The Legend of Lu: Armageddon

VI

Vale of Tears

Marie’s hand remained in Dan’s for the short trip to the edge of Metro City in the railcar, which they made after having their dinner at the pizzeria and performing the necessary duties of dishwashing and garbage disposal. Late was the hour, and the City lights did not have such the effect they had further in toward the capital where the Dome buildings were located, such that from Marie and Dan’s railcar window they saw, save for a street lamp here and a lamp burning in some office building there, a pitch black beyond, and beyond that a silver moonlight sheen on the desert floor toward the mountain range still further beyond.  

“We’re coming to the end of the line, Marie,” Dan said solemnly. “We’ll have to foot it from here.” And both exiting the railcar, they made their way out onto the platform, which shone and reflected the midnight moon, and dim blue lamps about, and down onto the ground level to the sidewalk stretching toward the edge of the city limits. 

Their walk through the industrial parks was short, but laborious. Pungent fumes from factory exhaust choked them, and made their eyes water. Bits of glass, plastic chips and so much various debris cracked and crunched beneath their shoes, that it was rather like walking on a gravel road than a sidewalk. And, whereas the evening air so enjoyed by Dan just a few hours before, and a few miles in, was cool and refreshing, this industrial air was stiflingly muggy hot.

“Lovely night, dear,” Dan said, “Lovely night for a stroll through hell!” Marie didn’t respond at first, but just sighed, as if she was holding something back. “Okay, now what? What did I say?”

“Nothing Dan. It’s just, you’ll think this place Heaven on Earth after the Guides show you what Hell on Earth will be like,” said Marie, desperately grave. 

“I see, now, and I suppose, then, you’ve seen this? From the Guides?”

“No, not from the Guides. From the Lights themselves, before we crossed. I still can’t figure how you don’t remember a shred of our life in Aerlan. The majestic falls, Iceberg Peak, where we had our wedding! Crystal Falls Palace! Do you remember? The light, oh the light! Ah, what a night,” Marie went on dreamily, “How the clouds whipped up like foaming waves that threatened to crash against the high Palace walls, but then dispersed in a burst of a thousand rays of light diffused.”

“Sounds, nice, Marie. But I have no memory of all that. What did you mean by the Lights themselves?” Dan was intently listening, walking beside Marie the while. 

“The Guides were written by the Lights. The Lights in Aerlan appear more real to you than here, though not as real as they are. I received my orders directly from them, as did you, with visions to guide me on our mission. Hell on Earth was one such,” Marie said, obviously wanting to discontinue the horrid topic of conversation.

“Visions, you say? Well, when I was knocked out on the side of that mountain,” here Dan gestured in the direction they were walking, “I had something more than a dream but less than a waking moment. Is that a kind of vision, you suppose?” 

“Could be. Go on,” Marie said.

“Well, the dream, or vision, or whatever it was, was long, and full of details, but the general idea was that the Dome was trying to convince me of a falsehood, and that you had led me to a mountain cave, where I met these talking lights, and then I met my father––who, get this, was Goodman himself, the High and Good!––and he told me that there was a harvest or something, and that I had to help bring in the sheaves before they too were burnt in unquenchable fire. After that––and here it got weird––I descended from the mountain to find a sixty-year-older you and Metro City. You were running an antique shop, and by night a counter-intelligence operation and mission control center for my father’s ship! You, or rather your eighty-year-old self, said we had to try to get all who would go aboard before it was too late. Ridiculous, isn’t it,” Dan said with a self-critical chuckle. 

“No, I’d say it is accurate. Fairly accurate actually, if you know how to decipher the images. Those ideas which would have been crystalline to your mind in Aerlan are here distorted by incredulity and human imagination,” Marie said in perfect sobriety.   

“You mean to tell me I am a son of Goodman? Don’t be ridiculous,” Dan said with a snort. 

“Yes, and I am his daughter. You don’t know your history very well, or else you’ve forgotten that, too. When Goodman flew from this land to escape the flood of water, he took all his own kindred. No one else survived the deluge. So, in point of stark fact, you are a son of Goodman, insofar as you are a member of the race of men, which you are. There are no other talking animal species,” Marie replied.

“Okay, well, that explains my father. What about this business about time? What is this eighty-year-old Marie stuff I dreamt up, fixing me tea?”

“That is the truest part about it all, Danny,” said Marie, and something in the way she articulated his name, made Dan shoot up his eyes at her, as if a spark had enkindled a memory. 

“Why did you call me, Danny?” Dan asked.

“Because that is what I’ve always called you, dear,” Marie said warmly. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s just that, that’s what you kept calling me in my dream.”

“The part about me being eighty and calling you Danny is not a part of the vision. That was a part of your deep memory untouched by crossing over into this world from Aerlan. You see, Dan, I am eighty-years-old, though I know I don’t look it,” she said, completely calm.

“Oh, now I know this is a dream or you’re a figment of my warped imagination! Eighty, Marie. Don’t be such a…”

“I am! And you’re not much younger, kiddo. Pushing seventy-five, if memory serves,” she said very annoyed now at Dan’s incredulity. 

“But I haven’t jumped through any wormholes, and, so far as I know, neither have you!” Dan shot back, trying to justify himself.

“Don’t be such a dweeb. Wormholes? That’s ridiculous! That’s like saying one could get to tomorrow by walking through the backdoor. It’s absurd,” Marie said, snorting a little herself.

“I’d never thought about that,” Dan said.

“I’m sure the wormhole and time travel business was just your imagination trying to account for a memory you had that your reason couldn’t explain,” Marie said. As they continued to talk, they walked steadily on toward the edge of Metro City, as the lamps decreased in frequency, the streets and side alleys became ominously darker. Marie, who was walking just beside Dan, asked for a hand, which Dan gave her. 

“Okay, that makes sense. But eighty? Me seventy-five? Explain that, if you can!” Dan replied, holding her hand firmly if not affectionately.  

“In Aerlan, unlike here, there is not what has commonly been called gravity. Well, I should say there is not as much, though what is called gravity is not a quantity. So I really should say as strong…

“Oh, do go on, Marie! Just the facts, not the theory, too,” Dan interrupted.

“Well, the fact is you are seventy-five and I am eighty, because our bodies endure better in Aerlan than here, okay?” Marie said, and went into a kind of goodnatured sulk, from which she presently came out of when Dan gripped her hand very tightly, and turned her toward an alley just off the sidewalk. “What are you doing, Dan?”

“Shhh. I saw a form in front of us, not far from the avenue’s end. I think someone’s waiting for us,” Dan said, and hiding his body behind a building, he slowly peeked around the corner with his head, and tried to observe any more movement. The light having nearly vanished, but for a single lamp burning dark blue in the midnight air. 

“Don’t worry, Dan. At least I didn’t forget my training. Let us go on. Unless they have blasters, I can handle them,” Dan thought about scoffing, but then remembered his dream-vision he had about Marie twirling around like a ballerina and annihilating a glider. That, and he also remembered the guards in critical condition.

“Wait, what training,” Dan asked, as Marie, still holding his hand, pulled him out onto the sidewalk again. 

“You didn’t think the Lights would send us on this mission without proper preparation, did you?”

“No, I guess not. So how are you prepared?” Before she had time to answer, two dark and sinister forms came out from the shadows of a building. As Marie and Dan approached, the forms filled in with details by the dark blue hazy light of the last lamp of the city. “Commander Rutherford!” Dan shouted under his breath, “And Johnny! I knew he was following me! I should have stopped and confronted him!” 

As they approached, their forms become visible to the Dome official and John smith, and one gravelly voice rang out and echoed down the empty street, “Where are you taking our star pupil, Jara?”    

“Quiet, now, Dan. Leave everything up to me,” Marie said and the two walked up toward the Dome official and John Smith. “Where’s your troop of reinforcements, Commander?” Marie said, still holding Dan’s hand, and standing about twenty feet from the commander and Smith. Dan noticed a bandage on the commander’s temple where he had planted a steel chair leg earlier that day. “Not like you to come unprepared,” Marie said.

“I think our boy will come quietly, very quietly indeed, Jara. 

“Your boy’s not the difficulty. It’s your girl,” Marie said, confident and strong. 

“Oh, I think she’s well in hand, too,” said the commander, and motioned Johnny to walk toward her, as if to apprehend her. 

“Stand back, fool. Your boss knows what I’m capable of. You don’t,” Marie said, looking dire into Johnny’s eyes, which could not really be seen, though Dan did see a grin, sickening to see, like the smile a nasty child wears when torturing a small, defenseless creature. 

“I’m no fool,” and pulled out a small, metallic black light blaster, with little illuminated lights on the side, blinking in red, blue and yellow at different rhythms and intensities. After a second wielding it, Johnny pressed something on the gun, which made a power-up charging hum, and pointed the dread thing directly at Marie. 

Before Dan knew it, Marie released his hand, and seemingly flew through the air, having leapt like a leopard with such quickness. With one leg and foot outstretched she kicked the blaster right out of Johnny’s hand, and with the other foot, twisting her torso violently fast, kicking him in the chin so hard his head flew back to his back. All Dan heard was a crack and a snap, and Marie landing on her feet, and Johnny’s body falling on the pavement, dead. 

Before she could turn on the commander to face him, Dan saw a flash of light from behind Marie, and then her face fill with pain as she looked on Dan. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep that promise, Dan,” as a flaming hole was seen forming at her stomach, slowly forming a burnt circle ever widening, until all her body was consumed in light, and vanished, revealing a snickering commander holding a light blaster standing directly behind where she had been. 

“No! My Marie! No!” Dan shouted running toward where she’d been just a moment before.

“She’s gone, boy. Now, it’s time we had our chat,” said the commander, in a cold, ruthless tone. Just as a sharp and sudden joy can bring distant memories of fond childhood to life, so too bitter pain can bring its kind. Dan’s grief had brought to memory not so much in his mind but his heart and body, the love, now gone, he once had in Aerlan, as well as the power he also wielded. With one fell fall he descended onto the commander like an avalanche, and broke his neck, back, and skull in the crash. 

Dan looked up from his ruined enemy, bleeding on the pavement. Johnny’s body lay lifeless a way off. Marie was gone, and the sight increased that which unmitigated power and rage had dampened temporarily, and Dan fell to his knees and sobbed. Presently, sounds of sirens were heard in the not so distant streets behind, and Dan, with what power he could now muster, lifted himself from his grief and fled out into the desert night, wiping the pain from his eyes. 

To Dan’s surprise, the night was not so dark. Whether it was because the moonlight or some awakened faculty of keener sight, Dan could make out all form and order of the terrain, even down to the pebbles on the desert floor. And, though his heart was heavy laden with grief, his feet were swiftly sweeping across the ground light and quick. Dan took advantage of his indefatigable and vigorous state, and proceeded toward the mountain cave in an accelerated pace.  

Again, to Dan’s astonishment, as he began to jog along, he could no longer feel his feet hitting the floor every time he stepped, but more like every three or four strides. His astonishment changed to utter disbelief when he could see he would rise several feet higher, then fall lower to the ground, with every stride taken. “Was this what it was like on Aerlan?” Dan had the inspiration, or physical recollection, to ask himself. Finally, disbelief gave way to faith as Dan threw caution and care to the wind and dashed off into a full sprint, which, in his current state of forgetfulness, may not have been advisable. After all, one need know how to land before taking flight. 

And fly he did. Not an earthly, heavy kind of flight, like with jet engines, metal wings or rocket boosters. Dan’s flight was free, like the way pollen floats free and lazily in a summer breeze, then, at an updraft is swept up into loftier currents. Just so was Dan now, skimming freely the low hanging clouds tipped by silver moonlight like a speed boat across a lake. Now, like a runway from these, taking off onto higher and higher nimbi.

Presently Dan looked down from his stratospheric  height, and lessened his speed as he did so. He could see the mountain range where he knew the Guides were, now directly below him, below several layers of clouds, as though he were looking down at a lobby floor of a high hotel stairwell, with flights of stairs intervening. The sight was dizzying to Dan, but not near so much as the feeling that befell him next. 

Falling! Dan fell with a quickness that nearly equaled the speed of his sprint, falling through floor after floor, layer after layer of moonlit cloud. As he fell, Dan looked out over the pale desert floor to see far off a glittering Metro City all alight with artificiality. To his eye, it was rising as he fell. Seeing Metro City so, he remembered Marie, the Dome, and his pain, and he half hoped his landing would be his last. 

It turned out it wasn’t his first flight, nor his last landing, and Dan, coming down like a meteorite, crashed into the earth, creating a large crater three times his own diameter, and such an explosion of noise, a small desert rodent a mile away popped its head out of a hole to investigate it.

Dan lay in the bottom of the crater, smoking from the friction caused by the crash, his white uniform and shoes clean incinerated off his body. The bandage that was on his head was burnt up, too, his head wound healed somehow, his naked body without so much as a scratch on it.


“I get it. I get it,” Dan said, speaking into the empty night air at the foot of the mountain to the cave. “I’m dreaming, right? Okay, okay. Time to wake now,” and pinched himself. To his great displeasure, the pinch felt like a crab locking onto his flesh with terrible pincers, and he presently released himself. “Well, if I ain’t dreaming, what gives! I fall, oh, I don’t know,” Dan said, looking up, “like 25,000 feet to the earth, make a crater, and burn my clothes off my back, but a pinch to the arm hurts? Wake up Dan! Wake up!”

“Only one who is asleep can wake. The living are awake. And thou, dear Daniel, art alive and awake,” came a voice sweet and melodious, yet strong like an earthquake. 

“What, who said that? Where, what?” Dan said, still standing naked in the crater. 

“Arise, my son, arise!” came the voice again, and Dan did as commanded, and crawled up out of the crater. When he got to his feet, he was standing before a beautiful woman, a veil hung down over her hair, which sparkled in gentle flecks like twinkling stars, her body shrouded in a robe of shimmering moonlit, bejeweled by the same starlight, which contrasted against her feet, unshod in noble humility. 

“Mmm, my Lady…”and kneeled low, to both shield his bare body, and show his respect. “I’m unworthy this visitation,” he said, his face nearly in the dust as he spoke. For he knew to whom he addressed himself: Tulu, Mother of the Light and Queen of the Stars.  

“It is because you think so that you are,” the Lady gently replied. “I say, arise, my son,” and as he complied with her gentle command, he felt the moonlight about his skin grow soft and tangible, as if a garment were being woven therefrom before his eyes. As he stood, where only light and pale skin were seen now a like material, shimmering on the Lady, adorned his body as well.  

“I have clothed thee in the raiment of the land whence thou hailed, that of Aerlan. A princeling thou wert thence. A princeling thou shalt be again. Thou hast come hither on a mission by me, though thou hast quite forgotten it. I have sons the same as thee, though they know it not. And daughters, too, like thy Marie, though they know it not,” said Tulu, and as she spoke the name, Dan teared up, and began to weep as she spoke, “This land will be destroyed in seven days time. ’Tis the day of the Sun. Sun’s day next my Son shall destroy this world to make way for another…” Tulu’s voice stopped and dropped low, and looking down on Dan, for she was taller than he by a whole hand, she spoke again, “Morn not now for Marie. She is well and awaits thee in my land. She sacrificed herself for thy mission, in the manner of my Son,” here fair Tulu’s voice quivered as she spoke, which had the force of a hurricane in it. “As a burnt offering to the Lord.

“My Lady! My grief is joy compared to thine,” Dan said, and wept bitterly for Her and Her son. “I shall not morn her in thy presence again.”

“Thy mission, Daniel: preach the coming wrath in the streets of the city, where no harm shall come to thee for six days, and on the seventh, come here to the cave of Mount Olé, and await my coming with my Son on the clouds,” spoke the Lady Tulu once more, and vanished from Dan’s sight with a flash of lightning and an echoing thunderclap over the desert floor.               

The Legend of Lu: Armageddon

VI

Co-Conspirators

When Dan became conscious again, he was sitting in a steel chair, not very comfortable, and surrounded by mirror images of himself stretching into infinity. He was dressed in a white uniform of the Academy, with a big bandage on his forehead, and scrapes on his face. The sight was the same wherever he turned, such that he started to become nauseous and had to close his eyes. The room was a cube of six glass mirrors, and save for a ceiling light and the chair Dan sat in, nothing else was in the room. 

After about a half hour sitting like this, eyes closed, nauseous, and racking his brains of all that he had been through, Dan was at a loss to explain his present state of affairs. He was thinking to himself how real it all was, the mountain cave, his father, the ship and Marie. And, though it still felt real to Dan’s memory, the memory of Marie on the mountain in bondage and beat up dashed all the previous recollections to pieces. He was now awake, and ready to face reality, whatever it was.

The truth was, Dan hadn’t a clue who his parents were, or why he was raised from memory out of mind in that ghostly white orphanage, that he wasn’t special in any remarkable way, and wouldn’t be called upon, so he believed, to be some captain of a spaceship or general in an army of rebels. True, he was more intelligent than average, which earned him a place at the Academy, but then again such wasn’t so prestigious as Johnny might imagine. Rather mundane now that Dan thought on it. In fact, Dan continued to reason, the world was rather mundane, without much to strike up even a spark of interest, let alone wonder. No wonder the Dome wanted to remake the world in its own image: the Dome had better and more interesting ideas, when a mere kid of sixteen could dream up more interesting things than what was experienced from day to day. Why, better to trash the old and bring in the new…

Just then a crack in the mirror opened up widely into a door frame and a tall, broad man, in an all black uniform, with sandy-grey hair combed back, holding a black cap with a double SS and I bar insignia, walked through. Dan’s heart began to audibly palpitate. 

“Goodman, I presume? Cadet Daniel Goodman?” said the man, in a gravelly voice. Dan was trying to suppress his anxiety. What should he say? “Yes, of course I am! We met only a day or two ago!” Dan thought, but then realized, or remembered, that was all a dream. Yet here stood before him a man exactly like the man he never met from his dream, from whom he fled for his life. “I say, your name is Daniel Goodman, correct?” inquired the man again, patiently, though with a note of a little irritation.

“Ya, yea, I mean yes, sir. My name is Cadet Daniel Goodman,” Dan responded, not a little shaky. The man stood directly in front of Dan who was seated still in the steel chair. 

“You are being detained here to answer some questions, that’s all. You are not in trouble. Do not worry. We have been tracking the movements of a dangerous intelligence agent of the enemy, one whose alias is Marie, though the Dome in Central City Command have known her by another name, Agent 546, codename, Jara. She’s been operating here for about a week or so, so we’ve been able to gather. Thank the Lights she’s in custody now,” the man said, but at the word “Lights” Dan’s eyes shot up and stared directly into the speaker’s eyes, which were seemingly avoiding his, since the man was looking all around the small, cubical room as he talked, without looking at Dan. “Jara, or Marie as she’s known to call herself around here, has been, oh, how shall we put it, unpersuaded by our form of persuasion thus far, and has not told us why she contacted you, or what she has already told you, or what she intended with you at all,” said the man, still aimlessly looking around the mirrored room, avoiding Dan.

Dan’s head was set to explode like a bomb but for the nick of time interruption at the cracking again of the mirrored room wall. 

“Sir?” said a man at the door. 

“Can’t you see I’m with the witness!” shot back Dan’s interrogator.

“Sir, it’s important. She’s gone,” said the voice, trembling. 

“Gone! You! She’s gone! A geeky little girl gone!” growled the man turning toward the door as if to leave, but looked back at Dan for a split second to say, “I’ll be right back,” and as he did so, Dan observed his eyes closely. Black as charcoal, then stepped out rapidly and closed the glass door behind him. 

“Rutherford!” Dan thought, “I’d know those eyes anywhere! But that’s impossible! I was dreaming! All of it was a dream!” Dan continued in this state of utter perplexity for well over ten minutes, turning over in his mind all the possible, reasonable causes for why this man straight out of his dream could be interrogating him now, just as he was in his dream. “Either I’m still dreaming or I never was,” reasoned Dan, though not very convinced of his own logic. 

Just then the man with the gravelly voice entered, observably agitated. “My apologies, Cadet Goodman, my apologies. It seems Agent 546 has disappeared. She’s managed to put three guards in critical condition, and has damaged or destroyed a considerable amount of Dome property in the process. I did say she was dangerous,” said the man, cold and matter-of-fact. 

As Dan was pondering these things, the man looked down now intently at Dan, his eyes now a shade or two unnaturally dark brown, but not black like before. Did Dan merely imagine they were black? 

“So, Goodman. Do you have any information for us? What was she doing with you? Where was she taking you? Do you know where her hideout is here in Metro City? We need answers, Dan, for the good of the Dome. Jara must be stopped!” said the man, who was still looking directly at Dan. “I’m not sure, sir. My head is still swimming from my own injury, and I am not sure I would make for a very helpful witness,” Dan said, not untruthfully. 

“Confound it all, man! I want answers! Where is your friend, Marie!” the man shouted down at Dan. Now Dan knew he had seen the true color of his eyes, for they were now again flaming charcoal black! Dan knew what he had to do, too. 

In one fell swift motion, Dan did several things  seemingly at once: as he bounded up on his toes, he swung the chair he’d been sitting back in round about his body and rammed the legs of it directly into the black eyed-man’s temple, sending him to the floor with a crash, then Dan swung the steel chair again behind him and let it fly into the mirror, shattering the whole wall into a hundred thousand shards of glass. Seizing his chance, he leaped over the ruin and sprinted through a much darker room to where a door was on the other side of the room. As he did so, he heard computer clicking and little lights blinking all around, and instruments of some kind aimed at where the wall had been only a second before. Passing through the door, he recognized where he was: the Academy! He was in some room he’d never been, in some section of the cubical building he didn’t even know existed. 

As he sprinted down one hall and up another, he tried to find a familiar part of the building from which to escape. Dan saw no more doors or windows as he ran, but blank, ugly grey walls with short ceilings but brightly lit to increase the stupefying effect of the colorlessness and lifelessness of the place. “What am I doing,” Dan thought to himself as he ran, “I just assaulted an official of the Dome and broke Academy property myself. Now I’m a criminal!” But these thoughts didn’t last long, as Dan now spotted around a grey corner, the familiar sights of the Academy lobby with the vaulted ceiling and all-glass facade. “No one knows who I am or where I am coming from,” Dan thought to himself, so he quickly slackened his pace to avoid suspicion, and casually turned the corner to make his way out of the Dome Academy cubical building. 

Doing so, he made his way straight up to the ten foot doors that led outside and to his freedom, when from behind he heard fast footfalls and shouts, “Stop him! Fugitive! Stop him!” Dan didn’t stop to turn around, but shot through the doors like a thunderbolt into a storm-laden sky and sheets of rain falling down. Looking about himself for a moment, he pondered his next move. Hearing a railcar overhead whiz past, he knew what he had to do. Sprinting into an alley to evade detection and capture, Dan then hunkered down to see which way his pursuers would try. After a minute or so he heard a guard say to another, “Did you see him? Which way now?” And the other, “No. I don’t know. Let’s double back. Maybe he stole into those apartments there.” 

Dan could rest at least for a second and catch his breath, then he was off to the closest railcar platform, and in search of a business directory to look up all the antique shops in Metro city.   

Riding along in the railcar Dan was scrolling through a directory he picked up at a platform kiosk, feeling uneasy to say the least. All his actions thus far rested on being taken in by a strange girl he really knew nothing about, who led him on a chase to a mountain to gather with fellow co-conspirators against the Dome, an organization with worldwide doctrinal and juridical dominion, only to be captured by officials of said organization, and, after being civilly treated, assault her hosts, smash out of her confinement, inspire him to do the same, and, once again, enter onto the chase. “Now,” Dan continued to think as he scrolled, “I’m suppose to know where she is based on a dream I had while getting knocked out following her! I must be mad or in love.”

“Wait! This is it! Bygone Years Boutique. The store front window, the long counter, everything! This is it!” Dan said aloud to himself, making a few passengers in the railcar with him look over. Dan took no notice. He was busy putting to memory the address of the shop, as Metro City flew by outside in streaks of light with trails of horizontal rain streaming along his railcar window. “Third to last stop on the West Red line. I have to make a switch next,” he thought to himself. 

Hearing the familiar chime for the platform stop ahead, Dan arose and headed down the aisle to exit, not turning to see the faces of any passengers. Had he, he would have noticed a very familiar face indeed, that of the young man, John Smith, a fellow resident of the orphanage, who arose with Dan, and exited just behind, though at a distance.

After depositing one of the electronic directories back in a kiosk, Dan made the switch onto the West Red Line, and had seated himself again in a railcar, and closed his eyes. The shop was several stops away, and he needed the rest from the stress of it all. The warm seat, coupled with the rhythms of rainfall and railcar whistling and chimes all conspired against Dan’s fortitude and vigilance, and he fell into a dreamless doze. 

Dan was awoken by a hand gently nudging him and a voice saying softly, “Young sir, sir, end of the line, sir.” Dan opened his eyes and looked up at a roundly featured elderly gentleman in a conductor’s uniform, standing beside him in the aisle. He looked at the window and saw he was in a foreign part of Metro City. 

“End of the line, sir?” Dan asked, rubbing sleepiness from his eyes.

“Why, yes sir, the end of the line, sir,” said the old man with a knowing gleam in his eye. As Dan arose to depart the empty railcar, he turned back at the sound of the conductor’s voice, “These aren’t the safest of parts of Metro, sir. Watch your back,” and then stepped out onto the wet platform, shining in the evening sunlight that started to gleam through a broken sky. 

Dan could see from his elevated position well over most of the buildings and the streets and sidewalks below, and into the distance toward the westward mountain range. As he walked along, it slowly dawned on him that he had clean forgotten the address to the boutique, his slumber supposedly wiping his short term memory clean of it. “No worries,” Dan thought, “I’ll consult another up here at one of these kiosks,” and proceeded there. As he did so, a strange, uneasy feeling came over him, deep from within, and terminating in tingling feelings all down the back of his neck. The sensation stirred him to stop and to turn his head quickly and look behind himself. Just an empty, slick platform, with a railcar speeding back down the East Red Line. “Nothing,” he said aloud. “Just some feeling brought on by that man’s warning, perhaps. Watch your back, yea, I will down there. Nothing to worry about up here,” and proceeded to walk in this confident vain across the platform.  

The air was a cool and comfortable and refreshing evening air, as was normal for rainstorms in the desert, not the hot and humid air of other climes. Dan was sauntering toward the kiosk, quite enjoying himself now and the lovely turn of weather, when his pace slowed to a stand still and stood motionless, staring like a frightened deer in headlights at the media monitors mounted to the wall of the information kiosk. Dan was looking straight at his own face being displayed on four different screens at once, with the following caption in big, bold red letters over a strip of yellow background.                  

Wanted for Reward: Cadet Daniel Goodman, Fugitive of Dome Authorities, Dangerous, Mentally Unsound, Use Cation.   

Dan tried to swallow but found he couldn’t. His eyes darted from the screens to anyone around. Luckily, no one was on the platform or around the kiosk to notice the public announcement or see him. He did not stop to grab a directory tablet. Now with a brisk pace, Dan made his way to the elevator to ground level, and, upon entering it, he looked out just at the last second to see Johnny’s face turn round the corner toward him.

“Johnny! What in the world is he doing clear out here, and at this hour of the evening?” Dan thought to himself, as the elevator made its decent, then stopped and opened its doors for him to exit out onto the city sidewalk. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw that the doors closed and the elevator returned up to the platform. “Johnny’s getting on the elevator!” Thinking now to himself that Johnny may be following him to turn him in for the reward, he quickened his pace down the street. “This won’t do,” he thought to himself, seeing he was in a main thoroughfare, with passersby and sidewalk traffic everywhere. The evening was busy bustling now at outdoor cafés, with people laughing and chatting over their drinks and meals. And, though no one seemed to notice Dan walking briskly by, he did not want to take any chances. Nor was he too keen on being seen by Johnny. 

He sharply turned down a side alley, not well-lit by the street lights. As he walked down the dark alley, steam emitted from just over head from a bright vent duct, which caught the warm glow of the lights behind. Passing under the vaporous discharge, Dan saw dumpsters lined up down either side of the increasingly narrow alley, and every now and again a clerk would carry out a load of garbage and hurled it into one with a thud and and a slam. Dan did not care for the startling noise, which made him jump after the first few times, and soon he became indifferent to the noise. His body was with his mind back in the past several hours trying to account for what was happening to him. Where was he going now? And how could he get there anyway with his face being broadcasted over all of Metro City! He was a fugitive with a bounty on his head.   

“Psst! Psst!” came a small mouse-like voice, which Dan didn’t even look up to notice who it was. 

“Beg from someone else. I’m as broke as you,” Dan said, still not looking in the direction of the call. 

“Jelly brains!” came the voice again. Dan’s head popped up and turned toward the familiar voice.

“Marie!” There she was, wrapped in a dingy white apron, holding a bag of garbage in front of her, and standing at the backdoor of some pizza parlor. 

“Get in here before the whole city sees you!” she commanded, and tossed the garbage into the dumpster with a thud, and motioned Dan to follow her into the building. She led Dan into the pizzeria’s backroom, where a little table and chairs were, along with shelving stocked with jars of banana peppers, artichokes, and other condiments, and big cans of tomato sauce piled one on top of another to the ceiling. Marie sat herself down at the little table with the checkered red and white tablecloth, and motioned Dan to do likewise. “Good thing I spotted you on my break,” Marie said, taking a sip of some dark soda from a transparent red cup.

Dan could hear sounds of kitchen work just beyond in the other room, and beyond that the sound of lobby music playing out over the din of diners eating and laughing and chatting. “Your break? What, you work here? I thought you were captured and just broke out, and put Academy guards in critical condition! Marie, my head hurts. I can’t keep up with all this. It is just overwhelming.” 

“I just swiped this gig tonight. You’ve heard of the night-hire programs, where businesses open their doors to the homeless for a meal for an hour or two of work, right? It’s how the city feeds them. It isn’t that hard to believe or understand Dan,” Marie said, and got up. 

“Wait, where are you going?” Dan asked, standing up, too. 

“Sit down, Dan. I thought you could use a drink, too. What’ll it be, Mountain Mist or a cold Cola?” Marie asked with a smile which eased Dan’s heart, though offered little to settle his mind. 

“What you’re having’s fine, thank you,” Dan said, and sat back down. As Dan sat there waiting for Marie’s return, thoughts about his dream came back, and he tried to make sense of the images and places and things. The antique shop, the light weapons, the spaceship, all of it, and these memories and images harshly clashed with the mundane, almost tired and homely surroundings he found himself presently reposing in. A pizza shop with greasy walls and a sticky floor. The clash would have made him chuckle but for the dread fact of the bounty on his head. 

“How long does it take to grab a fountain soda,” Dan said quietly to himself. Then, an uneasy feeling started to settle again on his head and heart. “Was Marie who she said she was? Or does she mean me harm, too?” Dan thought to himself, squirming a little in his chair. “Of all the places I could have been in the whole City, multiplied by all the moments, how could she have spotted me there in that alley, unless she knew I would be coming down it, and just at that time! This is ridiculous! She knows more than she…” Just then Marie returned with a fizzing soda in one hand and a sizzling hot pepperoni and cheese pizza, with yellow banana peppers in the other. 

“Signed you up for work, too, for dinner. Hope you don’t mind banana peppers. I love ‘em,” and put the pizza on the table and drink at Dan’s elbow. Dan didn’t notice.

“How did you know, Marie. Tell me. How?” Dan’s voice was grave and sincere, which made Marie sit down and look intently upon him. 

“I’ve always known you, Dan,” Marie said, with a soft light in her eye unmistakably affectionate. 

“What do you mean you’ve always known me? We’ve only known each other a few days.”

“You mean, you’ve only known me a few days, Dan. I knew you before I met you on that railcar that morning,” Marie said, and motioned to touch Dan’s hand, but he pulled it away. 

“Before then? How? I don’t remember you! Who are you anyway? And how do you know where I am at any moment? What’s going on, Marie!”

“When you cross over, Dan, you lose a part of yourself. It can’t be helped. That’s why it has been tradition to cross over in twos. This won’t be easy for you to understand or believe, but please, do try, dear,” Marie said, the sound of her voice, smooth and intimate.

“Understand or believe what, Marie?” 

“For starters, Dan, I’m your wife,” Marie said, with a note of sadness in her voice that pierced Dan’s heart. 

“My wife? What are you talking about! I’m a sixteen year old boy? I’m an orphan. Thanks to you, I’m a fugitive with a bounty! I’m no husband!” Dan said, starting to visibly shake and made motion to stand.

“Wait, Daniel. I have proof. You don’t believe me. How could you? Go to the Guides on the mountainside. They will explain me and our mission here. But our mission is more important than us and our marriage. You have world-crossing amnesia, a rather hard case, too. I retained enough knowledge of the Guides to revitalize my memory by them. I was taking you to them to do the same, and to gather with other operatives in the secret cave near there to receive further orders, but we were found and captured first.” Dan sat back down while Marie spoke, his shakes starting to subside. She went on, “When we first met, I said yes, not because you were handsome and charming, not because you were caring and warm, or strong and gentle at the same time. You were all these, yes, but mostly because you said you couldn’t see yourself growing old with anyone else,” Marie said, now with tears welling up in her powder blue eyes. Her beautifully dark, flowing hair was pent-up, imprisoned in a tightly wound knot, like her heart.

These words, along with the soft voice and earnest nature of Marie’s countenance and demeanor, began to have an effect on Dan, and, though his memory was silent on the matter, his heart seemed to answer Marie with tones as soft, I remember, I remember. 

“Okay. I will go to these Guides, and see if what you say is true. But promise me this,” Dan said, looking across the table into Marie’s eyes, “Promise me you won’t leave me alone again. Promise me,” and as he did so, Marie held out her hand as if to summon his, and he reached out to hers. 

“I won’t, Dan. I won’t,” and silently wept onto his hand.        

The Legend of Lu: Armageddon

IV

A World Tottering

“Marie, you’ll never guess who I just had a chat with,” Dan began to say as he sauntered out into the open. He was adjusting and ironing out his sleeves which had suffered a wrinkle through time spent on his excursion, as he looked up to see he was speaking to the empty air. “Marie! Marie! Oh, where is that girl. Marie!” Dan didn’t get a response.

He walked a little ways toward where he remembered she had sat and watched him enter the cave. Though it was nighttime, he could see very well indeed, even better than what he remembered he could just an hour or so before. “Well, Marie did say I’d be able to see better, didn’t she. This must be what she meant,” and thought nothing more on it. And looked for evidence of Marie’s departure, whether she went back down the mountain path or elsewhere, but couldn’t find any evidence. 

Dan decided the best thing was to go down the mountain and see if she was waiting for him there. “Probably got bored just sitting there on the rocky ground. Wanted to stretch her legs probably,” Dan said, musing to himself as he himself started down the path. As he did so, turning toward the desert floor and vista beyond, Dan stood still, spellbound by the sight. Below, just beyond the foothills of the mountain range lay sprawling out a vast and intricate network of city lights, reflected by low-lying clouds or plumes of factory fog. 

“Where am I!” Dan shouted out in amazement. “What in the world, where in the world is this!” Granted the ordeal Dan had just undergone was wondrous strange, nothing prepared him for what the consequences of that ordeal had been. Had he paid attention during science class, he would have known that there are consequences to stepping into wormholes. 

He continued down the mountainside, bewildered and perplexed by the city lights and commotion which now became increasingly more audible. The sounds of the familiar railcars, and fast moving lights were seen, though now they seemed to Dan to move even faster than before, twice as fast. He could hear the low rumbling sounds of factory machinery working away in the night, throbbing and thudding. As he descended lower down the mountain he even now saw people, or what he thought were people, walking all about this way and that. As he made it into the foot hills and then desert floor itself, though, he noticed that these were not people at all but robotic bodies resembling people. 

“What is this?” he said? A whole robotic population busily at work on night shift as a cleaning corps. Hundreds of robotic forms moved this way and that and, on closer inspection, were picking up debris and wiping, washing, and scrubbing down pavements, walls, and building windows. The outskirts of Metro City, if it was Metro City, had somehow grown out sprawled all over the desert floor in the space of an hour. “Impossible!” Dan uttered to himself. “Completely impossible.” What was, was possible, though, and Dan was faced with the fact of being in a strange new city without anyone to turn to. 

As he made his way down the sidewalk, he was met head-on every so often by cleaning-bots––as they were later known to him––which were very polite and courteous. 

“Good night, sir. Good night,” one said in high-pitched, chirpy tones. Another, “Pardon, please. Pardon,” as it wizzed in front of him and swept a spot of shattered glass bottle before he stepped on it, and wizzed away just as fast. Dan was walking down the side of the street dazed and dazzled by the city commotion and lights. The only thing stranger than all the activity was that it wasn’t human. No one living could be seen as far down the street as Dan’s eyes could see, which was a considerable distance, the street being flat and illuminated as it was. 

Dan kept walking without knowing exactly where he was going, when he felt a tingling in his left hand and looked down at it. The index finger was glowing at the tip! He tried to rub it away thinking it some inflammation or something, but the glow was not of blood flow but light. There was a device stuck just under the surface of his finger flesh. 

“What in the world! How did that get there!”

“I put it there, Danny,” said a feeble and brittle voice right beside him at an open door of a store front. “Quick, now, get in here before you get questioned for being out past curfew,” and motioned for Dan to come inside. Dan just stood there staring at the stranger in the doorway. An aged woman of about eighty-five, hunched over with a care-worn face and snow-white hair. 

“Who are you and how do you know my name?” questioned Dan worriedly. “I have never seen you before in my life!” 

“You always were a slow one, eh jellyfish!” said the strange, old woman, with a light in her eye unmistakably familiar and friendly. “Seriously, though, get in now before the police-bots roll down on their rounds,” and motioned again more urgently to enter, which Dan was helpless to disobey. 

Inside the store the room was very much more darkly lit than the outside. The glass storefront window did not let light of the city in. The only source of light which the room had was softly glowing lamps underneath intricately embroidered shades placed down along a long countertop that ran three-fourths the distance of the store’s space. By the sight of the counter and display shelving, Dan thought the place must have been an antiques boutique of some kind. 

The strange woman had walked to the back of the store as Dan entered, and was returning thence by way of a silvery smooth walking stick and something in her hand. 

“Here,” she said taking hold of his hand, “this will only sting a second,” then took the device she held in one hand and Dan’s hand in the other and brought the two together slowly, but not touching. To Dan’s displeasure to say the least and surprise the glowing light in his finger tip slowly emerged from his skin as a glowing needle-thin rod about a quarter-inch long, and finally shot out and stuck to the device the old woman held.

“That’ll do ya, now,” and set the device and bloody dropped needle on the counter. 

“What was that!” shouted Dan, holding his hand in his mouth. 

“That was a beacon I placed in your finger some sixty years ago,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“What are you talking about. I said I never met you in my life,” Dan said incredulous.

“Oh, Danny. Do sit, sit,” and motioning him to have a seat in the chair nearby, she sat herself in an adjacent chair. 

“No, thank you, ma’am. I’d rather you get on with it and tell me who you are, what that was in my finger, and how you know my name!” Dan said, standing firm and noticeably flushed. “And now before I’m out of here!” 

“And where will you go, I wonder? Things have changed since last you walked these city streets, my boy,” and chuckled to herself, and sipped something from a cup at her elbow. “Have changed a lot.” 

“Well, for starters you can at least tell me what is this city!” Dan said and sat down across from her, noticing the old lady would disclose nothing of what she knew until she was darn good and ready. 

“You see, my dear Danny boy, you are in Metro City, but not the Metro City you knew,” the woman said, and just then two what Dan presumed to be police-bots with red and blue lights and sirens flashing were seen and heard wizzing by down the avenue. 

“Another break-in, I guess,” she added in a dull, bored tone, as if this were a routine sight. “That’s why I carry this,” and she raised what Dan thought was her cane. “This’l teach them ruffians a thing or two,” and shook it a little as she said it and then leaned it back against her chair and took another sip of tea. “Oh, where are my manners? Would you like some tea, then?” and without waiting for a response she spontaneously arose as fast as geriatric can, she waddled toward the backroom. 

Dan didn’t try to stop her but took the time alone to look about the room again. Clippings of newspapers were strewn about the walls in decorative frames signaling their supposed importance. Dan looked at one such just above the tea table he sat at. The clipping was of a faded picture of a class portrait, and below it ran the caption: class of 4508, from bottom left…and listed names off of the persons in the photo. To Dan’s amazement, he recognized all of them. 

“Wait a second, class of 4508! That’s my graduating class!” Dan said aloud.

“Would have been, dear Danny boy, but you didn’t graduate,” said the woman coming back in with a cup of hot something. 

“Didn’t, but will the end of this year!” Dan retorted. 

“And what year do you think this is, anyway?” the woman asked, with a knowing look in her eye.

“Why it’s 4508, of course,” he said, not really believing what he was saying. 

“No, Danny, it’s not. It’s the year 4568. You’ve been away for sometime. I’d say welcome back home, but you and I both know this place ain’t home,” she said with a sagacious and knowing tone. “I’ve not been idle, though. Still recruiting, still keeping a low profile. This antiques shop was just the thing. Thought of it about twenty years ago or so. Before then, when I could get around better––you remember how well, Danny––I was in an out of other people’s places conducting operations. Now I do everything from here, and have such a network I don’t have to be far from my tea now,” the old woman continued. Dan at this point was thinking he must have fallen in with a lunatic who happened to think he was her grandson or something. Perhaps she called every young man she came across ‘Danny Boy’. He quite forgot the needle-thin device in his finger though. 

“Well, ma’am, that sounds all very well and good and delightful I’m sure,” he said as he slowly arose from his seat without trying his tea. “But I’m afraid I really ought to be going now, how late it is and all. Goodbye now, and don’t bother showing me out, I know the way,” and was heading for the door when the old woman arose smartly––if not a little feebly––from her seat and tea, and shot out:

“Cadet Daniel Goodman, you are the biggest nitwit in the world! Sit down and have a cup of tea with your old friend Marie!”           

“I don’t believe it!” replied Dan, turning around. 

“Well, believe it, young man!” Marie said, taking another sip of her tea. “Sit down. Have some tea.” Dan did as commanded, and after a few moments trying his tea and trying to pretend he hadn’t just undergone the most bewildering ordeal one could think of, and trying not to explode with nervousness, he finally broke the long silence of the shop. 

“How old are you, again?” Dan asked.

“A lady never reveals, Danny boy, never,” she said, and emptied the contents of her cup, got up, and headed back to the back room. After a moment, however, she poked her head out and said, “You coming, slowpoke?”

Dan arose quickly and met Marie in the back-room. At first sight, all was normal. There was what was expected to be seen, a few shelves with odds and ends of antiques, a book here, an electric lamp there, even a can opener. There was the kitchenette and coffee-tea sink, and kettle and stove. The room was no more than ten by eight feet. 

“What are we doing in here? It’s a little stuffy and crowded, don’t you think?” Dan asked, standing at the entryway, watching Marie waddle past the shelves and countertop toward the extreme end of the little closet of a room. 

Marie didn’t appear to hear him, for she was doing something toward the empty wall at the end of the room, with her back to Dan. 

“If you’re crowded, my dear, perhaps you might step into here,” and with that a mechanical sliding sound, and the wall disappeared into the roof of the backroom, and beyond the wall Dan could see a winding stairway leading down into a vast cavern-sized basement, with fifty-foot ceiling from the floor. Dan’s jaw, as was becoming habit as of late, dropped. “Plenty of space within,” she said over her shoulder, and motioned Dan to follow.

As Dan entered the space, his eyes were met with glowing monitors, keyboards, and circuitry of multicolored wires feeding in and out of ports in what appeared to be a command center of operations Marie had alluded to. 

“This is where I keep my eyes on those who keep their eyes on us,” she said, rather proud of the impressive sight of sophistication and technology. 

“Wow. What is all this? I mean, what do you do with it all?” Dan asked walking down the winding stairway after Marie, and coming onto the main deck of the command center. 

“The Dome has become more intense these past decades. Distortion of history, programed civil disorder and unrest, and the engineered stupefaction of the populations not being enough, the Dome, headed up by those in Central City, have intensified their presence and influence over the world through the Neighborhood Watch program, as they call it,” Marie said, sitting her self in a plush black leather computer chair at the helm of the command center.

“Neighborhood Watch program?” Dan asked. 

“I call it, Seek and Destroy program. Because that is all they are about. Seeking out resistance, and destroying it,” Marie said. 

“What do you mean?” Dan asked.

“After sowing the seeds of truth these past several decades, an uprising of truth-seekers started asking questions. Many started to band together, and meet in secret to study and learn the old ways and beliefs. This went on for some years undetected. But recently, the Dome–-or should I say, the Cube––has focused their efforts and energies to try and eradicate the resistance to their plan to destroy everything, and in the name of the ONE, blessed be HE forever,” Marie said, noticeably drained from the discourse, and relaxed more and more in the chair. 

“‘Cube’, the ‘ONE’? I’m afraid I don’t understand, Marie,” Dan said. 

“Not everything can be explained by words, Dan,” Marie said in sober tones. “Some things you must see to understand and believe.”

“I see. So what exactly do you do here, then, again?” Dan asked, rolling a seat up next to hers from an adjoining computer station. 

“This Neighborhood Watch program enlists members of the Academy––the one you used to attend––as spies in the anti-viceroy’s secret police force. The ‘secret’ part is where I come in. I try to figure out, through my own spying and researching, who are the members of this task force, and to report on my findings to my network of resistance fighters,” she said, trailing off on the last few words, as if nodding to sleep. 

“How exciting! Where exactly do I come in to all this though? I mean, not a few hours ago we were trying to escape these Dome officials. Now you own an antique shop that doubles as a counter-intelligence command center in an oversized basement. Do I have to stay here with you in this basement for the rest of my life?” Dan asked, but to no avail, for the elderly woman Marie had nodded herself to a perfect sleep. Dan did what any decent young man would do, and fetched a blanket from the backroom up the stairway, and wrapping it snug about her chin, he too turned in and slept the day’s extraordinary adventures off in a computer chair next to his old friend.

Dan awoke to the tea kettle whistling from above in the backroom. He looked around, Marie was gone, the blanket was on him, and sunlight was pouring in from above. The ceiling was all skylight: a great dome of glass letting in daylight down below. Marie was presently seen carrying a tray of something down the winding stair, rather unsteadily. Dan got up and lent a hand. 

“It is about time you arose and smelled the coffee, Danny,” she said, with a soft maternal smile. 

“I guess I was pretty tired,” he said, and Marie sat him down to a well-prepared breakfast. Eggs and buttered toast, strips of crispy bacon, a fruit cup, orange juice, milk and coffee, a whole pot of it, with sugar and cream. 

“How delightful, Marie! I’m famished,” Dan said, quite thankful. 

“I thought you would be. Growing boys always are,” Marie replied warmly. “Now eat up and when you’ve had your breakfast, just holler, and I’ll close shop for a bit and come down here so we can continue our gab about the end of the world,” and returned upstairs. 

After a pleasant and satisfactory meal, Dan pushed his roller chair away from the makeshift breakfast table at the computer station, and slowly sipped his coffee, wheeling around the floor of the massive room. All around him there were stations with screens and mechanical ticking, beeping and suchlike sights and sounds one would expect to hear at a NASA flight command center, not the basement of an antique shop. Dan noticed, though, for the first time a narrow metal door that led out of the command center. He got up from his chair and walked over to it, the material of which appeared to be like nothing Dan had ever seen. It was metallic black, but not metal by touch, but warm and almost soft. Dan noticed also, upon closer inspection, the very same rune-like script or drawing patterns that had been on what Marie called the Guides, all carved or formed into this door. 

“What is this,” Dan asked aloud in amazement and interest. 

“That, my dear young man,” said Marie walking down the stairs, “is the door to the armory.” Dan looked back at her in excited wonderment.

“Really? You keep weapons here?” he asked. 

“You can’t fight a war without weapons, kiddo,” she replied, and now walked up to where he was standing in front of the door. “You remember how I said you’d be able to see like me after your little adventure, don’t you,” she asked, looking at him intently.

“Yes, you said I’d be able to read the Guides in the dark,” he replied. 

“Right. Try now. Try to read them. Try to see them for what they really are, and see if you can make out their meaning,” she said. Dan looked back at the door to the armory. From the top down were parallel columns and within each were units of lines, some curved, some angular, which when viewed individually formed pictures in Dan’s mind or on the door, he couldn’t distinguish. Slowly, as he looked intently upon the strange characters, thoughts or images began to form, and Dan could understand quite clearly what they meant. To his mind’s ear, this is what he heard: “One who would wield great power ought to have greater mercy.” Dan was thoughtful for several moments before saying anything. 

“I don’t think I’m ready to go in there just yet?” Dan asked, his demeanor changed now from giddiness to gravity. 

“Yes, you are now,” Marie said, then spoke in a commanding though feeble voice, “Aperfor!” and then the door opened just like the door to the command center, and she motioned for Dan to enter. 

Marie walked in to the armory just behind Dan and sat herself in a roller chair off in the corner. Dan was pacing up and down the rows of shelving in the room. Shelf upon shelf six feet high, from floor to top full of various metallic shapes and sizes. 

“What are all these things?” Dan asked, in awe by the sight of all the hardware. 

“These are our tools, Daniel. Tools of war,” Marie responded gravely, and appeared to Dan to be very tired. 

“Are you needing a nap, Marie?” 

“I need more than a nap, Dan, but first I will tell you a little about what you are gawking at.” Dan intently listened, pulling a chair up next to her in the corner. 

“These weapons are ancient, Dan. But don’t let that fool you. They aren’t fragile like me. They were forged in the days when men and the world were first plunged into blood, smoke and ruin, before the cleansing of the earth with water by the Lights. The Lights forged these weapons for your father and kindred, to defend themselves and do combat against those seduced by the fallen ones, with the hopes that at least some could be saved if the opposition were overcome long enough.”

“You mean, like a search and rescue ops, or something?” Dan asked, interrupting Marie.

“Yes, Dan, something like that. Anyway, these weapons were stored aboard your father’s vessel at the time of his departure from earth, and have remained there for all these years.”

“Uh, I think it’s time for that nap, Marie,” Dan said. Marie just looked at him coldly.

“Alright, alright. So if you’re not nodding off, what do you mean by ‘remained there’ when they are right here?” Dan asked. 

“It means, Danny, that you are on your father’s ship now. You always had jellyfish for brains.” Dan shot up, then his knees wobbled beneath him, then sat back down. 

“My father’s ship? This is his ship? I thought it was a basement!” Dan said incredulous. 

“No, Dan, you’re on board your father’s ship. The basement’s the bridge, which I have made into my intelligence command center for the time being. The vessel is large, enough for life support, food, supplies and everything else for over ten thousand men. Hundreds of such vessels the Lights built in the time of the Cleansing, but alas, only one was needed. I’m afraid only one will be needed this time, too.” Marie said faintly.

“This time? What are you talking about?” Dan asked.

“You will understand in time. Now I think I will have that nap you spoke of. I want you to go upstairs and mind the store while I get a little shut eye,” Marie said, and closed her eyes soon after.             

After an afternoon of customers trickling in and out, seeking odds and ends of bygone years, one a microscope, another a computer laptop, a third a video game player, Dan was happy to close shop and return downstairs to the exciting world of weapons, spaceships, and flights into and out of danger. 

“Marie? Marie! Marie?!” Dan shouted, having returned back to the armory, but Marie had left her place from the chair and was nowhere to be seen. “Now where did she go?” and wandered back into the control room area. 

Taking a seat at one of the computer stations, Dan looked around and waited for Marie to return. The space now made a little more sense since Dan learned of what it was: a bridge for some vast vessel. “That might explain the sky-light windows,” Dan said aloud looking up, his back thrown back against the headrest of his chair. He thought he might try to find Marie. Knowing that she didn’t leave from the upstairs, he knew she must be on the ship somewhere. “‘Ten thousand men’!” Dan thought, “Why this ship must be bigger than the Cube Academy!” 

Looking about he noticed that doors where stationed all around in a large circle, the armory but one among many. He got up and walked to another adjacent the armory, about fifteen feet along the arc. The door bore the same script as the other, though with different characters. Dan found that he was able to decipher what it said after only a moment of study, “Seek rest while ye may,” and Dan instinctively thought this was the door.

“It must be a sleeping quarters deck, I’ll bet,” Dan said. “Now, how to open this door?” Dan thought to himself. “How did Marie do it? A word. What was it?” Dan stood there in front of the door and tried to recall what Marie had said. Then it came to him. He spoke in a commanding voice, “Aperfor!” and the door shot up and revealed a great length of dimly lit corridor, and stepped inside with the door closing behind him with a loud thud and a thousand echoes ringing down and up the corridor into his ears.  

The immense length of the corridor made Dan stagger, such that he had to walk slowly and with effort and assistance from leaning against the bulkheads as he went on into the dark, the path illuminated by little theater-styled lights in the floor. As he made his way, he wondered to himself what he was looking for, for Marie, of course, but was there more? An adventure perhaps? Or was he looking for answers to questions he had hardly half-guessed? Dan didn’t know the answers to these riddles in the dark, but he was determined to push through the dark and enigmas and find whatever he was looking for.

And so he did, for a solid ten minutes. Dan stumbled through the dark, noticing on each side open doors into compartments with furnishings for sleeping and living. Bunks protruding from bulkheads, tables attached to floors, and swivel chairs arranged around, fixed to the floor as well. Dan saw all these by means of yet more little floor lights flaming out their inconsequential blue fire onto the things of the living quarters. He must have passed past a hundred such compartments, through the corridor as straight as a railway, when he heard it. A low, indistinguishable sound of voices muffled by distance. “Men’s voices!” Dan thought with terror, for so far as Marie indicated, there were not any others than he and Marie in the vessel. 

Dan had the presence of mind to evade observation, and so imminent capture and perhaps even torture and death, by leaving the lengthy corridor, and hiding himself in one of the innumerable living quarters compartments. As he did so, he could hear not only men’s voices but the familiar sound of military boots, distinguished by their heavy footfalls and steel toes clunking along the corridor’s hollow floor. Dan’s heart began to keep time with the cadence of the search party’s marching, faster and faster, until he thought it would burst out his chest, and he would die there on the floor in his father’s spaceship.

As the men’s approach grew louder, Dan could start to make out the sounds of the voices. One, more deep than the others, shot out in broken tones, “Not here. Next!” Another, less deep and more strained, “Not here, either!” The first, “Keep looking! He’s in here!” Dan began to shake. Not so much because he was terrified, though he was, but rather because he was so mad at himself for not grabbing a weapon from the armory when he had the opportunity. Now he and Marie would be captured. “Wait, Marie!” he thought, “Surely she could handle them,” then a sick feeling came over him and he remembered Marie’s elderly state. He was remembering her as she was, young, beautiful and strong like a lioness. Now she was slouched by time and an aching, old body. “She’s probably captured or dead by now,” thought Dan, in despair. 

The voices grew louder still, and Dan now took cover beneath one of the bulkhead bunks, which provided a foot and a half of space between the bottom and the floor into which he could hide undetected, he hoped. Dan tried to calm his breathing, but this task grew increasingly more difficult, as his head began to throb with an unaccountable pain. Just about his forehead and upper region of his cranium, a dull, heavy pain emanated, which ran its course more and more and terminated in his jaw bones. He could start to taste the flavor of iron and moisture in his mouth. All the while Dan was undergoing this most strange change of bodily phenomena, he could hear the deep voiced man’s approach now, but a compartment or two away. 

“They’ll look in and see I’m not here, and move on,” he thought, giving himself courage. The pain and flavor grew more distinct, and Dan could even feel moisture at his mouth, which he tried to wipe away, but felt nothing. “Further up, almost there!” came the deep voice, now but a few feet away outside in the corridor. Another, the shrill voice, even more shrill shouted, “He’s here! Here!” and a multitude of sensations bombarded Dan at once. First, the pain in his head and jaw increased with such intensity he moaned out loud, quite unable to silence himself. The dark compartment he had been hiding in brightened with a blinding blast of light, which made him blink uncontrollably. The tight space he had been stowed away under vanished and a spacious and brilliant cloudless blue sky lay overhead. The voices remained, though less deep and high than a moment before, but sounded more natural, commonplace voices. Through his blinking, a bewildering picture was forming. A squad of men in Dome Academy uniforms was approaching. Dan lay still on the solid earth with a rock at his head, covered in sun-baked blood, his face caked with the same. His lips cracked from the heat, bled into his mouth, and the pain of his jaw was raw and intense. Coming to completely, he could see soldiers carrying along somebody in white, which contrasted against their black uniforms. With a faint, broken voice, Dan spoke, a feeble arm outstretched, “Marie!” and passed out again from exhaustion and pain.           

The Thirteen Strategies of Spiritual War

Let’s continue discussing our theme of how Sun Tzu’s Art of War may help us in the spiritual battle we fight today, a battle which is so often misunderstood and confused with temporal affairs. The battle of Armageddon is not of flesh and blood. That battle was fought by our dear Lord on the bloody Cross of Calvary, and which had its sequels in the great martyrs of the Church for hundreds of years following the Crucifixion. 

No, the battle we are called to today is nothing other than the spiritual crucifixion of the Mystical Body of Christ, to undergo the ignominy of the Cross before the world, not in our flesh like our Lord, but in our souls, like our Lady. Our Lord in His Body is being crucified anew by the world, and we who are His members must undergo that passion, too. 

Thus, the Thirteen Strategies of Spiritual Warfare apply in a particular way to our duty in life, to the conquering of our own wills, to the conquering of temptations by devils, but also to the spiritual war being waged on the world’s stage, by those who falsify Christ’s Church, by those who set up their own churches in place of the Catholic Church. But it must be understood from the outset, we must fight this like Christ fought in the flesh. We must submit to the Father’s will for the Church, which is the complete overshadowing of Her beauty and majesty and light. She is to be hidden for now. We cannot make Her more visible or official than what the Father has willed Her to be. We can not wage this spiritual war by setting up churches, or mass centers, or seminaries, pretending that God the Father has not willed that the sacerdotal office of the Church is to be crucified at this time. This we must accept as Christ accepted His precious flesh to be stripped from His bones, and His body to be nailed to a cross, and His precious Blood to be spilled out to the last drop. 

Practically, then, this means that we must accept persecution, not so much from the world, which has ever been wicked and persecuted Christians, but from even those who call themselves Catholic, but who fall short on account of heresy, schism or outright apostasy. We must lose all dignity, all self-respect, our wills, and all our own ideas of what the Church should be. 

With this in mind, then, let us continue with the next strategy.    

V: Timing and Creativity  

Everyone’s heard of Hannibal’s herd of elephants he brought over the Alps. It is hard to imagine a more creative enterprise of war. In the spiritual war, we, too, must think outside the box, in order to put our adversaries on the defensive instead of becoming defensive ourselves. 

In the Gospel, our Lord shows us many ways we may accomplish this element of surprise by creativity, for the creative genius is simply that which no one expects. For instance, when we are struck on one side of our face, we are called to turn and be struck on the other. Now, unless our adversary be the Devil himself, this tactic alone could win any skirmish we find ourselves in. The principle behind the tactic is humility––it is easy to kick the proud in the shins, but it is a little harder to kick a kneeling person in the shins.      

VI: Opportunism is a Virtue

Exploiting vulnerabilities in our adversary is key to gaining ground on the spiritual battle field. In exposing a false prophet, it is okay and meritorious to point to the bad fruit of his personal life or his character. Some may object that this is committing the classic fallacy argumentum ad hominem, but they are mistaken. Under certain conditions, attacking an adversary’s character is not fallacious, when the general discussion hinges upon the character of the individual himself.

So, when you see that Trad-star YouTubing it up, but can’t go three minutes without profanity coming out of his mouth, or if you know of a certain Sedevacantist bishop who insists upon making scatological allusions, one may point these out as a kind of evidence that diminishes the good reputation of the individual in question.    

VII: Avoidance of Direct Confrontation

The dangers of directly engaging our ultimate enemy—Satan and his devils—has already been underscored before in the first part of this piece which, if you, dear reader, have not read, I encourage you to do. But let me bring out this strategy toward our earthly enemies, those who fake discipleship of Christ. 

Not every conflict ought to be engaged in, because there are battles that we may lose, especially if we are outnumbered or unprepared to defend the truths on Faith and Morals or Church law. The enemy is quick and smart. Oftentimes we who have the truths of authentic Catholicism may become complacent, and enter into conflicts which we should have avoided. Pick your battles, and avoid those which you are not fully knowledgeable of, or can readily articulate arguments. An ill-formed word oftentimes does more harm than good for the cause.    

VIII: Variation of Tactics

We live apart but are connected. Very few of us have the opportunity to engage our neighbor on an in-person level, especially now that our masters have condemned us to house-arrest. But thankfully, there is the internet, where we have so many ways to be flexible in our attack.   

If you are savvy with pictures, you could find powerful images that tell a story or get a point across. There’s video, of course, and podcasts to get the message out. If one is a good researcher, disseminating truth bombs through social media channels is highly effective. Website presence is a plus, but also participating on other adversarial websites is good too, until you get blocked. The strategy here is just to vary it up, keeping your enemy guessing which way you will attack, instead of being predictable and so easily managed and controlled.   

IX: Reading Hearts, or at Least Intentions

Unless you are saint, you probably cannot read the hearts of others. This is a special gift of the Holy Ghost given to such great saints as St. John Vianney and St. Francis of Assisi, which enabled these saintly men to know the very thoughts of their fellow men. If you possess such a gift, then by all means use it according to God’s will to bring about good. But for most of us, reading the intentions is all that’s attainable. 

To do so, one need look no further than the exterior actions of the individual in question, to her manners, what she likes or dislikes, with whom she associates, and, most of all, what she says, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Profile the individual, creating a kind of military dossier on her, that you may refer back to when needed to reveal her to be a dangerous spy of the enemy when the time comes.     

X: Classification of the Terrain

Since this is a spiritual battlefield, terrain as such is not really applicable. So we will talk about forums, or places in which we engage the enemy. 

The first forum is in the Spirit. In praying for our enemies, in resisting temptations by devils through prayer and fasting, we are doing battle in the the forum of the Spirit. The advantage of doing battle here is that it is closest to God and the Angels and Saints. It is where we are most secure, and indeed, in a certain way, we ought never to leave this forum or spiritual terrain of the battlefield. It is the spiritual high-ground, from which we are most defended and from which we can best survey the battle. The disadvantage of this forum of the Spirit, is that we cannot ourselves rescue our neighbors from the enemies clutches, without descending the spiritual high-ground of our position, and enter into the fray below, the second forum, the forum of the Body, or the spiritual low-ground, or valley of death. But if we are to win souls for Christ, we must.   

XI: Stages of Temptation 

A great paradox of our Faith is that the greatest war we wage is against ourselves. It is not exaggeration to say that the biggest spiritual battlefield is in our very souls. Here the stages of temptation are carried out, which will determine if we go to Heaven or Hell. Conversion of sinners, the evangelization of our neighbor, or defense of authentic Catholicism do not determine our ultimate destiny. One may safely arrive at Heaven’s Gates without these. But if the battle ground of our very soul is forfeit, we are lost and defeated.   

The stages of temptation and sin are, first, the object of sin appears. This could be a sensual object, an immodestly dressed person, or an intellectual object, like an offensive comment directed at our person. The next stage is the potential pleasure in entertaining the object in our imagination. This may mean thinking about the sensual delight involved in a forbidden object, as in the case of the sensual object, or the delight of the vengeance taken against our attacker. The final and determinative stage of temptation is when we will either to act in the sinful way our imagination presents to us (or which a devil presents!), and delight in the sin, or act in a contrary and holy way, to shun the immodest image, or to let go of the urge to retaliate and defends one’s honor.       

XII: Spiritual Weaponry

Just as in a physical battle, weapons are a key component to any strategic operation, so too in the spiritual war we fight. 

The first and foremost weapon we have are the Sacraments. Though it is true we do not have those sacraments that are administered by priests, such as Holy Orders, Holy Eucharist, Penance, and Extreme Unction, we do have Holy Baptism and Holy Matrimony, which do not require a priest to receive, and we have Spiritual Communion, from which an abundance of graces flows, and Perfect Contrition, which is sufficient to absolve us of mortal and venial sin, and make us living members of Christ’s Body again.

Additionally, we have prayer, above all the Holy Mass (like St. John’s Mass which is simply the canon of the Mass), and the Holy Rosary. Then there are sacramentals, like the different scapulars one may wear, and holy images and statues, and holy music. These elevate our minds and hearts to God, and are sufficient when they do so to absolve us of venial sin, and enhance our spiritual battle-hardiness.      

XIII: Use of Spies

This last strategy may be conflictive in some people’s minds with the Divine Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Lie. Spies, as such, are liars. So I for one do not advocate being a spiritual spy, like you are pretend to be a Novus Ordo member, attend their services, videotape their antics and other atrocities they may commit, then publish your findings on social media. That seems a little to akin to deception and the work of the Devil for my taste. 

Rather, let’s take this strategy to mean being keen to listen and observe and collect intelligence on the enemy which are readily available, and which do not require us to break confidences with our fellow human beings, thereby breaking the natural law and Divine Law. I personally already do this through my Sect Spect Report, where my “Sect Spectro-Scans” are simply me reading what other people are saying on their websites. 

I hope a look at these ancient strategies of war have given you something to think about when engaging the enemy, both from without and from within! May our Lady enable us as the Church Militant to carry out operations, and may we, as St. Paul encourages us, put on the armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.    

The Legend of Lu: Armageddon

III

Rise of the Tulusians

The scene of the barren desert floor flew past Dan’s side of the cockpit window at a dizzying rate, but, not to seem weak or wimpy he tried to find immediate relief in stealing glances into Marie’s beautiful, pale blue eyes, which were now fixed on the way ahead toward the path of the cave. 

After several moments which seemed like little eternities without Marie saying a word, Dan decided to speak first. 

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Marie,” Dan said, somewhat stiltedly. Marie didn’t respond. “I said, you’re a sight…”

“What I just can’t figure out is how they knew!” Marie said, interrupting Dan. “I mean, it is not like there was a trail. It never rains. The desert floor is practically rock,” Marie continued, musing to herself. 

“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t…” Dan began.

“And its not like they had a tracking device on you, could they, Dan?” Marie asked, now looking toward Dan, who sat and stared in perfect perplexity.

“Like I was saying, Marie, I’m afraid I don’t know what you are talking about,” Dan said.

“They obviously found you and took you back to the city. But how did they find you on the mountain? How did they know the path?” Marie questioned rhetorically.

“Who said they brought me back, Marie?” Dan retorted. “Who said I was found?” 

“That’s true, I suppose, but how did you end up back in the city, then?” Marie responded. The glider was fast approaching the mountain range area where Dan recalled he had been the morning before. Though the place was changed by the waning light of day, it did feel familiar, such that Dan was confident he might know the way back up the path to the cave if let out of the glider. 

“I don’t know. All I know is that, when I was getting close up the mountain yesterday, I saw a formation of gliders approaching where I thought you were. I must have got too excited, and in my already wearied state, I think I tripped or something and fell and hit my head and lost consciousness,” Dan said, then continued. “Which reminds me, that was you, wasn’t it, those gliders were surrounding. What happened anyway?” Dan asked. 

“What I would have rather not have happened, but what did all the same. I had to use this,” Marie said, and produced from behind the pilot seat a bar of metal that gleamed even in the dim light of the glider’s cockpit, which now stood still, idling at the base of the mountain. 

“What in the world is that!” Dan asked in bewilderment.

“This is a light mace. Very powerful. Very deadly,” Marie said gravely.

“You mean for me to believe that you, yourself a, um, girl––I mean young lady––single handedly took out a small fleet of gliders with a, um, piece of shiny metal?” Dan asked, between grunts and chuckles, which made Marie not a little miffed, not to mention a little testy.

“Get out,” Marie said in business-like fashion.

“What? No, I mean, it is not like I think girls, I mean ladies are weak or…” Dan said, but was again interrupted.

“Get out. I am coming, too,” Marie said, and both exited the glider. Marie walked several paces away from the glider, and motioned for Dan to do the same. “Stand clear the glider, Dan,” which he did in obedience. Just then Marie pulled out the light mace and began whirling it in a circular motion about her body with such dexterity and velocity Dan was hard pressed to even see if she held it or had hurled it over her head. Dan was going to ask if now was a very proper time to be dancing like a ballerina with a baton, when, all of a sudden a blinding blast of light shot forth from the end of the light mace which was now poised and pointed toward the glider. As fast as the light appeared, the glider disappeared in enveloping cloud of pure luminescence: no heat, no wind, no sound, just light. 

After the cloud, as it were dispersed, or grew less intense, to Dan’s utter astonishment the glider was gone. No ashes. No wreckage. No evidence that the thing ever existed. 

“What was that!” Dan shouted, which echoed off the foothills of the mountain. 

“That,” Marie began, chuckling to herself now, “is how a girl single handedly took out a small fleet of gliders,” and brushed out the slight wrinkles in her white blouse, and turned toward where the mouth of the path was, with Dan following, mouth half opened. 

A time had elapsed before Dan or Marie exchanged any words. Marie was first.

“How far did you get up the path before you had your accident?” 

“Oh, I don’t know, probably about three-quarters of the way up. There were the stones you talked about. They had writing or drawing on them,” Dan said.

“You found the Guides. Good,” Marie said. “Did you understand them?” 

“I tried and tried to understand, but only got faint impressions that I understood. I felt like they were directing me up the path, but I only had indistinct sense of it,” Dan said, struggling to recall the exact memory of the boulder’s writings and the impression they left. 

The two carried on up the path together, as the day was ending over the mountain. Twilight was descending on the valley below, with soft purple hues mellowing and cooling the hot desert floor beaten by the heat of the day. 

“We must hasten, Dan, if we are to make it in time,” Marie said, somewhat anxiously.

“Commander Rutherford and his gliders, you mean. I know,” said Dan. 

“No, silly. Gliders don’t operate at sundown,” Marie corrected.

“Oh, yea. Forgot about that one. Science, or astro-engineering, was never my strong suit,” Dan said, trying to save face. “What do you mean, then?”

“I mean before the launch,” said Marie almost casually.

“The launch! What launch?” asked Dan exasperated. 

“The launch of the vessel you were supposed to be on yesterday, but decided to get knocked out instead, apparently,” Marie said. 

“A vessel launch to where?” Dan asked, almost shaking with curiosity.

“Where else, but to the stars?” Marie said, again, casually. 

“You’re pulling my pant leg, aren’t you? To the stars? What does that even mean?” Dan asked in ridicule. 

“Sometimes I wonder about my orders and your dossier, and whether I or my superiors made some kind of mix up. You are about as incredulous and backward as a jellyfish, not to mention as weak stomached,” Marie retorted.

“Well, what do you mean by to the stars, then?” Dan asked, trying to be more mature and serious. 

“If you have any hope to play a lead role in this war, you will have to go up to the stars to do so,” Marie said, and quickened her pace ahead of Dan, up the path. Dan tried to keep pace and follow after her, but only managed to keep her in sight, but could not manage to keep the conversation going. 

    As Dan tried to keep pace after Marie who was tirelessly proceeding straight up the path, his head swam with the words she left with him. What war, he wondered. And to the stars? What could that mean, a figure of speech? He may not have been well-studied or read in science, but he was quite certain that star navigation was a thing of myth and religious legend, not fact or reality. And even the religious legends surrounding the topic were disputed among the scholars. “To the stars…” he murmured to himself, and chuckled and thought no more on it. 

“Are you coming or what?’ Marie hollered down to Dan, who was trying his best to gain on her. 

“Coming,” Dan gasped, and continued his labors up the mountain side path. The evening was settling heavy on the land, and things were becoming less visible. Thanks to the distance from the lights of Metro City, along with the clear sky, the stars were able to be seen tonight. Whether because of Marie’s words or the beauty of the low-light polluted air, Dan marked the beauty of the night sky as never before. He noticed how no two pinpoints of light were quite alike, with one a sparkle as of an azure gem, another like a white diamond, or burning amber, and a billion others with a billion other colors and complexions, a countless multitude of like treasures unseen, unknown, under the blindingly bright lights of Metro City. 

Finally Marie lessened her speed of ascent for Dan to catch up. “We’re getting close now, just up and round this last bend, and that’s the summit. Did you notice the Guides in the dark?” Marie asked Dan who was now pantingly approaching her position. 

“No, only their outline from what I remembered before,” Dan said, still somewhat out of breath. 

“Oh, never mind. Had you my eyes, you would have seen them. You will,” was all her enigmatic reply was, which added now to Dan’s perplexity.

They walked now more relaxed, and Marie, allowing Dan to rest a bit here and there against the boulders, gazed up at the stars in admiration. 

“Lovely, aren’t they,” Dan said, rather congratulating himself on his own aesthetic sensitivities and appreciation of the fine and beautiful.

“That wasn’t quite how I’d describe them,” Marie said with an almost rebuking tone. 

“No? Pity. They’re beautiful to me, at least. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though,” Dan said, now tangibly smug. 

“You nitwit. I didn’t mean they weren’t beautiful. But such words hardly do them justice. No, I’d rather describe them as terrifying,” Marie said, and as like one who meant every syllable. Dan presently stopped leaning against a boulder and walked up to where Marie was standing and just stood there staring at her. He noticed her eyes now as they reflected starlight and the distant and faint lights of Metro City, her white uniform and his near the summit of the mountaintop a mere two white specks of reflected starlight amidst a sea of black mass. Her eyes were watery and sincere. 

“What do you mean, Marie? Terrifying?” Dan asked in earnest, seeing now she meant every word. 

“You will soon see, Dan,” and with that proceeded to the very summit of their climb. Dan followed, utterly and unaccountably moved by her words to fear. 

Once at the top of the mountain, Marie motioned for Dan to go forward to where a recess of rock was, out of which only blackness shown. 

“In there? You want me to go in there? You are coming too, right?” Dan asked, obviously scared. 

“No, Dan. This is your launch, not mine. I, as you, had to do the same, alone, and afraid,” Marie said sympathetically, but sternly. Dan hesitated moving forward toward the opening of the cave, stopped, and looked back toward Marie, then past her down the mountain. She guessed his thoughts.

“You know where that way leads. It is to the unknown that you must now go,” Marie said.

“Can’t you at least tell me what this is all about? I mean what war, and where do you really come from, and how is it that you were able to annihilate a glider with a rod of metal, and how am I to go to the stars?” Dan pleaded. 

“No, Dan. You must go and see for yourself. I can only bring you to the brink of truth. You must look and leap over yourself, and trust,” and with that she slowly turned away and sat nearby on the ground. Dan turned back around toward the mouth of the mystery which lay before him. Slowly he approached the cave’s entrance. It was not large, about ten feet or so in diameter, rough-edged from what the reflecting surface indicated, but formidable to Dan’s spirit and senses. His legs quaked beneath him, yet he still approached. He looked back for the last time, and saw Marie sitting on the ground, her head resting on her knees and encouragingly watched him. He waved back to her, then turned and entered into the darkness of the cave. 

The recess inside the cave must have been vast, for Dan could not perceive the returning echoes of his foot falls. He walked cautiously in, deeper and deeper, till neither city or star light shone in, but only enveloping black. He could not even see himself. 

Soon, a tiny pinpoint of light glowed faint in what appeared to be to Dan an unfathomable distance ahead. He proceeded toward it, but it did not enlarge. The light simply remained the same, neither higher, nor lower than Dan’s eye on the horizon. Anxiety welled up in Dan, but still be carried on through the darkness toward the pinpoint of light. 

“What is this,” Dan said aloud, walking now for five minutes toward the light without change. “Surely I should have found something by now!” The floor of the cave was smooth, not like the rocky surfacing outside. It made no sound to walk upon, nor, as Dan now observed, did there carry any sound of the walls of the cave or ceiling. The only things perceptible were his own body, the feel of the floor, and that light. Soon however, to Dan’s utter terror, the floor even gave way beneath his feet. He tried to step backward, as like someone who just stepped over a cliff hurriedly returns to the edge, but to no avail. There was no edge. But, to add to Dan’s terror was his astonishment that he did not feel like he was falling either. He didn’t feel motion. He only felt himself and that light. His focus returned to the light, as he calmed himself down from the fright of thinking he was falling. 

The light remained as it ever had, just as small, faint and distant as always. Suddenly, he had a thought, which was that perhaps the thing itself was alive, moving away from him as he approached? The idea swept over his body like a wave of heat and fear, and his hair instantly stood on end. 

“Fear not, Son of Woman. You are welcome,” came the voice, or rather a voice like a chorus of voices: voices like a thousand thunderclaps in power and majesty, yet as quiet as softly spoken prayers. Dan quaked uncontrollably, quite helpless to stop. “Be still. Be not afraid. You are known,” came the voices, like a gentle rainfall in spring. The sound of the voices calmed Dan to his bones, and the shivers ceased, and fear gave way to curiosity and almost something like affection, if one could feel for something completely other and unknown. 

“What are you?” Dan asked, his own voice in his ears sounding like a mouse squeaks. “Where are you?” All Dan could see was the steady, still light in the distance. “Are you in the light?” 

“We are the Light!” came the voices, swelling in might like the roar of the sea, yet Dan was no more frightened than if he were listening to the ocean surf. 

“How can something so small sound so mighty and terrible?” asked Dan, now becoming more relaxed. 

“Better to ask, how can something so mighty and terrible seem so small! Distance does make the mighty and magnificent seem insignificant and small. We are not as you perceive. It is a grace and curtesy we thus appear, Son of Woman,” sounded the voices. Dan couldn’t quite understand what that meant, but he took it to mean they weren’t small. 

“Marie said I needed to come in to this cave to figure out who I was, and to go to the stars. Something about a vessel and a launch? Does any of that mean anything to you?” Dan asked.

“Lady Marie is known to us. She renders honorable service and wise. Listen to her,” said the voices. Dan almost added, “She can be somewhat snarky, though,” but thought better of it. 

“So what about this launch to the stars, and about who I am and all?” Dan asked again. 

“Are you ready, then, Son of Woman? Are you ready to take that flight?” the voices inquired.

“I think so. Coming in here was dreadfully scary enough. I think after doing that I am up for about anything,” Dan answered with not undue confidence. 

“Then continue to approach the light. You will feel a slight tug on your body, but not to worry, you are in no physical danger,” said the voices. This last bit worked to somewhat lessen Dan’s confidence. He approached the light all the same. As he did so, a tugging on his body was felt, first at his toes and his finger tips, then up his legs and arms, and then on his core and chest and head. The feeling was uncanny, unlike any sensation he had ever felt before. He felt as though, were he a rubber band, he might know the sensation intimately. He could not see himself, but if he were he would not recognize himself. He was flatter than a flapjack. Little did Dan know he was entering another dimension through what his science textbooks would have called wormholes, but what was more like a hallway than a wormhole. He kept his eye fixed on the light. 

“Say, when’s this tugging and pulling on me going to end?” Dan asked, but the voices didn’t respond. Then all of a sudden the blackness vanished or transformed into light, pure white light, or rather lights, as the room or space where Dan was was surrounded, above, below, and all around by a field of innumerable and unimaginably bright lights. Dan closed his eyes and opened them several times before he could keep them open without searing pain. The tugging sensation in his body subsided, but was still present. So he thought no more about it. 

The lights all around him fluttered in intensity, then started to separate from each, or distance themselves, and take up space apart from each other, such that an intervening darkness or void could be seen between them. Up until now, all was silent, but now a faint sounding hum could be heard, but the hum of bees, but more tuneful, like a thousand violins all on the same note. Then, two things happened at once, the lights began to move about in orbiting circle around some invisible center, and the monotonous hum turned into a chorus of a hundred harmonies each mingling into each and yet distinct and independent. Then, though, two more things happened simultaneously, many of the lights which were twirling round and round in perfect pattern and poise dimmed noticeably, then blinked out all together, though, by the way the patterned orbits ran, Dan noticed that they must still be there since a shadow was being cast over the lights behind them, dimming their appearance every once and a while. That, and there sounded in Dan’s ear or rather he felt it in his chest, a rumbling, arrhythmical cacophony of low notes like the sound of whole symphony of out of tune cellos. Dan did not like this new music. 

Then one light, brighter than the rest and remaining in its twirling orbit conjoined with other lights. These lights whirled round the regions where Dan saw the other lights go out. Then the scene changed from a great field of light and music to blackness as before in the cave. Not even the distant light shown. Dan could not hear the music either, neither the sweet sounds of the lights or the bitter of the shadows. A time had elapsed before Dan was about to ask aloud what happened, he could see opening up in the darkness what appeared to be a door which let light flood into the darkness of the space Dan was in. He could see himself again, his white uniform, dusty and worn, the floor of the cave, smooth but rock-solid, and the walls of the cave around, bare and ordinary.

He felt a strong desire to approach and enter through the door, to see what lay on the other side. He pushed open the door, wooden, rather ordinary to the touch, with a metal knob. The light again blinded him, but not unnaturally so, like the feeling one gets flipping on a light in the dark at bedtime.

“Son, my son, come in,” came rich masculine voice, which stirred Dan’s heart and made his throat throb with not unwelcome pain. As Dan entered he saw a man, old but not elderly, with a trimmed salt and pepper beard, sitting on a pleasantly cushioned sofa. “Son, come and sit,” said the man, who seemed so familiar yet a stranger to Dan. 

“Who are you?” asked Dan with a respectful tone. “Are you one of the lights?” The man looked up at Dan and gave out a hearty holiday bellowing laughter which only after sometime did he recaver from. Then the man spoke, rubbing the mirth from his eyes.

“Oh, my boy, my boy. No I am not one of the lights,” and chuckled again to himself. “I’m afraid I have too much flesh and bones for all that. I am your father,” and looked lovingly and intently at Dan with his big brown eyes as warm as a fireside. “You are my son, Daniel Goodman. I gave you that name.” Dan’s head swam again with puzzlement. Give him dark caves, thunderous voices, unknown lights, and he is comfortably shaken a bit. Set him before his own flesh and blood father, and he melts like a wax candle too close to the fireplace.

“My, my father?” he uttered, with tears welling up full in his emerald green eyes. “You’re my father? I don’t understand. My father?” 

“Yes son. It is time you know of your birth into the world. You are not of your time but mine, which is long before yours. Here we are where there is no time nor place but only between. Here your mother and I brought you…” 

“My mother! Is she here, too?” Dan interrupted. 

“No son. Your mother is not here. She has moved on from here to where we all shall dwell happily together at the appointed time. I have remained here for you for this moment,” Dan’s father said, sweetly but with a very keen note of sadness. He continued, “We brought you here to the between from the place of earth for there was a terrible place, overrun by hate and sadness. We wanted to show our gratitude to those who saved us, and offered you into their service, which they graciously accepted. We were told you must go back to the place of earth, but at the appointed time. We could not go, we were told. So only after a little while in the place between, when you were strong enough for crossing back, did we leave you in the care you have since received,” Dan was intently following this narrative of his biography closely and with great interest, when all his father reached out to hold his hand, and continued, “Son, that was the most painful thing I have ever done, to give you away,” and tenderly squeezed Dan’s hand, which filled his heart full to the eyes again. 

“I think I am beginning to understand,” Dan said, still holding his father’s hand. “So this is the appointed time, then, when we can all be together?” 

“Not yet, son. You have not yet completed your task. The world has grown wicked again. The time is ripe for the harvest, but few there are for the gathering. You must help reap in the yield, son, or else such will be left for the grazing and fire,” his father said, releasing Dan’s hand and standing up. Dan hardly noticed the room they had been standing in. An ordinary, if not quaint looking room, homely decorated with pictures of people and places he’d never seen before. A bay window let yellow sunlight in just behind the sofa. A scene of an old dirt drive stretched out into the horizon with golden fields on either side. A warm but waning sun was setting low over the fields. Dan noticed an old oak tree with long, low branches, on which was tied a tire  swing which was gently swaying the evening breeze.

“What must I do, father?” Dan said, now standing up alongside his father. Both looked out onto the scene of the setting sun. 

“You must believe and do what your fathers have ever believed and done, son. And you must help others to do the same,” Dan’s father said. 

“That sounds easy enough,” Dan said.

“That is easy, yes, son, but you will be opposed at every turn. And those to whom you are sent will oppose you. Do not take this task lightly, for then you shall fail,” his father said, now very grave, which made Dan look up at him instead of out the window. “The window is closing and you must return to the place of earth now.”

“No! Wait! I don’t understand,” Dan said desperately. 

“You understand enough, Dan, my son, enough,” was all his father said, and turned toward him, and kissed him on the head, then motioned for him to exit the door back into the cave. With tears again in his eyes, Dan did as he was bade and walked slowly toward the door to leave, then turned back toward his father who was looking lovingly at him and smilingly, though a tear could be seen rolling down his right cheek into his grey beard. 

“We’ll leave the lights on, Dan. Come home soon,” Dan heard his father say as he passed into the cave from the open door. He looked behind him, but the door slowly slipped shut, the shaft of light ever shortening to nothing. Dan turned toward the opening of the cave and went out into the night air.    

The Thirteen Strategies of Spiritual War

Christianity, as the great GKC was always fond of telling us, is full of paradoxes, one of which to my mind doesn’t receive near enough attention or development is the notion of the Church as a Military. 

What could be furthest from the mind of the worldly nephew than to look upon his lamb-like Christian Aunt, slouched in some corner sofa, sipping her tea and reading the Imitation of Christ, or murmuring a rosary, and think here sits a fearsome warrior? But in the strictest and most literal truth, in the glories and high achievements of martial skill in war, that enfeebled and elderly Aunt is greater than any man in mere mortal combat, even rivaling Hannibal himself! “You jest! You jest!” you say. No, I don’t: I am dead serious. Let me explain. 

The merit of a fighter’s skill is directly correlated to his enemy’s skill. So, if the enemy is weak, there is no great honor in defeating him. But, if the enemy is strong, there is a proportionate honor in defeating him. Hannibal waged against princes and municipalities of Rome, against men of flesh and blood, whereas our beloved little Aunt wages war “against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places,” and also against perhaps the greatest enemy of all, her own will. 

As Job says, “The life of man upon earth is a warfare…” And so it is, which is why the Church here on earth is called Militant. At every moment, demons are at our elbows just ready to strike in an ambush of temptations, to a heedless and harsh word against our neighbor, to a bite or drink too much, to an act of deficiency or excess that, if with grave matter and if knowingly done, could kill us eternally. Our Aunt’s enemies, unlike Hannibal’s enemies, are more like the almost-impossible-to-kill Elite alien fighters in the Halo video game my sons and I love to play so much. With their invisibility cloaks activated, the Elite lies in wait for you to meander through the dark corridor, then a second later a thousand blue blasts hit you in the face and it’s game over! That’s the way it is with demons, only their invisibility cloaks are always activated.         

But as great as Auntie may be at spiritual warfare, she, as well as we, can always stand to learn new strategies. I propose one of the greatest teachings on war as our guide. Penned about twenty-five hundred years ago by a perfect pagan in China, the treatise on how to win a war, The Art of War, has influenced how physical conflicts ought to be fought down through history and throughout the world, from Asia to America. The book was composed of thirteen chapters which dealt with the means and methods of subduing one’s enemy. I propose to repurpose it, at least in outline, as a list of strategies on how to win a spiritual war.  

Now, it must be understood from the first that demons, being immaterial, nearly infinitely more powerful and intelligent than humans, cannot be subdued or conquered in the same sense as Sun Tzu had in mind in his Art of War. And let me just pause to stress here that I AM NOT saying we should be actively engaging with demons at all! That is spiritually dangerous and unlawful according to Church law—our standing orders, if you will. The Church has entrusted this dread task to a special kind of spiritual solider, a Spec Ops Corps of ordained and highly trained spiritual soldiers known as Exorcists.  

The Thirteen Strategies of Spiritual War that follow, then, are meant to apply to the spiritual warfare we wage generally, not with this or that individual and invisible foe. Though the Demonic cause is beyond our ability to contend against, we are able and must resist the effect, which is temptations in ourselves or others, actual sins committed and their consequences, or those humans who knowingly or unknowingly serve the enemy by their actions and beliefs, and other such effects we have control over and ought to fight against.

The Thirteen Strategies of Spiritual War

I. Plan of Attack or Escape 

Victory in war is not random. It is brought about by a successful execution of an attack plan. Such a plan requires that one takes stock of one’s resources, sizes up one’s enemy, and thinks of ways to negotiate the difference. Not doing so will result in failure. Thus, it is the first strategy of spiritual war to plan out how one will act in the heat of the battle.

For instance, in the spiritual war we wage, this may mean thinking ahead about how you will respond when that naughty coworker comes up in the break room with another immoral story to tell. You can evade the situation, if you know you are unable to resist the temptation to listen to his foul story, or, if you think you have what it takes, you could use the moment of temptation to evangelize the wayward youth in the virtues and delights of purity, and the interior freedom you have in not being a slave to your passions. But without a plan of attack or escape, you are left helpless and at the mercy of your enemy.    

II: Economize Resources  

Spiritual war is costly. It is both physically and emotionally draining. Economizing means choosing our battles carefully, and if once engaged in conflict, bringing about a swift resolution. 

Practically, this may mean that we pray a rosary (more on this Weapon of Mass Grace Production in a bit) in the morning when we are super charged with breakfast and coffee, instead of the evening when we are ready for our pillows. If you struggle with concentration while praying the rosary (like I do!), then economize by praying the rosary when your concentration is most efficient not when it is least, thereby reducing your level of temptation to willful distraction, which renders one’s prayers worthless.  

III: Unity, Not Numbers 

Being one is perhaps the easiest and the hardest thing to achieve in the spiritual battle we face. Strength comes in unity not in number. But how often we look downcast and feel small and insignificant when our foes, or those ensnared by them, are Legion, whereas we in our acquaintances number little more than a handful or less most of the time. 

But wars are not fought by numbers but by loyalty to each other and fealty to our Lord. Band together with those few who share the One Faith, and, leaving aside all differences of opinion which do not touch upon doctrine or morals or law, unite under a common banner. This is in what the strength of Christ’s Army consists.    

IV: Defend, Not Advance  

I think this strategy of spiritual war has its most fitting applicability in the global spiritual war we face today. The principle is the defense of one’s position, instead of advancing without a capable commander. How often this principle has been violated! There are those who take it upon themselves to forge ahead in the fight, to abandon Church law, the fortifications of our position, and run out into the field or forest and take on the enemy with unlawful sacraments, or building up sham bunkers of their own, in mass centers, seminaries, monasteries and convents, and schools, thinking they are advancing on the enemy, when all the while they are burying themselves deeper behind enemy lines, almost beyond hope of rescue.    

Resist the temptation to speculate what God would want, or what a Pope would want. This is advancing without a leader. Stay bunkered down in your location. Do not advance until a Commander (a Vicar of Christ, or one of his lawful pastors) can lead you to safety. Keep to the commandments of God and His Church. These are your sure defense.

The second part of this article will be published next week!

The Legend of Lu: Armageddon

II

Conspiracy Theories

Dan opened his eyes. The familiar sight startled and disturbed his already confused head. He lay now in his own bed, in the barracks at the orphanage. An interminably long room of white walls, white floors, white ceilings one’s eyes couldn’t find the end of. 

“I’m back?” Dan said to himself. The city lights were pouring in through the handful of barracks windows, which the metallic bed frames threw into Dan’s eyes, causing him to squint. “What hour is it? What day?” he thought to himself. 

Instinctively, he reached for where he thought his head hit. Nothing there; no bandage, no wound, not even a scratch. “What’s going on here!” Dan uttered, sitting up in bed, and not a little irked at not having any evidence of his fall. 

“Oh, you finally woke up! Good fellow, sleepyhead,” came a voice from an adjacent bed. Dan started, but soon relaxed to remember to whom the voice belonged. Smith, John Smith, otherwise known as slapstick Jonny, who would always go about the orphanage falling down deliberately in imitation of the handicap ward. Dastardly cruel and heartless young man, Dan always thought, but harmless as a weasel.

“Oh, it is you, Jonny. Hello. What’s the time of day,” said Dan.

“Time of night, you mean. Its darn near waking call. You sure did have a nice holiday, sleeping about here instead of going to classes at your hoity-toity military school,” Jonny said, slipping out of bed and putting on his slippers and stood by his bed. 

“When did I arrive to go to sleep, Jonny?” Dan asked.

“Afternoon. Some officials in their hoity-toity uniforms came carrying you in here. Said you had an accident at Green Grove and needed to sleep it all off. I saw one shoot you with something in your arm, probably a tranky, but I guess you would know,” Jonny said, now sitting on his bed after performing his morning mandatory stretches.

“No, I wouldn’t know. And I don’t know what accident they were referring to, either. I, well, I…” Dan was about to say more, about the extraordinary events of the past day, but felt a feeling inside himself holding his words back, which was intensified and substantiated by the way Jonny was looking at him, as if by the way his eyes peered at him, Jonny was fishing for information. “I mean, I wouldn’t know precisely the nature of the accident, as I am not a science guy, you know. It did make me tired, so I think I will close my eyes until I hear waking call, if you don’t mind,” and with that Dan lay down and appeared to close his eyes. From his half-opened slits he could see Jonny slipping off down the long hall of beds, beyond sight.      

Dan awoke at Waking Call, a hideously tedious chiming alarm, the melody of which––if it could be described as a melody and not a cacophony of metric tick-toking––pierced Dan’s ears and stirred him out of bed. Sleep had visited him since his encounter with Jonny earlier that morning, and not memory or understanding of the previous fifteen hours. 

Routine was routine, and Dan, programmed from birth, could get bathed, his uniform donned, and fed within an hour. And, though the past days adventures and mysteries weighed upon his mind, Dan’s body was moving like clockwork to the rhythms of the morning, and soon he was back in a railcar, speeding away from the orphanage to the Academy for another day of classes.  

The entrance to the Academy was of solid blue glass one hundred stories high and the same distance across and deep. A gigantic cube. Dan had looked upon its form a thousand times before, but never really appreciated how ugly it was, or how apparently at odds it was with its supposed purpose and mission being the military training center, being a shaped like a gigantic ice cube and all, representing the Dome. Though, on either side as one entered ten foot high doors, themselves of glass, of course, were statues of ancient viceroys: Bartholo the Just, and Arge the Merciful. Their forms, by contrast, were grand and strikingly beautiful, such that Dan felt uplifted and spurred on by their noble countenances. Each wielded in one hand scrolling tablets, and in the other light swords carved in glinting stone. Dan never noticed before these either. 

The morning summer air was dry and hot, but inside the Academy, the air was cool and temperately humid. The ceiling just inside the entrance shot up to the full height of the building, and inside the building was yet another building of rooms and compartments and corridors of a labyrinthine elaboration that one was very much obliged to avail oneself of the maps posted every fifty feet on the walls. Dan knew exactly where all his classes were (at least for this semester) and knew where the restrooms and dining hall was, and gymnasium was. What else the Cube housed Dan did not know, but figured there must be more to it than merely classrooms.

“Take seats, take seats. Order now,” were the directions of the headmaster, Mrs. Moonsfield, trying in her most masculine voice to bring order to a rather disorderly room. “It’s almost time for the MC2, and you know what that means. But first, let’s begin…” at this the class of students arose like clockwork figurines and started chanting in unison, “Dome is home, mother, father, brother, sister, friend: Dome is life. Dome is death. Dome is all. Dome is One. Dome is God,” as Mrs. Moonsfield looked on, with beaming approvingly from ear to ear. 

Dan began the chant as usual, heartily and earnestly, yet, also as usual, without comprehending what he was saying. Yet, his voice started to trail off at Dome is death and suddenly started to think about the morning before, as like when a dream’s recollected, parts and pieces of characters and scenes only slowly become clear, so now Dan was remembering Green Grove with Marie, and the gliders, and the path up the mountain to the cave, but all jumbled up like a jigsaw puzzle incomplete. 

By the time everyone got to Dome is God, Dan was full silent and now staring in the face Mrs. Moonsfield, who was watching him intently. Just then, the MC2 sounded, and, since there then arose such an uproar of trite platitudes and limp handshakes, Dan was able to escape her gaze and attention. 

“Now, now, settle yourself and be seated. We have a very special and surprise speaker today,” at this the class reseated themselves and pretended to be interested. “His name is Commander Vince Rutherford, but you all may call him ‘sir’,” Mrs. Moonsfield said, feeling herself quite important and powerful enforcing Academy etiquette. Moonsfield was common among the courses instructors and classroom officials. Middle aged, leaning toward elderly, unmarried, or if married, practically so by all appearances, and unwomanly. In fact, it was a rare occurrence to see a male instructor at the Academy, unless one were attending an upperclass weapons handling course or martial exercises training session. This breed of instructors was decidedly unmilitary, which struck Dan now as rather odd, since it was a military training academy and all. 

“Commander Rutherford is coming down from Central City. A great honor to be sure. He is one of the right hands of Viceroy Guth himself, all hail his goodheartedness. He should be here now at any moment. He comes to establish a new squad of elite students he will hand pick to send to Central City’s Academy to gain invaluable training, and more advanced than anything here we may offer. Viceroy Guth has been amassing many such squads all throughout the world,” Mrs. Moonsfield said with much studied formality, and went on, “I do hope one of you will be considered worthy to be selected. So be on your best, and answer Commander’s questions smartly,” and then sat down at her desk at the side of the room. 

Whispers and little voices began to fill the room as the students speculated among themselves about who they thought would be picked. 

“Ken, Ken for sure! He’s got the highest score in lightning ball to date!” said one, obviously concerned with high sports scores. 

“Don’t be such a jock! Lis is the one. She’s memorized more bodily systems model parameters than ought to be allowed. I vote Lis,” said another. 

“Darren’s for the squad for sure. He’s at the top of the class in athletic score values and charting. No doubt, it’s Darren,” said a third, and the speculation swirled around Dan like a hurricane for five more minutes. All the while he sat motionless and silent in his seat, almost oblivious to the announcement of the Commander Rutherford and Viceroy Guth’s Youth Squads and the rest. His mind and focused was on trying to recall every particular of the previous day, and strove to with great effort. 

“Surely there’s more. There must be. It doesn’t make sense!” he thought to himself. Before he could begin to put the few puzzle pieces he did hold together, a tall, distinguished man entered the room, and finally broke his concentration. 

“Class!” announced Mrs. Moonsfield, and just like that the whole population of the room arose, saluted their new guest with a pat on their breast, and said all as one, “Greetings, sir,” and just like that fell back into their seats and awaited the man’s response. 

“Thank you, thank you,” came a hard, cold as steal voice from the figure. Dan noticed that his uniform bore slightly different insignia than the military instructors. There was the black uniform with white stripes down the sides, and a black cap, as the others. But his cap and breast pocket bore a sign Dan had never seen before, or at least he thought. It was two white SS, laying on their sides, with a shaft of white like a capital I between them. “I am Commander Vince Rutherford of Central City Command. I am here on an important and exciting assignment, to select one of you to come with me to Central City Academy to be trained in Viceroy Guth’s Youth Task Force,” Rutherford said, and with such a formality of tone that it made Moonsfield’s speech sound silly.

“We are honored and pleased you have come, please do, do come in and be seated, sir,” said Mrs. Moonsfield, fawningly, and motioned for Rutherford to sit in the prepared desk at the front of the room. 

“Thank you. That won’t be necessary. We have made our selection already, and will be on our way once the selectee has been notified and assents to the selection,” he said, brushing off the motion to sit down. 

At this the young men and women stirred again in their seats, with whisperings across the aisles who the selectee was thought to be.

Without a moments delay, Rutherford surveyed the field of wide-eyed pupils, a sea of white uniforms squirming about like white wave crests on a blue polished floor. The room was over a hundred heads full, and each was looking up at the Commander from Central City in dire anticipation. Finally he spoke.

“Cadet Goodman, Daniel Goodman?” was all he said. A sea of eyes turned toward and crashed upon Dan in gapes of incredulity. Dan’s stomach almost imploded. His throat instantly became parched. He tried to responded at first, but coughed.  

“Present, sssssir.” There were quiet chuckles and audible snickering from among the crowd, but Dan didn’t notice. His eyes now were fixed on Commander Rutherford from Central City Command who was fixing his eyes now on him. 

“Arise, cadet. Arise young man,” said Rutherford. “Do you accept this prestigious assignment and chance to serve the Viceroy?” Dan’s heart began to beat wildly within his chest. He started to feel that same feeling he had with Jonny that morning at the orphanage, but such external pressure and the present situation made him almost humanly incapable of heeding or yielding to its warning.

“Yes, sir, yes I, um, I do, sir,” he got out, and immediately felt a strange remorse in doing so. 

“Then come at once with me. I have transport awaiting. Don’t worry about a thing, we know your needs. A travel bag has already been prepared. You are ready to depart immediately,” and motioned for Dan to arise and follow him out the door. He saluted the class, and nodded to Mrs. Moonsfield, and just as fast as he had arrived, Commander Rutherford was gone, with Cadet Daniel Goodman in his custody.                         

“The air field is not far off, now. Have you been this far, Cadet Goodman?” Commander Rutherford asked, the two now seated side by side on a railcar which was whizzing down the the industrial line which ran much faster than the municipal ones. 

“Ah, no, sir, not this far,” Dan managed to get out through his stomach ache cramps. He was going to add, “Nor this fast, but thought better of it.

“I see. I see,” was all Rutherford replied, and returned looking out the railcar window, and watched the outskirts of Metro City fly by. Mostly manufacturers and merchant warehouses for foreign trade, the outskirts of the city were notoriously ghastly and unwelcoming. The dirt and grime caked walks, building facades, and people’s faces, all of whom inhabited here were manual laborers in plants and factories. 

Dan was regaining his composure, not feeling quite as motion sick, which enabled him to look out the window with the Commander. Dan noticed a break in the scene: a vast black mass of stone slab, at least a mile square, and radiating the desert heat of the day. 

“That,” began the Commander, “is Air Field South.” 

“Oh, it is very big,” said Dan. 

“I came into Metro City this morning by way of it. Say, does the name Marie mean anything to you?” Rutherford asked, with a strange change in tone, and now looked down toward Dan, who did not respond directly, but stopped looking out the window and began staring at the floor of the railcar. After a few moments, the railcar began to slow down and make its approach to the air field platform. 

“I seem to recall I met a young lady by that name a day or so ago on a railcar, but nothing much more than that,” said Dan. 

“Nothing much more than that, you say,” the Commander inquired.

“No, nothing much more that I can recall. My memory of the past two days has been very foggy to say the least. I must have bumped my head or something, because I can’t account for my own whereabouts for the past day or so,” Dan said.

“I see. I see,” the Commander from Central City replied, as coldly as when Dan first heard his voice. The railcar had now come to a complete stop, the destination chimes having already sounded. Dan awaited Rutherford to arise and let him out into the aisle and depart the railcar. An awkward pause ensued for half a minute. Dan couldn’t take it.

“Sir, I know you just arrived, and may not know, but these railcars don’t wait for anyone,” Dan said, with a great deal of mustered courtesy and respect. 

“They’ll wait for me!” said Commander Rutherford, this time his powerful hands clenched the seat’s arm rest, and he turned toward Dan with a stare as hard as metal. Dan noticed his sandy grey and blond hair neatly combed back underneath his black cap with the strange insignia of the I and double SS on it. His clean shaven chin as chiseled as rock. And the throbbing neck veins about his collar. This was a man not to be trifled with. Dan thought, and feared, the Commander could, and might, snap him in half like a stick. What frightened Dan the most about the Commander was not his bodily stature, as imposing and dominating as it was, but rather the subtle blackness of the Commander’s eyes. Were one not so close, perhaps they could be mistaken for dark brown, but, no, Dan knew better. He was a foot from them, and they were pitch black, with Rutherford’s pupils distinguished only by their being a shade or so more an impossible black. 

“Tell me. What do you think of the Dome? What is your belief?” Rutherford asked, though with a tone not as hard as before.

“I, um, I believe what I ought,” Dan replied, glancing out at the platform, and marking the utter stillness of the railcar.

“Do you! Tell me, what are the tenets of the Profession of Belief? If I am to have you on board with the Viceroy’s secret task force, I must know I have one of us,” said the Commander. 

I believe in One Humanity under the Skies and destined for the Skies. I believe in One World, the All Seen. I believe in One Truth, that which Humanity Means…” Dan would have went on in the perfunctory recitation of the whole, but was interrupted by an impatient Commander. 

“Yes, yes, but do you believe, Goodman? Do you Daniel believe what it is you say?” the Commander’s voice was not hard in the slightest now, but almost pleading. Dan just sat there and struggled to understand what the Commander was asking him, or why. And as he did so, he could perceive a small voice or gentle tug on his consciousness and heart, and realized that he believed in the Profession of Belief about as much as he believed in the use or good of a call to Meditation, Care and Cooperation. He also recollected, in this tiny space of time in which to make his reply to the overbearing Viceroy’s Commander, the puzzle pieces lately scattered about the room of his brain, which he had been neglecting to pick up and put together.

He began quickly to put them together, even now as the Commander impatiently awaited his reply. Dan recalled how he shared an evening with the young, beauty named Marie, from the coast accompanied him to Green Grove. How they strolled through the park walks. How she showed him an old tree…

“Hang on a bit!” Dan said aloud, which visibly affected the Commander, who had been holding in custody a timid, docile and malleable youth this whole while. But these abrupt words were nothing of the kind. Dan continued without a breathing. “What is going on here! How did I get here? Last time I checked, I was half dying of thirst with a cracked cranium on the side of a mountain. Where’s Marie? Did you do something to her! Tell me!” Dan was carrying on in a frenzy, and would have continued to do so, but for the fact that the Commander had soon recollected himself, and was presently pulling a syringe gun from his breast pocket and about to administer to Dan another dose of the amnesia-inducing drug, when Dan caught sight of it, and sprung up, knocking the Commander’s cap onto the railcar floor. 

“What are you going to do, boy? You can’t escape. We are nowhere. Besides, you fly, and I’ll have a hoard of gliders on your tail in no time!” Rutherford spurted out furiously, almost frothing at the mouth, “You fool! You’re ours! You’ve always been!” Dan contemplated his position. The manual door release was four feet away. A lunge and dart, and he would have been free, at least from the Commander for the present. Dan baited the beast on.

“Who? Me? Yours? Ha! Drug a kid and tell him what he wants to hear. That’s your way. Coward! As for me and my head, well, that’s mine, not yours. You can have my body as you please. Much good it will do you. I’m free, coward. Which is more than I can say for you!” and with that Dan lunged at the door release, punched it, and landed out onto the platform. Before the Commander could jump up from his seat and retrieve his hat, Dan leaped over the edge of the platform and slid down a coolant piping that ran down the side of the rail line structure. His feet on the ground, he looked up. A hundred feet to the platform he slid down. His hands and inner thighs were burning from the friction, but his head was as cool and clear as an autumn day. He looked out onto the Air Field tarmac, a veritable sea of black, which reflected nigh nothing of the desert sunlight, but all of its heat. 

“I’ll burn up if I try to run out there,” Dan said aloud. Panting from the arduous descent, taking a brief refuge underneath the rail line structure, Dan put his hands on his knees and breathed deeply, trying to find a solution to this apparently unsolvable problem. 

Just then, he noticed a glare approaching from out of the west. A fast approaching glider! 

“Oh, Commander doesn’t waste any time, does he!” shouted Dan and began running toward the opposite direction. Though Dan was fit for a chase against any animal body, having excelled in marathon racing and sprint lanes, he was no match for a glider. He was soon overtaken after two minutes, and Dan gave up the chase, and stood stout and proud ready for hand to hand combat with whoever exited the vehicle to apprehend him. He looked about him. No handy rocks, only pebbles, debris from the tarmac. 

The steal blue sky overhead contrasted brightly with the emerald green and metallic gleaming sides of the glider, which had come to a full stop, and hovered over the ground, the soundless engines pulsating off the desert floor, evidenced by Dan’s white but dusty and grimy pant legs flapping in their exhaust. Presently the hatch of the canopy was heard to release with a shot of decompressing air and steam shooting up into the blue. Dan made ready for battle, clenching his teeth and fists. 

Finally a fair form with long black hair and a friendly face emerged from the glider. 

“Marie!” shouted Dan in full-on amazement and disbelief. “Oh, Marie!” And she hurriedly motioned him to get into the glider, and off they darted toward the western range at a sickening speed.           

The Legend of Lu: Armageddon

Introducing a new addition to the CE LOG: Opining on the Apocalypse: The Legend of Lu: Armageddon, a work of allegorical religious science-fiction depicting the last days. The book will be serialized over the course of the next few months, at a chapter a week.

Prologue

Before time was time, before there was a before, before light or land or sea or tree, there was Unu, the One, from which and into which all is and was and ever shall be, so be it, let it be.  

From Unu first came the Lui, the Lights or Guardians. Of these there were an untold number of kinds, such was the majesty of Unu. The Guardians, at the good pleasure of Unu, brought forth through motion every body borne of matter. All form of air, water, earth and fire was made by the Guardians, and not anything of such form was made without them. Moved on in their work by the will of Unu, the Lights harmonized the World of Worlds into a chorus and melody and rhythm of beauty and majesty befitting honor and glory to Patlui, Father of Lights, so be it, let it be. 

But some Light Guardians rebelled against the order and music of the will of Unu and the Guardians, introducing chaos and discord into the World of Worlds, where movement is not in accord with Unu and the faithful Guardians. To reclaim the order lost by disobedience, the Lui held a council to propose a commander of the faithful Lights, to whom each would swear allegiance and fealty as to Unu. This General of the Guardians was anointed with Light and named Aequinum, Who is like Unu, because his will and that of Unu were so much alike, yet unlike because of the power, majesty and honor due to Unu, so be it, let it be. Thus, Aequinum quashed the rebellion, banishing the small but destructive band of fallen Guardians, the Caduclui, from Mundluc, World of Light, to the World of Dark, Mundater. 

Between Mundluc and Mundater was Mundhum, World of Earth, which was named after the most noble body of that World, Humunum, One Earth, blessed with will and power, like Unu and the Lui, yet formed from earth, and the other elemental forms, and so not unlimited in power and will but limited by the same earth and forms. Before the arrival of the Caduclui, to Mundhum, the Earth World was perfect. Earth, Water, Fire, and Air lived in harmony, respecting each other’s power and place: The trees swayed to the song of the breeze without cracking and breaking, the lion and lamb knew nothing of blood-thirst or fear, the Air did not take Water from Earth more than was needed, neither did Water ravage Earth, and Fire was friend of all. And most of all was this harmony of forms found in Humunum, who was Lord and Protector of them all. 

But out of hatred for the Lui, the leader of the Caduclui, Ferluc, Bringer of Light, now named Ferater, Bringer of Dark, seduced Humunum, with the deceptive hope that Humunum would be unlimited like the Lui, and even like unto Unu Oneself, blessed be One forever. Humunum fell from his height and sole governance of Mundhum, and as punishment for his grasping, Humunum became Humdumum, Divided One Earth, by which the One Earth became Two Earth, so as to learn humility for his pride, he now had to share his rule. Yet even out of this discordant transgression brought about by Ferater, the Lui blessed the dwellers of Mundhum with one of their own graces of nature, which enabled the them and their offspring, to care for Mundhum like the Lui care for Mundluc. 

This grace called Lu, Light, enabled the twins Humdumum to check and guard against the influence of Ferater and the Caduclui over Mundhum. This Lu, Ferater sought to subvert secretly, and plunge the blessed Humdumum into darkness with himself, cursed be he forever. 

Ferater succeeded in his scheme, and the Lu which Humdumum enjoyed for ages untold was eclipsed by the shadow of Ferater. As a result, Humdumum became Hum and Mul, the Undefined and Indefinite, no longer living in harmony and peace, but now in strife. The governance of the world soon fell to Ferater, usurped from them, who, being in strife with one another, and even in their own members, could not impart harmony to Mundhum. The elemental forms soon followed the eclipsing of Lu, striving against each unto each, bringing death into Mundhum, no longer guided and governed by Light.

Among the elemental forms and sons and daughters of Hum and Mul, Mundhum raged in tempests, famines, and wars, as well as turmoil, hunger, and fear. Want of warmth, comfort and friendship waxed during this evil epoch of Mundhum, such that the Lui at the command of Unu, sought to tame the elemental forms, so agitated by Ferater’s wicked rule, by setting Water over all of them, even over the decedents of Hum and Mul, who themselves had long passed into Munditer, the World Between.   

One son of Hum and Mul, Bonfilhum, Good Son of Hum, along with his wife, guided and guarded by the Lui, escaped the taming of the elemental forms by Water, through the secret skill of the Lui, who taught Bonfilhum the art and science of World Crossing, which enabled him and his family to escape the judgement, which turned Mundhum into Mundac, World of Water, and flee into the World of Air, Mundspir. 

After an age, Bonfilhum passed into Munditer, and his descendants lived long in Mundspir, but by and by some longed for the home of their father, Mundhum, and so pleaded with the Lui to loosen the hold Water had, and return them to a world of solidity. The Lui relented but made Bonfilhum’s descendants promise to love Light above all, even their beloved earth. The sons of Bonfilhum so promised, and so the Lui made the waters of Mundac to disperse by bringing Mundspir into collision with them. A mighty war of elemental forms ensued, between Water and Air, with neither wanting to relinquish their claim of the middle world of forms. Finally, the Lui parted Air and Water, and set Air above, and Water below, and Earth between. As a testament of their promise the Lui set a billion orbs of Fire above the other three, visible only when all other lights go out, to recall to the minds of the sons of Bonfilhum to always love and cherish above all things the invisible Lights that govern the World of Worlds. Yet the Lui also warned that, if ever Bonfilhum’s sons failed to keep this promise, Mundhum would be turned over to the reign of Fire. 

Many generations of the sons and daughters of Bonfilhum followed, and many kept their father’s first promise to the Lui, servants of Unu, blessed be the name forever. But many did not. Soon, evil and darkness crept back into Mundhum, since the Caduclui were gaining influence and numbers over to their cause, that of usurpation, domination, and destruction. The Lui held yet another council, with Aequinum as head, who would have declared open war upon Ferater and the Caduclui, even unto the end of Mundhum, yet Unu did not will it to come to pass.  

Unu surprised the council with a favor and grace to all worlds, which theretofore was permitted to be hidden from all, Aequinum and Ferater, and all Lui, Caduclui, and children of Bonfilhum: a true daughter, not of Bonfilhum, but through a preserving favor of Unu, a daughter of Humunum, whose formal elements were perfectly harmonized and in peace with the will of the Lui and Unu. She became Tulu, She Who Bore the Light, for of Tulu came Lu Himself, unmediated by the Lui, to fill with friendship and peace an ever darkening world bent on its own destruction. Nor did Lu come through Tulu by any son of Bonfilhum, but by Unu Oneself, blessed be the name forever. Thus Lu, son of Humunum was also son of Unu, a perfect harmony of Light and the formal elements, of the will of Unu and Humunum, a harmony of all in all.

Mundhum came under the reign of Lu, Lord of Light, Who held dominion over all the descendants of Bonfilhum. But Ferater waged war against Lu, bringing many into his own dark counsels, which plotted against the life of Lu. Knowing all, Lu was not unaware of Ferater and the Caduclui’s plan to destroy Him. Allowing their wicked scheme to come to pass, Lu passed out into Munditer for a time, but to the amazement of the faithful sons of Bonfilhum returned, not bound by the elemental forms, but transcended the confines of matter, space and time. Caduclui held no might against Him. Lu’s reign was secure, entrusting it as He did to His Viceroy, the sons of Bonfilhum, before He returned to the World of Light. The Viceroys exercised the might and wisdom of Lu over all of Mundhum, not through martial force but graceful truth. 

The sons of Bonfilhum, now spread throughout Mundhum, unified themselves in great cities of all excellence of science and art, improved and greatly blessed as they were by the reign of Lu’s Viceroy, and his officials spread throughout the world of Mundhum. Through their craft these advantages of nature and grace increased the sense of self worth and confidence of the inhabitants of Mundhum, such that some began to forget where all excellence hailed from, namely, the Lui, and the Lord of Light, Lu, and His Viceroy, and His vast hierarchy of officials in the service of Lu, called the Dome, in which all faithful to Lu were called and gathered and lived.   

A great council of the inhabits of the Dome was called. Officials whose governance was spread throughout Mundhum were summoned to answer the challenge of the wayward sons of Bonfilhum, who at that time were infiltrating the ranks of the Viceroy of Lu, threatening to change the sacred norms and guides of peace and truth. These they did through crafts and cunning schemes developed by Ferater and other accursed Caduclui, bent on the destruction and overthrow of the Dome of Lu. However, unbeknownst to a vast majority of the Dwellers of the Dome and faithful followers of Lu, the Luisians, a servant of Ferater had already made his way to the top of the ranks of the Dome, to the place of the Viceroy himself. 

Headed by an anti-viceroy, the council convened would do untold damage to the sacred norms and guiding lights of peace and unity and order, thereby plunging Mundhum into a second age of darkness, to echo the first, under the reign of the same Ferater. As with the first, Mundhum fell to usurpation, domination and destruction, as the faithless followers of Ferater swelled in number to cover all lands in darkness and disorder and death. The true Luisians, those who remembered and trusted to the norms and guides of Lu and His Viceroy, soon found themselves quite alone and separated and isolated throughout Mundhum. Those officials of the Dome who swore allegiance to the anti-viceroy, neither abjuring his heinous manipulations of the norms and guides, nor holding fast to the sure rule of previous Viceroys, fell themselves into darkness and out of grace with Lu. 

Since the convening and concluding of the false council, two full generations passed and a third was beginning when the Mother of Lu, Tulu, began her work again in Mundhum, from where she reigned in light in the land of light, Mundluc, working in the hearts of the faithful sons of Bonfilhum, who still clung to her Son’s Viceroy’s decrees. She was raising up for herself and her Son an army of faithful followers who would do war with the wayward races of Mundhum before the coming flood of Fire. 

Vastly outnumbered, unknown and outcast, these faithful to Lu carried the seed of truth, to germinate into a new civilization, after the coming chastisement of Lu. They belonged to the secret order of the Servants of Tulu, known as the Tulusians, who, having bound themselves to her Son’s Viceroy’s decrees, ancient norms and guides, became to a world ever enveloping itself in darkness brands of borrowed light, to brighten a world bent on its own destruction.                             

I

A Walk in the Park

The sun rose over the desert valley plain, tracked and checkered in intersecting lines of metallic railways which gleamed in the light. The railcars were already busy zooming from one destination to another with clockwork consistency, when the bell towers peeled out their melodious call to Meditation, Care and Cooperation, the MC2 as inhabitants of Metro City referred to it, at the sounding of which denizens were expected to stop what they were doing immediately, and greet a neighbor and offer assistance or a handshake. The MC2 tolled three times daily: dawn, noon, and dusk, to the overwhelming disgruntlement of the majority.      

A young man of sixteen, sturdily built, well groomed and properly attired in the Metro Academy uniform––white trousers, white blouse, and blue buttons running down the front, and blue cap, was at the time of the tolling of the MC2 gazing out the window of the railcar, watching housetops whiz past in rapid succession. 

“May I be of some assistance?” said a soft, inviting voice from across the aisle. The young man turned abruptly toward the young woman who spoke. Her hair was the first thing he noticed: Jet black and beautifully contrasted against the blue and white uniform. Her eyes were a light blue, distant and yet sincere. Her cheeks were lily white, which was quite unseen in the desert valley. He tried to speak the customary reply, but somehow an attempt at the ritual seemed a sacrilege before such beauty. 

“You’re not from here, are you?” was all he could get out. Somewhat taken aback by the unorthodox reply, the young lady blushed a bit, which was all the more apparent by her fair complexion. 

“I just moved here from the Coastland. I’m Marie.”

“I’m Daniel, but you can call me Dan.” 

“Well, Dan, I believe I asked you a question. Are you going to answer it?” Marie said, in a half-rebuking, half-joking tone.

“You can. After classes, meet me at Green Grove, where the tree specimens are. You know which stop that is, right, the third to last on this line.” Dan said, in rather bold and straightforward fashion, which was not his custom. To his amazement, Marie consented and saluted him before disembarking at Women’s Wing of the Academy Complex. 

As the railcar began again, Dan looked back out his window, and watched Marie on the platform quickly becoming smaller and smaller, returning his gaze and gently waving goodbye.     

After a long succession of classes, Dan boarded the railcar that evening, as the sun was waning down over the western mountain range, the tops of which, though it was summer, were all heavily snow capped. Metro Valley ran four hundred miles north to south, with two great ranges of vast peaks on either, and ten miles between. Dan learned in his Geological History class that the Valley was thought to be the site of an ancient, massive river, which had dried up some time during the Light Wars at least ten thousand years ago, back when Light Weapons were known and used.    

“DING, DING, DING,” announced the next stop for Green Grove, which was only one of a handful of green patches of earth in all of Metro Valley. The grove and gardens, and indeed all of the Metro Valley, were fed by water pumped in from the coastland region a hundred miles west over the mountains. The grove was a living museum of horticulture and forestry by the designers, but simply a place to get away from it all before returning to the lonely orphanage barracks for the night. It was Dan’s sanctuary, for there surveillance was not allowed by city ordinance, and MC2 calls were only faintly heard and hardly ever heeded.

Dan disembarked onto the platform. The heat of the day had made the metal flooring panels pleasantly warm, as compared with the increasingly chilly desert air of evening. The car continued on its clockwork course with a low hum accelerating into a high whistle as it sped away down the line. 

Descending a stair from the platform, Dan made his way into the grove through a high gate, and proceeded to the tree specimens area, along a sidewalk illuminated by little blue lights hidden in shrubbery and flowers alongside. 

As he made his way casually to the the tree park, he noticed from afar that Marie had already preceded him and was seated herself at one of the benches, but was seemingly anxious. Dan could see her looking behind herself and at her wristwatch. He saluted her twenty paces away, but she did not seem to notice him as yet. Twilight was settling heavy on the distant, western peaks in soft purple hues, against which the bridge was becoming a colossus silhouette, dotted with a hundred pinpoint eyes peering into the oncoming night. Dan had descended into Green Grove at dusk many a time before, as it were almost routine, yet this night felt different. Was it the danger of letting a stranger in to his little world? Was it the unknown of woman that made him feel uneasy? Whatever it was, the night felt to Dan ominous and uncertain. He quickened his pace. 

Presently he greeted Marie audibly, who had now fixed her eyes on him and stood up at the same time. 

“You came! I’m glad!” Dan said, not hiding his enthusiasm to see her again. Another railcar briefly stopped to offload passengers, and was off again just as fast, which made Marie’s eyes dart from Dan to the platform not far off.

“What is it? It is just a railcar. They come rather more frequently than I would like. But they are gone soon enough.”

“Quiet,” Marie said in a very low tone, tangibly frightened. “They will hear us. I must speak quickly. Quick, now, walk by my side here,” Marie put her arm into Dan’s and motioned for them to walk, side-by-side, down the illuminated path into the trees. As they did so, Dan could sense how tense she was, and ever so often looked up at the platform and the intermittent cars coming and going. 

“Are you going to tell me what this is about? Why are you so anxious?” Dan tried to get out, but she made him know they still weren’t safe somehow, so he kept his peace. 

They walked on about five minutes into winding park path. The trees were ominously lit, he thought, with the electric blue lights of the path, and the eyes of the long, snake-like bridge curling around them. Dan was starting to sense the fear as well. 

“Now we may talk, but only briefly and as low as I am now. What do you know of this Academy that you attend?” she asked, like one who knew the question before it was asked.

“Little, other than that it is a preparatory academy for young men and woman, for service in the Dome. Adolescents are selected at an early age for their Potentials, and I was screened, and selected, and I have been attending courses there since I was fourteen, about two years,” Dan said, without ceremony. 

“Yes, but what does the Academy say of itself?” she inquired again.

“That it is in the service of the One, and that all are obliged under obedience to submit to the Dome’s orders and decrees,” Dan said, now rather perplexed at such simple-minded questions. 

“What is this Dome you speak of,” Marie asked, this time with an air of superiority not unwarranted.

Dome is home, mother, father, brother, sister, friend: Dome is life. Dome is death. Dome is all. Dome is One. Dome is God,” Dan said, quoting verbatim the chant-meditation he was instructed to recite upon waking every day and retiring every night by his instructors at the Academy. 

“It seems this is going to be harder than I thought,” Marie said to herself. “Okay, do you remember your history, about the Light Wars of 43989, of the third age of Dry Land?” Marie asked, somewhat exasperated. “Look up, if you can, and see the stars. Remember now?”

“Oh, yea, the decedents of Goodman wanted to return to the Earth and the gods burned up the waters over the earth so they could again, right?” Dan said, somewhat impressed by his recollection of Ancient History class. 

“Yes, that is about right. Well, the ‘gods’ as you call them returned men back to the land under the condition that they would keep the promises their faithful father Goodman did, otherwise, the gods would burn them up!” Marie replied, visibly uneasy about casually talking about such matters. “And do you recall who was in charge of keeping such promises to the gods” Marie questioned further.

“I am a little shaky on that point, who?” Dan asked.

“The Officers of the Dome, and World-Light’s vicar, of course!” Marie almost shouted under her breath. The wood into which the path had wound was now emerging into a clearing where a venerable specimen was not prominently displayed, somewhat out of the way in a corner as it were. It was not very big, rather gnarly and careworn for a tree. The limbs were stout but brittle looking, as if it had seen a thousand moons eclipsed in its day. The foliage was, by the electric blue hue of the path, glossy and, in a word very charming to behold. The effect the tree made on Dan was singular and almost sentimental, like the feeling one gets looking at pictures of a childhood home, where anyone else would see only an ordinary house.

Marie motioned to stop, and she seemed to mutter something beneath her breath as her head was slowly bowed. Then she beckoned Dan to bow his head, and they both approached, arm-in-arm, in front of the tree. 

“Wood from this tree,” she began, clearing her the emotion from her throat, “was hewn to make a fire to burn World-Light, as a hypocritical holocaust to Dark-Bearer,” she said. “There was good reason why you felt drawn to Green Grove. The most sacred artifact of the ancient world was here waiting for you.”

“Impossible! This can’t be that tree! Why, the Dome officials would have exalted this Grove and made this an epicenter of meditation and contemplation!” Dan shouted, forgetting himself and his sworn quietude.

“Don’t you see, Dan? What now occupies the Dome represents everything opposed to Goodman and World-Light. Can you see the stars now? No! Because Metro City lighting has obscured them! Can you see and really feel the sun? No! Because Metro City keeps everyone inside, comfortable and blind! Could you see this sacred and venerable Tree before tonight? No! because a thousand other specimens and points of interest were planted all around it to obscure it like the stars are hidden by these electric illuminations. Can you see…” Marie’s voice dropped off, and she quickly turned behind us. Distant on the path, toward the platform, through the park rapidly moving lights were silently approaching them. 

“Quick, get down,” Marie whispered, making them drop down behind a refuse-recycle receptacle. “They’re coming.”

Dan could almost hear his heart beating, but for the winding, whistling hum of the railcars overhead. Before he could ask who was coming, a blinding blast of light emitted from one of the smaller lights running down the path, which hit the Tree and burst into a billion red, yellow, and blue sparks. Shielding their eyes and faces from the light and heat, Marie and Dan only heard and felt the percussion of the light shot against the Tree, which sounded like a railcar had collided against another head-on. 

“Quick now, follow me,” Marie, who had recovered from the explosion first, grabbed Dan’s arm, and they fled away off the path toward the western wall of Green Grove, out of the lights of the path. As Dan turned back and got a glimpse of where the light shot hit, he saw the old Tree still stood still, just as it always had, and perhaps just as it always will.          

Passing out into the dark night, the city lights reflected a feeble gleam on the desert floor, which made the distance to the mountain range’s foot hills seem to increase. Marie half guessed Dan’s thoughts, looking back into his face from where she led on ahead. 

“Don’t worry. We’ll make it to the hills by sunup,” she said. Dan only nodded, and trotted along, half dazed and wondering whether the past half hour was a dream or real. The night air was refreshingly cool, but Dan was getting thirsty, his throat dry from all the running and excitement. But he figured, if Marie could handle it all without refreshment, he ought to. 

Emboldened by this thought, and sensing the mental fog rising from his head, Dan asked to slow the pace to get some things settled. 

“Sure. What do you want to know?” Marie said, obligingly. 

“For starters, where are we going? And why are we running? And who are we running from anyway! What was that blast of light! And who are you!” Dan uttered in a breathless torrent of helplessness and ignorance. 

“One thing at a time, Dan,” Marie replied calmly. “We are heading to our secret cave in the mountains, which members of the Order gather and report on their doings and progress. We dare not gather in the City.”

“Okay, but I think that just introduced ten more questions. Please proceed,” Dan said, flummoxed. 

“Get down! Here!” Marie shouted in a whisper, and pulled Dan’s hand toward a desert shrub. A bright shaft of pale yellow light streamed across the desert floor from where they had began, from the walls of the Green Grove, now about three miles behind them. The light was scanning back and forth in an ominously slow, searching manner, which made Dan’s neck hairs stand on end. 

“What’s that!” Dan asked under his breath. 

“That is the answer to your second and third questions,” Marie said. “That is a search party after me. It seems they traced my movements through audio and video surveillance, or through spies, and guessed who I was and what I was doing in the City.”

“Wait a second. Who are you? You said you just moved here from the coast, but then you said you had a secret cave in the mountains! Which is it?” Dan said, now somewhat suspicious. 

“I have just arrived from the coastland. I am an operative commander there, and was relocated here. One thing at a time, Dan. It is much to take in. Perhaps we can rest now, now that that search light has been turned out. I don’t think they know we came this far or are going toward the mountains,” Marie said, sitting down on the ground, motioning to Dan to do the same. 

“Okay, so who is chasing us and why?” Dan asked. 

“They are the officials of the Dome, in the service of darkness. They are chasing me because I have been in the City to recruit soldiers for the Lady of Light’s army,” Marie said.  

“How did your recruiting go?” Dan asked.

“Not well. I had only a handful I was to make contact with, and of those only one turned out to be receptive and open to the truth,” Marie said, visibly saddened by the accounting. 

“And what are these recruits asked to do? Do they get weapons?’ Dan asked, not abashed at his boyishness poking through. 

“The recruits are asked to do what they have always professed to do, be good and believe, and get others to do the same. There are weapons, but we would rather not it came to that, though it probably will in the end,” Marie’s grief sharpened a pitch at this last thought.

Dan just sat there, not knowing what to say, and feeling a little silly for asking about weapons. The night air was chilling off even more now, and both started to shiver. 

“I think it is best we start off again toward the cave,” Marie said, standing up, and brushing off the dust from her white uniform. 

Marie led the way with a quickened pace, but Dan’s legs were rejuvenated from the brief rest, though his mind was labored and grappling with Marie’s words and what it all meant. Her pace prevented him any more questions presently, though he had so many more. 

The two journeyed on through the night in silence and in brief stops here and there, until, at last, the first light of the morning was beginning to glow dimly along the eastern range, outlining their peaks and contours.   

“Do you see between those two peaks, that a line falls down between them? That line terminates at the base of the mountains. There is where our path to the cave begins. It is marked by boulders strewn about apparently at random, but if followed leads to safety and truth,” Marie said, looking up and gesturing for Dan to do the same. 

“Yes, I see it,” Dan said. 

“Good. I must ensure you get their. It is almost morning. They will have searched the City this night and realized I did not return but took my chances in the desert. They will be out at first light in search of me. I must ensure they find me and not you,” Marie said determinately. 

“What on earth are you saying, Marie!” Dan said, frightened. 

“You are more important than you know, Dan. If you are captured or killed, more will be lost than you can possibly imagine. You asked me who I was, but the better question should have been, who are you? Follow the path, and you will get your answer,” and with that Marie turned back and ran the way they had come. And, as Dan looked on half amazed, she disappeared in the distance. He motioned to run after her, but heeding her wisdom, and wanting answers, he let her go.

Dan turned back to the rising mountain range, and found the path leading down it again in the growing glow of morning light. Afraid for Marie, weary of mind, thirsty to death, Dan’s spirit was failing and falling within him as he looked upon the path he still had to traverse. 

As he began to climb the rough terrain, Dan thought about what Marie had said before she left him. Who are you? Oddly enough, that question never occurred to Dan to ask himself. At the orphanage he did what he was told. At the Academy, he took orders without question. He was comfortable at the orphanage, and well provided for with all his necessities; at the Academy, he was pleasantly amused and fulfilled with his studies, and with the exercises and sports, and, though he was somewhat of an outcast cadet, being without a family, he was sociable when called upon, and not quarrelsome. But to ask who are you never crossed his mind, perhaps for want of imagination, perhaps contentment, Dan didn’t know. But the question lay before him now like a mountainside, and he wasn’t sure which was more difficult, climbing the mountain on the verge of collapse, or finding the answer to his question. 

After a half hour of climbing in the increasingly brighter light, Dan looked back for the first time to see below him the desert floor far below, stretching out toward the distant Metro City skyline. The sun had not yet crested over the eastern peaks, but was close to it, and throwing its rays westward over the valley, which was filling in red-orange hues. The western range burned with the first fire of the dawning sun, and Dan was heartened by the sight, and resolved to quicken his pace toward the cave.

As he ascended, he observed here and there massive boulders with strange rune script hewn into them, patterned as like a design within a message. One script on one rock was particularly striking in the rising sun, which made the characters sparkle and accentuate their curves and angles. To Dan’s amazement, as he stood there next to the rock and rested, and gazed upon the surface moving his eyes over the unintelligible writing or drawing, he began to understand, or at least he thought he understood. It was directions, or a map, or both, Dan did not know which. The rock communicated the location of the cave with images in his mind formed by sounds like musical notes. He heeded their direction and proceeded with assurance he was on the right path. 

“I sure hope I can get a drink when I get there,” Dan said aloud, surprising himself by the sound, for the mountainside and lower foothills had been still and silent all morning and, except for the crunching and shifting of pebbles and dirt beneath his feet, he heard nothing besides. He carried on, his throat now parched beyond endurance, and presently throbbed with pain from the dryness; yet he carried on up the path.

Boulders with markings like the ones below where now less prevalent, but consistently led the way up. The mountainside was starting to warm up now, as the light of the sun was cresting over the ridge top. The heat became an unwelcome and smothering blanket, which Dan wished to throw off. 

“How far? Directions didn’t show,” Dan remarked to himself, now somewhat stumbling than walking. He lumbered on, leaning on one boulder for a second, then stumbling forward to the next. Presently he tripped over a rock and fell down to the ground and lay there a while. As he did so, Dan looked out again over the valley far below. It was now nearly in the full light of the sun, the earth-red floor reflecting back the yellow light of day. He noticed the glittering metallic rail lines in the distant City, which slashed through the background western range in streaks of silver white light. Then Dan’s gaze fixed on another sight. A formation of what appeared to be gliders was racing out from Metro City, into the desert plains.

“Marie! Marie!” Dan shouted, which echoed throughout and down the mountainside. Dan managed to lunge up to his feet and steady himself on a boulder and looked again down to the fast approaching search party. “Nowhere to hide, nowhere,” Dan uttered beneath his breath as he desperately looked down upon the situation. The gliders changed formation now from an arrow line to that like a pack of dogs circling their prey. “They found her!” Dan shouted again with terror. In a frenzy of emotion, he leapt forward from where he was resting against a boulder and tripped again and, striking his skull against a rock, blacked out. 

The formation of gliders finally encircled their prey, and, as they began to close in, all of a sudden a bright flash of brilliant red, yellow and blue light filled the region of the desert floor where Marie had been just moments before. Dan still lay unconscious and bleeding on the mountainside, as the sun slowly and silently wheeled overhead.