tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 14

No Future Ch. 14

bybradley_stoke©

XIV
Faith and Charity
Diane 2042



Reverend Diane Dawkins wept while she watched the television news film of the dead and dying of Rawalpindi. If the wretched souls hadn't already died from the intense heat and blast of the nuclear explosions, they would surely do so from radiation poisoning. Perhaps those who were dead were the lucky ones. Cancerous growths and the birth of deformed children were all that most of the survivors had to look forward to.

Her usual response to such international crises was to dedicate a section of her weekly sermon to the matter and place a collection box for the relevant charity at the church door. Somehow, this didn't seem adequate for the scale of the current disaster. What should Diane, as a minister of the Church of England, do to help the tens of millions of people who'd suffered and the maybe hundreds of millions who might suffer in the future in a subcontinent sandwiched between astonishing economic growth and the famine, disease and devastation that resulted from the world's first real nuclear war, limited though it thankfully had been.

Diane's first response was to pick up the telephone and call Doris to get her advice. Who else could be first choice? The phone rang and after trilling for a short while Doris' sweet voice replied.

"What is it, sweetheart? I'm still in the office."

"Are you working late?"

"Again," Diane's lover replied.

Doris' position as senior project manager at Accenture IBM often entailed long hours as meetings overran, schedules were missed, and the customer requirements were once more changed. On the other hand, she was senior enough to be able to choose which projects to work on. Or, rather, which ones not to. She avoided projects for defence contractors, tobacco companies and others whose trade she believed to be unethical. Diane wasn't sure whether it was Doris' strict moral code of conduct or her body that made her love her so. As a Vicar of Christ, Diane was grateful that it wasn't for Doris' beauty alone. What would the good Lord say if that were so?

"It's nothing, darling," said Diane. "We can talk about it later."

"At your place or mine?"

Although Doris and Diane had been lovers for over four years, they still maintained separate homes. It wasn't because Doris was especially mindful of any disapproval from her congregation. The vicar had been open about her sexuality from the first day that she discovered that she loved women as much as, maybe even more than, she did men. It was more because the two women treasured their separate space. They'd both lived alone for so many years and neither of them was in the first bloom of youth. Perhaps, it was a step too far that they should share more than a bed on a permanent basis.

"Should we get married?" Doris once asked Diane.

"Although the Church of England is comparatively liberal on gay relationships and believes in the sanctity of marriage," the vicar answered, "I'm not sure that even this far into the twenty-first century the church has progressed quite as far as to unreservedly welcome same-sex marriage for its ministers. It's still an issue for many in the Anglican community: especially in Africa and the Southern states of America. My first duty as a vicar is to my flock and if there are people in my congregation who're uncomfortable with the idea of their vicar marrying another woman then I believe I should respect their opinion."

"Very diplomatic," said Doris. "But my offer remains open all the same."

It was nearly ten o'clock when the vicarage doorbell rang and Doris arrived. She was a slender woman whose hair was flecked with grey. Her hair perfectly complemented by her silver-grey eyes. She was wearing a business suit and the stern high heels that made a woman of quite average height appear quite tall. Diane knew her lover would soon be divested of her uncomfortable, restrictive work clothes and that as always the couple would reclined together naked on the sofa in the living room in front of the television set.

Diane in the nude was much as one would expect. She was not a slim woman. In fact, she was moderately plump but not unattractively so. Her bosom was just as generous uncovered as it promised to be from what could be seen in the contours of her cassock.

The two lovers wound their arms about each other and relished the sensation of each other's flesh.

"Why did you call me at work, sweetheart?" asked Doris as she idly twirled her fingers around the huge aureoles of her lover's nipples.

"I didn't know you were still at work," said Diane. "I thought you might have been home. Or perhaps on the train back from London."

"While the project is in its present mess," said Doris, "there's going to be nothing but problem after problem. The legal department haven't quite worked out the international legal implications yet..."

"International legal implications?"

"Any project that aims to simplify security and passport controls at airports is bound to have countless international legal issues. The Chinese are the reference market, of course, and most European and Asian countries are in line with China. The United States, as usual, is dragging its feet and raising all sorts of objections."

"Why's that?"

"It's just what they do. The different states can't even agree between themselves whether black is black or doesn't happen to also be white. If they can't agree amongst themselves how can they be expected to agree anything with anyone else? I despair. It can't be long now until the nation splits down the middle. It just can't cope with no longer being the world's richest or most powerful nation. All it can do is huddle in the corner and sulk. That is, when it's not quarrelling about eye retina recognition and DNA identification."

"It sounds like a real headache," said Diane. "But what I called you about was disaster relief for the radiation victims of the Indo-Pakistani War. I was just wondering if you had any suggestions for what a Vicar of Christ should be doing."

"I'm not really the best person to talk to about charity," said Doris. "It is charity you're talking about, I hope? You're not suggesting we leave Surrey and fly over to the irradiated zones in the republics of Kashmir, India and Pakistan? It's not quite me, I think."

"It's not me, either," said Diane. "I don't think I'm cut out for that kind of work. Being a missionary was never one of my childhood ambitions. In any case, the charities already have plenty of much better qualified people in India and Pakistan. They don't need the help of a couple of middle-aged English women..."

"Middle-aged!" laughed Doris. "I think I've got a few more years left till I'll call myself that."

"They probably wouldn't need us whatever age we were," said Diane. "But we've got to do something. It's our moral duty."

"Are you saying that because you're a vicar?"

"It's our moral duty to do something for the tens of millions in dire need and the hundreds of millions who are displaced whether we work for the church or for an international computer consultancy or for the local supermarket. This is the worst international crisis of our lives. It's the first time for nearly a century that nuclear weapons have been used in anger. It is our moral imperative to give whatever help we possibly can."

"Point taken, sweetheart," said Doris as she tenderly kissed Diane's stomach.

"What I don't know and why I called you," Diane continued, "is exactly what we should be doing?"

"I don't know either, sweetheart," said Doris. "And you know that. I take it you want to do more than just arrange a collection from your parishioners and to give a sermon on behalf of the millions of radioactive refugees, but you also don't want to fly out to the nuclear wastelands. You'll just have to contact agencies like Red Cross or Oxfam or Action Aid and ask them for advice."

"I've got to offer them something more than the usual charity collection money," said Diane. "I've got to do something a great deal more."

"About the only thing these poor souls want besides food and drink is shelter," said Doris. "Are you suggesting that we shelter them in the Church grounds?"

"It's an idea," said Diane, her face lighting up.

"But not a very good one," countered Doris. "I don't exactly see the good citizens of Reigate welcoming a plane-load of refugees in their midst."

"This is a wealthy parish," said Diane. "Many good Christian souls live here. Most of those in the firebombed ruins have nowhere else to stay."

"You can suggest it," said Doris. "You might even be able to find space for a hundred or so wretches, though they would have to be orphaned or terminally ill to be granted compassionate asylum in the United Kingdom. You can possibly raise funds from the few dozen people who regularly attend church and the many more who use it for weddings and funerals. You might even get a few lines of praise in the Guardian and possibly the Church Times. But I don't see it being popular with the people of Reigate. The mere hint of surrendering sovereignty to Brussels will have them up in arms. The slightest suggestion that the government might go soft on immigration has protestors outside the town hall. I can't see too many people in the district celebrating the prospect of having to house Indians and Pakistanis in their community."

"It need only be a temporary measure until the refugees can return home," said Diane.

"And when would that be?"

"Radiation eventually goes away. It's got a half life."

"What happened in Rawalpindi and Lahore and Srinagar wasn't like Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It was ten, twenty, maybe a hundred times worse. The radiation will take generations to disperse."

"All the more reason for good Christians to offer help."

"And not many of these unfortunates are Christian. Most are Muslim. You've seen how much prejudice there is against Muslims. And those who aren't followers of Islam are Hindus or Sikhs. Will your parishioners really want to give aid and assistance to heathens?"

"God loves all His children," said Diane.

"I dare say He does," said Doris with a defeated sigh. "However, on a lighter matter... Do you want to see my latest creation?"

Diane grinned with almost childish enthusiasm. "Yes, I would."

Doris lifted her naked body off the sofa where she'd been lying beside Diane and rummaged in her handbag until she found the memory stick she was looking for. She plugged it into Diane's system and fiddled with the remote so she could display it on the screen.

Doris might be a project manager nowadays, but many years before she'd started her career in a more humble position as a Computer Science graduate and she still enjoyed playing around with computer graphics. She'd scanned three-dimensional models of the reverend and herself into her computer and used it to generate some disturbingly realistic images of the couple in fantastical situations.

"Here are some stills I generated," said Doris, as she flicked through a slide-show of half a dozen such images. There was one of Diane and Doris together on Mars holding up a rock covered with Martian bacteria. There was one of the couple visiting a Buddhist temple in Cambodia. There was one of Diane posed like a mediaeval saint with a halo above her head and her hands clasped in prayer.

"I'm not sure I'm worthy of that one," laughed Diane. "There's a great deal more I have to do to be beatified."

"You will, sweetheart, I'm sure," said Doris, kissing her lover on the lips. "And here is what you've really been looking forward to seeing..."

Doris activated a movie that she'd generated using the images of the two lovers and animated by pornographic software that overlaid their bodies on the images of porn stars having sex. It was a seamless and deceptively realistic movie of Diane and Doris making passionate love. It suffered only by being rather more perfect than the real thing. The folds on Diane's stomach were less pronounced. Doris' vagina was less ragged. And the setting was a landscape in the English countryside where it was highly unlikely that two middle-aged women would be allowed to cavort so openly.

"It's beautiful, darling," said Diane in grateful amazement. "It must have taken you ages."

"If it works then every moment will have been worth it," said Doris placing a hand between Diane's thighs. "Are you feeling hot?"

Diane leaned over to kiss Doris on her lips—a prelude they both knew of greater passion to come—while keeping an eye focused on the television screen.

"I couldn't be more in love with you if I tried, darling," she said.

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