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Our stay at Baxter was uneventful; a park ranger saw Whisp fishing, and asked if he was all right, but didn't pursue the issue at all.  We spent two days there.  I wanted to leave sooner, Raal wanted to stay longer, so it came down to how long would it take for Whisp to become bored.  The quiet life doesn't much suit him, so after my day of sleep, we struck out by the most direct major roads we could find, and were in Akron a day and a half later when it was time for me to get to bed.  Whisp is getting antsy--he wants to destroy something again--but I had kept him in solid form for so long, it was not difficult to persuade him to get a day's rest in the tub at the hotel.  So we are now back in Chicago.

Azineth has things in place, and I've checked with John Davis, who is still on the inside at CyberMaster, and believes that he is unsuspected.  Tomorrow we will meet to firm up our assault plan, and choose the day for the attack--probably Monday, since today is Friday, and we will need Davis to report to work as usual to launch the virus inside.



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We reviewed everything we know about Marilyn Masters, a.k.a. Marileth, and I realized something I had missed before:  they are not the same person.  Marileth, according to Henry, is a non-corporeal demon that uses mortal bodies to work its evil; Marilyn Masters is no more than the poor woman, president of this corporation, who has been possessed.  This has caused me to review a few sections of scripture which I believe will be effective in exorcising the demon; Whisp has also dusted off the mirror, and is reviewing a banishment spell he learned in mage's college several worlds ago.

We've reviewed our plans.  John Davis has been given the sixth virus, created by Whisp's super computer, on a disk.  We'll launch the other five from outside, and he'll drop in number six when they've run.  All things considered, we're as ready as we will ever be.


To expand, or not to expand--and in what direction?
Everything went very smoothly at CyberMaster; almost, anyway.  This is how it went down.

Whisp's AI was to launch the first five viruses.  The first was sent in over the telephone modem lines, and was designed to infect and cripple the central processing unit.  No sooner had it been uploaded than we switched to the microwave transmission system, and took a couple minutes to upload our most insidious virus:  an assault on the emotional stability of an artificial intelligence.  I don't know for certain that that's what we were up against--I've said a couple times that although this is the most likely system we might be facing, it is possible that we are dealing with a mind/machine interface linked to a human, or a genetically expanded brain, or even somehow connected to a supernatural mind.  The fact that I don't know how to do that doesn't mean it can't be done.  But Whisp's AI could not conceive of a supernatural mind, and I thought it best to attack what we believed the enemy to be.

The third virus we fed in by light pulses into one of the security cameras; this was intended to erase memory functions, and undoubtedly began eating away at whatever information was there.  Then we connected inductively to the lines controlling the door locks, and fed the next virus in as a feedback notice to the system, attacking the security system we had just used to infect memory.

The communications grid was our next target.  I had said that all assaults should be indirect--that each system had to be attacked through a different system, to reduce the possibilities that the virus should cut its own throat on the one hand, or be blocked by the system on the other.  Pulsing the virus into the system through the power lines was brilliant, and could not have been done without Whisp's built-in.

John Davis' disk-borne virus was the only one which was not effectuated.  He had loaded the disk in a drive and punched the keys to access it; but apparently he was already being watched, and was grabbed by security immediately, and taken to a holding area.  They said they would kill him as soon as they cleared it with the boss; I think that's not going to happen at this point.

Once I knew that the security system was down, Whisp activated his stealth and I pronounced one incantation, translated as And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.  We opened the door and marched unmolested in to Marilyn Master's office.

She was not present; that was a good thing.  A quick glance around the room revealed nothing, but I remembered--and recited--the scripture, Seek and you shall find, which led directly to the safe.  I followed it with Knock, and it shall be opened to you, and in a moment was handing the Glom Bashal to Azineth.

She attempted to disable it, but was not able to do so; however, she knew someone in the city who could manage this.  We would go there.  Before we stepped out the door, I declared, All have turned aside, together they have become useless, and Whisp activated the stealth field, and we strode unaccosted to the door.  Our destination was close at hand, and we walked.

I don't know what arrangements Azineth made with this wizard; he was not interested in meeting us, but was able to assist her in the matter.  Once we knew that was under control, I called Raal, who was there in minutes, and we moved across town to the railway station, where Raiden, Henry, and George were waiting.

Certain that between the flood of nagas we had dumped a couple weeks back and the collapse of the AI at CyberMaster there would be little security left in place here, I just asked Whisp to open the door, and we strode into the garage.  Marilyn Masters was there, still in her limousine from an apparent race across town.  I didn't miss a beat.

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, I cried--but it had no effect.  Undaunted, I followed with, For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  That had an impact.  I could see the woman fighting to be free of the demon; and I could hear Whisp calling on the power of his mirror magic in the form of a banishment spell.  There was a look of pain visible after that, and I dared to repeat my second incantation.  This time that incantation was ineffective, but I followed it with the first, which loosened the grip of the demon further.  Whisp again repeated the banishment spell, and I myself could feel the force (I am, after all, a creature from another world; the right banishment spell could drive me from the universe).  The woman fell to the floor; the disembodied demon was loose in the room.

I had not fully considered what would happen once the demon was removed from the body; I think I had assumed it would be helpless.  It suddenly occurred to me that this might be incorrect.  Anyway, I dared not allow my companions to suffer for my oversight, and so I needed to fortify them.  I said to them, But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear--expecting that this would enable them to see what we faced.  I then realized that this could backfire horribly; so I added, And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  I could tell by the look on Raiden's face that he could see it, but he was ready to move.

Whisp immediately repeated his banishment spell; but it didn't work.  Immediately the room went black, and I heard the garage door slam as Whisp cursed loudly.  Then three car doors opened, and Whisp was chanting to the mirror; I didn't wait to hear what he said, but immediately recited There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.  The light immediately emanated from me, and from Raiden, George, and Henry; from that light, we could see three shadowy figures coming from the vehicle.  An instant later, Whisp finished his spell, and the light around him increased dramatically, illuminating the area as far as the car, about twenty-five feet away.

I felt the room get cold, and thought I heard something else, perhaps a sliding door.  George froze instantly--Whisp called my attention to this, but I wasn't really ready to interrupt myself.  He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire--one of the silhouettes burst into flame and fell to the ground, and the other two stopped approaching.

I realized that someone other than Whisp was chanting, but before I could determine who, I was confronted by a visible manifestation of a demon, seven feet tall with three horns and four arms--and a highly muscular physique, although I am not sure how much difference such an appearance makes in a supernatural creature.  He stood within a bright pentagram in a large circle, and the two other creatures, now clearly visible as ghouls, stood with him.  Whisp didn't like the odds, so fired his multiblaster once at each of the ghouls.  However, reaching the edge of the circle, both blasts were deflected.  Mercifully, the blast hit no one; unfortunately, it didn't help us any, either.

Their chanting resumed, coming from some unseen point, but so did mine:  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  Both ghouls turned to dust.

Suddenly we were all engulfed in fire, coming directly from the ground--some demonic magic of our adversary.  Whisp was unharmed, and the rest of us were burned mildly.  I countered with an extended incantation:  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  We were isolated immediately from the heat of the fire.  Whisp also was chanting--he finished his incantation before I finished mine, and a blue glowing circle surrounded our party and further increased the amount of light in the room.

Lord, we want our eyes to be opened--I wanted to see the enemy.  At the far end of the garage, I could make out a small silhouette, the apparent source of the chanting.  About that moment, the chanting ended, the pentagram vanished, and the demon began to advance.  Raiden immediately moved into the breach, and struck with his kau sin ke--and immediately stepped away, calling out that the beast is merely and illusion.  I immediately reply that the enemy is over there, pointing where I saw him, and then again reciting, Blessed are your eyes because they see...but I never finished those words, because a wave of telepathic energy passed through my mind, for the moment knocking the rest out of my head.  I was confused, and quite unable to speak for a moment.

Whisp's computer was unable to fix the target, and he couldn't see it himself, either; but he fired the multiblaster in that direction, but was three feet off the mark; mustering as much mental focus as I could, I got a telepathic message to him to fire three feet to the right, and he used his targeting computer to find that spot precisely.

A lot of things happened abruptly.  The chanting stopped, the lights came back on, the door opened, and my mind cleared immediately.  A young woman unknown to me lay unconscious on the floor near the spot targeted.  Using my detect magic I attempted to locate any supernatural creature present.  There was an aura detectable around the back seat of the limo, where Marilyn Masters was, and also around this unknown girl; the auras here were blue with gold.  There was a dark gray aura on the wall near the enemy's last known position.  Both women began to awaken, and George recovered his mobility.  We had suffered some minor injuries, but were all in all in good shape.  I sent Whisp and Raiden to check Miss Masters, while I went to check on the other girl.

The girl seemed completely out of it, so I recited a healing litany--And the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.  She seemed better immediately.  However, before she could say as much as thanks, a hand came out of the wall, and pulled her through.  I was not quick enough to follow.

Marilyn Masters seemed to have lost all memory of the past year; but she did recognize the old railway station, even if it had been changed since she remembered.  Raiden said she would be all right.  Thus I asked if we should go after the girl.  Whisp and I agreed to do so, and I announced to the others that they were welcome to come if they wished; but the portal had faded, and my Knock and the door shall be opened could not revive it.

I was going to turn my attention to Marilyn Masters--but Whisp is always full of surprises, and after saying he was not happy with the idea of leaving Chicago, he proceeded to open the gate.  Hesitating only a moment, I went through.

We were now in a twelve foot square room, and so was the missing girl.  Just to be certain, I had Whisp run a scan to prove that she was human--and while it was at it, the AI identified the girl as twenty-three year old Robin Mathers, missing five years.  At my suggestion, Whisp eagerly scooped her in his arms, threw her over his shoulder, and headed for the portal.  He let me go first, out of concern that it might collapse, and then followed.

Another psionic check for magic proved to my satisfaction that there were no demonic presences.  Unfortunately, when we returned the railway station was not where we ended up.

The computer tracked us to the railway station in Chicago.  We were standing in a new warehouse, and as the computer tapped databases, it announced that it was February 4, 2002--almost three years after our railway station encounter.  A scanning check of the underground structures revealed that they were essentially unchanged from what was there previously; the conclusion seems to be that the station was demolished and the warehouse built on top of it in the interim.

The warehouse was a month old.  The cell phones were dead, but the computer repatched them in less than a minute.  I got no answer on Luke's number.  An investigation of the warehouse revealed that it contained nothing at all.  The surprise to me was that there were no nagas, but I have not yet come up with a theory to explain this.  Shadow and I discussed our options.  By now we would have been declared dead; Luke Sparks would have filed the contingency papers--his promotion to captain, my recommendation that he be given section command.  We could try to travel back to 1999.  Or we could write ourselves back into the world, creating the lost history.  First, we would have to investigate our situation; then we would have to create a plan.


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