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When the graviforming of Selene was well underway and the quakes had grown so intense the people of Taurus City had to be evacuated for their safety, Del stayed behind until the last of the people had departed for the Land We Know. The idea was to provide immediate medical care to anyone injured by falling debris or who were suffocated by the sudden loss of air in their space. But a particularly intense quake made even Del show signs of fear. Hez grandparent Hope saw this and assured Del hez power to heal had always extended to hezself. You are truly immortal. That's why I've handing the Family reins over to you.

Del shrugged. Immortality. I suppose that will prove useful, since I must wait five hundred years to move back into my home.

Third generation Gervasi and you still think in linear time.

The last of the evacuees were through. Hope took Del to the Temple of El Shaddai in Nath, then turned right back around in space, but not in time. The Holy of Holies, the place in Taurus which had been the place of repose for the Ark of the Covenant, was changed. It was five centuries later.

Selene had been graviformed by many artificial quantum black holes which sucked down the molten rock of the interior until there was nothing but a giant hole inside. This caused the satellite to collapse to only forty per- cent of its original diameter. As it shrank Selene more than doubled her rotational speed, much like a skater pulling her arms in closer to spin faster. The post-graviformed Selene turned once every twelve days rather than once a month, but it still went around the Earth once a month, therefore it no longer presented the same face toward Earth at all times.

When Selene's rigid upper mantle could be compressed no more the collapse slowed to a halt, leaving the surface crinkled like the skin of a prune. Countless micro-black holes, grown fat with the moon lava they had consumed, orbited each other inside the moon like angry hornets and sometimes merged. At that point the gravity on the moon was equal to that of Earth, and it could retain an atmosphere and surface water.

None of Selene's original features could be seen anymore. Now it was a world only one-ninth the diameter of Earth. After decades of constant quakes, the terrain was a chaotic jumble of geological folding. There were no seas or plains, only isolated skinny lakes along fault lines, ringed by jagged cliffs snowy from water imported by falling comets. Selene had become Switzerland writ large. The quakes had subsided after five hundred years, just prior to the point where Lilith deposited hezself and Del. The sheer amount of mineral resources made available by the land being literally turned over was beyond belief. It went without saying that the primary occupation on Selene was mining.

In the sky of Selene Del could see the Earth, but it had changed. The oceans were diminished, the nighttime continents were a solid mass of artificial lights, and the planet was attended by a cloud of orbiting artifacts large enough to be seen from Selene as individual star-like points. Most of them clustered around a solid ring in geosynchronous orbit which was dan- gling many brilliant threads.

You are confronted with a choice, Del, Hope said. You can stay here and bypass the five hundred years it took to make all that you see, but then there will be two of you. Or you can return with me to the past and watch it all unfold, Earth as the center of an empire.

What choice? If there would be two of me, that means I must go back.

Don't underestimate the power of the human free will to establish a new chain of effects without a prior cause. Even I can do that. Indeed, it's what we were reaching for when we achieved artificial intelligence.

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Strangers In Paradise