The hyper void, that generated state of hyperspace, is like
the Dharma. It is the nature of Emptiness, free of any
conceptual logic and all dualities.
H.H. Polira, the Mahakarmin
on Merudhatu. November 3962
Betelgeuse glowed brightly in the distance, but even with that star and countless numbers of other stars, interstellar space was dark and empty. Abruptly, a vague, undulating shimmer appeared in a line amongst the stars, punctuated with a thin red line. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone. It was the effect of a warp field, caused by an unseen starship traversing the hyper-void at many times the velocity of light. It was the starship Tangent, on course to Mau with a stop-over at Betelgeuse station.
The Tangent was a medium sized transport. Though it carried a compliment of three passengers toward its destination, all the corridors and public chambers on the ship were empty. There was a special chamber at the center of the ship. It was weightless and was filled with wisps of pale blue light and shadows. The light was emanating from one end of the shrine room. The light shone from behind a table containing silhouetted figurines. The figurines were the ship's three sacred Buddhas. Suspended within the room, relaxed in the natural half bent weightless posture was a woman wearing a yellow robe. To her right a facsimile of the ship's mainscreen was displayed on the wall. It was showing many important pieces of information about the ship's function, but she took no notice.
This was the first opportunity that Jan had had for peaceful meditation in many months. Here, in the hyper void, the persistent, intrusive visions did not happen. She had experienced them to a certain degree all of her life, but recently their frequency of occurrence had begun to tax her sanity. An unaccustomed degree of relaxation having set in, her mind began to wander. She noticed that the charm she wore around her neck had drifted away from her body. The sight of it brought back many memories. It had been given to her by her husband, Robbert. Thoughts of better times pierced her meditative state and began to flow back from the past. She had purposely excluded such memories from her thoughts for years.
Jan had not pursued romance in her youth, and her family had accused her of being too cerebral. Passion was considered to be the primary vehicle upon the road to enlightenment, but she was thought to have forsaken it. She had always considered herself to be more homely than pretty; her sisters were disgustingly gorgeous. She had mistakenly assumed that the basic passions of life would pass her by. Her brothers and sisters pursued families and life while she meditated, studied astrophysics, and wrote about the rise and fall of galactic federations. She had even been head of the board of the Central Eugenic Registry for five years.
She had visions. Visions were normally considered to be a good omen and a special gift not to be scoffed at, but her visions were of fanciful, implausible places. They defied all attempts to account for them or even electronically to scan and to record them. Then she met Robbert. It had happened because she had journeyed to meditate at the Great Shrine of Shakyamuni on Pacifica, in their neighboring star system of North Columbia.
She could not ignore him, nor could he ignore her. Their incipient relationship was properly self indulgent and slightly scandalous. After much consultation, and after years of urging from both families, they had decided to get married. They had both become thoroughly versed in all the implications: they would exchange many vows upon sacred ground for a lifetime of maximum passion.
The wedding had not been a minor affair; for it was not every day that the most eligible daughter of the House of the Yellow Mandala married the most eligible son of the House of the Red Mandala. By that union they had completed the process of confederation of twenty eight worlds. It was a process that had been begun three centuries earlier when the last war brought the collapse of the Terran Federation.
A Trikaya Council, members of a special society of priests and priestesses, had examined both of them before the ceremony: they had pronounced that indeed the marriage of Jannet Franklin to Robbert Deniker would be most auspicious. Despite the unusual qualities of Jan's visions, they had also pronounced that she had the greater karma. This had meant that they would adopt the name Deniker Franklin out of respect to her and her family.
The marriage ceremony had taken place on Aurora, her home planet, which circled the gas giant Jupiter IV, of the South Columbia star system. The open air temple at the summit of Mount MilaKarma had been chosen as the site. It was named in honor of the twenty sixth century Buddha MilaKarma, who had re-consecrated the ancient center on the planet Merudhatu. This site overlooked the large equatorial inland sea that they referred to simply as the Sea of Serenity. A faint edge of Jupiter IV and two of the other worlds that circled the gas giant had been visible in the sky. The other worlds seen from above the temple were Owyhee (a very strange name) and Portland. Like Aurora, they were not natural worlds, but had been manufactured by her ancestors.
Jan had been radiant as she stepped forward in her bright yellow gown, wearing her favorite diadem of black and white gold on her head. Robbert had worn the simple red robes of a monk, as was the custom on his world, Pacifica. Of course, Jan's sisters had been more beautiful than ever, but Jan had resolved to live with the initial looks that life had given her; she would never opt for the 'improvements' that could be wrought by devices like biomodification chambers.
The following years had been the happiest of her life. Five children were born. First their lives had been blessed by the arrival of Robberta, Alexan, and the twins Anne and Erikka. Then there was Karlen, who was unusual because he was a rare total synovert, a prestigious omen of enlightenment for their family. At one time, there had been an unsuccessful radical movement to eliminate all synoverts genetically.
Jan had taken possession of the Tangent as her own ship; Grandmother Franklin had willed that it be given to her when she married. The Tangent had been the command ship of the Columbian forces of the Great War. Now it would serve much more pedestrian purposes. Together, Jan and Robbert explored the universe, and she continued to write volumes about the history of the Federation. Then, through eligibility established by his marriage to Jan, Robbert had been elected President of Aurora, and her life began to change. She vividly remembered that time: "Jan, darling, I picked this up for you at a bazaar on Archela," he said as he removed the charm from its box and put it around her neck. "Something told me that this belonged on you."
"It is sort of me, isn't it," she replied as she was fascinated by the odd shape and colors of the charm. Though touch revealed that it was stationary, the charm had had the appearance of spinning in place.
"Did you see that?" he asked suddenly.
"See what?" she asked puzzled.
"Your eyes," Robbert said. "They seemed to light up for a moment. And your face flushed white."
"Bob, you must be imagining things. Maybe it's because I'm pregnant again. Not many women in their late sixties get pregnant."
"Maybe so, but it was sure odd that...."
Jan cried out, but she could not hear herself as she spun wildly in place in the Tangent. For a moment, she actually thought she was back on that landing pad, as the surrounding features danced around her. But she had never remembered that awful moment! Her mind had been lost for months inside her personal visions before she had been brought back to reality. Then they told her what had happened.
She managed to stop spinning. The chamber lights had turned on; she must have yelled for them. She glanced at her feet and her left forearm and hand. They looked like hers, and they felt like hers, but they were not originally hers; they were biosynthetic. One moment she and Robbert and thirty three associates had been on board their aircraft that was on landing approach; then a single flash had ended it all. Someone had smuggled a PREXL weapon past all security. It had had only one charge, but it had destroyed everything: the vehicle, Robbert, all their friends on the vehicle, and her feet and forearm. She had lain there naked and bleeding on the landing pad, her damaged flesh smoldering, with nothing else on her body but her charm. Jan could have sworn that the charm had emitted a cold but piercing white light for a moment.
She had somehow survived, but fate had been unusually cruel on that day! Three people had carried out the attack, but they had all committed suicide a few minutes afterwards. In all the years since, no motives and no other perpetrators had ever been discovered.
'Now I am being ridiculous. I will be so embarrassed if Rig or Aiu come to see what is wrong.' She thought.
Jan forced herself to continue reminiscing about events of thirty-eight years ago. She had to start dealing with all her tragic memories. The Tangent sped on toward Betelgeuse Station.
After she had awakened and recovered from her wounds suffered during the assassination, she could not cope and had constant bouts of depression. Her children could not bear to see her just sit and stare blankly or else tend to newborn baby Victor. Robberta and Alexan had urged her to go on a pilgrimage to Merudhatu, as she had always intended. Her Holiness, the first incarnate woman Buddha, had been teaching on Merudhatu for more than seventy standard years. They had offered to take Victor, but she would not allow any separation from him. Jan had packed up some of her belongings and enough supplies to care for Victor. Alone, she nervously left in the Tangent for Merudhatu. It was that mysterious, ancient planet that had so changed their lives and had been so instrumental in the collapse of the Federation.
During the early days of star travel, Merudhatu had been visited, mapped, analyzed, and dismissed as a strange archaeological curiosity. It was a manufactured world, much larger than Earth. It had been built more than nineteen million years ago, during the age a great civilization. Then, about seven million years ago, it had been inexplicably abandoned, and all its great cities had begun to decay back into the ground from which they had been forged. During the present time, nearly its entire surface was ravaged by constant tornadoes and hurricanes that made it totally uninhabitable...except for one small area. The Circle of Harmony had been a center of religious activity, and it defied time and the elements. It was a shrine, consecrated by eleven million years of devotion. It was in a state of martial grace; weapons were nonfunctional. And it had been endowed with enormous elemental generosity by its creators, for those who came to meditate and worship left with fabulous gifts of knowledge.
The Tangent had reached equatorial orbit in the parking zone around the fifth planet. Among the many parked ships was the familiar wing-shaped spaceship from Her Holiness Polira’s home, Urgaya.
Unlike entry into commonwealths and sub federations, no permission had been necessary. Merudhatu was the seventh of fourteen planets, located between the fourth and the fifth asteroid belts. Jan remembered ordering the image of the planet to be enlarged. Merudhatu had an automatic shield against large meteors and asteroids. She had noticed there must have been several hits during the recent past, because the planet had a small, bluish ring around its equator. The Circle of Harmony was not visible, but was hidden on the night side. Meru Minor, the white dwarf star that orbited near the larger star, had not been visible from her angle of view.
She remembered sleeping restlessly and getting up an hour before dawn at the Circle of Harmony. First she had changed and fed Victor; then she had struggled with the quandary of what to wear. Her mind had wavered in and out of depression while tears streaked down her cheeks. She had not known what was proper, but she usually was not fashion conscious anyway. She had decided to wear the slightly martial outfit she had worn to Robbert's inauguration: calve length skirt with boots and a tailored hip length jacket. She had carefully stuck her alpha-link for the Tangent in her lapel. It was a pin in the shape of the insignia of her Buddhist order: the Columbian Shakyamuni order.
As Jan rested in place in her shrine room, her mind entered a state of such clarity that all distinctions between past and present vanished.
* * *
'Shoulder length earrings are in vogue now or was that a decade ago I'll try the long, blue beaded ones anyway. Do I need a hat? Yes, the one with the wide brim.' She thought.
As she grabbed her favorite charm, she adjusted the belts on her backpack and placed Victor in his chest sling carrier; then she dictated last minute instructions to the Tangent: where she would be, how to reach her, and what to do in an emergency. Jan stepped into the transmatter chamber, tossed the hat back into the ship and spoke the destination code name. There was a pause as protocol signals flashed back and forth through the hyper void; then she was standing in the chamber of the reception station. The door opened and she stepped out into the Circle of Harmony. There was an information booth, but it was neither attended, nor was it stocked with any literature.
Jan had seen pictures of the Circle of Harmony; she had even written extensively about its role in the collapse of the Federation, but she had never physically been there. It was much more than just an experience! The air in the circle was calm, but just a few kilometers away dust and clouds raced by, driven by the enormous storms that were raging beyond the perimeter shield. Inside this shield were five hundred twelve identical buildings each in the shape of a long box with rounded corners laid out over a circular grid. Jan could only vaguely see the center of the grid and beyond, but she knew the lay out from maps she had memorized. In its center was a giant, slightly raised heptagon, on which the Seat of the Buddhas rested. Seven simple arches curved over the seat and came together at another, much smaller heptagon, which was impaled by a protruding spoke of the solid image of a twelve spoke wheel, the Wheel of the Law. Each of the other eleven spokes terminated outside the image as small, twisted cones, and all the spokes were cut by seven concentric circles. It was so much like similar Buddhist and Hindu chakras that the meaning was inescapable. In the center of the wheel was a horizontal oval pierced by a vertical wedge. It was a symbol, but it was not the primordial syllable ahm, as early visitors had believed. The Buddha MilaKarma, when he re-consecrated this shrine, had revealed it to be merely the number '3', that Merudhatu was only one of many such worlds, evenly spaced around the center of the galaxy. The exact number of such worlds was unknown, but MilaKarma had said the zeroeth or Mother World was the greatest of them all.
Victor stirred a little. He would be hungry soon. Jan wondered if public breast feeding violated local customs. It was okay on most worlds, but Merudhatu was not 'most' worlds. Intuition told her that she would have to change Victor momentarily. Jan somehow managed to find an underground rest facility near the edge of the Circle.
Jan experienced another bout of depression as she walked along the edge of the Circle; then she bumped into someone and nearly fell down. Suddenly, she realized how crowded it was; it would take some time of traversing through crowds to reach the Seat of the Buddhas. Identification flags hung from the slanted flag poles in front of each of the buildings that surrounded the seat. All the religious denominations from nearby star systems were well represented. There were Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jewish, and many other flags.
Prophets were so rare in these modern times that her Holiness Polira was claimed by all, often at the expense of schisms in the various churches. Jan walked under the banner of New Israel, which contained a large golden Star of David. Nearly straight across the Circle and scarcely discernable from her perspective, was the banner of Israel Aleph, a silver star of David with the letter aleph at its center. There were bitter feelings between these two branches of the Jewish faith. Next to New Israel was the banner of the Quaker Church, and next to it was the golden image of the angel Moroni on the banner of the Palmyran Mormon Church; then the Vedanta Hindu Temple, the Sunni Moslem Mosque, the Lumbini Buddhist Temple, and so on into the distance.
Jan pushed her way at least a kilometer toward the center before she could, at last, see her Holiness. She was seated in the lotus posture atop the Seat, but she did not touch the seat. Her body, clad in a white robe with a bright red crossed vajra on the front, was suspended in midair, and she was surrounded by a faint glowing aura. Her Holiness, Polira, showed the effects of advancing age, though she was not really old. Her skin was full of frail-looking wrinkles, and her hair had long ago turned a dull-silver in color. Surrounding her were her attendants, her children by her many concurrent husbands. They took care of her and administered to her needs. There were rainbows everywhere around her, but it never rained within the Circle of Harmony!
Jan got closer. Now she could see the seats of the Disciples, surrounding and facing away from the central Wheel of the Law. Six had been filled in the order of arrival of the Disciples, but one was empty. Everyone knew the story: three men and three women had come on their personal pilgrimages, each having no idea that they would be chosen. By prophecy there should have been seven, but the seventh Disciple had never appeared, and so that seat remained vacant. Yet, the full breadth of Polira’s teachings depended on that seat being filled.
Something was happening. The crowd cleared a path to the seat. Representatives of Israel Aleph were carrying a golden object toward the Seat of the Buddhas. It was carried upon two poles, by a man rabbi in the front and a woman rabbi in the rear. It was a replica of the Ark, no; something told Jan that it was the actual Ark. Israel Aleph had successfully penetrated the garbled off-dimensional time barrier to retrieve the Ark, their most sacred object. Jan concluded that it must have taken many generations of eugenic manipulation to produce people who could withstand the trip through time, because reverse temporal travel was incompatible with biological processes.
'So, the flaw in the Sutter-Grimwald equations actually does allow successful backwards time travel. Of course, they used genetic changes not approved by the Central Eugenic Registry. All those who made the trip backwards in time will die in a few months! That is why the time component of the hyperdrive matrix is set to run slightly fast.' Jan thought to herself.
All human beings who followed the edicts of the Eugenic Registry were the product of centuries of eugenic manipulation; life and travel as they knew it would have been impossible without all the induced changes in humanity. Jan knew that every time she journeyed through the hyper-void or stepped into a transmatter chamber, she was doing something that would have killed her distant ancestors. Besides being an inheritor of hundreds of generations of coordinated eugenic manipulations and internal modifications, she was also the fifth generation with the duplex heart, a heart designed never to stop while continually repairing itself during three centuries of operation.
There was much discussion among the people from New Israel over this latest development. The group with the Ark approached her Holiness. Apparently, during the trip through all the intervening centuries, the Ark had been depleted of all its spiritual energy.
The Ark was placed before the Seat. Her Holiness stepped down. She touched the golden shell and restored the Ark by her grace. Her presence was overwhelming, despite her frail demeanor. Through her empathy with the Circle, her voice penetrated everywhere, far beyond the ability of her own voice.
Though her Holiness was from the star system Urgaya, she spoke in the Terran National dialect, which Jan understood. Nearly everyone spoke Terran National to some degree, because they were all born with a rudimentary grasp of the ancient, root language. "I showed you how to find your Ark, and now it is here. I will keep my promise and restore its power for you. Do not deceive me; you committed temporal sacrilege in bringing this to the present. You were not content to just obtain the Ark, but you kidnapped someone for trial from a later time!"
"But, Madame Buddha," pleaded the woman rabbi. "The man killed millions of our people in a past age. He went unpunished. It is up to us to right...."
"Do you not listen? Vengeance is not yours! Vengeance is not mine! Vengeance is not even the province of the Lord, as some might preach, for the Lord is beyond vengeance! None may escape the consequences of karma. How do you expect to break this endless cycle, if you do not stop to meditate upon the inherent Emptiness of all phenomenal existence? So long as you persist in these views of duality: persecutor and persecuted, accusers and accused, the one and the other...there will be no hope."
While her Holiness continued her lashing discourse, Jan worked her way through the crowd, ever closer to the great heptagon. She had reached the edge as the Israelis were leaving. One of Polira's attendants stopped Jan from going any further. He motioned that she was not allowed to step onto the great Heptagon while carrying a child.
A very tall, dark haired woman stepped forward and yelled at him. She wore a brown, ethnic looking dress that had a knee length skirt. She had on a belt comprised of numerous small silver disks. All Jan understood was Starkis as the woman scolded the attendant, which must have been his name. She could not pick out a single phrase from the rest of the woman's rapid-fire verbiage, although Jan was fluent in more than sixty languages and dialects. They argued briefly; then the man left in an angry mood.
"Excuse my half-brother," she said in Terran National, her voice moved like the wind. "He's from my mother's husband number one, Hector. There's not much good karma in him, and he is an oaf. My father is Ozel, her husband number three. There's not much to me in the way of the special stuff, but my brother, Rigdzin, he has the gift! Hello, my name is Gianna."
"I am Jannet Deniker-Franklin," replied Jan at her much slower pace. "I am happy to meet you sister Gianna." She held her hands to her chest in front of Victor in the standard cupped posture and bowed slightly; Gianna returned the courtesy.
"You are from Columbia, yes? You must tell me about it. I hear all these wonderful tales about the Commonwealth of Columbia. How did you come here? Did a liner dock?"
"No, I came in my own ship."
"Oh, which hyperdrive harmonic matrix does it have?"
"Number twenty nine. Do you understand...?"
"I can take one apart and put it back together. Have you come to see my mother?"
'And she says she has no special gift.' thought Jan to herself.
She touched Jan and started to cry, "Your husband was recently murdered...terrible!" she said with genuine sadness. She was embarrassed over her unintended intrusion.
'And she is an empath. This woman is amazing!' Thought Jan.
"I came to watch today. Sometime soon I hope to have an audience with your mother, when I feel up to it."