The old man coughed weakly, his eyes focused on the great ball of fusing hydrogen rising above the horizon. For a moment, it seemed he could hear the voices of millions crying out in rage. A hallucination, he assured himself. This long after the last pilgrimage, and still he remembered it. The fires of sunrise on that last afternoon. The period of mourning. The horrible fevers that had racked him, through which he had somehow retained the will to continue. All lost now. "They care nothing for will." "Yes, Father." The old man turned angrily, jerkily. "Nothing, flesh of my flesh." The younger man sighed. "He hopes to come to an accomodation." The old man's chair whirred as he spun, turning his back to the dawn. He spat. "The President hopes to hide from the clouds as he has these past fifty years. He has no honor, no pride, no courage." "Grandfather warned us of that." "Still, your grandfather honored his word. Stopped at the agreed border." The younger man bowed his head a moment, turned away from his father. The red globe seemed to sear into his memory; in the distance, he could hear the chants to the the Destroyer, the Creator, the Fire. He shivered. "They would burn in hell and call it Paradise." "And they are the harmless ones." "What do you mean, Father?" "You will understand soon enough." His fingers clenched on air. "They admit their enmity." He withdrew a small cube from a compartment at the arm of the chair. "It will all be over soon enough." He laughed bitterly, tossed the iridescent cube to the sand. "I must meet with the doctors. Make the final arrangements." Sand, already hot, flew from beneath the chair's wheels. The younger man's face was hard and bitter as he turned. He had never appreciated losing, but he hated even more to surrender without a fight. The Abomination came, and all men trembled before it, or, worse, flew with a terrible love in their eyes to join with it. There were choices, and all of them were anathema. He picked up the tiny data cube. His father had spoken often enough of the device as his senility advanced, so unnaturally soon it seemed - not all men were susceptible to the life extension viruses. A small kink in chromosome 14 overrode one of the most important aspects. He knew it all too well. Ghosts of shapes seemed to dance from the cube as he fit it to the projection socket; then blackness descended. The young man froze, trying to determine which way to run, as a voice familiar from a thousand speeches resounded in his ears. Resonant, carrying; a voice that men could die for. That men had died for in the crusades. The blackness faded away, becoming a checkerboard across his vision, glimpses of the desert showing through. "My son. I will miss you. Do not mourn me; for the things I have done, I deserve far worse than have happened to me. I do them all for our people, and for you. Know, then, that you are the only man alive to whom this device is entrusted. Only one other living man knows the truth, and none would believe him if he told them." He wondered if the cube would help in the fight to come. Perhaps. His mind ached as he went through the slow, familiar patterns - the evocation that would permit the device to use his own mind for to answer limited questions; the evocation that, he knew, was perilously similar to the patterns that - but he could not think of those, so he stopped, feeling as if he stood at the brink of a precipice. His grandfather's ghost twinkled in the eye of his mind. He felt himself kneel in supplication. "I must know. The Abomination comes, and it cannot be stopped, but it must be." The ghost pled for information, about the Abomination, the world, the time, himself, itself. The Prince ignored its questions, for they could not be answered. Ghosts were always terribly hungry for memory, but they could never store new ones; what was explained to them was forgotten again before the sentence was even completed. He regretted mentioning the Abomination, but only briefly; he asked it a question that it could answer: "Tell me. The heretics were stronger than we, but we won them. How?" In answer, a memory flashed before his eyes. His grandfather's face on an archaic display, a television. Gunfire crackled in the air; a celebration, a battle, who could really have been certain? His grandfather had watched his old records, viewed directives that he could barely remember giving anew so that he could store the information in memory less volatile than flesh. The man shuddered as the new memory flowed through him, accompanied by a certainty of its own rightness. Unseen, but still remembered images drifted through the mind's eye as he listened to himself/the old man speak of the organization of the factories. Factories that, a decade later, his armies would raze to the ground in revulsion, salt the soil with uranium that nothing might grow there. Dimly, he could feel tears running down his face. The factories had had but one raw material, and that was humanity; and they had had but one product, and that was pain. The heretics had built them all across the borderlands, and when that which went on within them was discovered, even the enemies of god rebelled in horror; they overthrew their masters and let the armies of God in. And here was the leader of the armies of God, speaking in private to his lieutenants. Telling them how the factories would be organized, a decade before they were ever built. How the only way the Kingdom of God could be would be if the enemy was exposed for what they truly were. He did not remember that he was weeping when he removed the cube from its socket and placed it in his pocket. He remembered only the bitter certainty that drove him, enabled him to bring his empire to rule half the world though arrayed against a superior foe. Turning, he walked through the morning, the sound of blasphemous hymns leading him to the platform where a crippled old man awaited the arrival of the conquerors. He could not have said how it was that he knew that his father was dead. Perhaps he could have said how he knew the codes that would cause the silver machine within to release the feelers that had so long traced out his father's life, glasssharp wires detaching as the shadow of the abomination passed above. Perhaps, he could have said how it was that he alone knew that the reactor the heretics worshipped could be controlled by a tiny switch within the implant, switched off forever or detonated as the most powerful bomb of them all. And perhaps, as the wires sank into his brain, extracting the directive of his will, he could have said what that directive would be.