Slow going. Omega, Petey, and John-John, and the six kids were headed up Scarlet Mountain, in the dark, in a storm, following a slim-to-nothing path.
"Stay on the path," Petey chided. "I think Scarlet Mountain is volcanic, and the reason we can't see very well is all the steam in the dark. The trail is safe enough, but the minute you get off track, you are in peril."
Even the rocks seem on fire. There are vents in the rocks and the outcroppings, where steam is escaping. In places, it looks like the mountain itself is on fire, with bright, hot magna just out of reach. Scary. Steamy. Difficult.
It's not going to get any easier any time soon.
They stop for a minute, perch on boulders. "Got any more commandments?" John-John asks.
"Well, I like the old ones," Larry said. "And my folks are great. I love them. So. . . honor your mom and pop."
"That's a keeper," Omega said. "My mom and dad are. . . Well, they are my mom and dad, and I'd best pay attention."
"Here's one that works for me," Cheryl said. "Do the best you can with what you've got when you've got it. I don't always have a lot of money or even a lot of time. I like to do a good job, so I'm careful which means I'm a little slower."
"I know what you mean," Petey said. "I always get into trouble because of my sassy self. If I just slowed down and took a little care, I'd get a lot more right, a lot more of the time. I wanna keep that one too."
"I don't think you oughta be cheatin' in school," Rick said.
"Is there something that's opposite that's something you should do, rather than something you shouldn't do?" John-John asked.
"Yeah," Rick said. "Learn like mad. Work like mad. Then good stuff like better grades come our way."
The mountain shook and fierce winds started to whip around their heads. They hunkered down and tried to stay close to the rocks, which were warmer and had patches where the wind couldn't reach them.
"I got another commandment," Petey said. "You need to be following Omega around. Things turn out to be really, really interesting. And you feel like your life is important. Not every kid gets that."
"How do you make that happen?" Tim asked.
"Yeah," Omega asked. "How do you?"
"You make friends with Omega. Trust a little bit. Explore a little bit. Find other kids who know the drill. But basically, you just make friends." John-John said.
"Yeah, but how do you do that?" Larry asked. "I mean, I'm just sitting here asking."
"You talk to him," Tim explained. "You either just talk to him, here while you see him. And talk to him in your mind when you don't."
Omega laughed. "I've got several extra sets of sensory neuroloies, just so I can pick up on it. You can trust it."
"Yeah, but what if I'm sad or mad, or cranky or miserable, or puzzled or pretty sure I'm right?" Larry asked. "I am right. Most of the time, anyway"
"Best be your own most honest self. You can be all of those things, you can be all of those things at once, you can be a blank slate. Just be who you are," John-John explained.
"Well, I guess I can do that," Larry breathed out the words.
"I don't think you should be killing anybody," Julie said. "Yeah," Tim agreed. He was thinking that Julie was one smart cookie and that he should hang around a little more.
"I know, I know, but what about people like Bin Laden or that guy Duncan, in Idaho who killed a family and tortured the kids, for months, or that kid in Newtown, who shot all those first graders," Larry said. "I hate those guys. Shouldn't be killing no little kids, or running planes into buildings where people work, or torturing a family. Just shouldn't be doing that."
"Well, they got Bin Laden, and everybody was relieved that he couldn't kill anybody else, but nobody felt great about it," Omega said. "A trial would have been a mess. Prison. . . Not safe, at any level, at any time. Sometimes, because earth can be so dang hard, with so many really puzzling questions, there's not a good answer to be had. Alpha, my dad, has the answers, but he doesn't always tell.
"You just have to keep climbing the mountain, even when it's dark, even when it's hard, even when it's scary, and even when you can't see your way."