The Sisterhood of the Holy Magdalene had originated in the Old Universe on the planet known as Atlantis. It was, to all outward appearances, a Christian sect named for the consort of their Savior. But, in reality it was a covert arm of the Atlanean Church of the Holy One and a secret arm of the Time Sorcerers of Atlantis. And, in most things the Sisterhood was independent of all organized religions, its politics being just short of radical feminist. Its adherents were trained and skilled in the ways of the Sorcerers though they were not themselves sorcerers and it was considered of benefit to any Great House to have a Sister marry one of its members.
Corbus Lang, The Sisterhood of Secrets
We say Gods rather than God because it is widely held, by enlightened minds, that each worldline has its own God and so there are many. God is as infinite as the possibilities that separate all the universes.
Altus Rhann, Summa Philosphia.
Chapter 5: The Taylors
Lady Lois Chandler Taylor was not a timid person. Not by a long shot. But that did not mean that she was without fear.
And today she was really scared. Shitless, would have been the term her elder son would have used—if she had encouraged him to use such language.
Yes, she was scared for the future. But, then again, almost every one was these days.
She was in the parlor of the Rectory of St. Carson’s Church watching her younger son, Leo as he sat on the carpet talking to his robot bear, Timmy.
The boy was fond of the bear and would not leave it even when Joss Carpenter had shown up in the middle of the night to sneak them out of the house, past the approaching RAMP officers on their way to arrest them.
Nathanial had brought the bear back from Hydopangea where he had been part of the Peace Force helping Prince Eric with his pirate problem. That was before Radu Wallace had decided to sever all relations with the Pangean Empire.
Her Duke had found the bear in a bizarre and been told that the machine was an old antique of Mechan design with Sarafian add ons. Leo loved the machine animal like it was a second brother. And, she had to admit, Timmy was more than just a mechanical bear. The machine, like so many Mechan devices, was sentient.
Father Philip Cho and her older son, Nathan entered the parlor.
“Any news?” she asked them. She tried to keep the worry out of her voice. Her training with the Sisterhood helped there. She had been a very devoted Magdalene until she was introduced to Duke Nathanial Taylor. Then she had melted inside. Had fallen in love.
Father Phil shook his head. “they are arresting dissidents and conducting house to house searches.”
“No, sign of Dad,” said Nathan.
Lois looked at her elder son and tried to keep the sadness out of her eyes. Nathan loved his father dearly and she could see that he was anguished over the arrest of the Duke.
“Do not lose heart, Nathan,” she said. “the survival of our family rests on our shoulders now.”
Nathan sat down in a chair across from her. “It’s just sinking in, Mom. Nothing is going to be the same ever again—is it?”
“No,” she said. “but change is the one thing in life that is always inevitable. And inescapable. The conservative mind is a mind that is full of the capacity for self delusion. I have always tried to teach you—and your father—that change must be accepted and guided in a direction that will make it a good and worthy things. Just because things will not be the same does not mean that they must be worse.”
“But Dad is in the hands of the Wallaces,” said Nathan. “The biggest bunch of creeps on the Sphere.”
“But we are still free,” said little Leo. “and as long as that is true then they haven’t won.”
Nathan threw his brother a harsh look. Like so many elder children he hated to have his kid brother contradict him. Bu the also appreciated Leo’s innate ability to cut through all the complications of life and state the obvious that every one else was ignoring.
So Nathan smiled at Leo and laughed.
“and as long as we are free we can even up the score.”
This sent a pang of dread through Lois’ motherly heart.
“When you are ready,” she said. “right now you have much growth ahead of you before you are ready to tackle the Wallace Dragon.”
The two boys looked at their mother and then at one another. Lois knew that they were probably passing some wisecracking message along their mental thought net. They two boys were good at that.
Open channels, please, she transmitted to them. There is no need to be rude.
Yes, Mom, both boys chorused.
Satisfied that her children had been reminded of proper hyper-mentation manners, she turned her attention to Father Phil.
“Father, has there been any word of Kai’Vhan police searching churches and rectories?”
The priest shook his smoothly shaved head. “so far they have shown the proper legal respect for hallowed ground. It is fortunate that our enemies are the Wallaces. They have always used the Church as a mean of subjugating people that they feel are their lesser. And, in order to earn the respect of the Church they have to give the Church what it feels is its dues. They won’t search churches and convents and rectories until they have search everywhere else. Then RAMP will conduct the searches by themselves with the Kai’Vhan standing off somewhere.”
Father Phil could be counted on to tell the truth to her and her family. He was a loyal servant to the Taylor household and being a priest was only his cover. The Taylors, like most of the Great Houses of Arcadia had to keep an eye on their enemies. That called for a network of spies and informants.
And the Church of Arcadia—as a willing pawn of House Wallace—was an enemy of the Taylors.
“Then all we can do is sit here and wait for Joshua Carpenter to get in touch with us. We can do nothing until then.”
“What if the police come before Uncle Josh gets here?” asked Nathan.
What if, she thought, terror gnawing at her down deep inside. Then I must stand my ground and sacrifice myself to see that my sons live and escape the clutches of our enemies. Then, and only then, will the enemy have a partial victory but not a complete victory. And the name of Taylor will live on the come back and haunt them in some as yet unrealized future.
“then we will change our location,” said Father Phil. “then we will enter the basement of the world via the tunnels under the church and seek a hiding place there.”
Yes, the basement of the world. The great underground labyrinths below the Arcadia Plate. Built by the world builders in a time before people were moved here from their home worldline. This church, like so many others on Terra Prime, had been built atop access ways to the Underworld. Such entries to the tunnels built by the creators of the plate had come to represent doorways to the gods. Holy places.
Even the palace itself had been built atop a hill where was hidden the great Genesis Bunker of Arcadia. The place where the Sidairian World Engineers kept the templates for the plate mechanisms as well as the emergency controls necessary to maintain an artificial world. The place where it was said all the tools necessary for creation were kept in storage, awing the day when they might be needed.
It was said that in the Genesis Bunker was located the Well of Worlds, a device that allowed access the any wormhole. Perhaps an escape route for her and her sons.
That was something to keep in mind as well. But, for now we would stick to Joshua’s plan.
Besides, she did not have access to the Genesis Bunker. That required a key that resembled a sword. She had only seen such a key once, a long time ago, when her father had taken her to Pangea to the Court of the Emperor. The Emperor wore such key in a scabbard on his sword belt. It was also rumored that the King of Arcadia had one but that it was kept locked and guarded in the tower of Arcadia.
The tower where her love now was imprisoned.
“May I inspect the entrance to the underground?” she asked the priest.
“Of course,” he nodded.
Father Phil led her out of the rectory into the Church. They crossed the knave in low light and entered a hallway that took them towards the back of the ancient structure.
They stood before a statue of St. Algernon, the patron saint of safe travel. Algernon wore the robes of a monk and stood atop a celestial globe. Though his skin was bronze he had the pointed ears and features of a Randarian. Obviously the artists had taken liberties with the saint, making the Randarian navigator more human in appearance.
Phil pushed three stars on the globe and the statue slide forward and to the side, revealing a doorway.
They entered the doorway. The space inside was illuminated with glow globes—Atlanean eternal lighting devices. The walls were made of the same brick as the building, the manmade granite that was common in buildings throughout Terra Prime. The Sphere, not being a natural planet, had no granite to be quarried. One had to manufacture it out of silicon.
At the center of the room was a stairwell leading down into the plate—down into the basement of the world.
It would be a long walk, Lois knew. And a long climb back up. The plate was 100 kilometers thick and the shallowest part of the underworld was some one thousand meters deep.
Down there would be the machinery of the ancients. Machines that maintained the world. Among them would be things that the builders had not anticipated when they constructed the plates around the sun.
She knew the stories and the myths. Any child who grew up on Terra Prime had.
Mother told bad children that if they did not behave the Trongoroth would come up from under ground and eat them. The Trong were real enough. Ancient insect-like organisms that had invaded the Sphere long ago and been finally subjugated and confined to the lower depths. Some of the Trongoroth had even been tamed the do useful work in the underworld.
People also heard of the Plate Dwellers. Troglodytes that lived in the underworld. Humanoid if not quite human. They lived down there like vagabonds, farming fungus and using taps off the recycling wells to make their livelihood.
Lois peered down into the dark stairwell and felt a pang of dread. That was the way out if they were trapped by their enemies. Down there and…then where?
The Genesis Bunker would be closed to them. But probably not to their enemies. They would have to emerge somewhere else and find their way off this plate to one more friendly to the Taylor cause.
Would there be secret jump tunnels down there?
The Sarkhons would set up such conveniences for their agents. According to legend a Time Sorcerers could come and go with the silence of a cat. If watched for their approach could not be seen, if listened for not heard. It was said that a Time Sorcerers could materialize in a crowed room and not be noticed—until he chose to be.
But I am not a Time Sorcerer, she thought. I am a woman and a mother. It do not play with the course of the future save to protect my children and assure their place in it.
“I have been down there,” said Father Phil. “the stairs are dark for several flights. No glow globes were installed to discourage casual visits. Or so I suppose. I considered installing my own but it is hard to buy Atlantean gear without drawing attention from the RAMP.
Yes, she thought. Atlantean tech meant Atlantean involvement and Atlantean involvement might mean a violation of the Guild Treaty. The Wallaces would want to be informed of that. Even though their own involving with the Shaitanuses was a clear violation of the Treaty.
“Okay,” she said. “I want packs with necessary items and torches stowed here. If the time comes we will not have time to gather our wears. There will just be time to run.”
She looked Phil in his almond eyes.
“Save weapons stowed here too.”
“Ses, milady. I’ll get right on it.”
They returned to the boys and took them to the entrance. Phil showed them how to open the St Algernon door.
After that they went to lunch. The waiting game began again.