I2

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I2 - CHARYBDIS

LANDSAT photograph of the Charybdis whirlpool in the South Pacific.

After John Glenn returned to Earth and delivered his report to the President, a spotlight was trained on Jill's absolute refusal to describe in any more detail the method by which Taurus City was excavated on the Moon. Apollo 19 was being prepared to establish a permanent American presence at Taurus-Littrow, but in the meantime focus shifted to the area around Astrodyne's business campus in the Seattle area. The FBI received a lucky break when the "prophet" of the Reformed End Dome Church, Paul Bergin, stepped forward with much information. He figured if his reformed Church couldn't have the Golden Gift, then neither would the unreformed "church".

After that Special Agent Hugh Ridpath paid a visit to Peter Two Feathers at the temple on the summit of End Dome. At first Two Feathers was very cooperative despite the apprehension of many in the native American community following the recent incident at Wounded Knee in South Dakota where two natives and one federal agent was shot. He described to Ridpath how the End Dome Church came into existence as an unlikely union of white settlers from a Pennsylvania German Brethren background and a local Indian clan, too small to be considered a tribe, who called themselves simply the People.

I'm interested in a relic that Prophet Paul Bergin called the Golden Gift, Agent Ridpath said. Can you tell me anything about this object?

Ah yes, he refers to a large nugget of gold that Chief Malekwa offered to the leader of the settlers when they first met as the price to hide the Chief and some of his braves inside their wagons before the US Cavalry found them. We like to believe the union of the red and white people in this place had an underlying spiritual basis, and perhaps there was a deeper divine purpose at work, but the truth is, Pastor Mark Lange saw that nugget of gold and the sound of cash registers went off in his head.

Prophet Paul says the Golden Gift somehow translates the dead directly to the spirit world, and that is the essence of the worship in your temple.

It is true that I wave the original gold nugget, the Golden Gift, over the bodies of our dead in the temple service because it symbolizes how the red and white wings of our church are united, or rather, once were united. But then the corpse undergoes a normal cremation, nothing more. I can show you our license from the State of Washington to provide this service.

Special Agent Ridpath wanted Two Feathers to produce the actual gold nugget rather than paperwork. Two Feathers refused. The FBI resorted to a careless search of the Temple that ended with the structure being incinerated.

Also included in Ford's Glenn Report was a warning from Jill to all mariners to stay at least a hundred nautical miles away from a new, large whirlpool about halfway between Tasmania and New Zealand's South Island. Naturally, the US Navy rushed directly there with a gunship. The destroyer Buchanan, a twenty year old Adams can, was ordered to cut short a port visit in New Zealand to investigate the area. Perhaps if the Navy had flown aircraft to the location first, 350 destroyer sailors would be alive.

The submariners of the USS Bluefish suffered much more than the crew of Buchanan. Their boat was airtight and able to resist the 90 atmospheres of pressure on Venus without being crushed. So she just laid on her side next to a blackened Buchanan and boiled the crew. Distress calls went out from Radio Central for an hour or two, and were intercepted, but the US had no clue the signals were crossing interplanetary space. From what they could make out from the frantic calls, the Navy guessed the destroyer and submarine had gotten pinned in the fumarole of a new underwater volcano.

A cruiser action group and one oiler was dispatched to the area to keep lookie-loos out. The Soviet Union was fully informed by Lilith of the true nature of the whirlpool, so they didn't send ships to challenge America's picket, not even submarines. But rumors did trickle out to the public.

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