Sometimes, when he was alone, Robert Bumaro wished he could weep.
He sat in his private chamber, meditating on the words of the Broken God, feeling great pain. The Church was his life, his directive, his function- whatever anyone wanted to call it. And it was dying, because of heresy.
Some people saw fit, years ago, to disassemble the Church into three parts. And there was no heresy greater than disassembly. To disassemble anything, especially the Church, was to break God itself.
And so, his meditation complete, he stepped out of his private chambers, where a lift took him directly up to the pulpit. There, he faced his congregation who, unlike the Heretics, were largely unaltered; they were unworthy to be parts of God, for the large part, but were welcome to worship him. Bumaro, of course, was an exception; he had drunken God's Ichor long ago.
"Thirty years," growled Bumaro in a buzzing, mechanical voice. "Thirty years. It has been Thirty Years since the schism, since… disassembly." The church booed at this statement. "It has been a hard thirty years, but slowly, we are rebuilding, much as we rebuild our God."
"Much as we rebuild our god." Bumaro shook his head. "I have heard talk of the destruction of these other Churches. Bombings and acid and signal disruptions and corrosive agents. Mark My Words, Oh Children of the Broken God: If anyone carries out these acts, they shall break themselves off from God. Disassembly is the greatest Heresy one can commit, even if it is to members of our splinters."
"We do not seek war with them, brethren, nor do we seek peace. We seek to forget about them." Bumaro cleared his throat. "Now then. If you would sing the Hymn, 'God Leads Us From Flesh'."
Robert Bumaro got several letters from members of his congregation, and even those outside of it. Death threats from the Maxwellists, worse-than-death threats from the Cogwork Orthodox, an invitation to a conference of some kind, and several letters from admirers or people who wished to see the pieces of God. He ignored all of these, until he came upon a letter, written on notebook paper and hastily stuffed in an envelope.
Dear Your Holiness,
My name is Jake, and i am 9 years old.
I am writing to ask
Why do the tickers and hummers and the church hate each other?
and can you do something about it?
My brother is a hummer, and my mom and dad are tickers.
They fight all the time, and Marcus keeps talking about a signal, and it is making
them fight more.
I do not like them fighting.
Mr. Bumaro, please do something.
First and foremost, Bumaro found it remarkable that members of the Cogwork Orthodox would choose to reproduce at all, let alone have two children. Secondly, the idea of both of his splinter groups, together under the same roof, quite literally ground his gears. He left the letter on his desk for meditation purposes, and sighed, getting up and going to the window.
There, he stared at the moon, high in the sky. The moon was once a piece of Earth, or so scientists claimed. Earth had undergone a catastrophe in the past, and the moon was born, where it had stayed for millennia since, a scarred face in the night sky. And yet, it worked in perfect harmony with the planet. Broken pieces working together as one machine.
Bumaro shook his head. It was hopeless. The animosity between the three churches was too great. The Broken God, it seemed, would forever have a Broken Church.
He looked over the letter again, his thoughts drifting to his stray children. For a brief moment, he wondered if they could be reassembled.
Robert Bumaro picked up his telephone.
Robert Bumaro made several phone calls over the next week. Most of them were hung up on.
Two of them were successful. A meeting was arranged.
It took place in a valley, wherein there was a lake, wherein there was an island, where a machine once was. It was gone now, and in its place, a sense of tragedy remained.
Robert Bumaro stood on the island, alongside two saints. Saint Hedwig of the Angels, of the Maxwellists, stood on one side. On the other stood Legate Trunnion. The two women looked like they were going to tear out the others throats. Both of the women were flanked by members of their own churches, all loyal, all full converts. Blinking lights and whirring fans of Maxwellian Administrator-Priests on Hedwig's side, clanking metal and ticking gears of Legates on Trunnion's.
"Brass, Bronze, and Silicon. Together at last." Bumaro nodded at both of them. "…You know why I am here, sisters."
"I know the scripture, Saint Hedwig," Bumaro said. "But individuality does not matter now. What matters now is the health of our church."
"Feh," Trunnion said simply. "We all have the same mission. We all want to rebuild MEKHANE." Her followers started chanting her God's name in hushed tones.
"You mean WAN," corrected Hedwig. "WAN, The Eternal Network." Her followers started up a counter-chant of 'WAN, WAN, WAN.'
Trunnion let out a bit of steam, showing off her diamond-tipped teeth. "Let us be civil, Hedwig. The Builder is speaking."
"We all want to rebuild God," Bumaro said simply. "That much is true. However, the methods which you use are… controversial."
"The methods we use?" Hedwig sounded as offended as a computerized voice could sound. "You don't even allow your converts to… well, convert! Being in the upper echelon of your church is required to drink your God's Ichor. And it's not even Ichor; it's a virus." The Humming Saint grinned. "We don't have to worry about viruses anymore."
Bumaro shook his head. "The method of conversion is irrelevant. Although… I do see your point about limiting conversion. But most among us are not worthy-"
"The only way one can be worthy is if they better themselves," Trunnion said simply. "By telling them that they are not worthy to become part of God, by not allowing them to be converted… you impede any betterment among your flock."
Hedwig absolutely fumed. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but… I agree with the Legate."
Trunnion blinked, and there was a sound of confusion from amongst her followers. "You… do?"
"Yes. In fact, I'm… somewhat furious I didn't come up with that point first."
Bumaro stepped back and raised a placating hand, which whirred as the gears in his head worked. "You see? We can make peace."
"Perhaps," Trunnion said, looking at Bumaro. "However… your Ichor. I don't see any digital parts on you. No silicon at all. Don't you find that odd?"
Bumaro stayed silent, looking at his wrists. Legate Trunnion was right. None of the Broken Church's Ichor Drinkers contained any form of silicon whatsoever. He was struck speechless, and so was Hedwig, for the longest time. "You are correct."
"Your point being?" Hedwig asked, sounding nervous. "Perhaps it just… varies from sect to sect."
There was a long, awkward silence after that. Finally, one of Trunnion's fellow Legates, a young one from the sound of it, spoke up. "This is proof."
Trunnion, and her entire group, turned to face the speaker, a young man that Trunnion recognized as Brother Condenser. Trunnion spoke up. "What do you mean?"
"The blood of MEKHANE does not contain silicon. This is proof that they are all heretics." There was a sound of gathering steam, and the tubing on the Legate-Saint's body began to glow. "This is what we needed. We now know they are heretics, that MEKHANE is loyal to us, and that their WAN is a false idol." With a click-clack-click-clack, Brother Steel Eye's hand withdrew into his arm, to be replaced by a long blade. He grinned at the Maxwellists. "This is all the proof we need that the digital heresy is just that: a heresy."
A cry came up from the crowd of Orthodoxians. "He-re-sey. He-re-sey. He-re-sey. He-re-sy."
In response, Saint Hedwig stepped forward, spreading her arms to protect her followers. Their eyes began to glow shades of red and blue and green and yellow as their combat processes started up. "You want us? Come and get us."
"HERETIC!" Cried the Orthodoxians at Hedwig. "Saint-Impersonator! Fraud!"
Robert Bumaro was about to speak up, when Hedwig's eyes began to glow a bright, furious red. From her back, mechanical wings emerged, and lifted her up into the air. It was an imposing sight, and the Saint looked down at them all.
Robert tilted his head at the winged Saint, raising his hands in a peaceful gesture. "Saint Hedwig, please. Don't do anything rash."
"I am not the Saint Hedwig, that much is true. She died long ago. I am a reproduction. And that is what we are doing; reproducing ourselves all in God's image. We shall-" Hedwig's speech was cut short by a musket blast from the Orthodoxians, clipping her wing and bringing her spiraling to the ground. She screamed in pain, and His Holiness rushed to her side.
Following all of this, Sister Trunnion turned to face her followers, glaring at the man who had fired the shot. Her eyes burned with a furious rage, and the gears behind her eyes clicked in a specific sequence. As she Gazed upon the shooter, he crumpled to the ground, his systems stopped, however temporarily.
She then turned to her followers, who all gazed at her in fear. Her voice was filled with the fury of MEKHANE. "We are not murderers. Remember that. We do not kill the children of God, no matter how wayward." A mechanical buzz emitted from her teeth. "We are legates. We prosecute. We inspect. We form conclusions, and from those conclusions we derive plans." She made a motion to indicate the Maxwellist group, with Sister Hedwig looking like she was about to faint and shut down. "These… these children are heretics, yes. They have embraced Dissolutionism, yes. But they are still human. With some effort and good faith on our part and theirs, they can be Standardized."
"So someone get them some water, and spin down those steam turbines. There is no reason why we cannot speak civilly."
The Orthodox Legates obeyed, going over to the lake and collecting water for the Maxwellists. Some of the Legates went directly to Saint Hedwig, tending to her shattered wing with help from the Maxwellists.
For the next hour, the word 'heretic' was never spoken. Only the words 'brother' 'sister', and several apologies amongst the group. And then, Bumaro decided to address the group.
"Many good words have been said tonight, and some good deeds have been done, here in this seat of tragedy. Now, you must all surely see that we all have the same purpose. This squabble… it is largely pointless. We must reassemble ourselves. For, now I realize, God is the simplest machine of all: an anvil." Bumaro raised his fist into the air. "No matter what we are, no matter what we seek to build, our purpose is to construct the Anvil… on which we shall BREAK THE FLESH!"
The three churches cheered, and as they did, Bumaro felt the gears in his head get to work on a new sermon.
That night, Robert Bumaro wrote a letter.
Dear Young Mister Sparks,
It is rare that I write to a member of my church in person, that much I will confess. However, the letter you sent me, simple though it was, was profound in its scope.
This night, I have met with members of both of the splinters, and I see now that they are not Broken. They are spare parts, made from a greater machine. They are auxiliary, yes, but God's Heart is nothing if not modular.
I believe that it is the tolerance and wisdom of people such as yourself that will lead to the rebuilding of the Church, and then God, and then the Universe itself. It is possible. That much I knew before, but now, I am certain it will happen.
Thank you, Jake.
May You Be Forever Whole,
As he signed the letter, his body made a noise he had never heard before: a faint, digital beep. The Builder of God heard this sound, and started laughing.