August 31, 2005

Chapter 15

The next morning was bright and cold. The compound was bustling with activity. People were cooking, cleaning tents, visiting friends, sending their children to the library, tending their livestock, and generally looking much more hopeful than they had the morning before.

The Bible reading from the other side of the wall seemed to have halted. Perhaps the reader had finally worn out. The farmers took it as a promising sign that things might return to normal sooner rather than later.

The elders were back in their usual tent, leaving Jacob and Miriam to watch God's Army on the hospital monitors. Gideon and Sarah were visiting Rachel, pleased to hear that John was still alive but wondering what it meant that he was a citizen again. Rachel was still asleep, murmuring occasionally but not clearly aware that Gideon and Sarah were in the room.


Helena's report on preparations for the removal of the raiders had gone smoothly, though Matthew had yawned a few more times than he would have liked. Gregory's notebooks and files had proven far too interesting, and he'd only had an hour of sleep, collapsed in the chair. When the alarm rang, he'd started reading again, and Margaret had had to call him to come to the meeting.

William was reporting on the current state of the reactor, which was mostly fine. Matthew kept drifting off, finding himself staring at Catherine when he came back to. She looked more and more flustered as the meeting went on, and started asking William obscure questions about repair cycles and testing.

When they finally broke for food, Margaret came over to Matthew. "I told you not to spend too long reading," she said.

"I couldn't help it," said Matthew. "I learned more last night about why things have been the way they are than I'd ever known before."

Margaret stepped back a bit. "Does this mean you're planning major changes?"

"No, no, not right away, anyway. But once I've finished reading and had a chance to process all of this, I'll have a lot of questions for the council and the citizens."

"Is it really that troubling?" asked Margaret, brows knitted tightly.

"Well - yes, probably," replied Matthew. "I only got through a small part of what Gregory had left, though, and I need to spend a lot more time before causing trouble."

Margaret shook her head. "It already seemed challenging enough, with raiders on our doorstep. If you have any questions I can answer, I'll be happy to try, though -"

Catherine walked toward them, and Margaret stopped talking, filling her plate with food instead.


Isaac came to relieve Jacob and Miriam at the monitor. "The elders want to see you," he said. "Something to do with observers."

Jacob and Miriam left the hospital and headed for the elders' tent.

"It's the two of us plus the hunters, right?" asked Miriam.

"That makes the most sense to me," said Jacob.

When they reached the elders' tent, it was silent. They went inside, and found the elders sitting quietly, eyes closed. Jacob coughed quietly, and they awoke.

"We have been discussing who should go with the city residents as observers," said Leah. "We're concerned about your choices, Jacob."

"Well," began Jacob. "The hunters are the usual observers. We need two more, and Miriam and I are the only others who regularly deal with situations like these."

"Yes," said Leah. "But you're also brother and sister, and the situations you've dealt with together haven't been this, well, hazardous."

Miriam shook her head. "But..." she began.

"It's not about your capabilities," said Daniel. "We know you're both capable. It's just that -"

"What?" said Jacob. "That we're orphans?"

"Well, yes," said Leah. "Orphans whose parents were killed by raiders themselves, and the only ones left in a line that's been critical to every phase of our community's existence."

"If we lose both of you," said Judith, "the impact on morale will be horrible."

"Morale?" asked Miriam. "We - we're not here to be idols. We're here to get things done."

"Yes," said Judith. "Your family always has."

"We think it would be better if only one of you went, and then someone else," said Leah.

"Who else?" asked Miriam.

"Isaac," said Daniel. "We thought his willingness to look for another road in the face of the raiders was impressive, and he's been showing signs of, well, needing to do something different."

"And which of us would you have go?" asked Jacob.

"Isaac's inexperience points us toward wanting someone with more experience in these things, and that means you, Jacob," replied Leah. The other elders nodded.

Miriam's face was red. "Isaac? Instead of me?" She left the tent.


The council stopped suddenly when there was a knock on the door. Matthew's eyes flew from Catherine to the door. Margaret answered it, and Helena stepped in.

"I'm sorry to bother you again," she started, "but the Army of God is behaving very strangely."

"How strangely?" asked Matthew.

"Well, they seem, well, they are killing one of the farmers' bulls in front of their tent."

"Killing a bull?"

"Yes. They slit its throat, collected the blood, and brought it into their tent."

"Animals," said Catherine. "Maybe they're drinking the blood."

"They seem to be butchering the animal now," said Helena, "but they're ignoring all of the good meat and just gathering the fat."

"What a waste," said William, shaking his head.


Miriam stormed into the hospital's monitoring room, startling Isaac, who'd been focused on the monitor.

"You've got to see this, Miriam," he started.

"I don't care," said Miriam. "The elders want to see you."

"They do?" asked Isaac. "Do they know that the Army of God is sacrificing animals?"

"What?" asked Miriam. "Sacrificing? Sacrificing what?"

"I think it's one of our bulls," said Isaac, as Miriam looked into the monitor to see. "How much of a sacrifice is it if they sacrifice our stock?"

"This is definitely odd," she said. "You should, uh, tell the elders about this."

"Shouldn't you tell them?" asked Isaac.

"No, they asked for you," said Miriam.

Issac took a last look at the monitor, and headed toward the elders' tent. Miriam kept her eyes on the scene outside, and started taking notes.

Posted by simon at August 31, 2005 11:14 PM
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