The Sisterhood of the Holy Magdalene had originated in the Old Universe on the planet known as Atlantis. It was an order named for the consort of the Holy Prophet Joshua of the Universal Church of Atlantis. But in most things the Sisterhood was independent of all organized religions. Its adherents were trained and skilled in the ways of the Sorcerers though they were not themselves sorcerers and it was considered of benefit to any Great House to have a Sister breed with one of its members.
Mother General Corbus Lang, The Sisterhood
We say Gods rather than God because it is widely held, by enlightened minds, that each worldline has its own God and so there are many. God is as infinite as the possibilities that separate all the universes.
Altus Rhann, Holographica.
I never had much use for invisible friends. Give me a good weapon and a target and I’ll do just fine.
Rogue Ranger by Colin O’Brien
Prince Toreus Rhann and the Thuvian Rangers
Chapter 5: The Creed of Resistance
Father Philip Kim sat behind his desk with a secure Church panoramic conference stage in front of him. The virtual screen wrapped about him and was visible only to his contact clad eyes.
The Royal Church of Arcadia had its secrets like any great organization and among those secrets was the Holy Resistance, a secret organization consisting of priests, monks and nuns who did not approve of and could not approve of the Wallace excesses.
And considered the teachings of the Earth philosopher, Ayn Rand, to be quite unholy.
A few centuries ago the Magisterium of Universal Church of Atlantis and its Magister General had pretty much ruled over the spiritual life of much of Terra Prime. And hence had pretty much heavily influenced the politics and culture of the Great Sphere.
Then, as happens in most organized religions, a schism occurred.
The problem had started here in Arcadia where the Taylor King—Leonidas I—had come to disagree with the Magisterium and had objected strongly to the Church’s influence in internal politics of the realm.
Leonidas had come to believe in principle of separation of Church and State as well as the freedom of an individual to choose his own religion or lack thereof. His reign had seen the abolition of human slavery and the harsh and unenforceable anti-agnosticism laws.
This made him many enemies in the UCA.
This went against the UCA’s interests since such a philosophy would allow citizens to set up faiths that the Magisterium considered false and would afford atheists—Gods forbid—the right to their beliefs__or lack of them. This outrage could not be allowed to stand.
Though the current Magister General denied it the UCA had interfered in United Kingdom politics and orchestrated a scandal that had led to the House of Barons ousting the Taylors and replacing them with House Wallace.
Back then the Wallaces were consiered good and devout Universalists and so the change was cheered by the UCA.
But in the fullness of time it became apparent that the Church had made a big mistake by backing a Wallace as King.
James I Wallace had wanted a divorce from his wife, Estella and the Church, being strongly anti-divorce, had denied him his wishes.
This had led to James having his Parliament abrogate all rights of the Church in Arcadia and appointing the Archbishop of Newer London the Magister General of the plate’s churches and King James the President of the Church of Arcadia which would no longer be a part of the UCA.
The then Magister General sent an envoy to Pangea plate to try and get the College of Princes to declare war against the United Kingdom and its upstart king.
But trade relations between the Emerald College and Arcadia were too strong, the plate being the groundside capital of the Gyptian Privateer traders, as well as being a plate where many people believed in many gods owing to the predominance of Norse, Greek, Roman, Cro Magnon and Egyptian cultures from the worldline of origin. So the Magisterium suffered another defeat at the hands of secular authority.
The Magister General ordered the Church Militant to recruit a mercenary army of holy warriors to attack Arcadia.
The Brotherhood of Saint Sebastian led the first of those jihads and there was yet another defeat for the Magisterium.
There followed two more Holy Wars and two more defeats. And a third would be jihad led by children who ended up being captured and sold into slavery by pirates from Hydropangea.
Finally a new and more liberal minded Magister General took the throne and the Holy Wars ceased—though the Church via its intelligence organ, the Church Intelligence Assembly (CIA) continued a covert program to undermine the Wallace government.
For the last two hundred years the Wallace King had been the President of the Church of Arcadia and the people of Pangea had seen a resurgence of the ancient the Atlantean religion of the Lords of Light and Darkness with its idea that each universe had its own god further weakening the attraction of a central church that worshipped one god.
Then Radu Wallace had sent his nephew, Wesley__the heir to the throne__to Earth 3261. While there he met the apostate philosopher Ayn Rand who had survived the 1963 Atomic war on that worldline and had gorwn in power and resources. Wesley had become smitten with the woman and had arranged for her to get Priman life prolongation treatments.
Wesley could not wait to take her heartlesss, selfish creed back to Arcadia and his Unle__the King__allowed him to begin to implement its philosophy of Objectivism in the Kingdom.
Things had gone from bad to worse in no time at all.
People of faith had become bonded together in their dislike of Randism. The resistance grew and was joined by many other anti-Wallace factions in the realm. The labor unions and the secular charities were not amused by the move to the selfish right on the plate.
But all things were not smooth within the Arcadian Church. Kim and his fellow rebels were not at all happy with the Wallaces. Though the Church Intelligence Assembly did finance the activities of their resistance underground, more often than not interfering with their autonomy rather than helping their cause.
One of the bishops who looked at him from the holographic stage was an agent of the CIA and everyone knew it. Though none of them would discuss it openly. They kept his secret because the Assembly was a valuable source of funds for the Resistance. A resistance that was somewhat moot in its affects.
Father Phil did not particularly like the Bishop and tried to avoid talking to him whenever that was possible. The man represented many things that Phil did not approve of on many levels. But politics and revolution make strange bed fellows and so he had little choice in the matter of association.
He was the Sub-Archbishop of Newer London, Bishop Thomas Hannigan. His position one step removed from the woman who ran the Church of Arcadia on a day to day basis had made him a first rate recruitment victory for the Assembly.
If Archbishop Diana Tillson were to die it was very possible that an Assembly agent would be the head priest of the C of A. Then the only thing standing in their way of reasserting themselves in Arcadia would be the King. But the King was the head of the Church in everything but its daily running so that really was not a triumph.
It is hard to overcome an ancient institution. Whether it be a chruch or a monarchy.
The other three rebels were: Reverend Mother of the Magdalenes, Lisa Carbone. A wise woman in her sixties who had made no friends in the Royal Family with her outspoken views on politics__and women’s reproductive rights.
Then there was Brother Marco Frank, the most junior of them all and the fellow who did most of the grunt work for the group. That is anything that Phil did not do.
And finally Father Minh Trang who ran what they called the Underground Railroad for the organization__that branch of the resistance that handled travel in and out of Arcadia.
Yes, this was Phil’s cell and right now he was thinking that they were all less than useless in the current situation. Including himself,
How are your cares holding up? Hannigan asked him via thought radio.
well, considering, said Phil. But time is running short. The city is turning into a battlefield that grows more violent by the moment. And it seems that this is the only thing slowing down a RAMP sweep of the entire region for these fugitives.
Hannigan frowned. Then perhaps it is time that we give up on this dangerous course of action and surrender the family to the RAMP.
Yes leave it to him to suggest that. The Assembly and its masters in Nova Roma had no love for the Taylors. If the ruler of Arcadia were to be replaced they would just as soon not have it be a descendant of Leonidas I. In fact they desired a puppet that would seal the breach between the Holy City of Nova Roma in Pangea and Newer London and bring back the good old days of church rule—of both realms.
How long would it be before Hannigan dropped a line to the RAMP and turned the Taylors over to them? Not long, Phil conjectured. The man was interested in saving his own skin and pleasing his masters in Nova Roma—a bad combination.
Father Minh, Phil asked the Underground Railway conductor. Are you sure that you cannot arrange transport for them?
Trang shook his head doubtfully. There are many people fleeing Arcadia and we ourselves may shortly be among them. I’m not certain that I could arrange passage for us let alone someone as high profile as the Duchess and her two sons. Already some of my best contacts have been arrested.
The Taylors should be a priority, said Phil, his temper popping.
That is a matter of perspective, said Hannigan. And not a perspective that is widely shared by other cells in our movement.
Yes, and not by your true masters, you Universalist bastard.
I would be willing to accompany them, said Brother Marco. Marco was Thulian by genotype but Arcadian by birth. He had the rough flat, heavy browed apelike face of his people and was likewise a small, heavily muscled humanoid. Most Thulians tended to be conservative but not Marco. And there was no questioning his loyalty as well.
He was loyal to the Church even though official Church policy said that his people did not exist as a seaparate race of hominid and were just another breed of Homo sapiens__though a lower one. Lower even than the blacks and the so-called Celestials such as Phil himself and Tran.
Good old Marco, thought Phil. On most worldlines his people had been doomed to extinction but the Sidairian Preservers had gathered all that they could find and moved them here__to Thulia Plate. And with the help of the Sidairian gene engineers they had managed to survive.
No, Brother, said Hannigan, once more proving that there was no democracy in their cell. The Sub-Archbishop was the boss here as he was in the Church proper. He would only bend over and kiss ass for his Assembly case officer. We cannot have you make heroic risks like that. You are much too valuable.
That almost made Phil boil over. Who was this lap dog to say that?
That still does not fix the transport problem, said Tran. There is no way out. Arcadia is sealed like a drum.
No, there was still the Pangean, thought Phil. He had promised to help as soon as was possible. But Phil could not divulge this to any of the members of his cell. Because the Pangean did not trust them.He knew that there were Universalists spies in the Resistance. Spies like Hannigan.
The Duchess is a former student of mine, said the Reverend Mother. She should understand the need for sacrifice.
Meaning? Challenged Phil.
Perhaps she should stay behind and allow you to take the two boys away to safety. A smaller group with children might not show up on the enemy’s grid. Especially if such a strikingly beautiful woman were not there and the boys were disguised as members of a lower class.
Phil did not like this but his reaction to that would reveal feelings that he was not sure he wanted any of these people to know about. He wasn’t sure that he wished anyone to know of his feelings for Lois. Some things were best kept below the rose.
I will discuss it with her, he lied giving up on this bunch of armchair conspirators. I’m signing off now.
He deactivated the stage and shook his head doubtfully.
The Pangean is our only hope, he thought.
The Duchess Lois Chandler Taylor was not a timid person. Not by a long shot. But that did not mean that she was without fear.
And today she was really scared. Shitless, would have been the term her elder son would have used—if she had encouraged him to use such language. Which she did not.
Yes, she was scared for the future. But, then again, almost every one was these days. The tide of political disasters that Radu Wallace had sewn throughout Arcadian life in the past few years were beginning to boil over into the makings of a civil war.
She was in the parlor of the Rectory of St. Carson’s Church watching her younger son, Leo as he sat on the carpet talking to his robot bear, Timmy
The bear stood about a meter tall and wore the uniform of a Taylor House Guard. It was designed along the lines of a typical stuffed bear save that it was fully articulated and could move like a living creature. Its eyes were dark and glassy and its muzzle creased by a welcoming smile..
The boy was fond of the bear and would not leave it even when Joss Carpenter had shown up in the middle of the night to sneak them out of the manor house, past the approaching bike mounted RAMP officers on their way to arrest them.
Joss could not disagree with the boy’s choice—nor could Lois. The bear was a very smart machine with lots of resources and abilities. Whoever had designed the thing had been a genius—no doubt about that. Its Sarafian memory banks alone made it a rare and priceless possession.
Nathanial had brought the bear back from Hydopangea where he had been part of the Peace Force helping Prince Eric Rhann with his pirate problem.
That was before Radu Wallace had decided to sever all relations with the Pangean Empire. He had called the Emperor and his family communists and not worthy of trust.
Her Duke had found the bear in a bizarre and been told that the machine was an old antique of unknown origin.
Leo loved the machine animal like it was a second brother. It was for this reason that no one questioned the twelve year olds attachment to it. Timmy was much more than a toy. He was, as far as anyone could determine, sentient.. And that put him, potentially, among that small class of AI that were afforded legal rights under the constitutions of the more advanced worldlines and plates. At least places that recognized the Mechan Laws that gave civil rights to artificial beings.
Unfortunately Arcadia did not recognize such laws. It was widely feared that AI suffrage would harm the plate’s economy, which was heavily dependant on Nippon a robots and synthetic personalities.
Arcadia was among those places that still recognized slavery as a valid institution though the slavery of sentient beings of biological origin was not considered as cost effective and efficient as that of artificial beings.
For that reasons Mechans would not work for Arcadian employers and one could not find a Randarite navigator on ships of Arcadian registry. It was a subject that her husband had long campaigned on to no avail.
Father Philip Kim and her older son, Nathan entered the parlor.
“Any news?” she asked them. She tried to keep the worry out of her voice. Her training with the Sisterhood helped there. She had been a very devoted Magdalene until she was introduced to Duke Nathanial Taylor. Then she had melted inside. Had fallen in love for the first time in her life. And had never stopped loving to this very day some twenty years later.
From that day forward she had never looked back to her old life. She had become a member of House Taylor. Which also meant that she had become swept up in the politics of Arcadia and the place that the Taylors held in that politics. That being the loyal opposition to Randism.
Her Duke wanted to create a Republic in Arcadia. Wanted to put his title and that of his heirs on the trash heap of history in favor of a government by the people, of the people and for the people.
Father Phil shook his head. “There are riots and firefights throughout the city, they are arresting dissidents and conducting house to house searches.”
“No, sign of Dad,” said Nathan, shaking his dark blond head..
Lois looked at her elder son and tried to keep the sadness out of her eyes. Nathan loved his father dearly and she could see that he was anguished over the arrest of the Duke.
“Do not lose heart, Nathan,” she said. “The survival of our family rests on our shoulders now.”
Nathan sat down in a chair across from her. “It’s just sinking in, Mom. Nothing is going to be the same ever again—is it?”
“No,” she said. “but change is the one thing in life that is always inevitable. And inescapable. The conservative mind is a mind that is full of the capacity for self delusion. They believe that change can be resisted or turned back. But that is not true.
“I have always tried to teach you—and your father—that change must be accepted and guided in a direction that will make it a good and worthy thing. Just because things will not be the same does not mean that they must be worse.”
“But Dad is in the hands of the Wallies,” said Nathan. “The biggest bunch of creeps on the Great Sphere.”
“But we are still free,” said Leo. “and as long as that is true then they haven’t won.”
Nathan threw his brother a harsh look. Like so many elder children he hated to have his kid brother contradict him. But he also appreciated Leo’s innate ability to cut through all the complications of life and state the obvious thing that everyone else was ignoring.
So Nathan smiled at Leo and laughed.
“And as long as we are free we can even up the score.”
Leo held his fist up toward his brother.
“We are the Taylor Brothers.”
Nathan banged his fist against Leo's. “And we never quit.”
The bot banged his paw against those of the brothers, “Excelsior,” said the deep robot voice.
This sent a pang of dread through Lois’ motherly heart. She did not want her children to be warriors—at least not yet. Let them be children for just a while longer.
But she knew that that was a foolish wish. This was another of those changes that was inevitable. Suddenly she felt as if her lecture to her sons would choke her.
“When you are ready,” she said. “Right now you have much growth ahead of you before you are ready to tackle the Wallace Dragon.”
The two boys looked at their mother and then at one another. Lois knew that they were probably passing some wisecracking message along their mental thought net. The two boys were good at that.
Open channels, please, she transmitted to them. There is no need to be rude.
Yes, Mom, both boys chorused on the family channel.
Satisfied that her children had been reminded of proper hyper-mentation manners, she turned her attention to Father Phil.
“Father, has there been any word of Kai’Vhan police searching churches and rectories?”
The priest shook his smoothly shaved head. “So far they have shown the proper legal respect for hallowed ground. It is fortunate that our enemies are the Wallaces. They have always used the Church as a means of subjugating people that they feel are their lesser. And, in order to earn the respect of the Church they have to give the Church what it feels is its dues. They won’t search churches and convents and rectories until they have searched everywhere else. Then RAMP will conduct the searches by themselves with the Kai’Vhan standing off somewhere—since the Church considers cyborgs to be unholy.”
Father Phil could be counted on to tell the truth to her and her family. He was a loyal servant to the Taylor household. He had always been a spy for the Taylors inside the CoA.
And the Church of Arcadia—as a willing pawn of House Wallace—was an enemy of the Taylors.
“Then all we can do is sit here and wait for Joss Carpenter to get in touch with us. We can do nothing until then.”
“What if the police come before Uncle Joss gets here?” asked Nathan.
What if, she thought, terror gnawing at her down deep inside. Then I must stand my ground and sacrifice myself to see that my sons live and escape the clutches of our enemies. Then, and only then, will the enemy have a partial victory but not a complete one. And the name of Taylor will live on to come back and haunt them in some as yet unrealized future.
“Then we will change our location,” said Father Phil. “We will enter the basement of the world via the tunnels under the church and seek a hiding place there.”
Yes, the basement of the world. The great underground labyrinths below the Arcadia Plate. Built by the World Builders in a time before people were moved here from their home worldlines. This church, like so many others on Terra Prime, had been built atop access ways to the Underworld. Such entries to the tunnels built by the creators of the plate had come to represent doorways to the Gods. Holy places.
The palace itself had been built atop a hill where was hidden the great Genesis Bunker of Arcadia. The place where the Sidairian World Engineers and the Atlantean Time Sorcerers kept the templates for the plate mechanisms as well as the emergency controls necessary to maintain an artificial world. The place where it was said all the tools necessary for creation were kept in storage, against the day when they might be needed.
It was said that in the Genesis Bunker was located the Well of Worlds, a device that allowed access the any wormhole. Perhaps an escape route for her and her sons.
That was something to keep in mind as well. But, for now she would stick to Joss’ plan.
Besides, she did not have access to the Genesis Bunker. That required a key that resembled a sword. She had only seen such a key once, a long time ago, when her father had taken her to Pangea to the Court of the Emperor. The Emperor wore such key in a scabbard on his sword belt. It was also rumored that the King of Arcadia had one but that it was kept locked and guarded in the Tower of Newer London.
The tower where her love now was imprisoned.
“May I inspect the entrance to the underground?” she asked the priest.
“Of course,” he nodded.
Father Phil led her out of the rectory into the Church proper. The boys and the robot bear follwed along behind them.
They crossed the knave in low light and entered a hallway that took them towards the back of the ancient structure.
Like most of the churches in Arcadia this one had been built centuries ago as a church of the Universal Church of Atlantis. But when the schism happened it became a part of the Church of Arcadia. Because of this it had many features that were left over from that earlier era and a few changes to accommodate modern times and the sensibilities of the new regime.
They stood before a statue of St. Carson, the patron saint of safe travel. Carson wore the robes of a monk and stood atop a celestial globe. Though his skin was bronze he had the pointed ears and features of a Randarian. Obviously the artists had taken liberties with the saint, making the Randarian navigator more human in appearance.
Carson still held favor with the CoA because Arcadia, like most nations of the Sphere, was dependant on space and time travel. Even though Randarians were not well favored by the elite of the Church.
However, many other saints had not fared so well. And none of the pagan gods, who had found demotion to sainthood in the Universal Church managed to make it into the pantheon of CoA saints.
There were no statues to Zeus, C’thulu, Thor or Moroni in the CoA churches.
Phil pushed three stars on the globe and the statue slid forward and to the side, revealing a doorway.
They entered the doorway. The space inside was illuminated with glow globes—Atlantean eternal lighting devices. The walls were made of the same brick as the building, the manmade granite that was common in buildings throughout Terra Prime. The Sphere, not being a natural planet, had no granite to be quarried. One had to manufacture it out of silicon. And nanotech had long ago made it possible to manufacture any type of rock out of its atomic components, Concrete, marble, basalt, limestone__name it you could make it.
At the center of the room was a spiral stairwell leading down into the plate—down into the basement of the world.
It would be a long walk, Lois knew. And a long climb back up. The plate was 1000 kilometers thick and the shallowest part of the underworld was some twenty five kilometers deep__beneath the 20X20X20 kilometer cube of the Genesis Bunker, that was positioned under the Palace Hill and the Fountain Base..
Down this well would be the machinery of the ancients. Machines that maintained the world. Among them would be things that the builders had not anticipated when they constructed the plates around the sun.
She knew the stories and the myths. Any child who grew up on Terra Prime did.
Mothers told bad children that if they did not behave the Trongoroth would come up from under ground and eat them.
The Trong were real enough. Ancient insectoid organisms that had invaded the Sphere long ago and been finally subjugated and confined to the lower depths. Some of the Trongoroth had even been tamed to do useful work in the underworld.
Youngsters also heard of the Plate Dwellers. Troglodytes that lived in the underworld. They lived down there like cave dwellers, farming fungus and using taps off the recycling wells to make their livelihood. They wre masters of the Trongs now and of the later alein invaders, the Metrons.
Lois peered down into the dark stairwell and felt a pang of dread. That was the way out if they were trapped by their enemies. Down there and…then where?
The Genesis Bunker would be closed to them. But probably not to their enemies. They would have to emerge somewhere else and find their way off this plate to one more friendly to the Taylor cause.
Would there be secret jump tunnels down there?
The Sarkhons would set up such conveniences for their agents. According to legend a Time Sorcerer could come and go with the silence of a cat. If watched for their approach could not be seen, if listened for not heard. It was said that a Time Sorcerer could materialize in a crowded room and not be noticed—until he chose to be.
But I am not a Time Sorcerer, she thought. Though the sisterhood had long trained its acolytes in the ways and philosophies of the Atlantean Time Sorcerers few, if any of the women were allowed into the corps and then only those of pure Atlantean blood.
No, I am a woman and a mother. I do not play with the course of the future save to protect my children and assure their place in it.
“I have been down there,” said Father Phil. “The stairs are dark for several hundred meters. No glow globes were installed to discourage casual visits. Or so I suppose. I considered installing my own but it is hard to buy Atlantean gear without drawing attention from the RAMP.”
Yes, she thought. Atlantean tech meant Atlantean involvement and Atlantean involvement might mean a violation of the Guild Treaty. The Wallaces would want to be informed of that. Even though their own involvement with the Shaitannises was a clear violation of the Treaty. And to the CoA Atlantean was the same as Universal Church of Atlantis—even though the Atlanteans had very little these days to do with Nova Roma. Atlanteans had returned to a modernized version of the worship of the Lords of Light and Darkness..
“Okay,” she said. “I want packs with necessary items and torches stowed here. If the time comes we will not have time to gather our wears. There will just be time to run.”
She looked Phil in his almond eyes.
“Have weapons stowed here too.”
“Yes, milady. I’ll get right on it.”
Father Phil closed the door to the basement of the world.
After that they went to lunch. The waiting game began again.