By Larry Centor

Published by
Science Fiction Museum
, July 2003

                     Starship Chiron was an ordinary interstellar vehicle, traversing the varied
                 byways of the galactic cosmopolis. It had a Time Warp Factor, designated
                 Rather Warped Factor T, used by the commander at his discretion to set
                 right what appeared to be appalling in the cosmic timeline.

                 Stardate: March 12, 4193 BC. Starship Chiron had been ordered to the
                 village of Ur and environs. Starship Command has notified Commander
                 Ben Enterman that an instance of child abuse was on the verge of
                 occurring. Enterman's instructions were explicit: "You are, at all cost, to
                 effect the survival of the child."

                 It was midday when the starship emerged from Rather Warped Factor T
                 onto a scene that could best be described as barren. A bush here, one
                 there, an occasional camel, a few sheep and several tents -- one with a
                 quarter moon cut into the entrance flap.

                 Ben Enterman settled the starship behind a hillock, took his Recording
                 Pack V, and made his way stealthily to a position from which he could
                 observe the tents, camels, sheep and surrounding area without drawing
                 attention to himself. No one was about. People in this part of the world
                 apparently slept around midday, or maybe they were busy begetting,
                 thought Enterman.

                 He had been keeping a watchful eye on the peaceful dreary scene when an
                 old shabbily dressed man emerged from one of the tents, not the one with
                 the quarter moon cut in the entrance flap. He was talking softly to a
                 pleasant looking youth of perhaps twelve, one arm draped across the boy's
                 shoulders. An old lady was grabbing at his arm.

                 She was screaming obscenities that would make a camel driver blush, and
                 trying to pull him back toward the tent. She soon gave up, and grabbed the
                 boy instead. The old man, however, gave her a shove that sent her reeling,
                 and left her stunned, but not too stunned to continue a string of epithets.

                 "Schmuck, G-d isn't talking to you. Even with a capital G, G-d isn't talking
                 to you. How come only you hear voices out here? And now you're going
                 to sacrifice our son. Putz! I waited ninety years to have a child; you were
                 one hundred years old when he was born. What do you think I am? You're
                 not coming near me again, you do this insanity. I'll even tell the sheep you're
                 a crazy person. The camels too. Then what are you going to do come
                 siesta time? You hear me?"

                 "I hear G-d, or his angel. Sometimes I mix up the voices. And He said, as a
                 token of my obeisance, I have to sacrifice my son. It's that simple. I
                 believe. And I will do..." -- and here the old man looks up out of rheumy
                 eyes into the glaring sun -- "...what He commands."

                 The old man and the youth continued in the direction of a huge flat rock.
                 The old lady struggled to her feet, muttering a string of obscenities that
                 would make a sailor blush, if there had been any sailors in that
                 G-d-forsaken patch of earth. But then a camel is the "ship of the desert," so
                 perhaps a camel driver is a sailor of sorts.

                 By now, the youth was beginning to hang back. Ben Enterman watching
                 from the edge of the hillock definitely got the impression the kid was
                 becoming a bit reluctant to go along with, "Honor your father."

                 "You're not really going to sacrifice me, are you pop? I mean, really. This is
                 all some sort of gag. You know, this is now, today, modern times, not the
                 dark ages."

                 "It will only hurt for a little while, " said the old man. "I will perform the
                 ritual as painlessly as possible -- a quick plunge of the dagger into your
                 heart, and an upward twist. It'll be over in a few seconds. You don't even
                 have to keep your eyes open. Holler if you like. It would be braver,
                 however, to suffer the ordeal in silence -- for Him." Even at this distance,
                 Enterman knew the old man's eyes had rolled skyward.

                 "Him, who?" Now the youth was definitely holding back, struggling, and the
                 old man, surprisingly strong for his advanced years, had resorted to a bit of
                 pressure in guiding his son toward the stone-cum-altar.

                 "Him who commands me to show I believe. Him who says you must be
                 sacrificed as the ultimate test of my belief in Him. Then everything will be all

                 "For you, maybe. For me, definitely not." And now the youth's feet
                 stopped moving forward, and the old man was dragging him, ever more
                 slowly, to the rock. Meanwhile, the old lady had regained her feet and
                 rushed toward the two. Reaching them, she hurled herself at the old man.

                 "If you kill him, who's going to take care of me in my older age, when
                 you're gone?"

                 The old man gave her another shove and she fell hard and collapsed, out
                 cold. Now the youth was actually becoming scared. You could tell by the
                 trail of moisture accompanying the drag marks being left by his feet in the
                 sand. "Hey pop, you can't. Maybe the voices weren't real. Maybe it's all in
                 your mind. Maybe you ought to see a shrink."

                 The old man laughs -- a crazy laugh. "A shrink? Here, in Ur? And you think
                 I've gone round the bend."

                 Ben Enterman, observing from round the bend and the top of the hillock,
                 had to act. His instructions from Starship Command were unambiguous.
                 "You are, at all cost, to effect the survival of the child."

                 The commander had been, with increasing apprehension, taping all of the
                 events on the W-Band of his Recording Pack V. The old man and his son
                 were some twenty yards from the altar, and the sun was beginning to give
                 Enterman a headache. The wheels started turning in his facile brain. He was
                 pretty much on his own. Having used the Rather Warped Factor T to travel
                 back in time, he was out of contact with Starship Command; it won't even
                 exist for another six millennia or so.

                 Enterman considered the alternatives. He could kill the old man, thus saving
                 the child, but that seemed rather drastic. He could cold-cock the old man,
                 but that would probably be a temporary solution; the old man would just
                 wake up and resume the trip to the altar. Enterman could help the kid
                 escape, but the youth would probably perish if left on his own. The solution
                 had to be flawless - and Ben Enterman and the kid were running out of

                 The old man had dragged the youth onto the sacrificial stone. He was
                 holding his son down with a powerful knee on the kid's stomach. The
                 dagger was raised high, and the old man's rheumy eyes looked upward to
                 the high blue sky. "Must I do this, oh Lord?"

                 The old man seemed to hear something, something in affirmation, and the
                 dagger began its descent toward the heart of the struggling youth.

                 Ben Enterman acted. He grabbed the voice transporter from the Recorder
                 Pack V, and pressed a button marked "Project." He had remembered
                 something the old man had said. "Sometimes I mix up the voices." It was all
                 Enterman needed.

                 It was Ben Enterman's voice that echoed out from the barren hills just
                 outside of Ur. 

                 "Abraham! Abraham!"

                 The old man's hand was still descending, but he heard the voice, and
                 stayed the blade inches from Isaac's chest.

                 "Here I am."

                 "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, do not do anything to him!
                 For now I know that you are in awe of G-d - you have not withheld your
                 son, your only son, from me."

                 "Whew," perspired Isaac. "That was close."

                 "Hey Sarah," shouted Abraham, "make it three for supper."

                                                                                      ©2002 Larry Centor