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datatime: 2022-12-05 19:09:35 Author:qbgkgOMa

The abbot's visitor cleared his throat and stirred restlessly in his chair. The abbot turned.

It had not been easy to charter a plane for the flight to New Rome. Even harder was the task of winning clearance for the flight after the plane had been chartered. All civil aircraft had come under the jurisdiction of the military for the duration of the emergency, and a military clearance was required. It had been refused by the local ZDI. If Abbot Zerchi had not been aware of the fact that a certain air marshal and a certain cardinal archbishop happened to be friends, the ostensible pilgrimage to New Rome by twenty-seven bookleggers with bindlestiffs might well have proceeded on shank's mare, for lack of permission to use rapid transport jet. By midafternoon, however, clearance had been granted. Abbot Zerchi boarded the plane briefly before takeoff-for last farewells.

Well enough.

Accipiam, the monk repeated.

You are the continuity of the Order, he told them.

This station is required by law to broadcast the following announcement twice daily for the duration of the emergency: 'The provisions of Public Law 10-WR-3E in no way empower private citizens to administer euthanasia to victims of radiation poisoning. Victims who have been exposed, or who think they have been exposed, to radiation far in excess of the critical dosage must report to the nearest Green Star Relief Station, where a magistrate is empowered to issue a writ of Mori Vult to anyone properly certified as a hopeless case, if the sufferer desires euthanasia. Any victim of radiation who takes his own life in any manner other than that prescribed by law will be considered a suicide, and will jeopardize the sight of his heirs and dependents to claim insurance end other radiation relief benefits under the law. Moreover, any citizen who assists such a suicide may be prosecuted for murder. The Radiation Disaster Act authorizes euthanasia only after due process of law. Serious cases of radiation sickness must report to a Green Star Relief-

Well, said the visitor, "it's certainly better than letting them die horribly, by degrees."

You will be years in space. The ship will be your monastery. After the patriarchal see is established at the Centaurus Colony, you will establish there a mother house the Visitationist Friars of the Order of Saint Leibowitz of Tycho. But the ship will remain in your hands, and the Memorabilia. If civilization, or a vestige of it, can maintain itself on Centaurus, you will send missions to the other colony worlds, and perhaps eventually to the colonies of their colonies. Wherever Man goes, yon and your successors will go. And with you, the records and remembrances of four thousand years and more. Some of you, or those to come after you, will be mendicants and wanderers, teaching the chronicles of Earth and the canticles of the Crucified to the peoples and the cultures that may grow out of the colony groups. For some may forget. Some may be lost for a time from the Faith. Teach them, and receive into the Order those among them who are called. Pass on to them the continuity. Be for Man the memory of Earth and Origin. Remember this Earth. Never forget her, but-never come back. Zerchi's voice went hoarse and low. "If you ever come back, you might meet the Archangel at the east end of Earth, guarding her passes with a sword of flame. I feel it. Space is your home hereafter. It's a lonelier desert than ours. God bless you, and pray for us."

He moved slowly down the aisle, pausing at each seat to bless and embrace before he left the plane. The plane taxied onto the runway and roared aloft, He watched until it disappeared from view in the evening sky. Afterward, he drove back to the abbey and to the remainder of his flock. While aboard the plane, he had spoken as if the destiny of Brother Joshua's group were as clear-cut as the prayers prescribed for tomorrow's Office; but both he and they knew that he had only been reading the palm of a plan, had been describing a hope and not a certainty. For Brother Joshua's group had only begun the first short lap of a long and doubtful journey, a new Exodus from Egypt under the auspices of a God who must surely be very weary of the race of Man.

The area affected by local fallout remains relatively stationary, said the announcer, "and the danger of further windspread has nearly vanished...."

Well, said the visitor, "it's certainly better than letting them die horribly, by degrees."

If they choose me, I shall be certain.

The abbot's visitor cleared his throat and stirred restlessly in his chair. The abbot turned.

The latest death toll estimate, the announcer continued, "on this ninth day after the destruction of the capital, gives two million, eight hundred thousand dead. More than half of this figure is from the population of the city proper. The rest is an estimate based on the percentage of the population in the fringe and fallout areas known to have received critical doses of radiation. Experts predict that the estimate will rise as more radiation cases are reported.

You are the continuity of the Order, he told them.

Well enough.

Will we now, Zerchi grunted. "But listen a moment."

Well enough.

Well enough.

Well, at least nothing worse has happened yet, remarked the abbot's guest. "So far, we've been safe from it here. It looks like we'll stay safe, unless the conference falls apart."

The abbot smiled. "You heard me badly. I said "burden," not 'honor." Crucis autem onus si audisti ut honorem, nihilo errasti auribus."

You are the continuity of the Order, he told them.

The area affected by local fallout remains relatively stationary, said the announcer, "and the danger of further windspread has nearly vanished...."

Afterward, the conventual Mass was a Mass for Pilgrims and Travelers.

You will be years in space. The ship will be your monastery. After the patriarchal see is established at the Centaurus Colony, you will establish there a mother house the Visitationist Friars of the Order of Saint Leibowitz of Tycho. But the ship will remain in your hands, and the Memorabilia. If civilization, or a vestige of it, can maintain itself on Centaurus, you will send missions to the other colony worlds, and perhaps eventually to the colonies of their colonies. Wherever Man goes, yon and your successors will go. And with you, the records and remembrances of four thousand years and more. Some of you, or those to come after you, will be mendicants and wanderers, teaching the chronicles of Earth and the canticles of the Crucified to the peoples and the cultures that may grow out of the colony groups. For some may forget. Some may be lost for a time from the Faith. Teach them, and receive into the Order those among them who are called. Pass on to them the continuity. Be for Man the memory of Earth and Origin. Remember this Earth. Never forget her, but-never come back. Zerchi's voice went hoarse and low. "If you ever come back, you might meet the Archangel at the east end of Earth, guarding her passes with a sword of flame. I feel it. Space is your home hereafter. It's a lonelier desert than ours. God bless you, and pray for us."

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