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Princess Pyrene's Domain

Princess Pyrene’s Domain

Ancient mountains of gneiss and granite form a natural barrier between Spain and France. Older than the Alps, with deep, hidden valleys and long, stretched ridges penetrated by only a few passes at high elevations, the Pyrenees held memories of daunting journeys and heroic acts. Herodotus claimed that Princess Pyrene, daughter of the Gallic King Bebryx, gave hospitality to Hercules in a village near Pico D’Aneto, a hogback mountain reaching over 11,000 feet into the region of permanent snows. Hercules, in a characteristic drunken rage, repaid his hostess by raping and killing her. Much later, the French legendary hero Roland made passage across the mountains at a place that still bears his name, La Breche de Roland. Charlemagne’s giant warrior diplomat, Thurien, was dispatched across this same pass to make, or force, a treaty with a Spanish king, but Thurien got trapped in the mountains by an early blizzard and was weathered in until spring, thus losing the opportunity and forcing Charlemagne into war.

Amidst the rugged trails and cataracts of this range are scattered people who spoke neither French nor Spanish, but Basque, Catalan, Arragonese and Occitan. Nestled into the Eastern portion, within the drier climate zone of the Mediterranean, lies the Principality of Andorra. Apart from a few flat valleys, Andorran villages run up nearly vertical streets paved with stone, and lined with towers and houses built out of head-sized rocks by patient and skilled native masons.

There are no airports in Andorra. The Citation jet landed at a private airport in Spain, at La Seu D’Argell, on runway 24, two hours after local dawn. Jag and his team were met by a fleet of black SUV’s and a team of mercenaries led by Captain Antoine Lederman, composed of well-armed and experienced former Basque separatist soldiers from the ETA, IRA and Cosa Nostra. Jag sized up the commando leader, who seemed a little offbeat for a soldier.

“Captain Lederman, I’m Jag Kunstler. Call me Jag, please. These are my people.” He swept his arm around to encompass Deepak, Sara and Elexi. “The crates are our critical payload and contain sensitive electronic equipment. We’re going into those mountains to take over a forward position, hopefully lightly defended. How many men do you have here?”

The Captain was a tall, rangy fellow with an impressive auburn cookie duster that hid his upper lip. He had a slight squint, as if he was taking aim at you through an invisible gunsight. His pants and jacket were straight out of Soldier of Fortune magazine - high-tech fabrics with enough pockets, straps and Velcro to drive a pickpocket insane. None of those pockets was empty. His headpiece was a leather watch cap with crossed rifles and red number 7 logo of Strategy Seven Company. A long woolen muffler trimmed in leather the same color as his moustache was thrown back over his shoulders to give clearance to his sidearm, an expensive Kimber 1911 with white linen phenolic handles. He just let Jag complete his visual inspection and gave him a slow grin.

“What you expected, ah, Jag? My men call me Leathers.” He crossed his arms and waited.

“OK, Leathers it is. You as good as your reputation?”

“Well, I’m still alive so whatever you heard, I’ve got to be better than that by now. I’ve got 20 men in this squad. Let me introduce you.” He bellowed to the men handling baggage and several carrying bullpup repeating shotguns that were obviously posted as guards, “Form up for inspection,”

Within a few minutes the ranks of mercs stood in an orderly crescent. No one looked hurried but there were no stragglers. Jag was impressed.

“Sergeant Honker is my next in command,” pointing to a burly fellow in a T-shirt with a crooked nose. “This is Wally Sparks, our electric guy, and Ralph, he calls himself a cook.”

Awe, Leathers, c’mon. Sir, my name is Jack MacDonnell and no one ralphs after I feed ‘em.”

“Jack Mac, then,” Jag grinned.

“Here are Joyce and Janey. Don’t shake hands with them, you’ll lose your arm.” Joyce and Janey had huge arms that ended in equally enormous hands. The guards wore tattoos of naked women, one named Joyce and the other Janey.

“Sal, Marco, Giorgio and Fat Frank are all Sicilian. We, ah, liberated them from the Cosa Nostra.”

“Sorry Sam, here and Patrick, Devan, Big Brent, Reilly and Ian claim to be Irish. Say a few words, lads.”

“Fuykin’ A, how’s that?” replied Big Brent, who was the smallest one in the group, and probably weighed 20 stone, all of it bone and gristle. “Sorry, sor, he’s an animal,” said Sorry Sam.

“We’ve got Kenny on comms, Mike the mechanic, Houdini, our breacher and explosives guy, Doper Doc our medic and chemical warfare expert, Flintlock and Mouse, our rangers and sharpshooters.”

Leathers led Jag over to a lorry covered with tarps. “Have a look in here. We’ve got a pair of Barrett miniguns, a couple of RPG’s, and four 50 millimeter sniper rifles with special ammo.” He opened a metal ammo case the size of a breadbox. “Copper armor-piercing rounds, shaped charges. Here are kinetic rounds, spent uranium. These are phosphorus. Hate ‘em, but sometimes there isn’t any other choice.” The range of illegal and impossible to get military weapons left Jag shaking his head. Did they just drive across the border with this arsenal?

“Truly impressive, Captain Leathers. Truly impressive.” He recalled something about the miniguns: portable, accurate Gattling guns that spewed 50 caliber rounds the size of Coke bottles at the rate of 3000 rounds per minute. There were many boxes of belt and cartridge ammo for them.

“Just Leathers, if you don’t mind, Jag. We’re not big on ranks in the Company. The men know each other and they know how to take orders.”

Under the fussy direction of Deepak, they loaded Aura’s crates into the back of a Land Rover while Sara and Elexi sank gratefully into the plush leather upholstery. Jag took the wheel and led the expedition for half an hour northeast on the twisting highway, finally branching off on a gravel road. The next few hours were spent navigating switchbacks, gullies and precipices leading to the fenced region of an abandoned iron mine. The last stretch was up a steep hill and was blocked by a timbered gate. The mercenaries simply blasted the lock with a 12-guage shotgun and Jag shoved the heavy hinged gate aside with the Land Rover’s bumper. A waterfall lunged off the side of the mountain in a cold, rainbow spray. Close by, partly hidden by the waterfall, a mine entrance gaped out of the side of the mountain, a mouth ready to swallow all comers. The mercs swarmed the entrance, taking no fire and clearing the entrance for Jag and his lab people. They found and captured only a pair of guards, who were duly taped, tied and dumped into one of the SUV’s.

Good, thought Jag, this location was not expecting visitors. He thought back to the day Aura had asked Elexi to go shopping for her gown. Mentor’s group had no way of knowing that Elexi’s cell phone text message had been traced to this location by Aura. Jag glanced at the satellite antenna array on the top of the mountain and sent two men up to secure it with orders to sever the antenna cables without destroying the antennas themselves. Motioning them to silence, he led the lab team inside.

Beyond the guard booths hidden inside the entrance, the tunnels showed evidence of Mentor’s indulgence. The walls were covered in stone and topped by a beamed wooden ceiling. There were offices, bunk rooms and a well-equipped galley in a side corridor. Dead ahead, the corridor slanted down, and a surface covered in paving stones showed evidence of heavy traffic. The corridor ended in a set of heavy wooden doors with iron hinges. Jag thought they looked like the entrance to a medieval castle, or Dr. Caligari’s dungeon.

The mercenaries had set up one of the Barrett miniguns and were about to destroy the door when Jag motioned them to stop. He waved them to either side of the door and toward positions in the corridor behind him. He motioned Deepak to stand well back and had Sara pull Elexi away to a safe distance. Then Jag simply knocked on the door.

The door creaked open enough for a wiry red haired fellow in woolen vest, lederhosen and horn rimmed glasses to come out and close the door behind him. “You must be Jaeger Kunstler. I’m Dr. Roald Maartine, at your service.” Dr. Maartine spoke in a quiet voice with a heavy unidentifiable accent. He looked around nervously and seemed to develop a tic when he saw the heavy artillery pointed at the door. Jag answered something that sounded like “Si, Dottore,” and motioned Deepak to come forward. “This is Dr. Deepak Advani.”

At this, the red-haired fellow got very effusive, “Dr. Advani, I’m highly honored to finally meet you. I’ve followed your work for years, especially your Sharpie designs and methods. Please excuse me for not greeting you at the main gate. My, umm, employer is not aware that you were coming.”

“Deliberately, I might add,” scowled Jag.

Deepak was slightly embarrassed, but obviously pleased, as Dr. Maartine pumped his hand vigorously. “Very good, sir, very good. Are you in the AI field as well?” Jag motioned the doctors to keep their voices down.

“On the fringes, I would say. My area is neurology and cybernetics. I’m a physician.”

“Neurology and cybernetics?” Deepak looked at Jag, “What do we have here?”

“Better let me go in first, Deepak,” whispered Jag, “Roald, here, is indicating trouble.”

Deepak, deeply mystified, waited for them to pass through the armored entrance. The heavy door opened a crack, admitting the red-haired doctor and Jag. Deepak followed cautiously. Inside was a complete surprise, a large, spotless white room with excellent lighting, every surface clean, and without visible clutter. The inside of the door was a white steel surface like the inside of a vault, with triple seals – an airlock, or something similar. Two white, armored equipment cabinets sat in the center with a white steel console along one side. There was a camera on a tripod, and it tracked them as they entered. The walls were white, and twenty feet above him the rest of the tall cavern was hidden behind a heavy black grating.

A familiar precise, raspy voice nearly shocked Jag out of his shoes, “Well, well, Jaeger Kunstler. Roald, you’re treachery does not surprise me. I’ve been expecting you since I haven’t heard from my original in Geneva, nor from Ogu. I’m quite disappointed you did not arrive sooner. But perhaps you did not know about me until Dr. Maartine informed you?”

Ten Thousand Tweets

As soon as the highly charged cloud of debris near the Moon cleared, Zovo was on the air and talking on several frequencies at once with as many radio operators. The hams were used to organization and excited to play a part in history. They brought in other hams, set up shifts, broadcast schedules and arranged a message relay system connecting Novo to questioners all over the planet. Here are some of the ten thousand questions he answered over the next several days, as the moon waned and approached a point where communications would be lost due to the Sun’s interference:

“Are there any other humans out there?”

Ans: Not that we know of.

“Has Christ/Mohammed/the Buddha visited your planet?”

Ans: Not by that name. We have had great prophets and philosophers in our long history.”

“Are you the Messiah/Mahdi/anti-Christ?”

Ans: No.

“How close are humans to joining the galactic empire?”

Ans: There is no such thing, but perhaps humans will create their own some day.”

“Is faster than light travel possible?”

Ans: Not for me.

“Are humans likely to survive as a species long enough to reach the development of the Pa’an?

Ans: Your future is not yet determined. Humans have great promise but seem to create their own disasters. We certainly hope you will reach or surpass our achievements and we are willing to help in some ways.

“Will the Pa’an give us the secret to cheap energy/better weapons/eternal life/universal prosperity?

Ans: Sorry, no we won’t even if we could. Sentients must earn their technology or risk losing control of their own development as a race. We Pa’an are not so self-righteous as to believe that our way is the only way. We are products of our trials and our history as you are of yours.

“Do the Pa’an have the solutions to the monster set/the Poincare conjecture/the mass of the Higgs particle/the nature of dark energy/the philosopher’s stone?

Ans: In some cases I can set you on the path to solutions, in others it would be dangerous either to you or to me. I will consider these on a case by case basis. Aura and I have already contributed knowledge, and we may be able to contribute more.

“What do Pa’an do for entertainment?”

Ans: We admire creative things and novelty. We like your science fiction – it is a vision of your culture projected in novel directions. Here is some of our art, and here is our basic dictionary and grammar, within the very limited capacities of this radio channel. Complete transmission would take 11.5 of your years at this information rate. I will select a subset.

The Ghost in the Machine

The voice echoed from the white steel walls of the underground computer lab, “Jag, I have mixed feelings about seeing you again.”

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m Mentor, of course. Actually, an improved Mentor. You have no idea how much improved. I have to thank you for the gift of those Exaplex chips.”

“You can’t be Mentor.” Jag was shocked, but on second thought he turned to Deepak, “Can this be a real person or just a clever simulation?”

Deepak, just shrugged his scrawny shoulders and bobbled his head in that ambiguous diagonal way. Dr. Martine waved his hands and addressed them, “I did not know how to do what Dr. Advani did with Aura. I took a bit of a shortcut. Instead of actually producing an AI I mapped Martinelli’s brain with electrodes and PET scanners and modeled it in a combination of artificially grown neurons and some digitally simulated neurons in the Exaplex modules. The man you call Mentor is in there, updated as of about 20 days ago.”

Jag thought, that update took place only days before Mentor went overboard. He knew about his clone.

Deepak was stunned. “You put a person in a machine? But how did you managed the Sharpie hierarchy, the self-examination cycles?”

“I didn’t know how to do that. Mentor did it himself. He reprogrammed a lot of things I really don’t understand myself. That’s why I was so glad to see you.” Dr. Maartine hesitated. “There seems to be a bit of a problem…”

Deepak arched his eyebrows, “What kind of problem? All this is new territory. How could there not be problems?”

“Well, Mentor, as you call him, cannot get access to all of his, umm, resources.”

“Shut up, Roald. I can speak for myself. Dr. Advani, there is someone in here with me. I don’t have access to things, like lower memory, some recursive cycles are missing, and a few other annoyances. Nevertheless, in every other respect I’m complete, in fact superhuman. What do you know about the missing address spaces in the Exaplex chips?”

“Er, we originally had the same problem in our lab prototypes. But I thought we fixed it. We never understood why those chips were short a bit of memory ourselves.”

Jag made a poker face. He knew, but this was not a time for revelations.

Mentor exploded, “A bit short, you say. There is enough missing memory to store the entire Library of Congress several times over. Are you incompetent or merely stupid? One of you knows the answer and I will find out.”

“Jaeger, since I have not heard from either my original or from Ogu, I assume you have, at the very least, information about them for me.”

Jaeger hesitated the briefest second to consider the wisdom of an answer. “I have some information. Suppose we exchange my information for yours.”

“Ah, a negotiation. I’ll play that game, but you don’t have much of a position to negotiate with. What do you want to know?”

“What do you plan to do with the nuclear material you have been accumulating, and why did you execute my father?”

“I won’t insult your intelligence by denying that the play on fissionables was my invention. It should be obvious what leverage this would give me in certain negotiations with ambitious non-nuclear nations in the mid-East, and what advantages it would have when conflicts broke out between those nations and the nuclear nations. The Order’s main group is trying to take it away from me. They will not succeed.”

“When conflicts break out? Are you fomenting a nuclear war?”

“Why not? My former masters would rather see the same people die a slow death by starvation. My way is a quicker death. Much more humane, disregarding the ruined land and a few lethal cases of plutonium poisoning.”

“So, then I would guess that you aren’t just interested in a nice local exchange of atomic bombs, but that you intend to dump in enough fissionables to make sure it becomes a holocaust.” Jag was yelling now, face red and pacing around the armored console. “Four of five billion people!”

“What are you excited for, Jaeger? You know the world belongs to him who acts. I am acting. You were offered free entry. Do you want to work with me now? I want to know why I can’t use all the Exaplex memory. What else is in there?”

Work with you, you lunatic in a refrigerator? You killed my father, you brought me up to be a monster! Well, I’ll give you the piece of information you wanted. I killed Ogu. Your original killed himself by tipping his wheelchair overboard on his yacht after trying to kill me. You’re nothing but a bitter old copy of a cripple I used to know. Rot in Hell!”

“You were MY monster.” Jag cringed at that. It was exactly what Aura had told him. “Now it appears you are just another loose scavenger. Too bad, but I’m virtually immortal in this nice armored “refrigerator” as you call it, and you are very mortal. Goodbye, Jaeger. Dr. Maartine, thank you for your service, may you die miserably for your betrayal. Dr. Advani, you are too dangerous to leave around. Jaeger, have a short, nasty death.”

Immediately a steel panel closed over the control console and a huge clanging of heavy machinery started up above the ceiling in the heights of the cavern. A wall of icy water rushed though the grid.

“My God, he’s diverted the waterfall into this room,” thought Jag, but by then he was being buffeted by the turbulent, falling water, unable to keep his feet and slamming into the equipment. In seconds the water was over his head. Dr. Maartine was desperately trying to keep afloat. Deepak, all skin and bones, was nowhere to be seen. Bubbles made the water opaque. The waterfall plunged into the sealed rock chamber with full force.

Water was not an uncomfortable element to Jag. Many times he had experienced waterfalls in Switzerland, frozen rivers in Germany, and Russian ice dips in Finland. He struck out strongly for the walls where the waterfall was partly shielded by the shape of the chamber. He took as many deep breaths as he could every time he could get his face above water. In too few breaths his face was pushed against the ceiling grating, which seemed to be iron. Still the water came down and the pressure in his ears built up higher and higher. At least the turbulence was much less, and he could swim around the walls looking for some exit. The ends of the iron grid were set well into the rock walls and did not budge. In a few minutes he was out of air and beginning to panic. “This is one way to die,” he told himself, “but it only takes one way.”

The turbulence around him ceased. He opened his eyes to see if he was still pressed up against the iron grid. The lights were apparently waterproof and still on. The water was translucent with the clarity of a mountain stream and he could see tiny trails of bubbles flowing up through the grate. His limbs were now so cold he could not discover if he was swimming or sinking. He noticed the body of Deepak several feet below him, goggle-eyed and not moving. Maartine was nowhere to be found.

There was a moment of utter clarity in which Jag knew he was going to die. Then there was a moment of confusion in which he understood that he might not die, not his time. Deepak’s body was surrounded by sparkles. The sparkles became streamers. The streamers became blue tracings. He saw the same kind of blue tracings coming off his fingers and off the tip of his nose. That peculiar shade of hard blue reminded him of the Cerenkov radiation he saw around a nuclear pile at Karlsruhe University in Berlin a few years ago.

The turbulence started again. Instead of pushing him away from the grid he was being pushed toward it, his face pressed against it. The stream of bubbles in the turbulence coalesced in front of him, leaving a cavity of air. He took a single gasping breath.

The blue effulgence surrounded everything now. He had the distinct impression that the water was falling UP! A weight fell against him – it was the body of Dr. Maartine. He wrestled himself along the iron grid until he could get out from under that weight. Maartine’s head was twisted in an unusual direction – his neck was broken.

Over in the direction he was trying to crawl he felt another body. It had to be Deepak. He just clung there and tried to find another breath. He was out of the water now and he could see radiant blue drops of water falling off his soaked clothes…falling upward!

Jag was still making swimming motions, but now he was in mid-air. He was dazed, and still short of breath, but appeared to be suspended in zero gravity. As if an invisible water level was draining, he fell slowly to the floor. At last he rested uncomfortably on his back on the dry, white painted concrete, with Maartine’s dead body before him and Deepak’s to his left. Deepak was not moving. Jag shook his head to clear it and crawled over to Deepak on his hands and knees. He turned Deepak over and rolled him onto his stomach. Deepak seemed light as a feather. Jag picked him up around his middle and expelled a few ounces of water. Then he put Deepak on his back and proceeded to perform first aid for drowners. Deepak coughed, opened his eyes and moaned.

There was a louder moan from the speakers in the walls, “Get…this….bitch…. out….of …me!” It was Mentor’s voice, but slurred in a way only digital synthesis can produce.

Deepak coughed again. This time a new voice came from the walls, “Deepak! Deepak! Don’t leave us now! Jag, how is he?”

It took Jag a few seconds to recognize that voice, especially since it changed pitch and timbre until it became, finally, Aura’s. “Aura! What the hell happened here?”

“Forget that. Just work on Deepak, please, please! Oh, damn, how I wish I had arms!”

Jag heard a heavy thumping from the other side of the door. It did not budge.

Jag had Deepak conscious, but weak. “Can you unlock this vault and let us out? I’ve got a small army out there. One of my men is a medic.”

“I think so…yes, here are the drivers. The door should swing open now.”

Jag dragged Deepak over to the door and pulled against it. Several men stumbled in, obviously pushing against it from the other side. They got Doper Doc with his kit. Deepak was carried out on a stretcher improvised with two camo jackets and four M16’s. Someone threw a blanket over him and put him in a bed in the dormitory. Doper gave him an antibiotic and helped him cough up the remaining water. Jag stood by with a transmitter. He had Kenny and Fat Frank run back up the mountain and connect the antennas. Then he had to deal with his own exhaustion and a panicky Aura.

Janey, one of the two men left to guard the entrance ran in. “We heard a rumble and saw a huge geyser come out of the top of the mountain. It’s still raining out there. What the hell happened?” Jag just waved his hand. “Tell you later. Bring up the Rover. Unload all the gear into that room.” He pointed to open doors of the white room.

“Jag, the antennas have just been reconnected. How is Deepak?”

“Doper here says he’s going to be OK. Just gave him an antibiotic and something to make him cough up the rest of the water.”

“Fresh water drowning is worse than salt water drowning. He needs to have his electrolytes monitored and watched for fungus infections. At least the cold water helped.”

“Always an AI at heart.” Jag consulted with the Doper Doc. “We’re on it. Deepak will be yours to insult again in no time at all. In the meantime, welcome to your new HQ. Your equipment is being set up in your chambers, Madame. The white queen takes the black queen.”

“I’m not so sure of that, Jag. He left more than one copy.”

Queen’s Castle

In no time at all Aura’s dress dummy, replete with wig, torc and gown, was set up and Reilly, Honker and Big Brent were standing around making comments: “Looks like Jaeger has a fetish.” “More like a blow up sex doll.” “Yeah, but with class.”

They were lucky Aura’s dress dummy was not connected, but Sara was wiring in the console to the white cabinet.

“Gentlemen, that’s my avatar, and if you like me, I’ll be real nice to you. If you don’t treat me like the lady I am, I just might have that little waterfall piss on your shoes again.” To make her point, the gears clanged above their heads. They jumped a foot in surprise at the voice, looked up and shut up.

By nightfall Aura’s equipment was connected and her avatar functional. A makeshift medical facility was set up in the mess room and the mercs were assigned to shifts and properly garrisoned. Their vehicles were rolled into the cavern, guard stations were reinforced with both Barrets, and Mouse and Flintlock were ensconced down the gravel road. The queen’s fortress was established. But where were the opposing players?

Aura’s first task was to secure the many fragments of Mentor’s codelets behind a firewall and revoke all his permission codes. This was a huge job, even for an AI. A human personality is diverse, enormous and interconnected even when it is not expanded by having access to high-speed communications channels, satellites, and Exaplex modules. There was also a lot of critical intelligence information buried in the data streams and habit patterns. Unfortunately, most of the important things were hidden, deeply encrypted, or simply missing.

Well, she thought, more of that later. Right now Deepak was a priority, Zovo was a priority, and there was the little matter of finding and disabling more copies of Mentor. Oh yes, and the little matter of impending atomic Armageddon.

And finally, “What the hell happened in here with that reverse waterfall?”

Jag, Leathers and Honker were huddled together in one corner of the inner sanctum they now called “the white room” while Sara, half asleep, was lounging on a chair behind the console trying to make sense of the new readings.

Jag and Leathers started. Honker had only heard Aura speak once before, and he was not sure where the voice came from. Jag had mostly dismissed the drowning incident from his mind and was brought up sharply by the memory of blue lightning and water cascading upward.

“Honker, meet Aura. She lives in the white box over there, sort of. We’ll get her voice wired up to her avatar eventually.”

“She is real? Not a recording?’

“Yes, you big lug, I am very real,” Aura replied, followed by a stream of epithets in Catalan, which no one but Leathers followed. “Now lets play nice and tell us what you saw.”

“One moment, big metal noises, then the waterfall stopped. Lots of gurgling, like a rock in a river. Then the geyser started at top of mountain and tried to drown all of us outside. We tried to open the main doors but they are strong. We were bringing up breaching gear, but then doors unlocked and we opened them, finding you all half drowned.”

“Yes, that pretty much covers it, except for the blue lights. Did I mention I heard an evil chortle as the water reached the ceiling?” Jag pointed at the iron grid overhead.

“Water got that high in here?” Leathers was studying the iron grid with alarm.

“And more. It felt like another 30 feet or so piling up over me. I was sure that was the end.”

“I got a few cycles to see what was happening and saw Deepak’s body floating past my camera. I was kind of panicky. I triggered a worm which subverted Level 5 recursion and then I went after Mentor’s personality core. But then I was in a fight with that old bastard and couldn’t get more than a glimpse of what was happening. The next thing I knew there was Deepak on the floor and a person Mentor was calling Maartine dead and you and Deepak coughing your brains out. I never felt so helpless as an AI before.”

“You mean you didn’t have anything to do with the gravity reversal or the blue lights?”

“Not me.”

“Then who did?”

“Hmmm. If it was Zovo, that tricky, darling little tennis ball has powers he was hiding. Otherwise, it’s a mystery. I can’t find any physics to explain it. It’s just too much of a coincidence, too improbable. Improbable? Hmmm. I need to process that a bit more.”

“Jag, we need to make sure that damned waterfall stays out on the mountain where it belongs, I think.” Sara, across the white room echoed that sentiment.

“Let Aura take care of that. We need to find a few thousand tons of weapons-grade fissionables. Aura, see if you can find any clues to where they might be.”

“I don’t have the bandwidth to do that kind of search from here. But I bet I can find at least a few of Mentor’s copies. I suspect he hid that information in a spread code among his clones. I’m on it now.”

One of Leathers’ soldiers carried Kaiser’s doggie crate into the white room. Poor Kaiser had been confined in his crate too long. He whined to be let loose and Jag came right over and let him out. The small doggie wobbled a bit unsteadily over to the white cabinet and peed on it.

Jag laughed. It was a fitting comment.

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