Web of lies.


Sybil dozed off then woke up to the sound of voices. Bahney was talking to someone. Sybil got off of the bed and her movement woke Portia. Sybil opened the door to Bahney's room.

Bahney said, "Ah, Sybil is now awake. Norshe, this is Sybil, from Sakkara. Sybil, this is Norshe, from Jemini."

Sybil and Norshe examined each other. Portia came through the door behind Sybil. Portia asked, "What's going on?"

Sybil introduced Portia, "This is Portia, my assistant."

Norshe looked past both Sybil and Portia and saw Glen. Norshe asked, "And what is that?"

Sybil explained, "That is Glen, my gardener."

Norshe laughed, "You bring your gardener along when you travel around the galaxy?"

Sybil replied, "I fled Sakkara in fear of Set. Soon after I left Sakkara, Set abducted Portia and Glen from my home."

Norshe asked, "Abducted? By Set? And yet here they are. I don't understand."

Sybil shrugged, "I suspect that Set really wanted to get his hands on me. He let Portia and Glen go free."

Norshe looked suspiciously at Glen, "Hmm...I've seen this kind of trick before. A robot is altered so as to act as the eyes and ears of a spy."

Sybil wondered if Set could implant spy devices in Glen that would evade the diagnostic scan she had performed on the robot. "If you are reluctant to speak in front of Glen I'll send him away."

Norshe shrugged, "I've given up taking security seriously. I'm here on Ketar's orders."

Sybil wondered what Norshe meant about not taking security seriously. She asked, "You work for Ketar? Are you an Antiquist?"

Norshe shook her head and laughed. "No, I'm a member of the Haldus Order."

Sybil was surprised. "How did Ketar come to be giving you orders?"

Norshe explained, "Like you, I'm Ketar's prisoner, although he speaks of an alliance. He says that you are also a member of the Haldus Order and that you have been trying to form an alliance with the Antiquist Party to protect Sakkara from Set. Is that true?"

Sybil nodded. "But I do not understand why Ketar has brought us here to Earth. I sought an alliance with the Antiquists for the purpose of protecting Sakkara from Set, but now it appears that Set is here on Earth."

Norshe nodded. "So I was told. Everyone seems to be looking for a Haldus Order base on Earth....something I know nothing about. Why would anyone want to live on a Green planet?"

Bahney said, "Norshe, all this idle chatter and speculation is useless. Ketar sent you here so that you can look at the Haldus Order shrine."

Norshe shrugged, "Lead the way."

Bahney led the three women to the shrine. Norshe insisted that Glen be ordered to remain in Sybil's room. It was only a short walk from the Lodge to the Haldus Order shrine. They crossed the central square of the small settlement that was home for the workers who maintained the mass driver. The village was designed to look like a particular town of Earth in the days before the green nanite fog, but it was all enclosed in a large chamber inside a hill. Norshe looked up at the synthetic "sky" and could see what looked like triangular structural elements.

The shrine was at the end of an alley off the central square, just beyond a taylor's shop. During the five minute walk they only passed a few people and about a dozen robots who appeared to be out shopping. Bahney pulled open the large door to the shrine and held it open so the women could enter. Portia and Norshe wondered around the interior of the shrine as Sybil had done the previous day. Bahney reminded them, "We are looking for clues. This Haldus Order shrine was built here after the mass driver went into operation. Ketar believes there is also a Haldus Order Temple somewhere on Earth, also built after Earth became a Green planet. There must be clues to the location of that Temple."

Sybil remarked, "I still do not understand why Ketar thinks there is a Haldus Order base on Earth."

Norshe was squatting down so that she could examine a vase on the floor. She looked over her shoulder at Sybil and commented, "Ketar followed Kalid here."

Sybil had been worrying about Kalid. Where had he gone after leaving Esclagon? She asked, "Kalid is here on Earth?"

Norshe laughed in surprise. "I did not say that." She let go of the vase and brushed flecks of dried vegetation off of her hands. It seemed the vase had once contained flowers. Apparently nobody ever removed the old offerings from this shrine. It appeared that they had gradually accumulated over decades and now clogged most of the floor space. Norshe stood up and turned towards Sybil. "Ketar told me that Kalid is dead. I meant that Ketar followed Kalid here to the Solar System. Ketar told me that you came here with Kalid. If any of us knows what is going on it must be you."

Sybil could see some of the colors of Norshe's soul, and the pattern of those lights suggested to Sybil that Norshe was not being honest. She knew more than she was admitting. However, Sybil was also carefully limiting what she said in front of Bahney. There was no doubt that Bahney was Ketar's spy, so Sybil was only discussing matters that Ketar already knew about. Sybil confirmed that she had jumped to this system with Kalid, "Yes, I came here in Kalid's spaceship, but Kalid did not even tell me that this was the Solar System." Sybil asked, "How did Kalid die?"

Norshe shook her head, "Don't ask me. Something Ketar told me seemed to imply that Kalid is dead. If true, I would morn. Kalid initiated me into the Order." Norshe had quickly examined the interior of the small shrine and now she came back near the entrance where Sybil and Bahney had remained. "Well, most of the clutter in here seems to have been left by pilgrims. Judging by the diversity of offerings, they were left by people who came from here from off world while on a visit to Earth. I do not see how this odd assortment of trash can tell us much."

Portia, at the other end of the shrine, was still looking around. She said, "This tetrahedron is very ornate. Much fancier that any I've seen in Temples of the Silver Tulipan Order."

Norshe walked over by Portia and she looked closely at the tetrahedron. Embedded within the main tetrahedron were many smaller ones. "This sculpture is rather amazing in the intricate details of its fractal structure. I wonder which fractal this is...if it represents a well-known mathematical structure."

Bahney asked, "What is the significance of fractals to the Haldus Order?"

Sybil replied, "None that I know of, but tetrahedrons and triangles are common decorations in Silver Tulipan buildings. I was taught that they represent the atomic volume, the most fundamental closed space. When I was in school we were taught mold our minds into the strong pattern of the tetrahedron. It is a symbol of strength."

Norshe continued, "Right, strength and the security that comes from compartmentalization."

Portia asked, "Compartmentalization?"

Sybil had always been careful to shield Portia from knowledge that was only for those of the Inner Circles, but did all that secrecy matter any more, now that Ketar understood so many Haldus Order secrets? She explained, "The Haldus Order is divided into compartments for security reasons. For example, members on Sakkara and Jemini are in different compartments, so Norshe and I never met before today, but we both know Kalid." Sybil would have said more but she was certain that Ketar was spying on them. She did not want to tell Ketar anything beyond what he already knew.

The group left the shrine and walked back to the Lodge. While she walked, Sybil was still thinking about the role that symbols played in the Haldus Order. There was much that could be traced back to ancient Earth, but Sybil had been taught that superstition had completely dominated the Order until after the dawn of the space age. There were many myths and pseudosciences that incorporated Platonic solids as symbols...the Haldus Order was only one of many.

They entered into the high-ceilinged lobby of the Lodge and Sybil looked around, admiring the finely crafted wood and stone. Then she noticed that the light fixtures high above were tetrahedrons. Portia followed Sybil's gaze and also noticed. Portia smiled and said, "Strange coincidence." Sybil wondered....was it coincidence?


Ketar was bored and frustrated. Was there no way to get his hands on Haldus Order technology? He felt like he was being run around in circles by some unseen prankster.

Ketar was watching Sybil, again using Bahney as his eyes and ears. And he was not far away. Ketar had landed his spaceship at the docks and invited Set to come over from his ship. Ketar and Set sat together, watching Bahney's view of Norshe and Portia exploring the shrine. Sybil stood close to Bahney and her profile could be seen to one side of Bahney's visual field. When the women started discussing triangles and tetrahedra Set was reminded of the perfect triangular relationship between the locations of the three T-particle emitting beacons on Earth. Set exclaimed, "Of course!"

Ketar was intently examining Sybil's face and comparing her features to those of his third wife. Ketar was home sick and tired of the green clouds of Earth. When Set shouted, Ketar turned his head and looked at Set. Set had a glowing look of revelation on his face. Ketar turned back to the display screen and saw Portia closely examining the tetrahedral sculpture. Ketar turned back to Set and demanded, "What? Is it something about that sculpture?"

Set nodded. "You noticed it yourself...the three locations I led you to yesterday."

Ketar knew that those three locations on the surface of Earth were arrayed like the vertices of a triangle. A regular triangle with three equal sides....but could there be a fourth vertex? If those beacons were part of a tetrahedron then where would the fourth vertex be? Ketar muttered, "In orbit?"

Set understood Ketar's question. He laughed. "You have it backwards. 180 degrees backwards. Look..." Set began to use the computing interface, but then he paused. It would be easiest to have the ship's AI do it. Set asked, "Can I have your ship's AI solve the riddle?"

Ketar opened a comlink to the spaceship's artificial intelligence. "Go ahead."

Set spoke to the machine. "Computer, do you have the locations of the three beacons?"

The machine asked, "What beacons are you talking about?"

Ketar explained, "Just pull up the coordinates of the three sites we visited yesterday. Remember the triangle? Yesterday you found the center of that triangle."

Set asked Ketar, "What about the center?"

Ketar waved his hand, "Oh, nothing. I had a hunch that the Haldus Order Temple might be located right in the middle of that triangle. My survey team searched there and found nothing." Ketar did not tell Set the entire truth. The survey team was still out there, carefully scanning the middle of the Pacific Ocean for any sign of a hidden base.

Set observed, "Well you had misdirected them by 10,000 kilometers. Computer, show us the position of the point on the surface of Earth that is equidistant from the three sites I found yesterday."

The wall display showed a view of Earth with a blinking marker over a particular location on Earth. It was just a blinking spot on the green face of Earth. Ketar ordered, "Overlay this image with a map of the surface." The ship's AI superimposed a map that showed the continents of Earth. Ketar said, "Oh, no." The spot was at the location of the blast crater that had destroyed Egypt. Ketar assumed that meant that the pattern of T-particle beacons did show the location of the Haldus Order Temple on Earth, but that Temple had been destroyed. However, just as the Order had rebuilt on Flammis, had they also rebuilt their Temple on Earth? Would they rebuild it in the blast crater, even though that crater was now filled with water?

Set saw that the position of the fourth vertex was inside a crater, a raw, ugly wound on the surface of Earth. He commented, "That explains why I only sense three beacons on Earth. It looks like the fourth beacon was destroyed."

Ketar realized that Set had no understanding of the geography of Earth or what had produced the crater. Most people in the galaxy did not know the truth about Earth. Set only thought of the position of the blast crater as the location of a fourth beacon, but more important was the fact that it was the location of Egypt, the historical origin of the Haldus Order. Well, there was no reason to explain that to Set. Set had served his purpose by detecting the beacons. Ketar was now desperate to get rid of Set so that he could re-direct his search team to search the crater. Yes, Set was right...the frustrating search of yesterday had just missed the target...Ketar had searched the wrong side of the planet.

Ketar wondered: was now the time to eliminate Set? Ketar was still having regrets about having ordered the death of, it was safer to keep Set around until Ketar was sure of what was going on. Ketar wondered: what is a good way to keep Set busy? Ketar had been carefully keeping Set away from the Sakkarans. His whole strategy had been to play them off against each other, and that had worked perfectly. But now there might be benefits from letting them pool their knowledge. Ketar said, "I think we should bounce your tetrahedral revelation off of some other folks...we might be missing something."

Set asked, "What do you mean? Missing what?"

Ketar explained, "You and I now know the relevance of tetrahedrons to the Haldus Order, but there might be even more meaning in this geographical discovery for members of the Order. I can see this Haldus Order tetrahedron on Earth, but I still do not understand why they constructed it."

Set nodded. "Yes, I think you are right. You have Sybil nearby, at your disposal."

Ketar suggested, "Why don't you take care of this. I'll get my survey team to search the bottom of that crater."

Set asked, "Do you expect to find the remains of the fourth beacon? Surely it was obliterated when that crater was formed!"

Ketar shrugged, "I think it is worth looking. You share this insight about the location of the fourth vertex with Norshe and see if she has any deeper insight about the meaning of the tetrahedron. It might be best if you avoid Sybil, she despises you as a murderer."

Set did not doubt that Sybil shared Portia's hatred for him. However, Set still felt that he had been justified in taking justice into his own hands. His hunting down and killing of conspirators could have been avoided if the Sakkaran Justice Department had done its job and fully investigated the elevators disaster. Set knew that something was rotten in the Sakkaran government. The Sakkaran government was dominated by the Antiquist Party. And Set now found himself working elbow to elbow with the head of that Galactic Antiquist Party! Still, as long as Ketar seemed to be leading Set towards more Haldus Order secrets, Set was happy to make use of Ketar.

Set reflected on Portia's hatred for himself....when they had gotten to know each other the fire of her anger seemed to cool. Maybe Sybil could also be made to see the logic of Set's past actions. Set said, "I tried to go with Portia to the Lodge, but I was turned back. Apparently I'm a wanted man in this system."

Ketar chuckled. "Indeed." Ketar almost suggested that Set return to his spaceship and wait there for Norshe, but Ketar was not sure he wanted Set returning to his own ship. The time might be near when Set could be eliminated. There was another ship available....Bahney's. Ketar said, "Go to the front office of the docks and wait there for Norshe. Put your heads together and see if you can come up with any new ideas about where the Haldus Order might have hidden its base."

Set warned, "The guard there already threatened me with arrest by the Martian Militia. I'm not sure its safe for me out there."

Ketar nodded and tried to put Set at ease, "Don't worry. Government structure in this system is rather lax and fragmented. As head of the Antiquist Party I have more power and authority here on Earth than does Mars. My ships in orbit are watching for any interference from Mars. The Martian Militia can make all the threats they like, but they have taken no action."

Set had long wanted to speak with Sybil and learn what she knew about the destruction of the elevators. He was just not sure that it would be possible to get any cooperation from Sybil. Set left Ketar's ship and headed for the dock offices.

After Set departed, Ketar quickly called Bahney's ship and ordered it to drop down from orbit and land at the docks on Earth. Ketar then called Bahney and told her to bring Norshe and Set to Bahney's spaceship. He instructed Bahney to encourage them to share information and brainstorm about the location of the Haldus Order base.

Bahney said, "Norshe just sat down to eat in the dinning hall here at the Lodge."

Ketar was tired of having to explain every detail to Bahney. "Hurry her along. Set will be waiting for you at the docks." Ketar terminated the call to Bahney.

He then ordered his survey team to join him at the blast crater. They had already performed a preliminary scan of the crater two days earlier, but now they would do a more thorough job. Ketar felt he was finally closing in on the location of the Haldus Order Temple.




Set arrived back at the security gate that separated the docks from the mass driver installation. The robot guard greeted Set, "You again. You are still not welcome here."

Set explained, "I'm waiting for someone." The wait was longer than Set had expected. The robot stared at Set the entire time.

Finally, Set could see Sybil, Portia and Norshe coming towards the gate. Coming along behind was Glen. Set got his first glimpse of Bahney and reflexively said, "What is that?"

The robot shook its head and said, "There is no accounting for taste." It could not imagine why a fellow robot would use such a strange skin tone. It was clear that humans found Bahney's green skin coloring repulsive.

Set started to say hello to Portia, but Bahney grabbed his arm. "Let's not discuss business here. We are going to my spaceship."

Set looked over his shoulder and said to Portia, "So, we meet again."

Portia gestured towards Sybil and provided a terse introduction, "This is Sybil."

Sybil just glared at Set and he could easily sense her hatred. Set had not previously noticed Sybil's vestigial capacity for telepathic transmission, apparently because it was almost entirely limited to conveying her unconscious emotions rather than the kind of conscious, language-like telepathic signals that Set normally paid attention to. Set suspected that his telepathic experiences on the Moon had started to make his own mind much more sensitive to the emotional side of human thought.

Set and Norshe exchanged nods, then they walked into the docks and soon they were onboard Bahney's spaceship. They all gathered in the crew lounge and Sybil launched into a bitter verbal assault on Set for his attacks on the Haldus Order. Set decided that he could see from whom Portia had learned to throw a fit. Portia brought mugs of tea from the kitchen and she suggested that they all sit down.

Sybil was about done with her tirade and she was frustrated that Set seemed to be ignoring her and showing no signs of guilt for his many murders. Everyone else had taken seats around the table and she felt foolish standing there, trying to provoke a response from Set. She tried to apply her training and regain control of her emotions.

Finally Set could get a word in. He calmly said, "I still want to know why the Haldus Order is hiding the two telepaths who had information about the elevators disaster."

Sybil replied, "Since you went on your murder spree, the Order has called everyone into hiding."

Set reminded her, "Those two telepaths lied to me and then disappeared. That is what came first."

Sybil countered, "They never lied to you."

"They told me that they passed their information on to the Sakkaran authorities, but that was a lie."

"How do you know?"

"There was never an investigation into their evidence by the Justice Department. I explored the basis of that failure and confirmed that the Justice Department never got the evidence."

"All you can say is that the Justice Department officials who you murdered did not see the evidence."

"What are you saying? That someone inside the Justice Department hid the evidence?"

Sybil shrugged, "Can't you even consider that possibility? Or would you feel too foolish knowing that you had erroneously murdered innocent people?"

Sybil and Set were now leaning across the table and snarling at each other.

Bahney tried to remind them why they were there, "Sybil, you wanted Ketar to help protect Sakkara from Set. Ketar brought Set here, to Earth. If we can find those two telepaths that Set has been searching for, then it will be possible to end your feud on Sakkara. We are here on Earth looking for a hidden Haldus Order base. Maybe those two telepaths are in hiding here on Earth. We should all work together to find the Haldus Order base."

Norshe complained, "The problem is, Ketar is relying on Set to find the telepaths. Why should we trust Set to cooperated and share what he knows with us?"

Set replied with a question of his own, "And why should I trust any members of the Haldus Order? I suspect that Sybil knows exactly where those two telepaths are."

Norshe asked Sybil, "Do you know?"

Sybil replied, "Of course not."

Set pressed the matter, "Have you known in the past? Do you know their identities? Could you learn their identities if you wanted to?"

Sybil admitted to herself that she had never really tried to find out those things. All she knew was that the two Haldus Order members sought by Set had been on a special mission to Sakkara when the elevators were destroyed...Kalid has told her nothing else. It was not her place to ask questions of Kalid and try to learn about Haldus Order members beyond Sakkara. "These are questions you should put to Kalid."

Set shook his head. "Kalid is dead."

Sybil asked, "Did you kill him?"

Set did not want to admit that he had provided the explosive device that was used to kill Kalid. He replied. "I did not."

"How did he die?"

Set did not want to admit to Sybil that he had cooperated with Ketar's agents on Mars for the purpose of destroying Kalid's spaceship. "I'm assuming he is dead. If he were alive, he would have followed me here to Earth."

Norshe said, "I still do not trust Set." She slammed down her mug and tea splashed out onto the table. She demanded, "Set, do you detect any telepaths on Earth? Tell us what you know!"

Set chuckled at her outburst. He said to himself: she is a poor actress! He said out loud, "Well, it depends on what you count as a telepath. I'm here, and I think I count. Sybil and Portia both have some telepathic ability, but Sybil is mostly just a weak receiver and Portia is a very weak transmitter, so they hardly count." Set looked into Norshe's eyes and was about to say more, but Portia spoke up and mentioned the T-particle detector.

Portia said, "Maybe we do not have to trust Set. He has a telepathy detecting device."

Norshe said, "Eh?" She looked at Portia. "What did you say?"

Portia pointed to the necklace that Set wore. "I've seen him use it. He found some coded telepathic signals here on Earth."

Sybil asked Portia, "What are you talking about?"

Portia turned to Set, "You tell them, Set. I don't really understand it."

Set sighed. "You were right, Portia, I can't crack the code."

Norshe slammed her palm on the table. She shouted, "What are you two talking about?"

Set explained, "Yes, I found a telepathic signal, actually three of them, that seem to carry coded messages, but all we really know is that they exist. Ketar is trying to follow up-"


Norshe interrupted and insisted that Set explain what he was talking about. Set tried to go back to the beginning. He told the story of finding the T-particle beacons and their pulsed signals. He told about his realization that the three beacons were apparently constructed as part of a tetrahedral array. "Now Ketar has gone to explore the location of the fourth vertex."

Norshe was the first to understand. She could picture a tetrahedron embedded in the Earth. She said, "Yes, of course. Tetrahedral! But what would be the function of a tetrahedral array of T-particle transmitters?"

Set suggested, "I've long wondered how it is that I'm able to locate sources of telepathic signals. It occurred to me that these beacons might provide a basis for locating sources of telepathic signals on Earth."

Sybil was skeptical. She complained, "Why should we believe this story? Set, what are you talking about? Where is this magical telepathy detector?"

Portia said, "Show them how the detector works."

Set touched the pendant of his necklace and activated the holographic projector. Sybil was not impressed. She said, "It just looks like a swirl of lights from a child's toy."

Set nodded. "Much of what you see represents the activity of my brain. Let me try something. Bahney, turn off the lights."

Bahney switched off the room lights. Set tried to relax and reach out towards Sybil's mind with a mental image of the tetrahedral arrangement of four equally spaced beacons on the the surface of Earth. Set was mostly a receiver himself, but he did have some transmitting capability. He noticed a reaction in the pattern of Sybil's mind as it responded to his telepathic thrust. He could then see where her mind pattern was represented in the holographic "light show". He pointed, "This region here. It is showing the activity of Sybil's mind. Sybil, try to modulate it."

Sybil wondered: could this really be a display of her mind's pattern of activity? She thought of the day when she had first met Kalid and the strange mental interaction they had. On that say, she had been so very afraid that Kalid would enter her mind and see her secret thoughts. Suddenly Sybil realized that Set was touching her mind. She cried out, "Stop that!"

Portia asked, "What happened?"

Set replied, "My mind is in contact with Sybil's. Bahney, turn the lights back on." He switched off the projector.

Sybil asked, "Where did you get this T-particle detector?"

Set did not want to mention the device he had taken out of Glen. He briefly described his visit to the Moon. Set concluded his little story about visiting the Moon by saying, "Salvaje gave me his detector."

Norshe thought back over the evidence she had concerning the Haldus Order Temple on Earth. She wondered: was it possible that someone might say "Earth" while really meaning Earth's Moon? Norshe was still trying to adjust to the fact that Earth did have a large moon. She had grown up on Jemini hearing myths about Earth, including the idea that Earth had a large moon, but the planetary atlas showed that Earth had no large moon. When Ketar had first told her about the engineered deception regarding the location of Earth, she had not believed that such deception was possible...but everything about this star system and this world matched the legends of Earth and the Solar System. And now Set's revelation about the telepathic beacons....something tugged at an old memory, but it slipped away.

Portia thought about the coded messages that Set had shown to her and the idea of a tetrahedron on Earth. She asked, "Set, are you saying that there are four of those coded messages being transmitted on Earth?"

Set replied, "No, I can only detect three messages. The position on Earth where the fourth transmitter should be located is inside a giant blast crater."

Sybil asked Set, "Are you suggesting that the fourth beacon was purposefully destroyed?"

Set was startled by that suggestion. Was it possible that someone would have purposefully blasted a giant hole in the Earth just to target the Haldus Order and this mysterious T-particle transmitter?

Norshe suggested, "Maybe this array of telepathy transmitters was used by the Haldus Order to control people's minds."

Portia wondered, "Maybe there are transmitter arrays like this on other worlds, still functioning."

Set held up his hands and stood up beside the table, "Stop, stop, stop. This is getting out of control. Telepathy is not about mind control."

Norshe asked, "Why should we trust what you say? Maybe you do not even could you know what this array of transmitters was capable of before the fourth node was destroyed...and what might even now still be possible?"

Set realized that he could not know, but he did believe that if the Haldus Order or anyone had mind control technology then he would have noticed. Then a fear crept into his heart. Set asked himself: what if I am under such mind control? Set wondered: what if I am someone's mental puppet? Maybe three transmitters were all that was needed. Maybe the Haldus Order did have a base on Earth, but they could control his mind and prevent him from detecting that base...

Sybil shook her head, "For once I agree with Set. If mind control exists then all is lost. We can do nothing. No, I cannot believe that." Sybil turned to Set, "The situation here on Earth is mysterious, but I do not see it solving our problem. We still need to get to the bottom of Sakkara's problems. Who destroyed the elevators? What happened to the Justice Department's investigation? If we are all comparing notes so that we can sort out mysteries then you need to meet with Leone." She turned to Bahney, "Where is Leone? He's still on this ship, isn't he?"

Bahney replied, "He is not far away."

Set had noticed another weak telepathic signal nearby. He made a guess. "Is Leone on this ship?"

Bahney nodded. "Yes, he is."

Sybil demanded, "Bring him here!"

Bahney was in contact with Ketar. Ketar spoke directly into Bahney's robotic mind and he ordered Bahney, "Don't let things go out of control. Lock Sybil in her cabin." Ketar had intended only that Bahney bring Set and Norshe together. He now regretted not having taken the time to make his wishes clear to the Bahney.

Bahney sent a signal to her robotic assistants. Two of them entered the lounge and took hold of Sybil's arms and pulled her out of her chair and away from the table. At that moment, Glen stepped forward and with the full force of his great bulk and robotic strength he swung a metal chair at Bahney's head. The green head separated from the robot's torso and bounced off the wall. Set immediately gave orders to the other two robots, "Halt! Release her!"

Portia pointed to one of the robots and ordered, "Go release Leone from his cabin! Now!"

Bahney's head lay on the floor, but it continued to speak to the robot assistants, "No! Follow my orders! You must obey-"

Glen had gone to Bahney's body and removed a laser pistol from her pocket. He pointed the weapon at Bahney's head and burned away the green face, fusing the mouth into a lump of burnt plastek.

Set shouted, "Come on, we'll go to my ship!"

Norshe was the only one who hesitated. Set paused at the door of the lounge and said to Norshe, "Come on!"

Norshe shook her head, "I'll wait here for Leone."

But at that moment Set saw Leone coming down the hallway, having been released from his cabin by one of the robots. Set told Norshe, "He's coming. Let's go!"

Norshe followed and five minutes later they were in Set's spaceship, rising into the green clouds.


Landing on Earth

Set closed the outer airlock door and turned around. He called to Portia, "Take everyone to the lounge and strap in!"

Set went to the main control room and called the engineering room. Set ordered the engineer to come to the control room. He then linked in to the ship's AI with the mind/machine interface. He programmed the machine to fly the ship to the blast crater, staying low, under the clouds and just above the surface of Earth. The ship started to move and the graviton generators could be heard, straining to compensate for shifts in acceleration. Set then led the engineer and the pilot to the lounge. Set drew his laser pistol from his pocket and turned to face Glen where he stood in a corner of the room. Set ordered, "Give me Bahney's laser."

Glen silently looked towards Sybil then handed the gun to Set. Set took the weapon and passed it to the pilot and then he turned his laser to point it at Norshe. Set said, "Consider yourself under arrest. Take her to the cabin that Portia used and locker her in. Search her carefully."

The engineer grabbed Norshe's arm. She demanded, "On what authority do you arrest me?"

Set shrugged, "Call it a citizen's arrest if you like. The bottom line is, you've conspired with Ketar and I don't trust you."

Norshe looked towards Sybil, "He's crazy. He's going to divide us up and execute us, just as he's done to others of our Order!"

Set turned to Sybil, "Don't listen to her. She's Ketar's spy inside the Order." The pilot and the engineer took Norshe away.

Leone said, "Set, I hope you know what you are doing."

Set put away his pistol and turned to Leone. "Norshe is a powerful telepathic transmitter, a talent that apparently got her into the Haldus Order, but it also makes her mind something of an open book for me. Relax, I know what I'm doing."

Sybil said to Set, "Take us to Mars. It is time for you to submit to the justice system and we have to find out what happened to Aristark and Kalid."

Leone said, "I want to get to my ship. We can't let the Haldus Order equipment on my ship fall into Ketar's hands."

Set shook his head, "We don't have time for that. We're on our way to the blast crater." Set brought up a radar map of Earth and displayed it on the wall of the lounge. He pointed to the crater. "This is the fourth vertex of the tetrahedron."

Sybil asked, "What's the point of going to the crater? There's just a big hole." Looking at the crater, a life time of Sybil's historical studies of ancient Earth suddenly took on a new significance. She had seen maps of Egypt and its location on Earth, maps that most historians said were as mythical as Plato's famous map of Atlantis. Sybil now realized that the crater was at the position of Egypt. She said quietly, "All that is left of Egypt is a big hole."

Leone said, "So that's why the Egyptian pyramids are gone."

Portia asked, "What could make a crater that big? I was taught that a miniature black hole hit Earth and triggered an environmental catastrophe, the release of defective nanites that formed the green goo."

Set explained, "When I visited the Moon I learned another story: that a spaceship's antimatter engine exploded and destroyed Earth."

Sybil asked, "Does it matter what formed the crater? What is the point of going there? Egypt is gone!"

Set was still sorting out in his thoughts what he had seen telepathically in Norshe's mind. He said, "Norshe is the one who told Ketar about the hidden Haldus Order Temple on Earth." Set closed his eyes and reviewed what he had learned from Norshe's thoughts. It was clear in Norshe's mind: Kalid had told her about the Haldus Order Temple on Earth. Kalid had been greatly impressed by Norshe's mental powers and had spoken about her possible participation in experiments with telepathy amplifying technology. Even now, those memories were in Norshe's thoughts. Set opened his eyes and said, "That Temple holds a great secret, a key to all Haldus Order telepathy amplifying technology. We have to get there before Ketar does!"

Leone asked, "The Temple is hidden in the blast crater?"

Set shrugged, "I'm not sure, but that is my best guess. Anyhow, that is where Ketar is now searching, so we have to go...we can't just let Ketar find it."

Sybil asked, "What makes you think it is there if you do not actually know?"

Set showed them how Salvaje had made a tetrahedron-like shape using his fingers while telling Set about the Temple on Earth. "It was clear in Norshe's mind. When Kalid told her about the Temple on Earth he made the same tetrahedral finger gesture."

Portia laughed, "That's meaningless. When people in Silver Tulipan mention Earth they often make that kind of gesture, and it is not a tetrahedron." She demonstrated. "It's just a stylized letter 'E', see?" She held her fingers together in a different way that did look like the letter "E".

Sybil sank down into a chair. Set noticed that her face now showed a look of shock and amazement. He asked her, "What? What is it?"

Sybil put her hands on the table and made the tetrahedral gesture with her fingers. "When I entered the Inner Circle this gesture was explained to me. I was told that it represents the original Haldus Order Temple on Earth. I was told this shape represents the pyramid in ancient Egypt that was the original Temple."

Leone commented, "In the Temple library on Esclagon, I saw images of the pyramids. They were pyramids with five sides. A tetrahedron only has four sides."

Set shrugged, "Well, none of this matters. We have to go and see if we can find the Temple before Ketar does."

Leone said, "The Haldus Order has spaceship cloaking technology. What if their base is cloaked?

Sybil asked, "How will you search for this base if your telepathic sense is not guiding you to it?"

Set replied, "If the Haldus Order has a way to hide spaceships then they can probably hide a base, too. However, we are not in outer space and dealing with a hidden spaceship. We should be able to get very close to this base on Earth. I doubt if it can be completely hidden. If all else fails, we can walk up to the Temple and knock on the door."

Portia brought mugs of tea from the kitchen and they fell into speculating about the Haldus Order cloaking technology and ways to penetrate it. Leone described how the Invocator had hidden and protected his spaceship.

Finally the pilot called Set via intercom, "We are inside the crater. I'm holding us at a depth of 100 meters."

Set asked, "Any sign of Ketar's ships?"

The pilot replied, "There are three ships flying some kind of scan pattern over the crater. They seem to be doing a high resolution gravitational scan, maybe searching the bottom of the crater for a hidden underwater base."

Set ordered, "Avoid those ships at all cost. Take us to the fourth vertex."

Set was beginning to realize just how vast the crater was. The location of the fourth vertex was not right at the center of the crater, and Ketar's search pattern did not seem to be centered on the fourth vertex. Instead, Ketar's ships were scanning a region to the north and east. Set did not understand that choice, but it was allowing Set's ship to travel undetected to the fourth vertex. The water in the crater had an average depth of about 200 meters, but its water surface level was far below sea level. Apparently the crater had been slowly filling with rain water since its formation.

Set had a plan for detecting the hidden Haldus Order Temple. Based on Leone's description of the Invocator and how it had hidden Leone's spaceship, Set assumed that the Haldus Order's cloaking device absorbed radiation such as radar waves so as to prevent the detection of cloaked spaceships. Set reasoned that it should be possible to measure that just required a source and a receiver. Set saw Leone go to the kitchen for food. Set followed and closed the sliding door that divided the kitchen from the lounge. "Leone, I need your help."

Leone turned from the food cabinets and was surprised to see Set. Leone asked, "Why should I do anything to help you?"

Set tried to explain, "I'm not asking you to give up your hatred for me. I still despise you for your failure to protect the space elevators. But we need to put our past behind us. If we fail now, then Ketar will obtain control of Haldus Order secrets. I think you can imagine what would happen to the Galaxy if Ketar had the power to cloak his fleet."

Leone tried to decide who he trusted less, Set or Ketar. "Why do you need my help?"

Set explained his idea. "I want to scan for the exact location of the Haldus Order Temple, but it will require a tricky bit of piloting. My ship's pilot is skilled, but I need two good pilots."

Leone was puzzled. "Why two pilots?"

"I want you to take a lifeboat and pilot it so as to act as a source of a controlled radar signal. You'll have to carefully control your position and be particularly careful to make sure that the signal you transmit is not detected by Ketar's spaceships. We should be able to automate most of the process, but I want you to apply your experience and skill to making sure this is done right. If Ketar notices what we are doing, we will not get a second chance."

"I don't understand what you are talking about. You said that Ketar is already systematically scanning the crater for a hidden base." Leone asked, "What can we do that Ketar is not already doing?"

Set replied, "I do not really understand Ketar's search strategy. Rather than carefully checking at the position of the fourth vertex, he is scanning an area over a hundred kilometers away."

Leone observed, "He must know something that you do not know. Remember, he has all of the resources of the Antiquist Party at his disposal."

Set nodded, "Yes, you are right. Our only hope is that this is a situation where additional information causes confusion. In any case, my hunch is that Ketar is searching in the wrong place and searching in the wrong way."

Leone seemed bored with Set and he tore open a food packet and started to eat. "Pardon me, but I have no faith in your hunches. You still seem to think that the Haldus Order is your enemy. You foolishly collaborated with Ketar. If he finds the Haldus Order Temple it will be because of the information you gave him. I expect nothing but nonsense from you." Leone pulled open the door and returned to the table in the lounge. He handed a food pack to Sybil and sat down next to her.

Set followed Leone and sat next to him. "Assume that everything you said is true. Can you really afford to sit here and let Ketar succeed?"

Leone tried to ignore Set but Sybil asked, "How can we stop Ketar? You gave him the location of the fourth vertex."

Set replied, "I think Ketar has made an error. He's searching in the wrong way. We can do it right, but I need Leone's help."

Sybil wondered how Leone could help Set. All Leone knew about the Haldus Order was what Sybil had told him. And Sybil had no idea where the Haldus Order Temple was on Earth. In fact, she doubted that it even existed. "Set, I've long wondered if you are insane. That happens to people. You were under incredible stress after the space elevators were destroyed. I think you need psychiatric help."

Set laughed, "Thanks for your concern. I assure you that I am perfectly sane. I just want to make use of Leone's skills as a pilot, but I guess he'd rather sit here with you."

Leone turned to Set, "If you are not going to shut up, at least explain your plan and how you think you can conduct a search more effectively than Ketar's fleet."

Set explained his plan and the strategy he wanted to use to search for the hidden Temple. By the time he was done, everyone in the room was listening carefully to his plan. Portia asked, "Well, if we have nothing better to do, why not try Set's plan?"

Sybil asked, "How do we know that Set is not still in an alliance with Ketar. Set, if we help you find the Temple will you reveal its location to Ketar."

Set shook his head. "I've never been in an alliance with Ketar. I've tried to take advantage of Ketar for the purpose of finding those two Haldus Order telepaths who have evidence about the cause of the space elevators disaster. That has always been my only goal."

Portia said, "And if Leone helps you find the Temple, you'll just kill any Haldus Order telepaths you find there!"

Set sighed. "No. Not if Leone agrees to make sure that there is a fair and open investigation of the elevators disaster on Sakkara."

Leone suggested, "If we first went and got my spaceship we could carry out this search more efficiently than by trying to use a lifeboat. Ketar told me that Aristark was attacked on Mars...we should go and investigate what happened there."

Set remarked, "That would be suicide. Ketar has ships above in orbit. If we went into space they would see us. I suspect that after the way Glen dispatched Bahney, Ketar would not hesitate to order his fleet to attack us. We are here, now, at the fourth node of the array. We should search now. At any time Ketar could switch his search strategy. We cannot delay."

Sybil took hold of Leone's hand. "Well, Leone, what can it hurt to search?"

Leone replied, "If we start sending out radar pulses then we are putting ourselves at risk of being noticed by Ketar. Rather than being here where Ketar is searching, we should be waiting quietly on the other side of the planet. Sybil, you don't believe that there is a Temple to be found. Set says that he can detect no telepathic signals from this supposed Haldus Order base and Set thinks Ketar is not even searching in the right location. I say we wait. When Ketar gives up, then we will be free to take action."

Set laughed at Leone. "This is not the bold Leone I've known for so long! Fine, sit hear with the women."

Set got up and walked out the door and headed down the hallway to the main control room to start making plans with the pilot. Set would have to fly the life boat himself. Set heard a sound behind him and he turned. It was Leone.

Leone said, "Okay, Set. I'll help you with your plan, if only to keep you from doing something stupid that will get us all killed. First, there is no good way to prevent a radar pulse from being observed. What we need to do is..." Leone explained how best to carry out the search and avoid detection of Set's spaceship by Ketar's fleet.

Half an hour later, Leone was in the lifeboat and learning how to steer it in the currents of the water inside the crater. When he felt comfortable with those conditions, he transmitted a low power signal.

Ten kilometers away, onboard Set's ship, the signal was detected. Set said to the pilot, "Okay, initiate the search pattern." Set was in his cabin, which was lit only by the T-particle detector's holographic projection. He had not told anyone else that he was trying to combine T-particle detection with the conventional electromagnetic signaling method. He hoped that if the hidden Haldus Order base passed between the spaceship and the lifeboat there would either be a loss of the electromagnetic signal from Leone's boat or the appearance of a new T-particle signal. Maybe Set would detect both changes. Set started to sweat. He dared not blink for fear of missing a change in the light pattern of the hologram. Set was not certain that the hidden base would block the signal from Leone's was possible that the cloaking device would systematically absorb electromagnetic signals on one side of the hidden base and then send them out again from the other side.

Set had initiated the search exactly at the calculated location of the fourth vertex. Set was making the assumption that the hidden Temple was floating near the surface. If that was a bad assumption, they would have to modify the search to extend it up into the air and down into the depths of the crater. They were now scanning in a two dimensional pattern of spokes out from the vertex to a radius of five kilometers. Set had made another assumption that limited the radius of search. Set assumed that the fourth vertex had originally been centered on a mountain where a T-particle beacon could be hidden deep under ground. Set assumed that there was a reason why this vertex of the tetrahedron was located here. Could this have been the actual origin of the Haldus Order, perhaps the location of its original Temple? For some reason Ketar was searching another region nearby, perhaps an area in Egypt where the Haldus Order later spread to. Set was looking here because of Norshe's memory of what Kalid had told her about the Temple. Set thought: this would all be much more straight forward if Kalid were still alive and could assist...

After four hours of the search, Set was drained and ready to call for a break. He was monitoring the running calculation of the percent of the search area already covered. They were at 19 percent and Set was trying to push himself to complete 20 percent before taking a break. Then the signal from Leone's boat went silent. Just for a moment. The signal returned.

The pilot activated the comunit in Set's cabin and asked, "Did you notice that blip?"

Set replied, "Yes. Break off the search patten. Take us over to Leone's lifeboat." They were observing radio silence, with no communication between the spaceship and Leone's lifeboat. The pilot changed course and took the spaceship over to Leone's position, where he continued running the scan pattern. The lifeboat was pulled back into its little hanger inside Set's spaceship.

Leone crawled out of the lifeboat. Sybil had gone to meet Leone. He asked, "Success?"

Sybil replied, "Set says that something was detected. Come on, everyone is assembled in the lounge."

When they entered the lounge, Set grabbed Leone's hand and shook it. Set said, "Thanks, Leone."

Portia handed Leone a mug of tea. Everyone was at the table: the pilot, the engineer, Portia, Leone, Sybil, and Set. In the corner stood Norshe, chained to Glen. Set said, "We found the Temple. Now we have to decide how to proceed. I intend to get inside the Temple and see what secrets lay within. This might be dangerous, so I have an offer. Anyone who has had enough adventure can take a lifeboat and go their own way. You can set the autopilot to take you back to the mass driver installation."

Sybil said, "I want to see this Temple. I don't intend to let you desecrate it."

Leone nodded, "I've come this far. I want to know what is inside. I cannot turn away now."

The pilot said, "I'm with you Captain."

The engineer nodded, "Me, too."

Sybil said to Portia, "There is no reason for you to come along. Take a lifeboat and return to the Lodge."

Portia shook her head. "No, ma'am. You might not want me here now, since I am not in the Circles, but I've learned some of the inner secrets already. If you want me to go away then you have to order me."

Sybil said, "It was Kalid's decision to keep you out of the Circles, but think how things have turned out! Maybe he foresaw this as your path in life. I'll not order you to depart."

Norshe sarcastically asked, "Even me, Set? First you place me under your arrest and now you'll let me fly away in one of your lifeboats?"

Set shrugged. "If you decide to go, Glen will go with you. I'll program the lifeboat to take you to a safe place on the other side of the planet where you can wait."

Norshe asked, "Wait for how long? What if you manage to get yourself killed?"

Set replied, "Then you'll have a chance to get to know Glen quite well." Set chuckled. "Don't worry, he is not an overly loquacious travel companion."

Norshe was outraged, "You would callously sentence me to death?"

Set walked over and stared down into her face. "I suspect that your spying led to Ketar's efforts to play me off against the Haldus Order. If so, you are responsible for deaths of thousands of people on Flammis. Aren't you willing to face judgment for your behavior?"

Norshe shouted at Set, "You're insane. You attacked Flammis. You can't blame those deaths on me." She shouted at the others, "Are you going to follow this madman to your deaths?"

Set turned to the pilot and the engineer. "Take her back to her cabin." He turned back to Norshe and asked, "Unless you want the lifeboat option."

Norshe spit at Set and said nothing. She was taken away by Set's two crewmen, still chained to Glen.

Set waited for the door to close then turned back to the Sakkarans. "We need to decide on the best way to try to gain access to the interior of the Temple," He asked Sybil, "Are there any Haldus Order traditions about Temple access codes?"

Sybil replied, "Traditionally, Temples face east, to welcome the rising Sun."

Set nodded, "Well, that gives us a place to start."

The hidden Haldus Order base floated just under the surface of the water, slightly more than a kilometer away from the calculated position of the fourth beacon. Coming at it from the east side, the Temple seemed disk shaped, with an apparent diameter of about 400 meters. When Set's spaceship got within about 50 meters of the Temple, they were inside its cloaking field and could see the structural details of the Temple. Set shifted the display to show an infrared video feed. Leone commented, "It looks like a spaceship."

Sybil said, "Yes, and look, the airlock is there, pointing east."

Set asked, "Okay, so if this is a Temple, how do we ask to be let in?"

Set's spaceship was now drifting very close to the Temple. Portia pointed at the airlock, "It looks like the door is open."

Sybil nodded, "Exactly right...Temples never close their doors."

Leone asked, "So what do we do, swim?"

Set thought about how he had gained access to Salvaje's workshop on the Moon. He replied, "Yes, we swim." He headed to the door then paused and turned back. The others did not think that Set was serious about swimming. Set asked, "Who wants to go with me?"

Five minutes later, Set, Portia, Leone and Sybil were packed into the airlock, waiting while it flooded and filled with water. They wore anti-toxin suits. The suits had a supply of oxygen for use on planets with toxic atmospheres, but here they would serve as scuba gear. When the airlock was completely full of water, Set opened the outer door. They swam across the gap between the two spaceships.

The airlock of the Temple was larger than that of Set's spaceship and they had no trouble fitting inside. The controls were conventional. Set closed the outer door and the water started to be pumped out of the compartment. Then the airlock was flooded with decontamination fluid. Finally the rinse cycle was done and the inner airlock door opened.

Set, Portia, Leone and Sybil came out of the airlock and pulled off their anti-toxin suits. Portia was surprised that nobody had greeted them. She said, "I wonder if there is anyone here."

They set off towards the core of the spaceship and soon came to an intersecting corridor which was curved. Set said, "I've seen this spaceship design before. It is used by some passenger ships. There are passenger cabins around the outside and cruise facilities towards the center." Leone pulled open the first hatch on the inner side of the corridor. It opened on what looked like the dinning facility for an interstellar cruise ship, but rather than tables for dining, there were laboratory benches and facilities. A half dozen people, all wearing white jumpsuits, looked up from their work and took note of the new visitors. After a moment, they each returned to their work.

Set, Portia, Leone and Sybil were on a balcony. Set said, "They do not seem surprised to see us. I guess we can go down and introduce ourselves."

From behind, a voice said, "Please do not disturb them. I'm the one you want to talk to."

Set turned and saw a young woman. She had very little T-particle output, scarcely more than the average person. Set asked, "This is a Haldus Order Temple?"

The woman introduced herself. "My name is Megan. Sybil, Set, and Leone, all of are far from home." She turned to Portia and asked, "Who are you?"

Portia replied, "Portia, also from Sakkara."

Megan turned back to Set and she now responded to the question he had asked. "You can call this a Temple. I usually just call it a research station."

Portia asked, "What kind of research?"

Megan went to the railing of the balcony and gestured towards those working below. She replied, "They are studying T-particles."

Set could detect no significant nearby sources of T-particles. "How can they study T-particles without having a source of T-particles?"

Megan turned around and looked at Set. She had a puzzled look on her face. She asked Set, "What do you mean?"

Set tried to explain, "Well, if physicists were studying alpha particles then they would use a source of alpha particles such as radium."

Megan nodded, "Oh, yes, that makes sense. Anyhow, I'm not a scientist. I cannot answer your technical questions."

Sybil asked, "If you are not involved in the research, are you the Temple priestess?"

Megan laughed. "Me? A priestess?" Megan laughed for a long time and wiped a tear from her eye. "Sorry. No. No, there are no priestesses here. Well, sorry, I forgot, you call yourself a priestess. Let's see, on Sakkara they are called Priestess of I have that right?"

Sybil blushed and felt that Megan was laughing at her. "If there is no priestess here, then in what sense would you call this a Temple?"

Megan replied, "I don't know. I only said that you could call this a Temple. This is a spaceship that happens to be on the surface of Earth. The Haldus Order uses this as a research facility. I'm not sure that I can make it any more clear than that."

Leone saw that Sybil was upset by what Megan had said. He stepped forward and spoke to Megan, "What you say is clear enough. We came here with the expectation of finding a Haldus Order Temple."

Megan said, "I wonder how you came to expect that."

Set explained, "There was a spy on Jemini who managed to be inducted into the Haldus Order by Kalid. Her name is Norshe."

Megan shrugged. "Norshe? Yes, I've heard that name."

Set continued, "Kalid told Norshe that there is a Haldus Order Temple on Earth."

Megan nodded. "I see."

There was a silence and the Sakkarans looked at each other. Sybil said, "So we trusted what Kalid said and we assumed that this might be the Temple."

Megan took Sybil's hand and led the group off of the balcony and back into the curved corridor. While they walked, Megan spoke, "I understand. People make many unsupported assumptions. When people take action based on false assumptions then much damage can be done. Anyhow, I have only been on this spaceship for a couple of days and, as I said, I think of this as a research facility. I guess you could say that is my assumption. Sybil, maybe as a priestess you can see something here that suggests to you that this is a Temple."

Sybil shook her head, "I've seen very little of this ship and so far I've seen nothing that contradicts your idea that this spaceship serves as a research facility, but I'm curious as to why you came here if you are not a researcher."

They had walked perhaps a quarter of the way along the curved corridor. Along the way they had passed several other hallways branching off towards the outer rim of the ship and many sealed hatches on the wall towards the interior part of the ship. Now Megan pulled open one of the doors and asked, "What do you make of this?"


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