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Tree of Life


 Premiered August 22, 2003

Chapter Six


It was a new woman who entered the bus station.  She wore a brand new dress, but one which was substantially distant from the current fashions.  (Dawn had wanted to alleviate any hint of its bearer being out of place in the lower income echelons of any bus station in the country.)  The dress also effectively hid her figure in folds and drapery, giving her the home town look of someone just off the farm, but not pretty enough to attract errant males.  Her hair was now covered with a blonde wig -- the black wig just wouldn't come clean!  Her make up had gone from the overdone style, common to what she thought of as "California Excessive", and had become the washed out version of "down home in Iowa" fashion.  Only her eyes would give away the fact the lady under the drab coverings had a lot more sophistication than appearances would suggest.  There was only the slightest hint of the Strength she possessed, no one suspecting she would be capable of walking alongside a lion with nothing more than a lei of flowers to control the beast.  This was a woman with her fears now under control.  (It's amazing what a little shopping can do!)

Inside her bag, of course, was a dress of significantly improved fashion -- one which she hoped she would eventually be able to wear sometime in the future, albeit most likely in less public situations.  At that time, she would also hope to avail herself of some professional help from a local beauty salon.  Come to think of it, after the last few days Dawn could really use a full bodied facial.

As for the decision to go to Fort Collins by bus...  Despite the fact three gold coins had been redeemed for nearly $1200, Dawn had quickly realized there was no other form of transportation which did not require some form of documentation -- and which in turn would allow someone with connections to trace her movements.  Any rental car, for example, would require a credit card.  A long distance taxi -- it turned out Fort Collins was some sixty miles north of Denver -- would be an unusual event and something which a taxi driver would remember.  It was also, Dawn suspected, potentially dangerous for a woman traveling alone if it became obvious she had the kind of cash to hire a taxi for a long trip.  As for buying a used car with cash, even a clunker, would require title documentation.  Plus which, any seller might be cautious of a cash deal.  Dawn didn't want to leave even the slightest hint of a paper or a memory trail.  Thus, the only non-documented form of public transportation left in the country was the bus.  It's the only place where they don't ask who you are, but just take your money.

The latter, however, also explains the characteristics of the average bus rider.  It's a very strange combination of souls which ride the intracity buses.  There are those with purple hair, chrome chains dangling from the waist and shoulders, little old ladies (who may or may not be drug pushers on the side), young girls innocent of how to appear attractive (or intentionally avoiding appearing so during the bus trip), and the inevitable soldier or sailor home on leave, dressed in his country's finest.  Dawn  decided, as she purchased her ticket, that she would sit close to the first available soldier or sailor who came along.  It just seemed the prudent thing to do.

Then, as she found a place to sit and wait for the bus, she glanced around at her potential fellow passengers.  All in all, she began to think, the clientele of the bus trade seemed preferable to many of the airline passengers of which she was recently acquainted.  Money, no matter how much, has never managed to prevent anyone from being disagreeable and a bore if that was their nature.

While still in the bus station, and later, on the bus during the two hour trip to Fort Collins (the bus must have stopped at least twelve times between Denver and Fort Collins!), Dawn began to go through the contents of Gil's briefcase in detail.  She read the Scientific American papers, found them interesting, but couldn't understand Gil's interest in the subjects.  She carefully read his highlighted passages in the other papers, and went through his typed and scrawled notes -- imprinting the information onto her near photographic memory.  Even if she still didn't understand the importance or relatedness of each, she would remember them, and eventually piece them together. 

She then wrote a few notes of her own, listing the variety of subjects, ranging from microclusters, spontaneous fission, and high nuclear spin states, to superconductivity, Josephson connections in living cells, and SQUID -- the latter an acronym for "Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices", the machine in which Gil had supposedly “died the first time.”

There was also the notes on Prigogine and zero-point-energy.  The latter focused her attention as she noticed a small paperback book which she had overlooked before.  Dawn could remember Gil telling her how incredibly important zero-point-energy was, and here was a book entitled Tapping the Zero-Point Energy, with the subtitle of "How 'free energy' and 'antigravity' might be possible with today's physics." [1]  Gil had not only highlighted passage after passage in the book, but had underlined many sections, written notes in the margins on others, and paperclipped specific pages.  Dawn decided it was time to go through this book in detail.  She dived into it with something of a vengeance.

She had scanned the book and read several different chapters -- enough to convince herself Gil was indeed right about the potential importance of zero-point-energy -- when the bus began to pull into Fort Collins.  Dawn put the book away, and closed the brief case.  It was time for a new adventure.

Which in itself, turned out to be more than she had anticipated.  The "Fort Collins Bus Station" was, in reality, the back door of a gas station.  Its sole amenity was a pay telephone stuck in a corner in the interior of the station -- a corner which also served as a place to store oily rags, defunct gas cans, and empty lube oil barrels.  Dawn was nevertheless thankful for even this fringe benefit of leaving the driving to someone else.  She would simply call a taxi and have him take her to 20884 Redstone Canyon!

She then rifled through the local yellow pages, ignoring the fact they were wrinkled and soiled.  She had seen very little of Fort Collins on the way into town and had no real idea of how big a city and/or town (maybe village) it was.  But the yellow pages were considerable -- suggesting a city in the population range of 100,000.  Unfortunately, despite the small city status, there were no listings in the Yellow Pages under "Taxi" (i.e. nothing between "Taverns" and "Tax Return Preparations") nor under "Cab". 

Dawn looked around for a moment, wondering if she was out-of-luck.  What other category would a taxi be listed under, she wondered.  Then she had alternative idea.  Turning to the white pages, she looked up Alexander Dukas.  Only there was no Dukas.  'Naturally,' she thought, 'It's a lead pipe cinch this guy will be Mr. Privacy and have an unlisted number.  Now what?'

Turning to the nice looking, nineteen year old grease monkey, who had given her only the most cursory glance when she came into the station, she asked in her most charming fashion, "Aren't there any taxi services here in Fort Collins?"

The advanced teenager looked at her with the first hint of surprise.  Her voice and demeanor did not quite fit with the woman's dress and appearance.  Being an experienced man of the teenage world, he considered himself an excellent judge of women and found the discontinuity vaguely unsettling.  This woman might deserve a bit more attention than he had initially determined.  In fact, he might have very nearly missed the opportunity to strut his stuff.  Time to make up for lost time, he decided.  Smiling his best smile, he replied, "Of course.  But if you can wait a couple of hours, I'd be happy to give you a lift."

Dawn could not help but smile at the youthful, wholly in vain, attempt.  "Thanks so much, but I'm really in something of a hurry.  And I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble."

With total honesty, complete sincerity, and a carefully calculated sigh in his voice, the youngster replied, "No problem at all."  His deep voice carried several messages on the carrier wave.

"A taxi?"  Dawn replied, her voice as plaintive as possible.

His hopes only moderately dashed, the eternal young optimist suggested, "Try looking under “Shamrock” in the white business pages."

Dawn's faith in the future heightened slightly, she returned to the phone book.  Sure enough, highlighted in bright yellow was "Shamrock Transportation Services" with separate numbers for luxury limousines, shuttle services, and taxi services.  She quickly dialed the taxi -- deciding that even with money to spare, a limousine might be a bit showy for the current situation.  Getting through immediately, Dawn soon had the taxi on its way to pick her up.  Then, on a hunch, she turned back to the yellow pages to look up "transportation services."  Nothing.  To herself, she muttered, "So much for letting one's fingers do the walking in the yellow pages.  If I had relied on them, I'd have ended up letting my legs do the walking, probably all over Fort Collins!  Or at least to Redstone Canyon."

In the interim few minutes, there might have been another opportunity for the aspiring young Romeo to pursue his recent quest.  But life being life, business got busier and the cause of true love between the young stud and the older woman took another downturn.  Se la vie.  For Dawn it was more of a sense of relief, and she stepped outside into the bright sun and dry air in order to relax.

It was a nicely kept taxi that finally drove up.  But Dawn's initial feeling that things were starting to work out in her favor, waned slightly when she realized the taxi driver was a foreign student, apparently from Eastern Europe and with less than the ideal command of the language.  There was also the small matter that he tended to get lost a great deal in his new temporary home.  Giving him the address, he was at first a bit bewildered.  At the local university for less than a year, he knew only a few locations and the routes to take him there, and as a consequence, was heavily dependent upon a local map.  Not surprisingly, he had never heard of Redstone Canyon.  He went through the street index and came up empty.  "No Redstone Canyon in Fort Collins," was the sum total of his pronouncement.

Dawn looked at him for a moment, and then turned to the teenager, who had just finished with a customer.  "Excuse me," she called out, "do you know where Redstone Canyon is?"

The boy was delighted at the new opportunity to incur Dawn's gratitude.  "Redstone Canyon?  No problem.  Got a map?"  Taking the proffered map from the driver, the teenager explained with gestures and finger pointing, "Other side of Horsetooth Reservoir.  Go around the south end, and then past Horsetooth Rock.  Depending on the exact address, either head south toward Loveland, or north and higher up into the foothills.  You can't miss it."

Dawn made sure she followed the directions as well, knowing it was entirely possible for her foreign driver to "miss it".  She thanked the teenager, who flashed her one of his best smiles in return.  Meanwhile, the driver was busy calculating the possible fare (he was a math major -- it's what they do).

"This isn't in town," he pointed out.

Dawn looked at the bewildered face for only a moment.  "I'll pay both ways, even if I don't come back with you.  That way you'll be well compensated.  You might even get a nice tip."

The use of the word 'tip' did not escape the driver's notice.  In fact, the word is now universally recognized in 140 countries around the world, and incorporated within eighteen major languages and innumerable dialects.   And while the locals did not strike the taxi driver as being extravagant tippers, this lady had all the qualities of a visiting American tourist to his homeland; someone who had as yet failed to fully understand the value of a dollar in a Eastern European country.  He smiled.

"Ivan get you there in record time," he assured her.

As Ivan leapt to the task of fulfilling his mission, Dawn had a momentary pause.  Foreign drivers had a reputation for far more adventure in their driving excursions.  As the driver turned, put the car in gear, rolled to the edge of the service driveway, and uncharacteristically took the time to look and check the traffic, Dawn voiced her concern, "I'd rather not be stopped by the police."

"No problem!"  Whereupon he gunned the taxi, throwing Dawn back against the seat, and causing a small cloud of dust and rubber fumes.  As they accelerated, Dawn then noticed the driver had only then remembered to turn on the meter, and did so.  'Definitely a small town still growing up', she thought.  'A big city taxi driver would have had the meter running a lot sooner.' 

At the first red light, he asked, "First time in Fort Collins?"  The driver had apparently decided friendly conversation could also be conducive to the size of tips.

"Yes," she answered.  And then to continue the conversation, "How big is Fort Collins?"

"Don't know.  When I first arrived, it was, I think, eighty thousand.  But now they say, one hundred and twenty thousand.  Who knows?"

Surprised, Dawn asked, "It's grown that fast?"

"Oh yeah," the driver answered, putting the car back into gear and accelerating from the stop light.  "Mostly people from California, I think."  Then quickly, "You always know if they're from California.  Very weird."  Then he had a sudden wave of concern.  "You from California?"

"No," Dawn answered, smiling.  "I'm from..."  She hesitated.  "Texas."

"Oh," Ivan answered.  "Coloradoans don't like Texans either."

With the conversation somewhat stunted by Ivan's last pronouncement, and the fact he had to take the time to yell at another driver's aborted attempt to cut him off, Dawn relaxed back into her seat again.  She watched the trees and homes rush by, and opened the brief case again.  Not ready for any deep thinking, she picked up the Mesopotamian myths book.  It was then she noticed a carefully folded sheet inside.  On it was a family tree of the gods and goddesses of Sumeria.  She noted several of them were highlighted -- five gods and two goddesses, with the unlikely names of EN.LIL, EN.KI, NIN.KI, NIN.UR.TA, ISH.KUR, NIN.GISH.ZI.DA, and I.NAN.NA. 

Dawn also noticed what appeared to her to be a fair amount of inbreeding (a not uncommon quality of mythologies throughout the world).  In this case, EN.LIL and EN.KI appeared to be half-brothers, while NIN.KI was their half-sister.  I.NAN.NA could claim both brothers as her grandfathers, while, NIN.UR.TA and ISH.KUR, were both sons of EN.LIL.  NIN.GISH.ZI.DA was a son of EN.KI.  Dawn puzzled over the chart for a few minutes, until the taxi took a corner too sharply and skidded slightly.  Dawn decided now was not the time to read.  Or even think, for that matter.  Perhaps, prayer might be more in order.

But then she noticed they were now leaving the confines of the city streets and climbing a long ridge.  The contour of the ridge was flat, but sloped at a steep angle, and virtually devoid of trees.  The road, in turn, was climbing at a slight angle, and then began to loop back.  The curve was well banked and the driver was clearly delighting in taking the curve at full throttle.  Fortunately, the road was steep enough to prevent his accelerating to too great a speed, and thus provided everyone with the comforting sense that one could press the pedal to the metal with complete abandon.

As the taxi climbed up the slope, Dawn had a great view of Fort Collins out of the right window, along with the surrounding landscape extending across an expansive grassy plain all the way to the horizon.  It was a quirk of Colorado geology that the eastern plains had few trees, few rivers, and a gentle slope from an elevation of roughly 3000 on the eastern frontier to 5000 feet at the edge of the Rocky Mountains.  Along a north-south line running nearly the entire length of the state, the mountains and foothills abruptly arose to mark a clean break from the flat plains.  The edge of the mountains also had the shape of the plains, but a surface suddenly tilted up to form an acute angle with the adjacent flatlands.  The taxi was now climbing up one such surface, the first wave of the foothills and mountains.

But then the taxi turned a corner and headed into a small cleft in the mountain itself.  On the right, Dawn saw a large earthen and rock dam, and behind it, a large lake.  As they rounded another corner, Dawn realized the body of water was much longer than wide, and apparently filled the long valley between the first rise of foothills and the second wave of mountain building.

"That's Horsetooth Rock, up there," the driver noted, trying to be helpful, even while roaring along the mountain road, now paralleling the water's edge and at a considerable height above it.  Fortunately, Dawn thought, it was a good road with minimal traffic on it.  But then she looked around for a Rock, until she found it on the top of the most prominent peak of what she assumed was the third wave of mountain building. 

"Why do they call it 'Horsetooth Rock'?"

"Because it look like the tooths of a horse, when you see it.  But you have to be at the right angle, so you can see the cracks between the tooths."

As the driver began to round another long looping curve, and head up a second ridge, Dawn decided he should best be left to his driving.  The taxi then reached the cut in the second ridge and looped back again in the opposite direction.  Below and to the right was an inlet of the lake, situated between the second and third waves of mountains, and what was obviously a marina filled with boats.  Dawn was impressed with the scene, but then wondered what kind of man would live this far out from the city.

She had considered trying to telephone ahead (assuming she could get Dukas' number from the operator), but she didn't want to use Gil's name over the telephone.  Not quite yet.  Besides, it seemed more prudent to simply land on his doorstep, send the taxi away, and then force Doctor Dukas to take her in.  This was the time for any port in a storm.  She was in trouble and had no idea of what to do next -- other than run and cover her tracks. 

Then she caught herself.  It wouldn't be that simple.  Any port in a storm might not be enough.  Gil's injunction had been for Dawn to carry the torch for him.  Nothing had changed in that regard, but she knew instinctively there were things that had to be done and that this Dukas fellow had a variety of answers for her.  She was not going to be dissuaded from continuing Gil's work.  Running in order to survive was not enough!  There had to be more.

Not surprisingly, there was a great deal more!


[1]  Tapping the Zero-Point Energy, M. B. King, Paraclete Publishing, Provo, Utah, 1989.


Chapter Five -- Temperance

Forward to:

Chapter Seven -- The Hermit



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