Fabio Paolo Barbieri (fpb) wrote,
Fabio Paolo Barbieri
fpb

Terawatt - Seven days in Italy, introduction

1.


ITALIAN REPUBLIC

MOTU PROPRIO DECREE BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC

IN THE NAME OF THE LAW

Unprecedented events require unprecedented responses. The rise of what are called "superpowers" has caused civilized countries great grief and concern. Human beings endowed with superhuman powers have indulged their basest instincts, while occult interests and criminalized business concerns have made criminal use of dangerous discoveries. Monstrous beings created apparently by mistake or chance have threatened or taken the lives of thousands.

Against this threatening landscape, the person called Terawatt offers luminous hope and inspiration. A victim, as it seems, of the criminal experiments of the notorious Danielle Atron, she kept control of the powers she had been given - unlike other victims - and dedicated them to the defence of law and order, first in her community, then across the United States of America and other countries. Displaying equally extraordinary levels of courage and of skill, she is not known to have ever lost a battle, even though she has often been outnumbered and outpowered. She sought the support of the authorities, and insisted, in spite of numerous legal problems, on staying within the law. Conscious of her potential as role model and public image, she committed herself to never using deadly force, even though - or perhaps because - her great powers made that not only possible but easy. To this day, no one person, opponent or bystander, has died as the result of any of her actions, and very few indeed have suffered any permanent injury. 

Certain that accidents and crimes such as that which created her would become more frequent, she has worked not only to protect as many communities as possible, well beyond the borders of her own nation, but to encourage other persons to come forward as superheroes and to help foster their career. Although this aspect of her career has not yet directly concerned Italy, it would be more than enough for the Italian Republic to grant her some high honour.

However, the debt owed Terawatt by the Italian people and government goes well beyond her well-deserving efforts on the international stage. When a member of her team discovered that the city of Rome was about to suffer an attack by artificial life-forms, intended and designed to wipe at least Rome and possibly all of Italy and surrounding areas from the face of the earth, Terawatt came in person to help fight the outbreak. In spite of unfortunate misunderstandings, she effectively took command of the Italian force resisting the monsters, led them out of lethal danger, and personally accounted for most of the monsters, till none were left alive. She then went on with energetic bravery to repeat her exploit in Tokyo, as she had previously done in an island in Ireland.

No expert doubts that Terawatt's unhalting heroism has saved hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of lives, and almost certainly the whole city of Rome. The Italian Republic and the Italian people are the conscious stewards, on behalf of the entire world, of a matchless and enormous cultural and historical heritage, of which the largest single part is found in the city of Rome alone. Save for Terawatt's intelligent heroism, the as yet unknown enemy who launched this assault would have succeeded where Attila, the Lanzichenecchi and Hitler failed, and wiped out this treasure-house of civilization from the face of the Earth. It is therefore as much a duty as a pleasure, and as much an inevitability as a duty, to bestow on her the highest honour that is in the power of the Italian Republic to offer.

Therefore, I, Camillo Benso Bertini, President of the Republic, after consulting with my advisers and with members of the Council of Ministers, have the pleasure to declare TERAWATT a Knight Grand Cross with Grand Collar or the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

At the Palace of the Quirinal, Rome [date]

Signed: Camillo Benso Bertini, President of the Republic

Counter-signed Enea Giuseppe Pio Brambilla, President of the Council of Ministers


2.

“Terawatt! Hello!”

“Lisa! You're looking fabulous!”

And she was. After all, Terawatt thought, she had only seen Medical Captain Lisa Benson during her grim and deadly space adventure, as she and the Italian officer struggled against treason and a destructive alien mold, fearing for their lives and for the lives of everyone on board (especially that of the Captain's lover and now fiancé, Commander Vince Elliot, USAF). She had already thought then that Lisa looked amazing, even for an Orphan; but it was nothing to how she was now, resplendent in her fresh-pressed Italian Air Force uniform, bright with medals and decorations - and just shining with happiness.

“Yeah, well, I feel fabulous. I'm so lucky. But I still say it will not be as good if you're not there.”

“Don't worry, I will. Now shall we do the introductions?”

“Let's.”

“Captain Lisa Benson, this is General Jonathan O'Neill, with two l's, an airman like you.” Lisa snapped a perfect salute, and Jack saluted back with none of the snark and sloppiness he often used in his unit. “Jack, this is Captain Lisa Benson, the heroine of the International Space Station rescue.”

“That would be you, actually,” said Lisa smiling. “General, Terawatt, may I introduce you to Ambassador Paolo Cortelleri della Fralta, and to Cardinal Brown, Apostolic Legate from the Pope. Your excellencies, General Jonathan O'Neill, and Terawatt.”

They had, of course, corresponded in the run-up to this encounter, but Terawatt had never met either man, and she looked at them with interest. The Ambassador was a lean, fit man in his fifties, wearing the most beautiful suit she had ever seen on a man (and with all her high-level meetings in Washington DC and elsewhere, she was becoming a bit of an expert). It was so well cut and shaped to his body that it made him look taller than he was, and immensely distinguished. His well-cut hair was a dark grey and only slightly thinning, and he spoke an almost unaccented British English. The Cardinal, on the other hand, was rather older, small and pudgy, and while his cassock was clean and well pressed, it looked neither new nor particularly cared for. Except for his red skullcap and the scarlet piping on his cassock, nothing would have suggested that he was a man of rank. His face was round and his eyes, behind thick glasses, had a slightly watery quality. He also spoke British English, but with a less polished accent, and an expert in languages would have heard the echo of the flatlands and waters of Norfolk in his accent. If Jack had not briefed her in advance, she would never have guessed that the Cardinal was by far the more consequential person of the two, and that there were remarkable stories about his past.

“I am most honoured, Terawatt. And to meet you, General – I have been told about you.”

“Nothing good, Ambassador, I hope,” answered back Jack with a grin.

“It depends – whether being described as the best in the business is bad,” and the ambassador gave a polite smile. Meanwhile the Cardinal was addressing Terawatt.

“I am also honoured to meet you both, madam. Are you aware that the Pope saw you fight when you were in Rome?”

“He did?” - and the Cardinal could have sworn that the tall, self-confident figure before him was blushing.

“You may not have realized it, but you were fighting quite near the Vatican. It's not an industrial zone in the least, but Laboratori VTT were set up there because it is next to a famous children's hospital, the Bambin Gesu'.”

“Oh my God...”

“Yes, if you had not contained those monstrosities, a lot of sick children would have among their first targets. The Italian authorities had begun emergency evacuation procedures, but it is insanely difficult to evacuate a large hospital full of sick children, in the centre of a crowded town, and with small and crowded streets. There were also a lot of civilian houses, and the Vatican Palaces only a few hundred yards north.”

“My God, Cardinal. My God. I'm glad I didn't know that... I think I'd have been so scared, I could not have thought straight. All those children...”

“Not for yourself?”

“Well, I can always fly away. It's the people who were with me who are the brave ones. But it's always civilians that scare me the most.”

He nodded. “And as I was telling you, among those civilians was the Holy Father, and the whole population of the Vatican State, including some American bishops there on an ad limina visit... that's the term” he explained as he noticed the flash of bewilderment in her eyes “for the regular visits of groups of bishops to the Pope. Indeed, I gather that some of the discussion had been about you.”

“About me?”

“I don't know if you realize it, but your existence poses a lot of questions in terms of theology and faith. Including issues about recorded miracles. And there was a general feeling that religious movements could coalesce around you.”

“You mean - ?” And after a second, Terawatt burst out in a ringing laugh, that made everyone else turn.

“No, we did not think so either,” smiled Cardinal Brown. “The general feeling among the American bishops was that you are a mature and sensible person with no itch for worshippers. The trouble is that it could happen whether you want it or not. In fact, I would say that it is pretty nearly inevitable at some point or place.”

Terawatt looked deeply uncomfortable.

“Luckily, no super-powered person so far has made any bid to set up their own sect, to the best of our knowledge. And as some of the American bishops pointed out during the debate, it was easy to see that there was nothing very divine about most of the people who turned out to have powers. They either did not use them or used them badly, but they weren't even bad enough to be really devilish in any real sense.”

“Well, some of them...” Terawatt started saying, and then fell silent. Her first reaction had been to think of her old, old hate and fear of Danielle Atron; and then the pain and guilt of “Dani,” the awakened good half of her old enemy, had come back to her. No, there wasn't anything devilish there, even in Danielle – only a very human evil, and a thankfully human guilt. Even Maggie Walsh was not a devil, but a woman with strangely warped and twisted instincts. Alex had spent long evenings with Action Girl, looking more disturbed than she had ever thought AG could be, just talking about those terrible moments when Maggie had caressed her and spoken to her as if to a beloved daughter.

“No, sorry, Cardinal, I was about to make a dumb remark. They are all human beings, we are all human beings – unhappy, and scared, and so very often wrong.”

“Indeed, that is what everyone felt. You are just the one who had the sense of responsibility and the courage. And then all of a sudden the Swiss Guards rushed in and told us of the battle going on outside and of the need to evacuate the Palace.”

“But you said the Pope watched me?”

“Indeed. The Pope ordered everyone else to leave, but he said he wished to observe so long as it was possible. They were still in readiness to move him out at a moment's notice. A few of the American bishops stayed with him. One of them said that there was no real danger so long as you were there.”

“I wish people wouldn't think that. I'm just a woman, you know. I can be beaten. I can fail. And I have, more than once.”

“Well, luckily that was not an issue. You and your helpers stopped the monsters, in spite of poor cooperation from some local people...”

“You may be interested to know,” added the Ambassador; and Terawatt realized that everyone else had stopped their own discussion and gathered round to listen to the Cardinal and to her - “that Colonel Leonetti has been reassigned. Unofficially, I may say that his career is unlikely to survive that fiasco.”

Terawatt almost growled. “Ambassador, I don't usually wish any ill to anyone, but that can only be good news. His obstructive ways cost the lives of dozens of his men, and I watched them die. I have nightmares about them sometimes. You see, Cardinal,” she turned to the shorter man bitterly, “I don't always succeed. I don't always save the day.”

“My child,” said the old man, “you are not God, and you can't always save others from the results of others' mistakes. I would say from where I stand that you looked very much as if you had won and saved the day that day at Laboratori VTT.”

“You had not unleashed the murderous monsters on our city,” agreed the Ambassador, “and neither had you given orders that guaranteed that some of your own men would die horribly. That was the responsibility of others. Your responsibility is for the lives you saved.”

“It took a while till we realized just what danger we had all been in,” added the Cardinal. “His Holiness is a brave man, and he has seen war and death, but when he read the final report from the Italian security services, he was shaken. A way of death so horrible, so swift, and so apparently unstoppable... we had rarely heard anything so hideous.”

“I know,” said Terawatt grimly.

“Anyway, we began to feel that we should signalize your achievement, and our gratitude, in some public way. At first we were thinking of an order of chivalry, but it turned out that the Italian President had already decided something of the kind by himself, and we did not want to duplicate things... it would weaken the message. And medals would be a problem too, as they are usually awarded only to members of the Catholic Church...?”

“Quite right, Your Eminence. I am not Catholic, I'm afraid... I think I can say that I am a Christian. I don't exactly keep it a secret, but I don't stress it, because it would risk all sorts of public rows I don't want to. I want to be a heroine for everybody.”

“I doubt there will ever be a problem about that.”

“Yes. Well, as we were trying to figure out how best to honour you, things kept changing. We heard of one horror after another, and you know that everyone eventually understood that the human race itself was under attack. And you and your allies were everywhere fighting these monsters, till you found their sources and took them down.

“In a way, that made it simpler. There had been a war, and you and your allies had fought and won it. What happened in Rome was just a battle. So, Terawatt, do you have an objection to appearing in a Catholic Te Deum Mass?” There was a brief silence.

“I assume this will be a public affair?”

“Well, any Mass is public in its own way... but yes, there will be cameras and journalists and crowds.”

Terawatt shook her head. “To be honest, Cardinal, I don't like the fuss that's being done over me. I'd love to be able to just do my job and go home. But if I am accepting all these honours – the Italian order – then I will accept yours, too. It's not about me. It's about what Terawatt stands for, and the people who work with her.”

“I think I understand the difference. At any rate, this is a mass of thanks for a specific reason. It's giving thanks for you and your allies' victory over the Collective.

“A Te Deum Mass is traditionally offered after a great victory, after the end of a war. We though it would be more than suitable for the defeat of a body of men who had set themselves against all mankind. And we have invited everyone who was involved.”

“Some,” broke in Jack O'Neill, “will even come. I know that Action Girl is a natural atheist, but she is very keen to see Rome and to test her Italian. A good few of my men are eager. Batman won't come... but if you see a certain tall dark individual sitting quietly in a back row, don't look surprised. I don't know about the Thornberrys. Ayananta and Tsurara would both want to come just to be with you, although neither of them is Christian. And I found out Victor Cready is a lapsed Catholic, and he may come as well.”

“Especially if...” said Terawatt, thinking of the barely-begun relationship between the man of fire and Tsurara, the Japanese girl of ice.

“Especially,” confirmed Jack.

Something was troubling Terawatt as they talked. One person seemed to be as good as absent. And she realized that Lisa was standing at the back of the room. Others who had not seen her an hour earlier might take her expression for mere boredom, but Alex had seen her all but glow from the inside only an hour before, and she was worried.

Then the Cardinal spoke again: “There is also something I would like to discuss with General O'Neill, as head of the SRI.” Terawatt looked at the stout little man in bewilderment, and so did the Ambassador and the General both.

“It's nothing secret, gentlemen. I just have to ask whether the SRI have any experts who can tell real super-powered activity from hoaxes. One of the theological issues that were being discussed during that visit ad limina was whether any recorded miracles might have been the result of unrecognised super-powers, and how they could be told apart.”

“Miracles? No, I mean... come to think of it, no, we haven't, and it would be an important area to investigate. If someone can put on a convincing display of super-powers, they could do a lot of things... from blackmailing people, to getting themselves cushy jobs in governments around the world. We must look into this.”

“We have sorted out fraudsters once or twice already General,” said Terawatt.

“True enough. But it was just good guesswork and intuition – we did not have tangible reasons to suspect them, or protocols to follow. We should look at that and see if we can turn it into a learning experience.”

Cardinal Brown thought for a second or two, and then said: “I am thinking that the help might go the other way, in that case. We do have experience in this field. Miracles do happen, and more frequently than people imagine...” –

- it was at this point that Terawatt, who was the only one who was following her, saw Lisa's face change as if she had just bitten into a lemon -

...”and if you had spent a few days interview half a dozen shocked doctors who have seen a large and dangerous tumour just disappear, you would know. But the Church has also spent two thousand years being targeted by hoaxers and fraudsters. We do have protocols and handbooks listing all the various tricks and false evidence that people use.”

“That does sound very interesting. And if we sent one or two of our investigation people to train with you and share any insights we might have, it could be an inter-governmental activity between the USA and the Vatican City State, and avoid any potential separation of state and church issues. If you can meet me some time in the next day or two, Cardinal, we might work something out.”

“Delighted.”

“Now, Miss Terawatt,” said the Ambassador, “before we finalize our agreements, there is another thing I have to mention. Have you been briefed about Camicia Rossa?”

“Well, yes, I have, for what we know. General O'Neill says that American records are not very full.”

“They aren't,” said O'Neill, “and they seem out of date. We know that he operates mostly in Italy, so our people have rarely had to do with him, except during the occupation period in the forties. We know that he is a masked adventurer wearing a variant of the red uniform that Garibaldi's volunteers wore in the war of 1860, and that he is supposed to have first appeared about then and never gone away. He has no power that anyone knows of, but he seems to have lived for two centuries – though most people postulate a father-to-so or master-to-disciple succession down the years.”

“That's right. Well, on the whole, I can't say that our records are full, either. For one thing, we don't know who he is or exactly where he lives, although we know he must be a resident of Romagna. The reason, Miss Terawatt, why you did not meet him during your adventure in Rome, was, one, that he was in Sicily on the day, and, two, that we did not think of him as a super-hero on the same level as yourself. He has no powers, he is just a very able fighter and investigator who occasionally helps our police forces and who also investigates and detects villains on his own. He claims to have had a mandate directly from Garibaldi – which in American terms, I guess, would be like having a mandate from George Washington – to pursue criminals and traitors and to watch over justice in Italy.”

“And from then till now his secret identity has not been exposed? That's, what, a hundred and fifty years?”

“Maybe people haven't looked too hard. They say that some individual policemen have found out down the years – the legendary Prefetto Cesare Mori was said to be one – but if they did, they all kept it to themselves. For myself, I don't believe that if a policeman discovered something like that, he would cover it up. I just think he is really good.

“He's generally regarded as a good thing, and the authorities prefer to just help him and let him do his job. He owns a few helicopters and fast cars which are kept for him at a few Air Force stations so he can move across the country. He generally keeps us informed... The police tell me that they don't like it when he drops out of sight for a long time, because it means either that he is seriously injured, or that he is investigating police or carabinieri.” Jack O'Neill visibly winced.

“Now the thing is, he is certainly going to be a part of the new Italian super-hero unit we are forming. He and Captain Benson are the only two people we are certain of. And he has expressed an interest in meeting you and in being your guide during his time in Italy.”

“I see. I thought Captain Benson... no, I guess not.”

“Sorry, Tera, I couldn't,” burst out Lisa with a visibly embarrassed face. “I shouldn't have promised. I just hadn't realized how much time getting married asks for. I wish we could spend time together, but that week is all taken.”

“I understand,” said the blonde heroine with a smile, putting a hand on the redhead's shoulder. “I should have thought of that myself. We shall find more time later, I'm sure.”

After a tactful few seconds, the ambassador started again: “Well, Camicia Rossa has volunteered to take Captain Benson's place as your guide around the country. You will, of course, be the President's guest at the Quirinal Palace as long as you are with us.”

“That seems... all very generous and kind. Of course I accept. And I am interested in meeting this Camicia Rossa, especially if we are going to work together in future.”


3.

After all the protocols had been signed, Terawatt turned to Lisa and said: “Well, if you can't show me around Rome, at least I can show you around DC. Want to come along?” Lisa smiled and agreed.

However, as they walked the corridors of Andrews AFB and Terawatt kept being greeted, saluted, and even receiving handshakes and attempts to start conversations, Lisa Benson worried. “Aren't we going to be a bit conspicuous?” she said at length.

Terawatt turned into an inconspicuous little office on the side, where an attractive Latina army lieutenant sat as if guarding a large, unmarked gym bag. “Captain Lisa Benson, meet Lieutenant Josefina Lupo. Yes, it would be,” she said as she turned silvery and threw herself into the gym bag, “if if was Terawatt who was showing you around.” The gym bag shook violently.

“But nobody,” said the silvery being as she emerged from the bag again “is going to pay attention to a junior USAF officer showing an Italian Air Force captain around” - and she turned into a shorter, somewhat stumpy female Air Force officer with glasses. “This is Washington DC.” She saluted. “Lieutenant Anne Farrell, at your service, ma'am” - and Lieutenant Lupo was struggling not to laugh.

….....................................................

After they left the base, Lisa turned and said: “This is not your actual secret identity, is it?”

“Not really. It's just another disguise. Awfully useful for a lot of things. I am not sure about showing you my real ID, at least just now... but if we are going to be working together with the Justice League, you ought to know this sort of thing, at least.”

They came out into the bright sunshine, and Lieutenant Farrell led Captain Benson to a small parked car. After they had negotiated the exit and shown their military IDs, “Anne Farrell” turned to Lisa.

“May I ask you a question, Captain Benson?” Lisa just smiled.

“Well, that name 'Benson' – it just doesn't sound very Italian to me. Or am I wrong?”

Lisa chuckled. “You might be, you know. In north-east Italy, in Venetia, where my family comes from, there are quite a few families with names in '-on'. As a child, I used to know a man called Barison.. Federico Barison... he was immense,” giggled Lisa, “just like his name. We used to call him Barison the bison, il bisonte Barison. He could have been one of your quarterbacks, but in fact he was a watchmaker. I still don't know how he did it – all those little watch gears and those huge hands.”

“Maybe he had superpowers,” smiled the disguised Terawatt.

“Maybe he did at that! Well, all I can tell you is that 'Benson' is not an impossible name in my part of Italy.

“Even so, I can't be sure. You know, when I was a child, and not aware I was adopted, I'd think of my red hair and just make up romances about our family being English and exiled. Or Scottish, not that I was very clear on the difference – except that Scottish lords wore tartan. We were lords, of course, in my imagination.

“But the truth is that none of us knows. It could be local. It could be English descent. Or it could be what one of my cousins maintains, that we were originally Jewish and Benson comes from Ben Zion. We just don't know, because all the records are lost. The village we come from was flattened in many wars – Napoleonic, Wars of Independence, World Wars, you name it – we're not even sure when exactly the local records were destroyed, but the fact is that we have little before 1945 and nothing at all before about 1888. There are only a couple of references to people who might have the same name, in legal papers from the eighteenth century, and we're not sure either, because they are also called Mensoni. It's a mystery. But you always have to remember that while the English name is stressed on the first syllable, ours is on the second – BenSON, not BENson.”

And then, as if to herself: “I wonder if my cousin even means it...”

Terawatt just looked curious.

“It's just that... I think he just likes twisting their tail. Every time he mentions his Jewish theory, half my uncles and aunts choke on their dinners.”

“Oh,” said Terawatt. It was a very intense “Oh.”

Although she was describing a gag, Lisa's face was not amused. To the contrary; Alex thought she recognised that expression: it was the same stony expression she had worn through the conference – even though she had been smiling and laughing before.

“Do you have problems with your family?” she hazarded.

“It's not that they are anti-semites or such,” said Lisa with an even unhappier air. “They are, however, very obstinate Catholics; quite fanatical, some of them. They don't particularly object to Jews or Protestants or atheists, so long as they keep well out of the way and don't trouble them in their own home. They just hate the idea that any one of us might be anything else.”

“You sound... pardon me saying so.... you sound like this hurts you personally.”

“That blatant, eh?”

“It's your face. You were just glowing when we met. Then the conference started, and suddenly you seemed to turn to stone. And then you came out and the sun came out again. And now you are wearing the same stony face. Something is hurting you, and you are trying not to give it away.”

“I don't know. I don't want to offend you or anything.”

“Offend me?”

And then Lisa said in a very small voice: “Well, you said you were a Christian...”

For a second, Alex felt like the world had turned upside down. And at the same time, that things were suddenly clear. Lisa felt she might offend her because she was a Christian. Lisa was uncomfortable in the presence of a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, and looked disgusted when he mentioned miracles. Lisa was bitter about the “fanatical Catholics” in her family.

So she turned to her and smiled gently: “You can talk to me. I'm pretty offend-proof, you know.” And as the older woman looked hesitant, she added: “I promise not to try to convert you today.”

That did it. It was hardly the best quip of Alex' life, but it came at the right time. Lisa's pressure dissolved into a burst of laughter, and “Anne Farrell” smiled back at her.

“God, you're such a nice person. If everyone was like you, it would be a better world.”

“I don't... don't make me blush, OK? I don't think I'm all that nice.”

“You are, but I won't insist if you don't want me to. But you see, Anne... Lieutenant Farrell... “

“Anne will do, but call me what you like.”

“Well, I'm not going to call someone who can throw lightning with her bare hands 'Hey you'!” And it was Alex' turn to giggle. “Anne, I am a woman of science. I am a doctor. I believe in things that are rational, reasonable, provable. I believe in experiments and research and reason. I just can't get my head around the whole set of ideas in religion. I don't see how anyone can take them seriously.”

“I see. Well, all I can say is that two of the smartest and most scientific women I know are certainly religious.”

“I know. I've seen it happen with some of my colleagues... and other people who may not have been scientists, but who are smart anyway... and Vince is a believer, and I'm going to marry him no matter what. He just makes me happy.

“The thing is, I could live with it if it wasn't for my family. I don't know if I can explain how it is. You HAVE to get along with your family – and that does not just mean your parents and your brothers and sisters, but also your cousins, because their parents are your dad and your mom's brothers and sisters, and with your grandparents, and with a number of people who are more or less related or just trail along. And when I was younger, and I first declared that I was an atheist....”

“There was trouble?”

“Not even that. I mean, I have had a few shouting matches, but it was worse. My own mother looked at me as if I had let her down terribly, and a number of people just acted as if I had only spoken in order to offend them. It was all cast as a personal injury. You've heard about moral blackmail? There's the portrait of a couple of my aunts next to the expression in the dictionary. One person even brought in the fact that I was adopted, and at that point my mother was offended, and I had to make some sort of apology just to avoid a worse row.”

“Good heavens...”

“And their priest was involved, and I never particularly liked him in the first place, but when he tried to talk to me in private, I hated him. He was kind of trying to psychoanalyse me into going “back” into the Church, and suggesting that it was some sort of rebellion against my parent figures that drove me. It was all so offensive... I love my parents so much I can't express it. I'd die for them. They gave me a house and a family and never gave me anything but love, and I became a doctor because of them. It all just made it sound so dirty, messy, emotionally exploitative, when I only wanted to say that I believed in reason and that I could find no reason to believe.

“So I don't much like priests either. I don't think they are all child abusers or stuff, but I think they are defending a false position by false means, and I tend not to believe what they say. And when I heard Cardinal Brown talk about miracles, I'm sorry, but that was too much.

“You see why I was worried about - ? I mean, I'm trying, but there's no way this is not going to sound at least a little offensive to a person who takes the clergy and their teachings seriously.”

“Well, actually – no, it's not. I think you have run into too many people who used offence as a weapon. I don't think you were offensive at all and I think you explained your problems quite clearly. I'm just sorry that you met with that sort of bullying and with an unsympathetic clergyman.” Then something else occurred to Alex. “If you feel like that, is marriage... well... an issue? Or marriage in church?”

“It wouldn't be, if it was just Vince. I'd gladly go that extra mile to make him happy, and to show that I respect his beliefs. And I do want to get married in a big white dress with lots of flowers and people cheering, I guess most women do. I'm not a dessicated rationalist with algebraic terms for a soul. I'm an ordinary woman and I cheered and got misty-eyed when my friends got married.

“But that part of the family has pretty much danced a witches' sabbath about the idea – and guess who is scheduled to celebrate?”

“Oh, Lisa, no.”

“They have all sorts of ways to make themselves felt... from the choice of venue to the dress... and quite frankly, they are well on the way to making a misery out of what should have been the happiest day of my life. That's one reason why I want you along. I want as many friends along as I can get.”
Tags: fanfic, terawatt
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