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"What now?" Chessie stood on the floating bridge overlooking the once-abandoned city now teeming with five hundred pioneers transported from another dimension as their world was imploding.

Though much work had been done in preparation for Peter and Chessie's wedding, vines still clung to the stones of the ancient castle-like structures encircling a large cobblestone courtyard abandoned for perhaps a century or more. Having just returned from their honeymoon on Collie Island in a dimension with instant manifestation, the work remaining to be done here on Celtic Zero seemed daunting.

Yet the grandeur and magic of the buildings was awakening once again. Who had lived here before and why did they leave?

Peter stood beside her, excitement dancing in his eyes. "Now we build our perfect world. An expanded version of our private paradise on Collie Island. Something better for all of us."

In spite of misgivings churning anxiously in her belly, Chessie had to smile at her husband's enthusiasm. He was a visionary and she was, well, just plain overwhelmed.

They stepped off the bridge and walked through the courtyard of mostly intact cobblestones. Several of those working scrambled to bow or curtsy while mumbling, "Good morning, your majesty."

"Please continue your work. We have much to do and I so much appreciate all of you."

"You do not wear the mantle of royalty easily, my Queen," Peter whispered.

Chessie tried to glare at him but something akin to panic filled her gaze. The merkaba necklace he had given her when they first met proclaimed her Queen of her People by legend. However, she didn't yet have full control of the merkaba's powers and now hundreds of people were expecting her to lead the way to a better life.

"Woof!" Chessie's face relaxed into a smile as Chap loped toward her. The beauty of the Collie who had been her beloved childhood companion never failed to make her breath catch in appreciation. Yet she still struggled to believe he had returned from the angels to accompany her on inter-dimensional assignments to help those in need. One of the many miracles that had occurred in her life since wearing the merkaba.

We have an assignment, Chap said.
~ * ~
Mist shrouded the twilight landscape, adding eeriness to the silence. Moonlight reflected on windows as buildings took shape along the narrow street they walked. However, all seemed abandoned. Store fronts were shuttered. Restaurants displayed closed signs. Even the neon ads in the bar windows had been turned off.

No life stirred.

"Where are we?" Chessie's gaze searched for street signs or business names on the buildings, but found no clue of where they might have been transported.

I'm not sure. Chap raised his nose to the wind. I'm not picking up any signs of life.

Slowly, they walked to the edge of what Chessie assumed was a town–or once had been a town. Usually they landed in the middle of a situation where their assignment was obvious. This time there was nothing.

"Are you getting any messages from the angels?"

Chap shook his furry head. Let's circle behind the buildings before we go home.
~ * ~
"She cannot see us."

"The merkaba is stronger than we thought. It shields her from our presence."

"We must find another way."

Drifting as three shadows down streets that had seemed abandoned when Chessie and Chap walked them, a different reality took on life. Broken cobblestones were littered with spent gun casings and drug needles, while homeless people huddled in doorways inhaling, swallowing or shooting up their drugs of choice. A gunshot blasted from the darkened alley and a body fell at the feet of the drifting shadows. They moved around the dead man and returned to the old brick warehouse.

Down three flights of stairs into the earth, the laboratory glowed a bluish-green from the computer monitors. Inside a transparent tube-shaped capsule, the body of a woman suspended in stasis stared through sightless eyes.

"You were so close to achieving our objective, my dear Adyra."

"Perhaps we can yet salvage our mission." A hooded figure with a gray beard hovered near the stasis tube in which Adyra lay. "If we can awaken our sleeping beauty, I think she can be persuaded to pursue the destruction of those who stole her dreams."

"Only the one who walks in the light of the merkaba can reverse the stasis."

"Unless the frozen one realizes a change of heart that raises her vibration to one of integrity."

"Then she can no longer be manipulated."

"Ah, you underestimate me," the bearded one said. "I have information she would sell her soul for–again."

"What's that?"

"One step at a time, my dear comrade. First we must unfreeze our unwitting accomplice."

"How are we going to do that?"

"I have in my possession what Earth Three beings call subliminal messages that change the subconscious programming in the brain. We simply play these over and over until Adyra awakens," the bearded one stated. "Computer, access historical archives. Subliminal messaging. Forgiveness."

As the messages started playing, the shadowy beings laughed. "How simple-minded and gullible those Earth Three beings must be to fall into this crap trap."

"Come. I feel the need for a dastardly deed to block this hokey messaging from infecting my brain."

The beings continued to laugh as they drifted up the narrow stone steps, plotting their next nefarious scheme.

The hooded one scowled at the stasis tube briefly before giving an angry wave of his hand. He reappeared at the top of a jagged skyscraper, the highest point left among the rubbled remains of what was once a vital city, teeming with life on the verge of a promise fulfilled.

"Mother, why have you forsaken me?" he shouted at the clouds. They darkened in response.

"You said I was to be the supreme ruler. That people would bow to me. They would see my greatness."

Thunder rumbled and the hooded one stretched his hands toward the sky. "The legend must come to pass. I will do what I must to take my rightful place."

Lightning flashed from the hands of the hooded one and spread across the sky as the storm crashed down on the broken remains of the city with the force of his anger.
~ * ~
Hours later, the shadowy beings drifted back into the underground laboratory. "Where is the hooded one?"

One of the others shrugged. "He comes and goes. Let us check on our frozen comrade."

As they gathered around the stasis tube containing Adyra's body, one said, "I don't see any change–wait! Her fingers twitched."

"Out of the way so I can see." The hooded being materialized and pushed his way closer to the stasis tube. "You're right. This is working."

His humorless laughter echoed around the laboratory. "We will return tomorrow to measure her progress."

As the shadows drifted once more up the stairway, one lingered in front of Adyra's tube. I've not tried to murder anyone. Just petty crimes. Never did bodily harm to another. Maybe I can find some integrity. Something better.

"Hey, Neander, let's go."

Neander touched his fingers lightly to the stasis tube, then turned and followed the others up the stairs and out into the darkened alley.


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