The rain began before sundown, but had not let up at all. It had also done nothing to dampen Abe’s desire to again look upon the Adonai. His obsession increased almost hourly. The unanswerable questions of how he had become blind, and how he had still seen inside the Adonai while blind further fed his quest for knowledge about the nature of the Adonai.
The rain seemed to intensify each time they were about to move. It was raining harder as they got in the car, then harder still as the car started down the road. As they went to get out of the car, the drops were falling so hard and fast that they could not see as far as the end of the alley.
This was Scarlett’s first trip to the building, but despite that and Abe’s unfamiliarity with the town, it still went rather smoothly. Abe thanked the concealing nature of the heavy rain.
Two days as a blind person was all it took to begin heightening Abe’s remaining senses, but he had not yet become adept to the point he could get back to the Adonai completely on his own. He opened the car door and stepped out into the pouring rain.
Ten minutes later, they were both drenched, but inside the basement getting set up. Abe stared in the direction of the Adonai, positive that it would work, but unsure how long it would take. His mind began wandering back to the thoughts he had been having since his last experience.
Had what he seen been not only a different place, but also a different time? Was it an event that had happened before or something that was yet to come? Was it even on earth? Along with the thoughts came the memories of the Zahir story between the savior’s persecution, death and resurrection. What had those hours and days between death and finding out it had not been death after all been like? His thoughts had become so intense he failed to realize that he was viewing the days and not just thinking of them.
He had skipped the cleansing wash and gone straight to the hallucination. But this was no hallucination. Waves of joy crashed over Abe as he witnessed what the followers and parents of the savior did through their wait. The euphoric feelings associated with the event affected his heightened senses so much that it was only after ten minutes that he realized he could see. For another ten minutes he allowed the Adonai to go about where ever it wanted, drinking in the beauty and joy of communing with the device. The device that had healed his blindness, at least temporarily and Abe did not mind if it was only temporary. Just being able to experience the Adonai made it all worthwhile.
Soon Abe did decide it was time to do some exploring, and first of all, he had to know the chronology of it all. He zoomed away from the scene and pulled into what would be a low aerial shot of the scene. Not recognizing any of the landmasses, he continued further out from the scene. Unfamiliar landmasses and even more unfamiliar oceans filled his view. This landmass was an altogether unfamiliar continent. It did not match any known shots of Gondwanaland or Pangea either. This was a view from a wholly different planet, not of earth at all. Perhaps each inhabited planet had their own salvation experiences, not just the one.
Being this far out, he continued to pull out. It mimicked the ride of a rocket headed toward the moon. Seeing the moons and planets neighboring this world further cemented Abe’s opinion that this was not earth. But then, he saw a spark. A twinkle near the horizon of the solar system, almost imperceptible, but a twinkle nonetheless. Anxiously, he began to zoom in on the blip.
The distance was great between the ship and the planet. They were certainly not headed toward one another. Time had again become a blur, an inconsequential blur that meant nothing to Abe as he tiptoed through the stars of a strange new solar system. By this time, he had become adept at navigating that he could head in one direction, yet look in another, so he took the opportunity to look up, down, around and behind the planet and the ship.
While he had no experience in identifying the Milky Way from outside the galaxy, he did think he had seen it. From this vantage it looked small, it was definitely too far to try to pick out earth, or even the sun, but there was something comforting about knowing where he was from in the vastness he found himself.
Soon the ship began to loom larger in his field of vision. It was closer, almost close enough to make out its shape. With a start, Abe recognized it. A veritable needle in the haystack, but Abe had located the Danegeld.
Speeding towards the ship his pulse quickened along with his excitement, in mere moments he was inside the familiar surroundings he had studied for so long. It took less time to check each room, but surprisingly there was no sign of Allman. The ship was deserted. Then he remembered the symbol.
Orienting himself to what he remembered of the wiring diagram was difficult, but Abe started in the control room and ran his hands along the wall imagining the lines in his head. The wall had a feel to it, not like an actual wall, but like the echo of a wall nearly there, yet not. He held one side of the wall and reached around a door into the next room. When his hands were at the same point on opposite sides of the wall he slipped into the next room and continued running his hand down the wall.
The echo made a sound as he neared the floor. He moved his hand back; there was an almost imperceptible gap in the panels making up the wall. How could he perceive something that was not there anyway? Thoughts spun through his mind faster than he could slide through the panel with his ephemeral body. Distracted, he glanced at his legs. When had he gained this form?
His head felt like it hit something, so he looked up. It was a foot. He scrambled up parallel with Allman, his ephemeral self somehow able to co-exist with the wires, though the same odd echo feeling emanated through him where they would have been. He could clearly see Allman’s Adonai so he positioned himself opposite and stared until he could see through the Adonai and make out Allman’s face.
Allman blinked. The world he had been exploring had been replaced with a head. A head with a faintly familiar look to it, he blinked again. This time shutting his eyes tightly before opening, he would have shaken his head but he did not want to risk losing the Adonai.
The face remained. In fact, a hand reached in front of the face, then through the Adonai. It kept coming, slowly. Allman blinked again. The hand was not inside the tight globe, it was between the Adonai and his face. It touched his nose as a startled Allman involuntarily jerked his head backwards. Not a good idea in the tight quarters, pain emanated from where his head hit the bulkhead, but the hand remained. The Adonai disappeared as he moved out of position but the hand remained. Then it was gone.
Scarlett’s image took up the whole of his field of vision.
“Do you hear me, it is time to go! The sun is out, the rain is slacking off and if we don’t go now we will be seen.” All the equipment except the stool he sat on had been gathered and packed.
It felt like the hot water had run out in the middle of a shower or like Abe had been dosed with a bucket of ice-cold water. The extra-sensory memories still pricked Abe’s mind. Tingling he began to pack the stool. “It worked,” was all the sentence he could find to tell her. There was no doubt in his mind that he would be back. With or without help, he would return. No high on earth, no pleasure was greater, and nothing could keep him from returning to the unfounded joys that were found inside the Adonai.
The room below Speil bustled with its usual level of activity. The holistic engineers and various technicians went about their business as if nothing was wrong. To them, nothing was. Watching them through the window in his office, Speil’s mind was racing as fast as his heartbeat that kept pace with the movements below. It was full on panic time. Not just any man had failed to show up for work today, but the N.E. Mann had gone off the reservation.
Mann had not returned yesterday. Four different ways of contacting the man and he responded to none of them, it was almost as if he had fallen off the face of the planet. It was too early for that. But it was too critical for Speil to trust just anyone to handle it. He turned from the window and sat back down at his desk. It was crunch time; the mission was scheduled to begin tomorrow. It could be delayed a week, but that was it. The precarious funding would evaporate without a tight window of accomplishments. One last look at the computer and Speil was headed down the hall.
His first objective was in a long forgotten part of the old facility. Through Kagami’s old office. It had almost been boarded up, but Speil had convinced the powers that be of the importance of the spot as an oracle to the muse of innovation. It sounded better than just somewhere he liked to go to think, and kept him from revealing the hidden lab. The most secretive portions of the Danegeld had been developed here. In fact, one-half of the Danegeld itself was a replica of this lab.
The halls became quieter the further he traveled down them. There was only an unused door at the end of the hall leading to the mothballed part of the building, but no one else ever used it. As he approached it, he heard a click from the knob. A bit odd, but no more odd then stopping to take a deep breath before opening the door which he now did. The hallway beyond was dark and had the over-hushed aura of an abandoned library. As he entered, his pace slowed out of reverence. The door closed behind him. No click.
Padded footfalls stirred dust. The hall was so quiet that he could hear the dust as it fell back to the floor. Eerily quiet, he stopped in front of Kagami’s old office door. It was cracked open and a light shined within. This time he held his breath before pushing the door open.
Behind the desk sat a man. He was wizened and very old, bald with small tufts of white hair over each ear. Ears that were long and wrinkled; age spots abounded on him like the freckles on a true red head. His back was to the door, because he was staring at a picture on the wall. The ceremony before the launching of Allman jumped out as the one he must be intently gazing upon.
Without turning to recognize Speil was there, the man spoke, “I was there, you know. It was a sight for all eternity. Security was as tight as if the President was there. That was before Secret Service showed up. You couldn’t break wind without permission, and yet…” He stood; he had the vigor of someone half his age. “There!” He pointed at someone in the back row. Tapping the picture he finished, “I’ll have to tell you that one sometime.
“I believe you have a problem,” the old man turned around. “You have come to the right place. It’s in here.” He pointed to the hidden door.
It was difficult to tell beneath the wrinkles and age, but Speil saw something that made him ask, “Dr. Rotcod?”
Otto turned back from looking at the door, “Yes? But there is no time now. I’ll get it turned back on, you bring some DNA. We used a needle to prick his finger. Blood is best, but hair works, mucus, skin cells. Whatever you can find. Bring some of Mann back here and we’ll have him ready to go in 6 days.”
“What about…” Speil started to ask, but stopped. Otto’s slight eyebrow lowering sent an undeniable message—just get it.
“I think she got to him,” he said as he looked back at the picture one more time, “Maybe both of them.” Without looking, he waved Speil toward the door and moved around to go through the hidden door to the lab.
Speil glanced at the picture, could not see what he meant, and left. His heartbeat had picked up again. The questions in his mind were coming fast and furious, too. There was no reverent stepping through the hallway this time. When he reached the door, his pace was just short of a full run. There was no time to waste now.
Mann had not spent much time at the creamery. Just long enough to get a handmade cookies and cream sugar cone and leave. There were no ice cream cones where he was going. Tunnel vision continued to affect Neil. He crossed the street headed to a park oblivious to the cars speeding down the street as he passed. The lack of peripheral vision did not bother him, nor did his aimless wandering, yet as he reached the far sidewalk, he noticed her at the bench in the back of the park. Kids ran through his line of sight, playing on the playground toys. He was vaguely aware of their parents and siblings just beyond the blur that was the limits of his sight. But she sat still, with both arms outstretched on the top of the park bench. The green slats contrasted her red dress. Her eyes were locked on to his gaze, and he to hers, but not so much that he could not notice, the colors reminded him of Christmas. The forgotten ice cream cone fell from his hands. He had met her.
For his part, Abe felt like he was in love. The next day he followed Scarlett around like a lost puppy. The miracle of regaining his sight was minor compared to the joy he felt in her presence. Neither was tired despite having gotten no sleep the night before. They threw the gear in the car and walked off. Hand in hand, they walked down the street without a clue as to where they were going. Only a few homeless waifs witnessed their embarkation. It was hours later before Abe decided they must take the car back home.
By that time, they had had the walking tour of the downtown area of Buenos Aires. Gone were the heady days of glorious buildings that Jorge and Carlos had known. A grubby, industrial strength sterility had been planted instead, and that had been abandoned in place. Only now were select buildings being redeveloped in an attempt to revitalize the area. The plan for the former Daneri house was but one of many. One that Abe had become determined to stop. The power and the joy of the Adonai could not be destroyed or eliminated.
They returned home but it was only shortly before the sun began to set that a haggard Faith slipped in. Abe and Scarlett were seated on the couch, but she hardly noticed them as she dropped her bags and shuffled towards the bedroom. She dropped all but the paper she had been clutching for two solid days.
“Faith!” Abe called out.
She stopped shuffling and turned towards him, “I think I know where to look. Did you know there’s more than one?” Her eyelids were half closed and she spoke as if in a trance.
He walked over to her and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Are you alright? You look like you’ve been beaten up.”
“Yeah,” she shrugged off his hand, “I’m fine. When I get some sleep, I have to go. All I have to do is find one; I can find the rest with it.” She shuffled into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed without closing the door or changing clothes.
Outside Mann’s house, a dejected Speil stood staring at the house. A man with an intellect as large as a house, yet he could not get into this one. All the doors were locked and dead bolted, the windows were also locked. Even if he could get one of them open, the burglar bars would effectively keep him out. Speil had helped create a method to travel across hundreds of thousands of miles almost instantly, yet right now he could not move the three feet that separated him from the inside of the house.
There had to be another way. If only he could figure it out. Speil walked through the front yard. Mann had bought this house after his selection for the program. It was a mid-sized house, but on a huge lot with lots of trees and privacy from the neighbors. It was set back from the street, but more importantly, none of the neighbors’ houses were visible except from the street.
Speil’s analytical mind began to click. Returning to the back yard his eyes scanned the back of the house. All he needed was a sample of DNA, and if he looked hard enough, he could find a veritable mother lode of that and other stuff outside the house. He slid his hand along the wall of the house but not to feel for anything, rather he was looking at the grass for any indentation or depression.
After walking the entire back perimeter of the house, he spotted it. Right next to where he had started, on the side of the house—the septic tank. Speil would need to return with a shovel, but he had found his sample.
“Seven? You found seven?” Abe asked Faith over the table. The two were sipping coffee quietly while Scarlett slept on the couch.
A smiling Faith smiled bigger, “Yes and there’s no point in messing around. I have enough for the particle transport rides to get me there.”
“But that many rides could be dangerous, can’t it?” Reports had been increasing about riders of the particle system who had simply disappeared. There was no pattern to the disappearances. Some were long time riders, others were first timers, and the most disturbing fact was that it had been happening since the system came on line, but it was only with a few ill-timed celebrity disappearances that brought the issue forward.
Once the reports came out, there was a large-scale demand for back records. Almost as scandalous as the disappearance of passengers was the revelation that in defiance of the DeLyon decrees, what records had been kept were not digitized. And what should have been an easy to complete digitization project had been stymied by the fact that the logs predominantly consisted of hand-written sign in logs with no record of where the travelers went. The older records were easier to review because cross-referencing the receiving stations with the departing stations became more difficult as the stations increased in numbers.
The system was nearly scrapped entirely when it was revealed that the first disappearance had been Neil E. Mann himself. Literally, any man could end up just not showing up at the far end. The only thing that saved the system were the facts that it was so widespread and it made travel so much easier. Some businesses and governments worked out contracts where they got reduced fares until they were economically the only way to travel. Research projects in some outlying areas relied heavily on the system. The casual traveler to Uranus stopped, but the system was still widely used. The informed travelers just thought twice about it. The paranoid travelers shunned it.
“Are you forgetting how we got to Argentina?” Faith gave him a stern look over her coffee cup.
He swallowed hard before speaking, “No. I haven’t, but when you dance with the devil once it doesn’t mean you have to do an encore.” Taking a sip of his own coffee, Abe turned his gaze over to the couch where Scarlett lay sleeping peacefully. Clearly, Faith would not be turned away. She meant to do this, despite all his warnings and pleadings.
“I’ll keep in touch. You’ll know when I get there and what I find.” She stood and walked to the sink with her cup.