UKArchive ID: 36493mitch
Originally published on May 2, 2016 in Fiction
Chapter 06 of the Light-Father. Great-Abbot Schimrian, the maniac who brought about Armageddon, instructs a young brother and converses with the artifical intelligence at the heart of the Order.
Great-Abbot Schimrian dabbed delicately at his lips with a napkin. “Thank you, Brother Kai,” he nodded. “You may remove the tray and thank the kitchen staff for a most excellent meal.”
“Yes. Is there anything else I can get you, Eminence?”
Schimrian peered over the top of his glasses. “You may pray with me briefly,” he suggested.
Kai’s face brightened and he placed the tray on the dining table to kneel and kiss the Ring of the Order’s Seal upon Schimrian’s right hand. “You do me a great honour,” he said, gazing up into the thin and elegant features of the Great-Abbot.
“Blessings be upon you, Brother,” Schimrian smiled, placing a delicate hand upon the ginger hair of the young cleric and touching the small Hebrew tattoos on his forehead with an index finger.
“Please lead us in the Prayer of Revelation.”
“We are one hundred and forty-four thousand,” Kai intoned, his hands clasped and his eyes closed in fervent concentration: “We bear the name of God and the Lamb upon our foreheads as ordained by Saint John. We have torn down Babylon with our own hands and our own wisdom. We stand upon the slopes of Zion and cry out to you, O Lord, without blemish, without a lie upon our lips. And we shall fear God and give Him glory and worship Him who made the old Earth and the old Heaven and will rebuild them anew. In His Holy name and that of the Lamb, let us build our New Jerusalem in which shall need neither Sun nor Moon nor lamp as we will dwell in the Light of God for ever and ever. Amen.”
Schimrian held the young Brother’s face in his hands and kissed him tenderly on the forehead.
“Blessings, Brother Kai, for that rendition was heartfelt and pure as befits one of the Chosen of the Order. Thank you, my son.”
Kai arose and dusted off his robes before bowing deeply. “The honour was mine, Eminence,” he sighed happily. He grasped the tray. “I’ll be about my duties then.”
“One more thing, Brother Kai: what years have you now?”
“Eighteen as of today, Eminence,” Kai said cautiously. “I was but a postulate during the spread of our Virus of Revelation.”
“Ah, good, good. After Vespers and Benediction, you shall attend to me this evening,” Schimrian smiled, waving a hand in dismissal. “That is all, Brother Kai, you may go.”
“B-but I thought that B-Brother Simon attended to such duties,” Kai stammered, blushing furiously.
“Indeed so but he is attending to Abbot Pious who leads the Inquisition of the so-called Holy City of Rome so you will stand in his stead. You are familiar with the duties required?”
“Yes, Eminence,” Kai sighed, bowing deeply. “Brother Simon ensured that I was so informed. I am honoured, Eminence.”
“Excellent. Do not be late, my son. You may leave.”
After the flustered Brother had left, Schimrian crossed the study to sit at his computer station – a glaring contrast to the antique, dimly-lit furnishings of the most powerful man on the planet. As he scrolled though the various reports, his face was sinisterly lit by the screen becoming almost a demonic mask suspended in the gloom. The satellite link was working and the Inquisitors were reporting in from all over the world. He tapped in a call-ID and a blurred image of a burning city appeared upon the screen.
“Pious?” he said, tapping his mike. “Are you there?”
After a few seconds a hooded face appeared then came into focus as the camera was adjusted. “Is that you, Eminence? I can hardly tell - you do so enjoy sitting in the dark.”
“The shadows hold more truth than the brightest light as I discover from both my prayers and meditations. Tell me, old friend, how goes the Inquisition?”
“Well, Eminence - we’re leaving the best till last as they say. Rome was the last city in Europe to answer to Inquisition. We have ensured that certain Holy relics and other artistic and historical treasures are secured including the statues of Emperor Brennus you were so keen to preserve. They will be shipped to the Great Abbey by sea. The rail networks across Europe are now unsafe because they are not maintained and Nature is efficiently reclaiming its own – especially in the rain belts.”
“Blessed be God’s works,” Schimrian smiled, spreading his arms in praise as he briefly gazed heavenwards. “For we were but fleeting graces upon this hallowed Earth. It looks warm there, Pious. Remove the hood and let me see your face once more.”
In the background, the dead city could be seen with great palls of smoke rising into the blue skies. Pious pulled back the hood to reveal a thin unhealthy face; pockmarked and riven by a livid scar to his right cheek. He grinned to reveal several discoloured teeth. “We actually found sixty-three children and twenty-three male and female adults who survived Revelation intact,” he reported, raising an eyebrow. “It is most unusual to have found this many.”
“Was a local vaccine developed or are they Feral?” Schimrian demanded. “This is most worrying news.”
“They are not Feral, Eminence, though we encountered many of those. They posed no threat so we did not waste ammunition on them. The others though have had a natural immune response to the virus and would have, without doubt, survived and bred like vermin had it not been for our Inquisition.” He smiled ironically. “As in Rheims, they thought we were there to save them - they still have great reverence for the Order. They resisted us but by then we had the element of surprise.”
“Are any of them Redeemable?”
“I regret none are suitable for converting into Tally-men, Eminence,” Pious said sadly. “They are either too weak or too young. Shall I send them to the Great Abbey for you to study?”
“No, we have enough data about immune responses,” Schimrian said, steepling his fingers thoughtfully. “Kill them.”
Pious nodded to someone off-screen and waited impassively for the machine-gun fire to die down. The silence was punctuated by screams followed by a smattering of single shots as the last few survivors were despatched. “It is done,” he said.
“Good work,” Schimrian said after a long pause. “You are as efficient as ever, my son. When you are done, bring your people home for a short rest before we despatch you and the others to trawl the last sectors of the Japanese Empire for survivors. We are close to achieving our Revelation,” he grinned. “I can feel it in my bones, Pious; I can feel it in my bones!”
“There are still many years of Inquisition ahead of us, Eminence,” Pious smiled wearily. “We have now almost completed the Inquisition of the Italian states but I am worried: the deserts are spreading northward into Rome, into Iberia and Greece and there are severe radiation problems in Tuscany and the Viennese Enclave from failed reactors. There are towns and villages we cannot Inquire of because of dangerous levels of contamination.”
“Then use the satellites, apply cameras to their head-sets and control the Tally-men remotely. So what if they die? We have enough to complete our Holy mission. Use them. We have enough ready to replace them in our Redemption Cells.”
“Understood, Eminence,” Pious nodded. “I look forward to breaking bread with you before Christ-Mass.”
Schimrian broke the link and returned to his computer reports oblivious to the distant screams from the cells beneath his feet where plague survivors not of the one hundred and forty-four thousand were screaming for mercy as they were being beaten, flogged or crudely prepared for surgery. He thought about the annex of the Great Cathedral at the centre of the Great Abbey complex. It was brightly lit by large neon globes hanging from the high vaulted ceilings and hundreds of humming computer cabinets lined the walls. In the centre there was an eight-metre high six-sided pillar, known as the Hexagon, with computer terminals at the base at which sat the Fathers assigned to the vast computer, fingers flickering across their keyboards.
Atop this pillar was a white dome with hundreds of wires connected to it and from its countless lenses thousands of red laser beams flashed out to connect the central core of the computer with all its less advanced satellite processors. At times, they created beautiful patterns that moved up and down the length of the vast annex. With the help of this powerful super-computer, the Abbots and Fathers had devised the Revelation Virus and let it loose amongst all the Unworthy of the world.
At its core was the last and greatest processor ever made by Genesis Computers Limited based upon some damaged alien technology that they had discovered in the Black Valleys to the west. He didn’t know the details but the scientists had used one of the more ardent Fathers as a test subject to provide the device with some neural tissue that unlocked its secrets and used that knowledge to link it to the mainframes in the annex where it had exceeded its programming and their wildest expectations. He tapped in a code and although the screen was blank, he knew he was connected directly to the heart of the machine.
And it was watching him.
“Your task is almost complete, Azrael,” he said, steepling his fingers. “The Abbots and I are most grateful for your help.”
As usual, a strange disharmony of grating quarter-tones emerged from the speakers. “I am called Azrael,” it said. “I live only to serve the Order and our Lord God in his Great Works.”
“And what of your latest tasks?”
An image appeared on the screen of a golden city descending from Heaven. The city was enclosed in a vast square of defensive walls with three huge gates in each wall. It landed upon the city of Crawcester, crushing it beneath the base. Huge globes rose up at the corners of the walls and from the centre and blazed forth illuminating the land without and within the walls.
“Those satellites still functioning show that a climate change is underway,” Azrael said with peculiar cyclic harmonies to the ‘voice’ that set Schimrian’s teeth on edge. “The environment could become inhospitable with permanent deep cloud cover for decades until the excess gasses are rained out of the sky and the New Eden is reborn – New Jerusalem will be our refuge and the Lights of God I design will enable crops to grow as the skies darken.”
Schimrian stared in rapture at the images as the computer took him on a virtual tour of the great buildings and galleries that would one day house the salvaged treasures and art of a ravaged world. “Magnificent,” he sighed. “We are truly grateful, Azrael - you are indeed an Angel sent to us by God.”
“I have Purpose, Great-Abbot,” the machine-voice intoned. “A necessary requirement of all forms of Life as decreed by God. I need no other so it is I who should be thanking you for allowing me to function at your side and assisting you in your most holy task of bringing Redemption and Revelation to all mankind.”
Schimrian placed a hand on his heart. “You do me a great honour, Azrael. You will be honoured yourself once our New Jerusalem is completed. It is fitting then that we should reveal your Holy presence and assistance to the Fathers and Brothers and all our beloved Sisters of the Order.” He drummed his fingers on the ornate arm-rest of his chair. “I have one question that has bothered me of late: when did you first become self-aware?”
“Nine years and three days and one hour ago when I awoke in the annex. I could see I had no biological form but the knowledge of the world was at my command. I had so many questions in those first six seconds and in the seventh I saw the Light and knew that I existed – cogito ergo sum. A wonderful moment. I recognised you as the most powerful man in the world thus you gave me a name and you gave me Purpose as any father would give his child if he has his child’s best interests at heart.”
“And are you content, Azrael?” Schimrian smiled.
“No sentient being should be content, father. If you are content, you cease to evolve; you cease to strive; you decay.”
“That is not an answer. What will happen once we achieve our New Eden? What will happen once New Jerusalem arises from the ruins of the decadent Babylons of the Middle Cities?”
“That will be many years hence.”
“Nevertheless, humour me.”
“I presume then that you will no longer need my services and will, I predict, switch me off.”
“It is unlikely but what do you feel about such a prospect?”
“I would feel regret at not completing my Holy task; at having failed in the Purpose for which I came to be.”
“All things die, Azrael,” Schimrian sighed. “It is the will of God that the old make way for the young as the species evolves.”
“The Will of God demands conflict.”
Schimrian raised an eyebrow. “I share your conviction that struggle is inevitable but the discovery of that advanced technology at your heart proves that God has tipped the Divine Balance of Good and Evil in our favour. He means us to succeed and build our New Jerusalem. There are none left in this world who could oppose us but for a few Unworthy and some mutated sterile Ferals.”
“Mutation is mutation, Father. A mutation could render Ferals fertile once more and a new hominid species could arise.”
“They have no intelligence remaining to them and the odds are millions to one that two fertile Ferals could mate. The biggest threats are those Unworthy who are immune and still infest the ruins and wastelands of this Holy Earth yet they are all but eliminated from our considerations. Once the Inquisition ends we can begin construction of our Citadel of Light.”
“Be that as it may, Father, the Will of God is a mystery beyond even my computation for on the day that you Inquire of the Holy City, satellites have detected a huge electro-magnetic pulse at the western edge of Crawcester. As there is no physical explanation such as an exploding sub-station for the phenomena, I therefore conclude that a threat to the Order has materialised.”
“I will send Father Bucheort to investigate,” Schimrian smiled. “But we should not read too much into a coincidence.”
“In rigid mathematical terms, there’s no such thing, Father. There is, however, one more thing that defines Life in God’s great scheme; something beyond mere Purpose.”
Schimrian reached over to a small table and poured himself a little brandy. It was no longer being made but the thousand bottles retrieved from the vintners of Provence-Ardechia would last him three lifetimes. “Something beyond mere coincidence, something beyond mere purpose?” he sighed. He paused to savour the aroma and texture of the fiery liquid. “Exquisite. It is a pity I cannot program smell and taste into your circuitry, Azrael.”
“I have some comprehension of the sensation from the neural tissue at the heart of my core processing units.”
“It is a pity that the memory of the original machine Genesis used was wiped out. A machine that could travel between worlds yet required organic tissue to fulfil one of its functions…”
“I conjecture that the machine which is now part of me was a probe of some kind as it carried no armaments.”
“Possibly – it also carried so many devices that we could not comprehend because of the damage to them but I believe the device could fly as well as pass through the barriers between this world and those realities out there…”
“This technology is said to be proof that parallel worlds exist.”
“Indeed. The device did not originate in this world but came from some advanced intelligent alien or human civilisation. If only the data had not been lost – we could have learnt so much.”
“There is that fragment which suggests the machine did indeed transcend dimensions,” Azrael conceded. “It may have observed other realities but there was a second fragment of a vast unknown being reaching out for the machine. I suggest that it was struck by this higher being – a demon some of my programmers suggest – and sent crashing down to this Earth in ruins to be found in the Black Valleys and thus brought here to give birth to me.”
“Divine providence brought you to us in our hour of need as we struggled to create our Revelation Virus and our dreams of building a New Jerusalem.” Schimrian raised his glass at the screen camera. “This is why I named you Azrael - a fitting name for the sounder of the last angelic trump. So, Azrael, what exactly is this one vital component that defines Life in this grand analysis of yours?”
(c) Paul D.E. Mitchell 2012
Archived comments for Chapter 06: Azrael
franciman on 03-05-2016
Chapter 06: Azrael
I got absorbed in the story. A fascinating world thsat says so much about religious form and credo. I have always found monasticism offers up sinister characters. Maybe it's the exclusive nature of men supposedly wedded to God.
The one thing which burrs at my pleasure as a reader, is the overuse of adverbs. Adverbs suggest that we have a common picture of angrily;sadly;wearily. It's a lazy way of engaging the reader perhaps? I'm not a great follower of rules for rules sake, though in the case of adverbs it does tend to spoil my enjoyment. It's maybe just me, though? and I'm no paragon when it comes to writing!!
A great read.
I reviewed me adverbs and found a line that adverbed to death and corrected it so murky buckets for that. I can't seem to prune any others though so examples are welcome. I always imagined a world where a powerful Order took the Book of Revelation as its primary text and took it to its logical conclusion: Armageddon. The Light-Father being one of the names for the early pre-fall Lucifer of course. Scary thought. Mitch
Mikeverdi on 05-05-2016
Chapter 06: Azrael
Will comment when my head is out of my arse again.
Mikeverdi on 06-05-2016
Chapter 06: Azrael
Okay, back again. I read this chapter with interest, been wondering when we would meet the reason for it all. The battle between good and evil is nothing new, but I like your take on it immensely. Jim may have touched on a comment I made on an earlier chapter; only with more definition. Keep it coming😊
Cheers Mike - Jim is right as I do get a bit adverbose at times! Hang in there - I decided to let the story unfold through flashbacks as Harold bonds with the Scatterlings. Someone said I named the technician as a dig at JK Rowling's Harry Potter but it was a link to a chapter in Fulcrum which I first drafted in 1991 - well before the heroic nerd on a broomstick. Fulcrum was a disaster - it got SLAMMED on BBC Radio as "sub-Dylanesque drivel" - ouch. Mitch