Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

Dramatis Personae:
Jonah Wales: A historian for the Space Service assigned to write the Cyril system's entry in the Omnibus History of Humanity. The Long-Haired Woman: Sabotuer from Cyril 4. Adopts the name Joy, though her real name is Amy McKai. Joy: The dark-haired woman in Jonah Wales' past. Frank Ohlsen: The Tortured God. Gilgamesh Fallow: A friendly giant. May Davos: Girlfriend of Gilgamesh. Polyphemus: One-eyed giant and shepherd. Bilbo Davos: Father of May, banker and merchant. Donne: Employee of Bilbo, outcaste in Homeport. Moses Davos: Father of Bilbo, builder of Seeker. Floyd: Friend of Gilgamesh and May, part of Shadow's crew. Winifred: Friend of Gilgamesh and May, part of Shadow's crew. Gatsby Fitgerald: Friend of Gilgamesh and May, part of Shadow's crew. Stella: Friend of Gilgamesh and May, part of Shadow's crew. Edmund Frobisher: Resident of Polyphemus's island, sometimes known as Floyd Shmoe. Married to Rose Armbuster. Dud Wilson: Receptionist for the Church's Communications Ministry. Worn Jangold: First Primate of the Vegan Church. Rose Armbuster: Empolyee for the small mission Cyril 4 is allowed to operate on Cyril 5. Wife of Edmund Frobisher. Vorse Dextin: Fourth Primate of the Church Roy: Leader of a group of descendants of first-wave settlers, Roy's Boys. Wolf: Scarred veteran, second in command of Roy's Boys. Gog and Magog: Brothers, part of Roy's Boys. Velveeta Jones: Ship owner of the Sea People, mother of Yonderboy and Stargaze. Olive, Flan and Kumquat: Three sisters of the Sea People, one of them beloved of Yonderboy. Wildwind Smythe: Skipper of the vessel owned by his wife, Pasta.

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Northstar Addams: Crew for Wildwind, along with Goldendawn. Helen Wiggins: Farmer whose husband, Zachary sinned with Columbine Hill. Winston Hill: Businessman, father of Columbine, husband of Delilah. Adam Adams: Prominent businessman, someone who is always asked to run things. Tammy Dextin: Daughter of Vorse, friend of Columbine. Horace Beanie: A Director of the Church. Clare Trap: A Director of the Church. Jethro Abraham: A Director of the Church. Eve Wallace: A Director of the Church. Sam Johnston: A Director of the Church. Harry Ponds: A maintenance worker in love with the aircraft he helped restore. Walter Ichabod: A member of the Special Unit. Ned Molotov A member of the Special Unit. Tavers Lee: A member of the Special Unit. Ernie Tuttle: A member of the Special Unit. Will Forte: the highly respected anchor for One News Les Posner: Stringer for One News. Lee Hu: Leader of a group investigating an uprising of penitents. Limba : Instigator of the penitents' uprising. Cage: Recruited by Limba to keep the penitents in line. Ayn Hatch: Sent by Worn as a minder for Lee Hu. Lynn Jackson: Member of Lee Hu's party. Qwerty Poiuy: Member of Lee Hu's party. Other members of Lee Hu's party: Bess, Wendy, Wally, Reginald Ian and Nellie. Fred West: Owner of a farm looted by the penitents. LaraWest: Wife of Fred. Her son is Evan. Shorty Sanchez: One of the men recruited by Cage to keep the penitents in line. Big Jake: One of the men recruited by Cage to keep the penitents in line. Angel Stone: A penitent and follower of Limba. Roth: Angel's uncle. Captain Lauren Nightingale: Owner of a grain ship. Aaron Singh: Member of Lauren's crew.

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Anthony Witcher: Leader of the people of Cyril 4. Aubergine: A beautiful and kind woman. Troobin Gross: Sin Finder General.

Prayers of the Unbelievers
Prelude: Cage tells of his crime____________________________

The plan was crap, of course, but I didn't care. All I wanted was enough money to buy a small boat and enough supplies to get out of the Zone of Control, into the poisoned Eden of the Zone of Alienation, where the Vegan Church did not rule, which was actually most of the planet. I would probably die out there, but in the Zone of Control, I already felt dead. I'd live free, or die. I was frontier raised, I'd seen the edge of the Zone of Alienation, I'd even had to kill a snorklebeak once. In a world ruled by Vegans, you might think weapons would

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have no place, but snorklebeaks are mean, and can open a man's sternum with a single sweep of their strange, sharp beaks. We're allowed weapons on the frontier, either the 50 mm single-shot style called cannons, or threeshots, like the one I'd used that day when I had to shoot the snorklebeak. Both are smooth-bore by law, because the accuracy you'd get from rifling is discouraged. If it's not close enough to kill you, why are you killing it? Asahel Buskhill was city-born, right there in Homeport. He fingered his cannon across the table from me in his dank little room, with that weird, dreamy grin of his, like all he ever dreamed about was killing something. A man like me, who's known for his mistakes, his drinking, and his unruly lifestyle, can't be choosy with his friends. He'd sought me out to talk to me about the snorklebeak. I'd been pretty much a pariah since I'd shot it – even though it was in exactly the circumstances allowed, people just felt strange around someone who'd killed. But Buzzkill, as we called him, sought me out. Now he was either planning to make us both rich, or to kill me. “I've loaded the three-shooter,” Buzzkill said. “Don't worry about that, I know how to do it right.” That wasn't what worried me. The rounds in a threeshot were primitive, with a fulminate of mercury cap setting off a smokeless powder charge. If you got a little grease on the inside of the cap, the round would be a dud. It might be Buzzkill didn't want me to live through the heist, wanted all the money for himself. I just nodded, said, “Yeah, you know what you're doing. We'll be all right.” The table between us was dark, old wood, scarred from someone dragging a knife across it. We wouldn't be all right, not with Buzzkill running the show. It didn't matter, the plan

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was crap but my life was crap, it would be no loss to lose it. We walked out of the dark room into the sunlight, where Zim was waiting. I went around a corner to take a leak before we left for the heist, and while I was at it, substituted my own rounds for Buzzkill's. The trouble with being a loser like me, you don't get friends you can trust, just people you know who have their own set of defects that make them outsiders. We got on the cart, and Zim drove. Zim didn't have a weapon and didn't want one. he just knew how to lose the sin-finders in the maze of alleyways. The cart was the kind allowed by the Vegan Church, towed by a small, two-wheeled electric tractor, slow and short range, badly-sprung so that it was uncomfortable at any sort of speed, even if you modified the tractor, as Zim had. Just like our cargo ships, which by law couldn't have watertight decks, so that the were not seaworthy enough for a ocean voyage, the cart was intended to discourage travel. Just the thing thing not to make a getaway in. An aircar passed overhead, some rich guy or church functionary – but I repeat myself. “Wish we had one of those,” I muttered. Buzzkill looked up, then shook his head. “There are so few of them, and the ones that don't belong to the sin finders are governed to low speed. We'd be conspicuous and not fast enough. It's a better strategy to be inconspicuous.” Buzzkill and I wore bandanas around our necks like country folk. When we got to the bank, we put on blonde wigs (Buzzkill claimed those wigs were all anyone would remember when it came time to describe us) and pulled the bandanas up over our faces.

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Not much in the way of guards at a bank in Homeport, because where would the thieves spend the money? Which actually was the defect in Buzzkill's plan, but I didn't care, I just wanted out. We barged into the bank, and Buzzkill shouted for everyone to get down, which being nice, obedient citizens, they did, except for one old lady who just gaped at us. Buzzkill started to get the money while I watched the door, because if anyone tried to stop us, it would be the sin-finders. I saw the familiar brown uniforms approaching, saw that unlike their usual practice they carried cannons, and decided that was it, we'd failed, started to lower my threeshot. Then I heard the click of Buzzkill's cannon as he cocked it. “Don't be an idiot,” I said, turning toward him, then saw that he was aiming at me. His smile told me all I needed to know. The sin finders were there because he'd told them we'd be there. They needed labor for the work camps, and had me on their list for a long time, I'm sure. He'd get off as the informer, matched against the mastermind – me. The whole thing was a setup, so he could achieve his one dream in life, killing someone, right there in front of witnesses so he could be known for it. The first shot went by my ear, and the smile went away. He cracked the breach to reload. “Forget it, Buzzkill,” I said, aiming my gun. He smiled again, and I knew he'd loaded my threeshot with duds. As he raised his cannon again, I fired one shot to the heart. The smile had time to fade before he died, and the wig slipped off as he fell. Then two more shots went by, and I spun to see the sin-finders reloading. “Don't shoot!” I called, and threw down my gun. The closer one finished loading and shot again, missed again. I dove for my gun, and shot the other before he could fire, then aimed at the first one as he raised his gun again. He saw me aiming and just gave

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up, let the cannon hang down again. Time stopped for a minute, then I got to my feet, holding my gun on him. “Take this,” I said, handing him my threeshot and the blonde wig. The sin finders had panicked, hadn't realized they didn't need to shoot, and now one of them was dead. I'd killed two men to save my own life, and now my life was over. Or at least, it was over for a dozen years, until the historian came to our planet.

Last Message of Jonah Wales___________________________

This is a story about how people create monsters. It is also the story of my imminent death, so this transmission will be the official Last Message of Historian Jonah Wales, Space Service, recorded approximately 1100 hours GMT, November 24, 4187 Earth Common Era, which of course has nothing to do with the time or season at my current location on the surface of the planet Cyril 5. Here it is a pleasantly warm summer's day. I came to this place to escape the voices in my head and to hear the voice of God. Now I'm using the implant in my head to make a record of my failure, though perhaps no one will ever hear this message. Those who rule this world say that no one can possibly be outside the Zone of Control except for monsters and unbelievers. I am outside the Zone of Control now, well into the Zone of Alienation, and have always been an unbeliever. I suppose in the eyes of the Church, I am a monster as well. We are all unbelievers in someone else's faith.

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I'm a Class I historian. I can pretty much pick my assignments. This one wasn't considered a plum. Cyril 5 was settled 500 years ago by anarchists who quarreled so badly that few reached the planet alive. Once they were on the surface, they continued their quarrels. Individuals were killed by gangs, and soon they were ruled by petty tyrants. They lost the ability to communicate with the rest of humanity as their civilization devolved into an iron-age society of warring clans. The colony was thought lost. After 400 years, another group of settlers, the Vegans, came. In the war that followed the first people were defeated. The Vegans thought that the first people were perhaps exterminated. The victors remained huddled in a small area of a northern continent, still fearful of all the rest of the world. They feared that they might not have killed all those unlike themselves, the unbelievers. They feared those powerful enough to survive their genocide, the monsters. They also feared that they had exterminated all their enemies, and had become monsters themselves. Now they had the Zone of Control, where the people lived, and the Zone of Alienation, the poisoned home of the monsters they created, which in fact covered most of the planet. It was my job to write the history of these people. I came far across the stars to tell their tale. Not many want such a job. You can't have the things most people want if you practice this sort of history. The ships now have artificial gravities that can reduce a thousand G's of acceleration to a very tolerable 2 G's in the cockpit, so you don't spend half the trip speeding up and half slowing down any more. We're still stuck with the universal speed limit. The fact that I'm willing to lose everyone in my life every time I make a trip is one of my main qualifications for the job. I crave company after a long trip, but I'm not the

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sort of joiner who would throw up the job and become part of a society I am writing about. It is my gift and curse to remain outside of every room I enter. That's what the psychological profile says, anyway. I haven't told them everything. On a beach in the wilderness of this world's Zone of Alienation, I nearly told someone, though. There are rocky islands on this Vegan planet where no people live and the chickens and the pigs and the sheep run free, and I planned to go there. I would be free of humanity. I chose this world in part because the Vegans agree with me on one thing: They do not allow their children to have communication implants. In my home world, by age five we've all received the implants. I'm told people used to have something called a telephone to contact each other with over distances. The early ones hung on a wall or sat on a desk and were connected by wires. They had computers as well, a sort of electronic abacus that did sums for them. Those two things were the basis for the implants. We now talk to each other all the time, send each other images and information, in short, have all the benefits dreamed of for telepathy, all from a small device we are raised with in our heads. I've come to hate walking down a street watching people talking and never looking at anyone, never noticing the people around them, but talking to someone at great distance as if they were there. We are seldom present with the people present but live in communities defined by calling codes. We seldom watch the scene around us with more than half an eye because we are watching pictures sent to us from far away, or even images in games we play. We live half lives, walking the streets we must walk to get sustenance while living in our communicative communities. On this benighted planet, no permanent resident has an implant capable of contacting the one fused to the bones of my skull. Since I moved away from the landing

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area, I've lost contact with all but an occasional buzzing contact on the implant. My hope was that wh4en I'd lost contact completely, and when I had separated myself from the society of mind that my intellect has been swimming in all my life, perhaps I'd finally hear my own soul and anything that speaks to it. I was searching for a presence or a void and all I ask for is a definitive answer. I took an aircar to the limit of its range, past the edge of the Zone of Control. I should not have taken with me the woman I had met.

A Story I Never Tell_____________________________ Flames from the beach fire framed the silhouette of the dark-haired woman. It has always been dark-haired women. Growing up in a family of blondes and redheads, I have always sought the Other. "Tell me about her," she said. "Every decision she made was right for her happiness. Understand, I have no one to blame but myself, and I do." "Was she beautiful?" "Yes, but not everyone could see it." Thompson could see it, though. Married a woman who looked quite like her. I sipped from the bottle we'd brought. I met her on the flight in, a woman with hair so long she could sit on it. She talked of cutting it because it was so much trouble, and I told her to check with her boyfriend first, and she said she had none. That was on the shuttle, with a lot of interplanetary passengers and just myself being picked up from an interstellar voyage. She was from Cyril 4, the terraforming project in this system. The

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metal meteor we rode was throwing itself at the planet and missing, just as moons do, and so remaining aloft, and I was in my cups so when we were flying in gravity I stole for her one of the small beautiful glasses, narrow at the top and wide at the bottom so that the liquid won't spill. We bought the bottle to refill it, but lost the glass somehow. "I haven't told that story in years. I shouldn't tell it now. You'll only pity me.” I'm a dab hand at not killing myself. I'm practiced, and wily, and careful in my movements, always anticipating the dark hand's next move. I'm an orator par excellence, persuasive in my statements, indefatigable in my arguments, careful in counting the votes that might overthrow my reason. Still, I feel the tug of the void. I think that determined my choice of profession, a need to voyage into the void. "I shouldn't be drinking." Thompson was drinking the night he decided to die. Some blamed his wife, but it was he that used her as a proxy for loving another. "I have water," the woman said. The water tasted sweet and cool and seemed to clear my head a bit. "You're pushing me away," she said. "I want to hear the story. What was her name?" Joy. The dark-haired woman was Joy. She was a follower of the Vegan Church of the Tortured God. Frank Ohlsen was the Tortured God. He had been a minor functionary in the planning department of San Francisco. He started a vegan discussion group, teaching that the diet could save the world, that it respected the rights of other species, that it would make it easier to feed humanity without ruining the earth. He was a visionary and a kind, concerned, idealistic man. He was kidnapped, cooked and eaten by a couple of psychos. His journals and their trial transcripts made up the sacred book of the sect. The Vegan Church was founded on a doctrine of kindness to all creatures,

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possibly the firmest ethical foundation any church has ever had; but it was born out of an act of obscene cruelty, and the martyrdom of its founder, the kindly Frank Ohlsen. Joy and I had known each other for years, of course, but I'd never seen her truly until one day I was waking between the dormitories and she said hello. Then our eyes were captured by a small white butterfly beating with tired wings in the bright sun. I brought up my hand beneath it, and it settled on my palm. She looked at me as if her God had chosen me. I looked at her and saw kindness and understanding, an injured and empathetic nature. Which proves how important misperceptions are to attraction. My lover then was unfaithful. When my unfaithful lover was gone for nights on end, Joy would sit with me and talk and be close and never, ever seduce me. Then she would go to meetings where people spoke in tongues and worshiped the Tortured God who hangs for all eternity from the instrument of his execution Those meetings looked like madness to me, but I was certain it was simply my own failure to understand. I could only stand outside and watch their conversation with God, because I lacked the facility that allowed them to hear Him. I could not pretend that I was not deaf to God. Thompson started going to temple, to try and make himself a more suitable suitor. Joy ran when he did that. She always said she would only marry a man who worshipped the Tortured God, but never was close to any man who followed that faith. I didn't understand that until much later, but it wasn't a problem, really. I couldn't profess a faith that I didn't possess. Lying about faith would have been like lying about love. She could safely choose me as an unmarriageable suitor. My unfaithful lover left, as unfaithful lovers do, and dark-haired Joy moved into my life. Naked in bed the first time she she suddenly drew into a foetal position. Evil

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had been done to her. She sought good in the obvious place, a church that claimed to be the only source of it. But there was something about me that did her good. After every moment I spent with her, I would have given the rest of my life to spend another. I was a great believer in love back then, like so many people who learn too much about life from books and too little about it from living. Love could make her whole again, given time, so I never pressed, never insisted, but always loved her and treated her as one who someday could have everything her body wanted. Followers of the Tortured God preached 'Be Not Unevenly Yoked,' and she knew that they meant me. Her fears had brought her to the Tortured God. He gave her a path to follow, a grim and narrow path, but she needed to be told her course. I didn't offer that. I had no wish to take away her faith and leave a God-shaped hole in her life. If someone could hide from her the emptiness I saw as truth, more power to their prayers. One day, she sent me away, and I didn't understand. Using the coping mechanisms a sheltered life had provided me, I developed dysphasia and had to slow my speech in order to get a coherent sentence to come out of my mouth, and lost the ability to fulfill my duties. A wise old scholar gave me a grade I hadn't earned and let me graduate without dishonor. She had a new man, but I won her back by the simple tactic of being the one person in the world who cared the most for her, the one who knew her secret, the one who might turn the key to unlock the rest of her life to her. It's unfair to you, she'd tell me. I'll never marry an unbeliever. And I always told her, it's enough, always enough, to have that next moment with you. I may not follow the Tortured God, but I am here, I love you, I bring you joy if you will take it, not just passion but all the best that flows in that same river. And slowly the darkness retreated

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from her and slowly the joy took over. Whenever I mentioned marriage or a future together, she was honest, you understand, so I have no one to blame for my illusions but myself (and I do.) We were forced by economics to live apart from one another and though I was there every weekend, that wasn't enough for me, so I called and I wrote letters with an ancient pen and had them delivered as physical objects, like a lover of long ago. It was my letters that undid me. She started sending my letters to a priest of the Tortured God who provided a textual commentary. My innocent phrases became sinister imprecations and proof that I was a very bad person indeed, and a threat to her immortal soul. She was sending him my letters to get reasons she should leave me, because she was able now to marry and needed a man she could marry, and it had to be a man who followed the Tortured God. When you rescue a damsel in distress, the damsel lives happily ever after. The knight's pretty much on his own. I could not even call it a perversion of faith, because she would truly be happier with a man of her faith. A life with an unbeliever would have been no life at all for her. Her priest and gave her the justification she was asking for. And when it all was over and even false hopes had to die, I felt as if I'd been flayed and every zephyr sawed across an open nerve. I couldn't kill myself because she would have blamed herself and that would have been a funny way to show my love. She's worlds away now, and might not hear, and time enough has passed she'd think I had a different reason. But I'm a dab hand at not killing myself, I've had tremendous practice and I'm a veteran of that war. Passion and all the best that flows in that same river, ebbed like a spring tide and left me stranded high on the hard shingle of a disregarded life. The long-haired woman touched my shoulder.

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"Have you gone to sleep? You haven't spoken since I gave you the water." "I never tell that story," I said, and found the bottle and kissed its lip. She stood and walked away down the beach. I settled into the sand and slept, and felt her body curl against me later when her warmth was welcome in the cool night. Before the sunrise I was cold and the birds began to chatter and I woke alone with a braid of long black hair coiled in my hand like the totem of a new religion. She'd cut it off and walked away. The water was warmer than the shore at night, so the wind blew out to sea. The incoming tide was taking away the last of her footsteps in the sand. Maybe she swam to another beach to find a better lover. And maybe fish from the finest schools taught her to breathe under water. She'd been seeking an ally against the darkness and I'd closed her out and failed again as I always fail, throwing myself at life and always missing and staying aloft like a small, pale moon in the overwhelming night.

Odysseus_____________________________________

I came to this God-forsaken planet as Odysseus came to that inland place at the end of his journey. He put an oar over his shoulder and walked inland until someone asked what it was. I wanted to find a place where my wanderings would be incomprehensible, where the philosophies that bedeviled my mind as a young man were unknown, where I could grow a carapace that would protect me from my own memories and slow my pace to match a place where the accelerated culture of my people hadn't reached. I planned to become the sort of party animal I'd always been meant to be; a tortoise. So I came to a backwater planet. In a way it was a journey back to Joy. She was long gone from my life, but if I could hear her God speak, I felt this would heal the old

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wounds. Cyril 5 was one of a string of planets settled by the Vegan Church. Those first anarchist settlers had brought cows and sheep and goats and tried dairying with some success, but when the Vegans landed the food wars began. Custom viruses that affected only those who had eaten meat had decided the matter. The livestock for a time had wandered unmolested on a world with no natural predators. Their population had almost overwhelmed the resources of the land before the Vegans decided they were pests and fenced them out of the pastures. Cows, once common when they'd had an economic purpose, had become an endangered species in the Vegan's territory on Cyril 5. If God loves cows, does he love more the eater of cows who causes more cows to be bred and spreads their mottled forms across the pastures, or those who never eat them, and thereby cause fewer cows to be born? If God hates chickens, does he have greater love for the person who eats chickens and causes them to be killed, or the person who never eats chicken and thereby causes fewer chickens to be born? I try to know God with my intellect, and always fail. The bush has never burned for me. No voices have ever spoken from the heavens, no angel has wrestled me to the ground. I have been told that belief is a choice, but I think it is a passion. I may choose to believe my lover is faithful, but I know this isn't, so I can't make myself believe. Doubt will seep past the shutters of my mind like a poison gas and leave me gasping for truth. I may choose to believe in God, but if my belief feels wrong, I will fall out of faith, just as I might fall out of love. I went to Joy's temple only once. We were late arriving, and tried to slip in the back without being noticed. People turned around as we entered, and smiled when they saw it was her. A few stared at my unfamiliar face momentarily as if shocked by the presence of a stranger. All the Vegans in our little town knew one another.

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Up at the front the Tortured God rotated on his spit above the Eternal Flame. The priest intoned, "This is my Flesh, which is Cooked for you, as the Flesh of Animals is Cooked for you. If you would Eat Animals, Eat my Flesh." The ushers circulated baskets of unleavened bread in medallion-sized bits. No one took them from the baskets. I reached for the bread and her hand stopped me. "It's his flesh," she whispered. "We are not cannibals." I'd been to a church of the ancient faith, where they believed in transubstantiation but did eat the bread that was the flesh of their lord. I had to admit the Vegans had a point. The Vegan church elaborated and extended Frank Ohlsen's ideas. When the implants came along, they decided society was trying to make cyborgs of us all, and they resisted. The fact that Joy did not have the implant was part of what I loved about her. Instead of a constant feed of her life in the background of my own, I spoke to her only when I spoke to her. She wasn't some abstract voice in my head, she was the woman in front of me every time I spoke to her. Among my people with our implants there is one level of intimacy that I have never been able to stand. That is when people link full time. Each transmits constantly to the other. Every word one hears or speaks is transmitted to the other. The tiny camera that we have between our eyebrows transmits everything we see to the other. Each sees and hears everything the other sees or hears. Not even most married couples want the full link. It means that in your own life, another life is projected before your eyes. If something dramatic happens to your loved one at the wrong moment, you may crash your vehicle, or step off a narrow track and fall to your death. And you may witness the

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death of your partner as it happens, something from which it is hard to recover. Most of us prefer a looser contact, where we can break through any other contact, but we are not in touch all the time. She was never in contact. I would call her on the awkward headpiece and most often she wouldn't be wearing it, and I wouldn't hear back until she put it on for class, and she would have to cut off because the instructor was transmitting. And I liked it. I liked the awkwardness of contact. Instead of instant access there were obstacles to overcome. And when I saw her, there were things I didn't know about her life, things for her to tell me or keep secret. My ignorance of the intimate details of her life made her more real to me somehow. I painstakingly wrote letters by hand with a pen I bought at an antique store, because I thought that the images we make in our own minds are more powerful than those transmitted to us. It was a wildly eccentric thing to do. Most of my friends thought the transmissions from their lovers were a far better form of intimacy. Some practice the art of being public people, of transmitting their lives to any who will listen, while they talk to friends, or sleep, or make love, or get too drunk and vomit on their shoes. If life is interesting enough, they can get sponsorship and make a living off their lives. It may mean sleeping with more people than would be a good idea, picking fights they shouldn't, finding ways to make their problems interesting instead of solving them, but people do all those things to make their lives interesting to themselves, so what's the difference? The difference is that everyone knows everything about everyone. And now I seek the ignorance of my surroundings that will allow me some discovery and make my world more real to me. I cannot remove the implant. It has grown into the bone, it is powered by my nervous system and entwined with it, I can no

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more remove it than my sense of touch. I can only try to escape from all transmissions that might reach it. I can only yearn for silence and solitude. And something to fill the hole in my soul. I do not believe in destiny, so I cannot be destined to wander with silence in my head. Like subatomic particles, people don't have destinies, they have probabilities, and I've fallen down my own probability well. My probability may have been set when I was named. Jonah is an easy name to remember, and can be transmuted to a diminutive as Jonnie. In one of the old religions, before the California Revelations, Jonah fled from God. The Lord had given him a hard task, to bring the Word to Nineveh, and Jonah shirked his duty and fled to the West instead. God sent a storm that threatened to sink the vessel on which he'd taken passage, and the sailors threw him overboard. They knew he was the one God despised, because they had made a scientific survey, drawing lots, and he had drawn the short straw. Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish – most moderns assume it was really a whale – which then accomplished the real miracle, transporting him from the Western Mediterranean to Mesopotamia in three days. Had my name not been Jonah, I would probably never have considered how this happened. Did the whale swim at incredible speed around the Cape of Good Hope, or did it hump and thump its way across the desert like a big old seal to the upper reaches of the Tigris? I favor the latter theory. And for many years, my theology got no further than that. Shipboard, I always went by Jonnie, because while few spacefaring men are superstitious, I don't care for the old notion that a Jonah is bad luck. Not that the name was great luck for those around me. I've stepped into dead men's boots more than once and proved myself equal to their duties. It's not so unusual in the Service. In the Army

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

it's the grunts that die, but for Spacers, it's the officers. Crews are small because ships are small. It's the only way to achieve the really high speeds needed to make a ship useful for courier service between planets or even stars. Time compression at near-light speed can mean that when you return from a mission, not only the political position has changed, the language has as well. I've spent enough time at near-light speed that my great-great-grandchildren could have died of old age, if I'd ever had a talent for love and families. If she got a desk job planetside, my one, my only, might have died generations ago. Last I heard, though, Joy was on a long, high-speed mission, and I'll be old and gray before she ever finishes that one, just from a week here, a week there between my many missions. She went with her husband on a mission so long that if the ship ever returns, it will be flown by her children, to be conceived and born on the way, and they will be quite old. Of course, chances are that something will go wrong and no more will be heard from them. Most long-range missions have gone overdue for decades or even centuries. The Service never acknowledges a death without confirmation. It's a strange sort of longevity we have. We outlive all those we know, and no doubt some of us will outlive our usefulness as well, but the chances are against us dying a natural death. Odd term that. What could be more natural than dying when the oxygen has all leaked away and your fluids are boiling in the zero pressure of a vacuum? What would be unnatural would be living through the things that go wrong in space. Maybe I should say, the chances are against a death by the failings flesh is heir to in old age. Few of the things most people do planetside compare to the chance of death I normally face, so people think I am brave. I would be brave if I faced my fears. Instead, I have nothing to live for, and only emptiness where my fears should be. I tell myself to keep going because one day, I'll find a reason to live, and it would be foolish to kill

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myself before I found it. I've met only a few old men who have retired from the Service. One of them told me that he never questioned what he was living for as long as his life was in constant danger. When he retired, his greatest sense of loss was for the comforting companionship of death, which had always been by his side. He felt his soul going soft and went wandering dissolutely through bars and lonely streets, searching aimlessly for something, and he had finally realized that it was his old companion that he was searching for. I told him buck up, it's not so bad, find something to do and you'll be all right. I drank with him until I thought he was all right, then hitched a ride back to the Bachelor Officer Quarters. That night someone walked in front of a transport taking off. There was enough DNA left to be certain it was him. We have been settling the stars for nearly two millennia now. The early settlers had about a 2 percent chance of success, but we didn't know that until 98 percent of them were dead, so they all set out with high hopes. Few things will drive people to leave their homeworld with no hope of return. The most common was religious fanaticism. Many of the settlers believed in strange things and had practices people on Earth and later homeworlds frowned upon. So they set off for worlds we knew little about, just some pictures and data from some lump of rock circling a far-off star. All they had was a data stream from an unmanned high-speed probe that said there was liquid water and a breathable atmosphere. Some set off for worlds without a breathable atmosphere, confident they could terraform it. One day we hope to find a case where they succeeded. We had enough trouble terraforming Earth after we screwed it up. Terraformers have their own demons to tame. There was a sect on old Earth, a sect of the old religion, that believed in the end of time. Other sects of the old faith believed the end was near, but they waited for God to bring this about. Not the crowd

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I'm talking about. These people believed in the end of humanity, sought it out as a spiritual goal, felt they knew when God wanted the End Times would come. They sought out Armageddon, tried to achieve the end times, and in the end, created something like Armageddon, but without the participation of God. Their God did not come to kill the unbelievers with a tongue that had become a sword, their most devout believers did not rise up to heaven, but many of them died in the Hell they had brought to earth. And when they saw what they had wrought, they saw the hubris of trying to achieve what God would achieve if only He had all the facts. A few splintered off, worked to bring the Earth back to life, and came to a new kind of faith that said, God is Good. We do not know God's mind, so instead of trying to outguess the Mind of God, let us try to know him, let us try to help him. He has created life on earth, so let us help life exist on earth, and on other worlds as well. They traveled to other worlds, and tried to bring life to lifeless worlds, with a notable lack of success. Their faith was in a God whose mind they could not know, so for them, he became of God of Doubt. In the Cyril system, they were the third wave of settlers, condemned to a world only they dreamed could ever support human life. The human Diaspora is troubling because we know so little about the settlements. Settlers set off with great fanfare, spend decades accelerating at the highest pace their people can stand, then spend decades decelerating at the same G-force. By the time they reach their new home, a century might have passed. When it takes 20 years for a radio transmission to reach the nearest inhabited planet, the feeling of isolation can be overwhelming. On some planets people stopped believing they had come from space,

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John MacBeath Watkins

and thought it was an old superstition. Some settlements worked, but not well enough to keep radio transmissions working. That's what happened to Cyril 5. The first wave of settlers were libertarian anarchists who pooled their resources to make the journey. Few records remain of the battles that took place on the way there. They worshiped the individual to such an extent that when they first reached Cyril 5 no government was possible, and in a generation most of their technology was lost. When no radio transmissions confirmed the success of the colony, the planet was assumed to be unoccupied. The Vegans announced a new expedition, and arrived to find a warlike, early-industrial society already in place. At first, they tried to arrange a peaceful division of the land so that they could live apart from the first settlers. Any student of history knew that effort was doomed. The early settlers attacked the Vegan towns, killed the men and enslaved the women and children. These unenlightened practices caused Vegan priests to denounce them and attribute their evil nature to the consumption of the demon Meat. It was only one step further to using meat against the first settlers. My job as a Spacer is to gather up official histories of the planets I visit, add my own observations and spread the word to other planets. I brought to Cyril 5 The Omnibus History of Humanity, current as it can be for a planet on the periphery of human-inhabited planets. On Earth, hundreds of years have passed in the time it has taken to bring the latest word to this planet, yet they snap up news as if it happened yesterday. By the time this planet's official history gets back to Earth, the entire social structure of Cyril 5 may have changed. Sometimes they have an official history ready when I land. If it seems reasonably accurate I don't get much planet leave. I've been as little as a month on planet after

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John MacBeath Watkins

decades' travel reaching it, knowing it will be years of my life and decades of humanity's before I touch planet again. I send fast unmanned message pods back to Earth and other important planets with DNA samples of new species and other physical bits that can't be transmitted. Information can be transmitted, but a Spacer has to visit these planets in person to make a report. The Vegan Church will be preparing the official history of this planet, and you can imagine how much they plan to leave out. More importantly, they will not mention that they are in a period of using great force to control the errant ideas found in the unruly minds of their followers. The Church has been stagnating, unwilling to acknowledge mistakes and therefore more than ever in need of ways to keep their mistakes from being known. I sense a Reformation in the air. Should a great moral cause become a movement, it will be institutionalized into a business, and eventually degenerate into a racket. The Vegan idea was a great moral cause in the 20th century, became a movement in the 21st and on this planet had become a racket. I should be talking to rulers and dissidents to gather information for my report, but I just wanted to get away from the few offworlders and non-Vegans living in the main city, Homeport, so that I could get some silence in my head. I've been hooked into ship's systems for years to reach this place, a constant and necessary data stream. I looked forward to the silence of the plant's surface. On arrival, I found no silence because enough non-Vegans are visiting to keep the airwaves humming. I could hear little snatches of conversations leaking from other implants, the sort of background noise you wouldn't even notice if you had the constant input we usually

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John MacBeath Watkins

have, but in the silence at the borders of transmission range, little snips leak through and I could hear them as whispers in the silence. '…can find a flight to return in time for…' '…easy. Shouldn't be that easy, they don't respect what they don't have to work for, honey, and that's me. So next time…' '…less then I had in my pocket, so I bought three…' '…been trying to get you but you were turned off when I called. With just a little money…' '…third payment arrived three months overdue, so the penalty…' '…a child. That's what he said, that's why he doesn't want me. Screw you, I said, no I won't he said, that's the problem, see…' And this planet has crude, old fashioned video transmissions, because people don't have implants, so the only way for advertisers to reach them was through a box with pictures in it. Those came in loud and clear while I kept changing channels to try and avoid them. '…missing four days now, searchers said…' '…fast, fast relief,,,' '…to seek it with forks and hope…' '…known carnivore may have kidnapped her and done away with her companions...' '…cleaner than clear…' "…to seduce it with smiles and soap…'

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That stuff transmits pretty much line of sight. There were not substations to pick them up and retransmit, so I hoped a little more distance would get rid of the noise. Unless my implant is was picking up satellite transmissions, in which case I was screwed. The long-haired woman had wanted to know about me, but was unwilling to say anything about herself. I didn't even know if she had an implant, although I knew no rule existed against them on Cyril 4. On some worlds, my homeworld included, it's practically mandatory, because a child would be so handicapped without one and an implant installed in an adult never works as well. After I found her footprints leading to the water, I tried not to think of her drowning and speaking a Last Message into her implant to be transmitted or recovered when her skull could be stripped of flesh and the implant accessed. I inflated the canoe I brought with me and added water to the paddle, then waited for it to expand and harden. I could see a cloud hanging on the horizon that hadn't moved all morning, so I guessed there was an island over the horizon and hoped it was beyond the range of the transmissions. There was still a light wind blowing off the shore, so I set a small square sail and used the paddle to steer for the unmoving cloud.

Lotus Eaters_______________________

The wind died after about three hours, so I paddled for a time. Then the heat of the sun glaring down and being reflected by the glassy water got to me and I engaged the solar powered motor. It was slow as long as I didn't add fuel cell power, and I didn't. The slow turning of the prop didn't whir so much as rumble. I could feel every revolution of the prop as each blade pulsed water against the bottom of the boat. The

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John MacBeath Watkins

readouts showed exactly where I was and how fast I was moving, but I had chosen a part of the planet that wasn't well surveyed, so knowing where I was didn't tell me what was there. A couple hours after the sun reached its zenith, the onshore wind started, blowing right in my face. I started to paddle again to help out the motor. The breeze cooled me and made it easier to paddle but harder to get where I was going. Then a small white triangle appeared to leeward. It came up on me fast, even though it couldn't go straight to windward. A racing sailboat, I thought. No matter how much progress we made in means of propulsion, some anachronists insist on the old ways. Being good at using the wind gives them more satisfaction than pushing a button. In less than an hour they were upon me. The white plastic hull was low and light, and the rig was the one-masted lateen favored by the rating rule most popular on the planet. Half a dozen grinning young deck apes waved from the weather rail as the boat passed, going five knots in a six-knot breeze. I smiled and waved and hoped they were not going to the island whose top I could see just beneath the stationary cloud. At least they leaked no transmissions to my implant. I had only them to greet, not their conversations or their monologues or the way they saw the world. Only a smile and a wave and they were gone. My dreams of solitude were shattered. They must have sailed far from the nearest settlement, but if they had done it, others must have as well. Perhaps a fleet of racers was competing to arrive first at my isolated island. Their silent progress took them hull down, but the top of the rig was still visible when they tacked. I could see them taking an angle toward the island, and my heart sank lower with the sun. When the sun was near the horizon I drank water and ate, then lay

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John MacBeath Watkins

down and slept until the night started getting cold. The chill that woke me was partly from the wind, an offshore wind that would take me to the island. I raised the square sail and let old gentle Zephyr take me to the island. It was still quite dark when the mass of the island loomed above me and I searched my memory about whether this planet had coral reefs. The phosphorescence of the plankton showed me I approached the beach, gently lapped by the calm sea. I chose to anchor off shore. The sun woke me a few hours later. I was in a bay sheltered on three sides by a wooded island with sandy beaches. The land rose steeply and a waterfall came down, promising fresh water that didn't have the mechanical taste of the stuff that came out of my watermaker. Nearby the lateener that had passed me the previous day swung at anchor. I saw that its name was Shadow. I had broken my fast and had my morning coffee before anyone stirred on it. The blonde head of a man poked up through the cabin's hatch and kept coming up longer than I had thought possible as a tall young man came up the companionway. "Morning," I called to him. "Yes, it is. I noticed that," he called back. "Have you seen my shipmates?" "It was dark when I arrived." "They went ashore last night and left me as anchor watch," he told me. "I'm Gil. You?" "Jonah." I guessed the old superstition about my name didn't reach this planet. "We went cruising. Nobody does that, it seems, at least no one that comes back. You been doing it long?" "I started yesterday." "Us, we're five days out."

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"Where from?" "Where from? Homeport, where d'y think? There is no other port of any size on the planet. Where you from?" "I got dropped on the coast by air car, with a friend. She left." "Back to Homeport, eh? Can't blame her." I kept my silence at his speculation. Five days. Even if they anchored every night, a fast vessel like that had to have made between a two hundred and four hundred klicks in that time, depending on how the wind had favored them. They were young, foolish and adventuresome. I might be farther from civilization than I had feared and nearer to oblivion than I had dared hope. "How long did your friends say they'd be gone?" "We got here in late afternoon. They said they'd be back by sunset or shortly after," the tall man said. "The were looking for fresh fruit." "I'll help you look." "They took the dinghy. Give me a lift to shore?" I nodded, pulled up anchor and paddled over to him. There was plenty of room for two of us, and I could inflate more boat if I needed to. The boat could expand to double the length I was using. Probably we'd find the dinghy, though. Gil brought his own paddle with him, and with two of us working the shore came up fast. It was a white sand beach. There wasn't much tide in this region, but the people from Gil's crew had pulled the dinghy up above the sandy beach and set it in the grass. There wasn't any sign of them. "How many of them are there?" I asked. "Five. Six with me. We thought an even number was best."

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"Why did you draw the anchor watch?" "My turn," the tall man said. "Also I don't fit so well in the dinghy." He looked young. I remembered that the virus that had wiped out the meat eaters on this planet had been designed to produce larger livestock. Genetic engineering was essential in adapting agriculture to new planets, but the anarchists had lost most of the technology before they could apply it. There was something they had brought with them, though. Dwarf livestock had taken up less room on the transport, and the addition of species-specific bacteria producing growth hormone had made the animals large enough for ranching. The Vegans, whose skill at genetics remained intact, had engineered a change so that the growth bacteria would jump species. Anyone who ate a rare steak would get the bug, and the growth hormone would make them grow so rapidly that they would die within a few years. This young giant was almost two and a half meters tall. There had been a weight limit of 52 kg on the immigrants, so the planet had been settled by small people. He would be under suspicion of eating meat if he had the growth bug. Of course, it could be just a pituitary malfunction unrelated to that conflict. But the original settlers had been mainly of Scandinavian descent, and Gil was blonde. There could be no escape from suspicion for him. "You like living in Homeport?" I asked him. "Never lived anywhere else," he told me. I was taking a pace and a half for each of his long strides as we walked down the beach looking for signs of his shipmates. "That's not an answer," I told him. "All right, I hate it. They think I'm a freak. I'm almost a meter taller than my girlfriend. They call me names. Meathead. Bloodsucker. Carnivore. This place has a

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whole mythology about tall people. I see the way you look at me. You think I'm a freak as well." I shook my head. "No, I'm an off-worlder. I've been places where tall men get the girls and good jobs. But I know what you're talking about. I heard about the food fighters. It got pretty nasty, and I guess in some ways, it's still pretty nasty." "Tall men get the girls, huh? Maybe I should go there." "You've got a girlfriend," I pointed out. "She takes chances. I'm a danger, so she takes me." "You love her?" "If it was just that she was the only one who'd have me, I'd rather be alone. I love her." I shut up. The unsaid part of the sentence was, did she love him? Maybe he was a dare she'd taken to scoff at death. If he had the growth bug, intimate contact could spread it to her. Finally I decided to tell him something we're not supposed to reveal. "If it's the growth bug, I can cure it," I told him. "Nobody can cure it. I started growing when I was nine, and my parents took me to every doctor they could afford. There is no cure. I starve myself, but still I grow." "I'm a Spacer. They give us the antibiotic for the bug in case we contract it." He stopped, staring toward the funnel peak that stood in the middle of the island. "There is a cure?" "Yeah." "They hide this from us?"

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"Don't tell anyone I told you about it. At least not until I leave the planet. It's a capital offense to tell you this." Gil sat down and stared up at me. A little bit up, anyhow. Spacers can't be too large. "I'm sixteen years old," he told me. "At my present height, chances are my heart will fail in a few years, and I'm not fully grown yet. Why would they hide this?" "It's an establishmentarian government. If people could safely eat meat, the Vegan church would be threatened." "But I didn't eat meat," he said. Tears streaked his cheeks. "Honest, I never did. I never would. I'm not a bloodsucker. I'm not a carnivore. I've been good all my life." I kneeled down next to him. "There's other ways to catch it," I told him. "They don't give Spacers the cure because they think we'll eat meat. They give it to us because in some rare cases, you can catch it from bad water. Our training and our experience makes us valuable. They don't want to take a chance we'll start growing when we're on a long mission and be too big for the cockpit before we can get to a planet. That happened to the first Spacer to visit here after the Food Wars." I reached into my first aid kit and pulled out a patch, slapped it on his arm and said, "leave that on all day. It will kill off the bug. You won't grow much after that." "That easy. That easy, and I could have not been a freak. My whole life, I could have been normal, and played soccer, and been popular, and lived to be an old man. None of that happens now, you know. When May's family finds out she went with me, they will send search teams. If they find us, they will take us back. No, they will take her back. Me, I think they'll kill. And for what? To make it seem like the church was

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right? Not even that. We avoid eating meat because it's wrong, not because it's unsafe. If meat was safe I still wouldn't eat it, because I really believe. I really do, and I look like an apostate." His head sunk into his arms and he sobbed softly. Frank Ohlsen should have been there to see what the church he never intended to found had become. He was a kind man, a moral man, a man who'd wanted to save humanity. No doubt he'd have become an apostate on this planet. I got up and walked away. I wasn't looking for the others then, just trying to give him some room. Then a chubby girl with brown skin and short curly hair stepped out of the woods and onto the beach. She wore a white toga and was eating a pale yellow fruit. She saw me, and smiled. She had dark brown eyes with a distant look. "Would you like some fruit?" she asked. "I'm not hungry right now, but thank you," I said. "Could I just see what you're eating?" She handed it to me and I pulled out a pocket analyzer. The fruit had some sugar, plenty of complex carbohydrates, a pretty good package of vitamins and some kind of alkaloid that I wasn't familiar with. From the look of her, it was psychotropic rather than poisonous. She saw Gil. "What is that man sad about?" she asked. "His life. His faith. His church. His size." "I'll give him some fruit." "Do you know him?"

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"No." "How long have you been here?" Her brow wrinkled. "I don't remember." "How did you get here?" Either she was a settler, or she must be part of the crew. "I don't know." "Are there others here?" She thought very hard for a moment, then nodded. "What do you do here?" "We eat the fruit." She walked over to my tall friend and started stroking his head. He looked up, and a sort of Soul's Awakening look came over him. "May!" he shouted, and threw his arms around her knees. "Who is May?" she asked. "Who are you?" "May, it's me, Gil. What's happened?" Then he saw the fruit. "Lotus. Oh, God May, you never took survival camp, did you?" "What's wrong with the fruit?" I asked him. "Lotus fruit affects the memory," he told me. "It's very rare, and if you live in a town there is no need to know about it because you'll never run across it. I took an interest in living off the land because I always wanted to run away, but none of the others know the danger. The whole crew must have eaten lotus fruit. We'll have to find them." "Will their memories come back?" I asked. "Maybe." "The fruit is good," May said. "No more," the young giant said gently. "I want you to remember me."

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"Do I know you?" she asked. Her brow wrinkled with the effort of memory. "No. I like you, though." We took May out to the boat and left her there. She seemed content to sit in the sun, and Gil showed her where the food and water were. She wanted us to leave some fruit, but when we demurred she didn't object. She wanted Gil to stay with her, but couldn't say why. "Give her the patch," Gil whispered. "I want to be sure she doesn't have the growth bug." I wondered if she had been growing since they had been together. I walked over and put the patch high on her back, where it would be hard to remove if she wanted to, and explained that she was to leave it there. She nodded absently and sipped from a glass of water. We paddled back to shore and started looking for the rest of the crew. The lotus fruit grew from trees that covered the lower part of the island, while conifers grew on the flanks of the volcano. Birds and insects flew through the trees, and clover-like plants provided ground cover. It felt like a cultivated orchard, but for a long time we saw no sign of human life. I picked a lotus fruit and examined it, and the temptation to take a bite was nearly insurmountable. Gil's large hand took the fruit from my hand. "What memories to you want to escape, Jonah?" he asked. "They'll find you here and take away the fruit, and the memories will all come back into your head. This is no escape from your past." "I thought you said this fruit was rare." I half expected an orchardist to chase us away from his fruit, the rows of trees seemed so regular.

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"It is, most places. Something about the soil must encourage it. And any place with agriculture we try to wipe it out, or course. Birds who eat the fruit forget to migrate or lose their way. To eliminate this fruit is a service to our fellow creatures. We do serve fellow creatures, you know, we don't just avoid eating them." "I have the greatest respect for your faith," I assured him. "It's part of the reason I asked for this assignment. I belong to no church myself, and the ethics of my profession require me to stand apart, but I am interested in how you live." This seemed to satisfy him, and we walked along in silence for nearly an hour before we happened on an old man dressed in rags. He was small and slim, signs of virtue on this planet, with long gray hair and a beard that fell to his waist. It struck me that he could not be part of Gil's crew. He was sitting with his back to a lotus tree, clasping his knees and humming aimlessly. "Hello!" Gil called. "We are strangers. Have you seen more like us here?" The old man looked at him blankly. "Have I seen you?" he asked. "I think so," Gil said. "I'm sure I've been visible all day." The old man didn't seem to understand the joke. "I have some fruit," he said, motioning to the branches above him. The gesture of hospitality and the expression with which he made it was so sweet that I could not help liking him. "How long have you been here?" I asked him. "While the sun has been warm," he said. "Not just under the tree. How long have you been on this island?"

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"I had a wife," he said, and began to cry. "You see?" Gil said. "He ate the fruit to forget some sorrow, and he forgot everything but his sorrow. It's too much a part of him to leave behind." "How long do you think he's been here?" "Those were good, strong clothes, self-cleaning, very expensive. Now they are dirty rags and all the virtue is gone from the self-cleaning that was built into them. That takes a couple years even if you never take them off." "We've got to take him with us," I said. "You think he'll be any happier without the fruit?" "Whatever his pain is, he can't work through it like this." I saw that I couldn't either. We walked through that amnesiac orchard for hours. The old man wanted to eat more fruit, but we fed him durable rations instead. In time, it seemed he had something to say. He would drag at my arm and say, "wait, wait. She was…she was… oh, God. Oh, God." And then he would collapse and place his head against the bole of a lotus tree and ask us please, please, for the fruit of forgetfulness. And then he would give up and cry for a while until he ran dry and we could move him on. This happened several times. We tried to get him to tell us his name, but he seemed unable to recall it. "What shall we call him?" Gil asked me. "Is there anything in the culture or literature of your people he reminds you of?" I asked. "Well," Gil said, "This is the fifteenth lunar cycle of our year, the month we call Vernuary, and this is the fifteenth day. This is the eighth day of the week, which we call

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Franksday. Nothing there that even sounds like a name. Too bad we didn't find him in Freduary. That's the 13th month, and we could have called him Bad Luck." "He seems to have had some," I acknowledged. "We could call him Floyd. Very common name on this planet. Seems every third person you meet is named Floyd, including some of the women. You find an unidentified body, it's called a Floyd Shmoe." "Floyd it is, then." "No, that won't work. One of the missing crew members we're looking for is named Floyd." Gil lapsed into silence, and I decided not to talk to him until he could be serious. After a while the old man seemed to wake up and show more alertness, as if the effect of the lotus fruit was wearing off. He would show us pathways almost invisible in the ground cover. Then he became frightened, and motioned us behind a tree. Gil didn't want to follow, but the old man was so emphatic I helped him drag the young giant down behind a large tree. A huge shadow moved across the clover and a large, bearded face came into view far higher than any human face had a right to be. The face was broad, tanned and scarred. The man had to be three meters tall, and unlike Gil's willowy frame, he was solid as an elephant. He had to weigh 500 kilos, and not much of it was fat. He wore nothing but a loincloth and carried a machete the size of a two-handed broadsword. He was pruning the trees. He would find withered limbs and lop them off. Limbs as big around as a man's arm came off with an effortless one-armed swipe.

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Clearly he was the orchardist, and for whatever reason, had infested the entire island with this noxious fruit. Gil tried to get up, thinking perhaps that he could talk to our orchardist. The old man pulled down on his arm, and when Gil shook him off, he grabbed a rock and thew it full strength at his head. Gil collapsed silently and the old man caught him and cradled his head with obvious concern for his well being. The giant turned his head toward us as if trying to hear something. I saw his left eye and at first thought he could see me; then I noticed its milky cast and realized that the eye had been ruined by some blow long ago. He listened for a brief while, then went back to work. He carried with him a bucket of amber liquid, and he painted it onto the trees where he had removed the branches. I realized that we had failed to see these signs of cultivation because we had assumed the land wasn't settled. Now that I knew what to look for, I saw evidence of past pruning. The amber liquid dried to a color that matched the trees' bark. The enormous orchardist slowly worked away from us. He had disappeared beyond a hillock when Gil started to regain consciousness. He stirred, moaned, then tried to sit up and thought better of it. Finally his eyes seemed to focus on my face. "My head hurts," he told me. "Speak softly," I told him. "I think that guy with the machete might still be within hearing." "Hey, Shmoe hit me!" "Quiet, please." "He hit me!" "Machete?" I prompted.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"Huh?" I pointed. The giant was coming back over the rise. His good eye was searching and he started talking. "Hey, little one, I hear you! Come, come, I want to have you over for dinner! You've led me a merry chase for two years now, and it's time you went to my cooking pot like your wife!" Suddenly Shmoe stood and shouted, "You hit me!" pointing at the giant. It was a pretty good imitation of Gil's voice. Then he ran across the giant's path and down the hill, toward trees that had yet to be pruned. The giant screamed in joy and ran down the hill after him, slashing at branches the old man easily ducked. "We should distract the machete man," Gil whispered. "That's what Shmoe is doing. You want to ruin his work?" "He can't outrun the giant!" "According to the giant, he's been doing it for two years." "But he can't even remember what's happening!" "He remembered his wife. He remembered enough about the giant to silence you when you would have attracted attention. I think a strong emotion cuts through the fog." "We should do something," Gil insisted. "Yes. We should make sure May is all right." "May!" Gil stood and started walking rapidly the way we had come. "This way," I told him. "I've got it on my locator. We must have walked most of the way around the island. It's shorter to go the rest of the way." I kept him to a brisk walk so we would not tire before we got there. I needed questions answered as well.

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John MacBeath Watkins

"The giant. He's one of the first people, the settlers that were here before your people came to this planet?" Gil nodded. "They didn't all die, you know. Some joined us." "Not him." "Some weren't killed by the growth bug. Some had stronger hearts and just grew large. There were battles, but their numbers were few, their weapons primitive. There are still stories, of course, about the few who scattered and lived on in the wilderness, of naturalists and explorers who found impossibly large footprints, of people who never came back from areas where those footprints were found. I always assumed it was the guilty hysteria of my people, imagining retribution where none came, for our using living things to kill our enemies. They told us stories, I supposed only to scare us, about giant carnivore people who made no distinction between meat from humans and meat from animals. They said if we ran away, we would be eaten. Well, my friends and I have run away, and there is every chance we will be eaten." "The anarchists were not cannibals when they settled here," I pointed out. "That's the irony. You've been to our temples, seen the ceremony of meat?" I nodded. "It's the transubstantiation. We made no distinction between animal and man. The Tortured God symbolizes exactly that. The story of the carnivore giant is mankind created in the image of our nightmares, huge and gross, killing and eating without feeling for fellow creatures. It is an image of strength and power abused, and when we reached out to space, we tried to leave that nightmare behind before mankind met any other intelligent species."

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"And that's what your height means back at Homeport." "Yes. I will never go back. I would rather be cooked on a spit like the Tortured God than return to my people. I am their nightmare incarnate." "No. The giant Shmoe led away is their nightmare incarnate." "The fact that he exists means they will kill me if I return. Not quickly and humanely, I mean, because that would require a deliberate act. No, they will keep me from employment, from housing, from any human contact. I will die slowly, like the cows fenced out of the fields to starve in the rocky areas where only the goats thrive. If I am to be turned out, I would rather go by my own volition." "Your church was started with the intention to do good. Surely there are still altruistic people who will help you and kind people who will care for you?" "The church has become old. It isn't the good who become powerful, it is those who want power. It is the people who enjoy order who order our world, not the ones with the best ideas. They have taken our faith and tried to make it so orderly that there is no place for human feeling. They have made the hierarchy strong and stable, because that is the path to order. They control our lives in all the little ways they can and demand belief and put a policeman in our heads so that we can barely think for ourselves. Temple is mandatory three times a week and prayer three times a day. The indoctrination is constant and relentless and reaches deep inside us. Even I, knowing myself as I do, have wondered if the hatred I've encountered is justified. Can almost everyone I know be wrong, or is it me that's wrong? Are they wrong to think me evil or am I wrong to think I'm not?" His angry words seemed to drive him on, and as his long legs carried him in a fast, loping walk, I had to settle into a trot to keep up. Years in deep sleep cause your

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muscles to atrophy. I had worked out for the last few months of the flight to get myself fit, but even so I could no longer talk and keep the pace. Most unhappy people are self-involved, and so accomplish little. A few direct their angst outward. Some find people to help as a palliative to their own pain. Others try to fit the world to themselves. Gil was one of those, and could become a revolutionary if he ever stopped running. Which raised an ethical issue. I am a historian of the human Diaspora. The reason for my visit was to observe, and write a more honest assessment of the culture that had developed on this planet than the official history written by their rulers would be. What if, by revealing that his condition was easily curable, I turned Gil into a revolutionary? It was against the ethics of my profession to foment a revolution. It was against my ethics as a human being to leave the boy untreated. Of course, given the time constraints of space travel, it could be centuries before my ethical lapse was reported to my superiors. Unless, of course, the whole story was transmitted by radio. Then it might be mere decades. Given the effects of near-light speed on the passage of relative time, I might be there to face the music either way. Like most Spacers, I was less worried about that than I was about the effect such a story could have on my profession. If I started a revolution and the story got out, it could be impossible to get planetary authorities to cooperate with our historians. The history of the human Diaspora would become an even more impossible project and the settled planets would have nothing to hold them together. "There's another populated planet in this system, you know," I said. "On Cyril 4 your height wouldn't mean what it does here."

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John MacBeath Watkins

"They're terraforming," he said. "That's never worked yet. Someday the colony there will have to give up. We've been sending them so much stuff, we could take all the colonists off on the return flights in a single month. It's only worth while because they aren't Vegans, and we don't want them on our planet. We haven't had so much luck with people not of our faith on the planet with us. So we keep telling them, don't give up, we'll keep you in food and oxygen, we'll send any gear you think will help make that planet habitable." "So you go there. When they give up, you come back with them. You'd still be living with people who don't hate you." "Space travel is expensive. I couldn't afford to go, and I certainly wouldn't be able to bring May. I'm not leaving May unless she tells me to go away." I thought of the long-haired woman. Had she come here to find a new home or to give up because her people were failing in their terraforming project? The historian in me always tries to get the stories of the people around me, while I seldom tell my own. She had deftly turned away my inquiries and told me almost nothing, so I never knew where the night crept into her life. We walked on in silence. My locator said we were drawing close to my vessel, but it seemed to me that we were too high on the hill. The cultivated orchard gave way to thick brush, and we would have had to stop if we hadn't come to a stream. We waded into the stream and followed its descent. I heard white noise ahead, then saw a break in the foliage. When we came to it, it proved to be a waterfall. It spilled into a deep green pool beyond which I could see the Shadow at anchor. Four people were rowing out to it in the dinghy, and May was waving to them.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

I heard a crashing in the bushes behind us, and saw the giant's machete cutting toward us. Gil dove into the pool below us without hesitation. I dithered, oddly, because I'm afraid of heights. I can go so high that height has no meaning and gavity's a dead letter, but a fall that could break my neck still makes me hesitate. I gathered myself to spring, then as my legs released their tension, a hand the size of my chest wrapped itself around me and arrested my fall. The giant drew me back, spun me around, and I found myself facing an open, laughing mouth that could have swallowed my head.

The Giant's Tale____________________________

They tell me I'm a brave man, but I tell you that I fainted. I came to exhausted and aching in the dark, bound hand and foot, and gave up an fell asleep. I had strange dreams then. Or maybe something else. The wold came into view, blue and green and marbled with clouds. The point of view swooped into a palace, where a large man with gray hair and beard brooded in a throne. A deep, resonant voice began to speak. "God was in his heaven, trying to decide whether all was right with the world. This is back when the world was young, say 2,000 or 4,000 years old, compared to maybe 8,000 now. The young planethood of the world, not it's dotage, like now. Fame is fleeting, but people still remembered God in those days. It wasn't like he had to prove he existed. In fact, his biggest worry back then was whether people liked him enough. Some say it still is. He certainly insists people tell him how important he is all the time."

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"So, dude," said Satan, swinging into a seat by the liquor cabinet and pouring himself a glass of ambrosia. "How's it hanging?" "Whose ambrosia do you suppose that is?'" God asked coldly. Satan looked at the glass in mock surprise. "You mean it's not yours? Dude, I thought I was bad. Who'd you pinch it from?" "What I mean is, the ambrosia is mine. And I did not offer you any. So you shouldn't have taken any." "Sorry, man, I'll put it back," Satan said, and promptly vomited the ambrosia he'd drunk back into the glass. "I'll pour it back in the bottle now." "No –" too late, Satan had suited action to words. "Oh, hell, you may as well take it." "Thanks, dude," Satan said, placing the bottle in his satchel. "And hell's my address, not my title." "Have you any idea how instantly dated the slang you use sounds?" God spake, in irritation. "Yeah, right, real longhair stuff. Personally, I think slang is swell no matter how old it sounds. It goes so well with temptation, y'know? And I' m all that, y'know?" "Not everyone is tempted by your tired tricks, Satan." "Take the broomstick out of your butt, ya great pillock. Your followers only kiss your ass because you give them goodies. Take Job. Guy's got hot and cold running cows, land to graze them on, nice home life. Tell you what, make a bet with you, if Job doesn't get the nice life he expects, I say he throws you over. Decides he's not that way about you at all. Put him on the wrong side of Lady Luck, see how much he likes you then."

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"There's no such thing as luck," God told him. "Do you know how the Lady feels when you say that?" Satan inquired. "And she can be real sweet, too. Tell you what, make it our usual bet. It ain't like you can't afford it, big daddy." "Job is a better man than you know. You shall eat your words, Satan" "I'd rather drink your liquor," Satan said. The scene shifted suddenly, and Satan was paying off his bet with God. "Job was steadfast, I admit it," he said. "I give you the bottle I owe you." God took the bottle and examined it with a look of distaste. "Go on, have a nip," the Prince of Darkness urged. "Get thee behind me, Satan" God replied. He turned and walked away, muttering, "Damned bottle looks a bit familiar."

I awoke in a dark, smoky cave. I could smell livestock and hear the snuffling and bleating of sheep. I assumed it was night, but the darkness was too thick to be night. I must be in shelter: In fact, I must be in the earth. I was still bound hand and foot. Some soft and flexible fiber, probably artificial, since most natural fibers are not very comfortable. The knots didn't seem that clever, but there were many of them. I had a feeling that the giant didn't know knots that well, and subscribed to the philosophy that if you can't tie a knot, tie a lot. Consequently, I had been bound by the Gordian method. My hands were tied behind me, with big knots the size of my fists, and my ankles were bound as well. My exploration of my environment was difficult. Lying on my back, I pushed with my hands and then my feet, moving like

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an inch worm (which, if you've met one, you know moves only a centimeter at time. A . 4-inch worm at best.) I found a sharp rock and started scraping the bonds against it. Usually I don't remember my dreams. Even nightmares that wake me screaming fade quickly in the light. The strange dream about God and Satan stuck with me, though, and I wondered why mythology from a dead religion was haunting my dreams. And why that mythology, and not Zeus or Odin? Or was it a dream at all? On some worlds, where everyone has implants, governments comandeer the implants at night to send out propaganda. It's remarkably effective on those planets where the government can issue the dreams, but on Cyril 5 people get images on a screen instead of in their heads. They can turn away or turn it off. And who would transmit a God of Doubt in this world of moral certainty? It fit with the Terraformers' beliefs, but why sould they send it? The bonds on my wrists gave way, and feeling started returning to my numb hands, all prickling and pain. It was a few minutes before I started trying the knots on my ankles. I couldn't tell by touch how the knots worked, and I wasn't making any progress untying them. I picked up the sharp rock and started sawing at the rope. After the rope parted, it was several minutes before I could stand. My eyes should have adjusted to the dark, but they didn't. Either I was blind, or there wasn't enough light for me to see at all. My feet were still pins and needles, but I stood. Immediately I started reaching out for some support, staggering forward until my right thigh made contact with a sheep. I'd never met a sheep before, but I was pretty sure it was the only animal that wears wool aside from humans. Besides, it said something sheepish. "Bhaah," I think it was. Or something equally disapproving.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

I wasn't in my right mind at this point, but I was able to figure our that I was in a cave with some sheep. Somehow, working this out felt like a great accomplishment. I sat down in the dirt and wept. Time passed, and I was still sitting in the dirt. Eventually the sheep I'd run into nuzzled me and demanded my attention. I threw my arms around its neck and sobbed into its fleece. I don't know how much time had passed before a grinding sound filled the cave and light formed a corona around the stone that was being moved from the entrance. It was a circular disk of granite, like a millstone, I imagine, and it must have weighted at least a thousand kilos. The one-eyed giant grunted and heaved, and the disk moved. I can't imagine any less than four strong men of the ordinary sort managing that stone. Eight, to really control it. "Hey, my wooly ones," the giant called. "Hey, my bah lambs. One of you will be spared this time, because a damned Vegan bastard will die for you." I ducked down behind a sheep and hoped the giant wouldn't see me. He didn't look to see if I was there. Instead, he started laying a fire at the mouth of the cave while facing toward me. "I don't see you, mister Food, but don't you worry," he said. "Sometimes they slip the bonds, but they never slips out the door." He added tinder to the wood, applied flint and steel, and blew on the tinder until the flame grew large enough to sustain itself. "It will be some time until the coals are ready, and in any case I'm not hungry yet. There is time for the telling of tales, and I have a captive audience. There are stories I know from childhood, but I have no children to tell them to. I suppose those stories will die with me, because everyone I tell them to dies. The main story, though, is the story of my life, and I suppose it is appropriate that it dies with me.

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"Why do I have no children? Because I have no wife. My kind is nearly extinct. Someday in the mythology of this world, we will be a story told to scare little children. I will not fail future generations by being less monstrous than I should. What am I to you? Some of you have called me bigfoot. Some have called me bloodsucker. You know, I was not raised to eat people. My parents were deficient in that respect. They didn't live up to your expectations, but I have learned from you. We had fields and grain before you came here, and plenty to eat besides meat. When you made war on us, we could not stay in one place, and became nomads. We herded sheep, we hunted game, such as there is in these woods. The native animals are all very small. We picked fruit, and learned the herbs that neutralize the memory killer in the lotus fruit. My family settled on this island with a few other families, and knowing that you had never found the herb that makes lotus a practical crop, we planted lotus all over this island. It has proven a fine defense, but far from a perfect one. Many who came knew the properties of the lotus and did not eat it. Some were sent to hunt us down. We hid from them, but you infected our sheep with a new strain of growth bug, as you did to the other scattered tribes. Our island isolation had kept the virus away from our herd, but no more. This was in my grandfather's time. His parents grew so fat they couldn't move. He starved himself and his family to extend their lives, trying to restrain the way the way their bodies wanted to grow. They grew tall and thin and were careful to stay fit, but died in their early forties anyway. He and his wife had twelve children, and some grew huge and died quiet young, but three lasted long enough to reproduce. There were three other families then, and the strongest and smallest survived long enough to marry and have children. It was a brutal form of selection. We knew we had to marry young, have children early, eat little, and still die young. We might someday have put together a way of life we could sustain

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as a people, and we were surely doing you no harm. We hid from any who came here, built no permanent shelters, lived lightly on the ground for all our bulk." The giant picked up a wooden bucket, dipped it in the trough that the sheep drank from and raised it to his lips. He drained it in a few gulps. "Then your people had one of these paroxysms of faith that churches go through, a sort of religious revival that would admit no areas of gray and tolerate no deviation. Your people knew that we were alive, but as we harmed no one, were left alone for some years. This was no longer acceptable to the powers of the church. We might harm no people, but we still were shepherds, and we still ate meat. We were a living rebuke to your faith. A party landed on our shore when I was ten years old. There were about twenty men who came in a small ship. All were armed, though why a people who do not hunt needed killing weapons was not at first clear to me. They were led by a man who barked at all the others. I watched them from the bushes, and though I was only ten I was larger than any of them. They were no woodsmen, and they did not see me. My father sent everyone away so he could parley with them, but he could not send me away without revealing my position because I was so close to them. He came out of the woods, a tall, gaunt man nearly twice their height, stooping to try to look smaller, humble and unarmed. He spoke to the man who barked at the others, and I saw that man had eyes like thunder, eyes like death, eyes like hunger, I can't explain, but when he looked at something you thought it should die. He was small and straight and bald and a little plump around the middle. But he was not about his body, he was about his voice and eyes. He wore the blue the priests of your religion wear.

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"The bald priest tried to convince my father to bring all the tribe to a feast he would throw, but my father said, 'a man does not bring guns and pikes to a feast, he brings spoons and forks.' "'We are few in number. We are dying,' he told the priest. 'We will stop herding and grow crops if you will teach us to farm. We will never again eat meat. Please help us. We need to stop hiding in the woods and learn to raise our food in the fields. We will worship your God. If you have some cure for the disease, please cure us. We do not want to live this way. Could we live as you do, as a colony of your people? This will be a great day for the Tortured God. This will be his final triumph over my people.' "'Bless you, savage man,' the priest said. 'You shall be sainted for bringing your people to the true faith. There will be peace among our people for all time now.'" "He turned to his men and told them to put up their weapons and place them in the boat they had come to the beach in, and sent the weapons back to the ship." "My father left, but I could not leave without giving away my position. A few minutes later, I heard him call with the screech of a bandersnatch, which was the signal for all the tribe to come to him. But by this time, the boat with the weapons was coming back, and they unloaded them and buried them in the sand, each man standing by his hidden pike and gun. When the tribe started coming down to the beach, a pathetic few led by my father, I broke cover and ran to them shouting a warning. I heard shouts behind me, then shots, and turned back to look and was struck a blow by a thrown pike that took away my eye. I fell to the ground, and when I rose again I saw with my one good eye that my father lay a few yards on, wounded in the leg. He ordered me to run on and care for the family, so I had to leave him there.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"That night I snuck back, and I saw that my father still lived. They had tied him to a sapling and the priest was screaming at him, every sort of filth you can imagine, and pulled a knife across his flesh until lines of blood went all across his stomach and sides. "'Where are your people hiding?' he demanded, and pulled the knife across my father's stomach again. "My father shook his head and looked at the ground. I think he was afraid that if he looked up, he would look to the part of the mountains where the caves are. "The knife came across his chest again, and he gasped. He did not scream, or cry, or beg for mercy. He knew he was as good as dead already, and would not give that sadist any satisfaction. "We were only a dozen people when these men landed, and five had died in the trap they had set, and I knew my father wouldn't live out the night, so half our number were gone. "The priest worked himself into a towering rage. "'You are worse than any animal!' he screamed in my father's face. "You know what you do, you see the pain the animals suffer, and still you kill and eat them. You murder them, you eat them. Do you know the pain they suffer?' and he pulled the knife across my father's stomach deeper than before. "'You sear their flesh and rend the remains of their dead bodies with your teeth. You see what he is, men. You know this body grew large on the flesh of other living creatures. Every gram of his flesh is suffused with the sin of the killer, the meat eater. You think you can just eat some salads and loose the sin that permeates your skin, your hair, your flesh, your bones?

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"'I tell you, men, only fire can purify this abomination. Bring firewood, stack it by his feet. We will show these savages the purity of fire. We will show them how it feels to be cooked like a slab of meat. Bring the firewood, men. Stack it all around him. Those who hate us will all be purified by fire. Fire will cleanse this world. We will defeat sin with strength. Those weaklings that would not face this task will still benefit from it. We purify this world for them, even against their will. Now they call us heretics, one day they will acknowledge us as saviors.' "He had them stack driftwood against my father's body and set it ablaze, and I still dream about that night and when my heart finally fails, it will be because I'm having that nightmare again. I did not run out and try to kill them all, because I knew I would die without avenging him. "With his vestments on him and the Book of the Tortured God in his hand, the priest gave a sermon about how this was retribution against the eaters of meat, and this is what should be done to all of them, because the eaters of meat had done this to the Tortured God. Then he lit the fire. It hadn't been laid right, and didn't want to catch, so he had to put some flammable liquid on it to make it go. "I stayed and witnessed every moment of my father being consumed by the fire. He screamed until he died. Death by fire is particularly horrible, which is why your God is the Tortured God, is it not? I stayed while they ate their corn and vegetables while the camp smelled of my father's burning flesh. I stayed while they joked about it, and reinforced each other so that no one could admit that what they'd done was wrong. I knew that for the rest of their lives, they would always find a way to justify their actions, so they could be counted on to repeat those actions. I stayed until they slept, and on until the guard slept. I managed to cut the throats of three before anyone raised the alarm. The

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blood on the knife handle made my knife slip while I was slitting the third man's throat, or I might have finished them all that night. That one slept lightly and managed a scream before I'd finished the job, so I had to run off into the night. I don't know what the priest would have done to the guard if I hadn't killed him. Probably killed him as an example. He'd given himself the power over life and death, and liked it. It made him a hazard to those who followed him as well as those who didn't. "The next morning I watched from a hill, too far away to hear what they were saying, but I didn't need to. One man was defying the priest, and they argued, and the man started for the boat, evidently taking the view that he'd had enough of this adventure. The priest shot him in the back. They buried him in a shallow grave in the sand, where he would be out of sight. But as the corpse corrupted his stench would make the beach an impossible place to be, so I knew they didn't plan to stay long. They just threw my father's body in the sea where the shield crabs native to this world would feast on it. "They started hunting us that day. They outnumbered us, and had far better weapons, so if we showed ourselves we were dead. These men were no hunters, though, and we knew the ground. The battle went on for a week, and they had to move their beachhead because of the smell of the corrupting corpse. We picked them off one by one, but the other three men of our tribe were killed. In the end, it was the priest and me and two girls older than me. We hunted him down, and knocked him on the head, and dragged him back to this cave. When he came to, he pleaded and cursed and prayed. He said he knew what vile monsters we were, that we would cook and eat him, that this was no different from us killing and eating the sheep.

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John MacBeath Watkins

"I made him show me in the Book of the Tortured God where it said how Ohlsen was cooked, and asked him how he wished to be spiced, and chided him for wasting my father's meat. How could you cook my father and not eat him? I inquired. Such waste, it's criminal, I said. And I told him how unsanitary it was to cook him without gutting and cleaning him first, and told him he was a lousy butcher and a horrid cook. In the end, hate got the better of us, and the girls and I bound him with wire to one of his pikes and cooked him slowly over a fire while he screamed. Good times, good times, I won't forget that meal ever. My first man roast, the time when I came into my own and became what the world expected of me. Gods are born when people believe in them, and monsters as well. Now I live alone, of course, so I'll hack off an arm or a leg for dinner and leave you alive until the next meal. It doesn't do to overeat when you have the growth bug in you. "Oh, and did I mention I have no wife or child? We tried, you know, the girls and I. One had a baby grow so big in her belly that she could not give birth to it. She was in labor three days before she died. The other gave birth to two babies who grew huge and died, and she did so as well before we could try again. She just gave up and ate herself to death, which is easy for us to do. Beyond a certain size, the heart just fails. "So now I'm alone. When you little folk come to my island, I don't ask your intentions. I know what you think of me and what you'd do to me given the chance, so I don't need to ask any questions. I just put you in the cave, and build my cooking fire, and sharpen my machete. When I take off a limb, I'll cauterize the wound so you won't die right away, and you can listen to more of my stories. You won't feel much like talking after the first meal, but if you're very healthy, I might get three limbs off before

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you die. It's nice to have company for dinner. I don’t have anyone to talk to most of the time." He sat and sharpened his machete. "I'm an off-worlder," I called. "I'm not Vegan. I've got nothing to do with that priest or his men." The giant chuckled. "That's a new one. I thought I'd heard all the different forms of pleading." "I can cure the growth bug," I called. "I have medicine." The giant lifted his head and peered into the darkness of the cave. "Can you cure death? Can you bring back my family, my tribe, my wives? Can you cure the pain in me, and make me forget what has happened? The lotus fruit can't, I've tried that. Cure memory for me, if you can. Then we can talk. I take off the arms first, so you may not be able to gesture when we talk. A cure, I'm offered a cure at this point in life! You are well trained in the comedic arts, sir. I question your taste, but then, I'll have ample opportunity to savor your taste, won't I?" "I can't cure death," I called, "but I didn't cause it. I'm not your enemy." "I'm not yours either. I've brought you to my home for dinner, surely that is a gesture of friendship? Don't think I will stingy with you, you may eat as much of the meat I cook as you like. Of course, if you don't leave enough for me, I'll have to prepare a second helping, but I know where I can get something to cook. Oh, my, am I playing with my food? Forgive me." I lapsed into silence. The giant was determined to kill me, and nothing could prevent him from doing so.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"I have a name, you know," the giant said. "You can call by my name. That might persuade me. It's not the name my father gave me, but it is the name I chose after I lost my eye. You may call me Polyphemus. Given my circumstances, it seems appropriate." I hid behind the sheep and tried to think of a way out. I had perhaps an hour before an adequate bed of coals was ready. The giant came to the mouth of the cave and pushed the stone to almost close the doorway, leaving just a crack so he could talk some more. If I did escape, I could write a history that would make me a pariah on every Vegan planet. It was clear to me that the moment he was kidnapped, all that Frank Ohlsen had worked for was ruined. The church formed after his death was bitter from its birth, convinced that only a sick society could have produced his murderers. For those who made Frank Ohlsen a God, the murderers defined society rather than being an aberration removed from the polis by the courts. So they built a society that produced this new Polyphemus. Ohlsen tried to build a movement based on reasoned arguments and appeals to people's better nature. Those who built the church appealed to the hind brain, the basic survival center that urges fight or flight. Ohlsen's soft tools would have spread his ideas slowly, but it was rage and fear that built a church in his name. Rage and fear can fuse individuals into something larger and more deadly. Something that is always looking for threats, for things to kill or drive away. I thought of my dream about the ancient God and his adversary. Why had God created Satan? Why had human belief created both? Was Satan merely the explanation for everything that went wrong, or did he serve as a check on the omnipotent power of

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God? Perhaps he was in some strange way God's conscience, a trickster who showed God his own excesses? My theology had to be muddled. It looked like I'd soon have a chance to meet whatever deities governed my life and afterlife, so there wasn't much sense in this idle speculation when I should be thinking only of escape. Except that the weight of the stone covering the mouth of the cave made escape inconceivable I had come here thinking in the silence of this planet's pristine airwaves I might find the God that Joy listened to. Instead I found a trail of desolation left behind in his name. And I was to be trampled in that trail instead of being saved by Him. How long until the coals are ready? My life is going up in translucent tendrils of smoke, and hell glows in the embers below. When hell is big enough, I will be cast into it. It's the hell of a faith I'll never share, and the sins I'll roast for are the sins of others, but I will never be a martyr for anyone. I'll just be a symbolic and hopefully nutritional meal for a self-pitying monster. I will never write the history of his dying race or add to the history of the human Diaspora. I have spoken this story into the implant in my skull, and I'm uploading it to my ship, which will transmit it to my home base. I doubt there is anyone on this planet in range to receive it. Perhaps they will know the story when someone finds my skull who knows how to retrieve it. Or on this planet, maybe they'll just bury my remains.

End of Last Message: Had this message never been heard, Cyril 5 would have continued as before. This is the story of the changes words can bring, of how ideals are corrupted by power and renewed through rebellion.

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_________________________

The Long-Haired Woman tells of her suicide_______________________

I was resting in my harness reflecting that after the novelty of weightlessness had worn off, what remained was nausea. "We'll be firing retros in a moment, folks, so strap in," the pilot's voice said over the intercom. "This is something pretty unusual. We have an interstellar traveler boarding. He's a historian for the Space Corps, so let's make him feel welcome and try to make a good impression, heh heh." "Heh heh," I repeated resentfully. As the maneuvering bumped me around and aggravated my nausea, I wished the cabin had windows. Few ever saw interstellar craft, in part because they were not suited to entry into the atmosphere, and in part because there were so few of them. Eventually there was a jolt as the ships mated, some strange noises that I found disturbing when I considered that this was all about making an airtight joint between ships in a vacuum, and finally, after what seemed an interminable time, a man came back from the cockpit though the tight confines of the cabin. "Folks, meet Jonah Wales, Historian First Class," the pilot's voice said. "He's come 20 light years to see us and write the history of this system for the rest of humanity to know about us. As soon as he settles in, we'll resume our journey. The flight will be delayed six hours, and all of the contacts you listed have been notified."
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Wales took the only free harness, the one next to me. He was a compact, cleanshaven man with short hair graying at the temples. He inspected the harness, quickly figuring out how it worked, then strapped in. I reflected that probably at each new system he visited, he faced small differences in things like harnesses. Moments after he clicked himself in, the join between the ships let go with a jolt, the maneuvering rockets fired and took the shuttle far enough from the interstellar ship to safely resume its journey. For a few minutes we were pressed back into our harnesses by the shuttle's acceleration. I cast about for something to say to start a conversation, but everything that came to mind seemed lame and banal. Then the Spacer turned to me and smiled. "Hi," he said. For a man who flew between starts, that probably worked as a pickup line, I thought. "Hi," I said. "I'm Amy McKai." "I guess you caught my name," Wales said. "Yeah," I said, nodding redundantly and, I thought, idiotically. The nodding caused my long hair to slip out of my belt, the braid swinging slowly around to hit Wales in the face. "Sorry!" I gasped. "Not a problem," he said, smiling again as he handed back the end of the braid. "I think I should cut it," I said, apologetically. "Ask your boyfriend first, Amy. That's some beautiful hair." "I don't have a boyfriend." "Seems like a crime against nature," Wales said. He looked like he'd shaved shortly before leaving his ship. He was trying to make a good impression, too.

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"You ride the shuttle much?" If anyone else had asked, I'd have thought it a stupid question. "Nobody rides the shuttle much in the Cyril system," I told him. "There's not a lot of commerce between planets." "Nobody trades much in the way of goods between planets," Wales said. "Most systems, what they trade is ideas, art, that sort of thing." "That's kind of a problem here," I said. "Neither planet wants the others' ideas. My people are terraformers, and we tend to be pretty secular. Cyril 5 is ruled by the Vegan Church, and they tend to worry our ideas will infect the minds of their faithful." Wales chuckled. "Seen that scenario before," he said. "So how's the terraforming going?" I looked away. "Terrible," I said to the wall. I was close to tears, and didn't want him to see. "That's how it usually goes. Haven't seen a terraforming project that's worked yet. If the planet's not close to inhabitable when you get there, it's pretty tough to overcome a whole world's environment before you run out of what you need to live. How much longer have you got to make it work?" "No time at all." My vision blurred as the tears came. "We depend on the Vegans for oxygen, water and food. The air in our domes is so foul infants can't thrive on it, and the old have a terrible time." Wales produced a clean piece of cloth from somewhere, possibly a shop rag for working on his ship.

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While I dried my eyes and blew my nose, he said, "Look, I'm sure our Vegans friends would tell you, pride's a terrible sin. Your people ought to pack it in and evacuate the planet." "They won't let us." "Your leaders?" his face was grave now. "The Vegans. They only let a few of us at a time come, and unless those people die or return to Cyril 4, no more are allowed to come to Cyril 5. They let me come for a cultural exchange, but I'll have to go back in three standard months." "Cultural exchanges are what you have between enemies," Wales observed. "If you're friends, you have tourism and touring shows, or just people visiting people." "Yes, well, they want to know how to build lutes, lyre, and other instruments, and as a gesture of friendship Cyril 4 is sending me. I doubt my mission will change their minds." At least not that mission, I added to myself. My other mission might help. We talked on for an hour or more. There were things I was not allowed to say, because my mission required that I not set off alarms in anyone's heads. Still, he seemed to grasp that the shipments of air, water and food would one day stop, and the Vegans would find a reason to let the unbelievers die. What I couldn't tell him was that all terraformers were inoculated against the growth bug the Vegans had used against their enemies in the past. The Vegan Church did not want it known that there was a cure. It had become doctrine that the bug was a curse visited upon the ungodly, the sinners, the meat eaters. What if the terraformers came and started raising livestock? No assurances were acceptable. Not even conversion to the Vegan Church was acceptable. If such a thing as raising livestock without dying could happen, the Church elders thought it would, and that made the terraformers

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unacceptable. To bring this up in a cabin that had two Vegans present would bring too much attention to myself. The captain's voice announced that we would soon be entering the atmosphere. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Once there, I took from my pocket the small, spherical object that was the true reason I had been sent to Cyril 5. They called it the Golden Snitch, after something in mythology. I put it in the solid waste disposal and flushed. On some planets, the law came down hard on anyone dumping waste into orbit around the planet. Vegans didn't like space travel in any case, so they didn't worry about that. My personal waste and the Golden Snitch would both circle the planet until their orbits degraded. Some time after the shuttle landed, the Golden Snitch would start transmitting propaganda that the wise men of Cyril 4 thought would help move the minds of the Vegan people. I had not been allowed to view it. They had chosen something subtle, they told me. Something about a God of Doubt. The Vegans already knew how desperate the situation was for the terraformers, but the certainty of their views made them callused to the fate of secular people. I settled back into my harness. "How old are you really?" I asked the spacer. He smiled ruefully. "A vexed question," he said. "I mean, on the planet where you were born, how much time has passed since you were born?" "A little over 200 years," he said. "I keep close track of my personal time. In about three earth months, I'll be 45." "I can't even imagine what that life is like."

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"Lonely." I reached over and took his hand. My mission hadn't proved especially dangerous, but I was not a natural spy. The pressure of my mission had felt intense, and now that I had braved death and flushed the toilet, launching my little satellite, I wanted life.

On the beach at the limit of the aircar's range, he began to pull away from me. He feared me, feared I'd hurt him as someone else had. Men are fragile, I thought, made to be easily unmade. Another man thinking too much. No man had kissed me without asking if he could kiss me. Spontaneous affection had given me a miss. Was it the price of being a good girl? What more was there to life? I'd served my purpose. Once the transmitter started sending out its subtle propaganda, they'd figure out how it got there. My future was likely to be short. It didn't matter. Back on Cyril 4, all lives were destined to be short. I walked away, but came back again. The night was cold and he was warm. Not just the night, but my life was cold. In sleep and near-sleep he responded more, but when he woke and was in possession of himself again, he would crawl back into his shell like the hermit crab that he was. Sleeping, he held my braided hair in his fist like the totem of a new faith. That braid, the vanity of it, was a woman that no longer existed. I'd wanted to cut it off when I took the mission, but they forbade me to change my appearance in any way that was not in keeping with terraformers' customs. Now the mission was over, and I could dispense with the old vanity of the overgrown girl I had

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been. In his unprotected moments between sleep and waking the Spacer wanted that girl, and I wanted to give her to him. I cut off my hair with scissors from my purse, left it in his grip, and walked into the sea. In the stories when someone walks into the sea they die. When I walked into the sea, I got wet. I got in over my head and started swimming. Try drowning yourself. The most fundamental rule of life is, when your life is in danger you don't think about why you should go on living. You'll do anything to live. You may want on some level to die, but down in the reptile brain where our most desperate decision are made, life demands to live. I could not stop swimming and drown. For hours I swam, always away from shore. The navigating part of my brain wanted to die, but not the swimming part. The navigating part wanted to be too far from shore to swim back when the swimmer became exhausted. I hadn't removed my clothes or left behind my purse. My purse was sealed for brief exposure to the hostile atmosphere of Cyril 4, so that I could carry things that wouldn't fit inside the exposure suit when I left the dome. It was water tight, and full of air. Eventually I slipped the strap of my purse beneath my arms, laid my head on it, and went to sleep. The swimming part of me had won. I woke with the sun in my eyes. The sky was a mixture of red and gold and the sun was just above the horizon. I could see the hills above the beach I'd left behind, and in the distance offshore the top of an island. It occurred to me that I didn't have the strength to reach either. I decided against swimming for the island. It would take very little current to sweep me past it, and then I'd be farther off shore. I started swimming for the shore I'd left.

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How many hours since I had left that shore to drown myself? Probably no more than four between the time I stepped into the sea and the rise of the sun. I pushed my tired muscles to get to land, but the current must have swept me farther from shore as I slept. After a couple hours the sun felt hot and my throat felt parched. Without the air trapped in my watertight purse, I'd have drowned by then. As I rested and thought about how little I wanted death now that it was within my grasp, I saw the white triangle of a sail approaching. As it came closer I tried to call out, but I was not as loud as the seabirds overhead. A head floating centimeters above the water is hard to see in the waves if you're looking for it, and they had no way of knowing I was there. They passed by, oblivious, and sailed on toward the island. I was certain then that I would die. The sun went past it's zenith and went on toward the island in the distance. My skin was blistering from the sun and my eyes hurt from the glare. The distance was hard to judge, but I thought I was farther off shore than I had been that morning. Night fell and I gave myself over to despair, and sobbed and cursed my idiocy. I have never been a member of any church, which gave me a great many options for prayer and blasphemy. I saw shapes outlined by phosphorescence as sea creatures went by, creatures I had not even noticed when I was intent on death. Now that I was clinging to life, I feared they would be hungry and have large teeth. My own hunger was painful, but my thirst was worse. The salt water washing over my face only made it worse. In theory I could last two more days without water, but it seemed impossible to me. I slept at times and had fitful dreams about food and cool drinks. Somewhere in the middle of the night it occurred to me to turn on the implant and see if I could establish any contact. I didn't know anyone’s call code on this planet, and with no switching system installed, any contact would have to be line of sight. Since I couldn't

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see any settlements, I didn't think I could make any contact, but if someone was broadcasting broadly I might find a way to get back to them. There's not much control over the radio and video transmissions on Cyril 5. I got a soap opera, an infomercial for a pyramid scheme selling health and beauty aids, and more static than my implant had picked up ever before. I left it on just for the feel of human contact I got from it and drifted off to sleep again. This time I dreamed about watching beautiful fish from a low, shiny boat with a big engine. Probably I was getting a nature show, or parts of one, on the implant, and my mind was constructing a dream around the narrative. In my dream I remembered that the blood of fish is one percent salt, while the sea is 3.5 percent salt, and I bit into the fish to drink the blood from its heart. I woke sputtering and realized that I had swallowed seawater. Much more of that and I'd be raving. The sky was turning gray and mist hung over the water. No wind disturbed its surface and I bobbed in the low swell some distant storm had sent who knew how many kilometers across the sea. Seeker, this is Homeport, do you read, over. I'd left the implant in search mode, scanning the spectrum for a message of any kind. I checked and found that the message was on shortwave. Homeport, this is Seeker, we read, over. Seeker, what is the status of your search? Over. Homeport, we seek until we find, will call then, over. Seeker, your travel permit expires in one day, you are at least two days from port, we request you return, over. Homeport, this is Seeker, do not copy your last message, over.

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Bilbo, you know damn well what I said, over. Only blood relations are allowed to call me that, over. Billy boy, you come home right now, over. You're breaking up, Homeport. Will try to contact you later. Over. Damn you, Billy, I hung my nuts out for you and if you don't come now I'll make sure you never work in this town again, over. Just getting static now, Homeport. Let's try when the sun goes down again, over. They could be far away. I couldn't transmit short-wave without some mods, but in search mode I could hear it. They might be half way across this world, but they were in my head and it made me feel less alone. Dr. Alain Bombard believed that humans could drink seawater if they started before they became dehydrated, but his Trans-Atlantic voyage didn't prove this because he got enough rainwater not to have to test his own theory. I wondered if I was already too far gone. Best not to find out. 3.5 percent is a lot of salt. As the sun got higher the mist burned off and my face, already blistered from the first day, was bombarded by the sun again. My eyes itched at the front and ached at the back. I began to wish that some big fish would eat me. I began to think of letting go the purse and its precious bubble of buoyant air. Perhaps my survival instinct had only delayed the end the dying part of my mind had wanted. But I always held fast to that purse, and subjected myself to more pain and thirst and hunger rather than accept the logical end. When I had strength and remembered my purpose, I would try again to swim to the shore, but my attempts grew ever more feeble. I had lost sight of the island. The

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current was taking me somewhere, but I was too disoriented to know where. By noon the sun blazed down on me and I lost my mind for a while. My thirst would have me raving soon. I wasn't even getting the infomercial anymore on my implant.

Bilbo Davos tells how Seeker rescues the long-haired woman ___________________

"Just getting static now, Homeport," I said. "Let's try when the sun goes down again." I put down the mouthpiece for the radio, and Donne winked at me. Of course, he was just the hired hand, no one would blame him for my disobedience, but it was good to feel he was with me. "They're in a light racing boat," I said. "With the winds we've been having, they could be days ahead of us." "O.K., boss," Donne said. "Just don't burn the fuel cells out before we get there. When it goes flat calm, or the wind is against them, the motors will make all the difference." "If we're close enough to catch them even then." Donne was my age and we grew up together. His blonde hair marked him for his anarchist ancestry, and barred him from high position no matter how good a Vegan he might be. He wasn't tall, but he was no shorter than he should be. Some had questioned me taking him as my only crew on a search for my daughter and the others when so many thought she was kidnapped by that tall blonde boy she'd been hanging out with. I said it's a 15 meter boat, I need a hand that I can trust, and none of you will come with me.

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The authorities didn't want me to make my own search. They said they had air cars searching a grid pattern, and we'd hear something when they found something. I hadn't seen an air car in three days of this voyage. Either they weren't really looking, or they were looking somewhere else, and that made me feel that searching where I was must be essential. Seeker could cross oceans, but not quickly. She'd been built by my father as a vessel of discovery. He said some of the boats Columbus used weren't much bigger. It was what he could afford with no state support. Not only did the state offer no support, they prohibited him from going on a mapping expedition. The Vegan Church wants to control all knowledge. I think they were afraid he would go off and found a settlement they couldn't control, and they may have judged wisely. Moses Davos was a determined man, and he didn't like being told what to do. I think he liked Gil. He came close to naming me Gilgamesh, but chose Bilbo at the last minute, he told me. I told him there's not much in a name, and even if Gil was a nice kid, I've got to think about the kind of life my daughter would live with a tall kid with anarchist ancestors. I've got nothing against the blondes, mind, you, but I wouldn't let my daughter marry one. Donne and I were searching every bay and inlet that could harbor a vessel even over night. It was a slow search and they were in a fast vessel, but we'd found some fewmets and we had some hope. I figured they were stopping every night and anchoring. That's not what I would have done. I'd have headed off shore where there probably wasn't anything to hit and sailed all night and day. They were kids, though, they didn't know how to escape. Perhaps they even counted on being captured. Then it would be an

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adventure that ended in tears and joy and recriminations from their parents and they could talk about it at school and be cool. The racing boat had few aids to navigation, but Donne and I had every aid conceivable, all those that were available a quarter century ago when Seeker was built. We ran all night in four-hour shifts. Donne could sleep pretty well when off watch, but I was constantly out of my berth and up by the helm, scanning the horizon for Shadow. They wanted me to come back now. Art knew I wouldn't come, so I figured his radio messages were a big show to make it not his fault that we went against the decree and kept looking for my daughter. What would they do, mount the search they claimed they had already mounted in order to prevent me from finding the kids they said they were already looking for? I'd like to see that, I really would. They'd find the kids and then how would they tell the air crew to ignore what they'd found and let them go? The corruption in the church and state is at the top. If you don't have rank, you just act human. They figured those kids didn't have the knowledge to survive. They figured they would go off the map and disappear, and their little rebellion would go with them. Well, they can write off May if they want, but I won't. She's the spitting image of her mother, and all I have left in the world. Sure, I've got my farms, and my bank, and all those who work for me, but she's all I really care about. When her mother died, I thought I still had a purpose in the world, that I'd make the best place in it for my daughter it was humanly possible to make. That was why I'd started the bank, why I'd bought the farms. She'd had the best of everything, and she'd have the best husband as well if she'd just listen to me.

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Maybe I'd been too protective and that was why she'd defied me. And the longer she was gone, the more I'd thought, she can have Gil, I'll make that boy into somebody, just give me back my daughter, Frank Ohlsen. And if he ever hurts her, he'd just better watch out, by Frank. "Boss, you ought to get some sleep," Donne said. "Your shift starts in two hours, and you didn't sleep in your last two off watches." "You're probably right, Donne, but it ain't your daughter out there." "Boss, I've known May since she was a little girl. You give her some credit, she's smart. Whatever is happening, she's in charge of it." "If this thing ever comes to a trial, you better hope the jury says Gil was in charge of it." "Oh, they will boss. The blonde boy always gets the blame." He was smiling, that serious smile he gives me when he's saying something bitter. I know he wouldn’t talk that way to any other short man, so I ought to feel the privilege of his honesty. Well, fine. I didn't make the rules and I still have to live with them, and so does he. I don't hold the accident of his ancestry against him, but I know the world does, and I can't ignore that. "You know I don't care about hair," I said. "Yes, boss, I know that." There was something insolent in that, and something flattering in the way he would let me know how he felt, even if he blamed me a little for the things that made him feel that way. He wouldn't let every dark-haired man know how he felt. I stomped away from the steering station and onto the top of the pilot house, got into the crow's nest and pushed the button to have it go up the mast.

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The sails weren’t helping much. Donne had rolled up the jib and sheeted the main and mizzen in tight to act as steady sails in the rolling, oily seas. The sun was high and I put the polarizing filters on the binoculars. On the shore side, there was nothing but trees and mud. I searched the horizon for the white triangle of their sail and saw nothing, and nothing, and more nothing. For lack of anywhere else to look, I started scanning the waves for a discarded cup or something. My eyes were growing tired when I thought I saw something. I looked again and it was gone. I searched the waves for a few minutes longer and was about to give up when I saw it again. I turned on the intercom and called down to Donne. "Slow to a quarter throttle and turn 30 degrees port," I told him. "You got it, boss." I didn't take my eyes off it. It was reddish and sort of round. It might be a melon of some sort I hadn't run across, or a rubber ball, or bucket floating with the bail down. It was something, and it wasn't trees or mud or empty ocean. "Take her out of gear, turn starboard 5 degrees, and get ready to retrieve something," I told Donne. I took the crow's nest down to the deck and got a net over the side. Donne was standing by with a boat hook. "Right over there, do you see it?" I asked him. Donne had brought the hand remote out of the pilot house with him and was using it to pilot the boat, gently bringing us right up to the object. "Looks like somebody drowned," he said. "Maybe not. The body's not face down," I said.

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I climbed down the net and put a harness under her shoulders, and Donne controlled the davit and the winch to get her on the deck. "Another day, she'd be growing barnacles," he said. Barnacles had been planted by his ancestors as a delicacy to be harvested from these seas, but Donne only thought of them as a nuisance. We got her below and put her in a berth. Before my wife died and I went into commerce, I was a nurse, so I was a good one to treat her. I started rehydration and feeding intravenously, since she was in no condition to drink or eat. She was far gone but not too far gone. Her face was a mass of blisters from the sun and her lips were cracked. She was maybe 30 or so, much older than the kids we were looking for. She probably had a story, but I wasn't eager to hear it. Unless she'd seen my daughter, she was just a distraction. I only hoped finding her wouldn't force me to cut the search short. Once I had her situated, I went topside. "Well, we found something, boss," Donne said. "Just a damn nuisance. Don't you get on the radio and tell anyone, they'll say we have to return to give her medical treatment. Hell, it will be just the treatment I'm giving her now, but on shore. They just want us back so we stop looking." "Yeah, she's a nuisance, boss. You spent all your sleeping time helping her, and now it's the end of my shift, so I'm going to bed and you're steering." He shuffled off and I took the helm. I took us a little closer to shore, the better to look for small coves. I kept on for an hour before I pointed the boat a little off shore, cut the throttle, engaged the autopilot, and went below to check on her.

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Her breathing was slow and steady, and the readouts were as good as could be expected. Her face was blistered from the sun. Without that, it might have been pretty. Her hair was dark brown and cut short. Rather inexpertly cut short. I suppose when you pull an unconscious person from the ocean it's only natural to find them interesting. What was her story? Was it only my loneliness that made her seem attractive? I hadn't had a woman since Claire died. I hadn't seen the color of her eyes because they had been closed the whole time. Floating in the sea about a day or so from death, that's all I knew about her. Not much to know about someone. I shouldn't care. And somehow I did. All right. I checked on her. She was fine. Time to go upstairs. Sometimes I feel as if I'm dead. If I were, there would be no questions from my neighbors to answer. My errant daughter, this strange woman, the young blonde giant my daughter had left with, everything. And anything I might feel for another would be just so much blather from the grave. I went topside and pushed the throttle forward. Finding my daughter trumped everything. No feeling I could have could equal that. Near sunset I saw a glint on the beach. I turned inshore and anchored in just four fathoms. The tide was rising, after all. Donne rubbed his eyes as he came up from his berth. "What's up, boss?" he asked me. "Glint on the shore. Thought it might be something." "Woke me up for that?" "Yeah. Sorry. Anything, you know?"

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We got the dinghy over and rowed to shore. It was getting dark, so we each took an electric torch. We found if after a while. "This is it?" Donne asked me. "This is it," I confirmed. We rowed back. I set the bottle in front of the steering position so I could think about it. What did Donne expect? A signed confession? Anyway, the bottle was from Cyril 4. I haven't been the best father, I know that. But I will find her. And I will make it right.

The Long-Haired Woman awakens aboard Seeker____________________

There were no windows so I couldn't tell if it was day or night. The motion told me I was on a vessel of some sort. A tube was plugged into my arm, presumably re hydrating me. I didn't feel thirsty or hungry, so whoever was treating me was doing it well. My skin hurt from the sun, and what I could see of my arm was badly blistered. I must have looked like something to frighten small children. I licked my lips and tasted salt, either from the sea or from blood coming through the cracks in my lips. My eyes hurt as if they were sunburned right to the back of my eyeballs. I tried to sit up but fell back again. Then the first transmission started. I'd forgotten my implant was on search, so it took me by surprise. The God of Doubt and Trickster Satan did their

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little performance. I'm sure it looks different on a television than it does on the implant, and I'm not at all sure it looks as good. But it would run periodically, and in a society as starved for entertainment as this one, we could be sure it would be watched. What their transmitters were allowed to air was either vapid, or the most obvious sort of propaganda possible. Sure, they'd watch it. Then they'd go right back to feeling the way they did before. Their church didn't build on sand. It built on a rock veined with hate for outsiders. They wouldn't know who they were if they didn't have outsiders to define themselves against. The production of outsiders was therefore their most important industry. And yet, when power is so pervasive, people want to escape it. Some few want to be outsiders, for the romance, for the freedom, for the cussed contrariness of it. Those were the people we wanted to win over. And in those we couldn't win over, we wanted that rebel part of their character fighting against the rest of themselves. It seemed like a fine notion on Cyril 4. Receiving the transmission now on Cyril 5, the only doubt it instilled in me was doubt that it could ever work. My eyes closed again, and I slept.

Gil rejoins his companions_______________________________

The waters closed over my head and I waited for a second splash. I thought before I rose to the surface the Spacer would follow me. But I swam to the shore without him. I suppose old one-eye got him.

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I looked up at the top of the waterfall when I reached the shore. No one was there. I saw the Shadow before I jumped. I headed that way. When I got to the sea shore, the dinghy had reached the Shadow. I went in the water and started to swim for it. By the time I reached the stern and the ladder up the transom, I could hear voices above me. "We can't leave yet, Gil is still back there!" That was May. "Look, I'm raising the anchor. Anybody who's not on when it's up, we're leaving behind," Floyd said. "This is a nightmare. We need to go home," said Winifred, Floyd's girlfriend. "I don't care. We can leave anyone behind." I pulled myself up by the rungs, my feet dangling below the lowest one. "Just get the anchor up. Leave the damn bloodsucker behind," Gatsby said. "I came on this thing for fun. Fun is what I'm not having." I dragged myself up high enough to get my foot on the lowest rung. "It's been a nightmare," Stella sobbed. "I never thought it would be like this." I brought my head above the transom and could see them. "Gats," I said quietly. He didn't hear me, but Stella's head swung around and she gaped at me. "Oh, sweet Ohlsen," she murmured. "Don't worry," Gats said without turning around, "We'll be out of here before freakboy gets back." "I'm back," I called louder. Gats turned so quickly he almost fell overboard. I smiled.

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"Glad to see me?" He opened his mouth and closed it a few times, like a fish who drinks too much. "Hey, Floyd, drop the anchor," I called as I climbed into the transom. Floyd spun around, caught his foot in a bight of line, and followed the anchor back down. He damn near downed before we got him back aboard. We sat around in the cockpit after and talked about it. "You almost killed him," Winnie said. "You should be ashamed of yourself!" "I didn't touch the anchor line. The guy's just clumsy." I smiled at her and she looked away. "So Gats," I said, "How long you been calling me freakboy?" He looked at his feet. "Stop it, Gil," May said. "These are your friends." "Yeah, I made that mistake too," I said, "Until today, I mean. You heard what they said about me." "We just thought this would be fun," Stella said. "Fun? You thought leaving our families forever would be fun?" "We didn't figure on forever," Floyd said. "Look, get real, I don't blame you for anything, least of all me getting tangled in the anchor line. We just didn't think it would go this far. We thought we would go away, make our point, then go back. We thought they would catch us and make us go back." "They're not interested. Have you seen an aircar or a ship or anything? They don't want us back. You know why they don't want us back? Because they want us dead, and they don't think we can survive on our own. And if we go back, what will greet us? Our families, our homes? No. We're outcast now. We can't go back. You'll

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all be freaks like me if you try. Let me tell you something that will put you beyond the pale. The growth bug can be contracted without eating meat, and it's curable. I didn't have to be a giant. They could have cured me at any time. They didn't because they want enemies, even if the enemies aren’t guilty of anything. Now you can go back, but you'll know that. Knowing that will make you a danger to them, and they will destroy you." "There's no cure," Gats asserted. "I've got the Spacer's medical kit. It's got the cure, and I think we can make it here on Cyril 5. So where does that leave the church, especially when people realize they could have used the cure all along?" "No cure," Gats muttered. "There's my answer. I can give our people the cure and they won't believe it. The church will just throw it away and claim that it never existed. And my friends, people like you, Gats, who I've known most of my life, will say it was all a dream." "What do you expect of us?" Stella asked. "You want us to give up everything?" "That's what you said you wanted when you came with us. That's why we let you come." "Let them go, Gil," May said. "It can be just us." "I can't give them the boat. We need it." "What are we supposed to do, make a raft?" Gats said. "Or stay here," I said. "If they are looking, they will find you." "They're not looking," Floyd said. "You're right, we haven't seen an aircar. Anybody that doesn't have a boat isn't going anywhere."

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"The Spacer had a boat," I reminded them "Take that. I don't think he's going to be needing it." "I'm there," said Gats. "No wait." It was Stella. "I'm not ready to go back to my lecherous uncle, the Deacon, and my sad widowed mother, and the lies. I'm going with Gil and May." "Good luck," Gats said. "He's right, Stella," Winifred said. "There's no future there. We've got to go back." Floyd shook his head. "Winnie, I thought I knew you. I thought you couldn't be told what to think every day." "No, but you can’t be told, and I love you, so I followed you. Come back with me. I want to make a life with you, and we can't do it here. Come back, and work in my father's store, and you'll run it one day. We can have children, and schools to send them to, and other children for them to play with and one day marry. All I see here is wilderness. There's no civilization here for us to be part of. I'm going back, and I want you with me." Floyd shook his head. "I can't live with the lies." "They're just words," Winifred said. "Ignore them. What's important is us, and all we can be." "I should have drowned when I fouled the anchor," Floyd said. "I was ready to abandon Gil, just assume he was dead and head out. Maybe that's why I can't go back. I'm ashamed of myself, and if I don't stay, I'll never make it right."

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"Words, Floyd. I'm real, I'm not just words. Come home with me." "You're more real than the deck beneath my feet, but I'm not going back. For the first time in my life, I'm standing up to the hypocrites back home, and I've found out I like it. I'm not going back." "You'll die out here with the rocks and muck," Winnie said. "You're prob'ly right. At least you won't have to see it." Winnie went below and started packing. After half a minute, Gats followed. "You don't have to do this for me," I told Floyd. "The rest of you should go. Even you," I told May. "Winnie's right. What kind of life can you expect out here?" "Gilgamesh Fallow, if you try to send me away I will track you to the ends of the earth," May said. "And I'll carry her luggage," Floyd added. Stella just put her arm around May and smiled.

Winifred regrets leaving Floyd_____________________

The Spacer's boat had solar power and a fuel cell, so we weren't going to run out of power. We had a watermaker, rations for a month, and fishing gear. They gave us all we needed, really. Nothing to complain about, really. Except that I hated the damn boat, and the awful rations, and Gats, and myself. Floyd wasn't like anyone I knew. He wasn't ordinary. He had strong feelings, and he didn't care if those feelings made things hard for him, and unlike so many boys that wanted a wife with my father's wealth to inherit, he didn't care. He loved me for me,

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and I knew it was real and not just cupboard love from a hungry hound. And I had tried to make him abandon the things he cared about for me. For my body, my love, the children we could have, and yes, my father's wealth. I couldn't tempt him to go back with me because he was the kind of man I wanted to spend my life with. In a way, I loved him for the defects that made our love impossible. Gats was giving me that sly smile that worked so well on the girls. He'd sell that smile, and his athlete’s body, and his almost feminine eyes, to have what Floyd was turning down. And that's why I despised him. I didn't look forward to what would probably be at least a week-long trip with him. I knew what kind of life I wanted. I wanted children and everything they require. I wanted them to have all the advantages I had, and more. I guess I wanted the immortality of offspring. A man needs a woman for that, and I suppose I should have been looking for a man who wanted what I wanted. What did Floyd want? He felt caged and wanted freedom, but freedom for what? What would his life be for? He always seemed to have a purpose, but I never understood the goal. Every turn of the boat's propeller took me farther from him. Every turn felt worse to me. "Maybe we should turn back," I suggested. "Are you nuts?" Gats spat. "I'm not going back. You want to go back with them, you can swim. In a few days, I'm going to tuck into the biggest meal my mom ever made, take a long, hot soak in the tub and then sleep in a comfortable bed. You can be in your own home or not, but I won't turn this boat around." "Don't you have second thoughts? Don't you want to be with Stella?"

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"Stella's a babe, but she's got problems. She wants to run away from them, okay by me. My life is good. Sure, I went with you guys thinking it would be a lark, but I don't need to leave my life behind. I figured at some point, we'd get tired of the adventure and head back. Well, I got tired of it and I'm heading back." "You don't care about anybody but yourself," I said bitterly. "Yeah, right. And you're in this boat because why? I didn't force you to come. You're going back for the same reason I am. You want your life back. Let those losers run away. We're going back. We'll face the music and get what's ours in the end. You can think sentimental thoughts about going back to Floyd and you can even talk about them, because you know this boat ain't going back." "Just shut up. Just shut the Frank up." I turned away so he wouldn't see me cry.

The Long-Haired Woman gets a message___________________

Someone was transmitting last words and the alarm that goes out with those transmissions woke me up. I set my implant on record and waited. It was the Spacer. The story started with our landing on the planet, and his coldness, and my attempted suicide. And the tragedy of this world's church, corrupted by power, the power in the human mind that creates gods and monsters. It was everything our own propaganda was not. It was real, it was true. It also had the potential to turn this world into a pariah. If you killed a historian, the Space Service might not send another. Worse, they'd stop beaming messages that kept your planet in touch with the others. As decades turned into centuries, we'd go from

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being footnote in history to being a myth, finally being forgotten. In time, we would come to think of the web of humanity as our creation myth. Any fact too long unconfirmed eventually begins to seem untrue. Our existence would come to seem untrue to the rest of humanity. The rest of humanity would come to seem untrue to us. To be sent to Coventry by all the other planets was something no one wanted to endure. Maybe the Spacer's story could bring about the thing we wanted; a reformed Vegan church with room for dissent and even peace with other beliefs. But I would have to find a way to upload it to the transmitter. That wouldn't be easy, and I still wasn't strong enough to stand. I drifted off to sleep again and dreams disturbed by Polyphemus.

Jonah tells how he was rescued__________________________

"The coals are nearly ready, little man. In deference to my namesake, I will find you by letting the sheep out of the cave. Unlike him, however, I will be able to see you." He pushed the heavy stone aside and unhooked a gate just inside the cave mouth. The sheep began flowing out and he smiled and stroked their backs as they departed. He planned to eat all of them, but seemed to love them while they were alive. He stood back from the cave entrance, machete in hand, and looked at me and smiled. "The last of the flock," he said. "If you were a sheep, I would go without food for a day, then kill you and dress the meat, and eat a large part of you in one day. A leg, some ribs. As much again would last as fresh meat for the next day. I would smoke the rest and eat it slowly. Mostly I eat the lotus fruit. The groundcover that grows between the trees, the lotus clover, I cook with it. If you cook the lotus with the lotus clover,

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there's no memory loss. So don't think I eat nothing but meat. It's a supplement to my diet. Living alone on this island, there's plenty of food for me to eat. Sometimes I hunt the snark, or trap a bandersnatch. Not much meat on them, but tasty. And you know what will eat me in the end? The plants will. I told you I read the classics. Khayyam wrote, 'I sometimes think there never blows so red/ the rose as were some buried Caesar bled/ that every hyacinth the garden wears/ dropped from some once lovely head.' You'd eat the plant, but not the animal it fed on. "I will eat the animal." He laughed. Then there was a sound like a pebble hitting a melon, and blood was streaming from the vicinity of his remaining eye. "Damn you!" he shouted, seemingly at the heavens. Then another stone hit him. I realized that someone on the hill above the cave was raining stones on him. I edged toward the door. The giant started pushing the stone in place again to block my exit, but to do that he had to get in position to push it. I was able to slip out before the exit was blocked. I looked up the hill and saw Shmoe aiming his slingshot again. He looked scared and exited and triumphant. He motioned me to run to my left, and ran in that direction himself. Polyphemus ran after us through his lotus orchard, but soon ran into a tree. "You blinded him!" I yelled to Shmoe. He shook his head. "Just blood from a cut above the eye. He'll wash it off and come after us. Don't shout!" We ran on in silence. My breath was rasping and my legs felt like lead, but I didn't dare slow down and lose sight of Shmoe. We eventually reached the shore. I

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could see the waterfall and looked out on the water. Shadow was there, but my own boat was nowhere on the beach or bay. There were people on Shadow. They didn't look up and I didn't dare shout. We had come by a curving path, and if the giant had cut through the radius of our turn, he might be able to catch us. We kept running for the spot on the beach closest to the boat. The people on the lateener saw us, and one of them got in the dinghy and started rowing to shore. He was a young man with dark, curly hair and an olive complexion. He seemed in no hurry. He arrived at the beach bow-first, and Shmoe grabbed the bow of the boat and swung it around before scrambling aboard. I swarmed in over the transom and asked if there was a second set of oars. "What's the rush?" our savior asked. "We're being chased," I told him. "Only one set of oars," he said, and rowed for all he was worth. "Gil thought you were dead," he said, panting with effort. "So did I. Shmoe saved me." "You mean him?" the boy said, motioning with his head at my savior. "Yeah." It occurred to me he probably wasn't named Shmoe. "Hey, what's your name?" The kid thought I meant him, and said he was Floyd. I said no, I meant Shmoe, and the guy in the bow smiled. "Edmund Frobisher. I get it, you thought I was a Floyd Shmoe because I didn't tell you my name." "You didn't seem to know it," I reminded him. He looked away.

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"Sometimes I try to forget." "Didn't seem to work." "I thought if I ate enough, it would." We reached the boat, and Gil practically pulled our arms out getting us aboard. "I thought you were dead!" he said. "I will be soon if I don't eat and drink." "Sorry, I'll get you something." "Get under way, first. We'll soon have company." They had self-warming cans of stew and water that tasted fine until I'd had about a quart. We sailed away towing the dinghy. I told them there was no time to get it aboard. We were soon in deep water near shore under a cliff. There wasn't much wind, and the electric motor was about out of juice, so we were crawling along. Something big splashed in the water nearby and we all got wet. I looked up and saw Polyphemus at the top of the cliff, readying another boulder. Before it hit I was yelling at Gil to get us off shore. I grabbed one of the oars from the dinghy and started paddling, Shmoe grabbed the other, and Gil started paddling with one of the floorboards. The next boulder struck Shadow a glancing blow on the transom. Next the giant threw a log at us. It hit well behind us and surfaced going like a torpedo, striking the dinghy hard enough to put a hole in it. Then the wind filled in, the boat heeled over, and we quickly sped out of range. Edmund Frobisher was smiling at me. "What?" I said. "You know what you were yelling at me?"

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I searched my memory, then shook my head. "You were yelling 'Faster, Shmoe, faster.'" "Sorry, Edmund. I'll get you name right after a while." "It's okay. I've never had a nickname before. You can call me Shmoe, but introduce me as Edmund Frobisher, all right?" I had done so while we were rigging. We all knew his real name, but all called him by the name we'd first known him by. Gil had used that name while telling his companions about our adventures on the island. I watched our wake getting farther from the island. The figure of Polyphemus was getting smaller. He stood stock still on the cliff watching us. I imagine he was thinking we would go back and tell the Vegan church about him, and men and priests would come back to finish the work of killing off his tribe. I gathered from Gil that none of us were going back.

Bilbo tells how Seeker rescued Winnefred and Gatsby__________________________

I spotted a yellow boat, the kind that can be inflated in sections, with two people aboard. I alerted Donne and told him the heading. They were glad to get picked up. It was two of the missing kids, Gatsby and Winifred. Winifred has always been a sweetheart. "Mr. Davos, I'm so glad you found us. The others are anchored at an island where there's a giant, it ate the space man and the fruit makes you forget, and we have to get them back. Oh, I hope you can find them."

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"I can track them back using the locator in the boat you brought. Only first, let’s get you out of the sun, get some food and liquids into you, and try to get a story that makes some sense out of you." "Simple story, Mr. Davos," Gatsby said. "The others don't want to come back. Shadow's a fast boat, you won't catch them. You should just take us back." "Gatsby, you know I can't do that. My daughter is on that boat, and your friends. For Frank's sake, you girlfriend is on that boat. Do you want her to die out here in the wilderness? This area has only been mapped by satellite." He shut up after that. I never liked the kid. He probably was selfish enough not to care what happened to the other kids, as long as he got home to the comforts he was used to a little quicker. "Can I use the bathroom, Mr. Davos?" Winnie asked. Of course, she'd had no privacy and Gats had probably been pissing over the side the whole time. I sent her below and started organizing a meal for the kids. Winnie came back looking more herself. "Who is the woman in the bed by the bathroom?" she asked. "I haven't been able to ask her. We found her floating in the water miles from shore." "She looks terrible. What do you think happened to her?" "Hard to say. She was fully clothed and using her purse as a floatation device. Maybe she fell off a boat, or went walking on the water and found it wouldn't hold her weight. She's done nothing but sleep in the time we've had her aboard. Went to the head once, just stumbled out of bed, pulled the damn tube out of her arm, and took a leak. I helped her back in bed, thinking we'd finally find out what happened, and she just closed

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her eyes again and started breathing regular. Either she needs a lot of sleep, or she's pretending so she won't have to talk about how she happened to be floating around out there. Might be both." Donne was serving up a barley soup. Gats took a spoonful, then spoke up. "Maybe she's some kind of criminal," he suggested. "What color is her hair?" Donne sort of stumbled and spilled some hot soup on Gats' hand. "Hey! Watch it, Blondie!" Gats exclaimed. "You come on this boat, you mind your manners and don't call people names," I told him. "Well, he is blonde," Gats said. "It isn't a name, it's just what he is." "Get something straight," I said, "somebody's hair is not what he is." "I'm sorry. He's your friend, so I'll try to be nice to him. But tell your friend not to pour hot soup on me, okay?" "I'm sure that was just an accident. Wasn't it, Donne?" He wouldn't meet my eye. "Yeah, boss, I'm sorry." We ate on in uncomfortable silence. I was furious with both of them. Gatsby was a total prick, and wouldn't have brought up hair if Donne hadn't been there to needle. Donne knew better than to act that way. A kid like Gatsby could cause a lot of trouble for both of us. Then I looked at his hair. Dark, curly hair that hadn't seen any attention for a week. At the base of his fine dark head of hair were blonde roots. The kid's parents must have started dyeing his hair when he was a baby. He'd spent a whole lifetime passing with dark hair.

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It reminded me of something. Pretty much 100 percent of teenage boys are involved in the conspiracy of sexuality. They have fears about belonging. They fear they might not be normal. They project those fears on others. They especially project those fears on those they think may have the defects they fear in themselves. They call "gay" the boys they are attracted to. They revile them, because they fear their own feelings about them. Gats was doing that kind of thing to Donne, because he knew his own hair had been dyed all his life. Donne was who he feared becoming. "Tell you what, Gats," I said. "Lets you and me start an experiment. Lets cut our hair real short, and see how it grows out. No dye, no nothing. By your lights, it will just be a bet on who we are. What do you say?" He looked around, kind of nervous. "You're a funny guy, Mr. Davos," he said. "I thought of becoming a professional clown. But what do you say, Gats, will you play the game?" "Screw you, Mr. Davos." "Really, you're not my type," I told him. "Hey, let's let other people into the game. Hey, Donne. You want to play?" "Sure, boss. I love games." "Mr. Davos, this isn't funny," Winifred said. "We all know about Gatsby's hair." "You do?" Gatsby asked. "Yeah. Everybody knows, Gatsby." "Frank me."

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"Your profanity reminds me, Gats, you know those Sunday school pictures of Frank Ohlsen that show him with dark, curly hair and an olive complexion?" I asked. He looked warily at me. "Ohlsen. It's a Norwegian name," I told him. "Why did you think he'd look Greek? We have photos of him, you know. His hair was a sort of dirty blonde. He wasn't the average of humanity that we are." "Pictures can be changed any way you want." "They have been," I told him. "That's where the Sunday school pictures came from." "I gotta get some air," he said, and got up and walked on deck. "Why did you do that?" Winifred asked me. "Because he won't stop being a prick until he admits it. Not to himself, to everybody. If that doesn’t satisfy you, let him dye his hair when he gets home. When he's out here with us, he has no secrets and we don't pretend we don't know. If I didn't bring this up now, what would happen? Would we pretend we didn't see the blonde roots as they grew out? He can stop defending himself because he knows we know. That makes the whole situation simpler. Everything we need to accomplish was going to be a danger to him, and now it's not. The danger isn't going on and finding my daughter. It's going back and facing everyone else. Now he'll go on with us. Maybe you've forgotten, but my daughter is out there somewhere, and I'm going on. I don't need somebody at my back who fears going on." "I 'm sorry, Mr. Davos," Winifred said. "I just don't think this cruelty is needed." I gave up on dinner and went below to check on the woman we'd found floating around in the sea.

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I'd unhooked the feeding tube. She was no longer dehydrated. If she was going to get hungry, I wanted her to ask for food. The skin was peeling from her face. You'd think at the end of such an ordeal, she would be thin. But now that she was rehydrated, she looked normal enough. She'd had nearly enough time to die of thirst, but not nearly enough to starve. Her eyes were moving beneath the lids. "If you won't talk to me, I won't feed you," I said to her apparently sleeping form. "I won't move. You'll need to go to the bathroom at some point. Your kidneys are healthy, the poisons are being strained from your bloodstream. You'll need to go to the bathroom eventually. I will be sitting here and you won't be able to pretend that you're still asleep. I'm going to get your story sometime. When I do, you'll find it's not so bad. I'll listen, and you'll tell me, and then we'll know each other." She just laid there. This was the part where she was supposed to open her eyes and start talking. "Okay, I'll start," I said. "I grew up pretty normal. My dad was a little strange, but when you're smart and rich people cut you some slack. He could find his limits and stop there, is why they never destroyed him. He built things he dreamed about. He built the port where ships could land to pick up our crops, he built the grain elevators, I know, every town has these things, but somebody has to build them. Somebody has to be the creative capitalist who dreams of a city before one can be built. He dreamed of other things. A publishing house so knowledge could be spread. And when that got too controversial, and the Church made it hard for him to print the knowledge he wanted, he gave way and sold the publishing house and brought more property. He dreamed about going outside the area the Church controlled, traveling to new lands and building new

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cities. That's why he built Seeker. She's a dream in motion. They stopped her, stopped him, stopped the whole idea of getting outside the Zone of Control, exploring the Zone of Alienation. So he gave way again, said it's just my yacht. I'll just have fun with it, he said. They always knew he'd give way, that they could keep him inside the Zone of Control if they made a point of it, that in the end he would give up his dreams to keep his family and his fortune safe. And now my daughter has fled the Zone of Control, put herself outside the boundaries of our society, and done it not just physically, which might be forgiven, but symbolically as well, by going with a tall blonde giant who pushes all the buttons for the bigots. She loves him being blonde, she loves him being big, she loves the fact that they hate him. She demands that they hate her, too. And here I am, the son of the dreamer, the man who gave up all his dreams to be her father, to give her all the advantages she has rejected, trying to bring her back into the Zone of Control. So if you have a secret, if you have something you're ashamed of and you fear that I won't understand, keep in mind that I'm doing my best to elide all the differences and bring my daughter home safe. If you think there is something I can't understand or can't forgive, you don't know what it is to be a father." After that, I just sat there. She tried to be still, but she wanted to stir. Finally, she opened her eyes and looked at me. "Okay," she rasped, "You win." "It's not that kind of game." "Sure. I said, you win."

Joy shows the Last Message to her rescurers___________________________

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He was a kind man with a tanned, weather-beaten face and dark hair going gray. He was short and a little stout and very controlled. I suppose to be who he was and evade the vengeance of the Church, he had to be very controlled. "So I win," he said. "What's the prize?" "Name it," I said. Given my current condition, I was sadly certain that it wouldn't be my virtue. "Your name. Your story." "All right." I stopped there. I couldn't think of anything else to say. He just looked at me for a while, waiting. "Well, if I won, tell me your name." "Joy," I said. I don't know why I did that. I couldn't tell him my real name. If he went back, he could tell them who I was and where I was. I could have picked any name at random. Instead, I picked Joy. "Call me Bil," he said. "Well, Joy, what's your story?" "You have video on this boat?" It was a cruising boat, and since these people didn't have implants, they probably carried video. He nodded. "Don't use it much. I suppose it still works. Generally, when I'm on the boat, I try to avoid all that stuff. Can't get away from it if you bring it with you." "Tell me the wavelengths it receives. I've got a show for it." "Donne might know. He takes care of the electronics." He stood up and went up the steps into the pilot house. I gathered Donne was the big guy who had horsed me on board.

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A few minutes later, he was back. He showed me a piece of paper with the wavelengths written on it. "I can transmit that," I told him. It was the same wavelength as the next transmission about the God of Doubt was to come over. "Help me up that ladder, I want to see what I'm transmitting," I said. The girl who had come by me to use the head was in the cabin, and the blonde man who was big by the standards of this planet. The main cabin would be snug with six people in it. It had big windows all around and wood trim. Outside, fog had settled in, and it was getting dark. Through a window, I saw a sullen youth trying to be dramatically alone. Bil introduced me around, and Donne flipped the video screen down from the ceiling. "Better record this," I told him. Donne nodded and thumbed in a memory slug. I watched the audience as they watched the Spacer's Last Message. The impact wasn't as much as it would have been if they had been receiving on implants, but it didn't need to be. By the end Bil was looking stoic and distressed, the girl had her face buried in her hands, and Donne's cheeks were wet. The door was cracked and the sullen kid had been watching and listening surreptitiously. "Pariah planet," I pronounced. "That's what lies in store for you. His message will have been picked up by his ship and will be forwarded to his base. In a couple decades or so it will reach all around the settled worlds. Unless they hear that the entire social order of this world has changed, the entire planet will be sent to Coventry. Now how do we change the world?" The girl, Winnie her name was, stared at me with her mouth open, looking like she was about to start drooling.

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"I don't care," Bil said. "I'm going to get my daughter back. The world can go screw itself. If nobody wants to talk to us, screw them. We'll go on living and my daughter will have a life." "Something else we can do, boss," Donne said. "We can find the Spacer. Remember what the Last Message said? The giant was going to eat him limb by limb. He may be still alive if we find him soon. He may be short a couple limbs, though. If we can find him in time to save his life, that's got to count in our favor." I pictured the Spacer with his limbs cut off, like a doll that belonged to a destructive child. No, that wouldn't count in their favor. "My daughter first," Bil insisted. "By that message, they're both on the same island," Donne said. They got the coordinates from the automatic location log in the Spacer's boat. We ran all night until we anchored in the same bay the Spacer and Shadow had anchored in. There were no other boats there. We decided to wait until morning to explore. I slept in the same berth where I'd spent most of my time on Seeker. On the deck above, I could hear Bil's slow tread as he paced in the night, trying to be quiet. I dropped off and dreamed of giants walking over my grave.

Polyphemus prepares for the conflict________________________________

There will never be enough death to pay for the deaths that have gone before. Books never balance when they're kept in blood. You must kill for the one who was killed, just to even the score, and one more for punishment. They will never stop killing my people

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until they've killed the last of us, and I will never stop killing, because I cannot kill them all. The little old man had been a nuisance again, and kept me from killing fresh meat. He hit me above the eye with a rock, and the blood spilled into my eye and clotted, sealing my eyelashes together. I couldn't see, and they both escaped. By the time I washed the blood off my one good eye, they were long gone. I think they got back on their boat and sailed away. I couldn't see well enough to tell, but there were several people on that boat. I couldn't throw my rocks far enough to hurt them, though. I must make a new bow, and some fine large arrows of a size they couldn't handle, to fit a bow they could never string. There will be more now. Others will come, better armed, and chase me down and kill me. They cannot let me live. I am the monster they conceived of, bore, and nurtured. I am the bastard child of their faith, the thing that must exist so they can kill it. I will live on in their stories, because I must, because they need me. If I fail to live up to the mythic role they have planned for me, they will expand the story of my death until it fills the mythic space they need occupied. Should I kill myself to avoid the fate they plan for me, they will simply take credit for the kill. Even my death they will not let me call my own. Terror, blood lust, every evil impulse that is human and disowned by humans; that is my birthright. I will claim it with a gusto that will amaze them. I've devoted my life to being the monster they want. Let's see how well they like it when I am just what they expect. I've laid by the wood to make a bow, fine dark springy wood. I've gathered the straightest wood I could for arrows and let it dry on racks for months. Any metal

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suitable has been turned into arrowheads, and when I've had nothing else to do on long lonely nights, I've chipped obsidian into arrowheads. I won't run out of those even if I stay alive long enough to kill an army. I have a spear no little man could wield. My size and strength are their poisoned gift to me. Sometimes, when I stand too quick, it all goes gray around me. I know in the end my size will kill me, but perhaps before then, it will enable me to kill more than a few of them. Most nights I dream of my dead, my wives, my children, my brothers and sisters and parents and grandparents. Sometimes I think of them at night when I cannot sleep, and tears try to come but I will not weep. I have their bones in the recesses of my cave. I clean the old bones and try to make them comfortable. They deserve not my sorrow but my vengeance. So I keep fit, and try not to grow too large, and keep my wits about me and my weapons in good order. I have an old pot I could wear on my head if I chose to, to keep the little ones from using rocks to batter my forehead and leave me blinded by my own blood. I will not wear it, though. I am not a knight in armor. I can be a sniper, or a berzerker, or some other form of lonely warrior that is not welcome in the castle. I will not try to be what they will not allow me to be. I have my dignity as an outcaste. I know my place and take pride in it.

Jonah dreams of the God of Doubt again_________________________________

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The Last Message signal is stronger than a normal signal, and drains the power from one's implant so that you cannot send another for a week. I had uploaded the signal to my ship, and it would have forwarded it immediately. In a week I could rectify the mistake. Provided, of course, that I did not die in the interim. I could have waited, of course, and sent it when the giant started to butcher me. Only the transmission might have been interrupted by my death and cut off before the finish, which would have irritated me no end. And if I failed to transmit, it could only have been recovered from the implant on my skull, provided the butchering process didn't ruin my equipment. Assuming the giant butchered me carefully, some years might pass before my skull was recovered, and on this planet they wouldn't be looking for an implant. The message might have been buried with my remains by some unctuous and sincere preacher who wouldn't have cared what I had to say anyway. Besides, I had calculated that the ship was overhead, and if I'd waited it would have gone behind the planet. If anything happened to me in the coming week, I wouldn't have the power to transmit a new Last Message. Wouldn't matter much, I suppose. No one left to care for me. A week would soon enough for my next message. In the meantime, I figured I might as well relax. I might not be getting the official history, but I was getting an interesting microcosm. I hadn't the slightest notion where we were headed. We were at the limit for the range of an aircar, so if they sent something after us, it had to either float or have wings. Aircars just have ducted fans. Fine for landing in a limited space, terrible for covering distance. On this planet, in its current state of development, what you need to land at a

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distant spot is a flying boat. Water is everywhere, airports are nowhere. There are few flying boats. Where would they go? The government did not encourage settlements outside the Zone of Control. A flying boat is therefore an instrument of discovery, and a thing to be feared. A few existed and were supposed to be used for search and rescue purposes, but on the evidence of how little effort had been expended to find my new companions, I suspected their use was greatly circumscribed. Probably there was no reason to keep them in flying order. We hadn't moved far in the light winds prevailing. I suppose an aircar could still reach us, but it would have no loiter time. Realistically, they could only search for us with the proscribed means of a vessel capable of voyaging, or a flying boat. I felt a freedom in that. When I and the long-haired woman had come out here on a lark, I had told the aircar driver to fill the tanks and fly to the limit of his range. That's how I knew we were at or close to the limit of their range. One blessing. I didn't have enough power to receive any signals on my implant. There was a time when I could have charged quickly, using the piezoelectric mechanism in my jaw. When it stopped functioning, I didn't have it fixed. I've had nothing fixed on my implant since I met Joy. So now I can hear almost nothing. Until my nervous system recharges the power supply for the implant, I will have some peace. That night, I had another strange dream about an ancient God. Satan: "I wasn't anything like as powerful as God, which made my small victories all the sweeter. God's power isolated him, and his insecurities grew as time went on. Think of

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all you know about God. He demands that people worship him, he is subject to sudden rages, and when he contacts humanity, things seldom go well for humanity. In short, not a guy you want to work for, but the only game in town. "One day, for example, he was depressed because it seemed like every day was exactly like the one before it. He started to wonder whether his current favorite, Abraham, liked him as much as he should. Abraham said he loved God, and he did all the usual things God expected of people who were courting Him, but God just wasn't sure Abraham was sincere. I mean, God thought, what if it wasn't so easy to do things for me, what if it was damned difficult to love me. I mean, sure, he'll do anything I ask, within reason, but what if I ask him to do something for me that's beyond reason? Like sure, he'll sacrifice a goat for me, and most likely eat the meat afterward, but what if it was something that really mattered to him? Like the skinny kid with the big feet, what's his name, Isaac, that's it, Abraham loves his kid, maybe more than me, what if I asked him to sacrifice Isaac? "So he asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and kept it up until Abraham had almost killed the kid, then let him off the hook, and God backed off and didn't make him do it and almost instantly started to wonder if he was right about Abraham's willingness or if maybe he'd stopped the experiment too soon to be sure, so God sat around thinking about the relationship and wondering if Abraham really loved Him and Abraham in his heart of hearts thought, 'you know, I sure love God but he's gone a little strange lately and I hope he doesn't ask me to kill Isaac again because I really, really can't go through that again, choosing between my God and my son, it just seems psychotic, I mean child sacrifice is supposed to be what they do for B'aal, which is why I didn't get involved with

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B'aal, and how will I explain all this to Sarah? And now that I think of what she'll do to me I can't honestly say I'd make the same choice again if God asked me to.' "Which God didn't, which was good, because after all that trouble God was still having his usual self-esteem issues, and I never said anything directly, but made it clear that I knew, and in my own snide way implied that everybody knew God was actually a big softy and anytime he asked some big favor he paid for it ten times over so it wasn't really like, you know, people were doing God a favor, because they knew God would pay off in the end, and overpay." Vivid pictures went with the voice of Satan. The sardonic face of Satan, the frightened boy, the anguished father, the emotionally tortured face of God. Why was I tormented by these dreams? I had no history with this religion. I had come to this planet to hear the voice of God, and this is what I heard. A tale told to an idiot, signifying nothing.

Joy____________________________________

During the night my implant woke me, receiving the second transmission. The God of Doubt looked worse to me the second time around. They didn't show me the propaganda I was planting, but what I had now seen convinced me that it was a disaster. It was supposed to show people that doubt at the highest level, the insecurity of power, was behind the Church's intrusions and unconscionable demands on them. It was supposed to introduce the concept that if power embraced doubt, admitted it and stopped trying to eliminate it, their lives could be different. Now that I was on the planet and receiving the

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transmissions, it didn't look persuasive to me. I had to find a way to upload the Spacer's Last Message. Nothing we could say would equal it. It would help if we could find the remains. Bil wanted to find his daughter. She had to be on this island. So, too, must the remains of the Spacer. Perhaps we could find both. My strength was coming back to me. I drifted off again, only to be shaken awake seemingly immediately. It was the sullen youth who had watched the video through a crack in the cabin door. "What is it?" I asked groggily. "I watched it again," he said. "The Last Message. I watched it four times. Everybody needs to see it." "Great. We'll talk about it in the morning." "No! Listen, I know how to do this. I was an intern at the Information Ministry this past school year. Do you know about the Emergency Information System?" "Can't this wait until after breakfast?" "EIS sends emergency messages in a high-speed blip to every video in the world. Even if the set's not turned on, it will record the message and give an alarm tone until they listen to it. If you are watching your set, it will record the message in a blip then signal you to watch it. The idea is that once they have the message, they're not dependent on repeated transmissions and they can check back in the message if they aren't sure about something." I was wide awake now.

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"You think you can transmit the Last Message as a blip and everyone will have a copy?" He nodded. "They'll watch it over and over. They can copy the slug. Soon the Church won't know how many copies are out there. You know why this message is so important? The heretic priest who killed the giant's people. His brother is the head of the Church now. That priest was Lue Jangold. His brother Worn didn't leave the church. He stayed in it and worked slowly to change the church. He wasn't as charismatic as his brother, so he had to be more subtle. Instead of starting his own church, he was patient and clever, and slowly changed the existing church." "Why did you sneak in here at night to tell me this?" "I've made copies. I'm taking the Spacer's boat tonight. In about a week, I'll be back there and I'll do my damnedest to send it on an EIS blip." "Wait until morning." He shook his head. "Mr. Davos won't let me do it. It would upset people too much, and all he wants is to make his daughter be a respectable woman in the world she hates. He'll stop me. If he thinks I stand in the way of his plans for May, he could even kill me. You don't know him. My folks say he changed when May's mom died. I'm going tonight. I just want you to tell Winifred, and the others if you meet them, that I didn't just run back because I was afraid." "I'll do it," I told him. "Not right away. Give me a couple days so Mr. Davos won't be able to bring me back."

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He started away and I called on him to wait. I got my purse out and pulled a vial from it. "Dye," I explained. "Use it just before you get back." He stared at me. "My hair is a mousy, dishwater blonde. We thought I could move more easily on this planet with black hair. It doesn't look like I'll be meeting many people. You're not going to get into the Ministry of Information with blonde roots." He smiled, took the vial, and disappeared up the steps to the pilothouse. I heard the door to the deck open and close. I didn't get up with the sun. I stayed in bed as long as I could bear to, so that they could find out for themselves that the boy was gone and come to their own conclusions. Finally the smell of pancakes made me realize that I was famished. I dressed and entered the cabin, where Donne was cooking breakfast. "Good morning, everyone," I said. Winnie smiled nervously, Donne smiled distantly and occupied himself with cooking. "Notice anything?" Bil said. "The sun is behind the clouds. Don't worry, it will break through later." "Somebody's missing," he prompted. "Yes?" I looked around as if confused. "Gatsby. He took the Spacer's boat." He watched for my reaction. Winnie saved me. "He's just afraid, Mr. Davos," she said. "It's not his fault." "Something you are going to find out as you get older is that we are responsible for everything we do, no matter what our reasons are," Bil told her. "You may have the

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best or worst reasons, but you act or fail to act, and live with the consequences. Your actions define you, not just to yourself but to everyone else." "No one holds what you did against you," Winnie said. From the structure of that sentence, I gathered that they did. She must have noticed the awkwardness of it. She shrank back, expecting a harsh reaction. Bil looked at his hands for a moment that seemed to extend into eternity. "She's talking about the wreck, Joy. May's mother went into labor and started having problems. I drove too fast on the way to the hospital. We ran off the road and into a tree. She had a brain injury. We've still got decent medicine on this planet, but if you don't have a working brain, the body is just a bunch of spare parts. They managed to save May. I took away her mother. I live with that." I didn't say anything. So he had tried to keep his daughter from harm, and she had sought out risk. He would protect her to make up for the spot on his soul, and she would not be imprisoned by his protection. Another broken man. Jonah, Gil, Polyphemus, Bil, even Gatsby. Didn't this world leave anyone whole? Donne quietly served Bil pancakes and coffee. "Do you think Gatsby will get back safely?" I asked. It was Donne who answered. "No reason he shouldn't," he said. "Plenty of food, a sail, solar motor, paddles. All he's got to do is keep going until he gets there. Then explain where he's been."

Gatsby on his voyage to truth_________________________________

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I paddled until sunrise, then let the solar power run the motor. There was a light wind against me at first, but in a few hours the land heated up and warm air above it started rising, pulling in cool air from the sea to replace it. That put the wind over my starboard quarter, a broad reach, and I was able to carry the square sail. I was making good time, but Seeker was fast enough to catch me if Mr. Davos decided to follow me. The sail made me faster, but easier to spot. I decided that I would run day and night to try to put distance between us. I put the boat on auto and slept a little, using the blanket to keep the sun off my face. I woke to find the day was hot and the wind had died, so that only the solarpowered motor was pushing me. My muscles were sore, but I started paddling again. Solar would only run the boat at a creeping pace. I needed more space between me and Seeker. I had coated myself with sun block, but my skin was turning red anyway. I wondered if it was bleaching my hair. Winnie said everybody knew. I doubted that. If everybody knew, I would have been tormented daily. "Viking in the woodpile," that kind of thing. She knew. Maybe Stella and Floyd knew. I wondered if Gil knew. It seemed like he'd have said something. At least they hadn't spread the word. Maybe I wouldn't dye my hair when I went back. I could just go back and say, Hey, this is who I am. Live with it. But then it might be complicated getting into the Information Ministry building. Joy was right, I needed to be as inconspicuous as possible. It would be tough enough with the runaway thing, but to come back with blonde hair, no, that wouldn't work at all.

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But I wanted to be me. I wanted to stop hiding who I was. Instead, I was going back like a sneak thief. They would catch me, of course, when I had sent the blip. That didn't matter. I wouldn't look past that and try to figure out my future beyond that point. I would need to destroy the locator in the Spacer's boat. Not too soon, or I couldn't find my way home, but soon enough that they couldn't look at the autolog and trace back the route to the others. That wasn't the only thing to think about. I had said I could go into the Information Ministry and send out a blip, like it was easy as pie. Maybe I could have, before I ran away. They were going to see me differently now. So should I go home, get the big welcome and get asked a lot of questions before I tried it, or should I try to sneak in before going home? That was key. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn't know how to answer all the questions. I needed a story, and it needed to be a good one. How about this: Winnie and I realized what a mistake it was, and headed back, and met Mr. Davos and his buddy Donne, and we all decided that I should go back and tell everybody what happened. Only then, why didn't we call on the radio and tell them? Maybe it was broken. Maybe I should break the radio on the Spacer's boat to make sure they understood why we didn't call on that radio. Or maybe…wait, go back. Mr. Davos would probably call in on his radio sometime between now and my arrival and tell them everything that happened. That meant my story would need to dovetail with his, no matter what he said. Then I started to be afraid the lady I told my plan to would spill the beans before I got back, and Mr. Davos would protect himself by sending word back before I could

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get in and send the blip. If that happened, as soon as I got home they would lock me up. I would have to try to sneak in before going home. It's not as hard as it sounds. Nobody has ever tried to break into the Ministry. The security, such as it is, is designed to keep annoying people from bothering the people that work there. I was always able to sneak out for trysts with Stella, and I was always able to sneak back in without anyone knowing where I'd been. The key was having the confidence of the receptionist, Dud Wilson. He was a fat, bald old man who could keep a straight face no matter what lie he told. If he was on your side, you could do pretty much as you pleased. Would he be on my side if I walked in there now? He had to have some sense of self-preservation to keep his job so long. I'd have to talk pretty fast to get past him. And if I succeeded, he might loose his job and not have any money for his retirement. I owed him some kind of loyalty. How could I get in without screwing him over? I tried to concentrate on getting my sore muscles to operate the paddle. Sooner was better than later for my arrival. I tried to shut down the surface thoughts in my brain and let my subconscious work on the problem.

Donne contemplates his life____________________________

The lady we pulled out of the water sure was pretty, even with skin peeling all over her face and arms. She called herself Joy, same name as the Spacer talked about in his Last Message. She didn't tell us a last name, but I bet the first name wasn't really hers, so if she told us a last name it would be fake too. That's what I told Bilbo when he conferred

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with me, so we decided not to ask her last name. Don't make her tell any more lies than she has to. She seemed guarded the morning Gatsby left. She knew more about it than she was telling. Joy was secrets all the way through. When she showed us the Last Message, it said she was from Cyril 4. What a terrible thing it must be to live there. We have to ship them air and food and water just so they can live, and in decades of trying, they seem to have made no progress at all. In fact, they used to have ten domes, now they have two. I wondered how many of her loved ones had died when domes collapsed. You heard stories about people trying to grow genetically modified crops, but nothing they could develop would live in the hot, sulphurous atmosphere except some bacteria, and they would need hundreds of thousands of years to change the climate noticeably. Planets hardly ever change at a rate that fits with human planning horizons. What was she doing here? Probably she just ran away from all that death and discouragement. When we first got her aboard, as soon as Bil relieved me I sat and watched her. Seeing her so close to death, I just wanted to protect her. It's a bad habit. When I met Bilbo, he had a little baby girl and his wife had died, and he blamed himself for her death and didn't know what to do with the little girl, and I felt like I had to save them both. So I did my best and now I don't have a family, just Bil and May, and maybe that was because I wanted it that way but sometimes I think I made the wrong choice. Women have always been a mystery to me, but I think I should have tried harder to crack that riddle. It would have been hard, but if I had tried harder, I might have found a woman who would have me. My grandfather raised me. He was one of the few anarchists that had been allowed to convert, so he raised me in the church in hopes I would be a priest, but it was

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never going to happen. He converted, and raised his son in the Church, and his son married in the Church, but after I was born my father got the growth bug and quickly grew huge and died. Everybody just knew he was a backslider and they said it was in the blood. My gaffer had not got the bug, and was thought to be a virtuous man, but blood would out, they said, and you couldn't expect our kind to ever pull away from our attraction to meat. So we were ostracized. My mother couldn't stand it and killed herself when I was two years old. I don't even remember her. When I was growing up, other children were told by their parents to stay away from me. Sin and disease were my legacies. I had neither; my gaffer would have flayed me alive if I had taken meat, or even broken the most common taboos that are broken all the time, like lying about little things. And I didn't have the growth bug, and if I did, I couldn't have passed it on the my playmates without an exchange of bodily fluids. Disease scares people too much for them to think clearly. I grew up very much alone. No girl would date me, and although my grades were high, the Church would not take me into training and no school would educate me for a profession. I took odd jobs, and worked for who would pay me, and tried to be such a good worker they wouldn't think of firing me, but they always did when the job was done, or even before if someone else became available to do it. When I was clearing brush for Bilbo Davos, a man who had taken other jobs from me came and asked for my job, Bilbo said no. No one had said no before, so I worked for him ever since. Even when his business faltered and he could only feed me and let me sleep on his boat, I didn't want to work for anyone else.

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My life is good, though. I wish my gaffer was still alive, but my life is good. Always there is enough to eat, always a warm place to sleep. You don't need to have the house on the hill if you have someplace you belong. I tell myself that all the time. But I look at women and wish I wasn't me, and I look at children and know I will have no family of my own. I look at the house on the hill and know that no matter how hard I work, it will never be mine. I could just go be bitter, say if you won't let me have those things I don't want them, become a criminal to go with my outcast status. I won't give them that victory. If God is real, he knows my heart. I will live in virtue and die in virtue. It is I who will write the story of my life, not those who hate me and would make me into something I don't want to be. Looking at the face of the Cyril 4 woman makes me dream. She is an outcast, too. I wish we could go somewhere and make a world of our own, without the whispers of the people who hate us. It will never happen. I shut down that part of myself a long time ago because there is no hope for it. We will find May, and bring her back, and everything will be as it was. Joy, or whatever her name is really, will be sent back to her doomed world, and I will be sent back to my half-life of work, and meals, and sleeping, and loneliness.

Worn Jangold explains the economy of sin________________________

It's fear that makes the world go 'round, and I'm the one that spins it.

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The Church would be nothing if people did not fear death. If their immortal souls were not in danger of being roasted slowly forever above the Coals of Hell, they would never set a foot in Temple. If they did not fear their sins being found out, they would sin constantly, and then where would we be? On the road to Perdition. The Church would be powerless without fear, and without power the Church would be nothing. There was a time when the Church was in danger of becoming a mere debating society of the Ethics Club, but I and my allies breathed new life in it. We have a duty to save souls, even souls that do not want to be saved. Sometimes you have to amputate a foot to save a leg, sometimes you have to amputate a leg to save a man, sometimes you have to amputate a man to save a soul. These runaway kids, now. Probably in a few more days, they would be back, hungry, sorry, in want of forgiveness. I would make it hard on them and their parents, they would have to do heavy penance or pay someone to do it for them. Hard, hot labor building roads into the interior, blasting tunnels through the mountains. We need better transport if we are to settle the interior of this continent, and we need choke points if we are to control the settlers. That project would cost more than the Church could afford without fear as a motivator. Penance would pay for that project. Penance pays for everything. Without it, our society would collapse. Who would build the roads, clean the sewers, collect the garbage? All the most unpleasant duties are done or paid for by the penitent. There was a danger to the Church here, though. Three boys and three girls went away. Should they be more determined than I thought, they could start their own settlement.

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The missing children had broken the locator they were able to find on that boat. There was another they didn't know about, that in fact the owner of the boat didn't know about. I could find that boat anywhere on this planet. If they went too far, if they stayed in one place long enough for me to think they were settling down, I could find them. I could amputate the gangrenous foot. If that was the situation, I didn't want them back. They could only come back if they came back hungry and scared, if their little adventure was a failure. There was another problem now. Bilbo Davos, an unreliable character at best, had gone after them in a well-equipped voyaging boat that should have been destroyed years ago. If he decided not to come back, he could help them establish a real colony. Colonies in the island archipelago to the north could communicate easily with each other by sea, with enough alternative routes to make it difficult to control communications. The sea has always bred freedom, and contempt for central authority. Davos was a farmer and a merchant, a man who could command enterprises. If he went feral, I would have to kill them all. The Special Unit was trained and ready, and had taken care of some matters already. If Davos went wild, this could be a perfect test for the instrument of which I was proudest. These were men who understood the importance of their duties. They knew that their work had to be secret, that they would not earn public accolades. Those at the core of the Church would know their work to the degree that they needed to know. Secrets have power, and these men would have power, and it would be power at the core of the Church. That would be their reward for loyalty beyond the ordinary call of the Church. Power unseen. Power that's used without the usual limits of power.

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I found I was looking forward to Davos's inevitable apostasy. He had pained me for years, the damned anarchist-loving bastard. I wanted to send the Specials out at once, but the moment wasn't yet. We have been on this planet for 100 years, and the anarchists were here for 400 before that. They tended to kill each other, and destroy any remaining technology their enemies might retain. They were brutish, simple people, nearly animals, really. We of course believe in kindness to all creatures, as they did not. They inflicted the growth bug on unsuspecting livestock to produce more meat for their teeth and bellies. We inflicted that same bug on them in return. It was only justice, really. In 100 years, we have only partially settled the coastal plain of one continent. People who go into the wilderness disappear. This planet has proven more hostile than expected. Of course, we blame the anarchists. Myself, I do not believe any still exist. We gave them a dose of reality therapy, and cured them of their way of life. If any remained, they would have to take up farming to avoid meat, and our satellites would detect their locations so that we could wipe them out. It suits our purposes to blame the anarchists for our failure to settle the rest of the world. When an industrial accident kills a road builder, the cause becomes an axewielding giant carnivore. We do not want people going outside our Zone of Control. We will instead expand our Zone of Control, then let people live within it. To let the world be settled in any other way would be to create our own downfall. People beyond the Zone of Control would of course take the church with them, but it would be faith without discipline. Soon their priests would find themselves dominating their own communities without the Church to supervise them. They would come to think they did not need the church's supervision. In the end, they would start an antichurch, with

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antipriests, and war against us. They would fall into error, and doubt the central tenets of the Church. An antichurch would collect the penance and manage their lives. If it collected a lighter penance, people might flee to the new church, depriving us of our lifeblood. They might seek out ever more lenient churches, lighter punishments, priests willing to ignore sins. The cost to their souls would be proportionate to the cost to the Church. Better to keep our followers where we can watch them. We will move them into the interior, where travel is hard, and people stay put. Yes, you can go where you want within range of an aircar, but you can't take much with you. A road for trucks allows farming goods to move at a reasonable cost. Water routes allow even bigger loads to move more cheaply. But let's keep them on rivers, where we can know where they are, and track the movement of goods and people. Two roads are being constructed into the interior. One is already into the narrow central valleys between the coastal and interior range, and will soon start climbing toward the second pass. The other goes over a higher pass and is taking longer, but the second pass will be lower, so the two roads will be completed at about the same time. Those passes are a two-edged sword. They restrict the flow of people to and from the interior, but they are also easily defended from authority. We adjust the pace so that both will be completed at once. Any splinter group that chose to assume we could not get past the pass would have to know that we could circumvent them, outflank them from the other road and attack them from behind. Every move we make must be thought out in this way. We have had splinter groups and apostates and have had to deal with them. It was my brother's job to deal with such groups until he decided that he could start his own group, and with the

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weapons and men the Church had provided him, defy the forces of righteousness. He chose the coast and not the interior. We tracked his ship at last and recovered it without a man aboard. We put out the word that they had been eaten by giants, but I believe they went scouting on the island where they had anchored, ate unfamiliar plants, poisonous plants, and perished in agony for the sin of pride. We searched that island and found no giants, only lotus fruit, and bandersnatches that would fly down and deliver poisonous bites to any who got too close to their nests, and purple fruit with spines all over it that looked like a medieval mace and sent those who tried it into painful convulsions before they died. Our search party pulled back with a few losses and started the usual rumor of giants. The interior of this continent has its own perils. Anyone who tries to run away will be dealt with by the perils of the untamed land itself. The settlers will only remain alive if they stay within the land we tame for them. There are grass-like plants with burrs that will work their way right into the muscle tissue and cripple a man in a day if he fails to wear the right boots. Snipes will run up a man to bite out his throat so quickly that he's dead before he can raise a hand to fling it away from him. All of these things can be dealt with. The real danger lies in the human heart, which without guidance cannot stay fresh in the love of virtue, but will rot like an apple left sitting on the ground. The human heart seeks out the rot and desires things that corrupt it. It is I who teaches them to fear the rot, to fear for their immortal souls. I teach them the path of righteousness, penitence and obedience. I speak for God to them. When they obey me, they obey Him. And they will obey.

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Jonah hears from the God of Doubt again________________________________ Some days, you just want to wipe the slate clean and start over. This is fine if you are an artist. A couple layers of gesso on the canvas, and you can paint an entirely new picture. It saddened God that people didn't appreciate him as an artist. There were great debates over sin, and why, if God created man, man was so defective. That was easy to say if you had never created anyone. The nervous system alone was beyond most deities. If you got the level of defiance too low, all you made was a damned automaton. If you got it too high, no cooperation was possible and the whole show of civilization collapsed. And short of that, there were things that just seemed ugly to God. And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. So he decided to wipe the suckers off the face of the earth. Oh, maybe save some breeding stock so he didn't lose the whole experiment. So what if God got it wrong a couple times? If He couldn't start over, who could? The first time it worked out okay. Noah wasn't the only one God told to build a boat. He was the only one who listened and obeyed. And God promised never to do such a thing again. But of course, he did. He was a bit hesitant at first and tried to make it look like he'd given Man every chance. He told Abraham that if he could find fifty righteous men in Sodom, he would spare the city. All he found was Lott, and Lott's sons in law wouldn't come with him, so it was just him, his wife and his daughters. Still, keeping the species

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going didn't look so bad, because Lott still had his wife. Only then she looked back at the city and turned into a pillar of salt. "You've done it now," Satan taunted him. "You didn't have to turn her into a pillar of salt. What's that about? All she did was look back." "She knew the rules." "Rules. You're all about the rules. What was the deal? You couldn't bear to have a witness to your handiwork, could you? You're not too shy to kill off most of humanity, but God forbid anyone should see it done. So it looks like this is the end of the line as far as humans go. Maybe beaver civilization will be more to your taste." But God couldn't start over with beavers. Instead, when Lott's daughters got him drunk and Lott got them pregnant, God said screw it, at least there will be kids. God liked kids. They were so unspoiled, at least until they started to think for themselves. God decided to reconcile himself to the fact that humans were a failure. They were bad to the bone, they had ugly thoughts, and the whole problem of sin was looking like a design defect (too much spice in the primordial soup?). God hadn't completely given up on fixing the problem, but he wasn't going to take the approach of getting rid of the defective ones and starting over any more. All humans were defective, and it seemed to be part of being human. He could have gone the extinction route – he certainly hadn't hesitated to do that time and again – but humans were so interesting. And let's face it, eternity is boring, and if he killed them off, there wouldn't be anything left but eternity. And some trees and beavers. He tried to explain it to Satan, but as usual Satan found a way to turn it against him.

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"So humanity is like what, a soap opera for you? They have all these odd urges and strange behaviors, and you made them so they could think, which is the worst thing you can do with interpersonal relations, you know how it works out when you overthink what you're doing. Plus you make it so they can talk, which means they can argue, which means you get politics and war. It's like you designed them to be miserable just so they would be entertaining. "But hey, it's your show. Just keep yourself entertained. Here's a tip that might help. I have here triple strength ambrosia, distilled from the finest nectar. And here I have the sour fruit of forbidden knowledge. Then finally, some salt. I put salt on the back of my hand near the thumb, bite the fruit, take a shot of the ambrosia, then lick the salt." He demonstrated. "Now you try." "Satan, where did you get that salt?" "Hey, it's not like Lott was going to eat it. Okay, okay, don't get wasted with me. Just sit back and watch your soaps. Like I said, it's your show." Satan's path as he staggered to the door would have been described by a mathematician as a random walk. Satan was right, of course, the defects that made humans a failure also made them the stars of life's drama. And the whole point of Satan was to critique God's work and keep him from going overboard, which is why God made an adversary. But why had he made sin? Was there some internal defect in God himself that caused Him to make the creature he loved with such an ugly defect? When he exacted punishment from his creations, was he in some way punishing some part of himself? When you are human, you are responsible for all your actions and inactions. They

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define and reveal who you are. When you are God, you are responsible for everything. If you are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and the creator of all things, all things are a part of you. So what was it that he was punishing, and what was it that he could not forgive?

Those vivid dreams again, all narrated in the voice of Satan. I was beginning to think they weren't dreams at all, just some warped local show transmitted on a frequency my implant picked up. Maybe it was a coincidence that I only picked it up while sleeping, or trying to. I rolled over and looked at my timepiece. Another hour before my watch. We ran all day and night, and now it was morning and I was sure there would be no talk of anchoring again. Polyphemus had put a real scare into the runaways, and their halfhearted teenage efforts to be free of social restraints had turned into a determined effort to get as far into the wilderness as possible. I think they felt that they would not meet another Polyphemus if they were far enough from the people who had made him what he was. I can't understand it. Myself, I would have wanted to be with my family when I was scared. Family must mean something different to them. Home must be frightening itself. I feel lost and drifting. I should be going back to Homeport to at least begin my history of this world. Instead I will neglect my duties and spend more time fleeing from the center of this world's politics. My purpose has become vague. I hear not the voice of God, but the voice of Satan describing him. It is a God who doubts himself, so how can I do anything but doubt him?

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The kids don't talk much lately, and I'm not inclined to talk to anyone. Shmoe seems to have something to say, but I'm not inclined to put myself in the position of a private confessor. I've been happy to enjoy his company with the others, but have avoided him in private. I only want to be left alone to wallow in my sorrow. I have not found God, but have instead found a Church corrupted by its power.

Joy_________________________________

After breakfast, we had a council. It surprised me that Bil didn't just decide what to do and tell us our role in doing it. "You've all seen the Last Message. If my daughter and the other are on this island, they are in terrible danger. On the other hand, we have no evidence that they are here. Has anyone a notion of how we should proceed?" "I don't think they were going to stay, Mr. Davos," Winifred said. "When I left them, they didn't tell me their plans, but why would they stay in such a horrible place?" "To help Jonah," I suggested. "Jonah is dead," Winifred said. "Do they know that? Without an implant, they would have had to be watching video tuned to that channel. It's pretty unlikely they have seen the Last Message." Donne said, "Let's sail around the island and see if we spot the boat. If we find it, we can look for the people. If we don't, we go someplace else to look for the boat." "Sounds good. Anybody got a better plan?" Bil asked. "No? Then let's do it." As Donne raised the anchor, I wondered whether he and Bil had agreed on the plan beforehand, or if Bil was always so quick to make a decision.

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Polyphemus_____________________________

Another vessel has arrived. I will be patient and wait for them to land. It's too easy for them to flee when they are on the boat. When they are on my turf, I can drive them where I wish, separate them or slaughter them en masse. I think I will take my time with them, since there seem to be so few. They cannot be taking me seriously if they think so few can defeat me. I counted four on deck at one time. My vision is not good enough to distinguish much about them. There may be more below decks. They raised anchor. At first I thought they were sailing away, but they tacked back inshore after a time. They appear to be looking for a better place to land. Perhaps they know the history, and know that they would have been landing on soil where the battle started so many years ago. I am staying on the high bluffs, making a circuit of the island that has a much smaller circumference than the route taken by the Vegan's boat. I don't have to move very fast to keep up with their progress. My paths are well-trodden, my overlooks familiar. The sun is now slanting into the sea, the light going golden but not yet red. They have nearly completed their circuit of the island. It has been a patient reconnoiter, and perhaps they will land in the morning rather than tonight. Perhaps they await reinforcements. I doesn't matter. I will be here when they come, and will deal what death I can before they kill me.

Edmund Frobisher tells of loving Rose______________________

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Two days and a night I tried to get the Spacer alone, and he dodged me until just now. He was standing in the bow pulpit an hour after sundown watching the phosphorescent glow of the breaking waves. We have a three-watch system, and Jonah and I are not on the same watch. This means that there are only eight hours out of twenty-four that neither of us are on watch, and usually one of us is sleeping. On this occasion, neither of us was sleeping and neither was on watch. Our time was our own to spend as we wished, and it was time for me to find out if he was dodging me. "Jonah," I said softly, and he turned in such a way that I thought he was anticipating my voice. "Shmoe," he said, with a little nod. They all called me Shmoe. He seemed guarded, not hostile but not welcoming. I felt awkward proceeding. "Do all Spacers have implants?" I asked. He nodded. "My wife had an implant. She was a terraformer from Cyril 4." "I didn't think they were allowed to stay on this planet." "It is illegal. That's why we decided to settle in the wilderness. We thought the stories about the perils in the Zone of Alienation were tales to frighten children. We thought we could build our own world out here, away from them all. I had lost nearly everything anyway, and she saw no future on her home planet. We were going to leave the dead past behind and build anew." "I'm sorry," he said. "I guess we're all running from something." "We weren't running from. We were running to. But what were you running from?"

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He laughed. "I'm a historian. Would it be ethical for me to run from the past? Perhaps I was running from the future." "Because you thought it would be like the past?" He turned away again and I thought I had lost him. Then he spoke as if to the waves ahead of us. "How did you happen to marry a woman who was not allowed to live on this world?" So I told him the story.

Cyril 4 has an Interest Section in Homeport. They negotiate the shipments of food and oxygen, deal with conflicts between Cyril 4 and Cyril 5, explain to Cyril 4 residents why they can't move to Cyril 5. It's a plumb job. I had a small farm on the edge of town, but in the rainy season there wasn't much to do, so I spent a lot of time in town. I'm a shy man, and I often sat alone drinking coffee and watching the rain fall. The Interest Section was across the street from the diner it was my habit to frequent. Rose would come into the diner and sit at the counter for lunch. She was tall and thin, with angular features and the very long hair fashionable on Cyril 4. One day the counter was full. "Can I sit here?" she asked. Her voice was soft and hesitant, as if she didn't expect me to allow her to sit. "Yes, I'd be glad of the company," I said, and she gave me a sad smile and took a seat. The waitress was always rude to her, and made it hard for her to get her food and eat within the span of her lunch hour. I called the waitress over and ordered the soup and

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sandwich I had seen her order a dozen times. When the waitress set it in front of me, I told her it was for my friend. She had not even asked Rose what she wanted. I fear my people can be very cold to outsiders. "Thank you," she said. "How did you know that's what I wanted?" "It's what you always order, Rose." "How did you know my name?" "Two days ago you were late getting back from lunch. Someone came from your office looking for you, and she called you Rose." "Have you been watching me, then?" She seemed a little worried. "During the rainy season there is little to do but sit and read and watch the rain and watch the people around me." Uproarious laughter came from another table. "You could sit with your friends and natter away like the others," she observed. I looked away in confusion. I have never been popular or clever with talk, but until she said that I had never realized how lonely I was. "They don't want to talk to me, either," she said, and gave me that sad smile again. I think I was in love from that moment on. I don't remember anything else that we said. When she left I watched her walk out the door and across the street and was suddenly afraid that I would never see her again. I stayed late in the evening until she finally emerged from her office again, looking drained and discouraged. The rain had become a torrent and she had a hat but no umbrella. I unlimbered mine and went to her rescue, and walked her home. When we got to her home I said an awkward goodbye and walked on. After twenty steps I looked

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back. She was standing in the downpour watching me, and when I waved, she hesitated, then waved back and went inside, as if I had woken her. The next day it was lunch, hours of waiting, walking her home, and this time she had me in for soup. We talked late into the night. She told me about growing up on Cyril 4, and the lives lost when a dome collapsed, and the desperate straits of her people. I told her about my small farm, not much but a place where I could make things grow, and how I love to make things grow. Her eyes misted over when I talked about that. She told me about crops ruined by acid rains, of climatic change programs that were never enough, genetic engineering that could not make any plant survive in such a hostile environment. When I got her to the farm a few days later she marveled at the place, humble though it was. I showed her the land I couldn't drain, and how I had by hand labor turned it into a rice paddy, and the patio sheltered by grape vines, and the paltry few walnut trees that showed no sign of bearing nuts in my lifetime. The other crops could not be planted until the land was a little dryer, so she had to imagine those. She began spending her days off at my farm, trying to make things grow. The neighbors began to talk. Vorse Dextin, who was a big noise in the Church, had land abutting mine to the east. One day he came by, a big, red-faced man in somber and expensive clothes. When I answered his knock on the door, he nearly bowled me over pushing his way in. "You've been seeing that off-planet woman," he said with no polite preamble. "There's no harm in her. She doesn't get to make much grow on her home world."

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"There is harm in her. She will contaminate your mind with the strange ideas of her perverse kind. You must stop seeing her." "I have always been a faithful member of the Church," I reminded him. "I believe I can bring the Word of Frank Ohlsen to her." "She will never be allowed to settle on this world. Should she have a child, that child will never be allowed to settle on this world. If she shows signs of wanting to stay, she will be expelled immediately. You know I have the ear of the First Primate. It can happen very quickly." "I know she cannot stay, and she knows this as well," I said. "But if I can bring the Word to her, perhaps she will carry it back to Cyril 4. She has never eaten meat, and is a slender and virtuous woman. Surely if she took the Word home with her, that would help our worlds work more closely together." "We have no need of those damned parasites," he thundered. "I advise you to have nothing more to do with her." He stood up and slammed out the door. Now, Vorse was fond of reminding me that he could buy and sell a dozen of me. His income as Fourth Primate of the Church alone was ten times what I made from my farm in any year, and he had in addition a farm far larger than I could ever dream of owning. I had knuckled under to every thing he had asked of me until then. But I could not stop seeing Rose. When the rainy season ended, she would come to my farm after work and on her days off to help me. It made a huge difference, in part because I worked harder to make the farm better, so that she would think better of me. And sometimes she would give me her sad smile, and I would remember that this was a brief fantasy that must end.

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Then Rose and I found the dead cow, just across the boundary to Vorse Dextin's land. Cows are a nuisance to all of us. They break down our fences and can consume a huge part of a crop in just a couple days. I had heard of cow poisonings before, and when I saw the salt lick, I knew Vorse was poisoning cows. You wouldn't put out a salt lick for any other reason. Now, I couldn't turn a blind eye, because that would make me complicit. A sin on that order would require a huge penance. If I worked it off, I couldn't work the farm, and I would lose it; no doubt it would be added to Vorse Dextin's land. On the other hand, turning in a man so well connected would not sit well either. I told Rose that she should not tell anyone what she had seen, because she would be expelled at once. We walked into town separately, and I went to the Sin Enforcement Office to report the crime. They went back to the farm with me, and told me to go indoors and not interfere in the investigation. Through my bedroom window, I watched them drag the cow's carcass and the salt lick across the boundary onto my land. Then they came back and arrested me. I spent the night in gaol, and in the morning Worn Jangold, the First Primate himself, heard my case. He sat behind a wooden table with nothing on it but a glass of water. He is a small, pale man, balding, with sizable paunch. On his somber robes he wore his badge of office, with the Vegan motto, "Kindness to All Creatures" inscribed on it. I stood before him, flanked by two short, broad-shouldered guards. "You stand accused of slaughter, Edmund Frobisher," he said. "How do you plead?"

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"I have not done this. The salt lick was on my neighbor's land, as was the cow. I am innocent, my lord." "You would say that, of course," he said dismissively. "I have the report of the investigating officers. The lick and the cow were on your land, so there is no defense to be made." "I have rights as a citizen," I reminded him. "I have a right to confront my accusers and call witnesses." "The crime of slaughter comes under the Food War Laws." He smiled as if remembering something amusing. "You are hearby stripped of your citizenship and declared an enemy combatant. You may bring witnesses only at the sufferance of this court. You may question your accusers only at the sufferance of this court. We judge that such hindrances to these proceedings are an unnecessary annoyance. For crimes of this nature, justice must be swift and certain. For an act as abhorrent as this, there can be no defense. Your contemptible tactic of accusing the Fourth Primate of the Church in an effort to throw the blame on another has angered the court. Your penance is sixty years of labor." "No, stop," came Rose's voice from the back. I had not heard her enter. "I was there when we found the cow and the lick. They must have been moved after that," she said. I buried my face in my hands, knowing what would come next. "Rose Armbuster from Cyril 4, you have no standing to speak in a Court of Sin," Jangold said. "For defiling this court, we sentence you to transportation to the planet of your birth for the remainder of your natural life."

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We were each given a day to wrap up our affairs. Everyone knew that outside the Zone of Control there was only death, so we were not expected to flee. We left the court together and walked slowly toward my farm. On the way, we stopped by Bilbo Davos' home to let him know that I would not be able to repay some money I owed him. We told him our tale, and he listened patiently. When we finished, he told us to come with him to his guest cottage down by the shore. "In this cottage," he said, "I have a rather unusual bathtub. It is ten feet long, made of wood, with a rockered bottom and pinched ends. It has great capacity but no drain plug." "You are offering us a bath together?" Rose asked in confusion. "It's a boat," I said. Few boats are allowed, and all must have locators in them. This bathtub was a boat without a beacon, a way of getting lost. It must have been intended as a means of escape in case Davos had fallen foul of the law. "We'll go away," Rose said, and smiled without sadness for the first time in the months I had known her. "The giants…" I objected. "Stories to frighten children," Bilbo said. "My father managed some exploration before it was entirely forbidden. He never ran across any of them. Our people killed them all with a disease we gave them." What he said was a great heresy. That he had said it was probably the only testimony I could give in court that would be treated as credible. They would have cut my sentence in half for turning him in, but I didn't consider it for a moment. Life without Rose had become unthinkable.

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Bilbo gave us food and clothing and camping gear and survival manuals and seeds to plant crops. He helped us launch the boat that night, at risk of his own life and fortune.

When I finished the story, I asked Jonah for a favor I knew he would not grant me. "She had an implant. She told me about Last Messages. I want to hear her Last Message." "Her skull is in that cave, isn't it?" I nodded. Of course he would turn me down. "You need to let that go. Where that implant is, we can't reach it. Besides, she may have died without having time to make one." "It was days before her screams stopped. I charged the cave hoping the giant would kill me so I wouldn’t have to listen to that anymore. He would just push me away and tell me he would eat me later. I tried makeshift weapons, anything I could to injure him, and I saw her with all her limbs removed, lying there screaming at me to run away. I went to a cliff and jumped but at the bottom I missed the rocks and splashed into the sea instead. After that I started eating the lotus fruit, trying to forget. I don't know how many months have passed. The memories are becoming sharper and clearer the longer I'm away from the fruit. I have to find a way to live or a way to die. Her Last Message might tell me how." "You want to go back to that cave to die," Jonah said. "You want to die the way she did, slowly and painfully, to pay back the debt you carry for not saving her. I won't help you get back there. Rose wouldn't want me to, either. If you want death, find a

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clean one that gives no satisfaction to Polyphemus. Live, and you can make things grow, and build things, and make life better for others. That's a better monument to Rose than a painful, tortured death."

Jonah_______________________________________

I'm a dab hand at not killing myself. I'm practiced, and wily, and careful in my movements, always anticipating the dark hand's next move. I'm an orator par excellence, persuasive in my statements, indefatigable in my arguments, careful in counting the votes that might overthrow my reason. Maybe those years of practice had enabled me to save Frobisher's life. Probably not, though. I'd have killed myself long ago in his position. I couldn't leave him alone on the foredeck at night. It would be too easy for him to slip into the water without being noticed. I got him to come into the cabin and made an herbal tea that the locals claimed gave sleep. How many sleepless nights had he taken to think about how he could have rescued Rose before she was immobilized by the loss of her limbs? He must have made the slingshot and practiced with it for months or even years, always thinking about what he should have done to save her. It made me ashamed of my own sorrow when his had been so much greater. I sat up and watched until he went to sleep. Then I couldn't sleep. I went back up to the bow and watched the waves. When you sit watching the stern wake, people come up and talk to you. Only someone as desperate as Shmoe comes up and talks to you when you're standing in the bow.

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I wondered how many off-worlders the giant might have eaten. Probably Shmoe's wife was the only one. If they had all had implants, what a library of suffering their Last Messages would be. And I would have no desire to read those messages. The Shadow surged through the waves and left all that behind. I knew that I would never return to that cave and any messages that it might contain.

Bilbo tells of his search________________________________

No sign of the Shadow along the coast. Either they went offshore and back to Homeport and I missed them, or they are running as fast as they can. Gatsby would still be with them if they were going home with tails between their legs. They were running, and probably running day and night. They would be more than a day ahead of us by night. We didn't anchor. We left the island and headed north. We had more stores and could run day and night for a month if we had to. Eventually, they would have to run ashore and find something to eat. If endurance was my ally, I had to be ready for a long chase. I wondered if I could keep the others motivated. I could force my will on them, of course; I've always had a talent for that. It wouldn't be pleasant if I had to do that, and it wouldn't be efficient either. Better if we should all want to go the same way. The Church has tried its best to scare us about the Zone of Alienation. My father had no fear of it, but had a canny understanding of the Church and its power. If the Church did not want him to explore or establish new colonies, the consequences of doing so would be more than he cared to pay. But he taught me how to evade the rules if need be, and showed me all the tricks they use to control us. He was preparing me for a breakdown in the power of the Church, or a final conflict with the powers that be if that

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is what was required. He taught me that there is always at least one extra locator beacon in every boat that the Church allows to be built, and showed me how to make a Churchband detector. I could find the Church locator in any vessel. Unfortunately, the bootleg locator-detector that my father and I had devised would not project the location of a vessel on a map screen. It would just beep louder if I got close enough to the locator hidden aboard. I did that drill a long time ago on Seeker. I knew exactly where the Church locator was and I could disable it at any time. Of course, as soon as I did so, the Church would be all over me, so I never interfered with it. Nobody had done that with Shadow. If I could get that detector to work at extended range, I could locate that boat easily. Unfortunately, I had with me neither the tools nor the expertise to modify my homemade detector in that way. So we took an offshore tack the first night away from the island, and hoped there were no reefs or islands in our way. Satellite pictures must have mapped the area long ago, but maps outside the Zone of Control were not permitted. We had enough people to keep watches, four hours on and four off, but I had little faith in Winifred or Joy, as she called herself. I gave Donne the watches with Winifred and took Joy as my watch mate. I decided we would tack off shore by night and inshore by daylight. I could only assume that Shadow was ahead of us and would remain so for some days. We would stay as close to the coast as we could at night, and closer by daylight.

Gilgamesh and friends meet strangers from the interior______________________

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Perhaps it was my anger that made me the leader. When I said something should be done, no one wanted to confront me. The older men, who might have taken charge, seemed not inclined to do so. Shmoe was an empty shell. Jonah, the Spacer, was somehow distant. I've heard the ethic of Spacers is not to interfere but only to record. If that was true, he was never part of anything he saw or any group he stayed with. After Gats and Winnie left, we weighed anchor and ran north as fast as we could all day and night. When the sun came up again, I decided we needed to find food. I could get Shmoe to show the others how to dig up roots and identify the fruits that would not kill us or make us mad. The others had not studied survival in the wild, and it was time for them to learn. The morning was calm, so we anchored in front of a rocky beach with little protection. I told them all that if the wind came up from any direction other than straight off the shore, we would have to get back to the boat quickly, and if the boat left without them the should stay at the beach until the wind that forced us away subsided. Jonah stayed on board as anchor watch. He seemed to know boats, and if a storm came up, we needed someone who could save the boat and come back for us later. The dinghy was barely afloat with the rest of us in it. We rowed to shore and pulled it up on the beach. We stayed together as we fought through the bushes near the beach, partly for mutual protection, but partly so we could all learn from Frobisher which plants to pick. He showed us dark purple berries that tasted sour at first but had a sweet aftertaste. We learned which leaves were nourishing, and which cured constipation. He found shoots with a tangy taste and crunchy texture, and showed us the grown trees of

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the same plant, which can be cut down and the interior chipped out and ground into a nourishing meal and cooked up with a little hot water. We were getting farther from the boat with every step, but the day was fine we were beginning to feel safer. We stopped in an open glade to make a picnic of some of our new stores and drink cool water we had gathered from a nearby stream. Frobisher sat on a small hillock and we sat in a semicircle around him while he explained which foods went well with each other and which would keep longest. We were so engrossed in our learning, we didn't notice we had company until a tall, gaunt man rose up behind Frobisher and stood with an arrow nocked in his bow, but without having drawn the bow. He was dressed all in black, with hip-high boots and a high collar around his neck. It took a moment before I realized what he was wearing, then I was overpowered by nausea and began retching. It was another minute before I realized that there were half a dozen of these men surrounding us, all wearing leather. I looked around at my companions. Frobisher looked calm and resigned. Stella and Floyd were pale and frightened. I was mortified to see that I was the only one to loose his lunch. Maybe the others hadn't realized that we were surrounded by apparitions dressed in the skins of once living creatures. Maybe they thought it was plastic or something. Then Stella seemed to get it. "Skins!" she cried, recoiling. "How can they wear skins?" "Well," said Floyd, "I reckon they kill the beast, remove the carcass, and step inside where the beast used to live." He sounded comically clinical, and I couldn't help but laugh at something that had me retching a moment before.

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The man standing behind Frobisher smiled. "Yep, that's about right, only we got to cure the skins first. Otherwise the hide smells something awful. You ever smelled a rotting corpse? Not a scent I'd care to wear. Now you'd be Vegans, am I right?" He had an odd, nasal way of talking, and I was to learn that all from the interior had that peculiarity. Frobisher turned to him. "Yes, we are all of the Vegan faith. And I'm guessing you would not be?" The leather-clad man laughed at that. "Expedition from the interior. No Vegans over there. Without leather boots, the burrowing burrs work into your flesh. Soil's not so good over there, the sawgrass tries to cut your legs and send its burrs in, carrying infection, so that the young plants will have a corpse to fertilize them. See, the plants kill the animals out there and feed on them, so we are no worse than plants. Anyway, the native animals have tough enough skin that the sawgrass can't penetrate unless they've been hurt. We don't have skin like that, so we have to take it from them. Snorklebeak hide is best. Snorklebeak nests in sawgrass." "Why did you come here?" I asked him. "And why must you wear that obscene costume when there is no sawgrass on the wet side of the mountains? "We came west of the mountains to see if the Vegans were gone and we could maybe come back," he told me. "I guess no. And why I'm wearing my leathers is, I only got but one suit to my name. And before you start telling me we got to make cloth, let me tell you, we forgot how to make it. It's no use to us back home, so why would we remember how to make it?" "You don't have to kill the animals," Stella said. "You could make plastics that would protect you."

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"You maybe could, but not me," the tall man said. "Remember, we got to stay small, try not to be noticed. If we had towns and factories, your kind would find us and wipe us out." Stella stood and started shouting. "That's a lie! We could live peacefully with you if you didn't kill us and eat us and probably make clothes out of our skin!" "Be calm, Stella," Frobisher said. "How can you of all people tell me to be calm? One of those carnivores killed and ate your wife!" "Didn't know there was any wildlife big enough to eat a person out here," the leader of the men from the interior said. "There is a giant living on an island near here," Frobisher explained. "One of your people. He has gone mad. He re-enacts the torture and devouring of Frank Ohlsen out of bitterness for what was done to his people. He did that to my … wife." Tears streamed down his face and he seemed to choke on the word "wife." The leather-clad man looked at him with sympathy, but incomplete understanding. "Well, why haven't you killed him, then? Is it agin' your principles?" "This isn't something the authorities know about," I told him. "All of us here are running away from the authorities. And we're not exactly good at killing. No offence." "Oh, I see. And we are good at killing, as a matter of fact. Take some pride in it. To live, see, we eat only native game, because only earth creatures can get the growth bug. So we get real good at killing game with, I think I mentioned, real tough skin. Plus, well, we do get into blood feuds and kill each other now and again. Keeps us from

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overrunning the planet, I suppose. Anyway, if you'd esteem it a favor, me and the boys can kill this fella for you. All I ask in return is, you don't tell anybody we came out here." Several of the men in leather were nodding. "We're with you, Roy!" one of them shouted. "So there, now, you can't say fairer than that," Roy said. "We don't believe in killing," Floyd said. "Oh, I believe in it," Roy replied. "Seen it done. Can't help believing in it after that." "See, what Floyd means…" I started. "Hush your mouth. A man kills your woman, you owe it to her memory to kill him. If you can't do it, a friend ought to do it for you. And I aim to be a proper friend to you fellas." "We can't let you kill him," Stella said. "I can," Frobisher said. "I tried to kill Polyphemus. I didn't know how." "Well, there you go. We can teach you, or we can do it for you. May as well just do it for you, really. I don't reckon you've go a real long list of people you want killed. No point in taking it up if you don't intend to continue. Now, what do you say we break bread on this to seal the deal?" So our picnic became larger than planned. Our new guests had hundreds of questions about the edible plant life in the area, and ate no meat in front of us. One man started to pull something out of a leather pouch, but Roy gave him a dirty look and he put it back. I gathered that they had some kind of durable rations consisting of meat. I talked to May and Floyd and Stella about what fabric we had that could be turned into

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clothes for our new companions, and we decided that we didn't need the drifter, a sail intended for racing in the lightest winds. Roy agreed to try cloth, but said he was keeping his leathers with him because he would need them when he went back to the interior. This troubled me, because if we were found in company with men who had leather clothes, we could be convicted of slaughter, just as they would certainly be. We would then spend the rest of our lives in hard labor. From the rumors I'd heard, it wasn't a long life. While we were eating, I found myself sitting next to a grizzled, scarred man with a leather patch over one eye who called himself Wolf. "Has it occurred to you, Wolf, that by killing Frank's creatures you are harming your karma?" I asked. "What do you expect to come back as in your next life, a blowfly?" He chuckled. "Ain't coming back at all, son. We just get one shot at life, and if we live with honor and die with honor, we get to be top dog in the afterlife. I you live without honor, you'll be the servant of those who lived with honor, and the worse you were, the worse your job." "What honor is there in killing some defenseless beast?" I asked him. "Hell, son, you obviously ain't hunted snorklebeak. They's mean sons of bitches. One of them took out my eye. And hunting ain't cruel, if you do it right. I don't poison their food or give them infections that kill them slow and painful. If I did that, I'd be no better than your kind, and I'd spend all eternity slopping shit out of the outhouses of Paradise. I just put a real sharp arrow right into the soft spot under the vestigial wing."

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"You think Vegans are the servants in Paradise?" "Not just Vegans. Cowards of all sorts. Oathbreakers, child rapers, any kind of scum. Sorry, don't mean to be insulting, but when we die we all get our just rewards." "You kill other human beings, too, don't you?" I said accusingly. "Only if they break the code of honor. Can't have that. A man impugns my honor, I have to kill him to keep my honor intact. He'll do the same if I impugn his honor. Just makes sense." "So you kill each other all the time." "No, not at all. You'd be surprised how polite people are when they know you might kill them if they wind you up. I believe those who live long lives in our society are the most courteous people in the galaxy. Now, take me for example. You've said things I ought to kill you for, but you don't know any better, so I'm sparing your life. What could be more courteous than that?" I almost laughed, but caught myself in time. "Thank you for that," I said. "I'll try to follow your lead and not kill you, either." He gave me an appraising look. "Don't think you're up to it, lad. Mind you, I'm willing to take you under my wing and teach you to kill, if you're willing to learn. Man ought to know that if he's going to keep his honor intact. But if I do teach you, you have to take an oath not to kill me, and maybe you don't want to do that?" "Wolf, I'll take an oath not to kill you, but you don't have to teach me how to kill. For my people, killing is the worst thing, not a loss of honor." He looked thoughtful.

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"Well," he said at length, "when you people do kill, you do it on an industrial scale, and entirely without honor. Tell you the truth, I was being a little ironic offering to teach you how to kill, seeing how you killed most of the First People. You killed us off like animals. No, wait, you don't kill animals. You killed us like bacteria. If we'd been animals, we would have had the protection of your Church." "I'm sorry. My people thought we were protecting ourselves." "You know what we believe?" Wolf asked me. I shook my head. "We believe that as the First People, we have a rightful place in this world. You came out of the sky and nearly wiped us off the planet, and maybe that was a punishment for acting without honor. We now try to act with honor all the time. That's why Roy offered to kill your giant for you. That giant is acting without honor, and that reflects badly on all the First People." I bowed my head. "I think we made him what he is," I told Wolf. "What kind of loser philosophy is that?" Wolf rebuked me. "He had a choice. He knew he would tell us who he is with his acts, and he acted without honor. You always have a choice and nobody makes it for you. Your circumstances may push you one way, but you can push back. He made himself into a monster. You made yourself into a wimp." That made me angry. "Tough talk from someone whose people have to live on the run from my people," I said hotly. "You guys have spent my whole life trying to convince us you don't even exist." May was trying to pull me away before I said enough to enrage Wolf.

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"Now," Wolf said, "I'm going to show how polite I am by not killing you, because you don't know that one day somebody else is going to come from the sky and cure the sick from this terrible plague you set on us, and hear voices of the dead and know the truth about what happened. Then the First People will be restored to their proper place in this world. Meanwhile, your folks will be trying to get such good karma you don't have to be born again. You don't like being alive, is your trouble. We know life ends, not just for us but for snorklebeaks and even for the likes of you. We don't save up our life for the next one, we spend it, and we spend it with honor and generosity. When it's gone, we don't aim to regret it." He stood up then and stalked away. "Jonah cured us," May said. "Should we tell him the prophesy is coming true?" I shook my head, more to clear it than in answer. There could be no true prophesies for a false faith. But what if some new generation of settlers did come? Would we face a reckoning for how we had treated the First People?

Jonah______________________

Gil rowed us to the shore while he told me about the First People. "They were starving because they found no game to kill," he told me. "We're teaching them what plants to eat. I think when they find out they can live without meat, they'll see that they don't have to hunt." "You want to think the best of them, don't you?" I mused. "You want them to be people you are not obligated to hate." "I guess."

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"They have a different notion of right and wrong. Can't you accept the differences and respect them for who they are?" "Jonah, they are killers. They eat the cadavers of dead animals and wear the skins of creatures that once walked about like you and me. I may not have been well-treated back home, but I am not so estranged from my upbringing that I can say slaughter is just fine because it's a way of life for someone. Their way of life is depraved." "I'm guessing that they think they are the ones with the moral high ground. You said that they talk a lot about honor?" "They talk a lot of bilge about honor. Honor makes them kill each other. Honor makes them glory in the hunt. Honor makes them sin so much that no penance they could do in one lifetime could make them come back in their next life as anything higher than a worm." "I thought all life forms were equal." "They are, but…" He stopped rowing, nonplussed for a moment. "Gil, you don't experience guilt from knowing that your immune system kills off disease-causing bacteria. Even your faith makes some distinctions between life forms. Otherwise, your faith would not even allow you to eat plants. It matters how a life form experiences life. Did you know that there are cultures that will eat fish, but not mammals or birds? They don't think fish feel things the way warm-blooded animals do. Your own people brought worms to this planet to help prepare the soil for agriculture. There is a saying, “the worm forgives the plough.” Other planets settled by your own church ban the exploitation of worms."

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"I've met cows and sheep," Gil said, resuming his rowing. "I've looked them in the eye and seen that they have souls. I've not seen that in a worm. You will not convince me that our morals are just one item on a menu any civilization could choose from. The way we live makes sense." "You don't need my permission to do missionary work among the carnivorous heathen. Just don't be shocked if they don't think your morals are better than theirs." "I won't be shocked," Gil promised, "and they won't be right." I smiled. Gil couldn't understand why this new development made me so happy. If I had been doing my duty, talking to important people and confirming the official history of this planet, I would never have learned that the interior of the main continent is occupied by a people the official history said was extinct. There are few things more gratifying than doing the right thing quite by accident. This also opened the possibility that other people were living on the planet. Not in cities, of course, but in forests and deserts and caves where no one had looked. The Vegans thought they had exterminated all human life but their own. Perhaps the whole planet outside the tiny area they occupied and a small buffer zone was occupied by people living in the shadows and hiding in the shrubbery. When I made an official report, the time I spent away from this planet's known civilization would look not only justified, but brilliant. When we reached the beach, several men in black leather helped us pull the boat ashore. When one brushed against Gil, he flinched, then tried very hard to look normal. Clearly, contact with leather bothered him. Once we had the boat on the beach, Gil introduced me.

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"Jonah, these are the First People. They came from the interior to see if it was safe to come out here. They decided that it isn't. And guys, this is Jonah. He came across space to visit our world and write a chapter in the Omnibus History of Humanity. He knows a lot, including how to cure the growth bug." The leather-clad men all stopped moving. Then a tall, gaunt one walked up to me and stood with his arms at his sides looking uncomfortable and a little awed. "My name's Roy," he said. "I'm the leader of this party of exploration, and I believe you may be someone we've been waiting for."

Roy_______________________________________

I can't say he looked like much. Just a medium-sized guy, old by the standards of my people (but then, we live hard lives) with a salt-and-pepper beard a couple weeks old, sitting around the campfire with us talking. He said he could inoculate all of our party against the growth bug, but then he'd be out of serum. I had doubts then; I figured the prophesy meant that the true savior would be able to cure all our people. "There's a lot of us out in the interior," I told him. "It's a shame you can't cure everybody." "But you don't have the growth bug," he answered. "That's 'cause we eat only native game," I said. "And I'll tell you, it ain't an easy way to live. Other than snorklebeak, most of that game ain't very big. Out here where there's no sawgrass, you don't get the snorklebeak, and we like to starved before these boys showed us what plants to eat." "What does a snorklebeak look like?" he asked me.

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"Well, the body and legs look like one of those mythical earth critters, the ostrich. The beak is actually a flexible, long nose, like on another mythical thing, what they call an elephant, only with a sharp beak at the end of it. The feathers are white and the skin is black." "The ostrich and the elephant aren't mythical," the girl called May interjected. "Have it your way, kid," I said indulgently. Like she'd ever seen either of those. "Anyway, they need the sun for warmth, so you got to get up early when it's still cold and they're moving slow, and their skin is real tough, so your arrow has to hit them just right. And the meat is tough, so you got to cook it a long time. Got to have a good, big cook pot and cook all day long. Helps if you add beer, too. Anyway, you're smelling the stew all day long, hungry as hell, but you know you can't get anything out of the meat until the fat starts breaking free and floating to the top of the stew. Usually people are too hungry to wait any longer, but if you cook another two hours it's a lot more palatable and your body can digest it better. Goats can live out there, but we can't eat them because you swell up big and die if you get that growth bug. So if you could make it so the growth bug couldn't get us, we could live a lot better." "It's not my place to change history, only to record it," he said. "Anyway, it would be a grave sin to make it possible for you to eat more animals," Gil said. "Boy, I'm beginning to not like you," I told him. "But you could live on plants, the way we do," Gil said. "First, there's not so many edible plants in the interior. We been hungry enough for long enough to find out, trust me on this. Second, back when some of us had farms,

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your folks spotted those with satellites and sent in troops to kill us. We ain't making that mistake again." "That's a lie! We've never been killers!" he screamed at me. "Gil, it's in the official history," Jonah said. "Maybe they don't teach it in the schools, but they acknowledge it in the official history of the planet." Gil looked dumbfounded. "I don't believe it," he said. "I've got the memory slug in my pocket," Jonah said. "When we find a vid screen, you can watch it." Gil shut up and looked down at his feet. I decided to change the subject. "Anyway, the prophesy I've been telling you about, it also says the savior will be able to hear the stories of the dead. Don't reckon that's you, though, unless you really can hear the dead." "Do your dead talk?" he asked me. "I never heard them." "Well, if they talk, I promise to listen." He was an all right guy. If he'd come all over solemn and told me that he was the savior we'd been waiting for, I wouldn't have believed him. I've never been much of a worshiper, anyhow. "Well, thanks," I said. "Maybe they'll talk to you like they don't talk to me. We're supposed to respect our ancestors and go into their tombs and clean their bones and do our best to make the afterlife comfortable for them, and some say on bonecleaning day they hear the voices of the old ones. Not me. When it was my turn, I could

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hear bugs moving, the sound of my own scrubbing, even the far-off trumpeting of snorklebeaks, but the dead said never a word to me." "That's what they usually say," he assured me. The one they called Shmoe had walked up. "What about Last Messages?" he asked. "Shmoe, you really don't want to pursue that," Jonah said. "You know enough about your wife's suffering without finding more ways to relive it." Shmoe turned away from him and addressed me. "Sometimes he can hear the voices of the dead. He doesn't want to, but he can. Make him hear my wife. Make him." Then Shmoe turned and walked away. "What did he mean?" I asked Jonah. "His wife had an implant. A sort of radio, computer and recorder fused into her skull. Your people don't have them. Haven't, anyway, since the first generation. There's probably not more than half a dozen people in this world that have them, and they are all from off-world. I can't hear your dead, and if I found the skull of Shmoe's wife, there is very little chance that Polyphemus left enough intact for any Last Message she recorded to survive. He probably broke her skull open to get the brains out, and may have boiled the head. Shmoe wants us to go into the giant's cave and recover her skull and have me recover her Last Message." "You said the giant reenacts the eating of Frank Ohlsen. Tell me the story of what happened to your wife," I asked Shmoe. He told me, quietly, trying to be calm, but tears streamed down his cheeks and his voice kept breaking.

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"You should let her go," I said I said at last. "She showed bravery in the face of torture and death. She will have a high place among the dead, and should not be called back by the living." "I have told him I won't be a party to it," Jonah said. We parted ways, but it wasn't long before some of the men started sidling up to me to find out if what Shmoe had said was true. Wolf in particular seemed determined that Jonah should use his strange abilities. "The prophesy never said the Savior would be happy to talk to the dead," he argued. "It only said that he would do it. And we already offered to kill the giant for Shmoe. Once the giant is dead, there will be all those skulls, and some must have the implant things. If we stand him before the skulls, he will hear the dead. His honor will prevent him from turning a deaf ear." "These people have strange ideas about honor," I reminded him. "The Spacer isn't the same as the others," he said. "He's no Vegan, and if I'm any judge, he does have honor." The tall twins, Gog and Magog, were next to speak to me. "Wolf says the Spacer can hear the dead," Gog said. Or maybe Magog, they're hard to tell apart. "We want him to tell us what they say," the other – I think Magog – added. "Only off-worlders can he hear," I told them, "and not always them. You think off-worlders can tell him the truth of this world?" "Well, we'd like to know what they say," Gog (I think) said. "They'd tell more truth than Vegans," the other added.

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"Shut your traps about Vegans. We're keeping company with some of them, and I won't have you picking fights," I said. "So never mind the Vegans," the one I thought was Magog said. "Magog and me still want to know what the skulls say." "Wait, he's Magog? Gog, I've told you boys to wear nametags. Listen, have you seen the size of the Vegans' boat? We won't all fit on it and still have enough of them to run the boat. You want to float a log out there?" "I'll walk the bottom and hold my breath if I have to," Magog said. "Don't talk nonsense. Our people are relying on us to return to them with a report. You desert the mission, I'll kill you myself." "Roy, a threat like that from anyone else would be empty air," Gog said. "We respect you, and we'll follow you, but if there's a chance to hear the dead, we ask that you get him to hear them." "Boys, you have my word on that," I told them.

May explores Gil's guilt___________________________

Gil could not accept the inlanders. We all found their garb bizarre, but he was particularly repelled by it. "Living every moment in the skin of another – how can they wear such things?" Gil asked. We were walking down the beach together. It should have been a romantic moment alone with each other, but his mind kept racing around the morality of the inlanders.

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"You heard what they said. They would be killed by the burrowing burrs if they didn't wear that leather clothing." "Better to die, then." "Maybe they didn't think so," I said. "Remember, it was we who pushed them inland. We're building a road past the mountains now, and will be living there soon. Maybe we will die there because we don't wear leather." "We'll find a way to get rid of the sawgrass and its burrowing burrs instead of killing the snorklebeak for their hides." "He said the snorklebeak live in the sawgrass. That's why we don't have them here. If we get rid of the sawgrass, won't the snorklebeak die because they have no sawgrass to live in?" "We won't have killed them, May." "Just like we don't kill the cows by fencing them out of our fields." Gil kicked a stone. A small, chitinous creature that had been hiding under it scampered away. "They're killers," Gil said. "Carnivores." "People said that about you. I loved you anyway." "Yes, but it wasn't true when they said it about me." "I would have loved you even if it had been true." He stopped and stared at me. "You can't mean that." "Yes," I assured him. "Come to that, how could I know it wasn't true when I fell in love with you? If you had done something wrong, I could have forgiven you. You

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don't have to hate them for what they've done. It's the only way of life they know. It's what they had to do to survive." We walked along in silence. Gil was watching the ground at his feet. I thought about the inlanders, what their world must be like, how they must see it. Until now I had lived my whole life within the Zone of Control, and had been taught that only monsters lived in the Zone of Alienation. Now I was meeting the monsters, and finding that they were human, but not in the way that we were. We cared about the snorklebeak in the abstract, but would not make it part of our lives. They knew the snorklebeak and lived with it and from it. It filled their bellies and clothed their bodies, and when they talked about the snorklebeak, it was with reverence. They were predators, but so were the bandersnatch and the snipe. I wondered if they were more a part of nature, or if we were. "You know, May I was ashamed of being hated," Gil said at last. "I never told my parents about the taunts at school, and when I got beat up, I told them I was playing around and I fell. They must have thought I was awful clumsy." "The inlanders are what you were accused of being. I should think you would be sympathetic to them," I said. "Yeah. I guess I am, really. But it's just weird. Somehow I felt like there was really something wrong with me, something people really did hate, and they just hung the carnivore tag on me because it expressed the hatred. Somehow I thought they must really know me, know that the carnivore label wasn't the thing they hated about me, but it was just a sort of shorthand for them. Like we hate him just as much as if he were a carnivore." "Do you hate the inlanders?" I asked.

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"I know how much we're supposed to hate them. And I don't hate them. But the leather thing, and actually eating animals, that really is something I find hard to understand. It's just when you meet them and they don't seem to think it's wrong, it seems like it would be wrong for me but not for them. But the values I was taught are absolute, so what they are doing is wrong. I'm not making sense, am I?" "If the teaching of the Church is true, any sin will be reflected in their karma," I reminded him. "We can try to convince them we are right, and give them the benefit of better karma through our way of life." "And while we are doing that, they can try to convince us to live a life of honor and blood feuds, to earn a better place at the banquet of the dead," Gil said. I laughed. "I wonder if there is a Vegan table in Valhalla?" I said.

Bil Davos meets some people who are not thought to exist___________________

I made some changes I hoped would extend the range of the crude detector I had for the Church locator beacon on Shadow, but I had little hope it would guide us to my daughter. I had no way to test the mods. Besides, the Church beacon in Seeker was interfering with my detector. I didn't dare disable that beacon, because to do so would attract the attention of the Church. Two of Cyril 5's three moons were out at night, so we had plenty of light to keep a lookout. Islands were becoming more common as we moved north, and when Donne came on shift I told him to keep an eye on the depth sounder in case we came upon a

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reef. Joy said she couldn't sleep, so she stayed in the pilothouse with Donne and Winnie. I went below to the nav station and plotted our course. I could show exactly where we had been in terms of our coordinates, but I was plotting on an empty map. I drew in crude shapes to show the landforms I had seen, but since we were running at night there was little we could do to plot half the land we passed. The map I was making was only so much guesswork, and I'm a man who likes precision. If we had been allowed a plotting radar set, we'd have something worth using for navigation, but the Church banned anything so useful outside the Zone of Control. I was putting away my plotting tools when Donne called down the companionway. "Something weird up here, boss!" I went up to the pilothouse. The engine was off, there was enough wind to move us, and there was silence except for the wash of the waves. My eye followed Donne's pointing finger. There was a vessel off our port bow, something with three short masts raked at odd angles, with low sides an a wide, dark hull and only the foremost and aftermost sails up. They had a strange, square shape. In the moonlight, I could see people on deck. They had been pulling up a net, and seemed frozen in the act, looking back at us.

Velveeta Jones meets the Vegan strangers____________________________

The strange ship had a white hull, looked like moonshell. It had three sails but only two masts. The sails were wrong, all pointy at the top. Very quick the front sail rolled up and the boat came into the wind to stop. Then a bright light came from it, like a small

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sun, right from the deck of the boat. I held my hand before my eyes to stop the light, but when it stopped I still couldn't see anything. "What that?" said Yonderboy. "You see what I see," I told him. Our eyes started getting used to the night and we could see it again. They were launching a little boat from it, white like the big one. "Pull up the net, Yonderboy," I said. He and Stargaze started pulling in fast, not caring where the krill went. Phosphorescent krill swept across the deck as if trying to outline a cruiserfish sweeping its baleen mouth through their number, making it glow so a kraaken could see it and eat it. "Not like that. You do it right. We still got to eat," I reminded him. So they slowed down and let the krill go into the hold, which is right. Two men were rowing the small boat to us. We got the net in all right before they came by the side. One man was older with dark hair and gray hair, one man was blonde like me and younger. They gave us the bow line and we tied them up and helped them come on deck. "I am Bildavos," the older one said, "and this is Donne." "I am Velveeta Jones, and these are my sons, Yonderboy and Stargaze. No husband. My husband dead," I said for Donne, who was not too young to take interest in a woman who is fat and owns her own vessel, even if he was a little thin. "You fish for krill?" "No," said Bildavos, "We search for another boat that has my daughter on it. She ran away, and we want to take her home." "Same like your boat? Pointysail, moonshell hull?" Bildavos looked startled.

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"You've seen it?" "No, just guessing. You're not like us, your daughter not like us." His face fell. "You're not seafolk. Where you from?" I asked. "Homeport," he told me. "You search at night now? We fish at night from when you search in daylight, always killing us with bombs from airplanes." "We are not here to make war on you. That was long ago. We only search for my daughter and her friends," Bildavos said. "True?" I asked Donne. "You can trust him," Donne said, "You can trust the other boat with a moonshell hull and one pointy sail. Do not trust the airplanes and do not trust the boats with no sail. They do not hunt us now, but a time might come when they hunt us and you as well." "Donne, I don’t think…" Bildavos started. "Bil, you need me to do the talking right now," Donne said. Bildavos looked at him and said no more. So I knew Donne was not a slave, and I could believe him. The Vegan was maybe the captain of the moonshell boat, but Donne was somebody instead of nobody. "Okay, we trust you, but we have not seen this boat you look for. We sell you krill so you can eat and grow fat like a kraaken," I suggested, because you should always look for a market and because Donne would look nice if he wasn't so thin. "I can help you load the krill to your boat," said Yonderboy, who obviously wanted to see the moonshell boat close up.

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"That is a very fine offer, but we must go back now and continue our search," Donne said. "Thank you…" "Velveeta," I reminded him. "Means food that last forever." "Thank you, Velveeta. You are very kind, and we thank you for your offer of krill. Let's go, Bilbo." The dark-haired Vegan followed Donne into the boat. It was strange that Donne called him Bil and Bilbo and not just Bildavos. My husband called me Vel, but not people who did not love me. So I think they were friends and very close. Stargaze, who is always practical, waited until they were halfway back and said, "Shall we put out the net again?" "No," I said, "We have big news now. People will feed us to tell them the story. We hurry back now and start eating on this news." Yonderboy, who loves to tell the tale, was quick to the main mast and pulling the halyard. That boy would make it rhyme and sing the story so nobody could forget.

Well before sunrise we sailed into Dark Harbor, the main port of Mossback Island. We moored at the main quay and lowered the sails, then raised fronds to the top of the mast so the boat looked like three trees from a hillock. Many years it has been since the airplanes came and dropped the bombs, but still we do this every day. When we took out our load, old Goatbeard said, "Not good fishing tonight. Tomorrow will be better. At least you catch enough to eat. Tomorrow you get some to sell for moonshell." "No, fishing good, lots of krill, but we see a strange ship so we come to tell," I said. "Ship with white pointysail, white hull like moonshell. Two men, one dark hair,

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one like us, row to us in a boat like moonshell. Ship from Vegan place, but they don't kill us. Dark hair was looking for another ship like that, said his daughter run away." I tell the story badly, but old Goatbeard will tell it worse, so people will come to hear Yonderboy sing the story to them. Everybody brings food to hear him sing, because the singer cannot go fish as much. This means all the krill from this trip brings us moonshell, and we get better food than krill mash. Stargaze and me unload the krill while Yonderboy strums his instrument and tries out different tunes. He hums under his breath and sings verses too low for anyone to hear, so they have to bring food to hear, and so they wonder what the song is. The three sisters, Olive, Flan and Kumquat, were the first to arrive. Each brought a little of the food they were named for, which is a good custom when you can do it. Because they did that, I didn't make them give much. Besides, Yonderboy thinks Olive has a beautiful face, although she is thin and not so strong. Stargaze likes Kumquat, who is strong and happy. And Flan must work so hard to bring her namefood. It came in a tiny cup, made with soy milk, and she looked pleadingly at me hoping I would accept it. My own name is a food from myth, so I never had a hope of bringing my namefood, so I understand her parents have made her life hard. Pie is big and lazy and never brings her namefood even though it would be easy, so I made her give me a basket of parsnips that would feed me and my boys three meals with just one scoop of krill for protein. Mostly the men just brought krill, because men are not named for food. We moved to the hollow in the hill where all could sit around in rows and Yonderboy could sit before them all and sing. It is a good place, hidden from the sky by a canopy of trees, even hidden from the sides by the slopes of the hollow. I always feel

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safe there, though I was very young when the death last fell from the sky. I sat beside the stage where I could gauge the reaction of the audience. Yonderboy sat and tuned his instrument for a long time, even though he was playing it on the boat so we all knew it was already in tune. When all were sitting still and stopped talking, he started to sing. Three sails pulled us south, but I will not say to where Because the waves all glow with exited krill And the fishing is the best there. Three sails pulled us south, until we pulled the main one down And our nets were full of glowing krill Like a cruiserfish's frown. Three sails white as Olive's teeth came sailing from the south Sails pointed on top as a kraaken's beak but shaped sweet as Olive's mouth. Olive's face was red and her giggling sisters were pushing her from each side. It was not good to embarrass her so, but I had to smile. Yonderboy may be a dreamer sometimes, but when he knows what he wants he is not afraid to say it. Say, moneyman, do you see that hull of the strange white ship out there? It glows pure white like a moonshell disc On a necklace where it won't be missed On a woman's neck where the eye must rest – right there! And here he pointed to Olive, who does indeed wear a moonshell disc to draw attention to her cleavage and symbolize her dowry. A man works his whole life to build a woman's property, and he likes to know he's not starting from nothing. Olive buried her face in her hands, but I could see she was smiling behind them. Her father was a

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singer, so maybe her sons would be singers. It would be a better life for them than fishing krill. Two men came out from the cabin and launched a little boat And its hull glowed white in the moonlit night And it seem quite light when it floated Two men came out from the moonshell ship and rowed across to us The krill were so many that the sea was a soup So their oars could dip a meal up. Two men came on our deck and told a strange and sorry story About a girl who fled with her lover across The sea so thick and stormy. I frowned a little. His rhymes were not so much the best this night, but the story was a strange one and the tune was a good one and his voice was never more compelling. I looked across the faces and no one fidgeted or even seemed to blink. When I saw the way they looked at him, I thought maybe this was the night that they would see he should be the new singer for the clan. We have not had someone the clan supported to sing since Olive's father was killed by a kraaken last spring. Say, moneyman, do you see that hull of the strange white ship out there? It glows pure white like a moonshell disc On a necklace where it won't be missed On a woman's neck where the eye must rest – right there! Of course, he was only thinking of his love for Olive when he sang the chorus, but the humor and the truth of a man looking at the moonshell in a woman's cleavage would stand the test of time, I thought.

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Of course, the Vegan man did not say his daughter had run away with her lover, and it did not occur to me at the time that she might have, but when I heard the verse I thought it must be true. A girl does not run away from her family for nothing. She stays so her mother can pass on the family property, she stays so she can find a man to build more wealth to pass on to their daughters, to build a proud clan with fine ships and great songs. Only if her mother would not consent to the wedding would she flee. It was a great story about a great love, a love that would make the girl run away from what must be great wealth, if they could build a ship from moonshell. And the man could not enjoy the wealth of her great clan, but loved her so much he would go away with her and not just find a woman whose family would have him and take part in her lesser fortune. No, he loved her without the fortune, and they were ready to build anew together without help from her clan. Not everyone in the audience would have got there ahead of the lyrics, but their thoughts were all headed there. The lovers fled from fortune, they took fate in their hands They stepped out over the ocean wide Like a puddle in the sand. All the wealth of that great clan has scoured the ocean deep To find true love and make it fade Like a dream left back in sleep. You may build a ship of moonshell, you may sweep across the waves but when great love has found twin hearts Your girl you cannot save. Say, moneyman, do you see that hull of the strange white ship out there? It glows pure white like a moonshell disc

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On a necklace where it won't be missed On a woman's neck where the eye must rest – right there! People were trying to hide the tears that came to their eyes, and so was I, because Yonderboy wouldn't be pulling nets with me anymore. Yonderboy was too valuable for the clan to let him fish for krill on the dangerous sea at night. I was also crying because I knew how I would feel if I had a daughter who ran away, and because I was angry with the man who loved his daughter and at that moment, after hearing that song, would do anything to keep him from tearing her away from her lover, except that I understood so much the pain her father and mother must feel. So Yonderboy made me feel complicated things about people I didn't really know, and that was some song he made.

Joy reveals Gatsby's mission________________________________

"And then," Bil exclaimed, "she offered us krill to fatten up Donne!" Donne smiled shyly and looked away. "She was named Velveeta? But that's a myth," Winifred said. "This must be a culture where hunger is a constant threat," I suggested. "The emphasis on food and on fattening people up suggests it." "What are krill?" Winifred asked. "Small chitinous sea creatures, something like shrimp," Donne explained. "Evidently a staple of these people's diet." "It's really no worse than eating worms," Bil said. "They are not carnivores in the sense the Church sees it."

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"At least not for eating krill," Winnie said. "We don't know what else they eat." "You don't understand how important this is," Bil said. "The Church has taught for years that only monsters lived in the Zone of Alienation. My father always maintained that there were people out here, and he was right." "The Church always said there were giant carnivores out here," Winifred pointed out. "The Church said that to scare you. They don't believe in the legends they tell. Just monsters for the children to hide from under the covers at night." "But it's true. Remember the Spacer's Last Message?" "It would shock them if they ever heard that message," Bil said. "Oh, they will, if they haven't all ready," I muttered. "What?" Winnie said. "What?" Bil said. "Never mind." Donne put his hand on my shoulder and put his lips near my ear. "Tell them," he said. "You know?" He smiled when I said that. "Tell me, then." "The kid. Gatsby. He's going to transmit the Last Message. He must be almost back there by now." "I can call them, you know," Bil said, "warn them." "Why? So they can extend the Zone of Control?" I asked him. "So there will be more places where your daughter and her boyfriend will be pariahs?"

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"It's our civilization. You think I'm ready to see an end to that?" he blustered. "You're ready to see it transformed." I realized that Donne still had his hand on my shoulder. I realized that it felt nice. He wanted what I wanted, a transformed Cyril 5. "Go ahead," I told Bil, "radio them. They'll call you back, and bring you in if you don't go on your own. They don't care what happens to your daughter." "She's right," Donne said. "Let's keep looking. Maybe Gatsby will send the Last Message on, maybe not, but is that really our problem? Let the Church deal with Gatsby or Gatsby deal with them. We'll keep looking for May, and let them worry about the consequences of their deceptions." Bil's head sunk into his hands. "I won't give up the search," he said. "We will go on, and may Frank Ohlsen help the Church."

Gilgamesh tries to plan for the future_________________________

No one seemed to want to organize things, even Roy, who seemed to have a natural talent for leadership, so I started organizing. I formed up foraging teams to bring in food, assigning one of our crew to every team. May said I just wanted to make sure the inlanders didn't kill anything, but I really wanted us to get to know them. There wasn't room for everyone on the boat, and in any case I didn't think our crew would be comfortable with carnivores aboard. The inlanders had leather tents to stay in and leather sleeping bags, so their encampment was a strange and disturbing monument to slaughter. The inlanders wanted to go to the island of the one-eyed giant, but I persuaded them that they would not fit on the boat. Wolf tried to convince me that half of them

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could do the job, and one of us could get them there, but Roy took him aside and talked to him. After that, it was a matter of trying to get the kids together and try to agree on what we should do with ourselves. I got them together in the cockpit of Shadow after sundown the third night after we met the inlanders and said, "Look, if we're not going back, we need to decide what we're doing. So first, are we going back?" "No," May said before the others could speak. "Stella? Floyd?" Floyd shook his head and Stella murmured "never." "So what do we do now? Stay here, go north, set out across the sea and hope to find something? I don't want to decide for all of us. Frobisher? What do you want to do. No, wait, I know, so let me rephrase that. Assuming we're not going back to the island to listen to your wife's Last Message at the risk of all our lives, what do you think we should do?" "Send me back alone, with some weapon better than I was able to devise on my own," he said. "Jonah? Any thoughts?" I asked the Spacer. "At some point, I will go back to my ship and carry your story on to the rest of humanity," he said. "In the meantime, you'll just watch, right?" Floyd sneered. "That is his job," Stella reminded him. "Aren't you, like, prohibited from influencing events?" she asked Jonah.

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"That's a subject for deep philosophical discussions among my peers," Jonah said with a smile. "The truth is, no one off this planet will know for sure what I've done except me. It is my job to document rather than to make history, and I was chosen for the job based on a personal proclivity to act as they wanted me to act. I can guarantee you that I have no ambitions to rule this planet or to decide who does. I will remain true to myself, and in the process, will no doubt do exactly what the Space Corps wants me to." "So it's up to us," I said. "Do we stay with the inlanders or sail off over the horizon? Do we settle here, or do we look for greener pastures? May, what do you think?" "I think we should find out what the inlanders want before we decide how to act toward them," she said. "They want meat," I told her. "What else do we need to know?" "Whether you are repelled by them because you are afraid of being mistaken for them," May suggested. "Whether you hate them because you think you are supposed to or because you can't accept people different from you. I can think of more good questions." I looked away and didn't know what to say to her. "Look, Gil," Floyd said, "we know you. We're not worried that you're going to gut us and eat us at night. And frankly, I don't think any of us are worried that the inlanders will do that to us either. They may eat snorklebeak, whatever that is, but they don't eat people. As long as they are willing to make that distinction, I'm willing to make a distinction between them and the giant on the island. If you've got a problem with that, Gil, all I can say is get over yourself. The people who called you names aren't here."

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"All right," I said. "I won't criticize them for eating animals. I won't criticize them for wearing animals. Probably now that they know the coast isn't clear, they will just want to go home. Whether they will believe that we won't tell anyone they exist is another matter and a thornier one. Has it occurred to anyone that the easiest way to keep us from blabbing is to kill us?" "They won't kill us," May asserted. "They make a distinction between killing people and killing animals." "And if you recall, they have what they call blood feuds in which they kill people," I pointed out. "It's not the same, it's a threshold that is harder for them to cross, but they kill other people as well." "So do our people," May said sharply. "Only we treat them like an infection and kill them without personal animosity. At least they only kill those they hate." "Never mind them killing things then," I said. "What do we think about spending some large part of our lives living among them?" "I think Roy is sexy," said Stella, who had been looking toward the shore. "It would be like sleeping with carrion!" Floyd exploded. At that point, I wished that I had said only sweet things about the inlanders. It was as if I had given a cloak of hateful words to Floyd's obvious jealousy. With only one woman not obviously attached in the vicinity, he had clearly taken on proprietary feelings toward Stella. Perhaps he was more of an animal than any of the inlanders. I tried to remember what little I had read about the behavior of our near relatives in the primate world. "Floyd, you and Gil must not say such things about the inlanders," May told him. "Hurtful words will lead in the end to hurtful acts."

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"You're right, May," I said. "I take back all I've said, and Floyd, you should as well." Floyd stared angrily at the water. Stella looked off at the shore. "This is getting us nowhere," I told them. "When the rainy season comes, we need a warm, dry place to stay and stores of food. Let's make plans." "I know a warm, dry cave," Frobisher muttered. "And our plans had best not involve murder," I added. "What's that?" May said. "No murder," I answered. "No, the sound. Quiet." There was a sound of moving water and it did not come from the waves washing the beach. We all looked off shore. Three dark sails blocked the light of two moons.

Wildwind Smythe meets strangers on the shore__________________________

We were sick of krill. I set a course for a harbor on the coast where the gooseneck barnacles our ancestors planted on this world grow in great profusion. We'd been eating our catch for weeks, something no fisherman should do too often, and needed a different catch, either to eat or, with luck, to sell to a market not flooded with the product. I wished I could be lucky like Velveeta Jones, who had a son who could sing so well that all brought the best food for them, and moonshell, too, if he would sing at weddings. But my wife is barren and in ill health. We have no daughter to pass the

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vessel on to, and when she dies, her sister will take the vessel and I will be on the beach. I must prove myself a savvy fisherman, to be selected by another woman with a vessel when my poor wife dies, because my wife tells me I must.. Not that I would have married another. My dear Pasta is the only one I have ever loved. Now that part of her defenses that would keep her well has mistaken her own body for the enemy, and attacks her body in the skin, in the organs. My sorrow is unbounded. Sometimes I think that I should not prepare for her death, but should prepare myself to die with her. She will not let me think so, and if I do less than my best to impress all others with my fishing savvy, she will be angry with me. I will make her proud of me until the day she dies, then I will not know how to live. So I brought my hired crew with me to this coastal place we all know is none too safe. It is far enough from Dark Harbor that we must overday here, because a vessel ploughing the sea toward our home makes a wake that looks like an arrow aimed at all we would conceal. Only at night may we sail home. At night we sailed into the shore, looking for the harbor I knew. Imagine how I felt as we approached the anchorage when a white vessel loomed ahead of us in the darkness. It was a low, white vessel, with lines that spoke of speed, but the only mast was far forward and very short. People were sitting in an area aft, and a dark-haired woman among them was pointing at us. I assumed she owned the vessel. I steered up into the wind and we dropped the anchor. Northstar Addams called "bottom" when the anchor hit, then we let out three times scope. I had figured right, and we sat just 20 meters from the white vessel. The hull looked like moonshell in a way at night, but I guessed it would look less like moonshell by sunlight.

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I had Northstar and Goldendawn put the boat over, and left Northstar as anchor watch while Goldendawn and I pulled for the "moonshell" boat. When we pulled up next to it, a tall blonde man greeted me. "I am Gilgamesh," he said. "Who are you, and where are you from?" "I am Wildwind," I told him, "and I come from the sea. From where are you?" "We sailed from Homeport. We sailed away to stay away. Do you live on the sea? Have you no home on the land?" "Our home is sometimes bombed by the flying fish you send overhead. I will not say where our land is." "We've left our land and we are at odds with the leaders. Please forgive us for their actions." "You are not searching for the lovers?" I asked. The dark-haired woman put her arm around the tall blonde man. "Who is searching for lovers?" she asked. "The ship with a hull like moonshell, with three white sails with pointed tops. A skipper who is old enough to be your father. A big vessel with high sides and a large cabin on deck. You know this vessel?" "My father!" she exclaimed. "We stay with you and fight them if you want. Yonderboy has told the tale, and we know that your great love has taken you beyond the blue horizon. No one of the sea people will allow you to become prisoners of property. The heart should soar, and not be bound by earthly things." The couple stared and blinked at me. I do not think they expected the story of their great love to precede them.

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"Um, thank you," the tall blonde man said at last. Goldendawn and I rowed back. I felt dissatisfied by their response, but still a little exuberant to have pledged my arms to love. Only two days ago we heard Yonderboy sing about the great love of those two, and already we had seen them. They must have been surprised by how quickly word of their story spread. A Singer tells truth more deeply than others. I might have heard the story without Yonderboy, but I would not see the defiance or the strength of their love without him. I would not feel part of their struggle, or the struggle we all feel against the things that make us compromise our love. I wanted to somehow make my love for Pasta make her live beyond the grave, to make her spirit stay with me. It is love that keeps the spirit alive beyond the grave, we know that. The love the dying feel for the living and the living feel for the dying is the link that cannot be broken even when the body fails. Only I want my love to keep her alive and not die. Somehow fighting for love, anyone's love, made me feel I could keep her alive. I pledge my strength to love. Love is my strength and my link to Pasta in this world and the next. When we die, all are part of one another. The dead merge into one great soul. You are a part of who you hurt and who you helped. If you do not want to exist for all eternity in the agony of those you've hurt, you must spread more joy than pain in in your life. So I fight for love, to join myself to the joy of lovers. I looked up at the dog moon and the cat moon, and howled my feelings to them.

Gatsby sends on the Last Message________________________________

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The wind was behind me all the way. I slept hardly at all, and paddled until my muscles could hardly function. The sun was just making the east a lighter shade of gray when I hid the Spacer's boat in a culvert near the Information Ministry. I might look better if I went home to shower, changed my clothes and perhaps even got some sleep, but there would be questions then, and I didn't care to answer any. I washed myself in the cold water of the culvert, dyed my hair, and got the cleanest clothes in my bag out. I must have looked a fright, but it couldn't be helped. Dud Wilson had to be there ahead of anyone. He would unlock the door and take his place as the guard against annoyances before any of the people who thought themselves important came into the building. I checked the time and came out of the culvert with just enough time to get to the door right after Dud took his seat. I didn't want him to have time to get settled and get fully awake and alert. I timed it right, and saw the door closing behind him just as I came around the corner to the six story brick building that towered above the low stores and warehouses that lined the waterfront. Dawn had turned golden and the mist still slept on the water, and it would be at least half an hour before the workers started arriving. Dud liked to get in early and enjoy his coffee in peace before the others arrived. I pushed through the thick glass door confidently, and when Dud looked up, surprised by my early entrance, I called out heartily. "Dud, you beast of burden, you still carrying this place?" "Gats! I hadn't heard you were back." "Just got back, and before I can even get any rest, those bastards upstairs want me to go on the air. Tell everybody I'm safe, I'm sorry for worrying people, all that."

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"Where's your folks?" "They're not here yet?" "We're the only ones here," Dud said. "Hey," I said, lowering my voice, "that's good news. Gives me a chance to clean up a little before they get here. Stan said he'd get them here before I could walk the distance from the Committee for Public Safety, but obviously they were harder to wake up than he thought. Mind if I go up to the main studio and use the facilities? I know Makeup will make me beautiful before we go on the air, but I want my folks to see me at my best before that." "You got to give me the password." "All right," I said with an exaggerated sigh, "You heard the one about three blondes that walk into a building?" "Don't think so," he said, giving me a level gaze. "You'd think at least one of them would have seen it!" He gave a hearty guffaw and waved me past, then buzzed me in the door. I pressed the button for the elevator, then got impatient waiting for it and went flying up the stairs two at a time. When I got to the fourth floor and the transmitting stations, I realized it was stupid to have sent the elevator down, and hit the button for it to come up again. I went into one of the small transmission booths, took the engineer's seat and tried to remember all I'd learned about sending an emergency blip. I tried to slow my heartbeat and steady my hands before pulling the memory slug out of my pocket. With exaggerated calm, I slowly moved my hand to push the memory slug in. Then I heard the elevator open.

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My immediate instinct was to sink through the floor, but as this proved impossible, I hit the "send" button and waited for the transmitter to work. Nothing happened, and I realized that it wasn't turned on. I decided to open the door a crack and see who had come in. No one was there. The elevator was standing empty and open. I thought someone had gotten out and was hiding from me, ready to pounce. Then I realized that I had pushed the button to bring the elevator to this floor so that it wouldn't be conveniently located on the ground floor when the staff came in. I grabbed a chair and propped the door open. Then I sat down at the emergency transmitter, tried to calm myself down, and turned the machinery on. When the lights came on, I put it in blip mode and sent the message. Throughout the Zone of Control, most people were still sleeping, but when they woke they would turn on their sets for the morning news, and a warning would come on that a blip had been sent with must-see information. And they would watch the Spacer's Last Message, and nothing would ever change that fact that they had seen it. I felt immensely tired when I had done it. I stood up and stretched in a leisurely fashion, quietly walked to the window, and contemplated what they would do to me when the found out what I'd done. Dud would spend the rest of his life in penitence, for sure, but what worse than that could they devise for me? Then I realized that there was a fire escape outside the window, and vaguely remembered that I had some kind of plan involving fire escapes. I opened the window, which of course set off an alarm, and climbed out. It seemed silly to think I could get away, so I laughed. That sense of purpose that had been holding my exhausted mind together was gone, and I could feel it falling apart. Then I remembered what would

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happen to Dud, and I climbed down the fire escape. The last part of it I had to lower before I could climb down, which is why I didn't go up that way. When I got off it, I took a stout cord out of my pocket, tied a grapple to it, and passed the cord over the bottom rung with the grapple hooked around the cord, so it would look as if I had used the hook as a grapple to pull down the fire escape. About that time, Dud came panting around the corner and saw me. "What the Frank are you doing, you little maggot?" has screamed. "Well," I said, "It looks like I snagged the fire escape with this hook, pulled down the lowest rungs, and climbed up through the window to get in. Surprisingly hard to do, chance in a million and all that, but it looks like that's how I got in, not through the front door which was ably guarded by you. I won't tell you what I did up there, because you're in no position to know, since you haven't seen me and don't know I was here. By the way, do the video recordings ever get mixed up from day to day, so that every day looks just like the day before? You know, just you sitting there drinking coffee and waiting for somebody that matters to walk in the door? That's what they will expect to see, because all they see when they look at you is a piece of furniture, a living lock on a door that will function fine unless some young fool breaks it." I stood half a head taller than he, and I've always been good at sports. No question, he got the threat. He turned white and stared at me. "It's penitence for life," he gasped. "Unless you play it my way." "I'd better switch the memory slugs for the video," he said, and hurried off. I slouched on back to my culvert and crawled into the Spacer's boat, pulled a blanket over my head and slept the sleep of the just.

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Helen Wiggins pays the price for her husband's sin_______________________

Running a farm isn't easy for a widow on the downward slope from fifty. I rise with the sun, eat as much as I can afford to, catch the weather report, then work until I'm too hungry to continue, eat a little lunch, then work until it is too dark to continue. I should have a hired hand to help me. But Zachary sinned and was sent to the mountain road project where he died, as so many do. They gave me the option of taking over his sentence or paying a large fine. I opted for the fine and have regretted it ever since. I will not live much longer working like this, but I refuse to die before I have to. I set a plate of beans before me and started eating them cold, then turned on the video to watch the weather. When the set came on, there was notification that an emergency blip had been sent. What a pain, I thought. I need to weed the south field, and the Church thinks I need to listen to some priest tell me about some new threat to my soul. I decided to watch it anyway, in case some busybody came around asking questions to make sure I had. I hit the READ button and a face came on the screen. He didn't look like he came from around here. What followed was a painful story about our Church, and I was in tears by the end of it. Why the Church sent that out, I don't know, but I'm glad they did. I only wish that man who is not from around here had lived. He was sincerely searching, not claiming all knowledge of things spiritual, but trying to find things out. What he found out about our church didn't make me feel any better about it than I already did.

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After that, I watched the weather and went out to the south field. I've got a crushing load of debt to pay, and if the weeds choke out the crop, I'm lost. But all the time I was weeding, all I had against the Church was festering in me. I thought about my neighbor, Ed Frobisher, and how they'd got to him for dating that offworld woman. Everybody knew Vorse had killed the cow, and we all knew he'd set Ed up to take the fall. And Zach's sin was adultery. That should have been between him and me, and here I was, the injured party, paying off his penance by working hard enough to shorten my life. Yes, the woman – well, the girl – was younger than him, but not so young she didn't know what she was doing. Her family was well connected, that was why she got no penance and I was slaving my life away. When I was nineteen, I knew what I wanted from men, and so did this girl. Zach had married an older woman, and when he was offered a younger one he strayed. Well, I think men are hard-wired to seek fecundity in a woman, and I was old and barren. I hoed with vicious energy, thinking of how she had tried him out and cast him aside and destroyed our lives in the process. She shouldn't have tempted him if she didn't want him, and he should have been smart enough to know there was no future in her bed, and maybe I should have figured out what was happening sooner and put a stop to it. Here I was making war on the weeds, no husband, no future, no children, and no past that I cared to look back on. I felt all the hate that wicked giant felt. I felt like whacking that girl with my hoe, and whacking Zach, and whacking Worn and all the other judges who sent us off to penance with no thought of the life we live here and now, telling us we must repair our karma. Well, I've paid a lot of money to the Church and given them my husband and my future, and my karma feels more frayed

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every day. I could just put Worn on a spit and roast him like that giant would, and what did feeling that way do to my karma? I don't reckon most people feel this way or we would have burned the Church long ago. So I just better make war on the weeds and forget all my bitter feelings, because I've got penance to pay to the Church.

Winston Hill is disturbed by the Last Message__________________________

I was shocked by the emergency blip. Why did the Church want us to see such strange and disturbing things? My wife and I watched it at breakfast, but when Columbine finally came down the stairs, I turned off the vid and didn't tell her there was an emergency blip. "Hi, Dad, hi, Mom," she mumbled as she walked past us to get a bowl of cereal. I pulled Delilah, my wife, aside to talk about what we must do. "It is a sin not to show the blip to Colli," she reminded me. "Then I'll pay a penance and be done with it. Frank knows it won't be the first penance I've paid," I noted darkly, with a look directed at our erring daughter. "Oh, Winston, when will the sinning stop? Have we fallen out of grace?" Delilah wailed. "Quiet, woman. I'll take care of everything. You'd be amazed at the healing power of prayer and money. You will pray and I will pay and all will be right with the world. Don't let Colli see the blip for now. I'll talk to Worn and Vorse and find out what's behind this."

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When we came back into the kitchen, Columbine was already watching the blip. I walked up and turned off the set. "Dad! I was watching that," she said. "You're not to watch it," I told her. "It is our duty to watch it," said the sanctimonious little whore. I wanted to slap her then. "Don't lecture me on duty, or on sin, or on any form of social responsibility. I've paid for your flighty, immoral ways, and I've a right to tell you what to do and how to act. Now go up to your room and stay there until I come back from town. If I hear that you've tried to leave, or tried to watch that blip, I'll tell Worn to give me back the money and send you out to do your penance on the labor gangs. Don't think I won't do that. I've had it up to my eyebrows with your disobedient ways." I felt good as I stormed out the door. That little skirt didn't feel like my own flesh any more. Gallivanting with that married, dirt-poor farmer twice her age just to tee me off had been the culmination of a lifetime of defiance. Well, I'd settled his hash, and she'd seen what I could do to those who crossed me. I climbed into the aircar and fired up its diesel engine. Rape seed oil burns with a smell like popcorn, and I'd always liked the smell of my machine. Almost as much as I liked knowing that only twenty other such machines were in use in Homeport. When I got to the main Ministry building, four other aircars were already there. I supposed they would all be there in about an hour. Some were cabs, and a few had men hired to drive them for the owners, but I always liked operating my own aircar. Those who could afford that form of travel would be the ones to gather at the Ministry building.

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When I went in, I saw that Adam Adams was there ahead of me. Somehow, he always is. "Adam," I greeted him, "What do you know?" "I know that I've been here half an hour," he grumbled, "and Worn and Vorse have been in a meeting the whole time. They’re in with the High Council, and my guess is that either they are giving the Council hell, or the Council is giving it to them. You've seen the blip, or you wouldn't be here. You recognized the description of the priest who went to the island and started killing everyone he could? That was Worn's brother. You can bet some members of the Council are going to try to settle him. You noticed anything else about the blip?" "I noticed the Church has been telling us for years that no one lives outside the Zone of Control, and someone does." "They have, as you observe, been telling us – the rich, the well connected – that no one lives out there. But they have been telling ordinary folk that monsters live out there. Do you suppose that this is intended to bolster that impression?" "Adam," I said, "I can't imagine what such a transmission was intended to do." "Winston, have you ever tried a thought experiment," he asked. "Can't say I have." "Follow me in this one, then. Suppose the transmission was true, every word of it, and that it somehow was transmitted without the Church approving. I know, I know, that is probably impossible, but this is a thought experiment, not a planning session. If the transmission were in fact the Last Message of a Space Service Class I historian, as it appears to be, we will be taken off the rolls of the official histories of mankind and

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become a pariah planet, never again visited by the Service. Now, does that increase or decrease the power of the Church?" "I hadn't thought of it that way." "If you had, perhaps you would agree with me that the Service, in addition to knitting together mankind, acts as a check on the power of planetary authorities. On a pariah planet, no one worries about what the rest o humanity must think of us. Writing history is a powerful political act. It is speaking truth not just to power, not just to the masses who must be made to follow power, but to the masses yet unborn. Power must speak to the masses to get the masses to follow. If what power says is undermined, the masses might not follow. Killing the Spacer would kill history, not just physically but metaphorically. What the blip tells those who watch it is that there will be no more second guessing. The Church will give you truth, and only the truth of the Church will ever be spoken of this world." "And what if that transmission isn't the truth?" I asked Adam. "What if it is a pack of lies?" "I would not be so eager to question the truth of our Church, Winston. The blip was transmitted on the Church channel, in Church format, and has every appearance in form if not in content of an official communication." "Eh, yes, I suppose it does," I agreed. "I only say, if the Church should disown it…" "We will, of course, have faith in all of the pronouncements of the Church, Winston; they are now the definitive history of our world." I edged away, wishing I had ever known him to forget a conversation.

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Columbine Hill rebels___________________________

I went back upstairs pretending a huff after Mom wouldn't let me watch the vid. I knew something was up, and couldn't wait to find out what it was. I put on my most outdoorsy clothes – stuff my folks didn't want me to wear, because I'm supposed to be ladylike and a fine catch for some wealthy young man – and climbed out the dormer window. There was the cherry tree that had been planted by the First People, long before we arrived on this world. The branch overhanging the roof had not grown as quickly as I, and would now barely support my weight, but I was still light enough to use it to escape the guilded cage of my parents' house. I stayed below the level of the windows until I got to the aircar garage, then using it to block the view from the house, slipped outside the hedge that provides our home with privacy. After that, it was a short jaunt to the Dextin house, where it took some loud knocking on Tammy's window to wake her up. Tammy was still blinking the sleep out of her eyes when she opened the window. She's a chubby girl, and rather pale, both of which might bring suspicion on her if her father was not a high mucky-muck in the Church. "Wassup, Col?" she said groggily. "Help me climb in!" I said in the loudest whisper I could manage. "Oh, all right," she said, in a normal voice that sounded loud as a thunder clap to me. "Keep it down! I sneaked out, and I don't want your parents to know I've been here," I whispered.

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"All right, all right!" she said louder. I swear, she gets out the wrong side of the bed so much that she ought to move the whole bed up against the wall. After she helped me climb in, I told her about the blip my parents didn't want me to see. Tam has a vid in her room, so we turned it on and started watching. We were just a few minutes in when her Mom knocked on the door and I slipped behind the bed. Her Mom opened the door before Tam could reach it, which is so rude, but what her parents always do. "Dear, what are you watching at this hour?" Mrs. Dextin asked. "New show," Tam lied. "It's about why you should never go outside the Zone of Control." "Well, of course you shouldn't!" Mrs. Dextin said. I couldn't see her expression, but I could picture her frowning in confusion. Mrs. Dextin didn't like things she didn't understand, and she never understood anything the first time. Or the second or third, according to Tam. Like my mother, she had to disable her mind to play her part in our society. "Show reinforces that," Tam said. "Gives you things to say to your friends so they don't stray." "Well, all right. But don't stay watching too long. You need some breakfast," Mrs. Dextin said. I almost snickered at that, but that would have given me away, and besides, Tam was sensitive about her weight. Mrs. Dextin closed the door, and I didn't come up from hiding until I heard her waddle off. Tam had paused the blip, and waited until I was back sitting on the bed before she started it again.

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We watched the whole thing through, which took longer that I thought it would and made me worry that my Mom would notice I was gone. "So that's it, huh?" Tam said. "How come they never showed a picture of the Spacer?" "Because it was all seen through his eyes, Tam. Anyway, that still picture at the beginning was him, I think." "Oh. He was cute." "He was old, Tam. Hundreds of years old." "Old, but cute," she insisted. "Next you'll tell me you could go for the giant," I remonstrated. "Gil? I knew Gil," she said. "He is kind of cute – in all the wrong ways." "No, I meant the one-eyed giant. Oh, you knew I meant him. Stop teasing." "Well," she said, looking thoughtful, "A one-eyed giant would be a phallic symbol, wouldn't it? So that's good. Still, I wouldn't sleep with the one-eyed giant, because he might get hungry during the night, and if your lover gets peckish and starts chewing on your arm, you might have trouble slapping him to make him stop." "Stop joking, Tam." "I'm just trying to be logical. Okay, so what does it mean to you?" "It means some of us got away. Some kids got out, and we didn't." "Got out or got eaten?" Tam said. "I can't say this vid makes me want to follow them. Anyway, they were kids. We're supposed to get married soon and make more kids for the greater glory of the Church and the wider settlement of the planet." "There were people out there, real people, and we killed them," I mused.

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"Keeps them from eating us, I expect," Tam said. "Or were you feeling tasteful today?" "Look, I can't stay, I've got to get back before they know I'm gone," I said. "Call me after lunch. No, I might feign a headache and go out again. Call me tonight and we'll talk about it." "See you, kiddo," she said, and helped me out the window.

Walking home I tried to think what upset me most about the blip. The cannibal giant was what we had been told lurked outside the Zone of Control all our lives, and most of us had thought of it as a lie to frighten children. And it had scared the pants off us. I was still afraid of the dark. In a funny way, it disturbed me more to hear about how the Church had ruined the man's love affair. I suppose I'm a stupid, romantic girl, and I would have been safely married years ago if I hadn't had a love affair with a married man. Tam wasn't married because she was fat and unattractive, and had a sharp tongue to go with it. We were the same age, and it was our disqualifications that drew us together as a sort of club of the unloved. Tam resented that she failed the physical when it came to being attractive to the men she was attracted to. Her anger gave a shape to the dislike I had for our system of life. Frank Ohlsen had taught that the genders were equal, but somehow we had ended up with men running things and women making a profession of getting married. If we fell in love with the wrong man, we were screwed. Or not screwed, in my case, because they took him away and killed him. My father said Zach Wiggins was nothing, and that he would prove it by the penance he would make him pay. I think even Tam would be a better daughter to my father. She wouldn't get involved with the wrong man, or any

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man, because she preemptively rejected them all. She would have taken over my father's business and used her anger to drive herself to make it stronger. Someday, she would find a way to be more powerful than the men who rejected her. I had no wish to take on my father's business, or to wield power over anyone. I just wanted out, away from my father's overbearing ways and my mother's helpless, sanctimonious efforts to justify the way we lived and the way my father hurt people. I thought about the long-haired woman by the campfire, and how she walked off into the sea, and wondered if I should do the same. I wanted Zach because he was kind to me, first, then because he seemed able to care about me and love me, and although I have always had the best of everything, I had never had a man love me. Zach gave me the love my father didn't. I don't call the way my father owns me love. He loves me no more than his house, or his fields, or his bank account, or his wife. We are all projections of him, and that is why he is still so angry with me for bringing sin and shame upon our house. He told me I made him look bad. He didn't say, I don't know this man, he might have hurt you, he didn't say, you thoughtless child, you have harmed someone who was only kind to you, and taken him from his wife who loved him and ruined both their lives. In fact, he did all he could to ruin both their lives, to give the impression to the people that he knew that they had somehow harmed me, and it was not me who harmed them. I could walk out into the water at night, and no one would notice until my body washed up. And father would be relieved, because the embarrassment of an ungovernable daughter would be gone, and the cool water of the sea would have purified my sins, and I could be reborn as a rat or a worm and start working my way back up the karmic ladder.

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Zach, blameless Zach, do you sit on Frank's right hand in the land for those who have achieved perfect karma? Do you watch over me at night, when I toss and turn, and wake up and talk to myself about my sin? My sin was not adultery, because that was loving you, and it was the purest, finest feeling of my life. My sin was ruining you and your loving wife and no penance paid from my father's wealth will ever wash that away. I could have loved you and never touched you, and never ruined your life. I could have married someone society thought suitable, and still loved you, and done all I could to help you, but I was selfish and wanted to be held, caressed and loved. If I were a better person, I would have found a better way to love you. If I killed myself today I would come back as a bacteria, and be killed by some good person's immune system, unless there is some more lowly state of return. When I got home I didn't sneak into my room. I went to the garage, and stacked up boxes until I could open the door to the attic above the garage, and pulled down the ladder from there, and climbed up to look for the gold. Like most wealthy men, my father keeps a stash of gold in case he needs to square some Church functionary about some business sin. Not everyone wants to have their bank records show all their expenses, after all. He still hadn't moved the stash, even though I had disturbed the dust last time I looked at it. Maybe he was so sure it was well hidden, he had not even bothered to check that it was still there. I pulled the money out and started walking again, this time for the Wiggins farm. I was the monster that has eaten her husband. I had to make what amends I could to Helen, and I was only too painfully aware of how inadequate my father's money was.

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Helen Wiggins sends Columbine away________________________________

I was exhausted by noon but worked on. Every dime I spend, every dime I make, is known to the Auditors of the Church. The only way I can make progress on my penance is to work harder than they expect me to work. Columbine came to the field I was working while I should still have been eating lunch, if I ever had time to eat lunch. She was dressed like a hoyden, and I wondered if Zach had found that alluring. "Hello," she said in a voice just above a whisper. "Hello," I replied and kept working. "Let me show you something." She pulled out a bag, a heavy bag, and expected me to know what it was. "I'm busy pulling weeds," I told her. Every time I haven't the strength, every time I fall ill, I fall behind by some number of weeds, and the Church pulls ahead on the penance. "I brought money," she said. "What can I buy with it?" I asked her. "Freedom," she whispered. "Speak up. I haven't any time for secrets." "Freedom," she said firmly. "No such thing," I assured her. "I took money my father had saved for bribing priests," she told me. "He can tell no-one that it was stolen."

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"And me? Can I tell them where I got the money? It's time you stopped setting traps for me, child." "Surely, it's better than hoeing out weeds." "Better how?" I asked her. "Better for your conscience? Better for your karma? Will you come back as a cow instead of a clam?" "I'm trying to help you." "The Auditors know every dime I make and every dime that I spend. You think that I could take a bag of money and somehow make it pay my penance? More likely, I will be discovered and have to pay a new penance for the theft. Keep your father's money and keep your guilt and shame." "Why won't you let me help? Do you think I hate you, do you think I would trick you? You are all that is left of the man we both loved. I was never a part of him the way you are. Much as I loved him, I could only harm him, and my best way of helping would have been to ignore him. You, though, were a part of him. I was only a rose at the border of his garden. You were someone who could never leave him behind." "I don't know what you hope to gain by this, child." "Don't call me child. We loved the same man, no don't hit me, I just want you to remember. I'm a woman, much as you are. Now I try to make amends. I can't, I know, but I have to try," Columbine told me. "I didn't intend to hit you," I said. "I lifted the hoe because I am hoeing weeds. I can't stop hoeing because you want to be made to feel better. Take the money back to wherever you got it. It can do me no good and can do you great harm." "I'll kill myself if you want me to." Tears were streaming down her face. "They would find a way to blame me for that as well."

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She stooped down and started pulling weeds. "Stop that," I told her. "Why? Can't I at least pull weeds for you?" "If your father got wind of it, he'd find a new way to add to my troubles. If you want to help me, stay away." She stood and dusted her hands, then slowly walked away.

Columbine finds a new love______________________________

She wouldn't take the money, she wouldn't take my help. I walked away by the coast road. It isn't the way home. I was thinking of the long-haired woman, wondering why she killed herself and wondering if I should do the same. Where the road passes over Black Bean Creek it goes right next to the ocean. Acting on a sudden urge, I stumbled down the bank and started walking into the water. When it closed over my head, I tried to push myself out into deeper water. I never learned to swim, so if I couldn't reach the bottom I was certain I would drown, and I had the weight of Dad's money to hold me down. I was holding my breath even though I wanted to drown. Then I couldn't hold my breath any more and I tried to breathe and my mouth and nose filled with water and I was flailing trying to reach the surface and I kept trying to breathe and my lungs were filling and I was flailing and someone grabbed my hair and pulled me to the surface. He put his right hand beneath my chin and then his other arm went across my chest and he let go my chin and was swimming to the shore. The sky disappeared as we went into a culvert and he pulled me into a boat. He pounded

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my back to get some of the water out of my lungs and I was coughing. He put a blanket over me. "Who are you?" he asked. I coughed and shook my head to show that I could not yet speak. I started trying to breathe more deeply and ended up coughing up more water. It was a couple minutes before I could speak. My rescuer was just a kid. He was maybe 15 or 16. His boat was one of those compact inflatables you can put in the trunk of an aircar. He was sitting there in shorts. He had a nice build, a swimmer's body. "What's your name?" I asked at last. "Gatsby. Call me Gats. Yours?" "Columbine." "So, Columbine, why kill yourself?" "Why live?" "It's what we do. We live. It's why we're called alive. Why not live?" "It's just…I did something horrible. Ruined some good peoples' lives. Nothing I can do will atone for that." "Will dying help?" "No," I said listlessly. "But I wouldn't have to live with myself." "Yeah, that can be hard. I used to have trouble with that, but now I feel better. I did something good. Something that might change things." "What could you do?" "I sent a message." "Wait a minute. That strange blip. Was that you?"

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"Sort of." Gats was looking away modestly. "I just sent it. The Spacer lived it. That was his last message. He's dead now." "How do you know that?" "'Cause he wouldn't send it until he was about to die. 'Cause he wasn't strong enough to shift that big stone by himself, so he couldn't sneak away when the giant was sleeping." "What if he did live, though, after the message was sent?" Gats laughed. "He'd be like someone who died and came back from the dead. He'd have gone Frank Ohlsen one better." "That's blasphemy. You could pay a penance of years for saying that." "Only I'm not going to be around to pay any penance. When it gets dark again, I'm heading out. I'll go out into the wilderness and make my way there." "Only monsters live out there," I told him. "Then I'll be a monster. I'll be something the Church uses to scare children. Oh, don't worry, I won’t become some kind of carnivore. I'll live off the land and avoid the Zone of Control. I'll still read Frank's Book, but I think I'll skip the trial transcripts in my observance of my faith. That's not what Frank was talking about. It was horrible, but it wasn't his message. The Church has been trying to punish unbelievers since Frank Ohlsen's death. What would Frank do? Not what the Church is doing. He never even wanted to be deified. I'm not having any more of it. I'll be out there living rough and being a church of one. And maybe I'll find others who feel the same." I think at that moment I fell in love with him. He had to be at least three years younger than me, likely more than that, and that is eternity when you are my age, but

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even so, here was a man who would stand against the people that had killed Zach and ruined Helen. He was saying Frank could forgive my transgressions, and it made sense to me because I had read Frank's words and if you read them without the interpretations of the Church, you got a picture of a kind and forgiving man quite unlike the priests I had met. "Let me go with you," I pleaded. "Why? You're dressed in expensive clothes. You must have a good home, a comfortable life. Why give up all that for eating weeds out in the woods?" "Because I don't have a comfortable life. I have a cruel half-life, practically a prisoner in my father's house and unable to make right the things I have done wrong." "Look, think about how hard this is going to be. If I thought I could live here after what I've done, I would stay. But they are going to figure out who sent the blip, and they won't just kill me, they'll make sure I suffer in the worst work camps. Being with me means being on the run. When they catch me, and I think they will, they will think whoever is with me is as much a monster as I am." "If you leave me behind, you won't be here to pull me out of the ocean next time. I can't live here either, and you've already seen the alternative I worked out. Do you really think it's worse to go with you?" Gats sighed. "Look, I've got to have some sleep. I'm practically hallucinating. I've got to go away as soon as it's dark. Let me lie down a while. We can talk when it's dark." He stretched out on the bottom of the boat and pulled a coat over himself. I waited until his breathing got deep and regular, then took off my wet clothing and

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snuggled up to him and pulled the blanket over us both. He was so tired, it was hours before he woke up and we made love.

Worn Jangold seizes the moment__________________________

The Directors of the Church were old men and women, and liked life best when nothing happened. Old Horace Beanie kept saying this couldn't be happening, and Clare Trap was trying to stay very still and look calm but only looked paralyzed, and Jethro Abraham was trying to look gave and dignified but only looked pained and worried. Eve Wallace kept rubbing her hands together like lady McBeth and Sam Johnston held his head in his hands as if his neck could no longer support it. They needed a young man of action to take matters in hand, and I was that man. "The ah, the ah, the ah…." Jethro was trying to get a thought out, and probably discovering that he didn't have one. "The blip," I prompted. "Yes, yes, of course, I had reference to the blip," Jethro said. "It means, I suppose, that that historian fellow is ah, is ah…" "Dead," I supplied. "Meaning we are to be ah, shunned." He managed that one by himself, bless him. "It means we are to be a pariah plant, I mean planet," Horace said. "This can't be happening." "It's happening, damn you. Believe it," Sam's hollow voice intoned. "What does this mean to the future of the Church?" Clare whined. That was my cue.

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"It means we are the last and only word on Cyril 5. It means no one is looking over our shoulder. It means that when we tell the rest of humanity what has happened here, we need to be sure that it is understood that unbelievers did this. We need to find the monster who did this and bring him to justice. When the story of this tragedy is told, we must tell it, and we must tell it well. If we can show humanity that there is justice in this world, that we can punish those who sin against us and against all mankind, we will not be pariahs. We will be heroes. Put this in my hands, friends, and we can make of this situation a tale that will be told on every world, a tale of a degraded and debauched carnivore who killed a man who had done him no wrong, a man who devoted his life to bringing humanity together. It will be a tale of justice done, friends. For we shall find this monster and bring him back to you, alive or nearly so. Have I your permission to send forth those servants of the Church most able to perform this heroic feat?" They sat in silence and I though perhaps I'd laid it on too thick. "We have servants like that?" Eve said at last. "We do, madam, and they stand nearby and ready for action." "What, ah, what do you have in mind?" Jethro asked. "A strike force stands ready to board a flying boat and take the fight right to the monster who dwells in the wilderness." "I ah, thought our flying boats were laid up? Isn't that why they aren't searching for the runaway children?" "Since those poor lost souls sailed off into the wilderness, we have worked mightily to prepare one of the flying boats. It is now ready, not merely to search for the children, but to search for justice for the historian mankind sent among us. Say the word and it will leave in a matter of hours."

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"Have you been holding out on us, Worn?" Sam inquired. "Why do I get a feeling that this flying boat might have been made ready sooner if it suited your needs?" Because you're a shrewd old man, I thought, and I'd do well not to forget that the lot of you got to your positions by intelligence and political acumen. "I swear to you, sir, the craft has not even been cleared for takeoff yet. We are still working on it, the paint is not yet dry on the refit, but we will push forward and get the flying boat in the air by this afternoon." "Do we, ah, do we really even need to vote on this?" Jethro asked. "Just anyone who objects, raise your hand." No one moved. Had he phrased it the opposite, I wonder if any would have raised their hands saying we should go. No one wanted to stand out, no one wanted to make a move, and of course, Jethro had seen that something had to be done and used his position as chairman to make sure something was done. If passivity was consent, consent was guaranteed with this crowd. "I shall do as you command," I said. "I have no wish for notoriety, you may make the announcement of our course of action. I will slip out by the back way to more quickly alert your servants of your wishes." They gawped at me as I swept away. Probably it was sinking in that they had no idea what servants were to do this or by what methods.

Vorse was waiting for me at the seaplane hangar. His dead eyes looked nearly alive. He had been a long-time supporter for me in the Church, but I did not discover his most valuable attributes until he killed that cow. Our church has too many mealymouthed moralizers and too few men of action. Vorse had shown me that he could kill,

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and should he ever cross me, I could 'find' evidence that he had done so, and worse, had framed an innocent man. He was a perfect sword for me to wield, deadly and easily controlled. "Dud talked," he told me. He gave me his butcher's smile. "Just took some persuasion." He held up a hand with skinned knuckles. "Who sent the blip?" I asked. "Some kid. Gatsby Fitzgerald. One of the runaways." "So the runaways are part of this. And Bilbo Davos, I expect." "Looks like it. Shall we bring them in?" "Humor me a moment, Vorse, I would know a bit more. How did Gatsby get back from the island were the giant killed the Spacer?" "By boat. Signal for the Spacer's boat shows it came back last night." "The locator he would know about, or the Church beacon?" "Church beacon," Vorse said. "Regular beacon is turned off." "Good, good, then he thinks we can't find him. Where is he?" "We lost the beacon, but it will come back. My guess is he's hiding in a culvert, where the metal will keep us from getting the signal. Once he starts moving again, we’ll have him. Or we can look in the culverts now. There's only six or eight he could be in." "You haven't done that already, I hope." Vorse shook his head. "I figured you'd want to make the call." "You're right, and my call is, don't catch him, follow him. He knows where the island is, he probably knows were the others are." "We know where the others are. We've got their beacons," Vorse said.

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"Only he can show a trail coming from them and going back to them. Right now, the others can argue that he did this on his own. If he returns to them and is taken in with open arms, they are all implicated in sending the unauthorized blip. Besides, we have their beacons now, but how long will we have them? Bilbo Davos is no fool. When he wants to lead us astray, he'll set both the public beacon and the Church beacon adrift in his dinghy. He'll leave one on the beach, perhaps, so we'll think they've settled down. He's a worthy adversary, and we should not throw away any asset we might have against him." "So what's the mission?" Vorse asked me. "Don't find the giant too quickly. Let the boy go back to his friends. If we catch them all together, they are all part of a conspiracy to undermine the Church and make this a pariah planet." "So when they are all together, I bring them back?" "You kill them." His big slab of a face showed the slow progress of his mind. "What if they didn't all conspire?" he asked at last. "Some of them might be good Vegans." "Kill them all," I told him. "The Tortured God will know his own, and reward them in the next life. We must not allow the guilty to escape. If some few innocents die in the process, their karma will be clear, and their souls will not suffer, but they will be martyrs in our great cause." "Right. Kill them all. You got it." He stomped away to tell his troops, all men who had committed the sin of slaughter and knew their souls were mine. I had dealt with their cases, and could bring them to brook at any time.

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Harry Ponds becomes an accidental stow-away__________________________

The ship was beautiful. She sat in the sunlight on the ramp down to the water, her landing gear looking a little awkward sticking out from her hull like chicken legs on barracuda. She was meant to be in the water or the air. I could picture in my mind how she would look as she taxied across the bay and rose into the air. I wasn't really satisfied with the name, though. I fought to get them to let me put a name on her. It's an airplane, they said, planes don't have names. It's a boat, I argued, even if it's a flying boat, it's a boat. You name boats. Finally they gave in, and gave me a list of names. Some were not bad, like Times New Roman, or Courier, but some names should never be on a vessel of war. Who would name a boat Souvenir or Comic Sans Serif? Finally I settled on Helvetica Bold, which has a nice martial ring to it, but Frank knows what it means. I put the letters on and looked at it. Whoever made the list had given "Helvetica Bold" a nice strong kind of letters, and it looked very military to me. Of course, the airframe guys and the engine mechanics were the hotshots on the project, but they finished a long time ago. We painters were given the task of making a new livery for the aircraft, and they kept rejecting our ideas and telling us to start over so many times I never thought we would ever get the thing out of the hangar. They kept running up the engines, making taxi runs, but not flying the boat. Of course, the computer does most of the flying, so it's hard to crash her, but you would think that they would want to fly it. The pilot might at least claim he wants practice. These Church guys, they just thought the Helvetica Bold was a tool for moving. To me,

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she was a living, breathing thing awakened from a long slumber. I dressed her for the dance, but would never hold her controls or lift her clear from the sea. Now that the job was finished, I felt melancholy. There were observation positions in the nose and tail. There was room for three people in the nose, so I went to the tail figuring I was less likely to be interrupted there. I took the tail observer's seat, pulled out my lunch pail and removed a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. The pickles were my Gran's, made with capers I grew myself. In what Gran called my caper plot. I had a thermos of soy milk to drink with it. Gran says if I drink my soy and eat my pickles and peanut, I'll grow to a round old age like her. I think it was round. Anyway, she is round and very jolly. People started to climb into the Helvetica Bold. I should not have been eating my lunch in the aft observer's seat, but it occurred to me that maybe they were going to taxi the ship around for a while, and if nobody noticed me I might get to go for a ride. I kept quiet and didn't tell them I was there. They started up the engine, all right, and we started moving down the ramp to the water. Soon we were bumping across the waves at increasing speed, and at last Helvetica Bold leapt from the water like a live thing. I thought, this is amazing, the first test flight and I'm aboard. It's a sin, but even if I have to pay a month's salary in penance for it, I'm telling all the boys when I get back. I wondered how many minutes we would remain aloft, and whether they would do any turns or things. I supposed they never did the loops or rolls with these big flying boats, but what a thrill it would be if they decided to do one! After about an hour, the novelty wore off and I realized that the pilots must have done all their training in simulators and we were really going somewhere. Only the reason these flying boats didn't get used much after the food wars was that there wasn't

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much of anywhere to go. The food wars lasted sixty years, and a lot of flying boats were built, but the wars ended forty years ago, and only two of these magnificent machines were still around. There were still hard points on the wings where you could carry bombs, but there wasn't anybody left to bomb. Except the giant from that video blip. Maybe that was why the Church sent out the blip, to tell us they found one more enemy to deal with. And what a bad guy, he didn't just kill and eat animals, he killed and ate people. If we were flying off to do battle with the giant, this was a bigger adventure than I bargained for. Helvetica Bold was too noisy for me to hear anyone talking up front, but I suddenly wanted to know what their plans were. I had half a thermos of soy milk, half a peanut and pickle sandwich, a paintbrush and some touch-up paint, and none of that sounded like combat gear to me. A couple hours more passed while I quietly panicked. My mind kept going over and over again what a huge sin I was committing by stowing away on an important mission to rid the world of a big awful carnivore and cannibal. And my imagination was starting to work overtime on the cannibal, and how he could come striding out in the water and grab the whole plane in one hand and play with it like a toy and wreck it like a careless boy. My mind said he couldn't possibly be that big, but when I finally went to sleep to the droning of the engines, I dreamed about him that big, and though the video had shown only pictures, I dreamed I could smell the reek of his breath like a compost heap in high summer. I dreamed he was offering me a knuckle sandwich and my own fingers were sticking out of it and my hand was still attached to my arm which was still attached to me but he was expecting me to use my arm to lift my hand to my mouth so I could eat it and become a cannibal like him.

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"Eat yourself, it's good for you, make you grow up big and strong like me," the giant said in my dream. Finally, happily, I was awakened by the plane hitting the water in the landing. We bounced a few times, so I wondered if maybe flying the actual plane wasn't maybe a little different from flying the simulator. The sun was slanting down to bedtime, I could see. We were in a bay surrounded by a wild shore without a house in sight. We settled in one place at last, so they must have dropped the anchor. The engines stopped, and we sat there. Noises came from up front and after a while I saw two inflatable boats taking about a dozen men and some big boxes into shore. I waited until the boats were pulled up on shore before I dared move out of the observer's seat. Finally I went forward looking around, because I had finished the other half of the sandwich and I was getting hungry. I spent about half an hour trying to be very quiet and search everywhere before I realized that I was by myself on an aircraft with no food aboard. The sun had set and I could see the cook fire on the beach. They had taken all the food with them. If I expected to eat, my best bet was to swim to shore and go through their leavings after they went to sleep. I started thinking about what sort of creatures might be in the water waiting to eat someone like me swimming around at night, then I tried to stop thinking that way and think about something else, then all I could think about was that I had skipped breakfast and my stomach was going to start digesting itself pretty soon. My coveralls were designed to shed all water- and oil-based paints, so I knew they wouldn't soak up the water and weigh me down. I think that was what decided me, the feeling that I would have that much more protection from anything in the water that wanted to bite me.

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I opened the door and stepped out onto the sort of stub wing that acted as a pontoon to balance the hull, and slipped as quietly into the water as possible. I swam toward the fire. When I got to the beach, I landed about 20 meters to the right of the fire so they wouldn't see me. I crept in close to see where the garbage bin was, hoping to find some half-gnawed tuber or some such thing that could quiet my stomach. Instead, I found one of the big boxes of stores, and started helping myself to some sealed rations. The men around the campfire were drinking, and some of them were talking loudly. "I got the hairy balls to put that giant in his place," a short, wiry man facing threequarters toward me said in a rather high-pitched voice. "Yeah. Let's git him," rumbled a big guy facing away from me, with a voice you could hear through a stone wall. "Uh…izee here? Zat why we got this beach?" "We wouldn't be relaxing on this beach if this was the island," wiry guy said. "Ain't I right, Mr. Dextin?" "Tell you guys something," said Dextin, a big, florid man I'd seen at the hangar. "We're at this harbor because no aircar can come this far and still get all the way home. The plane is the only fast way to get here, and the only other way is a boat. We're going to kick back a while, play some football, do some training, and wait for some plans to go through." "We could do that back at base," the man with a voice you could hear through a stone wall said. "Use your bean, Ernie. If we was at base, people would think we wasn't doing anything," wiry guy said. "They'd be right," some guy off to the left said.

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"Look," said Dextin. "You boys are going to have a job to do soon, and some of you may not like it. You need to be ready to kill and not hesitate. It's against all you were taught, but not against everything you've actually done, which is why you got picked for this unit." That got some nervous guffaws from them, and I felt like someone had slipped an ice cube down the back of my coveralls. These men had been chosen because they had committed slaughter, and here I was, a stowaway on their mission. "What you need to know is, you are going to meet some people on this trip, some of whom you may have seen before. Maybe you saw them walking down the street, maybe you saw them in that unauthorized emergency blip, maybe you saw them in news blips that went out over the last few weeks. All the people who are not part of this unit that you meet in the Zone of Alienation are part of a conspiracy against the Church. This is the biggest danger we have faced since the Food Wars. Any questions so far?" Someone out to the right cleared his throat and said, "Aren't there some kids out here that maybe were runaways or were maybe kidnapped by that suspected carnivore, Gilbert something?" "Gilgamesh was the carnivore's name, Walter. Don't forget that name, and don't forget the way he looked in that blip. He's one of the ringleaders. If he tries to talk to you, cut his throat. He'll say anything to get you to betray the Church. There may be others with him, not just the ones who went on his boat. Anybody you meet out here that isn't part of this mission is someone you have been ordered to kill. Don't let them talk, don't listen to their stories, don't try to sort out what this is all about yourself. That's already been done far above your pay grade."

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"What about the guy that went to search for his daughter, some businessman. What if we run into him?" Walter asked. "Walt, you think you're a real smart guy, but you haven't grasped what everybody else on this mission has grasped, which is that I want everybody dead who isn't on the mission. If I decide you aren't on the mission, I'll want you dead. If I decide Ernie, or Tavers or Ned isn't on the mission, it will be your job to kill them. I want everybody but us dead, Walt, everybody dead. If your are not sure whether to kill them, kill them, because the innocent are rewarded in the next life, just as the guilty are punished. It is not a sin for you to kill these people because the Church has sanctioned it, so kill without guilt, kill without sorrow, kill in the knowledge that you kill for the cause of the Tortured God. Now, are you the smart guy you think you are, and do you understand this, or do you want to play brainy boy and question your orders some more?" "Nosir." I had by this time managed to shove at least a dozen travel rations into my coveralls and decided it was time to slink off into the night as quietly as possible and test the invisibility skills I had honed in years of being ignored by anyone important. Before I was out of earshot I heard laughter. Someone had managed to break the tension, even though they were under orders to commit the greatest sin one can commit, a sin that would cause them to lead their future lives in the lowest state possible. That night I found a crevice between some large stones, just large enough to jam myself into, and shivered and barely slept and when I did, had dreams I do not wish to remember. I woke up and it was really dark and quiet and I found that I was cold. I wished I had a blanket. It occurred to me that I should have stolen a blanket. It was one more sin,

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and with a dozen sets of rations already on my conscience I figured my next life was already not looking so good, but I was really cold so I crept back to the camp to steal a blanket as well. When I put my head over the bushes to look into the camp, I saw a dark form moving among the sleeping men. I couldn't move or speak or sneak away. The dark form was huge, far too big to be a man. It seemed like some gigantic mythical earth creature, like a bear or an elephant. It moved silently from one man to another, paused at each near the head and seemed to be pulling something out of it. Then I realized that it was a man, far larger than any man should be, and in moving from one sleeper to another its right hand came up and I saw a knife silhouetted in the hand, and realized that the huge man was the giant and he was moving from man to man cutting their throats. I knew I couldn't cry out or the giant would kill me, or if he failed to, the men Vorse had brought with him would kill me. I had to keep silent. My life depended on it. I heard a loud keening wail and the giant looked right at me and I realized that I was the one making that horrible sound. Suddenly about half the men in the party scrambled up and started yelling and trying to find their weapons. The giant pulled out a huge machete and started laying about himself with it, then I heard a gunshot and the giant ran into the woods inshore with long steps that took him away at great speed. Someone grabbed me from behind, and the guy that grabbed me started yelling "I got one of them, I got one of them!" He pushed me into the campsite and threw me to the ground. I was surrounded by angry armed men and I was certain I would die. Vorse Dextin, the leader of the

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group, had a long cut in his right cheek, and looked like an angry god. He loomed over me and thundered, "Who are you? What are you doing here?" "I'm Harry Ponds I was eating a peanutbutter and pickle sandwich and the airplane took off and I was in the back and I couldn't get out and I swam ashore and hid and hid and and and and don't kill me don't kill me don't kill me don't kill me don't kill me don't kill me. Don't kill me please." "Why shouldn't I kill you?" Vorse demanded. "He did save our lives," a familiar voice said. "Shut up, Walt," Vorse said. "If he hadn't yelled like that, we'd all have our throats cut," Walt said. "It could still happen to you, Walt," Vorse told him. "He's got a point, Mr. Dextin," the deep voice of the big guy who had spoken around the campfire said. "Look at Ned there, layin' with his throat cut. That could be me layin' there if he didn't yell like that." "It could still be you, Ernie," Vorse said testily. "Yeah, but what I'm sayin'…" "Shut up, Ernie." "Okey dokey, Mr. Dextin." "For Frank's sake, man," Vorse fumed, "You're a trained member of the Special Unit. Can't you learn to say 'yes sir?' Can't you show proper respect for your superior officer?" "Okey – yes, sir," Ernie said. "Sorry."

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"Who was on guard duty? Why didn't he sound the alarm? I'll have that man broken down in rank and he can face the court for that delayed charge of slaughter," Vorse shouted. "It was Ned, sir. Ned was on guard duty. I think he didn't call out because his throat was slit," Ernie said. "I think it was hard for him to talk." "Ernie, shut your trap or I'll have you up on charges for insubordination," Vorse snapped. "Okey – I mean yes, sir." "Shut up, man." Ernie opened his mouth and closed it having decided against trying to acknowledge the order. I was beginning to think nothing much of Vorse Dextin's leadership. He seemed not so good at thinking, and everybody seemed to want to help him with the problem. If they thought he was smart, they wouldn't try to help him think, and if they were afraid of him, they would be afraid to help him think. That realization made him less intimidating. "Now, where were we?" Vorse mused. "I was saving your lives," I reminded him. "A likely story," Vorse said. "What were you doing here?" "See, I was eating a peanutbutter and pickle sandwich in the rear observer's seat…" "Yes, yes, we heard that. And if that were true, how did you get to shore? We left no boat back there." "I swam, sir. That's why my clothes are wet and I'm shivering." "Ah, yes. You swam from…my God, what happened to our boats?"

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"Somebody made holes in the inflatable parts," Ernie said helpfully. "Yes. And that would be you, wouldn't it, Mr. Swimmer?" Vorse shouted, pointing an accusing finger at me. "My name is Ponds, sir. Harry Ponds." "Harry Ponds, traitor!" he shouted. "Big footprints here!" Called the wiry man from near the deflated boats. "Looks like the giant knifed our boats." Vorse seemed to deflate a little at the timing of the shout. That's when I realized that the men weren't trying to help him. They were undermining him at every turn. I remembered that all these men were chosen because they were guilty of slaughter. I'd heard that old rumor that Vorse had killed a cow. I suddenly imagined that the rest of them had killed people, and didn't care who they killed, and thought Vorse was some kind of fraud. When I thought that, I suddenly didn't want them undermining him, because I thought he might really be afraid to kill me. "Now how do we get back to the ship?" Vorse mused. "I can swim back," I said helpfully. "Maybe I can motor the ship to the shore." "You? Why should I trust you to…" Vorse stopped, staring out at the harbor. The first gray tinge of dawn was giving the scene a little illumination. I dared to look away from Vorse to see what he was looking at. At first I saw nothing. Then I realized that I should see the flying boat. Then I saw the top of the tail sticking above the water and ripples acting strange around where the rest of the ship had been, and realized that the top of the high wing was just visible. The air in the fuel tanks must have been keeping it barely afloat. "The ship sank," Ernie said. “Sir.”

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"I can see that, you fool," Vorse said. Then he just stood there staring at the little bit of tail that was visible. Everybody looked at him waiting for him to act. We could hear the insects and the lapping of the waves and somebody shifted their weight and a twig snapped. "Time to phone home," Ernie prompted. Vorse pulled out a small communicator, probably a short-wave, and pushed some buttons on it. "Get me Worn," he said into it. He waited a while, then said, "Worn? Vorse Dextin here. The flying boat was sunk last night. Someone sneaked into the camp and killed six of my men. We've captured a suspect. Guy named Harry Ponds, who stowed away on the ship. Who is he?" "I'm a painter. I painted the name on the Helvetica Bold." "He's a painter from the maintenance crew. Painted the name on the ship before we left. No, I don't know if he's had any combat training. Yes, it does seem unlikely, but he's the one we caught. No, we're not on the giant's island, we're northeast of it more than 20 kilometers. But sir, we don't have any indication that the giant has a boat. Well, yes, he has lived on an island for many years, as far as we know. That doesn't mean he has a boat. My plans? Well, I'm going to kill the stowaway after a brief trial, then we'll make some kind of signal to help the rescue party find us…but surely, there will be a rescue party, sir... Sir, I'm not sure we can walk back... I can't see the point of keeping the bastard alive, sir, when he's killed six of my men... I don't see any other explanation, sir... Very well, sir, we'll keep him alive... Yes, sir, I'll look into the possibility." Vorse turned off the communicator and turned on me.

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"You are to be taken back to Homeport and tried for your scurrilous behavior," he told me. "If you try to escape, we are under orders to kill you." "You're making that last bit up," I objected. He hit me, hard. I couldn't hear or talk for a while. He had his men tie my hands behind my back and set a short, broad-shouldered one to guard me. The guy had a prominent chin, a bushy moustache, and one arm in a sling. That's probably why he was on guard duty instead of digging graves like the others. "You feeling all right, Harry?" my guard asked. "I been better," I told him. "Looks like your arm is hurt." "Yeah, the giant got me," he said. "You sure it wasn't me? Your boss seems to think it is." "Naw, he just doesn't want to admit that he set up the camp too close to the giant's island. The rest of us didn't know it was that close. He should have guessed old one-eye had a boat. Doesn't do the dead ones any good to hide it, though." "He said they'll charge me with killing those men." "Harry, Worn Jangold ain't no fool. He won't buy Vorse telling him you did the killing. You don't have a thing to worry about, unless it's convenient for Worn to blame you as well. Then he won't care who really did it." "Vorse said you were under orders to kill me if I tried to escape. He's going to kill me and claim I tried to escape." "Don't you worry. Me and the boys won't let him. You raised the cry, and if you hadn't we'd all be dead. I'm Tavers, by the way. Vorse tries to kill you, call out that name and I'll come a' runnin'. Don't you worry, though, we're going to be looking out for you."

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"Thank you, Tavers. I hope we both see Homeport someday." "Here, you're shivering. We're under orders to keep you alive, Harry. Stand up, I can't go get a blanket for you, but we can go together." We walked about ten meters to a big box, and he fished out a blanket with a silver lining. He wrapped it around me like a parent tucking in a child.

Polyphemus begins his crusade______________________________

I saw the flying boat go overhead to the east of the island, headed north. I was getting tired of waiting for the battle to come, and feared it would keep going. Instead it started loosing altitude and turning to the east. I was down almost at the beach, and couldn't see past the horizon, but I knew to the north the land curved out to a point northeast of the island. I had been there many times in my dugout, and knew what an inviting harbor there was just south of the point. I smiled and went to pack my gear aboard the dugout. I was able to start while the onshore wind was still alive, so I raised the sail and the first few kilometers flew by with little effort. By sunset the wind had died, so I had to paddle. When I got to the harbor, sure enough, the idiots had chosen just the anchorage I expected. I saw the camp on shore before I saw the flying boat, because a campfire illuminated the camp, while the ship was dark. I paddled in silently, certain that the flying boat would have an anchor watch that would be alert and well armed. I got directly behind the ship before I paddled close. When I got in next to it, I crept along it looking in the windows, hearing every wave that splashed against the side of the dugout, much louder than the voices from shore. Finally I realized that there was no one aboard. I thought of cutting the anchor cable, but then the ship might end up on the

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beach, where it would be possible to salvage it. Instead I pulled out my ax and started hacking at the hull under the waterline. The skin was a tough, carbon fiber matrix, but it was intended for landings on water, not an assault with an ax. Soon water was pouring into the ship. I backed off and relaxed in the dugout while I watched it settle slowly in the water. It took at least half an hour. No one had noticed my activities. I paddled around the point and hid the dugout. Then I crept back. It took more than an hour before I got close to the camp. The fire had died out. I located the guard by his snoring. He was sleeping sitting upright, while the others were lying down. I put a hand over his face to keep him quiet while I slit his throat. He had enough time to raise his arms before he died, and that was about it. I moved around the sleepers to deflate their boats before killing the next one. This time the man's eyes flew open before I could get the blade into his neck, but I made the cut before he cried out. The next was easier. They all seemed to be sound sleepers. I went from one to the next, pulling my knife across their throats with enough pressure to almost sever their heads. My knife was sharp and the work was easy. By the third one it started to get harder as the blade was dulled from being drawn across the front of their spines. I had begun to think I could kill them all without waking them, but then a high keening sound issued from the bushes. I looked that way and saw a pale face above the leaves, eyes as round as full moons, mouth open wide. I put away my knife and pulled the machete out. I was swinging that blade with gusto, and I saw a man's head flying away before I heard the crack of a gunshot. The bullet ricocheted off a rock far to my left, but I knew they'd get a bullet in me if I stayed, so I ran for the woods. I made a swift but quiet passage through the woods, leaving a clear trail but not worrying about it. I got to the dugout and launched. The wind was off the shore, so I raised the sail again. The wind held until I

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was back to the island. I hid the boat when I got back. Then I went back to the cave and ate a little food, and went to sleep quickly. I slept soundly and don't remember any dreams. I woke refreshed and with a powerful appetite. I indulged myself and ate until I could eat no more. This is what I had been living for. I had been alone most of my life, and had no one to live for but the dead. I blessed my size and strength, which allowed me to kill so well. I blessed the stealth I had learned in hungry times when I had to get close to game in order to eat. I blessed the anger that had focused me on killing, had made it the center of my world. I had not killed enough of them yet, but I would. That many deaths would enrage them and cause them to send more soldiers. I wanted more soldiers to kill. I wanted to kill until I was killed, and I wanted to be killed. My anger was aimed everywhere, even at myself, but there was more. I wanted my freedom. I had lost the freedom to live in any real sense. I still have the freedom to die. For many years, I have felt trapped by life. I knew where the exit was, but was unwilling to leave. No one would remember my ancestors once I died. No one would clean their bones. Our history would die with all memories of us. Now I am resigned to that. Now I am free of history, freed of obligations to all that has gone before. Send your soldiers, Church of the Tortured God. Send them, and set me free.

Sam Johnston challenges Worn Jangold____________________________

"You want a ship?" Of course he did, the damn fool. He thought being First Primate made him God's Boss. "You want to explain to the board why you need a ship?" "Sam, a most unfortunate accident has occurred," Worn Jangold said.

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"Don't call me Sam," I told him. "I'm not your buddy. I'm one of the Church Elders, and you can call me Father Johnston. Now I want to know exactly what happened. Who did you send out in the flying boat, and what happened to them, and to the ship?" "Father," he said in a voice he must have imagined was soothing, "Your servants traveled north in the flying boat Helvetica Bold in search of the giant who killed the historian. Far to the north they landed to spend the night in what appeared to be a safe harbor. The ship seems to have hit a submerged obstruction. The accident caused the ship to sink, and cost six of our servants their lives." "What was the unit involved? What were their names, and why were they flying somewhere in a museum piece like that?" "It was the fastest way to get them near the search zone for the giant. We have been restoring the ship in an effort to extend the reach of the Church. All we have done is for the glory of the Tortured God." "So you prepared the flying boat for service without asking our permission. I've looked at the budget closely. The money came from museum funds for the preservation of antiquities. You concealed it rather adroitly." "Now, Sam, there's no need…" Jethro Abraham began. "Yes, there is," I cut him off. "The man's been doing an end run around us, and it's time we got to the bottom of this thing. What is this unit you sent called, and who are its members? I want names and personal histories." "The Special Unit is made up of highly-trained men chosen for their uprightness and aptitude," Jangold said.

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"That's what it's called? The Special Unit? And can you give us some names? Are we ever to know who these men are?" "Of course, I did not bring personnel files," Jangold said. "Then let me run some names by you. Ned Molotov. Tavers Lee. Walter Ichabod. Ernie Tuttle. Any of those names sound familiar?" "Father Johnston, I have no personnel records with me…" "Surely you can't expect him to know…" Eve Wallace began. "Of course, I can. They all appeared before Worn Jangold's court," I told her. "The men in this unit constitute about half the men accused of slaughter over the past ten years. They appeared in closed hearings, and they were let off. What about the other half of those accused, Worn, who were they? The men framed for these men's crimes?" Jethro started banging his big fist on the table. "You are out of order, Sam!" he shouted. "These accusations have no place in this chamber!" "It's not easy to find witnesses who are willing to talk about these cases, Jethro," I replied, "but the facts still have to be dealt with. The only man who boarded the Helvetica Bold whose rank was higher than acolyte was Fourth Primate Vorse Dextin. A man who owes everything to Worn Jangold and who is rumored to have poisoned a cow." "Rumors!" Jethro thundered. "Our court system convicted another man for that crime, and we have done our best to quash those rumors." "Another man was convicted by Worn Jangold. My friends, we have vested too much power in this one man. There are no checks on him. Have you read a transcript of

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that trial? No, you haven't, because there isn't one. Are you going to let him hijack the Church for his own ends?" "I will not tolerate this!" Jethro shouted. "These accusations are not credible. We have entrusted this man with the day-to-day running of the Church. We have done so because we believed implicitly in his probity. I am asking you right now to withdraw these accusations." "They can't possibly be true," Horace Beanie said. "Surely any disagreements between you gentlemen can be worked out." "I don't think so," Clare Trap said. "Mother Trap, you are absolutely right," Jangold said. "I must ask this council to make a choice. Do you believe me to be the man you trust, or a monstrous, mendacious swine who is not fit to sit in your company? Either relieve me of my post or clear me of this charge. I cannot steer this Church through such a crisis unless I am certain that I have your trust. If I do not have it, I will step aside and request that you ask someone you do trust to take the helm, and I believe Father Johnston has nominated himself for the task. Choose between us and I will abide by your decision." Then the little swine who had described himself so well walked out of the room. Jethro stood. "We have a momentous decision to make," he announced. "Sam, I must ask you to leave the room." "Not on your life. I'm a voting member of this board, and I intend to take part in this discussion." "You are a candidate for the position of First Primate. I cannot allow you to sit in while we decide which of you will carry forward in that capacity."

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"I'm no such thing. I haven't asked for the job." "You want Worn fired, and we can't leave his job empty during this crisis. If you are not asking for his job, withdraw your charges and let him get on with the task at hand." "Jethro, I don't want his job, and I think this crisis is a little manufactured. I'm not withdrawing the charges." "How can we consider the matter with no assurance the Church will be able to function if we fire him?" Clare said. "You won't consider the charges at all," I raged. "With me out of the room, no one who has actually paid attention to what this man is up to will be here to make my case." "Sam, that is an insult to all of us," Eve said. "Have some faith in us. We know how to be fair." At that moment, I lost all hope for the Church. The only reason they wanted me out of the room was that they didn't want to face inconvenient facts. They turned a blind eye to Worn's methods because he brought them the results they wanted. I became convinced at that moment that they knew his hands were dirty, and perhaps some of them knew more than I did about how dirty. "Please yourselves," I said. "I'll leave, then, and if you want me, I'll be down at Organic Jo's getting a snootfull of unfiltered ale."

Worn Jangold manages the Council_____________________________

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Sam came out of the meeting room red-faced and fuming, so I knew I'd won. After he stomped off, I settled down for a comfortable wait. The others were easily manageable, but needed time to justify things to themselves. If they were men and women of action, they could have decided quickly, which would have been convenient, but I had long ago reconciled myself to the notion that my real power lay in the fact that they were not men and women of action. They needed me, and would talk and talk until they had managed to invent elaborate lies to tell themselves so that they wouldn't have to tell themselves the truth. The truth was that the survival of the Church and enhancement of its power relied on us having something like the Special Unit, ready to break our own rules in order to enforce them. It took them twenty minutes, which was pretty good time for this group. They opened wide the double doors to the meeting chamber and came out as a group with Jethro at their head. He solemnly told me that Sam had been removed from the board, and they had reasserted their faith in my ability to lead the Church. "Thank you for that, and for approving funds for the ship to go after the Special Unit," I answered. He blinked a couple times, seemed to finally grasp what I had said to him, and finally said, "Ah, yes, the funds. That, ah, shouldn't be a problem." So they hadn't even thought about the funds while they were in the meeting, but it was too embarrassing to admit that they had lost the thread of what had actually started Sam's tirade against me. I could spend the money and they would never admit that they hadn't approved it.

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"Your Church, your city and your planet will always remember the degree of your wisdom on this day," I assured him. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have a great deal of work to do if I am to press forward the Board's vision." I managed to keep a solemn face until I had turned away and walked a few steps.

Harry Ponds witnesses a crime_____________________________

When they were done burying the dead, the men were tired and didn't want to do anything else that day. Vorse wanted them to start walking south, but was having trouble motivating them, and discipline was almost non-existent. He had men patrolling the perimeter of the camp now. There was grumbling about him closing the barn door after the cows had gotten in and eaten the corn, but then one of the men patrolling called out. "Hey, I found the trail the giant must have followed!" Walt yelled. "How sure are you?" Vorse asked. "Well, nobody else has feet this size," Walt said. Vorse stood gazing at Walt as if he were capable of deep thought. "Pick up your packs, men, we're following that trail," Vorse said. "Keep your guns at the ready. I don't believe for a minute the giant came here from an island. He must have been here all along, and the guys upstairs just didn't figure it out." Well, if that were true, the tragedy of the night before was the fault of "the guys upstairs," which we all knew meant Worn Jangold, and not of Vorse Dextin. It was easy to see why Vorse wanted to find that the giant had a permanent home on the point instead of on the island. It was harder to see why we should seek the giant out, when a moment

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before we had lacked the energy to run away. Perhaps it was an urge for vengeance that made us willing to follow Vorse into danger when we greeted his order to follow him into safety only with contempt. Tavers walked behind me, holding a rope attached to my wrists. I walked right behind Vorse Dextin, and men preceded and followed us to offer us some protection. We proceeded slowly and carefully, even fearfully. It took more than an hour to reach the beach on the north side of the point, where big footprints led down to a groove in the beach where the giant had pulled up his boat. Vorse refused to believe that this meant the giant had arrived and left by boat. He wanted us to keep searching when we had all seen the evidence that things were not as he wished they were. We went out to the point, trudging along with ill will and the men's weapons at the ready. Granite formations marched out to the sea, and on into the sea and under it, like a like a legion undeterred by the end of the land. Nobody wanted to walk all the way out to the point, so we started to cut across the rocky terrain to the other side. Then Walt, who was taking the point, stopped in his tracks. "Say, Vorse…" he began. "That's Primate Dextin to you, soldier!" "Yeah, um, Primate, these aren't just rocks," he said. "This is what is left of a building." "Don't talk rot," Vorse commanded. "Okay, so Nature has been cutting square rocks and stacking them pretty neatly." Vorse pushed forward to inspect the crumbling wall. "The giant's fortress!" he announced.

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But we could all see it was falling down. We went into the area circumscribed by the wall, and found ourselves inside a fallen fortress. There were bomb craters there, and holes that had been blown in the walls. We found bones, so the place must have been abandoned with bodies left unburied. What we didn't find was a place the giant might have been living. Nobody had lived there for a very long time. The sun was almost straight overhead and it was getting hot. There was no wind at all. Vorse insisted that the men search every inch of the ruins, while the insects bit them and the sweat streamed down their backs and their black uniforms clung to their bodies. The wall we first found enclosed a yard with a well, and on the inland side of the compound there were the remains of stone buildings. There were stables, which showed this had never been a Vegan structure. There were living quarters where some bunks still survived. There were administrative offices with desks and ancient machines like a computer keyboard but with mechanical linkages to letters on arms that were intended to hit the paper. One of the men said they were typewriters, but he said if you had electricity you didn't need them because then you would have computers. Tavers said the anarchists had lost most of their technology and were using primitive stuff like that. I asked who the anarchists were and he said have you ever been to school and I said yes, but I only heard about carnivores and he said they called themselves anarchists. The whole thing was funny like that, like everything you learned at school was about some other planet. Tavers started telling me about the Food Wars, about how his grandpa had told him about bombing runs and night raids and killing, and how when he asked his teachers about that stuff he got sent to the principal. I thought about my grandparents and how they never told me anything about this stuff. They never told me about sex, either, maybe they thought that was my parents' job but my parents were dead. Maybe

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they thought the news about what happened in the Food Wars was like the news about sex, I was expected to learn about them from dirty books and wayward companions. There were bad girls to teach me about sex but no bad girls to teach me about history. Ernie started digging a hole. "Hey! What are you doing, soldier?" Vorse called out. "Diggin’." "We don't need a latrine, soldier," Vorse blustered. "Ain't diggin’ a latrine." "What's the hole for, then?" "It's a grave." "You planning to die, Ernie?" Vorse inquired. "Buryin' the dead." He paused in his digging to gesture toward a skull and some bones. "They're not our dead," Vorse said. "They still dead." Vorse stood silent, watching him for a while, then turned and walked away. Tavers cut my arms loose and let me have his entrenching tool and I joined the rest of the men in digging graves for the anarchist dead. It seemed like all we could do for the people our elders and betters had killed. It felt good to have my arms free and work my muscles. The guys kept finding more remains, and we kept making the hole bigger. When they could tell, or thought they could, they kept all the parts of a skeleton together. Sometimes it was just a jumble of skulls and bones they brought. Tavers thought it must have been poison gas that killed the people in the fort, because we didn't find any marks from knives or shrapnel on the

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bones. Ernie thought maybe they just got sick and died. Too much time had passed to tell. Vorse seemed to be in a mood to just leave us alone, but I looked up when he was passing once and saw so much hate in his face I was afraid. I told Tavers, but he just laughed and told me not to worry, the boys could take care of Vorse. I thought it was bad that Vorse had lost control of them, because he wasn't the kind to just run away. "Vorse may not be brave or smart," I reminded Tavers, "but he's got his way all his life. He may not be strong or quick, but just remember, he's a poisoner. He didn't have to be brave or strong or quick to kill that cow. He had to be cold and willing to plan and wait." Tavers put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. "You worry too much, Harry," he said. "Me and the boys have got this show under control." I went back to digging and didn't say any more. When we were tired and sweaty and thirsty, Vorse came up from the lower parts of the fort with a cup in his hand. "What you got there?" Walt asked. "You just keep digging holes," Vorse told him. "What's found here belongs to the Church. If I find any man has gotten into the bottles down there, you can bet there will be a heavy penance to pay." Then he walked into the main offices of the fort, where we found the typewriters. He went in and started talking on his radio to somebody. Walt looked at Ernie and they went down where Vorse had been. They soon came back with their arms laden with bottles. The men gathered around, and they started pulling out the corks. It seemed to

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me like maybe the corks had been out before, but maybe that was just me being paranoid. Vorse looked at them out of a ruined window, but Walt just held up a bottle in defiance. I guess we all knew discipline had broken down, but this was open mutiny. I guessed Vorse had let them know the bottles were there to see if they would drink them, to see how far things had gone. Things couldn't go much further. "You want some, Harry?" Ernie said, his breath already heavy with strong drink. "My Gran told me never to take strong drink," I said. "You're a good boy, Harry," Ernie said. "How 'bout you, Tavers?" "Last time I took a drink, I committed slaughter," Tavers said. "You can see where that got me." Ernie laughed at that, and I wondered who or what he and Tavers had killed. "It might be poison," I said. "Yeah, maybe somebody put a kick in it," Walt interjected. "Name your poison, boys," he called to the others, and they lined up to fill their canteens. Tavers and me walked away from the others and sat down with our backs against the ancient wall. We watched them get silly and clumsy and affectionate to each other, and then somebody got in Ernie's face, and Ernie just hit him once and the man fell down and was quiet. Then somebody made a joke about it, and there was nervous laughter, and people started drinking again. Maybe they thought that man would wake up, but I didn't think anybody Ernie hit would ever get up. "Let's get over the wall," Tavers said. We both climbed over it. The ground was lower outside the wall, and the falling down stones that had not been above our heads standing when we were inside the fort towered above us once we were on the outside. I guess that was a big advantage to the defenders.

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"Harry, you must be smarter than people think you are. You figure Vorse messed with the drinks, don't you?" I just nodded. "See, I might not have thought of that without you. Those boys, they don't even care. They just don't have much left of life. They got out of Homeport and didn't get sent to the work camps, and that's about heaven to them. They're not going to go back to homeport, no way, no how. They know they can't live out here, either. You told them that stuff is poison, but they drink it anyhow. They didn't fear killing and they don't fear death." "And you?" I asked. "I got drunk and got in a fight. Killed a man. I haven't had a drink since. I messed my karma up bad, but I ain't made it worse. I ain't a good man, Harry, but I'll be better somehow. I tell you, though, if I didn't have you to take care of, I'd be back there drinkin' with the rest of them, trying to put out the lights." Just then we heard Ernie's voice, right through the stone wall. "Oh, Frank, oh, Frank, it hurts so bad. Oh, Frank, my gut hurts so bad." Ernie was the first to show signs of poisoning. We put our heads above the wall and watched the men curling up and groaning. Then Tavers pulled me down. "They’ll all be dead by morning," Tavers told me. "You and me, we go inland and north." "But Homeport is south, and if we walk the beach, we can move faster," I objected.

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"That's why Vorse will move south on the beach, looking for us. Maybe it hasn't occurred to you, but we witnessed the biggest crime of a generation here. Vorse needs us to be dead. If we ever go back to Homeport, it better be after Vorse is dead." I guess I cried a little then, but Tavers made me go where he said we should. I knew he was right, but I wasn't sure I could live without my Gran. I would have to though, and she would have to live without me.

Sam Johnston hears of monsters_________________________________

The usual losers were deep in the booze at Organic Jo's Natural Paradise when the news came on. Mine was a pint of unfiltered ale with a shot glass full of 151 proof water-oflife dropped into it. I wasn't half as pasted as I intended to become. I expected the newsreaders to just come out with the latest victory for Worn Jangold. I would have sworn I could have lip-synched what they would say. Instead, they came out with a story that shocked me. "Church officials have confirmed that riots broke out this morning at work camps on both Inland Roads within hours of each other," said Will Forte, the highly respected anchor for One News. "Reports from the city of Foothills have been filtering back by swift wherrys as civilians caught up in events have fled the violence of the camps. In Foothills now is our reporter, Les Posner, with this report." Les Posner, a skinny, eager young man with protruberant eyes and teeth, came on the screen. He was wearing a bulky coat too warm for the weather to make himself look bigger.

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"Will, fear has reached Foothills from the labor camps. People fleeing the violence of the camps tell a story of an uprising that started after a peculiar emergency blip came over the airwaves and was played for penitents during breakfast. After seeing the blip, the penitents started shouting 'Monsters! Monsters!' Then they started acting like monsters, Will. They overwhelmed their guardians. They broke their chains and used them as weapons. Many of them died before the guards were overwhelmed. Many more survived, and reports are that the guards are now the prisoners, and the penitents are running the penitentiary. How long they will let the guards live is uncertain. No accurate assessment can be made of the casualties, but the guns in the towers of the penitentiaries are now pointed outward, and the men inside are said to be painting a single eye in the middle of their foreheads." "And what does that mean?" Will asked. Les looked at the camera as if he'd just been asked the most important question ever uttered by the lips of man. "It means they are monsters, Will." They cut away from Les, back to the studio. The camera was on Will, who stared at it completely nonplussed. "And that's what's happened, this is Will Forte, One News," he said. The camera was still on him, and he sat there, silent, for what seemed eternity, before they put a commercial on. "Ole Worn, he just sent the troops the wrong way," I muttered to no one in particular.

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Worn Jangold sends an expedition________________________________

Lee Hu reported to my office as ordered. Every time I saw him, he was smaller and younger than I had remembered him. I didn't like the man. He had a mind of his own, and I preferred men who did as they were told. Right now I needed him. He could think on his feet, and the situation at Foothills was too fluid to entrust to a man who couldn't. "Hu, you are familiar with the situation up the river?" "Yes, sir. I've seen the news. No doubt you have better intelligence." "I have intelligence. Whether it's better, I'm not too sure. Your job will be to take a group of sin finders with you, reconnoiter, and if possible, do something about the situation up there. If you can't solve the problem, come back and report...we'll… understand." The pause was significant enough to let him know we wouldn't, but the words said nothing of the kind. He could recount this conversation accurately – and he was incapable of doing otherwise – and it would mean the opposite of what it meant. Hu had the stoic look of a man who knows he's being set a task intended to ruin his career. And he knew me well enough to realize that I could still break him if he succeeded. "Can I pick my own squad?" His gaze was steady. The arrogant bastard thought he could succeed. He didn't realize that he was being sent up there to make it look like we were doing something while I organized a force capable of quashing this uprising. "You can pick them, but I'll approve them. They'll have to fit on a mail boat, because that's the fastest way to get you up there." A mail packet was a small launch which would be crowded with a dozen men. I was planning a couple grain barges to get

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the real force up there, but if Hu could give me a couple accurate reports before he got killed, I'd be light years ahead.

Cage seeks a second chance__________________________

"Wipe your forehead," I told Limba. She'd painted one of those damned eyes on her forehead. "Don't do this," she said. "You start going after the eyes, people will think you're not with them." "All right, I'll get used to it. I just thought you'd be past that." "It's what they've made of us," she said. "And it's how we got the big office." It was. If she hadn't come up with the eye, would they have followed her? Probably, but the eye made it easier. She'd started the uprising in the women's wing, and the men hadn't risen until most of the guards had been pulled off to deal with her riot. "I don't get you," she said. "How did you organize a riot? You're always holding people back." "I didn't organize it. They pushed me out in front. After Bear Winthrop and Tiny Alcock got done killing the guards, they started settling old scores with the penitents. The rest of the boys started looking for someone who could take them down." "You don't look so tough." I don't, either. I'm short, broad-shouldered, strong enough, but I try not to attract too much attention. I'm a lifer, so in theory, they can't add time to what I'm already doing. Some guys figure that's a license to kill. Me, I figure when you're a lifer, gaol is your life. Why make it hard? So I make a point now and then by taking down someone

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who thinks he's hard, and the rest of the time I get left alone. When Winthrop and Alcock started settling scores, I figured they'd come after me. I'd taken them both down at some point. When some of the boys asked me to take them down, I'd said yes. Limba did look hard. She was taller than me, a thin woman whose face looked like the skin was too tight. When I look in the mirror, I see guarded eyes in an expressionless face. Limba was more inclined to active malice. When she got pushed, she pushed back. When I got pushed, I bided my time and waited for the moment. If I was going to do some solitary for a violent act, I wanted some results for it. Limba didn't plan, she reacted, and I'd heard she'd paid the price with lots of time in the hot boxes, lots of meals withheld, some beatings with the sawgrass whip. "You hear me? I said you don't look tough." "Yeah, I hear you." If she wanted someone to talk trash, she could talk to someone else. "So how'd you take out Bear and Tiny?" "Walked into my cell and closed the door." "And when they came after you?" "Tiny tried to open the door. With no guards watching, it was pretty easy to wire the lock. Enough volts, anybody's heart stops beating." "That work on Bear, too?" "Oh, hell no. For one thing, the circuit breaker popped. So the lights went out. Alcock opened the door when all his muscles seized up, so the door was open and Bear and the boys were right outside. Bear shot up the wall in the dark. I hit the ground with plenty of momentum and slid, used my shank to cut the artery on the inside of his thigh,

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and used his gun to clean up the two guys he brought along. Once people knew Bear and Tiny were settled, the rest didn't stand a chance." She nodded. "How did you get so talented?" The question annoyed me. If I had talent, I'd be outside making money. "Most people in here don't think too fast. That's how they made the decisions that got them in here." "So you think fast? How'd you end up in here?" "Did some stupid stuff. Three of us robbed a bank. One of the other guys started shooting. The guards started shooting. I killed the ones trying to kill me, then stopped. She nodded again. "You going to ask me my story?" she said. "Nope." She'd been a hooker. A john hit her with his fist, she knifed him. Quick reaction, long time paying for it. At least the guy lived. If she could last fifteen years in the camps, they'd let her out, assuming she didn't add too much to her time. No one would hire her when she got out, and she'd be to old and worn out to sell her body, but she'd be free. Me, I would have taken that deal. She took over the prison instead. "I'll tell you this much for free," she said. "Don't mess with me, I don't mess with you." "I mess with nobody." "You've killed how many?" "Four this morning, two at the bank twelve years ago. They'd have killed me." She looked out the window. Murderers reign in hell. You get respect from the other penitents, because you might do your crime to them. They don't want to be killed,

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so they don't disrespect you. If you're a pickpocket, they don't worry so much about offending you. Do your crime to them, their pockets are empty. "What do you figure happens now?" she asked. "It's your show. You tell me." "I got this far on pure hate for what they've done to us. Taking over the penitentiary was my plan. I've taken it over." She was biting her fingernails. "You want to know what they'll do? We're the ringleaders. They have to kill us." "We're Vegans. We don't kill. Well, you do, but they don't. They have to play by the rules. That's why they didn't kill you for killing those people at the bank." "You've been in the House how long?" "Two years," she said. "That's long enough to know what the rules mean to them. How's your back?" She put her face in her hands. I'm sure she'd never been beautiful, but she had at least been attractive enough to sell her body. Scars from being whipped with sawgrass all over her back would mark her all the way through to her mind. "We should light out," I suggested. "Spilt up. They wouldn't get us all." "Yeah, they would," she said despondently. Probably she was right. The work changed our bodies, our eyes, our way of walking and looking. And there was no place to go. People were settled. They knew each other. The Church knew where everyone was, where they lived, what they did. An extra man or woman couldn't just walk into town and get a job. "The Zone of Alienation," I suggested. "What, out in the sawgrass? Without chompers to make our path?" Chompers were the remote control grass cutters that preceded us into virgin territory, taking the

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sawgrass down to stubble and mincing and bagging what they cut. She and I both had scars from sawgrass beatings. A whipping like that gives you a whole new perspective on what it would be like to walk into the wilderness. "Not inland. North or south." She thought about that. "The whole lot of us?" she asked. I shook my head. "If we're all in one place, they'll find a way to trap us. We split up, we go every which way." "No." She stood up, walk to the window and looked down at the yard. "You do what you want. I started something here. I've been pushed around all my life, I want to push back. Either we make a stand here, or we take them all somewhere else. I say we take them out of here, give everybody a second chance." Big words for a woman who devoted her life to getting easy money and quick revenge. Still, I thought about all the mistakes that had got me here, and a second chance sounded good. Would I get one by myself, running and hiding? Probably not. Would any of us get one if we all stuck together? Not a chance. A target that size just invited an army to massacre it. Besides, many were in for sins like adultery and could look forward to getting out in a few years if they didn't break any rules. Of course, some were in for adultery and had tripled their terms for minor rule variations like talking. And many were in for heresy, which meant someone wanted to get rid of them and couldn't find anything else to pin on them. Most wouldn't ever get out. They'd follow. "We're dead either way," I told her. "I'll go with you." She picked up a marker from the warden's desk.

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"I'll give you an eye," she said.

Lee Hu tracks the penitents________________________________

We barely fit ten of us aboard the mail launch. We had to leave ashore the chest Ayn Hatch, who Worn had sent with me as a minder, wanted to bring along. She objected strenuously, but I pointed out that the rest of us were bringing small knapsacks, and our planning hadn't even included her, let alone a chest twice her size. She brought a couple big bags but left the chest behind. He said I could pick my own crew, then stuck me with this pinched, worried little woman who thinks she needs a bed instead of a bedroll and won't take a chance that she can rent a room. She let me know she would report me for refusing to take the chest. There were some smiles behind her back. None of us figured we had much of a career ahead of us. Most were lucky not to have been sent to the work camps. No one who though they had a future would agree to come with us. Lynn Jackson, who avoided an adultery prosecution when neither the woman nor her husband would testify, steered the boat. It was a narrow, low vessel, something the motor could drive up-current at a good pace. It carried mostly small packages. Information could be sent by computers or vids, so the mail was objects. Anything big had to be carried on cargo vessels and could take a week to get to Foothills, two more days to the work camps. If we ran all night in the mail vessel, we could be there in 36 hours. If the current is running eight kilometers per hour, it matters a lot whether you are running twelve kph or twenty-four. Twice as fast through the water is four times as fast

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over the bottom, and a small boat with shallow draft could take advantage of eddies near the shore. It was evening by the time we started. There wasn't room for us to lie down, so we tried to sleep sitting. Ayn was staring daggers at me. I went to sleep and had a dream about real daggers coming out of Ayn's eyes and cutting me open from throat to groin. The horror of it woke me up, and I looked at Ayn and realized that she was asleep and snoring lightly. The sun came up, and none of us had slept well. Now and then, someone would try to start a conversation, but got monosyllabic grunts in reply. No one wanted to talk in Ayn's presence. Maybe no one would have wanted to talk anyway. We ate a skimpy breakfast, then stared at the shore on either side as we ascended the river. The Church doesn't like people living out by themselves, but sometimes we would see an isolated settlement. Twice people tried to flag us down, thinking we were carrying mail up river and hoping to send a packet with us. When the sun set again we all pretended to sleep again until we actually did. The next sunrise illuminated some farm houses, which became thicker on the ground as the mist burned off the river. By 9 a.m. we were at Foothills. As we approached the City Pier, Ayn picked up her bags. "We're not stopping," I told her. "I have to report in," she said. "We don't have anything to report. We have to get up to Camp Perdition and see what's there before we know anything." "I order you to stop at Foothills and allow me to report," she said.

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"You aren't in command. And if you want to report, here's my communicator. You should have brought one of your own." "I did." Of course she did. What she wanted was privacy, so that she could say things about us without us hearing. "I'm glad," I said. "You can report back at any time, then. Don't let me stop you." She sat back down on her pack and said nothing. We took the north fork of the river, because we had decided to see Perdition Camp Penitentiary first. By noon we could see the towers of the penitentiary across a stretch of land. We had to take the launch around the point before we could approach that fortress of sin. "We should land here," Ayn said. "We should approach on foot. They won't expect that." "We're going to the water gate," I told her. "We're coming in where they can see us. We're going to talk to them, find out what they want and what they've done to the guards, then we're going to report home." "You mean you're not going to attack?" Ayn said. The notion was so absurd I almost laughed. "There were 562 men and 187 women incarcerated at Perdition. Do you expect me to take them all prisoners and bring them back for trial in this launch?" I asked her. "You're meant to do something," she said. "It should be obvious from the size of this party that we are intended to scout, not to confront and defeat this mutiny. I'm not about to misinterpret the orders I was given to assume that I'm expected to restore order."

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"My understanding is that your are expected to do exactly that." She said it with satisfaction, as if to assure me that her report would say I had violated orders. "I was given my orders verbally, but I know what they were," I told her. "I was told what your orders were, and I know what they were," she said. I cursed myself for not getting Worn to put his orders in writing. Not that there was any way I could have made him do so. "You, of course, will want to observe our actions at close range," I told her. "You'll be right by my side every step of the way. I'll give you a sidearm, and when you see your chance to defeat 749 violent and embittered sinners, you may attack them with my assurance that I am right there with you." She could be insane, of course, in which case she would actually attack a vastly superior force thinking she could win because He was on her side. She didn't seem like that, though. She valued her comfort, so she probably valued her life. "I'm here to observe and report," she said. "There is no need for me to take part in any assault." "I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind. In fact, none of us are staying behind, so staying back at the boat won't even be safe," I said. "And surely, the First Primate would want you right at the front, not back where you can't see the action. You are his eyes as much as I am, after all. Don't worry, I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind." She turned away with a rather hunted look. Oh ho, I thought, she's not here by choice either. Her brief is different – her job is to tell a story that will ruin my career – but she's here because she's expendable as well. So if she lags behind and I tell about it, she could be in hot water, much as I would be. In essence, Worn wanted us to suspect and report on each other because he trusted neither of us. We could form a pact with

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each other not to report, except that he had chosen each of us well and we didn't trust each other enough to do that. We rounded the point and saw the penitentiary in full. It was a big building, windowless on the outside, square with towers at each corner. The stone was brown and streaked with the rain like an old man's face at a funeral. Lynn put the throttle back and we approached at a walking pace. Perdition Camp Penitentiary is built right up against the river. There is a land gate on the west side, and a water gate on the south side. The portcullis was up at the water gate, so we could motor in. We found ourselves inside the portcullis, but blocked from entry by the inner gate. Ports on either side and above allowed us to be observed or shot at. "You've led us into an ambush!" Ayn whispered to me. "No one's shooting," I reminded her. Qwerty Poiuy, who was in the bow, reached her hand out and pushed on the inner gate. A stream ran through the penitentiary and drained through the water gate. Below the waterline the gate was bronze grate. Above it was steel doors. There wasn't much water pressure holding it closed. We couldn't have opened it if the inner gate had not been unlocked. I nodded to Lynn and he pushed the throttle forward. The stem of the boat pushed against the door and it slowly opened. The launch pushed through into the inner courtyard. As we came into the sunlight again, I heard birds call to one another. Lynn put the launch into reverse to stop us in the round pool in the middle of the yard. All around was silence except for the birds and a few buzzing insects. "There's no one here." Qwerty said.

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"We don't know that yet," I reminded her. There was a pier like an exclamation point at the top of the circular pond. Lynn laid us next to it. Qwerty carried the bow line ashore and I took the stern line. When we had the boat secured, everybody came ashore and we walked to the yawning gates of the penitentiary itself. Our footsteps echoed in the hallway as we passed by the barred cells. "Anybody home!" Lynn yelled. Qwerty hit him. I swear I could hear the echoes of her blow. We found the main staircase and climbed to the top of it until we found the Warden's office. On the desk was a piece of paper with a large single eye on it. Below the eye was a note: "We are not coming back. We carry our sin, we will deal with our sin. Do not follow." "Where did they go?" Qwerty asked. "They must have left by the main gate," I said, and ran down the steps to the ground floor two at a time. At the west gate I could see that the grass had been trampled by a great many people. The river lay to the south. I started walking north. Ayn caught up with me. "The First Primate will not be pleased to learn that the penitents have escaped," she informed me. "Then you'd better catch them," I told her. "He obviously sent you as a backup in case I failed, so I guess it's all in your hands now." She stopped and stared at me for a moment as if she believed me. "I was only sent as an observer," she squeaked. "Oh, come now, he didn't just send a camera, he sent you. He must trust you with important missions all the time. I think it's time to stop hiding your light under a bushel and tell us what to do."

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She looked flattered, but nervous. "Um, I think you should see where they went." "Brilliant!" I exclaimed. "Where should we look first?" "Um, that way, I think." Ayn pointed west, toward Foothills. Well, it certainly was the way she would have gone. "Great!" I said. "You take Bess, Wendy, Wally and Reginald. Qwerty, Lynn, Ian and Nellie, you're with me. They won't have gone east, because that leads to sawgrass country. They didn't go south, we can see that, and in any case they didn't have boats to cross the river. So we'll go north, just to cover the other possibility, while Ayn takes the more likely western path. No doubt her name will be carved into the tree of history, while mine will be written in the mud of obscurity, but never mind, she had first choice and has chosen well." "Um, maybe we should stay together," Ayn suggested. "Or not," I said. "You will reach glory or civilization. I will reach obscurity or the wilderness. We each see our duty and proceed." "All right," she said, and started on the path back to Foothills without glancing back to see if anyone was following. "You'll die for this," Wendy told me. She was an inch taller than me, darker and with tight-curled hair. "I may die, but you won't, because I'm sending you to safety," I told her. "Let me come with you," she pleaded. "One of us will live through this. How do you know it won't be me?" I asked her.

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"Because the grass is trampled to the north. Obviously the penitents went that way," she said. "Go with Ayn. Whatever may happen, I will know you are safe. And don't worry, I will come back for you. Hey, you know what?" "What?" Wendy asked. "You aren't just a little late. You're weeks late. Are you pregnant?" She looked at her feet. "I haven't tested." "Well, why don't you? You can play hero when I know our child is not involved," I said. "If you don't come back, I'll kill you," she said, and kissed me, then ran after Ayn.

First we checked out the penitentiary. We found bodies, some of guards and some of prisoners. The last of the guards had been imprisoned, then executed with their own guns. Once we were certain there were no living souls in the penitentiary, we headed north. We walked fast. A small, motivated group can generally catch the sort of large, poorly organized group I suspected we were tracking. We had gone less than three miles when we came to a farmhouse. Fences around the fields had been torn up or trampled. There was little left growing in the fields. The front door of the farmhouse was hanging loose with only the bottom hinge still attached. I pushed through the door with the others behind me. I saw movement behind a chair, and turned, expecting a trap and regretting that I had turned down the chance to carry a weapon. Lee walked over and pulled the chair aside. A woman cowered with a small child in her arms. "Are you all right?" I asked her.

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"The others took everything! Leave us alone," she said. "The turnips weren't even ready. They even took Evan's clothes." "We've been sent by the Church. We're tracking the escaped penitents. Tell us what happened." "They took my husband. They made him carry turnips. He's carrying a 40-kilo sack of turnips, just a beast of burden for them." We talked to her for half an hour. As she talked, she got calmer. She said that the first sign anything was amiss came when three men crashed through three windows shortly after the family had retired to bed, putting knives against their throats. Other men had come in through the front door. They had stripped away anything useful and portable. Hundreds of people were out there in the dark, harvesting crops that were not ready for harvest. The family had been imprisoned in the root cellar after the contents of it had been emptied. When they were ready to leave the farm the next morning they took Fred West, the father, away to carry part of the looted crop. His wife Lara and son Evan were left locked in the root cellar. Furniture was stacked on the door to the root cellar. Lara had to dig her way out beside the doorway. She had managed to get herself and Evan out a few hours before we arrived. We were a full day behind. I tried to call on my communicator to report in, but service was out. There were not a lot of relay towers in the area, but I should have been able to get a satellite hookup. Maybe sun spots were interfering. We broke out some stores and cooked a good meal for them. I tried again, but couldn't get through. I put Ian in charge of Lara and Evan and told him to take them west, to civilization. I also instructed him to try the communicator every half hour. The rest of us started a rapid march to the north.

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The path was easy to find, but harder than expected. The land rose steeply over rough, rocky soil. We wouldn't find any more farms until the land became more fertile. I was trying the communicator every hour, still with no results. No matter what the cause of the communications failure, Worn would blame me. Half-eaten, half-ripe turnips marked the progress of the penitents. Impromptu latrines gave evidence that some were already having gastric difficulties. I thought some stragglers would drop behind, but when sunset came we had still not come across any discouraged penitents. Whoever was leading them had some force of character. Keeping that group of sinners together must have been like juggling leaves in the wind. We camped a little after sunset. I didn't want to run into anyone in the woods. We each sat a four-hour guard shift.

Cage's monsters________________________

I tried to let Limba run the show. While she was running around getting people hyped up about going, I decided to watch our backs. I already had five guys I could trust. I told them to each get five guys they could trust. Pretty soon we had enough guys that nobody wanted to mess with us. We started out making sure nobody left the group. Sometimes you had to get in people's face to make them realize we were all in this together. After a day and a half, Limba started getting discouraged. "Some want to go, some don't, but nobody is moving!" she said wretchedly. "They'll move," I told her. "No, they won't. We may as well give up."

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"I'll move them." By the end of the day we had them forming up in lines and, if not marching at least walking nearly in unison. There was a farm nearby, and I decided we were going to get there before we stopped. At least we were going to spend the night somewhere that wasn't the penitentiary. When we got there we found there wasn't much at the farm. We pulled their turnips to eat on the way, along with all the flour and other non-perishable food in the place. We took all the blankets and clothing we could find. We took all the tools we could carry. We took the tractor and a wagon behind it to carry the old and the sick. Nobody was staying behind. We worked as many of the people as we could through the night, then made them march off in the morning. When I let them sleep, these people were not going to feel like wandering off. I put some of the boys out to watch our flock. We just didn't want any going back. The boys all had machetes. Everybody had seen old one-eye's machete in the emergency blip. Nobody would leave before I wanted them to. When night had fallen and the guard had been set, I laid down to sleep with my back against a tree. Limba came walking out of the night. "They're calling themselves Cage's Monsters," she told me, looking down at where I'd curled up against the tree. "Limba's Monsters," I told her. "No. That's not what they're calling themselves." "They should. You gave them their freedom. You gave them that eye on their forehead."

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"They're yours, Cage. I couldn't do it. They're yours." "I don't want them. Can I give them back?" "No, Cage. They'll follow you. They won't follow me." "I don't know where to go. They'll follow us," I told her. She smiled. I liked her smile. "OK," she said. "They'll follow us."

Worn Jangold – how like a God_________________________________

"We received the message shortly before dawn," Messenger Sowat told me. "Only complete words are available, as the digital nature of the message gave was either intelligible or not intelligible. The words are either there or not there, A or not A. With the jamming we've been having for the last 24 hours, we were lucky to get any message at all." She played it for me. "…tracking the penitents…monsters are headed north…half-eaten turnips…none left behind…" "Have we heard from Ayn?" I asked her. "Yes. She found a land line. She went west. Hu went north. She reached Foothills without incident. The message I just played you is the only message we've had from him." "North," I mused. "To join the first monster, old one-eye. Do they really think he will welcome them?' "I'm a tech," said Messenger Sowat. "I am not a prophet."

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"No, of course, you aren't." Asking employees rhetorical questions is never a good idea. What should my move be now? I was gathering a militia. They were not yet ready for combat. "Have you located the source of the jamming?" "In orbit," Sowat said. "Which can only mean it comes from Cyril 4. We have stopped shipments of oxygen and water to their planet. They will soon know how long they can live without water or air. Not an experiment that can be repeated." "I understand," Sowat said. Noncommittal at every turn. She was technical and competent. I could only wonder what happened inside her ebony head. Slim, prim, efficient, she barely seemed female, even with symbol of her service, an ear in quotation marks, calling attention to the small, firm breast beneath it. She was so contained, I never knew what thoughts lay behind the few words she spoke. This always made me uncomfortable. Of course, I should have no problem controlling her. All she knew and all she cared about was in the technical realm. She had no sovereignty in the political world, where I reigned. "It must be done. Cyril 4 cannot be allowed to threaten us." "They cannot threaten us." She said it flatly, and I was not sure whether she meant that they could not be allowed to threaten us, or that they were incapable of threatening us. She was disconcerting, but indecipherable. She was the best at what she did. No. she could not be indispensable. No one is. They are all factors of production. She produced information. Without her, there would still be information. I must not

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become dependent on her. Whatever ghosts may travel the airwaves, she was the best at hearing them, but they would speak without her. But without her they would be much harder to hear. She was a useful tool, and must not be discarded, however uncomfortable she might make me. I was not sleeping well. It was hard to think straight. My plans were failing, and that could not be. Treachery must be at the heart of it. I had to find the off-worlders who sent the God of Doubt messages and the Last Message. With the Penitents calling themselves Monsters and marching to the north, order was disintegrating. I was forming troops from the Homeport Guard. Businessmen and farmers, boys and men, old men who would not be turned away. When I saw them drilling, it made me think that the years of peace had made us soft and ill-suited to combat. I had only one message from Vorse after the flying boat sank. Discipline broke down and the men broke into drinks left behind by long-dead carnivores. Those drinks had killed them, and I had to agree that this was proper. It was one more proof that Frank was active in our lives. I had not looked to my faith for many years. Ambition had been my god. Now the god Ambition was forsaking me. I had been given exactly the challenges I had prayed for, and nothing was going right. I began to look back to Frank Ohlsen. And Frank had answered me. No other event could have awakened our people from their long slumber. No other circumstance could have brought me more volunteers than I could accept to take up arms against our enemies. The hour calls forth the man. Without this crisis, I would be merely a politically adroit First Primate of the Church. With these events, I could lead a crusade, a jihad that would destroy all our enemies without and within. Sinners, doubters and unbelievers could be brought to justice.

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I dismissed Sowat, and my secretary told me Adam Adams was awaiting our scheduled meeting. He entered the room wearing his new black uniform and shiny black boots. He had asked for command of logistics, and as the leading man of commerce, he was clearly the man to organize the needed materiel. "What progress have you made?" I asked him. "Five grain barges are available for use as transports. You won't want to be caught in a storm with them, because like all our large vessels they are river boats. They'll float higher with men in them than with grain, which will help. We've only got three mail launches, but if the jamming continues we'll need all of them as advice vessels. Three of the barges are narrow and faster, intended for the upper river. Those will be the troop transports. We'll put a couple weeks rations on those, but the main stores of food and the heavy weapons such as the laser drills will come on the wider barges intended for the slower waters of the lower river. Those are slower, but we should keep them with the troops unless you need the speed of the troop barges to outmaneuver the enemy. We've raided all the museums for weapons, and told those sin finders who will remain behind that they must use only clubs. All special weapons are going with the troops. Still, most of them will be equipped with pikes, which we can make quickly, and with cleavers, axes, knives and other implements easily converted from civilian use." "Surely we have better weapons than that," I lamented. "I've got five laser drills from the tunneling operation. Their range isn't great and they aren't easy to aim, but they'll take out any fortification the escaped penitents are likely to construct. And remember, aside from the few weapons seized from the guards, the penitents have little ordinance themselves."

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"Adam, I want your advice. Well soon have Vorse Dextin back amongst us. I've thought of offering him second in command. What is your opinion?" Adam paused just long enough to make the point that he was being diplomatic. "If you reward Vorse for the outcome of his last mission, it will appear that you reward failure. Put him in charge of any prisoners you take." He gracefully left unsaid the notion that was going around that Vorse had poisoned his own unit after losing control. No one would care much if he poisoned prisoners who referred to themselves as monsters.

Reviewing the troops should have discouraged me. No two uniforms looked quite the same. A man with an ax would be standing between a man with a cleaver and one with an eight-kilo sledge hammer. The few with guns were unlikely to know how to use them. The only saving grace was that the fugitives were bound to be far less well equipped. The truth is, we are a small colony. We kept the technology we needed and let the rest slide. Oh, if we needed to make a hand-held laser we had schematics, but we had no reason to make all the little bits that go into such a weapon. During the food wars we were able to build such things, but we had laid aside that technology in the long peace that followed. That would have to change. We had been huddled in our little colony too long. It was time to expand into the world, and to control the new colonies we would found, a well-equipped standing army would be needed. This force was only a beginning, and not an auspicious one. Still, every man of them was a volunteer. They knew the 'monsters' could tear their entire world apart. With the right leadership, they could be made an effective fighting unit.

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The parade ground was a soccer pitch. In front of the west bleachers I'd had a platform constructed. I looked out over them and turned on the microphone in my collar. "Well, I don't know about the enemy, but you scare the hell out of me!" I said heartily. They stared at me in silence. In the film I got the line from, the troops found that line amusing. "We are at a great crisis in our faith, and in our civilization," I said. "Our church has tended our souls and our karma. Where we have found sin, we have provided penance. Not everyone was willing to accept our ministrations. Our two big labor camps have mutinied. The mutiny at Agony Camp was suppressed with loss of life by both guards and sinners. Agony Camp is under 24-hour lockdown, and the tunneling project is on hold until order is completely restored. At Perdition Camp, things went badly. The guards were killed. The penitents painted a single eye in the middle of their foreheads and called themselves Monsters. They left Perdition Camp and we are now tracking them as they go north. They have identified themselves with the monster Polyphemus. They are on their way to join him. Our job is to stop this unholy alliance from occurring. "I know you have been taught all your lives not to kill another living thing. But these…Monsters…have turned their backs on the Church. They have rejected the love of Frank Ohlsen. They even say the Church has made Monsters of them. They are unbelievers. They do not share our squeamishness about killing. They will kill you if you do not kill them. If they succeed in killing you, and you leave your city or your farms unprotected, they are capable of killing or enslaving your wives and daughters. The time has come, my friends, to cleanse this world of unbelievers. The corruption that has spread through Agony Camp and Perdition Camp, that has even affected some of our

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children, must be cleansed from our world by fire, by steel, if need be by blood. The carnivores and the unbelievers may think that they are the hunters and we are the herd. We will be the hunters. We will defend our homes, our wives and our children. "I have prayed. I have appealed to Frank Ohlsen to guide me. My prayers have been answered. I believe I am guided by the Tortured God. He has called for vengeance against those who tortured him, vengeance against all who follow that path. He has told me that if we fail, the fate that befell him awaits us all. You, me, our wives, our daughters, our sons. Will we fail?" There was a sort of negative muttering, not the shout I was hoping for. "Don't whisper to your neighbor, say it so I can hear you! Will we fail?" A louder muttering. Clearly I was going to have to give them the line. "WILL WE FAIL? NO! "WILL WE FAIL? NO! "WILL WE FAIL? NO!" Finally they were chanting with me, and I felt like a god myself.

Jonah Wales realizes he is changing history__________________________

We had reached an impasse. The inlanders wanted the sea people to take them to the island of Polyphemus. The sea people wanted to stay and protect Gil and May from anything that might cause them to part. Gil was determined to teach both groups to live only on plants. The inlanders were interested in learning to fish and the sea people were happy to teach them. Stella had just about convinced herself that gooseneck barnacles

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were a kind of plant, but had not persuaded herself to try them. Then one day, a highsided ketch sailed into our bay. Gil was standing not far from me, down the beach where Shmoe had been showing him and Roy an edible kind of seaweed. Gil was facing inland, and when Roy pointed out at the ketch he turned and dropped the seaweed in his hand. I hadn't seen May, but she came running out to the beach and clung to Gil. The ketch dropped its sails, rounded up into the wind and dropped its anchor. Over on the sea people's junk-rigged vessel a clumsy little dugout was going overboard. All three men who made up the crew started paddling for all they were worth toward Gil. On the ketch people were lowering the dinghy in a more leisurely fashion. By the time the dinghy was in the water, Wildwind, Northstar and Goldendawn were standing in front of Gil and May with hardwood clubs. Two people were rowing and two were riding in the dinghy. In the bow was a young woman, pretty but with slightly heavy features, looking toward the shore as if searching for someone. A blonde man and a man with salt-and-pepper hair rowed, and in the stern was a woman so badly sunburned that I did not recognize her until the boat had nearly reached the shore. I started walking toward the shore, followed by Gog and Magog, who seemed to have attached themselves to me over the past few days. I ignored the others and walked up to the sunburned woman. "I thought you were dead," I told her. "Hello, Jonah," she said. "You never told me your name." "Joy." She looked away as if ashamed when she said that.

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I became aware of the gaze of the other people from the dinghy. Only the man with salt-and-pepper hair ignored me and tried to walk toward May. Wildwind and his crew blocked his path. May had to push them aside. She embraced him. "Father," she said. The man was weeping. "It's all right," May said. "Come, dine with us." The others moved away. Joy and I stood next to each other, and the blonde man loitered nearby. "I'm sorry," I told her. "I should have done more for you." "No," she said. "There was a time…I mean, I once knew a woman named…" My eyes were tearing up. "I know." She leaned into me and I put an arm around her. "I got your Last Message," she said. I had hoped no one had seen that. "Have…" "Yes, others have seen it as well. It was sent as an emergency blip over the Church communications system. Everyone with a vid has seen it." "I thought I was a dead man." "I'm glad you weren't." The blonde man walked away.

We walked off together down the beach, while May and the man who had turned out to be her father conferred with the more important personages. It should have occurred to

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me that the course of many lives might be determined by that conference. The course of my life seemed to depend on what Joy might have to say to me. "The Joy I knew…" "My hair is dyed, Jonah. It isn't really dark." "I mean. It's just a funny coincidence…" "My name isn't Joy. Call me Joy, it's best to have a name, and I'm unwilling to tell you my real name. I picked it out of the air. I picked it specifically out of your Last Message. So call me Joy, and please don't tell the others it isn't my real name. Just don't attach any of the feelings you had for her to me." "I haven't." "Good." "What feelings do you want me to attach to you?" I asked her. "Just don't." "Why are you so tough?" "For two days now communications have been jammed. You know what that means? It means conditions are now so bad on Cyril 4 that my people have to leave. They are jamming communications so that when they land, Cyril 5 can't coordinate any defense." "Let me guess. You're going to land on the other side of the planet, at roughly the antipodes of the Vegan settlement. It will be generations before there is conflict." "No. If we give them time, their larger population can overwhelm us. We need to use our technological advantage before they gear up. My people will land near here. Probably to the north, where the mountains continue into the sea and become an

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archipelago of thousands of islands. We'll establish a base there, demonstrate military superiority, and force a peace that allows us to live." "You'll go to land occupied by others, show that your small population is militarily stronger, and expect them to accept you taking over? Have you studied any history? They won't accept that. You'll have to kill them." She was silent for a moment. "Another dome must have collapsed. There won't have been enough room or oxygen in the remaining domes for all of them to survive. We've been building one-way ships to remove the population. Not all will fit on the ships. It would make sense to send the strongest, to establish the beachhead. On the other hand, it may be that the rest of them can never come. People will want to send their children instead of themselves. Many of the people I know and love will not make it on the ships. My parents and brother were in an unstable dome. They may already be dead. My mission was to start a propaganda campaign to start undermining the absolute control of the Church. I suspect the campaign was a failure. The secondary reason for the small communications satellite I launched was to generate a jamming signal in case we needed to use it. We thought it was unlikely that we would need to use it before the satellite dropped out of orbit. Things must have gone horribly wrong if we are using the jamming signal already." We walked on in silence. I had failed her, I knew that. She'd needed more from me. Of course, I had not known the weight upon her. I had felt her need, but had crawled inside myself instead of reaching out to her. "I'm sorry," I said at last.

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"It's been coming a long time. Longer than you were coming, even." She was holding herself together as if on the verge of tears. "I couldn't do anything for your people. I could have done something for you." "You did something for my people. The Last Message. Before the jamming started, we caught a transmission about insurrections at a couple penitentiaries. They had seen your Last Message. They are painting a single eye in the middle of their foreheads. They're saying the Church has made monsters of them, just as it made a monster of Polyphemus. Crime is almost non-existent here, yet the penitentiaries are full. Many committed minor sins, then found their terms extended and extended for real or imaginary violations of penitentiary rules. Some were sent to penitentiary after they were seen swatting flies. Some committed sexual indiscretions. Years later, they were still in the work camps. Many died in road building or tunneling work, and the penitentiaries were resupplied with more sinners. A few committed real crimes. Agony Camp has more than 1,500 penitents. Less than 100 are violent criminals. Most are held for no other reason than to provide slave labor. Can you imagine the kind of tinderbox that is?" We walked on in silence for a moment. "It is against my ethics, my training and my beliefs to change history," I said. "I have devoted my life to documenting worlds that I am not a part of. It is not my nature to thrust myself forward or to tell people what to believe or how to live." "You told the truth. That is your job. If you were overheard, that is not your fault. I recorded your Last Message. A young man who saw it insisted on sending it out to the rest of this world. It told how the Church has abused the power the people's faith had given it."

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We walked on a little farther. "I must find a way to leave this place." "You mean more to these people than you can imagine. I wish you would stay, and always tell people what you see." "I want to escape such an audience. They expect too much of me. They'll devour me." "Before sunrise I saw four comets parallel to one another, off in the eastern sky. It was not a natural formation. The paltry remains of my civilization may have burned up in the sky, may have drowned in the sea, or may be establishing a beachhead north of here. If they are dead, that's the end of the matter. If they are alive, there is a new chapter about to unfold. Can you really leave without seeing the outcome?" I bowed my head. I wanted to flee, but I wanted to know. I can't stay and watch the progress of any civilization, I know that, but even a few weeks might see enormous changes on this planet. Besides, I couldn't imagine myself being welcomed in Homeport after my Last Message caused insurrections at their penitentiaries. "I must stay in this place," I admitted. "We are horribly outnumbered," she said. "You'll probably be witnessing our demise." "The interior is populated. They hunt and eat animals, and hide from the Vegans. The seaward islands are populated as well. They fish at night and hide in the daylight. I suspect this planet is populated everywhere except the region immediately around the Vegan colony. I suspect the Vegan Church knows this and for this reason, has not allowed free movement out of the Zone of Control. They don't want to lose control. They don't want their people mixing with anyone who has other ideas. I suspect they

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know they are really outnumbered. They're scared. Everyone is scared of them, they're scared of everyone." "You're telling me we might have a chance." "Could be. The Church has a disciplined, wealthy society that has a history of genocidal practices. They nearly wiped out the non-Vegan population of the planet. It's taken generations for these people to rebuild and they are still scared of the Vegans. They can't match their technology. They'll be outgunned. But I doubt they'll be outnumbered. By the end of the food wars only a few thousand Vegans remained. They hoped they had wiped out their enemies and feared they hadn't." She shook her head. "Not outgunned," she said. "If those ships came down, there will be more guns than people on them. And the Vegans have most of their weapons in museums. Mostly old-fashioned projectile weapons. Our weaponry might be centuries out of date, but it's not Victorian." "We might want to join the others," I said. "They need to know."

Cage thinks of redemption______________________________

Wherever we went, we stripped the countryside clean. There wasn't a bit to eat behind us, and there was little to eat ahead of us. The penitents were starving. A few had dropped out of the march, but they were in the wasteland we left behind. There would be nothing to eat, in most places no clean water. I told them that only by moving forward could we find more food. I had to keep them moving. Somehow, we had to find something else. A bigger farm with more food would help. We had headed north, away

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from civilization, because we wanted to escape those who had expelled us from decent society. Now we were being reminded that we were a mobile small town without a grocery store. Hunger drove us forward, looking for another farm, another stream. Some were eating worms, arguing that they were not animals because they grew in the ground and didn't have eyes. For four days we had been walking at an average pace of less than six kilometers an hour. I made them walk eight hours a day. The rest of the daylight was spent gathering food. Some had tried plants that turned out not to be food. The lucky ones only got the runs. Some less fortunate ones tried some yellow berries and got bright red rashes on their face, arms and chests. Some discovered tree barks that could be stewed over night to produce something like a meal. I kept pushing water on my trusted men and Limba's tight circle of women. Four days is long enough to get uncomfortable. It isn't long enough to be very much weakened by hunger, if you are getting a little food. It's long enough to dehydrate, especially if you get the runs. Eight hours of walking a day. Maybe as little as two KPH. That's only sixteen klicks a day. In four days, we had gone perhaps 60, at most 100 kilometers or so. The terrain was forcing us closer to the coast, and it was clear to me that the Church could move a body of men by water faster than we could march. I wanted to strike inland again when we could, but the mountains were getting closer to the sea. If we went into terrain that was too rough, we'd slow to a crawl, and there seemed to be more food on the more level ground as well. On the evening of the third day, I was stewing some bark with a few tubers we'd found at a cook fire surrounded by my seven top men. Limba and her two most trusted women were with us.

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"I'm hungry," Limba said. "Isn't there anything better than bark to eat?" "Find it, I'll cook it," Shorty Sanchez said. "I'm cooking what we found so far." "People are going to start giving up," she moaned. "So tell them why they shouldn't," I said. "You're the one that can talk to them." "Maybe they should give up," she mused. "At least if they got recaptured, they'd be fed." "I don't see anybody to surrender to," I said. "And if they want to walk back, I can guarantee that we didn't leave any food behind for them to eat on the way." "Where are we taking them, anyway?" she said. "What can we give to them?" "We're taking them north," I said. "We'll give them what we find there." "I'm hoping it will be peaches," Shorty said. "I'll settle for rutabagas," Big Jake said. "You don't know where you're taking us," Angel Stone, a small, thin woman barely out of her teens, said. "We're taking you away," I said. "Not to, but from, is where we're taking you." Angel's dark eyes held me, framed by dirty, curly dark hair. "We need someplace to be," she argued. "I know," I said. "We'll find it."

The next day dawned dark and blustery. It was hard to get the people up and moving. I stopped Big Jake from beating an old man for not getting up. "Leave him," I said. "He ain't gonna make it. If he can't walk with us, he can't walk back, and there isn't any food here."

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When Jake left I helped the old man to his feet. I murmured a prayer to Frank for him as I walked away. Limba had found no words for the people, so it was just me and the boys prodding them on. We'd been walking for perhaps an hour and a half when it started to rain. We prodded them, berated them, beat them, whatever it took to keep them moving on. The wind rose and rain and tree limbs whipped in our faces as we walked. Limba was moody and discouraged. Impulses and a desire for easy money had brought her here, and when the people needed her, she wasn't rising to the occasion. I found myself thinking about what I always think about, how I could have been a mechanic or even a dishwasher and how even if I had been stupid enough to rob a bank I should have just thrown away my gun and laid down on the ground when I heard that first shot, even if it meant Asahel got his chance to kill me. So many ways I could have not been here. It's what I'd always thought about during hard and dangerous work details, it's what I'd thought about when I'd watched men and women die of overwork. I deserved everything that happened to me, but most of them didn't. Like Angel Stone. She was training as a nurse. Found out she liked the painkillers, and started sneaking some. Stupid, weak behavior, and they would work her to death for it. And I could have washed dishes and swept floors in a nice, warm, dry restaurant instead of this. I wanted more, and wouldn't work for it the hard way. Now I had to try a harder way. Somehow I felt that if I kept moving away from Perdition Camp, I might get a shot at redemption. Maybe the others would as well. A high, steep ridge of hills was forcing us west toward the sea. Occasionally we'd cross a stream and slake our thirst and fill what containers we had. Finally we came through a last stand of brush and found ourselves on a shingle beach watching a storm at

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sea. Waves crashed on black rocks and white spray flew up and fell back, and all the while the sea surged like a vast, muscular creature in agony, beating against the land with hammering dark green waves. The wind was southwesterly and this beach was exposed. We had to get over the point that reached into the sea to the north of us if we were to find better shelter than the trees would provide. I was about to issue the order when I saw an aircar struggling through the storm a few hundred kilometers off shore and at low enough altitude that they could easily see us. I looked around. People were still filtering out of the woods onto the beach, then standing there and staring at the power of a storm at sea. "Get back!" I yelled. "Back into the woods! We can't let them see us!" I was pointing at the aircar, all the while realizing that by the time my message got through to the people, the aircar would have seen them. People started looking up, and then the aircar veered, first towards us, then away, then took off southward at top speed. "They know where we are," I announced. "We can't be here when they get back. If you value your lives, friends, you will get over that point to the north and we'll start finding the fastest way to move from here." Word spread through the people with that lipless whisper they learned as penitents who were not allowed to speak. They started moving in a mass with a speed that surprised me, almost jogging though the difficult terrain.

Worn Jangold receives a counsel of caution__________________________

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Adam Adams came to see me at the Grand Chapel. I needed his expertise for the logistics of our mission. I made him second in command because a glorified supply officer wouldn't be second-guessing my tactics. Yet here he was, counseling me to delay or proceed gently. "We've found the enemy and must engage them. It is the will of Frank that we annihilate them," I said. "Wouldn't it be easier and more efficient to defeat them without engaging them?" he asked with his usual bloodless manner, as if he were arranging a shipment of corn. "They have no source of food. Track them a few more days, and you'll only have to let them smell food cooking to get them to surrender." "This is war," I said. "In war, you fight, you don't cook." "Your army is made up of men and women related to the men and women who escaped from the penitentiary. It will be easier to take them back than to slaughter them," Adam said. "They have placed themselves outside the Zone of Control. They are an affront to the Church and to the Tortured God. Only death awaits them now." "Yes, well, we all die, or so I'm told. I've never quite been able to believe that about myself. Did you know that in the 20th century, they decided they couldn't hang people because it was aesthetically wrong? Sometimes the prisoner would weigh too much and the head would come off, and sometimes the drop would be too short and the neck wouldn't break so the prisoner would dangle and dance for quite some time while strangling. Giving the condemned an overdose of opium was deemed too pleasant, so the electric chair was invented to give the prisoner a sufficiently but not excessively gruesome death. Later, a lethal injection was concocted that was guaranteed to kill the

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prisoner without the pleasure opium would have given them. And now, we echo those primitive times, with a decree that these people must die at a particular time and in a particular way in order to satisfy our feelings. I tell you, it is better to heal than to bleed. Show these people that they are not monsters in our eyes, let them come back and serve their terms, and the Church will be stronger for it." I could not believe the man's effrontery and impudence. "I have always thought you an intelligent man, Mr. Adams," I told him, "but you clearly do not understand the dynamics of the situation. If the Church allows itself to be defied, its authority will collapse. Our civilization would be plunged into chaos, and would cease to deserve the term 'civilization.' I have three ships full of troops. Two will go north of the penitent's position and one will go south of it. The larger force will interdict the Monsters, as they choose to call themselves, and push them south into the southern unit. They will be surrounded and annihilated. That is how war is fought, Mr. Adams. Wars are won by attacking." "I am sure that was Napoleon's logic in invading Russia. Still, you are supreme commander of the armed forces. We will attack when and where you tell us to. I'm sure you will find the right timing and the right amount of force to bring victory with the least suffering." "We will attack quickly, and we will end their suffering efficiently," I assured him. "You do what you do best, and get the supplies there on time." "I hear and obey," Adam said. "By the way, what do you think of the weather?" "Let God see to the weather," I told him, "and let me see to the tactics. You see to the bread and the water."

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Then I walked up to the altar. The Grand Chapel doesn't have the sort of gruesome portrayal of the Torture of Frank that we see so often in less formal settings. It just has two Y-shaped steel posts that support a meat skewer. I took the skewer from its sacred place on the altar and turned toward Adam. "This is what I will give them," I thundered. "They have named themselves after the monster Polyphemus, who eats our people. I will give them the suffering that was visited on our Tortured God. I will carry this forward into battle. Frank will be with us, symbolized by this skewer."

Cage becomes a prophet______________________________

I should have known something was up. Limba didn't sleep with me for a couple days. I was so tired that I didn't mind. After days of chasing around trying to keep the group together, I was so exhausted that I couldn't imagine a pleasure greater than sleep. When I woke up on the fifth day, Limba and Big Jake were standing over me. Jake was tall and wide, not as fat as he'd been when we left prison but still a big man in every direction. He wasn't nimble, and I was sure I could take him, but Limba wouldn't know that. He was in for smoking tobacco, a weed left behind by the anarchists. It was a two-year sentence, and he'd broken enough rules in three months to be up to five years. Whatever our crimes, the punishment eventually became the same. We were not there for redemption, only to be enslaved by our guilt. Limba was the bigger threat, because I figured the people would follow her. Two of her harpies stood right behind her. Angel Stone stood off to one side.

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"Get up, Cage," Limba said. "Things have changed. Jake's the new man in charge. I don't like how you've been running things, so I've decided to replace you." "Women always do replace me," I said. "Maybe I'm just not good in bed." She smiled a little at that, as if reminded of a fond memory. "You've been taking over," she said. "I could tell there wouldn't be a place for me eventually. Instead, I've decided to make sure there isn't a place for you." I stood slowly, keeping the dirty blanket I'd slept under wrapped around me. "I don't mind not being in charge," I told her, "I'll follow you." "The hell you will," Jake boomed. "We're staying put. You're leaving." I nodded sleepily. It figured. I slung my water bottle over my shoulder and started walking toward the fire to get some food. "No food for you," Limba said. "Just start walking." "Which way?" "You've been taking us north. You go on north." "All right." I started walking, waiting for a blow from behind. It's the way I've expected to go for years. I had walked a hundred meters or so before I realized no blow would come. I noticed, too, that Angel was walking with me, ten meters off to the right and behind. "Don't come with me," I said. "I'm being pushed out. I'll be alone. No food, no help." "You won't be alone," Angel said. "I'll be with you. They will be with you." She pointed off behind. Some people were getting up from one of the cook fires, and they walked toward us. I kept walking.

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"Anyone who comes with me will be outcast from the outcast. I'm unwanted. I've always been unwanted. Why would you want to be with me?" "We trust you." "You know my history? I'm a killer. I was jailed for taking two lives. I've taken four more since then. It seems like the only talent I've got is for things I should never have done." "We don't care," said a voice to my left. It was the old man I'd told Jake to stop beating. More people were with him, as if he'd acquired a following. They each carried a piece of stout rope. There was something strange about them. They were ragged and weak and seemed to be hurting, but moved with purpose and determination. I turned away shaking my head, and kept walking. I got hungry and managed to find a few berries. I didn't dare stop walking. I could hear people moving through the brush behind me. Jake and Limba must be devoting a lot of resources to making sure I got plenty far away. As the sun got higher, the old man took his shirt off and I could see welts all over his back. Then he swung the rope he carried over his left shoulder so it struck his back. I stopped dead. "Why did you do that?" I asked him. "Because" Whup! Over the right shoulder, "I have sinned." "Well, yeah, we all sinned. What was your sin?" I asked. "Gambling. I was caught with cards, and sent to penitence for two years." Whup! Over the left shoulder. "Two years? Keep your nose clean and you can be gambling on the outside in no time."

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Whup! Over the right shoulder. "That was thirty years ago. I could not stop sinning. I talked when I was supposed to be silent." Whup! Over the left shoulder. The others were taking off their shirts, the men and the women as well, and hitting themselves with the ropes. "And I was insolent in my aspect. The guards saw that and punished me. With every punishment more time was added. I tried to run" Whup! Over the right shoulder, "but they brought me back. I protested my innocence, but they saw the sin within me. They tried to beat the sin out of me." "There are no guards here to beat you," I reminded him. Whup! Over the left shoulder. "Then I must beat myself." I was shaking my head and walking again. The sea seemed calmer that day. I just kept it to my left and kept walking. We came to a rocky point and I walked out to the end of it, then looked back to see who Limba had sent to follow me. I saw behind me a line of men and women, old and young, walking after me. "Why are they coming this way?" I asked myself aloud. "They have faith in you," Angel answered. "I have nothing to feed them," I said. Suddenly, the responsibility for those people felt crushing. "You had nothing to feed them before. If they wanted food, they would have stayed in Perdition," Angel said. "They didn't follow me out of the penitentiary. They followed Limba." Angel shook her head.

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"Limba talked. You did things. Limba is lost. You go forward. Limba was strong on the surface. You are strong in the depths." "You don't know me," I told her. "I'm a bad man. I've done great harm. I'll never pay for the things I've done. Not in a lifetime, not in a thousand lifetimes." "You want to," Angel said. "We all want to. At the penitentiary, they wouldn't let us. They invented new sins for us." "They needed the labor," I told her. "They would never have let us pay for our sins and start anew," she said. "The people think you will." "Why me?" "They have seen the others who want to lead. They choose to follow you." "Will they all be beating themselves like the old man and his group?" "No. My uncle Roth and his followers feel they can beat the sin out of themselves. Others have other ways." "He's your uncle?" She nodded. "That's why I got myself sent here. We stopped getting letters. The Church said he was alive, but wouldn't let us see him." "I guess now you know why," I said. "So you're not really a pill-popper?" "No," she said. "I was stealing pain pills. I just didn't let them catch me until the family got worried about Roth." "Was it worth it?" "Well, it did get me to stop taking pills." No mention of satisfaction in finding Roth. "Would you take them again if you got out?"

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"A week ago, yes. Not now." My eyes started to water and I turned away. Only by walking ahead could I keep the others from seeing.

When we camped that night it was cold and damp and none of us had eaten much. I don't think anyone spoke more than three words. We were exhausted. We built fires but had nothing to cook. Most of us had no fat to live on. The way they work us in the camps, we get thin. Big Jake stole food from others, and he was only three months in penitence. He'd have gone thin in time, we all do. I felt like I should say something. "If we don't find food, we're done for," I said. Not a good beginning. "I pray to Frank for all of you. You don't deserve what's been done to you, and you don't deserve to starve. I feel like I should take care of you, but what you need is beyond my power. I pray Frank sends us food." Not very inspirational. Fortunately, only about a dozen people were gathered around that particular fire. Well, I thought, in the silence that followed what I said, that's how my short career as a preacher ends. "I know your stomachs hurt," I added. "Try to sleep, and we'll see what the dawn brings." I stood and walked a few steps from the fire, found some leaves to lie on and pulled my blanket around me. Angel followed me. "I'm cold," she said. "Okay." I let her come under my blanket. All I had left to offer was the warmth of my body, but I wanted to give all of them everything.

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Dawn came with wind and rain. We could hear the waves pounding against the shore, and I could imagine the sea writhing as in agony again, pounding in futile pain against the shore. "A ship!" someone called, an old, unsteady voice I recognized as Roth. "Two ships!" "Stay in the forest!" I bellowed. "Don't let them see you this time!" I staggered to my feet and headed for the beach, and Angel trailed behind. From behind a tree, I watched two ships laboring by, sometimes with waves breaking completely over them. They were light self-powered grain barges, the kind used on the upper rivers. They weren't meant to live in this weather. I called together as many as could hear me. It was frightening how many came limping through the woods. "Those ships were never meant to go to sea," I told the people. "If they are here, they were sent to outflank us. I'm guessing they are full of soldiers meant to kill or recapture us. We are not an army. We will not fight. Today we will stay here and send out parties to search for more food. A few will go north with what food we can send, to travel fast and learn where this army disembarks. Our only hope is to fade into the woods and hope they pass us by. When we are staying out of sight, we cannot search for food. We must gather enough before the soldiers come to hide until they pass." It turned out most of my chosen men had come with us. I put them in charge of foraging parties. I put Shorty Sanchez in charge of the scouting party looking for the landing place. My guess was that the army would need a couple days to land and get

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organized, and they would need a well-sheltered harbor in which to land. I could only pray such a harbor was well north of where we were. I wanted to be on that scouting party myself, but if I left the main body of those souls who trusted me, they might panic and run north or south. North to follow me, south to escape the army. I didn't know which way most would go. I stared out at the pounding waves, awed by the power of the storm. I wondered whether the ships would founder, and take the army down with them. I found that I could take no satisfaction in the thought. I'd had a hard shell over myself all my life, and I learned not to trust and tried not to care. Now, with a few hundred people following my sinful self into the wilderness, I was starting to feel the pain of everyone around me. I knew what beatings felt like, I knew what it was to be betrayed. I had feared death and felt the fear those men on the ships must feel. To be believed in made it all different somehow. It made cynicism seem foolish. It made it important to me what happened to the people who were so unfortunate as to follow me. As a lifer, I could consider my mistakes and berate myself, but nothing in Perdition gave me a chance at redemption. I felt like, if I could do something for these people, I could redeem myself a little. Nothing would bring those people in the bank back to life, though. There was a storm inside of me for years before the storm I was watching had hit this coast. I had lived for years knowing the storm would never abate. Then I saw another ship laboring up from the south. This was a bigger one, a lower-river barge. It was heavy laden, right down past the Plimsol line. It seemed like every wave broke over the vessel, and I knew they were not allowed watertight decks, so

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the water would flood in, and once in the hull the free-surface effect would take over – the water would flow to exactly the point where the vessel needed buoyancy to have stability. The design was intended to ensure that no sane skipper would take these ships to sea, and try to explore the Zone of Alienation. Even in its intended use, the cargo would have to be in sealed containers to keep it dry, because the design let rainwater through the decks. She was intended for smooth water and the lazy current of a river flowing through flat and fertile land. Her engines were no more powerful than the ones in the smaller ships that had gone on ahead. She was bluff-bowed and flat bottomed, the most capacity anyone could put in a vessel that would fit the moorage by the grain elevators. The skipper kept trying to point the bow out to sea, but then the ship would yaw and veer toward shore, in danger of being pooped as the huge waves came at the stern. Our beach was on an open bay between two points. It looked to me as if they had barely scraped around the southern point, and I could imagine the elation of the crew evaporating as the came around the point and found themselves embayed, facing another point reaching farther to the west. Our bay was open to the southwest, and offered no shelter from the storm. Angel and Roth approached me where I sat on a rock. "Won't they see you sitting there?" Angel asked. "They've got other things on their minds," I told her. "It is carrying more soldiers, isn't it?" she said. "More likely stores for the soldiers," I replied. "So the soldiers get to eat while we starve," Roth grated. "Not likely. They won't get past the point."

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"They're dead men, then," he said. "Can't we warn them somehow?" Angel asked. "They know." I stood and started to walk toward the northern point. "You want a better view?" Roth said. "No." They followed me as I walked out to the point in plain sight. The ship would get there well ahead of me. I started to jog. The skipper seemed to decide to stop trying to go off shore, and just try to make the best speed he could to the north and hope he could clear the point. I started to run. I dropped the blanket I had been wearing over my shoulders. The ship was close to clearing the point when it shuddered and stopped. It had hit a submerged rock and was pinned against the shore while waves pounded it. Every wave seemed to break right over the bridge deck at the top of the superstructure on the stern of the vessel. Men came out of the superstructure and started trying to launch a boat, and as they started lowering it, a wave broke over the vessel and it was hidden in the foam for a moment, then when it passed I could see the smashed boat hanging by the stern. They stopped trying to launch it and tried a liferaft, which entered the water and inflated itself. Then the raft turned over as the next wave broke, and the line that held it to the ship broke. I stripped off my shirt as I ran. The point seemed a million kilometers away. The ship's back broke and the bow and stern seemed to be headed in different directions, still held together by the hull plating in the landward side. A wave bigger than any other I had seen hit the hull and superstructure, and instead of foam, the whole thing was under green water. The superstructure, never designed to take a wave, broke free. I had worked a few trips on a ship like that. All the crew's quarters were in that superstructure. With waves breaking over the entire vessel, no one could live on deck. I

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kicked off my shoes and removed my trousers. Then I ran into the sea. Gooseneck barnacles shredded the soles of my feet. I got out deep and started to swim. I was kicked off my high school swim team for blasphemy. I still had a strong stroke. I headed for the lee of the wreck. A few minutes later I had a limp body by the hair and started towing the sailor ashore. When I got there I found it was a woman in an officer's uniform. Roth and Angel were there. "Get her breathing," I yelled, and headed out again. This time I got someone with shorter hair and had to hold the sailor by the bearded chin. The cross-chest hold I'd learned in lifesaving class didn't allow me enough freedom of movement to swim hard, and I had to swim hard to keep from being pounded on the rocks at the point. I got him back to the beach and set out again. This time the sailor I grabbed was struggling, and when I got close he pushed me down, trying to climb my body up to the air. I let myself go down and grabbed him by the ankles, turned him around and grabbed him from behind. "Relax!" I yelled in his ear, and he went limp. The panic had left him. On the way to the beach a wave threw us against a barnacle-encrusted rock. The barnacles raked my naked body from shoulder to shin. Then we were free and I was towing him back to the land again. "You're bleeding!" Angel yelled when I got back again. "I know," I said, and plunged back in the water. Two more trips, two more sailors. I was staggering down the beach again when Angel, Roth and a third person grabbed me and wrestled me to the ground. I found my muscles had no strength to fight them, but I tried.

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"There were five in the crew," Angel said. The person helping her and Roth was one of the sailors. "They all made it?" I asked. "Two are alive," she said. "The others were dead before you got them." "Only two?" I murmured. "I needed six."

Tough plastic containers of flour were washing ashore. Ready-to-eat meals, sealed air and water tight, washed ashore as well, and bottled water. The people started making cook fires, and feasting. Angel tended my wounds. I was so tired I could barely move. A few medical kits had washed ashore, so Angel had something to work with. Roth sat staring at me. "We needed food, and you prayed for it," he said at last. "Frank has never answered my prayers." "Frank would never answer my prayers by killing three sailors," I replied. "They were going to be shipwrecked somewhere on the coast. It happened where it would keep a few hundred people alive," Roth said. "Their deaths were brought about by whoever sent them into the storm. Frank kept them alive until they could bring the food to us." Just then Angel jabbed a needle into me. I turned my head to her. "No painkillers," I said. "I want to keep my head clear." "Too late," she said, and smiled.

The time until the next morning felt like it happened under water. Sometimes I heard voices. Sometimes I was too far beneath the sea. I must have slept a lot, and woken up

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often. At first I was floating along looking down at my body, and sometimes something dark would fly over me. Angel's face would float down from above, and sometimes I tasted food. Sometimes I was pounded on the back until objects flew out of my mouth. Then it was dark and there was fire and sparks and warmth as Angel settled in against my body. Morning dawned gray and cold. Agony gripped the left side of my body where the barnacles had raked my naked skin. Angel sat up, naked in the falling mist, and threw the blanket off me. She dug into the medicine box and pulled out a salve she massaged into my protesting flesh. I groaned and clenched my teeth as she did it, but started to feel less pain after a time. She walked away to get some food, and I struggled up to a sitting position. She came back with a bowl of steaming stuff and tried to push me back down again. "Let me sit," I managed. She gave the bowl to me. It proved to be full of oatmeal. I ate it and felt warmer. "Help me up." I could hardly do more than whisper. Angel helped me to my feet. I swayed. I was feverish and the world was spinning. Finally I collapsed, fortunately falling on my right side. "We stay here today," Angel said. "The people have to rest and eat." I nodded, and let her wrap me in the blanket again. When I woke again the sun had broken through. It came from the side where the surf pounded, so I knew it must be afternoon. Angel noticed me trying to sit up and brought me hot cornmeal. I felt better after eating it. When the sun went down again, Angel settled against my body once more.

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"Tomorrow, we must leave this place," I told her. "Hush," she said. "You have to rest."

Worn Jangold all at sea______________________________

"I will have your license for this," I told the captain. "You will also find that there is a heavy penance for sabotaging the military plans of the Church in a time of emergency." "There's a death penalty for stupidity," she said. "The other troopship got caught on a lee shore. With this storm pounding them into the rocks, it's unlikely anyone lived." "No one saw it go ashore," I reminded her. "No one saw it escape," she said. "We got out by the skin of our teeth. They were inshore of us. Now, I'm in command, the Provider is my ship, and I say we stay in the shelter of this island until the storm blows over." "Who do you think confers command upon you? I have about 500 soldiers aboard, and I represent the Church here. I have both the authority and the force to take command any time I wish to." Captain Lauren Nightingale stiffened. I could tell she knew she was beaten. She was a tall, raw-boned woman with a reddish face and graying black hair. She was used to being in charge. It was something new to have to answer to someone on her own ship. We were in my quarters, which had been hers until I had commandeered the vessel for this mission. "If you arrest me, you can take command," she said. "Until you do that, I will assume that I am responsible for this ship and all the lives aboard it."

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I smiled. I had seen her second in command, and he struck me as easily cowed. When the time came, he would do. "Would you like a glass of wine?" I asked her. "I find my quarters were well stocked, and have been enjoying the larder on this journey." She shot a dirty look at me. I had not really enjoyed much of her wine because I had been seasick for most of the trip. "Speaking of larders," she said, "We haven't seen any sign of the storeship. I'm beginning to think they've gone ashore as well." "I understood the store ship was slower than this vessel. I'm sure it will arrive in time." She wasn't going to put me off with that nonsense. "We should have seen them by now," she said. "I'm not worried," I assured her. "You shouldn't be." "In a storm like this, I'm always worried," she said. "I'm going up to check on things." "I thought you anchored here because you wanted to be safe," I taunted her. "Anchors drag. I'm not going to end up like those other ships." She went out and closed the door behind herself.

She was wet and windblown half an hour later when she returned. "Three men missing," she announced. "The entire anchor watch." "Probably just retired to their bunks," I said, sipping her wine ostentatiously. She shook her head. "I checked. Not that those sailors would desert their posts, but I did check. I don't believe those men are aboard this ship."

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"You think they swam for shore?" I enquired. "No. There's a footprint half a meter long in the pilothouse. I think we both know what that means." I set down the wine glass. "This isn't that island." "This isn't what island?" she demanded. "You haven't given me any bloody charts. Is this the giant's island? Do you know where that island is?" A chill ran down my back. We couldn't be that far north. I flipped open the screen to look at the chart we had made from satellite photos, the locators in the runaway's boat, the spacer's boat and the Seeker. "Tell me our coordinates," I said. She did. It was an estimate based on dead reckoning, but it was near enough for me to be sure. I cursed. "I take it this is the island," she said. "Pull up the anchor!" "What makes you think he's not still aboard?" She asked me. "Oh, sweet Frank."

Polyphemus spreads death & fear________________________

At last, an enemy. They limped into the harbor pursued by a southwesterly, the most vicious sort of storm in this region. After the anchor went down, no one stayed on deck. They must have felt lucky to get into the lee of the island. They wouldn't feel lucky for long. I

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made my way down to the beach and in the gray light that could have been any time of daylight, I slipped into the water and swam to the anchor chain of the ship. I climbed the chain and managed to get a hand over the rail. No one was hanging about the deck. The anchor watch was easy to find. I looked in the sheltered places a man would hide in. Up in the forepeak a man crouched behind the bulwarks and pulled on a flask. His back was toward me. It was an easy matter to grab his head in one hand and twist until I felt his neck crack. Over the side he went. Then I climbed the steps to the bridge deck making no effort at concealment. I pulled open the door to the pilothouse and found two men inside. One reached for a speaker button, but I caught his arm and pulled him out and heard his scream disappear in the whistling wind as he plunged to the deck. The other man cowered by the nav station, but once I had managed to get myself fully into the pilothouse, there wasn't much of anywhere for him to go. I reached for him slowly, so he could think about it, and put a hand on his little shoulder before bringing my thumb up to his throat and choking the life out of him. He struggled, but the size and strength the growth bug has given me meant that he had no chance. When he stopped struggling, I pulled him out of the pilothouse and took him down to the deck. I tossed him over the side and dealt with the other dead man from the pilothouse the same way. I walked the deck casually after that, looking for anyone else to kill. No one else was around. Finally I decided to climb to the top of the superstructure aft, to the highest point on the ship. I laid on the roof and let the rain wash me clean, waiting for the next watch to come. I slept after a time. Shouting woke me. Sleepily I put my head over the edge of the roof to look down at the deck below. Night had fallen, and lights illuminated the deck. A mass of humanity marched around the deck. The orders were hard to hear over

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the wind, but I gathered all the soldiers who had been below deck had been called to make sure the decks were clear, that no enemy was aboard. I smiled. Of course, eventually they would find me, and we would fight, and I would kill some, perhaps many, before I died. They ran around the deck for an hour. They took it very seriously, issuing orders and reporting at the top of their lungs. Finally they seemed to calm down. Eventually I realized that they thought I was gone. They pulled up the anchor and the ship went out into the storm. I smiled and laid back down on the roof. Soon we were rolling in the great waves of the open sea. They kept the wind behind us, so the waves came from straight behind. If they let the waves come off the quarter, the ship might have broached, turning sideways to the wind and letting the waves roll the ship right over. They could only go northeast, and hope to come to some shelter before they reached the shore. If we were pounded against the rocks I wouldn't mind. I would die happily knowing that the troopship had managed to kill all the troops. After all, they would have stayed in the shelter of the harbor if not for me. I could take credit for all their deaths. The ship was long and narrow. We rolled so much that soon I was seasick, wondering whether I would vomit and give away my position. I focussed on my anger and kept myself in control. Sometimes the bow of the ship would dig into a wave ahead, taking green water over the deck and no doubt making it almost impossible to keep the ship from broaching. Fear helped me forget about my seasickness. The rain came down hard and nearly horizontal. Once I dared put my head over the side of the superstructure and saw a man closing the door to the pilothouse. Acting on an impulse, I reached over and grabbed his

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head in my right hand. I picked him up by the head and heard his neck snap before he could cry out. I shook him just to be sure and tossed him back on the deck. Twenty minutes later I heard someone scream when they found the body. I smiled and lay back in the rain and enjoyed the feeling.

Captain Lauren Nightingale_____________________

Worn found my first officer laying on the deck with his neck broken. Worn was shaken, and went down to his cabin (which used to be mine) and didn't answer his door for an hour. To me, it meant that somehow his troops searched the ship and never found a man the size of a house. Worn denied it, of course, but he denied it through a locked door. I made sure the remainder of the crew were equipped with sidearms after that. Not that having their necks broken was the worst of my worries. Worn had basically forced me at gunpoint to take my ship out of port, and with the threat of the giant, I'd have had a mutiny on my hands if I'd defied him. But we could eventually have found and killed the giant. The storm was a lot more powerful, and more likely to succeed in killing us all. I had a chart Worn had finally given me, prepared from satellite photos. It showed a sheltered harbor, a semicircular hook of stone just south of an equally rocky point, that must be a real hurricane hole. It lay to the northeast, which was the way we had to go anyway to keep from broaching. I told Worn if we could reach that, we would be safe. He just laughed and turned away.

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I had no time for him after that. With a flat-bottomed riverboat in a full gale at sea, I'd be lucky enough just to get the crew ashore with no more deaths. The jamming signal that was taking out our communications was also preventing the locator from working properly, so I had to rely on dead reckoning to find our safe harbor. It's called dead reckoning because if you reckon wrong, you're dead. Finally through the driving rain I saw a headland jutting out into the sea. If my navigation was right, we needed to go into the harbor just south of the point. If I was wrong and it wasn’t the right point, there would be no harbor there and we would be pounded on the rocks of the point. Without the usual navigation aids, I contemplated for a moment going past the point and hoping to find enough shelter there to survive. But no, the satellite photos showed a broad open bay to the north of the point I thought it was, too open for shelter from a storm from the west. It also showed a small, safe harbor with a narrow entrance to the south of it. I took the helm myself, thinking I'd get an extra couple seconds of reaction time by not having to tell a helmsman where to steer. We were running right toward what looked like a solid wall of broken black rocks and foaming white surf. I knew that by the time I saw the harbor entrance – or didn't – it would be too late to try and weather the point. I kept on, and found Provider passing a long hook of stone running out into the sea, and suddenly off to starboard I saw the entry to the harbor and calm water within. I turned hard to starboard, then felt a wave take the stern and try to spin the ship, so I spun the wheel hard port, felt the ship coming up anyway, then felt the rudder bite and felt Provider stop spinning and shoot forward. Suddenly we were inside the harbor and the ship easily answered her helm. I turned upwind and cut the throttle, and as the ship coasted to a stop I ordered the anchor let go.

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Only when we had backed down on the anchor and I was sure it wasn't dragging did I finally relax. No one wanted to be outside on deck. I let Eddie, my second officer, and a crew member stand their watch inside the pilothouse. When I left the pilothouse Eddie came out with his sidearm drawn, looking nervously above us as if expecting to see a giant looming over us. I made it down to my stateroom without incident and Eddie left me aiming his sidearm at phantoms and leaping about like a mouse looking for a cat. I couldn't blame him. Probably he was right. He called me on the intercom in the early hours of the morning to tell me that he'd heard a large splash. I could hear the storm still howling, the surf still pounding and the thin line of rocks that separated us from the open sea. I told him to call me when the splashing stopped. It was nearly time for me to relieve him anyway. I dressed and went up to the pilothouse. Before I entered, I saw through the window Eddie and the crewman standing watch with him. They stood next to each other in the middle of the pilothouse, as far as possible from the doors. They weren't quite back to back, but one was looking starboard and one was looking port. When Eddie caught sight of me he started, and had his sidearm aimed at me by the time he recognized me. I banged the door open, angry and a little scared. He could well have killed me with his jumpy nerves. "Eddie, what's going on here?" I demanded. "Where's Bob?" he asked me. Bob was the crewman who was supposed to stand watch with me.

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"I'm a little early. Maybe Bob will be a little late. This sort of thing happens all the time." "You should have come up here together," Eddie said. "So you could shoot us both before you recognized us?" Eddie realized the sidearm was hanging loose in his hand, and holstered it. "Sorry, Captain," he said. "Get some sleep. That's an order." "We can't leave you alone here," he said. "You go to bed. Aaron here can stay until Bob comes up," I told him. He hesitated, then nodded and left the pilothouse. His hand was on his sidearm as he left. It was a threeshot, the sort of projectile weapon we still have the technology to manufacture. They are reliable, and won't make inconvenient holes in a steel ship. Aaron carried one of the good ones, an antiproton weapon of the sort our ancestors brought to this planet, devastating at almost any range but a bit long in the tooth and sometimes unreliable. I carried the same sort of weapon Eddie did. "You okay, Aaron?" I asked him. Aaron Singh was young, slight and rather pretty. His dark skin showed off his perfect white teeth, and the girls just flocked around in port. He was the best-dressed ordinary seaman I had ever seen, always with a perfect crease in his trousers, his uniform shirts tailored to his tapered waste. He always looked cool, confident and in control, but tonight his just looked scared. He ran his fingers through his hair, which looked unkempt. "I'm. I'm. I'm fine."

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"I'm sure you are, Aaron. I'm glad you're aboard. You always keep your cool." Sometimes, people live up to your expectations. Sometimes it helps to raise the bar a little so they can rise to it. And sometimes they are just too panicked to hear you. "Thank you, Captain," he said, and bucked up a little. Probably seeing Eddie so spooked had scared him. Aaron looked up to Eddie, who was only a few years older and already a second officer. "This harbor is a real hurricane hole," I said. "It's a good thing we found our way in." "You are a great navigator," he said. I never know how to handle compliments. In the silence that followed while I tried to think of a rejoiner, we heard a shot. "Eddie," I said. I drew my sidearm and went out the door. I pounded down the metal staircase Eddie had gone down and heard Aaron following me. We got down to the main deck, and I saw Eddie laying on the deck. I holstered my sidearm and kneeled down to check his pulse. He was still alive. "Get Worn Jangold," I told Aaron. "There's got to be a doctor with that army of his." "Captain," he said, looking past me. "What?" I was irritated. I turned to see what he was looking at. It was a huge man wearing only a loincloth and a sheathed sword on his back. One eye was milky white and a scar showed what happened to it. I was frozen. Aaron pulled his weapon, tried to shoot, but the weapon misfired, fizzed. He stepped forward and pulled my sidearm from its holster. Before he could raise it and fire the giant had vaulted the rail and disappeared into the storm with a splash.

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"Get me Worn," I said when I could breath again. Aaron remembered to return my weapon before he went on the errand.

Joy loses an argument with the terraformers____________________________

After the terraformers arrived, runners went to the interior to raise the clans. Wildwind sailed to the west to tell the sea people. My own people wanted me to go into their camp, but I felt I would do more good staying with the exiles. "We have more weapons than people," I told Bil. "When those from the interior arrive and the sea people are here, we will outnumber the Vegan forces. They will have to give in peacefully." "No," he shook his head slowly. "We are not a peaceful people. Our weapons are few and old, because our force has been directed at ourselves. But don't think of us as pacifists. We fought for this world and won it by force and by guile. We are not so simple to defeat." "These are not the anarchists, who destroyed their own technology with their feuds," Jonah reminded him. "The terraformers may be few, but they are more technologically sophisticated than the enemies your people have faced in the past, Bilbo. And with the numbers of the First People added to their own, they might outnumber you." "You think you can beat us so easily?" Bilbo asked. "Not me," Jonah said. "I'm not a part of this conflict. I'm just telling you what I see." "No one can see," Bilbo said. "The satellites are jammed."

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"Not ours, Bil," I said. "Cyril 4 can access all the satellites, because we know what channels we aren't jamming at a particular moment. We've heard the news and the official communications of the Vegan Church. There has been a mass breakout at a penitentiary, and your Church has sent troops to the north and south of the escapees. If we attack the northern army, they will be trapped between us and the penitents. We can wipe out half of your army before they know what is happening to them. Every man, woman and child on the transports knows how to wield weapons. That was a requirement to get on the transports. We may have fewer people, but we are all soldiers." Jonah looked thoughtful. "What if you showed them?" he asked me. "Showed who what?" I asked, annoyed. "Showed the opposing army that they are outnumbered." "It would cost us the element of surprise." "It is always better to win without fighting," Jonah said. "Place them in checkmate, then ask them to submit. After all, if you win with too many losses, you will have lost. If you win with no losses, you will have won, correct?" "I'll take it to the Council," I told him. "I doubt they will be inclined to take that chance."

I was right. The Council took the view that the Northern Army of the Church would be the best equipped and would have senior leadership, and annihilating it would provide us our best chance at negotiating a place on this world.

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"They only understand force," said Watt Wylie, President of the Council. "We will overwhelm them with force." "How many leaders have said that to how many people, only to plunge them into endless warfare because their opponents said the same to their people?" I appealed. "Can we not at least attempt to settle on this world with a minimum of animus?" "Our intelligence on the leader of the Northern Army of the Church indicates that any attempt at compromise will be seen as weakness. We will not exhibit any weakness to him," Watt said. "Amy, I know how you've tried…" "I have told you, sir, that I have taken a new name." Watt sighed. He had known me since childhood. "All right, 'Joy,' but I can't say I understand your motivations. I promise I will try to recall your new name, but please be understanding if I sometimes slip. I was there at your baptismal," he said. "I understand," I whispered, and turned and walked away.

Roy discusses war______________________________

Raising an army in the plains is easy. You promise them an enemy they hate, new weapons and plenty of grub. They can get the first easily at home, but the other two are hard to come by in my homeland. I sent back Gog and Magog, my fastest runners, and within days hard men started coming over the pass and joining us. They would probably keep coming as the word spread, even long after the conflict ended.

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The terraformers from Cyril 4 had an amazing array of weapons, and good technology for producing more quickly. Given a couple months, they could have outfitted an awesome army. Given about a week, we mostly would rely on our own blades and bows. I had over two hundred men behind me in a matter of days. The sea people's ships brought more of them by the day. They had abandoned the mainland and spent the years since the Vegans took over just hiding out on the islands. I didn't expect much from them in combat, but transporting troops by ship looked like a better prospect than walking. I went to a council of war with the terraformers. They said there were 2,000 of them and all were ready to fight. They clearly thought that with their technology and their numbers they would dictate how we would fight. I looked around the big tent we were meeting in. It was illuminated by some glowing globes the like of which I'd never seen before. The sea people there looked deeply impressed. The terraformers looked pale and weak, like hothouse flowers that didn't get watered enough. They had a tall, skinny leader with gray hair and dark eyes who looked like he was having the time of his life. His name was Anthony Witcher. They called him mostly by his last name, not like us. General Witcher, they called him. "They have split their army in order to encircle the escaped convicts," he explained, pointing with a laser at a satellite photo that he said showed this. "One of the troop ships went ashore with massive loss of life, and a storeship went ashore close to the convict army." He turned toward his audience and smiled as if he'd just told a joke and he wanted to make sure we got it.

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"They have supplied their enemy instead of themselves. They have lost a third of their force by shipwreck. If we attack before they can destroy the convict army, they will be pinned between two forces. We can annihilate the Northern Army of the Church, and the Southern Army of the Church will be ripe for the picking." "Now, wait," I said. "With your 2,000 and my forces, which will soon outnumber yours, we should have an army that they can't possibly tackle. If we show our hand, we won't have to annihilate anybody." General Witcher frowned. He looked disappointed in me. "Given time, with their larger population the Vegans can raise a larger army than ours. It is strategically important to destroy their ability to make war at the outset. Only in that way can we demand our place on this planet." I didn't like the sound of that. "Which place would that be?" I asked. "The plains, or the islands, or the fertile coast that the Vegans already have?" "With our technology, we can live in the highest mountains or at the poles. Even the most inhospitable plot of ground on this planet has more oxygen and water than we've ever had to work with." "If you really want what they don't want, they'll give it up without a fight. Come to that, if you can really cure the growth bug, we can make the plains support a lot more people. You'd be welcome out there with us." There was a murmur of agreement from the plainsmen behind me. "The Vegans have a history of not tolerating people who differ from themselves," he said.

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"Well, shoot, my people have that history as well. I think we might get over it, though, if we can live better," I said. "They didn't even really tolerate us sharing the solar system with them," Witcher answered. "They starved us for oxygen and water. They did their best to make us fail and condemned us to dying by inches." "Ah, well, if this is about revenge you should have said so. Now your strategy makes perfect sense. Annihilation is your war aim, not just a means to an end," I said. His face got red with anger. "They've been on this planet for a century and they only tolerate you because you manage to conceal your existence from them. Don't lecture me about war aims." "Sure, general, only I've actually fought wars. I've commanded an army the size of yours in a blood feud that got out of hand. I've killed at a distance, I've killed with a sword and I've killed with my hands. I've seen people I knew all my life die horrible, violent deaths. I've walked with death, talked with death, smelled it and tasted it. I'm sure I'll know it better soon enough, as well. When you talk about annihilation, let me tell you, I've seen it. As a policy, it lacks charm and sophistication. You wipe out one group, and you find out other groups fear you and band together against you. The object of a war is to get the other side to admit they're beat. If you are cruel in ways you didn't need to be, that gets remembered a long time, and when you're weak others will treat you the way you treated them when you were strong. Now, this is a big planet, and the Vegans have kept themselves to a little corner of it because they are afraid of what is outside their Zone of Control. How many souls do you reckon live in the Zone?" "More than 80,000," Witcher shot back. "Forty times as many as survived from my planet."

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"See, now that's why you think there's a lot of them. Because there's not a lot of you. But 80,000 people on an entire planet is nothing. There's a couple thousand people in a clan territory, and I know there are more than 40 clan territories just in our part of the plains. The plains stretch on a long way, and outside the plains people there are mountain folk, sea people living on the islands, jungle people in the thick tropical forests. If we made ourselves visible to their satellites, they would destroy us, but they stopped searching for us at ground level a long time ago. That suggest anything to you?" "They don't want to find us," said Velveeta Jones, a big woman who owned one of the sea people's ships. "They don't even want to admit we're there. It doesn't fit with their view of the world," I said. "There's at least hundreds of thousands of us. Maybe a million or two, living just below the threshold of intensive settlement that would be too obvious to them. They've had the technology to wipe us out if they had to, so we made sure they didn't have to admit we're here. Your technology has changed the balance. With your help, we won't have to hide, because we can make sure they can't wipe us out. We can make it clear that we vastly outnumber them. We can farm, we can live in towns and not underground." General Witcher called the meeting over, and from the way the other terraformers gathered around him, I figured he was in for a long night. Sun Tzu said the Way means inducing the people to have the same aims as the leadership so that they will share death and share life without fear of danger. By morning I would know whether his people shared my aims or his. If I was right, Witcher could only follow the Way by changing his aims to match those of his people.

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After the meeting Wolf called me over to tell me a couple starving men had wandered out of the woods and approached one of our guards. I went to the cook fire where they were being fed by some Sea People. One was young, in his twenties perhaps, but looking younger because he had a sort of wide-eyed innocence. He wore gray coveralls and was talking to one of the Sea People's women. The other was a toughlooking customer dressed all in black, and had one arm in a sling. He had a sheath for a large knife, which my men had taken from him. I let the young fellow talk to his new friend, while I talked to the dangerous one. "What's your name?" I asked him. "Tavers Lee. I was in something called the Special Unit. They sent us out to search for some runaways." "They send you into the wilderness unarmed?" "Nope. They gave me a rifle. I left it behind when I became another runaway." "You're a deserter?" "You could say that. The commander of my unit went nuts and poisoned the troops. Harry and me were the only ones to get away." "How come Harry wears a different uniform?" "That ain't a uniform. That's work clothes. Harry's a painter. He wasn't supposed to be on this trip. He was painting the flying boat when it took off." "You're a soldier, he's a painter." I was quiet a minute. He didn't jump in to deny that he was a soldier or claim to be a policeman. "Why a rifle?" I asked. "The way I heard it, your people used lasers against us." "We haven't made those in decades," he said. He had a bowl of oatmeal and he took a bite before speaking again. "We haven't had enemies. Projectile weapons are

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cheap to make, and we don't have to use them much. The Church keeps such a tight lid on things, there's not much fighting to be done." "Your Church cleared away half the planet and made the rest of us run and hide," I said. "It's taken a long time and a lot of population pressure to make us move as far west as we have. Before you came up with the growth bug, you'd already wiped out most of us with killer satellites and aircraft raids. We figured the bug was to make sure none of us were left. Now my people have come back as far as the mountains, and the sea people are settling islands closer and closer to your territory. Conflict was coming, but we were still scared. Now you tell me your people have disarmed themselves. Why would you want me to know that?" Tavers put his spoon down. "You're going to wipe us out, aren't you?" he asked. "There's them that wants to," I acknowledged. "I'm not one of them. Just explain to me why your people would put aside their arms." He shrugged. "Once we thought we were alone or nearly so on this planet, the Church put all its efforts into controlling our own people. They didn't want them running off and settling the planet willy-nilly. They wanted us to stay in the Zone of Control. Partly they thought there might be some dangerous remnants of your people out there, but mostly I think they wanted to make sure they were in control." "You know, I've been overhearing what your friend is telling the lovely young lady over there. It's a talent I have, to listen to two things at once. And the story he is telling her doesn't match your tale. He's been telling her about a giant killing some of you, and how you were sent out to kill the giant. Maybe he's just spinning a yarn so as to

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impress her, but we've heard others talk about a one-eyed giant. You've been leaving something out, haven't you?" He looked at the oatmeal for a while, like the mush could help him think. "We were looking for the runaways. Only we were mostly looking for old oneeye. Vorse parked the plane too close to his lair, though. The giant sank the flying boat and killed some of us. Vorse really did poison the rest, though." "You were going to kill the giant?" "Yeah. Guess we weren't up to it, though." "Were you going to kill the runaways?" He looked up sharp at me then. "Vorse ordered us to kill them if we met them. That's when the unit started to fall apart. The boys didn't figure to kill a bunch of teenagers. We started to talk to each other on the sly. None of us cared much for Vorse. If he was as nuts as we figured he was, we might face charges for doing what he said. If he wasn't, we'd face charges for not doing what he said. We didn't see a good way out." "So how come you and Harry were the only ones that ran?" "Harry was a prisoner. I was in charge of him. He told me not to drink the hooch, and the hooch turned out to be poisoned. He saved my life, and would have saved the others if they'd listened." "You eat your fill and get some rest," I told him. I told Wolf to lock them up for the night when they were done eating. If the Vegans had a government that used all its force controlling them, it might not have many willing followers. I needed to take that to General Witcher, but I thought I'd get the ear of the Sea People's leader first. Their ships were the only heavy transport,

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and if I could get the ear of their leader, she might help me keep Witcher from doing anything foolish.

Harry Ponds finds love_______________________________

"Tavers, what's an aubergine? I think I need to find one." "Harry, why on earth do you need an aubergine?" "Well, it's this girl. She brought me the oatmeal. We started talking so I told her all about how I got on the flying boat and how the giant came and killed people and I raised the alarm and all. She seemed real interested so she asked me my name and got me to tell about my Gran and her garden and how I got a job painting. And I asked her about her name. She said she was named Aubergine. And I said that was a pretty name and she started to cry. So I asked why are you crying and she said because there were no more aubergines. I said there is you, and she said but she was named after the food aubergine and all the women in her culture are named after food so they can bring their name foods to parties and stuff. Her parents had the only aubergine plant any sea people had. They were real proud of it. They thought it would be really great if they named their daughter Aubergine because she would be the only person to have that name and that food. Only the plant died so she doesn't have a name food to bring to parties. So I told her I would try to find an aubergine plant for her so she kissed me. So now I need to know what an aubergine is so I can get one." Tavers laughed. "Was that funny?" I asked. "It's an eggplant," he told me.

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"An aubergine? It's an eggplant? My Gran grows eggplant." "Then you may have found a wife." "You think?" "Stop smiling. Wives can make life complicated. No, come to think of it, not for you. All you need is an aubergine. The eggplant and the lady."

Columbine meets the prophet______________________________

During the storm we dragged the boat up a creek and waited. We put up a little tent over it, and we were warm and dry. The packaged food was boring, but we kept ourselves occupied with each other. After the storm we set out again. We had gone only a few kilometers before we came around a headland and saw people on the beach. We steered in and landed. As the bow ground into the sand, I stepped ashore with the bowline. People came walking toward us out of the woods and from both ends of the beach. They were strange people in ragged clothes and they each had an eye painted on their foreheads. I thought we should run away for a moment, but they were walking calmly toward us, not charging us but greeting us. A small, thin woman was the first to reach us. "I am Angel," she said. "Are you from the Church?" "I'm Columbine. He's Gatsby. We are running from the Church." "We are penitents," she said. "We are running from the Church as well." "Why do you all have eyes on your foreheads?" Gatsby asked. "Because we are monsters. The Church has made monsters of us all."

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"I think I am a monster as well," I said. "I have done something terrible. Some good people were hurt." "I think I've been a monster all my life," Gatsby said. "I've only come to see it lately." Angel pulled out a small bottle of ink and a twig. She pulled out the stopper and dipped the twig in the ink and approached me. "Let me give you an eye," she said. I felt her draw the top line, the bottom line, then make a dot between them. "Now you," she said, and did the same for Gatsby. I laughed when she was done. "Your eye looks angry," I told him. He smiled and looked around, seemingly trying to read the expressions in the eyes on the foreheads around him. "Let me take you to Cage," Angel said. "He will know what to do with you." We followed her into the woods until we came to a clearing by a stream. A sort of cabin stood there, constructed of plastic crates and roofed with plastic sheeting. A man sat on a crate there listening to someone giving a report of some kind. He looked up as we approached. He was a square man with a beard growing in, perhaps 35 or 40. His dark eyes had a way of holding you as if you had been brought into a sharper focus than you were used to. He wouldn't allow you to be fuzzy at all. The eye on his forehead was a work of art. It seemed sad and understanding and intelligent. Angel told him our names. He asked for our stories, and we told him, which took a long time because he would ask questions and not let us tell the short version of anything. Finally he seemed satisfied that he knew us.

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"As Angel has probably told you," he said, "we are escaped penitents from Perdition Camp. We have left the old world behind us. We are trying to grow plants, but we may starve before we have a crop, and we will likely be recaptured before we starve unless they decide to let us starve. If you cast your lot with us, we cannot promise you any kind of future. I just received a report on our supplies. With what we've salvaged and what we've managed to find, we might last here a month or even six weeks. I doubt another miracle will come." "If they try to take you back, will you fight them?" Gatsby asked. "We have thrown our weapons into the sea. When they come for us, they will want to kill us. We will give them no reason and no excuse. I expect they will kill me anyway. I hope the people will be allowed to live." "But why would you go back?" I asked. "They made monsters of you." "And we made monsters of ourselves. We are free, you know. We are doomed to be free. Every action or inaction is a choice we make and every choice makes us. We are not free in our circumstances, those are most often given to us, but we are free in how we react to those circumstances. However they may choose to define us, we have the power to define ourselves by our actions. For much of my life, I acted badly. Now people are relying on me. If I act badly, they will suffer for trusting me. Throwing away our weapons is a gesture to define ourselves. We won't kill them because we don't kill. Maybe that's the wrong thing to do, but we're doing it because we mean it, and we mean to live this way." "We want to stay with you," Gatsby said. "My advice is, think about the options you have. You have a lot more than we do. You can go home and ask forgiveness. You can get good at something and work

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hard at it. There's a better way to live than what we're going through. We will make our choices and live with them. You have a different set of choices to make because your circumstances are different. Don't take on our troubles, we made them ourselves. Live your own lives. That's my advice, and I hope you'll take it. Now, I have to try to find ways to stretch our food to last as long as possible, without feeding the people so little that they sicken. Angel will take you away and feed you, and then I think you should go." He turned away from us and gestured to the man he had been talking to before we arrived. Angel led us away. "He's a good man," I said. "Why was he sent to penitentiary?" "He killed people." I stumbled. "But you're in love with him," I said. "He's different now. He was stoic, quiet. Nobody knew what he thought. Now he talks. He tried to lead us to freedom. He thought he failed. Our bodies won't be free. He didn't fail, though. He is leading us to freedom." "If he wants us to go on, we will. We can't take your food, though," I said. "We have food in the boat." "If it hasn't been stolen," Gatsby said. After a brief, awkward silence, he added, "I mean, if people are really hungry…" "Nothing will be stolen from the boat," Angel said. When we got there, we found that she was right.

Worn Jangold begins his march on the penitents___________________________

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It felt like it took forever to unload the ship. Really, it took two days. The hardest part was unloading the lasers. They were intended for attacking a rock face. A rock face doesn't move very fast. They were not designed to be easily portable. They were designed to function day after day, year after year, in an environment where anyone who could advance a hundred meters a day was some kind of god. They wouldn't fit in the inflatables that we used to unload the troops and the stores. We had to use the ship's boats. Once we got them on shore, we had to hook them up to two-wheeled tractors, which didn't have enough power, so the men had to haul them up steep inclines. I left the lady captain and the pretty little boy of hers in charge of the ship, and took the rest of the crew with me. We didn't need the ship anymore. That was a way to get ahead of the escaped penitents. Once we had them prisoner, I didn't mind making them walk. The lady and her boy might get the ship home, though she said with just two people they couldn't. It didn't matter if they didn't. She told me a wild story about seeing the giant on board. Maybe she thought that would worry me. As if such things could worry me with my loyal army around me. We would sweep all before us, then meet with the Southern Army of the Church. Then we would march back into Homeport with the penitents in chains, and the people of Homeport would see my entry as a victorious general. I would have saved them from anarchy, and I would be entering with an army at my back. Who knows what I might achieve? When the army was staged on shore, I gave them another speech. It was less satisfying somehow. They didn't seem to get all the laugh lines in the speech or to cheer

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quite enough when they should. It didn't matter. They would march where I told them to. They would fire where I pointed, I told my second in comman, “The elders of the Church can natter in their meetings. This is real power with live ammo.” We started marching them south. It was harder than it looked. No one lived in the Zone of Alienation, so there were no roads and no trails. We marched them on the beaches, but at every outcropping of rock they had to scramble over. We walked only about 30 kilometers the first day. While the rest of the men made camp for the night, I sent scouts forward to map out a route for the next day. Leading this many men in the field was new to me, but it seemed natural. As night fell the sentries made their rounds of the perimeter while the men sat around the cook fires. They were an old model of cook fires, solid fuel disposable ones, and the fuel was old as well. The Mark IV fuel packets had been produced forty or fifty years ago. It's been so long since we prepared for war. Riding a caisson in the fresh air had tired me out, and I found I went to sleep early. The next thing I knew, someone was shaking my shoulder. It was Adam Adams. I'd made him second in command just to make sure the logistics were done right. "Adams, what are you doing in my tent?" I demanded. "One of the sentries has been found dead, sir," he said. "And the advance scouts haven't returned." "Well, they're probably still scouting, man. I need my sleep. Wait, someone died?" He nodded.

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"The next watch came on and found his body. After a brief search, they found his head. The distance between them appears to explain the guard's demise. He was beheaded with an edged weapon." I was fully awake then. "What happened? Wasn't the man armed?" The guards carried projectile weapons. We should have heard a shot. "He was armed. The rifle was not found. Whoever killed the guard is now better armed." "All guards are to patrol in pairs now. No, make that in threes. Where did this happen?" "The northeast perimeter. Inland and behind the route of our march. The head was not sawed off. It was removed at a single stroke. Someone with an extremely sharp and heavy blade, or someone with tremendous strength, or both, did this." The giant. I didn't want to believe in the giant, even though I had sent men to kill it. "The men are starting to talk, sir. They've never been in combat. They think the penitents are starting to pick them off one by one, sir." "There are nearly 100 active or former sin finders on this force. Form 50 of them into five teams of ten men each. They are to find whoever is responsible for this crime and capture or kill the guilty party. Make sure they have the best arms. When we have a prisoner or a body, they will know that we can deal with any opponents." "Yes, sir." He scurried off to follow my orders. He was the most important businessman in Homeport, but here, he answered to me.

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I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep, so I got up and dressed. I pulled out the satellite photos of the coast and looked them over again. It was a damn shame the jamming signal was making it impossible to get more current photos. The penitent rabble must be much farther north by now. That jamming signal was another worry. It meant the Cyril 4 terraformers were up to something. Probably landing on the planet and trying to keep us from seeing where they went into hiding. They were certainly a threat. Unlike the anarchists, they had the technology to defeat the growth bug. If they could hide long enough, they could build up a population and facilities sufficient to challenge our ownership of the planet. That made it all the more urgent to keep our settlement unified and disciplined. This conflict with the convicts might be the first battle in a long war.

The next day the scouts sent out to reconnoiter our route still had not returned. I formed up the men and sent them marching along the coast again. The satellite maps had shown no better route.

Adam Adams and his ignorant army_________________________

Organizing the sin finders took most of the night. I told them to wait until sunrise to start their search. I kept the others from the site where the guard had died, treating it as a crime scene. Sin Finder General Troobin Gross had quit his job to come with us. I put him in charge of the whole investigation, with all five units of sin finders under his command.

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"What are the chances of finding this…killer…before anyone else dies?" I asked him. I didn't want to say giant. It sounded foolish, somehow superstitious. We'd all been told scary stories about carnivore giants as children. Troobin was a stout man with a walrus moustache and a large, round nose. He wore a long, olive drab coat always, seeming not to care what the weather was. "Hm, well. If he's a giant you might think he would find it hard to hide, but the trees are bigger than he, and the forest is bigger than the trees. My men are not woodsmen. I see from your face that my assessment isn't welcome. Well, we'll see in the morning. Maybe he left a clear trail and we'll find him sleeping under a tree waiting for us. It seems unlikely, but the criminal mind is not a clever mind. Otherwise, they would make an honest living." "Yes, Troobin, I'm sure if you were a giant, and your family had been killed by the dominant society, and you were infected with the growth bug and had grown to a weight of 500 kilos, you would still find a way to make an honest living." "Col. Adams, I am sorry. It is a formula I have used for many years to make people feel better about the prospects for their crime being solved. It flowed from my lips like a prayer for your peace of mind." "I'm sure you meant well, but I don't have the kind of mind that falls easily to rest. I have the kind of mind that can't stop thinking. Report to me with your findings at every rest stop or meal. If you can't make it yourself, send a man to report to me." "Yes, sir, I will." "You'll start at daybreak?" "I'll start sooner, but I will see more by daylight."

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I walked away from him, thinking of the last lines from Matthew Arnold's poem, "Dover Beach:" Ah, love, let us be true To one another! For the world, which seems To lie before us like a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain; And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight. Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I could only hope our army would be less ignorant by daylight.

Columbine witnesses the giant's war___________________________

We kept going north. Once five men came out of the woods on the beach. They carried rifles at the ready and looked forward, and back, and into the woods inshore of them, but didn't look out to sea. Gatsby turned the boat off shore and we looked fearfully over our shoulders hoping they wouldn't look out and see us. An enormous man came out of the woods running full tilt with a machete as long as a man is tall in one hand. The men tried to swing their guns to face him and we heard two shots, but they must have missed because the giant was upon them, hacking off the

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head of one, then turning and cleaving one from shoulder to spine as the man tried to run away. The other three ran. The giant picked up the rifle one of the men had dropped and shot at the two men running north. The first shot took down one man, the second the second man. He then turned south to fire at the last of the men, but that one had dropped his rifle and hoofed it into the woods. The giant stood and walked around picking up the last of the rifles. Then he walked into the woods after the last survivor of the party. Only then did I dare speak. "Was that the giant in the Last Message?" I asked Gatsby. "Either he was that one or another one," Gats said. "I don't know which would scare me more." We went offshore after that until we could only see the mountains, not the shore. We kept them on our right and kept going north. We spent the day going north, and spent the night at sea. Gats wanted me to sleep while he steered all night, but I told him I couldn't sleep. He steered until I heard him snoring, and I pulled him forward and made him lie down. I steered until the sun came up, waking Gats. I felt safer in daylight and slept while Gatsby steered. When I woke the day was warm and Gatsby was shaking my shoulder. "I want you to see something," he said. I sat up wiping sleep from my eyes. "Ahead of us, there," he said. "That's the giant's island. I wanted you to see it." "We're not going there, are we?" "Never. I just wanted you to see that. We're going back toward the shore."

Adam Adams loses faith in his general________________________

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We soon learned why the scouts had not returned. By noon the day after the sentries were killed we started finding bodies. Troobin said from the nature of the deaths, it appeared the enemy preferred to kill by surprise using an edged weapon, then when units scattered he shot those who fled. "Killing at close range is a gory, personal thing. With the weapons our killer has stolen, he could pick the scouts off at long range," Troobin said. "He would rather kill with personal violence. He only kills at long range when he's been outdistanced, and can no longer kill in the intimate way he prefers." "I think we have a pretty good idea who we're dealing with here," I told him. "What we want to do is catch him." "I'll do my best," Troobin said. "But you know, this isn't police work. It's guerilla warfare. We don't need to detect the miscreant and arrest him. We need to hunt him down and kill him." "We don't have hunters, Troobin. You're as close as we come to a hunter." "I'll do my best, sir." He walked off to talk to his men. Worn seemed to think that I didn't understand the importance of catching the giant. He stormed at me and berated me and I stood and accepted it and agreed that we must try harder. He was just afraid, doing verbal violence to me that represented the physical violence he could not do to the giant. We no longer sent out scouts. We traveled with the whole army hunched together, fearful of a single man. The implications for our competence as a fighting unit were devastating to me. We were ill-armed, ill-trained, and our men were raised to think killing was the worst thing in the world. It was a sentiment I shared, but not one I could

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indulge. I had come on this venture to look after the logistics, and within the limits of the time allowed, I felt I had organized things well in the beginning. Worn wouldn't wait on the logistics, on the training or on the weather. Worn still wouldn't admit it, but it was clear a troop ship and a store ship were lost to the weather. How would this dispirited army face any enemy? Our leader refused to even consider the question. I could certainly not discuss it with subordinates. It is not in the nature of armies that subordinates retire their leaders because of incompetence. To even discuss it would be mutiny. Only the elders could fire Worn, and they were not so inclined. They were also not here, facing hardship and fear under his delusional leadership. I could think of two ways to tackle the giant. Either we waited for him to attack us and make a mistake, or we went into the woods to track him. None of Troobin's sin finders would go out on patrol, and I could hardly blame them. That left us dependent on the giant making a mistake, which did not seem to be how he did things. We paused for some grave digging, a brief ceremony and a hurried lunch. We couldn't get the men to march fast. The last deaths had been in front of them. If those men had died behind them, we could not have held them back.

Polyphemus licks his wounds___________________________

I wrapped myself in skins that night. The bullet in my left shoulder hurt as much as everything else they'd done to me all concentrated in one small part of my body. I was starting to feel hot. Maybe it would feel better in the morning. If it got infected, I would

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not wait for it to kill me. I'd rather attack an army in broad daylight and make them kill me. The killing was not as satisfying as I thought it would be. The little men preferred to shoot at me from a distance or run for their lives. No one wanted to fight me face to face. I wanted to charge a row of men with pikes and swords and flail away with my machete, not even protecting myself but lopping off heads and limbs and, yes, letting them kill me in return for killing them. But here I was curled up under a fallen tree, close to the roots. By morning the pain in my shoulder and the fever from infection might cripple me. All these years I've dreamed of vengeance, and I had killed so few. “Ancestors, forgive me,” I prayed. I will try to rise with the sun and do more.

Angel hears a sermon on the hillside______________________________

An army was coming toward us. We heard this from people who had been scouting for berries to the north. Cage issued orders. We formed up and started walking north. Cage said it was important to meet the army at the proper place. We didn't march, we walked, slowly but with purpose. In a day we reached the meeting point. It was a rocky hillside with little vegetation, facing another rocky hill to the north. There was a promontory where Cage laid his blanket down. Our scouts told us the army was approaching, but would bed down a few miles to the north. They sent out no scouts, so they were traveling blind. Our scouts said there was a wounded man following them, a big man with one eye. He looked like Polyphemus.

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Cage and I slept on the rocky promontory halfway down the hill. The ground was hard and the dew settled early. We slept little. In the early morning hours, we made love. I thought, this will be the last time, this lonely, cold night on the rocky ground where we hold one another while I feel the world is ending. Cage had told me they would kill him. He said he didn't care. He wanted the rest of us to live. I wanted him to live. Then the sun reached us, and we drank some water and ate some bread. Cage turned toward the hill where we waited, and talked to the people. "Today, we expect the army of the Church to come for us. We have come to meet them. We have come unarmed, so that they will have no cause to kill us. When they reach this place, we will show ourselves to them, we will show them empty hands. If they offer to kill us, we will stand and die, and hope for a better life when we are born again. We have come to this place in peace and will leave it in peace, alive or dead. Eat what food you have before noon. We can't expect the opposing army to have enough food for both us and themselves. They don't expect to take all of us prisoner, and they won't be ready for that. So put your food inside your bellies where it can't be taken away from you. "You may see them do violence to me, perhaps to others. Do not react to this. If they choose to kill me, I will accept death. I ask you to do the same. It would be easy to fight back, but I ask you to do something harder. I ask you to die peacefully in the face of violence. These may be our last hours in the wilderness together. I ask you to enjoy the smell of the flowers, the rustle of the leaves, the calls of the birds and the buzz of the insects. Enjoy these hours. I'll treasure them. I'll treasure the time I've spent with you. You've made a better man of me. I'm indebted to you all."

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Then he sat down and started to share some dried fruit with me. They came by in ones and twos, saying little or nothing but touching his hand. Cage leaned over to me and whispered, "why me? I'm not anybody." "Let them do this. It matters to them.," I said. He nodded and continued offering his hand.

Adam Adams takes command______________________________

We started marching about an hour after sunrise. The attack came a couple hours later. The tide was low and there was plenty of room on the rocky shingle to march with twelve men abreast. The men liked that better than being strung out and vulnerable. The sun warmed us. I felt more cheerful. The tractors with the caissons in tow had broken down, and Worn was forced to walk. I got some satisfaction from the fact that in a couple hours, he had already developed blisters and begun to complain. Then an unholy, drawn-out scream came from the woods to our left. I saw some of the men look out to the water as if confirming that there was no place to run. Then an enormous man, the giant who had made himself invisible for so long, came charging out of the woods swinging a blade as long as I am tall. Men scattered north and south, and some far enough from the giant to do so ran into the woods. A few froze, and for a moment I thought they were standing their ground, but they didn't raise their weapons. The giant charged into them and I saw a man put up his arm as if to protect himself, then saw the arm fly away, landing meters from the man. A head rolled at another man's feet and his body collapsed. I raised my sidearm but couldn't get a clear shot. Others were not as careful, and I saw a man killed and two more wounded by

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friendly fire in the next moment. I moved in closer to get a clear shot. I raised my weapon at close range, then pulled back in time to save my hand from the giant's swinging blade, but his machete struck my weapon and I lost track of where it flew. I pulled out the antique ceremonial sword Worn had insisted on adding to my uniform. I saw Troobin raising a rifle on the other side, the giant turning toward him. I slashed at the back of the giant's right knee, cutting the tendons. The giant managed to stay standing, but suddenly he wasn't rushing at his opponents and spreading confusion through our ranks, he was standing still and trying not to fall. Troobin missed with his first shot and he was standing too close. The giant swept his blade down at Troobin, who blocked the blow with his rifle. I was able to step close enough to plunge my blade upward under the giant's ribs and push it in with both hands. The giant turned and smiled at me. He opened his mouth as if to speak, and blood came out of the corner. Worn came charging from ahead and the left and pushed his skewer into the giant's side. Troobin was then able to get off three quick shots that thudded into the giant's chest. He fell like some great tree and was still. The world was suddenly silent. I finally got a look at the phantom who had tormented us so. One eye stared up at the sun unblinking. The other was milky from an old injury. One shoulder was bandaged with dirty cloth. Troobin walked up and pulled away the bandage. Red, infected flesh radiated from a bullet wound. "If he'd waited, infection would have done him in for us," Troobin remarked. "If that had happened, the men wouldn't know he was dead," I said. I got Troobin to send out his sin finders to gather up our forces. Then I remembered that Worn had been standing next to me. I looked around but didn't see him at first. Then he walked out of the woods. There was a leaf stuck to his hand by some

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brown substance. He walked with as much dignity as possible to the water's edge and washed his hands. I wondered if he would ever forgive me for witnessing that. Worn didn't allow us to bury the giant. Men dragged him down the sea and left him for the crabs. Once we formed up again, Worn issued a curt command to march and walked on in silence. We were at last able to send scouts forward, who reported a large body of men and women sitting on a hill not far ahead of us. A scout reported that these people had no weapons, and Worn corrected him to say "no weapons visible." I thought, but did not say, "armed with invisible weapons" might be a better way of phrasing Worn's meaning. We marched on, and Worn accepted the pain in his feet and stopped limping, made his way to the head of the column, and prepared to lead the troops into battle. Men who serve the God we call Ambition can bear anything it its service. He had assigned a soldier to carry his weapon, an instrument I found to be of dubious taste. It was a skewer from the altar of the main temple of the Tortured God. It had an offset handle for turning the meat. If he were not the administrative head of the Church, spiritual leader of our people and Protector of the Faith, someone would have accused him of blaspheming.

As we approached the penitents' encampment, Worn stopped the troops and formed them up. He put Troobin and his sin finders at the front, considered putting himself in front of them, then thought better of it. He and I would be behind two rows of them.

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We marched over a couple more hills and standing at the crest of the last one found ourselves facing a narrow valley. On the south side of the valley the penitents were sitting waiting for us. I had the feeling they expected us, though we had seen none of their scouts. They were ragged, thin people in prison gray clothing. On a promontory sat a man who seemed at the center of the group. He stood. He was a not tall, but powerfully built. His hair was brown and a salt-and-pepper beard looked about a week old. He had some kind of insignia painted on his forehead. All of them did, but his looked more elaborate. The man on the promontory held up his hands before him, palms up. All the others did the same, showing their hands were empty. "Don't be fooled," Worn snarled. "Their weapons are hidden close by." He stepped to the front, grasping his skewer. He knew the men would not attack with just a command. He had to lead them forward. He walked down the hill with his skewer held diagonally across his body. The rest of us followed. The leader of the penitents climbed down from his promontory and walked toward us with his hands out, palms up. "Don't be fooled," Worn said again. "These are the unbelievers. They call themselves monsters, because they are. We housed them and fed them and tried to recover their souls, but they had sinned, and they sinned again, and had to be kept longer for the good of their souls. They fled from penitentiary, and they fled from the Tortured God. They wallow here in their sin. They glory in it. They have cast aside our God, and now worship that evil giant who slaughtered so many of your mates. I tell you they are unbelievers; they foul the air they breath. We will stop them from breathing it. We

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will cleanse this world of their kind and set an example for any who might follow them into sin." By this time we were a few paces from the leader of the penitents. It now appeared the insignia was an eye. All of them had eyes on their foreheads. Apparently the news reports of the breakout had been right on that point. Their leader stopped, hands still held palms up. "Accept our surrender," he said. "It's too late for that. You have worshiped a false God," Worn said. "We offer you our lives," the penitent leader said. Then he kneeled down on one knee, pulled back his collar and bowed his head as if to accept a blow, should we choose to decapitate him. His followers imitated his posture. Worn let out an inhuman scream and plunged the skewer into the man's shoulder, pushing with all the weight of his body until the skewer sank deep into his body. The man's body tensed, his head came up with the mouth open for a silent scream, and he suddenly went slack. There followed an eternal moment of silence, finally broken when Worn spoke. "You all deserve to die," he shouted. "You skewered him like the Tortured God," a young woman who had stayed close to the leader of the penitents said. "Blasphemer! Die!" Worn screamed. He reached for his sidearm, but I got to him in time to stop him from committing another slaughter. "Troobin," I called as I struggled with Worn. Troobin was already there, pinning Worn's arms behind him while I took charge of the sidearm.

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"This is mutiny, Adam," Worn said. "You are under arrest for the sin of slaughter," Troobin said. "You will be provided with ecclesiastic council and the services of a confessor." "Slaughter?" Worn said, then laughed. "This is war. You fight in war, you kill in war." "In war, when someone surrenders, you become responsible for their well-being," I said. "I read the relevant documents when you gave me my commission. You will be imprisoned and tried for your crime." "While you take command, I suppose?" "Yes. While I take command." "You bloody pencil-pusher! I only brought you on to deal with the logistics. They wouldn't have followed you here and they won't follow you from here. Soldiers of the Church, I command you to take arms against these traitors. Take them prisoner, and if they resist, you have absolution to kill them!" Worn yelled. No one moved. I looked at the men's faces, wooden and unresponsive. The situation felt balanced on a knife edge, and if one had moved others would have followed. "You miscalculated," I said, hoping I was right. "They follow our faith, not you. When you murdered this man, you placed yourself outside our faith." "I saw you stab the giant! You're as much a killer as I." "He attacked us. This man didn't. Besides, the giant wanted to die, and would kill to make us kill him." "When we get to Homeport, your life is over," Worn said.

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"Bind the prisoner and place him under guard," I told Troobin. He took Worn away and no one moved to stop him. All present were now tacitly committed to what had happened, whether it was later viewed as a mutiny or the simple execution of our laws. The young woman Worn had offered to kill said her name was Angel. She said there was plenty of food back at the penitents' camp from a storeship that had been wrecked. Two of the crew had survived and were back with the remaining stores, she said. "I expect they are under guard," I said. "Why?" she asked, looking up at me curiously. "Well, I don't see them here." "Why would they come here? We told them you would slaughter us. They stayed at the camp because it was safe." "Safe from us? Yes, I suppose." Their leader – Cage, she said his name was – had been stretched out on his blanket. Penitents came by to place wildflowers on the body or just to touch it. This somber procession took place a few meters from where I was standing. Angel had been crying. Still, the others seemed to look to her, so I had to ask her to organize the penitents to walk back to their camp. The day was going on as days do, even after the most traumatic events. The penitents soon would be hungry. I had a stretcher brought forward so they could carry their leader back to their camp and make whatever arrangements they wanted to for his burial. I let them keep the skewer Worn had killed him with. I couldn't imagine it taking a place of honor in the Great Chapel again.

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Roy explores his people's history________________________________

The terraformers had brought boats for transport, but there had been no opportunity to test them on Cyril 4. They leaked, the engines didn't work properly, there were stability problems. Making a vessel small enough and light enough to transport between planets and large enough to carry a useful number of troops would challenge an experienced naval architect. No one on Cyril 4 had seen a body of water larger than a water glass the whole time they had been there. Fortunately the sea people could easily transport an army. Unfortunately they were currently transporting my army, and not Gen. Witcher's. I didn't need the whole fleet, though my army had grown to more than 400. Velveeta Jones agreed to take all the ships until Witcher had time to consider his position. We went first to the giant's island. I went ashore with a dozen men – far more than needed – and the spacer, and Edmund Frobisher and the woman who called herself Joy. We weren't subtle. Frobisher led us right up to the giant's cave. The giant wasn't home. We pushed the stone aside and went into the cave. The sheep weren't in there. He must have let them free when he left. That meant he wasn't coming back, unless he intended to spend a lot of time rounding them up again. I put four men to watch the entrance and we went inside. There was a torch near the entrance, and I lit it. Jonah had an electric torch, which provided better illumination.

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The cave had a strong smell of livestock. There was a trough in there, and bins for feed. Farther back was a shelf carved in the stone, and a row of skulls lay on it. Jonah walked along them, examining the jaws minutely with his torch. "Here's one," he said at last. It was one of the newer skulls, with the jaw attached by a wire on each side. Set between the eye ridges was what looked like a small jewel. Jonah explained that it was a camera. "There might be enough juice for it to transmit at short range," he said. "There is a very small storage battery just here in the sinus." He took out a small silver wire and pushed it into a hole behind the ear. I almost expected to hear something myself, but all I saw was the spacer and Joy standing with their heads bowed, looking at nothing in particular. They stood that way so long that I got tired of watching them and walked on down the row of skulls. That cave was a lot deeper than we had thought it was, and toward the back it got small enough that I was a little crowded. I couldn't imagine the giant I'd seen on Seeker's vid screen fitting back there, and still the skulls went on. In the cramped part of the cave the skulls had not been dusted. The giant had kept the skulls of his victims and relatives clean. The dusty skulls either predated him, or predated his current size. They were yellowed with age, the jaws were separated, some had been broken before or after death. The cave must have been a burial place for a very long time. The cave was turning into a tunnel. I walked back up to the front of the cave, where I found Frobisher sitting down sobbing. "What happened?" I asked. "We told him what his wife's Last Message was," Jonah said. "She tried to tell him to run away. She knew he couldn't hear the message, but she tried to tell him to run. She tried to tell him she loved him, and that he should escape and grow a garden for her."

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"He's free now, then," I observed. "Not quite," Joy said. "We've still got to find the giant." "First let me show you something." I took Joy and Jonah back into the tunnel at the back to the cave. It was easy to see the way with the electric torch. I made a note to get one somehow. "How far back do you reckon the skulls go?" I asked them. "They could go on for hundreds of meters," Jonah said. "I meant in years." "Could be hundreds." We kept walking. We were ascending, which might explain why the cave was still dry. The air was cool and the walls were close. They were getting slightly closer, and I was wondering how they had managed to carve this tunnel out of the mountain. "Here's something," Joy said. It was another skull with wires attaching the jaw to the skull. It sat on a sort of pedistal at the very back of the tunnel. "Will that one talk to you?" I asked. "Not from stored power," Jonah replied. "Maybe the piezoelectric charger still works." He picked up the skull and started working the jaw. Then he pulled out his little wire and poked it into the same hole as he had on the other skull. He and Joy stood for a long time listening to it. "The message is damaged," Jonah said at last. "Still, I can understand most of it. This was an anarchist in the first generation. He tried to get people to work together, and became bitter because they wouldn't. That was when he started to have some success. He decided to force people to work together, which meant that he needed henchmen. He became a tyrant and built a kingdom centered at a castle on the point northeast of here.

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He battled other tyrants and founded a way of life that would get people through the hard life that they led. He taught them to fight for their honor and the honor of their family, tribe and castle. He taught them to honor the dead so that they would not fear death, because to avoid being killed they needed the courage to be successful in battle. He taught them the art of war, and told them that arms were tools of ill omen, that to use them for very long would lead to calamity. He strove for peace but was always at war, and came to think therefore that he had failed. He recorded this final message but never transmitted it. I have recorded it, and will make it available to your people." "He called himself Clarence the Hammer, didn't he?" I said. "You know of him," Jonah observed. "He taught us the Way," I said. "Then here is your new sacred text," Jonah said. "I must see the castle," I told him. We had plenty of time. Witcher would be fuming now, and I wanted him to fume. Each day men were coming over the passes. Each man that came over the passes would make it clearer that Witcher's people were vastly outnumbered. It was a fact he needed time to absorb.

We embarked on the sea people's ships the same day. As evening approached, Jonah guided us to the harbor by the castle. The sun was setting behind us as we sailed into the harbor. To my surprise, a large ship lay at anchor. Two people, a young man and a woman my age, stood staring at our fleet from the deck of the ship as we approached. Velveeta ordered the sea people to converge on the ship. We bumped against the ship and her sons threw up grapples. Other sea people did the same. They climbed up the ropes not knowing how many people were up there or how well armed they were, which

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showed great courage. I followed the first wave up, and by the time I reached the deck I knew from the lack of commotion that there wasn't a fight. It turned out we'd captured the captain and a crewman, plus another fellow too sick to rise from his bed. They were all that had stayed behind when the army they delivered marched away. I had a bad minute until I determined the army had marched south instead of north. The terraformers were still jamming communications, so they had no way of knowing where the army was or when they would come back. It seemed like the best idea to take the ship away before they came back for it. Having an army with good transport able to move quickly up the coast would just be the worst kind of nuisance. Finding Clarence the Hammer's castle would have to wait. We chugged up the coast with me watching the captain's every move. Most of the crew was sea people. Her crewman, Aaron, was enjoying bossing them around. He was suddenly second in command, not just an ordinary seaman. Captain Nightingale just seemed angry. Her ship had been seized by her own people to transport the army, and she'd nearly lost it in the storm. Now I'd seized it and she'd probably lose it forever. She made sure I knew how much she disliked the whole process. "You ever owned anything?" she asked me. "The clothes on my back, the tools I need to survive. My people don't own a lot of property," I said. "Then maybe you don't understand this," she said. "Not many mariners ever own their own vessel." "Except all the sea people." "Well, I mean with our people. There are transportation companies that own most of the grain carriers, and people that work for them. I wanted to run my own show.

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I scrimped and saved and took the biggest risk of my life when I took out a loan to buy this grain ship. I bought an older ship and made enough money with it to re-engine it. It took another loan, but I was making enough money to take that risk. It let me make the run upriver eight hours faster, which meant in three runs I'd saved a whole day, and had an extra day to make money. Time is money when the number of runs you can make determines how much money you can make. Now, men with weapons have made me take my ship into danger, and you are likely to take my ship away from me. My loans won't go away, though. You warriors have broken me." "I hadn't realized you owned the ship," I said. "Would that knowledge have made you do anything different?" "I've got my duty, ma’am." "I had my ship." "Sorry." "Even if I do get it back, I've missed enough runs that the bank will own the ship." "Sorry, ma’am. I don't know about banks. We don't have anything big to buy out on the plains." "Well, Davos Bank is a cold-eyed outfit, and if you don't make the payments, they don't cut you any slack." "Davos Bank? Who owns that?" "Bilbo Davos, the second richest man in Homeport." "Maybe if you talked to him…" "Men that rich don't talk to deadbeats." "What if I could introduce you?" I was holding back a smile at that point.

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"You?" she said contemptuously. "When were you in Homeport? You couldn't even find your way to the bank." "Well, if you don't want me to try, I'll live with that. If you change your mind and want me to introduce you, well, you just tell me, all right?"

Adam Adams sends investigators to the castle____________________________

I decided to leave the penitents at their camp, where there was plenty of food, and send a unit of my younger, faster men back north to help crew the ship. Their orders were, weather permitting, to bring the ship into the broad bay near the penitents' camp. This was the same bay where the storeship had been driven ashore, so the weather would dictate what was possible. About the time I expected the ship to appear my runners came back to tell me that the ship and the boats we'd come ashore in were missing. Worn hadn't trusted the captain, so he hadn't left sufficient crew aboard to operate the ship. I sent Troobin and some men he chose to go north and find out what happened to the ship. Then I sent runners south to find out what the situation with the southern army was. If we were to march south, it would be best to know what lay ahead. We organized the available food into a form more suited for men to carry than for a ship to carry. We had a long walk ahead of us. Then we had some good news. The Southern Army of the Church sent a runner to the north. She told us that the SAC had arrived on the battlefield to find that a Church representative, Lee Hu, had captured a couple dozen penitents who had not accompanied

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Cage in the march north. Lee had been sent on a mission to reconnoiter and determine the direction of the breakout. He had persisted in his mission until he came upon the penitents, and had taken the ones he met prisoner. He sounded like a young man with a great future ahead of him. The runner said she had needed two days to reach us. I figured with the penitents and a large number of footsore soldiers, we'd need a four-day march to get to where the Southern Army was. Looking at the state of the penitents, I decided it was best to send the runner back and order the ship sent up. Gen. Winston Hill of the Southern Army had plenty of troops to march his part of the penitents back to Perdition Camp. I felt it necessary to send most of my prisoners back by ship. They had come farther than the others and didn't look like they could make the walk home. This meant another three days of keeping company with the penitents; two for the runner to go back, one for the ship to come up, assuming the weather was clement. I'd send a hundred men to guard the penitents, and the ship would be very crowded still. I put the more fit penitents into a unit assigned to walk back, which relieved some of the crowding on the ship. It wouldn't be a pleasant trip for anyone. Even the wicked get worse than they deserve. For the innocent, life is unforgivable. The question of innocence was bothering me. The tales I heard from the penitents troubled me. Most acknowledged the sin that had sent them to penitentiary. What bothered me was how so many had seen their sentence grow instead of diminishing as the years went on. I would have some serious questions to ask the Church about their practices. In any case, these missions would take only about 200 of my troops, leaving the rest to march north and try to determine what happened to our troopship.

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Troobin was finding his sin finders were not always the best scouts. He recruited some fleet-footed boys from the periphery of the Zone of Control who felt more at ease in the woods and knew what creatures made the tracks they saw. I was beginning to think that by the time this incident was over, we might know what we were doing.

We marched north again with scouts running out ahead. We were carrying enough food for a week, which meant that most of the troops were heavily laden. We got confirmation that the ship was gone, and as the scouts went farther north they reported finding an abandoned fortification with dead bodies within. The story struck a bell, so I asked Vorse Dextin about it. Vorse had been sullen and difficult, partly because he felt he should have had my command, partly because I had not even trusted him to command the penitent transport. "A fort north of the harbor? Yes, that would be the one where my men got into the poisoned liquor," he said. It was lunch time, and we had stopped. He was looking at his food instead of me. "I was the only one left. I couldn't bury them all. I had to walk back with the food remaining, and couldn't trust any food we found there." "You can identify the bodies?" I asked. "They had identification. I don't think I need to." "Just the same, I'll like you to go there with Troobin and make sure no mistakes are made," I said. He looked up sharply. "I hardly think a sin finder is necessary," he said.

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"Troobin has seen dead bodies before. He'll be less disturbed by what he sees than anyone else. Confidentially, the scouts who reported this don't really want to go back. Troobin will give them the confidence to face that scene again." And, with a few sin finders in company, he'll be able to deal with the guilty party if he finds one, I thought. When I told Troobin, he was irritated that I was sending Vorse with him. "Don't you think it would be better to keep him away from there?" he asked me. "Have you ever heard the saying that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer?" "That's why you didn't send Worn Jangold home with the penitents?" I nodded. "We would have arrived at the end of our adventures to find that he was out of custody, running the show again, and we were the wanted men. Now, if you take Vorse with you, he'll know that running away means getting past my entire army. Plus, being in a small group composed almost entirely of sin finders, it will be a lot harder for him to slip away unnoticed. How many sin finders do you need?" "Four or five will be more than enough." Troobin said. "Take ten. And at least three scouts. If he killed these men, I want him to know there is no hope of escape." I sent them ahead with only three days' rations so that they could travel quickly. I had someone steal Vorse Dextin's sidearm, and when he discovered it was missing and demanded a replacement I accused him of negligence in losing the weapon and pointed out that I was providing a heavily armed escort. I thought he had a haunted look when he left.

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Troobin Gross solves a crime_________________________

We reached the fort after dark. We could have stopped short of it, but I didn't want to delay. Vorse Dextin was slow for a man who had headed an elite military unit. He kept lagging behind. I had to assign a sin finder to act as rear guard, or Vorse would have fallen far behind. We found a gate overgrown with vegetation to the point where it was nearly invisible and in fact nearly impassable. Inside the smell of decomposing bodies was overpowering. The two scouts who had been there before refused to come in with us. Bloated bodies lay around the courtyard. Maggots were eating the flesh and there were signs wild animals might have taken bites. Earth flesh doesn't taste that good to the native fauna, which explained why the bodies had not been consumed. "All right, gents, I know you're tired, but we have a crime scene to investigate. Let's document the crime scene tonight and we'll get some rest before sunrise," I said. "Surely the contaminated liquor was left behind by people who died long ago," Vorse remarked. "Probably," I said. "That is something yet to be determined, however. We must keep an open mind. Now, I realize that you are not a sin finder, but let us look at these men and see who you can identify." His identifications matched the men's identification. I put the names into my pocket computer and found they matched men tried for slaughter before Worn Jangold.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"Why don't you go to sleep, Vorse?" I said kindly. "We can do the rest here. Just go back in that building over there, it's still intact. We'll try to determine the toxin that killed them and find the source." "The source was an old bottle of liquor," he replied. I threw a sleeping bag to him, but he threw it back and told me he had one of his own. Then he walked to the building, looking back over his shoulder a few times. We found the bottles the men drank from. The toxin we found in them matched the one we found in the stomachs of the bodies. When I heard what the toxin was, I smiled. Sometimes things are just too easy. I sent someone to wake Vorse and send him to me. It turned out he wasn't asleep. "I thought you'd want an update," I told him. "I wanted sleep," he said. "Ah, but you had not even disrobed. Here, this will interest you, the toxin was in this bottle." "As I told you it would be." "In your report you never mentioned handling the bottle, but we found your fingerprints and traces of your genes on the bottle." "Yes, perhaps it was one of the bottles I had touched. I didn't know which one they had opened." "You remember some years ago, a neighbor of yours was convicted of slaughter. Used a poisoned salt lick to kill a cow. This is the same toxin." "I suppose it must have been a common toxin, then," he said. "In use when this place was built, in use still."

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"Not that common, but possibly of ancient lineage. It is refined from an indigenous plant." "Probably a toxin used by the anarchists before we even came to this world," Vorse said. "No doubt the liquor was poisoned as part of some long-gone political conflict. Tragic that these men fell prey to it by accident." "The toxin is unstable. Within a year it would break down to harmless components," I said. "The man convicted of killing the cow escaped. Perhaps he sabotaged this place." "Perhaps, but I believe one of my men has something to show us." A sin finder was emerging from the building Vorse had been "sleeping" in. He held a small vial in a gloved hand. "You found that quickly," I observed. "You were right, sir, it was a simple matter of shining the black light around. The thief powder illuminated the loose brick he hid it behind." "Shine it on his hands," I said. Vorse's hands glowed blue and so did the vial. "Ancient technology, Vorse. I put the thief powder on the sleeping bag I tossed you. I thought you might keep some of the poison handy. Otherwise, you wouldn't have had it with you when the men got out of hand. The funny thing is, I didn't have a reason to search you, but searching a room in this old ruin…well, nothing to keep me from having a look around, now was there? So hiding the stuff so we wouldn't find it...well, I'll just let you think about how dumb that was." We spent the rest of the night interrogating him in shifts. He finally broke when I was being extremely understanding about how out of control the men were, what swine

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

they were, the fact they all had committed slaughter and none had served penance for it. We buried the bodies, chained Vorse and slept outside the fortifications on the beach.

Adam Adams surrenders_____________________________

Before we reached the fort, scouts came back to tell us what had transpired there. I considered turning the fort into a prison for Vorse and Worn, but decided that I couldn't trust them enough to leave them behind. If we were to face danger and perhaps not come back, they had to die with us. They could do great damage if they got back and we didn't. I owed it to my people not to let that happen. We marched them north with us. North of the castle was a wide, sandy area with salt grass. It was the easiest marching we had experienced. At the edges of the sandy flat the grass grew taller where there was less salt. About the time the army was close to the north end of the tall grass, the tail end was entering it. That was when men clad in black leather popped up from the tall grass pointing arrows at us. We had better weapons, at least some of us with projectile weapons and a few had laser sidearms or even antiproton guns, but they had their weapons aimed at us, and could kill many of us before we fired. I thought of issuing the order to fire on them, but then I thought of the deaths that would ensue. What I learned about those men with bows and arrows later confirmed my judgement. Our troops were hastily assembled and ill-trained. Roy's boys were hardened veterans who would not have hesitated to kill us before we could kill them. Our men had no great practice in marksmanship, and with the excitement of their first combat they would not have aimed well. Roy's boys would have slaughtered us to the last man if that had been required.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

I called for the men to hold their fire, then pulled out – well, it should have been a handkerchief, but in fact it was a clean pair of underwear. It was the only white cloth I had to wave for surrender. Roy had his men disarm all my men, and Roy himself took my sidearm. He gallantly insisted I keep my sword, but demanded on my honor that I should not use it against him or his men. I agreed to that. The word 'honor' is not much used by my people, but we might well use it more. It turned out Roy had taken my ship, and his allies had in turn tried to take it from them. When he had arrived back in the harbor where his army was mustering and the terraformers had taken up residence, the terraformers' Gen. Witcher had taken charge of a crack team which tried to take the ship by night. They had strapped on their rocket pants, flown out to the ship and landed on the deck, where Roy's boys were standing in the shadows, shooting arrows or applying knives to throats from behind. Witcher, mercifully, had died in that raid, so he didn't have to face his people to explain why he had attacked his allies. After that incident, Roy was clearly in charge of the combined forces of the sea people, the inlanders and the terraformers. After he captured me, he put me and my men aboard the ship and sent us home without our weapons. He ended the jamming of communications. I went home in defeat, and we now had the satellite images that showed the size of the army that had defeated us.

I found myself in the Chamber of the Elders after all that, forced to justify my surrender.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"You have lost a war for us," Jethro Abraham said. "No one has done that before." "Sir, you sent me to recapture the penitents. I did that and sent them home," I replied. "You brought back the two highest-ranking churchmen on the expedition in chains," he said. "How can you justify that?" "You have read my report, sir. Worn Jangold committed slaughter after the penitents surrendered. Vorse Dextin committed multiple slaughter before the expedition was even conceived. There is also the matter of corruption of ecclesiastical courts, to which both men were complicit." "This has greatly damaged the credibility of the courts," Horace Beanie said. "How can you justify this?" "I have no need to justify my actions, because they did not demean the courts. Worn Jangold and Vorse Dextin did that. I only revealed their actions." "We cannot blame Mr. Adams for this disaster," Eve Wallace said. "He was recruited for his organizational abilities. Worn was supposed to take care of the politics." "How do we get out of this, Adam?" Sam Johnston asked me bluntly. "The Church is in trouble," I told him. "It's been corrupted by secular power. Do you want to rule people's bodies or their souls? If you don't decide, you will lose both." "I don't see why you say that," Clare Trap said. "We had a couple bad apples. That doesn't mean the Church has done wrong, only that two of those we trusted did wrong." "Why did Worn and Vorse rise to the top?" I asked her. "What did they do for the Church that you wanted done?"

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"The Church is in worse trouble than that," Sam said. "There is a new faith that has taken root among the penitents. Those damned 'monsters' will contaminate the rest of the faithful once they get out." "They seldom get out," I told him. "Your penitentiaries keep extending their terms in order to keep exploiting their labor. The economics of sin have completely undermined your system of penitence. If you want tunnels dug or highways built, levy a tithe on the faithful and hire willing workers, or better, hire contractors who hire the workers. I am a man of business, and I know how a thing is wasted if it is not seen as having a cost. Separate the Church from economics. If you end this slavery based on human weakness, the work will be done more efficiently and the Church will not be undermined. Better still, let someone else govern this colony and devote the Church to looking after their souls. Just as the Church wastes human lives in its heavy works, it wastes in the way it governs. It spends its legitimacy in deciding the boundaries of farms and the punishment for crimes. Our Church faces competition now from the followers of this man Cage, who Worn Jangold turned into a martyr. It faces competition from the inlanders who believe in honor and from the sea people who believe in love. We believe in karma, and I judge that to be just and right. We will not be effective in bringing people into our faith if we continue to close them out. The outsiders now outnumber the insiders, so it is time to recruit, not time to raise barricades. Set yourselves free of the state. The Church will grow by leaps and bounds when it ceases to be the established Church of our colony and offers itself as the faith to all peoples. Continue to govern the colony, and all these potential believers will see you as a competing government instead of as a comfort they might avail themselves of." "You may go now," Jethro said.

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

I left. It was two days before they asked me to be the first secular governor.

Joy finds love__________________________

It was some time before they could get a shuttle to take Jonah back to his ship. I walked with him on the morning of the last day he spent on this world. "Did you find what you came here for?" I asked him. "The history is in good order," he said evasively. "No, I mean what you said in the Last Message. Did you hear God?" "God is silent," he said. "At least to me. Those I've met who claim to speak for Him speak only for themselves. I did have some strange dreams though…" I laughed when he told me about them. I explained about the Golden Snitch broadcasts. Then he laughed too. "It was the closest I got to hearing the Word," he said. "Why don't you stay?" I asked. "There are people here who absolutely worship you." "That's the best reason for leaving," he said. "If anyone worships me, I'll take God's example and keep my silence. Too easy to screw up if you say anything." "You wanted to hear the voice of God. To a lot of these people, you are the voice of God."

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"The irony isn't lost on me. Do you think I want to speak from that place? I'm not God. Nobody's God. I can't speak for God. He's inside of the people who want to hear him. He isn't inside me." "Are you sure you are so empty?" I asked. He nodded. Then he turned away. Of course, it could never have worked between us. The age difference, at a couple hundred years, was insurmountable. But I realized later why he sees himself that way, and what I should have said to him. The mirror is always empty for you because you always turn away. Others don't see you as empty. Now he is alone between the stars, and the way time passes for him, it could be decades or even centuries before he learns to see himself.

A few hours later I stood with some of the other outsiders watching the shuttle leave the spaceport. "He is risen," Magog said. "He will return," Gog said. "Ya reckon?" Wolf said. "He is here," Yonderboy said. "We sail by daylight now. He is in a slanting ray of sun on sails and diamond glint reflected on waves. He is in the hearts of lovers in warm clear light on heaving decks of ships that hide in darkness no more." "He's in the damn shuttle, headed for another sun," Wolf said. "He did the prophesy and went on somewheres. We got to do what wants doing now."

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

"He said he was like 'a small, pale moon in the overwelming night,' remember?" Stella mused. "I wonder what world he'll thow himself at next." "What will you do next?" Donne asked me. "Settle in the empty region between the Zone of Control and the settlements of the inland people and the sea people. I think that's what the terraformers are all planning. I suppose you will keep working for Bil Davos?" He shook his head. "I would like to build my own home and live like other people live," he said. "I want to have a farm and start a family." "That sounds wonderful." "Would you visit me?" he asked. I smiled. "Dine with me tonight," I said.

When we went back north, we went together on Lauren's ship. She was tramping up and down the coast, picking up what cargoes she could, and she said she was making more money than she ever had. The new colonies were rough and she needed protection, but Roy was with her, so she was mostly worried about getting rocks charted so she didn't rip the bottom out of her ship. Aaron Singh was her first officer, and most of her crew were sea people. She had financing from Davos Bank, like most of us. Davos was financing the Monsters' diaspora, while the other banks fiddled in confusion. Donne and I had a better deal than most, because Bil Davos gave us money instead of lending it. Donne and I owed a debt to Bil Davos, but the other settlers had to repay theirs. He was spreading his commercial empire out beyond the Zone of Control. Gilgamesh and May were

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

outside the Zone now, and it was as if Bil Davos wanted to create a world in which they could live without being torn apart by hatred.. He was a creative capitalist, which meant that world would pay him to create it. Donne and I were eager to live in that world. We heard that Stella had settled with Wolf close to where we wanted to settle. There were a lot of penitents on the ship with us. Those that had served their original terms were released, with a small stipend to get resettled, and most often a loan from Davos Bank to buy seed and tools. By this time most of them had tattooed eyes on their foreheads, which made it hard to get acceptance in towns like Homeport. They were forming religious communities to the north and the south of the Vegan colony in the empty zones. They called themselves the Church of the Second Martyr, and their temples had twin skewers for Frank and Cage. They gave their Church no right to punish, only to persuade, no right to govern, only to save their souls. And they were converting non-Vegans far more quickly than the older Vegan church. Most terraformers settled among them. Others built domes in the high mountains, where there was more oxygen and water, and more livable temperatures, than they had ever found on Cyril 4. I doubt they will live there long. Why live in a dome when you can live in the open air? For myself, why live in a dome when I can live with Donne?

Angel's lament_______________________________

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

The skewer that killed him is bolted to his gravestone. Every day I pierce a lovely blossom on it. I will love again, and not just because he told me to. Not yet, though, not yet. He felt it was his penitence to die, that somehow it paid for his sins a little bit, paid without repair to his karma, so he would pay again in the next life and the life after and the life after until all the lives he took were paid back. He had been dead in penitentiary, and life was given back to him with freedom. Limba did nothing with freedom but get caught again, but Cage found kindness and empathy in himself, things he hadn't known were there. That's why we followed him, because he was going somewhere, and at that moment he was the only one with a journey. And now I stand here like a stone angel, an ornament on his grave, unable to leave and live again, as he had told me to do. I had them carve the words he wanted on the stone. Really, I'm fine. A joke and a comfort, because he did not want us to look back at him in sorrow, but still I cry when I read those words and tell him I will love again but not yet, not yet. He would not have me grow gray and frail and say not yet, not yet, but I do not know how long it will be or if it will be in this lifetime that the sorrow ceases echoing, not yet, not yet.

Finis

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Prayers of the Unbelievers

John MacBeath Watkins

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