by Jeff Carter -
Dr. Kwame Singh basked in the shimmering blue light and felt the pulse of ocean currents against his skin. Even though he was 30 km beneath the surface of Sheba, he felt as though he were in the oceans of Eclectia. The miners had used the blue mineral pectolite to gild the walls of their cathedral with every color of the sea. The rhythm of the waves came from a circle of drummers beating a slow and somber cadence. Since a lifetime of inhaling grit and ash had rendered them unable to sing, they offered up prayers with drums made from the shells of giant sea snails.
He thought of his frustrating time in dank Port Xenia. The study of Theological Drift had come to a halt around the same time as the Avenir. His parents and grandparents had made their contributions, charting the fracture, conglomeration, and slow dissolution of Ancient Earth religions. The long journey across the void had opened space for a spiritual Cambrian explosion. Kwame intended to capture it by pioneering a new field called Evolutionary Theology.
The colonists of Port Xenia were wistful about the so-called ‘angels’ they rarely glimpsed through the portholes, but there was nothing ecstatic or transcendent in their middling culture. The first true believers he met were the miners on their pilgrimage from Sheba. Their hair was unkempt and their skin was like leather, but their eyes were tranquil and electric. These men and women had contact with the ‘angels’ more frequently and intensely than Dr. Singh had ever observed.
He had followed the miners back to Sheba and discovered the cathedral that they had built by hand. A bright light carved across the ceiling, interrupting his reverie. Supervisor Braun was stomping towards him, his helmet light glaring. “Third shift is starting. Break it up.”
As the miners shuffled out they genuflected to the statues of patron saints that had been streamlined with fins and curving fluke tails. The supervisor looked at his chronometer and scowled. “Isn’t there an abbey topside for this? If they don’t spend less time banging drums and more time working, the technology we depend upon will fail.”
Dr. Singh smiled with dawning understanding. “They risk freezing vacuum and hellish inferno every day to feed their families. Do you really think it is just technology that they depend on?”