It’s a good thing when a story makes you want to go back to an old idea and write fiction of your own. This from Tim Akers accomplishes that for me easily. I really need to make time to write that story one of these days.
The angel waited for her among the eight golden spires of the reliquary. Shredded wings of chain and feather brushed the air. Her body was gaunt and frail beneath the starlight robes, flesh the color of beaten silver, no more substantial than fog or memory. Haelice bowed, touching her forehead to the command icon, waiting there until she felt the nether-soft touch of the cathedral’s fallen host. Only then did she straighten her back to face the divine.”Your absence was noted, initiate,” the angel whispered. Her voice was the gentle chime of crystals, her eyes pierced through with sunlight.
“The choir sings without me, divine. The song to drive, the cathedral to carry, and your wisdom to guide,” Haelice answered. “I am barely needed.”
“The saints need you, child. I need you. Someone must give their will focus. Someone must inhabit the Vapor.” The angel hovered closer. “There must always be a pilot.”
“Yes, well . . .” Haelice kept her head dipped to shield her eyes from the angel’s brilliance. Vapor. Virtual Presence Rig, an awkward name for her bones and blood and biofield. The idea that she was nothing more than a host of the saints of old made her uncomfortable. But she’d left her body long ago, her mind transmitted to this distant ship by the church’s divine frequency, to accept her role as pilot to one of the divine. She was sealed into this cathedral, bound to travel the stars on the inscrutable business of the gods, far from the warm light of Sol and the empire. The creature raised a finger to Haelice’s chin, edging her face up. It was difficult to look into those eyes.
“The blink is unsettling,” Haelice confessed.
“It is a place devoid of your gods and your saints, a place where souls only gutter in the shadows . . . it should be unsettling, initiate. But you must be brave.”
“Next time,” Haelice said, pulling away from the goddess. “Now. Where have you brought us?”
She swiped her hands over the reliquary’s icons, drawing the displays into being, filling the room with brilliant vectors, trajectories, star phases and gravity wells. Haelice blinked up at the information.
“Where are we?”
“At the beck of our brother,” the angel answered. “He has called, and I have come.”
“Which brother?” Haelice knew the ranks of the host as well as any pilot, but none of them appeared on her scans. The only sacred icon on her screen was her own asteroid cathedral, Sanctuary of Divine Intent, named as much for its function as its occupant. “There are no cathedrals in this sector,” Haelice said. She swiped hard across the starmap, searching for anything that was familiar. “There are no cathedrals anywhere. How far have you taken us?”
“There are no cathedrals because there is no choir for this god,” the angel said. “No saints, no pilot, no ship to carry his will.”
“Did they die?” Haelice asked. She began drawing up other displays, trawling for the numinous trace lines of divine power that would leak from any member of the host of angels. It wasn’t common for the massive asteroid sanctuaries to break apart in the blink, but it did happen. She suppressed a shudder thinking of the unwinding blossom of dead saints, breaching into real space from the blink in an ever-expanding scream of final sacrament.
“No. They never were.” The angel settled into the spindles of her berth, drawing numinous light into her being. Very satisfied with herself, Haelice thought. “Our brother is feral. He is undiscovered.”
Haelice knit her brows together, trying to twist the angel’s words into meaning. She turned back to the displays, zooming in on the sacred lines that emanated from her own ship, arcs of purple light that defined the angel’s will. She followed them, slowly, until they crossed another.
A god, buried among the stars, waiting to be found.
“Wake the choir,” the angel whispered. “My brother is in need.”