The Preacher Man


I had a sharp image of her in my mind from the holocast. She was dressed in a full burqa with several of the top Priests of the girl's monastery by her sides. The three rings of purple, red, and blue on her upper robes marked Abby as an emissary of a CL-25 Ruling Royal, one who also just happens to be the Domine of Karbala. The combination resulted with the Priests at the monastery actually treating Abigail with almost a bit of respect, something unheard of in my world.

Abby also gave me a hand signal telling me not to worry, but during the four long hours of the morning service at the cathedral... my cathedral... Well, it became hard to stay focused on the Prayers.

I looked around my "inner" office, still shaking my head in wonder after more than a month of being here. A better description would be an auditorium with magnificent windows and panoramic views of the ocean and city. Across my vast expanse of rich carpet were occasional islands of rich furniture, designed to support almost any conceivable desire of work, reflection, or relaxation. It really was a bit embarrassing to be surrounded by such opulence.

My coronation to Ruling Royal and Domine transfer ceremony were a shock to the world. Four of the ten S.E.R.C. members under Abdul Quddus, Servant of the Holy, were originally scheduled to fly to Karbala last month, plus a few handfuls of other Ruling Royals and about sixty Non-Ruling Royals. It would have been a full flight for one of the standard eighty-passenger transport jets.

Everything changed when on the morning of October 22'nd, Abdul Quddus himself suddenly decided to come. There was a mad scramble as all available passenger jets in the area were diverted to the capital. The Karbala airport was a logistical nightmare, commercial jets and private Guild jets arriving throughout the late afternoon and even after the start of evening Prayers. The Karbala cathedral was packed, and it is a huge stone edifice that seats over four thousand in the main sanctuary.

I gazed at the ocean, sitting back in my office chair and smiling at the memory. The hotels were so packed, we had more than a few Priests sleeping in the pews later that night, commanders and even some CL-16 Royals. And the Servant of the Holy even took the time to walk over and congratulate me himself. He was warm and amiable to me, a complete shock. His reputation is to be very reclusive. This was Abdul Quddus's first public appearance in over a decade. His handshake was an incredible honor, and it completely changed the political landscape around me.

My secretary buzzed me out of my daydream. Abigail had appeared on time in my outer office. I ordered that she be sent in. Abigail walked into my office meekly, wearing a full burqa, her face completely covered. She approached to within the required four meters, and then knelt and waited.

I was brusque and efficient with her. I snapped my fingers to signal her to lie prostrate on the floor and then I began barking out my orders. I commanded Abby to follow her map of the cathedral complex and go immediately to our private quarters, and there to prepare an interim report on her historical investigation, summarizing all her notes from her trip. I made her repeat twice that it would be ready by end of today's evening Prayers.

I stood with my boots centimeters from her head and warned her that she would be punished if the report were not done on time or incomplete, and that her punishments would be just the ones that I knew she feared the most. I left the threat hanging in the air and waited until I saw her body start to tremble beneath the burqa, and then I curtly dismissed her.

She obediently rose and left my office. As she went through the door, she gave me one small hand signal, very discreet, a brief outward stretch of ring finger and thumb with her left hand. It was our private signal for a playful, mocking, "I'll get you for this" laugh. Ah, the things I do for my video public.

The rest of my work day was packed. There was my rescheduled staff meeting in the late morning, a working lunch with the Sheep Guild, mutton of course, a review of Holy court nominations in the early afternoon, health care budgets after that, and finally an early working dinner before evening Prayers with the station commanders of the Guilds in the transportation keiretsu. I surprised them by flying in a banquet of fresh crab and lobster from Aleppo and shore points north. They seemed very happy with it.

I have so much power here, and there is so much to do! Under the old Holy Administration, there was no incentive to care for the people's needs. The focus of the high-level administration had degenerated in tangled political battles over turf. No more!

The four hours of Evening Prayers began at 6 PM. The large stained-glass cathedral windows and prisms face the ocean to the west, and for the first hour I enjoyed watching the sunlight illuminate the sanctuary with beautiful displays of color.

I retired to my private palace within the cathedral complex shortly after the closing Prayer. Abigail looked tired. I wasn't surprised. She had been at Stanley for six days, and this was the very first time she could let down her guard. Michal enjoys watching the sunrise, and had shifted her purge cycle to 11 PM to 3 AM and soon would be backing it up even more. A few minutes after 11 PM, Abby and I were in our large bed next to a sleeping Michal.

The lights were low, but Abby and I could see each other's eyes clearly. She asked me silently one last time if it were safe to talk.

I took another look at my private monitoring system, green board across. Not that it doesn't pay to be paranoid about this. A few days after my ruling coronation to Karbala Domine, the system was flashing red.

I had spent hours thinking how to respond. Monitoring a person during the hours of low impurity is a capital offence, and the Priesthood prides itself on its truthfulness on this issue. I reluctantly decided to pursue the matter vigorously. A few days later my decision caused a Non-Ruling Royal to be executed.

I'm certain he was just a scapegoat protecting his superiors, but the point was made. There were no further attempts.

I have the active support of the Security Guild in keeping my residential area bug free. There is also the very friendly vibrating wind. There's no way anyone could bounce a microwave beam off a window and listen in. Not that I'm not testing for that anyway. End result? My bedroom is among the most private rooms on the planet, second to none.

"So Abby, what's up?"

She got right to business. "For the last three days, I was working in the ancient ruins of the restricted library at the girl's monastery."

I nodded. "Alone? Were the priests okay with that?"

Abigail giggled. "As an emissary of a CL-25?! Sure. You're held in absolute awe at the monasteries Ilias, the boy's too. The Priests were more than happy to leave me where I couldn't see them trip up over something."

She snuggled against me. I snuggled back and caressed her. This really is a delightful way to debrief someone. I had pulled off her panties before we jumped into bed.

Abby continued. "In one of the library sublevels, off a deserted corridor near the center of the complex, there was a sealed room. I could still make out the personal stamp in the dura-plastic, very faint, Abdul Wahid Sami."

I blinked. "Wow, Servant of the Ineffably Sublime and second Cunif Califar. I didn't know he ever came to Karbala!"

Abigail laughed. "The islands weren't even called Karbala then! We're talking about the early part of the Wild Times! Did you know he was rumored to be one of Bel'dar's sons?"

I stared at Abby in the dim light. "I had no idea."

"I don't think anybody else does either. I've found a few vague references about this, up until about the year 300, and then nothing after that. A lot of information was destroyed by the end of the Wild Times."

Abigail took a slow deep breath as my hand cupped her breast, and she nodded her head in approval. Then she continued, "Anyway, stamped above Sami's mark was the imprint of his successor, Abdul Jabbar, Servant of the Compeller. It stated that all the records found in this archive had been destroyed."

I lay silent for a moment. Abdul Jabbar was probably the most ruthless man in history. It was he who formalized the creation of the permanent inquisition and execution councils, he who was the first of the Nikahaldi, he who formalized the destruction of all women's memories after their wedding days. I sighed and looked at Abby. "I take it you went in anyway."

"Sure! There was some diode lighting and ventilation installed in the room, I'm guessing from the looks of things early in the second millennium. I had to admire the design. The lighting still worked, and I don't think the room had been entered for seven thousand years." Abby turned and sat up, smiling and sitting on me, her butt resting easily on the tops of my thighs, my cock pressing lightly against her pubic fur. Abby reached into a drawer of our night-table, and then raised her closed fist near my head and shook it. There was the rattle of something inside.

"What?" I asked.

"Take a look!" said Abby happily, opening her hand. In her palm were a dozen sparkling crystals, oval in shape, about one centimeter in length on the long axis. "I pushed these into the hem of my burqa. I think they're as hard as diamond. One of the old plastic shelves in the room had a small secret compartment along the back edge."

"Wow, good work Abby!" I stared at the crystals. "What are they?"

Abby wiggled her hips playfully, and then got serious. "I'm not sure, but I have some suspicions. The only other things in the room were five consoles, arranged in series on a desk-high shelf. I'm guessing there were once chairs in the room, that these crystals are some sort of information medium. There were slots on the consoles that looked as if they would accept a crystal of this size being inserted there."

I thought for a long moment. "I've never heard of this kind of storage device."

"I haven't either. My wild hope is we're looking at a technology that pre-dates the War of the Burning Metals."

"Wow! Pre-Bel'dar?!"

"Yeah, that, or maybe contemporary with him. All of official history points to a quick transition of the global refugees becoming enlightened and recognizing Bel'dar as the one true Preacher. In practice, I doubt the transition was that smooth."

I stared at the crystals and nodded. "Did you try to read any?"

Abby wiggled her hips again playfully. "Ah, Ilias! You didn't see the reader machines! They're eight thousand years old, maybe more! They're wrecks, and I have no idea what coding convention was used to store the information."

I nodded again, blushing sheepishly at my blunder. Abby leaned over and gently returned the crystals to the night-table drawer and then laid her body on mine, her hips on my hips, her legs on my legs, her naked body pressing into mine, her soft clean hair falling about my neck and throat. It reminded me of a delightful version of our first meeting in the cold vault at Qataban. I reached up and cupped a butt cheek in each hand, caressing her softness and holding her body close to mine.

My mind drifted back to the memories of the cold vault, warm me, cold Abigail. Was it like that now? I had the warmth of the bed below me and the warmth of Abigail above, and except for my hands cupping her butt, Abigail was bare on her back of her body. I began to caress her butt cheeks, loving the sensuous feel of her smooth skin. "Want some covers?" I asked, rustling the sheets nearby.

"No, I'm fine." Abigail drifted for a while, her eyes closed, and then let out a deep sigh of contentment. "I love you Ilias. I love being your wife. I love knowing you love me back." She wiggled her hips again, stirring up a wonderful promise of pleasure at my groin. "Want to play?"

I tightened my grip on her butt and make some playful thrusts up against her. I let go for a moment, and then grabbed her again, lower on her butt, just at the sweet curve where her butt becomes the backs of her thighs. With my better grip, I was able lift and separate her legs and butt cheeks, rotating her hips and thrusting again, harder and against some VERY interesting places. "Need you ask?"

Abigail cooed at me, and then turned serious again. "Forgive me darling, I should finish my report first. Ilias, the first part of my idea is to return to the girl's monastery as soon as possible, and this time bring Michal along. Her engineering skills are really good. Hmmm, that feels so nice."

I thought for a moment, releasing Abigail's rump and petting her back. "Do you think Michal could get a reader working?"

Abigail frowned. "Not at the monastery. It's too risky anyway. That's why I brought the crystals here. I'm hoping Michal can learn and take enough notes to build a new one here after we return."

"Ah..." I muttered, deep in thought. "But understanding the data..."

"Yeah... It's a challenge."

"But doable? Think you'll be able to read it?"

I felt Abigail shrug. "I doubt the data will be any encoding format we're familiar with, just lots of ones and zeroes, assuming discrete binary data."

I nodded in agreement. "Yes, so we'll need..."

Abby completed the thought, "... a visual mathematician, one with a passion for data exploration. That's the second part of my idea."

I frowned. "That's not Michal."

"No... Ilias?" Abigail leaned close to my cheek and kissed me. "Darling husband?"

"Huh? What?"

"I think I found one, a visual mathematician I mean."

I gulped. "Bring a man into this?"

"No! The person I have in mind is a woman."

I blinked. "An eternal virgin? It's hard to imagine"

Abigail stopped me by placing her fingers on my lips. "Sweet husband, it's not my place to influence whom you marry, not even to suggest. But there's a young woman at the girl's monastery. She'll be at her marriage gate next year."

"Ah." My hands returned to Abigail's butt, gentle caressing her down her flanks. Abigail rested her head back down on my chest, sighing and relaxing her body. I petted her silently for several minutes, thinking about life, the cold vault, now, all the time in between, how much my love for Abigail had grown. "Wife?" I whispered.


"Abby, the idea of me taking another wife... How do you feel about this?"

Abigail was silent for a while, collecting her thoughts. I also started to reflect while I caressed her. I wanted Abigail to know through my hands that her emotions on this issue were important to me.

Adult males are allowed as many wives as their Citizen Level. Most keep the actual number at or close to the maximum possible since having wives is such an economic benefit, valuable labor completely under the husband's control. But there is also a standard that a man can only take one woman at the marriage gate each year. I could of course fill my current quota of twenty-five by marrying divorced or widowed eternal virgins like Michal, but so far I hadn't done that.

Abigail sighed and spoke up, not directly answering my question. "She's a 0.7, the girl I have in mind."

"Oh," I said. "And she'll be in her twenty-first year next year?"

"That's right."

My hand dropped back to Abby's rump from her hip, giving her a friendly pat. There are about 125 girls each year graded 0.7 or above. Currently as the youngest CL-25 and with a pair of recent deaths of Ruling Royals, I was 51'rd in the world's pecking order, and not every man wants a new marriage-gate wife each year. Claiming Abigail's selection was thus quite possible for me but by no means certain. "Maybe she's already spoken for," I whispered.

Abigail sighed and shook her head. "With her specialty in mathematics? I doubt it Ilias. It's not something a man would look for. The virginity drugs will destroy her ability for deep exploration."

I grimaced. "True."

"Besides, you're the Domine here. She's a girl in your monastery. You can exercise the privilege of first-pick a month early, in December."

"I can?"

Abigail giggled. "You don't know about this?"

"No." I was silent for a moment. "I haven't read all the law concerning my rights as Domine. They're so vast, the reading embarrasses me."

Abby kissed my cheek. "Hah! A truly humble Domine! My darling husband! I think that's why I love you." She licked my ear for a moment. "The world really isn't ready for you Ilias." More licks, it tickled, and then Abigail glanced at the clock. It was just past midnight. "She yours if you want her, unless Abdul Quddus himself claims her today, and we both know that's not going to happen." More playful licks, and then a soft whisper, "Ilias, you really should read the law."

"I know," I sighed. "I will. Abigail?"


I repeated my earlier question. "How would you feel about me taking a third wife?"

She rose up slightly and gazed at me in love, playfully wiggling her body. "You're so sweet to ask. I'll be okay. Maybe a small burst of jealousy at first, but I promise I'll keep it well hidden. And then my jealousy will disappear for real. I love Michal now, on the same level I love myself and you. The same love will enfold your new wife... my new sister wife."

I was deeply thoughtful for a moment. "This will be different. Michal is an eternal virgin. This third wife..."

"... will be my equal?"

It took me a moment to collect my thoughts. "Abby, I'm not trying to degrade Michal. But..."

"It's okay Ilias. I know what you mean. Ilias! Think of what we're trying to accomplish. We both know it's my responsibility to get over my possessiveness. Just keep petting me, keep showing me I'm also your wife." She kissed me. "I'll be fine."

"You sure?"

A playful wiggle, delightful in its promise. "Yes."

"Okay," I finally nodded. "I love you."

"And I love you."

I grinned. "What's her name?"

"Ah, I was wondering when you'd ask! Shephatiah."

"Shephatiah... A noble name... pretty too."

Abigail giggled. "Not just the name!"

"You've seen her?"

Abigail nodded. "Yesterday evening, through one of the observation mirrors. I saw her doing her training, during the Hour of Virginity Prayer."

"Oh... You mean with the life-form dolls?"

"Uh huh."

I gulped. "I've never asked you, what that is like."

Abigail laughed. "What do you want to know?"

"Well... Oh, I don't know. What do the girls wear? Are they still in a burqa?"

"For virginity training?!" Abigail bellowed with laughter. "Oh Ilias, you are so cute! We wear nothing at all!" She continued laughing. "And I do believe you're blushing!"

I was. This was so embarrassing. "And you think she's pretty?"

Abigail hiccupped, finally ending her laughter in a burst of concentration. "Trust me on this one Ilias. You won't be disappointed."

More kisses... We petted each other for a while, slowly drifting into playfulness. Abby felt my eagerness for her rise and press into her pubis. "There! That's right! Keep showing me I'm your wife, just like that!"

I smiled in love at this most precious creature above me, my darling wife! Soon my love for her filled the universe of my mind and body.

Chapter 22. Retest

Time: Judgment 1, 8237 5:04 PM

Almost finished! I looked up at the clock from my desk in the crowded monastery classroom. I still had another sixteen minutes before I had to put down my pencil on my three-hour test, and I thought the last part would take just a few minutes.

I took a moment to stretch and look around at my fellow test takers, the 116 boys of the Karbala monastery hoping to enter the Priesthood. They were at their third childhood gate and represented 20% of Karbala's graduating class, the fraction not heading to the Guilds. And we were all taking our tests together, the same test.

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