Bryan Beal

By the Sword

The incense smoke had dissipated. The thurible had been put away with the candlesticks and the chalice. Vicar Raymonde XTC felt a little like his best friend had just left for a long journey. There was something familiar and home-like about the Holy Week celebrations, despite what they were leading up to for His Lord. Still feeling something of the moment, Raymonde knelt at the rail before the altar to pray, clasping his silver tanibrium hands together and closing his sensors off. Unlike his human brothers and sisters, his people could almost completely isolate themselves in a bubble of sensory silence. Raymonde was grateful to God that he was not burdened with distractions like his human friends described to him.

Dwain Reece waited for his friend and minister in the rear pews. It was often like this. Dwain had to lock the church up, but Vicar would feel the need to pray. His record so far was two hours and twenty-four minutes of prayer, for which he had apologised endlessly for. Dwain never minded. He liked Raymonde and they often hung out after the prayers were done. The Vicar was about the best friend Dwain had. Now that he thought about it, Raymonde was probably his only real friend.

Even after the passing of the DIE Laws, what people joking called the Digital Intelligence Equality directive, Raymonde could still draw a lot of attention out in public in his dog-collar and clergy threads. There was something jarring about seeing a silver-blue bipedal robot dressed as a person of the cloth. Despite Raymonde's best efforts to follow Jesus' teachings about kids, some children sprinted for the hills on sight.

“How long have I kept you waiting this time, Dwain?”, the Vicar interrupted his thoughts.

Why he asked about the time when he knew full well, Dwain had no idea.

“Not long, Vicar.”, he replied. “Was it a good conversation?”

“Yes, it was productive.”, Raymonde's eyes twinkled in his equivalent of a smile.

“Can I lock this place up then?”

“Sure. Do you feel like grabbing a late lunch? My shout?”

“You know I'd wait all day for a good meal.”, Dwain laughed.

“Yes, I have noticed that you are fairly cheaply bought.”

“Touché!”, Dwain grinned.


The café was a basic one. It was one of the few places that still served real meat, which made it expensive. Raymonde liked it because he could see Dwain enjoying himself and the coffee was pretty good. Raymonde had no need for physical food intake and could not process solids. Liquids, on the other hand, were no problem.

Dwain was tucking into pieces of fried kangaroo with vegetables and a chilli sauce when there was a rapping on the window. A person holding a sign was yelling something at Raymonde. The sign said, “Machine should not been seen!”, scribbled in rough, black handwriting. The pair tried focusing on their meals and the conversation, but a number of people joined in. Dwain looked up to see that a protest was passing down the street and a few people had spotted the Vicar through the window.

The rapping on the window had escalated into a thumping. There was no risk of them breaking it, but the six people were making an awful racket. Other patrons were starting to look scared and were clearly talking about Raymonde.

“Sorry, I am going to have to ask you to leave. The noise is disturbing our guests.”, their waiter told them. “The bill is taken care off. I am sorry about this.”

“Are you joking? You're going to throw a vicar to the dogs??”, Dwain snarled at him, making him flinch away as Dwain looked like he was going to grab him.

“It is ok, Dwain. This is not the café's issue. We will leave. Thank you for the nice meal and coffee.”, Raymonde rested a hand on Dwain's shoulder to calm him.

The pair made their way to the rear of the establishment tgo avoid most of the crowd outside. Through a rear door, they emerged between two large bins in an alleyway. They looked left and right and started to the right where they could use an intersecting alley to head back in the direction of the church. They had gone no more than fifty metres when a small group of protestors appeared at the end of the alley. As soon as they saw the fugitive pair, they ran towards them.

Raymonde started retreating back the other way, dragging Dwain back by his collar. The group was gaining on them and was within twenty metres in only a couple of minutes. Raymonde happened to glance back when one of the protestors collapsed to the concrete with a gaping hole in their chest. Raymonde looked at Dwain in shock and then at the silenced pistol in his hand.

“You are armed??”, Raymonde shouted.

“Old habits, Vicar.”, Dwain replied.

Another round puffed away and tore into the should of a second protestor, spinning them back into the ground. The protestors stopped and retreated some. They were still in range, so Dwain lined up on a third.

“No!”, Raymonde commanded and reached over to push the handgun down. “This is not the Way, Dwain. Other cheek.”

Raymonde looked right into Dwain's eyes. Dwain was always convinced by the look. Raymonde did not know why.

“You need to run, Dwain. Now.”, Raymonde said.

“What about you?”, Dwain asked, the internal conflict ravaging his face.

“The benefits of machinehood.”, the twinkle was there again.

“I've got enough ammo to make them think twice, Vicar. I'm not leaving you.”, Dwain argued.

“You must. I cannot protect you from their frenzy. They are not acting rationally at this time.”, Raymonde said, shoving Dwain back to the café's rear door. “Run and now.”

Despite himself, Dwain ran, glimpsing the protestors advance on the Vicar like ravenous hyenas. He shoved his pistol into the holster under his jacket and dove into the café again. Out front, it was clear, so he did not pause before running into the street beyond. He dodged between cars and got lost in the blocks and lanes between buildings. He would have to lay low for some time.


It was well after Easter when Dwain felt it safe enough to return to church. No one had come nosing about for the guy with the gun that day. One of the protestors had died even, but there had been no suspicions lain at his feet. He was seated in a pew a few rows from the back of the church, right next to the wall. He wanted to be able to sneak out if it all got too weird. He was not sure how he would take coming back after what happened.

“Welcome back, Dwain.”, a voice said from behind as a human hand rested on his shoulder.

“Do I know you?”, Dwain asked, standing to face the new vicar of the church.

“I would say so. You waited often enough for me top finish prayers, though I suspect the meals had a lot to do with that.”, the vicar smiled, with a twinkle in his eye.

© 2024, Bryan Beal