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Lilith gives parental love to hez positively glowing baby Ariel.

Jerry and Lilith, with hez toddler Ariel in tow, paid a long overdue visit to the Astrodyne offices in Bellevue to thank Mark Felton for the work he was doing to make the Micro a success. His eyes bugged out slightly when he saw his bonus check. Like the other programmers, he also owned points in the company, so they had a great incentive to make Astrodyne grow. But the main reason for the visit was Lilith had some unfinished business with the schismatics of the End Dome Church. Jerry knew nothing about it, but hy tagged along as muscle. Ariel was brought along as a demonstration.

I have to warn you, Lilith told Jerry, this church has a peculiar belief that only cousins should be married. And I do mean first cousins, or maybe second cousins in a pinch. They say the Bible tells them so.

Egad. Jerry had seen very disgusting things but this took the cake.

Oh, that's not nearly the worst of it, Jerry. All the Endomites, male and female alike, must wear their hair in a ponytail. But the heretics wrap their ponytail into a bun. Even the men. And she winked at hym.

Paul Bergin had been the Apostle before the split, but now styled himself the full Prophet. He refused to meet Peter Two Feathers at the Temple, and Two Feathers refused to meet Bergin in his new building. Lilith proposed meeting in an old abandoned mine shaft in the side of End Dome Hill, which seemed an odd choice, but it was a perfect place for the demonstration that was Ariel. A soft golden light from her face and hands filled the dark space. Che was a living miracle testifying to Lilith's veracity.

Paul's first question to Lilith was to the point. The fuck are you?

Binah, Lilith said. I am the very eloah you purport to serve. Paul appeared to be dubious. Che said, Why did you go out from us?

The office of Prophet was void when Two Feathers married those two brats. He referred to the union of Jerry Shy Bear and Sofie Krause, who were not only not cousins, they weren't even of the same racial background.

The cousin thing was always just a Church tradition, not a doctrine.

Our founder, Pastor Mark Lange, believed otherwise. So there was persecution, and his pilgrimage clear across the United States to this place.

The founder was Chief Malekwa actually. I gave him the Golden Gift.

And Captain Smalley would have taken it away from him if Chief Malekwa didn't beg for sanctuary in Mark Lange's wagon train. So why the ingratitude now? Why does Astrodyne hire only Ponies to build and ship Micros?

We're looking for employees with moral character. Bunners don't even attend Temple anymore. You do not honor your dead with the Golden Gift. Your very salvation is at issue. It is Binah who says this. But any white member of the Church is now and always was welcome to worship in the Temple at any time. Will you return? Will you accept the marriage of Jerry Shy Bear and Sofi Krause and reunite the two halves of the broken Church?

Thou shalt not amalgamate humans with animals, Paul Bergin intoned.

As che was trained, Ariel extinguished hez body's glow like snuffing out a candle. Lilith used the Dark Blade to cut a hole in the wall of the cave so she could escape into the night with Ariel, Jerry, and Two Feathers.

I feel like I came into the middle of a very old argument, Jerry said.

I'm astonished. Lay out an array of carrots and sticks, and people will still choose a course of action that undermines their own self-interest.

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Strangers In Paradise