The Dark Night of the Soul
|The Dark Night of the Soul|
|First published||28 August 2010|
|Era||Star League era|
|Timeline||18 April 2779|
|Followed by||A Light in the Dark Night|
|“||The things that mankind does to itself during times of war are amongst the most horrible in history--but sometimes the days just after the war ends can be just as deadly.||”|
Father Jerome Zubalicarragui, a Jesuit priest, lived through the horrors of the Amaris occupation in the Phillipines. In 2770, anti-Amaris rebels led a protest march on Manilia hoping to convince the Amaris government to release Pope Clement (then the focus of a mock trial by the Greenhaven Gestapo in Rome). Hundreds of thousands of Phillipinos were subsequently massacred by a detachment of Ignis terror tanks in the Quezon Circle district. Even now, months after SLDF troops liberated the islands, Jerome still has nightmares about the Manila massacre to such an extent that he's suffering a crisis of faith.
Following the massacre, Jerome went into hiding while AsRoc kill squads and local collaborators hunted unsuccessfully. His skill in evading sweeps earned him the nickname "ghost padre," a nickname Jerome detests. He has what he feels is an undeserved reputation as a "hero of the resistance," saying that he "made a few speeches" while others died.
Manila still bears the scars of street-by-street fighting between Republican and SLDF forces, though SLDF combat engineers have been working to restore the infrastructure. Fort Santiago, a former tourist trap, has become the Star League's administrative headquarters for the region. Violence is still threatened by Amaris commandos, Rim Worlds diehards left behind, and Huk guerrillas who assisted the SLDF, but have refused to disarm.
Jerome goes to the fort as an observer for Catholic relief agencies. Detainees (Republicans and local collaborators) and their families will be traveling by bus from the old stone fort to a more secure compound at San Fernando, out in the countryside. Jerome is worried that the Huk guerrillas may try to take revenge on the detainees as they travel through the Pampanga region, rather than waiting for due process.
He speaks with Emily Wuerzel, a press photographer who was stranded in Manila en-route to the China front, then meets with the fort's commandant, Captain Jules Marchand. The SLDF officer tells Jerome that he expects the Huks to attempt to intercept the lightly guarded convoy, but that with little weaponry on-hand (everything combat-worthy was sent to the still-active fronts in China) and with the Huks in possession of significant anti-armor arsenals looted from overrun Republican armories, he will have to rely on diplomacy, rather than firepower.
Twenty buses depart, crammed with accused collaborators along with their families, including young children. Jerome rides along with Emily Wuerzel, and the two discuss the socio-economic problems of the Phillipines, which remained severe even during the "golden age" of the Terran Hegemony. As the convoy enters the New City, it runs into a Huk roadblock. Jerome's attempts to negotiate with the Huks come to naught, and a raging gun battle erupts. The Huks slaughter the SLDF escorts and kill the detainees and their families, burning them in their buses and hanging their corpses from lamp posts.
Jerome and Emily both survive, and the horror-stricken priest pours out his soul to the hard-bitten war correspondent. He tells her he didn't organize the protest march—he tried to stop it. While the protest leaders believed that God would stop the Pope's execution and protect them, Jerome hadn't shared their faith. The massacre of the detainees causes him to again question how God could allow such a thing to happen. Emily responds that people do such things across all of human space. Yet, as a practicing Jew, she still has faith that the God who kept her people alive for four thousand years exists.