“Base 1! Base 1! Come in, Sarah!”
“Base 1 here.”
“Oh, hey, Jon! That’s a positive on the Fanatic’s being dead! I mean the whole place is a rubble of radioactivity. Someone must have jammed his force field electronics to do that. But I’ve got bad news. Before he died, he threw the final ignition switch on all his remaining nuclear missiles. Our contacts worldwide are reporting in with the same information. They’re all airborne. Are you copying this? I’m afraid it’s all over, Jon. No way we can stop this. Sorry. We tried. It’s out of our hands now.”

Jon turned to Sarah, and held her close. There was nothing left to do. And he knew the Captain would not interfere. We had brought this on ourselves. Even if we were rescued, the planet would die. What was the use?
As if reading his mind, Sarah said, “Jon, remember how Revelations ends? He comes back. Our Messiah comes back. Remember?”
“Sweet Sarah, that’s just a book. It’s only a matter of minutes before a thousand nuclear warheads disintegrate this planet, and us with it. Give it up.”
“No. I will not. I will not give up hope, nor the thoughts of being with you. I know He is coming. I can feel it. And I know you can, too. Come on, Jon.”

A deep, resonant thundering vibrated through everything. And, with it, a static crackling that touched every atom of creation, and disabled every technological resource. Then, there was an effervescent glowing. Illuminating everything. Inside and out. A brilliant and blazing whiteness, impossible to look at. And then, a pervading peacefulness. Silence.
Only silence.
“No… this is not the Captain. This is… his superior. I am that I am. You are not dead. I have returned, as I promised. All is now as it was, and ever will be. Go, now, out to your new Garden. Go, build your free world, prosper, and live in peace.”
For several seconds, Jon was held dumbstruck, wondering, and marveling at his enlightened fate.
“Yes, Jon. I told you He would come.”
“Hey, all you guys! Did you all hear that?”
“Yeah, Jon, everyone heard.”
“Well, then, let’s go on out and see what Heaven has given us!”
And they all scrambled out of the Base’s exits, to stand in awe of what lay before them. Lush green foliage. Busy sounds of animals wandering nearby. A new stream rippling happily away a few yards off. They jumped and caroused with joy, hugging each other and singing.
It was the end of the eighth day.
And the Lord saw that it was good.