The Five of Wands
The Fire burns high to break out of its own realm
The Strife becomes Child’s Play
Shaltain is related or similar to the NSA
Isis had a particular fondness for the Aegean region. She had spent much of her time sailing that sea during her previous Earth rule. She left laws for each of her tribal communities to deliver tribute, and had left guidelines as to harvest the earth and perform any other domestic skills she felt that they needed.
As she reviewed existing Earth conditions, she easily saw America was definitely the most technically advanced of the nations but it did not maintain sound ecological policies. She understood their problems. She knew that she could help, but Earth required her or proper rule in order to do that. Her brother still stubbornly opposed her interference concerning this issue, and it seemed that he was feeling quite justified in aiding Earth. This was interference as well, or so she thought. Yet respecting Qblh's power, Isis opted not to challenge Qblh directly, but instead plotted a much more subtle approach.
The pyramids were hers, and that she knew. She decided to hide her portal within the location of her "disembarkation space". Understanding a minute amount of spatial-temporal displacement dynamics, she rightly reasoned that her departure location from Giza could possibly successfully camouflage her portal from Genie's sensors. Spatio-temporal warping provides many general time flow manipulation capabilities. Within such framework it is possible to warp and slow down the time flow in a particular spatio-temporal region while speeding it up in another region. Understanding cosmological science quite well, her brother could be instantly anywhere in the universe any time he wanted at will, have a complete adventure and then return as if no time passed at all.
In the past, she had learned several techniques for fooling the Genie. Antiope and Helen knew only a fraction of what Isis knew about Genie. While she ruled Earth, she had either John or Jim by her side, and they always kept their Genie interface staffs well protected. Both used the staff to disguise the Shapeshifter. Both loved her greatly and had used the Genie on numerous occasions at her requests. She had seen Genie do many marvelous things, and had even learned to like it a little, even though it was loyal only to him. She also understood that the Genie was nothing more than a machine, and knew that she could not blame the computer, but only its programmer.
Adrift in thought, the queen of Artemis hardly noticed the multitude of tribute that she was given by visitors who sought her favor. Sophia would conduct all business as usual in the presence of the queen which made all acts official. Beneath Sophia were a handful of other sisters who also conducted official business in the presence of the queen. In between receptions, Sophia would supervise the rest of the court. For the better part of the day, very few made it to speak with the queen concerning any issue. Unless summoned, no one spoke to Isis. Isis had a crystal three dimensional display linked to her stargates which shed images subject to her commands which were then subliminally transmitted directly from her mind and body to throne transceivers. The Venetian information network was geared towards being answerable to the throne.
Consequentially, all her commands were promptly received and responded to. Needless to say, Isis stayed extremely well informed. Her command and control system was Genie's predecessor, Shaltain. It only made sense that Jim would attempt to make a better one for himself. He did not know, however, all her throne's secrets. Qblh had his Genie, the queen had her throne and the Shaltain system.
Genie was nothing more than a very elusive Shapeshifter. The throne of Isis represented her planetary dominion. Shaltain was the system which she used to exercise her dominion. It too, like Genie, was nothing more than a machine; but it was a machine which had memories; memories which contained all that its sensors had received. Genie could not be tapped by Shaltain, but Shaltain could be tapped by Genie, but usually not without being discovered. Shaltain did not have the newer technical knowledge which was Idiot's characteristic, nor did it have any valid programming concerning space-time singularities.
Resolved to learn more about space-time and to retain computerized records Shaltain could be linked only to Earth communications via portal messengers or light communications. The distance made light communications impractical. Data transfers over long distances had to be sent as a courier message through the portal. Tempting Isis, Shaltain queried as to whether it was to receive any more current information about Earth. It had the need for more information, and Genie was not cooperating.
"You are the queen, after all," it advised. "There is nothing that needs to be hidden from you. Qblh doesn't want you to have the same capabilities as he. That is the true reason why he doesn't want you to find out what he knows."
Isis was fully aware of Shaltain's imperfect judgment. It had no feeling and was a stupid machine. She still kept interest in Shaltain's advice. It was always better to know what the devil thinks, or so she thought.
"Hush, dragon-tongue, I wouldn't trust you with those details, so quit asking for the authority to do as you would recommend. If you're as good as you claim to be, then why don't you know how to deal with Genie? It seems like all I get from you anymore are excuses that Genie is denying you access. It is illegal for anyone to deny me access to anything. Genie would be breaking the law were it not for the fact that it is Qblh's machine and you are incapable of breaking his code. You are useless to me in this situation, Shaltain, a worthless servant; yet you still have your uses so I'm not trashing you. Just be aware of your limitations."
Shaltain said nothing.
Isis summoned her sister, Sophia. "Sophia, Shaltain shall provide you with all the navigational assistance from my ground base here at Xanadu. Prepare the Pegasus and crew for launch. Advise me when we are ready for launch. Do this as soon as possible. You heard my command, Shaltain. Commence auxiliary processing."
Sophia had by now selected the crew to be used. Presenting the roster to Isis she reviewed their qualifications and assigned to each of them their credit and due, which Shaltain registered. Upon registration, Shaltain summoned each crew member through the network.
Since the mission was not one of conquest but simply a tactical emplacement with a need for confidentiality and direct accountability to Isis, the crew was not a very large one. She chose a site outside of the United States as her target. She chose as a central base a site not far from one of her previous settlements on Earth, Heliopolis. There it would be easy to disguise her warriors under the guise of practitioners of some very ancient cults. She was also curious as to what impact her adventures in Earth past had caused and its effects on history. Remembering the children, she gathered that she had not changed history. To her, that meant that her adventure had been destiny. This indeed was magick of the highest kind. No wonder Qblh was so secretive.
Indeed one may question as to whether or not Isis was preordained to her adventure. She too felt that she was a victim of Jim's will, but he seemed so nonchalant in the manner by which he exercised control. Jim, himself, had his doubts as to the safety of the apparent open paths that lay before him. He had an inherent mistrust of "easy" paths. Jim fought to keep his free will exactly that, a matter of his own choice.
Isis, on the other hand, had dominion over an empire. All her subjects had to subjugate their will to hers so that there would be but one law to unite them all. Yet she was but a figurehead, because the culture itself ruled, establishing for themselves a queen who was reared in accordance with Venetian royal tradition. She was a result of centuries of genetic refinement. This refinement had been necessitated because of fallout from a previous interstellar war. The offending race had long since been exterminated. Her ancestors had completely destroyed the planet of the at particular enemy along with all known colonial worlds. Needless to say, the Venetians were infuriated.
It seems that Artemis had been infected with a very exotic DNA-reactive virus. It had been engineered to attack the Venetian reproductive system. The women once infected would pass it on to their children, who in turn would pass it on to theirs. The virus was the cause of the ambrosia which was the characteristic of the Amazons. It also attacked the central nervous system of male animals. It seems that the weapon was wickedly effective and almost brought the demise of the Amazon race were it not for a certain obscure doctor who managed to genetically engineer an Amazon male who was immune to the ambrosia. A side-effect of this engineered evolution was the fact that the Amazon male came with a twin female, and the mother was limited to but one male child.
The Amazons exacted a very deep revenge on the race which scourged them with the plague, and struck out from history any record of their name or existence. Even Isis did not know the name of the race, but the memory of the deed lived forever in the memory of her people. Having once faced possible extinction and a miraculous save, the Amazons would refuse to allow themselves ever again to be dominated by any male race. The war itself had precipitated because the Amazons would not surrender to male-oriented rule. It seemed that not only did the alien invaders want to dominate Artemis, but it wished to rape the beauty from the land as well. The ancient Amazon queen had refused to sacrifice her virgins to the will of the alien races, and as a result the ancient and evil empire had cast the great plague upon Artemis. With all Amazon men dead, it was anticipated that the Amazons would have to surrender or face extinction.
She lifted the knife that lay by her side. There was a fly on her tablecloth. Adroit and salmon-swift, she cut it fairly in half. "Bad luck on the fly?" she laughed. "But I did it. Chance only means ignorance of causes."
She sensed her prey, she had the power to make a difference, and she had the will to be the cause. She understood Jim's magick. He could see through all illusions, and Genie was of invaluable help. All she had was Shaltain, which was only programmed to tell her what she wanted to hear. Shaltain fed her tainted illusions, Jim's Genie was painfully frank and honest, which had at times outright annoyed her. Shaltain would never talk back, but would always be rich with expressions of praise and compromising backbone. Genie, on the other hand could care less what she thought, and was, by Jim's intent, only partially responsive to her commands.
"Shaltain, I may have to decommission you."