2948-12-29 – Tales from the Service: The Martyrdom of Father Thomas
Kev Trujillo watched Father Thomas step forward to face the inquisitor. Unlike the men who had gone before him, both now lying in pools of their own dark blood and reeking viscera at the sable-uniformed officer’s feet, the chaplain showed no sign of hesitation or fear.
The Incarnation infantry officer who had brought the prisoners forward smiled broadly, and took a step forward as if willing to play a part, but the inquisitor waved this over-eager subordinate backward before tucking a wayward lock of his golden-blond hair behind his ear.
“Thomas Nyilvas of Chateau Diamante on the world of Nova Paris in the system of the same name. Do I have that correct?”
Thomas Nyilvas didn’t even glance at the inquisitor in his finery; he knelt down to the whimpering form of Wasi Winton, face already pale in the harsh sunlight from blood loss. Whatever the Padre said to the mortally wounded private, Kev couldn’t hear it over the wind whistling through the rocks and distant roar of battle. He guessed it was a shortened form of the usual Spacers’ Chapel last rites.
The inquisitor, not used to being ignored, stared blankly at the kneeling form before him for several seconds. “Thomas Nyilvas, do I have your identity correct?”
“No.” Father Thomas removed his hand from the faltering grip of Private Winton and stood. “That is my name, but my home is not Nova Paris.”
The inquisitor laughed. “Ah, yes. Nova Paris was destroyed, wasn’t it? Such a pathetic failure of a faltering regime to protect its own. Yet you serve the dithering fools who let your home fall to ruin.”
Just as Kev hadn’t known that dead Private Du had been Hyadean, the allegation that Father Thomas was one of the few living children of Nova Paris was a surprise. The Padre being older than almost every F.D.A. trooper, it was quite possible he had been old enough to be offworld at the time of the massacre.
“I do not serve the Confederated Worlds.” Thomas Nyilvas shrugged. “That should have been obvious. Really, sir, I must question the quality of the records you’ve stolen.”
The inquisitor blinked, perhaps legitimately believing that the Padre was some other Thomas Nyilvas. Why this clear identification was important, Kev couldn’t fathom; perhaps even in a mocking show-trial the chip-headed zealot wanted to make sure he had the correct victims. “If that is so, then please state your allegiance and your place of origin, so you may be processed correctly.”
The Padre turned away from the inquisitor, locking eyes with Kev across the open bottom of the dry, rocky valley. Kev saw something in the set of the chaplain’s jaw and the way his eyes almost seemed to flash and glow in the harsh light of Margaux’s sun that he hadn’t expected – the Padre was up to something.
“I can state neither to your satisfaction, sir.”
The officer guarding the prisoners scoffed loudly, and most of the onlooking Incarnation soldiers seemed either amused or confused.
The inquisitor glared at his audience to silence them, then circled Father Thomas warily. “You are so confused that you do not know? Perhaps then your coming here was fortunate.”
The Padre shook his head. “You misunderstand. I know my allegiance and home beyond doubt. It is you who will not be satisfied by my answers.”
“I am the judge of that. Speak.”
“I serve your King.” The Padre shrugged. “And I will continue to do so long after your Incarnation fails to stave off extinction.”
The inquisitor’s blade reappeared, singing brightly through the air until its tip rested lightly on Father Thomas’s throat. “Speak in facts, charlatan, not in riddles and paradoxes.”
Kev smiled. Father Thomas was smarter than he let on – or perhaps he had some prior experience locking horns with Ladeonist ideologues before the War. How winding up the sable-clad young officer would help, he couldn’t say, but seeing the smug inquisitor frustrated was a victory all its own.
“Your cause, sir, is to delay extinction – the death of the collective humanity. A noble cause, but one doomed to fail.” Father Thomas held out a hand below the blade. “My cause is to bring humanity across that dark sea of extinction, one at a time. It is to that far shore I claim allegiance.”
The inquisitor scoffed. “Your mysticism will save no-one.”
The Padre’s hand remained extended. “It is no mysticism. Let me show you. Do you not want to learn how to cheat death?”
Kev suddenly noticed that the weapons of the Incarnation onlookers were raised, aimed squarely at Father Thomas. Even with their implant-assisted aim, the soldiers couldn’t burn the chaplain with their laser carbines without also incinerating the inquisitor. Perhaps they too knew this – or more accurately, whatever force had directed them all to move in unison – knew this. Most had the glassy-eyed look of machines which Kev had come to associate with direct control of Incarnation troops through their implants by a superior.
“You cannot cheat extinction.” The inquisitor’s blade pushed Father Thomas back a step, but it was clear he was curious. “It is the fate of all species. The order of things is decay and loss.”
“Cheat extinction? Why cheat extinction when you can cheat death itself?” Father Thomas stepped back until his shoulders rested against the side of the inquisitor’s towering vehicle.
The soldiers in the ravine all reached forward to flick the safeties on their laser carbines at once, and the eerie sound of a hundred latches clicking into the fire position echoed across the rocks. The inquisitor, hearing this sound, turned away from the Padre to see the peril he’d brought on himself by entertaining Father Thomas.
Kev glanced to the soldiers nearest him and saw that they were ignoring him and the other prisoners – even the officer who had hurled so much scorn earlier seemed to be possessed by whatever force was bent on the destruction of the chaplain and the curious inquisitor whose show-trial now lay in shambles. Nudging the men next to him, Kev gestured toward a steep cross-cutting defile only twenty meters away which might offer some cover to any who could reach it. One by one, his remaining men began backing away from their distracted captors and creeping toward this escape route.
The inquisitor held up his free hand. Whatever network linked the Incarnation troops’ implants, his sudden uncertainty and fear suggested he’d been cut off. For a man who lived always with the information gathered from the senses of hundreds of others, suddenly falling back on one’s own senses alone must have been a horror beyond imagining. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Your orthodoxy is brittle indeed, if my pathetic mysticism threatens it.” Father Thomas, blade still at his throat, smiled, though he surely knew his death was imminent.
Kev, seeing that he was the last of his men still in place, turned and made a sudden dash toward the rocks at the same instant the soldiers fired. The tearing, sizzling sound of laser-beams ionizing the air and incinerating flesh followed him into the defile as the possessed troops incinerated the tainted inquisitor and his chaplain prisoner in a convergence of hundreds of beams.
Satisfied that the threat to its ideology was destroyed, whatever power controlled the Incarnation troops turned their attention to the fleeing prisoners, most of whom had already reached the defile.
“Scatter! Go!” Kev shouted to the others, most of whom were already scrambling up the rocks to the relative safety of the Causey surface above. Behind him, Incarnation boots thundered into an eerily synchronized pursuit.
Most interpretations of Kev Trujillo’s story suggest that Thomas Nyilvas triggered some sort of automated defense mechanism within the Incarnation datasphere, locking down all nearby Incarnation personnel in an automaton state to prevent them from processing what he was saying. How he knew to do this is anyone’s guess, and surely the Incarnation will revise their algorithms to prevent this from being exploited in the future. It is doubtful that even if he had been given a freely-listening audience that any minds or hearts would have been swayed.
Trujillo and two others survived their pursuers to return to the Ishkawa Line alive. Interestingly, though Nyilvas’s death was a certainty, I have seen some analysis of the story suggesting that the young inquisitor might have survived – inquisitors are after all universally equipped with the implants and nanotechnological augmentations of Immortals, giving him the speed and reflexes to stand a chance of escaping the crossfire. Perhaps he too will turn up at the Ishkawa Line in weeks to come, but I doubt it. Even if his faith in the Incarnation’s cause was shaken, inquisitors, as a sort of secret police within the Incarnation armed forces, seem to be selected for their loyalty.