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After the Summit the Earth acquired a tiny second moon, Midway, just two hundred feet in diameter. Midway was an asteroid dropped by wormhole into orbit four thousand miles above the surface. It wasn't halfway to Selene in distance, but it was halfway there in the only important way to rocket science, which was in the velocity change required to reach it. Chuck arrived, took command, and shoved the Ark into a corner of his office.

The Elohim had always dealt with planetdwellers through the agency of avatars, whether they were self-propelled ones like the ones Belial and Binah flew, or robotic like the one Chokhmah used to greet Talishi, the robot Binah hoped to use in the future, or even living avatars like Yeshua. The avatar of El Shaddai, the Ark of the Covenant, was not self-propelled, and little more than a microphone, speaker, and camera in a gold enclosure, but El Shaddai had always demanded it be treated with divine reverence. In the first temple this Ark had been kept in the innermost chamber, the Holy of Holies. Before that, and once again in modern times at Taurus it was kept inside the Meeting Tent. When El Shaddai didn't think the House of David could hold onto it she had taken it to the Land We Know for thousands of years. Chuck's sacrilege motived El Shaddai to make one of her rare contacts. She said, You are on the wrong side of history, Charles.

Chuck was startled, not so much that El Shaddai had chosen to speak, but that her voice lacked the majesty one would expect of the God of Israel. It was almost conversational. It has been said that if one speaks to God, it is prayer, he replied. But if God replies, it is psychosis.

I can see much farther down the timeline than I could before, she said. 'The future is secure. Belial is defeated. Even now, there are generations of bene elohim who come after you living in the Land We Know.

And what of me, Lady El Shaddai? Do you see me alive in your future?

You will survive, but you are very far from happy. You are shunned. I can tell you, yet you will still do what history requires of you because the very knowledge that you will be cast out makes you... "double down".

Why? What terrible sin makes my family turn their backs on me?

Charles, we are very much alike, you and I. Consider the other elohim. Chokhmah has merged with the mind of Talishi, a yin from Gorpai. Belial has merged with a long series of yeng, which diluted his original personality, although that process has been terminated forever even from your vantage in the timeline. What shall it profit to gain the whole world but lose one's very soul? Binah merges with the mind of a mechanical maidchild when it becomes fully aware. Project Hope does succeed, and you have a very important role to play in that. Yet you will never be thanked for that role, because you, like myself, have always been outside looking in.

You cannot know what it is like! You are the ultimate insider!

Quite to the contrary, have you ever heard of a planetdweller being possessed by me? You have not, because it has never taken place. We are vastly different orders of being, elohim and the great apes known as human and nephilim. You cannot comprehend the revulsion I feel when I witness them being mixed, and I can tell you this attitude is shared by the majority of elohim in the galaxy, and there are many billions of us, not just five. Such is their distaste that Bat-El and Chokhmah were rejected as witnesses against Belial. They only listened to me, because I always remained aloof from you very slow, cloudy creatures made of tissue-weak electric forces. And so I will let you be, Charles, because I know we both have a very good grasp of where the other stands. The Ark fell silent.

Charles indeed did have an understanding with El Shaddai, and immediately moved to have the Ark set apart in a place of honor on the quarterdeck.

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Strangers In Paradise