Dust filled the air as a sand blast landed on the flames coming from the cathedral of St. Liz. Brother Kyleâ€™s red mechanical eye, the Snipers Lover, adjusted to the lower light as he ran towards the Archbishops secretary.
â€œBrother Alexander! Who is in the garden?â€
â€œWhat?â€ Alexander clutched his data pad to his chest and stared past Louis toward the blaze.â€ Kyle grabbed Alexander and shook him.
â€œWho is holding St. Liz? Who has the pillar?â€
Alexander shook his head. â€œAh, itâ€™s noon, mid-meal, so itâ€™s one of the acolytes.â€
Kyle muttered a curse. The pillar of St. Liz was a forty-pound architectural marvel that was held at a crucial intersection in the cathedral. If the pillar were to be dropped St. Liz would crumble. Kyle had seen simulations of the twenty-eight hour collapse, wood and stone crashing inwards leaving only a few outside walls standing. The St. Liz pillar was designed as a representation of the peopleâ€™s connection to the body of the church, and under the dome, it had special relevance to the interdependency of the lunar community.
Another gust of sand and ash blew over the cathedral scattering tourists and clergy as the domes emergency system, millions of spider shaped drones, swarmed over the fire. Kyleâ€™s lungs, manufactured during the war, filtered out the excess oxygen produced by the malfunctioning pumps. The excess oxygen produced by the environmental system in the dome had started the fire. Warnings flashed on the inside of his skull that the concentration of toxins in the air was exceeding recommended doses for normal human capacity.
Brother Kyle caught the eye of Ruth, a Sister in the order who he had never spoken to before. Both of them had purposefully given each other distance. After the war, most veterans did. Now, he found himself calling to her.
â€œSister Ruth! Move Up!â€ She leaped, her steel extensions unfolding under her robe. In two seconds she was standing next to him, boosted five feet in the air by her Steel Razors, the legs that could cut through bone. They headed down through the maze of the cathedral, built with the native grey stone. Ruth snatched Kyle up into her extended mechanical arms and vaulted over patches of intense heat. When she began coughing Kyle grabbed her face and mashed her mouth against his, exhaling into her lungs.
â€œIâ€™ve got the Sweet Breath.â€ he explained nervously. In the war he had given out a thousand breaths, but after a few years in a monastery, he was suddenly squeamish about touching lips.
At the entrance to the underground garden fire was crawling up the graceful trees, bright like jewels on a womanâ€™s hand. The acolyte stood in his red robes coughing, struggling to hold up the pillar. The acolyte cried out when he saw Kyle and Ruth.
â€œThe fire!â€ he said, tears in his lashes.
Kyle yanked the acolyte close and forced a breath into his throat. The kid was too surprised to do anything but inhale. â€œItâ€™s okay, Iâ€™m here to take over.â€
â€œNo!â€ yelled Ruth, her voice dimmed by the roar of the flames. â€œWeâ€™ll all getting out.â€
Kyle took hold of the pillar. â€œIâ€™m staying in the garden. I have the Sweet Breath, I can do this.â€
â€œThe church may collapse anyway! If you force me I will carry you out of here.â€
Kyle nodded and hit the acolyte on the back of the head. The acolyte folded like silk onto the crackling grass.
â€œYou can only take one of us Ruth.â€
â€œDamn you! We all did shit in the war. You donâ€™t need to do this.â€
â€œThis isnâ€™t about the war. Get that kid out. Iâ€™ll survive; Iâ€™m the only person in that can do this. I need to do this. Let me go!â€
Ruth picked up the kid and danced into the flames.
Brother Kyle curled himself around the pillar, leaning his baldhead against the lacquered wood. Smoke clouded his vision. His lungs flashed red warnings on the inside of his eyes. He thought about being on tourist duty, carefully handing the pillar to a young woman posing for a picture with her parents.
â€œIâ€™m not really a believer.â€ She had said.
â€œMaybe not.â€ Kyle remembered smiling. â€œBut right now, you are holding up the church.â€