Guardian Angel-20 Peter Alexander, part 2 of 3

“Nelkorian Core?”  Ethan asked casually.  His hand covered his wound.  He did not want Jill to panic.

“Uh,” Jill said with a smile and a nod.  She took a few breaths to steady herself and then she spoke.  “Nelkor’s first monster began by making a dozen female copies of himself, and just as strong as he could possibly make them.  They were called the Nelkorian Core, and some expected that they would kill each other off, but instead, the first one convinced them to make a pact to share the world between them.  They did, and then they killed their maker, they killed the first Nelkorian.  Twelve monsters then started to have children, um, less powerful than themselves so they didn’t repeat the first one’s mistake, and those children, mostly male were able to duplicate themselves as well just so you don’t think this was all a female thing.  They used the human race like playthings, Ethan.  It was torment, torture, a kind of living Hell; but that might have been the end of it if they had stayed in their own world.  Soon enough they would have started fighting each other, but one of the core discovered how to move into the Worlds without the help of any technology.  It was like they were able to make a psychic tear in the fabric of reality itself and slip right through.  The children needed technological help, of course, but the core could just shred their way through the worlds.”

“I can see why your father called out the fleet,” Ethan said, weakly.

“I thought we got them all,” Jill said, and she looked up at Ethan in time to see him close his eyes.  Alexander’s knife clattered to the floor.  “Ethan!”  She shouted and then she called out.  “Quick, Alexander.  Help me get him into the lounge and on the couch.”

Peter Alexander, who was just coming to himself, crawled over, and somehow, between the two of them, they managed.  Then Jill opened the door and Manomar came running in, berating himself for leaving them alone.

“There is nothing you could have done,” Jill said through her tears.  “Ethan would have had to fight you too, and you and Alexander probably would have been able to shut down the screens and put us at the Nelkorian’s mercy.  Sometimes it is best to not be there, but I know it makes it hard.”

“Will he be alright?”  Peter Alexander asked.  He knew it was his knife that made the wound, even if he did not exactly remember doing it.

“Yes,” Jill said, and she sat quietly and held Ethan’s hand while the others left her alone.

###

Ethan woke up the next morning near one hundred percent.  His chits had reestablished and re-grown overnight.  Jill was beside him, sleeping in a chair, her hand over his.  He woke her gently only to have her throw herself at him in anything but a gentle manner.

“I’m fine,” he kept saying, and she knew that, but she did not care.  She was just so happy.  “But say,” he said when he finally got her attention.  “Where did our helpers go, and who were they anyway?”

Jill lifted her head for a second.  “A mystery,” she said as she tried to get serious.  “The first was a full Gaian Battleship, Class one no less and as up-to-date as anything in the fleet.  Full psychic keyed and amenities you would not believe.”

“Bigger than ours?”  Ethan asked while he tried to get in touch with the information in his own chits.  Apparently, he still had more chits to replace.

Jill laughed.  “You could fit our fighter-destroyer in one of her four docking bays,” she answered.  Ethan whistled, but since he had never actually seen the size of his own ship in context, he did not fully understand.  “Yes, and that ship and ours combined would have eventually wore the Nelkorian down, I think.”

“You think?”  Ethan understood.

“Fortunately, the Elders came when they did.”

“They are watching.”  Ethan reminded her.

“That is what they always say.”  Jill responded with a flip of her hair to put it back behind her ear.  “But they are not as numerous as you think.  Even they cannot be everywhere, but then they don’t stay in any place too long either, so you never know when they will show up.”  Ethan nodded.  “But why the battleship left, I have no idea,” Jill concluded.  “Our ship scanned the ship and got the specs and all, but for some reason the crew stayed hidden.  They are not supposed to do that.”

“Crew?”  Ethan wondered.  “One person could easily fly this ship.”

“Designed that way,” Jill said.  “The battleship, too.  But why any Gaian should come to our aid and then vanish without making themselves known is a mystery.  That is not polite, to say the least.”

“Yes,” Ethan said as he sat up before he slowly stood.  Jill helped, and when he assured her that he was all right, she took his hand and led him back into the control room.  She grinned like a thousand-year-old school girl, and walked carefully at his side in case he should stumble.

Peter Alexander was pacing again, and Manomar paced with him.  Only Colonel deMartin seemed relaxed as he sat by the view screen.  Then again, Ethan thought, he looked like he was deep in thought.

“As near as I can tell the troops have moved out of Balazarius, and even the militia has been called up from all of the surrounding countryside.”  The Colonel spoke first.

“We have to go,” Alexander said.  He only paused in his pacing long enough to speak.  “I fear the worst.”

Manomar stopped pacing on seeing Ethan recovered and Jill with him, smiling.  “We have no real information,” he said.  “This screen is not easy to use, but we have overheard the words assassins and mustard gas, whatever that is.”

“We know what mustard gas is.”  Ethan assured him, but Jill did not look so sure.  The colonel caught the look.

“A deadly gaseous compound that slithers near to the ground.  Nations have tried to outlaw it, but so far without success.”

“And they think?”  Jill did not get to finish the sentence.

“Apparently, they do think it, and they have taken the Cherokee army with them to the north.”

“Come.”  Jill placed Ethan in Manomar’s hands and went to the Main.  It only took a moment to locate the two opposing armies somewhere near the Watchung ridges.  The Byzantines and Peter’s people had dug in at the base of the first ridge, and had a hot air balloon on the ridge, tied down, but flashing lights as if it was full of binoculars.  From that strong position, the Byzantines could harass Elizabethtown and nibble at the edges, until it was ripe for an all-out attack.

General Gordon and his Holy Roman troops, along with all the militia he could muster, and any number of Delaware natives, had not waited to be nibbled to death.  They came out and were arrayed just off the ridge, facing their enemy, and wonder to behold, they had a crude biplane up for observation purposes.

“This does not look good,” Ethan said.

“World War III.”  Manomar reminded him.

Guardian Angel-20 Peter Alexander, part 1 of 3

Peter Alexander’s pacing made everyone uncomfortable.

“Are we ready to go?”  Jill asked out of politeness.  Manomar and Colonel deMartin were down in the crew quarters, helping to prepare for the return trip to gather the women and children.  Manomar was especially helpful making preparations having spent years taking care of Ali Pasha’s harem and children.  Ethan stood beside Jill and looked happy, but Peter Alexander really needed to be asked.

Peter Alexander paused briefly before he returned to his pacing.  “Wait,” he said, and Jill held her hand from the go.  “Something is not right.”  His face looked drawn, like he was brooding.

“What is it?”  Ethan wondered.

“Not right.  Not right.”  Alexander repeated himself as he paced.

Ethan would have stepped over to place a reassuring hand on the man’s shoulder, but Jill stopped him.

“He was a shaman before he was made a Chief,” Jill said.  “Sometimes, some people can have pictures, visions, feelings, intuitions—whatever—and you should not ignore them.”

“But what is it?”

“I don’t know,” Alexander said frankly.  “Maybe we should back away a little so we don’t come down directly over the Governor’s palace in Balazarius.  It just doesn’t feel right.”  Jill nodded and backed them a mile inland.  Ethan checked to be sure the ship’s screens were up and fully loaded.

“Just be careful,” Alexander said, and he continued to pace and stopped only long enough to be sure his war paint was correct.

Ethan saw what the Cherokee did, but he did not want to think that way.  It seemed to him that every Earth they had visited had been in the midst of a crisis.  If he ever questioned the need for guardians, that question had vanished long ago.  Even the nearly dead world of Doctor Augustus was not immune from external trouble.  He looked at Jill.  She once said that she had a route to establish Guardians on worlds that were especially troubling, and he briefly wondered what terror his own world had faced, or, for that matter, what Jill had been doing for almost forty years before she met Grimly in the late seventies.  Jill looked at him and waited.  Surely they had dealt with both the Holy Roman, Byzantine war and the Nelkorian on Alexander’s world, what else could be so troubling?  He nodded and Jill touched the Main.

They moved to the new World and immediately felt the pressure, like a migraine headache coming on.  Their point of contact was dragged a mile to the Governor’s palace, and they could not stop the forward motion until they were virtually over the palace.  There was something down there.

“Screens are up.”  Ethan shouted, though there was no sound in the room other than the ringing in his ears.

“Psychic screen?”  Jill shouted back.

“Full force,” Ethan said.  There was a rumbling and the whole ship appeared to shake.

Jill slammed her hand on the main and the entire Governor’s palace vanished in a single flash of blue light, but not everything was destroyed.  A Nelkorian, a female with a head three times normal size was there, and it was very, very angry.  Jill kept firing, but the Nelkorian was able to screen itself against the weapon.  That screen flared from red all the way up to violet, but it held.

“Nelkorian Core,” Jill wailed.  “I thought we killed them all.”

The ship shook again, and Ethan heard words screamed into his head.  “You killed my son!”

Jill tried to coax more power into the main gun while she kept them from being dragged closer to the monster.

“You killed my son!”  The phrase repeated again and again.

Ethan turned.  His head throbbed with every move.  He saw the Cherokee pull his knife, shake his head several times, and with a war cry, he headed directly toward Jill.  Ethan got in the way and took the knife in the gut even as he wrestled Alexander to the ground where the Cherokee screamed again and passed out.

Ethan swore, mightily, though the pain cleared his head for a minute.  He pulled out the knife with one great sudden tug, and screamed again and almost passed out himself.  Then his chits got to work on deadening the pain and healing his wound, and he was glad that at least they were still functioning; at least some of them.  He dragged himself back to the Main where he pulled himself up.  Jill was a bucket of sweat.  She concentrated on keeping them back from the beast and poured every shred of power she could into their gun.  It looked like it was going to be a question of who gave out first, and Ethan feared they would since for all their power, they continued to be slowly dragged toward the beast, and their screens were at the limit already.

Ethan was just looking to see if he could shift them out of there when he heard an awful banging at the back of the control room.  He knew what it was.  DeMartin and his men were trying to break in and get at them, but the control room was sealed off.  Jill had somehow managed that.  When he turned back to his business, Ethan saw a second blip arrive.  At once, Gaian style guns were fired at the Nelkorian, and he heard the Nelkorian scream again.  Her natural screen flared again, past violet and ultraviolet and into the higher registers, but it still held.

“You killed my son!”  Ethan heard the words once more before there was a lessening of the pressure in the room.  It was not much less, but enough for Ethan to think straight.  Clearly, the Nelkorian had shifted some of its anger to the new arrival.  Ethan looked at his wound.  The bleeding was stopped and the pain much less, but the healing was slow.  He knew then that many of his chits had been damaged by the beast and he simply did not have the numbers to affect a rapid cure.  He slid to the ground, senseless, but not unconscious.  He needed time and rest to rebuild his damaged chits and heal, but as he slid to his seat, he kept one eye on Alexander.  The man was awake and shaking his head again, but so far he had made no hostile move.  Besides, Ethan clutched the bloody knife.  He looked closely.  It was his own blood.  He chuckled and for some reason found that funny, or perhaps he was becoming delirious.

The view screen to the side of the room still functioned, and Ethan looked in time to see a third group arrive.  This one, though, was different.  It placed a ring of force around the Nelkorian and Ethan heard a scream from the beast, which was so loud in his mind, it almost made him deaf.  Alexander threw his hands to his ears and wept.  Jill let out a counter-scream of her own, but then the ring closed off the beast below and left only an opening for their gunfire and the gunfire of the ship beside them.  Then the third group fired their gun and opened a little hole in the ring of force to let their white energy beam enter.  The Nelkorian screamed again, but this time there were no words.  Almost all pressure vanished from Ethan’s mind as the Nelkorian screens broke, and in an instant there was nothing left to do but wipe up the slime patch on the floor of what had once been the Governor’s palace in Balazarius.

Jill struggled to stay conscious as she slid down beside Ethan.  The banging outside the control room stopped and Alexander shook his head again, though this time, he appeared to be all right.

Guardian Angel-19 Chernobyl, part 3 of 3

Ethan checked once more.  Wouldn’t you know, Doctor Augustus’ world was the first and only transition the Chernobyl had made, thus far.  That gave him time to try his newly reprogrammed chits, when they were ready which he hoped was soon.

“Ethan!”  Jill called.  Ethan ran.  He did a quick check.  He had already found the place where the ship kept track of her vital signs, including psychic health and everything else.  A scan told him everything looked good enough.  Nothing was fluctuating off the scales, but he noticed that she had thrown up, and she certainly had a fever.  He got a damp cloth for her forehead and cleaned her up with another wet cloth and a dry one.

“You are going to be fine,” he said.  “Hang in there a while longer.”  She tried to smile, but her eyes closed again.

I have waited as long as I can, Ethan thought, and if this does not work, I don’t know what I am going to do.  His chits and the ships vast knowledge had little or nothing to suggest in this matter.  He noted the arguments in the record against exactly what he was trying to do.  No one knew when the chits went into the host to fight the Chernobyl variety, if they would extract themselves later, or lay dormant, in a sense, like a new parasite.  They also did not know if the people set free would be able to function, especially if they were possessed by the Chernobyl for decades or even their whole lifetime.  But mostly, they wondered if the Chernobyl chit technology might be planted deep in the brain where the minute the people were set free, the people might start in making new chits with which to infect themselves.  Standard precaution was to seed the worlds with air born anti-virals, and fry any Chernobyl infected people that got too close.

I need Jill, Ethan thought, and it was a good thing he did not read through that stuff before he made his reprogramming chit.  He feared that this might be the only way to save her.  He dropped down over the Chernobyl circle.  He focused in on the scene until he could pick up the trace of the Chernobyl chits themselves.  They were multiplying as fast as they could, but as soon as they entered the air, they were being destroyed by the Gaian chits that had been drawn to the area.  Those Chernobyl chits would soon run out of materials with which to build.  By contrast, the Gaian chits were organic, fulfilling a genetic function, and could reproduce wherever there was organic material available, or even where minerals could be restructured into carbon and protein and strung together in a pattern.  But then, they would reproduce only to the extent they were needed, not to the point of choking the atmosphere.  Ethan likened their action to chewing the Chernobyl bits up and spitting them out as useless waste product.  At once everything stopped.

“Ethan.”  Jill called and Ethan ran, but she was still out of it and calling his name in her delirium.

Ethan checked.  There were no Chernobyl missing, none wandering the wilderness, he was sure; but he changed his mind about what they were doing as soon as their chip production stopped.  They appeared to be communicating, probably with the folks back home, and that was not a good thing.  It would punch great holes in Jill’s cover, unless he made the cover story true.  He sprayed the group with chits he had infected with his enter and destroy programming.  The effect was almost immediate.

Men and women stood up and began to move about wildly, almost thrash about like fish out of water, and a few were injured in the process.  Some gurgled and fell over.  Others staggered out of the circle and stopped only when they ran into a tree, bush or boulder, or when they tripped over some obstacle.  Some appeared incapable of moving at all, and Ethan felt great distress for them, knowing that they had been thus possessed and controlled since they were born, and had never known a day of freedom.  There were a few terrible moments before he was able to scan a body and find it Chernobyl free.  Any chits outside the body would not escape, and any within were now destroyed as well.  Still, he waited to be sure that none of the former hosts died.

“Ethan!”  Jill screamed and Ethan dared not wait any longer.  He let the enter and destroy chits into the ship, and then he held Jill while she did her own thrashing about.  It ended with her in tears, but she was sound and whole.  “They had me,” she said.  “They almost won.”

“Hush.”  Ethan rocked her as she cried.  “It’s all right now.  Hush.”  He was not slow to give up a prayer of thanksgiving to whoever might be listening.

###

“The one we called Missus Gurgle said hi today when I said hi.”  Doctor Augustus told them with some pride in his voice.  “They are like newborn infants just learning to eat and speak for the first time.”

Jill nodded.  “They are Chernobyl free, and psychic probes indicate that the Chernobyl took over cognitive functioning and used short term memory, but nothing was laid down long term, most likely to keep their hosts as flexible to change as possible.”

“No bad habits?”  Ethan joked.  Jill shook her head.

“No reckless stunts either,” she said.  Ethan said no more, but smiled.  He knew he overstepped his bounds by a long shot, but he was glad and fortunate things worked out as well as they did.  Jill took his hand.  She was glad, too.  She had been very close to the edge.

“One of the main arguments against what Ethan did was that the Chernobyl might have implanted some vital, irresistible information to rebuild and re-infect the people at some future date, but that does not seem to be the case.  All the same, I would not take my eyes off of them as long as they live.”

“I understand.”  Doctor Augustus was serious when he turned to Colonel deMartin.  “And I appreciate the volunteers you have allowed to act as my makeshift nurses.  I am sorry to deplete your ranks in that manner, but I will not lie and tell you they are not needed.”

“Not a problem,” deMartin said.  “They are genuine volunteers and they will have Captain deMarcos to watch over them if they should get out of line.”  He turned to Jill and Ethan.  “That is the first time in army history when the only volunteers allowed had to be married with children.”

“We don’t mind bringing the families,” Jill said, sweetly.  “As long as they don’t mind coming.”

“And a little repopulation of the area will not hurt,” Manomar noted and everyone agreed.

“But now we need to go,” Peter Alexander said.  “I have seen cyborgs, Sorvee and these Chernobyl zombies as well as the Nelkorian menace in my own back yard.  When I said yes to dear Lela, I never imagined what might be on the horizon.”

“Just remember, you have friends.  You are not facing the worlds alone,” Jill said and she kissed Ethan’s hand that had slipped over her shoulder.  “You need not ever be alone.”

“That’s right.”  DeMartin slapped Peter Alexander on the shoulder.  “And when we are not fighting off other world monsters, we have a world of our own to save.  To be sure, the culture of war after war has to stop.”

“I’m not listening,” Jill said.  “I am not hearing this.”  Doctor Augustus and Peter Alexander laughed.

“We are not hearing this,” Ethan said, and he kissed her in a commitment that was forever.

Guardian Angel-19 Chernobyl, part 2 of 3

“It will be all right.”  She turned to Ethan and caught hold of his arm.  “I am immunized with the strongest chits, as are you, but I have to get the information on what worlds they have infected so far and I need to reprogram their equipment.”

“Couldn’t we just scan for the information?”  Ethan asked.

“No!”  Jill responded sharply.  “They would not be able to stop us, but they would probably recognize the scan and logic would tell them that we had interfered with their data.  I can’t risk that.”

“But can’t we just vaporize the equipment?”

“No.”  She spoke more softly.  “They would just build more so that would be pointless.  I am going to slip a program into the system that will make it look like the system failed.  They should think that shortly after the jump to the other world or worlds, all the silicon chits shorted out, or as we would say, died, and the hosts were set free.  That should really freak them out, and they will tear their own system apart to try to figure out the problem.  God willing, it will set their Worlds program back twenty years, and that may be enough time to figure out a better solution.”

“But why you?”  Ethan asked.

Jill smiled and kissed him.  “Because you are still too new at this and because I already have my chits ready to go.”

“But hold on.”  Ethan grabbed her.  “Won’t they know you have toyed with their system?”

“Theoretically no,” she said.  “The cautions surrounding this destination indicate that they have no recognition of human flesh apart from indicating a potential host.  They will enter my system, and be destroyed by my immune system.  I will come back in only a minute and they will be none the wiser.”

“What about guards?”

Jill laughed.  “There is no crime here,” she said.  “The whole planet is one big crime, but there’s no need for guards.  That would be a waste of human energy.”

“But enough of a virus can overwhelm even the most powerful immune system,” Ethan said.  Jill broke free of his arms.

“It is a risk,” she answered.  They had arrived in a warehouse-sized building with machines, sophisticated electronics, and sub-electronic technology at work everywhere Ethan looked.  He was struck with how advanced the equipment looked, and how primitive it looked at the same time, depending on whether he looked strictly with his native born eyes or through his Gaian chits.

“I won’t be a minute,” Jill said, and she stepped out into that place as Ethan almost shrieked in his panic.  He did not worry about any Chernobyl chits getting in through the doorway.  No doubt many did, but he knew the ship was covered.  Instead, he was terribly worried about Jill.  He meant what he said about numbers overwhelming the immune system, and he knew that was true, even with his native understanding.

Ethan only watched for a second before he had a thought.  He wondered if he could develop a special chit of his own, like writing his own computer program, he imagined.  He decided to try, and set his mind to develop a program that would cause an anti-Chernobyl chit to enter an infected body and destroy the Chernobyl infection within that body without killing the host-person.  It occurred to him that he did not need to make a completely new chit, but only one to reprogram that additional information task into the chits already in the storage tanks.  Oh yes, and when the person was Chernobyl free, he felt that any remaining or surviving chits should vacate the person and set up shop elsewhere, or otherwise go back to guarding the atmosphere.  He waited, and wondered if his instructions were specific enough while his internal Gaian system worked on the problem, and he watched Jill move from one piece of equipment to another.  She was starting to sneeze, like a person fighting off an allergy.  There had to be trillions of Chernobyl chits around her now, trying to get at her.

The bell went off.  Ethan’s homemade chit was ready sooner than Ethan thought possible.  He located one of the storage tanks and inserted his chit.  He was not sure if it would work, but if it did not, he did not want to spoil every batch of anti-Chernobyl chits aboard the ship.

Jill finally reopened the door and leapt for the safety of the ship.  Ethan caught her and helped her sit in a comfortable chair.  “You were more than a minute,” he scolded while he quickly moved the ship back to Doctor Augustus’ New Rome.  He summoned up a blanket from the ship’s molecular store, and also a cup of chicken soup.  Jill laughed, but she did not look good.  Ethan went to check the Main.  The data Jill collected had downloaded without trouble.  Then he heard a noise.  He spun around.  Jill slid, unconscious to the floor, and the cup of chicken soup fell and scattered soup everywhere.

Jill woke up a few minutes later.  She was lying on a couch in the lounge at the back of the control room, covered in numerous blankets.  She could easily stagger back into the other room, but she could not do much more.  She felt like she had a fever of a hundred and five, or imagined that it was what a fever felt like since she never had one before.  She did know that her thinking was far from clear.  Even her eyes were fuzzy and could hardly focus.  Her system had to be fighting a world war all her own.  She lifted her head, and it fell back to the pillow as she fell unconscious.

Ethan hovered over the Chernobyl.  He tried the mind box Jill had used with Ali Pasha to instruct him about the Sorvee collar.  He got Doctor Augustus after a moment and spoke directly to the man’s mind through his chits.  He explained about Jill.

“I don’t know what I can tell you without examining her,” the Doctor said.  “My guess is you just have to give her system time to fight them off.  She was in the middle of them for some time.  Just keep an eye on her vital signs and call me if they start to drop.”

“How is the battle?”

“It has been quiet,” the Doctor said.  “But if you are wondering, I touched a Chernobyl and knew immediately what they were.  You see, some came crashing through the front windows, I thought, like so many zombies.  The bullets made short work of them.  I guess like the cyborgs you ran into, their technology was not made to ward off anything as primitive as a bullet.  Anyway, I did not like the dead look in their living eyes, so I would not let the soldiers near them.  When I touched one, I was immediately infected, even though the man was dead.  It did not take long for my immunity chits to fight them off, but I did feel weak for a few hours.”

“So I keep an eye on her vitals,” Ethan said.  “Anything else?”

“No.  Just let me know if they start to drop, and for the time being she is probably best off aboard the ship.  That wonderful vehicle may have some things going for her that we could not duplicate here.  She is tuned to the ship, as you said, isn’t she?”

“Yes.  We both are,” Ethan answered.

“So keep her safely there for now.  There is nothing I could do here except watch and our hands are a bit full right now watching other stuff.”

“Right,” Ethan said.  “I’ll keep you posted.”  He signed off and dialed Peter Alexander, as he thought of it.

“How is the princess?”  Those were Peter’s first words.  Then he talked about the battle.  Basically, nothing had happened in the last few minutes, “But the Colonel is afraid the enemy is likely to storm the gate, if you follow me.  If they could infect Doctor Augustus even after the host person was dead, they would not have to get more than one or two inside to potentially infect us all.”

“I understand,” Ethan said.  “But at the moment, I don’t see them doing anything but sitting in a circle.  They are not even talking.”

“Forgive my impertinence, but why don’t you just blast them out of existence?”  He used Ethan’s own words.

“I want to try something first,” Ethan said.

“That’s fine.”  Alexander sounded calm, but Ethan could hear the wish that his life was not the one Ethan was experimenting with.

“I’ll let you know how it goes,” he said, and switched off.

Guardian Angel-19 Chernobyl, part 1 of 3

“I believe it is time for us to go home.”  Peter Alexander spoke up from the corner where he and Colonel deMartin had been watching the events on the view screen.  “The Colonel and I have discussed our world at length, and there is a great deal of work for us to do as well.”

“Ali Pasha will likely be rooting Sorvee out of his world for the next hundred years,” Manomar suggested.

“More than likely,” Jill agreed.

Peter Alexander looked at them.  “That is at least how long it will take us,” he said.

Jill looked at the Cherokee Chief before she spoke sternly.  “Just remember, your chits were not given to you to rule or influence your world.  Your job is to prevent outsiders like the Sorvee from coming in and corrupting your world.  In a way, you are like an outsider now, yourself.  You must not interfere with the normal course and development of the people lest all of our work be for nothing.”

Alexander looked back at Jill for a minute.  It was a hard look, but he dropped his eyes at the last.  “I understand,” he said.  “I waited years and years for someone to come seeking Lela, and I did not overstep my bounds, even if I did not yet understand them.  You will never have cause to return and scold me for going too far.”

“That does not mean we can do nothing,” Colonel deMartin said quickly, though it was more like a question.

Jill nodded.  “It is a line you will have to draw for yourselves.  Kera Ann did not do nothing.  But be careful where you draw that line and do not step over it.”

“So, where are we headed?”  Ethan asked.

“Doctor Augustus first.”  She answered.  “We have wounded soldiers to fetch.”

###

They came to the hospital in time to see the soldiers drive off an attack from some unknown assailants.  Guns blasted from the roof and from the windows, some pulse microwaves and some regular old army issue, and the enemy, whoever they were, retreated down the hill.  None of the defenders looked injured, though there were several large chunks of building missing, and most of the rest of the hospital looked badly burned.  Jill’s hands flew across the Main, and in a minute, she and Ethan had the same information, except she mouthed the word through gritted teeth.  “Chernobyl.”

Ethan’s word was more like, “Damn!”

“Colonel.”  Jill whipped around.  Colonel deMartin, Manomar and Peter Alexander were standing in shock, staring at the screen.  “You have to unload and help defend the hospital until we get back.  Doctor Augustus may need your help in case they break in and one or more of the men become infected.”

“Isn’t this world seeded with anti-Chernobyl chits?”  Ethan asked.

“Of course,” Jill responded as she began to open the necessary doors to the crew’s quarters.  “Out.  Out!”  She shouted into the projector.  “Otherwise, every soldier in the hospital would already be infected.”  She finished her sentence for Ethan alone before she returned to the projector.  “Everyone.  On the double.”  She opened another door in the control room and she did not have to tell everyone what it was for.

“But can’t we go with you?”  Peter Alexander asked.  “You may need us as well, or at least me as the last Guardian aboard.”

“No.”  Jill spoke sharply.  “This is one trip Ethan and I need to take alone.  Besides, Doctor Augustus may need you more.”

“I cannot go,” Manomar said.  “I have promised and I cannot serve you unless I am with you.”

Jill smiled, but shook her head.  Then she got busy while Ethan answered for her.

“Go.  We won’t be long.”  He spoke softly to reassure his friend, though to be honest he had no idea what Jill was planning or how long they might be.  Colonel deMartin saluted and left, and Peter followed if a little more reluctantly.  Manomar was the most reluctant of all, but in the end, he left as well when his commitment to obedience outweighed his commitment to duty.  He would trust his new masters.  Soldiers were running out of the other doors, and Ethan watched as Captain deMarcos came running up to the roof with a salute for his Colonel.

“They came out of nowhere and grabbed two men who were walking in the park.  Degon and Plisser are now fighting for them.  The Doctor says they have been infected and cannot be retrieved.  He said we had to defend the hospital until you got back, but boy, am I glad you are here.”  DeMartin took the Captain off with Alexander for a more detailed explanation of their situation while Ethan turned to Jill.

“We could just blast them out of existence,” he said.

“Shh!”

“What are you thinking?”

“Shhhhh!”  Ethan got quiet.  “It is a strange signature,” she said.  “But there.”  She pointed, and a place on Manhattan, or New Rome came into focus on the screen.  “That is the place where they came through.  We can follow them back the way they came.”

“I thought the radiation interrupted tracers.”

“Normally,” Jill said as the last of the soldiers vacated the ship and the doors closed.  She instantly shifted their position to the new location.  “But this trail is fresh and sloppy, like most newcomers to the worlds.  It is a radiation all its’ own which is strong enough to stand out from all the background noise.”

“And what are we doing?”  Ethan asked.  “Shutting down the doorway?”

“Going to the Chernobyl world,” Jill responded.  Ethan swallowed.

They were there in a moment, smack in the middle of an enormous city, which was so full of smog, Ethan could barely make out the empty streets down below.  “They don’t waste much energy here, at least people energy.”  Jill explained while she worked on something.  “They do only what is necessary to maintain the human population, but no more.  They need people because they are parasites.”

“They can’t live outside the host?”  Ethan asked.

“They can, but they can’t do much without a host who has eyes and ears, hands and fingers and such.  They are silicon, some would say a life form, but most call them an accident or a disease.  They are programmed to multiply, and they are running out of room in their atmosphere, that’s how thick they are, even if they are microscopic.”

“Won’t they detect the ship?”  Ethan was worried by the idea of being overwhelmed with alien chits, but Jill shook her head.

“We are molecular size, simulating a simple viral protein chain.  They may have anti-virals against such things in case they should infect their human hosts, but most likely, they will ignore us.  This ship is full of anti-Chernobyl chits and there are several storage tanks full of the stuff as well.  I am not worried about us, but I have to go down there.”

“Jill!”

Guardian Angel-18 Ali Pasha, part 3 of 3

The Egyptian carried Ali Pasha into the building where the front room was now abandoned because of all the excitement.  Kirsten was there with that other man, and after Ali Pasha insisted on being allowed to stand on his own two feet, she led the way to the back door.

“There is a back door in this monstrous place?”  Ali Pasha was surprised.

Kirsten merely clicked her tongue.  “Every building has a back door.  How else could the Examiner leave unnoticed to visit his tarts by the docks.”

“He was a very immoral man,” the Egyptian confirmed.  “But Master, how is your head?”

“Yes,” Kirsten added with genuine concern in her voice.  They stopped walking so she could run her fingers through the back of Ali Pasha’s hair.

Ali Pasha ignored the word “Master” from the Egyptian and touched the back of his own head where Kirsten looked for signs of his injury.

“All healed,” he said, and Kirsten stepped back with a dumbfounded look on her face.

“Perhaps the man did not hit you as hard as it appeared,” Ahmed the Egyptian suggested.

“Must be so,” Kirsten said with some curiosity.  She looked at the stranger who was with them.

He shrugged before he opened up.  “I heard the Examiner’s blasphemy,” he said.  “I am only sorry we did not arrive sooner.”

“Oh,” Kirsten interrupted the man.  “But Captain, if you had been there sooner that would have put two heads on the chopping block.”  Kirsten did not sound like she liked the idea of that particular captain losing his head, and Ali Pasha looked closely at the man.  He was very young and dark in both hair and eyes, and he had a Gallic look about him.

“And you are?”  He asked a bit sharply, as they walked toward Ali Pasha’s house.  He was already feeling protective toward Lars’ daughter, and he probably would be for as long as she lived.

“Hans Newcomer,” the man said with a broad smile that Kirsten matched.  “Captain of the Flying Goose from Amsterdam.”  Ali Pasha looked again, with something like a father’s concern in his eyes.  Amsterdam was a strange province where Muslims and Christians worked side by side in the kind of tolerant society despised by people in the Society of the Mahdi.

“Rather young for a ship’s captain,” Ali Pasha said gruffly.  He looked at Kirsten who looked away, innocently.

“Yes, sir,” the captain responded.  “My father owns the shipping company.” He said that with some humility, and Ali Pasha cleared his throat as they started walking again.

“He was the only authority I could find after the mullah.”  Kirsten felt the need to explain.  “A ship’s captain can carry weight in court.”

“But how did you know the mullah was not a good choice?”  Ali Pasha asked as they stopped outside his front door.

“Elementary,” Kirsten said.  She pulled a small globe out of her apron pocket.  She touched it, actually clicked a switch, and the globe glowed.  She turned it off.  “He was playing with this when we went to fetch him.  It looked pretty alien to me, not that I would know.”

“So you thought an alternate authority might help.”  Ali Pasha nodded.  “Good thinking Sherlock,” he said and they went inside.

“Sherlock?”  Kirsten asked.

“A book friend Ethan said I must read.  A book about hounds,” Ali Pasha answered, and paused before he shrugged.  “I suppose I don’t mind playing the part of Doctor Watson.”  But then he did not have time to explain himself, because Jill, Ethan and Manomar were waiting for them in the parlor.

“It seems you have your work cut out for you.”  Ethan spoke right away.  Ali Pasha sat heavily in his chair and said nothing.

Jill was the one who made all the introductions, and to Kirsten’s surprise, Jill hugged the girl with a word.  “You take care of the Scholar, my dear.  Your father would be proud of you.”

“Not my real father,” Kirsten responded sadly.

“Perhaps he would, but certainly your other father.”  Kirsten understood and smiled to think of it as she went to sit on the floor at Ali Pasha’s feet.

“Ahmed of Egypt, why are you here?”  Ethan asked.

The big Egyptian went to his knees and lowered his head.  He glimpsed the Angels in the yard and he did not know what to make of these people, if they were people.  “Master Ali Pasha gave me my life back,” he said bluntly.  “I owe him everything.”  He looked up, and Manomar caught his eye.  Something unspoken passed between the two big men.  “Besides,” he continued.  “I know some of the ways of the Society of the Mahdi, and I now remember many things.  I understand that these alien Sorvee must be stopped before they put collars on the whole world.”

“Well said.”  Jill smiled for the man.  “And Captain,” she said and turned to the young man.  “Will you assist in this endeavor?”

The young man paused to rub the stubble on his young chin.  He looked at Kirsten and nodded.  “I do not understand who these Sorvee are, but if what I heard in the Examiner’s office is typical, and with what I have seen in the last hour including what I am seeing now is true, by which I mean if I am not dreaming, then I suppose.  I don’t know.  Who are these Sorvee?”  He turned to Kirsten

“Ali Pasha will explain,” Jill said.  “We only came to say good-bye and to say we will be taking Manomar with us.”

“Yes,” Ethan said.  “There were too many witnesses to his actions, even if the angels suggested it was justified.  We believe that you will not be bothered since your condemnation was sudden and not recorded.  The people will never know, but to leave Manomar with you will place a cloud over your head and it would make your work too difficult.”

With that, Ali Pasha looked up.  “I am glad there is a place for my friend,” he said.  “I would hate to see him tried for murder.  But I am thinking I need to be more careful in the future.”  He patted Kirsten’s hand like he would a favorite daughter.  “Even like my friend Lars, perhaps.”

Jill nodded, looked at Ethan and repeated his words.  “And you do have your work cut out for you, but I have every confidence that you can handle it.  Remember, the Sorvee are few, but insidious.  They probably have made a number of sincere converts to their cause both inside and outside the Society and the religious orders.  Keep in mind, though, the converts will not be aware that the goal of the Sorvee is to make the people in your world into mindless slaves.”

“I am thinking.”  Ali Pasha understood.  “But will you say farewell to Peter Alexander and Colonel deMartin?  It was a pleasure traveling with them.  Oh, and will you come again someday and let me travel to other worlds of wonder.  There is so much I am not knowing.  So much!”

“And Doctor Augustus,” Jill said with a smile as Ali Pasha nodded.  “I will give them all your best wishes.”  A shimmering doorway appeared.  “Only now we must go.  Godspeed.”  She stole Ethan’s line who had stolen it from Doctor Augustus.

“Take care of my friends.”  Ali Pasha said a last word.

“More than likely, Manomar will be taking care of Jill and me,” Ethan responded, and they stepped through the door and as they vanished from that world, they heard a final question.

“So who are these Sorvee?”  Captain Newcomer asked but only looked at Kirsten.

Guardian Angel-18 Ali Pasha, part 2 of 3

Ali Pasha squinted through the window and saw Manomar bringing the mullah.  He wondered briefly where Kirsten was, but he waited a moment before he responded to Abbass so that the mullah could be brought inside.

“I would appreciate it if you would speak in my language,” Ali Pasha said, loudly.  “You alien beasts should learn to respect local customs, not simply use them for your wicked ends.”  As he spoke, Ahmed the Egyptian cracked open the door so their words could be heard in the outer hall.

Abbass smiled broadly and took a seat at the table.  “So you are the Guardian of Gaia as I suspected.  This is lovely.  Once you are gone, nothing will stand in our way.”

“Your way?  I stand in the way of Allah and walk the path of the Holy Prophet of God.  I will not let you make a mockery of my faith or my world.  You and your other Sorvee demons must vacate this world, immediately.”

“Very good.”  Abbass said.  “You know who we are.  That is more than I expected from an ignorant primitive.”

“We are not as ignorant as you suppose.  We are studied on the word and way of Allah through the Holy Koran, and once I have mastered imprinting the words on paper, I will make more copies than can be counted, faster than a thousand scribes, until every man has a copy to hold in his own hands.”

“Ah, but you see.  Printing and reading is something we cannot permit.”  Abbass answered.

“You will not mock the true faith, and you have no business speaking in the name of the Prophet of God or speaking the word of God with your unbelieving lips.”  Ali Pasha got hot, and it was hardly all playacting.

“Your faith is a sham and Mohammed was a fool, though his intolerance and his concept of Jihad are worthy of note.  Killing everyone who does not agree with you is almost to be admired.”

Ali Pasha nearly choked on what he heard.  He had to swallow the lump of his anger to speak, and then it was only one borrowed Christian word.  “Blasphemy!”  Then another thought was added.  “For such words the law requires your execution.”  As he spoke, the mullah came in and stared hard at Abbass before he spoke.

“Trouble?” he asked.

Abbass smiled.  “The Guardian of Gaia.”  He pointed at Ali Pasha.  “I never thought we would have the honor of cutting off his head in this forsaken outpost.”

The mullah smiled.  “The Lord of this world will be pleased,” he said, and motioned for Ahmed the Egyptian to grab the scholar.  Ali Pasha’s eyes were wide.  He had hoped to get Abbass to accuse himself, and that had worked marvelously well, but he never imagined that the mullah himself was Sorvee.

Ahmed took Ali Pasha by the arms, but gently, and they followed the two men out the door while those men conversed briefly in their Sorvee language.  They headed straight for the door and, no doubt, the chopping block.

“Forgive me, friend.  Thank you, but even if I have no choice, you should.  This much I can do.” As Ali Pasha whispered quietly, he touched his guard’s collar.  There was a soft “click” and the collar fell to the floor.  The Egyptian fell to the floor as well as too much raced through his mind at once.

Ali Pasha bolted.  He saw Kirsten by a back door.  A tall man was with her.  She was about to wave for him to run in their direction when the men in the front office, including the mullah’s servant, grabbed the scholar and dragged him back to the exit that led to the execution yard.  The mullah and Abbass looked briefly at the Egyptian on the floor.  The man was coughing and hacking, and they likely thought Ali Pasha managed a blow to the solar plexus or some such thing.  Neither noticed the collar was missing.

“This will not end things.”  Ali Pasha said to the two Sorvee as he was carted down the steps.  “The Gaia will select another, wiser soul than my own.  You demons of the Sorvee are exposed and you will be driven out.”

“I think the Society needs a purge on scholars in any case.”  The mullah said out loud.  “That may as well begin here.”

“We may be advanced for this capture of the Gaian dog and further for the suggestion concerning the scholars.”  Abbass grinned, wickedly.

“This, yes.  But the suggestion to purge all scholars, and all learning is nothing new.  We have already made it against the law for women to be educated in any way, couching it of course in a twisting of their own superstitious beliefs.  When it becomes illegal for men to be educated is only a matter of time.  It is all in the timing, though, and the Lord of this world will decide if the timing is right for such a purge.”

Ali Pasha’s head was down on the block, and though he was tied, his chits were already working on the ropes while the servants went to fetch the headsman.  “This will not end things.”  Ali Pasha said again; but Abbass gave a hand signal and the man who was left to guard the prisoner hit Ali Pasha hard on the back of the head and knocked him temporarily senseless.

When the axe man approached, two things happened at once.  A knife came through the air and struck the axe man square in the chest.  Manomar ran straight for Abbass and the mullah.  At the same time, Ahmed the Egyptian came barreling out of the door and headed directly for Ali Pasha.

Abbass pulled the dagger at his side and smiled at Manomar.  The little man imagined himself very good with a dagger, and he probably was, but Manomar pulled out a microwave pulse pistol and melted the man’s face.  The mullah turned to run, but Manomar had caught him and tackled him.  He grabbed Abbass’ fallen dagger to finish the job, personally.

Men ran around the yard in a panic, but most headed straight for Manomar.  They were angry and there were too many witnesses who saw the innocent Examiner and the mullah, of all people, murdered.  There was no way Manomar was going to escape a lynching.  He could never prove that Lord Abbass and the mullah were aliens, an assertion in his culture that would have sounded absurd on the face of it, nor would he ever be able to justify his killing of the axe man, but he was glad to give his life to save his master, Ali Pasha.  His own life hardly mattered.  He did not even plan to struggle when the men arrived.  But before that could happen, there was a great flash of blinding white light and two figures appeared beside Manomar.  They looked for all the world like Holy Angels of the Lord.  Every man in the compound stopped, and several fell to their knees.  Others fell to their faces.

“The Society of the Mahdi is a great evil that pretends to be good.”  Jill announced in a booming voice.  “Men and women must be free to come to Allah in their own hearts, in their own way and their own time.  The Society of the Mahdi must be destroyed.”  She made a door, and she and Ethan took Manomar aboard the ship, and disappeared.

“That was rather cheeky,” Ethan said.  “If these people wish to have a litmus test for true believers, who are we to say no.”

Jill smiled broadly and Ethan melted a little at her smile. “You’re learning.  So, do you want to stomp on my toes or slap me in the arm?” she asked.

“No,” Ethan said.  He wanted to kiss her instead

Guardian Angel-18 Ali Pasha, part 1 of 3

Ali Pasha walked boldly into the Society of the Mahdi building with Kirsten on his heels, her head lowered like a good little slave.  Workers got out of their way and stared because people did not go into the Society building unless they were summoned.  It was not the sort of place that attracted visitors or volunteers.  Ali Pasha paid the workers no mind as he walked through the front gate with his head raised.  He had come to have it out with the Chief Examiner, and he was only hoping the others would get there in time.  It was not an elaborate plan, but the pieces did require a certain amount of careful timing to work.  He had given Kirsten a time keeping chit to match his and the one Manomar had, and he gave her a couple of other chits as well, just in case.  Lady Jillian had been right.  It drained him to do it; but he slept well and was ready to go in the morning.

“Good morning.”  Ali Pasha said boldly when he came into the front room and saw a man hovering over a paper strewn desk.  “I have come to see your Master, Ibin Mohamed Abbass.”  He gave the man no titles.

“His Lordship is not available this morning.”  The man in the front office said, and then he looked up at who was making such an unusual request.  He looked startled for a minute.  “You are the scholar?”  Ali Pasha nodded.  “Men were just sent to your residence to collect you.”

“Well, here I am.  You could have saved them all that trouble.”

“This way.”  The man gave a little bow.  He was undoubtedly confused.  People usually came in kicking, screaming, protesting and trying their best to disturb everyone they could.  He would not have given such a person a second glance, and might have even yawned.  But here, this scholar was smiling at the prospect of facing the Chief Examiner, and the poor man in the front room was not sure what to make of it.  He brought the scholar to a room to wait.

“Go home child.”  Ali Pasha told Kirsten and waved his hand in dismissal.  “Your services will not be needed here.”  She only came to warn the others in case they grabbed Ali Pasha and took him immediately to the rack.

“Yes, my master.”  Kirsten responded with a bow of her head and scurried off while Ali Pasha gathered the stunned man’s attention.

“Now, will you kindly inform your Master Abbass that I have come to his house in return for his visit to my house, and this time I have some questions.”

No!  This was too much for the poor man from the front room.  People did not ask the Examiner questions, especially the Chief Examiner.  He held the door and Ali Pasha entered a room with one small window.  He turned his nose up at the poor accommodations, but he nevertheless sat in the nearest chair to wait.  The poor man closed the door softly and went back to the front, shaking his head the whole way.  He would have to sit and think this through.

Ali Pasha considered the room as he ran his finger around the dust on the table in the center of the room.  With four spindly chairs, the table made the small room into a very small space.  There was a brazier in one corner that would be lit at night to give light, and a smaller side table by the window, which held a vase without flowers and a scroll that someone had recently been looking at and quite possibly forgot where they left it.  He looked at the door that was closed, and at another door on the opposite wall.  He wondered briefly where that other door led, but he hardly cared.  He had no intention of going anywhere.  The inner wall of the room sported a Persian rug, hung like a true medieval tapestry, and the outer wall held the window.  Ali Pasha had to squint and strain his eyes to see anything at all through that thick glass.  It kept out the cold in winter and the bugs in summer, and it let in the light, but it was not good for much else.  He marveled again at having been allowed to see real glass, stained glass, and in the Ridgetop hospital, triple thermal plascticized optic panes, which looked like nothing was there at all.

Ali Pasha turned at the sound of the door opening.  A man the size of Manomar came in, shut the door, and folded his arms as if to suggest that the scholar should stay where he was put.  Wonder of wonders, the man sported one of those sickly green collars, and Ali Pasha had an immediate thought, but he did not know how to pursue it.  He sat at the table and drummed his fingers.

“Have you a name?”  He asked his guard.

The guard just glared.

“Do you not speak the tongue, or has your tongue been cut out?”  Ali Pasha tried again.

“I speak well enough.”  The man spoke this time.  “I am Ahmed the Egyptian, and you had better not try your devilish words and tricks on me.  I have been ordered to keep you here and so here you will stay.”

Ali Pasha drummed his fingers for a minute more before he spoke again.  “Jillian, are you there?”

The guard glanced up but said nothing.

“I am.”  The answer came softly into Ali Pasha’s ears.  “But you can speak to me without sound if you wish.  Your psychic chips can pass along your words, and this way the guard will hear nothing of our conversation.”

“Marvel upon marvel.”  Ali Pasha thought before getting down to business.  “I am wondering, can the collar be reprogrammed?  Is that the right word?”

“Yes and yes,” Jill answered.  “But to what end?”

“I suspect the gentleman before me is no friend of the society or he would not be shackled with a collar, but I suspect he is a useful tool and has probably been present at many otherwise secret events.  If I could turn his loyalty from Abbass to myself, he may prove an equally useful fountain of information.  Then also, he might spare my life if killing me becomes his primary task.”  Ali Pasha shrugged.  It was a natural motion, and exactly what he would have done if he had been speaking to a person who was in the room with him.

“Simple,” Jill said.  “Think of a chit to accomplish that very task and give it a bit of time to grow.  You will know when it is ready.  In the meanwhile, this is not a criticism, but you have given out more chits than is wise when going into battle.  I understand your desire to protect the young girl, and given her likeness to our other Kirsten I cannot blame you, but a day or two to rebuild your resources would not have hurt.”

“I understand, but I was sure I would not have the time, and if the Examiner sent men to my house to fetch me this very morning, I see that my guess was right.”

“I understand also.  Just something to consider in the future.”

“Hmm.”  Ali Pasha made the sound out loud and went back to drumming his fingers on the dusty table.

The chit was ready in almost no time, and all Ali Pasha had to do was find a way to deliver it.  He finally decided the direct approach would have to do.  He stood.  The man by the door shifted; and put his hand closer to his knife.

“I have been thinking about that marvelous necklace you wear.  I have never seen the like and it looks very finely made.  May I see it?”

“What necklace?”  The man responded sharply.  He sincerely did not know he had anything around his neck.

“This here.”  Ali Pasha pointed and stepped closer as if to touch the item.  The man quickly pulled his blade and Ali Pasha stopped.  “Forgive me.  You are big and strong.  I am old and fat.  I mean you no harm and I could not harm you if I wished.  Please put down the blade.  I only wish to see.”  The man hesitated, and in that hesitation, Ali Pasha reached out.  Fortunately, it was a very small room.  He touched.  The man immediately put his hand up as if noticing the collar for the first time.  He looked ready to rip it off for a second as he began to sweat, and Ali Pasha decided to put the table between himself and the knife just to be safe.

Ahh.  Nnn.”  The man made soft sounds of distress, but he did not cry out, and the thought of that possibility made Ali Pasha sweat.  Then it appeared to be over and the man surrendered.

“Command me master.”  The big man said at last, and Ali Pasha spoke quickly, not knowing how much time he had.

“Ahmed of Egypt, you must continue to pretend you are working for your former master, but guard my person at all costs.  I will set you free when it is safe, and you must remember who has done this for you.  Now, quietly.  How long have you served the Lord Abbass?  Speak only when we two are alone and not to be overheard.”

The man opened up.  He had a long history with the Society in the Old World, and with Abbass, specifically.  About all Ali Pasha could get in their limited time was that it was as he had feared.  The Society was full of Sorvee, and Ali Pasha imagined the Society might even be a Sorvee invention.

There was the sound of someone in the hall and Ali Pasha and his new man took their positions.  Abbass entered, gave a sharp, quick look to the guard and then smiled broadly at Ali Pasha.  “Welcome to my humble abode,” he said as Ali Pasha stood to face him.  Then he added two words in his Sorvee language.  “You fool.”

Guardian Angel-17 The Examiners, part 3 of 3

Manomar and Kirsten came in immediately.

“Will you really teach me the letters, my master?”  Kirsten asked.  The girl seemed excited by the idea.

“Yes, if you like.”  Ali Pasha answered, but his mind was elsewhere.

“You said print.”  Manomar pointed out the gaff.

“I said imprint, didn’t I?”  Ali Pasha countered, but Manomar shook his head.  “Perhaps he did not notice,” Ali Pasha suggested.  Manomar shook his head again, and Ali Pasha shared the last sentence the Examiner said as he left.  Manomar nodded at that as if to say that he was not surprised.

“I don’t understand,” Kirsten interrupted.  “Are you examining the Examiner?”

“Yes, he is not from our world, and my chit has analyzed his language.  He is Sorvee, and that is not a good thing.”

Kirsten looked very confused.  “Not of this world, you said.”  Manomar took her gently to a seat while he and Ali Pasha did their best to explain.  She had a most curious comment when they were done.  “So that really was my father by the docks, only it was my father from another world.”

“Yes.”

“And is there another Kirsten there?”

“Yes.”

Kirsten smiled, and it was a lovely young smile on the big girl’s face.  “I am twins and I don’t even know it.”  She made a joke before she turned serious.  “And you know my father and mother on that other Earth,” she said.  When they confirmed her intuition, she understood.  “But I may be a very different person in this world,” she said in her honest way.  “How do you know I can be trusted?”  Ali Pasha and Manomar looked at each other while Kirsten put her finger to the edge of her lips, looked up, and said, “I think we need to catch him in the act, admitting that he is a fraud from another world.”

Manomar and Ali Pasha agreed, and they spent a large part of that evening planning their moves.

###

Jill, Ethan, Peter Alexander and Colonel deMartin spent the evening discussing the matter as well, and Jill was as up front as she could be.

“The Sorvee appeared in the worlds about four hundred years ago.  They were the descendants of the Assyrians or Akkadians if you prefer.  They spoke of their home as eternal Ninevah.  The Sargon was what they called their ruler.  They spoke of peace and claimed that they only wanted to explore and settle peacefully where they could.  They told us of the terrible war on their world, and we checked and found most of their world uninhabitable, worse than Doctor Augustus’ world, far worse.”

“That was back in the days when the Gaian began to realize that not everyone finding their way into the Worlds was sweetness and light,” Ethan added out of his own store of knowledge, which he was beginning to read more and more easily.

“That’s right,” Jill agreed.  “Someone finally started asking questions, and eventually we found out that the war that devastated the Sorvee planet was in fact a rebellion.”

“Let me see if I can do this.”  Ethan interrupted, and Jill quieted to give him the chance.  “The ancient Assyrians in the Sorvee world took Elam, Media and Persia, so there was no one to be allied with Babylon and rebel.  The Assyrians conquered Egypt, even in my world, and then, unlike the Persians who came after them in my world, they turned the Greeks against each other and picked up the pieces.  They did much the same in China during the period of the warring states.  In fact, their history suggests that they got very good at fomenting trouble between peoples so they could step in after those peoples knocked each other silly.”

Jill interrupted.  “You are still comparing too much to your own world,” she said, but she smiled.  “Let us say that in time, the whole world came under Assyrian domination, and they were not a nice and kind people even from the beginning.  That made for Akkadian overlords who progressed over the centuries in luxury and in technological wonders, while everyone else lived in abject slavery, kept ignorant, uneducated, diseased and starving.  You get the picture.  The day came when the people finally rebelled, and the Sorvee destroyed their own planet rather than allow the people to be free.”

“So then they found their way into the worlds and claimed to be refugees from a sad but terrible war,” Ethan said.

“And everyone felt sorry for them, but just when people started asking questions, we had to deal with the Nelkorians.  That took a hundred years while the Sorvee had a relatively free hand to establish a presence in many worlds.  Do not misunderstand.  Most terrible things are homegrown.  The salvation for the worlds, as far as the Sorvee go, is the fact that there are not many of them.  Very few of them survived their rebellion-war.  But wherever you see drug pushers or suicide bombers or Nazi or Communist Parties with their Auschwitz and gulags, or book burners, or those who ridicule education or reading, or Societies of the Mahdi, look carefully.  If they can drive a civilization into the ground, into ignorance and desperation for a savior, their chances of taking over and ruling that world, as they once did in their home world, are greatly enhanced, and they are not above every dirty trick in the book.”

“How can anyone even think that way?”  Peter Alexander asked.  “We may believe our way is best, but when we say this and try to convince others it is because we care about people and we want everyone to have the best.  We do not support any thinking that diminishes people.  No right-thinking person does.”

“Even Ali Pasha’s world of slaves and Eunuchs believes that their Prophet is the best way for all people and they wish all people would to come to the light so there would no longer be the need for slaves and eunuchs,” Ethan added.

“There will always be criminals,” deMartin jumped in.  “But I have never imagined the criminals running the world.”

“But you don’t fully understand,” Jill said, and she turned to Ethan.  “There were well meaning people in your own world not that many years ago that justified slavery based on the idea that black people were somehow inferior or less human than others.  A hundred years later, many Germans honestly believed that the true, pure Arians should rule everyone else.”  She looked at them all.  “Over the centuries, where no one has been there to tell them otherwise, the Sorvee convinced themselves that their entire world was full of wild, half-humans who needed to be conquered and kept in their place, almost like caged animals, or maybe domesticated animals.  They treated their own fellow humans like cattle, and never thought twice about it.   It was no stretch for them to consider the people in the worlds in the same way.  It may be more difficult to simply conquer the worlds as they once did their own world.  They know there are those who will try to stop them, but that has not stopped them from using all of their old tricks.  The same rules apply.  If they can destroy the local civilization and get people to beat each other senseless, they can step in and take over.”

“But to behave so.”  Peter Alexander wanted to argue.

“Listen, they think nothing of lying, cheating, stealing, even mass murder of your people because they do not consider your people to be real people.  I know it is a hard concept to grasp, but only the Sorvee are real full-fledged people to other Sorvee.  You must understand that to them you are no more than sophisticated animals, maybe slightly above dogs.”  Jill finished.

“Maybe,” Ethan said the last word and realized that Ali Pasha was going to have his hands full for years to come.

Guardian Angel-17 The Examiners, part 2 of 3

When they returned to the house with Kirsten in tow, Ali Pasha was not surprised to find Chief Examiner Ibin Mohamed Abbass, Lord of the Society of the Mahdi waiting for him.  He could hardly have expected more if he had sent the man an engraved invitation.  “Lord Abbass,” he said, and emphasized the latter half of the man’s name, which caused Kirsten to hide and swallow her laugh.  “What brings you to my humble home?”

“I have been anxious over your disappearance.”  The little man shared polite bows with the scholar.  “I was curious that it happened at the same time your former guests disappeared.  May I ask where you have been?”

Ali Pasha put on a sad face and invited the man inside.  He instructed Manomar to take Kirsten to the women whom he said were in the next room.  “And wait there.”  Ali Pasha instructed, sternly.  Manomar bowed in a way, which indicated he understood.  He and Kirsten would be able to hear everything that was going on from the other room.

“My former guests!”  Ali Pasha looked offended for a second.  “How sweet they talked.  How knowledgeable they seemed.  I am embarrassed to say they fooled me completely.  Even when your men came to collect them for the slave market, I thought it was a terrible mistake.  I went to my neighbors and borrowed the money to buy them back, but then I heard that you took them to be examined, and I finally realized that I had been played for the fool.”  Ali Pasha sat heavily in a chair and indicated that the Examiner should sit as well.  It was a good performance, but the question was whether or not Lord Abbass bought it.

The little man sat slowly.  “But this does not explain where you have been during these days.”

“The wilderness.”  Ali Pasha said quickly and waved his hand at some distant, obscure places while he added just enough curiosity to his tone of voice to suggest that the answer should have been obvious.  “When I realized the truth, I was truly embarrassed.  I came and grabbed my trusty servant, Manomar, and we headed for the wilderness.”  He waved his hand again.  “You know, I am only truly happy when I am exploring new things.  Thus is the life of an inquirist, I’m afraid.”  He sighed heavily, having learned how from Omar the Idiot.

“Just the two of you?”  Abbass was not convinced.  “There were no others with you, not even guards for your protection?”

“Well, yes, just the two of us.”  Ali Pasha paused as if considering his words.  “I see now that just the two of us was rather foolish, but to be sure, I was so upset I could hardly think straight.  Did you know there is a ridge some many miles inland, and from there we could see all the way to the River, and even see the smoke fires rising from New Ark?”

The Examiner did not answer right away.  Instead, like a good lawyer, he rephrased his previous question in the hope of catching Ali Pasha in a lie.  “So just you and your servant went off into the wild without any concern of wild animals, savages or anything.”

“Yes,” Ali Pasha said firmly.  “It sounds a bit crazy now to think of it.  I suppose I will have to give thanks for our safe return.  Perhaps a donation to the Mosque would be in order.”

“And with no equipment, no tents or otherwise?”

“Manomar had his long knife, and we were able to make a shelter from the trees and branches, and we could hunt a little.  I confess, I have lost weight, but my wives will certainly not object to that.”  Ali Pasha stood and pretended to model for the Examiner, seeking affirmation with his eyes for his trimmer figure.  The examiner nodded politely, though he would have no way of knowing if Ali Pasha lost weight or not.

“And we did run into a savage, to be honest,” Ali Pasha confirmed.  “But I never considered that possibility until there he was, painted face and all.  His name was Petar or Petras, I am not sure how you say it.  You know how difficult communication between two languages can be, but I shared a simple string of beads I had around my neck and he shared a rabbit, and then he was gone, just like that.”  Ali Pasha clapped his hands once, sharply.

“A remarkable encounter,” Abbass said as if this story was becoming more, not less difficult to believe.

Ali Pasha pretended sudden excitement at that point.  “But now I cannot hold my tongue any longer,” he said as his whole attitude changed.  He realized that he also had to change the subject.  “Please, I must tell someone and it would be an honor to speak of this to you.”  Abbass indicated that he was listening, and Ali Pasha began with a flourishing of his sleeves.

“On the fifth day, in the midst of my evening prayers, when the sun was at my back and I was facing the smoke in the East, a most remarkable thing happened.  Praise Allah, but I was inspired as I have never been before, which tells me well that the Holy Prophet has not abandoned me for my foolishness with those wicked people.  Come and see.”  He stood and stepped over to a worktable in the corner where he began to open boxes containing stamps.

“Look, look,” he said.  “When I was leaving my home in Andalucia, I had these stamps made to mark whatever specimens I might find and keep them together in an organized fashion.  You see, I have a stamp for every letter and form in the Arabic tongue.  Do you see how these make the word for fish?”  He laid them on the table upside down.  They formed a mirror image of the word, but it could be read.

“I see,” Abbass said, and he looked at Ali Pasha with new eyes of suspicion, which Ali Pasha ignored.

“It came to me in a flash that if I set these and others in a box where they would not move around, do you see, I could make a whole page of words at once.  I think the paper would have to be flatly pressed against the inked stamps, but I could make many pages of the same information.  Do you see what I am saying?  And then if I could change the stamps around, I could make a second page and a third.”

“I see.”  The Examiner stroked his beard though he did not sound impressed.

“You see, but you do not understand.”  Ali Pasha turned and took the man by the arms.  “I could print or press the Koran much faster and cleaner than all the scribes in Mecca.  People could at last have the Holy Words to touch with their own hands and read with their own eyes.  Don’t you understand what this means?”

“Yes.”  The Examiner spoke without any heart in his words.  “Moveable type,” he added in a language, which he always said was his native tongue, and claimed was an obscure North African dialect.  In the past, Ali Pasha would not have given it another thought, but now he understood the words, exactly, even if he had to let on that he did not understand.

“Yes?”

“And the girl you just purchased?”  The Examiner asked.

“Ah!”  Ali Pasha briefly widened his eyes and spoke as if this was all some great secret and he was letting a good friend in on the ground floor.  “I have seen this one sorting fish by the sea and laying them out for sale in the market.  She has a good eye.  She knows a straight line, she already knows how to work a press to extract the fish oils, and she claims her mother taught her to read and write a most unusual thing in a slave.  I will train her to run my press.  Do you see?  She will lay my letters in a straight line and press ink instead of oil, do you think?”

“Yes.”  The Examiner was still not impressed.  “But I think also I would like to know why the guards at the gate have no memory of you and your servant leaving town.”

“Auch.”  Ali Pasha inadvertently used Lars’ word.  “I have been in and out of the gate so many times since coming to this new world, I would guess they simply did not notice.”

“Perhaps.”

“Ah, but now please.  If you don’t mind I have much to do with my stamps.  I appreciate your visit and your concern, but as you can see, I am not corrupted.  I am still the same old inquirist.  That is all a forgotten incident, and one to embarrass, so I hope it will stay forgotten.  Now, if you will forgive me.”

“Very well.”  The Lord of the Mahdi headed for the door.  “But we will speak again.”  Then he added a phrase in his supposedly obscure native tongue.  “I know the Gaian do not stray very far from their dogs,” he said, but he smiled and bowed as if bidding good day, and he left.