For Dinner:  Cassoullet Castelnaudary, with Pumpkin Pie for dessert
Mood: Believing yet unbelieving.
Written in the Year of our Lord 3580, March 10th, Sunday  night.
Location: the good ship Earth's Memory en route from the Kami system to the Frost Giant System, at the mercy of the Edenite drive in otherspace.

   I did a small service for myself in my room, although Godiva wanted to watch the consecration of the host. Without prompting from myself or Hawkins, she adopted a demure black dress, at least for the duration of the service.

    "What do you use for AIs?"

     "There are holograms of bread and wine. They are also blessed. Since there is nothing beyond the power of God, the blessing of the Host effects that also."

    "But they can't really eat or drink them."

    "They take in the information, like you downloading something.  We leave it to God. If you see it only on a level of symbolism, then the symbols work. If there is something deeper, it's too deep merely on a human level to understand, dealing with actual bread and wine. We cannot put limits on the power of God."

    "You really do believe."

    "Oh, there are times when it seems unlikely. But there are times travelling faster-than-light, trusting my life to a science that none but an Edenite truly comprehends, seems pretty unlikely too..."

    "Good point.  It's been interesting, Father."

   Hawkins showed up in the gym, and wanted a match with me that afternoon. We had an enjoyable match, although he was a little slow. I beat him, and he laughed. "Well, at least a priest who fights is good for something!"

    "Gracious as always." I gave him a hand up. "Do you talk to His Eminence that way?"
    "I speak to that silver spook as little as possible. But sometimes you just have to."

    "Oh:? I would have thought you two would be on fairly friendly terms if he would entrust a fairly sensitive mission with you."

     " wouldn't think it to look at me....but I know the Empress. We're friends. I think he cuts me some slack because of that."

     "You know the Empress? Must be nice....I've just barely seen her from afar. Did you like her?"

    "Oh, yeeeaah."

     He almost sounded like he was in love with her.  Well, the entire Imperial line is selected for the genes that include personal magnetism.  Their bodyguards often have to guard against love-obsessed fanatics rather than political assassins. If he met with her once, he might have conjured up quite an affection for her.

     "I was once at the Palace....believe me or not, Father, I was.  Behind the palace is a network of pools, personal lakes for the Empress, natural formations on Shina-To-Be. The silver vegetation shot up and reflected against the lakes, and it was like a series of shimmering silver ribbons. Walkways across the lakes were everywhere. Music followed us everywhere....but then we came to where there was a live performer, with nothing but simple instruments, no amplifiers, no digital enhancers. Singing songs as old as the sea, as old as the yearning between a man and a woman....

     "One morning, one morning, one morning in May.....
     "There was a young couple a-making their way....
     "One was a lady, so bright and so fair...."

     His voice was surprisingly clear and strong. I finished it for him..

     "One was a soldier, a brave legionnaire.

     "'Good morning, good morning, good morning said he....
     "'Where are you going, my pretty lady?'
      "'Oh, I'm going down to the south, I'm going down by the sea....
     "'Just to see the waters glide, and hear the nightengale sing.'"

     Hawkins laughed. "Good. You know it. But it's different hearing the high sweet voice of one of the best singers in the Cluster, accompanied by some of the most skilled musicians in the Cluster.  I had a rough life....raised in asteroids in the Arthurian system, occasionally visiting Lancelot and Merlin. Yet that moment....the Empress laughing at my jokes, silver water and silver trees, songs sweeter and finer than I've ever heard....they make the finest, most beautiful moment that I have spent on any world, at any time."

     I wasn't sure what to say. I didn't think Hawkins was lying, but it was hard to credit. this roughhewn joker hobnobbing with the Empress of human space.  On the other hand, she was young, younger than I, and occasionally prone to whims from what I heard. It was possible....barely.  It would explain why he, rather than a Community transport was entrusted by the Cardinal.

    "It must have been a very special time."

    "The best time of my life, Father. The best time of my life."








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