The ships came from all corners of the republic, carrying these holy men, these princes of the church, back to the planet from which their religion sprang nearly three millenia ago; human or not, they came, bidden to carry out a rite little changed, selecting the leader for untold numbers of worshippers. It would be a once in a lifetime experience for most, given the recent inclination to choose younger men; for those of us who watched as well, drawn by the drama of renewal.
The ships – ah the ships. Anyone who had stared upward at the spaceport had seen military cruisers, freighters, the huge emigration tubs, But these were unique. They were privately owned, a fleet beholden to no one save their God. Most were old, but all were in perfect condition – so the tri-D had been telling us all week. An amazing collection we couldn't stay away from. We went down to watch them come in. We were close enough to catch a glimpse of their cargo; gasps escaped our lips at the rare sight of an alien member. It is far different to see one in real life, even at a distance that taxed our young eyesight, than to see them on a vid, no matter how realistic. This was the real thing.
At last we went home – Jirry's house had the best tri-D and we clustered around the living room, watching them sit around the table as if it sat in the corner, listening to them speak, watching connections make and break. Of course, it wasn't real – it was a psych-sim, the avatars high in the room kept reminding us – for nineteen centuries only the men in the room knew what happened, and they largely kept it to them selves. Still we watched, fascinated. They chatted – some renewing old friendships, others carrying on the business of shepherding souls. As discussion wore down, consensus led to a first vote. We watched, fascinated, as they collected the ballots in a crucible of gold, counted, and, failing to choose, burned the results with the straw in a building nearly as old as their communion. We wondered what straw was, exactly – it was outside our knowledge, being city boys.
The sim was amazingly accurate, at least in portraying time. The view cut to a view of the chimney, black smoke visible, true believers at the top of their voices, urging on the men performing their sacred duties; they were, of course, completely isolated from the spectacle without. At this point, the avatars warned us, the sim became more and more unreliable due to changing attitudes of the participants, but they would continue for a while. We watched as the Cardinals began politicking, just as any politicians might; the commentary from our friends above predicted just who would next be Bishop of Rome, and, by extension, leader of their church. When, after how many votes, was the question.
We watched for hours; the sim predicted votes closely, and the reality break as the cameras moved to the chapel's exterior made it seem even more real. Commentary on the various contenders continued as, spellbound, we considered who might come to the fore of the ancient process, refined though it had been over the centuries. Finally a vote showed a young Cardinal from an alien race was chosen, at least according to the sim. It wasn't unknown – two hundred some years before an excellent leader had been chosen who was not human as well. It was still a surprise. There was a long pause while the avatars popped down, their desk now back into our room. They filled the time until something happened, explaining that the sim could go no further since it thought that the issue was decided.
We found out the ancient way. The cameras cut to the light smoke above the chapel; shortly the men we had been watching in simulation walked out into the sunset. They had completed their responsibility, an ancient rite of transition fufilled. Frezzo picked up a ball, balanced it on his fingertip.
“Ready to go out?”
We left, pusuing the joys of our childhood, all of us remembering what we had just seen. It put today in perspective, the child of millenia past.
Finally got a little time to try something new for MicroFantasyMonday. It is not as bawdy as the usual stuff I write for that, but it should be responsive to Ang's choice for the week - ancient rituals. Thanks for an unusual subject.
Much of my writing time has been involved with pieces I'm submitting for publication. You'd be amazed how much time gets chewed up with nitty little details. Shortly I'll have a separate full website completed for my stuff.