The collective trauma after the fall of Earth and the subsequent bloodbath brought a glaring shortcoming in Winterfell’s design into sharp focus: The Akakies didn’t have a religion, so they hadn’t built a place of worship in the base. We had several people who had day jobs but would moonlight as clergymen for various religions, including Liz’s priest, a Commando whose name was Father Philip. I personally would’ve preferred not to have Catholic priests around, but since there were no children in Winterfell, I figured it’d be safe.
At some point, all the men/women of the cloth in Winterfell got together, and in a coordinated effort lobbied Tarq to assign a place of worship. My wife joined forces with them, saying she’d missed Sunday sermons and “proper confessions.” Tarq, who saw no benefit in this, and in fact, considered the whole religion thing a complete waste of time, relented, probably just to get rid of them, and gave them a floor of one of the barracks under the condition that members of all religions share it.
Little did he know his problems had just started.
Our various part-time priests, rabbis, imams, pujaris, monks and the rest of the clergy couldn’t agree on a single thing. They kept arguing about everything and complaining to Tarq so much that they finally got under his admittedly thin skin. Winterfell’s men of God soon learned the lesson the rest of us had learned a while back: If you got on Tarq’s bad side, a prank would be coming your way.
Come to think of it; if you got on his good side, you’d have a prank coming your way too. It was a damned-if-I-do-and-damned-if-I-don’t kind of a situation.
Tarq asked me for help, saying that I was the only human he knew with a sense of humor comparable to the Akakies. I wondered if I should be insulted, but once he told me his plan, I happily accepted—only after talking to Liz. I was sure she’d divorce me if I participated in Tarq’s new prank without her prior approval. After Liz gave me her blessings, I put a hand-picked team together, and by hand-picked, I mean people who didn’t much care about the possibility of going to hell once they died. I didn’t even ask Sergei and Matias. I was sure both of them would turn me down, being deeply religious men. Kurt, Keiko, and Allen refused to participate, saying the whole thing was childish and not worth the effort. They chided me for stooping so low as to become Tarq’s accomplice in one of his distasteful pranks. The only person from our inner circle who joined in was Oksana. She said she was up for anything that would distract her from her sister’s suicide. I thought she felt the same way I did about religion—and saw this as a chance to prove herself to Winterfell’s commander.
Operation Wrath of God—yeah, the Xortaags weren’t the only people with a God-complex—commenced on May 23, at 3 AM sharp.
Dressed in black full tactical wear and SWAT balaclavas, with Oksana following me closely, I kicked Father Philip’s door open. We entered his quarters, and I shouted at the top of my voice, “On the ground! Don’t move a muscle, you punk, or I’ll shoot you in the legs and feed you to my dogs while you’re still alive!”
A bit too much?
Father Philip put up a fight, but we’d caught him with his pants down—literally. Oksana kneed him in his belly, we handcuffed him, dragged him out of his quarters, and joined the other teams who were busy doing the same thing to all Winterfell’s clergymen/women. Most of the poor bastards were scared out of their wits. They stared at us with wild eyes and shouted incomprehensible nonsense, thinking this was some sort of religious purge.
We had ten operational MICI units. I pushed Father Philip into one of the units, shouting with the most exaggerated southern accent I could muster, “This is revenge for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre!”
A couple of Catholic priests fainted.
We threw them all in the MICI units at the same time, a few people in each unit, and imprinted two simple messages on all their brains, “When thou hear the secret word, thou shalt feel and show love to the members of other religions more than thyself, thy family and thy friends” and “Thou shalt forget everything that happened this night.”
Tarq didn’t tell us what the secret word was.
Tarq called the Winterfell’s clergy to a meeting in the Command Center the next morning. They all showed up, wearing their respective formal attire. They sat with their own people, chins up in holy indignation, and gave the other groups the cold shoulder. I stood in the back, watching the show, rubbing my hands together in anticipation. Some people on my team started placing bets on what would happen next. Tarq, wearing a gold embroidered dress, a belt of gold and a crown adorned with jewels, walked into the Command Center and stood in front of the room. He looked at everyone, smoked his pipe, waited a few minutes to create suspense, and then very solemnly, like a king declaring a new decree, said, “Titties.”
All the priests, rabbis, imams, and others stopped breathing for a second. The Command Center became so quiet you could hear a butterfly flapping its wings. Then they ran to the members of other religions and hugged them, all crying in each other’s arms and begging forgiveness for all past wrongdoing. They professed undying brotherly/sisterly love and promised to live in harmony at each other’s side forever. A Catholic priest and an imam got into a fight over which one loved a rabbi more. This was the funniest thing I’d ever seen in my life. Oksana was shaking so hard with laughter she had to lean on me for support; otherwise, she would have lost her balance. Someone made a video of the whole scene, which went viral in Winterfell. I would’ve made millions if I could put it on YouTube.
I sat on a chair, leaned back, clasped my hands behind my head and enjoyed the show. I was beginning to see why the Akakies enjoyed pranks so much. Maybe Tarq was right: I did have the same sense of humor they had.
The only problem was some people took the idea of loving the others a bit too far. We noticed it when a female vicar started ripping off a Buddhist monk’s clothes. My team had a tough time separating those two, and a few others who were following suit, apparently bent on having an orgy in the middle of the Command Center. Whatever they did after in the privacy of their own quarters was none of my business. Other than that, Operation Wrath of God turned out to be an unparalleled success.
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