The Nine of Cups
What could make the element of water happier than the seas of Animal Being?
"I will not judge them nor punish them. Bring them to me from Earth, and I shall reinstate them as your guards, but they must now fulfill the destiny we have appointed for them. Agreed, my Qblh?"
Jim knew better than to wait and expect any better offers from her. She was quite obviously being diplomatic with him. He owed this to her understanding of her predicament. Isis was not one to apologize, but by offering him what she thought he wanted, she was showing her excellent and noble character. She would still claim him as being her property, thus there would still be no escaping her. She smiled back at him indicating her pleasure.
"Excellent, my Qblh. Advise Genie that I would like twenty-four more hours with you for rest and recreation, before we return to our worldly roles."
"I have been so advised. You will be delivered to your throne in Xanadu in precisely 86,400 seconds from your mark. Awaiting command, my lady."
Genie was prompt in the reply.
"You are a most excellent Genie, my compliments, and I give you my mark. Mark!"
"Command received and arrival shall be in compliance with your directions. Any further commands, Jim."
"Set course, and see that no idiot stands between us and our destination."
"By your command, Jim."
The gravitational and warp drives then spun into full power and the Pegasus went elsewhere, faster than light, that is. The starship commander and his queen were on their way home once again.
"You have a good heart, my Qblh, and I love you for that. You are also too honest and too squeamish, not practical enough. That is why you are not a good leader my Qblh, and you are much too individualistic. Yet all of Earth in the twenty-first century is not going to pay any attention to you. You will find yourself doing everything for them, and discovering that they want you to do it all for them. They will take your technology for granted and expect you to be able to use it to solve their social problems as well.
Their external worship of me, which you so detest, as goddess worship and blame me for so unjustly, would never have occurred but for the weakness of man, which tends too easily to forget the spirit of the truth, but you, my Qblh, should be vigilant enough to note in every nation those who are able to receive light, and to ensure such persons are employed as agents to spread the light according to man's capacity and to revivify hope for that doomed planet.
In truth I wish you to save Earth any way you can, my Qblh, but do not betray me in the process. I love you. I shall always love you, and I cannot bear to live without you. Let no man harm a hair of your head, my Qblh, lest all Earth face my wrath. It would not go well with them, if they deprive me of you."
Indeed Qblh would be returning Isis to her sanctuary on Artemis but she would succeed in obtaining her portal to Earth which was indeed one of her primary objectives. Qblh, Antiope, and Helen would be the guardians of the portal. Shaltain would be shortly disconnected. Jim still had plenty of time left, however. He was only going to do a temporal displacement of the Pegasus and crew. He fully intended on returning to Earth. He had too. Certain holes still had to be sewn up.
Idiot would instill a virus in Shaltain and maintain a hyperspace link which would scramble Shaltain's circuits as it would try to trace Genie's scrambling signals. Genie knew the architecture of Shaltain's control system, and knew how to sabotage all Shaltain's protective circuitry now that Isis had given clearance. Genie of course had obtained a recording of the queen's command and had authenticated the command. This command was an overriding password to all of Shaltain's protective circuitry. Genie's artificial intelligence would know all the right moves, and Jim, of course, would always demand a probability of success estimate from Idiot. Jim's standards were very high, and Genie always had to come up with the desired solution, else its reputation would be ruined, and Jim, being displeased, would be forced to correct Genie's inadequacies. In the case of disconnection of Shaltain, Jim's standards were quite clear, zero percent probability of Shaltain "survival", and disruption and reprogramming would have to be instantaneous. Next time, when Jim left, no system on Artemis would be able to program another flight through Cygnus. The Pegasus would require several days, Artemis time, to be retrofitted.
Jim was still somewhat suspicious of his sister's intentions. She would attempt to set him up as a social icon as well. He wanted no part of these plans to self-aggrandization. Already she had established her ways into Earth customs and now she wanted him to fit into her plan as well. Yet Isis had done her damage, and Jim had not yet even had the chance to respond. Jim preferred to be able to traverse the stars free and unimpeded. He could do this only by minimizing his profile. It would always seem that he would spend his time undoing the mistakes created by members of his race, most notably, his sister.
She, however, claiming executive privileges could never really be caught at doing anything inappropriate. She would always send her emissaries, and it would always be them that made the mistakes and not her. In this case, Shaltain would be blamed for her indiscretion, but Jim had full intentions of disconnecting the infernal machine since his childhood anyway. All too often it had revealed his indiscretions to his mother, guards, and sister. Jim was quite aware of Shaltain's disrespect for him. The machine hated Jim because Jim always made a game of outsmarting Shaltain as a child. Shaltain being but a machine had no sense of humor, and always desired to get even. As Jim matured he realized that Shaltain was flawed in this respect, and he began to notice how wicked the computer system really was; so wicked, that it even corrupted Artemis society itself.
All lived in fear of being placed unfavorably in Shaltain's memory banks. Social events were staged simply to provide a record for the mega-systems data-banks. Deliberate attempts to whitewash one's files were quite common in Xanadu society. No one dared criticize the queen ever, except for Jim. Shaltain would get even with Jim by creating as unfavorable reports that it could conjure concerning Jim's behavior. It would always be plotting ways to catch Jim in indiscretions. This would prove to be Shaltain's undoing, because Genie and the Box were both devised as means to deal with the nuisance that Shaltain created. Now it seemed that the system had indirectly influenced Isis to corrupt Earth history. Now Jim had to undo the damage. He would return to Earth and commence damage control, yet not without binding Shaltain first, and reprogramming the Artemis automatic governing system. Jim had confidence in Idiot's programming ability, and he knew that the current operating system which was about to be devised would be the best one possible. The new governing system may be flawed, but it would still be a great improvement over Shaltain, and it would still be subject to the excellent instincts of Isis. Jim could not blame his sister. He and she were both quite capable of making serious mistakes, and it was the burden of each of them to deal with their mistakes. Both being quite noble creatures would more often than not learn from their mistakes.
Yet that would be the promise of the future. Jim would still have to deal with the problems that had been created in his future. He knew what had been done and Idiot had a programmed solution to run. The Box was undergoing a necessary displacement, and delivering Isis to Artemis was but a way-point. Jim's destiny required him to return again back to Earth's past.
"Day dreaming again, my Qblh? You're on my time now. Save your meditations for another hour." Isis was aware of the fact that Jim was mentally impeding her probing, as usual. Further mental efforts on her part would have her at a disadvantage. Her physical presence near him, however, gave her another advantage. "Legend will have it, my dear one, that you spirited me away to be your bride. My Amazons will remember you that way, because they now think that I have abandoned them."
"Isis, legends are not the truth."
"What do you suggest instead, my love. Tell the Greeks and the Egyptians the truth? That wouldn't fit in very well with your plan of non-interference, now would it? How history has been changed. Instead of blaming their pagan practices on me, you go down in history as a time-traveler, and that you are visiting the past so as to confirm the falsity or truth as to what men believe? Be realistic, Jim. No one will ever believe that. It is easier for them to remember me as a star goddess, and you as my consort. My sisters and I have revealed much to the world about you. You must fill the role. You and I both know that you can't change history. You are also just as guilty as myself, my Qblh. Had you not crossed the time barrier to show it is possible, I most certainly would not have followed you."
"Don't count on my cooperation too much. I do not desire to be associated as an anti-christ, and that is what I would be if I approved of your illusions my dear......And don't forget your promise to honor my God."
"Fair enough, Jim; but bear in your mind if your God cannot meet your expectations, then you must agree that Earth is mine to rule as I will, and you will rule at my side."
Taking his hand to hers she consoled him further.
"Come now with me my love. We shall leave the burdens of the galaxy for another day. I sympathize with you, my Qblh. I tease you, because I am full aware that we both share the burden of our world. You have a good heart, my love, and my people love you for that. We will go to the furthest reaches of the galaxy with you, and we will always be with you at all times of adversity. I try you with fire, my love, because I expect you to be the strongest of all men. I would have my Qblh be second to no man. If I ever saw you lose a fight, my love, I would be disheartened at your failure more than yourself. Mother wasn't overly harsh on you for no reason. You deserved such treatment."