John pushed gently with his legs and closed his eyes, reviewing his calculations silently in the cavern of his mind, until he felt the slight bump as he reached the end of his tether. He finished his mathematical mantra, and opened his eyes to look back at Earth.
It was just a blue pinprick at this distance, but he knew exactly where to look even before commanding the HUD to lock in and zoom. Five years of looking back every day had given John a certain knack, a feel for where it would be – like God Himself guiding his eyes.
Five years except the last ten days, that was. Since Heather’s videomail had arrived.
They’d met at church, he not long finished at the regional Baptist College, and she just out of high school. Like a destined thing, it had felt. Like something God had meant to be. They were married within months. Nearly nine years ago now.
John blinked the sting from his eyes, recited his calculations again, running the same program in a corner of the HUD in sync with his mantra – numbers to drown the memory of numbers. Pure numbers to drown the numbers of damnation.
Everything checked out, and John found himself looking at Earth again. This time, the anger came instead. Not the furniture-smashing anger of ten days ago, though. This was the cool crystal-calm anger that John had come to recognise as God’s will speaking to him from between the stars. An anger at Earth; the righteous anger of a Father betrayed and ignored.
Further than even John’s namesake could have imagined, the human race had fallen from God’s grace. John had read somewhere that, a century ago, three-quarters of the North American continent had been proud to call themselves Christians. Now it was three hundredths … if you trusted what the atheist media told you, at least.
That’s why John had come out here to the Belt as a miner. He needed to get away from a world that scared and appalled him at once, a world of godless debauchery, almost every deadly sin a day-to-day occurence. But he needed to make money – better money than his Baptist College degree could get him back on Earth. Money, so he and Heather could buy some cheap old shack up a mountain somewhere in Mexico, raise chickens and children and pray each morning.
A foolish dream, he knew now. A temptation. But Lucifer had not counted on John being better able to hear God’s voice in the silence of the Belt. John had called some of the other miners on microwave radio to ask if they’d found themselves coming closer to the Lord as a result of working in the silence of space. The ones that bothered to answer either mocked or cursed him out. He never asked again.
But once his frail humanity had flushed its animal reaction to Heather’s videomail, clarity had washed in to replace it, and John realised what he was here for. God had called him out to the Belt because only he had the courage to see what needed to be done. Only John could send God’s final message to his failed creation, to a world that had turned its back on the mercy of Jesus, who had died for its sins.
John chanted his calculations one last time, watching the same numbers unfold in the HUD. As he and the program reached the final clause simultaneously, he ended the mathematical prayer aloud; “Amen.”
Still staring at the Earth, John only caught the slightest hint of the power-plant’s sun-bright flash from over his right shoulder before his visor dimmed it out. But the HUD showed the delta-v of the asteroid changing, mapping out the course it would take in the next hour, day, month, year. No more than one year, though. No more than a year before God could start again.