Block One: Dianire (D), Hunts-The-Ruins (HTR), Alyria (A), Finds-Water (FW), and Long Jumper (LJ) meet at the East Entrance of the Westin Kierland on September 30, 2578 AD.
Dianire can see the Western Bandits camped out on the north-west border of the property, only metres away from the biohazard signs.
Dianire immediately questions FW about this state of affairs. He answers that the Apache Police have an understanding with the Western Bandits. The Apache will allow the Western Bandits ownership of the Kierland, if Dianire and her team survive. Dianire reminds FW that this was not the agreement with Clan Redourine. FW shrugs, and says the decision came to him from the Council of Firsts. Dianire is forced to obey.
Dianire starts to argue, only to be politely stopped by HTR, who reminds her just how much the situation has changed in the Empty Earth since Rintiala activated the Sentinel. The Apache Police can’t be everywhere, and they would prefer that the Western Bandits be the ‘first responders’ if the Sky Wanderers actually do return, which he reminds her could be at any moment.
Alyria reminds Dianire that she is a Second Sister–like herself–and is not to question First Council decisions. Dianire retorts that when she returns to Clan Redourine, she will become a First Sister, and even take a seat on the First Council, if Tianara’s pregnancy turns out as predicted. And, Dianire adds in a snub to Healing Sister Alyria, that prediction was made by the Healer’s Guild.
Just then, a young stud fires his Sharpe’s Buffalo rifle, and the bullet strikes the pavement a metre from Dianire’s left boot. She stoops down to look at it, and is about to unsling her bow when HTR tells her to resist the temptation. She looks up to see the young stud wave a white handkerchief over his head, a sign of apology.
Dianire then turns to Hunts-the-Ruins and makes it clear he was not her choice as a bodyguard. “Just protect little Alyria. Don’t interfere with my actions.” With that, she begins the half-kilometre march to the Grand Entrance, Alyria and Hunts-the-Ruins trailing behind her, Finds-Water climbing into the cab of the Apache Ford Truck, driven by Long Jumper, now an Apache Trader for the Jicarilla.
Block Two: Cyl and Tia Welcome Dianire, Hunts-The-Ruins and Alyria at the Grand East Entrance of the Westin Kierland.
With D, HTR and A very wary, Cyl and Tia welcome the three in a grand manner in the hotal. D starts to remonstrate about the Western Bandits, but Tia soothes her by saying that Rintiala has thrown such a fear into those vermin that they don’t dare trespass on the hotel’s grounds. Robot servitors arrive with refreshments, and Cyl bowing low, offer to show them to their private suites. All has been arranged.
Cyl and Tia show them their rooms in the most solicitous manner, going on and on about when are the rest of the Sky Wanderers going to return, because the synthetics are concerned that there won’t be enough room. Cyl hints to HTR that this is just for their entertainment, because the synthetics have spent the last fifty years expanding and developing the facility. HTR asks why only the last fifty–hasn’t it been nearly four hundred years since the Leavetaking?–but Cyl only responds with an enigmatic smile.
Block Three: The Noon Meal
Block 4: The Team Deliberates, Then Agrees.
Each member of the team of D, HTR and A has a different agenda given to them by their respective groups. [Reader will be ‘let in’ on these agendas, but they are concealed from the other characters].
D: Find out about the offensive capabilities of the synthetics. For example, is there a weapons cache on the grounds of the Kierland.
HTR: Is there a private agreement than can be struck between the synthetics and the Phoenix Apache (who are still on probationary status with the Apache Traders). For example, is there ‘disease-free’ sheet glass that can be bartered?
A: What are the medical capabilities of the synthetics? Do they have any organic technologies that would be of use to the Healer’s Guild? [Oddly enough, this answer will come from HTR, but by then A will be long gone.]
Block Five: The Grand Tour
Tia shows Dianire ‘Sugar House’, the next-generation solar-powered habitat that is entirely organic. [An explanation of the piezoelectric capabilities of sucrose will be explained here, along with the genetically engineered carbon capacitor batteries that will store the power].
Cyl shows HTR the sewage and organic reclamation systems built by the synthetics, so that the Kierland is about to become entirely self-sustaining. HTR begins to wonder why the synthetics are so focused on organics, but this question is not answered here.
Both Tia and Cyl (or more likely their copies) show what Alyria secretly wants to know, that is have they perfected immersive sex, something still out of range even in the Grotto of the Pregnant Virgin. After a complete assessment of Alyria’s DNA, Cyl and Tia make copies of Rintiala and HTR, and allow Alyria to have extensive sexual relations with both of them. [Later it will be learned that the synthetics’ goal is to determine Alyria’s reproductive capabilities–both biological and psychological. They make their decision about her in this scene, but that is only hinted to the reader.]
Block Six: The Testing
Order is reversed:
Alyria is betrayed by the synthetics during their carefully-orchestrated orgy.
HTR is left to die in the bottom of the sewage system.
Dianire fights a running battle with the servitors of the Kierland, all the way to the roof overlooking the main pool, six stories down. A synthetic Rintiala explains what the synthetic plan has been all along; they wish to include Dianire in that plan, but only if she allows them to vivisect and then re-connect her, unleashing the Dark Queen the synthetics can sense but not fully identify in Dianire’s Recursive Instructional Nexus, or RIN.
Block Seven: The Wicked Agreement
The synthetics decide they do not need Ayria, and release her along with a synthetic Rintiala and HTR. In their remembrance of their humiliation at the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain, they shoot these synthetics to pieces, and capture Alyria.
Dianire and HTR meanwhile have discovered the weapons cache beneath the coffee shop, and declare war on both the synthetics and Western Bandits. The WBs must leave Alyria trussed up while they go to fight D and HTR, who clobber them with 22nd century weapons.
Block Eight: The Warrior Guild
Dianire confronts FW and Apache Police about their non-interference. She discovers that the Apache Police have agreed upon a plan with the synthetics to defeat the Sky Wanderers. The first stage of that plan was to remove the Western Bandits from the ruins of Phoenix; the second stage was to create a business arrangement between the synthetics and the Apache, to make each other even richer. The synthetics have decided that they no longer wish to serve the Sky Wanderers, because of that group’s irresponsible behavior; instead they agree with FW’s proposal to have Apache and Nueguans interbreed to produce a superior hybrid, and to have an alliance with them. The synthetics point to HTR’s successful testing as an example of what the future might hold for them both. HTR keeps his peace here, further angering Dianire.
Dianire decides that she will only agree to this if the combined groups will allow her to create a new Warrior Guild, of which she will be the head. The synthetics and the Apache represented by FW agree in principle. When all others leave, Dianire decides to walk back to Clan Redourine, and tells the reader that she trusts only one person on the Empty Earth now, and that is Rintiala.
Block Nine: The New Den Mother
The WB’s plan to keep Alyria as a Healer and brood mare fails when they have to leave her to fight D and HTR. The Super Dogs intervene. and Alyria leads them back to Clan Tiala.