The true believer had doubts.
Vidalia Bessler had joined the exploration service because she firmly believed in the organization’s mission to expand the colony’s horizons beyond a single solar system. And while she greatly admired Captain Warwick Equinox, she wasn’t convinced he was right to want to blow up Saint Kanye.
She had grown up the daughter of a devout Kanyist priest and three clanmothers of the Escalade. Until her Turning and the Choosing of the Hem (she chose nylon – fabric of the stars – over holy dark blue silk), her parents had been certain she would follow in the ways of the Church.
But her heart, from an early age, instead belonged to what lay beyond the hazy veil of Da Vinci’s sky. To their utter dismay, she cared little about the afterlife. After all, she reasoned: so much unknown waited to be discovered in this life, which might be all that she was granted.
She understood that her religion relied on faith. All religion did. In the end, even her devotion to the DES drew on a faithful foundation. And that faith, she felt, was now shaking.
“I’m surprised they broke off that attack,” Equinox said to the holographic image of General Nucci, which was superimposed over the image of the Chevalier and other Kanyist ships leaving the DES orbital outpost to follow new trajectories.
“Don’t be,” the general replied. “Xebec’s smarter than she might seem. If the Church attacks Follett Station, they’re aggressors and we’re martyrs. The Kanyists are now taking up defensive positions around the target. If we move against them…”
The captain nodded, finishing for her: “We’re heretics.”
“And terrorists,” Nucci agreed.
“We have to call their bluff,” he said, standing straight and brushing a hand on the light armor chestplate draped over his black jumpsuit. “We have plenty of drones. They can’t outmaneuver them. We could reduce that rock in just a few hours. Millions of people depend on it. Our entire civilization…”
“No,” Bessler said. “We can’t.”
Equinox raised his eyebrows and turned to regard his second-in-command aboard the Medici. She had violated protocol by interrupting the conversation between her captain and the DES commander, but circumstances didn’t seem to permit the usual adherence to organizational courtesy. He gave a nod, encouraging her to continue.
She stood, stepping into range of the holocam, and bowed in deference to General Nucci. “General, with all due respect to Captain Equinox, we risk destroying the spiritual core of our civilization. If we destroy Saint Kanye, we may save lives at the expense of our very souls.”
The captain grimaced. “Vid, you’ve got family down there.”
“Yes,” Bessler agreed. “And if I robbed them of the symbol of the Church they’ve served for decades, I could never face them again.”
“That’s utterly irrational,” Equinox said.
“But not wrong,” Nucci said.
He snapped his head back around to regard the general. “Are you serious? We’re doing nothing?”
Nucci shrugged. “We’re evacuating all DES assets from the planet. That’s not nothing. As for the statue, the Church has drawn their line and we are not to cross it. Is that understood, captain?”
“We’re going to let our planet die?” he pressed.
“Is it understood, Warwick?” The general didn’t seem interested in further discussion of the matter.
Equinox sighed and shook his head. “No, it’s not. I cannot in good conscience participate in the negligent slaughter of the inhabitants of Da Vinci.” He removed his ornate black helm with its gold command plume and set it on the table. “I hereby resign my commission.” He lifted his chin, then turned once more to Bessler. “The Medici is yours now. The blood of Da Vinci is on your hands.”
Continued in Da Vinci Colony Installment 7.
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