Battle for the Known Unknown Ch. 07bybradley_stoke©
It was Wednesday on Holy Trinity. This was one of the two days of the week—the other, of course, being Sunday—that was designated an Energy Saving Day. Despite being in Mercury orbit and well bathed in sunlight from the nearby presence of the Sun, the Archdeacon and the Chief Pastors had deemed that the energy expenditure of the colony's burgeoning population couldn't be squandered on more than five days of daylight each week.
Isaac was tending the small garden plot outside his family's apartment on the twentieth floor of the colony's twelfth level. His wife was inside the apartment where she was taking care of three of Isaac's seventeen children. The rest of his progeny were fully adult and lived with their own families elsewhere in the same condominium. Garden plots were allowed special dispensation in the dim dusk of the midday luminescence and an array of lights brightly illuminated each one. Below and above Isaac's apartment was a towering sequence of other plots, all wholly enclosed within the condominium walls, where other householders were also tending God's bounty. These plots were as necessary as all the other energy-saving and waste-recycling policies for the survival of a community whose population was approaching the physical limits of what one space colony could house, water and feed. Like all men in Holy Trinity, Isaac prayed for the successful construction of Revelation: the sister colony that would soon relieve the colony of much of the burden of maintaining half its population, until that too swelled beyond the bounds of what two colonies could support.
Isaac was nearly a decade short of the Biblical span of three score years and ten beyond which only the most senior Scriptural Officers were permitted the privilege of regenerative surgery and other forms of life prolongation. Although it was a sin to end a life prematurely, it was another sin of pride and vanity for those without special dispensation to have their lives artificially prolonged beyond the Biblical span. He rather dreaded the onset of old age that would plague him for what would remain of his expected life and from which there was little hope of early release.
Isaac bent down on his knees in the garden soil and prodded at the organic vegetables that were vital to his family's welfare. The meagre ration he earned was not nearly enough by itself. Although the congregation was generous in its charity to those unable to provide for themselves, it did so reluctantly and only to those in true need.
Through the windows that peered out through the dimness onto the congested tower blocks that dominated the twelfth level Isaac could see other householders and their wives and children bent over like him to care for the soil. The only other light than that emitted from these other garden plots came from the hover planes that occasionally passed by. These carried the Soldiers of Christ and important church dignitaries on their vital business. Isaac knew well what it was like to travel in such a vessel. He too was a Soldier of Christ and he took seriously his duty of enforcing civil order and scriptural conformity in the colony.
Isaac's wife, Rebecca, entered the garden dressed in a black ankle-length gown and with her untrimmed hair tucked out of sight inside her bonnet. She stood by Isaac's side as he bedded down a turnip. She waited silently until her husband addressed her, for it would be a sin for a man's chattel to be so presumptuous as to speak first.
"The children are all gone to school, husband," she at last announced when Isaac raised his head and gave her permission to speak.
"God be praised, wife," Isaac said. "May the Lord instruct them well."
"Amen," Rebecca agreed. "Noah has been reciting the Holy Scripture this morning."
"And which text has he been studying, wife?"
"The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, Chapter Four, husband."
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost," recited Isaac from memory.
"Amen," said Rebecca.
"But we have duty too, wife," Isaac reminded. "Recall the First Book of Moses: Called Genesis, Chapter Three, Verse Sixteen."
"The Lord said: 'I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children'?" asked Rebecca.
"Well, not just that, wife," said Isaac with a kindly smile. "Thy desire shall be to thy husband."
"May the Lord be praised and all the goodness he has bestowed," said Rebecca, quite willing now to go forth and multiply with the help of her husband. Not that she could do so with anyone else unless they wished to be publicly stoned or, at the very least, banished. And since there was nothing but intense heat and certainly no atmosphere outside the colony, banishment resulted in more or less the same thing.
Husband and wife retreated to their sanctified bed in which they could legitimately consummate their duty: for duty it was. Isaac was forever mindful of the Proverbs Chapter Six Verse Twenty-five: Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. In keeping with the Lord's commandments, Isaac and his wife performed the duty for which he privately chastised himself for the pleasure he derived. He lifted up the capacious skirt that covered Rebecca's legs and thighs and pulled down the black underwear that protected her womanhood and, keeping his eyes averted, penetrated her with his aberrant beast. In all the years they had lived together as man and wife not once had Isaac seen his wife naked. That would be a sin. But it would also be a sin not to fulfil the responsibility, oft repeated from the pulpit, to multiply the numbers of those who worshipped according to the approved doctrine of the Lord.
God was great, but He was also stern. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. The covenant of the Lord in Chapter Sixteen Verse Eight of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel was unambiguous. Procreation was the Lord's dictate, but lust was the curse visited on the sons of Adam for the Original Sin whose infraction seemed so light but the punishment for which was a burden borne by every man and woman governed by the Holy Word.
Isaac's duty was done and Rebecca straightened her thick dress. Isaac buttoned up his trousers, ashamed of the lust that flashed over him at the sight of Rebecca's reddened face and the insipid smile that hung over her cheeks and lips. Sometimes he wished that the Archdeacon would sanction the libido-reduction drugs that were surely within the grasp of modern science for the treatment of those guilty of improper thoughts. But this, along with the unmediated pain of childbirth suffered by all women, was a reminder of the heinous crime of disobedience carried by Eve's descendents from the first days of the universe less than eight thousand years earlier.
If only more people were as mindful of the lessons of Holy Scripture as he was, thought Isaac, while he prepared to leave for his afternoon shift. He tucked his guns and batons inside the holsters around his waist, exchanged the tall black hat of civilian life for the peaked hat of his profession and strode forth from his apartment. As the elevators were also not in operation on a Wednesday, he had a very long descent down the stairwell until he reached ground level. He then walked to the Station of the Soldiers of Christ which was situated beside a modest chapel and an even more modest supermarket both of which his wife would later visit.
What sort of day would it be?
Every day for a Soldier of Christ brought varied and unpredictable duties. The day before he had assisted in the disposal of a number of women who had acted as whores, not by selling their bodies openly, which could never happen in the watchful neighbourhoods of Holy Trinity, but by membership of a secret network that advertised itself by mysterious signs and symbols. However, too many male visitors to a single woman's apartment soon attracted attention, so this vice ring was identified and the culprits' lives summarily terminated. The Soldiers of Christ operated by the sanction of the Laws of Christ and the legal profession was only ever required for the more complex issues of property ownership and inheritance rights.
As the whores were stoned to death by the blunt missiles shot from the Soldiers of Christ's firearms witnessed, as was required, by all their neighbours, Isaac cursed again the wickedness of Satan that brought so many to temptation. One of the whores, a woman young enough to not yet require regenerative surgery, pleaded with Isaac to be merciful as he raised his firearm. And as she did so she quoted from texts in the New Testament that gave proof of Christ's mercy and tolerance.
I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall. Chapter Four Verse Fourteen of Hosea.
However, such selective use of the Holy Scripture was itself a sin. The Word of the Lord could only be corrupted by heretical interpretation. If that were not so, why were there so many who lived in colonies and planets throughout the Solar System whose interpretation of the Gospels was so much in variance to that known to be God's Law in Holy Trinity?
Isaac was more at ease when his duties in the service of Christ were not compromised by any qualms. The recent necessarily bloody disposal of a homosexual couple caused Isaac no misgivings at all. What could be more unholy than the sin of buggery? Nevertheless, Isaac was troubled that he would carry until his grave the memory of the day when, fumbling with his wife in the dark, he accidentally penetrated the wrong orifice. Moreover, it was a while until either of them were sensible of the sin they had committed. Isaac thought only that his wife's vagina was tighter and less well lubricated than usual, while Rebecca was equally uncertain as to what was happening (and evidently observed too much her wifely duty to obey her husband). This was a sin neither offender discussed with one another. Isaac kept it as a secret between him and his Most Merciful Father.
Isaac also had no reservations when he amputated the hands of thieves or blinded those who had committed the sin of voyeurism. The punishment he meted out, as always prefaced by quotations from the Holy Scripture, were those prescribed by the Lord and it was his duty as a Soldier of Christ to so execute it.
"May the Lord be with you," said Isaac to the Duty Sergeant when he arrived at the station.
"And with you," replied the Duty Sergeant. "You have a change to the standard detail, inspector. The Chief Inspector would like to see you in his office. He is in attendance with a High Pastor."
"Just me, sergeant?" Isaac wondered. He was expecting only to be assigned his duties for the day.
"No, inspector," said the Duty Sergeant. "You will be accompanied by Inspectors Josiah and Esau. You have all been privileged."
"Thank you, sergeant," said Isaac. Although he was perturbed by this delay to his daily duty, he was honoured to be granted audience with the Chief Inspector and a High Pastor. Was this to be a reward for his labours in the service of Christ? Or was it that he had in some way been lax or lenient in the pursuit of his duties? If the latter, what would this mean for his wife and children?
Isaac entered the office where Inspectors Josiah and Esau were already waiting. Like him they were dressed in the sober uniform of a Soldier of Christ. This was totally black except for the lustre of steel from the epaulettes and crosses that decorated the uniform. They all wore the peaked caps of their profession. Chief Inspector Isaiah wore the garb that befitted his more senior rank. He sported a splendid cross over his chest that gave witness to the combat he had seen in the Crusades against the infidel in the Jupiter Asteroid Belt: a war that had cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of God-fearing souls and Muslim infidels. Sat on a splendid leather armchair was the forbidding figure of a High Pastor in a cassock that fell to his ankles under which he wore a pair of well-tailored shoes. Unlike the Chief Inspector he still had a youthful face and figure, despite the advanced age associated with his seniority. Like all men in the colony, he was clean-shaven and wore his hair short.
"It is an honour to you all to have been summoned here by the High Pastor, gentlemen," said the Chief Inspector who, despite his obvious age, still presented a formidable figure. "Many Soldiers of Christ from this colony and from our allied colonies have been similarly summoned, but from our precinct it is you three who have been accorded this great privilege."
"You may sit, gentlemen," said the High Pastor with a smile at his nervous congregation. "I insist that you make yourself comfortable. This is a discussion, however, of the utmost secrecy and I insist that not a word should be uttered to anyone: however dear or near. This may be hard indeed as your calling may well take you away from this colony for many years. Maybe even decades."
"I need hardly remind you, gentlemen," said the Chief Inspector sternly, "that should you be less than discreet and disobey an edict that comes from the Archdeacon himself that the consequences for you and your family of such an act of treason will be very exacting."
"Indeed," said the High Pastor in agreement. "I am grateful that the Chief Inspector has spared me the need to emphasise this imperative. I also warn you that such is the grave import of the mission to which you are assigned that we have aligned ourselves with those who are normally our natural enemies. There is a new Holy Crusade which you shall help undertake which encompasses not only the congregations of the Baptist Ecumenical Council, but those of the Nicean Catholics, the New Orthodox Church and even the Radical Muslims. In fact, there are also Hindus, Sikhs and Jews united in the same cause. We have fought many wars against pagans and heretics throughout history that have resulted in the death of many True Believers and I am sure that none of you could forgive the infidel for their sins. Nonetheless, such is the immense significance of this mission that the counsels and command of those who oppose the greater sins of Atheism and Agnosticism are all united on this one great endeavour."
"Are we to work side by side with the Pope, sir?" asked Esau, who had a particular detestation for Papists.
"A fair question, soldier," said the High Pastor, overriding the stern expression of the Chief Inspector who was about to upbraid the inspector for his presumption in addressing the High Pastor without due ceremony. "You may speak freely after I have spoken but I would rather that you held back your questions until I have finished. In answer to your enquiry: No. The Roman Catholic Pope, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury and most ayatollahs are not party to this crusade. They have compromised too often and too freely with the Solar System's Atheist majority to be entrusted with a role in our enterprise. Only those such as the True Believers of Holy Trinity have the singleness of purpose and steadfastness of faith to be trusted."
The High Pastor paused for effect and cast his sharp dark green eyes from one inspector to the other.
"You all come highly recommended, gentlemen," he continued. "Your records speak for themselves. You have been uncompromising and forthright in the campaign to eliminate sin and exterminate sinners in this precinct. Every whore, homosexual, adulterer, pervert and petty criminal that you have punished according to scripturally ordained methods you have done so with an admirable and unswerving attention to duty. There are many, even in this precinct, who have wavered in the face of the terrible nature of your duty. They have mistaken God's Infinite Mercy for leniency. They have sought to persuade sinners to repent from their sins rather than deal with the miscreants as commanded. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. Chapter Thirty-two Verse Forty-one of Deuteronomy."
"Amen," chorused all the Soldiers of Christ gathered together.
The commendation of the High Pastor was an honour indeed. Although it wasn't totally true that Isaac had never wavered in his heart in the pursuit of his dreadful duty, he had never pardoned a sinner whose life or limb was at his mercy. To do so would merely encourage sin. And no sin of any kind could be permitted on Holy Trinity.
"As is only right, all citizens of Holy Trinity have been kept ignorant and protected from the vice and heresy that abounds in the Solar System. No inbound communications or broadcast is permitted. Those who sin by seeking guidance from the Antichrist and his servants have been severely punished and their equipment destroyed. This is a duty which you have all observed on several occasions. The evils of the Solar System's media know no bounds. Sin of all kinds, even of a sexual nature, is broadcast as entertainment, although it is Satan who is most entertained by the vile filth that such vicious men have propagated."
The extent of the perversity of the Godless world astonished the inspectors. What they had suspected of the depravity of the Atheist was true and worse. Isaac had no reason to doubt the words of the High Pastor whose authority was of the highest and who was, therefore, in direct communication with the Lord.
"Consequently, you will not have heard of the mysterious events that have plagued the Solar System. And you most certainly will not have heard of the strange phenomenon, kept secret to all but the privileged few, that has become manifest on the perimeter of the Solar System and is known by the Interplanetary Union as the Anomaly. It is a phenomenon known to have been there for several centuries and whose nature the Atheists have not been able to determine by the occult mysticism of Science. But this Anomaly should be correctly known as the Apostasy. It has been prophesied in the scriptures and is nothing less than the manifestation of Satan. The Antichrist has been in pre-eminence for well over a millennium, some would say since the 20th Century when governments abandoned even the pretence of guidance from the Lord and followed instead such evil ideologies as Communism, Fascism and Liberalism. It is now the time of Satan. And after Satan has come and claimed for himself the souls of the heathen, the apostate and the atheist, it will be the time of the Second Coming, long foretold and about which St. John the Divine has spoken in Revelations. And it is to the Apostasy that you, gentlemen, will proceed and exterminate with the rightful rage and vengefulness that you have shown unto sinners in this world."
The High Pastor paused for effect. And then he quoted from Revelations Chapter Twenty-one: "these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."