I can't quite recall how I ended up there; although the immediate surroundings were unrecognizable, their nature hinted at an unforgettable compound where the scarcity of water paled in comparison to that of shade. I scrambled partway up a slope of loose earth, pausing to squat by a cement cube crumbling to expose iron loops rusted far past their original usefulness. My rest was soon interrupted by a procession of cadets, clothed in nondescript uniforms and carrying all manner of equipment: rifles, ammunition, stretchers, tents, people.
After they had assembled into formation, a uniformed officer's familiar face materialized at my side.
"How did you get here?", asked his puzzled look of recognition, as though eight years had meant nothing and I belonged with the others. Recalling where I'd seen him last, I answered: "After giving up on the military career quest, I am currently in the academic career quest, although about to give up on that one too, and am wandering alone at the edges of Known Space in search of a tangible goal. What about you? You, too, are almost where I left you, but not quiet."
He smiled, the same smile polite to the point of bashfulness that had earned him so much scorn from the cadets, as though he wanted to grin yet was afraid the aerosol of flies, mosquitos, and desert dust would fill his mouth should it ever open without a simultaneous exhalation, and the dreamtime vacuum energy filled my mind with his hypothetical predicament:
"When you met me, I prepared artillery men for officer training. Now, I prepare officers for artillery training. I do not know whether I entered this revolving door forwards or backwards, but it spins too fast for me to leave."
As I wonder how I would navigate out of his boots, I find them gone, replaced by my own bare feet, gathering dust at the gateless gate of Abulafia's missing art; there is a war in heaven, yes, although the angels and demons are all our own.