Some time after leaving Sacaweena behind and no longer in the Rift, Earl made his way to relatively unpopulated Shard where needing a stake he prospected for a month in the mountains surrounding the settlement for the crystal corbinite. He had enough corbinite for several starship high passages and was returning to the eponymous port city when he came upon a mute boy, Anton, dressed in a jupon and bells, caught in a thorn bush. When Earl freed him, he was attacked by three men, one of whom he killed, another wounded and the last escaped with Earl’s pack of Corbibite and gear.
Earl obtained care for the boy, found his mother and was introduced by monks of the Church of the Universal Brotherhood to Doctor Carina Davaranch, an androgynous, beautiful woman with whom, uncharacteristically, he did not become lovers but rather a friend. Carina, like Earl, was a traveler. She gave Earl a place to stay and showed him her paintings, including one of a (suspended animation) casket bearing carved signs of the zodiac carved. Earl, ever seeking clues to Earth's whereabouts, wanted to know where she had seen it.
Earl tracked down the surviving thieves, Jarl and Ca Lee, and recovered his property. He then decided to go to where Carina had seen the casket and she decided to pull up stakes and join him. They arrived on planet Caval in the Zaragoza cluster, apparently a globular cluster and therefore a little off the galactic plane. They were unable to determine from the natives who had ordered the caskets. Earl decided to leave and told Carina they would go their separate ways. Inexplicably, she tried to have him killed but was hit with the assassin’s dart meant for him. The police sought Earl who, sensing a Cyclan trap, fled, broke into a warehouse at the starship field and hid himself in one of the carved caskets.
He awoke in Zabul, accompanied to his surprise by Kusche, an entrepreneur/conman who had tried unsuccessfully to befriend Earl and perhaps sell him something on Caval. Zabul was a vast complex built on a hidden asteroid in interstellar space near the Zaragoza cluster. It was inhabited by the Terridae, a group of the Original People – the same apocalyptic religious sect (They believed Earth was a paradise and that when they were worthy they would return there) that Earl had befriended and been accepted by in Eye of the Zodiac. Earl was able to gain their grudging confidence by knowing something of their ways and because they believed his claim to have come from Earth. Some of the older council members of the Terridae considered him to dispuptive and wanted him to conform but the younger Terridae idolized him. Especially Althea Hesford who had copper colored hair and green eyes reminiscent of the people Earl remembered in his district on Earth. She became Earl’s devoted lover and follower. Earl merely hoped to gain a look at their archives – which were quite ancient – to try to find Earth’s coordinates and then move on. Earl had a supporter/rival named Urich Volodya, chief of security who hoped to benefit by the ferment Earl’s arrival had caused but wanted in the end to rule Zabul himself.
Into this situation, a ship came bearing cyber Lim, two acolytes and Carina – who had not died and who was, sadly an agent of the Cyclan, as, it turned out, was Kusche. She was assisting them in return for medical treatments that would turn her from a woman to a man. While Volodya was parlaying with them – he intended to give Earl up – Earl killed Kuscche and slipped out of Zabul in a spacesuit and planted a bomb on the Cyclan ship. Then when Volodya predictably surrendered him Earl used the symbiote (the secret of which had been given him by Kalin) to take over Carina’s body rendering his own in a coma. He had been in a sac (a kind of space suit) and for safety the Cyber cast that sac back into the void, thinking Earl had substituted his body with a facsimile containing a bomb, and began to question Carina where he now realized Earl’s consciousness resided. Deciding Earl’s body and perhaps the secret must be hidden on Zabul, Cyber Lim turned his ship toward Zabul, the motion detonating the bomb. The death of Carina’s body freed Earl from the Symbiote. In Earl’s absence the young Terridae led by Volodya and Althea had risen up and forced the elders’ resignation. However Volodya was not yet strong enough to dispense with Earl (The young hoped Earl would lead them to Earth) so they entered an uneasy truce. Earl knew the Cyclan would send more agents.
The Terridae, except for their distrust of strangers, were very different from the rustic but well meaning Original People in Eye of the Zodiac. Most of the Terridae spent their days asleep in their caskets dreaming of the “Event” when they would go do paradise on Earth. They only woke because their doctors had decided that every few years the mind must occupy a waking body. The disembodied brains of the Cyclan were facing a parallel problem, the cause, as Cyber Prime Elge had found, of the spreading insanity in Central Intelligence. Yet, were they going insane or transcending to a higher awareness? Elge had begun to doubt.