8. Constantine

February 16, 2007

Michael Constantine stared down the view-port into The Parliamentary in-session below. Only a sliver of the Assembly Congress was viewable, but staring into the view-port helped him hear the voices rising through the opening. He become aware, almost absently, that The Archangel was no longer attentive to the politics below.

Faithful Book One Chapter 8The Archangel fixed on Paul Sebastian’s flawless Beefeater pose across the narrow darkened confine. Then, almost dismissively, the Divinity turned back to the view-port and The Parliamentary proceedings below.

The moment struck Michael Constantine as odd.

Staring into the Archangel’s angled face, tauValez could not read the Divinity and could not look upon Him without becoming absorbed in every curve and contour. While others saw the meta-terrestrial’s perfect maleness and dark feminine skin as unnerving and otherworldly, Michael Constantine savored as uncommonly beautiful and compelling.

In His fall from Grace, The Archangel manifested far from the luminous, virtually colorless, and form-defying apparition the Celestial Collective reported to be. The espresso-ed hairless epidermis veined taut over The Archangel’s defined and corded musculature with a sheen that suspended the light around it. Deep grooved pectorals accented His thickly developed exposed torso. The abdominals cascaded in hard valleys and rises toward a narrowing waist. The enormous black wings, scales of hard shale over the scalp, neck, and forearms, and the oiled black hide He wrapped himself in, at will, completed a sight to be marveled.

Sensing something troublesome and unsaid, Constantine pulled away and went to Paul Sebastian. He discerned the more senior Templar was unnerved.

“Things are growing very ugly out there,” xiDuang offered as a greeting. The way he said it suggested to Michael Constantine that his partner hid his true mind.

Paul Sebastian added, rather too quickly, “The Divinity’s presence here endangers The Parliamentary and the peace. The last thing we want is to panic a crowd this large. We should return to base before His presence’s discovered and we really have a situation.”

“I’ve been monitoring SPR, too,” Constantine whispered delicately. “I’m not sure we can move Him now without someone noticing—especially with the increased media trained on the building.”

“The deliberations have yet concluded, my Faithful,” came The Archangel reverberating voice from across the space, startling his two chaperones. The entity had not moved a muscle, but nevertheless the Templar felt he was standing at their shoulder. “We were assured this observance and we remain anonymous. We desire to witness its resolution.”

Paul Sebastian bristled. “I knew this was a bad idea,” he exhaled.

“The vote was expected hours ago,” Constantine mused aloud. “Reverend Cardinal Paul Christian just announced that Faith will keep Parliamentary in-session until there is one. At this rate, Consul etaSade may not win enough votes to push through his amendments before morning. Or who knows, it may take days.”

“Oh, joy!”

“What I don’t understand is why Sade is holding up a vote this important and trying to tack on a few amendments everyone agreed were off-the-table,” the young Templar continued unburdening his thoughts. “House eta fought to get new labor rights legislation through Committee and end the bloodshed in the provinces. This reform is Sade’s great peace offering and now he’s on the pulpit undermining his own sweat and tears, and his House’s credibility.”

The Archangel chimed in from His perch, again seeming centimeters away rather than several strides. “The Consul’s physiology is most peculiar. It is not at all consistent with the context of his speeches or the actions of his Guild-brothers and House eta supporters. Blood pressure, heart rate, and variants in his local electromagnetic field — they all suggest he is intent on deception. Yes, he is confident in his deception.”

“Why create all this division if it only forces the reform package back into Committee?” asked Constantine with frustrated anger obvious in his voice. “That’ll kill it and the world will have another Clan War on its hands.”

Paul Sebastian’s chest lifted with a deep in-take of breath. The thought of a Clan War made him as unsettled as any Aideenan.

“A vote for reform with etaSade’s amendments makes the whole measure ineffective,” the senior Templar shared aloud before he could edit himself and refrain from joining the conversation. “Everyone would know Sade’s responsible. The most it’ll do is end his career and embarrass House eta. In Committee, the legislation dies and the public hold all of Parliamentary accountable. It’ll tear apart The Houses and the Guilds across Aideena.”

“Sade’s insane to want that,” harped Constantine, looking infuriated by xiDuang’s assessment.

Paul Sebastian found his own lapse in restrain, in engaging with his junior partner, pleasing and a surprise. He knew Constantine came from privileged stock with more smarts than your typical blond bogart. Unlike the younger Faithful, Sebastian received a Templar education growing up at Temple-at-Corinth and little more. On the other hand, Constantine was a product of Temple-at-Attica, whose graduates almost never serve as Templar, educated instead for higher authority within Faith. However, Sebastian’s simple schooling did not make him dim and he just proved it.

Sebastian bristled against tauValez’s ease with affect. The boy responded to everything, it seemed to him. A proper Templar checked his emotions, especially in the presence of those outside the Company. By Creation, he’d show the boy how a Templar behaves, and with no kindness about it!

It was then that a terrifying thought occurred to Faithful Paul Sebastian. “Can you imagine the sjyt that’ll drop once people learn Divinity observed Parliamentary. They’ll blame Faith. They’ll say we brought a bad omen on the vote!”

No sooner did the words leave Sebastian lips than the ruinous prospect laid bare before Constantine. Chilled to the core, he said, “We’ve got to get him away from here, now, before this blows in our face.”

“Curious,” The Archangel observed calmly and casually, as if he had not heard the younger Faithful. “Your leadership professes to uphold the principles of honesty, integrity and service to the common welfare. However, they resort to deception, misinformation and subterfuge to satisfy their own self-interest. Even to the extent of abandoning the greater good. Yes, Reverend Constables, you Aideena-kind are most curious.”

Perhaps, He did hear Constantine.

Paul Sebastian signed, “You’ve been educating him again.”

“Just trying to learn a thing or two,” tauValez snapped back. “We’ve never had direct contact with the Celestial Collective like this. All the secrets of Creation—”

“Faith Inquisitors talk to Divinity, not Templar. Our duty is to sequester, not carry on, above our station, and prod and poke around in His head,” Sebastian cut in, bearing himself superiorly. “You would know that if you could exercise an thimble of proper decorum.”

Michael Constantine held himself. He wondered why the seasoned Templar expended so much energy carrying himself hard and formal and distant. It seemed quite obvious to him that beneath the exterior Paul Sebastian presented hid an entirely different character. Perhaps his true face was softer on some level or more hostile, but it was not stone.

Michael Constantine turned, dismissing xiDuang, and addressed The Archangel, “Divinity, with no intended offense, I must insist we now withdraw. I think it unwise and harmful to stay longer.”

“Oh, now that’s He’s discovered how corrupt politicians can be, you agree we’re done here,” Paul Sebastian sneered.

Constantine stifled an obscenity. Instead, he presented his back more fully to his partner and stepped toward the meta-terrestrial. “Archangel, please withdraw with us.”

The entity did not move, but His voice rose clearly. “We perceive no offense, tauValez,” He said. “We will withdraw. But first, explain to me why you and xiDuang insist on struggling against one another. You are attracted to one another and resist it at the same time. The contradiction is perplexing. We must understand.”

Michael Constantine went numb. He swore he shuddered. He heard Paul Sebastian release a long strained groan behind him.

Constantine managed to clear his suddenly dry throat and whimper the words, “What do you mean by attracted?”

“This is why I do what I’m told and no longer ask questions,” Sebastian announced hostilely.

Said the Archangel, “The truth, Reverend Constable Paul Sebastian xiDuang, would be more accurate.”

Suddenly, wings unfolded. Long feathered membranes fanned out like elongated black fingers reached to ensnare prey. The Archangel towered before the two Templar, gazing at them with quietly inquisitive glowing eyes. The soldier-priests fell back a step, unbalanced by the meta-terrestrial’s sudden effortless transportation and humbling stature.

“It’s not that you don’t ask questions, it’s that you are not interested in the answers, is it not?”

For a long moment, the voices from below echoed louder, or so it seemed to the Templar. Then before Paul Sebastian could open his mouth to defend himself, he heard Michael Constantine say, “Divinity, Aideenan emotions are infinitely complex. I’m sure whatever you read off my brother and I may be confusing.”

The meta-terrestrial frowned.

“Great,” Sebastian snarled. “You’re both impertinent and annoying.”

“I’m trying to help him understand Aideena-kind,” Constantine lashed back. “He’s unfamiliar with emotion and individuality.”

“By Creation, tauValez, since when have the Celestial Collective seen us as anything more than another collection of molecules?”

The Archangel lips motioned to speak. He stopped. He reared His head. He looked back over his shoulder at the view-port. Then, suddenly, he whipped around and faced the opening.

The Templar strained to see around The Archangel’s bulk and wings. They discerned no change. The tenor of delegates’ voices from below remained as contentious now as any other time and far from endangered.

The Archangel turned back to Sebastian and Constantine. A peculiar far away expression darkened his face. He visually struggled to dismiss something invading and evading his senses.

“We find ourselves compelled to understand Aideena-kind as you are compelled to sort us,” the Divinity said, slowly, distracted. “We confess we are not ourselves, we are not Collective… So curious…We…I…desire to understand –”

The Archangel grimaced. He seemed almost pained. In a flash, he turned again to the view-port.

Instinctively, the two Templar’s sidearm hands dropped to their pulson Peacekeepers. Paul Sebastian and Michael Constantine shot looks at one another; tense, readied, and measured looks.

“Divinity, what is your alarm?” asked tauValez.

In one swift weightless movement, The Archangel went from complete stillness to wings unfurled, enveloping Him, lifting off His feet and descending. The Archangel passed through the solid floor and into The Parliamentary’s Assembly Congress.

The two Templar audibly gasped in unison. Delegates’ voices erupted into a horrifying roar from below.

Said Paul Sebastian absently, “My ancestors be damned…”

TO BE CONTINUED

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