“They say there is no God in the outer planets! Those who say this clearly do not have any understanding of the Lord and his teachings! They clearly have not been here!”

From deep within in the control deck of “The Laz’rus,” high in standard orbit, Anastasia allowed herself a grin. Reverend Horseshoe was an old-fashioned man in most respects, and his preaching was no different. Whereas most men in his line of work liked to open their revivals with holographics and pyrotechnics, Horseshoe did it the old-fashioned way. That is to say, he yelled his ass off.

“Who among you could dare say where God is not, on this world or any other? I say his spirit is everywhere, and I have yet to see evidence that this is not the truth! I even carry the notion that His love and His grace is more here than anywhere else in the cosmos!”

Not that the Reverend didn’t make use of current theatrical technology to its utmost: the larger-than-life holographic crucified Jesus with the laser-beam eyes was a personal favorite of his. The laser-beams had been the brainchild of Rojhaz, the ground manager. But despite Rojhaz’s urgings, Horseshoe never started his show with such things. Even the robot gospel choir stayed silent while Horseshoe was opening.

“Now, I know some of my colleagues say I do not preach enough fire! That I do you poor folk a disservice by not bellowing about how you are damned souls who need to change your sinful ways! But I know better than that! I am here as a representative—no! Not a representative, but a servant! A servant of the Lord! And as a servant I come not as a judge! But as a beacon!”

Anastasia was proud of the robot choir. She had added a pre- and post-show dialogue loop, allowing the chubby androids to convincingly chew the fat as the audience filed in and out of the tent. It added a verisimilitude that she felt that were lacking in all the other garish ideas Rojhaz had cooked up. It was show business, she understood that. But Anastasia felt that they owed their audience a little more.

“A beacon of the Lord! Of His love! Of His grace! And, most importantly, of His hope! I am a beacon of hope!”

At that cue, Anastasia flipped the switch, and the electro-luminescent material of the Reverend Horseshoe’s containment suit glowed with a brilliance that rivaled the sun. Indeed, it even rivaled the laser beams that came from Jesus’s eyes.

“What’s the crowd look like, Rojhaz?” Anastaia said into her earpiece. The robot choir had just started; she didn’t have another cue for a few minutes. “How long have they got?”

“They seem pretty into it, I’ll bet they’ll stay in the tent the whole three hours,” came the slightly muffled response.

“No, I mean, how long do they have?”

There was a strange noise as Rohjaz suddenly became very aware of his own containment suit and adjusted it. “Weeks. If that. The plague’s hit this town pretty hard.” His voice lightened. “They’re engaged though, even the blind ones. We’ll get a powerful haul out of this one. Most of their livestock’s already succumbed, so we’re talking heirloom pieces, furniture. Definitely stuff we can get real dosh for.”

“You think it ever bothers Horseshoe, fleecing these people before they’re about to die?”

“Girl, do you even listen to what the Reverend says? He’s giving these people hope. They’ll get a fair more use out of that than great-grandma’s silver these next few weeks.” Behind his voice, Anastasia could hear the robot choir finishing out the opening number. “Besides, how much would you pay for hope?”

Anastasia couldn’t answer. She just sat there, high in orbit, as the robot choir reached their crescendo.

“Amazing grace,” they sang. “How sweet, the sound…”

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