Chapter 18

The talk of civilization rising up from the ashes of despair was both exciting and at the same time, frustrating. This was the first time anyone could remember that Juniper sat and listened without interrupting. Jacob did most of the talking and Sal would periodically nod his head in agreement. When the tale was complete both Megan and Juniper filled the air with questions regarding the people directing the rebuilding of Durango. Juniper especially wanted to know what the women were wearing.

"Just clothes", answered Sal.

"I know they weren't naked. What kind of clothes? Were they in slacks or dresses? Did the clothes look new or ratty?" Megan jumped into the conversation asking," Were they wearing makeup? Did they looked dressed up or frumpy? Did most of the women have short hair or long hair? Right now, I think I'd kill for a perm and a new outfit. Were there any shops open?"

Jacob was in total awe at their questions. He had taken considerable time in describing the political power behind the scenes and the obvious implications of the computer implant, but these two young women seemed to be interested only in current fashion. Somewhat irritated he said, "What difference does it make? Didn't you hear anything that I just said? I just told you that 'big brother' has taken over the entire world and all you can think of is fashion?" Rowan laughed at Jacob's confusion over his inability to comprehend what normally, was a common subject of discussion between two young women. "But in a normal world, Jacob, their curiosity would be quite appropriate."

"Of course, it is!" Juniper said defensively, "I mean really, what do you expect us to do about the 'big take over'?"

Jacob frustrated with the turn the conversation was taking, quickly changed the subject by relating the activities of 'The Thorns of Christ'. Everyone thought it best to remain on 'their mountain', as they now thought of Mount Wilson. After all, they had access to news of current events via the radio equipment, and Ben and Theresa were anxious to start on a garden. Colleen was healing fast, she was happy and grateful for the opportunity to watch her daughter grow into adulthood. Billy Jo was grateful for the opportunity to watch Colleen come out of her shell, he hoped to have the chance to care for both her and her daughter, as a husband and a father. The forest was nurturing to them all and they spent much of their time outdoors hiking or exploring the mountain on horseback. As usual, every time they began to believe that order was coming into their life, they were wrong. About three weeks after Sal and Jacob returned from Durango, Jerome showed up with an eviction notice.

Surprise showing clearly on their faces, they watched Jerome stride purposefully into the room, two shadows remained unidentifiable in the rear of the elevator. Jerome did not waste any time in greetings before he began, "I am going to introduce to you two friends of mine," Nodding briefly in Tyler's direction, he continued, "Tyler already knows them quite well. Gentlemen, please join us." Jerome signaled to the two men. Hank paled slightly as he recognized the two men, they were still wearing their rumpled blue hats. Jerome's matter of fact explanation left no room for fear. With the expertise of one who was used to explaining complicated details to others, Jerome introduced the entities as not being human, then went on to recount the events leading up to the current state of affairs. The Illuminati was described as an ancient organization that literally worshiped the dark forces of the universe. These were people who desired power and absolute control over all world events. One way they received this power was through the use of 'Black Magic Ritual', which always included paying a tribute to 'Lucifer'. These were highly intelligent people who fully understood the implication that they might have to spend eternity in the spiritual fires of hell if they failed. They were willing to take this risk because they believed that in the end, Lucifer would win the final battle with the Arch Angel Michael. When this happened, Lucifer would reward them handsomely for their loyalty. The concept of 'Universal Transmutation' was described as the major disagreement between Saint Michael and Lucifer and the triggering of the Satan persona of Lucifer. It was at this point that Molly asked, "What you are saying is astounding, but what, exactly, does my husband have to do with any of this? He's just one old man that likes to wander around exploring deserts and caves."

" All it takes is one." Llondell spoke for the first time, "Gaf, during his formative years on the planet was able to resist the illusion of organized structure, therefore, he was the candidate with the highest possibility of success. Besides, he volunteered for the Vortex."

" The Infinity Vortex", Albendell explained, "is a learning tool that we created to bring humans up the evolutionary scale. Gaf is attempting to trace his roots, so to speak. The only way this is possible is for him to discover who he is by removing all points of reference. When he does, then he will have achieved awareness of all consciousness. Your friend, Sal, said it months ago, when he said, 'the closer he gets to the gate, the faster the vibration'. When Gaf achieves this it will be the last step in insuring Universal Transmutation." Hank, who had been silent up until now was unable to keep from shouting, "The Hundredth Monkey!" Theresa and John were fascinated by actually being in the same room with aliens. Theresa surprised at her own bravery, approached Llondell and asked him if they really looked as they appeared. In answer, both aliens shifted slightly and allowed everyone to see their true form. Satisfied, Theresa returned to her seat advising the aliens that they should always wear their real bodies, their human ones were 'pretty funny looking'. Bringing the group back to the reason for the visit, Jerome explained the plan of the Illuminati to destroy the Vortex and his plan for keeping the Vortex intact long enough for the aliens to achieve theirs. " That's where you come in," he said. "We need some volunteers to join with the group consciousness of Jupiter, thereby creating the energy necessary to shield the Vortex."

" Jupiter. You mean the planet, Jupiter?" Megan asked. " Yes." Albendell said, "The Vortex contains particles that were once part of the Jupiter Consciousness. Jupiter's energy, therefore is compatible with and protective to the Vortex. Similar to that crystal, which also was developed from Jupiter energy," he added, gesturing in Sal's direction. "What is required is the reciprocal exchange within consciousnesses, the Vortex because of its position, has already taken on some aspects of the Earth Consciousness and has the potential now for becoming a consciousness unto itself, but, I digress. Therefore, when your enhanced psychic energies focus on Jupiter, you will exchange your Earth form and become joined with the Jupiter Consciousness. It will require at least seven awareness' with human form to produce the energy necessary for Jupiter to ignite the crystal's field of protection. The mature crystal once it has been ignited by that friction, will create a permanent barrier around itself, and the vortex."

" Whoa," Sal said, "You lost me when you mentioned my necklace."

" You lost me when you said 'exchange our earth form'. You mean our physical bodies?" Jacob asked.

Llondell took up the explanation, "The crystal is the seed. When it is planted it will realize its full potential and become a catalyst between the two consciousnesses. This only needs to be done once. Jupiter's aura will become brighter and extend farther, however, it's influence on the Vortex will end with ignition of the crystal's power. The two consciousnesses, Jupiter's and the Crystal's, while remaining separate, will also be joined; each consciousness fully aware of the other."

" Like twins!" Theresa shouted, unable to contain her excitement.

" Only much better. Each time one consciousness joins with another it creates a strong bond, emphasizing everything that was wholesome on each is then shared by both. A joy shared is twice the joy." Not forgetting Jacob's question, he added," Your physical bodies will be replaced by one of light, somewhat similar to ours, but without particle density. You will be able to experience multi forms of existence. Which most of us can only hope to achieve in our quest for self awareness."

Seeing that some still had unanswered questions, Llondell suggested that due to the fact that the Illuminati would soon discover the location of the Vortex, and in the interest of understanding, they communicate by group telepathy. After everyone agreed, a clear pathway of thought was generated. Pulling out a small device, he explained that it was similar in nature to the computer chip created by Emmanuel Arimathaea. It would enhance their psychic powers and, like the other, be used to concentrate their united focus on any desired event. By the time the barrier was in place they expected the consciousness of the Vortex to be sufficiently developed to create many interesting experiences for those living in the barrier. Because the Vortex Consciousness has not yet been experienced, we have no idea what it might do. Neither do we know if those planting the seed will be trapped within the barrier, or if they will be allowed entrance to the Vortex. It is quite possible that the Vortex might eliminate the gardener. It is emphasized that even though, prior to occupying their human bodies, all entities here agreed to participate, free will remains in tact. At last, everyone knew.

'Wait,' Juniper screamed in her head, 'how did I wind up with the crystal on my thirteenth birthday?'  Loosely translated, the message received by the humans was a shrug and an image of an invitation. Rowan was the first to volunteer to join with Jupiter. Both Jacob and Tyler tied for second. Mort and Bert both felt the pull of destiny and were ready for adventure. Looking at Hank, Sandy said, "I always wanted to be a star. How about it Hank, wanna hitch a ride?"

" I'll follow you anywhere," Hank answered before she finished speaking. " Wait a minute!" Juniper interrupted. Does this mean that Sandy and I will never see each other again?"

"Not exactly," Llondell answered," You do understand the barrier generated by refracted light from the crystal will also create a bond between Earth and Jupiter. The entire barrier becomes an oracle between consciousnesses. As I explained before, we are not sure if those planting the seed will become trapped, but since you were invited I'm sure you'll be able to experience a type of communication with your friend. However, we understand that your physical body will also become slightly altered."

" Of course I want to plant the crystal, but what do you mean my body will be altered, like Sandy's?"

" No, it will become somewhat similar to ours. Your density will be lighter than it is now, and you will be able to take on any appearance you desire. In a sense, you will be light made up of particles."

Sal raised strong objection to Juniper's accepting responsibility for the planting. Unsuccessful at changing her mind, he firmly stated that he would accompany her even if she turned into a triangle. Surprised at Sal's comment, Llondell said," You misunderstand, anyone occupying space within the barrier will become altered."

Molly knew that her chances of finding Gaf were slim, but if she could, she wanted to join him in whatever adventure he might experience. Ben, reluctant to remain behind said, "I'm not sure I believe any of this, but I just got you back and you're not leaving without me this time." The atmosphere surrounding them was intense and exciting. The others were also quick to realize their potential and recognized their individual roles. The majority of the population needed to stay connected to their rapidly changing world. Under no circumstances, did they want to give up their ability to think freely and live as they chose and they felt certain there were many others that felt the same. Don and Megan wanted to begin a family, but did not want to raise their children in, as Megan described, "an atmosphere of artificially created happiness. I want to raise my children to know that happiness is a choice made from within yourself, not a gift provided by another." The immensity of the task before them caused the room to become silent for a moment as each person began to absorb the individual meaning of what they had heard. Jerome warned, "Those that remain on the fringes will be forced to live an extremely primitive lifestyle. Those in power will not provide assistance or allow them to develop technologically."

"They won't need technology to survive." Tyler assured Jerome, "Those that remain outside of the cities will be developing spiritual tools. If they persevere and trust in the universe, they will find whatever is necessary to sustain the physical body. When the 'Teacher' arrives, they will join with him in teaching the principles of 'Transmutation'. At that time, those in the cities will be given a choice to follow in his steps or remain chained by the shackles of the material." John was puzzled by these last words, "That's not fair. Why should those in the cities get to join with the 'Teacher'?"

"Fairness is not a factor," Tyler answered patiently, "choice is. Any one can, as the Christians say, 'repent' at any time. "

What will you be doing after you leave here?" Molly asked Jerome.

" I'll be implanted with a Snitch. Now the location of the Vortex is known, I will oppose my will against those attempting to destroy it. Of course, this will trigger the lethal code, that's where Joan enters the picture. She has created a bypass of the lethal code. Our alien friends have estimated that I'll be able to oppose the psychic energy of the other members for approximately ten seconds, any longer and my body will fail. Since I don't wish to die, I'll focus my opposition to the count of ten, then I'll stop and run like hell. The plan is to have the seed planted before my debut as a traitor to the Illuminati. Unless the Jupiter conjunction occurs during the that ten seconds, all we've attempted will be in vain. The Vortex will be destroyed."

Listening to Jerome's explanation, Rowan asked," Why can't we just join with Jupiter now and be done with it?"

"I could wish that were possible, however, the crystal will not direct the energy of Jupiter to the Vortex without a specific path to follow. It is the intense impact of the psychic forces of the Illuminati in conjunction with my momentary resistance which will produce that path. At that same time, your coordinated efforts will assure the protection of the Vortex. The aliens have created a masking devise that Joan and I will inject in ourselves at the appropriate time. This will negate the Snitch's location signal codes. We hope to escape and hide amongst those that refuse to join the planned communities."

Jerome went on to explain that timing was critical. Those taking on the Jupiter task would remain on Mount Wilson, where Joan would join them in two days. Those intending to plant the seed were to travel to the Amazon river, where they would throw the seed directly into the head waters approximately twenty four hours from now. It was there that the Vortex made its connection to the earth plane. The Jupiter companions were not to begin their task until Joan set the bypass for his lethal code. She would begin the bypass process after receiving a radio signal from him. Jerome estimated that it would take approximately sixty seconds for the Illuminati to escalate to their full psychic power. Joan, in order to avoid detection, would not begin her task until the start of that sixty second period. Joan would have to leave immediately after setting the bypass by way of the emergency escape route. Unfortunately, the combined force of human psychic energy joining with that of Jupiter would most likely cause extreme earthquakes in the surrounding area. Joan would only have a few seconds to exit the retreat and repel down the cliff to safety before it collapsed. She would have to find her own way to Monticello, where Jerome hoped to catch up with her at the Carpino home. It would be necessary for the others to leave Mount Wilson as soon as possible.

"But where will we go?" Theresa asked, looking very forlorn.

" I know a place my father and I used to hunt deer." John volunteered, "It's up in northern Utah and it's got a spring. My dad always told me that the water up there was safe to drink."

" I trust John's judgment," Billy Jo advised, "I'm willin' to take us there, whenever you're all ready."

Molly and Colleen exchanged knowing looks, they were fully aware of the roles they had agreed to play. Theresa tearfully circled the room, hugging everyone. Megan, who thought that her life was finally gaining some semblance of order, felt a twinge of anger at her life being changed again so abruptly. She hugged Molly and then clung to Juniper, unable to say goodbye, as she tried to make some sense out of why, time and time again, God chose to toss about her life so carelessly. Don put his arms around both women. A large lump formed in his throat as he tried to articulate the words necessary to say good by to Juniper. Then he pulled Megan away and did his best to comfort her. Billy Jo formally shook everyone's hand and slapped them on the back a bit too hard and then began checking the packs that had remained prepared for emergencies. John withdrew and observed from afar for a few moments before following Billy Jo's lead. Dr. Sherman was so fascinated by everything he had heard Jerome and the aliens say, that he had become completely lost in his thoughts. Shaking his head as if waking from a deep sleep, he said his goodbyes in a monotone and then began to rummage through his belongings. There was no reason to linger, Jerome and the aliens left with Ben, Juniper and Sal close behind. Molly was last to get in the elevator, with tears in her eyes she said goodbye, hugged Jezebel and told her to go with Colleen. The dog did as she asked, after giving Molly's face a good washing. In less than two hours, a sad but hopeful family made up of Don, Megan, Billy Jo, Colleen, Theresa, John, and Dr. Sherman started down the mountain on horseback with Jezebel running ahead and behaving like a dog. She had learned, the painful way, not to run under the horses. After everyone left the Jupiter companions fell silent, each lost in their own thoughts. "Life's a bitch and then you go to Jupiter!" Mort said, in an attempt at lightening their mood, however, not one of them laughed

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Just before leaving Mount Wilson Sal had warned Don and Billy Jo to stay away from the lowlands. He reminded them of the encounter with the 'Thorns of Christ'. Taking his advice, they decided to travel over the back country and avoid all major roads. Having the horses would make it considerably easier to cross the mountains. John knew exactly were he wanted to take them, but was unsure how to get there by way of the back roads. They studied the maps and soon Don was able to set a course that would bring them to Bear Lake, located in the northeastern part of Utah. John knew the lake area well and felt confident about taking the lead from there. The somber atmosphere of saying goodbye left them all in a melancholy mood.

"Sing us a song, Megan." Don asked. He estimated they had been traveling for over an hour. The only sound accompanying their footfalls was the hum of insects. "

What do you want to hear?" She asked tiredly.

" You know."

Of course, she did, although she never quite understood why it was his favorite. Megan mentally shrugged away her worrying and began to sing the old ballad of the jealous lover who killed his 'wife to be' while on a romantic evening stroll through the woods. 'Maybe he's giving me a warning.' Her laugh abruptly interrupted her singing. When Don asked what was so funny, her laughter escalated to hysteria as she sat on the ground and began to cry.

" Honey, what's the matter?" Don kneeled at her side and tried to lift her head up from her hands, "I never would have asked you to sing that song if I'd known it was going to make you cry."

Embarrassed at her show of emotion, Megan wiped her tears and tried to assure everyone that she was fine. Dr. Sherman had his suspicion as to what Megan might be experiencing and suggested that they all take a little break. Theresa handed her a bunch of wild flowers in an effort to cheer her. Conversation began slowly, the break had definitely shifted everyone's attention to the reality of their situation.

Theresa began by asking, "Who is the teacher that Tyler was talking about?" The child's question brought the forest to a complete silence. The breeze, that had been flowing out of the north, stopped as abruptly as the buzzing of the insects. The innocent question was, of course, the same one that had sparked wars and, in the past, divided many nations.

Colleen knew her responsibility as a parent and responded. "It's not an easy question to answer, honey, because he is so many different things to different people. Some people believe that Jesus would return to earth and teach everyone how to love each other and get along without fighting. Other people believe that the Teacher is someone that can show us how to become beings of light like those two men up on Mount Wilson."

" Which do you believe?"

" Well honey, I'd like to think that if we can all learn how to love, then we will become beings of light."

" One thing's for sure," said Billy Jo. "In about three and half years, you're going to know for certain. At least, that's what it says in the bible. But for now, we better get back on the road, those clouds are moving in fast."

Satisfied with her mother's answer, Theresa walked over to Megan, put her arms around her and said, "Maybe if the Teacher comes he could make you feel better." They continued on their way feeling a little lighter, despite the storm clouds that seemed to become heavier as the day wore on. A few hours before dark they arrived at a secluded meadow and made camp. John went out into the woods, and in no time at all, returned to proudly display the four dead rabbits he held by the legs. Theresa impressed her mother, by adding herbs and roots to the stew that was soon boiling on the fire.

"This is the life." Billy Jo said as he leaned against a log and began to play Angie's old harmonica. Tears stung Colleen's eyes for only a moment before they were cleared by the joy of the tune he played.

" Billy Jo," Colleen commented," You're always so calm. None of what's been happening in the world ever seems to upset you."

Billy Jo removed the moisture from the harmonica by tapping it lightly on the palm of his hand before responding, "What's to be upset about? 'Fore all this happened, I woke up early in the mornin', went out in the woods, maybe did a bit of huntin or fishn, ate, built a fire, watched it a bit, talked with a body if they happened by, then went to bed. Since I've been out west, I get up early, go out to the woods, maybe do a bit of . . ." huntin or fishn,"

Everyone laughed as Colleen finished his sentence for him. When the laughter slowed, Billy Jo added in his slow country drawl, "Only difference is . . . Now I do what I do for my friends and with my friends."

" That's really what it's all about." Dr. Sherman said.

" Ain't it the truth." Don said, as he held a very sleepy Megan in his arms. Everyone was happy, but tired from the trip down the mountain and ready for sleep. Don had arranged the sleeping bags while super was cooking. He fell asleep fast, knowing that in a few hours he would relieve Billy Jo, who'd won 'first watch' from the toss of a coin. Billy Jo checked the horses, then wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and went into the shadows. He watched Colleen add a few sticks to the fire and then lay down by her daughter. He was glad, for their sakes, that the storm had passed by them. Darkness was total and silent, except for occasional noises of the night critters. The shadows from the small fire danced among the surrounding trees. Billy Jo looked up to see a few stars peeking out from behind the clouds. He saw Colleen rise and walk toward him, tripping on the blanket she was attempting to wrap around her body. Without speaking, she sat near him and looked up at the night sky. After sitting in silence together for several minutes, Billy Jo whispered, "You should be asleep. We've got a long way to travel tomorrow."

"Got too much on my mind," Colleen whispered back. " You don't need to worry . . ." Billy Jo stopped speaking as Colleen put her hand to his lips. " It's not that. I've been thinking about us."

" Us?" Billy Jo mumbled through her fingers. " Yes. Us. Me and you." Colleen explained as she removed her hand from his mouth. " Well uh, I wanted to give you some time. I didn't know you'd been thinkin' about me." Billy Jo broke off, unsure about his ability to express what he felt.

" I've been asleep for a long time. Now I'm back and I don't want to waste another minute of my life. I'd like to share it with you. I've watched you with Theresa, I can see you're fond of her, and she adores you."

" What about her mother?"

" Why, she's been following you for months now, every since that day she tried to help you gather up firewood." Colleen stood and started back toward the fire, after a few steps she turned around, saying, "We'll take it one day at a time." before continuing on her way.

" Ya hoo!" The cheer leapt from Billy Jo's mouth before he was able to stop it. Throughout the remainder of his watch, small bubbles of joy periodically rose from his chest and escaped musically into the night air. After Don relieved him on guard duty, Billy Jo was unable to sleep. The next morning, every one was anxious to be on the road. It did not seem to matter that none of them knew exactly where they were going, just that they were going there together.

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The quiet that settled into Mount Wilson after everyone had left, was maddening. It didn't take Sandy very long to start pacing. Rowan seemed quite calm, but was aware that everyone else was beginning to grind their teeth. "Maybe it's time we talk." Rowan suggested, "Anybody want to start?" After a moment of heavy silence, everyone started speaking at once. They knew from their conversation with the aliens that they probably would not even notice when their physical selves changed. Quickly they all discovered that It wasn't the thought of no longer having physical bodies that was getting to them, it was the waiting. The concept of what they were about to become was so removed from their everyday reality that they could not even formulate any questions. Each admitted to an elation that defied comprehension. They couldn't understand why there was not any trace of fear.

" Do you think it will be similar to the journeying we learned on the reservation?" Sandy asked.

" I doubt it." Rowan speculated," Although the Shaman's journey does bring information and sometimes other beings, it is usually dream like. I am always aware that my physical self is the anchor point of my self-awareness. What we are about to become is a total shifting out of density. I have no idea what that means in terms of experiences." Jacob sat quietly for a moment before he smiled and said, "It's all very exciting, isn't it? The adventure of a lifetime." " Or maybe, the culmination of many lifetimes." Hank added.

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The speed with which the 'state of the art' helicopter rose straight up into the air, only pausing for a brief moment before shooting across the tree tops made Molly feel light headed. Sal stared at Juniper with a fixed expression on his face that suspiciously resembled fear, as she bounced up and down in her seat giggling. Sal, very much at home on his Harley had never flown. In fact, since the age of sixteen, he had never traveled in any vehicle unless he was in the driver's seat. His extreme discomfort at not being in charge was visible only by the pale skin showing at the top of each knuckle on his fingers and an occasional twitch along the ridge of his jaw each time he clenched his teeth. The experience of flying through the air at over 100 miles an hour in a helicopter was unbelievable.

Once they were on their way, the pilot introduced himself as Ivan, welcomed them, and invited them to partake of refreshments that were located underneath each seat. The thought of putting anything in her stomach made Molly grab for a barf bag. Ben became so anxious over the Russian accent of the pilot that Molly feared he might have a stroke. She was grateful that he soon turned his attention to the elaborate control panel, exclaiming that he had never imagined such a machine possible. As Jerome had explained to them, the helicopter set down at his home in New Mexico. Juniper was first to exit and ran several feet away from the helicopter to survey her surroundings. Excitedly, she commented on the beauty of the manicured grounds and the beautiful house. Sal quickly pulled her to his side, warning her that in the future, she should let him go first and stay close by his side. Ben helped Molly down from the helicopter and they walked to where a small man in a large golf cart waited to take them to the Lear jet they saw off in the distance.

Juniper, who had kept up a constant stream of chatter since leaving Mount Wilson, was starting to get on everyone's nerves. Molly's stomach lurched again as the jet roared on its way to Peru. " Juniper, Dear," she said, trying to speak politely through clenched teeth, "Why don't you try to get some rest?"

Juniper knew that everyone was weary from her incessant chatter, but she had been unable to stop the flow of words coming out of her mouth. However, she knew that she could no longer drown out thoughts of the task ahead by listening to the sound of her own voice. Juniper turned to stare out the window at the clouds and wondered what would happen when she threw the crystal into the water. " The crystal! Where's the crystal?"

Sal groaned, showing Juniper the crystal he still wore around his neck. " Oh, of course, well, I'll be quiet now." Juniper said as she turned, again to meet her own anxiety staring back at her through the window. By the time the jet landed near Iquitos everyone had fallen into a stupor. Juan Valdez, at least that's what Molly thought when she saw him, waited patiently next to what appeared to be the world's oldest helicopter. Ivan said goodbye and told them that the Peruvian pilot would take them to the headwaters of the Amazon. There were no doors on the ancient relic and the pilot did not speak English. No one was very anxious to get aboard. However, after a moment of futile deliberation which ended in a shrug as one of them said, "guess this is it."

Resigned to risking their lives with 'Juan the Flying Ace', one by one they entered the small craft while 'Juan' nodded and smiled, his bright yellow scarf blowing in the breeze. The humidity was so stifling that Ben gasped for breath and started wheezing. Juniper sat so closely to Sal that she seemed to be trying to enter his body. Molly was ill and thought to herself, 'You better be there, old man.' as the helicopter rumbled, shook, then slowly rose from the ground. The noise was deafening and Molly's eyes were riveted to a large bolt that appeared to become loosening from the vibration. 'Juan' waved his arms and shouted from time to time in an attempt to show them the awesome sight of the snowcapped Andes, and then the forest and streams below. Without success, they tried to appreciate the beauty that surrounded them. It seemed that they had been traveling for hours when the helicopter seemed to halt in midair. 'Juan' was enacting a pantomime of climbing and jumping, while pointing to a coil of rope attached to a wench. Thinking that these Americans finally understood what he wanted them to do, 'Juan' kicked a canvas bag out of the doorway. Sal felt his life pass before his eyes as he watched the pack fall and hit the ground, realizing what was necessary. Horrified looks of understanding appeared on each face as 'Juan' smiled and said, "OK" several times as he tried to reassure them.

Ben, knowing the coil of rope was a ladder, finally picked it up and threw it out. " Who wants to go first?" Ben said," I'll be returning with our pilot."

Sal pried Juniper's fingers from his arm as he said, "Ladies first." Juniper howled thinking he was serious. Ben took a deep breath and ventured out on to the ladder. As soon as it steadied with his weight, he went down farther. Feeling a bit like a fly stuck on the tail of a kite, he waved for Molly to come next, then Juniper. Sal kneeled by the open door to assist each of the women. Sweat ran into his eyes as he descended, at last, to the ground. They watched the helicopter until it was out of sight. Sal opened the pack to see it filled with supplies and a handwritten map. The air was filled with the hum of mosquitoes and the roar of water created by two rivers joining.

Ben felt a burning in his stomach as he turned to his companions, "Well, I guess we might as well get on with it."

With a slight feeling of weakness in their knees, they picked up the gear and headed towards the confluence of the two rivers. Juniper was feeling confused as to just how she would know where to 'plant the seed'. At her insistence, Sal finally withdrew the crystal from around his neck and placed it in her hand. Juniper walked as close to the edge as she dared. Stopping, she closed her eyes and tried to listen for any messages that might be coming from the Universe. It seemed as if the switchboard was closed.

"Just try to relax and be patient," Molly advised, "Maybe you're trying too hard." Sighing deeply, Juniper agreed and they walked a little further. Unable to relax, her anxiety grew stronger with each step she took. Frustrated, she sat down and looked at the crystal. " Maybe I should take it off the strap."

Sal stood over her shaking his head, "I don't think it'll make any difference, but let me do it for you, your hands are shaky." Patiently, he removed the thin strip of leather and held the small stone up to the light admiring it's beauty for a moment before giving it back to Juniper. Juniper clasped the crystal tightly in her fist as she continued on her way with determination. Intensely, she focused her attention on the task before her. 'What if I throw it in the wrong place? How will I get it back?' she thought, as she stared into the depths before her. Again, she stopped in order to think more clearly. However, as she started to sit, a hornet the size of a hummingbird began flying around her hair. Not realizing, at first, what this nuisance was she impatiently tried to wave it away. The hornet would not be chased away from its purpose however, and swiftly found its target. Screaming, Juniper unthinkingly flung out her hands. Eight eyes focused on the sight of the crystal flying through the air. In slow motion the crystal appeared to drift, as if caught by a gust of wind, before it fell gracefully into the water.

Horrified, Juniper attempted to explain what had happened. Tears streamed down her flushed face as she tried, without success, to examine her injury. The tension was broken as the other three burst into hysterical laughter when they realized that the large insect had stung Juniper on her right buttocks. A scream of frustration and indignation rose from the center of Juniper's being as she stomped away. The noise of their laughter seemed to increase, echoing loudly in Juniper's ears. It rose to such a crescendo that she was unable to hear the shouts of the other three as they attempted to turn her attention to what they saw happening. Waves and rapids rose high to form a huge fountain, spraying tiny gem-like droplets for over a mile in every direction. Juniper, thinking that it had started to rain turned and realized that the laughter in her ears was not coming from her friends, it came from the millions of drops of water giggling joyously at being set free. The refracted light from these particles exploded as individual pinpoints of light seemed to take on a life of their own and danced through the atmosphere like fireflies.

" Well, I guess this is the place." Ben said, wiping the moisture from his face. Nothing more was said as they watched the crystal enlarge to the size of a small hill over the next few hours. The atmosphere surrounding them seemed enveloped in a pale lavender mist. By the time the sun was low in the west, the Crystal had stabilized. There was nothing to do now but wait for the Jupiter conjunction which would ignite the protective force buried within the Crystal.

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Joan returned to the house feeling no less anxious than when she had left. She hoped that a long brisk hike would relieve some of the tension she felt at Jerome's leaving. Over the many hours of discussion and planning, the complexity of what they were attempting to do had taken on the aspect of a game. Jerome's absence had caused her stomach to churn in an attempt to digest the reality of her situation. Out of habit, she pulled open the refrigerator and stared into the brightly lit interior for several minutes before slamming the door with frustration.

" Save anything for me?" Startled, Joan whirled around and nearly toppled them both as instinctively, her leg shot out in a kicking motion.

" Damn you Jerome! You almost scared me to death." Joan said, as soon as she was able to catch her breath. Jerome laughed. He had been doing a lot of that since he and Joan came here, and it felt good, he realized; better than any of the complicated stunts of financial wizardry he had performed over the years, and even better than beating Katrina at her own game. At least he hoped that would be the outcome of the intense planning that he had finally set in motion. 'Maybe, I'm just getting old and soft,' he thought, as he held Joan tightly, 'but when all this is over I could live a very satisfying life with this woman.' Jerome's thoughts were interrupted by a barrage of questions that Joan was asking him. He did his best to assure her that everything was proceeding as planned.

The people on the mountain had behaved exactly as they had predicted and were well on their way toward achieving their respective goals. " My enhanced psychic power tells me that we have business to attend to in the bedroom."

Jerome held his index finger to his forehead and spoke with what he hoped was a mysterious voice. Joan, however, took his words seriously and reached underneath his arm to look at the implant. Jerome chuckled lecherously, and led Joan up the stairs. Of course, the implant particle had not yet had sufficient time to affect the pineal gland, but by the time he reached Sedona the following day it would be functioning efficiently. Plans and escape routes had been discussed so many times that there was no need to ruin what might be their last hours together with words of 'what if'. Joan was the first to leave the next morning. Joan, from fear of 'bad luck', was determined not to look back at Jerome where he stood in the yard watching her board the small helicopter. However, she was unable to stop her eyes from traveling downward as the craft lifted off and circled the house before heading toward Mount Wilson. Joan quickly blinked away the tears that were trying to form and concentrated on remembering their many conversations, the special looks, or the feel of his hand brushing lightly on her rear end when they passed in the hallway.

"There's no way I'm going to allow that to come to an end. I'll do whatever it takes to survive and then I'll meet him in Monticello."

By the time the helicopter set down on the top of Mount Wilson, Joan was filled with strength and confidence. She greeted the two women that came running toward her with genuine fondness. Rowan and Sandy peppered her with questions about Jerome and Joan responded by asking them how they felt about their attempt to join a new consciousness. They were all ready and anxiously awaited Jerome's signal.

--------------------

Katrina was the last one to enter the room and the twelve men rose from the large round table to greet her. The atmosphere was filled with expectation, never before had they attempted to focus their combined psychic power on a task of this magnitude. Each had a momentary flash of possible consequences if the experiment failed. Katrina suggested they begin by joining hands. A split second before Jerome joined hands with Karl on his right and Katrina on his left, he pressed a signal button on his watch. At the expected sound, Joan set the bypass for Jerome's lethal code. Quickly, she left the retreat and began her descent as the Jupiter companions began to focus their combined energy on joining their consciousness with that of Jupiter. As was predicted, the intense interchange between the Companions and Jupiter created major earth disturbances deep inside Mount Wilson. Repelling to safety, Joan found herself swinging furiously in rhythm to the mountain's distress.

While Joan was trying to repel down a mountain that had turned to gelatin, the aliens were watching from the safety of their space craft. Albendell and Llondell cheered, as the light of Jupiter expanded and then contracted almost to the point of disappearance before finally erupting with the brilliance of a super nova. The sight of the exploding light coming from Jupiter brought tears to Juniper's eyes as she realized that her friend, Sandy had been successful.

In that same instant, the energy flow from Jupiter found its way to earth and focused on the giant crystal that lay at the headwaters of the Amazon river. The crystal, now ignited, sent out purple ribbons of concentrated energy, stretching out into seven directions; one from each facet and one from the top. The barrier was now complete. There was no force in existence that could penetrate the protective shield around the vortex. As the signal was received on Mount Wilson, the Illuminati began the intense coupling of their psychic power, Katrina then channeled this power on the destruction of the Vortex. The instant that Katrina sensed Jerome's opposition, the Vortex sensed the intruders. Both Katrina and the Vortex responded with offensive tactics. When Katrina's expectation that Jerome would receive a lethal code did not materialize, she immediately directed part of the psychic coupling to destroy Jerome as well as the Vortex.

The ground began to tremble as the Vortex shifted the plate supporting the red cliffs of Sedona. Katrina's mansion was on the brink of collapse, but she commanded everyone to maintain their focus and disregard the crumbling of the ceiling over their heads. Just in time, Jerome broke contact and fled. Ignoring the shaking of the earth underneath his feet, he ran until he was no longer able to stand. Ironically, he had been saved by an earthquake he had indirectly instigated. While concentrating their efforts on trying to save the Vortex, no one suspected that the Vortex was quite capable of saving itself. The first instinct in any new form of consciousness is survival, even at the expense of its host. The result of the attack on Sedona by the Vortex and the earthquake in Colorado set off a chain reaction around the world. The remaining members of the Illuminati crawled from the rubble around them and fled.

The Vortex, recognizing the threat had ceased, withdrew its attack. Joan was the first to arrive in Monticello. After the massive earthquakes there wasn't much left of the Carpino home or the town. Jerome arrived a few days later, with little to tell. As soon as the ground settled, both had injected the masking device necessary to jam the signal from the Snitch. However, the Illuminati was much too busy saving their own lives and trying to effectively deal with the chaos created by the many earthquakes to bother with tracking a couple of traitors. Jerome's plan now was quite simple, find a place to rest and live out the remainder of their lives. Joan wanted to go south and Jerome wanted to search the north. They flipped a coin. ---

-----------------

It was truly a very significant shift that in every day terms might be described as the feeling one gets when a monumental goal is finally achieved. What was many separate parts began to blend into one with many voices. The 'I' was now 'We' and the conclusion was therefore, 'We are one'. Feelings of separateness shattered into oblivion. The sound of each spirit blended into the harmony of the universe. They joined with the song of God and delighted in the absolute majesty of being one.

"Where are we? Did anything happen?" asked Sandy.

It was difficult at first to orient to her own sense of self and then instantly, she became aware of the others as part of herself. "It would help if we focused on what our last physical self looked liked ." Rowan suggested.

A wondrous shimmering of purple light cascaded into the brilliance of a supernova and the images of the seven Jupiter companions formed in a hazy mist of color and sound. It was quickly agreed that orientation would be benefited from a more simple and direct form of existence. Within moments, the seven found themselves sitting on a beach whose ocean waves were silent. Slowly, out of the mist of the ocean foam, a figure began to form, in his left hand he held a flaming sword and with his right he waved heartily at his friends.

"It was magnificent." Exclaimed Michael. Looking back into the density of physical form and seeing the intense light display of Jupiter, Jacob remarked, "It does seem to do the job."

" Quite right." Said Michael. "The vortex is well protected." " Will He come?" Bert queried. " We're counting on it." Michael answered. "We've done all that we can, now we must wait."

--------------------

The planet's surface had gone through some dramatic changes. The entire eastern seaboard of what used to be the United States was now under water. The Atlantic ocean now crested its waves 40 miles inland from its previous beaches. The last earthquake had caused a deep fissure down the central part of the North American continent and now water from the great lakes flowed through it. California nearly disappeared, the few parts that remained were totally surrounded by the Pacific ocean. The Illuminati was unprepared for the major earth disturbances. Many of the cities they had begun to rebuild tumbled and fell prey to the violent quakes. The Illuminati were quick to take advantage of the earth disturbances . To enhance the fervor for ridding the planet of what they called the 'evil doers', it was proclaimed by 'Emmanuel' that God sent these earthquakes as punishment because the citizens of 'God's Golden Dawn' had been lax in ridding the planet of pagans. Gradually, the term 'pagan' was used to describe anyone that refused to enter the cities and become implanted with the 'blessing from God'. The 'Thorns of Christ' acted on the message from 'Emmanuel'; thousands were slaughtered.

--------------------

The Vortex and the surrounding hills of the Andes Mountains were insulated from the dramatic weather changes and earthquakes. Juniper, peeking around the corner of a large bolder, stared intently at the bright purple ribbons of light that streamed from the huge crystal and extended in all directions for nearly 2 miles. The actual Vortex could not be seen, however it was assumed that the entrance must be just above crystal because one of the ribbons appeared to enter the Vortex by resembling a purple highway that abruptly ended in mid-air. Sal and Ben had tossed some rocks on top of the ribbon near the ending and the result was always the same; a deep crackling sound similar to that of lighting or a short circuit and then the stone would disappear. Neither man wanted to attempt a human experiment. However, they were sure that the ribbon was strong enough to support their weight because all of the rocks had not disappeared, but lay where they were thrown, now the ribbon supported several rocks.

Just behind Juniper, Molly was combing her hair and lamenting about not having enough pins to keep it away from her face.

" Aren't you curious?" asked Juniper.

"I'm more than curious," answered Molly. "And I have every intention of going in there, but first I'd like to convince Sal and Ben. Entering that Vortex is not something I want to do by myself. I'm not that brave."

"Well I'm not either, but I'll bet we could get them to go in if we nagged enough."

" Sure, and then Sal will just throw you in."

" I hear them coming." Juniper said. "Sal said they were going to inspect the wall again. Maybe they've figured a way to bust out of here. I'm getting tired of eating fish."

Within a few minutes Sal and Ben walked into camp and dropped down on the grass next to Molly. Their experiments with the barrier had proved that they could not pass through it. However, animals such as birds seemed to have no problem, and the river continued to flow without any interruption. The barrier was not consistent, when they attempted to throw twigs or stones inside, whatever was thrown would just hang suspended at the point of impact. Although they referred to it as a wall, it was really just an area that they could not pass. They could not see it, which made it all the more frustrating. There was a soft surface that they could feel with their hands. Pushing against it was something like pushing against foam rubber. Eventually, their hand would come to a stop when the rubber reached it's maximum level of expansion.

"The damn thing just will not let us through." Exclaimed Ben.

"You make it sound as if it were alive," Molly said. "Do you think it is?"

" It sure as hell seems to know the difference between us and birds." answered Sal. "They don't have any problem in flying through it."

" Ok, so what are the birds doing that we're not?" asked Juniper.

" Damned if I know." answered Ben. "Maybe we have to grow feathers."

" It's got to be more than that", said Molly. "The sun comes through as well as the rain. And the air gets cold at night."

The comment about 'cold nights' reminded Juniper of Mount Wilson. "Didn't the aliens say our bodies would change. Maybe we'll be able to pass through when that happens."

"The problem", said Ben, "is they didn't say how long it would take. We've been here nearly two weeks and nothing has happened yet."

" I'm not so sure," said Molly. "For starters, your skin is definitely different. Look at the back of your hands Ben. Where are all those old liver spots?"

" Yea, noticed that myself," said Ben. "But I just thought it was a change in our food or something like that."

The time passed very slowly and boredom was quickly becoming a problem. There was no place to go except to walk the perimeter of the barrier. They could see past the barrier without any problem and one afternoon a small band of local Indians walked by. They came right up to the barrier and seemed to acknowledge its existence, but totally ignored those on the inside. Sal and Ben hollered and screamed at the Indians, but to no avail. It was as if they could not be seen. The situation was maddening and tempers became very short. Molly decided that it was time to get Sal and Ben to reconsider making an attempt to enter the Vortex.

" Are you nuts?" Yelled Ben, "The damn thing seems to swallow whatever we toss at it. Hell, the noise it makes sounds like chicken in a deep fryer."

Reaching over for her back pack Molly noticed that the fabric of her shirt seemed to be a bit thin. It wasn't frayed, but she could definitely see part of her elbow through it.

"Well we have got to do something, my clothes aren't going to last forever." Molly's comment prompted Juniper to mention that her clothing was also beginning to show signs of wear. "Or mine," said Juniper. "I can see right through my socks." Then looking in Sal's direction she said," and I can nearly see through the back side of your pants."

" Well I guess I've been sliding around these rocks too much." Sal answered while trying to crane his neck around for a look. It was then that Molly realized what was happening. Grabbing her pack she put her hand inside and then bent over to look at the side of the pack, "It's not the cloth,' she exclaimed, "it's us."

" What do you mean?" asked Ben. " Ben, look at my pack. What do you see?"

" I see your pack." Then it dawned on him that he could also see a faint outline of what appeared to be a hand inside the pack. "Holy cow, I can see your hand."

" Almost," said Molly. "By tomorrow we'll all look quite naked to each other." The realization that they were undergoing some type of change set in quickly and not without some minor panic. The potential embarrassment of 'tomorrow' did not go unnoticed by Ben. "Uh, what do we do?" he stammered.

" About what?" asked Sal.

" Well, I don't want to go walking around naked."

" Uh, I see what you mean."

The unintended pun also did not go unnoticed. It was not the first time they released their tension with fits of laughter. Even the usual somber Sal was laughing out loud. Ben was the first to regain his composure and said," Ok, let's take a serious look at the problem."

Of course his innocent comment of 'looking at the problem' brought on another major bout of laughter. It was quite a while before they were able to settle down. Molly was the one who suggested that they try an experiment by concentrating. A plan of attack was slowly developed in which each one of them would take a turn at focusing their attention on their right hand and then imagine it being covered with a glove. The others would stare intently at the hand of the concentrator to see if there were any changes. At first nothing happened, but gradually they could discern a slight discoloration in the experimenter's hand. Very gradually each one of them was able to produce a noticeable change in hand color. At first the change appeared to be a darker shade of their normal skin color. After many hours of practice they began to experiment with extending the color over their arms. Surprisingly, Ben was the first to turn the color into what looked to be a fabric. When Molly suggested that it was because he was the most motivated, the group broke into another round of raucous laughter.

By that evening they were able to control not only what they 'appeared' to be wearing, but to some extent their own form. Molly had always claimed that in her next life she wanted legs that went up to her armpits. It was understandable then why she attempted to produce her ideal of the perfect body. However, she took the concept of legs up to her armpits a little too literally and became quite hysterical when she realized the immediate grotesque change in her body. After a few moments of hysterical laughter from her friends and major panic on her part, she was able to regain her former appearance. By the next morning each of them had settled on a clothing standard that seemed to fit their personalities. Molly was decked out in a bright yellow dress, white summer sandals and a large lavender hat. Ben had settled on army fatigues and Sal wore jeans with the usual biker leather vest and boots. However it was Juniper's simple blue gingham dress and red ruby slippers that brought about another round of laughter. "Well, why not?" she smirked. "This sure as hell isn't Kansas."

During breakfast Sal suggested they make another attempt at passing through the barrier. They were all quite enthusiastic because they wanted to try out some of their new found skills. However, nothing worked. Acting on Ben's comment from the previous day, Sal concentrated on forming feathers on his hand and then punching into the barrier.

" I guess it knows a real bird from just a bird brain." Juniper teased. "

Ok, Smart ass, have you got any better ideas?"

Before she could answer, Molly told them to look up at the sky. A large hawk was in flight, going after a small mountain dove. The dove had just passed through the barrier with the hawk hot on its tail feathers. However, the flight of the hawk came to a sudden stop as it slammed into the soft cushion of the barrier and slid to the ground, stunned. After a few seconds the hawk flew away. The dove, however, disappeared without a sound into the Vortex.

" It might have something to do with intent." said Molly. "What we just witnessed is clearly an indication that the barrier does discriminate."

They all tried a few more attempts at passing the barrier, but without success. Totally frustrated Sal said, "Ok, I give up. I'm going to try the damned Vortex."

They returned to camp which was just at the edge of the two merging rivers. "How are you going to get up there?" asked Ben. "That crystal is over ten feet tall and I sure as hell don't see any ladders around here."

" You mean you don't see any, yet." Molly corrected. " What's that suppose to mean?"

" Well last night I literally had legs up to my armpits. So why couldn't we just sort of stretch ourselves to the top of the crystal?"

" She's right." Juniper agreed. Then looking at Sal she added, "But it might be kind of nice if someone would volunteer to act as a ladder and we could just walk across. I'd rather not turn myself into Popeye's girlfriend."

Sal reluctantly volunteered and began the slow process of stretching his body across the river. However, what he didn't realize was that gravity still had some control over his body. He could not maintain the leverage necessary to keep his feet on the river bank and consequently fell into the river. Sputtering profanities, he dragged himself back up the river bank. Then looking up at Juniper he said, "Any other bright ideas, Olive Oyle?"

"After what happened, I'm not sure any of us could do any better." said Ben. "How about we just walk in like Molly said and stretch ourselves up the crystal?" It turned out to be much more difficult than they anticipated. They all had trouble walking over the slippery rocks in the river. There were no hand holds on the crystal and the force of the current against their legs was more than they could handle. It was futile and finally, they opted for the safety of the river bank.

Feeling somewhat defeated, Ben said, "I guess there's just no gettin' there from here."

" We've tried everything we can to get to it." said Molly. "How about trying to bring one of those ribbons to the bank?"

Looking very suspicious and very wet Ben said," Your last idea nearly got us drowned. What's this one going to do?"

" Not much of anything." Molly answered, unruffled by Ben's sarcasm. "The barrier seems to have a type of consciousness, as we've seen from the incident of the dove and hawk this morning. Why not simply ask it to send a ribbon to the river bank?"

The idea certainly seemed less dangerous than the previous ones. They sat in a circle and each attempted to concentrate on what they conceived of as the consciousness of the barrier. Then each in turn, looked at the crystal and asked for a ribbon to extend itself to the river bank. They waited patiently and after fifteen minutes decided that if it was conscious, it did not wish to participate. Molly walked over to the river and stared across, wondering if her husband was aware of her presence at the opening of the Vortex. Then seeing a fish quickly dart underneath the riverbank, she yelled to the others, "It did work, we just didn't see it. It's just under the surface and seems to go around the backside of the crystal."

They all ran to the river's edge just in time to watch Molly gingerly step on the purple ribbon just under the water's surface. Within minutes they stood at the top of the crystal staring at the very edge of the ribbon as it disappeared into the Vortex.

" Well," said Molly, "I'm the one that really pushed for this, so I guess I should go first."

" I don't think that will be necessary," said Ben. "How about on the count of three you and I jump in together." Looking at Sal and Juniper, Ben said, "Just follow the leader." They counted and jumped into the Vortex .

The crackling noise was a bit unsettling and Juniper wasn't sure if she wanted to make the jump after all. Now that she was faced with it, she began to lose her nerve. Not very sympathetic Sal said, "Don't crap out now, just jump when I count to three."

Nodding her head in agreement, she readied herself to leap into possible oblivion. However, on the count of three only one pair of feet actually left the ribbon. Juniper stood staring at the empty space totally frozen in fear. Just as she was about to turn back, a long hairy arm appeared in front of her, wrapped itself around her waist and yanked her into the Vortex. The force of the arm and the quick release caused her to lose her balance and she fell on her bottom. Looking a little sheepish she said, "You didn't have to be so rough."

--------------------

John looked out over the deep blue water and could see storm clouds forming over the mountains. It had taken nearly two months to get to Bear Lake and now he had been given the lead. The long climb up from the lake had been extremely difficult. The road out of the lake area had been completely destroyed by the earthquakes. John was familiar with the area and knew that the place he was looking for was about a day and half ride down Logan canyon. This was not the first time that Billy Jo let him take the responsibility for riding as scout. He had left an hour before the others and now waited at the top of the canyon for his friends. His primary task was to search ahead for any problems. Scouting was usually the responsibility of Don, or Billy Jo. The idea was that should trouble occur, such as an ambush, at least one of them would be able to take an offensive tactic. Colleen was uncomfortable with the idea because she thought John was too young to have that much responsibility. It was also very dangerous because the scout often had to ride along the rocky cliffs. The horses were used to mountain terrain, however, the loose shale and rocks were dangerous. Billy Jo's argument that there were times that he and Don needed to ride together finally convinced her, with one condition; both she and Megan requested that John only ride as a relief scout, which required about two hours each morning. After that, Don or Billy Jo would take over for the remainder of the day.

The trip around the lake had been uneventful. They had met some people seeking refuge there, hoping to survive by fishing. The lake was plentiful with fish, but as Billy Jo pointed out, that was also what everyone else would think. Not that he minded a little company, but it might also attract undesirables, that also refused to wear the Snitch. The people they met were usually in small groups of two or three families that managed to survive the ravages of the cities in addition to the massive earthquakes along the Wasatch front. Since they refused to have the Snitch implant, they wandered in search of safe havens in the mountains. The information received from them that most cities in the Salt Lake valley had been destroyed by fires and earthquakes came as no surprise. Now Salt Lake City was under reconstruction by the volunteers of 'God's Golden Dawn'.

Interestingly, the majority of Mormon church officials managed to survive the plagues and earth shifts. They were eager to have their city re-built and encouraged their members to join in what they referred to as the 'Call of Moroni'. The Mormons had a long established history of not questioning church authority, therefore it was relatively simple to get most of them to accept and comply with the rules of the new order. They were told that Emmanuel's Coming had been prophesied in the closed chambers of the church elders long before the collapse of the United States. Similar action and cooperation was requested of Catholics by the Papacy, now seated in Jerusalem. By the afternoon of the next day they reached the entrance to John's haven. At first, Don thought the young man might have made a mistake, because there was little to see other than a small stream crossing their path. John had them dismount and very carefully led them to two large rocks which seemed to mark the entrance to an old hiking trail.

The small stream that Don noticed was now on their right and apparently coming out of a small canyon. Within a few minutes they found themselves in a large open field that, John told them, had often been used by local scouts. What he was looking for was about two miles ahead. Theresa was absolutely delighted by the thick patches of mountain maple that hung over the trail. The sheer cliff walls on each side looked like protective barriers.

After nearly an hour of walking the horses up the trail and through many thickets of mountain maple, they came to a small clearing, and at the far side stood two massive pine trees guarding the entrance of a small glade. When they got to the center John pointed to a small fire ring and with tears in his eyes said, "and this is where my father and I camped each fall." Placing her arms around him and wiping the tears from his eyes Colleen said, "And a beautiful home it will make for us all. Your father would be very proud of you."

Glad to arrive safely at their intended destination the small family rested briefly before building a small shelter. The area was beautiful and still except for the soothing sound of the brook. Theresa and John enjoyed being able to explore their surroundings in a comfortable atmosphere. It seemed as if they were the only people on the entire earth as they wandered over the hill. John was leading the way back to the camp when he realized that Theresa was no longer behind him. Turning back, he didn't see her at first, where she knelt at the base of a large pine. She held her finger up to her mouth warning him to be quiet, even though she knew that any noise John made could not disturb the loveliness of the delicate white flower before her.

"You've found the giant White Columbine," John whispered respectfully, "My dad told me it only blooms once every ten years. The last time I saw it was the first time I came here, when I was a little kid." It was dusk when the two arrived back at the camp. It seemed like they were all celebrating. Curious, they asked what all the cheering was about. " Don's about to become a father." Dr. Sherman announced, slapping him on the back for the tenth time.

The relief on Megan's face at seeing Don's happiness was clear to Colleen. " See," she told her friend, "You needn't have worried. Besides, with all these people waiting to dote on your baby, she'll be well protected."

" Could be a boy." Billy Jo mumbled, as he took up his position under one of the large pines that guarded the glade. It was almost dark when he heard footsteps coming up the path. Standing, he saw the man and woman clearly as they entered the meadow. "Well," he shouted, "I see you made it!"


- The Beginning -