Infinite Space, Infinite God [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Karina L. Fabian & Robert A. Fabian
eBook Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy EPIC eBook Award Winner
eBook Description: Interstellar exploration. Genetic engineering. Time travel. Alien abduction. The Vatican. Explore the possibilities with "Infinite Space, Infinite God," an anthology of fifteen stories about the future Catholic Church. Experience the Church's struggle to evangelize aliens and lost human colonies and to determine the soul-status for genetically modified humans, genetically-designed chimeras, and clones made from the Martian sand. Discover religious orders devoted to protecting interstellar travelers or inner-city priests. Experience technical advances allow monks to live in solitude on the Moon and help one criminal learn the true meaning of Confession. Learn about the present and future advances that will affect Catholic doctrine in introductions by the editors. Is there religion in your SF or SF in your religion? Either way you look at it, "Infinite Space, Infinite God" is fast-paced, absorbing fiction that makes you think. If you're tired of science fiction that ignores human faith or religious fiction where the technical elements are sacrificed for "the message," then ISIG is the book for you.
eBook Publisher: Twilight Times Books, Published: 2006
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2006
Karina and Robert Fabian
10 Reader Ratings:
"Infinite Space, Infinite God is an excellent collection of science fiction short stories. These authors' imaginations are astounding, pulling me into each and every story from the first paragraph, and then masterfully entwining their writings with Catholicism. The characters come alive in vivid detail making each story's uniqueness stand on their own merit. Highly recommended, not only to devoted sci-fi readers, but to those who have never read the genre before."--PJ, Scottieluvr's Chewing the Bone reviews
"Peter, wake up!" Sister Mary Elizabeth, of the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue, cried out in her sleep. "Wake up, Peter! Run! Run!" She shook wildly, nearly overturning her simple cot. In her dream, she was a specter beside her twin brother, watching him rise to wakefulness with agonizing slowness. "Get out! Run!!"
Suddenly, klaxons sounded and his ship lurched one way, then another. He came suddenly awake and thrashed his way out of his sleeping bag even as the ship's thrashing threatened to yank it off the Velcro attachments that held it to the wall of his sleep locker. She called again for him to hurry as he used his arms to shove his way backward out of the room and into the cargo bay just as the emergency door closed. His momentum sent him careening into a group of large storage containers just as another jolt from the ship yanked some free from their moorings--
Watching helplessly, Sister Mary screamed.
She sat bolt upright in her bed, calling her twin's name. It was dark in the convent dorm on the L5 space station she now called home. One of her sisters murmured sleepily and rolled over, but otherwise, no one stirred. How could they not have noticed? She began to sob into her knees.
"Shhh. Is this how easily you give up hope?" a gentle voice chided her.
She did not look up. "But I saw it--Peter's ship--the explosions--They're all dead! Oh, Peter!" she wailed softly, despite everything, trying not to wake the others.
"Hush, now. Peter will be fine," the voice reassured.
"I said, Peter will be fine," the voice repeated sternly. "Where is your faith, Sister Emmie?"
"'Emmie?'" "Sister M.E." was Peter's nickname for her, but no one knew that here. Slowly, she raised her head. Through teary eyes, she made out a vague figure with an otherworldly glow. She started to scramble to her knees.
"Not now," the voice said, amused. "Not for me. Go to the chapel. Pray for your brother, and for your brothers and sisters on this station. Faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. As you love him, pray for him."
Suddenly, she was gone.
Sister Mary Elizabeth rose from her bed and, still in her pajamas, ran to the chapel. * * * *
Peter had awakened twice since he'd heard his sister shouting at him to run, but both times pain had driven him back to unconsciousness. Before the last time, though, he'd heard a voice, like his drill sergeant's from when he failed basic training, yelling at him not to be a dirtsider wuss, to ignore the pain, and to keep his head down and crawl. It'd kept at him, pounding him with alternating bouts of abuse and encouragement until he'd passed out again, his last thought being that his drill sergeant had never called him "dirtsider"...
Nonetheless, he must have obeyed her, because when he inched his neck to look behind, he found that the containers that had crushed his legs were now just past the bottoms of his bare feet.
Then the pain hit, and things blurred around him.
"You're not going to pass out again, are you? Listen to me, snap out of it--we don't have time!"
He blinked, shook his head--oh, that hurt!--and saw a glowing figure beside him. "You an angel?" he slurred.
"Not quite," the voice answered with a chuckle.
His vision cleared and he saw her, a middle-aged red-haired woman in an outdated spacer "uniform" of a black t-shirt and simple elastic-banded pants over a black skinsuit. Over her right breast was a silkscreen of the Virgin Mary gazing lovingly at the universe that she held in her hands. The redhead was still glowing and slightly transparent. "A hallucination, then."
"Somewhere in between, I'd say."
"I prefer blonds." Even as he said it, he knew he wasn't quite making sense. He felt confused, but a little more alert.
"You know, my late husband used to say the same thing. Said redheads were too driven. Like he could talk! So, you with me now? Good, because we don't have a lot of time to banter. You have to get to the engineering station on deck three and activate the attitude control."
He laughed, though it was thin, breathy and humorless. "Are you spaced? My legs are shattered."
She shrugged. "You won't need them. In fact, you should probably grab a hold of that cable to your right so you can haul yourself across the bay. Wrap it around your wrist each time, though, so that if you pass out, there's a chance you won't let go. Now try."
"What the--?" But there was something in her voice that brooked no argument. For a moment, he was back in 4th grade at St. Joseph's Catholic School, in Sister Linda's gym. She'd made him come in after school to climb the rope.
"It's too hard!" he'd wailed. He was small for his age, and thin, without the wiry strength skinny Jason Tomlinson had. He hadn't even been able to hang on in class, and the kids had laughed until Sister Linda stopped them with a look. She'd passed the rope to the next kid and had said nothing, but had sent a note to his next class instructing him to come to the gym after school. She had handed him the rope, and when he protested, had given him the same look she'd given the class. Like the class, he had fallen silent under it.
"You say you want to be a spacer," she'd reminded him. "Arm strength is essential, even in zero g. Now try."
He had, that day and every day afterward for three months. By Christmas, he climbed to the ceiling.
Don't know why I'm thinking of Sister Linda now, he thought as he twined the cable around his arm and reached out for the next handhold. Distract me from the pain, maybe. Helps, a little.
The ship jerked and a cargo container bumped his leg. Agony, then darkness overtook him. * * * *
Sister Magdalena, Mother Superior of Our Lady of the Rescue, hovered at the entranceway of the chapel, watching the young nun in pajamas kneeling in fervent prayer. "How long did you say she's been there?" she asked Father Angelo, the station priest.
"Since before morning services. She won't move--literally. Sister Josephine and I had to shift her bodily to where she is now so we could have morning services. We missed you, by the way."
"Small emergency on the repair arm. Newbie on his first solo didn't QC his gear and the tether broke. Just gave him a scare, fortunately."
Father Angelo smiled. "As you did, no?"
Her return smile was humorless. "The scare I gave was to StatSupe Corrin. Those lines are too old. I told him to replace them months ago, but they meet minimum standards, and I'm just a cautious old woman."
Father Angelo smiled despite himself. The arguments between the L5 Station Supervisor and the leader of the "Rescue Sisters" were local legend. "Maybe he'll listen to you this time."
She snorted. "Maybe you could suggest that the next time he comes to Confession." She turned back to the chapel. "Has she said anything?"
Father Angelo shrugged. "Just 'Amen' when I offered her Communion."
Sister Magdalena nodded, considering her options. She was a sensible, practical woman, one of the first recruits to the order, which had been founded by the late Gillian Hawkins, who had gone to space to care for her husband and remained there after his death. She, too, had been a practical woman. Though a nurse by trade, she'd learned shuttle piloting, basic engineering, and business. She saw the exorbitant prices professional search and rescue units commanded and knew if she offered the same services for "air, equipment, and the love of God," her Order could undercut the competition and carve a place for Catholic religious in outer space.
Her plan had worked. L5 was one of the three convents of Our Lady of the Rescue, and they were working with LunaDisney to secure a contract that would fund a fourth on the Moon. When Sister Magdalena had joined, almost forty years ago, there was only L5. Most of the first "Rescue Sisters" had lived or worked in space, but Sister Magdalena, 22, out of college and as hungry to be closer to the stars as she was to be closer to Jesus, was the only one from Earth. She'd been shocked and elated when Sister Gillian had accepted her application. She hadn't even minded that she was to sleep in the storeroom. (L5 was complaining about the amount of room they were "giving" to the order, particularly in the docking bays for the rescue ships.) Sister Gillian had called on her in the storeroom while she was unpacking and had stood at the door, chuckling ruefully.
"You wasted your volume on that? Oh, we're going to need some kind of dirtsider orientation. Put that away, sister. You won't need it here."
"But, Mother Superior!" "That" was her habit, a gift from her parents on the day she took vows. She loved it, not only for its beauty but for everything it stood for. She was currently wearing the approved habit of the order--a well fitting but not scandalously tight black skinsuit under simple black pants and a black t-shirt with the emblem of their order, and softshoes. "Won't I at least need it for services? There's gravity--"
"Space stations are crowded places with plenty of things a flowing robe can get caught on. Besides, if there's an emergency, you don't want to waste time struggling out of a habit. Oh, don't look so crestfallen, sister. You can still wear it dirtside. And in the meantime, it brings up a good point. I want you to make a note of this and any other lessons you learn about space life so we can better prepare the next batch of novices that come to join us."
In fact, Sister Magdalena had created the orientation program, much of it from her own mistakes. But she never wore the habit again, not even planetside, though occasionally, she took it out to caress its soft folds and remember. It was not the uniform of a sister of Our Lady of the Rescue, so it was no longer a part of the spacer she had become.
"And a fine spacer you've become, too," Sister Gillian had said as Sister Magdalena sat beside her bed. Could it have been a decade ago already? Gillian had been nearly 50 when she had started the order, and Magdalena had just met with her parents who had come for her own 50th birthday when the Mother Superior had called her to her beside, where pneumonia had driven her over two weeks ago.
"I've tried to model myself after you," she'd demurred.
The older nun's lips had twitched, but her gaze had remained serious. "Nonsense. You have skills and talents I never had. Faith, hope, and love. Your faith has made you strong. When we were ready to give up on opening a mission on Phobos, you clung to hope and made it happen. And your love, for us, for God..." A coughing fit broke her thoughts. When she could speak, she said, "You are still young, if not so idealistic." She had paused then, catching her breath. Her eyelids had fluttered. Sister Magdalena had fought the urge to call for a medical team; they had all known there was nothing to be done. Instead, she'd reached out to take her pulse, but Gillian grabbed her hand with an uncommonly strong grip. "It's arranged. You will take this order into the future."
"I don't understand, Mother Superior."
"Faith, hope and love, but the greatest--"
"Of these is love," Sister Magdalena's lips trembled. She blinked tears from her eyes.
"My love will always be with you." There were shadows under the old nun's eyes, yet the eyes sparkled with joy. "You are Mother Superior now. Go fetch Father Gianni. I want Reconciliation and Communion, then I go to be with God, and God willing, my Charles."
Now, Mother Superior Magdalena strode down the aisle of pews where Sister Mary Elizabeth knelt. She wondered if Sister Gillian had ever had such a situation, and what she would have done. She thought to scold the young novice that there was a time for prayer and a time to get up and do one's duty, but the words froze in her mouth when she saw her face. This was no simple adoration; there was something urgent about the way she recited the prayer of their order. Sister Magdalena knelt beside her and joined her in the words: Protect our air and give us the Breath of Your Spirit. Protect our food and give us the Bread of Life. Guide our ships as You guide our lives--
Sister Mary's voice trembled over the line.
When they had finished, Sister Magdalena crossed herself. Sister Mary followed and before she could return her hands to their prayerful position, the elder nun caught them in her own. "Sister Mary Elizabeth, what are we praying for?" she asked.
"She said to pray for Peter. And for the Poubelle. And us, here." Suddenly, she blinked and looked at the elder nun for the first time. "Mother Superior, I think we're in danger." * * * *
"Wake up, Peter! There are about 375 blonds who need your big strong arms right now!"
"What?" Peter's eyes fluttered open. The strange vision was rolling her eyes at him.
"Well, at least that woke you up. Come on, it's time to put those arms to work. You've got half a deck to cross before we go up, and there's a lot you'll have to be careful of."
"Right..." Peter licked his lips and glanced around. Captain Armand had dreamed of having a ship of his own, but he wasn't a rich man, and his less-than-personable nature had ensured he'd alienated most potential backers. In the end, he'd bought the aging freighter Intrepid and renamed it Poubelle. He'd spent his last euro bringing it to minimum standards and it had stayed at minimum ever since. Armand himself had been an engineering genius, but most of the crew, Peter included, were "minimum standards," and it showed. Over the decade, repairs and work-arounds had meant a lot of amenities, like plate coverings and brackets, had been sacrificed or lost. Some of the more unreliable equipment was simply left exposed to make frequent repairs easier, and duct tape was a common sight. Now, the results of that just-enough workmanship showed. Debris was floating everywhere, and while anything not connected to the ship was relatively stationary, the ship itself was still tilting and spinning randomly. Anything connected to it--like his rope--was pulled along, and if it bumped into another object, the transfer of momentum sent that object tumbling away.
"Can't I just wait here?" he murmured thickly. "Rescue--"
"Poubelle's rescue beacon's malfunctioned. Big surprise. Sometimes, the minimum isn't good enough--didn't they teach you that at St. Joe's? Poubelle is just a blip on L5's radar and it's too far out for anyone to notice it's in trouble yet."
She passed an arm through a nearby container. "I'm not really here. I've been sent to help you, but my abilities are limited."
He knew what she was saying was important, but he was having trouble focusing. "Thirsty..."
Her voice grew gentler. "I know. We'll try to find water on the way. But right now, you have to focus!"
But focusing seemed too hard. "Three hundred and seventy-five blonds?"
"Give or take, and another 700 or so brunettes, and the occasional redhead. That's what you'll find on L5."
"L5?!" Panic brought clarity. "We're off course?"
"Good! You're thinking. Yes, we're off course, heading straight at L5 and tumbling erratically. If traffic control at L5 realizes it in time, they can probably pull Poubelle back into trajectory--"
"Leave that part to the 'Rescue Sisters.' Faith, hope and love--we will hold to hope that they will get here in time. What you have to concentrate on is activating the attitude control. If you don't stop this ship from gyrating, they'll never be able to attach the towlines. Peter? Are you still with me?"
He was and he wasn't. In fact, he wasn't sure he should be with her, if she was something between a hallucination and an angel. Shock had deadened the pain in his legs to a kind of faraway ache, but he knew the slightest nudge would set them on fire again. "Why me? The Captain--"
"--is dead, Peter. Everyone's dead but you. And over a thousand more people will die unless you do what I tell you. C'mon now! Think about Sister Linda and the rope. Hand over hand."
"Think about your hands. First the right, then the left ... That's it."
Gritting his teeth and thinking as much about his sister on L5 as about Sister Linda at St. Joe's, Peter inched his way across the cargo bay. * * * *
"Hey, Sister Magdalena, what's floatin'?"
"Wish I were," the nun sighed as she entered the traffic control room of L5 Station. "These old bones could do without all this gravity."
"Thought gravity was something special to your order," Tom Grison teased. "After all, Sister Gillian was the widow of R. Charles Hawkins who invented the gravity generator."
"It's true, but like R. Charles Hawkins, I find it's more of a burden than a blessing at times."
Tom's co-worker, Claire Petit, gave the nun a puzzled look.
"One of Hawkins' early prototypes exploded, causing an accident that shattered most of his bones and caused severe internal injuries," Sister Magdalena explained. "It was a miracle, both of God and modern medical technology, that he even lived, but he was always in pain and never able to handle full gravity again. In fact, they say it was only the encouragement of the Blessed Gillian that enabled him to continue his work to perfect the device."
"'Encouragement,'" Tom snorted. He was an avid fan of Hawkins and read everything he could about the famous engineer. He loved to hear stories about his marriage to Gillian, and Sister Magdalena enjoyed obliging him. "He had other words for it. He used to say she was too driven for her own good, so it must have been for his."
Sister Magdalena chuckled. "The Blessed Gillian once told me he threatened to throw a Bible at her if she ever said, 'Faith, hope and love' to him again." She sighed. "Still, her drive led to his perfecting the generator--and to the creation of our order. I'm thankful, but as I get older, I'm more and more in sympathy with him."
"Aw, Sister, you're not old, and you're in better shape than anybody on this station." Tom's smile was warm and a little flirtatious as he looked up from his console at her.
"Save it for the unattached ladies on the station," Sister Magdalena chided jokingly as he leaned against the back of his chair. She looked over his shoulder at the screen, but it showed only the near-space around L5--an economy tour cruiser and a LunaDisney supply ship were docked, while a long-haul shuttle was attached to the swing arm for external repairs.
"Oh, it doesn't work any better on us, though he insists on trying," Claire teased from her station, where she had a close-up view of the repair work. "Merci, by the way, for going out after Miguel. That was ... terrifying. Anything we can do--"
Sister Magdalena saw her opening. "Actually, I was wondering if you could tell me the status of Poubelle?"
"La Poubelle?" Claire's French accent came out thickly with amusement. "Someone has seriously named their ship, Trash Can?"
"Don't laugh. It's pretty accurate," Tom grumbled as he tapped the keyboard to call up long-range radar. "Most of us call it 'Junk Heap.' They should junk it--it's not even worth spare parts. But as long as it meets minimum standards of space-worthiness..." His voice trailed off into a sigh.
"Like tether lines?" Claire growled softly. Her brother was also a trainee on the repair team, and she was taking Miguel's accident very personally. Sister Magdalena reached out and squeezed her shoulder sympathetically, but her eyes remained on Tom's screen. It now showed ships five days out, each with a tracking number and each glowing green, meaning they were within tolerances of their expected path and no problems had been detected. Tom moved the cursor to Poubelle, clicked and scanned the readout that appeared on the screen. "Still on course for L5. ETA: 65 hours, give or take--it's always give or take with Junk Heap. Its angle's off, but not enough to trip any alarms. Besides, Junk Heap usually has to do a correction or two once it's in close where we can direct it. It met its last status call on time. That's unusual. The captain's been written up a couple of times for 'forgetting' and at least once on my shift their equipment was broken, or so they claimed. But all things considered, Poubelle's doing fine--for Poubelle."
"Would you keep an eye on it for me--and ask the other shifts to do the same?"
"For you, Sister, anything." Tom typed a note, flagged Poubelle, and returned to the close-in screen before turning to look at the Mother Superior. "Why the sudden interest? You're not having a premonition or something?"
"No," she replied, thinking of the young nun still kneeling in the chapel. "Not me. One of my novice's brother is on the crew."
Tom made a face. "Couldn't he do better?" * * * *
"As a matter of fact, no," Peter snarled at the vision hovering just in front of him. "It was Poubelle or give up my dreams of being in space. Satisfied?"
"Just asking," the hallucination replied mildly as she moved back again, making him inch forward. She always stayed just close enough that he could see her without moving his head too much, and without realizing it, he would move forward each time she backed up so he could keep her in view. She'd also kept him talking, though sometimes, she seemed to say things just to make him angry--like her comment about his being on Poubelle. A part of him realized that she did this to keep his focus away from the pain, and he probably wouldn't have made it across the bay, much less down the first long corridor, if it hadn't been for that. Still, he couldn't help his resentment.
"Yeah, 'just asking.'" He remembered his mom "just asking," in that tense, worried voice that said she expected to hear another harebrained scheme he'd fail at. He'd drunk his way out of college, couldn't handle the Marines ... Private companies wanted a degree, yet the tech school he finally managed to graduate from didn't come through on their promises of placement. "It's not the grades," the counselor had told him. "It's your motivation, your focus. You have to stay keen in space or people die. You just don't have what it takes to be a spacer." He'd gone to a bar to drink away his troubles and was loudly proclaiming the unfairness of it all when Capt. Armand approached him and offered him a job on the spot. He'd told him that he had one last run with Poubelle to make that would earn enough for a new ship, but he was short a hand in supply. "You put the boxes where I tell you. You learn emergency procedures, you make yourself useful ... You do well by me now, I take you on my new ship and you become the envy of space traders everywhere."
"At least Capt. Armand was willing to take a chance on me," he grumbled, trying hard not to think of the disaster that had happened on this, his first voyage. It was too unfair.
"Capt. Armand isn't the only one to have faith in you."
"Yeah, I know. Emmie." He reached out for a handhold in the "ceiling"--it was actually a door handle--but his hand slipped. He swore as momentum carried him past.
"Don't reach back!" she chided before he could translate thought into action. "That equipment's safe. Grab it and push on. We're almost to the hatch. Careful, though. Poubelle's going to jerk clockwise. Good. Tell me about Emmie. Mad as you to get into space, was she?"
"No," he said as he floated to the hatch. "Not really. She was the good one. Went to Mass gladly, got all A's. While I was sneaking out to go to Spaceland, she was reciting extra rosaries. We always knew she'd be a nun, but to come out into space? My parents were vackin' shocked when she told us she'd joined Our Lady of the Rescue. She said she felt she had to be out here." He swallowed hard. She'd looked straight at him when she'd said that. And he'd stormed out of the house, sure she'd done it to show him up, or worse, that she felt she needed to be out there to protect him. They'd hardly talked since then, though he had sent her a spe-mail to tell her about his hiring on with Poubelle. Her response, At last! Now you can show them your true worth! I pray for you and give thanks to God!, had gotten him a lot of teasing from his bunkmates, but had healed the anger in his heart. "I was really looking forward to visiting her," he gasped.
"Well, you'll certainly have a lot to talk about. That's your hatch."
Peter grabbed it, steeling himself for the pain he was sure would come, but miraculously, his feet swung to a stop without brushing against anything. He clung to the hatch handle, leaning his forehead against the cool metal. His hands and arms were trembling with effort. He looked back the way he'd come--the corridor, though free of debris, seemed to stretch forever. Yet he was only halfway there at most. "Oh, God," he moaned.
He didn't turn his head toward her, but he made an effort to listen.
"Peter. Faith, hope, and love. Captain Armand had faith in you. Emmie has faith in you. I have faith in you. You need to have faith in yourself."
"What about God?" Peter's voice was full of tears.
"God has faith in you, too, or I wouldn't be here. Can you trust His judgment?"
He felt so weary and cold. He just wanted to lie back, close his eyes, and die. Instead, he reached out with a trembling hand and punched the code to release the hatch. Thankfully, it worked, and he was able to slip inside and grab hold of the ladder just as Poubelle went into another wild twist, thrashing him about and sending him into darkness once again. * * * *
In the dark of her small stateroom, Sister Magdalena was dreaming.
It was as much memory as dream: her first real rescue, a decompression on an outer arm of the station. It was to have been decommissioned and destroyed but someone had the brilliant idea of letting tourists visit it as a piece of L5 history. Forty visitors, including an L5 class of children, were in the arm when one of the seals broke.
It was the first time Sister Magdalena had seen a dead body.
She'd clung to the door, frozen, despairing, and sure she would vomit in her suit. None of the sisters could get her to move. Then, Sister Gillian moved up close, putting her helmet against hers so they could talk without using the radio.
"Sister, we need you," she said simply.
"They're all dead! We're too late!"
"Faith, hope, and love, sister. There are lots of little hidey-holes that may still hold air. We will cling to that hope and look."
"And if we're wrong? If the children are..." She began crying in earnest. "I can't!"
"This is the class you help with?" Sister Gillian sighed, but then her voice hardened. "If you love these children, you will get in there and search with all your love. The longer we delay here, the slimmer the chance anyone who is alive now will be alive when we find them. Do you understand, Rescue Sister?"
Shakily, Sister Magdalene nodded. The action sent her bobbing.
The Mother Superior steadied her. "Faith, hope, and love. God has faith in you, and I know you have faith in Him. Have faith in yourself."
She'd found the group of schoolchildren that had brilliantly holed themselves up in an airtight supply closet, but the others hadn't been so lucky. Afterwards, she'd huddled in her bed, shuddering, when Mother Superior Gillian squatted down beside her. "Good work, dirtsider. Today, you are spacer born."
She awoke then, and glanced at her clock: 2:15. For a moment, she wasn't sure why she'd awakened, but something drove her to dress quickly and head next door to the convent control room. Her compulsion was rewarded when Sister Rafael looked up at her with surprise.
"Mother Superior! I was just about to call you. L5 Control just called. Poubelle has missed its call-in and isn't answering our calls. They're still on course, though on a different vector than before. Still, L5 is lining up the Old COOT to look at it now."
Old COOT, the CoOperative Optical Telescope, was one of two telescopes jointly shared by several Earth universities for deep space research, but L5 had authority to use it in emergency situations. It was linked to the computers at L5 and the Order's control stations, so they could manipulate it and view images real-time. As the two nuns watched the stars wheeling about on the screen, growing smaller or disappearing as the focus narrowed, Sister Rafael called the stand-by teams to get ready for launch, just in case. "Have them ready Sister Mary Elizabeth's suit, too," Sister Magdalena directed, and the younger nun nodded as she complied.
The movement stopped, focused on a small star that pulsed in the center of the screen. The magnification increased. Again. The "star" became a ship. Again.
"By the saints," Sister Rafael breathed, and Sister Magdalena crossed herself.
Poubelle was tumbling wildly, scattered tears visible on its hull. As they watched, a new explosion ripped another hole in its side, the outrushing air changing its vector and adding new violence to its already wild gyrations.
Sister Rafael was already speaking into her comm. set. "Teams Michael and Jude are at the launch pad--and they say Sister Mary was suited up and waiting."
The Mother Superior nodded, unsurprised. "She can pilot the St. Jude. I think she, above us all, needs his intercession today."
While telemetry downloaded into St. Jude's navigational computers and her sisters strapped themselves in, Emmie's hands flew over the control panel, finishing the pre-flight procedures in record time. She did not know how long she had been on her knees in the chapel when the lady had told her, "There is a time for prayer and a time for doing one's duty. You must go to your brother now," but she thanked God that her muscles worked without any stiffness or protests as she flew through the corridors, threw on her suit, and began readying the ships for take-off. She had been halfway through preflight on Michael the Archangel when Sister Andrea relieved her and sent her to St. Jude. Her mind had only been on getting to Peter as quickly as possible; now, however, she pushed such thoughts away and concentrated solely on the job at hand. Through her comm set, she heard each of the sisters on the rescue teams call in their readiness and then begin the traditional prayer and litany of saints: "Mary, Our Lady of the Rescue, pray for us. Michael the Archangel, pray for us. St. Jude, pray for us..."
"Blessed Gillian, founder of our order, pray for us," Sister Emmie echoed as the launch bay doors opened and she coaxed her ship forward. "Hang on, Peter. We're coming."