The Man From God Only Knows Ch. 04byAdrian Leverkuhn©
Part IV of The Blackwatch Saga
©2009 Adrian Leverkuhn
The Commandant paced back and forth in her office, her hands behind her back, chin almost on her chest; her crisp white uniform seemed so heavily starched the fabric might crack at any moment. Her lips bunched up from time to time and she wrinkled her nose occasionally as if she had passed through an odor most particularly vile. There had been rumors throughout the night that Justinian Sinn's investigation had literally uncovered something of significant importance; indeed, the implications were life-altering -- if the rumors were true. She had been waiting for a report from the field for over three hours, and now she was beyond aggravated.
The sun, now high in the morning sky, was unnaturally bright and temperatures were climbing to make matters worse it was long past her bedtime. The Institute's cadets had been asleep for hours and she was beyond exhausted. She increased the polarization of her office windows and pushed another button, retracted the metal solar-shutters, looked out through the through amber-haze and roiling thermals that filtered her view of the city. Two air-cars approached; one broke off for the city while the other slowed, banked into a hard right turn and circled to bleed off speed. It was Sinn's car, she saw, and the Commandant smiled as it settled in a lot just a few meters from her window. The canopy opened and she watched as Sinn August-dottir climbed into the blistering sun; she watched as sweat formed instantly on Sinn's forehead and she smiled at the all too human truth of such heat.
A moment later Sinn walked into the Commandant's room.
"I've never felt such heat, Aneal," the Justinian said as she made her way to a chair. "It was 150 near Rampart, and by 10:30!"
"Work progresses well, I have heard. The mountains will be ready in time. We will survive." She turned around and looked at the Justinian. "What have you found? Tell me."
"A passage of sorts."
"Perhaps more a tunnel."
"And? What is so interesting about this tunnel?"
"We went down three hundred paces, came to a sealed door, really more like a bank vault's door. Very heavy, impossible to open without codes. Sensors watched us all the way down."
"You are think you were being watched?"
"Cameras moved as we moved, Commandant. Yes, we were watched."
"And codes, you say."
"There were scanners and keypads, Commandant."
"Who knows of this?"
"Myself and Commander Weblenson, and three officers."
"Have you told the Tribonian?"
"No, Commandant; just Weblenson and the other three know of this." Sinn looked at Aneal, wondered what the other woman -- her best friend and mentor -- was thinking. "Do you not trust him?"
The Commandant shook her head. "No."
That revelation shook the Justinian: "Why not?"
"I'm not sure. Just a feeling."
"Yes. Oh. Woman's intuition. It may be that simple but I feel like he knows something, like he's been keeping secrets."
Sinn nodded. "Yes. I have felt that."
"And perhaps for quite some time."
The Commandant looked at Sinn, and the downward cast of her face, the sorrow that had only recently etched deep lines around her eyes. "I see you have taken the ring off. What do you plan to do now?"
"I'm not sure yet."
"You look sad. I did not think you liked the boy so."
"Yes. Neither did I. There was something about him, Aneal, something I can't quite put my finger on. Some deeper purpose in his eyes. I suspect that was what attracted me most."
The Commandant watched Sinn August-dottir, watched her soft eyes and her delicate fingers steeple as she talked, as the younger woman became almost entranced -- lost perhaps, as if in prayer. She moved to Sinn's side and stroked her hair -- a maternal impulse to be sure, but an impulse as confused as any the Commandant had endured in recent years. She loved Sinn completely but struggled with this most evil of impulses -- the Church regarded such union as heresy, as reason for excommunication and even banishment. She shuddered at the thought; images of others so castigated remained with her from her own time on the force. Bodies withered from relentless solar radiation, some falling to cancers caused by localized radiation from power plants shattered during the resource wars. It was a wasteland now, a wasteland of truly Biblical proportion.
All Bible prophecy had come to pass, hadn't it?
Those non-believers who claimed what had happened was little more than self-fulfilling prophecy had been deluded, and ultimately purged from the body of Christ. What was left had been sanctified, cleansed in the baptismal fount of war and re-birth...
"Was he one of the Taken?" the Commandant heard Sinn ask.
They rarely spoke of such things even now, rarely acknowledged the truth of what had been done in the aftermath of the Secession War, but the Commandant felt she owed Sinn at least this small measure of truth.
"Yes. He was."
"Oh dear God," Sinn whispered.
"Perhaps that is the strength you recognized in the boy."
"Commandant? Could it be that was why he was taken, and not me?"
The thought seemed to hit the Commandant like a blow to the body; it very nearly took her breath away. She walked to her desk and opened a file on her computer and studied its contents. The consequences of failing to act now might well be catastrophic; the boy had been abducted a week ago, and if that was indeed the case there was no telling how deep this went.
Yes, the time had come; they would have to act now. Now and with the full fury of God.
She looked at the link at the bottom of the page one last time before touching it, before summoning a full emergency plenary of the Senatus and the Church, and she wondered with awe in her heart just what might come from all the force she was summoning, ready to unleash on the Unbelievers one last time.
The Watcher's name had once been Thomas Stormgren, and so it was to be once again.
Reunited with his wife and two boys, the nightmare of the past fifteen years was over; the final phase of a plan almost twenty years in the making was beginning to take shape. Surgery to remove the implants had been painful but regeneration sprays had healed the wounds inside of three days; memory still flooded into consciousness causing short periods of anomie -- and these bouts were always followed by severe hunger -- but slowly the elements of this other world were coming back into focus.
Long before the resource wars, long before the ascendance of Church Elders to total power, before the creation of the Senatusconsultus and the Pandect Reforms, select members of the military from around the world, and limited to those few who had not fallen yet into evangelicalism, had been summoned by scientists and engineers to discuss a radical plan, a plan to save a last remnant of reason from the coming darkness. Resources had been diverted, the first layers of infrastructure planned and built. Even as the resource wars raged, even as the First Republic and the other states of the United Nations began to fail under the weight of devastating population increases and catastrophic climactic collapse, the self-proclaimed Blackwatch organization funneled more and more resources into the implementation of a daring plan.
The earth was, scientists had explained, doomed -- at least as far as continued human habitation on the planet's surface was concerned. Plans to move underground would, they reasoned, fail due to the same reasons life failed on the surface: population pressure and dwindling resources managed by the superstitious and those consumed by other mysticisms. All would be as Hobbes and Malthus predicted; life would become nasty, brutish and short and population pressure would ensure final extinction. Life on earth could be extended perhaps five hundred years by moving underground, but the end would be the same. There had to be another way to keep humanity alive, to keep the flame of reason burning.
That way had come from an unexpected place.
NASAs first Terrestrial Planet Finder orbital telescope, launched in 2012, had revealed scores of worlds within 50 light years that seemed likely candidates for research; of these a few dozen had been by spectroscopic analysis revealed to likely be hospitable to carbon-based life. A second more powerful telescope launched in 2015 had been successful in resolving three of these planets in detail sufficient to conclude that human life might have a chance of surviving on them. They had oceans and land masses filled with snow-capped peaks, rivers and forests and grasslands.
Then the conservative resurgence of 2016, the rise of the American Ayatollahs, states seceding from the union -- all happening as the climate began heating at unprecedented rates and crops began failing globally. Local conflicts spilled into regional wars, emerging superpowers were pulled in to protect failing client states and several terse exchanges of nuclear weapons ensued; concurrently, a civil war of sorts raged within militaries around the world as the forces of evangelism, suddenly emboldened by their total resurgence, began to purge non-believers from their ranks. At that point the Blackwatch organization began moving into prepositioned sanctuaries, but many could not move fast enough to protect their families.
The children of warriors were seized to seed a new generation of evangelical soldiers, these children had been collected when possible after their parents had already been killed. Some were simply abducted and their parent's killed; most were raised in monastic orders, indoctrinated in the ways and beliefs of a new world order, raised to protect society until cities could be built under the earth. Perhaps by then they would be ready to rule their new world in His name when the time came.
The Blackwatch, of course, infiltrated the organs of the new state security apparatus, slipped agents into Institutes around the world and resistance fighters were trained and armed and turned loose to harass local governments, and all these activities were coordinated by hundreds of men and women who had been surgically augmented to interface with networked super-computers around the world. In the end there was little said or done by the Northern Senatusconsultus that was not monitored by the Blackwatch; indeed, most human activity on the surface was eventually fed into the growing Blackwatch network.
And Thomas Stormgren the Watcher remembered everything he ever experienced while connected to the network.
Aurelius Krul-son's birth name was Austin Stormgren; he was Thomas' youngest son. His mother, Sarah, escaped with his brother James into the Blackwatch network when the great purge began; she had almost managed to get to Austin before the military police arrived at the base school. They learned later that all children on the base had been taken into "protective custody" -- no reason given. She knew enough about the Blackwatch to trust them when they told her they would be able to monitor him, to look out for him. Though heartbroken, she had resumed her work as an engineer for Lockheed-Martin in their new facility in the cold, hard granite five hundred feet beneath the vast Hydro-Quebec facilities near Chisasibi, Quebec. She even had intermittent video feeds of his progress through school, though more often than not these tended to depress her severely for days on end.
As hard as it had been for Sarah Stormgren to lose this vital contact with her son, when Thomas volunteered to move to the Magic Mountain, the so-called Human-Hybrid Super Computer facility located under an old sanitorium outside of Davos, she had been completely devastated. Thomas had the intellect and, quite suddenly, vast time on his hands; there was, you see, no longer a pressing need for pilots. What active military was left of the First Republic had been concentrated in the hands of US Navy submariners; all had effectively made it under the protective aegis of the Blackwatch until they too were quietly disbanded, albeit voluntarily.
One of the Senatusconsultus' first decrees was to eliminate all military and police who refused to take the new oath of allegiance; this had the unintended effect of driving many undecided officers and enlisted men into covert service for the Blackwatch. By further decree, those high-ranking officers that remained, and that wished to serve government in a high-ranking capacity, had to submit to chemical castration or join a monastic order and work under those restrictions; most of the men and women that chose to submit were, oddly enough, in fact already members of the Blackwatch.
The Senatus, at first composed of fearful old men and ambitious young women, grew increasingly leery of letting these retired military men serve in any capacity unless neutered; the First Reforms enshrined this trend by concentrating power in the hands of people who knew well the evils of testosterone. The only men in the Senatus were as a consequence, and predictably, chemically castrated; only later was it required that they possess a degree from one of the new theological seminaries.
Ironically, it was at this time that women in the Senatus and the Tribonia began experimenting with the use of testosterone, and with quite unexpected results. These women soon became territorial and predatory; they fast developed a lust for power that soon grew to heights once seen only in members of the First Republic's senate. A fair amount of sexual predation was rumored to have been concealed by Justinians guarding the Senatus proper in New Jerusalem. Gender identity issues surfaced during this time, particularly with the Justinian class.
It was also during this period that the use of illegal, mostly homemade narcotics skyrocketed. Psychobiologists had long known there was a connection between a propensity to experience religious euphoria and the various addictive disorders associated with narcotics use; academics studying this phenomenon had concluded decades before that areas in the brain that governed religious euphoria were indeed the same regions of the brain stimulated by narcotics -- and not coincidentally that mediated chemical dependence, as well. With the global environment collapsing, more and more people turned away from their painful new reality and turned inward; people either sought explanation and comfort through religious experience or fell into a narcotics induced escape. Human productivity fell precipitously, apathy became the norm until the varieties of religious experience emerged as a practical solution to the problem of narcotics addiction. With the draconian penalties imposed by the First Reforms, religion finally began replacing narcotics use on a vast scale; some critics implied that, in effect, one addiction had been replaced with another, more desirable addiction. But a further benefit emerged, one with more immediate consequences: people addicted to narcotics had for centuries proven to be very hard to control; yet as had been discovered near the end of the First Republic, those subsumed to religion were much more docile and far easier to manipulate for political gain. The Senatus was able to consolidate power globally after that with only token resistance.
The Blackwatch, not coincidentally, elevated reason to the status of religion and banned traditional religious expression. The practical result of this edict was shocking and almost immediate: depression and suicide rates skyrocketed within months, social cohesiveness declined and apathy increased. Clearly, without some sense of greater Purpose the human animal withered and degenerated into chaos -- or Hell, depending on your point of view. The social engineers counseling the Blackwatch were stunned by this finding and had no ready explanation, and no solution to offer.
It was during this transformative period that the last Terrestrial Planet Finder in orbit made its final and most shocking discovery; this event bound together members of the Blackwatch as nothing ever had.
For you see, the orbital telescope had found, and this quite by accident as it turned out, a sailing vessel adrift in a sea of stars.
End part 4