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         The time passed, and Chess, once again, sat before the dilapidated computers, pondering samiz tech.  Lodestar, he knew, sent out their information to many receiver-computers, and then passively let the samiz network take it from there.  They did not, however, allow for any return channels, so game users, including Chess’s old G. A. back in civ, could not ever contact Lodestar with questions or ideas.
         He assumed this was an effort by Lodestar to block anyone from discovering the origin of the transmissions and, therefore, their location.  It was kind of over-cautious, though, since the government did not seem to view online role-playing games as any kind of a threat.
         Chess smirked to himself, imagining the people at Lodestar being so terrified; whereas, Razor was brazenly tapping into the mainstream internet to carry out his illegal business.  Chess shrugged.  It was all about perspective, he told himself, focusing his attention back onto his research.
         He was determined to find and contact Lodestar, himself.  Next to him on the table was the old map that he had brought with him.  It was creased and faded now from being carried in the pocket of his sweaty military uniform, but it still had the pen marks where he had theorized that Lodestar was located.  He would get to them eventually, he was certain of it.  And even as he entertained the thought, he shook his head and sort of chuckled at his own motivations: here he was, out in the wilderness -- outside -- pretty much fighting for survival, and yet he still longed to be a part of the game in any way possible.  He had kept it going in his head, always: every time he told a story to the kids in shelter, and certainly whenever he entertained himself by imagining that he was searching for the indigo priestess.
         That thought brought Sariel back to the front of his consciousness, though she was never really gone from his mind.  The fires that blazed through his dreams at night merely died down to slow-burning coals during the day.  With chronic regularity, he wondered where she was.  She had been gone longer than a week.  He wondered if she thought about him even a fraction as much as he thought about her.

         The partly-opened door creaked, and Chess looked up guiltily as Ileana stepped into the room.
         “Am I disturbing you?” she asked, sounding unsure.  She wore her usual jeans and a baggy t-shirt.  Her hair, combed straight down to where it just brushed the collar of her shirt, fit in with her overall neutral appearance.  And yet, Chess realized, there was something about her that always caught his attention.  Maybe it was the upright way that she carried herself or maybe it was the way she looked straight into his eyes, as if genuinely interested in whatever he happened to be saying.
         Chess quickly folded his map, mentally ushered Sariel into a waiting room in his brain, and put a friendly smile on his face.  He enjoyed Ileana’s company, even though her part in all the sordid goings-on was still a troublesome enigma to him.
         He figured that she had stopped by to inquire about his progress on Razor’s project, so he invited her to sit down in front of the computers.  “So,” he began, eager to share his accomplishments, “I modified an existing data mining program to do a couple of things: first, we track searches for key words related to our, uh, product lines.  And then we cross-reference with the hits on a handful of related high-traffic websites, and then, uh…”  He glanced at Ileana just then, and found that she was frowning at him.  “Uh… then add a few other data points, and we start to get an idea of how to market to…”  His voice trailed off, because she now looked as if she might melt into tears at any moment.  “Uh, Razor came up with the idea… sort of,” Chess finished, feeling a little defensive.
         “I understand,” Ileana said quietly, looking down at her hands.
         His enthusiasm for the project suddenly gone, Chess dragged another chair from the edge of the room and sank down into it.  “Look,” he sighed, “I know this stuff, what I’m doing here, is wrong… but I’m good at this sort of thing.”  He waved a hand at the computers.  “And I can get wrapped up in it because it gives me a feeling of success.  I also know,” he added, “that I’m here by accident.  And I’m just trying to survive the best I can.  But what I don’t know…”  He took a deep breath before continuing.  “What I just don’t understand is…  why you’re here.”  

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All of a sudden she broke out laughing.
“So – you are really in love – with me?”  
“Yes, and I suffer from it more than you can imagine.”
-Venus in Furs by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch

         Getting back to the idea of one population taking over the homeland of another, in The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology, Joseph Campbell makes an interesting assumption about why the great god Zeus cannot seem to remain faithful to his primary wife, the goddess Hera -- and it’s not simply because the Greek gods were imagined to be at least as flawed as the humans who worshipped them.  The author suggests that all those women, both human and divine, that Zeus cannot resist were actually once each the patron goddess of some town or other local population that was subjugated.
         Related to that idea, it is probable that, over the course of our history, those who have assumed power and changed mythologies to suit their own views have not always been conquering foreigners.  Most of the religion and mythology that is available to those interested in the subject deal with male gods as the sole, primary or at least most powerful actors in the stories.  But, around the world, there is much evidence of ancient religions and mythologies where a mother goddess was the primary or only deity.  And some of those nearly-lost stories turn out to be remarkably similar to those that we know well, except that the sex of the protagonist has changed.
         Campbell and others in the field suggest that these older myths were purposely modified as a means of disenfranchising women and teaching that men are the chosen of the gods.  I prefer to think that the stories might have been appropriated by other populations with different ideals or perhaps they were changed specifically to please some king or other who happened to be in power.  It’s hard to imagine a bunch of any sort of people getting together and saying, “Hey, let’s just reverse this story and I’m sure they will go along with it!”  But there are so many startling examples of stories that actually make more sense with women as the leading characters -- just as there are so many stories that make more sense when the “moral” or point of the tale is completely opposite from the one that we are familiar with -- that I really need to do a bunch more research and come back to this subject later!

“But the moral?”
“That woman, as nature has created her, and as man at present is educating her, is man’s enemy.  She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion.  This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work.”
-Venus in Furs by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch



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