Date: Monday 4 February 2041ce 1255z
Location: Last World Citadel, Louisville, Kentucky (-0500)
She was a quarter way round Citadel property, a mile-wide circle, for the third time, her joggers pace keeping her warm in the chill air.
Yet for all her effort to think about anything else, a recurring thought that had plagued her since entering the chapel once more came to the front of her awareness.
Where is Evan?
It was a question Shannon asked herself often, but she’d felt a certain numbness regarding his disappearance growing over the last few weeks. This morning, it was troubling her as much as it had the day they learned of his departure.
And for the first time in years, she slowed the pace of her morning run.
It had been even longer since she stopped completely.
Where is Evan?
She turned slowly, surveying the land around her.
Nearly a quarter of the property, having about a hundred yards of clearance between it and Citadel itself, was covered in Old Earth forest. Once it had been an island of life surrounded by miles of deadland scoured lifeless by the slithering consumers, though Federalist-mandated re-naturalization projects had reformed the land for hundreds of square miles around and between Louisville and Springfield. But none of these compared to what was now regarded as Marshal’s Woods, with trees far older than a single decade.
Where is Evan?
She scanned the shadows as if he were there, playing a children’s game and ready to flee running if seen.
Shannon’s rotation ended where it began, her eyes once again set upon the path forward.
And why did he leave?
Her gaze went to her left. Several yards in that direction, following the curve of Citadel’s property line, the property line that defined where her grandfather’s estate began. The entirety of the woods had been granted to him as a retirement package, his reward for leading the Southern Bloc Resistance by the newly founded Free State of Kentucky. When the High Council sought property to build Citadel, this section of woods was donated to the Church as a conservatoire.
“For the Faithful to remember God’s Creation,” her grandfather had said, “and to remember what was lost from lack of faith.”
She had always questioned the covetousness of it, that it gave the Faithful something to yearn for, which the Federalists exploited to more easily justify their wasteful restoration spending.
Attempting to rebuild the Garden in their own image.
That was forever the problem with the private vote; Many of the Faithful may speak against the frivolity of Federalists and their liberal spending, but they were free to vote for those policies like faithless hypocrites.
It was also true that Shannon had never considered the property to her left as anything other than her grandfather’s, knowing that the final days of the Last World would be soon at hand.
Evan had come across as knowing the same truth, and was proud of their achievement in gaining the High Council’s approval to form the Chaplains.
So why did he leave?
Evan’s family had been important in the manufacturing of explosives for the Southern Bloc, inevitably resulting in securing business funding to continue doing so after the NES took over. They certainly had money, but she knew from speaking with Evan’s mother that they were certain Evan wasn’t accessing any of their accounts.
Unless she’s lying.
She dismissed the accusation, determining his mother to have been genuinely concerned.
Evan had moved into Citadel the same day she did, three days before the Chaplains were due to assume their roles within the Church.
Whatever those really are.
It was the morning before they were to first appear in uniform that Evan had asked the question she feared to have been doubt.
“Has God spoken to you?”
There was concern in his voice, almost a fear the He had indeed spoken to Shannon.
“God hasn’t spoken to anyone in a long time,” was her reply, knowing it true.
She knew that Evan was holding something back but refrained from asking if he needed a confessional.
What was bothering him?
The next day, he was the only one not to appear in the Chapel at 8am to swear their lives in quest to finding the Hammer of God and achieving Final Salvation for mankind.
Four years training for the quest… Why did he reject it? Why did he just leave?
Evan had left the property at 7:46pm, and there was spotty visual confirmation via Kentucky State Guard, but that ended after crossing the western boarder.
Vanishing into Resistance territories.
Shannon had resisted her desire to search for him, but her grandfather had instructed her not to deviate from her current instructions. Doctor Cavanaugh, without doubt, had his intelligence network searching for Evan, though no news had been shared with her.
So why are we here?
The High Council had given the explanation that they desired the Chaplains to serve as icons for a short time. By now, the Congregates new fully well that the Chaplains had been formed. They were appearing at public events, usually those times and places were a High Reverend was giving sermon or a speech. As yet, they were not permitted a primary role in anything.
“It won’t be long,” the High Council assured them, that time from her own grandfather. “It won’t take long before the Congregates to think of you as a permanent fixture rather than something new that’s come to take over.”
I try to have patience.
They were promised that, once given leave to go forth on quest, they would be permitted some measure of autonomy. They would hold no ranking in Church hierarchy, but rather had the task of gaining such on merit.
No… It wasn’t the prospect of waiting.
As tedious as it was waiting for the High Council to set them free to act in God’s Name, Evan wouldn’t have just walked away from the very beginning of everything they’d always worked for.
She started walking again, speeding back up to a run within twenty paces.
So why did he leave?
It wasn’t long before she could see the end of the woodlands, unaware of being observed a mere twenty yards beyond her grandfather’s property line.