Story:Bleeding Out: The Lost Chapters.
Sunday. Once a day of rest and worship in many different faiths, before the rise of the Emperor and his successful effort to remake the day into just another secular day with no added significance. But in one small corner of Startseite Hive, voices were raised in praise of their god on their holy day. Sitting in among the small congregation, Julius Pius raised his voice in song, proudly singing a hymn. The loudness helped make up for the dearth in numbers. There only eleven people there, twelve if you included the priest. His father may have won back some rights for Catherics, but that did little to attract more believers to the faith. Every person here was hardcore, willing to accept discrimination and worse so they could believe openly. Julius was proud to be among their number, though his situation was far better. He had friends who didn’t mind the fact he was religious, and he had a girlfriend he cared deeply for who didn’t mind either. His future was mapped out, and he had finally made a choice he had been agonising over for many years. There were few men in the galaxy, he reflected, who could be as content as he was at the moment.
He smiled as the hymn ended, and the Priest rose to the pulpit. This week’s sermon was on the dangers of fundamentalism, a topic dear to Julius’s heart. “Fundamentalism is the enemy of all, and an abomination in the eyes of God. He gave us all the ability to not believe blindly in everything we read or see. Even His holy scriptures passed down to us through the ages is a guide to living life in His way, not an unbreakable set of laws all should follow. The Emperor sees all religious people as fundamentals, which is why he tried to outlaw us. But we will show him he’s wrong about us.” the sermon ended with a scraping of chairs and shaken hands. Everyone here knew everyone else; they were united by shared convictions. Julius shook hands, inquired politely about friends and colleagues, the usual norms.
He waited for all the others to leave, until it was just him and the priest. The priest, Pulandio was from the Talian peninsula where Cathericism had once dominated and flourished before the age of the Imperium, where Julius’s mother had come from. His father had met him shortly after he had moved to Terra, and from then on he had been the family priest. Julius had known him his entire life, and there were few people outside his family both biological and those he saw as family he trusted more. Most of the students at Imperator went to Councillor Celestine with their problems. Julius went to Pulandio, who now gestured for him to sit down.
“Are you here about that thing we discussed?” he asked, his heavy lidded eyes glancing over Julius. For the first time Julius noticed how old Pulandio was, he must have been nearing his two hundredth year. God would be calling him soon, and Julius didn’t want to think about that.
“Yes ser. And I’ve made my choice. Graduation night.”
“It’s a big commitment; you can only give it once. Are you sure she’s the one?”
“Yes. God has spoken to me father; he has shown me she is the one. We complete each other, and I can’t imagine being with anyone else but her.” Earnestness and the intensity of his conviction were written all over his face. He had prayed, asked for God to show him the right path, and He had done so.
“Very well my son. May she make you happy, as your mother made your father happy. Someday you’ll have to introduce her to me, so I can judge her for myself.” Julius smiled ruefully as he took his leave. He knew as well as Pulandio did that the old priest would never get the chance to meet her, her ‘minders’ wouldn’t let her anywhere near a known religious leader.
The space his father rented for services was on the other side of the Hive from the hab they lived in, nearly an hour’s journey by hoverbus. Julius had long grown used to that, and he spent the time flicking through his notes on the Kurdash Compliance campaign during the Great Crusade, his chosen topic for the senior project. He wanted to prove to the selectors for the Imperial War Academy that he could get in based on his own merits, and who his father was meant nothing. The rumour was he had already been accepted out of hand, and he hated the implications that he would get in due to nepotism. Suddenly the hoverbus ground to a halt, and settled on the ground. Julius looked up from a passage describing the Acerbus offensive on thirty-six eight, and he could see black-uniformed Arbites on the road, shotguns held at the ready as hundreds of cars settled to earth around them. That was unusual. One of them came up and rapped on the door of the hoverbus. The driver opened it, and the Arbite climbed aboard. “Ladies and Gentlemen. One of the royal daughters has been shot by an unknown sniper. The road ahead has been closed off, expect delays. We apologise for the inconvenience.”
That news hit Julius like a bullet to the chest. One of the daughters, shot? They were his sisters; he had grown up alongside them his entire life. He scrambled for his vox and hit one. An apt number for the first and most important person in his life. Isis. Lady Lupercal. The woman he loved. There was no reply. Cursing, he hit two. Roberta Guilliman, his best friend among the daughters. He’d know her since they were three year olds, building the perfect city out of building blocks together, planning out the street grid and transport hubs the way no normal three year olds would ever have considered. Again, it rang and rang and there was no reply. A foul oath escaped Julius’s lips. If neither of them were answering, it meant his next three numbers, Remilia Venus and Faith wouldn’t be answering either. Andrew wouldn’t know any more than he did. That left one number, and this time there was an answer.
“Jake? What in fug’s name is going on?! Something about a shooting?”
“Julius? I don’t know man; Venus and I were heading for the park when the beehives came up, spouted something about code red before taking Venus away.”
“That can’t be good. Listen, if you hear anything, you’ll tell me right? I’m stuck on a hoverbus in the middle of Startseite; I’m not going to get anything from here.”
“Sure. Listen, I’m in traffic, I have to go, but I’ll call you back when I get home.” Jake hung up. Julius sat back down, tried to get back into his notes, but found he could not. Instead he reached down, quietly brought out his Catheric Crux, checked to see if anyone was watching, and when he was confident they weren’t he began to pray, pray that everything would be alright.