Cleansed by Fire, Part 2

For the previous installment of this story, click here, or click on the “cleansed by fire novel” link under the Tags heading for this post (or click here) for the full listing of installments. 

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 1, Requiem for the Red Pope (continued)

Lyseena barely made it out the door to the admin suite when she was intercepted by the administrative steward, Willem Staffordis, the only other person to share the large office suite with her and the three admin officers she had just left behind. Willem was both secretary and liaison, her employee but also a de facto agent of the Vatican itself. He was too honest and forthright to be considered a spy, a trait shared by most stewards, thankfully, but still his presence engendered a certain motivation to operate by the book.

He was at least 40 years Lyseena’s senior, although no one knew his true age—Kevan had tried to work it out from scraps of information and queries to some well-paced friends when they celebrated his birthday last year, but stewards’ personnel records were bare of anything but the most basic information: name, month and day of birth, gender and past postings. When asked Willem would typically say that he was young enough to remember he once had youthful desires but old enough to no longer remember why he should miss them. His skin was still so healthy and the lines on his face so fine, despite their overwhelming number, that calling him wrinkled seemed undignified; he almost seemed to be carved from supple pink marble.

His fine lines were deeper and darker this morning, Lyseena noted. He looked more his age today, and the commander templar knew her quest to find some peace for an hour or two was about to be delayed—and perhaps irredeemably poisoned.

“A word, if I may, xec-Juris,” Willem said, taking her gently by the arm before she she could pass into the pit on her way to the roof access door, and leading her off to a quiet alcove. “Your morning has been long and hard already, but you need to know there has been a breach in the pit.”

He caught the darkening in her gaze and added quickly, “A moral breach, xec-Juris, not security.”

Lyseena let out a relieved breath. “Can it wait?”

“Devan and Sutco. Fornication. On premises. With contraception. Yesterday, it seems. The incident came to light while you were alone in the suite.”

“Damnation,” she hissed. Adam Devan and Elisya Sutco—two of her most talented logistical communications specialists; the kind of people she would need to rely on heavily in the coming days to keep all the balls she was juggling airborne. She paused a moment and rubbed at her temple. “They’ve been officially courting for four years without mishap. Elisya would have been old enough for them to petition for the marriage sacrament in what? Two months? With their qualifications, they could have had approval to start a family in less than two years.”

“Four months before she was of age,” Willem corrected her. “But yes.”

“Still, why are you bringing this to me now with everything I have to oversee? Process them and send them to the Jesuits for trial.”

“There will be no trial. They were recorded on video by a drone on routine janitorial duties. It was pure chance that there is any video at all and that someone saw the scene in a random image sweep. It was a maintenance drone, after all, not security. There is no doubt that it is them. They have been shown the video, they have confessed, and they are throwing themselves on your mercy.”

Idiots! They thought too much of what they thought was a friendship with me. They were her people and they could go straight to punishment from the Office Templar upon confession, but did they think she could be merciful in this? They stood a better chance of leniency in a trial. How could they work around templar officers day and night and be so ignorant? A 24-year-old and 28-year-old breaking the laws of the flesh and looking for mercy as if they were merely naughty children.

Lyseena set her mouth in a tight line, looked toward the two empty seats where the two lovers should have been, and shook her head. “Send Devan to Lukas to be gelded, and then have him reassigned to a work farm somewhere near the Pacific. I want him far from me and far from family and friends. Put Sutco into observation until we can be sure she’s not pregnant. If she is, she can raise her child among the Dry Sisters in Capetown, Porto Lima or MiamiDade and then take the vows. If not, she can take the vows right now. If she consents to have her ova harvested, she can have her pick of the three Sistercamps. Otherwise, give her to the harshest Sister in whichever camp is most overcrowded right now.” She waited a pair of heartbeats. “Is there more?”

“What if she doesn’t want the vows?”

“Then tell her I will find her the oldest and coldest cell in Yukkon and personally decorate it to be even more ghastly than it already is, and she can stay there until she is postmenopausal.”

Willem took his cue from her tone and headed for the admin suite to make the necessary preparations. Lyseena simply looked at her suite’s door, the two empty chairs and the door to the roof. The day had started cloudy outside, but the real storms have been indoors. How many more before the day was done?

She sighed, felt to make sure her collar was straight and continued her path to the top of Templar’s Tower. She no longer had an appetite for her midday meal. But she had to eat nonetheless, and now she had other needs to feed as well.

She keyed a private channel on her linkpad. “Dine with me up top if you would.”

(for part 3 of the story, click here)


4 Responses to “Cleansed by Fire, Part 2”

  1. June 23, 2008 at 11:55 am

    That was some scary and entertaining stuff right there. I typically prefer to avoid texts with religious plots, but I would read this book.

  2. 2 Deacon Blue
    June 23, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Eventually I’ll get around to parts of my future world where religion isn’t a fascist political force, but so much more entertaining to write about the tough stuff first. 😉

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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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June 2008

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