Mr. Jericho had pumped the rail-bogie through forests and plains. He had pumped it through meadows and metropolises. He had pumped it through paddy-fields and orchards, marshes and mountains. Now he was pumping it through the Great Desert. He was patient. He was obdurate. He was a small gnarled man, tough and black as the polished root of some desert tree, ageless and adamant. He would pump that hand-crank off the edge of the world if it would hide him from the men who wanted to kill him. They had found him in Telpherson, they had found him in Namanga Loop, they had found him in Xipotle and even he had had difficulty in finding Xipotle. For five days he had looked over his shoulder and then on the sixth day it was no longer necessary, for the city-dressed killers had stepped off the train, drawing every eye to them, and Mr. Jericho left that same hour.

It had been a move of desperation, striking out across the Great Desert, but desperation and desert was all that was left to Mr. Jericho. There were blisters on his hands from the hot thrust-bar and his water was running low, but he kept pumping pumping pumping that ridiculous hand-crank rail-bogie across kilometres and kilometres and kilometres of stone and blazing red sand. He did not relish dying in the stone and blazing red sand. It was no way for a Paternoster of the Exalted Families to die. So said Jim Jericho. So said the collected wisdom of his Exalted Ancestors tumbling in the limbochip embedded in his hypothalamus. Perhaps an assassin’s needle was preferable. And perhaps not. Mr. Jericho grasped the thrust-bar once more and slowly, painfully, creaked the bogie into motion.

He had been the youngest Paternoster to accede to the Exalted Lines and had needed all the stored wisdom of his forefathers, including his lamented immediate predecessor, Paternoster Willem, to survive his first few months in office. It was the Exalted Ancestors who had prompted his move from Metropolis to the New World.

—A growing economy, they’d said, a thousand and one operational niches for us to exploit. And exploit them he had, for exploitation was the purpose of the Exalted Families: crime, vice, blackmail, extortion, corruption, narcotics, gambling, computer fraud, slavery: a thousand and one economic niches. Mr. Jericho had not been the first but he had been the best. The audacity of his criminal daring may have taken the collective public breath away in gasps of outraged admiration, but it also provoked his rivals into forsaking their petty divisions and allying to destroy him and his Family. Peace restored, they could resume their internecine strife.

Mr. Jericho paused to wipe salt sweat from his brow. Even aided by the Damantine Disciplines, his strength was nearing its end. He closed his eyes to the sun-sand glare and concentrated, trying to squeeze his adrenal gland into triggering the noradrenaline surge that would power him onward. The voices of the Exalted Ancestors clamoured inside him like crows in a cathedral; words of advice, words of encouragement, words of admonition, words of contempt.

“Shut up!” he roared at the ion-blue sky. And it was quiet. Strengthened by his denial, Mr. Jericho seized the push-bar once more. The bar went down. The bar went up. The bogie creaked into motion. The bar went down. The bar went up. As it came up Mr. Jericho caught a glimpse of a green shimmer on the close horizon. He blinked, wiped stinging sweat out of his eyes, looked harder. Green. Complementary green on red. He disciplined his vision as he had been taught by Paternoster Augustine, focusing on the boundaries between objects where differences became apparent. Thus aided, he could distinguish tiny pinpricks of light: sunlight glinting from solar panels, deduced the massed wisdoms of the Exalted Ancestors. Green on red and solar panels. Habitation. Mr. Jericho seized the thrust-bar with renewed vigour.

Between his feet were two items. One was a silk paisley-pattern scarf. Wrapped in it was a manbone-handled needle-pistol, traditional weapon-of-honour among the Exalted Families. The other was a deceptively small leather bag, of the type once called Gladstone. It held three-and-a-quarter million New Dollars in United Bank of Solstice Landing bills of large denomination. These two items, along with the clothes on his back and the shoes on his feet, were the only things Mr. Jericho had been able to take with him on the Eve of Destruction.

His enemies had struck all at once, everywhere. Even as his empire collapsed around him in an orgy of bombings, burnings and murder, Mr. Jericho had paused for a moment to admire his adversaries’ efficiency. Such was the path of honour. He had sadly underestimated them, they were not the bumpkins and petty parochial warlords he had mistaken them for. He would know better next time. And they in their turn had underestimated Jameson Jericho if they thought that he would fall to them. His staff was dying around him: very well, he would work alone then. He activated his escape contingency. In the fractional instant before the virus programs dissolved his data-net into protein soup Jameson Jericho had a new identity. In the split-split-split-second before the government audit programs battered into his credit-matrix, Jameson Jericho funnelled seven million dollars into false company deposit accounts in bank branches in fifty small towns across the northern hemisphere of the planet. He had debited only what lay in his black Gladstone bag by the time the Paternosters penetrated his falsified death (poor dupe of a doppelganger, but business was business) and sent assassins and tracer programs out after him. Jameson Jericho left behind his home, wife, children, everything he had ever loved and everything he had ever created. Now he was running across the Great Desert on a stolen Bethlehem Ares Railroads pump-bogie in search of the last place in the world anyone would think of looking for him.

It was drawing on evening when Mr. Jericho arrived at the settlement. It was not impressive, not to a man accustomed to the grand architectural vistas of the ancient cities of the Grand Valley, who grew up on Metropolis, the ring city, the mightiest city of all. There was one house, a rough adobe shack propped against an outcrop of window-pocked red rock, one microwave relay tower, a handful of solar collectors and wind-pumps, and a lot of slightly unkempt green garden. Yet the very isolation of this place impressed Mr. Jericho greatly. No one would ever look for him here. He climbed down from the creaking bogie to soak his blisters in the water-butt beside the house. He dampened his red handkerchief and dabbed the base of his neck with the warm water while mentally cataloguing the market garden. Corn, beans, matoke, onions, carrots, potatoes, white and sweet; yams, spinach, various herbs. Water trickled redly through irrigation channels between allotments.

“Should do nicely,” said Mr. Jericho to himselves. The Exalted Ancestors agreed. A desert hawk croaked from the top of the microwave tower.

“Hello!” shouted Mr. Jericho at the top of his voice. “Helloooooooo …” There was no echo. There was nothing for his voice to echo from, save the red hills on the southern horizon. ‘Hellooooo …” After a time a figure emerged from the low adobe shack; a tall, thin man, very brown, like leather. He had long twirling moustachioes.

“Jericho’s the name,” said Mr. Jericho, eager to gain the advantage.

“Alimantando,” said the tall, thin leatherman. He had a doubtful look. “Doctor.” The two men bowed to each other rather stiffly, rather uncertainly.

“Pleased to meet you,” said Mr. Jericho. Alimantando was a Deuteronomy name: touchy people, the folk from Deuteronomy. Among the very first settlers, they tended to think the whole planet was theirs and were rather intolerant of newcomers. “Listen, I’m just passing through, but I need a place for the night: some water, some food, a roof over my head. Can you help me?”

Dr. Alimantando studied the uninvited guest. He shrugged.

“Look, I’m a very busy man, I’m in the middle of important research and I do appreciate not having my peace of mind disturbed.”

“What is it you’re researching?”

“Compiling a compendium of chronodynamic theories.”

The Exalted Ancestors threw the appropriate response to the surface of Mr. Jericho’s mind.

“Ah, like Webener’s Synchronicity Postulates and the Chen Tsu Triple-Paradox.”

Dr. Alimantando’s suspicious glance held a twinkle of respect.

“How long are you staying?”

“Just one night.”


“Pretty sure. I’m only passing through. Just one night.”

And Mr. Jericho stayed just one night, but it lasted for twenty years.