13. Edmund

May 6, 2007

Faithful Book One Chapter 13
His deputies liberated a chaise for him to recline upon. They waft Diazepam incense under his nose and brought him a soothing liquor to drink. But Edmund etaSade could not arrest his body’s nervous shutters.

“I am a hero to my people,” he muttered aloud absently. “Have I not rescued desperate millions from poverty? Brought jobs to the jobless? Have I not found a way when others have abandoned hope?”

The Guild Consul replayed over and over again the terrible horror. He and the other members of his party queued for their turn to be escorted into chambers secured for Parliamentary delegates. He saw the young eta boy step toward him out the corner of his eye. He did not know him, had not noticed him before, and dismissed him as a page for Groupo Textilis Guild or another constituency.

The taeson he pulled from beneath his clothing barely registered at first, Edmund recollected. The murderous intent only jarred him aware when those around the boy descended on him and in the struggle the taeson fired. EtaSade felt a rippling hot gust roar pass his head like an invisible thunderbolt. After that, events blur.

“That boy was from the tenement, wasn’t he,” etaSade kept repeating. “He was eta and wanted to kill his clansman. After all I’ve done, the ingratitude! I am a hero to my people!”

Edmund struggled to push Nadsar and the firing taeson from his mind. Familiar eta Guild brothers encircled him like a castle moat. His private guards were curiously absent. House eta matrons hung close, whispering among themselves and visibly panicked.

His brush with morality quickly circulated the chamber.

The Guild Consul appraised unflattering stares on the faces of the other Parliamentarians. They studied him with more righteous indignation than concern for a colleague and alarm that the security of world government had been breached.

Vultures! The contemptible lot of them relished seeing him taken down! He–a man–darned wheel popularity and power above their collective and they resented it as much as desired to share in his favor, Edmund imagined.

A deputy rushed the rampart of Guildsmen protecting the Consul. The eta boy died, he announced. Edmund, elated at the news, leapt to his feet. But then, the deputy told him about The Archangel. Suddenly weakened, etaSade grabbed the nearest body for balance.

“What did He do to the boy?”

“Nothing. He just looked at him.”

“Into his eyes?”

The well-manicured aide nodded, bewildered at the Consul’s panicked interest.

Edmund’s color reddened.

He huddled House eta matrons and his Guild brothers close, mindful of the other House and Guild Parliamentarians nearby. “Get me a transport off-world within the hour! I don’t care what kind or whom you have to pay!” he fumed.

The matrons looked at one and another. The eldest protested, “You think our matriarch, your wife, will just let you abandon the Parliamentary? At this hour? What, to frolic on a Free Township? Are you insane?”

“Damn the Parliamentary! Our matriarch would not want House eta scandaled before the whole world! Transfer my accounts to a Township and if you have an ounce of intelligence, you’d escape now just the same.”

“What do mean, you insolent little man? The spay is dead now. What has House eta to fear from this abominable woman-skinned man-thing?”

“We’re exposed! It’ll all be exposed! Leave everything and get me off-world! Now!”

TO BE CONTINUED

12. Pronaos

May 6, 2007

Barricaded behind an entourage of deputies, under escort of a Templar detail, Consul etaSade sped passed the Reverend Cardinal Mother zetaPetriss Katrina and Templar Faithful Paul Sebastian.

Faithful Book One Chapter 12Harrowed faces ushered etaSade away, into chambers sequestering other Parliamentary delegates. Physically, the former Guild Boss appeared unharmed. However, the rotund politician’s colorless expression betrayed mortal terror and confusion.

At the other end of the great hall, Parliamentary Templar surrounded an entangled knot of excited arms, legs and heads. Paul Sebastian extended his Discipliner and used the charged baton to threaten a path through.

At the center eta Privates—bodyguards to their officials at world government–tumbled against the crowd and Templar trying to manage the melee. The Privates trapped a teenaged boy beneath their numbers, boots and fists pummeling the hapless prey. Nadsar suffered bloodied on the unforgiving marble floor.

Unholstering his pulson, Paul Sebastian revved the sidearm over his head and fired. The discharge made a brilliant, under-charged and harmless flare. The polarizing shock of light arrested the brawling hostiles.

“Let him up,” demanded xi Duang.

Weakly, Nadsar raised himself as best his could. Immediately, the eta Privates closed around him, blocking the boy from reach of Parliamentary Templar.

One eta Guild deputy reared up to the defense of his House compatriots. “Had this boy been a better shot he might have killed our Consul,” he blustered at an ever-increasing volume, calculated to play at political indignation and sway the favor of those gathered. “This was an assault upon all Guilds and the House of the eta. He should be remanded into the custody of the eta.”

“Brother,” challenged the Reverend Cardinal Mother in no certain terms. “You have no diplomatic authority outside your embassage. This is clearly the jurisdiction of Faith. Step down or I’ll have you arrested and anyone else who interferes.”

No sooner said, the Parliamentary Templar formed ranks aside Paul Sebastian with Discipliners extended. The crowd shrunk far back. Suddenly, the eta found themselves without a favoring audience, alone on stage and naked beneath the spotlight.

“Step aside,” ordered xi Duang.

For a moment, the Privates remained defiant, but then their armor quickly gave way and they broke formation. Sebastian spied Nadsar shutter relief and then a sly exchange of looks among eta closest to the boy. In a breath’s exhalation, the pronaos rang with a distinct pwa-toosh. The air reeked suddenly of burnt flesh.

The Templar rushed forward as one eta Private threw away a taeson derringer and put up her hands. “I thought I saw something in his hand,” she feigned innocence. “Swear, he had another weapon.”

All eyes locked unto the boy Nadsar.

A single tear escaped the horrified realization in his wetted blank gaze. A thumbnail-sized burn smouldered the center of Nadsar’s chest and grew and grew until it become as large as a fist.

“Sh’karee!” he cried with wisps of smoke threading phantoms through trembling lips. Then, his legs gave out and he crumpled.

The sound of his own body colliding with hard marble deafened and protracted in Nadsar’s ears. He stared up at the pronaos’ many-storied, ornately vaulted ceiling, unable to move or feel or breathe. He sensed people closing on top of him and he strained to look for his mother among the faces fighting for space in his line of vision. But, he did not find her.

Then, enormous black velvet-feathered wings brushed them back. A pair of pulsating grey spheres transfixed him and he stared into warmed welcoming pools more beautiful and transporting than anything he’d imagined.

Having appeared from nowhere, The Archangel lowered Himself beside the wounded teenaged assassin and bent close. For seemingly long pained minutes, He gazed into the young eta’s eyes.

The few dozen gathered in the pronaos stood by silently, both awed and terrified, and bewildered as to what they were witnessing. Oracle psi Sadawa Rachel Angela and the Reverend Cardinal Mother prayed. Privately, Templar Paul Sebastian angered and minded the eta that brought this tragedy upon what should have been a great day for all Aideena.

Michael Constantine slipped beside xiDuang. The younger Faithful tauValez had followed after the Divinity when a mysterious new awareness drew the meta-terrestrial from their Altar Room sequesterium. He could not be more fascinated by the mystery unfolding in from him and moved by what he saw as majesty.

Then, the boy expired.

The Archangel stood like a shot.

His darkened incriminating glare sweep across the expectant and fearful eta and repelled those gathered around the scene. Only Paul Sebastian xiDuang did not shrink.

Fellow Templar Michael Constantine tauValez stepped forward. The Archangel grabbed him under either arm and pulled close the young Faithful. “You must come with me,” he demanded of the stunned soldier-priest.

Constantine felt himself lift into the air. Sebastian reached for tauValez’s belt and stayed his ascent. The Archangel cut him a reproachful glare, filled with hidden urgency. But xiDuang did not back away. “Hold,” the Templar said. “Keep an open channel, brother.”

Michael Constantine nodded, understanding his partner was not about to abandon him to the Divinity. Suddenly, for the first time, the young Faithful felt a sinking terrible fear tingling at his core–that there was something menacing about the Celestial Collective exile after all. Sebastian released him and tauValez watched the other fall away.

The crowd let out a collective harrowed gasp as the dark entity and his captive Templar vanished through the ceiling as though specters. The rev of a pulson cut short the moment of awe.

Paul Sebastian leveled his sidearm at the eta. “Take them,” he barked to the Parliamentary Templar. Red and black uniforms drew their weapons and closed on the Privates.

Paul Sebastian menaced a smile. “By the authority of Faith, before thy Ancestors and Creation, I remand thee into custody,” he recited with relish. “Thou hast violated the laws of Holy Union. Thou hast the right to confession. Thou hast the right to judgment before a court of Faith and thy House…”

11. Prefect

March 31, 2007


Parliamentary Templar rushed the Altar Room and, for their own security, ordered Rachel Angela and her sister clairvoyants to vacant. They were to be corralled in rooms off the pronaos.

Once sufficiently evolved, an oracular reading could not be suspended without dire consequences. The reading summoned for the day’s session of The Parliamentary continued to cascade increasingly alarming algorithmic patterns. Protocol demanded the program be allowed to work its course.

While the other oracles of the Faithful were hurried out a side entrance, psiSadewa Rachel Angela remained to secure the oracular program she’d began unto a portable interface. That way, she’d be able to monitor remotely.

As the Reverend Sister locked the final commands she shuttered to see the paneled doors that opened unto the assembly chamber’s orchestra floor draw apart and The Archangel led into the room by a young Templar disciple of Michael. Through the opened doors she spied a Templar disciple of Paul and her matron the Reverend Cardinal Mother zetaPetriss Katrina. They conversed with a holo-image, the avatar of a Faithful male in apostolic dress.

Surveying his new surroundings from across the Altar Room, the Archangel turned and his pulsating gray eyes locked onto the sister oracle.

Rachel Angela went numb.

Her thoughts stampeded with the memory of her commencement months before. The Celestial Collective subrogated her and through her heralded the Divinity’s exile to Aideena. The sensations of that moment rushed back—losing control of body while her own will was swept aside, yet still occupying her mind while also sensing she was elsewhere, everywhere—and for a moment she swore it happened again.

Coming back to herself and returning The Archangel’s mesmerizing stare, Rachel Angela vaguely perceived that she knew the meta-terrestrial. Harboring an emotion like the remnants of a fading dream, she felt as though they shared a common intimate experience. What she grasped, however inarticulate, terrified her. He terrified her. He embodied an awesome cataclysmic threat to Aideena, to Creation itself.

He stared back as though he recognized her and understood the source of her fear.

Parliamentary Templar came to collect Rachel Angela. She gathered the configured portable interface and let them take her away, never stopping to break the Archangel’s gaze until she was out the room.

“Your orders where clear. The Divinity was not to interact with anyone, under any circumstances. The Parliamentary was never to know He was there,” berated the avatar whose simmering image invited one to step into an entirely different space, an office overlooking the Acropolis with The Parliamentary’s distinctive architecture rising in the distance. “Brother xiDuang, I expected better.”

Sebastian, disciple of Paul, inflated himself larger at attention. “I accept full responsibility, your Honor,” he dutifully acquiesced. “I let the situation get out of my control.

“As we all knew might be the case. Yet, we agreed anyway to permit Divinity to observe The Parliamentary,” spoke up the silvered haired woman standing next to the Templar.

Bowing his head properly, the disciplined Templar added, “For my dishonor I deliver myself freely unto the judgment of the Faithful. Before The Goddess and my Ancestors, I am surrendered.”

“Divinity is unpredictable. Your Reverend Sergeant, Prefect, handled Him as well as anyone. It’s done. We’ll all suffer the penitence. Let us focus on how to regain the day’s footing,” the Reverend Cardinal Mother summarily pardoned and dismissed Sebastian’s attempt at self-sacrifice.

Paul Sebastian xiDuang heard his partner Michael Constantine seal the paneled doors to the Altar Room, signaling he and The Archangel were safely isolated within. He decided to save a sigh of relief until they were all sequestered far from The Parliamentary.

“What evident is there that our security’s compromised?” asked the holo-image of Matthew Valentine alpha Cervantes judiciously. As Reverend Prefect Apostolic, Cervantes commanded the Garrison-at-Court-at-Columbia and held charge over all the city’s Templar. “Can you corroborate there is an assassin or other criminal element inside The Parliamentary?”

“No, Your Honor,” Paul Sebastian answered. “The premises are now locked down. No one enters or leaves. On the Cardinal Mother’s authority, I’ve ordered a room-to-room search. We are holding everyone in the vestibule outside and double checking credentials.”

Mathew Valentine strained a scowl. “The thing is I don’t doubt that among the rival matrons and guildsmen who are either delegates, privates, or staffers that there isn’t a couple dozen ready to stab, shoot or strangle someone in The Parliamentary,” he assessed. “We’re dealing with a volatile group here on any given day. Today being what it is, the fact Divinity senses murderous thoughts is not exactly a revelation! By Creation, this is The Parliamentary, not the provinces. No one dare violate its neutrality. It’s inconceivable!”

“Our immediate concern is securing the Assembly and resuming parliamentary proceedings. I want your Templar as quickly as possible to segregate the delegates from their entourages so they may return to session and finish their work,” petitioned zetaPetriss.

“I have already instructed the Captain of the Guard, Your Grace,” nodded Valentine. “As a precaution, we’re expelling all but essential personnel who are properly credentialed and voting delegates. Damn the complaints. But still, I want it on the record that I protest resumption of Parliamentary. Under the circumstances, we should shut down entirely, sent everyone home and regain total control of the situation before trying to continue the vote.”

“I represent the Seraphim in this matter, Prefect, and we are not prepared to concede that today’s session is a failure,” Cardinal Mother reproached with measured diplomacy.

“Half the media congress is sitting at our doorstep. The Sisters omegaMarat have organized thousands of demonstrators and millions more are watching. We dare not suggest there is the slightest risk of danger. The Twelve Houses and the Guild Brotherhood must feel secure that their delegates are above harm at the Parliamentary. And Aideena must see the Parliamentary as free from violence or the threat of terrorism. That Faith is in control. Or we risk sending a message to every criminal coven wishing to tax us and any militant resolved to use violence to address a grievance.”

Mathew Valentine drew in a bitter strained breath. “What if we don’t provide adequate security now and there were an incident?” he reasoned. “It would legitimize the Twelve Houses reinstating private militias. Instead of a limited security force of privates, they would again build armies. Old rivalries would not be settled in courts of law, but on the streets of our cities. Aideena would become a blood-sea.”

Petriss nodded thoughtfully. “I share your apprehension, Prefect,” she agreed without conceding.

Valentine’s avatar modulated unsatisfied, “You talk of protecting the credibility of Faith, Cardinal Mother. Do we honor our covenant with the Houses and the Guild or do we tempt embarrassment?”

“Brother,” she answered, not hiding her empathetic frustration. “I can not believe our Guardian Ancestors would have us choose either path.”

Paul Sebastian railed silently.

He found the sparring between his politic superiors dreadfully civil and he struggled to understand what it had to do with him. He prayed that he’d never advance high enough to suffer such intellectualizing over every decision.

Give him an order he can execute, by Creation, thought xiDuang, and don’t bother him with the why and what-for.

He imagined that Constantine, were he present, would be impertinent enough to argue his opinion with the Prefect and Cardinal Mother. But Cervantes and Petriss best have the patience of a Gaia winter should they expected him to weigh in so.

Then Katrina cautioned the disclosure, “The truth be told, there will be tragedy this day, my Brothers. The Sisterhood has foreseen it. The path was set long before The Parliamentary convened. What shape it may take has yet to be revealed and no action we three may determine will avert the inevitable.”

The Cardinal Mother paused to weigh the chilled expressions on the faces of the men. She suspected that she miscalculated in holding the information from them this long, but like them, she too had her orders.

“It falls to Faith—to us here—to ensure the integrity of this institution and ensure it delivers the reforms promised,” she resumed “We must control what we can. We must give Aideena some hope when the darkness descends.”

Valentine resided to acceptance quickly, “I have extra Templar assigned to Parliamentary. I have Templar around the demonstrators. I have Templar around the media. Brother xiDuang, you‘ll remain with Divinity and monitor his moods for anything that may advantage us. Upon my ancestors, we Templar will answer any eventuality.”

It was then a roar erupted from one of the vomitories.

Rachel Angela and Templar bolted into the Assembly, swept by a collective panic.

“There’s shooting,” the young clairvoyant gasped. “Someone’s tried to assassinate Consul etaSade.” ”Said Paul Sebastian absently, “My ancestors be damned…”

TO BE CONTINUED

March 27, 2007

10. The Parliamentary

March 27, 2007

Every detail had been orchestrated.

The Parliamentary would convene and read through the proposed legislation reforming labor rights. After a Gaia-hour or two indulging the delegates’ inevitable political posturing, the Assembly would then ratify the package.

To add historical urgency, omegaMarat Seneca would accept sanction and step down as House omega’s chief designate. She’d be permitted to stage one of her fiery reactionary vigils in the peristyle of the Acropolis. No one would know she was the reforms’ actual principle author.

Consul Edmund etaSade would ride his reputation as a trusted Fellow in the Guild Brotherhood and the dependable ally of the powerful eta Matriarchy. He would take all the credit and, as far as the peoples of Aideena were concerned, be prosperity’s hero. As champion of the male suffragetry, etaSade would be awarded control of The Parliamentary’s largest coalition of Guild political parties, elevating House eta from economic decline to a house to be reckoned with once again.

For some mystifying reason, the eta delegate decided to step outside his designated role.

As Faith’s moderating official, Reverend Cardinal Paul Christian iotaTao could only sit and listen as etaSade picked apart everything that had been accomplished. The secret meetings between himself, the activist omegaMarat Seneca, and the former Guild-Boss; the long hours of carefully constructing a reform package to satisfy Faith, the matriarchy of the Houses and fraternity of the Guild Brotherhood; all evaporated—as if they never happened at all. The Old Gentleman of The Parliamentary experienced something new in his forty-year career as Faith’s master mediator and grand manipulator. The Reverend Cardinal was thoroughly dumb struck.

Then suddenly a dark cold veil descended…

An expansive black flurry of feathers landed with delicate precision on the center podium. Immediate hysteria ensued.

Archangel descends on The ParlimentaryPanicked delegates bolted, diving for cover. Courtly matrons and Guild-brothers leapt over desks and stampeded over one another. Then, everyone just stopped.

Perhaps it was the beauty of the creature that had descended upon them. Or perhaps it was the fear and anticipation of what might happen next. Whatever the reason, the congress’ flight reflex suspended momentarily. No one seemed to breath. All eyes locked spellbound on the podium and no one dare move a muscle. The silence of the Parliamentary formed an almost anathematizing vacuum.

The wings parted and revealed beautiful dark skin that obscenely shelled a classically Herculean figure of perfect maleness. Its angular face carved a sinister intense mask. The Archangel’s scowl scanned the great cella, searching its tiers of desks and gallery above.

He looked one way, and then the other. As Parliamentary-stationed Templar erupted into the vomitory, sidearm pulsons drawn, and cautiously assumed flanking positions, the intruder took no interest. He stood there, looking for something.

Slowly, the delegates began to move. Shuffling and hushed voices broke the silence. Their frozen panic turned to intrigue.

Reverend Cardinal Paul Christian iotaTao banged his gavel. He appealed for order and calm. He asked the assembly to resume their seats and the Templar to holster their weapons. They cautiously complied.

The Old Gentlemen rose authoritatively. “Divinity honors us with His presence,” iotaTao addressed The Archangel. “This august body receives you. How may we serve?”

Paul Christian waited. The Archangel did not answer. He did not sway from inspecting the room with a troubled stare. He did not seem aware of the Reverend Cardinal at all.

The Faithful elder cleared his throat and spoke louder, “Divinity, you are in the company of a Templar detail, aren’t you? I suggest we collect them and retire to the Altar Room. This august body can then continue its proceedings and you may observe in more appropriate surroundings. Allow me to escort you.”

As if homing in on a beacon, the meta-terrestrial sprinted down one of the vomitories, overrunning Parliamentary Templar, and out the assembly cella. Delegates followed after, instantly scrambling for the exits. The Reverend Cardinal hammered his gavel and ordered the congress back to their seats.

This time, no one heeded.

Select media, Parliamentary staffers and the Faithful, and dignitaries congregated within the large lounging vestibule outside the assembly cella. The area waded deep with auxiliary officials of all sorts both supporting various House and Guild representatives and those merely wishing to be nearby while The Parliamentary held it auspicious session. The Archangel burst onto the pronaos, trailed by delegates, and ignited pandemonium.

He plowed through the panicked crowd, searching and examining their numbers as though they were inanimate objects to be inspected for defect and discarded.

Templar Faithful Paul Sebastian and Michael Constantine came into pronaos, sweated and out of breath from their rapid descend.

“Clear the Hall! Keep these people back,” Paul Sebastian shouted to Parliamentary-stationed Templar as he and tauValez pushed through the confused swarm.

Sebastian and Constantine cautioned upon The Archangel. He scanned from one person to the next, oblivious to his Templar detail’s arrival.

“Divinity, what is the alarm?” asked Michael Constantine. “Please, let us get you away from all these people.”

The Archangel shook, as awakening from a peculiar daydream. Seeing Constantine and Sebastian, His brightly glowing grey eyes suddenly registered recognition and His demeanor transformed before them. The press of people surrounding them seemed to startle and unnerve the meta-terrestrial.

“My Faithful, someone here is intent on murder,” He said.

The two Templar looked at one another, shaken.

“Who is going to be murdered?” Paul Sebastian spoke up.

“As yet unknown, my xiDuang” He answered.

“Who are you reading, Divinity,” Michael Constantine queried.

The Archangel strained a look around, scanning the faces closing in. He shook His head, defeated.

“Such rage…so much vengeance!” He channeled and then with deadly certainly The Archangel said, “He is close, very close.”Said Paul Sebastian absently, “My ancestors be damned…”

TO BE CONTINUED

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