Light shone through the church’s windows, their translucent tints creating a rainbow-colored flower on the altar as the priest gave his sermon.
“And then the Lord said to man, ‘You have failed Me and despoiled my Garden. The price has already been foretold by Saint Xeltia, and now, it must be paid.’
And so, the positions of the Sun and the Moon were switched, with the Sun’s cleansing fire incinerating the Garden of Earth. But the Lord, in all his mercy, did not fully destroy his glorious Garden. The fire spared a small number of seeds, seeds which drifted through space for eons before taking root across the galaxy. Those seeds eventually became the Church, became us: A new garden that will last for eternity. Amen.”
Father Otivus closed the Codex, almost with a sigh. The Book of Cataclysm was always meant to shake readers to their foundations, but it felt all too real now. The galactic collision was pending, and soon the planet of Miklas, as well as its entire solar system, would be sent screaming into the intergalactic void, alone. A seed that would never take root.
Despite the planet’s eventual fate, there remained smaller seeds on Miklas that needed tending. That number grew fewer and fewer every day, as more and more stragglers who initially didn’t accept the Confederation’s offer to leave took it. In fact, that number would become zero today.
Father Otivus wouldn’t be joining them though. The Laws of the Church said that no gardens could be abandoned, because the Lord did not save the seeds of Earth just for them to be deserted again. He did not know the reason for Miklas’ desertion, but figured he had a lot of time to figure it out, whether it was in this life or the next.
Snapping back to the present, Father Otivus went to finish his final sermon.
“And just as the seeds from Earth populated the galaxy, so will the seeds of Miklas, spreading yourselves across the stars the way Abraham’s offspring spread themselves across the Earth millions of years ago. But rejoice, for this garden is not destroyed! It will be tended to in perpetuity, both by the clergy of the Church, and when we pass, by the Lord himself! Amen, and may the Lord be with you wherever you choose to go!” Otivus held back tears. He’d served this congregation for almost a decade, and had know them for even longer than that. Every last one was leaving on the freighter docked at the nearby landing pad.
Holding up the amber-inlaid codex, Otivus led the procession out of the church. He had one last stop before he said goodbye to his congregation: the shrine of Saint Yaana, patron of travelers across the galaxy.
Her ochre skin and copper hair shone in the sunrise, as did her metallic right arm, which was miraculously (or rather, Miraculously) transfigured into platinum while rescuing a derelict transport disabled by the infamous solar storms of the Harenno system.
The worshipers all bowed their heads before the gleaming statue, with Father Otivus placing the Codex on the pedestal.
“Saint Yaana, patron of voyages between the stars, protect us as we journey across the void, to homes unknown and unending. May the Lord act through you as you use your bless-ed arm to guide us through the vacuum and back to the garden.” Everyone stood still, the golden rays of light filling the dead silence of the shrine.
After what seemed like an eternity, Father Otivus raised his head. “Amen.” Standing at the door, he said goodbye to his congregation for the last time. Some would go to Hetia and work in its massive starship foundries, others would farm the spice winds on the archipelago world of Khmo, and yet others would be biological researchers in the Confederation Labs of Netus Prime, keeping the lost planets alive, or at least samples of their flora and fauna.
After the tenth goodbye, his congregation became a blur. He remembered them all by name during his weekly sermons, but this was no typical day. His mind was already further removed from Miklas than his parishioners would be by the end of the day.
Once he bid his final farewell, including to the transport pilot, a woman with short, platinum blonde hair who’d come to pray to Saint Yaana for safe passage, Otivus stood alone in the golden light. Most days, the light of the shrine made him feel like he was being anointed. Not today.
Despite his discomfort, Otivus stayed in the shrine for hours, praying for each of his parishioners by name. The sky was pitch black by the time he finished, the focus of his mind dulling his hunger and thirst.
In the fading light, he noticed the glint of praemisium, a bronzish silvery metal only found deep in a few of the galaxy’s densest nebulae. It was much, much different than the rest of the other totems, which were almost exclusively made from the gems, flowers, and other materials native to Miklas.
What kind of transport pilot could get their hands on something like that? Another question he would have decades to ponder. Whoever this woman was, she was doubtlessly a true believer; the congregation was in safe hands with her.
Clearing it out from the other offerings at Saint Yaana’s feet, Otivus ran his hands on the circular pendant, a silver ring surrounding a praemisium galaxy with a golden core. The thing looked like it belonged in the Church’s prize collection on Holy Clavis. Running his hand across it, He could swear the galactic disc turned a bit to face Saint Yaana’s hand.
The five minute walk back to the church and up the stairs to his quarters on its roof was the longest of Otivus’ life, the realization of what just happened weighing his entire body down. The sun was nearly set, but the light of the garden’s Birtyian flowers illuminated the way as he stumbled down the path and then up the church’s stone steps.
Reaching his sparse quarters on the third floor, Otivus entered the kitchen. He figured he’d save all the cured meat and other food his congregation had given him for later; just because the donated food could fill a spaceport didn’t mean that Otivus should become a glutton.
Gathering some roots and mushrooms from the garden that he’d previously stored, Otivus made himself a stew, thinking of all that was to be done. Besides daily prayers for his congregation, he had to tend the garden, keep the church itself in good repair, not to mention the shrines, especially to Saint Yaana. Best to lose himself in his work and his prayer — in this case they were very much the same thing — rather than go mad focusing on his isolation.
Otivus also had plans to make a library of his writings, in case the Confederation, or whoever succeeded it, went to pick up the pieces once the dust from the collision had literally settled. He had the tools — his congregants hadn’t only given him food — what he needed was the content.
Preserving the religious works was paramount, but Otivus knew his situation was unique, and he wanted to record it for anyone who’d care to come to Miklas and pick up the pieces once the cosmic dust had literally settled. He made a plan for himself: gardening and maintenance in the morning, prayer in the afternoon, writing in the evening.
His first writing was about the lone thing that had occupied his mind all day: the galaxy pendant. He started by sketching it, noting its dimensions and apparent material makeup, but he had no idea about the item besides those basic details.
He spent the rest of the night researching alchemy, an archaic skill, but one practiced by some high clergy, and even a few saints. Only one of them, however, had ever managed to alchemize praemisium: Saint Vatis.
Otivus spent the next few weeks poring through Vatis’ whole career: his writings, his experiments, and his miracles. His living quarters soon became another library, full of decades of books. Thankfully, the Church had given him physical copies, as they knew he’d be disconnected from the electronic databases with Miklas’ isolation.
After finding the details of Vatis’ praemisium experiments, Otivus found that short of a miracle, the rudimentary alchemical equipment underneath the church wouldn’t be nearly enough for the job. Still, he had years to spend and not much else to do in that time, at least in the evening, so he got to work.
The library turned into a laboratory, with the stove’s burners used to reduce and evaporate ingredients, redundant kitchen instruments turned into mixing and sublimation vessels, and an oven modified into a miniature blast furnace.
Night after night, Father Otivus tried to create praemisium, using scraps of metal from around the city and melting them into alloys, always changing the fractions and heat. Regardless of what he did, the metal never came out with even the right color, let alone any luster. Still, he had nothing but time.
Despite his intense focus on alchemy, Otivus still followed the rest of his schedule every day, and as the days turned into months turned into years, the garden grew and grew. It didn’t matter that it had been deserted and left to die by the rest of the galaxy, it was still thriving. Otivus actually had to construct a secondary greenhouse by the church due to all the new growth.
“Many great works begin in the dark, but the Lord always shines His light on them when the time is right.” Otivus thought to himself as he finished moving the plants into the new greenhouse, the light just starting to peek through the glass roof.
Perhaps the new garden wasn’t the only thing that should come into the light. Out of respect, he had not moved any of the totems left at Saint Yaana’s shrine, but the praemisium galaxy left by the transport pilot still confounded him. He’d done so much work trying to research its origins and recreate it, but he’d never actually touched it except on the first day he saw it. Somehow, the metal never even needed to be cleaned, unlike the rest of the totems and trinkets at the shrine.
After a quick watering of the secondary garden, Otivus went to the Saint Yaana’s shrine, taking a deep breath before picking up the pendant again. He’d always felt a bit uneasy about its place buried at Saint Yaana’s feet, as it was far from a typical totem, but totems were not meant to be moved, so he had let it remain.
Still, for some reason, Otivus felt that he had to move it right now, and ever so conveniently, Saint Yaana’s platinum hand was open, ready to accept a gift. Exhaling, Otivus placed the pendant in her hand. He swore he saw the galaxy’s golden center light up as it approached the platinum.
Once it was fully in Saint Yaana’s hand, the praemisium disc illuminated.
The whole galaxy started spinning, both the pendant itself and Father Otivus’ vision. Once things cleared up, he could see the praemisium disc glowing and spinning, a light shooting from it towards the door, making a swirling purple portal to a place Otivus didn’t dare guess about. Was it another shrine? Holy Clavis itself? He had no idea.
A mechanical arm reached through the portal, along with a few locks of flowing coppery hair. While Otivus couldn’t make out the figure’s face, he could hear her voice. “Father, help me. Please. ” He rushed to reach her, just brushing her fingers before the portal closed.
After years of waiting, Father Otivus had finally found his true purpose. And possibly a Saint.
Alarms blared in the lab right as Festina was testing the pulse blaster ammunition she’d just synthesized; it missed the titanasteel alloy breastplate she was aiming at and scorched the wall behind it.
She held onto the blaster as she rushed to the control center, the normally serene blue hallways now draped in red, the same color as the blood that was about to come out of Festina’s ears due to the sirens’ incessant blaring. The control room’s doorway was a shimmering purple, indicating that one of the portals had been activated. A pleasant surprise for once; Festina was sure that her old friends had found her.
Pulling up the console, Festina saw where the portal had opened. Miklas. Unfortunately, the portal only partially opened; apparently the pendant hadn’t been big enough to support a portal opening from wherever Bellona was. Despite the first attempt’s failure, Festina, the Maker, was so happy that she could barely even think. Soon, she’d get to see Bellona again.
She had a lot of plans to finalize, and more than a few pendants to re-gather. But first, she had a visitor. Slicking her platinum blonde hair back, she left the control room. Things were finally getting started.
Freddie Bastiat is a law student whose real name you’ll find out once Andrew Kaczynski doxxes him. He’s a fan of Yoko Taro games, college football, and the restoration of the Byzantine and Achaemenid Empires. You can find him on Twitter @Tht_Fat_Bastiat.