The Pious Distance (short story)

--| Intercepted remote journal sync from a Bulwark missionary |--

21st century military scholars were very concerned with the growing distance between soldier and target. Drones finally obsoleted any direct contact between warring powers. Their theory was that war became easier to wage and harder to stop when the person dying was too abstracted from the person giving the kill order.

We like to joke that Bulwark factions read different books, but we're on the same page. The civil war finally forced us to temporarily embrace the idea that we all followed the same God, but also that He gave us different orders. The Bulwark Missionary Service, a loose coalition of evangelical views, believes God wants us to continue the Work begun on ancient Earth when the heathen wilds were finally tamed by steel, steam, and mass media. The civil war stopped the Work on Earth and in the Metrospace, but we push back still.

But we do it right. We are only human, and humans are vulnerable to sin. 21st century humans widely understood sin to be an individual failing: if you did wrong, it was your own fault, and it was on society to punish that individual. This was very convenient for such a profoundly evil society.

The Missionaries follow a different, more accurate interpretation. It's one rare point of agreement between us and the Coalition, the people who won the war over humanity's relationship with God and nature and sent us to the fringes. Sin is a collective action problem. If a society is built in such a way that sin is possible, then it is the society that failed.

And that's where the Pious Distance comes in. The cloud of debris-once-vessels in orbit of the planet below and the crumbling cities on it were built in a way that failed this world's people. Our Recyclers went ahead to free them. First, our emissaries offer a chance to repent. Most leaders refuse, and the Work begins again. At a distance. The Work is designed to protect us from the sinful thrill and glee of war and provide a clean, Godly slate on planets where its people have returned to God to be given another chance later.

Who knows what happens after that? God only knows. But I do hope my family comes to understand in the nextphase why I'm doing this to them. For them.