OF MAN AND GODS - BOOK THREE - LEGACY OF THE ALLIANCE Greg J Miller

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CHAPTER SEVEN - ARIZONA

Wednesday June 23 1948

Over the past several weeks, Theodore Edgars had grown increasingly impatient during each of Avrum's visits to his Chicago home. The introduction of that Remote Oracle, along with some of the additional detail that it provided had firstly satisfied some of Edgars' pent up frustration as he'd observed some things that he'd really wanted to see. However, that hadn't lasted so long. In fact, it might well have only led toward him becoming a little more frustrated that more tangible memory of his former lifetime seemingly remained beyond his grasp. The bits and pieces that he could actually access mostly served to highlight various things that continued to present as little more than obscure shadows that he could not quite reach.

A number of times over the ten weeks since Edgars had firstly seen those project images and engaged in several conversations with the Remote Oracle that he'd been calling 'Chicago', he'd pressed Avrum over the matter of taking him to meet with Chronos in Arizona.

On each occasion, Avrum had found ways to distract him with something else, managing to persuade him of the value of waiting for a bit longer before following that path.

Edgars understood something of the loosely outlined plan that lay ahead. He also understood that Poseidon's son Mercuré was buried beneath Lake Superior with a Remote Oracle. On top of all that, he understood that he would need to undergo the Change, in order for certain things to properly move forward. He understood that without that, he wouldn't be in any position to directly participate in any of what was to come. Avrum had also made it clear that even with that particular matter in progress, retraining of basic skill would likely still set things back even further. At least as far as Edgars' involvement was concerned.

Nonetheless, Theodore had yet again insisted upon moving forward with action. He'd even demonstrated that he'd started to take certain other preparations more seriously, organising for Teddy Jr to temporarily take over his position at Mid-Westerner Shipping and Freight, while he went off for a few weeks of vacation was the first part of that.

Avrum had eventually relented and they were finally on their way down to Flagstaff in Arizona.


Once again glancing out across the arid landscape along both sides of the long stretch of road, Theodore released a wear sigh. By the third day of driving across the country, the novelty of the long trip was certainly starting to lose much of its earlier appeal.

Though the air coming in through the open window of his Buick was making some difference, the dry heat coming along with it was not something that he was so used to. Of course, Chicago could certainly get hot for a day or two in summer, but once the breeze came up from across the lake, it hardly seemed so bad.

Driving along Route 66, at least since back in New Mexico, it really seemed like the only kind of breeze that got up was an uncomfortably hot and dry one. Looking out across the stillness of the land, it seemed that the only reason that he could even experience any sort of breeze was all about the motion of the vehicle.

Edgars glanced over toward his right, observing that Avrum hardly seemed at all as uncomfortable as he was feeling right at that moment.

Without even trying to 'read' the other man, Avrum had evidently anticipated something of what Theodore might have been thinking. "It's not all that far to go now."

Though that was likely exactly what Edgars might have asked about, he'd idly shifted the topic in a slightly different direction. "We must be somewhere near the Grand Canyon."

Avrum remained casual in tone. "Not all that far off, but not all that close."

"I always wanted to see it some day. I told my family that's why I was going off on this trip. Even brought a camera along, to take some pictures of it."

Avrum shrugged. "It's really just a big hole out in the dry lands. With a creek trickling along down at the bottom."

Edgars huffed. "It's much more than that."

"Yeah well, probably the biggest canyon of that kind in the world, but really just like any other big canyon… except a bit bigger than most. Kind of something to look at, I suppose… for all of about five minutes. Maybe ten. Any case, that's not what we're here to see. Not right now anyway. You can probably go over there afterward. If that's what you want."

Theodore was feeling a bit annoyed over the other man's attitude in the moment, or else it could have just been the heat getting to him. Either way, his comment shifted in another direction again. "Couldn't you have just flown me down there, instead of having us drive half way across the country in this god-damned heat?"

Avrum looked out across the bleak vista. "You ain't the kind of load I'm used to carrying under my arm in fly-overs. Least, not over that kind of distance."

Edgars frowned. "I thought you said that other fella has some kind of aircraft?"

Avrum shrugged again. "At least a couple of them in working order right now. But I can't go landing a pod in the middle of Chicago. Even at night, that kind of thing would get noticed. Any case, what are you grumbling about? You said you wanted to see more of the country."

"I did say that. But after driving for three days across a half dozen states, my backside is making me think differently about it."

Avrum suppressed a mild chuckle. "Like I said, we're nearly there. We oughta be in Flagstaff in less than an hour."

Edgars couldn't see anything on the horizon that led him to believe that they were anyway near any sort of civilisation. "Been a while since we stopped at that last gas station. I think might need to pull over to take a leak before we make it there."

"Ain't gonna hurt anything out here. Can't see anybody likely to complain about someone watering a cactus. You should just be careful not to stand too close to one."

Not that there were any other vehicles in view as far as the eye could see, Theodore made a point of looking ahead and behind, before slowing the car and then pulling over to the side of the road.


True to Avrum's suggestion, before another hour on the road had passed by, they were driving through the main thoroughfare of Flagstaff. From there, Route 66 went right through the place on its way further westward. However, that was as far west along that route as they would be travelling by automobile.

Though the place certainly presented as civilisation, by Edgars' reckoning, downtown Flagstaff hardly seemed like anything more than the small towns they'd passed by over the past few days. Coming from Chicago, he found it hard to think that the place even qualified as a city.

"Is this the whole thing? Thought it would be a bigger place."

Avrum shrugged. "Not that big a place, but still they call it a city."

Edgars huffed. "Seems like not much more than a town."

"Yeah, maybe less than ten thousand people in the whole area. But seems to me that every little place in this country likes to call itself a city. Back in the day, Athens used to have more than ten times as many people… and in a much smaller space." He paused to gesture with his right hand. "You'll need to turn off to the right up ahead. Next turn after this one."

Edgars nodded. "Next right. Got it. So… so, how big were cities back then?"

"Not as big as Chicago, but bigger than places like Flagstaff. There were lots of places with maybe a couple hundred thousand or so. Even Roma… Rome… that place maybe got up to nearly a million at times. So yeah, this is more like a big country town, even by my measure."

Edgars nodded again as he turned off along the broad street on the right.

Noticing the other man's questioning expression, Avrum waved his hand forward. "Yeah, just keep going a bit. Maybe turn left at Dale, then right again. After that, we'll turn off left again past the school grounds. I'll keep pointing you in the right direction."

Edgars followed the directions, taking them along past long blocks of suburban homes, then eventually past the high school grounds that he'd mentioned. Avrum then directed him down another couple of streets, near what seemed like the outskirts of the main town area. Just as the sun was almost starting to set over the ranges to the west, they'd arrived at a small timber constructed house near the end of the rough road.

Edgars looked to Avrum with a frown. "Is this it?"

"This is just a house I have out here. Don't really live in it. Just a place to stop by, when I need to. Helps with keeping a local identity. On paper at least."

Theodore responded only with a vague nod. Not necessarily understanding all of what was meant.

Avrum pointed at the side of the house. "Park your vehicle up close to the house. We'll grab our bags and lock up. We won't be staying here long."

Edgars collected his bag from the trunk, as Avrum went to gather a fistful of mail from the mailbox. Avrum only had that smaller shoulder bag that he'd brought along with him.

At Avrum's suggestion, they headed on into the house for a short while.

Even at a glance, it hardly seemed obvious that it was much of a home inside. There was some very ordinary furniture, but it really did look like a place that had only been set up with the very basics and not really lived in at all; just as Avrum had more or less said.

Edgars looked to switching on a light, only to observe that the switch did nothing.

Avrum waved a hand. "Don't waste your time. No electrics. No point, since I'm hardly ever here."

He reached for a kerosene lamp hanging from a hook, checked that it seemed to have fluid in the tank and then set it down on the table. He raised the glass and ignited the wick with a flame from his finger.

Edgars raised his eyebrows. "That's a neat trick."

Avrum shrugged. "If I had any matches handy… any case, no one else here to see me do it, but you."

Releasing a subtle snort of amusement, Edgars passed no further comment.

Avrum took a moment to go through the pile of mail to see if anything really required attention. He'd tossed most of it aside, only stuffing a couple of things into his bag.

Theodore watched him casually. "So… so, you go to all the trouble of… of whatever all this is for?"

"Hmm? Oh… well, yeah. Since everything's about having some sort of paperwork… well, if I want to maintain a few active identities… pays to keep a few things in place for that. Only have a couple of places for that right now. One here and one in Britain. Got a few other useful identities, but just these two houses to use, when I need to."

"Should I… should I be doing something like that?"

"Hmm? Yeah, no. Not yet. Later on. We'll help you with all that."

Edgars merely shook his head.

Avrum pointed toward the hall off to his left. "If you need the use the bathroom again, now's the time. Soon as it's dark enough, we're off to the mountains. We'll be flying that part, so I don't want you wetting your trousers."

Edgars returned an indignant expression, then silently nodded and headed off to find the bathroom. Without passing comment, he was thinking that it wasn't quite so hot any more. Not that it was at all like a cooler Chicago evening, but already much better than earlier in the day.

Returning from the bathroom a few moments later, Theodore found Avrum examining a wooden chair, tilting it back and putting his weight onto it.

Looking perplexed, Edgars spoke up. "What are you doing?"

"Just checking it's sturdy enough."

"For what?"

"For you. I'm not going to put you under my arm. You can sit in this, with your bag on your lap. Just lean back and don't go squirming about too much."

Ted raised his eyebrows. "I'm going to go flying in a kitchen chair?"

"I'll be handling the flying. You just need to sit back, hang on and stay put."

Ted shook his head with his mouth half-open.

Avrum affected a grin. "Nothing to worry about. I'll be extending my field around you and keeping you close. With my shields, won't even get breezy… and the wildlife won't touch you."

"Sounds crazy."

"Nothing to worry about. Won't even go as fast as I might usually go."

"How far do we have to go?"

"Only about seventy miles or so. Won't take twenty minutes."

"Twenty minutes?"

"I could go much faster, but you might not like it."

"Maybe I'll just close my eyes."

"If you like."

Avrum grabbed the wooden chair and his bag, put out the lantern, and they soon made their way back outside the house.


Theodore had not much enjoyed the following twenty minutes at all. Aside from observing a few tiny lights in the distance below, there wasn't much to see, whether he kept his eyes open or otherwise. Though the moon was full only a couple of days beforehand, it wasn't yet up in the eastern sky, so everything was very dark. Seemingly much darker than it ever got back in Chicago.

Responding to the nervous query, Avrum insisted that he didn't need to see much of where he was headed, as the Remote Oracle knew exactly where they were and where they were going. Edgars just had to take him at his word and hope for the best.

Despite Avrum's casual reassurance, Theodore hardly felt at all at ease as he clung to the chair that he was leaning back in. Though he couldn't feel the wind on his face, since it was apparently deflected by Avrum's invisible shielding, he could certainly feel he was hurtling at speed through the dark sky. He was very nearly feeling sick by the time that Avrum finally set him down upon a rocky crag on a darkened mountainside. Though the urge wasn't far from the surface, he somehow managed to avoid vomiting.

Though they'd seemingly alighted safely upon what Edgars thought to be solid ground, he wasn't yet feeling at ease. He could still barely see a few feet in front of him. The looming rock-face in front looked like little more than a shadowy wall of stone. At first, as he stood up from the chair, he hadn't quite realised that Avrum had kept a firm grip on his arm.

Avrum spoke up. "Don't go stepping away. It's a long way down."

Hardly moving, Theodore tried to look behind, only vaguely making out that the rocky ground seemed to fall away right behind him. He kept a firm grip on his bag and he was still holding onto the wooden chair by its back.

Avrum maintained his relatively firm grip upon the other man's arm. "Comon, we're headed this way."

Edgars couldn't see anything of consequence, or much of anything really, but Avrum tugged his arm toward the dark cliff-face. "Ah… should I… should I bring the chair?"

Avrum uttered a slight chuckle. "If you like."

The stout-framed Titannian raised his free hand and a light appeared to project from it, illuminating the rock-face just in front of him. Edgars had firstly thought that he had a flashlight, but was then slightly surprised when he realised that the light was actually coming from Avrum's hand, as if by some sort of strange magic.

Avrum didn't explain. "This way."

"What… where?"

"There's an entrance right here. The rock is just an illusion."

Theodore was again somewhat startled as he watched Avrum seemingly melting through the face of the rock, while still tugging on his arm, prompting him follow. He'd thought that he felt a subtle tingling sensation as he also passed through the illusion.

Just beyond the facade of rocky cliff-face, there was a short hollow like a cave, ending in a rough wall with a heavy metal door with four levers set into in it. Avrum tugged at the levers in what seemed like some sort of random sequence, then with a series of mechanical clunking noises, the door appeared to move on its own, swinging inward to allow entry.

Theodore hesitated a moment.

Avrum tugged on his arm again, before releasing it. "You can leave the chair behind, if you like. Don't need to go dragging it about."

Edgars responded with a silent nod, setting the chair by the wall, just inside the passageway past the metal door. Without any obvious action on Avrum's part, the metal door then slowly swung back into the closed position and unseen locks made more clunking noises, indicating that it was mechanically locking behind them.

Apparently in response to their presence, a few somewhat dim lights came on in the ceiling of the passageway ahead and the glow about Avrum's hand faded away. Though the lighting wasn't very bright, it was enough to see where they were going.

Edgars noticed that the walls and ceiling looked to be made of concrete or the like, with the occasional exposed metal support to be seen. The lighting seemed strange to his eyes. A bit like those neon tube lights that some places used, only different.

Avrum led the other man down along the long passageway ahead. They'd passed another couple of wide metal doors along the way. Each of those doors had rather ordinary looking handles, with no obvious indication of what might be behind them. After turning right at a right-angled bend in the long passageway, They'd then turned left through a rather less impressive door of light construction in the wall. From there, they passed along another relatively featureless hall. Passing by a few more doors of lighter construction, they finally reached a large room with more doors along each wall.

Chewing lightly on his lower lip, Avrum came to a halt and glanced about.

Edgars looked around, expecting to see someone else, but there was no obvious sign of anyone about. Near the centre of the room, there was a plain table with an assortment of items and hand tools left sitting about. Aside from some papers, Theodore hadn't made immediate sense of what the rest of it was. There were two plain wooden chairs at either side of the table.

Glancing about the rest of room, he'd noticed a number of shelves with stacks of books and papers and more indiscriminate items. He imagined that if anyone tried to touch anything on a shelf, a pile of things would likely come crashing down.

In a few stacks here and there across the floor, there were more piles of books, papers and other things precariously balanced in knee-high towers.

Avrum released a huffy sigh. "Not answering. Do you know exactly where he is?"

Setting down his travel case next to his feet, Theodore raised his eyebrows with a perplexed expression. His eyes widened further as he observed the subtle movement of a small boxlike object on the floor by the table with mechanical protrusions attached to its side.

A voice emanated from the object. It had spoken aloud with a strangely infected British accent. "Chronos is currently in one of the medical laboratories. I have directly informed him of your arrival and suggested that he set aside his current task."

Edgars looked to Avrum. "Is that… is that another one of those Oracles? Like 'Chicago'?

"Yeah ah… not exactly. Just a… an automaton. Like a dumb robot. For the Master Oracle to use. There's lots of them about here."

The small box spoke up again. "Chronos is now on his way. He should be here momentarily."

Edgars had turned his attention back toward the talking automaton. The box-shaped device moved along the floor on rubber-like tracks, like a tiny army tank, carefully navigating the mess on the floor, without disturbing any of the delicately balanced stacks of objects. It came to a halt just a step away from him and then extended its mechanical protrusion partway toward him like a hand.

It spoke again in its awkward approximation of a British accent. "We are pleased to meet you Theodore Edgars. You may call us Master Oracle."

Feeling a little stupid, Ted reached down to touch the offered 'hand', awkwardly attempting to shake it in greeting. He'd wanted to look it in the eye, but couldn't tell if it even had any eyes. "Ah, yeah. Pleased to meet you… Master Oracle."

Feeling like he should say something more, Edgars continued awkwardly. "So, ah… so, that's not exactly you? You're somewhere else?"

The Master Oracle responded through the automaton again. "This is but one of several automatons throughout parts of this structure at this moment. My casing is located in another part of this structure."

Edgars frowned. "Do they… do they all look like that? Like this… automaton?"

"Several are very similar in appearance, with certain variation, according to specific purpose and function. Some are very different in appearance. There are even some bipedal automatons here. Units of more humanlike shape. If you would like to see…"

Avrum cut it off. "We can do that later. He's just about here."

Edgars looked to Avrum with a frown. He couldn't see or hear anyone nearby. However, just a few seconds later, one of the doors along the wall opened and an elderly looking man with a shock of white hair came through the doorway.

The small automaton moved backward a short distance from the two men as the third arrived. Moving more like a younger man, stepping around a stack of objects of the floor, Chronos made his way over to where Avrum and Edgars were standing. Not speaking aloud at all, he momentarily glared at Theodore with a frown.

Theodore shifted to extend his right hand toward the other man, but saw no reaction toward reciprocation and awkwardly lowered his hand. "So, ah… so, you're Chronos?"

The older looking man continued to glare. "Uso… Usolessean Chronos, but yes… everyone just calls me Chronos… Theodore Edgars, so I'm told?"

"Yes… or Ted, if you like?" Frowning slightly, Edgars seemed to struggle with recognising the other man. He'd thought that the Remote Oracle had shown him an image of him, but he couldn't clearly remember. "I thought… I thought you should look… younger."

Chronos cast a sideways glance in Avrum's direction. "I have not changed noticeably in thousands of years. I look… as I always have."

Avrum shrugged. "Pretty much. Though you do look a bit tired. Especially lately."

Chronos returned a withering expression.

Edgars had just silently taken note of the other man's attire. In his loose fitting white linen trousers and tunic, along with wearing worn leather sandals, he'd thought that Chronos looked like he was on vacation at a beach. He'd not said anything out loud.

Glancing sideways, Avrum affected a mild smirk, as though he might have been eavesdropping on Ted's unspoken thoughts. He then looked back to Chronos. "Everything ready and set up for testing?"

Chronos grunted. "Of course. I've been ready for some time."

Without otherwise responding to the tone that implied complaint, Avrum nodded, then glanced toward one of the doors along the wall. "Maybe we oughta get right to it."

"Right now?" Ted sounded surprised.

Avrum shrugged. "Yeah, might as well. It's just the first tests. Take some samples."

Chronos sighed and nodded. "This way." He turned about without waiting to see whether anyone was following him and headed for a door over the far side of the room.

Avrum offered a subtle grin of reassurance for Edgars' benefit. "Comon, might as well get it done. Won't take long. Leave your bag. It won't go anywhere."

Ted returned an uncertain nod and fell into step behind Avrum, taking care not to bump into anything that might easily topple if he touched it at all.


Chronos had led them through a doorway into another room with a few cluttered tables along the wall, some shelving and what seemed to be equipment of some sort. It was far more brightly lit than where they'd just been. Only due to the raised padded table in the centre of room that vaguely resembled something that he might expect to see in a doctor's consultation room, Ted figured that it must be some sort of medical room. However, nothing that he could see at all resembled any kind of medical equipment that he might readily recognise. At the least, it seemed cleaner and somewhat tidier than the room that they'd just come from.

Avrum stood casually a few steps from the central 'bed' as Chronos seemed to be sorting through things on a table. As Ted was standing a pace behind Avrum and glancing about the room, another door opened in the far wall. He'd not even noticed it until it opened. A vaguely human-shaped automaton stepped through the doorway, closing the door behind itself.

Though he was thinking that nothing should have surprised him by then, he was still surprised by what he was seeing. At first impression, the automaton looked to him like something out of one of those Flash Gordon serials. Only those things were just actors in clunky suits. What he was looking at seemed more like walking skeleton with bits of exposed machinery tacked onto its frame. Aside from having arms, legs and a head attached to a torso, he hardly would have described it as anything 'human-like'.

That same British voice emanated from the mechanical 'man'. "Greetings once more Theodore Edgars. This automaton will better serve the purpose of the task ahead."

"Master Oracle?" Ted still wasn't so sure.

"That is correct." The automaton tilted its head to one side, apparently believing that it was mimicking a natural human gesture, though it hardly appeared at all natural.

From the corner of his eye, Ted noticed another boxlike automaton emerge from beneath a table. Like the other one he'd seen before, it move along on similar looking tracks. However, once it was clear of the table, it rose up on extending and unfolding 'legs', until it was high enough to clear the top of the bed in the middle of the room. Two protrusions emerged from its sides with some sort of tools built into the ends of each one. A third protrusion unfolded from the top. That one looked something like an articulated lamp on a stand.

That same voice emanated from that second automaton. "This automaton is also directly linked as an extension for the task ahead."

Edgars glanced to Avrum, then back toward the bipedal automaton. "So, so you're… you're connected to both of these things at the same time?"

That British voice emanated from both automatons in unison. "We can manage the utilisation of numerous automatons simultaneously. As your people say, many hands make light work."

Ted looked back to Avrum with an uncertain expression.

Avrum grimaced. "Sounds like the Master Oracle is trying to be funny. Ain't really got the knack of it."

"Merely a statement of fact." Whether the Master Oracle was actually trying to convey anything other than what was plainly said or otherwise, it wasn't at all obvious.

Nevertheless, Ted responded with an amused grin.

Both automatons seemingly 'looked' toward Chronos and he nodded as though an unspoken exchange passed between them.

Chronos then stepped back from the equipment on the side table, turned and looked to Edgars. "We're ready. Get out of your clothes and up on the table."

Edgars huffed with a dry grin. "Thought you might offer to buy me a drink first."

Chronos glared at him from beneath furrowed brow. "What?"

Ted shook his head. "Never mind."

Avrum grinned slightly, but remained silent. He was likely less amused by Edgars' comment, than over Chronos' apparent inability or unwillingness to follow colloquial mores.

Edgars stripped down to his underwear, left his clothes on a table and then looked to climbing up onto the central table.

Avrum spoke up, adopting a slightly less abrasive tone than Chronos. "You'll need to lay on your belly… and drop your shorts. Just partway, if you're shy about it. They're going to need to need take a sample from your lower spine."

"My spine?"

"Nothing to worry about. The Master Oracle will be real careful. A regular doctor wouldn't have hands that steady."

"That is correct." The British voice again came from the bipedal automaton.

Ted frowned, but complied. "Is this going to hurt?"

Avrum answered. "I'll have the Oracle help me with that. I can Telepathically connect with your mind and numb the sensations."

Ted wasn't sure he was convinced, but accepted what was suggested. "Alright then."

Avrum added some more. "Don't go panicking. Just relax. The Master Oracle will hold you down firmly with an automaton. Chronos and the other automaton will look to taking the samples."

Not feeling especially relaxed, Ted tried his best to relax and do as was asked of him. He felt a strange sensation as Avrum poked about in his mind. He tried not to feel panicked as the cold 'hands' of the automaton clamped down on his shoulders and parts of his body started to feel numb.

Over the next few moments, samples were taken. A tiny amount of fluid was drawn from his lower spine. The same from the upper spine, near where it connected to the brain. A blood sample was also taken from soft tissue.

Exactly what was done remained a complete mystery to Edgars. He couldn't really feel much of anything. At the least, Avrum was right about that part.

Chronos finally spoke up. "That's it. We have what we need."

As Chronos stepped back with samples in hand, the automatons controlled by the Master Oracle released appendages from Edgars and also moved back.

The Master Oracle added its voice. "The procedure is complete, Theodore Edgars."

Whatever Avrum had been doing to neutralise sensation had also been ceased. "You're all done. You can get up and get dressed."

Ted suddenly noticed a dull ache above his buttocks and on the back of his neck. Neither spot was terribly painful, but he could feel that something had been done.

Avrum spoke again. "You all good?"

Edgars released a little sigh. "Yeah. I think so. So… so, what now?"

"That's it for now. Chronos and the Master Oracle will need run some tests. Make some growth cultures from the samples, then look to what needs to be done to get ready for when it's time for you to undergo procedures for the Change."

Chronos spoke up again. "It will be several days before we can even look toward initial preparations. Nothing else will happen before that."

As he was dressing, Theodore looked to Avrum again. "And then?"

Avrum shrugged. "We'll talk about that, once we know what's what."

Chronos held up the samples that he'd placed into sealed glass tubes. "This needs to go to the other laboratory. I'm going to make a start on it."

"Hold up. I'll come along for a moment. Something I want check on with you."

Chronos frowned.

Edgars spoke. "What about me?"

Avrum responded with raised brow. "Just wait here a minute. Talk to the Master Oracle."

Theodore glanced toward the bipedal automaton with a bewildered expression.

Avrum reached into his shoulder bag. "Here… I'll leave 'Chicago' with you. A familiar voice."

Theodore accepted the Remote Oracle, but looked rather lost as the other two left him with the Remote Oracle and Master Oracle's automatons.


In a nearby room, Chronos set down the collected samples on a bench, looking to Avrum with a mildly annoyed glare.

Leaning against another bench by the wall, Avrum maintained a casual air. "So, we are ready to start moving forward?"

Chronos blinked and shrugged. "I'm confident that the Change will most likely work perfectly with Poseidon… Edgars. As confident as I can be. More the case, that the Master Oracle is perfectly confident."

Avrum nodded. "And we're ready to go with the Lake Superior retrieval?"

"That's been ready for months. The plan… and the equipment for retrieval and revival of Mercuré is ready. The only delay has been your work with Poseidon… Edgars."

"That's what I figured." Avrum paused just a moment. "What about the other project? The cloning options?"

Chronos responded with a furrowed brow. Likely again annoyed by the wording of the query. "You know that… 'cloning'… is not directly possible with the protein sequences of the Changed. Encryption segments are entwined with key sequences… and cannot be unravelled or overridden… with tampering. As you also know, the Changed… cannot be 'unchanged'."

Avrum suppressed the urge to release a loud and heavy sigh. Following a silent breath, he reframed his question. "You know what I mean. I'm talking about the adaptive options. With someone whose system is already compromised… and starting to falter."

Chronos maintained a serious expression. "The Master Oracle has run numerous simulations, but without actually making the attempt… there can be no certainty. My own genetic material is not suitable for properly testing any of those processes."

Avrum nodded. "Yeah, I get that. But it does it 'look' like it might work? Once we have someone to properly examine?"

"That remains to be seen. We believe that a… 'grafting process' is possible. In the case of mildly deteriorating Telemerasic proteins. However, as I've told you before… it would not be an accurate process. Not like a biological clone. The grafting would likely become mixed with the chromosomal base-stock. Even that would require genetically compatible stock. Within certain limits of variation. That doesn't even address the lifeforce issue."

Avrum nodded again. "Yeah, I get that. Sounds like you're on the right track. The rest of it will have to wait. Until we dig up the others… and see what kind of shape they're in. Any case… it sounds like you've probably done what can be done… for now."

Chronos turned away to look to dealing with the samples.

Avrum hesitated a moment. "Look, I'm heading back before he starts getting worried. I'm going go see what the Oracles have in the pantries and look to cooking up something for an evening meal. Wouldn't hurt if you came and sat down with us for a meal. Maybe talk to him about the old days or something."

Chronos returned a stern expression.

Avrum's expression appeared firm, but not too provocative. "After you have all that set up and going on its own."

Chronos sighed. "Let me know when you have prepared something."

Avrum nodded and headed back to Edgars.

-O-