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

March 27, 2007

9. Seneca

March 27, 2007

In one conclave of the House iota, an angry mob stormed a water purification plant and devastated the mechanics. The sick and dying suffered doubly when criminal profiteers attacked disaster relief teams and ransomed their members. Elsewhere, Kappa fanatics seized control of a port authority. The ten-day standoff that ensued with Faith and their Knights Templar ended in murdered hostages.

To many Aideenans, especially in the capital Court-at-Columbia, such tragedies are the daily fodder of media reports, but to omegaMarat Seneca they meant much more.

Seneca witnessed firsthand the unrest in the villages and townships of Aideena. She negotiated down the desperate transformed into militant insurgents. She watched hidden demolitions shred children in markets and parkways. She visited morgues with their stacks of rotting carcasses, victims of escalating riots between rival clans.

The good and elevated peoples of Court-at-Columbia had thus far been spared the violence and terror that are a daily specter in Aideena’s provinces. Despite the overcrowding and the clan rivalry, life had always been somehow better, more civil, in the planet’s capital.

Seneca stared across the colonnade of the Acropolis at the thousands who gathered in answer to her call. She surveyed the camp of journalists hungrily working the spectacle. She took in the Templar policing the swarm.

She succeeded in galvanizing world attention on her fast on the steps of The Parliamentary and the vote inside to enact labor rights reforms. Instead of feeling triumphant, Seneca felt terror.

The Parliamentary promised the people a swift and decisive adoption of new legislation, granting tradesmen and their matriarchs the freedom to cross familial boundaries in pursuit of better employment and richer business opportunities. However, nothing even remotely resembling that action had come to pass. Instead, the world government assembly droned on with increasingly ridiculous deliberations.

With each trumpet of the temple crier as the Gaia-hours passed, Seneca saw the patience of her more radical supporters eroding. She knew she was staring down a mob one step away from a riot.

The past several Gaia-months, Seneca worked tirelessly to avoid what she now saw menacing toward her. She rallied the dissident familial factions within the Twelve Great Houses behind her People’s Advocacy and its agenda to bring about peaceful social reform. She calmed smoldering populist anger by promising that The Parliamentary was at last ready to deal directly with the grievances underlying violent clashes across Aideena.

Secretly, omegaMarat Seneca conspired with Edmund etaSade, the chairman of the authoring committee and High Consul to Parliamentary’s largest Guild coalition. Meeting with Faith authorities, they surreptitiously drafted a reform package that satisfied both a suspicious restless public and a self-serving bureaucracy. They carefully worked out every detail for more than a year. Very publicly, Seneca gave up her House omega seat in Parliamentary as part of the deal, to appease her resentful omega sisterhood and assure their favored votes. She carefully manipulated events to delivery what each party wanted most.

Now, just when the world government was sure to ratify their efforts, etaSade maliciously and inexplicably introduced measures that profoundly undermined all their hard work.

With delay after delay in Parliamentary, Seneca’s hopes were unraveling. All she could do was watch and wait—like the thousands of others in the colomnade and the millions more networked across the planet and beyond. Seneca knew that to avert the frustration simmering before her from erupting into bloodshed that the Parliamentary must act as promised.

Then, Seneca saw it.

A wave of new alertness washed through the policing Knights Templar. Media crews were suddenly on the move. Groups of the journalists with their technology in tow dashed toward the government building grounds.

Seneca watched Templar descend on the crowd. Red and black armored uniforms corralled around the demonstrators and press people. A hornets’ nest of excitement broke across the mass of on-lookers. They rushed like locust toward the barricades below the peristyle and toward The Parliamentary. The Templar marshaled, armed with Discipliners, extending energized batons, and forced them backward.

Seneca turned for cover as one of her sister’s affiants rush toward her. He threw himself in front of her as shield.

Horus held a pai. She knew he was in communication with the omega delegates inside The Parliamentary. He’d been mediating her instructions to confederates since he’d arrived.

Horus’ face twisted with confusion and consequence. He struggled to hear the com-link over the surrounding hysteria.

“Tell me The Parliamentary is voting,” Seneca insisted.

He darkened reproachfully. Seneca read that he wished he could tell her what she wanted to hear. Instead, “The Assembly’s panicked,” he answered. “There’s been a disruption.”

Seneca took his arm firmly, “Tell me.”

“The meta-terrestrial, the Fallen Divinity,” he said as he strained to understand what his counterpart in The Parliamentary was reporting, “He’s attacked the delegation!”

Immediately, Seneca let go.

For a moment her mind went blank. She found herself staring past the young man, past the rushing crowds, toward the great building above the colonnade.

With her mind’s eye, Seneca imagined a torrid of forces conspiring against her. She imagined a vote that would never come to pass. She imagined a desperate people succumb to rage and driven to mayhem, to arson, to looting, and to murder.

A woman stepped into her line of vision. She crossed toward her slowly, non-plus by the ensuing mayhem. She smiled reassuringly. Somehow, deep down inside, Seneca felt that smile meant something other than it seemed.

She stared into her sister Daria’s smile and Seneca’s terror turned to horror.

TO BE CONTINUED

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