I am still hovering about the same word count, but I needed to get the following section right... Which I think I did:
“I know you do not intend harm with what you do, but the very violence of your opposition to us will lead to many deaths, and that is an evil. An evil easily avoided by your immediate capitulation to the reasonable requests of your Home world.” -Hengist Hakka, Imperial Envoy to the Confederacy of Free Stars
Venkman didn’t like the cathedral. He wasn’t against religion, he just didn’t like the imposing weight of the building and the social weight of the rites performed there. It usually wasn’t an issue, he wasn’t a member of the congregation and his partner had issues with The Penitent, so it was generally easy to avoid.
Baptiste was inside enduring a service his brother was presided over.
‘Not that I don’t have things I need to get off my chest,’ he thought with a small smile, ‘But somehow I don’t think that the congregation would be disposed to forgiving one such as I. Better to reflect on my role in life, and the good I have done.’
By training and inclination, he was an agnostic, as he and his crèche mates were brought up to be. As far as he cared to think about an overarching power affecting his life, he believed the mere act of living one’s life an observance of God, or whatever that power was called.
Religion helped some, and he wasn’t about to denigrate someone else’s beliefs like some imperial propagandist, especially on something as sensitive to the locals as their ancient religion. The original colonists had brought more than their language with them on fleeing Sol system.
The cathedral was one of the first buildings to be built on Nouvelle Genève, and had served Starfall for generations before the Imperium came and relocated the city center and administrative offices. Despite the neighborhood, it was still the center of religious life for the descendants of the original colonists. Nouvelle Genevoise were known for their stubbornness.
Movement in front of the Cathedral caught Venkman’s eye. He grimaced as he recognized Morgan. The Broken was moving slowly but with purpose, clearly staggering toward the portion of the cathedral complex that served the indigent and chemically imbalanced.
Knowing Morgan always made a scene when Venkman was around, the officer briefly considered slumping in his seat and trying to avoid attracting the man’s attention.
Morgan eliminated that possibility, staggering to the passenger side window of the unmarked and belching loudly. Oblivious to the fetid gale he unleashed, the Broken wiped his dirty hands on the front of his jacket and said, “Afternoon, Officer Venkman.”
Venkman did a poor job of covering his surprise at the civil words, found himself automatically correcting the man’s time, “Good morning, Morgan.”
“I’m looking for your partner. Seen him lately?”
“He’s inside at services.”
Morgan swayed back to look at the cathedral doors, mumbled, and spun out. He nearly fell over, saved himself by planting his ass against the passenger window behind Venkman. He belched, muttered a bit more, and then leaned in on Venkman again.
Nigel breathed through his mouth, leaning back from the window.
“I found the man he was looking for.”
“Want to go get Bap?”
“No, don’t want to go in there. Never liked religion, and it’s never liked me,” the Broken replied.
“Right. Can you tell me?”
A few uncomfortable moments passed. Venkman didn’t want to jar the man from his moment of lucidity, but found he couldn’t keep from asking, “Well?”
“You’ll tell him?”
“Of course,” Venkman said.
“Don’t look so surprised. If you tell him all, then why haven’t you told him what you are?”
“And what is that, Morgan?” Venkman asked, humoring the Broken.
“Perfected, of course.”
Venkman twitched, adrenaline dumping into his system. He managed to force a chuckle, “Now why would you think that?”
“I don’t think it. I know it. In my bones.”
Venkman resorted to mantra, carefully controlling his immediate gut response, which was to eliminate the threat, “So you know it?”
“Yes. I can feel you controlling yourself, you know. I do the same thing.”
“Yes. Don’t worry, I won’t tell,” Morgan said, reaching in and patting the officer on the shoulder. Venkman clamped down on his instinct to yank the man into the car by the man’s hand and end him, barely hearing Morgan continue, “You should tell before he finds out.”
Stunned, Venkman could only repeat himself, “Really?”
“Yes. The life you have built will be destroyed if you don’t.”
Venkman tried to find some vestige of the Mad Morgan he knew in this man who seemed to see straight to the heart of things, and failed.
A few moments passed, the bell tolling the end of services mournful in the wan afternoon light.
“Why won’t you tell?” Nigel asked.
“Not my place. Besides, who would believe us?” Morgan replied, voice rising through the last word.
Beads of sweat sprang out on Morgan’s head, “I haven’t much time. The guy you were looking for, you’ll find him in a warehouse on Fortieth and L’Usine. Northeast corner building.”
“Thank you, Morgan.”
“Fuck you,” Morgan snapped over his shoulder, staggering away.
Morgan’s only reply was an obscene gesture before the Broken staggered around the corner and out of sight.
Venkman looked to the church again as the doors opened and the faithful started to file out. The sudden tension drained from his frame, leaving a residue of sadness he couldn’t quite shake. He knew Morgan was right, but being right didn’t make it possible.
He tried to distract himself by calling up the map on the data terminal in the car. He quickly found the location but failed to distract himself. He was still brooding when his partner stumped up to the car, popped the driver’s door and threw himself in.
“Le con,” Bap cursed with feeling.
“I take it your conversation went poorly?”
Baptiste snarled and started the car, “What conversation? His sermon was a rant against the evils of failing to turn the other cheek, of resisting God’s will in our daily lives. He was looking at me half the time, I swear. I should never have let you talk me into meeting him.”
Nigel looked across at his partner, decided to let the last statement pass, “I’m sorry it didn’t go well.”
“Fuck it,” Baptiste snarled, entering traffic.
“I saw Morgan.”
“Fuck him too!” Baptiste grunted.
Venkman ignored that response, “He found Marcus. Gave me a good location.”
“No shit?” Baptiste asked, looking at his partner.
“No shit, Bap. Want to watch the road?” Venkman replied, pointing at the car stopped for the light in front of them.
Baptiste slammed on the brakes, looked at his partner again, “I don’t know what to be more surprised at, that he managed to talk to you, or that he made enough sense that you could understand him.”
Venkman shrugged and rotated the terminal so Baptiste could see the screen. Some questions were better left unanswered.
“No shit? Where is he?”
“Took off when he started losing it.”
Venkman stared at his partner, grinning, “Between the no shitting and fucking everyone, we are in for a busy day, partner,”
Baptiste smiled back and put the car back in motion, “Yes. Yes, we are.”