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Artery

HospitalEdit

Kalid awoke in a hospital bed and looked up into the face of Felice. She leaned close and said, "I failed to protect you."

Kalid tried to speak but his neck exploded in pain. Felice handed him a tube and he drank cool water. He realized that his neck was ringed with a medical device that was directing nanites to repair his damaged neck tissues. Now able to speak he put a hand on the machine that covered his neck and said, "You could not have anticipated Aristark's attack on me. I was foolish to provoke him into his murderous attack. I put you and others at risk of physical harm." Kalid drank some more water and felt his head clearing, although he was surely still under the influence of drugs that had been put into his body to limit pain and the risk of blood clots spreading to his vital organs.

Felice took the water tube from Kalid. "You anticipated his attack?"

Kalid reflexively tried to shake his head and was struck by another wave of pain. "No. I was only realizing the truth about Aristark's role in events on Sakkara and Flammis while I was talking in the courtroom. I only knew I was correct about Aristark when he launched his attack on me. I have a clear memory of everything until I was being taken from the courtroom...then things become fuzzy."

Felice explained, "When you reached this hospital the medical staff sedated you and performed an operation on your neck. You only just now regained consciousness. You are lucky to be alive. Aristark did an expert job of butchering your neck arteries."

Kalid said, "I'm surprised that Aristark was allowed to bring a knife into the courtroom."

Felice shook her head. "No, he did not have a knife. He had two blades implanted in his hands. It is now clear that Aristark was well trained in how to use those implants....and the others that we found in his body."

Something about the way Felice said, "his body" sent a chill up Kalid's spine. "Aristark is dead?"

"No, but he is not in good shape. He is in another hospital about a kilometer from here. He either tried to use one of his implants to kill himself or someone else triggered one of his implants and tried to kill him. Chances are good that he will survive."

A robot entered the room and handed a thin folder to Felice. She flipped open the folder and Kalid could see that she held the report on the Sakkaran space elevators disaster which had been prepared by Sybil and which had been in his spaceship. Felice said to the robot, "Good work. I trust you had no great difficulty getting into Kalid's spaceship and finding this report."

The robot replied, "There was no problem getting into the spaceship. Kalid had been ticketed for trans-system flight without use of a navigation beacon and forced to turn over to the space dock his spacehips's access codes. The report was sitting on a table in the main salon of the spaceship. However..."

Kalid was amused to see the robot shifting uneasily from foot to foot as if hesitating to speak. Felice said, "You can speak in front of Kalid."

The robot said, "You had also issued orders that watch be kept on Kalid's spaceship in case an attempt was made to sabotage it. Such an attempt was made. The saboteur is now being held in confinement at the space dock. He planted a device that could have been used to destroy Kalid's spaceship and he was caught after attaching it to the hull of Kalid's spaceship. He then went inside and tried to steal some equipment from the engineering room."

Kalid rose up on one elbow. His neck throbbed but he gasped, "Did he disconnect or damage that equipment?"

The robot said, "No, he was placed under arrest before he damaged anything in the ship."

Kalid relaxed back into his bed and chuckled briefly then stopped because of the pain it caused in his neck. He reached out and took hold of Felice's hand. "See, you did protect me."

The robot said, "The device is highly sophisticated. I scanned the criminology database, but this is far beyond anything previously recorded."

Kalid explained, "Set is a leader of the Futurist Party. They pride themselves on having the most advanced technology."

Felice asked the robot, "Is there any indication that the saboteur was working for Set?"

The robot replied, "No, but another name was mentioned when the saboteur was placed under mind lock. Ketar."

A doctor came in and said, "Felice, what's going on in here? You said you were just going to watch him."

Kalid said, "I'm fine, doc. Felice is good medicine...she just saved my life."

The doctor checked the data feeds from the tissue repair device on Kalid's neck. "You are still half dead. Keep straining these arteries and they'll pop...right now they are just a loose collection of nanites."

Kalid said, "I'll make a deal, doc. Get me to my ship and I'll sleep once I'm there...give these nanobots a chance to do their job."

The doctor said, "Bull shit. I heard you blasted in here pushing 5.5 gees acceleration and your spaceship can only compensate for two gees. If you had been at even one gee when you were sliced open you'd be dead right now. We are keeping this room at 0.1 gee in order to let your arteries heal. You cannot be moved now."

Kalid sat up. He became very dizzy and almost passed out. He had to grab Felice and held on with both hands. "I hear ya, doc. You have two choices. Roll this bed to my ship or else I'm going to walk there. Get me to my ship and I promise I'll keep my cabin at 0.1 gee."

The doctor swore under his breath and left the room.

Kalid sank back on the bed, still very dizzy. Obviously the nanites were having trouble keeping up the flow of blood to his brain.

Felice asked, "What do you think you are doing? I didn't save your life just to watch you kill yourself."

Kalid said, "So, tell me Felice, where is Set?"

She quickly said, "I don't know."

Kalid made a guess and said, "There is a ship in system that you are tracking by radar." Kalid could read her face and see that he had guessed correctly. "What is the spaceship's course? What is the destination?"

Kalid felt a natural connection to Felice and now he turned his telepathic transmission up to full, with an additional amplification from equipment on his spaceship. Felice said, "I'm not going to help you kill yourself. Why do you care where Set is....can't you let our militia deal with him?"

Kalid still had hold of her hand. He stroked her palm with his finger tips. "Felice, don't put your militia in harms way. Set is a desperate murderer. Somehow Ketar is helping Set. Their target right now is the Haldus Order. I am the head of the Haldus Order and it is my duty to stop Set and Ketar. You must help me. Help me get to my ship....I must go after Set. The Haldus Order has technology that might give Ketar the power to start a galactic civil war that would kill trillions. Help me now and we can prevent that."

Felice said, "Okay, but I'm going with you."

Portiastars

PortiaEdit

After seeing Kalid under the arrest of the Martian Militia, Set returned to the office of the Spaceship Guild where he had been supplied with the documents for the case against Kalid. Set was again shown into the inner office of the local Guild Master. Set placed a small package on the desk, "Here is the explosive device. It can go anywhere on the hull of Kalid's spaceship, but put it in a hidden crevice. It is not quite completely invisible."

The Guild Master took the device out and examined it. "What triggers the explosion?"

Set replied, "I've set it to explode three hours after exposure to the vacuum of space."

The Guild Master asked, "Are you going to return to Sakkara?"

Set shrugged, "I'd like to have a word or two with Ketar. Do you happen to know where he is?"

The Guild Master shook his head and replied, "No, but he seems to have a short-lag com channel to Mars. I suspect that he is in this star system."

Because of his name, Set had learned the myths of ancient Egypt and the lore of Earth. He had been surprised to learn that the residents of h32.4 all called their planet "Mars", a name that was frequently seen in legends of Earth. Set said, "Ketar told me that he was in this system, but that was about a day ago. I'll just have to try calling him."

The Guild Master stood up and shook Set's hand. "Thanks for your help."

Set returned to his spaceship, intent on calling Ketar and reporting that Kalid had been taken into custody by the Martian Militia.

As soon as Set entered his ship he was met by his pilot. "Sir, your guest insists on speaking with you."

Leone sighed, "Very well. Bring her to my room." Set knew that "your guest" meant Portia. In the controlled environment of the ship it had not been hard to demonstrate that Portia could send telepathic signals to Glen. Set had ordered his engineer to dismantle the robot and figure out how it was able to detect telepathic signals. Set had simply confined Portia to her room and tried to forget about her. She was destructively beautiful and reminded Set of Katherine, both physically and in the kind of telepathic signals she emitted. Of course, while Katherine had been alive, Set had not understood that the closeness he felt for Katherine involved telepathic signals. Now, in hind sight, it made sense, but he did not enjoy being exposed to Portia's telepathic output since it reminded Set of Katherine's dying moment.

The ship's pilot let Portia into Set's cabin. Set got up out of the chair and sat on his bunk. He indicated with a gesture that Portia should sit down. Rather than sit down, she put her hands on her hips and started lecturing Set. After she got most of her ire and frustration out, Set asked, "Is that all?"

Portia was red faced and panting. She spit at Set. "You inhuman scum! This will never end. You better kill me and have done with it, because if I ever get the chance I'll kill you!"

Portia had some of the very same mannerisms as had Katherine. Set started to chuckle. He said, "I have no intention of killing you. You have been very useful and I feel I am in your debt."

Portia was puzzled. Set was not at all like she had expected from her kidnapper. She insisted, "I've done nothing to help you."

Set shrugged, "Not intentionally, but you have helped me. I'll get you back home as soon as I can. Okay?"

Portia asked, "That's it? You abduct me and haul me into space and then you are just going to take me home?" Portia had been imagining that a much more dire fate awaited her.

Set explained, "As far as I can tell you have not committed any crimes. I have no reason to punish or harm you. Now, I need to make a call, so you'll have to go back to your cabin."

Portia shook her head. "I'm tired of sitting in that room."

Set sighed. Portia had a lively spirit and it would brighten up the ship to have her out and about. For a moment he entertained the fantasy of letting her roam the ship. Set asked himself: Really, what harm could she do....well, besides carrying out her threat to kill me?

Set got up and went to a drawer that slid out of the wall. He found a wrist restraint that he had last used on a Haldus Order telepath he had questioned. Set wiped a fleck of dried blood off of the device before turning back to Portia. He chained her to his arm. "Okay, if you behave then you do not have to go back to your room. Now be quiet for ten minutes while I make my call."

Portia tugged at the restraint on her wrist and asked, "Who are you calling? I'd like to call Sybil. You can bet that when she learns what you've done she'll hunt you down. Don't think that she will rest until-"

Set put a finger in front of his lips and shushed her. "Hush, woman. Just ten minutes of silence. Please?" Set spoke to the ship's AI, "Try to establish a connection to Ketar."

Portia waited impatiently, for thirty seconds. "I'm surprised that you are on speaking terms with Ketar. Don't you realize that the Antiquists and the Spaceship Guild killed your girl? What was her name?

Set replied, "Katherine."

Portia continued, "Right, Katherine. Sybil told Leone all about this and evidence was given to the Justice Department. I don't understand why nothing was ever done by the government to bring her killers to justice. Do you work for Ketar or something?"

Set replied, "I've heard the rumors about Antiquist Party involvement in the elevator disaster, but as far as I can tell that was just a lie planted by your Order."

Portia laughed in Set's face. "What are you trying to say, that the Order destroyed the elevators? Why would the Order destroy space elevators?"

Set suggested, "I never said that, but it does appear that the Order has lied about the cause of the elevators disaster. It is not unreasonable to suppose that where one lie has been exposed, other dark secrets remain. Today I've helped capture the "great master" Kalid, maybe he will spill some of those dark secrets...before he dies."

Portia asked, "You captured Kalid? Is he on this ship?"

At that moment the connection was established to Ketar and his image appeared on the wall. "Hello, Set." Ketar noticed Portia and he asked, "And who is this with you?"

Set replied, "This is Sybil's assistant from Sakkara."

Ketar chuckled, and asked Set, "Wow, is this what you pirates call 'booty'?" He spoke directly to Portia. "Do you have a name?"

Portia replied, "My name is Portia."

Ketar said, "Ah, well, I'll let Sybil know that you are in good hands. Now leave the room so I can speak in private with Set."

Portia demanded, "You know where Sybil is?"

Ketar replied, "Of course, she is my prisoner. Now leave us."

Portia held up her arm and rattled the chain that linked her to Set. Set said to Ketar, "Actually, Portia and I were just discussing the Antiquist Party. She insists that the Antiquist Party was involved with the destruction of the space elevators on Sakkara."

Ketar grumbled, "I warned you not to let yourself be tricked by Sybil and her fellow religious fanatics. Nothing they say can be trusted."

Portia said, "You can trust that we know our enemies."

Ketar asked, "Who are your enemies?"

Portia replied, "Set has been hunting and murdering members of our Order. It does not surprise me to learn that you and he are buddies."

Ketar laughed, "I doubt if Set described our relationship as being buddies, but today we did work together efficiently to capture Kalid." He spoke to Set, "I just got a report from the Guild Master. Let me personally thank you, Set, for filing those charges against Kalid. Of course, they won't stick, but it will keep Kalid out of play long enough."

Portia asked, "Long enough for what?"

Ketar smiled and said to Set, "She's a good talker, isn't she?"

Set explained, "She's been locked up in her room. I just let her out and she had a lot on her mind."

Ketar smirked. "Okay. Anyhow, you have my thanks, Set. Now, I wonder if we can continue to be of use to each other. I'm trying to get to the bottom of Haldus Order mysteries, and I've run into some difficulty here."

Set asked, "Where are you?"

Ketar replied, "I'm in orbit around Earth." Ketar was coupled to the Moon's hyperspatial communications center and Set was using the one for Mars. They only had about a one second-long speed of light latency for their conversation. "I've learned that the Haldus Order originated on Earth and flourished there for thousands of years." He asked Portia, "I have that right, don't I?"

Portia had previously heard of the Haldus Order, but as far as she knew, it was a thing of the past. She shrugged, "I don't know anything about the Haldus Order. But why ask me? You already said that you do not trust anything said by members of the Silver Tulipan Order." Portia felt a little uneasy about implying that she was a member of the Silver Tulipan. She had attended the Silver Tulipan training school, but Kalid had not allowed her into the Circles.

Ketar laughed. "The Silver Tulipan Order is just a cover organization for the Haldus Order. Anyhow, I've learned that the Haldus Order likes to hide Temples on Green planets, so I'm looking for their Temple on Earth. However, its exact location is a bit of a puzzle. I'm thinking that Set can be of use in this hunt."

Set said, "It will take me a day or two to jump over and meet you at Earth."

Ketar shook his head. "No, you don't have to jump. Haven't you figured out where you are? Didn't everyone on h32.4 tell you that you were on Mars?"

Set replied, "I assumed that they had named their planet after the 'Mars' of Earth mythology."

Ketar explained, "It is simpler than that. The planet h32.4 is Mars. You are already in the Solar System. Just come on over to h32.3, a little world that used to be called 'Earth'!"

Both Set and Portia were shocked by Ketar's revelation. Portia was a bit confused because this was the first she had heard about where she was. She asked, "We are in the h32 system? And this is the Solar System?"

Set asked, "Are you saying that Earth's true location is hidden? The planet that people of the galaxy think is Earth, is not really Earth?

"Exactly." Ketar explained, "During the confusion of the galactic wars it was possible to engineer a deception. Now the time has come to reveal Earth's secrets. Set, your telepathic power will guide us to the Haldus Order Temple on Earth."

Moon BaseEdit

594px-Full Moon Luc Viatour

Moon

Finally, Portia was asleep. After the call to Ketar, Set had ordered his pilot to chart a course towards Earth and take them there at maximum acceleration. As the high gee alarm sounded, Set had placed Portia on his bunk. He pulled the chair over next to the bunk and settled in for the ride.

The bunk and chair had formed themselves around Portia and Set, protecting them from the worst effects of the high acceleration. Set was impressed by how long Portia kept talking, particularly after she admitted to not having slept since coming aboard the spaceship. They talked about Sakkara, the Futurist Party, the Antiquist Party and the Haldus Order. Portia was intrigued by the idea that the Silver Tulipan Order was part of something larger: the Haldus Order. But finally, Portia did not have the strength to talk and she concentrated on breathing. The bunk started assisting her breathing and soon she drifted into sleep.

Set was left thinking about the Haldus Order and the idea that Ketar was so devoted to revealing the secrets of that ancient Order. What did Ketar hope to gain? As far as Set knew, the only thing special about the Haldus Order was that it was some kind of social club for telepaths. Set called his engineer and asked, "Did you make any progress on the robot?"

The engineer replied, "It was not hard to find the part of the robot that receives telepathic signals. It is an added-on device, grafted on to the thing's brain after it was manufactured. It will take a detailed nanocircuit analysis to figure out how it works."

Set said, "Okay, thanks. Did you have to damage the robot?"

"No, but it is still shut off and in a dozen pieces."

Set ordered, "Go ahead and re-assemble it."

"Yes, sir. I'll get to it as soon as this acceleration ends."

Set pulled up the ship's navigation data and saw that it would take quite a while longer to reach Earth. He settled back in his chair and tried to conserve energy.

Set was confident that his was the fastest spaceship in the galaxy, but like many of the technological advances that were attributable to research funded by the Futurist Party, the speed boost that set this spaceship apart from all others brought little real benefit. The gain in speed that had been achieved over previous spaceship designs was actually very small. Most important was that spaceships using of the new antimatter drive made possible by Futurist Party-funded research were equipped with safer drive control techniques, there being no way to trigger black hole production. Still, nobody outside of the Futurist Party seemed to care. It was widely believed that earlier types of antimatter drive technology were adequately safe. The micro-black holes that were generated by older drives evaporated quickly and were believed to represent no significant danger. Still, Set was proud of this spaceship and he imagined that eventually all antimatter drives would incorporate its new safety features.

However, his pride was slightly tarnished by how he had funded the purchase of this spaceship. Set had originally been shocked by the reality of telepathy. His initial surprise at the very existence of telepathy had soon shifted to concern about the fact that those rare individuals who had significant telepathic abilities all seemed to kept the existence of telepathy a secret. At first Set had hypothesized that all telepaths were part of a single secret organization, and Set had undertaken to hunt them down since they seemed to be involved in a cover-up of the truth about the space elevators disaster. Only later had he come to the realization that there were some "independents", telepaths who had no connection to the Haldus Order. One such "independent" had learned how to use her telepathic abilities to predict swings in market prices and had amassed a huge fortune. She was already a generous financial supporter of the Futurist Party and it had been easy for Set to extort more money from her once he learned that her telepathic abilities were the secret source of her wealth.

Set tried to shake himself out of daydreaming about the past. The truth was, there just was not a big difference between having a maximum acceleration of 5.7 g instead of 5.6. Set looked over at Portia and was sickened by her face. The high acceleration had pulled her lips and cheeks into hideous distortions of her natural beauty. He closed his eyes and drifted briefly into sleep.

Set was startled out of his sleep. What had just happened? Some thought fragment from sleep had shocked him into alertness. He strained to begin the memory into his conscious awareness. It had something to do with space travel. He had been thinking about how slow space travel was. No, it had been something about hyperspatial jumps...they were instantaneous. Well, there was a strange link between hyperspace and telepathy. Set had discovered that link by accident. Set had found that by using the direct mind-AI link of his spaceship, he could routinely plot hyperspatial jumps that went deeper into star systems than was theoretically possible. Set was still studying this phenomenon and he had no understanding of how it was possible. Normally a star pilot and the ship's AI collaborated to plot jumps, but somehow Set was able to use his telepathic sense to refine the jump calculations. For example, his deep jump into the Flammis system had been a thing of beauty, bringing the spaceship to within a light-hour of Flammis, ten times closer than was typical for the best pilots. What was the link between telepathy and hyperspace? Was it just a matter of information flow? With such questions in his mind, Set fell back into sleep.


Later, when he awoke, Set still could do nothing except wait impatiently while the green face of Earth slowly swelled in the display screen on the wall of Set's cabin. Portia was still asleep. While he waited, Set's attention was increasingly drawn towards the silvery image of the Moon. Ketar had informed Set that the Haldus Order Temple on the Moon had long ago been destroyed and that his spy had learned that there was still a Temple on Earth. However, Set increasingly felt telepathic signals coming from the Moon and not Earth.

Set was reluctant to trust his telepathic sensations. He had no idea how it was possible to sense the source of telepathic signals. Ketar had made it clear that Earth was the location of an important Haldus Order base, so Set was reluctant to even contemplate a side trip to the Moon. Set could not doubt that he would be followed from Mars by the system authorities, so the available time to complete his mission to Earth was certainly limited. Did it matter if there was a telepath on the Moon? But the more he paid attention to the "feel" of that telepathic signal the more he believed that it was not from some isolated individual with telepathic ability. And now that he was close enough to the Earth-Moon system to judge, he felt sure that there was far more telepathic thought on the Moon than on Earth. Still, could this be some kind of decoy that was designed to deflect attention from Earth? He was still rather amazed by the effort that had gone into hiding the true location of Earth.

Set called the pilot and issued new orders, "I've decided to visit the Moon first. Please adjust our course to put us into orbit around the Moon."

Set had long been ignoring radio signals from both Mars and the Moon, but now he opened a channel to Moon Navcom and purposefully sent a week signal. "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. I was hit by space debris after I left Mars orbit. My ship is under repair but I'm not sure if my navigation beacon is working. I now have an emergency transmitter online, but I'm not sure if it has enough power to be detected. I'm going to make an emergency landing on the Moon."

The ship swung its trajectory over towards the Moon and soon the force of acceleration decreased. Set started ordering adjustments to his spaceship's flight path so as to try to assist his telepathic sense in determining the exact location on the Moon that was the source of an unusual telepathic signal he was sensing. As his spaceship entered into orbit around the Moon it became clear that he could match sensed telepathic signals to all of the inhabited Moon bases, but one location near the South Pole was by far the strongest source of telepathic signals.

Set got up and removed the wrist lock from his arm. He chained Portia to the bunk and went to the main control room. Set instructed the pilot to initiate a landing program that would take the spaceship down to Shackleton crater....there was something very unusual going on down there....Set was detecting a type of telepathic mental activity that he had found no where else. The hyperspatial field generators were detached from the rest of the spaceship and left in orbit.

Set was watching the surface of the Moon and marveling at the sharp contrasts between the dark shadows and the bright sunlit rim of Shackleton crater. The pilot was having an argument with the spaceship's artificial intelligence since the navigation records it was using showed no landing sites at Shackleton crater. The machine said, "Shackleton base was destroyed long ago."

Set insisted, "There are people down there." Or were there? The telepathic signals he was detecting were very strange. Set thought about Glen, the robot that could respond to telepathic signals...what if there were robots who produced telepathic output? "Keep trying to make radio contact. Scan for a landing site."

Finally Moon Navcom called. "Set of Sakkara. Set of Sakkara. This is a warning. There are no repair facilities at Shackleton."

Set chuckled. It was nice of the folks at Moon Navcom to provide a warning, but they probably had not actually fallen for Set's fake excuse for why he was landing on the Moon. Set spoke via intercom to his crew, "This is getting tricky. I'm sure that there are telepaths below, on the Moon, but they seem to be hiding. However, my telepathic sense indicates that the crater rim below us is a powerful source of telepathic mental activity. There seems to be an ancient landing platform at the solar power array on the crater rim, but it is small. Maybe I should go down in a lifeboat."

The ship's engineer replied, "Gravity is very gentle here. Our graviton field could hold us above the landing platform without crushing it."

Set shrugged. "Very well, then. I'm taking us down. As a precaution, prepare for possible attack. All defensive systems armed and stand by to return fire if we are attacked. We may have to force our way inside if they do not invite us in."

Ten minutes latter, the pilot had the spaceship balanced on the rim of Shackleton crater. From this point on the rim, the nearby array of solar energy collectors was no longer visible, but Set could see that a short distance away from the landing platform there was an airlock of ancient design that seemed to be cut into the crater rim. However, that airlock could just as well have been on the far side of the galaxy. Set had nothing that could serve as a spacesuit and allow him to walk from his ship over to that airlock. He started contemplating the possibility of blasting open the airlock and flying a lifeboat inside.

Suddenly the airlock opened and what looked like a strangely spindly robot came out onto the surface of the Moon. Working quickly and efficiently, the robot pulled a flexible telescoping tunnel out of the wall surrounding the airlock door. After a few leaps and bounds the robot had pulled what looked like a reinforced fabric tunnel across to the spaceship, sealing it around the spaceship's airlock. Set left the control room and went to the airlock. Standing close to the outer door, he could hear clanging from outside. He exited the airlock, closed the inner airlock door and set the controls so as to open the outer door at the surface of the ship. The robot came into the airlock and started banging on the inner door.

Set closed the outer door of the airlock. The pressure inside the airlock decreased significantly then stabilized. Set quickly went up the hall and shut an emergency bulkhead, sealing most of the ship off from the airlock. Set then activated the airlock controls once more and opened the inner door. Briefly there was a wind while the pressures equalized. He stood before the robot with his laser pistol drawn and ready. The robot asked, "Why have you come here?"

Set was barley able to make sense of the robot's archaic language. For a moment Set wondered about the possibility of telepathic robots, but he could sense no telepathic signals coming from the machine. Set replied, "I was on my way to Earth, but I noticed telepathic signals here. Can you take me to your master?"

The robot produced a perfectly human laugh. "Don't insult me, stranger. Oh, I see. You think this is a robot. Well, you can call me 'Waldo'. Ha, ha. Anyhow, come on across through the tunnel so that we can talk."

Set considered asking whoever was running the "waldo" to come to the spaceship, but it now seemed to Set that there were many telepaths nearby. There was no point in sitting there on the spaceship and hoping to learn about the source of all this telepathic thought. Still, Set was about equally divided between fascination with all the swirling patterns of telepathic signaling he could sense nearby and fear that he might be personally in danger. However, there was something familiar about the pattern of telepthic thought here, although it was very different from what he was familiar with among the telepaths of the Haldus Order. He could not explain that odd sensation of familiarity, but somehow it suggested femininity to Set, which was odd since the voice coming through the "waldo" was clearly that of a male.

Set placed his laser in a drawer. He spoke via intercom to his crew, "I'm leaving the ship and going on over into their underground base." Set turned back to the machine and said to the waldo, "Okay, lead the way."

Set went into the airlock. It was barely large enough to hold both the machine and Set. He closed the inner airlock door and opened the outer door. Set moved quickly through the tunnel, trying to keep up with the speedy machine. It was dim in the tunnel, but just enough sunlight found its way through the fabric. The air on the sunlit side of the tunnel was hot while the other side was already accumulating a layer of frost.

The airlock at the other end of the tunnel was even smaller. The machine said, "Go in. It is not safe for you out here...this tunnel does not block the damaging cosmic rays from the Sun."

Set did not hesitate, but once inside the airlock he was puzzled. There was only one door. The door closed and there was nothing to do. He started to examine the unfamiliar fixtures inside the airlock. Then the door opened again, revealing a large chamber. Apparently the airlock was an elevator that had transported him deep into the wall of Shackleton crater.

Set stepped out into the chamber and looked up at a simulated sky. The air seemed hot and humid, but stale, somehow tainted with the smell of dust. Except for a set of simulated suns scattered across the dome of the chamber, the "sky" was blue and the floor was green. The bright colors were a shock after the stark and colorless surface of the Moon. He knelt down and touched the floor....it seemed to be covered with some kind of plant growth that clung tightly to ground. He dug in with his finder tips and was able to pull away some leaf fragments that deposited a sticky resin on his skin. As he stood up he noticed motion on the far side of the chamber.

Coming across the chamber was a woman. She moved in graceful bounds and Set was fascinated by the way she bounced in the low gravity. He noted that she was totally hairless. Just when she reached Set, the remote-controlled "waldo" machine emerged from the elevator behind Set. The woman completed one last high leap, landed gracefully close to Set and said, "Welcome, Set, from the planet Sakkara. Why are you here?"

Set could sense a telepathic pressure emanating from the woman. He explained, "I'm searching for telepaths of the Haldus Order."

She shook her head, "You came to the wrong place. Long ago they had a temple in the crater, but it was destroyed."

Set was impressed by her self-confidence. She wore a minimal amount of clothing that seemed well-suited to the warm temperature. Judging by the fact that she seemed to have no qualms about standing nearly naked in front of a complete stranger, Set guessed that the people living here had given up on the nudity taboos that were still common on worlds where people lived in a natural planetary atmosphere and experienced weather and temperature fluctuations. Still, people living at many artificial bases in outer space and on airless worlds often wore little clothing, if any, and Set had more important concerns than this young woman's dress, or lack there of. What was startling was her lack of body hair. Even as he thought about his clothing and body hair, he felt sweat starting to run down his sides under his tunic and he felt some trickling down his brow.

In addition to her rather unconventional hairlessness, Set was surprised by the odd telepathic emanations he sensed when she stood nearby. Set had never felt such a powerful flux of telepathic output from an individual. Strangely, Set could detect no useful information content in the powerful waves of telepathic signals she emitted. Set wondered if she even knew that she was a strong transmitter of telepathic signals. He suggested, "Well, I'm interested in telepathy in general, so maybe you can tell me-"

The "waldo" grabbed Set's arm and pulled him across the chamber, "Come to my lab so we can talk. Don't pester the girl with questions. She knows nothing of your ways and your concerns. I'm the one you need to talk to. By the way, her name is Amethyst and I am called Salvaje, although my real name is Ben Olmo."

Amethyst protested, "Salvaje, let go of his arm. You are being rude to our guest." She moved between Set and the machine and pushed it away, taking hold of Set's hand. She explained, "We do not get many visitors here, so we are not very good at welcoming strangers."

When Amethyst took hold of his hand, Set felt dizzy, as if the swirling pattern of her thoughts was scrambling his mind. Memories of Katherine appeared in Set's thoughts and images of her flashed up from the past like a hail storm. He noticed that Amethyst's skin was slightly wet, but her hand was warm. In order not to stumble, he concentrated on keeping up with the pace of her quick and playful leaps across the chamber.

Salvaje, speaking through the waldo said, "We get more than enough visitors, they bring nothing but trouble from outside."

Set was just starting to get into a natural rhythm for moving in the low gravity when they reached the far side of the chamber where there was a small pool of water. Amethyst released his hand, dove into the pool and disappeared like an otter dropping into a pond. Salvaje, still speaking through the waldo, asked, "Do you know how to swim?"

Set replied, "Yes."

"Good. Start taking a few deep breaths and relax. The tubes can be disorienting, so when we get in the water just relax and let me guide you."

Set asked Salvaje, "In order to reach you I have to swim?"

"Yes. Shackleton base was built to allow collection of water from the south polar ice deposits. We use water here in many unusual ways. I suppose you could say that water works are our major form of art. After Shackleton base was destroyed, some tyrant decided to impose a tax on us and it was found convenient to shield ourselves behind water barriers. We are the only people on the Moon who can swim. Eventually, after trying to hand us our tax bill, the tax collectors went away, wet and happy, and ever since they collect their taxes in the form of water. Idiots. There is plenty of water here...it is absurd that they have to invent a stupid tax in order to get the water they need. Really, we want nothing to do with tax collectors or any other fools from the 'civilized' world."

Set said, "I'm glad you do not think of me as a fool."

Salvaje laughed, "I never said that! However, I do not know you, so for the moment I have not passed judgment...maybe you are a fool. I still do not understand why you are here. No, don't try to explain yourself here. Take off your filthy clothing." Set decided to comply. "Ga, you are a hairy barbarian! I should shave you before letting you into my home, but I want everyone to see you for the ugly beast that you are." The machine again grabbed Set's arm. "Jump in."

Aphrodite

From vacuum, fire was born...from fire, earth was born...from earth, water was born, from water, life was born.

Born againEdit

Set jumped into the pool and the machine gracefully followed his motion. The "waldo" guided Set through a branching network of water-filled tunnels. About every thirty seconds Set's head was pushed into an air-filled bubble and he was given a chance to draw a fresh breath. It took about five minutes and a dozen such stops before the waldo pulled Set out of the water.

Set found himself in Salvaje's cluttered workshop.

Salvaje disengaged himself from the array of sensors that allowed his own bodily movements to be translated into movements of the waldo. The waldo went limp and sat next to the pool dripping water on the floor. Salvaje came to the edge of the pool and handed Set a towel.

Set dried himself off with the towel. He could sense patterns of telepathic signals from Salvaje that were very similar to those that had come from Amethyst. He sensed that there were other telepaths not too far away. However, he was now doubting if anyone on the Moon, besides himself, was actually a telepath in the conventional sense of being able to telepathically communicate information in a way similar to using language. Set noticed that Salvaje also seemed to be hairless.

Salvaje took the wet towel from Set and handed him a pair of shorts, possibly what passed locally as a swimsuit. Set pulled on the shorts.

Set noticed that one of the nearby sources of telepathic impulses was approaching. Salvaje looked in the direction of one of the many doors of the workshop.

Amethyst entered the room through that door and stopped short. She said to Salvaje, "Yikes! He is a hairy bear!"

Salvaje said to Set, "Please do not take offense at her words, she has little experience with outsiders. She has never before set her eyes on a man with a chest as hairy as yours." He turned to Amethyst. "Come on in, he will not hurt you, no matter how repulsive he looks. Doubtless I'd look little better if I let my hair grow." He turned back towards Set and noticed goosebumps forming on Set's arms. "We keep it warm in here, but if you are chilled let me know, I'll get you a robe."

Amethyst moved closer and shrugged, "I really do not care...I was just surprised. It is just our custom to be hairless." However, she was unable to completely suppress the revulsion that showed on her face.

Set noticed that the patterns of telepathic signals produced by Salvaje and Amethyst seemed to resonate and align, so there was actually some kind of telepathic communication going on, but Set could sense no flow of organized information content passing between them. "It is quite warm in here...I'll be comfortable enough as soon as I am completely dry. I'm sorry that my body hair offends you. In some cultures people even enhance their appearance with tatoos and hair transplantation to combat natural baldness. I grew up in a region of Sakkara where it is pretty cold, so people prize body hair for insulation, but I've heard of space bases where people routinely remove their body hair...it does seem like a reasonable way to help keep an artificial environment nice and clean. Some people take great pains to sculpt their hair, but I just accept it and ignore it. Really, it just reminds us of our evolutionary origins."

A robot entered the room and placed a tray on a table. The robot took the wet towel from Salvaje and departed. Salvaje served tea from the tray. "Another custom we have, hot tea."

Set accepted a steaming mug. "Thank you. There is nothing about this community in the space navigation database. How many people live here?"

Amethyst replied, "83."

Set looked back and forth between Amethyst and Salvaje. He asked Amethyst, "You are Salvaje's daughter?"

She laughed, "Is there any doubt?"

Set nodded. "I see some similar features, but I was not sure. I wonder what your mother looks like."

Salvaje explained, "Amethyst never knew her mother. She lives over in Tranquillitatis base, or she did, last I heard. As is our custom, Amethyst was conceived by artificial insemination. I went to Tranquillitatis to see her mother twice, once for the contractual arrangements and once more when I collected Amethyst and brought her home."

Set asked Amethyst, "You've never met your mother?"

Amethyst shook her head. "Of course not."

Salvaje asked, "Do you disapprove of our customs, Sakkaran?"

Set shrugged and replied, "I have no basis for disapproval. Amethyst seems like a healthy and happy young woman. As I mentioned, I'm interested in telepathy. I just wonder if Amethyst's mother was selected at random."

Salvaje sighed. "No, of course not. This is such a small community that we are very careful when we bring in new genes from outside. Amethyst's biological mother was carefully selected with the hope of creating the wonderful individual that now stands here before you. Amethyst calls a dozen women of this community 'mother' and a dozen men 'father'. Of course she is happy and healthy." But Salvaje's tone of voice had grown dark and he stared at Set as if challenging him to contradict what Salvaje had said.

Set cautiously said, "I see."

Amethyst launched into an account of her studies, "I'm learning to be a genetic engineer. Our gene pool is very limited, so we are careful to weed out bad gene combinations. For example, we've successfully removed all the deleterious alleles of the CFTR gene-"

Salvaje interrupted his daughter, "Please, Amethyst, do not bore Set with the details of our genetics."

Amethyst changed the subject and asked, "Well, why have you been speeding across the system? Why are you in such a hurry and what did you do on Mars to get the System authorities in such a tizzy? And I read that you are a wanted man on Sakkara, but I do not understand what happened in the space elevators disaster."

Set was amused that Amethyst had an ability to prattle similar to the way Portia did. Her string of questions got Set thinking about recent events. He was having doubts about the wisdom of collaborating with Ketar and he did not want to describe his reasons for going to Mars. He was not particularly proud that he had resorted to "an eye for an eye" after the destruction of the elevators, but he had been forced to take certain actions. He shrugged and tried to keep the conversation focused. "There is something wrong in how the justice system of Sakkara is sorting out the cause of the elevators disaster. I'm working for justice in that case, and my work led me to Earth, but I felt it might be useful to stop here, first. Anyhow, I'm an engineer myself, so I'm interested in things like genetic engineering."

Amethyst said, "I saw in your bio that you were involved in proving that tessellanium quarpounds can be used for space elevator construction. That is exciting engineering. I'm really more of a reverse-engineer, myself. I'm interested in tracking down new gene combinations that give unusual phenotypes. Anyhow, why are you going to Earth?"

Set did not want to discuss his plans and goal of hunting down those responsible for the destruction of the space elevators on Sakkara. "I came here because I thought it might be a mistake to go to Earth. I wonder if what I'm looking for is actually here...this might be close enough for all practical purposes." Set smiled as he thought about the old engineering joke.

Amethyst had been feeling that Set was very serious and severe, but now he was smiling nicely. She wondered: close enough for all practical purposes? There was something familiar about that odd turn of phrase. Amethyst did not know what Set was talking about. She wondered, what did Set mean by: 'what I'm looking for is actually here?' Amethyst briefly wondered if Set's words were a personal comment directed at her. She blushed and said, "You are very mysterious...you do not seem to want to say what you are looking for. What do you mean 'close enough for all practical purposes'?"

Salvaje muttered, "It is an old joke, and rather too crude for the ears of a young girl."

Amethyst complained to Salvaje, "I'm not a girl anymore, father. Some day you are going to have to admit that I am an adult." She turned back to Set. "Please tell me the joke. It is rude for the two of you to hold this over me."

Set chuckled and looked at Salvaje, who crossed his arms and turned away. The way Amethyst had blushed, Set suspected she did know the joke and was just testing to see if Set would dare to tell it. Set told a polite version of the joke, "A mathematician and an engineer were recruited for a psychology experiment..."

Amethyst blushed again even before the punch line was reached. She forced a smile and said, "Oh, ya, I've heard the version of that joke that women tell, where there is a time limit and the critical issue is the length of the engineer's-"

Salvaje turned to his daughter, "Okay, Amethyst. Really, Set is a busy man. You two can play "top this" some other time when I do not have to watch. I want you to leave us now. I need to talk to Set about outside matters."

Amethyst objected, "I'm old enough to hear such things."

Set was fascinated by the adjustments being made in the telepathic thought patterns of Salvaje and Amethyst. Their patterns had been closely synchronized until Salvaje had asked Amethyst to leave the room, but now a struggle seemed to exist between conflicting elements of their telepathic patterns. The only time Set had felt any synchronization in those patterns with himself was when he was telling the joke to Amethyst. For a moment Set reflected on the fact that he greatly missed all the fun he'd had through the years sharing jokes with Katherine.

Salvaje nodded, "Yes, you are old enough, but humor me. There is ugliness out there that I still prefer to shield you from."

Amethyst frowned, "Very well, father, but I think you are over-protective. One day I will be the gate keeper, so I should be allowed to learn the ways of outsiders."

Salvaje placed a hand on his daughter's shoulder. Set could see a green mist spread from that point of contact towards Amethyst's head. Salvaje said, "Right now I need you to perform a task. Call an immediate general assembly."

Amethyst looked strangely at Set, who felt his head seem to vibrate under the force of her telepathic emissions. She turned her gaze back towards Salvaje and said, "Yes, father." She turned and left the room through the same door that the robot had used.


Set was finding that with practice he could discern more details in the telepathic signals that passed between Salvaje and Amethyst. It was as if his mind was adapting to their powerful telepathic output, much in the way eyes adapt when moving from a dark room into bright sunlight. Set had noticed that after a brief struggle, Amethyst's mind pattern had quickly matched that of Salvaje, then she had given up arguing and departed the workshop. But what was that green cloud that had seemed to move from Salvaje to Amethyst? Was Salvaje using some kind of nanite to invade his daughter's mind? Set asked, "You can control her mind?"

When the door closed behind Amethyst, Salvaje said, "She knows nothing about telepathy. Like most people here, her brain emits a strong T-particle flux, but she has no conscious receptive ability."

Set asked, "But you are different? You can detect telepathic signals?"

Salvaje nodded. "I have learned how to use this..." He went to a cluttered bench and picked up a strange device. Salvaje asked, "Do you know what this is?"

Set examined the device but did not recognize it. He replied, "I have no idea."

Salvaje explained, "Its function is not obvious. Hundreds of people have looked at it and almost all think it is just some antique piece of electronics. However, it is a T-particle detector."

Set asked, "What do you mean by 'T-particle'?"

Salvaje seemed surprised by Set's ignorance. "You come here talking about telepathy and the Haldus Order, but you know nothing about T-particles? How do you think telepathic communication works?"

Set explained, "I've only known of the existence of telepathy for a short time. You are the first person I've met who seems to be willing to discuss telepathy."

Salvaje held the T-particle detector near Set's head. "Do you mind if I do a careful scan? I'm not registering a signal from you." He spent a few minutes making careful measurements and sometimes took a reading of his own brain's activity. "I do not really understand T-particle detection myself...maybe nobody does." He went over to one of the work benches and checked a data display there. "It depends on some kind of triangulation process, but it is tricky because T-particles do not always move through spacetime in a normal way." Salvaje set the hand-held detector down on the bench and then returned to Set. "You seem to be a pure telepathic sensitive, that is, your brain produces only a little bit more T-particles than does the brain of the average person."

Set said, "I'm glad I came here. It is a relief to finally find someone who knows something about telepathy and is not fanatically trying to hide that knowledge away like some kind of taboo secret."

Salvaje nodded. "Well, if you have been dealing with the Haldus Order, as an outsider, it is no wonder that they tell you nothing and that you have learned nothing. Telepathy is their great secret. Of course, such a wonderful secret is hard -or impossible- to keep."

Set asked, "How did you come come to know this secret?"

For a minute Salvaje was silent and Set wondered if he would reply. Finally Salvaje said, "You could call it a family inheritance. After Shackleton Base was destroyed, including the Haldus Order Temple, a few of their Outer Circle members were left here...enough to start this community. This entire base grew from what was originally just a tiny substation for the solar energy farm. Over the years we have grown, slowly. My great-grandmother recovered the T-particle detector from the ruins of the Haldus Order Temple. I suspect she was an Inner Circle member of the Order, but she did not try to continue all of the traditions and practices of the Haldus Order in this small sub-community. Still, she did continue with experiments on telepathy that had been started by the Order and I continue that work...it is a research project. The question is, can you select genetically for better telepathic abilities?"

Set suggested, "The answer seems to be yes."

Salvaje asked, "Why do you assume that?"

Set replied, "I suspect you carefully selected your daughter's mother so that Amethyst would be genetically equipped to grow a brain that would generate powerful telepathic signals."

Salvaje explained, "Yes, but it is only a genetic predisposition. In this case, it is like learning a language. Amethyst grew up here among a group of people with similar minds...that environment allowed her brain to develop its full potential for T-particle production. If she had grown up on Sakkara she would probably have little more T-particle production than you have."

Set thought back to when Salvaje had used his telepathic ability to notice that Amethyst was approaching. Set had been forced to take for granted his own ability to localize sources of telepathic output, but he wondered how it was possible to know where a particular source of "T-particles" was. "I noticed that you can detect where your daughter is even when she is out of sight."

Salvaje asked, "What are you talking about?"

Set replied, "Before Amethyst came into this room you looked at the door."

Salvaje shrugged, "I probably heard her on the other side of the door."

Set chuckled, "Well, we could run some tests. I guess my point is, I can sense the direction of telepathic impulses. I wonder if your T-particle detecting device can also point to sources of T-particles."

Salvaje replied, "No, of course not. The device just measures the magnitude of the flux of T-particles...there is no directionality."

Set shook his head. It seemed that if Salvaje could make use of telepathy in a way similar to how Set could, to locate telepathic signal sources, then Salvaje was not conscious of being able to do so. "I do not understand the point of selecting for brains that produce so many T-particle if none of you have the ability to detect them and use your telepathic ability for communication."

Salvaje demanded, "Who said there is a point? The Order tried to select for better telepathy. Now we are trapped."

Set asked, "What do you mean? How are you trapped?"

"Where do you think Amethyst's mother got her ability to produce a strong flux of T-particles? How did she come by the rare gene combination that makes that possible?"

"I don't know, but I was able to sense many telepaths at the various bases here on the Moon."

"It all originated here. Well, Shackleton Base is where they were all brought to, brought here from Earth. But not everyone is happy here in this tiny community. Do you think you could survive here, with 80 minds like mine continually bombarding you with T-particles? People leave...the sensitive ones. Amethyst's mother grew up here. I knew her well before she left."

"Does Amethyst know that?"

"Of course not. Why should we tell a sweet and innocent girl like Amethyst that her mother is an outcast from her community?" Salvaje seemed to wait for Set to answer, then he continued, "Everyone here is a genetic freak. Maybe we will evolve into a new kind of human. Maybe we will die off. Maybe we will be exterminated if some tyrant decides that we are a threat." Salvaje noticed that he was shouting. He continued more calmly, "I am curious about you. What is it like when you sense the telepathic signals coming from my brain, from Amethyst?"

Set closed his eyes and really concentrated on the telepathic signal coming from Salvaje. "It is a strange sensation. It is like a dream where the meaning of words and events is just beyond awareness. It is frustrating, because I can sense that there is a mind reflected in the telepathic signals, but I cannot decode the meaning of those signals. That is strange because I have found it possible to obtain useful information from much weaker telepathic signals."

"Yes, that is a paradox that the Haldus Order was trying to understand before their Temple here at Shackleton was destroyed. According to the records kept by my great-grandmother, the Order had collected all of the most powerful telepaths here on the Moon in order to study them and segregate them from the weaker telepaths who stayed on Earth. Somehow, strong telepathic transmission interferes with telepathic information exchange. It might be like trying to send traffic signals using blindingly bright flashes of light. They discovered that during centuries of selection on Earth for strong telepathic transmitters they were actually defeating their true purpose, their goal of selecting for better telepathic communication. Anyhow, I continue my great-grandmother's work, but I can't say that I've learned a damn thing about telepathy. We've just become a kind of social engineering experiment. Our efficient production of T-particles facilitates social harmony, which I suspect was the original function of telepathy in humans."

Set was greatly stimulated by Salveje's ideas, but surprised to see someone speaking so openly about a topic that others tried to keep secret. "Since you've kept your little research project here a secret for so long, I'm surprised that you are so openly discussing everything with me."

Salvaje shrugged. "I've told you nothing of importance. But the truth is, I want something from you."

Set suggested, "If you want to tell me something useful, I'd like to know if you know anything about the Haldus Order's current activities. I'm told that they have a secret base on Earth."

Salvaje rubbed his chin, "Maybe we can make a deal."

"I'm in no position to deal. I'm just trying to right a wrong. I have nothing to trade. Do you know what happened on Sakkara? The destruction of the space elevators? I live to find those responsible. Soon after the space elevators disaster I met two telepaths who had information about the attack on the elevators. I now know that they are members of this Haldus Order, but I'm still searching for them. I'm on my way to Earth to search there." Set wanted to mention Katherine and how her loss had put Set on his path of revenge, but he did not trust himself...he still found it impossible to talk about her death without getting emotional.

Salvaje nodded. "I see. You want revenge."

"I want justice."

"Yes, that is what I meant. You want justice. And I want a future for my daughter and her children, which would be a kind of justice. Do you know why Shackleton Base was attacked and destroyed?"

Set replied, "I never heard of Shackleton Base before today."

"It goes back a couple hundred years, to when Earth was destroyed. How many people died in the elevators disaster on Sakkara? Billions died on Earth."

Set wondered why Salvaje was comparing Sakkara to Earth. Everyone knew that Earth was consumed by destructive nanites that had gone out of control. "But the destruction of Earth was an accident."

Salvaje asked, "Are you sure?"

"Well, that is what everyone says."

"Do you know the difference between 'accident' and 'negligence'? Why has Earth been hidden? This is the Sol system, the home of humanity, but people across the galaxy call this the h.32 star system. They pretend that another world around another star is Earth. It is absurd. They cannot hide the truth. Members of the Haldus Order knew the truth. To silence them, to hide the truth, Shackleton Base was destroyed and Flammis was turned into a Green Planet."

Set wondered if Salvaje knew what he was talking about. "What do you mean, 'turned into a Green Planet'?"

Salvaje explained, "It was punishment. First the Haldus Order Temple at Shackleton Base was destroyed, but the Haldus Order still spoke the truth about Earth..."

Set interrupted, "What truth?"

Salvaje shrugged. "I'm reluctant to tell you. What is my voice against the history they have written?"

Set insisted, "Tell me."

Salvaje shrugged, "Well, I do not care if you believe me. It is better for you if you do not believe me. Believing the truth about Earth is a capital crime. Earth was destroyed by a spaceship explosion."

"Spaceship explosion?" Set thought: everyone knew that Earth was lost to a malignant green nanite cloud. Although...

Salvaje continued, "And the Spaceship Guild covered up the cause of the disaster by releasing the green nanites. Later, to punish the Order, they destroyed the Haldus Order settlements on Flammis and turned Flammis into a Green Planet. They use the 'green goo' to cover up their crimes. To this day the Antiquist Party supports the policy of hiding the truth about Earth."

Set was staggered by Salvaje's revelations. Was conspiracy on such a grand scale possible? Set asked, "Why would they do that?"

Salvaje explained, "The Spaceship Guild is the most powerful economic force in the galaxy. Are they going to let it be known that their spaceships can explode and destroy worlds? That one of their antimatter drives exploded and destroyed Earth, the home of humanity? No. They rewrite history to protect their monopoly on transport of goods and passengers to and from the surfaces of inhabited worlds."

Set was well aware that the Antiquist Party was the political wing of the Spaceship Guild. Now Set's years of political struggle against the Antiquist Party came sharply into focus. Would they do anything to protect the economic monopoly of the Spaceship Guild? Cover up spaceship explosions? Even destroy the space elevators on Sakkara? Go to war against the Haldus Order just to prevent the truth from being known? Set thought: and here I am, on my way to help Ketar find a hidden base of the Haldus Order on Earth. Ketar, the head of the Galactic Antiquist Party. And Aristark, who was in charge of investigating the elevators disaster, he was also a member of the Antiquist Party. What if those two Haldus Order telepaths on Sakkara had been telling the truth about who was involved in the elevators disaster? Set wondered: would anyone actually unleash a destructive nanite cloud on a world? This was evil beyond Set's capacity to comprehend. If that was true, if the Antiquists could do that, then lesser crimes, like destroying the space elevators on Sakkara, would clearly be something they might do.


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