The night sky was lit by bonfires and torches on thin poles. Around the large bank of computers in the clearing in the valley, a group of robed men and women chanted and stomped in a circle. Their cries rose above the din of the fires.
"Mighty Aybim, hear us, your unworthy servants..."
In the doorway of a house cut into the mountainside overlooking the revelry, two figures looked on in disgust.
"This isn't right," the one with the birthmark on his lip hissed to his ebony-haired companion, "not right at all! Listen to them, Mik -- they're worshipping it!"
"Aye," Mik whispered, narrowing his almond-shaped eyes, "but what can we do, Krot? We still worship the Creator and His Son -- but we are only two. The High Priests of Aybim are too powerful for us!"
"High Priests," Krot sneered, jabbing a finger toward the revelers. "Ith and Sen are your brothers, and you seem afraid of them!"
"I am, Krot!" Mik snapped, slapping a gloved palm onto the doorframe. "They killed my father in an obscene sacrifice to that idol! I don't want to be next!" Mik groaned, laying his forehead on the back of his hand. "Oh, I wish we had a sign that we were right -- I'm finding my faith wavering!"
Suddenly the night sky was turned bright as noon by a bolt of light that exploded above the computer banks.
"Lightning!" a reveler cried. "On a clear night!"
"It is a sign!" Sen, the smaller of the two High Priests, replied. "Aybim is pleased!"
"There's your sign, Mik," Krot whispered, smiling a bedimpled grin.
"Aye," Mik agreed, "but till Pol arrives, we are still only two. What can we alone do?"
On a cliff overlooking the revelry, Mike Nesmith lowered his hand. "It's some kind of religious ceremony," he reported. "And it looks like they're taking my light as some kind of sign."
Peter Tork smiled and squeezed his friend's shoulder. "Ten to one, they think it's lightning, and the night's clear. That'd be enough for even Susan Jacobs to take as a sign!" Mike laughed with him.
Micky Dolenz frowned. "Pete -- you told him to do that!"
"Yep," Peter said, moving to peer over the cliff at the revelry below. "We needed to see what we've landed in this time."
Davy Jones frowned. Weird, he thought. Ever since Rob Smith slid out and talked to him, Pete's been in charge!
Peter looked around at the double frowns. Davy and Micky are looking at me real funny. I can only guess what they're thinking. He sighed in frustration. "Conference, guys! Now!"
The Monkees sat down in a circle. Peter scanned the faces again, then nudged Mike. "Tell them."
Mike nodded and began to softly speak, a hand carding through his raven bangs. "That power boost messed up my head some. It feels like I'm trying to think through mud." He fell silent, groping for words, the struggle plainly visible upon his face.
Peter smiled and squeezed his shoulder supportively before he finished, "Rob told us it was only temporary. Since our... merge .... a few days ago, I can understand how Mike would lead the team. So he asked me privately to take over till it wears off."
Micky nodded. "Okay, we dig that... but why didn't you feel it was necessary to inform the rest of us?"
"We meant to," Mike said, "but things got so crazy then, we just..." he shrugged helplessly. "...Forgot."
Davy nodded and turned to Peter. "Okay, man. So you're the leader. So what do we do now?"
Peter nodded toward Micky. "Micky uses his tracer to show us where the second jewel is. Then we go from there."
After a pause and a silent reflection on how strange getting an order from Peter sounded, Micky extended the wand on his tracer and frowned as a fuzzy reading came through. "Umm... it's in the valley, somewhere."
Peter looked over the cliff again. "Then we gotta get down there. And there's the problem."
Mike frowned and came out with an extremely articulate, "Huh?"
Peter turned to him, smiling. "You have forgotten a lot, haven't you? Micky and I can fly -- you two can't -- and we're about a mile high. We could carry you, but the strain of keeping us all invisible for that distance would tire Micky."
Silence fell for a long moment, then Mike smiled. "Guys? I may be... uh... slow at the moment, but I may just have a workable plan." He outlined it, one finger sketching it in the dirt.
Peter studied the diagram for a moment, then looked at the three and smiled. "Let's do it."
Micky nodded even as he created a field extending to the valley -- on the other side of the mountain from the festival. His hands went to his temples and he frowned in deep concentration. A thin, silvery set of steps suddenly shimmered into view.
This was the flip-side of Micky's powers: He could make the invisible -- visible.
"Hurry," he gasped, his face lined with effort, "go! I can't... hold it and ... keep it visible... for long!"
First Davy, and then Mike, raced down the steps. The instant their feet touched ground, the staircase vanished. Seconds later, Micky and Peter touched down beside them.
"Okay," Peter said, "stay together." He reached out and pulled Mike's white-dyed leather jacket back onto his bare left shoulder, and ran a hand through the windblown bangs in a gesture that made Davy and Micky both smile. How many times had Mike done that to one of them?
"We're going to that festival!" Peter finished.
Krot turned away from the revelry, shaking his head in disgust. "I've had it. I can't watch another second of this... travesty!"
Mik lay a stilling hand on his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks. "Wait! Something's happening down there...."
Krot rejoined him, watching with renewed interest, as the revelry wound down and all eyes turned to the four young men who strode confidently into the clearing.
Two robed men walked up to them. "Who be you, strangers?" the tall one said. "I be Ith, and this be my brother Sen. We are High Priests of the all-knowing Aybim."
Peter looked behind the men to see a large computer bank. Across the top were large blue letters. I...B...M, Peter thought. AY-Bim. I get it. He smiled at the men. "I am Peter. These are my friends, Davy, Mike and Micky. We are explorers from another land, seeking something that was lost here long ago."
The small man's eyes widened. "That which was lost..." he whispered in a trembling voice. Then anger etched itself into his face. He staggered back a step as if struck and pointed at the Monkees. "Aybim!" he screamed. "You are here to take Aybim!"
The crowd murmured, surrounding the Monkees at this. "Take them!" Ith cried suddenly. "Do not let them take our god from us!"
"Uh-oh," Peter said, looking around wildly. "Let's go..." But each of them was struck from behind with a blackjack. They crumpled, unconscious, before any of them had a chance to engage their powers.
"Oh, no," Krot gasped, struggling to get out of Mik's grasp and down to them. "Mik, let me go, they'll be killed!"
"Bind them!" Sen ordered. "Take them to our shelter!"
Krot blew the air out of his cheeks and slumped in relief. Mik's eyes closed as he breathed, "Thank You, Creator of us all!"
After an indeterminable amount of time, Peter forced his eyes open. He felt fogged, and his head hurt. He groaned involuntarily, bringing a man with long brown hair and his own face into his field of view. Beyond him, Peter saw the others, tied to chairs, each of them just waking up as well.
The man with Peter's face lay a hand on his shoulder. "You are safe here, my friend. We removed you from the High Priests in the four hours you were asleep. My name be Krot."
"Four... hours?" Peter moaned. Krot nodded, then moved away to check on the others.
Peter tried the ropes that bound him to the chair and found them very loose. He easily slipped free without benefit of telekinesis. As the others freed themselves the same way, Peter asked, "So... this 'Aybim' is the 'god' of this place, and the High Priests are bad news?"
"Yes," Mik said bitterly. "Krot and I still worship the Creator and His Son. So we are hunted like dogs."
A voice behind Davy said, "Your brothers certainly make life interesting, Mik. So much for family ties."
Startled by the familiar voice, the Monkees whirled. The man that stood there had a ready, dimpled smile. His straight black hair, sleepy brown eyes and too-young face were unchanged from their world -- except the hairstyle was different: touching the shoulders, parted in the middle and shoved off his forehead.
"Holy cow!" Davy gasped. "I don't believe it! Paul! Paul McCartney!"
He shook his head, chuckling in amusement. "Close, my friend. Pol. The other name I know not." Pol looked from one to the other. "I know you not, as well."
"I'm Peter. These are my friends: Davy, Mike and Micky."
"Your business here?" Pol asked.
"We're travelers from a faraway land," Mike began -- but he stuttered, looking helplessly at Peter. He'd forgotten the rest of the explanation.
So Peter finished, "We're on a quest -- seeking that which was lost long ago."
Pol grabbed Peter by the shoulders and cried, "Thank the Creator! You are here to take away the bane of our existence! You are here to take Aybim!"
Peter blinked. "Huh?" he gasped, pulling Pol's hands off his shoulders. "You are the second person who's jumped to the conclusion that we are here to take this 'Aybim'! Why?"
Krot frowned in disbelief. "You know naught of the prophecy?" Then he nodded. "Aye, of course not... you be strangers!"
"And thus," Pol said, "they shall fulfill it!"
Mike shook his head. "I'm sorry -- you've confused me."
Pol nodded. "Let me try to explain. Aybim came from far away, left by mistake by explorers. Because it has knowledge of many things, it came to be regarded as a 'god'. Before they were murdered, the Creator's prophets foretold a quartet of powerful men would come and take Aybim... which was lost."
Krot stepped forward. "Pol -- they have not shown any powers."
Peter smiled and pointed at an oil-wick lamp on a table. "Michael, the lamp's gone out. Light it, please." A weak laser beam did the job. Micky vanished and reappeared. Davy grew to examine a vase on the top shelf of a bookcase, and accidentally knocked it off. Peter rescued the vase telekinetically.
"They have powers!" Mik cheered, punching the air. "They are the ones! Aybim's hours are numbered!"
Micky raised a hand to stop him. "Hang on, Mik! We still don't know if Aybim is what we're here to get!"
Pol frowned in puzzlement. "Surely you have the means to find out?"
"Yes," Peter said, telekinetically replacing the vase, "but all it's told us is that what we're looking for is in this valley. Try it now that we're here, Micky."
Another short pause and an odd look at Peter, Micky extended his tracer's wand and began to scan.
Mike sat at a table, chin on folded fists, grinning from ear to ear.
Davy walked over and touched his shoulder. "Hey, man -- what's with the huge grin?"
Mike turned the grin to him, eyes dancing in mischievous delight. "I just realized -- when we left home, I had elastic powers. Now I've got light powers!" He chuckled. "Davy, Phyllis is in for a huge shock when this is over!"
Davy nodded, his face unreadable. He walked over to Peter and whispered, "Pete, 'is mind's drifting. 'E's not 'ere, 'e's already finished the quests and is 'eading 'ome!"
Peter registered the thickening of Davy's accent, a sure barometer of his concern. He nodded grimly and sank into a chair beside Mike. "Michael?" he asked, laying a hand on his friend's arm. "Man, you're needed here, now. We'll be home soon. Try to stay with us, okay? I know it's hard to concentrate, but please try."
Mike grinned again, his eyes sparkling. "Sure, Pete. It's getting a little easier to think, now."
"Is it wearing off, or are you just getting used to it?"
"I..." The grin disappeared. Mike sat up, the sparkling light dimming from his eyes. "I don't know. Can... Can you help me, Peter? Please help me?"
Peter shook his head gently as he stood up. "I'm sorry, Michael. I don't know how. We just have to hang in there till it wears off."
"Got it, Pete!" Micky called suddenly and Peter turned to him. He didn't see the anger that etched itself on Mike's face.
"Well?" Krot asked impatiently. "What is it that you seek?"
"Yeah, c'mon, man," Davy added breathlessly. "What's the second jewel?"
Micky rubbed the back of his neck. He looked embarrassed, and said one word from behind a sheepish grin. "Aybim."
Mik, Pol and Krot laughed. Krot said, "We knew it! The prophecy is fulfilled!"
As if on cue, the door blew inwards. An entire battalion of soldiers stood there, odd-looking pistols pointed at the group of seven. One soldier barked, "It is Aybim's will that you be brought! Come!"
In the tense silence, Mike suddenly stood. "No," he said firmly. "Not unless you take us to Aybim itself. Not to your High Priests --- to Aybim."
"Michael!" Peter gasped. "What ---?"
Mike turned to him. "Peter, I can think clearly now. You got me so mad when you wouldn't help, it cleared the mud."
His face utterly expressionless, Peter looked steadily at him, deciding. Then he turned to the soldiers and said firmly, "You heard him. Take us to Aybim, or we don't go at all."
Ith, at the head of the contingent, nodded. "Come to Aybim. Move!"
Back in the clearing, all the worshipers prostrated themselves before Aybim. Krot, Pol and Mik rolled their eyes. The Monkees watched stoically.
Sen raised to his knees. "Mighty Aybim," he intoned in a singsong chant, "we have brought the strangers!"
A tinny, mechanical voice replied, "Excellent. Bring them to Aybim."
"Hey!" Davy gasped. "It talks!"
"Yes," the mechanical voice said, "Aybim talks. State your identities and your affiliations."
Mike stepped forward. "We are Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter. We are the Monkees, and we have come for you."
As one, the worshipers surged to their feet. Sen cried, "They have come for Aybim! Destroy them! Do not let them take our god!" The angry crowd surged forward and the Monkees readied for a defensive battle.
"Hold!" Aybim cried. When all action froze and all eyes were on it, it continued, "Let them be!"
"B-But," Ith stammered, "My Lord..."
"Do not touch them," Aybim ordered. "Approach Aybim, strangers." As the Monkees approached, the computer talked to the crowd. "Aybim is part of something much greater, children. Aybim has enjoyed ruling you, but Aybim is no god."
Tears of realization mixed with disappointment flowed down the faces of the worshipers as Aybim continued, "Ith.. Sen.. listen to Mik and Krot. They know your true God." Aybim then addressed the Monkees. "Aybim is ready."
Micky extended the wand on his tracer and moved toward Aybim. "I can't promise this won't hurt, my friend." He touched the giant computer with the tracer.
Aybim shimmered and turned into the second jewel, a garnet, which was sent to Phyllis.
"What do we do now?" Sen sobbed.
Mik lay a hand on his shoulder. "Come with us, brother."
Krot smiled and lay a hand on Sen's shoulder, squeezing slightly. "We will teach you of the Creator, the one true God."
In the resultant confused babble, the Monkees slipped back down the road that led to the base of the mountain. When they were truly alone, Mike smiled and said, "Thanks, Pete. You did a great job leading the team."
Peter grinned. "I gotta admit, it's gonna be hard to step aside and let you take back over."
Peter, Davy and Micky stopped in their tracks. They stared at Mike as if he'd just stepped off a UFO. After two tries where nothing came out, Peter managed to gasp, "M-Mike?"
"You can't be serious!" Davy gasped. "Peter our leader?"
"He did a good job," Mike said. He grinned. "And I like the freedom. Peter, say it."
A slow grin spread over Peter's face. "You're really serious."
The dimpled grin grew till it threatened to split Peter's face in two. He shook his head in wonder, and cried, "Let's go, Monkees!"
And as Mike triggered his watch... They did.
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