The crowd of faithful gathered at the steps to the giant cathedral of St. Brutus. Hundreds if not thousands of people shouting, chanting a melody of death, occasionally throwing a rock all of this, aimed at three figures standing on a wooden platform just below the marble steps to the blessed church. The general uproar of the thriving masses could be heard in a three mile radius around the old living quarters, and has even managed to reach the tunnels of the second layer of the Undercity. As if in a hypnotizing trance, many people passing by joined the crowds, not fully aware of what was going on but none the less mesmerized by the crowds shouting Filth! and Scum! every few seconds. Most probably, only the first few rows of outraged citizens knew what the reason behind this gathering was.
Looming over the crowds, its towers and turrets reaching heights close to those of the pillars that held the bulk of the Uppercity, the cathedral of St. Brutus stood as a monument and testimony of the power of God. Its gray walls adorned with statues representing the suffering of mankind in all of its forms. Wretched figures twisted in pain, disfigured faces of revolt, nails digging into marble flesh, eyes of stone bulging out, lifeless grimaces of pious believers who have felt the wrath of God. But as impressive as the cathedral might have been, what even more amazed all of the gathered, was just how much more of a fortress the cathedral was, rather than a house of prayer. Each of the giant buildings towers and wall were mounted full of gun pods of a wide assortment. High-caliber defensive weaponry paired with helipads and innumerable amounts of battle clerics strolling down the garrisoned wall of the church, now and then stopping to take a look at the gathering way down below.
The mass of people had gathered in a square in the center of the A-2 block of the Ground Zero level of the City-Nation of Vatican the biggest metropolis, built on the ashes of the old Vatican City, a few years after the Crusade of AD. 96 and the unification act of Agea which proclaimed the Holy Ecclesiastical Church the leader of Earth. Ecclesiastic Christianity has become the only legal and true religion that could be worshiped on Earth, all that failed to follow the truth of the one and almighty God were to be considered heretics and be burnt at the stake. Today, the City-Nation of Vatican stretched all over the old land masses of ancient Europa. Today, Vatican stood as a capital of a modern yet pious world. It was a bold statement to the people of planet Earth, that God was with them and that the Ecclesiarchy was the His hammer of vengeance. Since AD. 112, gatherings like the one witnessed on this day were rather unusual. Fear pushed people towards converting their faiths, abandoning what they used to believe simply to avoid persecution, and to spare the lives of their beloved families. But lately it seemed that the Church has started to once again question the true believers of its people.
And proof of this were the three people standing on a raised wooden platform, stripped to dirty rags, hands and ankles bound with ropes, hoods pulled over their heads. They were surrounded by dozens of armed clerics. Each one of them wearing identical black soldier uniforms, silver buttons running down the length of their waistcoats, a red cross stitched to their right arms. Laser rifles held in their arms, reflected the light shining from the millions of reflectors hanging from the thick plates that created the ground of the Uppercity, imitating sunlight and various other weather conditions, all depending on the moods of the Meteorological Control Stations. Today, the weatherboard systems were pouring down pleasant waves of warmth as well as a refreshing breeze down on the citizens of Ground Zero, Sector A-2. But the pleasant weather did nothing to stop the hatred of the crowds and the fear of the three prisoners. No one could tell who the three convicts were apart from the fact that the one I the middle was a tiny, little child of perhaps five or six. The other two figures probably its parents, were whispering words of comfort to the child that was sobbing loudly. They all stood on ignition charges, about to die a painful slow death, consumed by flames. But no one seemed to care. In fact they demanded it. The crowds wanted blood and that was what they were going to receive.
A loud booming voice from the cathedrals towers silenced the crowd as if it was covered with a veil of silence. Tension filled the atmosphere, everyone waiting nervously for the moment that was about to come. The eerie silence, like dense mist, hung over the heads of the angry mob of faithful, disturbed only by the thrum of gravi-engines coming from the thousands of vehicles passing high above the city. And the silence was cut by a deep rumbling that emanated from inside of the cathedral. Its massive wooden doors, slowly pushed by massive hydraulic machines, opened outwards. The massive golden cross, covered in jewels, split in half, steam hissing out from the hydraulics, the smell of incense escaping the cathedral. With a loud bang the doors came to halt. Even in the bright sun light it was hard to see in to the impenetrable darkness within the massive structure, apart from a few dim lit candles directly at the entrance. Slowly out of the darkness emerged an ancient figure, twisted by the hands of time, sitting upon a gravi-engine propelled throne. It gave of a low hum as it hovered down the marble stairs. The figure sat upon the gold throne was a man of ages past. Dressed in ceremonial army robes of a deep black, hung below hi feet, skimming the ground as he moved on. A big red cross was stitched to the front of his garments, jewels and army insignia adorning his chest. His face, hidden behind a thin, snow white beard, portrayed a face of man who has lived for many decades. His eyes, below thick white eyebrow were set deeply in to his wrinkly skull, showed the story of his life spent on fighting heresy, evil and pious strength. All of this in the cold, brute stare of his ice blue eyes. His long, crooked nose covered with scar tissue, his bald head covered in red, tattooed inscriptions from the Bible, his parchment like skin stretched thinly over his skull.. This was the face of a man of God. Am who has spent an entire life preaching the wisdom of God throughout the Galaxy.
Whispers spread through the crowd like quick fire. Eyes and ears directed at the man who just emerged from the cathedral. It was the General Bishop of Sector A-2. Mathias Methodis, the spiritual and military leader of this section of Ground Zero. A man of immense influence and power. The bishop himself? Many asked themselves. Anxiety ran in every persons muscles, tension grew to a point were the mob could barely hold itself together any longer. A person of such a high rank within the Church hierarchy was evidence that a serious crime has been committed. Two clerics ran up to support the bishop who was forever tied in his life supporting cradle. One of them held a voice box enhancing device, while the other one pressed several buttons and dials on the armrests of his chair. Multicolored fluids ran through tubes connecting the bishops arms to a beeping machine at his back. With a groan he propped himself up and licked his dry, wrinkled lips, getting ready to speak to his faithful.
"We have gathered her today under the sign of the Holy Cross to witness the crime of heresy in its purest form. These three, standing here before us, have decided to renounce the one and only True God and take on the belief of blasphemy and evil.' he croaked through the voice enhancer. His voice resonated around the square, bouncing of the concrete buildings that surrounded the gathering. ' They have come from one of the colonies from above our beloved Mother Planet with intent to spread the lies and convert us believers into their wicked, heretic beliefs. But Christ Almighty has given them the chance to repent for their sins and once again embrace the love of God! But they said no!' shouts of disbelief erupted from all around. The crowds had to be hushed once again by the bishop. 'So today, at this hour, we shall cleanse them of their filth and heresy my children! Let their death be a warning to those who want to disrupt the peace that the Church has so long fought to attain. A warning, to those who who's faith is weak and those who succumb to dark powers and heresy! And there are many of them! Oh yes my children! We have news that many of those who we used to call our brothers and sisters, in the colonial stations high above are slowly succumbing to those powers! And as a servant of God Almighty, the Holy Spirit and Christ our Savior! It is my duty to strike down on them with His mighty fury!"
All of this was enough to make the crowds go wild. Everyone in unison started to chant prayers and the square in front of the church was suddenly filled with the chorus of a thousand people praising God. For a moment it seemed that none of the anger and hate that just not so long ago resonated within every person present, was gone. But when the bells of the cathedral struck twelve times, the crowds slowly went silent. Raising one frail arm, propped by one of the clerics, the bishop shouted out:
"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Almighty Spirit, I condemn you to eternal damnation in the deepest pits of hell for the sins you have committed."
With these final words, the crowds shouted a chorus of Amen's, and the punishment began. The wooden stage collapsed as the ignition charges blew up into balls of blue flames. The chemical fire quickly rose, covering the three victims in ignited fuel, wickedly burning their flesh rather slowly and painfully. Their bodies arched and twisted in the heat, their screams unheard over the roar of flames and the mob. Their airways soon filled up with the heat and their lungs were burning as well. The little child was the first to collapse dead into the fire. Skin was peeling of flesh, hair completely singed of, it wasn't long before the two other prisoners fell dead. The smell of burnt flesh and chemical smoke mixed together lingered in the square and stuck to clothes and bodies. The crowd continued to shout vile words at the now dead prisoners whose bodies now lay upon a pile of smoldering wood. Amazing amounts of hate and evil were pouring out of the crowds. But this was not the only gathering taking place that evening. Throughout the whole City-Nation, in various locations, prisoners were being convicted to death and killed in an identical barbaric manner. One could see many smoke pillars flying off into the sky.
And as the crowd writhed in ecstasy, creating one living organism composed of thousands of hate filled beings. But two people standing close to the barrier in front of the Cathedral did not shout or pray. Two people did not find any joy in this killing. They just stood there with grave faces, fists clenched tight till their nails dug into the flesh of their hands drawing blood. They did not indulge themselves into this orgy of xenophobic hate.
Two men in their mid-forties, dressed as any common citizen of Vatican or the Space Colonies. One of them wearing in red robes muttered into the ear of the other one, the heavy wrinkles on his face portraying worry. He spoke quickly but did not worry of being over heard in the roar.
"This is slowly getting out of hand Aaron. It's getting too dangerous to just ignore this for longer than we already have." He pulled the one called Aaron to himself closer. "We must inform the Order that our position is getting worse. It's getting to dangerous we have to withdraw at once!" He hissed, his voice barely audible in the noise generated by the masses, nervously thrumming his fingers against his thigh.
"So what do you think will happen next?" Asked the other one, while pulling his hood over his head.
"Well it's only local at the moment, but if the Inquisition gets hold of it…no..." He paused for a moment. "When the Inquisition gets a hold of this, this witch hunt will definitely move to the colonies. And once it does, then we will have no choice but to face war." He bit his lower lip and kept as close to his companion as he could since the crowd was constantly moving in a rhythmic pattern.
"But the colonies are self-governed, and the Church and influence as strong as it may be, cannot execute mass killings on independent territory. Not unless the governors are weak enough to stop the Churches enforces."
"What then!" The one named Aaron hissed. "The situation is really tense. Three colonies from Beta-9 have already transferred their power to the Vatican! And B-9 will not be the last, I can guarantee that." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "The Order might be constantly vigilant, but how long can we oppose them? And once they do attack where do we look for help? The other colonies? The Jalfrai? They only care about their technology." The other man was about to interrupt him but Aaron grabbed his shoulder with a nervous grip. "They are already massing their troops in orbit. You know their power! How can we ever stop them!?" He nearly shouted.
"You sound as if there is no hope" The other one said, a dark shadow falling on his face, keeping his calm.
"There never was any from the beginning." He shook his head in dismay. "Now let's leave this place, it's making me sick. Aaron's companion only nodded and they started to push and shove people out of their way to leave. No one seemed to take notice of them. They were in a trance. It took them a while but once they left the mass, they reached a clearing at the far left of the square where they could stop to catch their breaths. They grabbed a taxi stationed nearby which took off into the clouds with a deep rumble of its gravi-engines. They silently sat inside and didn't speak for the rest of their journey. Aaron pressed his forehead to the cold glass of the window; while the other man was still drumming his fingers on his thigh.
The taxi rose up to join the millions of other vehicles speeding over the towers and buildings of Ground Zero. The City-Nation was as busy as ever. Countless numbers of people and xeno breeds carrying out their daily lives and duties; unaware that Earth was on the brink of war again. And yet the city looked amazing as it always did. The skylights reflected in the windows of the skyscrapers and housing modules, people like insects moving around every single street, and as the taxi carrying the two men slowly rose to one of the sky port holes to the even more grand Upper City, the two men did their best not to look at the many, billowing columns of black smoke far back behind them.