A far-future theocratic space hegemony tries to preserve the human genome by limiting technology. When an unknown enemy begins wiping out hegemony worlds, the complacent, ineffective government is weakened. A genetically-errant urchin and a reactionary priest set out on separate voyages, each discovering shocking truths about the nature of the threat to the hegemony.
You will find life in that which is pure; where there is impurity, temper it. Suffer not the willful nonconform; commend to thy mercy the impure innocent.
The Holy Book of the Body
The beginning of the end of the Irredentist hegemony — some few thousand worlds contained within one arm, a kiloparsec’s width, of a barred spiral galaxy — began with a few short, cryptic words, transmitted via ansible from Plum Grove to Pydna, words that grew like a pox upon the 6th Empire of man. They were not elegantly formulated words, being all obscure references and starkly declarative utterances, and with stilted grammar. We follow their progress in encoded form, once on Pydna, from the depths of a subterranean, fortified ansible station; through walkways and hallways — some spare, some grand; to the pinnacle of military authority, the Admiralty Office in the crater city Os Divinus. We continue on through gorgeous plastone halls, down which a double-pillared array of columns marches in formation toward the office of the First Lady of the Admiralty, Lady Arlette. A smart woman, and a devout woman: a believer in the Word of Vas. Some might even say, a disseminator, for she surely viewed her perch as a means to affirm and glorify the Plan of Vas for the preservation of mankind in his renormalized and purified form.
Between and among the tall plastone columns of power, uniformed aides and officers walked or scurried, as the task demanded; and footfalls and whispers echoed impressively. Some few of these persons might dare to aspire on this day to a meeting with Her Ladyship; fewer still would reach her outer office; and of those, perhaps five or six would be summoned before her personally. A clutch of commanders and young captains, ranging in age from rather youthful to rather doubtfully old, sat in stony silence in the outer office, pretending to look at the Gazette in mini-scroller form or at the folds in the velvet drapes across the diamond-paned window overlooking the central courtyard and fountain. In a holoniche, an image of Vas with a manly torso and slowly morphing faces cast his steadfast gaze upon no one in particular.
Those who sat waiting avoided looking directly at the dour, scarred, one-armed man seated at the reception desk, though this functionary occasionally, with rheumy eyes, scanned the room to observe them. All but he looked up expectantly when footfalls were heard within; but it was just a senior civilian official of some kind, donning a dark hat and striding purposefully — without so much as a glance upon the expectant officers — toward the outer door. As the official opened the door, letting in a gust of sound and air from the Great Hall, a few words echoed into the First Lady’s chambers: “Esteemed Member,” said a bureaucratic voice, “were you able to . . .” The voice trailed off as footfalls receded down the Great Hall.