Author : Viktor Kuprin
The priestâ€™s pointed helmet hung at his side. His vac suit was completely black.
Engineer Beketov didnâ€™t get it. It was too strange, too â€¦ medieval. The holy man waved the crucifix over the salt package and recited a prayer. Beketov had been told the salt was for cooking a lamb stew that would be shared by all the dockyardâ€™s techs and engineers.
â€œFather Toyan, itâ€™s time for us to EVA. Letâ€™s go.â€ The priest nodded and followed to the airlock.
â€œHow far did you travel to get here?â€ Beketov asked.
â€œFrom Earth, from the Great Ararat Monastery, to be exact.â€ The priestâ€™s voice was reedy, and his beard bunched against the visor of his strangely-shaped helmet.
â€œIâ€™ve never been to Earth,â€ said the engineer. â€œFather, Iâ€™m curious, why is your helmet peaked on top? When other priests visit the station, their helmets arenâ€™t like yours.â€
â€œPriests who are not married wear these, my son. The peak symbolizes our dedication to the Lord,â€ he explained.
The airlock hatch slid open, and the bright light of Dustriâ€™s star made their visors darken. They slowly moved toward the dockyards, their bootsâ€™ magnetic soles clicking with each step.
â€œHow long have you been working in the yards, my son?â€
Beketov laughed. â€œClose to a year, but it seems like forever, Father. The one weâ€™re going to was just an empty shell with I first arrived. Look at him now.â€
One of the dumb servo-mechanoids rumbled toward them. Beketov gently grasped the priestâ€™s shoulder to stop him from entering its path. It wobbled past with no sign of notice.
â€œFather Toyan, no disrespect, but how do you feel about this? Coming all the way out here to, well, to bless â€¦â€
â€œAn engine of destruction? Actually, the churchâ€™s blessing is for the crew, to humbly ask God for their safety and protection, and that they will always be in His grace.â€
As they walked, Beketov watched the priestâ€™s gold crucifix sparkle in the starlight. A transparent pouch filled with small plastic globlets hung from his belt: Holy Water for the ceremony.
â€œHere he is, Father.â€ Beketov could see people watching them, crowded together in the observation blisters and viewports surrounding the dockyard.
â€œAre you a believer, Engineer Beketov?â€ the priest asked.
â€œI donâ€™t know, Father. Sometimes itâ€™s hard not to be when you look up and see all this,â€ the engineer said, pointing toward the stars. â€œI do know that a man needs all the help he can get, right?â€
Toyan nodded. â€œFair enough. Now, if you will, let us pray.â€ The priest keyed the comm controls on his suit sleeve and began to broadcast.
â€œAlmighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people. Guide, I pray, all the worlds and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace â€¦ â€
The priest made the sign of the cross in front of the new starshipâ€™s gigantic gray hull.