Monday, September 30, 2013


by Fred Warren - 

“Mmm.” The tea was hot and astringent, with a pleasant flowery note. The illusory beverage had more character than most Adagio wines. It was enough to make a man forgo alcohol altogether.

John shuddered at the thought. Not quite yet.

Jiro watched him with amused interest across the low wooden table where they knelt on red silk cushions. “Feeling more comfortable?”

“Yes. The vertigo’s faded. It’s nice to be drinking this tea rather than wearing it.”

“The virtual-reality system learns along with you. New tasks become less awkward with each repetition. Every action you take smoothes and refines your interface.”

Outside Jiro’s house, the sun was setting, its last light splashed across the fading blue sky in pastel streaks of orange and pink. John felt a pleasant urge to stretch and yawn, which he indulged, an even more enjoyable sensation. “I guess I should begin work on my own personal space now. I’ve imposed on your hospitality long enough.”

“Think nothing of it. You’ve been pleasant company, not at all the spoiled socialite I expected. Forgive me. I should know better than to judge people from my own prejudices…especially someone who’s managed to catch Anya’s eye.”

“I…expect she’ll find me less impressive as time goes by. I’m no altruist, Father Sukahara. I’ve spent my whole life looking for an edge, manipulating situations to my advantage, chasing power and influence. Even my decision to come here was selfish.”

“I prefer to believe you will find it most profitable to seize this opportunity to start afresh. Become the person you’ve always wanted to be, John Milton. You’ve stepped onto a blank canvas. Anything is possible.”

“I’m not sure I know where to begin.”

“Do what I did. Build yourself a place where you feel completely at ease, where you can ponder the course of your life without distraction. Then, listen.”

“Listen to what? God?”


“You can’t be serious.”

“I’m a chaplain. What sort of advice did you expect? Try it. You may be surprised.”

“If I’m surprised, I promise you’ll be the first to know.” John drained his cup. “So…how exactly do I get out of here and into my own space?”

“Wait a moment. Before you go, there’s a particular matter that’s weighed heavily on me for a long while, and I’d like a fresh perspective.”  Jiro’s eyes locked with John’s. “Tell me…what do you think about the cyborgs?”

It was an odd question. John rarely gave them any thought at all. If this was a test, the textbook answer was safest: “They perform essential functions too dangerous or degrading for human beings. Cyborging is an efficient way to salvage incorrigible criminals and the hopelessly impaired so they can make a productive contribution to the colony.”

Jiro refilled John’s cup from a matching black porcelain teapot. “The technology was originally developed as a lifesaving measure of last resort for the terminally ill, but it’s traced a degenerating ethical spiral since then. It was applied to individuals with profound mental defects, then it was offered as an alternative to capital punishment, and from there, words like ‘incorrigible’ and ‘impaired’ and ‘hopeless’ were introduced and their definition expanded to encompass almost anything the civil authorities desired.”

“Those same authorities instituted a multi-level review process to prevent abuse.”

“Yes. I also find it interesting that no petitions for cyborg modification have been denied in the last ten Foundings.”

“That doesn’t mean they were unjustified.”

“There is a thriving black market in illegal cyborgs, and the government ignores it.”

“There are illegal markets for any product.”

“Product? We’re talking about people, John.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bird Hunting

by Edward M. Erdelac -

The bed had been overturned and blown against the opposite wall, and Considine had to worm his way out from under the debris.

He heard Dressler in the next room shouting for his daughter, and heard her anxious reply.

Considine pushed himself to his feet, rubble sliding off his shoulders, as Dressler appeared in the doorway again with a long rifle.

“You alright?” he demanded more than asked.

“Fine!” Considine managed.

Dressler nodded and leapt through the hole in his home, into the whirling ash and cinder blowing outside.

The girl scampered out behind him, a breathing mask on her face and another dangling from her fist. Considine limped along after.

Dressler rushed straight for a stand of rocks a few yards from the smoking house, and dove down behind as the Morgenstar fighter roared and banked overhead, coming around for a second pass.

They must have tracked him to the house somehow.

Considine could barely see or breathe. He clenched his eyes against the horrendous air and breathed into the crook of his elbow, but his eyes streamed tears.

When he joined them behind the rocks, Dressler already had the spare mask on and was priming the powerful-looking rifle.

The girl looked at him and grabbed his elbow, pulling him close to shout in his ear over the wind.

“Pull your shirt over your head!” she shrieked through her breathing mask.

He did so. The relief wasn’t total, but it wasn’t negligible either.

He heard the whining engine of the fighter droning closer. If the pilot could see them through the clouds of ash, he would vaporize their position with an eruption of his cannons.

Considine pulled the shirt down and scanned the area for another place to flee, but they were in the middle of nowhere.

Dressler was climbing on top of the rocks.

“What’re you doing?” Considine yelled. “Get down!”

Dressler ignored him and put the rifle to his cheek, aiming it at the sky expectantly.

Considine saw the fighter then, coming in low, flying through the ash like a great winged hunting beast.

Dressler saw it too, and fired.

The rifle bucked against his shoulder and the end of the barrel flamed, spitting out a heavy shot with a loud crack.

The fighter passed just over their heads with a roar.

Considine saw the wings waggle, and suddenly the nose dipped sharply and the bird went down, ploughing earth with its face, flipping radically end over end, and coming to an explosive rest directly in the center of Dressler’s house, which blew apart, sending chunks of permiform in all directions.

Dressler lowered the rifle.

Lyn, her blonde curls whipping around behind her facemask, stood up and slapped her father’s leg with the back of her hand.

“You should’ve let it pass!” she scolded.

“Nice shot, Dress!” came a new voice, a woman’s, but muffled by a face mask. “But bad timing!”

A decidedly female form, masked and robed, stood nearby, a long hunting rifle cradled in her arms.

Parked a few yards behind her was a bulky six-wheeled rover.

“Yulaura! The girl squealed, and rushed over, pointing angrily back at Dressler, who was coming down off the rock somewhat less heroically than when he’d ascended it. “Didja see what Dad did?”

“It was a great shot,” Considine offered, as Dressler inspected the inferno where his house had once been.

“Nothing in there that can’t be replaced,” Dressler muttered. “But who the hell was that?”

“Nothing you need concern yourself with. I can’t ask you to take me to Zirconia now that I know they’re after me. Just lend me a breathing mask and…”

“The hell with that,” Dressler said. “Yulaura, fire up the rover and let’s get going! How do you expect me to collect compensation for all this if you’re dead, Inspector?”

Monday, September 23, 2013


by Karina Fabian - 

Dorran froze at the threshold to the hospital room, his feet refusing to obey his mind’s command to propel him past the sterilization field and to Bonina’s side.  Instead, he hovered, his fists clenched, his eyes roving her body, taking in the tubes and needles, straining to see some sign of motion.  In all the years they’d known each other, she’d never stopped moving.  Even asleep, she had shifted and kicked at the heavy hides on their bed.  Here, they’d cocooned her in sterile white sheets, and the only motion he saw was the rise and fall of her chest in time with the ventilator. 

Her parents had insisted on rushing her to the station, a land of metal and glass, machines and white.  So much white.  Sterile. Cold.  They’d tied her to machines that breathed for her, cleaned her blood, kept her fed, even cleansed her of the layer of dirt that inevitably worked into the skin of anyone who lived on Eclectia.  They’d preserved her life--but had anyone held her hand?

Why couldn’t he?

He held his hand before him, stained and grimed from a lifetime of mining.  He remembered the first time she’d held his hand between both of hers, pale and beautiful and fluttering.  Always in motion.  Now, she needed him to move, and he couldn’t.  Coward.

“Please.  I’m sorry.  I take it all back—every harsh word.  Just, please.  Move for me.”

Friday, September 20, 2013


by Fred Warren -

The corridor light was dim, but still bright enough for reading. Whatever soulless computer or bureaucrat controlled the day/night cycle in Avenir’s lower levels would soon throttle it down to a barely perceptible glow. Smith turned a page in his tattered copy of Oliver Twist and squinted at the tiny print.

‘Hush!’ said the girl, stooping over him, and pointing to the door as she looked cautiously round. ‘You can’t help yourself. I have tried hard for you, but all to no purpose. You are hedged round and round. If ever you are to get loose from here, this is not the time.’

Struck by the energy of her manner, Oliver looked up in her face with great surprise. She seemed to speak the truth; her countenance was white and agitated; and she trembled with very earnestness.

‘I have saved you from being ill-used once, and I will again, and I do now,’ continued the girl aloud; ‘for those who would have fetched you, if I had not, would have been far more rough than me. I have promised for your being quiet and silent; if you are not, you will only do harm to yourself and me too, and perhaps be my death. See here! I have borne all this for you already, as true as God sees me show it.’

Kate settled in beside him and pulled up her shawl so it covered her head and shoulders. “We’ve never before sent them off alone.”

With a sigh, Smith closed the book and stuffed it into the folds of his coat. “If they can’t manage a job this simple, they’ve no business going out at all, with or without us.”

“It’s not the job that’s prickling the hairs on my neck. It’s the partnership.”

“All Wallace cares about is the money. We have a deal. We help him smuggle his parcels, and he lets us be.”

“How very warm and cozy.” Her smile was acidic. “’Tis a glorious day indeed, when we clasp hands with the likes of Wallace Beadle.”

He wouldn’t look directly at her. “You think I’m enjoying this? I had no choice.”

“There’s always a choice, Smith. You taught me that. Your speciality is finding the choices nobody else can see. Since when do you give up so easy, or toe the line on a contract with a piece of filth without conscience or scruples of his own?”

“This is different. Peacekeepers are involved. I can crack Wallace’s skull if gets too high and mighty, and I can lead a few fat Enforcers a merry chase, but I can’t dodge Peacekeepers. Their resources are unlimited, and they have license to kill.”

“Fine. You were backed into a corner, with no other options, so you ducked your head and tugged at your forelock, for the sake of the children.” Kate stood up and gazed into the depths of the long corridor where they’d skipped away on their dubious errand.

“Something like that.”

She whirled on him. “And what of Wallace’s options?”

“I don’t follow you.”

“Put yourself in the wretch’s shoes for a moment. What’s your best option...your most profitable option? Surely not to honor the terms of your arrangement.”

Smith shrugged. “He’d gain nothing from betraying us. Orphans are a flea on the government’s backside. Plucking them from the corridors and taking them into custody costs more than ignoring them, no matter how much pocket change they nick.”

“It all depends on what you do with them afterwards, doesn’t it?”

Now he lifted his head and stared at her. “Do with them? You mean mad labs? Doll factories?”

“We’ve all heard the stories. It explains the missing.”

“There are better explanations for the missing than fairy tales spun to keep fractious children in line. If there truly was a black market in flesh, the Peacekeepers couldn’t let themselves be linked to it, and even Wallace wouldn’t sell children.”

“Wouldn’t he? I expect a dozen new Frankies would fetch a pretty penny. He was always joking about it, remember? ‘Rich folk want their pets obedient and housebroken,’ he’d say. Wallace gets a tidy bonus, and he cuts out your heart in the bargain.”

The words of Nancy, Oliver’s guardian angel, echoed in Smith’s head: I have saved you from being ill-used once, and I will again, and I do now.

He groaned. “I hate it when you’re right.”

Kate knelt beside him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “I’m not asking you to go back on your word, love, nor to put the wee ones at risk. Just take a quick look, to be sure. Make well and certain the slimy latchmaggot is keeping his promises.”

“What if we’re seen?”

“Ah, Smith. Seen? Have you sunk so low?”

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Bug Hunters

By Edward M. Erdelac  

Considine opened one eye.

The other was swollen shut, but he could see dim artificial light through the slit of his puckered flesh, so he knew at least the eye was still there.

He saw the source of the light, a buzzing lumidome set into a permiform ceiling. There was a constant rattling and sifting of blowing gravel and a howling wind outside, so he knew he was still on Eclectia.

He tried to sit up but could do no more than touch his chin to his chest before he was overcome by muscle pain. He hurt all over. He tried wiggling his toes and fingers though, and was relieved to find everything in working order.

There was a slight figure seated just behind his feet, which were hidden beneath a coarse blanket.

It was a girl with dirty blonde hair and striking blue eyes. She was young, but swaddled in dirty robes and an exposure suit, with a cracked bandolier over one skinny shoulder. She had a long pike across her knees, the sort he’d seen the bug hunters carry.

“Daad!” the girl called over her shoulder. “He’s awake!”

A curtain was swept aside and a tall, rough faced man entered, a metal plate of steaming food in one ash-blackened hand.

“Just in time for breakfast, mister….?”

He let the question hang and raised his eyebrows.

“Considine. Inspector Scanlon Considine.”

“Dressler,” the man said, and laid a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “My daughter, Lyn. Why don’t you go fix yourself a plate, honey?”

Lyn rose from the stool and handed the pike to her father, who took it, along with her seat.

He laid the plate of food on Considine’s legs, and Considine’s belly growled. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten.

“Go on, have at it,” Dressler said.

Considine sucked in his breath, coughed the hard air, and groaned with the effort of sitting up.

“Sorry,” Dressler said, pushing the plate closer. “Didn’t think you were that banged up. Hardly a mark on you, except for that eye. You got lucky. My partner and I saw you crash. You’re not much of a pilot, are you?”

“No,” Considine grinned, “I suppose I’m not. How long have I been out?”

“Only few hours. You say you’re an Inspector. Where at? Avenir?” he glanced up at the ceiling.

Considine picked up the plate of brownish looking food and dug in with the fork, chewing ravenously before he could answer around the mouthful.

“Zirconia. As a matter of fact, I have to get back there as soon as possible.”

“I can take you to the sub-ferry. We’re only a few hours in from the shore by rover. Just waiting for my partner to come in so we can leave.”

“You’re a hunter?”

“Yep. That’s fresh bomber-egg you’re eating. Cut from the sac just this morning.”

“Thanks for taking me in. I’ll see my office reimburses you for fuel and time,” Considine said, though he thought, if they don’t arrest me when we get there.

Dressler waved him off, then perked up.

“Sounds like Yulaura’s back.” He stood up. “Sure you don’t wanna rest up some?” He stopped then, and cocked his head.

“What is it?” Considine asked, scarfing down the last of the bomber-eggs.

He heard a new sound weaving through the constant blowing grit rattling against the domicile. A whirring, the sound of engines, but too smooth and refined for a land rover.

Then the wall of the room blew apart in a burst of fire and permiform.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Daddy/Daughter Date

By Greg Mitchell - 

“Steady,” Dressler whispered into the little girl’s ear.

He leaned in close, brushing his whiskers against her soft check, wrapping his arms around her to tighten her shot. He felt the rise and fall of Edilyn’s breathing, the slight tremble in her thin arms as she gripped his worn rifle.

“How am I doing, Daddy?” she asked in a soft hush, her voice slightly muffled through the breathing mask he insisted she wore every time they stepped outside into the harsh red sands of Eclectia. When she was younger, she’d nearly died from ash lung—he wasn’t about to tempt fate. Not after all he’d been through to receive her back.

“Just fine, Lyn. Now line up your shot.”

Up ahead, Dressler squinted against the light grainy breeze and saw the scurrying bug, foraging in the sand. About three feet in length, the hard-shelled critter scuttled about on a hundred legs, oblivious it was being stalked.

Edilyn took careful aim, holding in her breath, releasing it slowly.

“Take your time,” he encouraged her. “No rush. You’re in charge of the situation. You control how fast things progress.”

Dressler had been taking Edilyn out on hunts for awhile now. Eclectia was a harsh wasteland; only the strong survived. While his daughter was only eleven, it was time for her to learn how to protect herself from the varied predators out here in the wilds: both of bug and human kind.

“I think I’m ready, Daddy,” she said, and Dressler grinned, holding her in his arms.

“If you’re sure, take the shot.”

“I’m sure,” she said, nodding, her arms stiff and shaking.

He slowly released her, spreading his arms wide, letting her stand on her own. She leveled the rifle, one eye squinting, the stock pressed to her cheek. Dressler watched her, beautiful and powerful, ready to conquer the world. He felt old in that moment, yet born again, as well.

Then he glanced up. Saw a dark shape clamber over the hill, nearing the bug in Edilyn’s sights.

Wait,” he said, quickly, and she jumped with a start. Yet, in spite of her surprise, she did not fire off a stray round.

She’s learning. Good.

“What?” she hissed back at him.

Dressler relaxed, still grinning, and gently patted Edilyn on the back. “Let it go.”

Edilyn kept her gun raised, but craned her head to regard her father. “What? Why?”

He nodded towards the horizon, watching as the larger bug collected its young, the two of them retreating over the dunes in peace. Edilyn watched, too, lowering the rifle, her shoulders sagging. “Oh. I guess they’re just like us, huh?”

Dressler wrapped an arm around her and squeezed. “C’mon. Let’s get back home.”

Daddy and daughter returned home, the setting sun at their backs.

Monday, September 9, 2013


By Edward M. Erdelac - 

The boom of the fighter bursting into the atmosphere at an inexpert entry trajectory jarred Considine out of ecstatic fanaticism and back into harrowing reality.

The wind roared and buffeted the craft, and directly in front of him, quivering on the shell of his helmet, the pilot organism writhed, having been dislodged by the violent fall into the stratosphere.

Now the black ash and flame winds of Eclectia rocked the ship, already a kind of apocalypse of its own.

He saw the thing up close, the thing that had been in his mind, or rather its slimy antenna. It had a star-shaped pink head and a gummy, counter-rotating maw. Its spotty, slithering body glistened with slime and sloshing seawater.

With a roar of effort, Considine drew back his head and flung himself forward, smashing the faceplate of his helmet on the instrument panel and sending the hissing monstrosity flopping down into his lap along with the gush of seawater.

He gave up trying to fight the rocking controls and gripped the pilot organism in both gloved hands, squeezing it as it thrashed and curled about his wrists, throttling it and driving in his fingers until they burst through, and a thick, yellowish ichor bubbled over his thumbs.

He ripped the tubing from his chest pump and felt beside his seat for the ejection lever.

With a wrench he blew open the fighter canopy, feeling the hot, ashy wind of Eclectia scorch his face and eyes, choking his lungs. It stank of sulfur and burning.

Then there was a second explosion and he was jettisoned from the hopelessly spiraling fighter. He tumbled end over end through the black and red sky until the chair jets began to fire, dropping him toward the planet in a sporadic rocking motion, violent enough to make his bile rise.

He remembered to open his hand and let the dead eel thing fall away, but he was unconscious by the time the chair fuel, not quite designed to bring a pilot to safety all the way from the upper atmosphere, ran dry, and he crashed heavily to the ground.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


by Fred Warren 

John leaned over the edge of a little bridge to admire the crystal-clear water tumbling across smooth, round rocks and into a shallow pool, where orange fish with long, translucent fins circled lazily beneath the shade of broad lily pads.

Clean, clear, living water. He could even feel the moisture it lent to the surrounding air. When he’d seen inland water on dusty, gritty Eclectia during his infrequent visits, it didn’t flow like this. Mostly, it oozed. What lurked beneath the surface was best forgotten.

“Hmm. Missed a spot.” Jiro laid his hand on the bridge’s black-enameled rail, and its immaculate shine faded. A network of hairline scratches and tiny chips spread across its surface, exposing flashes of the pale wood beneath.

John pulled away, and the rail creaked at the release of his weight. “Why did you do that?”

“A private obsession. Natural weathering is difficult to simulate, but the garden seems cozier to me if things aren’t in pristine condition.”

“Wear and tear is a virtue in Paradise,” John murmured as he ran a finger over the bumps and gouges. “Interesting.”

“The ability to exercise complete control over one’s surroundings leads us to value odd things sometimes.” Jiro crossed the bridge and stepped off the path to inspect a patch of tiny yellow flowers. “You’ve been very quiet, Mr. Milton. It surprises me you haven’t asked more questions.”

“Isn’t this garden designed to promote silent contemplation?”

“Ah. Yes, it is. Perhaps I made it too well. It’s also meant to inspire satori, the seeing into one’s true nature.”

“Isn’t that a Buddhist concept? Not something I’d expect to hear from a Catholic priest, Father Sukahara.”

He shrugged. “Consider it another of my many contradictions.”

John spread his arms wide. “It’s just…I’m overwhelmed by this place. It’s as if I’ve stepped back in time, into one of the legends of Old Earth.”

“Thank you.” Jiro stood up and nodded, apparently satisfied with the condition of the flowers, and they continued their walk along the winding garden path. “I’m pleased you find it authentic. In time, you may discover you’ve grown more difficult to impress.”

“I’m mostly curious about the rules that govern this world.” John surveyed the sky, half-expecting to discover Anya and Vicky peeking out from behind a cloud.

Jiro followed his gaze upward, “I am at your disposal, and our conversation will remain private.”

“I haven’t yet noticed any perceptible difference between my virtual body and the real thing. Can I change my appearance?”

“You appear to others as you wish to appear. Others appear to you as they wish to appear.”

“So you might actually be a wrinkled old crone, and I’d never know the difference?”

Jiro smiled. “Yes, but we’ve found it’s best to stick with a true representation of ourselves. Emotional disturbances arise if we tinker unnecessarily with our avatars. Most of us indulge in a few minor cosmetic enhancements…a nip here, a tuck there, an inch or two added to the stature, a splash of hair coloring. Vanity is one deadly sin I doubt we’ll ever master.”

“What about the environment?”

“That is negotiable. Etiquette dictates the person who creates the space controls it, and guests may interact with the environment but may not change its properties. For example, I have invited you into my personal space, so you are free to move about it. You can pick up an orange from the bowl on the table beside my front door, toss it into the air, peel it, even eat it, but you may not turn it into an apple. I could grant you that privilege, but it’s typically reserved for joint projects. We might, say, be hosting a party next week and need to work together to create a unique venue for our guests.”

“How much am I allowed to interact with the outside world?”

“Not at all, for a while, and then only so far as your duties require. We must keep our activities clandestine to avoid complications that could threaten our security and cause disruption to the colony.  Mostly, we watch. We try to let the colony develop in its own way. When we intervene, it is with small corrections and a gentle hand.”

“Moving the colony to another star system doesn’t seem very gentle.”

“Not all of us are in agreement regarding that course of action.” Jiro brushed cherry blossoms from the sleeve of his kimono with a sidewise glance at John. “You don’t approve? I was under the impression you favored relocating Avenir.”

Within the cherry tree’s pink cloud, the nightingale resumed its trilling.

“I was, but the more I think about it, the less certain I am.” They were beside the rock garden now, and John was silent for a few moments, tracing the spiral grooves in the sand with his eyes, failing to find either an origin or an endpoint. “Maybe there’s another way.”

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Apocalypse of Rahab

By Edward M. Erdelac - 

Behind Considine’s eyes, reality exploded in cataclysmic flame.

The bugs dropped burning from the fire-filled skies into the boiling ocean. Beneath the churning, bubbling waves, superheated Zirconia glowed red as the people inside were seared to death.

The charred mountains broke apart and fell into the sky. The rim of Eclectia burned.

He saw this not with his own eyes, but with the eyes of Aloysius Morgenstar.

He had been standing blissfully unaware of impending cosmic doom, quite drunk and wondering how much of a ruckus one of the female staff would make if he cornered her in the watercloset only seconds before God contacted him.

He had taken his personal omniyacht The Traveler from the Avenir to the scenic edge of the Boatic Trench below the Eclectian ocean as part of a publicity stunt to wrangle in more financial backers for his R&D department, treating them to a luxury cruise replete with expensive cuisine, impeccable liqueurs, and beautiful consorts, and culminating with a live demonstration of new high pressure space suits designed for the miners of Sheba.

But as he had stood among the other aristocrats before the panoramic viewport and watched the choreographed antics of the suited personnel out in the water, God had revealed Himself, and shown him the face of Eclectia.

A cosmic event would crack the planet asunder, just as long ago a similar fate had befallen Sheba. God did not tell him the cause of the cataclysm to come, but in the fiery visions he saw the Whale and the Twin collide and all the world broken to asteroids.

There was but one escape.

The Avenir.

But God had enemies, the jelly creatures some men called angels. They were servants of the great entropy to come, and had driven God below, down into the murky depths of the Boatic Trench to there trap Him until the cataclysm they helped to bring about, came and consumed them all.

Aloysius Morgenstar had never been much of a believer in deities or in revelation, but the vision had been so vivid and real he had lost his composure and screamed aloud when it had passed.

He had retired to his cabin, his assistants making excuses for him as was their job, trying to keep his investors from losing confidence. He had fought sleep for fear the nightmarish notions of madness would return when he closed his eyes.

Instead, God reinforced the urgency of the revelation and proved beyond any doubt the veracity of Morgenstar’s experience.

Two men from the dive team came to him.

One had been physically and psychically taken over by an emissary of the God. He spoke with God’s voice, and called himself Rahab, though his personnel files had called him Jovis Purl. In a month, Purl was dead. But Rahab showed them more visions, and how to gather more followers. The eel creatures could be made to extend the influence of God up even to the Avenir, and through these pilot organisms, He could bring others to the cause, spread the worship of God. First He enticed them with sensual delights, mental experiences beyond any physical or emotional gratification any human had experienced.

Then, Rahab showed them the inner truth of the apocalypse, and the need to free Him from the so-called angels, and escape on the Avenir.

Members of Rahab’s cult enacted His will in various ways, in every strata of society. Wizards and historians even now worked in secret to restore the Avenir to life, so the faithful could escape the apocalypse.

To Morgenstar and to the second man, Orin Bantry, had fallen the task of destroying the agents of the apocalypse.

And now the sacred duty would settle at last on Considine’s shoulders. He would pilot a new submersible packed with detonite to the edge of the Boatic Trench and carry out the holy mission he had spoiled before. It was already docked and loaded in Zirconia.

This would be his penance and his salvation.