"Certainly I admit it," said Steves. The mayor had summoned him from the records office to the academy, a small library/lab/lecture-hall that now served as a courtroom for the three rulers of Gilead examining Steves and the witnesses against him. "Why shouldn't I admit it? She had broken our laws. I'm a deacon."
"Does that give you the power of arrest?" FX asked.
"It does here," the mayor said. "And there is a law against psychic practices in this town."
"Then why did you keep it secret, Joel?" demanded Rev. Hargis.
Steves was silent for a few seconds, turning red. At last he said slowly, "I wanted to see justice done."
"Explain, please," said the pastor. "Why would injustice be done if you had reported the problem to Ling?" he asked.
The mayor glared at Steves. "I believe he means I would be too lenient in my sentence."
"And what would your sentence have been?" FX asked. His tone was so coldly, carefully neutral that Isaiah felt some menace in it. He very much hoped that the three invisibles would do nothing to show how much illegal psi had been going on in Gilead today.
Mayor Jou Ling met FX's gaze. "I suppose I would have put her on the next bus back to Horeb. That satisfy you?"
"It would have satisfied me," said Jeanette hastily. Isaiah let out his breath quietly and smiled at her. She smiled back. She looked wan and tired, but very happy and relieved. She had declined the abbess's offer of "a nice lay-down" in the clinic.
Her kinship to Borne was clear. She, too, was tall, with honey-toned skin and wavy black hair. But even though her eyes were sparkling with merriment, relief, and, probably, vengeance, she did not seem as headlong as her brother. In fact, Isaiah had caught a few warning glances from her to Borne. And, in contrast to her brother's loud taste, she wore an ankle-length dress with divided skirt, a Refuger pattern, in deep blue-violet – a bit rumpled from her long stay in the cellar.
Isaiah turned his attention back to Mayor Jou and Steves. "So," the mayor asked, "if deportation was too mild a sentence, what was yours, Judge Steves? How long a prison term did you have in mind?"
"And what did you think would happen when you released her?" asked the pastor.
"You were planning on releasing her someday, weren't you?" growled the abbess.
Mayor Jou sighed. "Wait. Let us try to be organized. First," she said to Jeanette, "let's hear your version of the, ah, first crime. What did you do to Lek Lepsevitch, and why?"
Isaiah settled in his chair and turned his truth-reading skills on Jeannete.
"Nothing dramatic or intimate," she answered. "Lek Lepsevitch is in an awkward position. He's fourteen, and his family and community expect him to join the church soon. But that means displaying some 'gift of the spirit,' as you call it. The commonest is 'tongues.' But the Lepsevitches are very reserved, disciplined people. They haven't prepared Lek to cut loose in any way that might produce 'tongues,' except for their own behavior in church, which doesn't seem to have been enough.
"I noticed he was getting anxious and depressed about it. He was even sneaking off to practice babbling, then feeling guilty about faking it." Mayor Jou and Steves, loyal Glossalalians, flushed. Steves scowled. But the pastor and the abbess kept diplomatically blank faces. Only Isaiah, running his perceptions in high gear, could read the residue of expressions that said, "This is a familiar problem."
"So," Jeanette continued, "I gently brought the subject up and offered to teach him some relaxation techniques. Those would make him feel better, for a start, and might help him tap any unconscious potential for 'gifts.'
"Well, he had a hard time relaxing. It's not a mental act he's practiced much. So I ... showed him what it felt like from the inside."
"And got caught at it?" FX asked.
"No. His parents noticed the improvement in Lek's mood and he told them what I had been teaching him. He didn't even know there was anything psychic involved; I talked at the same time I contacted, so he thought he was understanding as a result of my descriptions. But the parents were suspicious."
Isaiah was suspicious, too. Jeanette had not lied yet, but there was an ulterior tone to her dealings with Lek, an unstated motive.
"So the parents called Joel," Pastor Hargis said, "and he arrested you. What happened then? How did you wind up in our cellar?"
"He led me to this building and locked me in some office. Never said a word."
"None of the office doors have locks," the abbess murmured.
"Oh. I assumed it was locked. Anyway, I wasn't going to try escape. I didn't want to add resisting arrest to my list of crimes. And there's nowhere to escape to. He was gone a long time. I thought he was doing paperwork or contacting the police in Horeb, or maybe the TSTO base, but I suppose now that he was getting my cell ready."
"You didn't read his mind to find out?" asked the pastor.
"No. As I said, I didn't want to get in more trouble."
"You thought he could tell if you tried?"
"He probably could." Jeanette glanced around at the three judges. Isaiah thought she was sizing up her audience. "Telepathy is more like touch than like sight or hearing," she explained to them. "It's always reciprocal. If I touch you, you touch me, too. Anyone on the alert can notice a contact. Besides, he's a psi-sensitive." Everyone stared at Steves, who blinked. "He calls it a 'discerning spirit,' or something like that. He can feel nearby psychic actions. So I didn't try anything. I just wanted him– I wanted to get it over with."
Had Isaiah been a dog, his ears would have pricked up. What had Jeanette wanted from Steves? Not what she said in that next sentence, though it was no lie.
"Then he came back with a gun."
"What?!" "Joel!" "That's–"
"No doubt taken from that cache in the next room," FX reminded them.
"It was on stun," Steves said defensively.
"That's still–" Abbess Eva began. "Oh, never mind. But we'll get back to that. Go on, dear."
"He marched me down to that cell, or storeroom, or whatever, and locked me in. That was that, until just now."
"You didn't see anyone else? You didn't call for help?" the mayor asked.
"I saw no one else. As for calling, I supposed he was acting within his official rights."
"I was," growled Steves. His leaders shot him hard looks.
"How did he treat you while you were imprisoned?" asked the pastor.
"Oh, he ran a very hospitable jail," Jeanette said, grinning. "A bed and a chamber-pot. Not very elegant, but the best possible in the circumstances. Plenty of privacy and reading matter. Plenty of food. He was the one who went fasting."
FX smiled. "You may be a five-star jailer, Mr. Steves, but as a brainwasher you simply don't know your business."
"Nor as a witness to Christ," said the pastor. "Nor as a deacon. Joel, your deaconship is hereby suspended."
Steves jumped to his feet. "But–!"
"No!" snapped the mayor. "Not now! Bob's authority to suspend you is much clearer than your authority to jail people in the basement. You can tell your side later."
"Your brother mentioned rituals," Isaiah said to Jeanette, once Steves sat down. "He told me Steves performed rituals over you. What kind?"
Once more, everyone stared at Steves, who once more looked blank.
Jeanette looked blank, too, for a moment. "Oh, those were the exorcisms. That's why he went fasting. It was part of the ritual. He was trying to destroy my psychic skills; he said they came from a demon of divination. But really," she assured the three judges, "almost anyone can learn telepathy with a correspondence course and a mail-order ampsi."
Isaiah did not need telepathy or even patharchy to see the mayor and the pastor building up to an argument. Apparently Jeanette saw it coming too. "Well, never mind," she said. "The deal was I would get out when I repented. I wondered, on and off, how to stage a convincing repentance scene."
"Has she been telling the truth?" the mayor asked Steves.
He jumped up again, pale and defiant. "Yes. I prayed over her daily, for her repentance and her deliverance from demonic powers. And every day I urged her to repent."
"I notice you supplemented your prayers with a good commercial psilencer," FX said.
"Was I to let her continue in sin when I could prevent it? But it seems I couldn't. She found some chink in the psilence, I suppose, and called on her fellow witches, and here you are, opening the broad road to hell for her, using the lukewarm as tools!" Abbess Eva, recognizing herself as one of the lukewarm tools, snorted and rolled her eyes. "If I offend," he told her, "it's because the gospel's truth is an offense to the worldly!"
"A handy excuse for any insult with a religious label," she answered. "Joel, you can't browbeat people into conversion."
"Why not? 'Compel them to come in!' Isn't that what the Lord says?"
"In a parable, Joel," his pastor told him. "With a different point."
"Did he ... assault you?" Abbess Eva asked Jeanette.
"No," she answered firmly. "I assaulted him once or twice. There were a couple of scuffles when I tried to claw my way out past him, during his visits. But you couldn't say he assaulted me after locking me up."
"You take a very generous attitude," said the pastor. "An example of mercy to all Christians," he added pointedly to Steves.
"And you have overstepped your authority as a town officer," the abbess told him. "By far. You have no power to sentence. That's reserved for the mayor, and only at public town meetings."
"You will get a close look at our judicial system," the mayor told him, "at your own trial."
"Why?" demanded Steves. "What laws have I broken?"
"We have a law against assault," Mayor Jou answered. "I mean when you forced her into the store room at gunpoint. Ms. Kallinysios hasn't counted it as an assault, but we'll see what the town meeting thinks."
"I was performing an arrest. I used no unnecessary force. And we have no laws about imprisonment."
"I think the wrongful imprisonment itself can be construed as violence," the mayor said. "Again, we shall see what the town meeting thinks. I shall recommend your exile."
Steves froze for a moment, then whispered, "Please. No."
Steves opened his mouth to answer, but no words came.
"What other punishment can we deal out, Joel?" Mayor Jou asked him. "We can't fine you; you couldn't pay, any more than the rest of us could. Extra work is hardly adequate. We aren't going to shoot you or torture you. And we have no place to jail you."
"Sure you do," murmured Jeanette.
"That's a good idea," said FX. "Shut him up in Jeanette's old cell for two or three weeks. Or a bit longer, to make up for the lack of anxiety. Where would you exile him, by the way?"
"Horeb," the mayor answered. "Dump him with no money or belongings, then pick him up at the end of the sentence. It is a common punishment in little towns like ours."
"That doesn't sound so terrible," FX remarked. "Hardly terrible enough, I'd think. After all, you must know Horeb fairly well, Mr. Steves. Isn't that where you bought all the guns?" Steves nodded. To Isaiah, it was clear that Steves thought exile in Horeb was quite horrible enough.
"The guns!" exclaimed the abbess. Clearly, she had forgotten them. "Joel, what in heaven are they for?"
"For when we need them," he answered flatly. "We'll be glad of them someday. Or you will." And he turned to his pastor. "She doesn't care if we're ruled by witches," he declared, with a nod at the abbess.
"Joel, what makes you believe anyone will come here and force psi on us?" the pastor asked.
"She did," Steves retorted, pointing at Jeanette. "Anyway, isn't it clear? The Refugers have been practicing it all along. Then TSTO came, with all its psi-workers, and the Philippians started. Any why? Because it's power. They don't care it's from hell. I suppose they don't believe it is, but that won't help them in the end. And look who's most anxious to legalize it here – the traders and shipwrights in Horeb, the people making money, the Mammon-worshippers. They want psi to make more money, to keep even with the psi-workers from Terran space. And they aren't going to put up with communities that forbid psi. You watch! They'll find some reason to insist on it. Public safety, or law enforcement, or some such. Obeying devils, whether they know it or not. And then you'll need guns! The only way we'll be able to keep this town psi-free is to fight them! Give them more trouble than it's worth! And maybe – with the Lord's help – they'll let us alone and go to perdition by themselves!
"Listen! Please! Don't send me away! I'm the only– No one else saw this coming. Only a few others even paid attention to me. That's why I was put here – to fight back the sorcerers. I know it!"
All were still, gazing at Steves, who stood shaking and pale.
"You got a mental hospital on this planet?" Borne asked at last.
"Yes," said FX, "maybe turning him loose on the streets isn't such a good idea."
"This should be quite the town meeting," Abbess Eva remarked drily. "And I shall use it to propose a few changes to our laws," she added. "A bill of rights seems overdue. And I'm going to move that we repeal the anti-psi law. It only passed because the Thomasines didn't bother to vote on it, you know." She stood. Isaiah stood too, glad to end the confrontation.
"What about her crimes?" Steves called as the group broke up. "Psi is still against the law."
"Her punishment has so far exceeded her crime," the mayor returned, "that I think we may owe her some payment for damages. I'll bring that up at the next town meeting, too. Go back to work. For the moment, you are still the town clerk."
"Don't worry, Steves," Jeanette said. "I intend to carry out the mayor's own sentence and leave here as soon as possible."
They left him there and exited the town hall. Outside, the short night was lit by ranks of street lamps. Many people moved about, headed to or from lunch. "Were you truth-reading?" FX asked Isaiah.
"Yes. I thought it would be useful, if I'm asked to testify later. And I was curious."
"It seems you often are. Well? What truths did you read?"
"Both Steves and Ms. Kallinysios were truthful."
"Anything else? I don't truth-read, myself, but I know what it can do. You were taking a close, detailed look at his affect. Why is Steves so put off by exile? As I said, it seems a very mild sentence. Especially here, where so many people like you run public charities."
Isaiah sighed. "Exile is also a very public sentence. Everyone here in Gilead, everyone he knows in Horeb – which is to say everyone he knows at all – will hear about it. He's scared of the humiliation."
"Hmph. Good for his soul, I'd think."
"Very good. Or very bad, depending on how he insists on taking it."
A few paces ahead, the abbess was talking to Jeanette. "I understand why you want to leave quickly," she said, "but I hope you'll come eat with us first."
"Thank you," said Jeanette. "That would be very nice."
Just then, Daima, Vivian, and Canorus appeared out of the shadows and approached. Isaiah suppressed a flinch. FX muttered, "Like cats flocking to a can-opener," and introduced them, explaining vaguely that they had been "waiting for us." Daima carried a small suitcase, and Canorus, a shipping trunk. "Your luggage," said Daima to Jeanette.
If Abbess Eva saw anything unusual in this encounter, she made no remark. When FX said, "I hope we're not too many for you," she just answered, "Not at all. It's been a long time since we were short of food. Oh, one thing: we have a rule of silence for the first part of the meal. After that," she assured them, "you can tell me all about yourselves," just as if they wanted to.
Lunch was in the monastery's refectory, an airy dining hall, brightly lit against the short Carmelite night. It opened with grace said by a priest and, after the "amen," continued in silence. The six travelers followed their hosts' lead.
As water was being poured and dishes of chicken stew being passed, the abbess rose and pointed out that "we have visitors. We'll tell you about them in a little bit." Then a lector rose and, to the subdued sound of chewing, read selections from the Old Testament, the gospels, and the epistles.
He then passed on to some announcements about repairs in the workshop, payments received for deliveries to the markets in Horeb, choir practice, and rehersals for a town play. Then came the news: a shipyard accident in Horeb and election results in St. Peterstown; relief work on Frieheim and diplomatic sparring between aristocrats on Philippia. From beyond the Diaspora, back in Terran Space, came news of a coup attempt on Hellene and a couple of short science articles about fossil finds on Aphrodite and a new remote-power link.
The lector sat. The abbess rose and introduced her guests, ending, "We all thought Ms. Kallinysios left a week ago. It turns out she was being held prisoner in the hall basement by Joel Steves, who arrested her for practicing telepathy on the Lepsevitch boy. Her brother came here with his friends and secured her release. There's going to be a town meeting about all this. Now, please, don't pester our guests with this, but you may now converse."
There was an instant thunder of talk.
Isaiah leaned across to Jeanette and, raising his voice, asked, "Why did you come to Gilead? There are no tourist sights here. I'm even surprised you found a room to rent."
"Oh, I just wanted some peace and quiet. I'd just finished a course of psi studies on Refuge, you know. Did you know the Timekeepers there have a completely different approach to telesthesia? Nothing like it in Terran space."
"I've heard something about it," Isaiah agreed, and listened to her chatter about different schools of psi. She did not want to discuss her reason for coming here; that much was clear without bothering with patharchy.
At the next pause, he asked another question: "Why did you use your psi on people you knew were opposed to it?"
Jeanette stared at her plate and looked ashamed. "I really did want to help. I know I shouldn't have tried to sneak in the telepathy that way. That's rude, even on Centauri, where casual psi is accepted. It'd be illegal on Aurelius."
Isaiah snorted. "What isn't, there? But I was thinking of the risk you took."
Jeanette glanced at him, then muttered, "I thought I could work around it."
"I hope your arrest didn't undo all the good you did for Lek."
"Not so far." Isaiah looked wary and puzzled at this assurance. She explained. "I got wind of the confrontation before it happened and told him I was going. His parents have mentioned me to him since. By now, he's had a week of steady practice at the relaxation drills, and doing very well. Of course, Steves's trial could change things." She looked thoughtful. "I should write a letter to him, preparing him."
"You seem to have kept careful track of Lek."
"Yes. I felt I should."
"Using the same methods you used to contact your brother? How did you do that? Find a hole in the psilence?"
"Basically. It was an old psilencer. This stew is delicious! What's in the sauce?" The question was yelled across to the abbess over the din.
"Sheep milk," the abbess yelled back. "I'm glad you like it. We don't have any cow milk. There were only two cows in the livestock brought to Carmel, and they died decades ago, without calving. Importing a live cow is very expensive, and no one else on Carmel is likely to do it. All the inland towns are tiny, like Gilead, and can't afford cows. All the big towns are coastal and synthesize milk from processed plankton."
"We synthesize everything from the plankton," Isaiah added. "This is the first meal I've had in months that didn't have that planktonic undertaste. Thank you, Eva!"
Borne was sitting next to the abbess. "Don't Glossalalians allow rejuve?" he asked her.
"Yes," she said, "they use rejuvenation, like anyone else. Why?"
"Well, I noticed the minister's gray beard."
"Oh, that. Bob just goes gray early."
"How long's it been since his last rejuve?"
"At least twenty years, Terran. We can't afford them as often as folk back in Terran Space." She smiled at Borne. "But don't worry. We keep our health up."
A few seats away, FX asked Isaiah, "Now that the question is reasonably academic, could you explain to me the big issue over psi and magic?"
Isaiah thought for a bit. The controversy had existed ever since the refugees from the Psi War had settled in the Diaspora a century ago. It had heated up at least sixty years ago, when Carmel opened relations with other Diasporan planets and learned of the flourishing psi college on Refuge. And the flame had heated white-hot once relations were re-established with Terran Space, where psi-tech and psychic talent were everyday features. It was therefore hard for Isaiah to back away from the issue far enough to see it as it would appear to FX, who seemed unfamiliar with it.
"Carmel was settled entirely by religious refugees," he began. "Except for the Neo-Stoic Templars, we are all Jews and Christians. Our religions expressly forbid the practice of magic. So, if psi is magic, it is forbidden to us. You must admit, psychic powers look a lot like magic. The question is, is it really magic?"
"And why would it be? Or why wouldn't it be? How do you decide?"
"Well, real magic is supernatural. Miraculous."
"But what do you mean by 'supernatural,'" FX asked, settling down to the debate with obvious enjoyment. "If something is, how can it not be part of nature?"
"Any thing would be a part of nature, if Nature is just another name for Universe or Everything," agreed Isaiah cautiously. "But Nature is more often used as the name of the world of spacetime and matter, or the character of that world, or the forces that arise from that world and act in it. It's an article of our faith that there are things beside the physical, notably God, of course."
"Oh sure," FX agreed back. "I'm not debating the existence of God with you. But why does there have to be a distinct edge to Nature, so to speak?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, now we know there are such things as telepathy and clairvoyance and telekinesis. Suppose we go on to discover there are such things as ghosts and elementals and nymphs. Or things just as odd but different. And then maybe find there are things like gods and angels. Little-G gods."
"I think I see," said Isaiah. "There might not be much difference between an elf and a powerful human psychic. And not much difference between a powerful elf and a minor angel. And so on. Okay, if elves and such turned out to exist, then it might make the natural/supernatural distinction pretty artificial and meaningless. It would be an empirical question."
"Well, but didn't ancient Jews and Christians live in a world just like that? I mean, didn't they believe in elves and such?"
"It varied. But some did."
"So, if they had no category called Supernatural, how did they define magic, so as to avoid it?"
Isaiah thought again. "I'm not sure. And it is certainly true that lots of sincere medieval Christians put out milk for the brownie, or cast horoscopes. Of course, they may have regarded the one as nothing more than payment for services and the other as natural science..." He trailed off.
FX applied himself to some homemade bread and waited patiently. Eventually, Isaiah said, "The basic objection to most magic is that it compromises monotheism. Deep-dye ceremonial magic, goetia, calls on spirits – sometimes clearly gods, but even if the spirits were called ghosts or demons or elementals, their conjuration is too close to worship. There are lesser, related problems. Fortune-telling and such tend to undercut individual responsibility. And there is a general opinion among monotheists that asking for attention from spirits is just plain risky. Like leaving your door open when you live in a slum."
FX nodded. "Okay, the basic objection is a matter of metaphysical politics, then." He waved the issue away with a carrot stick. "That has nothing to do with psi. No one invokes spirits. No one ever claimed to. Psychic neurology isn't completely understood, but neurology of music isn't fully understood either. That doesn't mean a violin is magic. And if you want Nature, both have a scientific basis – psionics or acoustics. So what's the objection of the anti-psi party?"
"They aren't aware of all these philosophical niceties. They see psi as obviously magical. Magic is demonic and forbidden. So if you claim doing psi isn't demonic, they conclude you are lying or deluded."
"Hmph. I could make some unflattering speculations about their psychology, but I won't."
"Well, the psi-lords certainly gave psi a bad starting reputation. And it doesn't help that you modern psychics borrow magical terminology. But you couldn't speculate anything that hasn't been said aloud in Carmel's parliament. Not to mention on Philippia."
Dessert arrived, a deep-dish apple pie with raisins and a topping of sheep-milk ice cream. The abbess urged Jeanette to take seconds. "Thanks, it's delicious, but no. What I really want is a bath and a chance to change clothes."
Isaiah sat in the back of an ancient air-truck, relaxing his stomach and neck muscles every time they clenched, which was every time the truck tipped or dipped or did anything but move in a straight line. He sat cross-legged on bags of grain, as did Borne, Jeanette, and their friends.
The driver, Louise Rifky, had offered the lift a few hours after their lunch at the monastery. They accepted despite the discomfort, since it got them back to Horeb in five hours, almost a day sooner than the bus would have, and Jeanette was eager to be gone. Louise had promised Isaiah that she would drive low and gently, but she seemed to have looser standards than Isaiah in this; most people did.
"So what are the suns called?" FX asked him. "Alicia and something?" The top of the cargo compartment was open, though shielded from the wind by the truck's streamlining impact screens. Sitting atop the grain sacks, the passengers could see the two orange discs, one nearly eclipsing the other just now, sinking toward the mountains. On the other side of the truck, the Noah Sea glittered in two-toned reflections. Behind, the shore weaved and raced, now to the right, now to the left, now rocky, now sandy, now pebbled.
"Elisha and Elijah," Isaiah corrected him.
"Where do the names come from?"
Isaiah suspected FX was trying to distract him from his acrophobia. If so, he was grateful. "Elijah was a great prophet of ancient Israel. We named the brighter one after him. Elisha was his foremost disciple and inherited his office. He got the dimmer, redder one."
"And the planet's name? When I first heard it, I thought it must have been settled by a bunch of candy fanciers."
"Mount Carmel was the place where Elijah defeated a team of pagan priests in a miracle-working contest. He called down fire from heaven."
"The place does have a scorched look about it," FX agreed. "What made you come all the way out here?"
"Same thing made everyone come to the Diaspora; we were running from the psi lords. Lots of them didn't like Christians or Jews. The ones who wanted to be worshipped, for instance."
"Yes, but why run so far? Why not have stayed in Terran Space? Or why not head the other way, into the Ecumene?"