A Light in the Dark Night
|A Light in the Dark Night|
|First published||14 August 2009|
|Era||Succession Wars era|
|Timeline||17 August 2806|
|Preceded by||The Dark Night of the Soul|
A Light in the Dark Night (full title, advertised as simply "A Light in the Dark") is a short story by Christopher Purnell that was published online on BattleCorps on 14 August 2009 and later published in print in the 2016 BattleCorps anthology Front Lines. It continues the earlier story, The Dark Night of the Soul.
|“||They say that the living may envy the dead. But it is only those that live, that can learn from those that died. Only those that live, that can tell the story.||”|
Father Jerome Aguillar (formerly known as Father Jerome Zubalicarragui), who thought he'd seen the depths of mankind's depravity during the Amaris occupation of the Philippines, has come to Kentares IV five years after its liberation by AFFS forces to visit the ruins of Saint Anthony's cathedral in the city of Gould. His counterpart from the New Avalon Catholic Church, Father Eduardo Esteban, reports that the Sword of Light paid special attention to hunting and torturing clergymen.
Father Jerome's mission is to investigate reports of a ghostly apparition. A survivor of the Kentares Massacre, Mary Reynolds, tells him that she and other survivors had been hiding in the church when a DCMS officer beheaded one of his own soldiers. According to Mary, a shimmering, distorted apparition of a motherly-looking woman wrapped in ancient robes appeared. She believes that the Virgin Mary interceded to save the refugees' lives.
Father Jerome discounts her story, as he continues to grapple with his crisis of faith. He recalls that his fellow Filipinos believed that God would protect them when they staged a protest march against the imprisonment of Pope Clement XXVII, and were brutally slaughtered, nonetheless. Whereas Mary and Father Esteban strongly believe that a miracle has taken place, Jerome remains cynical. He notes that his presence here is the result of Church politics—an olive branch extended to the New Avalon schismatics who had gone so far as to strike centuries' of Terran Hegemony Popes from the rosters. (Father Esteban tells Jerome that "The Lord has uniquely blessed our realm"—the Federated Suns—and that the mainstream Catholic authorities in the Vatican are "cloistered fools".)
The group drives through the shattered town to a recently-excavated cave system nearby where more victims were recovered, dropping Mary off at a refugee camp en route. Before they get to the caves, they get a request from a camp hospital, where a dying DCMS trooper has requested last rites. In the hospital, Father Esteban refuses to grant last rites to Private Nakamura, causing Father Jerome to rebuke him. Jerome goes on to voice his rejection of Esteban's idea of a pro-Davion deity in the face of so much massive suffering—where was such a God when the Kentares Massacre, the Amaris Coup, the dissolution of the Star League, and unrestrained nuclear bombings and biological warfare took place? Despite no longer feeling it in his heart, he gives the rote answer that God forgives all crimes, no matter how horrible, because He must.
Jerome sits with Nakamura, who admits having played a role in the massacre. He says that he was an Unproductive who was drafted into the DCMS as an infantry trooper. He grew suicidal after the killings, but was talked out of it by a Christian squadmate. That squadmate was the DCMS trooper killed by an ISF officer outside the church. Nakamura says he sensed a presence at the execution, and that it scared the ISF officer away. Afterwards, the squad took to the hills, and half committed seppuku. Jerome performs last rites and, after having heard Nakamura's story, Father Esteban offers communion.
Jerome remains unwilling to declare the incident in Gould an official miracle (due largely to Church politics—not wanting to antagonize the New Avalon Catholic Church by claiming a divine intercession on behalf of a DCMS trooper, or the Draconis Combine by reporting that one of their traitorous troopers was Christian). However, he remarks that having convinced Father Esteban to perform rites for a DCMS soldier is a miracle in and of itself.