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But for the Grace of God 1

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  • But for the Grace of God 1

    Reading some old fics; I felt inspired; and decided to put some new fiction in this old forum.

    Decided writing Miriam. Now, I don't intend to write her as pure evil, nor do I plan to make her too 'nice'. However, it should be noted that Miriam's views are her, and not my own. (for starters, I'm not religious)

    Hope you like it, and Iùll probably end up making this a 'describe the game' thing, as Iùve read some very good ones from Hydro

    The horrible sound of the crash faded, its echoes mingling with the sound of heated metal cooling.

    Miriam Godwinson did not open her eyes, forcing air in her lungs, feeling her bruised body ache with the effort.

    “Amen.” She finished the prayer that had lasted for the entire fall from the sky. Her voice was calm, she was calm, in many ways she felt calmer than she had during this entire mission. There were people who needed her here.

    “Amen” Came the answer from hundreds of shaken, scared men and women, the only response as they boggled in amazement of being still alive.

    Miriam wasn’t surprised. Providence. She could almost see Zhakarov roll his eyes, but there was no engineer that could have convinced her the pod wouldn’t have delivered them safely on the surface of Chiron.

    She opened her eyes. It was dark, only the emergency lighting still working, and even those had been damaged. Quickly, with trained efficiency she loosened the straps that had kept her in place during the hellish descent. Her arms felt heavy, but she knew she’d better get used to it. Chiron gravity. “Doctor Duchateau, doctor Petersen, you take care of those with life-threatening injuries, Lieutenant Martinez, gather some people with martial training and suit up. Doctor Nielsen, gather what you need to make a scan of how hazardous the air is to us. Mr. Carson, please get a suit for me.”

    In the few panicked moments before the ship came apart, Miriam had taken the time to get acquainted with the people. People who had lost contact with the rest of the ship and had spent the Unity’s last hours in even deeper confusion and terror than anyone else.

    The hallway was slanted downwards, which meant she had landed with her eyes towards the heavens. Grabbing the handles, she walked lower, taking the time to deliver a comforting touch, a confident word or even just an smile and a nod. The terror of the descent and the crash had ended, and now, after the relief, came the fear of what was outside.

    By the time she arrived at the place where they’d make an exit, the rest of the team that was to go outside was prepared. There was one more suit. Hers.

    Calmly, with a beatific smile, she took the suit and began to protect herself from whatever might be outside. Martinez gave a salute. “Lieutenant Commander. I must protest you accompanying us! The danger outside might be…”

    “I know about the danger outside, lieutenant Martinez.” Miriam interrupted him, an intense look in her eyes. “But the Lord kept me safe through worse this day. I know He will provide for us to survive whatever we will find beyond this door.” She turned to the people watching. “This is a new world, a new chance. It is not coincidence we survived. We fled a dying planet on a hastily built ship and escaped the exploding ship in this humble pod. Is there any doubt that someone watched over us? That our prayers were heard?”

    There was an awed silence. Miriam finished zipping down the suit. “What is outside will not be Eden. Humanity has brought corruption and destruction upon itself and the world , why should we be rewarded for it? But that we live shows that He still cares for us, and, like a loving father, wishes to give us a fresh start. This time, we must not fail Him.” She closed her helmet and crossed herself. Many of the others mimicked the gesture.

    Miriam used the personal communicator. “And thanks for the concern, lieutenant Mrtinez.” She said on a private frequency. “I know you are a courageous man. I expect I will ask people to walk into danger in the future, and I am glad to see you’re a person of valour.”

    “I… ah… thanks, Lieutenant Commandeer.” Martinez answered.

    “Now, let us face this new world together.” The message was given to the others in the team, and the inner seal opened. Four soldiers, one scientist and Miriam stepped into the airlock. Behind them the door they had walked through was sealed hermetically. Miriam held back a shudder. The moment of being sealed between those two doors was always the scariest moment she felt. Like being caught between two worlds.

    And then the door opened. Bright light shone in their eyes. They were looking straight into the rising or setting suns. Miriam walked forward, her boots leaving a mark in the sand. The armed men followed carefully behind her, shredding rifles aimed at the land around them.

    Miriam looked at the ground. Little plants were growing there, green with chlorophyll. The land around her was covered with the vegetation. Tears came to her eyes. As in a dream, she walked forward. A pristine clean world… without cities turned pools of crime and corruption, without sinful corporations making people sell their souls, without the constant fear that those in power would destroy everything the next day…. without the looming feeling that humanity had failed its maker, and He had left them to destroy themselves.

    Doctor Nielsen’s voice shook her from her reverie. “The scan is complete.”

    She turned to him, as did the soldiers. Much depended on this. It would be a miracle indeed if the air was something humans could breathe unaided, and thus Miriam hoped for it. But they had filters for many possibilities. Filters that could last them for a while, and that weren’t that difficult to produce more of.

    But if the atmosphere held insufficient oxygen…

    “It’s… it has too much nitrogen for humans to breathe but… otherwise we should be able to walk around unprotected.” The man’s voice broke. “We… we can build our home here.”

    Miriam dropped to her knees. Looking directly at the sun, forcing her eyes open as much as she could. “Thank You, my Lord! Thank You for this chance!”

    She heard the ones behind her fall to their knees as well.

    Miriam bowed her head when she could no longer bear to look in the light. “I promise You, I shall make sure this world shall be as You want it.”
    Last edited by Rand Al'Tor; June 27, 2006, 11:09.
    Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.

  • #2
    The first hours after the news was spread and several people came out to take stock of their new home were joyous. Men and women freely wept as, for the first time in decades, they felt land under their feet.

    Time for celebration was short however. The pod held only a limited supply of air, power, food and water. Fortunately, the people that had been allowed to board the Unity had been chosen for their skills, and soon a small village of pre-fabricated houses started to form.

    Some of the plants they found there proved to be edible, if not particularly tasty. The few seeds they had with them grew at an astounding rate, promising rich crops in the future. Dr. Petersen smiled, saying that the ground held plenty of water for plantlife, and the climate was likely . Ironically, mere moments after he said this, the colonists were surprised by the first instance of rain, which was carefully filtered an stored. Doctor Duchateau who had been nearby jokingly said that, once they could have beach holidays, Doctor Peterson was banned from talking about the weather.

    Lieutenant Martinez and his men had scouted the area further, careful not to stray too far from the escape pod. They reported that there was an ocean to the west, and that the land sloped upwards in the east. A blond girl called Susan was trying to coax the damaged computers to give up some of the scans it must have made of the surroundings as it fell. In the meantime, she sent out messages across different frequencies, trying to get someone to respond. There came no answer, and Miriam started to realize that while others might hae survived, for now she should act as if they were the last that had survived of humanity.

    There was little time to think on long terms like that, though. She had always respected Captain Garland, but feeling first hand what supreme command demanded raised her oppinion of him all the more. And besides the thousand-and-one decisions that needed to be made, she still had a job as Psych Chaplain.

    Each day, at dawn, she would hold a service in the escape pod, both preaching her faith as outlining the tasks that presented themselves that day. And always her eyes would scan the multitude of people, barely a thousand strong. When she would see doubt or scepsis, she made sure to arrange an opportunity to talk with that person. Faith was like a plant... in its early years, it was vulnerable, and needed encouragement to truly find its roots in someone's soul. She couldn't save all of them, but most of them she could reach, and every day, more and more people sung firmly along when it was time to sing psalms.

    There were also tragedies. Some people had been injured in the crash, and despite the doctors' best efforts, not all of them survived their wounds. They were buried in the fertile soil, pieces of debris marking their graves, as no other material could be spared. A single piece of wreckage had a long list of names scratched in it. Names of other people that hadn't made it to the escape pods, lost loved ones. And then, there were the people they had left behind on that far away planet. Even if humanity had managed to avoid destroying the world God had made for them, they were now so very far away... countless of miles and more than forty years. But as Miriam reminded those mourning, time and space meant nothing when held in the face of eternity.

    During all this time, Miriam wore her UN uniform, and was addressed as Lt. Commander. Her position as leader was undisputed, and the few times someone hesitantly mentioned her actions weren't entirely according to UN regulations, they were ignored. And as the settlement began to be able to sustain itself, and thoughts turned to the future, Miriam spend a great deal of time in prayer and contemplation.

    The United Nations... the mission... I pledged myself to their purpose, eventhough I did not agree with everything they did. I came to this mission because I believed this was the best place I could help people. Now... I am in this position, where I can do more than merely protest against immoralities. Where the UN guidelines I feel are sinful are no longer enforced, yet my duty as an officer is to enforce them nonetheless. Should I remain loyal to the charter I signed, and guide these people in a way my soul knows is wrong, or should I forsake that oath, and follow the path of righteousness.

    Once she asked the right question, the answer was easy.

    At the consacration of the remnants of the escape pod as the first church on Chiron, or the planet or Planet as some people started to call it, Miriam Godwinson stoof for the first time without her uniform. Instead, she took a pragmatical green suit, her cross prominently over it. The mood in the church was tense, the people felt that what was to come was important.

    "My fellow faithful, it has been many weeks since our fateful arrial on this world. Through the Lord's favour, and everyone's hard work, we can now truly say we have made our home here, now that the Lord God has a home to live among us." She saw the smiles on everyone's faces. Behind her hung a cross on an orange background she had found.

    "Now that we have done these things, it is time for us to consider what brought us here. I do not believe in chance. There was a reason why we surived all this. There is a reason why the world was in such a state we had to flee earth." She spoke in a normal voice, so that those in the back had to strain to hear.

    "SINFULNESS!" She shouted, then took a deep breath and spoke normally. "Sinfulness. Not just in those that ruled, but those that followed as well. Greed drove corporate leaders to defile the lands the Lord gave in our keeping, and greed drove their servants to lose sight of their godly duties as they pursued vain luxuries. Pride made scientists believe themselves gods, create unnatural monstrosities and made people think they could 'learn' God out of existance. Wrath for the endless wars for this nation or that, lust for the mindless acceptance of perversion, gluttony for the vile chemicals that people used to desecrate their bodies, envy for the hold of crime on the streets and people's souls. And sloth? Sloth because we didn't do anything about it until it was too late!"

    The church was deathly quiet. Miriam let her gaze go over them all, knowing each of them was considering his own actions back on earth. After a few seconds, she continued. "If we go on like we did on earth... if we continue to accept sin because we are too lazy or timid to fight it, we shall harvest the same bitter crops. And if we scorn this second chance God has given us, His wrath shall be worse than the ravages we left behind."

    She looked down, looking almost ashamed of herself, avoiding the eyes of her congregation. She didn't need to see them to know they were distraught at the idea, that they saw the problem as she did, and might see the same solution. When she raised her head, she knew her eyes burned with the conviction she felt. "And so, we will NOT make the same mistake again! Here, we will build a new nation! And it shall be a righteous one! It will care not about the colour of one's skin, or the country of one's birth, it shall care only for the purity of its soul, and the favour of the Lord!"

    Miriam stepped forward, arms wide, eyes up, tears flowing freely now. If she had any doubts, they were gone now, the Lord filled her with conviction. "I renounce the United Nations, the mission and rank they gave me! What happened on the ship clearly showed they are too tainted with wickedness! I renounce America, and all loyalties I might have left to it, whatever it might have become, it became nothing! My heart now serves only the Lord! Let me be known as Sister Miriam Godwinson, and may I and those with me be known as the Lord's Believers!" She looked at the people and extended a hand. "Now who among you is my brother?"

    The church exploded in roars of approval.
    Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


    • #3
      Miriam left the church under guard by Martinez, who had several men standing around her with weapons drawn. As they headed towards Miriam's small house, hunderds of Believers erupted in a psalm that could no doubt be heard far over the Chironian landscape.

      Martinez quickly made a scan of the house, then, with a reverend bow he left to stand guard in front of the door. Miriam took the time to sit down and take herself a glass of water. She was thirsty. She felt she could drink half the water they had in stock and still not be sated. But she was happy. The people had chosen to follow God, and she would guide them in this. As soon as things calmed down, she would start with appointing advisors, and they would start creating a new world under God. She was just going to sit here for a bit and listen to the hymns coming from outside... once they had calmed down... she would get up. She was tired, but it wouldn't do to... sleep...

      She dreamt of magnificent churches, and people smiling as they sung praises to the Lord Christ in them.

      "Sister Miriam...?" The sound roused her from her slumber. Quickly she snapped to attention, resisting the urge to ignore the sound for just a bit. Asleep at a time like this! What a way to set an example.

      "Ah... yes, Lieu... Brother Martinez?" Would she retain military ranks, or call all military people 'brother'? A question for another time.

      "Forgive me for interrupting your rest, but there are people that insist to see you. I can tell them to wait if you like."

      Miriam quickly straightened her clothes and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. "No, no, that's fine, I should not sleepat this time anyway." She stiffled a yawn. Martinez' expression suggested that as far as he cared she had the right to sleep all day and whoever was outside deserved a thumping for having him wake her. "Who is it, and what do they wish to speak about?"

      "Mehmet Ankhar and Abraham Silverstein." he said the names slowly. "They said you would probably know what they wish to speak about hearing their names."

      All thoughts of sleep immediately left Miriam, the importance of the next conversation falling down on her like a yoke. A wrong decision here, be it too harsh or too soft, can endanger the souls of people years from now, or even bring this holy work to a bloody end "Let them in. Do search them for weapons, but treat them with courtesy."

      Martinez bowed and walked out. A moment later two bearded men entered. both of them were dressed in pragmtical work clothes, though one of them had a small piece of cloth covering his skull. the other one had a tanned skin. Miriam rose from her chair. "Good day, gentlemen."

      The two men nodded and bowed in greeting. "Good day, Sister Godwinson," the man with the arabic descent said with a slight accent. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Mehmet Ankhar. I have been chosen as imam by the community of muslims here."

      The other man nodded. "I am Abraham Silerstein. To my regret, I can not call myself a fully ordained rabbi, but I am the closest there is right now, and I speak in the name of the jewish here."

      Miriam nodded. "Welcome gentlemen. I had expected a visit of this nature. I am glad you came so soon." She sat down. So did the two men.

      There was a moment of tense silence. it was Mehmet that broke it. "Your speech, Sister Miriam... it was... astounding. You said that what we were all afraid to think. You forced us to face the corruptness of the world we left... and our guilt in letting it come so far."

      Abraham nodded. "Indeed. Even among my people, there are few who deny that the words you speak, are the words of God"

      Miriam smiled. An auspisious beginning. She inwardly thanked the Lord for speaking through her. "I rejoice to hear this, and am glad that we agree on those matters." She gave them a solemn look. "But I have the feeling it is not the matters we agree upon you came to speak me about."

      The acting rabbi sighed. "We find ourselves in a torn position, Sister Miriam. On one hand, we feel your cause is right, and we wish to help you in building a new land of God, on the othe rhand..." His voice died away.

      Mehmet took over. "On the other hand, we feel some of your beliefs are... fundamentally incorrect." He was forcing himself to look her in the eyes, and she narrowed them. "I am of course talking about the prophet Jesus."

      Miriam nodded. The words were out, the genie was out of the bottle. But this matter had to be dealt with sooner rather than later. How many muslims and jews were there? Would they fight for their belief? Could she root them out right now? What would the cost be in men and materials? More importantly, what would the cost be on her conscience if she ordered the two errant faith's rooted out? Her dreams had not included the new nation to be baptized in blood. These people were godly, they were just misguided on important matters.

      On the other hand... she might never get an opportunity like this. Islam and Judaism, its followers overawed and few. If she tolerated them, they might grow stronger once again, and she'd always carry them with her. Many people would come to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was nothing but a man, their sins would not be forgiven and their souls would be damned. Dared she take that risk?

      When she spoke, her voice was firm. not unkind, but firm. "I do believe that Jesus Christ was God's only begotten son, and that he died on the cross and rose three days later, and it is through him we obtain forgiveness for our sins. Any righteous nation must carry out this message, for all people are sinners and so need forgieness." The two people tensed.

      "However, I feel that it is not God's will that you are forbiden from worshipping Him in your own way, eventhough I believe it is not as He intended. But I cannot allow you to lead christians into damnation. So here is my decree. All muslims and jews are allowed to worship in peace. However, they may not try to convert anyone not their children, and their children will be taught about our Lord Jesus Christ in school, so they may decide when they come of age what faith they will hold. Also, all jews and muslims will fully obey the laws of the Lord's Believers." She took a deep breath. "What say you?"

      The two men listened solemnly. They exchanged a long look and then nodded. "We accept your decision, Sister Miriam, and thank you for your consideration." Mehmet said.

      Abraham put his hand to his heart. "This only convinces me further that even if I disagree on that matter, you truly do speak His words."

      Miriam allowed herself a smile. "Thank you. I hope your believers will not bring up old feuds?" She asked.

      Mehmet scowled. "Not if I have anything to say about it. Young hotheads that mistake being willing to fight for Islam with being eager to fight for hatred have caused us to lose... too much already."

      Abraham shook his head. "Jerusalem. Oh, it truly was a prologue for the rest of the world what happened to that holy city."

      Miriam nodded and shuddered. She had remembered the day when the news came that the Holiest and most fought over city in the world had ceased to exist. Accusations had been made, but nobody had ever found out exactly WHO had planted the nuke.

      She held out a hand. "Then today, brother Silverstein and brother Ankhar, let this be a new start. Let those that serve God never fight each other again. May this city be the start of, as you said, a new Holy Land. And we shall call this city 'New Jeruzalem' so that we may never forget that which was lost."

      Mehmet and Abraham put their hands on her. "Let it be so."

      Miriam nodded. "Then I shall let you talk to your faithful, brothers. And I shall make sure that it is known that while we all pray for your souls, you are not to be persecuted." She stood. "And then, there are many other matters that need my attention.

      The two men undrstood the dismissal and excused themselves. Miriam allowed herself a smile. She had to have the sin pride stain this moment, but she did think that went as well as could be expected.

      Martinez entered, and she gave her orders. Martinez nodded, but seemed to fret over something.

      "Is there something amiss brother Martinez?" She asked.

      "Well... Sister Miriam it's that... eh... I know you're protestant and all... but... I'm raised catholic..." he looked genuinely worried. "Do you think I'm going to hell?"

      Miriam sighed and took his shoulder. "Brother Martinez, there is no more pope, so that takes away a great deal of the difference. But you SHOULD remember that Mary was just a human woman that did the task God asked of her, no more, no less. She is not a god or close to it"

      "Like you?" Martinez said.

      Miriam smiled. "Exactly, just like I am a perfectly normal woman, with human shortcomings."

      Martinez nodded enthusiastically. "Thank you, Sister Godwinson, it is all much clearer now!" He bowed and left.

      It was only a second later that Mirian's empathic finetuning caught on to her poor choice of words. She slapped her forehead. "Oh..." She groaned. "My Lord, I truly did not mean it to come out like that."
      Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


      • #4
        When Miriam left the house, the village seemed to be in an uproar. One of the soldiers reported something to Martinez, who looked absolutely furious.

        "What is going on, Brother Martinez?" she asked.

        Martinez scowled. "Some bastards have broken down their house and made off with some gear! Doctor Duchateau is with them! The ****ers must have..."

        "Brother Martinez, mind your language!" Miriam thundered, and the tall Hispanic man seemed to shrink. "Now, how many have left, when did they leave and how much did they take?"

        Martinez shuffled his feet. "Just two dozen men and women. They left about two hours ago, and took batteries, solar cells and filters with them, as well as some material to build housing. They left individually, so our guards didn't stop them."

        The red-haired woman considered this. She knew Doctor Duchateau to be an atheist, and he had often expressed concern over the direction Miriam had taken the colonists. There were a few people she expected would have joined him. In a way, this could be for the best. They wouldn't fit in this society, and this was more pleasant than the alternatives. Enforcing God's rule against those stubbornly defying His will cost more than they could afford and... to kill them... she would make any sacrifice for the Lord, but if it could be avoided...

        "Shall we pursue them, Sister?" Martinez asked, having a few armed men around him.

        "No," Miriam said. "we have enough air filters and batteries for now, while we lack people. I regret that these people did not see the righteousness of our society, but the loss for them shall be worse than for us. Have it be known though, that they are no longer welcome among us. Let them live in the wilderness and the darkness that they have chosen."

        Martinez bowed. Miriam nodded. "Now, we shall hold council in my quarters in ten minutes. It is time we started to get some work done!"

        Rand: Yes, we're actually going to start with the first turn soon
        Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


        • #5
          and we've got the ten year research stasis explained

          The first council was a simple affair. After a prayer Sister Godwinson had explained their first priorities. Making New Jeruzalem self-suffient was of course the first priority. Afterwards they'd start finding out more about their surroundings and found a second city. This was followed by handinmg out titles and responsibilities.

          A broad man of Polish descent called Alojzy Sanzky was named chief engineer, a middle-aged African-American woman took the responsibility of running the colony's every day affairs, Lieutenant Martinez became Knight-Commander Martinez and given command of the few soldiers they had.

          And he, Doctor Nielsen, he had been named science officer. It hadn't been unexpected. The only person whose education and experience rivaled his own was Doctor Petersen, and he was dedicated to provide medical assistance rather than research. Doctor Nielsen on the other hand had been approved on the mission by Zhakaroiv himself.

          And that was, of couyrse, part of the problem. The animosity between the psych chaplain and the science officer of the Unity had been a public secret. And now she had given him the position his former superior had had.

          So when she had asked him to stay a bit longer, Doctor Nielsen had been nervous to say the least. Sister Miriam had given him a glass of water, as if he was a visitor, and then sat herself opposed to him, calmly sipping her own glas.

          "Are you a man of faith Dr. Nielsen?" The question was asked out of the blue.

          "Yes sister.'' The answer came immediately, and part of himself was surprised. Before the Unity's end his answer would have been... hesitating. He had been raised Anglican, but over time his faith had been muted, his church visits slowed and stopped and he had carefully avoided thinking too much about it. Now, he felt the same sense of awe at this new world and the one Who had brought them here, as well as at the woman sitting in front of him, as he did when he first entered a church.

          Miriam smiled, then gave him a solemn look. "A rift has grown in earth's final decades, no centuries. A rift between science, the knowledge of the mind, and faith, the knowledge of the soul. Because of this, men of faith know too little of matters of science to judge it, and men of science lack the wisdom to do so. The results have been... horrendous."

          Nielsen nodded.

          "I intend to put an end to this Doctor Nielen. Once, knowledge and faith were banded together. They will be so again, with your help." She leaned forward. "Doctor Nielsen, as part of your duties as science officer, you, and those you believe to be of sucficient faith and skill are to study the Holy Bible under my guidance. You shall be the first priests to be ordained on this world."

          Doctor Nielsen felt his breath catch. There had been talk about Miriam teaching new priests for the future, but everyone had assumed it'd be Lt. or rather, Knight Commander Martinez, or perhaps Brother Carson who had been her personal assistant. Unable to conceal the smile on his face he bowed. "I... thank you SIster Miriam, I will gladly accept your lessons, and am honoured you see me as righteous enough to accept this responsibility."

          The leader of the Believers rose and put a hand on his shoulder. "Your lessons will start in three days. In the meantime, do not seek to discover the secrets of this world. You are not ready for them yet. Also, any discoveries you make, you keep them from the rest of the flock until we have decided otherwise. Some knowledge is dangerous, and best kept from those whose pure, simple souls might be tainted. But you, Doctor, you shall be the one to venture in the unknmown, and there seperate the miraculous from the infernal."
          Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


          • #6
            Notes: After some messing around with the calculator, I'm going with a scale of 1 square = 40.000 square kilometre.

            I am also going to have to get some suspension of disbelief going regarding relative speed. People from the colony are able to work near the end of the base's reach, while it takes the scouts two years to get there.

            Also, we get a little prequel to a game quote from Miriam. Can you find it?

            The months passed like a dream. Life was hard, with hard work, rationed food and little to no entertainment. But each day a new building was erected. Each day the engineers announced another 'luxury' reclaimed. Showers, toilets with a rudimentary plumbing system, new clothes (all signs reminding people of the Unity were soon removed), ways to wash those new clothes... Each one was welcomed like an old friend,and even Miriam found herself spending more time than necessary in the shower.

            Besides the luxuries there were the plants. The 'farms' they had created were hardly worth the name. Small gardens created with next to no machinal help. But each plant was pampered carefully, and each blossom was cause for celebration. While some plants failed, in general the soil seemed extremely fertile. When the first harvest came along, it was cause for a celebration and prayers of thanks.

            Which was good timing, as the growth of plants had inspired many of the colonists. The first harvest became part of the first wedding feast. No less than thirty-eight couples were married before the eye of God by Miriam, and each and every colonist was invited. The only thing marring Miriam's bliss was that some of the brides had already been expecting at the time of the marriage, but that was drowned out by the expectant joy of having children around. Taking children aboard the Unity had not been an option, but Miriam knew she was not the only one missing the sound of playing children. Despite the lack of a proper industy and resources ,it was clear that the first Chiron-born humans would have all the cradles, diapers, baby-clothes and attention they'd need.

            She tried very hard not to think of her own child, taken from her, or how the time for another one ran short. Her people needed her. Each day, she gave a short service, with a longer one on each seventh day. She also taught Doctor Nielsen and some other students.

            The day it was announced that New Jeruzalem could now fabricate its own nitrogen filters, Miriam called for the council to be gathered. It was the day before what had been decided would be Easter, pinning the date of their arrival to be Christmas. The shorter days and longer years would demand a whole new calender soon, but for now, those two dates were settled.

            There was an actual council chamber now, with a computer screen and some austere religous decoration. Susan Michaels, who had taken care of the damaged computers and communication device, had also been given a seat since then. After the customary prayer, Miriam smiled and gave each of the persons around ehr a warm smile. "Good people, I call you in this day, the day before our Lord rose from death, to congratulate all of you. Our colony is not only a proof that the Lord is with us in these days, but also a testament to the dilligence and piety of our people, and your talent in leading them. In my prayers, often have I given thanks to the Lord, not merely for this world, but for you to be here with me."

            There were embarassed coughs and undisguised beaming faces from all over the table. Miriam continued. "And in the future, I shall count on you even more often." She turned to Susan. "Sister Michaels, I believe you had constructed a scanning of our surroundings?"

            Susan stood. She was one of the youngest people here, and some uncertainty showed. "Yes sister..." She clicked a button and a map appeared. "The scans give us information about the terrain about 500 kilometres on each side, including native life, and possible resources. Eh... as you can see, we're near the coast, with good fertile lands and minerals all around us. In the north, there is a river streaming into the sea. Far to the east there's a small range of mountains.. Oh, and a few hundred kilometres out in the sea, we've detected a small island, just a few hundred square metres, but rich in iron." Sher frowned. "We eh... do not know what the red stuff is in the south east. It seems like a vegetation, and it spreads into the sea but... its so thick it's impossible to make out the ground."

            "What's the star to the north-west?" Martinez asked.

            "Well... I... I mean we kept our frequencies open, trying to hear about any other survivors... we heard nothing, but we did get a radio signal from there. I'm not sure, but I think it might be a pod from the unity with supplies. I don't know what else could send out radio signals." She looked at Doctor Nielsen.

            "Hm... my advice would be to send a group of trained soldiers there. We never know what awaits us beyond the horizon." The doctor said, looking at Knight Commander Martinez in turn.

            "I will personally lead a scouting group there!" Martinez rose and held a hand on his heart. "Please Sister, allow me to go and investigate. Paladin Gunther is an able man, and can see to my responsibilities here."

            Miriam's first reaction was to refuse, but she remembered what she had told him earlier. "Very well Knight Commander Martinez, but then you return. You are too critical to have you wandering the countryside. I propose you name someone Knight-Errand to lead this group afterwards, and foresee them with a good deal of supplies, for I foresee they will travel far." She turned to Nielsen. "And pick the most steadfast and strong of body of your companions that volunteers to join them doctor, for I do not intend to send these men out without someone to warn them of poison and other threats of nature. All limitations would still be in effect of course."

            Doctor Nielsen inclined his head.

            Miriam smiled. "Let what is necessary be done. Brother Sanzky, see to their supplies." She turned to Inga Leroy, who was in charge of every day affairs. "Now... how are our food stocks?"

            The black woman gave a curt nod. "We produce enough food for our current colonists to survive. However, once the children will be born, we will face a shortage." Her voice was clipped. "We don't lack people willing to work the lands, but even on these fertile grounds, there is only so much land suitable for growing crops, especially without advanced tools. My advice would be to use more land. The south-west has both a good climate, as well as some mineral resources."

            "I've got a better idea." The Polish man rumbled. "That river up north? Looks just about as good. And as a bonus, we can build small dams to generate electricity. Our solar collectors here produce plenty, but you can't have enough watts flowing."

            Leroy frowned. "It is however, 400 kilometres away from New Jeruzalem."

            "That need not be a problem." Miriam said. "I have spent much thought on how this colony shall continue." Everyone was silent. Miriam waved her hand over the map. "This world is a gift from the Lord, and I intend to make sure we shall use each bit of it for His glory. We shall be as a liquid, flowiing over these lands, turning wild and untamed wilderness into cities, villages and farms. We shall tame the land, we shall tame the rivers and the seas, we are this world's keeper and master, and it does not become us to huddle in our home. That is why, after Easter, we will gather the most hardy of ouir people, and have them start a settlement near that river."

            Leroy hesitated. "A new colony? So soon. I do not wish to doubt you, Sister Miriam but we lack the people and resources for such an undertaking."

            Miriam smiled. "I know, Sister Leroy. A new colony might be something for our sons and daughters." A slight sting there. "This would merely be a small settlement. They would take the goods with them to erect a small village aimed solely at gathering the bounty of the land. At the beginnin of next lent, they will return here. Each Easter, we can choose new people to make their lives on the outer settlements of New-Jeruzalem, letting others have the chance to stay here. I propose five hundred of our best and bravest to go there and claim another piece of our Promised Land." She folded her hands. "I shall personally be there as well."

            Consulting Sanzky, it seemed the material for such an undertaking couldquickly be produced, and after some practical issues, it was agreed that the announcement would be made at the Easter mass. Shortly after, the council members went their ways. Miriam was about to leave but stayed behind, her attention suddenly drawn to the blob of red covering the land. "And whatever you may be, red growth... we shall tame you too."
            Last edited by Rand Al'Tor; August 9, 2006, 15:27.
            Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


            • #7
              gasp.... I actually moved a unit.

              The scout unit was crouching behind the hill. They were about fifty strong, armed with shredder rifles and combat knives. Martinez kept a careful eye on them. Some of the scouts had been eager to discover what it was, especially since word had gotten out it was likely a pod from the Unity. There had been a lot of things aboard the doomed ship that they'd like to get their hands on. But Martinez had quickly squashed any careless curiosity among the troops under his command. Now, they knew the signal was coming from just behind the hill, and the tension was thick.

              "Any progress with the signals Squire Lebeau, brother Hikori?" The squire responsible for the radio and the scientist with her shook their head.

              "I can't make heads or tails from these radio transmissions, Knight-Commander, but it could be the pod's transmitter is damaged." The man said.

              Martinez scowled. He had hoped for a definte yes, or even a no... maybe... he didn't like maybes. "A volunteer to investigate." He said. Immediately several arms were raised. A smile appeared for the briefest of seconds.

              "Squire Casini. Go investigate. Keep your head low. We cannot rule out the possibility of native life using radio signals. Keep radio contact at all times and describe what you see. If you believe the situation is dangerous, pull back, do not engage anything unless directly threathened."

              Casini nodded, crossed himself and advanced, crouching and walking as careful as possible. Soon he rounded the crest of the hill and went out of sight.

              "I'm trying to get a visual on the target." His whispering voice came over the radio. "Ah, visual acquired. It looks like something metal. The suns seem to reflect of it. Approaching the target." There were a few seconds of silence.

              "The target seems to be green and yellow in colour. one metre and a half. It... does not look like a pod." The voice sounded hesitant. "It doesn't look like anything I recognize from the Unity at all."

              "Not from the Unity?" Martinez felt his stomach sink. "Then where the hell..."

              "Knight Commander... Permission to pull back? I don't think this... thing is... human." Casini sounded afraid, and Martinez couldn't blame him.

              "Granted. Pull back, O'Riley... take fourteen men and prepare to soround and assault. If the thing takes threathening action, open fire. Move! And God be with you."

              The female scout nodded and signalled a group to follow her. They moved out of sight just as a shaken Casini returned. Hikori was chewing his lower lip. Seconds passed. Then the radio flickered to life.

              "Knight Commander. We have surrounded the target and are ready to fire. No reaction. Awaiting orders."

              Martinez felt the sweat forming on his forehead. He looked at Hikori. "Brother Hikori. go investigate. You tell us what we're dealing with here. Do not touch the target though.."

              The scientist went a bit paler, but nodded and left. Some time later his voice cracked over the comm device. "Knight Commander? I've performed some checks. I have good news and bad news. The good news is that whatever this thing is, it's not alive as far as I can tell. Ambient temperature, no atmospheric changes anywhere around it. The bad news is that I'm willing to bet my right hand that it's... not human in origin."

              Martinez sighed. "Keep a watch... and connect me to Sister Miriam. Urgently."


              When Miriam and Doctor Nielsen were at the artifact the rain was pouring down. Miriam carefully watching the scientist's actions as a group of nervous soldiers watched. Finally Dr. Nielsen stood.

              "Brother Nielsen?" Miriam asked, her face serene. "What can you tell us?"

              "Brother Hitori was right. It is a construct of non-human hands." He put some sensors away. "There is little activity from it, except the radio signal. I am unfamiliar with the material, the construction or even its purpose. It does not seem like a weapon though."

              "How old is it?" Miriam asked. Her mind raced behind her calm eyes. Non-human did not necessarely mean alien.

              "Hard to estimate without a reference to the material, however..." He rubbed the surface. It was obviously rough, especially where it was exposed to the rain. "It shows signs of exposure, making me think it has been here for quite a long time, as Chiron rain contains little traces of acid, and the material seems hard enough that these marks should have taken quite some time."

              "Do you think that who placed these things here still lives?" Around her, the guards suddenly seemed to listen.

              Nielsen sitghed. "I... do not know. It is very well possible that this is an artifact from a long dead race. It is possible that it's just a piece of their trash we stumbled on, or a probe of some kind. If I research it further..."

              "It could eb a gift from heaven... or a trap from hell." Miriam's eyes focused on the artifact, as if she could force it to give up its secrets. "This is exactly the reason you must complete your traininbg first Doctor Nielsen." She turned to the soldiers. "Brave Defenders of God's people, hear me." she cried out over the rain. Soon the group was gathered.

              "You have shown great courage today. You have faced the unknown,. and with faith and fortitude, you have shown yourself equal to your tasks. This has made you greater. But hearing this, fear might dwell in the hearts of some? Are we alone? Or are there mysterious and powerful creatures that will take all that we built away from us? We are but few... a bare candle in the darkness, easily smothered." She looked from soldier to soldier, making sure she held all the attention.

              "Let me tell you a story. Once God decided to give a home to the Jewish people, leading them away from corrupt and decadent Egypt that was wracked with plagues to punish them for defying the Lord. Forty years they wandered in the desert. As we drifted forty years in the barren wastes of space. But they found their promised land. However, they were not alone."

              She theatrically stretched her arm to the horizon, as if motioning to an army. "An army contested them, among them a warrior whose name still is synonym for size and strength. Goliath. None could withstand him, his power seemed beyond man. However, God's will was not to be denied." She looked up at the sky, and then let her gaze fall to one of the younger and smaller soldiers, walking to him and putting a hand on his shoulder.

              "A young boy was called forth by the Lord. He was small and weak, and held only a sling. Truly, it seemed impossible he'd win. But with one stone... Goliath fell and rose no more. Was David... an exceptional talent with his sling? Had he been lucky? No... the Lord had promised that land to his chosen ones, and nothing... NOTHING can stand against His will."

              Miriam stamped her foot on the muddy ground. "We are now his Chosen People and THIS is our Promised Land! I do not know what it is that lives here, or if they're still alive. What is beyond that horizon, I cannot tell you. But I can tell you that no matter WHAT is there, we shall not be denied our home."

              She pointed at the horizon. "So go there... to that horizon, and find more of our land. And if ever you should look at your weapon, and fear that it seems so primitive and puny compared to the creatures you dread, or creatures you might face, REMEMBER, remember that simple boy with his sling and his faith, and know that victory shall be yours!" She finished in a high cry, and it was answered with a roar.

              As they cheered she turned to Martinez. "Knight Commander, take four people and have the artifact buried one hundred klometres from the colony. Keep all this secret. We do not want to sow fear among the faithful." She smiled at him through her breathing mask. "I did tell you I would have need of your courage."
              Last edited by Rand Al'Tor; August 9, 2006, 13:57.
              Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


              • #8
                One year...

                One year since Planetfall.

                One year on Chiron, or, as many people had started to call it, Planet.

                Of course, it was a Chiron year, rather than an earth year, and with Planet's lack of seasons, it was only thanks to the astronomical data that they knew their new home had finished one revoltion around the sun. The festivities hadn't been any less for it. It was officially 2102.

                Planetfall Day was also Christmas, and everyone had come to the service she had given. Of course, a good part of New Jeruzalem was many, many kilometres away from them, but Miriam's sermon had been transmitted to them with a camera.

                She herself had only returned shortly from the outer settlement. The first Chiron children had been born. She had personally seen to the baptizing, done knee deep in the wide river. The first child, a boy that had been called Adam, had also his name to the river.

                She smiled. As the scout patrol had pushed north, it had been discovered that the river was but a small stream, welling up further in the north-east. O'Reily was planning to move up the river to the source, and than continue straight ahead. Further to the west they had discovered an island. It was divided from the mainland by a narrow channel, and could be bridged with minimum effort.

                Knight-Commander Martinez was training a second team in the meantime. Considering the possible dangers, he took some time, and made sure they were well-equipped. These would head south-east, and investigate the strange red area there.

                There had been no other signals that year. Not from any other surviving pods, nor from the few people that had fled so many moths ago. She thought of them sometimes. Zhakarov, who had only held contempt for her faith, Morgan, the stowaway who had so arrogantly claimed a portion of command, Santiago, who had been responsible for the bloodshed and Yang, who had been eager to gain power. Them, she couldn't say she missed.

                But there were times she missed Pravin and Deidre, and Captain Garland. What would they say if they saw her now? She remembered Pravin when she had last seen him. The eyes of someone who sees everything he believes in crumble in front of him. She had stood with him then, had been the only one voting against splitting up. Now she had already turned away from his dream.

                "I'm sorry, Pravin..." She said to the Chiron night sky, then rebuked herself for it. This was how it was, this was how it should be. If she'd ever meet him, she wouldn't apoligize.

                And most probably that would never be an issue.

                There was a sting of pain as she thought that, and even a slight bit of moistness came to her eyes. And with her eyes to the stars, Miriam offered a prayer for her former colleagues, wherever they were.
                Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


                • #9
                  The modifications on the First Church were steadily progressing, and Miriam had been given an office inside. In it was a window that overlooked the young city.

                  New Jeruzalem was full again a week before easter. Everyone who could be missed and could make the journey had returned to the main city to celebrate the resurection of the Messiah, and to meet old friends again. Children were proudly presented, first words compared and plans for their future made.

                  Because there were things coming. The scouts had discovered that the area to the northeast contained large stretches of fertile land. Now that there were two groups of trained fighters scouting, it was time to claim more land. Goods were being produced to construct a series of 'pods' that contained everything needed to build a self-sustaining colony.

                  Fifteen years it would take to make them. Miriam pondered that. She had been forty-six the day the Unity had launched. Not counting the time she spent frozen, she was now close to fifty. She'd be sixty five when the colony pod would be finished, probably seventy by the time the new colony was actually established.

                  If she lived that long.

                  There was a knock on the door.

                  She turned around and sat at her desk. "Come in."

                  The door opened and Martinez entered, firmly saluting her. "God be with you, sister."

                  "And with you knight commander."

                  The man in front of her was steadily growing into his position. The 'army' of the Believers was small, two groups of fifty trained men and women, and Martinez knew every last soldier by name. His face was grim.

                  "I have bad news, Sister." he said. "Our second unit has encountered the remains of those that fled New Jeruzalem, close to the red growth. They must have died not too long after getting there."

                  Miriam nodded. "We assumed as much. But I see from your face there is more."

                  Martinez nodded. "They did not perish because supplies ran out, Sister, but rather, they were attacked. Many corpses were found with weapons in hand, others were found curled up. The bodies are eaten clean and..." He looked her in the eye. "There are holes in their skulls."

                  The tension in the air suddenly raised. Only a few people were aware that there had been found signs of alien life here, and all of those had spent the last years looking for signs of it.

                  "Have the corpses brought in and delivered to Brother Nielsen for investigation, then we will bring them to their final resting place. Despite everything, these people deserve a decent burial." Prey to some native form of life or the first victims of a war? Miriam felt her heartrate quicken and quietly prayed for a second to calm down.

                  "We've also got the first reports on the red growth." Martinez said. "It is some kind of fungus. Some samples have been taken and will be sent here. It's thick though, and will probably take a lot of time to get through."

                  Miriam nodded. "And considering the people were found there, such a journey might be dangerous. But not so dangerous as ignorance of the dangers here is."

                  "Give the command, Sister, and any of us Knights is ready to investigate any peril that might threathen our Holy Land."

                  Miriam nodded. "I do command." she said firmly. "We are god's chosen, and we will not be cowed. Tell your men to step forward, and that our prayers are with them."

                  Martinez saluted. "The Lord's will be done."

                  "On Planet as it is in Heaven." Miriam answered. Martinez left and Miriam turned back to the window, looking to the east. What was their new home hiding? Fire burned through her as she narrowed her eyes. I may be getting older, Planet, but to my last breath I'll fight to make sure you accept your new keepers.

                  She almost felt as if the thought was heard. For the barest moment she had the sense she was not alone. She turned around to see the empty office. Miriam shook her head and left the office. The organizing of the Easter mass needed her attention.
                  Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


                  • #10
                    Squire Stefan Schmidt's log
                    Friday 24 Garlanduary of the year 2104 of our Lord.

                    Christmas day! Knight Landon gave everyone of us double food supply. And Sister Godwinson called in! We got a mass all to ourselves, and she talked to everyone of us. I feel a lot better.

                    Tomorrow we go on! This damn fungux grows back as soon as you cut it away, and you can get nasty cuts if you're not careful, but we'll get through! And if some demon shows up and tries to eat into my skull I'll make sure he'll have a tough meal on me! From what I've heard, there's a wall of this fungus all over the east of New-Jeruzalem. Well, there's no wall that can stop the Believers!

                    Ah well, it's late, and I've got a lot of cutting to do tomorrow. And to thing I always hated working in the garden back home.

                    Damn it... why did I have to think of home again?
                    Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


                    • #11
                      "Mommy... what was earth like?"

                      "Ah, Jean. Earth was the first planet God made for us. It had only one sun, and the sky was blue. And the best thing was that you didn't need a filter to go outside. And your whole body felt like it was lighter!"

                      "Children could play outside?"

                      "Yes, once they could. And there were animals for them to play with, and the cities were much, much bigger. But when mommy left earth, it was getting worse and worse."

                      "Oooh, I know! Our teacher told me. People were being bad and were fighting and the world broke."

                      "Your teacher is right. So a lot of people tried to go to a new world. Mommy too. We all were made to sleep for a really, REALLY long time. Forty years! That is ten and ten and ten and ten years!"

                      *Gasp*"That long! You're like Sleeping Beauty!"

                      *chuckle "That's sweet of you to say. But when we were awake, the ship was breaking. We couldn't get out and we didn't know what was happening in the rest of the ship. Mommy was really, really scared."

                      "And what happened then?"

                      "Sister Godwinson came, she put on a space suit and walked on the outside of the ship to come help us! SHe told us that they were going to try to get our 'sleeping room' to the ground, and that we had to pray really hard. So we did. I prayed and prayed."

                      "Mommy, are you crying?"

                      "It's all right dear... it's just that mommy was never as scared as she was back then. But Sister Godwinson was right. And we landed. And we decided that we weren't going to be bad anymore and listen to what God tells us. And Sister Godwinson is still helping us!"

                      "Wow, Sister Godwinson really is nice!"

                      "Yes, she is. Daddy always says that God gave us two gifts. Planet and Sister Godwinson. And you better follow her example. Have you finished your homework?"


                      "I thought so. Gte to work. We're going to eat in half an hour."

                      "Yes mommy."
                      Last edited by Rand Al'Tor; August 9, 2006, 17:35.
                      Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


                      • #12
                        "Squire Casini was the one who volunteered to check it out, Sister Godwinson." Knight O'Riley reported as he took the Believers' leader and Brother Nielsen. "He was the one that first faced that other thingy five years ago." His voice was a bit too light-hearted. The knight obviously knew that if there ever came a war with an alien race, he'd more than likely be among the first victims.

                        Behind him, Casini glowed with pride. Miriam gave him a solemn nod, without saying a word.

                        O'Riley continued. "Fortunately, this time it WAS a pod from the unity. Brother Hikori investigated the contents after we made sure it was safe. There was a survey pod inhere. When it came crashing down, it managed to locate some prime fertile lands. Now, we wouldn't have called you here merely for that, Sister. But in the pod was something else. It was sealed away, and we thought we'd best call you. We didn't expect you to visit us in person though." the Knight said.

                        "It is important that you know that your noble efforts do not go unnoticed, Knight O'Riley. squire Candini" Miriam said. "You are part of my congregation, no matter the distance."

                        Brother Nielsen looked at the seal. "Hm, I recognize this." He said. "This seal is used to restrict access to places where only engineers should come." He inspected it closer and typed on the still functional console. "Hm... sealed by Zhakarov himself. Fortunately, I know the codes." He looked at Miriam questioningly."Do I open it?"

                        Miriam nodded. "Go ahead Brother Nielsen. I am with you. But be careful. Zhakarov delighted in jading souls and blinding them to the Lord's truth. I don't fear human progress, but I distrust anything coming from him."

                        Nielsen nodded and typed a combination of keys. With a hiss, the door opened and revealed a small room. Inside was what looked like a transparant sarcophagus with several wires leading to various machinery. A large tank dominated the back wall. Miriam gave it a quick scan, but waited for the scientist to go over the different parts. It didn't take long, and the man's eyes were wide in amazement. "So the rumours were true."

                        "What rumours?"

                        "Before he joined the Unity project, Zhakarov worked on several bio-engineering projects. In fact, his research made the cryogenic sleep we slept possible. He often said he was close to a breakthrough in a rejuvenation technique, barring a few technical problems. He got interrupted when earth... well..." He let his sentence unfinished, then tapped the sarcophagus. "Rumours claimed he snuck some prototypes on board." His eyes flickered intenmsely. "If I can study it perhaps I can..."

                        "No." Miriam said sharply. Nielsen looked up.

                        "Sister Miriam?"

                        "Not before your training is done, brother Nielsen, and even then, we will discuss the implications of this technology before we explore it." Miriam folded her arms. "For now, I will arrange to have it brought back to New Jeruzalem. We will keep it sealed away in the church until we have the time and the wisdom to decide what to do with it."

                        Nielsen looked crestfallen and opened his mouth to say something, then sighed, nodded and followed. The door behind them closed with a soft click.
                        Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


                        • #13
                          Squire Casini and Thompson were looking around the Unity Pod. It had been only two years since the last time they had found their first one.

                          "Got to tell you, I'm glad we're part of O'Reily's group, and not Landon's. I heard they spend years getting through that red fungus. While we get to call Sister Miriam and tell her about all the good stuff we found." Thompson said as he walked throughthe pod's claustrophobic interior. They had already found the survey material, but they made a habit of checking the pod completely. Who knows what might have been stashed on board.

                          "Yep... though I don't think we'll get a visit from her this time." Casini said. "And from what I've heard, that fungal wall goes all the way up north to this place. Gotta be about a thousand kilometres." He opened another door, finding nothing but destruction inside. The pod hadn't survived the landing as well as the first one.

                          "Yeah well, I hope we won't have to go through... hey, do you hear that." He aimed the gun and affixed light on a further hallway. "I heard something."

                          Casini went quiet. "Sounds like something alive. He looked at the end of the hallway. "I think I see something moving there... but it's pretty small. Probably some local insects or something." He stepped closer.

                          Thompson took his communicator. "LeBeau, we've found something in the back. Native life, but it doesn't look too threathening. Looks like worms or some... WHAT THE HELL!"

                          As Casini came closer, the small mass of living creature suddenly became active, slithering towards the squire. At the same time, Casini froze, and gave a short whimper.

                          "Thompson, what's going on! Sir O'Riley, Casini and Thompson are in trouble."

                          "We're under attack! Worms!" Thompson yelled, feeling panic setting in, the shadows looking deeper and the little pile of worms suddenly looking a lot mopre menacing. He felt his hands starting to shake.

                          "Help me...." He could hear Casini whisper. As abd as Thompson trembled, Casini shook, his assault weapon clattering to the floor as his hands were numb. Then the pile of worms pressed against his knee and crawled up his leg, and then his chest.

                          Casini screamed, tears streaming in his ashen face. He turned around and looked right through Thompson, warding off something only he could see. Thompson took one step forward, reaching to take away the worms, then the shadows suddenly changed into demons and he lost all control. He vaguely heard his own voice screaming and felt a light jolt of pain as his rear hit the metal floor.

                          The shadow-demons clawed at him, and he helplessly tried to keep them off, but his hands went right through them. He couldn't keep his eyes away from Casini, how his screams descended into sobs as he was coated in what looked like a suit of worms.

                          And then they began to burrow into his head. Through his neck, through his mouth, through his nose, his eyes. The sobbing stopped abruptly, Casini's body jerking a few time like a marionette whose puppeteer had a seizure, and then fell heavily on the ground.

                          Comingforme don'twanna die pleasegoddon'twannadie, pleaseGodJesusMiriamsaveme nononononono

                          He didn't hear the bootsteps of his companions coming, nor their shocked remarks. The firing of their guns, sounded like the laughter of shadow-demons. He saw some worms falling off, but there were so many, so many. They started to crawl up his leg.

                          Then the shadows grabbed him and pulled. "NO!" He screamed. "NO! Let me go! NOOOO!" He was being removed from the worms, but his hysterical mind was beyond reason.

                          A loud thunderclap followed, and the shadows began to fade away. He grabbed his knees and curled up in a ball, waiting for them to come back, whimpering. Hands grabbed him and plucked things off of him.

                          "Thompson.... Thompson!" O'Riley's voice came from far away. Too far away. He couldn't protect him from the monsters. Nobody could. "Thompson they're gone! They're dead."

                          "Dead! All dead! everyone dead! Crawling... shadow demons... too many, too many..." He continued to struggle until Brother Hitori administered a sedative and blessedly dreamless sleep came upon him.

                          Knight O' Riley looked at the hallway and Casini's mangled corpse. The grenade had killed most of the worms and had stopped the paralyzing terror that had started to grip his men, though a few of them had been wounded by shards, as he too had panicked and had thrown the grenade too early.

                          "The wounded, outside!" He ordered, forcing his voice to be steady. The rest of you, clean this place. I don't want any of those... mindraping worms left alive!" It didn't seem that hard a task. The individual worms just spasmed where they lay. O'Reily went to Casini's corpse. He lighted his flashlight on his face, and looked through one of the holes that shouldn't be there.

                          Inside was movement. As he watched, a few larvae made their way out.

                          "Christ protect us..." He said. "Tanner, Qun-Yi! Burn the body! Now! Do it!"

                          He turned his back, his face pale. "And Lebeau. Get me Sister Miriam. I'm afraid we'll have to disturb her again."


                          "Life is a test. And each and every hardship we meet on the way, is part of it, and death is that final hardship. But we must not mourn these, but see them as chances to prove how good we are. Because it is then, at the darkest hour, when the light shines the brightest. And though it has left this world, it is not snuffed out, but taken to the kingdom from whence all light comes. Squire Casini trusted so in the light he walked into the dark, knowing that if he followed the light, he would never be lost. And he isn't. He has made it. He is home.

                          To us he leaves sadness of course, for without his light this world seems a bit darker. But it should also remind us that there is a larger light. A light more eternal than the sun. We will follow that light, and be strengthened by the memory of Piedro Casini. Thank you... "

                          (Miriam's speech at the inauguration of the memorial statue for Squire Piedro Casini)


                          "I have no idea." said Brother Nielsen, reading through the report. "What is described here is telepathy but... while there were rumours it was scientifically proven on Earth. I have no idea where to begin."

                          "My men brought you the corpses of those little critters. One of them died! And you're telling me 'you got nothing?" Martinez said angrily. "This isn't some kind of research you can just take your sweet time to..."

                          "I can't just make stuff up, you know!" Nielsen snapped. "You think I don't realize the importance of this? That the people that fled nine years ago died the same way as Casini on less than four hundred kilometres from New Jeruzalem? That for all we know they're here tomorrow and..."

                          "Calm down, both of you." Miriam raised her voice. The two men fell silent. "These creatures... animal, alien, demon, whatever they are... they use fear. We must not let fear take a hold on us. God shall provide. We, in all serenity, will do everything we can. Now, Brother Nielsen... have you found anything at all."

                          Nielsen took a few deep breaths. "One thing. They seem... relatively vulnerable to fire. I imagine using shredders or guns on them is a lot less effective than using flamethrowers. If we find anything else, I promise you, Knight Commander Martinez. We will tell you."

                          Martinez nodded. "I... thank you, brother Nielsen. I... sorry for my outburst. To you as well Sister Miriam. I'll communicate it to Knight O'Riley and Knight Landon." He made a small bow. "Can I be excused?"

                          Miriam nodded. "Of course, Sir Martinez. Our prayers are with you and your men. This planet can resist as it will. God is with us. We will prevail."
                          Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


                          • #14
                            Monday 16 Octobre of the year 2109 of our Lord
                            From: Knight Landon
                            To: Knight-Commander Martinez

                            We have moved north, etablishing a supply line from the Unity Pod wreckage. This area is unfit for colonization. There is barely any vegetable growth at all. Just endless dunes. Scans have shown that they continue in the north and the east, with slightly more fertile lands in the northwest and that damn fungal wall in the west. Morale is problematic, after all those years they spend cutting through the fungus, with only the find of a survey pod in the mountains in the south to show for it, many men dislike the idea of trekking through the dessert. If it is our Christian duty, we will of course comply.

                            Yours in Faith
                            Knight Landon

                            Thursday 25 November of the year 2109 of our Lord
                            From Knight O'Riley
                            To: Knight Commander Martinez

                            We're hemmed in. The fungal wall turned to the east and runs all the way to the coast. We've got a signal that might be a Unity Pod from the Xenofungus in the north. Some of the men are scared, but others are hoping there'll be more of those 'mindworms' there. They've got new flameguns to test.

                            Yours in faith
                            Knight O'Riley
                            Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.


                            • #15
                              On Planetfall of 2110... ten years since their landing, Miriam was not in New Jeruzalem proper. She was standing in the Adam, with Brother Nielsen and several other aspiring priests with her. On the side was a whole crowd of people, young Adam himself among them.

                              Miriam took a handful of water and poured it on Nielsen's head. "May the Lord grant you wisdom, strength and patience, and may you guide the souls of the flock. I hereby annoint you as the first priest annointed on Chiron. You shall form a conclave to watch over the souls of the flock and go through all the secrets of this world. Find what secrets are for us to be unraveled, and what should be left alone. Yours is a heavy duty, and God and man has high expectations of you. Stand, Father Nielsen."

                              As the former engineer rose, there were tears in his eyes. "I will not let you down, sister... I promise you."
                              Fire and ice and death awaiting. But he was steel, he was steel.