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Lilith saw the bouncing lights of an approaching vehicle and aborted hez harvest immediately. Hoofing it back to the lander, che flipped through the launch sequence from muscle memory, without using a checklist, and within a few minutes che was rising rapidly but silently at the head of a brilliant white flare. The American maintenance team noted the launch, and when they arrived on the crime scene fifteen minutes later they stumbled over the bodies of sleeping Bots. They also noted the debris of one Sunset Chaser scattered all around, and the hulks of five more Refineries which had been unable to negotiate the obstruction, made worse by the pylons of the pipe.

All of this information they relayed back to Tolstoy Basin without commentary. Let The Powers That Be figure out what it all meant. In the meantime their job was just to clear the path so the Dawn Racers could come through here in another three months, revive the Bots, and adopt five new Refineries into their traveling clan. Sometimes the Dawn Racers lost a few refineries to the Sunset Chasers also, so it all evened out in the end.

As che rose into the sky, Lilith measured the velocity of the ionized carbon gas emerging from the pipe. It was precisely the speed and direction it would require to cancel out Mercury's rotation and speed of revolution around the sun. When the carbon left the pipe, it was motionless with respect to Sol. Presumably gravity would then begin to pull the gas directly down to the sun. So the Americans were injecting carbon into the star. But why? A quick survey of the Lore of the Elohim soon provided a possible answer. There was a process inside all stars called the carbon cycle:

  1. Carbon-12 fuses with a proton to form Nitrogen-13.
  2. One of the protons emits a positron to form Carbon-13.
  3. A proton capture produces Nitrogen-14.
  4. Another proton capture produces Oxygen-15.
  5. An energetic alpha particle is emitted to return to Carbon-12.

The cycle made the star a little bit hotter, and the carbon which was consumed was completely replaced. The carbon acted as a catalyst. So what Belial was having the Americans do (Lilith refused to entertain the idea that the Americans knew what they were doing) was stoke the stellar fires of Sol with an irreversible process. But why? Belial couldn't get Sol to go nova, Mercury would be vaporized long before that. But the delicate nuclear reactions which were manifested as the life of a living star depended on a stable temperature. Raising the baseline through the carbon cycle would kill the existing elohim occupying Sol, both El Shaddai and Bat-El, and prepare the star for the quickening of a newborn. Alarmed, Lilith-Binah alerted the other elohim to what Belial was attempting to do, then turned back to the task at hand, which was making a clean getaway.

The control tower at Tolstoy Basin hailed Lilith on VHF complaining about "UFOs" and che thought it might be worth hez while to try to bullshit hez way out of the jam. Che said. One of your Refineries just exploded for some reason when it was passing by, damaging our two Astrodyne freighters loading up on sheets of zinc. We were forced to abort our pickup and return to Venus as soon as possible for repairs.

So explain your presence at the site, the tower demanded. It has never been GenMat policy to book any pickups so near to the terminator.

Lilith replied, I think that can be explained by the inexperience of the two pilots in question. We must have landed at the wrong site. One crater looks like another. Please accept my apology for the entire incident.

In reply, the tower locked onto Lilith with a big lase. The flight deck glowed red, and Lilith jumped around in a frenzy trying to strap herself back into hez seat. The seams of hez landers' skin melted and some of the ship's exterior panels blew out and away into space due to the internal pressure, taking Lilith out with them before che could get belted in.

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