No. No no no no no.
Of all the places I might have been sent......
Loki. It had to be Loki. Of all the places to be sent. What a waste. It won't come to anything. How could it?
I was hoping to be sent among the Ganeshans, to prove their ideas and see if there was any common ground. Or Eden.
Well, maybe I wouldn't be quite ready for Eden. Maybe no human mind is.
But Loki? Sent as a missionary....a missionary!--to a world which has no word for mercy. Is this where the Lord wills me to go? To a world without the emotion of love?
Are the Lokiites even capable of love?
But I can't refuse the Cardinal.
It would not only be the end of my clerical career, but the end of my career in anything. The Cardinal is the head of the Community Council. Under the Empress, he is the most powerful person in the Community Cluster....and actually, insofar as actually running things, he may be more powerful than the Empress. He's literally the most influential person in human space.
Unfortunately. Damnably so.
Of course, there are precedents for a member of the clergy wielding great earthly power. Cardinal Richeileu comes to mind, in 16th century France.
It's odd how things repeat over time. First there was tribalism. Then, slowly, monarchies developed. Democracies flourished for a while, then hereditary rulership returned, as genetics got more and more refined, and those qualities that make for the best ruler were slowly determined, and a line of genetically-selected rulers emerged, who could outthink and ourcharisma any elected leader. Political "families" emerged, who shared such qualities, in the mold of older political families, like the Italian Borgias, or the American Kennedys. After a while, though, these genetic superfamilies became so prominent, so overwhelming when they ran against "normals", that like the Caesars, they were soon acclaimed as rulers, and elections became obsolete.
Hence the Empress on Havlinn.
But no one can rule something as large as the Community Cluster by themselves. Thus the Community Council, working under the Empress, advises and administers the lesser functions of goverment. The head of the Council gets there not be genetic inclination but by raw effort and intelligence.
Which the Cardinal has in spades. I'm babbling, I know I'm babbling....but I've just been sent to Loki!
The Cardinal is a native of Isis, of the order of St. Adrian. Like many of his order, he renounced personal identity. He was born Raoul de Cajal. He renounced even his face, and like all his order, wears a crystalline mask under a monkish hood. It made the interview very disconcerting, because I was addressing a mask, and could not read his features.
I remember his words very well, though.
"Father Redwine. You are quite well acquainted with xenological biology and comparative sociology."
"Yes. It's fascinating...."
"The Church is trying to reach a consensus on the spiritual state of other sophont races. Do they have souls, do they need saving, should we mind our own spiritual business? The Church has never made an official ruling on this. Before the Edenite drive, when we were limited to relavistic speeds, it seemed too esoteric a matter to waste the funds needed to fuel an interstellar ramjet. But now....we think we can devote some time to the subject. You are young, unusually fit...."
He paused and looked at the datadisplay. "I see you enjoy martial arts as a sport?"
"It relaxes me."
"Admirable. Of all the candidates that I can think of, you seem to be the best suited to become....well, not really a missionary, a spiritual investigator to help us determine if missionaries are needed for other races. To weigh the spiritual state of another race and see if they need our spiritual help...and we do not discount the idea that instead, they might have a lot to teach us...perhaps insights in the Nature of things spiritual that never occured to us."
I was really building myself up, thinking how important I was, how valuable I would be to the Church....and by building a bridge between humanity and another race, in the long run, to the Community Cluster....and perhaps an additional bridge between Man and God. My pride reached for the stars...
"I want you first to go to Loki."
....And fell in the Pit.
"Loki? Loki, sir?"
"They are the most humanoid of the alien races. In some ways they are the most dangerous, the ones we need to understand the most. Yes. I have made arrangements for you to board the Earth's Memory next Tuesday...."
"Today is Thursday."
"I know. Contact your relatives, let them know you are going on a mission for me, but I would rather you not disclose your destination."
So here I am. Packing. Trying not to panic too badly. Many missionaries and would-be missionaries have been sent to strange places. But none so strange as this.
Though I walk in the Valley of Death....unfortunately, I'm fearing a lot of evil right now.
Return to Redwine at Dinner.