September 01, 2005

Chapter 16

"I don't understand what they're doing now," said Helena. She was watching the monitors with James and Matthew. Matthew had adjourned the council meeting when Helena arrived, seeing an opportunity to close early and get back to Gregory's papers.

"They seem to have stripped the fat out of the carcass," said Andrew's voice over the speaker from his guard booth. "I've never seen anything this strange."

"Do we have any idea why they're doing this?" asked Matthew.

"It seems to go along with the rest of their insanity," replied James. "I don't have any idea about the details, though."

"Would the famers know?" asked Helena. "They're probably watching this on their monitor upstairs." She switched one screen to the hospital meeting room camera, bringing up the elders, who had reconvened in the hospital to watch this mystery.

"Could one of you go speak with them, since I'm apparently not allowed to?" asked Matthew. Helena and James looked at him questioningly.

"I'll go up," said Helena. "Will you be here, or should I call you after we've talked?"

"I think I'll retire to my strange new quarters," said Matthew. "Let me know what you find out."


Matthew opened the doors to his chamber and walked right back to the chair at the desk. The papers were all still there, some crumpled where he had slept on them.

Gregory hadn't been very organized. Apart from the notebook, which he seemed to have written in one mostly coherent burst the previous year, the papers were a strange mix of notes, messages, receipts, and the occasional picture. The many sheets of red paper warned mostly of people Gregory didn't trust, along with occasional notes about the reactor that Matthew didn't understand.

It would take days to sort all this out, Matthew decided, so it was probably best to read the notebook straight through.


Everyone in the conference room turned as they heard the knock on the door. Helena entered, her red uniform and youthful appearance contrasting sharply with the elders' grays and blacks.

"Do you have any idea what this strange killing is about?" asked Helena.

"We do," said Leah, "and we're very concerned that the Army of God has been reading its Bible too closely."

Helena paused. "I don't know anything about the Bible," she said.

"We don't expect you would, being city folk and all," said Daniel. "We can explain it, though, at least partly."

Daniel opened his Bible. "Leviticus four-one", he said. Helena looked blank.

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them:

"If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin offering. And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord; and shall lay his hand upon the bullock's head, and kill the bullock before the Lord.

"And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock's blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the Lord, before the vail of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which [is at] the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

"And he shall take off from it all the fat of the bullock for the sin offering; the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards, And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away,

"As it was taken off from the bullock of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall burn them upon the altar of the burnt offering. And the skin of the bullock, and all his flesh, with his head, and with his legs, and his inwards, and his dung, even the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn him on the wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall he be burnt."

Helena looked mystified. "So some priest is trying to purify himself?"

"Yes," said Leah.

"Do you do this too?" asked Helena.

"No, we don't," said Daniel. "The age for this kind of sacrifice has passed, we believe."

"So what... why are they doing this?"

Daniel shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.

"I think they're planning to attack," said Miriam. "But they know they can't win with their guns alone, so they need God."

Leah nodded. "They've been reading the book of Numbers at us for days, leading up to the conquest of the promised land," she said. "I'm afraid they think this is their promised land."

"I guess we knew they weren't our average raiders," said Helena. "Any ideas about what we could do to stop them?"

"I doubt whatever they're planning will have much effect on your walls," said Leah. "Maybe it's better to let them distract themselves for a while. You still need another day or two to prepare, right?"

"Yes," said Helena. "The training is going well, but we've never had to do deal with so many people before. We haven't been as distracted by their antics either."


Gregory's notes grew weirder and more fascinating with every page. The opening was a recital of statistics, pointing out how much energy efficiency and power generation had improved since the start of Gregory's leadership, demonstrating the ways in which their manufacturing systems were now better, showing the expansion of trade with the farmers and other cities in that period, and emphasizing his personal involvement in everything.

After the history, Gregory had penned a warning to his successor:

"A strong leader is all that stands between this city and disaster. You must be vigilant, strong, and occasionally ruthless. The thirteen founders realized what an impossible task they were attempting, surrounded by greed and violence. Their example must inspire all of your decisions. Remove those who block the way, those who are too caught up in themselves to contribute to the group.

"Sadly, our people have weakened since the days of the thirteen. You cannot remove all of the poison without halting activity. You may need to balance the poisoned against each other, placing department against department and the council against itself to preserve your freedom to act as is best for the city."

Matthew shook his head. No wonder the last few years had been so complicated. Combining these ideas with Gregory's obvious distrust of nearly everyone else in the city must have driven Gregory mad. The whole burden on his shoulders, with no one he felt he could count on, while the rest of the city looked up at Gregory and wondered why he made everything so difficult.

Matthew's conversations with William and Alice as they chose a leader echoed in his head. They'd all had the same problems, but never realized that anyone else had them as well. Maybe Gregory wanted it that way.

A bell rang. Matthew reached for the intercom.

"Matthew?" It was Helena.

"I think we need to have a meeting," she said. "You're never going to believe what the raiders seem to be doing."

Posted by simon at September 1, 2005 10:00 PM
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