2947-12-24 – Tales from the Service: An Immortal's Contrition
Due to the growth of this audience in recent months, all of you may not know that while most Way-adjacent religious sects mark the Advent anniversary on 25 December in the standard Terran (Ivanov) calendar, the Navy Chapel and the broader Spacers’ Chapel hold their Advent holiday, the Emmanuel Feast, on the 25th as measured on the old Gregorian Calendar, which has not been in common use since the mid 24th century. This is a tradition they share with the Byzantine Orthodox sect.
This year, the Ivanov calendar date of Chapel Advent celebrations was 20-21 December, so most of the service personnel here in the Coreward Frontier with the Navy and mercenary auxiliaries have already celebrated their holiday, while most of the rest of the people of the Reach celebrate the holiday tonight and tomorrow.
With permission from his commanding officer, Nojus and I have arranged to have a recording of Chaplain Thomas Nyilvas’s holiday service on Xavior Vitali made available on our datasphere hub.
This week’s Tales from the Service features a snippet sent in by Ayaka Rowlins via Nyilvas. Her back-and-forth with the Padre was featured here a few weeks ago, but several days after the Vitali failed to explode spectacularly, she began to open up with her interrogators about how she became an agent of the Incarnation – not just that, one of their elite, trusted with the most powerful counterhuman augmentation and a solitary mission far afield. Today, though, on the eve of the I want to focus on what it is like for such a person to return to the fold, and to the faith of her forefathers.
Padre Nyilvas wanted me to mention that while it is a joy to see the prodigal daughter to return, it will be another thing entirely to reconcile the Incarnation’s counterhuman idea-space with the ancient values protected by the Confederated Worlds. There are zealots by the billion (at least!) out there who will not simply stand down and take benediction a Spacers’ Chapel altar.
[N.T.B. - Take note of the fact that Rowlins is aware that Incarnation scouts made covert contact with Confederated Worlds Ladeonists as early as her disappearance in 2945. If they had almost two years before we found them to figure out how to deal with us, none of the border incidents were misunderstandings. The Incarnation planned this war, and something tells me that this odd raid-and-counterstrike stalemate situation is part of that plan. Mark my words, things here will get worse before they get better.]
[D.L.C. - This piece was composed several days in advance but may be delayed due to a scheduled upgrade to the Maribel Hypercast relay, which has been operating near its maximum capacity since Fifth Fleet moved in. Apologies for the inconvenience.]
Ayaka Rowlins glanced at the guard standing beside her as the crew of Xavior Vitali filed into the chapel, which she had long since realized was the crew mess retrofitted with synthsilk curtains hung over the chow line and the bank of food processors. She had seen more than a few such setups aboard the cramped passenger liners, giving ease to the castoffs of a hundred worlds as they sought a new life on the Frontier.
The Incarnation, of course, used a different arrangement. Most ceremonies honoring the foresight of the Incarnate and reciting the Denials were conducted virtually via implant feeds, not that Ayaka had participated in many. The time between being passed from a Maribelan Ladeonist cell to Incarnation forward observers and receiving her first pulse-band mission briefing had passed in a blur, but she suspected she had passed many tests of loyalty, intelligence, bravery, and determination in order to earn her augments.
Governed by a cause and guided by implant-gathered data, the Incarnation had made a weapon out of a misfit Frontier radical, giving her purpose in the form of a list of targets whose continued existence threatened the continuation of humanity and of life itself. She had infiltrated the now-foreign colonies of the Frontier, slipping through the cracks of society with ease and slipping aboard a supply launch to steal aboard a Confederated patrol cruiser, whose lax security proved no obstacle to her implants’ electronic countermeasures.
It had all gone wrong, though, and Ayaka was glad it had. She had been captured planting the first set of demolition charges – charges which would have painted her hands with the blood of dozens of spacers. even if she had finished her work and escaped in a launch, the deed would have caught up with her sooner or later.
“Miss Rowlins.” Captain Callahan’s stooped, dour shadow suddenly fell on the prisoner. The ship’s commander had been skeptical of her contrition from the minute she had confessed the full extent of her sabotage, and she didn’t blame him – she had after all nano-fabbed a dart out of the canteen spoon that had come with her rations and barely missed sticking him with it during her first interrogation. “Glad you could join us for the occasion.”
His voice indicated that he was anything but glad, of course. The ship’s chaplain had likely used every shred of his pull with the officers and crew to allow her a furlough to attend the service.
“Glad I could make the time, Captain.” Ayaka nodded. The guard behind her carried a number of high-tech tools which could immobilize her at the press of a button, and several other security officers were likely filing in among the crew armed with backup devices and weapons. She had no intention of making trouble, but they couldn’t possibly know that.
As Callahan took his seat in the front of the temporarily hallowed canteen, other members of the crew stole suspicious or furious glances at the enemy agent standing at the back of the space, but most either didn’t notice Ayaka or did not recognize that the recent crisis aboard Vitali had been caused by someone so apparently harmless.
As the final stragglers crept in, Chaplain Nyilvas, decked out in his shining-white cassock, stepped up to the synth-sheet lectern which did a poor job of pretending to be made of real wood. He seemed to make eye contact with everyone, but no-one for too long, as the lights dimmed and traditional music skirled out of unseen audio hookups behind him.
The guard motioned Ayaka to a seat in the all-but-unoccupied last row before standing behind the chair so close that she could hear his breathing down her neck even without the enhanced sensory abilities of her implants. Being behind her didn’t make him any less visible on her wide array of extrasensory information, but it probably made him feel better to be out of her line of sight.
“Friends and comrades, officers and crew of the Xavior Vitali...” The padre’s usually quiet voice carried through the compartment without the aid of any voice amplification, settling quickly into a comfortable routine. Ayaka leaned back and let the sermon’s tone, if not its contents, seep into her brain, worming its way around the foreign inclusions still resting there. He talked of redemption, and every time he said the word, he seemed to be looking at her – could it be possible that redemption might also extend to a traitor such as herself?