Author : Roi R. Czechvala, Staff Writer

“Who are they,” the chief officer of the starliner, Raumfahrer, asked Captain Kurtzmann.

“They’re a group of fanatic pilgrims,” he replied through a tight smile as he nodded perfunctorily at a small mass of red cloaked figures marching by. Several of the men smiled meekly and made odd gestures to the Captain and his crew. “They’re followers of the Slain God.”

“I’ve heard about them. They worship an ancient myth. Their God was violently murdered for preaching peace to his followers. Very ironic, if a bit anachronistic.”

“These ‘anarchists’ chartered an entire liner for their pilgrimage. Please bear that in mind,” the captain hissed in a ‘watch your ass’ tone.

A figure, conspicuous by his white raiment and the ornate staff he carried, broke from the group of crimson frocked men. “Are our quarters ready?”

“We have cleared an entire hold for your group. Your uh, uh Your Eminence,” he quickly added, remembering the term of address from an article he had read.

“Please, so such formalities. I am but a humble pilgrim. I’m sure what you have arranged is adequate.”

“I must implore you to reconsider, Sir. There are only 30 of you, and you have the entire ship of 450 staterooms. Surely, you would be more comfortable…”

“Is everything prepared as requested,” the wizened figure interrupted.

“Yes Sir. The hold has been cleansed and spread with the leaves you provided.”

“I’m sure it will be most adequate for as far as we need to go.”

“I don’t know how comfortable it will be for the entire journey. Even with the torch drive, Copernicus is a long way off.”

The old man smiled warmly. “As I said, as far as we need to go.”

“Weird group, this,” remarked the helmsman as the captain stepped onto the bridge.

“Yes, they’re friendly enough, but they make me uncomfortable. There’s something about their leader that bothers me.”

“Do you think there’ll be trouble?”

“It’s not that. It’s as if he’s expecting something. As if he’s got an inside joke and I’m not in on it.” The captain became lost in contemplation for a moment. “Pull up the feed from hold three, please,” He said turning to the communications officer.

In an empty space in front of the bridge, the cavernous interior of hold three appeared. Before a large mass of palm fronds, the men had erected a wooden structure and now knelt before it. It consisted of an upright, neatly bisected by a shorter cross brace. A low chant came from the men. “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.” The chant was repeated, rising and falling in volume.

“Well, nothing sinister there, but I just can’t shake…”

“Sir,” a sharp ejaculation cut him off, “what the hell is going on?”

Startled by the brusqueness of one of his officers, Kurtzmann spun around to confront an ashen faced ensign pointing at the ships forward view.

The bridge crew stared as, one by one, the stars winked out.


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