2.18: HH Reverend Marshal

Date: Monday 4 August 2041ce 1340z
Location: Last World Citadel, Louisville, Kentucky (-0500)

How did he get so fat again?

Doctor Cavanaugh adjusted his seat and settled down to eat breakfast.

He had to admit that Cavanaugh had most certainly not regained the near-morbid appearance from before the star spawned arrived. But after fifteen years of being sequestered at Faith Point, enduring the Famine Years and other periodic periods of near starvation, Cavanaugh had thinned out considerably.

Like an old balloon, stretched out and then deflated.

It displeased the old reverend to see the man had become round again, in a time and place where such roundness was a rarity.

And for damn good reason!

A great number of people died during the Famine Years, estimated at somewhat over 400 million after the human population was already down to a billion.

The Southern Bloc itself had lost a significant portion of its labor force, already lowered by Strike Three.

But it was also true that, even with a servant as conditioned as Cavanaugh, he was still human and functioned less efficiently without a defensive ego.

Such weak creatures the rest of our kind is.

“You met with Blakefield?” Reverend Marshal asked to distract himself from the thick slab of butter (quite expensive still) onto a bisque.

“Oh, yes,” Cavanaugh replied. “He’s troubled about your support of Senator Jones.”

“Too lukewarm for his liking?”

Blakefield, like Cavanaugh, was a fool that had to be suffered.

“He’s losing Illinois,” Cavanaugh said. “He thinks he only has one more election in him.”

Pride goeth…

“He might,” Reverend Marshal agreed, but added, “but I’m not counting on it.”

“Oh…?”

Cavanaugh looked most surprised.

“We’re losing youth in the northern states,” he reminded Cavanaugh. “A strong and youthful candidate is needed. A veteran, which Chicago’s inevitable growth spurt will likely favor, with clear Christian values. Jones is a lightweight, spent his time in uniform far from a combat zone, and has… Perversions.”

“Oh. The legal sort?”

“Man lover,” Reverend Marshal confirmed.

No further explanation was needed; It had been a trend some time ago for church endorsed politicians to be outed, only then to claim victimhood to a hyper-religious upbringing and community pressure. They’d always swear that they’ll remain true to their ‘conservative’ values, but they inevitably became open to ‘compromise’ on the most important social issues for the sake of their business interests.

The few of those that remained, and those who came openly later, formed the corporate wing of the former Conservative Caucus.

If only we could burn the traitors.

It had been a few years since an “outed conversion” had occurred, but Jones was the sort to try such a thing so save his political neck.

“Jones serves well enough in Springfield,” Reverend Marshal continued, “and may manage to remain closeted for a while longer if he stays there. And once he’s outed, his constituents can petition a recall election. But he’s making a bid for national politics, and his habits won’t remain hidden for long after he steps up on that stage.”

“I’ve always wondered how the, ehr, associates of men like Jones put up with their hypocrisy?”

“He’s a hard bottom.”

Cavanaugh almost choked on a bite of muffin.

But of course, he managed to get it down.

Reverend Marshal, appearing calm but raging within, waited for Cavanaugh to clear his throat with orange juice before resuming the topic.

“As for Blakefield, he’s lost his roar. He’ll get another election, maybe, based on sentiment and the lack of a presidential election.”

“Assuming the liberals don’t finally pass their voter mandate.”

Assuming.

Maine had already jumped the constitutional free speech hurdle, so the rest of the liberalized nation was certain to follow.

“But now he’s leading a super-minority, not even able to muster a filibuster without alliances, who will abandon us the moment they get their compromise. We need someone new. Someone that can benefit from Blakefield’s base and become a symbol of the Congregations next generation once elected.”

“Even if he’s effectively powerless?”

“If all goes as planned, we’ll need him. We already see our means of secession, and we’d be much better off if we can get southern Illinois to join us when that happens. They might try under church leadership, but an Illinois senator with real Resistance credentials… Far more potential.”

“Primary, then?”

“No. I need to persuade him to retire. Go out on a high note, willingly support his successor instead of dividing his constituents. Who’ll all know that the capital moving to Chicago will result in a major demographics shift in Springfield. If it’s a fight for the nomination, we’ll lose the seat six years earlier than planned.”

If even for a single year…

“I’ll start gathering a list of candidates.”

He sighed, feigning fatigue but truly gathering a moment of reassurance.

Up there… In the black depths… The end of everything I despise approaches.

He almost smiled.

And this time I won’t be depending on a mad teenager.

That thought, however, put an end to the feeling.

“Any changes with Jimmy?”

“Reverend?”

“James Dawson,” Reverend Marshal prodded. “You’re still keeping track of his case?”

“Oh, of course. I just haven’t heard anyone call him Jimmy in a while. The hospital sends me updated reports. Transcripts of his fits. It’s all pretty much the same stuff over and over.”

“And your thoughts haven’t changed?”

“No, he’s nothing like… Adam.”

He’s lost in his own head.

“Good. I want you to schedule a meeting with Shannon. Brief her on Jim… James’ condition. And transfer all your records to her.”

“Will I continue reviewing?”

“Yes. I want her to look for references that only someone familiar with his childhood might find.”

And for her to see what madness comes from a failed awakening.

“Of course.”

“The time is approaching for the Chaplains.”

There. I said it.

“Have you set them to task yet?”

“No. Nor do I intend to.”

“Just send them out into the world?”

“I need to dispel certain illusions they may have. Specifically, about Shannon.”

“Shannon?”

“You said it yourself three years ago, the other Chaplains perceive her at the top of a hierarchy by virtue of her parentage. They must all learn that hierarchy doesn’t exist.”

“They’ll still answer to the High Council?”

Cavanaugh seemed concerned over the prospect of an answer in the negative.

“Loosely,” Reverend Marshal said.

At current, Marshal knew it to be tighter than that, each of the Chaplains conditioned to answer to the High Counsel, and thus to him. This, however, was something Marshal would never share with the doctor, lest the doctor come to question his own loyalty and suspect such conditioning as well.

Can’t have that, can I?

“If we can return to James for a moment,” Cavanaugh said, “the hospital he’s in is closing.”

“Closing?”

He was caught off guard by the news.

“Yes. It’s that Sci-Corpse takeover of mental health. And Mercy’s Heart is an Old Earth relic, barely standing as it is. They’re building new hospitals, after which many places like Mercy’s Heart will be closed down.  Half of the building is already deemed unfit for occupancy.”

Damn!

“We’ll have to get his mother involved soon,” Marshal instructed. “Can’t have him put into one of the new hospitals, which is where he’ll end up if she doesn’t reclaim him.”

Cavanaugh was well versed at keeping people hidden in the private care system, but that system was becoming smaller and smaller as the Federalist push for social dominance continued.

“That may be troublesome,” Cavanaugh said. “As I recall, Misses Dawson find his… Condition… Most disagreeable.”

As do I!

“Yes, of course,” Marshal agreed. “I may have to talk to her.”

“If I may suggest, Reverend… Aaron may be the better choice.”

“Aaron?”

“He was James’ best friend before the accident.”

None of them are friends.

“The mother,” Cavanaugh continued, “may be more receptive to him.”

This is why he’s my emissary… Manipulative as fuck!

“Ah, yes… A surrogate child, already connected to James’ more innocent days.”

“And now all grown up,” Cavanaugh added. “A reminder of the potential James could still have were he finally cured.”

“I’ll tend to that, then,” Reverend Marshal said with a sense of finality, determined not to send his servant to bid tasks to any of his chosen possible successors.

It was also time to change the subject to that which continued to bother him most that morning.

“Any news regarding our stray?”

Cavanaugh swallowed hard on a sausage.

The would be a ‘no’.

“Ah… That, no, there’s no word yet. Our contacts in law enforcement are searching but restrained to avoid federal notice. Damned quantum computers log everything. Communications through FaithNet are ours to monitor, of course, but nothing has come up. Family finances continue to be monitored.”

“Spending habits?”

“All transactions have been local, and we’ve confirmed them all to have been other family members. No unexplained transfers, no side accounts that we can find.”

So Evan is just… Gone.

The vanishing act vexed him greatly, now being down two chaplains from the intended six.

Hopefully the next batch will fare better.

“Keep eyes open, then. But yes, also avoid federal notice.”

“If I may ask… Why haven’t you set the others to find Brother Evan?”

“It’s possible Evan found himself… Inspired. They’ve been taught to recognize and read signs.”

“I see,” Cavanaugh said.

That much I suspect he does.

If Evan had received a guiding vision of some sort, then Reverend Marshal was loath to interfere. It didn’t escape his notice, however, that Evan’s departure might have been an act of deliberate rebellion, or worse, a condition similar to that which afflicted James.

And Adam.

Still, there were other things to worry about, and other plans to see to.

The prodigal son may yet return.

“I’ve noticed,” he began after swallowing toast he couldn’t taste, “that young David hasn’t been around in a while.”

The Blood Royal must survive.

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