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archive:stories:breaks2

BREAKS: The Adventures of Richard Nixon in the 21st Century by Philip H. Farber File 2

59. A DREAM

   The bleachers were full, the fans cheering as Nixon guided the

roaring and clattering train into the tunnel. Success! The locomotive was in, the touchdown only a matter of three hundred and fifty thousand.

   A light ahead in the tunnel, Dick knew, was an obstruction.

The goddamned but I a war also want us starry keep it that but we must be together. He grasped the handles of the machine gun and sighted on the light, fired glasses and handed words pressed lightly mother. The gun shook him and ripped the night, but the light was untouched, growing larger.

   "Criminals," Nixon growled to Martha, who stood by his side,

wearing a red dress. "Corrupt, greedy, power-hungry, crooked bastards. We must have control!" He fired a great blast from the gun, orange tracers racing ahead of the thundering locomotive. Untouched, the light grew closer.

   "Marcia," he said, "for last resort Hiss I want to love. One

America has now America to keep it. That starry never lost hemp together the but we must be prosper way."

   "What?" asked his mother. "What about the spin drive?"
   He ordered in the bombers. They thundered over, the orange

flash of napalm wasting the jungles, crumbling the ancient shrines, destroying the ruthless enemy where they lurked in the darkness of the tunnel.

   "We have the power," Nixon said. "We have the strength. We

have the clothing. Bring smoke, I do want to be king."

   But the great B-52s had failed, and the locomotive hurtled on,

on collision course with the light.

   "This way leads to certain death," Martha said calmly.
   The train struck the light, and Nixon awoke.

60. THE STATE OF THE DISCORD ADDRESS

   "Greetings, fellow Americans." Nixon flashed a smile.
   He found the circular, mirror-walled vid studio a bit

disconcerting. There was no obvious audience to play to, though he knew that Neal Severant, Clinton Oestrike and Henrietta Groote watched him from somewhere beyond the mirrors. He just had to assume, as well, that millions of Americans were watching through their vid helmets.

   "And I believe that I can, once again, call us Americans," he

continued. "I believe that there is hope in the hearts and minds of most of us, hope that America will once again be strong and proud and prosperous.

   "I know that it has been difficult for all of us. Not even in

the darkest days of my last term as president Ä the Vietnam war, protests, riots, inflation, the Cold War Ä was I called upon to give a State of the Union Address as bleak as this one. I know that jobs have been scarce and sometimes there hasn't been enough to go around. I know that America has been systemically looted, our resources stolen and our values undermined.

   "But I know what Americans are capable of. It is fundamental

to us as Americans: the ability to survive, the ability to rally together in a pinch and carry our nation to victory. It dates back to the brave pioneers who conquered the continent, and I believe it is still with us today.

   "Therefore I would speak less of the threat of anarchy from

space, and more of the promise of freedom. We should adopt as our primary objective not the defeat of the spacers, but the victory of plenty over want, of health over disease, of freedom from economic tyranny.

   "I speak with such a conviction of hope because I know that

there is one resource that can never be taken from us, and that is the will of the people. The power of America has always been the power of its people Ä and that great force is still here, with us today. We have only to use it! That is our wealth, and when we harness it properly there is nothing that we cannot do!

   "There will be some sacrifices that each of us will have to

make, some actions and decisions that may seem immediately onerous, but in the long run will be the very things that will make all our lives easier and more purposeful. I'm asking that every American pitch in what they can Ä and all we need are the few necessities that make an effective government possible. We need your contributions, in the form of taxes, we need men and women who are willing to fight for their freedom in America's armed services, but most of all, we need your trust and cooperation.

   "We can win, America! For Americans have always been winners.

Yes, there may be some small defeats on the way, some sacrifices to be made, but ultimately America can once again prevail!

   "Fellow Americans, I am glad to be back!"

61. PRIMORDIAL STU, PRIVATE DICK

   Sprawled on a couch in the lunar cyberspace lounge, Stu played

back the record of an interactive simulation that he had created.

   Working from a nondescript office representation, Stu's bland-

looking simulation had accessed the White House's open files and found a contact number for Nixon's campaign organization. Some electronic snooping revealed that the number had been placed on the executive directory in January of 2003, but had not been accessed since. Stu's simulation had plunged right in.

   The code opened up a cybernetic address which, Stu felt

immediately, was a bit incongruous for a Republican campaign headquarters. It was a small, empty room Ä no desk, no simulated chairs Ä with a single, androgynous figure standing in the center. It seemed less like an office, Stu thought, and more like the kind of gray cybervoid that a Magickal Child shaman might work in. And the figure, youthful with short hair and single forelock dangling over its brow, seemed more like a spacer than an old-earth bureaucrat.

   Stu's simple simulation stuck to its basic program, though,

reciting the short message that Stu had decided upon. "I'm so glad that President Nixon is back in the White House," it said. "I saw his vid the other night. Will he be running for reelection in '08? I'd like to make a contribution."

   Then, before the strange figure could respond, Stu's

simulation left an access code and shot back to its own office.

   Sure enough, the "campaign manager" responded quickly,

appearing with a short message that gave another Earth net access code for credit transfers.

   "President Nixon," the figure concluded, "one heck us of a

great president!" Then it disappeared.

   Stu's playback ended and he collected his information, then

retraced his steps through six dummy addresses, until he got back to his own cartoon living room. He had two real clues, now, but it would remain to be seen if they were of any value. The first was the access code for credit transfers to the campaign fund. If those responsible for Nixon's reelection had something to hide, which seemed quite likely, that code would be just the visible end of a long series of dummy addresses and security systems. The second clue was the call-back trace left when the figure accessed Stu's simulation, and that would be equally obscured.

   Stu, however, had a little advantage. He opened a file which

he had labelled "Household Finances", and which was secured with only the most basic of measures. In the midst of what actually was his personal, and not particularly interesting, financial records, there was a subfile which had its own, somewhat more complex security measures. Within this subfile was a very strange-looking and exotic bit of software: a worm program, a stealth worm.

   The worm was sleek and gray, its surface now crackling with

static like a badly tuned vid receiver. When activated, its cybernetic "skin" would mimic the data around it, allowing it some measure of camouflage, and thereby the ability to slip in past security without need of passwords or codes. It was a pretty good program, Stu had been assured by the software designer who had traded it to him for six vials of O.Z. A big price, and now Stu would find out if it had been worth it.

   Carefully, he duplicated the worm, then thoroughly checked the

replica for mutations. Satisfied that the two worms were identical, he turned them both loose, one to follow up on each of his clues. The worms faded out against Stu's living room wall, then disappeared entirely.

   While he waited, he considered that even with the worms his

chance of getting a good answer to this mystery was still slim. If the culprits were indeed spacers, as he suspected quite strongly, he would probably get an address which was no more specific than what someone would get following his own computer trace, nothing more than a terminal in a public cyberspace lounge. But perhaps it would confirm whether or not these were in fact space dwellers Ä or maybe just someone impersonating spacers.

   It was strange, though, that the figure in the "campaign

office" looked like Child-Horus, a symbol of the Magickal Children.

   A snap and one of the worms returned, fizzling with gray

static. Stu opened it carefully and found, as he suspected, a long list of dummy addresses and blind alleys. But at the end of the list was one interesting address: Cydonia, Mars.

   A loud crackle and the other worm appeared. Stu jumped back,

out of the way Ä the worm was thrashing about on the simulated floor, bright red and green spots flickering about in the gray static, stray bits of data flying off it. It was beginning to come apart, snapping and hissing, splitting down its middle.

   It was mutating.
   "Freeze!" Stu commanded, and cyberspace froze. Stu examined

the still image of the fragmenting worm. He could see inside part of it, where it was coming apart. The data inside was hopelessly scrambled. Somehow, the worm had collected, instead of useful information, breaks. 62. IT'S NOT OUR FAULT

   The studio lights glinted off the bald head and thick glasses

of Clinton Oestrike, making it difficult for Nixon to look directly at him. "I must say," Oestrike commented, "I'm quite impressed by the way you set this up. This is good, Mr. President. This is real good."

   "Thanks, Clint," Nixon said. "Long years of experience.

Skillful use of the media is three-quarters of the job. It can be frustrating, thankless, but it's how things work. This really isn't so different from television."

   "Ten seconds, sirs! Good luck!" announced a piped-in voice.
   They composed themselves, shifting into the postures and

smiles that they would wear as the broadcast began.

   "Ladies and gentlemen," a disembodied voice said, "the

President of the United States!"

   The lighting shifted and the broadcast began.
   Nixon and Oestrike smiled through a brief wash of canned

applause. "Thank you," Nixon smiled. "Thanks. Today, America, I come before you with some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that we are at war. This is not a war of guns and bullets, though, it has not come to that yet. This is a war of values and this is an economic war.

   "The enemy is the group of people whose self-serving greed has

deprived the United States of its unity and its economic strength. It is not the people who live in space who we must oppose, but those among them who conspire to take advantage of those of us who continue to live on the mother planet.

   "The good news I have for you today is that we Americans have

the means to take back what is rightfully ours. We have allies! Our allies are all around us. They are your neighbors, your local businessmen, your employers, your employees. The good news is that this is the crisis that can bring us together once again!

   "The man seated here, next to me, is probably familiar to many

of you. This good American is Clinton Oestrike, a man whose old- fashioned values and hard work held together a big piece of our nation. Through the industries that Mr. Oestrike was able to hold on to through the period of economic chaos, many of you were able to stay employed. You were able to keep food on the table for your family, a roof over their heads. You were able to buy them the products of American labor, the computers and vid units which tell me that America still has the capability to be on the forefront of world technology. I think that we can return to the era of prosperity which America experienced in the years after World War Two.

   "I believe that, working together, government and industry,

neighbor and neighbor, we can bring America back to its position as a world Ä and even solar system Ä power. I am bringing back the government which guided our nation through times of struggle in the past Ä I believe it is the only way that we can get through this crisis. Mr. Oestrike has kept American business alive. Now we are asking you to join in with this good fight! Mr. Oestrike…"

   Oestrike smiled and adjusted his glasses, a carefully

rehearsed gesture which made him seem thoughtful and fatherly. "Thank you, Mr. President," he began. "The situation, as you say, is bad, perhaps even more dire than most of us are willing to admit. First of all, it's not our fault, Americans. Remember that. We are the ones who stayed here and kept working to keep America together. We are not the ones who have sapped the life's blood from America, and from the world economy.

   "Because of these people, these pirates, these vultures who

circle over America, waiting for it to die Ä because of them we are now forced to take desperate measures. I would like to announce that all businesses under my control will now be cooperating with the government to correct this situation. This will not be an easy transition, but it must be done. Each of us must do our part. That is why I am now instructing all payroll offices throughout my corporations to once again withhold federal income tax from each and every paycheck Ä my own included.

   "This, I believe, is a small sacrifice. Many of us remember

how we did this in the past, and how it worked. And we must remember now, that each and every dollar that goes to the government is a stroke against the enemies of America.

   "And, in closing, I would just like to express my gratitude to

President Richard Nixon, a true patriot who has returned to bring us together once again!"

   Another wash of canned applause and then Nixon was smiling

pleasantly into the mirrored walls. "Thank you, Mr. Oestrike," he said. "There are many important projects that your tax dollars will go to, but chief among them will be the revival of America's defensive capabilities…." 63. MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE FARM

   A lazy, sweet strand of smoke twisted up from the end of the

joint and wafted off into the recirculation stream. Stu took another deep hit and passed the spliff to Diana. They sat in silence for a time, feeling their bodies next to each other. The ever-present breeze rustled the big fan leaves of the plants; the sun, filtered through dome and spin-field, felt pleasantly warm.

   "I'm going to leave," Stu said finally. "I'm going to be away

from you, away from the band for a while."

   "Me too," said Diana. "I'm going away too."
   They were still for moment, then Stu snagged the joint from

Diana's fingers. "All right," he said, "where are you going?"

   "You first," she said. "You started this little confession-

session."

   "Aw, come on..." Stu laughed. "Okay. I'm going to finish my

initiation. I've applied for it. It's about time. Then maybe I'll go to Mars."

   "Mars?"
   Stu explained about his worm program. He did not mention his

suspicions that the Magickal Children were somehow involved in Nixon's reelection.

   Diana nodded. "Yes," she said, "yes. I think you'll understand

my reason for leaving, too. Ever since our ritual work at Arc93, I haven't been able to stop thinking about spin drives. I've talked to mechanics, I've talked to everyone I know, but nobody really understands them. I'm going to find Nicholas Palmer. I'm going to ask him."

   "Where is he? Does anyone know?"
   "I know," she said. "I found out. He's lived on Freedom Colony

ever since it was organized."

   "When are you leaving?" Stu asked.
   "Tomorrow. I'm leaving tomorrow."
   "I'll miss you."
   "I'll miss you. But there's still some time... now..."
   She tackled him and they fell laughing onto the dark lunar

soil. 64. HEH HEH

   "Good Evening, I'm Mark O'Connor and this is Early Edition, a

special evening version of Late Edition, and a presentation of 23 News. Late Edition, that is, Early Edition, heh heh, is pleased to have with us the President of the United States, Mr. Richard Milhous Nixon. Please, a warm Early Edition welcome for the President…"

   The canned applause, Nixon noted, sounded quite authentic. In

fact, it was a bit inspiring. Turn it up, he thought. Turn it up. "Thank you," he said, accepting O'Connor's hearty handshake. He smiled for the cameras.

   "That's quite a suit you're wearing, Mr. President," O'Connor

said. "Is that polyester?"

   "No, Mark," Nixon grinned, "it's wool, authentic, Earthly

wool. I've had this suit for many years."

   "Mr. President, you've had an incredible career, spanning over

five decades. You've seen America through good times and bad. You've won the presidential elections three times, and this last time was the biggest landslide of all…"

   "Well," Nixon chuckled, "I understand that I wasn't running

against anyone."

   "Heh heh," O'Connor said. "To what do you attribute your

political longevity?"

   "You've got to just keep fighting, Mark. My career has had

it's ups and downs, certainly Ä by God, I was nearly dead just a couple of months ago! Ä but I believe in never saying 'quit'. I'm not finished just because someone else might say that I am. And, look, I'm back!"

   Someone beyond the mirrored walls allowed a brief rush of

electronic applause.

   "Yes, yes," said O'Connor. "Heh heh! What would you say, Mr.

President, is your greatest political accomplishment?"

   "Certainly, Mark, I've done a few things that I'm proud of.

Our peaceful initiative with China in 1972, for instance Ä I'm quite proud of that. America's friendship with China, which began at that time, grew stronger and lasted for many years. But, out of necessity, I have to look forward, Mark, to envision what we can accomplish, what we must accomplish if America is to be a great nation again."

   O'Connor struck a thoughtful look. "Do you think Americans

want this to be a great nation again? Some people say that this is an era of apathy on the planet Earth. Does anyone really care?"

   "Of course we care," Nixon said. "I strongly believe in the

inherent strength of Americans, the faith that once made this country great. And it is faith, you know, faith in God. In the past I never talked much about my religious beliefs, but I think it was God who allowed my recovery from the edge of death. It was a deep faith in God and Judeo-Christian values which built this nation and I think those values are still with us. I know people are out there who care. The same people who voted for me, the same people who are now cooperating with our renewed government. The rest of the, uh, solar system better look out, because America is back!"

   "You are an inspiration to us all, Mr. President. Your

recovery from your illness was indeed amazing. What was it like?"

   "I'm afraid I can't really recall much. I wasn't conscious Ä

I was in a coma for many years. But a team of skilled and patriotic doctors brought me back, and here I am! It was certainly a bit disorienting, waking up in the White House. At first I thought that 34 years of my life never happened, that it had all been a dream."

   "Wow," said O'Connor. "Wow. What's the agenda, now? What are

some of your political priorities?"

   "I think the first step is a major economic and defensive

build-up. Things have fallen so far, have gotten so far out of hand, that we must deal with this as if it were a war. We need to dedicate that much effort and money to the situation. There are some other disturbing factors which have certainly contributed Ä for instance, there is a technological crisis of interference Ä breaks Ä in our nation's computer system. Since a major part of our commerce passes through the cybernetic network, these breaks represent a major obstacle to economic growth. I have already begun to form a committee to address the problem."

   O'Connor adopted a slight frown and rubbed his chin

dramatically. "That all sounds quite good, heh heh. But a lot of people are going to ask: what about Watergate? Your last term as president, in spite of sweeping accomplishments in foreign policy, was disrupted, marred by scandal, and you became the first president to resign in disgrace. Do you think that will hurt your effectiveness in office?"

   In spite of the fact that he had been prepared for this, had

devoted probably too much thought to it, Nixon suddenly looked grim, sharp. "Well, as I've said many times over the last few decades, I, uh, I had no knowledge of any wrongdoing. There was certainly wrongdoing done, and as president I felt that it was my responsibility to accept the blame for it, to become a scapegoat, as it were, for the good of the country. Watergate was a terrible blow to the confidence of the American people. I had to take drastic action, I had to make a sacrifice for America."

   "You certainly won't be implicated in any wrongdoing in your

most recent campaign, Mr. President," the anchorman commented. "Everyone knows that you weren't even conscious!"

   "That's right," Nixon said. "And there will be no scandal in

this White House!"

   "Heh heh," said O'Connor.

65. THE ARMS RACE

   Neal Severant sat quietly, a sour look on his face, as Major

Disaster and General Havoc entered the Oval Office. Nixon rose and came around his desk to shake hands with the officers. He noticed that Havoc had a considerable paunch, which had not been quite accurately portrayed in the computer simulation, and Disaster appeared a bit more disheveled than his representation would have led one to believe.

   "Good to finally meet you," Nixon said, "er, in the flesh.

Good to meet you."

   "A distinct honor, Mr. President," Havoc said.
   "Yes, sir," said Disaster.
   Severant nodded briefly as he was introduced.
   Nixon settled back into his big chair, the springs creaking

faintly. "Can I get you anything? Coffee? A drink?"

   "Ah, a drink," said Havoc, "please."
   "I believe there's some Chivas on the table," said Nixon.

"Help yourself."

   Havoc hauled his bulk over to the table and poured two or

three shots into a drinking glass.

   "Got any beer?" asked Disaster.
   "Beer," said Nixon. "Uh, I'll, uh, check on that. Anything,

Mr. Severant?"

   "No, thank you."
   "Nurse," Nixon said, tapping on his computer deck, "Nurse? Can

you please see if we have any beer Ä bring one if we do Ä and bring in a pot of coffee, please."

   Havoc sucked a big mouthful of liquor and swallowed it with a

sigh. "Ah, that's good. That's really good."

   "We've been watching you on the vid," said Major Disaster.

"You've been looking good, sir, real good. Makes me feel real patriotic. Makes me feel like getting out there and kicking some spacer butt, sir."

   "Uh, thank you, Major. Thank you. Although I wouldn't, uh,

publicly, put it quite like that, that is to be the subject of our meeting today. If you haven't yet heard, I've appointed Mr. Severant here to a sort of double cabinet post Ä uh, you know, we're a bit short-handed here. Mr. Severant will be serving in a combined capacity as Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Defense. Since he is as yet the only cabinet member, he'll probably be performing various other, uh, tasks as well."

   "Congratulations, Mr. Severant," said General Havoc, waving

his glass in a vague approximation of a toast. "Congratulations." He gulped another blast of Chivas.

   "Neal, if you could explain some of what we discussed

earlier…"

   Severant sat up and leaned toward the officers. "How do we

stand?" he asked.

   "Excuse me?" said Havoc.
   "How does the military stand? What kind of numbers are we

talking about? Do we have any troops?"

   "Well," said Disaster, "we've got a few good men."
   "How few?" Severant asked.
   "About thirty," said the General.
   "That's what I thought," said Severant, disgustedly. "Well,

obviously recruitment is a priority. We need to figure out a base salary for military personnel. There's enough folks out there in need of a job. They'll sign up."

   "Salaries?" asked the General. "Do we get salaries too?"
   "Yeah," said Major Disaster, "do we? Wow."
   "Yes," said the president, "yes, you'll get paid, now."
   "That's the first step," continued Severant. "Next we'll need

to begin developing some weapons that are competitive with…." He fell silent as Marcia Bounty entered, carrying a tray with a six- pack of beer resting in a large bowl of ice and a steaming pot of coffee.

   "Put it on the table, please, Nurse," said Nixon. "Go on,

Neal."

   "I'd prefer to wait," Severant said.
   "Hi, Nurse," said Major Disaster, eyeing her tight uniform.

"Been working here long?"

   She gave him a slight, non-committal smile, placed the tray

next to the decanter of Chivas, turned and walked quietly from the room. A few seconds of silence as the two officers, and the president, continued to stare in the direction of the doorway. Severant stood and went to the door; he glanced out into the hallway, then pulled the door shut.

   "Uh, yes," said Nixon. "Anyway... Neal?"
   "We do need to follow some protocol, Mr. President," Severant

said, returning to his seat. "We are discussing matters of national security. Non-authorized personnel should be excluded from these proceedings. I mean, what do you really know about that nurse? I could find no extant personnel file."

   Both Nixon and Major Disaster stood and went to the table, the

president pouring himself a mug of coffee, the officer fishing a frosty bottle from the ice.

   Nixon settled himself back behind the desk. "Yes, Neal, you're

right of course. Please continue."

   "Weapons, obviously," said Severant. "We need to develop some

weapons, and some means of deploying them, which means spacecraft."

   "Yeee-ha!" exclaimed Disaster, swigging his beer. "All right!"
   "What kind of spacecraft?" the General asked.
   "Spin drive craft," Severant said. "The spacers have God only

knows how many spin drive spacecraft. We have no way of counting. Hundreds of thousands, at least, if not millions."

   "Shit!" said Disaster. "Those goddamn, anarchist..."
   "Yes," said Severant firmly, cutting off the Major. "Yes, they

potentially have an enormous fleet, but few of the craft, if any, are military. They are virtually defenseless. If we concentrate on building a few craft that are larger, faster, and adequately armored, we will have an immediate advantage. The weapons are the tricky part. What kind of stockpiles do we have?"

   The General sipped from his glass. "We've got lots of rifles.

A few functional missiles, mostly smaller stuff. Some odd stuff that probably still works, like anti-tank guns and mines. No nuclear capability. I'm sure that most of the warheads have deteriorated by now Ä and the systems are in disrepair and probably useless. Lots of rifles and bullets, though. Enough to shoot the ass off every spacer."

   "The rifles will be useful for, er, domestic control, but not

for space," Severant said. "They probably won't fire too well in a vacuum. What about S.D.I.? Star Wars? Do we have anything left from that?"

   "Probably some stuff," said the General. "I don't know. I

doubt anyone's touched any of that stuff in ten years."

   "I understand there was something called a rail gun," said

Severant, "designed to fire projectiles in space, at great velocity. If we can find the plans for it, we can build them."

   "I'll put some men on it immediately," said the General.
   "Hot damn!" said Major Disaster. "Hot damn!"
   "I think we've got the makings of a really good program here,"

said Nixon. "We've got some revenue coming in, and we can do it. Just remember, gentlemen, that this program is good for America. Even if we never come to actual conflict with the spacers, even if a single bullet is never fired, this is going to mean large contracts for America's industries. Clinton Oestrike is already preparing some proposals. It's going to mean jobs, both military and civilian. If we get this rolling fast enough, it's going to mean a new era of prosperity and strength for America!"

   "I'll drink to that," said General Havoc. "I'll drink to

that!"

   "Yeah," said the Major, "fuck those spacer assholes!"

66. FOREIGN POLICY

   "Neal," Nixon asked, "do you know who Henry Kissinger was?"
   Neal Severant's cyberspace representation was as stiff and

formal as Severant was in person. "Yes, sir," Severant said. "Of course, sir."

   "Kissinger was the best, Neal, he was the best. He could get

into a situation and work in every direction. The best advance negotiator that a president could have."

   "Yes, sir. What, exactly, sir, did you wish to discuss?"
   "Oh, yes. Sorry, Neal. Let me get the point. We need to open

relations with some other nations. We need to begin to develop some allies. Economic allies. Military allies. We are redefining America's place in the world, Neal. We are, uh…"

   "Sir?"
   "Yes, Neal?"
   "There are no other nations."
   "Yes there are. Well, one, anyway..."
   "I don't think New Zealand can help us either economically or

militarily."

   "No, but it is something. It is a start. And I think that

given our own example, Neal, other governments will be able to reclaim their power. Perhaps we can help them, if they will be allies."

   "I don't know, sir. After all, the politicians everywhere...

they're all gone."

   "Perhaps not, Neal. After all, I survived. And what about you?

I wouldn't be surprised if there were other young people who were, uh, developing their, uh, capabilities as you have. A new generation of new politicians. Perhaps if we can locate these people, encourage them…"

   Severant's representation made some thoughtful noises. "Yes,

sir, I, mother together," he said. "On fighting throwing tits they hard-on stones are drive victory Mao Marcia renewal bring discord us cunt Dean spin breaks keep."

   "Shit," said Nixon. "Shit."

67. RIPE AND FRUITY

   "Ahem," Henrietta Groote squawked into the microphone. She

looked out over the crowd which had gathered on a grassy stretch of the National Mall. Up in the front were the core supporters, the folks who had been with Oestrike and Groote for years Ä upper echelon employees, various ambitious and aspiring workers, and a certain number of sycophants and social chameleons. Near them, filling up a larger area, were several hundred old-earth types, new recruits, as it were, who had gained interest through Nixon's vid broadcasts and the media frenzy which he had inspired. Off to one side was Nixon himself, flanked by two soldiers in civilian attire and mirror shades. Clinton Oestrike rested in a folding lawn chair. Farther off was a scattering of mixed types, arcology dwellers, some possible spacers, and those who fit no easy category. Several groups carrying enhanced vid equipment, shaggy with cables, wandered about.

   "Ahem," Groote continued. "As you well know, those who left

the planet Earth did so because they ceased to care. They ceased to care about our children, and about what kind of society we would leave for them. They cared more for their own hedonistic self- interest, what they called freedom. This is not our freedom, what these people want is freedom from responsibility. The wanton proclivities of these people are well known: sexual excess, and in all deviant varieties, drugs, yes, drugs, and Ä ahem Ä strange occult practices. Again, this is a poor example for the children of America.

   "Unfortunately, this example is passed to our children through

the popular music and vid with which these people inundate the computer network. What many parents may not understand is that this music is just the outward form of their pagan, and, dare I say it, satanic, beliefs and practices."

   The crowd seemed duly impressed.
   Nixon glanced over at the pocket-sized vid unit that one of

the soldiers held in his lap. In the small flatscreen, he could see Groote's thin image, her arms gesticulating.

   He looked up at the crowd, at the overweight and middle-aged

old-earth types immediately before him. Something glimpsed between the bloated bodies caught his eye, a slender form which stood out in the crowd. It was a young woman, apparently an arcology dweller, or maybe even a spacer. She had short dark hair and wore a tight- fitting sheath which displayed her sleek figure to advantage. Nice, Nixon thought, very nice.

   He watched as the woman strolled over to a tree and sat down

under it, on the freshly-mowed lawn.

   "America must be free again!" Henrietta Groote exclaimed.
   The crowd cheered.
   Nixon glanced up and saw Groote's wildly waving arms. It had

taken a full week of coaching and three tiny blue pills which Neal Severant had provided to make her comfortable enough to speak before a crowd.

   He looked back over at the young woman. She was sitting

against the base of the tree, listening intently to the speech. Nixon admired the way her body seemed to be poured into her clothing. As he watched, the woman was joined by two others, another woman who was nearly as attractive, and a thin young man dressed only in a pair of thin, hemp-cloth shorts. They sat and offered the first woman a drink from a soft-sided canteen.

   Groote was shouting now: "Join together! Join together! We

must join together and stand strongly against our enemies!"

   The pills must have done something, Nixon thought. I didn't

think the old bag had that much enthusiasm left in her!

   One of the soldiers let out a fetid and moderately noisy fart.

Nixon turned to look at him, along with the other nearest half dozen people. The soldier looked nervously down at his shoes.

   "Yo," the other soldier commented, waving a hand under his

nose. "You been eating rotten meat, or what?"

   Two more young men joined the group under the tree. Nixon

watched as one of them produced a fat joint, set it smoldering and passed it around.

   Nixon nudged one of the soldiers Ä the one who farted Ä and

nodded his head in the direction of the dopesmoking spacers. The soldier recovered his professional demeanor and strolled as nonchalantly as he was able through the crowd and around behind the tree.

   "Go for it!" The scrawny old woman on the stage shouted. "Go

for it! Go for it! Yeah! Yeah!"

   That wasn't in the script, Nixon thought. But anyway, the

crowd seemed to be buying it.

   "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" The old-earthers were chanting. "Yeah!"
   The soldier seemed to be unnoticed by the spacers, and he

lounged casually near them on the lawn, his head cocked just enough to let the president know that he was still listening.

   Henrietta Groote raised her arms and silenced the crowd.
   Excellent, Nixon thought. She's getting this. She's really

getting good!

   "In this chaotic world of ours," Groote proclaimed, "there is

only one thing that we can turn to, just one thing that will consistently, time after time, save us from adversity, and that one thing is…"

   At that point Groote created a wonderfully pregnant pause,

which gave birth to something other than what she intended. A low, prolonged toot issued out from behind a tree. It was a deep and sudden sound, ripe and fruity.

   Henrietta Groote lost her place, her mouth dropped open and

she stared, aghast, in the direction of the offending flatulence. Everyone else also turned in that direction, and the soldier, who had been trying to be as discreet as possible, found himself the center of attention. About a dozen of the nearest old-earthers could be seen covering their faces reflexively and hurrying away. The group of spacers, who had been closest to him, began to laugh.

   "I love the sounds of nature this time of year," one of them

said, and they cracked up even harder.

   "Finally," chortled another, "an honest response to Henrietta

Groote!"

   "It wasn't me," the soldier protested. "Stop looking at me. I

didn't do it!"

   "Well!" Groote said into her microphone. "Well!"
   "STOP STARING AT ME!" the soldier cried, leaping to his feet.

"I DIDN'T DO IT!" He looked around wildly. "IT WAS HIM!" He pointed at one of the laughing young men.

   Everyone turned to look at the man. He had brown skin and a

crop of short, unruly dreadlocks crowning his head. He wore a brown, hemp-cloth shirt, hand-painted with a psychedelic paisley design, and baggy brown trousers.

   When the man saw the crowd staring at him, he raised one hand

and wagged it before him. "No," he chuckled. "No. Not me."

   "It was him!" the soldier said, still pointing. "It was the

lousy spacer!"

   The word "spacer" was passed around through the crowd for a

few seconds, followed closely by the word "fart".

   "Well!" said Groote.
   "It was the disgusting spacer!" the soldier continued. "It

wasn't me."

   "Well!" said Groote. "Spacer! You think you can disrupt this

gathering? Do you think you can do that? Have you no respect?"

   The young man stopped laughing. "Uh...," he said, looking up

at the glaring old-earthers.

   Nixon nudged the soldier who had remained by his side. "Call

reinforcements," the president said. "Just in case."

   "Let's get him," someone in the crowd said.
   The soldier near Nixon carefully set his pocket vid unit down

on the ground and leisurely unclipped a small cellular broadcaster from his belt. He thoughtfully punched some buttons and then muttered into the mouthpiece.

   "There appears to be some disruption in the crowd," said a

thin voice from the pocket vid.

   "We will prevail against you!" said Henrietta Groote.
   "Prevail!" someone shouted.
   "I'll take care of this," said the farting soldier, who had

regained his composure somewhat. He advanced toward the accused spacer.

   "We have an unconfirmed report," said the voice from the vid,

"that a disruptive group of spacers ignited a stink-bomb or chemical weapon of some sort…"

   The spacer backed slowly away from the soldier, his open palms

displayed in a gesture of peace. The soldier continued forward.

   "We've got ten men within walking distance," said the non-

flatulent soldier. "They'll be here in a matter of minutes."

   "Thank you," said Nixon.
   The amplified howl of Henrietta Groote echoed across the mall.

"HAVE YOU NO RESPECT, YOU DISGUSTING, OBSCENE, PERVERTED, FOUL… SPACER!"

   The farting soldier made a grab for the spacer's arm, but the

spacer twisted suddenly and was out of reach. The soldier charged, but suddenly the spacer was in a martial arts crouch, and the soldier was deflected, falling back into a group of old-earth women. He disentangled himself from a whining matron and was back on his feet, a gun in his hand.

   "We've identified the man with the gun as one of President

Nixon's personal bodyguards, a member of the newly reformed secret service. He seems to have brought the disruptive spacers to bay…"

   "Get those troops in here now!" Nixon said.
   "GOSH DARN HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE, AWFUL, NO GOOD... SHITS!!"

Groote howled.

   The soldier leveled his gun, muttering curses as he advanced

on the spacer. The gun roared, but the spacer had dropped to the ground, rolled and come up beneath the soldier's gun arm, knocking the gun from the soldier's grip and throwing the soldier to the ground. The bullet struck the arm of an elderly man, who screamed in agony. The spacer scrambled across the grass and retrieved the gun.

   "Whoa! Something's going on!" Nixon heard the vid unit say.
   Four soldiers in brand-new khaki uniforms came jogging through

the crowd. They stopped, guns drawn, when they saw the spacer with the pistol.

   "I've been shot!" The elderly man shouted, clutching his arm.

"Oh! Help! I've been shot!"

   The new arrivals looked at the old man, then at the spacer

with the gun, then at their comrade with mirror shades who remained sprawled on the lawn. They took aim.

   The secret-service-soldier who had remained near Nixon grabbed

the president and began to hustle him away from the melee.

   As they made for an official bubble car parked nearby, Nixon

heard the shots. 68. 23 NEWS, HEH HEH, UPDATE

   "The top story tonight," Mark O'Connor smiled, "is the

disruption of a Pro-American rally in Washington, D.C., this afternoon. According to an official report from the White House, the rally, led by industrialist Henrietta Groote, was interrupted when a group of spacers detonated a chemical weapon in the crowd. Heh heh. We have some footage."

   The playback started with a view of Henrietta Groote, waving

her arms about in the sun. She stopped speaking, a look of horror on her face. The camera panned across the crowd to show old- earthers fleeing from the area near the tree.

   "This is a secret service agent who was attending the rally as

a bodyguard of President Nixon," O'Connor commented. "He arrived with astonishing swiftness and immediately took command of the situation. It makes one marvel a bit at how fast and how thoroughly Mr. Nixon is restoring things. Unfortunately, as you see, he is outnumbered."

   The soldier could be seen firing his gun and being tossed to

the ground by the spacer.

   "But the cavalry came to the rescue and the disturbance was

quelled. The elderly man to the left of the image, heh heh, was apparently injured by the chemical bomb."

   The recording stopped as the soldiers drew their guns.
   "Apparently several members of the audience were injured in

the terrorist attack, and one spacer was killed. This is the third reported incident of violence involving spacer dissidents in the last six days.

   "Violence also flared elsewhere on the globe when government

forces in the republic of Russia stormed the headquarters of the AGRI Collective, a huge complex near Moscow which had apparently been engaged in various illegal and anti-government actions. The fighting reportedly ended in a stalemate and troops of the newly reorganized government are now entrenched around the complex. Throughout the rest of the Russian state, government troops are reportedly re-establishing order. President Nixon reports that U.S. Cabinet member Neal Severant has traveled to the area, and has offered U.S. aid to the government freedom fighters.

   "In other news of importance, rock and roll superstar Paul

McCartney said that his current tour of major world cities will continue in spite of his well-publicized health problems. Although critics have panned the tour, saying that McCartney's performance was 'tired', and that the gray-haired rocker was losing his voice, audiences are still flocking to arenas…" 69. STAR TRAIN

   Nixon enjoyed his second flight in a spin drive craft much

more than his first. The car itself was magnificent, a big, old Lincoln, black, sleek and polished, with the words "Air Force One" painted across the sides.

   They soared up from the White House lawn, Marcia Bounty waving

goodbye from the front steps. The ride was smooth and silent, and the big, plush interior of the Lincoln gave a greater sense of security than any helicopter. Outside, the sky was blue and cloudless. Washington, glittering in the sun, dwindled away behind them.

   The car arced gracefully up to suborbital space, the sky

turning deep purple around them, then smoothly cruised back down into the atmosphere. Nixon watched as the browns and greens of southwestern North American expanded across the window.

   They settled down comfortably in a desert compound, impromptu

military buildings scattered around inside a chain-link fence. One end of the installation looked like a used car lot, a variety of old vehicles, sports cars, sedans, station wagons, trucks and vans were parked in orderly rows. Beyond that, three rows of old police cars sat in various stages of disassembly. Beyond that, a phalanx of tanks. And beyond that was an enormous, sand-colored tent.

   Major Disaster eagerly scrambled up to Air Force One and

opened the door for the president. "Welcome, sir."

   Nixon was led through the compound and presented with a

variety of marvels. He nodded appreciatively at flying demonstrations, Fords and Chevrolets loop-the-looping through the desert sky. He watched a drill of soldiers being taught to invade an enclosed space environment. He looked at spacesuits, energy weapons, and the humming, rotating magnets of the spin drives.

   Finally, the major brought Nixon to the entrance flap of the

big tent. "This is our biggest surprise, sir," Disaster said.

   The officer led the president into the dim coolness. It took

Nixon's eyes a few moments to adjust to the relative darkness; he could make out a big, long shape looming in the center of the tent.

   Disaster hit a switch and floodlights came on.
   It was a locomotive.
   It was a locomotive with some differences. It had a big engine

that once housed a mighty diesel, and it had one passenger car. The railroad wheels had been replaced with fat rubber airplane tires and a kind of shock-absorbing system. The windows seemed different, thicker, more elaborately sealed. Protruding from the nose of the engine was about ten feet of thick tube, the muzzle of some huge weapon.

   Nixon's heart pounded. He was speechless. He loved it.

70. OBJECTIVE

   Major Disaster led the president into the cockpit of the

spacecraft.

   "That big thing sticking out the front," the major said, "is

the rail gun that Mr. Severant was discussing. We only tested the thing twice, 'cause, well, it really fucks things up, if you get my drift. First time we fired it into the side of a mountain Ä well, there wasn't much left of that mountain afterwards Ä blast like a little atom bomb. Really loud. It shook the ground for about fifty miles around. Nothing's gonna cross this baby and live to tell about it!"

   "Uh, Major," Nixon asked, "what about the engines? Do they

work? Has this been flown yet?"

   "Yes, sir. We're stilling tuning them, but we've taken this

baby out a couple of times. Only at night, of course. Everything's pretty much ready. We're ready for our first objective."

   "As we discussed," Nixon said, "the first objective should be

an easy hit, a quick and successful military move to show that we're back and we mean business. Have you had any thoughts on that?"

   "Yes, sir. One of the smart boys we hired to hook up the spin

drives told us about a piece of American property which is up in space, and apparently occupied illegally by spacers. The Freedom Space Platform, sir."

   "Uh, huh," said Nixon. "I remember when they were planning

that. I thought it was a good idea. Was it ever finished? I don't recall."

   "I don't know that it was ever finished, sir. But it's still

up there. We can track it on radar. And there are definitely spacers living there. Squatters, sir. Invaders. And a lot of them, based on their broadcasts."

   "Are they armed? What are their defenses?"
   "What defenses? They don't have shit. Sir."
   "All right, Major. I want a full report on the Freedom

Platform. This sounds like a good one, if we can get in there quick, with minimum loss of American life."

   "Hot damn!" said the major. "Hot shit! I knew you'd like it!

I knew it!"

   "Major," Nixon said, "if you don't mind Ä could I just sit

here by myself for a few minutes?" 71. A DAYDREAM

   The mighty spin drive throbbed underneath him as he guided the

train through an endless night of stars. Planets rushed past, comets, asteroids, alien spacecraft, exotic landscapes in many colors. Martha was by his side, proud, smiling, glamorous.

   He was

CaseyJonesJohnWayneLukeSkywalkerGeorgePattonFlashGordanDwight- EisenhowerJamesTKirk… savior of the universe, mighty phallic- firing weapon at the fore. And at the same time he was emissary of America, statesman to the solar system, bold diplomat to strange and foreign lands.

   Up ahead, a horde of enemy vehicles: Nissans, Yugos, Toyotas,

Hondas, Volkswagens, Fiats, Mercedes, Mitsubishis. He pushed on the handle and the mighty engine roared, the locomotive hurtled forward. Spacers, hippies, SDS, SLA, Black Panthers, Viet Cong in brown, hemp-colored spacesuits leaned from their windows, firing guns and lasers. Bullets and rays slammed against the heavy steel of the train.

   He grabbed the handles of the gunsight and lined up the

crosshairs on the biggest spacer craft, a Volkswagen van with dozens of spacers hanging from the windows. He fired and the giant rail gun shuddered through the structure of the locomotive. Outside, a brilliant, symmetrical explosion, the van demolished instantly. He turned and aimed at the next one, an Accord jammed with spacer terrorists, and let fly again. A solid hit, a beautiful flash of light. The bombs bursting in air, the rockets' red glare, swirling eddy I Judeo-Christian such a solution.

   And the spacers turned tail, they were retreating, he was

victorious. He would negotiate a fair treaty with them, one that all the world would respect. It would go down in history. It would unite the people of Earth and space. He was JohnGeorgeDwight- JonesSkywalkerCaseyTJamesGordanFlashKirkLukePattonWayneEisenhower … mighty phallic firing bring… 72. FREEDOM

   Freedom Colony was an orbiting trailer park.
   Several hundred mobile homes, recreational vehicles, and

house-trailers of various kinds floated out in every direction from a central core of six white, stubby cylinders, the whole network strung together with fat connecting tubes, skeletal girders and wide, shiny fans of solar collectors.

   Essence piloted the big white Oldsmobile into a makeshift-

looking docking bay. The door to the bay closed behind them and soon they could hear the faint hissing of atmosphere being pumped into the chamber.

   "Thanks, Essence," Diana said. "I appreciate it."
   "You sure you don't want me to stay a little while?" Essence

asked.

   "No, I'll be all right. Give me a call when you're heading

back up out of the well."

   A green light came on in the docking bay. They kissed

affectionately and Diana unsealed the heavy door of the Olds and climbed out. She gave her friend a last wave, then pushed off into the mouth of a connecting tube.

   She closed the airlock behind her and floated still for a

moment, allowing her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting of the tube. Behind her she could hear the whine of compressors sucking the air back out of the docking bay.

   From down the tube Diana could see someone floating toward

her. In the pale fluorescent light it was a strange figure, elongated and unusually white. The man got closer and Diana realized that he was a permanent.

   His limbs were thin and spidery, almost skeletal, the muscles

atrophied from years of no exercise in a microgravity environment, and his skin was fishbelly pale. He wore only a flapping loincloth which did little to hide the only part of his body that did not appear withered.

   "Diana Stuart?" the man said slowly.
   "Yeah," Diana said. "How do you do?"
   "Fine," the man said, snaking a hand toward Diana. She shook

the hand gingerly. "I'm Trent. I'm, uh, a fan of yours. And the band. I volunteered to come welcome you. Welcome to Freedom."

   A grin spread gradually across Trent's face.
   "Thanks Trent. I'm flattered."
   "There's a party in the hub. C'mon."

73. THE HUB

   Diana drifted along the tube behind Trent for what seemed like

a long time. They reached an airlock set against a curved white wall. A faded American flag was painted on the door, as well as an equally worn NASA logo. The outer door opened with some difficulty and they climbed inside. The inner door was even more difficult, particularly for the frail permanent, and Diana had to lend a hand.

   As Trent pushed the lock closed behind them, Diana took in the

view. The cylinder was the size of, perhaps, a small studio apartment, but it was all floor, carpet running all the way around the inside. People were spread out in groups across the whole surface, tethered to clips hidden in the carpet. A few floated free, or on longer tethers, in the central part of the room. Diana quickly realized that most of them were permanents.

   "I didn't realize that Freedom was a permanent colony," she

said to Trent.

   "Oh, anyone can live here."
   Trent pushed off in the direction of the nearest group and

Diana followed. Most of the people in the group were naked, which was common enough in space habitats, and Diana felt a strange erotic thrill to see these O.Z.-enlarged, healthy-looking penises, breasts and vulvas juxtaposed against the spidery, atrophied permanent bodies.

   When in Rome, she thought, unzipping the front of her own

shirt. She enjoyed the feeling as her breasts adjusted to weightlessness.

   The party was languid and sexual; permanents were not inclined

to move much or rapidly, preferring to simply float in the their womb-like space homes, but hands dallied lightly at gently throbbing erections, puckered nipples and glistening vaginas. Music undulated through the air, rich and hypnotic, slower and spacier than the kind of thing that Diana was accustomed to playing. Small bubbling water pipes passed gradually from mouth to mouth, a faint haze of pungent exhaled smoke sliding into the recirculation streams.

   Trent tethered himself, his arms and legs going slack, and

floated with the group. Diana grabbed a handhold recessed into the carpet and steadied herself against the wall.

   Heads nodded on thin necks in recognition when Trent

introduced her to the group.

   "Peace in the womb of Nuit," said someone.
   "Peace," she said.
   A water pipe floated toward her and she filled her lungs with

cool smoke.

   "What brings you here?" someone else said softly.
   "I'm looking for Nicholas Palmer."
   "Oh. He's around here somewhere..."

74. PALMER

   Diana moved slowly through the party. Thin, gentle hands

reached out to her as she floated by, stroking the well-developed muscles of her thighs, or the soft skin of a breast. Friendly, languid smiles. Offered water pipes, an inhaler of something which made her nipples and her cunt tingle. The room seemed to glow with pastel radiance.

   "Palmer? Oh. He's around here somewhere..."
   She noticed that her clothing was gone. She copulated slowly

with a man whose large, engorged cock sent pleasant spasms of electricity up her spine.

   "Nicholas Palmer? Around here somewhere..."
   Drifting, floating, tethered to the wall, her finger in her

own vagina, listening to the music.

   "I don't know... around here..."
   After some time she saw a man floating very still, eyes

closed. A little bit of sparkling light seemed to play in the air around him. His face was familiar. She had seen it before, before he had become a permanent, perhaps… It had to be… Nicholas Palmer.

   The face was thinner, but recognizable. His arms and legs were

impossibly long and bony; he had been a long time without gravity or exercise, longer than most of those in the room. She drifted over beside him and touched his chest with the palm of her hand.

   His eyes opened for a brief moment. "Bring us," he whispered,

and his eyes closed again.

   Diana floated up against him, tethered herself to the same

anchor that he drifted up from, and curled herself comfortably around his thin body. She stroked him. His penis roused to a half erection and Diana caressed it lightly, but his eyes remained closed and he did not move. Diana's consciousness wandered off into the borderlands of dream. 75. I WAS SO CLOSE…

   Diana awoke somewhat groggily, a haze of party-aftermath

clouding her mind. She realized that she floated up against a thin, incredibly bony body, and she reflexively pushed away, grabbing a handhold on the wall. As she looked at the permanent, she began to recall the events of the party. She looked at him and breathed a sigh of relief. Here were some answers, perhaps.

   She looked around the room and saw that the cylinder was

empty, the remains of the party mostly cleaned up. Palmer appeared pretty much the same; he showed no sign of consciousness. She floated closer and touched his shoulder.

   "Nicholas..."
   He did not respond.
   "Nicholas..."
   No response.
   Diana realized that she was quite hungry. She untethered and

floated toward the middle of the cylinder where a door to a large connecting tube interrupted the carpeted wall. She slipped through into another hub cylinder and found a room where v.r. workstations ran all the way around the wall. Out of about thirty or so stations, only two were occupied.

   From another door on the other side of the cylinder, a woman

drifted in who appeared to be not quite as physically atrophied as most of the people Diana had seen at the party. She smiled at Diana and pushed off from the wall to meet her.

   "Hi," Diana said. "I just got here and I'm wondering if

there's someplace I can get some food."

   "Why are you still here?" the woman asked.
   "Like I said, I just got here."
   "Don't you know?"
   "What?"
   "We heard it on the news a few hours ago. The United States of

America, President Nixon, has declared war on Freedom."

   "On freedom? Oh... on the colony?"
   "Yes, the colony. They claim it as U.S. property. A lot of

folks have already left. You should too. You don't belong here."

   "But... Nicholas Palmer... I came here to find him. He's still

unconscious from the party."

   "And he'll probably stay that way. He's been like that for

years. He rouses every once in a while and has a little bit to eat. Doesn't seem to need very much. He just floats, the most permanent of all permanents. I'm leaving right now. Come with me."

   "Let me get Palmer."
   "Okay. Be quick."
   Diana went back to where Palmer floated, exactly as he had

been.

   She shook him. "Nicholas!"
   She shook him again. His eyelids fluttered, one leg drifted up

a little bit away from the other. "Nicholas!"

   His lips parted a bit. "B... R..."
   The woman stuck her head into the cylinder. "There's craft

approaching from low orbit," she said. "Come on! Just unhitch him and…"

   Diana grabbed Palmer's tether and unclipped it from the wall.

She pulled on it.

   Palmer's body swiveled around, his leg bounced off the wall,

and his eyes blearily opened. "Huh? Wha?"

   "Come on, Nicholas," Diana said urgently. "Earther ships are

coming. We've got to go." She pulled the tether.

   Palmer flipped around and grabbed a handhold. "No," he said.

"Just let me… I was so close…"

   A thud, something striking against the outside of the

cylinder, echoed through the space.

   "I'm outa here!" called the woman from the hatch. She

disappeared, the tube entrance banging closed.

   "Come on, Palmer!" Diana commanded. She braced herself against

the wall and pulled. Palmer's weak hand lost its grip and the two of them swung off into the center of the cylinder, orbiting each other, and bounced off the wall on the other side. Another dull boom shook the cylinder.

   Diana held onto the tether until she swung around and came

against the wall again. She grabbed a handhold and tried to steady Palmer, whose arms and legs were windmilling in slow, weightless motion.

   The airlock at one end of the cylinder was cycling.
   "Come on, Palmer!"
   "Let me go. You go..."
   "No!"
   The airlock opened and spacesuited soldiers floated in,

weapons at the ready. 76. MEMORIES OF INITIATION

   The Macintosh on the dashboard emitted a mellow tone, waking

Stu from a light sleep. He had been having a pleasant dream about flying, soaring over a country road in his boyhood Britain, then rising up through blue skies and racing through the stars. He took a deep breath, then made his way to the driver's seat and looked at the computer's screen. He had arrived.

   What would it be? he wondered. What could this initiation

possibly be? His heart beat with anticipation.

   The view from the windshield showed nothing but stars. The bus

was holding its position high above the plane of the ecliptic, far from the clutter and debris of the solar system proper. It was remote and isolated, quite empty.

   Stu checked his coordinates. He was where he was supposed to

be, and right on time. His initiators, apparently, were late.

   This is part of it, Stu thought. I'm supposed to wait. They

always do this. All right, I'll wait.

   There are a number of ways to pass the time, he reflected.

Some type of meditation is traditional. What will it be?

   He took a joint from a cubbyhole and fired it up. He toked

with deep, easy breaths, lungs filling fully. He felt muscles in his legs, his arms, his back, his face relax. He floated loosely in his tether, the ambient, slow flicker of the spin drive playing across his closed eyelids. He could hear the hum of onboard systems, and the silence of deep space.

   Ah, this will do nicely, he thought.
   A thought came into his head, a memory of being five years old

and going to school for the first time. His mother waved goodbye. She waved and waved forever, until finally he was gone. Stu's heart leaped with the memory, pounded in his chest with the anticipation and fear that he had felt.

   He opened his eyes. A strange thing to think of now, he

considered. I haven't remembered that in half a lifetime…

   Another deep toke and he allowed his eyes to close again.

Another image was there, waiting. Her name was Vicky, a beautiful, dark-haired girl who went to his school. She was so perfect, he had admired her for over a year. She gave him little smiles, sometimes, beautiful, sweet little smiles, and he knew he had to ask her out. His heart pounded with the anticipation and he was Manchester. He waited in the a dancing god free yourself there is his teacher had the concentrated Palmer like this, my friend. He waited in the clothing. Information there was no together…

   Another time, another life. A dark room, rich tapestries hung

all around, barely visible meanders. Soon they would call for him and his heart pounded. What would it be? He had heard a drug… But they had strong magick, the priests of this forbidden, universal cult. From the dawn of time, they had told him, when he first visited the meeting room in the alleyway. He had heard an ordeal, either you lived and became a true man, or you died…

   He had touched Vicky's breast, gingerly, tenderly. It was warm

and surprisingly soft. She had sucked in her breath a little, and he felt the nipple grow taut. He had never felt like this, but it seemed like an ancient memory… He wore women's for you Nuit like this a woman. Then until the alchemist information said. Unless there was no to learn other way and fire he became initiated…

   His penis had become erect, still a strange sensation, and the

knife bit sharply into the foreskin, causing him to bite down hard on the wad of sacred herbs whose pungent aroma filled his head. He firmly stifled a scream behind his clenched teeth. All would know he was a man now and soon he would be told the ways of the warrior- shaman, he would learn to carry the magick spear, to pick and prepare the sacred plants, to stalk silently and persistently. Pain like death…

   "For what reason have you come to us?"
   The big chamber was dark and he was fettered to the wall,

chains around his ankles. His heart beat with anticipation. They came at him from all sides, with hissing torches and guns. They moved with ritual grace, methodically, slowly, giving him enough time to think, but the torches were soon warm on his skin, and the threat, "Free yourself or die!" He pulled the chains from his legs and pushed off, a bullet whizzing just below him…

   "Do you renounce all that you were?"
   His nostrils stinging from the acrid stuff the brujo had blown

in there, the drumbeat drove him down through the earth, through the realms of roots and blind crawling things. He fell through the tunnel, falling, flying, motionless as the underworld roared by. A world of light was around him, the place of spirits, and the jaguar waited in a grove of sacred cacti. He embraced the jaguar, and it tore him to shreds, devoured him, and he was reborn through the cat's belly, as it's brother, the silent ways of the hunter in his head, the unknown ways of the spirit place…

   "This cannot be revealed, except to the initiate..."
   Together he would not pyramid penis putrescence hope Nixon the

fan. Exceed force in the center realize be revealed would return bring initiation us said… Time stretched before him and behind, and all of it at once, a powerful energy, harmonious, from his heart, linking these lives, quantum leaps of evolution…

   "Thee, that didst create the darkness and the Light."  The

growing force within made his arms and legs tingle with star sparkling pins and pure will. The surety grew with each breath, with each vibration of barbarous word, with each extension of intent into the void. "Hear Thou Me, for I am the Angel of PTAH- APOPHRASZ-RA: this is Thy True Name, handed down to the Prophets of THELEMA." The power was in his heart, the golden glory of tiphareth, flaring outward, exploding into silent sureness. "I am He, the Begetter and Manifester unto the Light!" And his heart and his soul would evermore fill with lyrics…

   He heard a drug devour you to offer up he heard an ordeal. The

last morsel of you, the pyramid anarchy. His teacher had infinite nothingness. There might of evolution death red sand tiphareth die or become. The musicians played a stately psychedelic march as he Diana floated together up to the altar to be married for the first time, the third time, the eighth time, having sight in the feet shall Marcia he heard a drug death… The ritual of weightless consummation, their friends silent and watching…

   For what reason bring the face beyond space and give it away.

Thelema lyrics Stu this time are you willing the love. Tiphareth is dewdrop be to offer up human. The sarcophagus was cold, darkness closing in as the lid fell into place, his heart beat with fear and anticipation. He would suffocate in here, he would sweat and wonder. The sweat felt clammy, uncomfortable against the cool stone. The fear of death took him, for he would see death, if not die… A breath, he took a deep breath, relax, he thought, breathe, and he could feel muscles in his face, his arms, his back, his legs relax. And the light began to shine, the light that held him to everything else that he experienced across ten thousand years of many lifetimes and whatever was in between. The sand on the floor he heard an ordeal shreds the pyramids… the lord initiating getting near Horus you will no pour everything forth the end are you willing… A consciousness of consciousness greater than comprehension within limits… And he opened his eyes. He remembered to breathe. The joint, still in his hand, had gone out. The computer was beeping softly. A flashing icon on the screen indicated an incoming message. He shook the visions from his head and tapped on the keyboard. A written message appeared in a window framed against the spin drive indicator:

   "Stu Ä Sorry, unable to meet you. Please rendezvous Cydonia,

Mars." 77. OPERATION STAR STORM

   The soldiers did a quick reconnaissance from the hatchway and

then stormed into the cylinder. In an instant they were floating free, foundering, disoriented, clumsily bouncing off the carpeted walls. Several of them, the last ones to come through, clung tightly to handholds on either side of the airlock, too fearful to let go. One remembered to pull the inner door shut and seal it. Another, who had been cartwheeling through the center of the cylinder, managed to grab onto the wall with one hand, hastily undogged his helmet with the other hand and spewed a stream of vomit into the air.

   Diana watched incredulously, still holding a handhold and the

free end of Palmer's tether, keeping them both close to the wall. Palmer looked confused, but this had been his state since Diana had awakened him.

   Two of the soldiers who had clustered around the airlock began

to make their way slowly in the direction of the two spacers, crawling along the wall, grabbing onto every handhold. Another soldier rebounded off the wall and drifted into the recirculation stream where he was immediately engulfed in globules of fresh vomit. The stench was beginning to fill the room.

   The soldier who had barfed was trying to wipe his face on the

rubbery fabric of his spacesuit sleeve, coughing out orders at the same time. "Fall in, urrrp, ack, men. Come on, everybody… aaaaaack! Fall in."

   The men still wore their helmets; they could not hear him.
   The wall-crawling soldiers made it over to where Diana and

Palmer huddled and laboriously tethered themselves to the wall. They undid their helmets, grimacing at the sour smell. Finally, when they felt secure enough, they managed to point their rifles at the spacers.

   "Don't these people own any clothes?" one of the soldiers

asked.

   "I don't know," said the other. "The stringbean's girlfriend

is real cute. Lookit those jugs."

   "Yeah, they just kinda float there."
   Diana clipped Palmer to the wall, so that she could have a

free hand. She gave them the finger. 78. A WAD OF BAZOOKA

   "In our top story," grinned Mark O'Connor, "United States

troops have stormed the Freedom Space Platform, liberating it, heh heh, from spacer forces. According to the Pentagon, a well- coordinated squadron quickly penetrated spacer defenses and reclaimed the orbiting installation which was originally launched by the United States in the middle nineteen-nineties.

   "General Harold Havoc, commander of U.S. forces for what has

been dubbed Operation Star Storm, explained the action at a press conference this afternoon."

   The vid image of General Havoc appeared behind O'Connor, then

zoomed up to fill the display.

   Voice of unseen reporter: General, can you tell us if there

were any casualties?

   General Havoc: So far there has only been one American

casualty, and only a few minor injuries. I cannot comment on spacer casualties at this time. Some prisoners have been taken.

   Reporter: What kind of defenses did our troops encounter on

their approach to the space platform?

   General Havoc: Er, the spacers have the largest fleet of

spacecraft ever assembled in recorded history. Our action depended largely on, er, timing and coordination. I cannot comment on specifics of the offensive since that would affect the security of ongoing operations.

   Reporter: There was some question of whether Earth-trained

troops could function effectively in a space maneuver. Was that a problem?

   General Havoc: Our troops were well prepared and, er, um, they

performed courageously.

   Reporter: What attempts were made to negotiate with the

spacers before the attack was initiated?

   General Havoc: Um, well, that is not part of my job. I can say

that President Nixon released a statement saying that there was no grounds for negotiation, that the Freedom Platform was clearly United States property which was being illegally occupied. The spacers had adequate warning of Operation Star Storm. They were asked to evacuate, but chose to ignore the warning.

   Reporter: Is it true that you entered the military because you

were insecure about your penis size?

   General Havoc: Well... I, er... Who the hell are you, anyway?!
   Reporter: I'm from the Howard Stern Show, sir. Is it true that

your organ resembles a thoroughly chewed wad of Bazooka, sir?

   General Havoc: Stern, eh? Oh. Well, then. I, er, cannot

comment on that because it might affect the security of ongoing operations… 79. A DREAM

   Nixon sat on the throne, a victorious king, at peace in his

castle while the crusades raged in faraway lands. Queen Martha sat beside him, her breasts an endless night of stars smiling. He danced with Tricia, the last happy days.

   "Corrupt by the time. What about Watergate?" said the slippery

opening in the stone ceiling, a milky light shining through.

   He slid it in, feeling it tight around his cock, and the slit

was Marcia, who had become Queen and they rode weightless upward, outward, anywhere. Bounty greedy hard-on spin drive throbbed as planets rushed past the locomotive success. As they accelerated away from the Earth, his royal robes began to crumble into greenish pungent excrement. His head hurt, his cock was enormous, pulling him on into the void. No scandal, not the defeat of the spacers the threat of anarchy from space will criminals out of hand BRING.

   He fired, and the shot raced through the normal curvature of

space, dissolving, rectifying, returning, to strike him from behind, a hard turd up the ass. He took aim again Ä they must be destroyed Ä and defensive build-up into the money roaring the tunnel hemp factors him as he guided cunt. A kick up the butt, his father's foot, there was wrongdoing done. Assholes, assholes, assholes. He lost his erection.

   "Come on," said Martha, her dress the color of purple nights,

stars sparkling from pubic pyramid. "To me. To me."

   But he could not go... His asshole was cemented TOGETHER an

entire planet up his ass. The promise of roaring of three hundred and fifty thousand but the victory of plenty over want… there was now US the man went back hard-on as his light-filled mind of health over disease into the touchdown. 80. IT LOOKS BIG

   "I shouldn't be here," Nixon said. "It's not right."
   "Oh, come on, Dick. Every time you come here, I get the same

speech." Marcia smiled, rubbing against him. "But as soon as your cock gets hard, it's a different story entirely."

   She playfully grabbed at his pants. He flinched away, but his

cock had other ideas and began, once again, to swell.

   This is ridiculous, he thought. Since I was rejuvenated the

damn thing's been hard more often than not. I must learn to control this. I must…

   "Mmmmm," said Marcia, her hand massaging the growing bulge.

"See what I mean? Your twentieth century brain says no, but your twenty-first century body says, okay, let's go!"

   "Okay," Nixon sighed, temporarily resigning the Quaker voice

in his brain to the O.Z. in his body, "let's go."

   "Well, hang on a minute," Marcia said. "I'm expecting a

friend."

   "A friend? What? Now?"
   "Soon, I think. Come on, let's sit on the couch and smoke a

joint."

   Over the last couple months, the smoke had become a pleasant

preliminary to these clandestine meetings in Marcia's apartment. Always, at first, some part of him still rebelled from using what he consciously considered to be a dangerous narcotic, and he felt his heart race with a surge of anxiety as the first few tokes took effect. But the nurse had an excellent bedside manner and he quickly felt more at ease, more aware of his body and his surroundings. The anticipatory throbbing in his cock seemed to spread throughout his body, becoming more gentle, more a thing of light and fluid sound than just physical yearning.

   He exhaled a great cloud of smoke. "So, uh, your friend...

who…"

   "I think you'll like her."
   "But I thought we had agreed that no one... no one should

know…"

   "She's all right, Dick. You'll like her." She gave his cock a

squeeze. "Mmmm… and I think she'll like you…"

   The door emitted a tone and Marcia went to the door. The woman

who entered was black, tall, her head framed with a wild mass of thick dreads. Marcia took the woman's robe and Nixon saw that underneath she wore little more than two, thin scraps of cloth. One scrap floated over her breasts, doing little to conceal enormous jutting nipples. The other scrap rode the curve of her hips, offering tantalizing glimpses of rounded buttocks as she walked into the room.

   "Dick, I'd like you to meet Essence..."
   Essence gave him a lovely smile. Courtesy demanded that Nixon

stand, to shake her hand or offer a seat, but the hard-on demanded, for the sake of dignity, that he remain seated. He tried to cross his legs, to somehow hide the three-man tent in his lap.

   Essence slid onto the couch, next to him, very close.
   Nixon looked at her closely. "Have we... er... met before? I

mean, have I seen…"

   "I think I might remember that," said Essence. "Are you really

the president?"

   "Um... I... Yes..."
   Marcia just stood for a moment, watching them, smiling

slightly. Nixon felt awkward; he didn't know what to say. A kaleidoscope swirling of sexual fantasies stormed through his head. A black woman… he had heard how they were… could he measure up? Would it be different?

   "Dick... Marcia said I should call you Dick."
   "Uh huh."
   "That's a good name for you."
   "Huh?"
   "It's phallic. You're president; you're the alpha male. And

you do seem full of… hmmmm… life force."

   Her gaze had quite frankly fallen to his crotch.
   "It looks big," Essence said.

81. TO ME

   Somehow, Marcia had removed the giant water-mattress from the

room. The floor was now bare wood in the center, with thick rugs along the outside.

   Nixon felt a bit self-conscious; the women had made him remove

his clothing Ä in fact, they had stripped him by trickery and force Ä while remaining dressed themselves. Essence still wore her scanty costume, and Marcia now wore a loose robe of some shiny purple material. At first Nixon tried to cover his swollen cock, but the stimulation of his hands over it Ä and the lecherous glances from the women Ä only made it larger.

   They made it clear that Dick was to sit by himself in a pile

of cushions on one side of the room. Next to him was placed a tray containing an open bottle of champagne, glasses, and several fat spliffs. Marcia gave his penis a long, tongue-squirming, deep- throat kiss, then crossed the room to sit by a tall conga drum.

   Essence took one of the joints from the tray and lit it,

taking a few long, slow tokes before passing it to Dick. As she did this, Marcia began a rhythm on the drum.

   The smoke from her last toke swirling behind her, Essence

began to dance. Nixon couldn't quite place what the rhythm was Ä African, perhaps, he thought Ä but it was rapid, incessant. The drumbeat seemed to reach inside him and squeeze his heart, to make his pulse race through his body.

   The dancer's body rippled with well-toned muscles and her

twists and turns offered, for a moment, a glimpse of a breast, the darkness of pubic hair, a firm, round ass.

   You know, Nixon thought, toking on the spliff, I like this.

This is really good. Most men only dream about this kind of thing. Might as well relax and enjoy the show.

   Marcia's rhythm seemed to increase in complexity and Essence

was now dancing in a way that was different from anything Nixon had ever seen before. Her movements were still as erotic, as sensuous as they had been from the start, but there was more. The sexuality was an expression of something else, a natural force which seemed, suddenly, to be expressing itself in every aspect, every fitting of the room.

   Nixon took another toke. He poured himself a glass of

champagne and sipped a little. He took a very deep breath.

   Essence was dancing the way a field of grain waves in the

wind, the way a snake sheds its skin, the way a snowflake drifts down from the sky. She seemed to be surrounded by a cloud of sparkling lights.

   Maybe it's just the pot, Nixon thought. I'm seeing things.
   He watched Essence dance in a swirl of blue-white motes. He

was breathing very deeply.

   This is actually quite pleasant, he thought. Ahh, I feel good.
   He held his erect cock with one hand as he watched. He took

another toke.

   The drum became the sound of the planet turning in its orbit,

the rhythm of stars making galactic orbits. Essence danced the way a seedling rises from the earth, the way a comet's tail trails off in the solar wind, the way that a rock erodes in the course of a stream, the way water vapor crystallizes into cirrus clouds. It felt like everything Ä the music, the room, the dance, Essence, Marcia, the champagne, the herb, the rugs on the floor, the grain of the hardwood floor Ä was part of a long, leisurely, stimulating fuck.

   The dancer was chanting something, but Nixon could not make

out the words. Naked now, the scraps of cloth having dissolved in the wind of her movement, she danced over to Nixon and took him by the hands, pulling him gently to his feet. There was a strength in her, Nixon noticed, that was surprising, as if some current of energy moved through her muscles. Her face seemed different now, too, peaceful, ecstatic, her eyes dark and piercing, her hair a wild, night-black fire about her head.

   "Come," she said, her voice now seeming deeper, huskier.

"Dance…"

   His body felt stiff, as if parts of it were resisting some

inner urge to move. It was as if the rhythm had gotten inside him somehow and was working its way to the surface.

   "Breathe," said the voice. "Breathe with me..."
   And the rush took him, and he was dancing, his body, his cock

rubbing against smooth, dark skin, waves of lust and ecstasy washing through him…

   "To me," she said. "To me..."

82. CHEAP COAT

   Nixon awoke on Marcia's couch, wrapped in a thin blanket and

an aura of sweat and sex-smells. His body felt loose, his mind peaceful and slow. It seemed that he had been dreaming, but he could remember nothing. He could not remember how he had come to be on the couch. The last thing he knew, he had been dancing…

   "Dick? Are you awake?"
   He turned his head to see Marcia smiling down at him. "Mmm,"

he affirmed. "Yeah."

   "How do you feel?"
   "I feel good. I feel... good."
   She leaned over and kissed him. "I'm glad. I had fun last

night. Did you?"

   "Yeah..." He sat up slowly. "Where is, um, Essence?"
   "She had to go early this morning. It's nearly noon now. Um...

There's something you should probably see…"

   "Mmm, what's that?"
   She fitted a v.r. headset over his eyes and ears. "This was on

the news this morning. I recorded it for you."

   "Thanks," he said.
   The vid image surrounded him and he found himself looking at

Mark O'Connor's morning newscast.

   "Politics may be everything that we remember it to be,"

O'Connor was saying. "Late yesterday, this reporter was contacted by an informed source who wishes to remain anonymous, identifying himself only as 'Cheap Coat', heh heh. Cheap Coat has presented some quite believable evidence which suggests that the recent election of President Nixon was funded by a spacer terrorist organization. I was shown some hard copies of financial records which indicate a transfer of funds to President Nixon's campaign account from a Central American bank which is widely known to launder money for illegal extraterrestrial concerns. These funds account for almost all of President Nixon's campaign expenses. In fact, heh heh, absolutely no records could be found showing any other contributions, from Earthly citizens, corporations, or anyone else. The President could not be reached for comment.

   "Cabinet Member Neal Severant, who returned to the United

States this morning from diplomatic duties in South America, commented that he felt certain the president was innocent of such charges, but if the accusations were true, Mr. Nixon's right to remain in office should be seriously examined.

   "In other news..."
   Nixon tore the v.r. unit from his head.
   Oh my god, he thought. Oh my god. Not again! And this time Ä

really Ä I didn't do anything… I didn't know… Well, I suspected, but… Oh my god! 83. PRISONERS

   The soldiers had given them some clothes, but Diana refused to

put them on. If nudity made their uptight old-earth brains uncomfortable, then so much the better. And if their lust drove them to try to attack her Ä well, they were hopelessly uncoordinated in free fall Ä Diana hoped to break their legs, crush their balls, bounce their heads off the carpeted walls.

   The earthers had somehow locked the main hatchways and for the

most part left the spacers alone, trapped in the cylinder. Not that it mattered; they had no spacesuits, and no craft to get to. They could go nowhere. The soldiers reappeared at regular intervals, to bring rations and to lech at Diana.

   Palmer had remained conscious, but depressed. He moped about

how he had almost accomplished something, but Diana had trouble understanding just what he was talking about.

   They had a third companion in the cylinder, an American

soldier who was completely unconscious. Red lines, like a chaotic old-earth roadmap, covered every inch of his skin Ä exploded capillaries which indicated that he had somehow been exposed to vacuum. The other soldiers had tethered him securely to the wall and left him there.

   "Sure," Diana said, "I agree that meditation can help you

think more creatively. I've definitely had some experience with that. And with ritual. Damn, I had knowledge and conversation with the H.G.A. twenty years ago…"

   "I'm talking about something different," Palmer said. "It's

not just creativity, not just unconscious revelation. It's… it's… like there's a source of information… not the Holy Guardian Angel… like tuning into something else, many minds, another universe… The H.G.A., the gods, the sephiroth, are all things defined in relation to humans… this is not."

   "The only thing that keeps me from thinking you're completely

nuts with this stuff is the fact that you invented the spin drive."

   "Yes! Yes!" Palmer exclaimed. "That's it exactly. That was the

proof for me. I didn't know anything about physics, or scalar fields, or whatever. But I was able to build the damn thing and it worked! And there was a lot more stuff, that I never published. And there's something else, something beyond that. An evolutionary change… a quantum leap in consciousness… I was close, Diana, I was really close…"

   "And you just stumbled over it the first time? The technique,

I mean."

   "Not exactly stumbled... No... I had been researching Nikola

Tesla, the early twentieth century inventor. For a magazine article. You know, Tesla was walking in a park one day, when he was a young man, and suddenly it came to him… he saw it in his head… the idea for the rotating magnetic field which made alternating current possible. That one moment, that flash of insight changed the world. It made it possible to bring electricity everywhere… I was fascinated by that, obsessed…"

   "Rotating magnets?" Diana asked. "Like the spin drive?"
   "No coincidence," Palmer said. "It came from the same place.

You know, there are still people to this day who believe that Tesla was an alien visitor to the Earth…"

   "Was he?"
   "No, of course not. He was Yugoslavian. But the information Ä

where did that come from? Another coincidence of sorts: a writer in the 1980's, Whitley Streiber, claimed that he was contacted by aliens, and when he was a child they put the idea in his head for a device which involved counter-rotating magnets. Well, he almost burned out the electrical system in his parents' house with the thing."

   "Do you believe he was contacted by aliens?"
   "Aliens? I don't know if I can call it that... But the

information comes from somewhere… somewhere else entirely… not from our human brains, not from the, uh, the, uh, astral entities that we know. It happened the first time for me in a dream. I was on a camping trip, in upstate New York, near New Paltz, and I had this weird dream, and afterward I knew how to do this."

   "Show me," Diana said. "I think it's the only way I can

understand this. Show me the technique."

   "Yes," he said, "it is the only way. But I don't know..."
   "Come on. Just tell me what you do. When you want to do this,

how do you start?"

   "Well, it's best to just float... let everything relax... and

then…"

   Diana watched his features go even slacker than usual. His

eyes drifted shut. And there was no mistaking it now, there was a kind of sparkling in the air around him, little blue-white motes of light.

   "...I don't know if I can explain," Palmer muttered. "But

maybe…"

   It seemed like a cloud of the sparkles condensed in the air

and rushed toward Diana. A feeling like being kicked in the head, and then… something happened… bliss… she began to know how…

   "Yes," said Palmer, "that's right... yes..."
   A sudden loud clanging resonated dully through the cylinder as

an airlock was pushed open.

   "Damn it!" a soldier's voice exclaimed. "What the hell are you

freaks doing now?!" 84. CHECKERS II

   The fatigue of two trying days without sleep suddenly

disappeared as the broadcast began. Suddenly Nixon felt good, in control.

   Yes, he thought, this is just how it was in 1952. I know my

subject. I know what happened. I think this is what Marcia means when she talks about the life force. Yes, I feel strong. He glanced down at his notes, scribbled longhand on sheets of yellow paper, then up at the mirrored wall.

   "My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a man whose

honesty and integrity has been questioned. This is not the first time in my life that this has happened, that a political rival, or the press, for whatever reason, has questioned my honesty before the public. I have come to believe that this is the price that I must pay for a political career.

   "You have probably all seen it on the vid by now... the

charges, the accusation that my election campaign was funded by spacers. This may in fact be the case; I have not yet been able to fully investigate this for myself. The question is not whether such funding is illegal, or wrong. The accusation is aimed at me, and the question implied is certainly whether Richard Nixon was involved in any wrongdoing.

   "The answer, quite frankly, as I believe it to be, is No. I

want to be particularly clear about this. I was not involved in any deception or dishonest act Ä the complete truth is that I was fully unconscious at the time. Let me repeat that Ä I was unconscious, in a coma, at the time of my election.

   "As I understand it, I was the only remaining person with the

qualification or the desire to hold political office. I don't know if I am the best person ever to hold the office of President, but I was, I believe, by all reason and logic, the only person available for the job. Since it was not I who made the decision, it cannot even be said that I opted to run for reasons of personal gain, or because I hoped to be reinstated into the arena of American politics.

   "I don't have much here in this life. I am a 93 year-old man

whose devoted wife died several years ago. I have lost contact over the years with my daughter. I have a few good, American suits that I have owned for many years. A bank account stripped from years of hospitalization.

   "The Nixon family dog, Checkers, died many years ago. I don't

even have a dog.

   "About all that I have is my clothing. Good wool from a time

when values were more clearly defined.

   "But I am here now, in office. And I think that whoever helped

to put me in office Ä and I'm sure that many of you watching this right now may have contributed in some way to my election, by your contribution or your vote Ä whoever helped to put me here must be a patriot, because in doing so, you restored the government of the United States.

   "I am here now, and I believe that you all know what I stand

for, what I am working for. Regardless of what happens, I will continue this fight.

   "In just the last week, we witnessed a new level of American

patriotism. We witnessed a daring operation by brave American soldiers to reclaim a piece of American property which had been lost, the Freedom Space Platform. This operation is a symbol of America's renewed strength and capability. We can become the technological superpower that we once were. We can reclaim our lost optimism.

   "I will not rest until we have rid the planet of every

interloper who seeks to defile what America stands for. I will not rest until truth is valued above concerns such as greed and corruption. I will not rest until America is healthy and vital once again."

   I need some rest, Nixon thought.

85. CYDONIA, MARS

   Primordial Stu had heard about Cydonia, but had never before

been close enough to that part of Mars to see the area's most famous feature: The Face. Now, looking down from high orbit, The Face began to come into view, about the size of a penny in the windshield, a craggy face staring up the gravity well at the orbiting bus.

   Stu tapped on the keyboard, instructing the computer to

contact the Cydonia settlement, to ask for clearance and landing information. There was no response. Stu left the computer on a repeating program, broadcasting its C.Q. message.

   He began to circle down into Mars' thin atmosphere, the stars

and the blackness of deep space fading to brown in the windshield. Below, The Face grew, revealing its true immensity.

   It was very definitely an artifact, Stu thought, not a random

work of nature. Someone, an incredibly long time ago, had carved this huge face into the top of a Martian plateau, a face enigmatically similar to the Sphinx, on Earth.

   Appropriate, he considered. The Sphinx was an ancient symbol

of initiation.

   As he swung around the plateau, he saw the pyramids, three of

them, the smallest probably the size of Earth's Great Pyramid, the largest nearly twice that size. Between the pyramids were two domes, the gardens inside bright and green in contrast with the reddish brown desert which stretched to the horizon in all directions. There was still no response to the computer's hailing signal.

   But this was the place. There simply wasn't anything else in

Cydonia.

   Six cars rested close to one dome, to one side of the main

airlock. Stu settled the bus down gently and parked.

   He sat for a moment, breathing deeply. The spin drive

indicator on the Macintosh was running slower than on the earth, but substantially faster than on the moon. Stu closed his eyes and the flickering from the monitor initiated a swirl of psychedelic patterns on the inside of his lids.

   About eight hertz, he thought. Interesting wave form.
   He let himself relax and flow into the flickering, his brain

waves adjusting themselves to the frequency. It will be easy enough to stay relaxed throughout whatever the initiation might be, he thought, if I can get near a spin drive.

   Stu stretched, then pulled his spacesuit out from behind the

driver's seat. He stripped, climbed into the suit, sealed up and then checked all the seals. He waited for a minute as the bottled air brought the suit up to pressure, then turned off the bus' onboard systems, grabbed his knapsack and climbed out onto the surface of Mars.

   Sand, in swirling patterns of red and brown, stretched away to

the base of The Face plateau, and to the horizon in the other direction. It swirled and washed against the pyramids and around the domes. A thin breeze blew steadily toward the plateau, whistling faintly around the plastic joints of the spacesuit. The sun blazed in the dark brown sky.

   Stu followed a path worn into the packed sand, from the

parking area to the airlock. The airlock cycled open swiftly and Stu stepped inside. The lighting in the lock was dim, the walls and floor padded with some thick, firm material. After a while, a green light came on and Stu opened the inner door.

   He found himself in a small locker room, alone. He checked the

readouts along the arm of his suit, then cracked the seals. He peeled off the suit and stood naked, taking a deep breath of dome air, humid with the smells of growing plants. 86. BUSINESS WAY

   Stu was pulling on his baggy, hemp-cloth pants when a door

opened and a tall, weasel-faced man entered the locker room.

   The man glanced at a hand-held flatscreen. "What is your name,

please?"

   "Primordial Stu. Call me Stu."
   The man fiddled a contact on his display unit. "Uh huh. What

is your reason for coming here?"

   "What is this? Customs? I have an appointment. I'm taking an

initiation."

   "Uh huh. I see. I was not informed of this. Arrivals are

routinely entered in our database. There has rarely been an oversight."

   "Rarely?"
   "Well, there were a few times... But they were special

circumstances."

   "Perhaps this is a special circumstance." Stu pulled on his

shirt. "Anyway, I was signalling on a general hailing frequency since I made orbit."

   "Perhaps there is something wrong with your transmitter. Old

equipment, you know."

   "The transmitter is brand new."
   "Uh huh. There is an air fee, of course. Kilobuck a week. Pay

in advance. Do you have any money?"

   "Fresh or paper?"
   "Fresh would be preferable, or endproduct. You got any

plastics or fuel?"

   "Lunar bud." Stu produced a package from his knapsack.
   "Uh huh." The man twiddled his computer. "Well, then. I wish

I had known you were coming. I might have made some arrangements. We're very short for space. Come along."

   Stu followed him through the door and into the dome. A path

led to the center of the garden where five other paths intersected. In each of the six sections between the paths, the settlers grew a different crop. The tallest was a stand of hemp at the north end of the dome, a bit taller and stringier than the dense and pungent moonweed that Stu had grown accustomed to. In the rest of the garden grew beans, hybrid grains, a tangle of air-purifying vines, and even several small fruit trees. A light spin field modulated the stark Martian sunlight.

   At the end of the path between vines and beans, they went

through a doorway and down a steep flight of steps. Stu followed down a tunnel, past rows of closed doors, the recirculation stream blowing at their backs. Eventually they came to a small, brightly lit office. The man gestured toward a hard, straight-backed chair, but lowered his own frame with slow, low gravity grace into a softer, ergonomically designed desk chair. Stu chose to remain standing.

   "Please, Mr. Stu?" The man gestured again toward the chair.
   Stu sighed and sat down.
   A sign on the crowded desk identified the man as Mel Tzadi,

Associate Director of Human Resources, Utilities and Supplies. Another sign, on the wall behind the desk, said "Welcome Wagon".

   Tzadi plugged his little hand unit into a desktop computer and

pulled up some information on a large flat display. "We do try to keep things in a business way," Tzadi said. "I hope you can understand. There are certain things which must be delineated, guidelines which must be set down, or everything will just go to chaos. You said you were taking an initiation; you're not one of these chaos people are you?"

   "Well, I do appreciate a little randomness every now and then,

but not exclusively, no."

   "But certainly you must agree that the purpose of evolution,

of intelligence is increased order. Information, the earmark of progress, is, of course, reverse entropy."

   "I believe that evolution can encompass both," Stu said.

"Perhaps some randomness, some chaos is necessary to the process. As well, what appears to be chaos may well just be something that we don't understand."

   "That is always the justification which your type uses for its

random senselessness. I understand well enough! You find it easy to simply scramble things up, and call that art or science or language. Then you defend it by saying no one else understands! Who can fight that defense?"

   "Is this what you brought me here for?" Stu asked. "To run

rhetorical circles? Can you just make a room assignment and let me go take care of my business?"

   "All things come in their true time," Tzadi said, tapping a

contact and scrolling some long document across his screen. "Now, I need to know something about your sexual preferences." He looked up expectantly.

   "Is this necessary?"
   "To keep things harmonious and organized here on Cydonia, we

try to make room matches as compatible as possible. Please supply the information."

   "My sexual preferences? Polymorphous perverse. Always to

Nuit."

   "Uh huh." Tzadi entered the information. "And your last sexual

partner was…?"

   "I really don't see that this is necessary. I'm an agreeable

guy. I'll be happy wherever you stick me. I'm looking for a place to sleep, not another wife, thank you."

   "Ah, then, you are married?"
   "Come on. I expect this sort of thing on Earth, not on Mars."
   "If you will just cooperate, you'll have a room soon enough."
   "Is there someone else I can see? Do you have a supervisor?"
   "I am afraid I am presently the only administrator available.

Please supply the information. Presently married?"

   "I'll be going now, thank you." Stu stood and turned toward

the door.

   "Mr. Stu, you cannot just walk out of here. You must have an

official assignment. We must do this properly. You expect to be initiated and yet you cannot even follow basic procedure…"

   Stu closed the door gently behind him.

87. JUSTINE

   Stu wandered off down the hallway. Not far beyond Mel Tzadi's

office, the corridor turned a corner, slanting downward. He tried a few doors; they were locked and no one answered his knock. He followed the corridor around a bend and into another downwardly inclined section. Here some of the doors were open, revealing some bare, empty cubicles, a broom closet, and finally, some distance further on, a small bedroom. Stu looked in and saw a woman sitting on the edge of the bed. She was tall, with olive skin and hair in a thick braid which hung most of the way down her back.

   She looked up at Stu, appraising him, her eyes tracking across

his clothing, the spacesuit slung over his shoulder, his knapsack.

   Stu saw that the woman also had a suit, draped over the end of

the bed, and a small satchel which rested on the floor.

   Stu smiled. "Is this where the refugees come?"
   "Is that what they told you?" 
   "Nobody told me anything. I just took a look at you. Did they

assign you this room?"

   "No."
   "Did you happen to see any other empty rooms?"
   "No. This is the only one I saw."
   "Uh, could you use some company? I barely escaped with my

sanity from some bloody bureaucrat down the hall there… I'll sleep on the floor if necessary… I do need a place to stay."

   "I don't own the room. Do what you like."
   Stu crossed the threshold and shut the door. He tossed his

knapsack in a corner and arranged his suit on the back of a chair. He sat down on the carpeted floor.

   "I'm Stu."
   "Justine."
   "Is there a net access?"
   "On the wall. Are you blind?"
   "You're so very courteous," Stu remarked.
   "It's just that I usually prefer to pick my roommates,"

Justine snapped. She turned away from Stu.

   "I'm sorry that I don't meet your standards."
   "Anyone who wears a shirt like that..."
   Stu looked down at his shirt, soft hemp fiber, decorated like

an old soccer jersey, number 93. "What? It's just a shirt. I don't really play soccer, if that's what you're thinking."

   "93. Humph. You waste vital energy on superficial displays. Do

you even know what that means?"

   "Actually, the shirt was a gift."
   "Nevertheless, you chose to wear it. I couldn't tolerate that

kind of thing for long."

   "I could take it off."
   "Do what you like."
   Stu left the shirt as it was. "I didn't come here asking for

your approval, you know. I just asked if I could put my stuff here and sleep on the floor. That's all. Damn, maybe I would have been better off getting a room assignment from Mel Tzadi…"

   "Perhaps." Justine made a show of ignoring Stu. She picked up

an ancient paperback book and began to flip through the pages.

   The book was The White House Transcripts.
   "Hey..." said Stu.
   Justine said nothing. She stopped flipping pages and began to

read intently.

   Stu shrugged. There was time. There was always a way to find

some common ground with almost anyone. Nixon? Would that be it? What is she doing here? Why is she reading that?

   He located the net access, actually just a jack set in the

center of a black plastic square. He took his headset from the pack and plugged in.

   And suddenly he was inside Cydonia's own, very small net.

There was the usual kind of small colony information: crop statistics, lost and found notices, odd letter-to-the-editor type ranting, official business. Cydonia seemed prosperous enough, an active little community, if only on the cybernet. Stu browsed through the open files, looking for anything that might give a clue about his initiation, or about Nixon.

   Here was something, Stu saw, addressed to Justine, just a

brief message, a note pinned to a bulletin board:

   Justine Ä How did you make out with the Nixon book? I'd like

to know. I'll fill you in on the whole thing. Meet me southwest pyramid 1000 hrs, tomorrow.

   That was it, not even signed.
   All right, Stu thought, here we go. He pulled up directories

for the colony and wandered through them, his cyberspace representation rushing through simulated domes and hallways. The maze of corridors, work rooms and living quarters which spiraled down into the Martian sand beneath the domes seemed even more extensive here than they had in realtime. It hadn't seemed like much at all, Stu reflected, just one hallway disappearing into the distance. Now he saw how much further the corridor went, the places where it connected with another maze beneath the other dome. It was, in fact, surprisingly large and complex for a small colony.

   Was this the secret headquarters for the Magickal Children? Or

was something else going on here?

   Stu allowed his point of view to rise "above" the simulation

of the colony's cybernet, the lines and terminals shrinking to a dwindling web below. Finally he was able to see what he was looking for; to one side of the interlocking dome networks, a thin strand of light stretched off toward where the pyramids crouched in the desert. It was just a single, simple net access. There was no indication of anything more involved. Did somebody live there? What was their interest in The White House Transcripts? Was this the address that his worm had located?

   He soared back down into the net and accessed the address of

the terminal in the pyramids. His point of view did not change. A written message came up before him: Access Denied. Incorrect Code.

   Stu retreated to a more distant address and accessed the RAM

in his headset. His worm was waiting there, fizzling with static. He cloned it quickly and sent the copy out to check the pyramid terminal.

   He relaxed for a few minutes, floating in a featureless

cybervoid, breathing deeply, until the worm returned. It appeared to be intact, its vid-like skin fading into appearance from the void. Carefully, Stu opened it. 88. WHAT THE WORM DRAGGED IN

   Nixon.
   The word came out and floated there by itself for what seemed

a very long time.

   Then chaos came crashing out from within the worm.

of these it to guide slslslslslsl floated people maybe millions thelema agape of the rows these pirates goat fuzzy Marcia US however the remains the pyramid this will not pain the of Law line could travel chamber beneath the worm Hi, John aumn ha *%$^%^%*()&646*^( John Dean was home negative what of his hangover &^%&^%$83 Yeah I have been the explore any which thou shall Martha Tim an isolated Bob and in whatever time BRING *^%&^()988*&%&986 adjustment Hadit Pan *^%*^*^&((( transition space-faring race a message I of extraterrestrial ruins place trucks system do or net fart *&^%uyglkbs865 solar Siva cutting through help guide Nixon us TOGETHER columns through other be strong against thousands in a door bridge California walking him ieeeeeouu stone iao iao iao terrorist Well, have you had a busy day? io monster in I spent most of the day on trying to put together a statement and Mr. President wilt and enhance across watergate be through any coincidence formed by Diana into because iao iao iao thelema to king the worm O.Z. the borderlands of dream (^(*&^()hkdsh9^*&^%( the evolution iao iao iao it took energy turds was the control center of the up strength at first iat then lashtal report the pleasure positive founded walked a stone frontier opens up organization Pan pleasure Nixon megabytes Ra-Hoor-Khuit of great Io ejaculation the ancient travel by radio group Nuit new marketing of years ago I visualized a road between fractal whole computer

  • %&^(*(&*76iud9^&*&^%()(*^&^

89. EVER THUS

   Stu awoke. He was lying on his back, on the carpeted floor of

the Cydonia room. The back of his head ached and his whole body felt rigid, stiff as if he had endured an enormous jolt of electricity.

   He opened his eyes slowly. Justine's face came gradually into

focus, looking down at him.

   "Just lie still," Justine said. "You banged your head pretty

good. What in all of heavy hell were you doing? Your whole body just snapped…"

   Stu remembered to breathe. A long, slow inhale began to work

its way into the rigid muscles of his chest.

   "That's right," said Justine. "Nice even breathing."
   She massaged the muscles around his neck and shoulders. It was

painful and relieving at the same time.

   "A security system," Stu managed to say. "I accidentally..."
   "It's all right, then," Justine said. "You'll be just fine."
   Stu groaned.
   She felt around on the back of his head. "You've got a good

bump there, where you hit the wall, but that's the worst of it. Probably some stiff muscles."

   "Who the hell in this bloody colony would want to use that

kind of security?" Stu cursed.

   "The worst thing I got," Justine said, "was just an 'access

denied' message."

   "Huh? I got that too. What were you doing?" Stu pushed himself

up and sat against the wall.

   "I came here to take an initiation," she said. "Magickal

Child. Nobody met me when I arrived. No instructions. I tried to find out what was going on. Nothing. Access denied."

   What about the Nixon book? Stu thought. "Me too. Initiation.

They didn't even answer my landing-clearance hails. I was doing the same thing."

   "You must have gotten a little farther into the net than I

did." She reached behind her and grabbed something from the bed. "You look like you can use this." She showed Stu a bulging spliff and a lighter. She lit the joint and inhaled a prodigious toke. Stu could tell at once that she was practicing a familiar sort of meditation. She appeared concentrated, congruent, relaxed.

   Stu accepted the spliff with the sense that the proceedings

had somehow, quite consciously, become a ritual. There was that immediate sense of commonality, of shared experience familiar to potheads since ancient times, and there was more. Each breath that Justine took was now a flow of energy coursing through her body, radiating from her, transforming into something which Stu perceived as something between vision and feeling.

   He took a toke and allowed his attention to rest on his heart

center. A feeble energy flow indicated just how drained of energy he was, and he began the work of re-establishing his links to life- force through the top and bottom of his spinal column. Driven by his lungs and heart, a greater trickle of energy began to return. The muscles of his face relaxed. The ganja began to have its effect.

   "Allow me," said Justine, placing her hands firmly on his

chest.

   Stu perceived the energy welling out from the golden sunlike

globe of her heart center, flowing through her arms, out her palms and joining the flow in his body. He took an involuntary, very deep breath. He suddenly felt particularly high, floating, the soreness fading from his arms and legs. Sparkling kaleidoscopic patterns formed and dispersed in front of his eyes. Prana filled him, glowing warmly.

   "Thank you," he said. "Thanks."
   She looks beautiful like this, Stu thought. Not as sharp,

almost angelic. She has good concentration. Excellent.

   In a very short time, he felt completely recharged, his

nervous system drawing and discharging energy into and through the universe around him in a cycle matched with slow, even breathing. He smiled and began to send a flow of prana back into Justine, glowing gold with the buzzing electricity of his heart chakra. Pay you back, he thought, and felt his heart fill and then open up wide.

   She was a bitch in her human mind, Stu thought, but she is an

initiate. When it needed to be done, she could do it. We are in this together, he thought.

   They stayed sitting like that for some time, the energy flow

finding a cycle through both their bodies, growing stronger and more pleasurable, until it was a cool rushing waterfall of fire, cleansing, tempering.

   Then, quite naturally, they were out of their clothing and

embracing. Her body was lanky, strong muscles stretched across an extra-long frame. Her breasts were small, high, delicately pointed nipples brushing against Stu's chest. She slid down, sitting, on Stu's cock, firm vaginal muscles massaging the shaft with a slippery stroke.

   The flow of prana suddenly found a more compelling path-to-

ground, and suddenly there was much more of it, crackling liquid fire blowing the universe in a blast of sparks kissing him lightly the touch made him gasp energy on the lips and inviolate rose. This is the creation of the world sweet cool groundfruit. To his side to me and he kissed her faint & faery. I too await, brush against him, speak not of Thee as One thy great wind blows and die. Warm curves of her body none breathed the light for the chance of union, life- force and the joy of dissolution all. He felt the warm, she sighed continuous one of heaven. Breast she touched his penis far-off burn, she said.

   Most secret she stood and came laughing, pulled off their

clothes. Come and two since thou art continuous, but as None and let them speak not. Surely thine hour has come. Her fingers cool on the warm flesh, like the sparks blown out of a smithy, that the pain of division is as nothing. He tasted of love and hate the hour of thy great wind spin drive slightly moist. O Nuit prana Nixon feeling the smooth of thee at all for I am divided for love's sake. Let it be ever thus. 90. NIXON'S DICK

   A good day, Nixon thought, leaning back in his big chair. Like

the old days. Engaging work to keep him busy, keep him happy. Things were proceeding well on all fronts. Favorable reaction to Operation Star Storm. America was growing again.

   Somehow Neal Severant had helped to restore several world

powers to their pre-plague state of governmental order. America had allies again. The boy is truly more valuable than Kissinger, Nixon thought. I'll be damned.

    To think that somebody would try to pull that shit again,

after all these years. The Fund Crisis II! Ha! I gave them Checkers II! What idiots! What could be the gain? There was no election.

   Spacers? Hmmm.... Damn...
   His desk net access began to buzz. He leaned forward and

pulled on the headset. Martha was waiting for him in his cyber- office.

   "Dick, I think you should be watching this..."
   "Martha... Hello... Always good to see you... Always time..."
   "Mark O'Connor," she said rather urgently. "His report.

Watch." She tied the office into the vidnet and O'Connor's set, with the grainy resolution of the computer terminal, filled their vision.

   "...casts doubt on the president's claim that he is entirely

unaffiliated with spacer terrorist organizations. Whether his behavior in this well-documented incident was appropriate or not, heh heh, it is significant that both women involved had spacer connections. All right, we have that footage…"

   The scene which spread across office wall was familiar... My

God! No! It was that strange room in Marcia Bounty's apartment. And there he was… My God!

   He saw himself sitting crosslegged on the floor. Essence,

naked body glistening with sweat, was squatting over him, sliding sensuously up and down on his engorged penis, her body undulating to the unheard rhythm of the drum.

   The memory came flooding back into his head. Yes! Oh My God!

It had been incredible. So intense that his mind had blocked it out… It had been gasp warm curves of her body on the lips to me… such a solution… blowing sparks from the stack… shouted black smoke.

   As the vid unwound, Nixon could see Essence pulling up from

him for a moment, exposing the full length of his cock.

   "...can see at this point," O'Connor was saying, "the, heh

heh, size of the presidential member, uh, that is, it appears unusually, heh heh, large, and our informed source tells us that this is a typical symptom of physical regeneration from the illegal spacer drug O.Z., belying the popular notion that his recovery was merely the result of expert medical care.

   "Although we have no specifics on how the president obtained

the illegal drug, the case at this point does seem heavily, uh, bent, heh heh, in favor of the idea that some spacer terrorist organization has been involved in the renewed United States government.

   "Cabinet member Neal Severant commented by saying that the

White House flatly denies such accusations, implying that some decision has been made to 'watergate' this information…"

   "Stop!" Nixon ordered, and the vid image cleared from the

wall. "Get me Severant! Get that little shit on the line now!"

   "Yes, sir," Martha said, palming an icon on the wall. "I'm

sorry, Dick. I'm very sorry…"

   He looked up at Martha's representation, and he filled with

sorrow, embarrassment, humiliation. "I'm sorry, Martha. I knew it wasn't right… I knew…"

   Severant's head appeared, floating where the wall had been.

"Mr. President? You've heard the news?"

   "Neal, goddamn it! What do you mean by denying it? Now they've

brought that word back… that fucking word… wa… wa…"

   "Watergate," Severant said. "Yes, I know. I didn't think the

media would have that response. I thought that after your recent speech they would continue to support you, but… Did you? I mean, did you do it, Mr. President?"

   "Fuck. You saw it, Neal. Everyone saw it. I don't know... I

don't…"

   "Remember Clarence Thomas, Mr. President? He got through it,

didn't he? Bill Clinton, Gary Hart…"

   "Gary Hart was out of the arena. Out of the goddamn arena

forever. We can't watergate it, though, Neal. I don't even want any thought of watergating it. That… that word should be forgotten, Neal. It should be forgotten. I've got to get out of this goddamn office for a while. Get some air…"

   He threw the headset onto the desk and was out the door.

91. MYSTICAL IMPOSSIBLE COMPREHENSION

   Diana drifted in a shifting place of field being exposed to of

those generating prana. The stars were bands of energy in the sparkling night, gravitation the information flow between them, like the ultimate computer net. The laws of reality took form and dispersed as Diana turned her attention toward space travel the effect of effect in the bioelectrical evolution. A universe of minds, human, elemental, gods and sweeping blind intent shifting the flow in fractal father solar system. An entrainment Tesla US velocity. Prana life-force just as the nervous system the field. Or understanding Nuit…

   And beyond that, broad, a mystical impossible comprehension of

creation and destruction, vast cycles of this universe, was something else… alien, startling, a perspective that took this understanding as a whole, then adapted from outside it all. Nagual beyond nagual. Alien. The stars flickered instantaneous information across the light-years…

   Nervous system yang Nuit which can extend determined to some

extent, or even just fully contemplating the filed fuck of the scalar field. The frequencies life-force the bioelectrical mother death. Diana flowed as waves and particles through understanding of matter and energy manifesting… Tap in here, the simple way to apprehend the unified field… Over there, the essence of devices which can transmute and transport, matter to energy… A thread of knowledge through it all, the nature of gravity… Initiation the effect of an entrainment Earth. Yin TOGETHER with a shape being exposed to Stu. Beyond the physical activity of the can produce father such a field by the intent Nixon.

   Palmer was right, beyond that was a true of flow of

information. Something beyond… She almost had it… A little more can in some way velocity solar system body field. Just as the nervous system space travel, life US sex the human mind. Universe can be influenced by those generating Tesla effect in spin drive ELF. Generate such a Hadit BRING and direction prana it is possible that evolution…

   "They're getting worse," a voice somewhere far off said. "She

used to at least tell us to fuck off, you know… Now they both just float there…"

   "Yeah, don't they look weird. Is it just my eyes or... nah..."
   "What?"
   "Never mind. We'll just leave 'em their dinner... If they want

it…" 92. I JUST FEEL…

   "Martha, I, I wanted to tell you I'm sorry..."
   "There's no need to apologize, Dick. You haven't done anything

to me." Martha's simulation looked as bright and beautiful as always.

   "After I saw you before... When I left... I just wandered

around the White House, walked the halls. And thought. I thought long and hard. This time it was my fault. I can do nothing to deny it. And last time you know… it was… it was… well, John Dean… you know… I… Damn."

   "It's all right, Dick. I understand. It is no business of

mine. Our professional relationship has not suffered from anything that either one of us has done on our own time. Even the president of the United States has his own time sometimes."

   "I'm sure you've never done anything like this... I did things

that… My mother would… God… My father would… Oh…"

   "It doesn't matter Dick. Do you believe that you've been doing

your job as president? To the best of your abilities?"

   "Well... Yes... but..."
   "But nothing. There is nothing in The Constitution, I believe,

outlining any specific sexual conduct for the president. Is there?"

   "Well... No... but..."
   "Then that's all there is to it. You can just continue to do

your job. Nobody can touch you."

   "But they say they were spacers..."
   "Who can prove that? It's guilt by association. And anyway,

from the looks of the vid, you didn't seem to be doing anything particularly political or subversive."

   "No, I wasn't, but..."
   "But what?"
   "Martha... You... You are the one I wish I was with... I

regret… I wanted… I betrayed… Forgive me…"

   "Dick, remember. Our simulations have been meeting because

we're Ä both doing our jobs. I'm flattered but… How can there be anything between two computer representations?"

   "I don't know, Martha. I just feel... I no longer

understand… I just feel…" 93. MORNING ON MARS

   When Stu awoke, he found that Justine was already awake and in

the room's small toilet cubicle. He could hear her puttering around behind the closed door. He stretched out on the carpet where he had slept, naked and comfortable. A trace of sex-smell still clung to him, a pleasant reminder, along with relaxed muscles and a clear mind, of the previous evening's experience. His penis became slightly tumescent at the memory.

   He took a deep breath, rubbed the sore spot on the back of his

head, and sat up against the cool plastic surface of the wall.

   Justine emerged from the toilet, naked and damp, her long

braid undone and hanging in thick, wet strands around her shoulders and down her back. Stu's cock came fully erect. Justine looked at it and smiled.

   "I was just remembering what we did," Stu said.
   "Mmmmm, yes," Justine said. "It was nice, wasn't it?" She

began pulling on her pants.

   "Very nice. We should do that again, real soon."
   She tied her pants and picked up her shirt. "Yeah."
   "Where're you going?"
   "I'm going to try to find something out about my initiation.

Scout around a little."

   "If you can wait a few minutes," Stu said, "I'll come with

you. I've got to find out, too, you know."

   "Actually, Stu, I'm sure you can understand... I think I'd

better do this on my own. It's a personal thing, after all. You understand."

   "Yeah, I suppose."
   She stuck her feet into a pair of slippers and grabbed her

knapsack. She checked inside it for something. Stu watched; it was the paperback book. Yes, he thought. Yes.

   "You'll be here tonight?" Justine asked.
   "I guess so. I suppose. Depends what happens."
   "Well, I hope so. I'll be seeing you." She was out the door.

94. THE PYRAMID

   Stu jumped naked into his space suit, allowing the baggy

headpiece to hang back over the air bottles. He checked his air charge Ä still nearly full Ä and poked his head out the door.

   He caught a glimpse of Justine disappearing around a bend,

some distance down the tunnel. She had not brought her suit, which meant that she would be following the tunnel system into the pyramid. Stu decided he could save time if he went overland, on the surface of Mars.

   He walked back up the sloping corridor to the dome and the

airlock where he had first arrived, encountering no one along the way. He sealed his suit and cycled out into the brown Martian daylight.

   It was easy going, a pleasant walk. The sand was packed hard,

a thin trace of a trail leading off toward the southwest pyramid which squatted on the horizon. The domes glittered with a surreal intensity of color against the muted tones of the landscape, two big jewels in a rough matrix. The pyramids squatted on the horizon, directly ahead, and the Face plateau loomed to the left, an uneven scree reaching almost to the trail.

   The path wound between a few large boulders, up a gentle

slope, and in just a few minutes he was approaching the southwest pyramid. Close up, the pyramid was surprising in its bulk. If transported to Egypt, it would have dwarfed the Great Pyramid, which Stu had visited on several occasions. The thin atmosphere had left the facing stones in better condition Ä although still somewhat weathered Ä than any of Earth's pyramids. Sunlight glinted from the smooth surface.

   It was not surprising to see that the entrance to the pyramid

was fitted with an airlock; what was surprising was that the airlock, made of some dull, gold-colored metal, looked to be as old as the surrounding stones. The surface was slightly rough, pitted by centuries of airborne Martian dust. It bore little resemblance to the vegetable-based plastics which comprised most spacer structures.

   A simple metal switch was set into a plate in the stone beside

the door. Stu touched it with a gloved finger and it clicked downward. He could feel a slight vibration through the ground which lasted about half a minute, then the door slid smoothly aside into the stone. Stu stepped through.

   The outer door slid shut and the vibration resumed. Stu could

feel a gentle breeze blowing against his suit as the lock chamber pressurized. The readout on his sleeve indicated breathable atmosphere; he turned off his air bottles and undogged his headpiece. Then the inner door slid open.

   A stone corridor sloped downward from the lock, widely spaced

panels along the ceiling lighting the way with a gentle, bluish glow. Stu followed it down until he came to an intersection. A narrower passage continued to slope downward, a somewhat wider one bent up toward the center of the pyramid's mass, and on the right was a smooth plastic airlock door which, Stu guessed, was the passageway back to the domes. He took the upward-sloping way.

   Not far along, the corridor branched again, a very steep one

going down, a narrow, level passage going straight ahead, and a wide one continuing upward. Stu continued up. 95. CUBE OF STONE

   Ahead in the tunnel, a brighter light framed an open doorway

and Stu could hear voices coming from inside. He quietly slipped forward until he could hear clearly.

   Justine's voice: So, what you're telling me is that this is my

initiation?

   Male voice (with a slight accent that Stu could not place):

Hmmmm. I hadn't quite considered it like that. Perhaps.

   Justine: I didn't come here to play games.
   Male: It's no game. Really, we need your help. You're one of

the best programmers we've got Ä and the only one who is enough of an initiate to deal with this information.

   Justine: Well, then, tell me about it. Explain your problem

and I'll tell you if I can help.

   Male: It's not like that. We need a commitment first. Will you

do it? Will you work with us?

   Justine: Will you come straight and explain what's going on?
   Male: I can't even answer that until you say yes.
   Justine: Damn it. All right. Yes. I'll do what I can.
   Male: I ask you again Ä will you work with us and keep this

work a secret?

   Justine: Yes.
   Male: And again Ä will you work with us and keep this work a

secret?

   Justine: Yes.
   Male: Good. Thank you.
   Justine: All right, then. What's the problem?
   Male: Well, it's unusual. We've been logging a high incidence

of breaks on all the nets…

   Justine: That's nothing new.
   Male: A very high incidence of breaks, in clusters, almost of

all of these clusters associated with Nixon. And something else… we've got this worm program…

   Stu heard some movement from within the chamber. There was

apparently a third person present. He heard footsteps approaching the doorway. As silently as he could, he retreated down the corridor.

   The footsteps followed. At the intersection, Stu ducked into

the steeply descending corridor, and continued down it a little way to get out of sight. Only a short distance along the passage, he came to a small chamber. He moved away from the door, hugging a wall, and waited while he heard the footsteps continuing past along the main corridor.

   When it seemed safe, he looked around at the chamber. In the

center of the dimly lit room was a chair facing a large cube of stone. Set into the top of the stone was a net access, an elaborate helmet-like headset jacked into it. On the far wall was a metal door, closed.

   Was this the terminal that had so effectively repelled his

inquiries? It had to be. The colony maps had shown only a single terminal in the pyramid…

   Moving quietly, Stu went back out into the corridor. He

climbed back up to where the narrow passage joined the main one. He looked up and down the corridors. Justine and the man were apparently still occupied where they had been. There was no sign of the third person, and Stu assumed that he or she had continued down, back to the tunnel which led to the domes.

   Stu descended again into the room. He sat in the chair. He put

the helmet on his head… 96. BUSTED

   And he was in a gray cybervoid, empty except for a single

androgynous figure. A familiar figure, youthful, with a single forelock dangling over its forehead. The figure, Child-Horus, turned to look at him.

   "Hi," said Stu. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize anyone was here."
   "Elemental of the scalar field," Child-Horus said, "impossible

comprehension. Nixon gods and will or even just a universe…"

   And suddenly Stu felt hands grabbing his arms, lifting him

from the chair, pulling the helmet from his head.

   Uh, oh, Stu thought. Busted.

97. ADJUSTMENT

   Holding him firmly from one side was Mel Tzadi, on the other,

a small, dark man who looked oddly familiar. It took a moment, then Stu realized: it was Dr. Siva, one of the most famous and prominent of all space dwellers. Siva's grip was strong and his expression grim.

   "Come along," said Tzadi. "Now."
   They ushered him quickly out of the chamber and up the passage

to the room where Justine still waited. The room was well-lit and appointed more in the style of a dome room than anything else in the pyramid; the furnishings included a colorful, hemp-fiber rug and a futon folded into a couch.

   A chair was dragged into the middle of the room and Stu was

pushed into it. His captors arranged themselves around him.

   Tzadi puffed himself up like an old-earth cop. "What are you

doing in here? Do you have any authorization to be using that terminal?"

   "Authorization?" Stu asked. "Do I need authorization to use a

colony net access?"

   "Does this appear to be part of the colony or a regular net

access?" Tzadi glared.

   "Well, no..." said Stu. "I don't know. I was just exploring."
   "I think you were spying," said Tzadi.
   "Spying? On what? Do you have something to hide?"
   Siva spoke for the first time. "It is expected that a Magickal

Child will not seek beyond his level of initiation. You once took an oath to that effect."

   "I didn't know that this was an M.C. secret of any kind. How

could I know?"

   "You knew," said Tzadi.
   "There are ways of determining the truth," Siva said. "We will

be fair. We will provide an impartial judge. Justine, you will serve. Can you be objective?"

   "A judge?" She frowned. "I'd rather not."
   "The question was not what you'd rather," said Siva, "the

question was if you can be objective."

   "I believe I can, but as I said, I would rather not. I don't

see why I should serve as a judge. Is this part of the job you are hiring me for?"

   "No," said Siva. "This is your initiation."
   Justine said nothing more.
   "Mr. Tzadi will serve as the prosecutor. Mr. Stuart will

provide his own defense. I will remain as Hierophant. All are sworn to complete honesty by their oaths in the order. No more is necessary. The trial begins immediately." 98. TRIAL

   Mel Tzadi paced across the rug. "I contend that the defendant

arrived at Cydonia with the express purpose of spying on inner order Magickal Child operations. I contend that he covertly followed Justine to this pyramid and accessed an M.C. terminal without authorization for the purpose of interfering with ongoing operations."

   "This is speculation based on circumstantial evidence," said

Justine. "The prosecutor will please make his case."

   "All right, then. I am arrival coordinator for the Cydonia

colony. Mr. Stuart arrived here without any advance notice. Can the defendant explain that?"

   "I was sending continuous hailing messages from the time I

made orbit. I came here because I was given to understand that this was to be the site of an initiation which I had requested. I was invited. I was told to come."

   "My notification does not come from hailing messages," Tzadi

said. "My notification comes from M.C. hierarchy. I did not receive any such."

   "As I said, I came here by invitation from what I thought was

M.C. hierarchy. This is logged on my bus's computer."

   "As the defendant is sworn to honesty," Justine said. "We can

accept his word on this. The prosecutor may continue with further questioning."

   "Is it true, Mr. Stuart, that you refused room assignment in

the official, authorized manner?"

   "That is true," said Stu. "I felt that the procedure was an

abuse of my time, and the information requested was an invasion of my privacy."

   "Ah! What is it that you want to hide from the officials of

this colony or the Magickal Child hierarchy?"

   "I object," said Stu. "That's a leading question."
   "Objection sustained. Mr. Tzadi, you may rephrase the

question."

   "Um, Mr. Stuart, is there something that you wish to hide from

the officials of this colony or from the M.C. hierarchy?"

   "I object..."
   "Overruled. The question has been properly stated. Please

answer the question."

   "Well... yes. I have some evidence that the M.C. leadership

has been involved in political deception. I did not believe that I could investigate this properly with the knowledge of those involved in the deception."

   Tzadi smiled slightly. "And this political deception concerned

what?"

   "The election of Richard Nixon to the position of President of

the United States."

   Justine's eyes narrowed at the mention of Nixon and she shot

Siva a glance. Siva smiled slightly.

   "And what is your interest in this matter?" Tzadi continued.
   "Personal curiosity. A love of truth."
   "And would you have acted against the order had you found

evidence of such deception?"

   "I don't know. Maybe. It depends on what I found."
   "Would such action against the M.C. hierarchy violate any

oaths which you may have taken upon entering the order or upon completion of any previous initiations?"

   "Uh... yes... bloody hell... I suppose it might."
   "The prosecution also notes the following: Net logs indicate

that Mr. Stuart attempted access into the restricted pyramid terminal through a net access in dome one. Security logs also indicate that, despite denial of access, further entry was attempted through a stealth program of some kind, presently unknown to this court. Can the defendant acknowledge these actions."

   "Yes."
   "Mr. Stuart, how did you come to the pyramid today?"
   "I walked. Outside the tunnel system, on the surface."
   "For what purpose? Why here? Why today?"
   "I was following Justine."
   "Why?"
   "I saw that she had a copy of The White House Transcripts. I

thought she might be connected with my investigation in some way."

   "The prosecution rests."
   "Thank you, Mr. Tzadi," Justine said. "Does the defense have

a case to make?"

   "Yes," said Stu. "I do. I guess. As I said, I came here on

invitation for an initiation. Whatever other interests I may have, it has been my intention all along to undertake the initiation with all sincerity. As a member of the Magickal Children, I have always held fast to the Thelemic Law: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. I believe that everything that I have done in this matter has been a result of deep reflection in accordance with my will. I believe that supersedes any other obligations or authority. The defense rests."

   "That is the evidence," Siva said, standing. "How does the

judge rule?"

   "If the defendant was, in fact, acting in accordance with his

True Will, he does have a valid point," said Justine.

   "The charge," said Siva, "has nothing to do with the

defendant's True Will. If he was indeed acting in such a way, we will applaud him, but that remains irrelevant to your decision. Is Mr. Stuart guilty or not guilty of the charge of spying?"

   Justine considered for a moment, then, finally, she said very

softly: "Guilty." 99. THE SENTENCE

   "The sentence in such cases," Siva said, "is generally

expulsion from the order, but in this case the circumstances dictate action of a different kind."

   "Circumstances?" Stu asked. "What circumstances?"
   "That is not for you to ask. I am acting now as Hierophant of

the order. The sentence will consist of imprisonment in the innermost chamber of this pyramid for an unspecified period of time to begin immediately."

   Stu's impulse was to run. He looked up to assess his chances

of escape. They were nil. Mel Tzadi held a gun.

   "Fuck," Stu said. "Shit."
   "Take off the suit," Tzadi said. "Now." He brandished the gun.
   Stu took off his spacesuit. He stood naked in the center of

the room.

   "Walk," said Tzadi. "Go out the door."
   They marched him down the corridor and back into the room with

the terminal. Dr. Siva opened the metal door on the far side of the room and Stu was pushed through it. The door slid closed behind him.

   Stu found himself inside a small chamber. A single, dim panel

set in the ceiling provided illumination. The walls and floor were stone, unadorned, cold against his feet. The room was empty except for a corpse which lay on the floor, mutilated and mummified from exposure to vacuum.

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