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datatime: 2022-09-30 16:55:32 Author:ZcBvYxVr

Is it? Better for whom? The street cleaners? Better to have your living corpses walk to a central disposal station while they can still walk? Less public spectacle? Less horror lying around? Less disorder? A few million corpses lying around might start a rebellion against those responsible. That's what you and the government mean by better, isn't it?

He watched two novices carrying a steaming cauldron out of the emergence kitchen. They hoisted it onto a table and began ladling out soup.

Due process, they call it, he growled. "Due process of mass, state-sponsored suicide. With all of society's blessings."

Abruptly, and with such force that he twisted the dial knob free of its shaft, Zerchi switched off the receiver. He swung himself out of his chair and went to stand at the window and look down on the courtyard where a crowd of refugees were milling around several hastily built wooden tables: The abbey, old and new, was overrun by people of all ages and stations whose homes had been in the blighted regions. The abbot had temporarily readjusted the "cloistered" areas of the abbey to give the refugees access to virtually everything except the monks' sleeping quarters. The sign outside the old gate had been removed, for there were women and children to be fed, clothed, and given shelter.

Accipiam, the monk repeated.

You are the continuity of the Order, he told them.

He moved slowly down the aisle, pausing at each seat to bless and embrace before he left the plane. The plane taxied onto the runway and roared aloft, He watched until it disappeared from view in the evening sky. Afterward, he drove back to the abbey and to the remainder of his flock. While aboard the plane, he had spoken as if the destiny of Brother Joshua's group were as clear-cut as the prayers prescribed for tomorrow's Office; but both he and they knew that he had only been reading the palm of a plan, had been describing a hope and not a certainty. For Brother Joshua's group had only begun the first short lap of a long and doubtful journey, a new Exodus from Egypt under the auspices of a God who must surely be very weary of the race of Man.

You are the continuity of the Order, he told them.

Afterward, the conventual Mass was a Mass for Pilgrims and Travelers.

"With you goes the Memorabilia. With you also goes the apostolic succession, and, perhaps-the Chair of Peter.

If they choose me, I shall be certain.

No, no,"" he added in response to the murmur of surprise from the monks. ""Not His Holiness. I had not told you this before, but if the worst comes on Earth, the College of Cardinals-or what's left of it-will convene. The Centaurus Colony may then be declared a separate patriarchate, with full patriarchal jurisdiction going to the cardinal who will accompany you. If the scourge falls on us here, to him, then, will go the Patrimony of Peter. For though life on Earth may be destroyed-God forbid-as long as Man lives elsewhere, the office of Peter cannot be destroyed. There are many who think that if the curse falls on Earth, the papacy would pass to him by the principle of Epikeia if there were no survivors here. But that is not your direct concern, brothers, sons, although you will be subject to your patriarch under special vows as these which bind the Jesuits to the Pope."

The area affected by local fallout remains relatively stationary, said the announcer, "and the danger of further windspread has nearly vanished...."

Well, at least nothing worse has happened yet, remarked the abbot's guest. "So far, we've been safe from it here. It looks like we'll stay safe, unless the conference falls apart."

Due process, they call it, he growled. "Due process of mass, state-sponsored suicide. With all of society's blessings."

The abbot's visitor cleared his throat and stirred restlessly in his chair. The abbot turned.

Abruptly, and with such force that he twisted the dial knob free of its shaft, Zerchi switched off the receiver. He swung himself out of his chair and went to stand at the window and look down on the courtyard where a crowd of refugees were milling around several hastily built wooden tables: The abbey, old and new, was overrun by people of all ages and stations whose homes had been in the blighted regions. The abbot had temporarily readjusted the "cloistered" areas of the abbey to give the refugees access to virtually everything except the monks' sleeping quarters. The sign outside the old gate had been removed, for there were women and children to be fed, clothed, and given shelter.

Well, said the visitor, "it's certainly better than letting them die horribly, by degrees."

Accipiam, the monk repeated.

Well enough.

This station is required by law to broadcast the following announcement twice daily for the duration of the emergency: 'The provisions of Public Law 10-WR-3E in no way empower private citizens to administer euthanasia to victims of radiation poisoning. Victims who have been exposed, or who think they have been exposed, to radiation far in excess of the critical dosage must report to the nearest Green Star Relief Station, where a magistrate is empowered to issue a writ of Mori Vult to anyone properly certified as a hopeless case, if the sufferer desires euthanasia. Any victim of radiation who takes his own life in any manner other than that prescribed by law will be considered a suicide, and will jeopardize the sight of his heirs and dependents to claim insurance end other radiation relief benefits under the law. Moreover, any citizen who assists such a suicide may be prosecuted for murder. The Radiation Disaster Act authorizes euthanasia only after due process of law. Serious cases of radiation sickness must report to a Green Star Relief-

He watched two novices carrying a steaming cauldron out of the emergence kitchen. They hoisted it onto a table and began ladling out soup.

Well, at least nothing worse has happened yet, remarked the abbot's guest. "So far, we've been safe from it here. It looks like we'll stay safe, unless the conference falls apart."

If they choose me, I shall be certain.

You will be years in space. The ship will be your monastery. After the patriarchal see is established at the Centaurus Colony, you will establish there a mother house the Visitationist Friars of the Order of Saint Leibowitz of Tycho. But the ship will remain in your hands, and the Memorabilia. If civilization, or a vestige of it, can maintain itself on Centaurus, you will send missions to the other colony worlds, and perhaps eventually to the colonies of their colonies. Wherever Man goes, yon and your successors will go. And with you, the records and remembrances of four thousand years and more. Some of you, or those to come after you, will be mendicants and wanderers, teaching the chronicles of Earth and the canticles of the Crucified to the peoples and the cultures that may grow out of the colony groups. For some may forget. Some may be lost for a time from the Faith. Teach them, and receive into the Order those among them who are called. Pass on to them the continuity. Be for Man the memory of Earth and Origin. Remember this Earth. Never forget her, but-never come back. Zerchi's voice went hoarse and low. "If you ever come back, you might meet the Archangel at the east end of Earth, guarding her passes with a sword of flame. I feel it. Space is your home hereafter. It's a lonelier desert than ours. God bless you, and pray for us."

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