When the woman called Disciple walked into the crowded supercrypt, you could have heard a feather drop. Lean muscles gripped a feminine frame, and haunting sea-green eyes scanned the room, pinning Blalock to the wall when she found him. Against his will, he cringed, and Wayfarers packed hard by could feel his body tense, could see the haze of sweat begin to seep from his pores.
“You changed the meeting place,” Disciple said with unnerving calm, stalking cat-like into the room with a parting-of-the-waters walk that made a path where none had been a moment before. The path ran straight to Blalock.
Her eyes never left his. She could see his face blanch as he fought to regain composure. “I thought you were dead. We had to move the meeting in case they . . . in case you . . . gave us away when they ‘questioned’ you.”
“Why would they question me--Judas?” He could feel the warm whisper of her breath as she exhaled the words. But the faintest scent of pepper-roses drifting from her hair surprised him. He hadn’t thought she liked flowers.
Breaking eye contact, he saw a mark he’d forgotten: the tattoo lasered over her implant-removal scar. It was a coiled rattlesnake with a cross radiating up its curving spine and the message “Don’t Tread on Me” below, an ancient symbol made new for the cause of a few radical believers who threw off the bonds of their earthly masters . . . and only bowed to God. They refused to pay lip-service to the Intersolar Presidency--or to the new leaders of the Way, for that matter. The sight of it angered him, giving him courage to oppose her.
“You endanger the Wayfarers with your lack of discretion. To follow the Way is a death sentence under this regime.” His jaw tightened as righteous indignation flamed within him.
“And to be silent about salvation is a death sentence to the lost. It is not silence that has kept the Way alive these many thousands of years.” The seeming ease with which she retained her calm only fueled his resentment. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . . Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.* He was with me when I was ‘questioned’. . . He’s with me now, commanding me to ‘love my brother’ standing before me. Even if he wishes me death.”
“Master, what did you do?” The older man called Urias addressed Blalock, rebuke permeating his voice. A low murmur circulated throughout the room.
Blalock could feel the censure in their hard stares, from the shocked gasp coming from a dark corner of the room. He nudged a button on his wristband, almost sending their implant receivers into overload. When he spoke, they could hear his voice resounding in every fold of their minds.
“It is also written ‘It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’** One radical has no right to endanger the lives of hundreds. I speak as your leader acting to keep you safe. We will not die for her.”
“Who said that but those who plotted to kill the Waymaster! Be very careful, Blalock. Still, I must be willing to die for you--as He did.” When she rubbed her shoulder, he could just see the angry pucker of electroscars lighting up her flesh. “And I must be willing to die for those outside--to give them a chance to know truth and be set free.”
She sighed, continuing, “I don’t trust you, Blalock--but I forgive you. Repent; ask Him to forgive you, too.”
“I’m weary from fighting a blind and deaf world beyond our gates. I’ve come not to wrestle with you, but to find rest and worship Him in peace with my family. Will you pray with me?” she asked.
“I’ll fight you,” he hissed through clenched teeth. Nobody blocked his path as he barreled through the assembly.
Urias spoke, his voice carefully neutral. “He will betray you.”
“But if I’m lucky, he will betray me with a kiss.” To everyone’s surprise she laughed, watching her husband blast through the door as he left. “Come, let’s sing together before we move our meeting again.”
* NIV Matthew 28:19, 20
**NIV John 11:50
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