EXT – Day – dry gulch road
Helton is walking up a road in a small, deep, dusty gulch, sparse bushes and bare rock around him. He is sweating, and it looks hot. The sun beats down. As he comes around a bend he sees a group of six men ahead, working together with hand tools building a gate and part of a stone wall across the wash, looking like they could be right out of the 10th century. The rocks they are lifting into place look large and heavy, as are the hand-made wood and metal pieces for the gate. 5 of the men look mid-20s, 1 is older – 50-ish, all are lean and well muscled, four wearing nothing but simple brown breeches and heavy sandals, and the other two (the older, one younger) wearing something like a traditional brown monks habit, similar to the monk that died in the desert. All have short hair and are clean-shaven. A few tattoos of various sorts are visible, including a couple that look like military unit crests. They work silently, shaping rocks with hammer and chisel, fitting them, checking to make sure they are level, etc; they note him with a glance, but say nothing, and continue working. Helton approaches them.
Helton: I’m looking for Father Libra. Back in town they said I could find him up this way.
They all pause a moment, looking at him. The older one nods at him, and waves at Helton to indicate he should follow, and another nod and wave to the others to indicate they should continue working.
Helton follows the older monk further up the gulch a ways, the tap-tapping of metal on stone fading behind. The monk walks briskly. As they move up the road, a sort of Gregorian chant is heard in Latin wafting though the air (it continues for the rest of the scene in the background). It is a sort of call-and repeat chant, with pauses between lines.
Words in Latin mean:
Oh Lord, Give me the wisdom to understand what I have seen,
The strength to carry on when hope fades
The honesty to be at peace and face what IS
The forbearance to forgive those who have wronged me
The focus to forget the horrors I’ve been through
To be accepting of what I cannot change
The humility to follow the lead of those who have trod this path before
Grant me respect for those who try, but are imperfect as I am
The fortitude to lead others out of darkness
The clarity to understand the path I must follow
Please forgive me the things I’ve done
Give me the bravery to go where I am needed
The discipline to not be a burden on others
[continued as needed praying for more of the core virtues)
As they walk, they approach a building made of stone. It looks like a cross between a Spanish Mission, a Gothic cathedral, a monastery, and a small walled castle. On one end there is a large St Possenti Cross.
They approach a small door next to a large door in one wall. As they cross the thresh-hold right at the end of a line of hymn, there is a loud crash of metal on stone. Helton jumps in surprise. He sees the large courtyard has about 3 dozen men in widely spaced ranks, mostly young and lean like those at the gate, wearing monks robes, standing at attention with rifles at their sides. The rifles are an odd mix of old wooden-stocked hardware (M1s, Mausers, SMLEs, Nagants, etc, all with metal butt-plates,) with bare bayonets on them. There are a few with all-wooden training rifles, with the clearly less practiced monks. They open their mouths, chant another line of the Latin chant, and move smoothly into the start of another slow, methodical bayonet drill position, sort of like an Eastern martial arts kata, chanting between each movement. Helton looks at them, and at the monk leading him in surprise and puzzlement. As they walk together around the courtyard to the far side they talk.
Helton: (wondering aloud, almost to himself) Bang-fu? What IS this place?
Father: (placidly) This is the abbey of St Possenti. You are not familiar with the order?
Helton shakes his head.
Helton: Never heard of any monks teaching gun-jitsu.
The Father smiles and nods his head knowingly at the comment.
Father: We serve the young men that society has badly misused and discarded… mainly soldiers who were not prepared to deal with what they experienced, and were cast aside as damaged goods. Others in need are also welcome. Their spirits are without trust, unbalanced and broken. They need love, discipline, understanding, meditation and prayer; to talk with those who have similar experience and deeply understand. A simple, understandable life of the physical, solid, the real for a while, as they calm their soul. Most are here for a few years, then return to the world, renewed. For a few like myself it becomes a life calling. This (nods to the drilling monks), meditation and study, working with their hands, and regular parma exercitatio help them to learn self discipline and restore self confidence and inner peace. It is not an order that appeals to many. Even, (wryly) within the Church.
The Father leads Helton into an office. It is small and spare, made of natural materials and with only natural light falling in through a window and across the desk. In it, a simple desk with three reddish crystals aligned from tallest (about a foot) to shortest (about 6”) on one side, two chairs, an M1 Garand with a long bayonet on one wall, a crucifix on another, a window, and not much else. The monk waves Helton to one chair, closes the door, and sits behind the desk. Outside the chant continues. They look at one another across the desk.
Faintly, in the near distance, the boom of a shot rings out, and Helton jumps a bit. There is a slight rolling echo from around the canyon. 4.5 seconds after the shot is heard, there is a quiet metallic “ping” of a bullet impacting on a small piece of steel at a pause in the chant. Helton looks at Libra questioningly.
Father Libra: Brother Exactus on the mid-range small steel, I’d expect.
Helton shakes his head slightly, as if it’s all a little surreal, and he’s trying to make sense of the situation.
Father: (quietly) So, what can I do for you, my son?
Helton: (surprised) Soooo, you’re…?
Father Libra: Yes, these last 28 years.
Helton: I’ve got some bad news to bring you… I’m not sure how to… I promised I’d return this…
Helton reaches into a pocket on his travelers coat and brings out the small St Possenti medallion given to him by the ancient monk, and hands it over to Father Libra. Father Libra looks it over, then starts and examines it more closely. He looks up sharply at Helton, inquiringly and piercing.
Helton: Well, we had gotten dumped together…
Helton sits quietly, looking at Father Libra. Libra looks contemplative, and a bit sorrowful. He looks up at Helton.
Libra: Thank you for coming. Sad news, but not entirely unexpected. He was very old when he left nearly a decade ago, to looks for souls in need, and to search for a particular lost soul that left the order long ago. And to track down a “flying abbey.” (wry grimace)
Helton: (quizzically) Flying abbey?
Father: A small starship used long ago as a wandering monastery that went where it was needed. People sometimes had visions, or claimed they saw miracles aboard. It was lost long ago… before the stars went away. He had directed many to us during his travels; I thought that you may be one such.
Helton: I may be a bit lost, but I’m not ready for the monastery. Not quite my kind of life.
Father Libra: (nodding understanding) Every life has their own calling in this world. I hope yours is on a favorable path… He will be missed. Will you stay for his service this evening?
Helton: No, sorry, I can’t; I need to catch a ship.
Libra: Sorry to hear that. Well, we are (holds up medallion) in your debt. If you need anything we can provide, you have but to ask. Again, thank you for coming.
They stand, shake hands, look one another in the eye, and Helton turns and leaves.
Fade out with final line of chant (in Latin as VO) saying “let all souls be revived” fading away.
Always comes back to the ship…..
Now when will the book come back into play?
Guess I have 24 hrs till the next episode!
Yes, a LOT of things come back to the ship. Remember the various virtues inscribed on the stair risers of the ship when he was first looking it over? They didn’t just get there by accident. And your timing is impeccable on the question.
Yeah, I was just going to try to go back and find the episode with the stairs, see if there was some sort of correlation there. I’m also curious about the super-cold welded-shut compartment in the ship, and the book. Excellent as always!
I’m sure someone will correct my Latin if I’m wrong, but I translate “parma exercitatio” as “target practice.” A different way to meditate 😉
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