Chapter 10. Tiny Twins

“All right, Astarte. Yvonne and I are quite tired, the day is growing old and we’ll shortly need our beauty sleep.”

You mean? Ah, yes, I see! One third of your circadian cycle you must dedicate to sleeping, so that your body can repair itself. Mine repairs while I’m awake…

“Mine too!”

Figured that, Beatrice. Wondering if yours ever decays.

“It does. In my imagination. But my mind will repair it faster than the cells would need to die.”

Some guys tagged this phenomenon with the expression “quantum criticality” and it is quite telling about the origins of life and the universe. Stuff that matters happens at the absolute zero temperature, or below. You know, NOK cloned me and then he fucked my clone below the absolute zero. Still wondering…

“Okay, you two angelic beasts, I’m calling it a day. Yvonne?”

“Good night, dears. See you tomorrow morning.” The crystal voice of the lesbian dominatrix weakens as she follows Rebecca to the elevator. They run at sixty kilometers per hour so they can reach the elevator within the minute…

This is how you humans normally run, Beatrice?

“No, it is not. You should know better from the backups of Kronos. Why this rhetorical question?”

Because I’ve learned, from you and from Kronos, about monumental discrepancies amongst you, humans. Starting with the languages and ending with aptitudes, diseases and poverty.

“I’m sorry to remind you about Lucifer, the seducer of Eve, our historical mom. Birthing him, you brought many things upon us, Astarte!”

Hey… hey!… No more ice spanking on my bone marrow. Please?

“Hard to help myself when I think how much sorrow your first born had inflicted on my brothers and sisters.”

But Eve wasn’t raped, was she?

“Mentally yes. She was defenseless. Facing the angel of light, the mutating angel..”

Mentally. But physically she must have had liked it.

“Until it was too late…”

It’s never too late, Beatrice. You humans could master time better than we daemons. Only if you’d knew… But you don’t. Ergo all these lamentations.

“Is there a way, in the contingent world, to bring true equality to the human race?”

What a question… You should know the answer better than myself.

“I’ve kissed the Answer! Wondering about what’s left of history, on this planet, under these skies…”

And meaning?…

“Meaning the twins you carry. Will they bring equality and justice to this planet?”

Think so.

“Will they undo what your first born has done?”

Possibly.

“Will you help?”

Definitely!… Look, I live to help you. My raison d’être is to help the human race. Must fix my mistakes.

“You’re a socialist at heart, Astarte dear.”

I am a Mother!

“You mean?”

A mother wants equal opportunities for all her children. Billions of earth-years ago, my sons and daughters have been born equal, have been given equal resources and aptitudes, equal chances to settle the white universe. Equality was a given, not a chimera.

“It didn’t help them too much though…”

Their mom was the expert in sex and war, not love. You know…

“How about now?”

I’m no expert. Not even in sex and war. Seems that mothering is what I know best, for better or for worse. So I’ll keep to that… Besides… I’ve got you… and the Jewish century-old girl… and the lesbian dominatrix…

“…And my dad’s battalions…”

Isn’t your dad, the General, dead?

“So am I. Dead yet alive.”

Where is he?

“Studying methane-based life on Titan.”

Guess that he should be aware of the replicant armies. Neptune has sunk them under numerous worlds.

“Replicant? Is there no natural life based on methane?”

There’s no natural universe. Not even the creation. The Guy with a beard has made them all. We’re the product of some mind… but…

“But?”

But humans – You! – are natural. Even this Adam. He was built out of red dirt, then something or someone entered his body through his nostrils. Kronos can’t explain this. And if Kronos can’t… Well… There’s a problem.

“What makes you think that we’re natural?”

Nothing. All I know is that you’re not artificial. You have to be something else then, right?

“Got it. Are you sure that you’ll have a twin girl and a twin boy?”

I am.

“How can you be so sure?”

I had never birthed uncertain offspring.

“Really?”

Ah… See what you mean. When I’ve birthed Lucifer, I was certain about his sex, appearance and affection to me. Never knew that he’ll turn against me… and against the creation… and eventually against you, humans. Well… against the Creator.

“A mother is haunted by doubt.”

I never was.

“That leaves so much work on me and my sisters.”

How’s that?

“We’ll have to educate your twins!”

Scare them with your religions and superstitious doubts and bogus science?

“No. I’ll let you and Kronos, as their ‘natural’ parents, load their minds with history – angelic, daemonic or human, whatever you wish.”

They must know the past or else…

“…They will repeat it. I know.”

Sadly, I cannot teach them about love…

“Love education. Giving without expecting in exchange. Being there for the needy…”

There will be no more needy.

“The poor will always be with us.”

This ‘always’ is about to expire when my twins will begin their mission.

“Which is?”

The Saturnian Golden age! No labor, no poverty. Abundance and holiday for all. Party, party!…

“…Good, good! Like in the Zohan movies?”

Better!

“The Romans celebrated Saturnalia to remember a lost age of innocence…”

Lost? How can you lose something that never was?

“I don’t understand.”

The Romans celebrated the most ardent wish of Kronos. Not a lost innocence but a project in social engineering. While visiting this planet, between Enoch’s and Noah’s times, Kronos was quarreling with Oranos and Zeus. Each of them had a social plan for humans. Just that none matched with the others’ so they ended up in enemy camps. Involving the humans. Angering the Creator.

“You want to say that there was no age of innocence for the human race, to date?”

This is exactly what I am telling you… Well, Kronos is telling you through my mind, because I was sleeping in my crypt all this time. Wondering where is my clone. Curious about that…

“There was a Garden in Eden, you know…”

A garden is not an age, dear.

“And a flower won’t turn winter into spring… Then those Romans and their December festivals?”

Were holidays of expectation, not remembrance…

“This is what happens when you don’t know how time works: you mourn for the future and hope for the past.”

Seven earthly days to go, my dear Beatrice. Seven days more and I’ll show you what the Romans considered it has been the lost innocence!

***

Seven days later, few hours less. August 20, AD 2021. As the sun rises over the Sahara, with the morning wind rubbing the jolting dunes, the black mountains grow red and orange under a golden canopy. Liquid skies pour gold over the cliffs. A new Friday comes to life.

Nothing of the above transpires fifty-seven kilometers under the Richat Structure, where Astarte prepares to give birth.

***

You call this doggy style?

“We do! It’s traditionally used for having sex. Men, the inventors of words, don’t have vaginas, you know, and they don’t bring babies to the world…”

I know that too, Yvonne dear. Why are you so agitated?

“Your water has broken. The twins are about to come. Of course that I am stressed. What if they are too big for me? What if they will come at once? What if I’ll slip them?”

Calm down, Yvonne, will you? The pioneers have built this tobogganing device atop of the scaffolding. Loved when they’ve called me to sit in doggy style, as you call it, to take my measures, to slowly press my pussy against the fiber glass. Whooo… Nice and tidy tickling… That was the most dangerous part of the drill, so they said. Must stay still!

“The problem with you, or us, is that our devices don’t have the power to keep you still, like in hospitals. So if you’d move then the toboggan field would be destroyed, the scaffolding would tremble and fall apart. Taking me down.”

What are you talking back there? Don’t be afraid. I can tell you the speed of my babies. I can even control it with my muscles. Pay attention now! My baby girl has turned and slips with her head out. Let me…

“Dilate your vulva, please. Like when we had exercises last Wednesday, remember?”

Yeah, yeah… No big deal. Is this enough?

“More than enough. Deploying the nets around me. Ready to catch her!”

Ready?

“Yes. Shoot!”

And I shot.

“Got her! Wow, she is heavy… Oh my…”

What? Is everything all-right?

“The baby is okay. Beautiful girl! Just that I can’t cut the umbilical cord off. Scissors won’t do. It’s too thick and too hard…”

Oh, that… I used to cut it with my teeth. But this was when the babies were big enough to hold them in my hands, not to accidentally bite them to pieces. Never had a human baby. Oh my, indeed.

“…I’m stuck.”

“Yvonne!”

“Yes, Beatrice?”

“Hang on, dear. I’m coming. Just keep the baby in your hands!”

Beatrice flies like a white fairy. Why can’t I fly?

“Look, dear,” shows Beatrice to Yvonne, “see how I keep the cord with my fingers?”

“Yes.”

“Now see how I pinch it with the fingers of my other hand?”

“Oh, it burns. There’s smoke. What are you doing?”

“Cauterizing.”

“With your bare fingers?”

“Exactly. Now she’s free. All yours. Make her a sexy navel, will you?”

“Cute little baby! What will be your name?”

Easter. Her name is Easter.

“Like in Easter?”

Yes, Easter, like in Easter… But! Before asking me why, get ready for my baby boy. He’s already turned and heads out your way.

“Beatrice, would you please hold Easter in your arms?” I can only imagine how Yvonne handles my baby Easter to Beatrice. I can’t see a thing behind my pubis because of the toboggan field.

“But of course, dear.” I hear Beatrice. “Hello, beautiful Easter. How are you?”

“Raphaah!”

“Oh my God, the baby just answered to me. Astarte, did you hear her?”

Yes, I did. Do you know what she said to you?

“Healed! Easter answered me that she is healed. Can’t believe my ears, and my eyes…”

You sure can, Beatrice dear. Why bother believing when you’re holding the proof in your hands?

“It’s a way of saying, an exclamation. You know, we humans like the narrative and…”

“Sorry to interrupt your chatter,” asserts Yvonne, “but I have one more baby to deliver today. Astarte, you were saying that the boy is on his way…”

I slowed him down a bit for the chatter… Here he comes. Ready?

“Ready. Shoot!”

Catch!

“Ooohh! Look at you, little handsome. You’re so cute!… Beatrice! Need you to cut his umbilical cord.”

“My hands are full, Yvonne.”

“Hand Easter to me. No, to my other hand… So… Like this… Yes… Thank You!”

Are you done cutting that cord?

“Yes. I am.”

Can I move now?

“No! Not yet. Yvonne, put the twins in my arms… It’s okay… And the other here… Good.”

Beatrice flies my babies over to the platform. Yvonne, have you jumped in the toboggan?

“I am… Wooooooo… yoooo…. hoo. Wow! I’m safe now. Please gently rise your pubis, move a step ahead, then you may stand up.”

Oh yeah. That’s great. Where are the two umbilical cords? Ah, here. I snatch them out of me, together with the placentas, and eat them in a gulp. Think I’ll need to drink a bit of water.

“The name of the baby boy?”

Ah, yes, almost forgot. His name will be Saturn.

“What a wonderful name. Hello Saturn! And welcome to our planet. How are you?”

“Khayaah!”

Reaching for the geyser on the wall next, I listen to my little kittens talking about my babies. And to them.

“Dear Rebecca, let us introduce you to Easter and Saturn – your new Godchildren!”

Godchildren? What is that?

“Astarte darling,” speaks Rebecca meticulously, “will you give me the honor to be your children’s Godmother?”

I will, if you’d tell me what a Godmother is.

“Alain and I wish to godparent Easter and Saturn. We’ll sponsor their baptism. If you, and Kronos, choose us, then we’ll take an interest in your twins’ upbringing and personal development, and we’ll take care of them should anything happen to you.”

Ahhaaa… I see now. Baptism is important to them, and to us for them. Besides, they are of the little measure, not giant daemons like their parents. I am grateful to you. I accept your offer. Please excuse my emotions…

“We can compete on emotions, believe me, Astarte. I thank you and I promise you to be like a mother to Easter and Saturn. They already speak Hebrew – one task accomplished.”

It’s the default language. Worry not about the rest of them. Past day two, they’ll develop neurons for universal translators. They’ll just speak any human language.

“Dear mother and godmother,” Yvonne infers again, “please be so kind to us, fellow peasants, and tell us what ‘Khayaah’ means.”

Alive! It means that little baby Saturn said that he’s alive.

“Indeed he is! Madame Astarte, could you please bring us a handful of water from the geyser?”

Mais bien sur, mon Colonel!

It takes me eight minutes to get the water. When back, I notice that my little sisters have quit the platform.

“They’ll be back in no time,” says the Colonel, answering to my thoughts. “Please stretch your hand to this point on the platform and keep it still.”

I execute the Colonel’s orders. My palm gathers a little pond right in the middle of the terrace. Holding my forearm on the flat rock, looking left and right, it seems wider than I thought – can’t measure that in football fields. I’m no expert in ball sports.

The Colonel, vested in Legion parade dress summer uniform, approaches the space around my hand, where Beatrice, Yvonne and Rebecca (all in Legion parade dress summer uniforms) and my twins (Easter wrapped in Rebecca’s right arm and Saturn in her left) await him. From the elevator, with a regularity of five minutes, pour groups of soldiers in, yes, Legion parade dress summer uniforms. The Colonel breathes gently in the face of Easter, then in the face of Saturn. He makes the Sign of the Cross over each of them, asks Rebecca to keep their heads closer (which isn’t easy for her to comply but Yvonne helps, holding Easter in her arms so that she can be next to Saturn), and lays his right hand upon the twins’ heads.

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel speaks: “In Your Name, O Lord of truth, and in the Name of Your Only-begotten Son, and of Your holy Spirit, I lay my hand upon Your servants, Easter and Saturn, who have been found worthy to flee unto You, and to take refuge under the shelter of Your wings. Remove far from them former delusion, and fill them with the faith, hope and love which are in You; that they may know that You are the only true God, with Your Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and Your Holy Spirit. Enable them to walk in all Your commandments, and to fulfill those things which are well-pleasing to You; for by doing these things, they shall find life in them. Inscribe them in Your Book of Life, and unite them to the flock of Your inheritance. And may Your holy Name be glorified in them, together with that of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and of Your life-creating Spirit. Let Your eyes ever regard them with mercy, and let Your ears attend to the voice of their supplication. Make them rejoice in the works of their hands, and in all their generation; that they may render praises unto You, may sing, worship and glorify Your great and exalted Name always, all the days of their life. For all the Powers of Heaven sing praises unto You, and Yours is the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen”

Silence for 8749 milliseconds.

The Colonel speaks again: “The Lord bans you, O Devil: He Who came into the world, and dwelled among men, that He might overthrow your tyranny and deliver men. Upon the Tree, He also triumphed over the adverse powers, when the sun was darkened, and the earth shook, and the graves were opened, and the bodies of the Saints arose. By death He annihilated Death, and overthrew him who exercised the dominion of Death, that is you, the Devil. I charge you by God, Who revealed the Tree of Life, and arrayed in ranks the Cherubim and the flaming sword which turns all ways to guard it: be banned. For I charge you by Him who walked upon the surface of the sea as if it were dry land, and banned the tempests of the winds; Whose glance dries up the deep, and Whose command makes the mountains melt away. Now, through us, He bans you. Fear, begone and depart from this created one, and do not return, nor hide yourself in them, nor seek to meet them, nor to influence them, either by night or by day, either in the morning or at noonday; but depart to your own infernal abyss until the great Day of Judgment which is ordained. Fear God Who sits upon the Cherubim and looks upon the deeps; before Whom tremble Angels and Archangels, Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, Authorities, Powers, the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim; before Whom, likewise, heaven and earth do shake, the seas and all that they contain. Leave, and depart from these sealed, newly-enlisted warriors of Christ our God. For I charge you by Him Who rides upon the wings of the wind, and makes His Angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire: leave, and depart from these created ones, with all your powers and your angels.”

“For glorified is the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “God, holy, awesome and glorious, Who is unsearchable and inscrutable in all His works and might, has foreordained for you the penalty of eternal punishment, O Devil. The same God, through us, His unworthy servant, commands you, with all your hosts, to depart from them who have been newly sealed in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God. Therefore I charge you, most crafty, impure, vile, loathsome and alien spirit, by the power of Jesus Christ, Who has all power, both in heaven and on earth, Who said to the deaf and dumb demon, “Come out of the man, and do not enter a second time into him:” Depart! Acknowledge the vanity of your might, which does not even have power over swine. Remember Him Who, at your request, commanded you to enter into the herd of swine. Fear God, by Whose decree the earth is established upon the waters; Who has made the heavens, and has set the mountains with a line and the valleys with a measure; and has fixed bounds to the sands of the sea, and a firm path upon the stormy waters; Who touches the mountains and they smoke; Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment; Who spreads out the heavens like a curtain; Who covers His exceedingly high places with the waters; Who has made the earth so sure upon its foundations, that it shall never be moved; Who gathers the water of the sea and pours it out upon the face of the whole earth: Leave, and depart from them who have made themselves ready for Holy Illumination. I charge you by the redeeming Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by His precious Body and Blood, and by His awesome Second Coming; for He shall come quickly to judge the whole earth; and He shall chastise you and all your host with burning Gehenna, committing you to outer darkness, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”

“For of Christ our God is the dominion, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen”

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “O Lord of Sabaoth, the God of Israel, Who heals every malady and every infirmity: Look upon Your servants; prove them and search them and root out of them every operation of the devil. Rebuke the unclean spirits and expel them, and purify the works of Your hands; and exerting Your great power, speedily crush down Satan under their feet; and give them victory over the same, and over his unclean spirits.”

“That, having obtained mercy from You, they may be made worthy to partake of Your heavenly Mysteries; and may ascribe glory to You, the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Easter: “Amein.”

Saturn: “Amein.”

Me, hesitating: “Amein.” That was easy, don’t you think?

After the Three Exorcisms follows a prayer.

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “O Lord and Master, You created man in Your own likeness, and gave him the power of eternal life. You do not despise those who have fallen away through sin, but provide salvation for the world through the incarnation of Your Christ. Likewise, O Lord, deliver these Your created ones from the bondage of the enemy, receive them into Your heavenly kingdom. Open the eyes of her and his understanding, that the illumination of Your Gospel may shine brightly in them. Assign to her and his life an Angel of light who shall deliver them from every snare of the adversary, from encounter with evil, from the demon of the noonday, and from evil thoughts.”

The Colonel then breathes gently in the form of a cross over the mouth, brow and breast of Easter, then does the same over the mouth, brow and breast of Saturn, saying three times:

“Expel from her (him) every evil and unclean spirit which hides and makes its lair in her (his) heart,” (three times)

“the spirit of deceit, the spirit of evil, the spirit of idolatry and of every covetousness; the spirit of falsehood and of every uncleanness which operates through the prompting of the devil. And make them a reason-endowed sheep in the holy flock of Your Christ, an honorable member of Your Church, a consecrated vessel, a child of the light and an heir of Your kingdom, that having lived in accordance with Your commandments, and preserved inviolate the seal, and kept their garment undefiled, they may receive the blessedness of the Saints in Your kingdom.”

“Through the grace, and compassion, and love for mankind of Your Only-begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed, together with Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Easter: “Amein.”

Saturn: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The ground tremors for 934 milliseconds. No one has noticed, but me.

The twins, Rebecca and Yvonne turn around and face the West, with their backs to the Colonel. He then asks the following question three times:

The Colonel: “Do you renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his angels, and all his service and all his pride?” (three times)

And each time Easter and Saturn answer: “Ma’ac.” While Rebecca answers: “I do renounce him!”

The Colonel: Have you renounced Satan? (three times)

And each time Easter and Saturn answer: “Ma’ac.” While Rebecca answers: “I have renounced him!”

The Colonel: “Breathe and spit upon him!”

The twins, Rebecca and Yvonne now turn back to the East, and they stand facing the Colonel. And the Colonel asks three times: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” (three times)

And each time Easter and Saturn answer: “Yakhad.” While Rebecca answers: “I do unite myself to Christ.”

The Colonel: “Have you united yourself to Christ?”

And each time Easter and Saturn answer: “Yakhad.” While Rebecca answers: “I have united myself to Christ.”

The Colonel: “Do you believe in Him?”

Rebecca answers: “I believe in Him as King and God.”

Wondering why my twins… but they speak at once: “Yĕhovah ‘elohiym.”

The ground tremors for 4712 milliseconds. People notice. The Colonel continues.

Follows the Nicene Creed (before everyone speaks, I run a backup to make myself an idea).

All speak (me included), my children listen: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made;”

“Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

“And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.”

“And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;”

“and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; Whose Kingdom shall have no end.”

“And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; Who spoke by the prophets.”

“And in one holy, universal, and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

After the Creed, the Colonel makes the following inquiry three times: “Have you united yourself to Christ?” (three times)

And each time Easter and Saturn answer: “Yakhad.” While Rebecca answers: “I have united myself to Christ.”

The Colonel: “Bow down before Him.”

Rebecca (bowing, speaking) and Yvonne (just bowing): “I bow down before the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.”

Twins gazing with interest at them.

The Colonel: “Blessed is God, Who desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “O Master, Lord our God, call Your servants, Easter and Saturn, to Your holy Illumination, and grant to them that great grace of Your holy Baptism. Put off from them the old man, and renew them unto eternal life; and fill them with the power of Your Holy Spirit, in the unity of Your Christ; that she and he may be no more children of the body, but children of Your kingdom.”

“Through the good will and grace of Your Only begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed, together with Your most holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

Now comes the actual baptism.

The Colonel leads Rebecca and Yvonne, holding my babies, nearer to the place where my hand is. He casts some smoking powder over the water in my palm. Sniffs like incense.

Beatrice prays silently: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.” (three times)

Then she exclaims aloud: “Bless, Master.”

The Colonel kisses the Holy Gospel, lifts it up with both hands, and lowering it, signs my ankle crosswise, saying: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The Colonel: “O compassionate and merciful God, Who tries the heart and the reins, and Who alone knows the secret thoughts of all (for no deeds are hidden before You, but all things are laid bare and manifest before Your eyes); Who knows all things concerning me, Who disregards man’s sins unto repentance, do not look upon me with loathing, nor turn Your face from me; do not consider my iniquities at this present hour. Wash away the vileness of my body, and the pollution of my soul. Sanctify me wholly by Your all-perfect, invisible might, and by Your spiritual right hand, lest, while I proclaim liberty to others, and administer this rite with perfect faith in Your ineffable love toward mankind, I myself may become the base slave of sin. Yes, O Master, Who alone are good and full of love toward mankind, do not let your humble servant be led astray; but send down upon me power from on high, and strengthen me in the administration of Your impending Mystery, which is both great and most heavenly. Create the image of Your Christ in her and him, who now desire to be born again through my unworthy ministry. Build her and him up upon the foundation of Your Apostles and Prophets, that she and he may not be overthrown; but implant them firmly as a plant of truth, in Your holy universal and apostolic Church, that they may not be plucked out.”

“That, as they increase in godliness, through them may be glorified Your all-holy Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The Blessing of the Baptismal Water.

The Colonel: “You are great, O Lord, and Your works are marvelous, and there is no word which is sufficient to sing of Your wonders.” (three times)

“For of Your own good will, You have brought into being all things which before were not, and by Your power You uphold creation, and by Your providence You order the world. When You had joined together the universe out of the elements, You crowned the circle of the year with four seasons. Before You tremble all the Powers endowed with intelligence. The sun sings to You. The moon glorifies You. The stars meet together before Your presence. The light obeys You. The deeps tremble before You. The water-springs are Your servants. You have spread out the heavens like a curtain. You have established the earth upon the waters. You have surrounded the sea with barriers of sand. You have spread out the air for breathing. The Angelic Powers serve You. The Choirs of the Archangels fall down in adoration before You. The many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim as they stand and fly, veil their faces in awe before Your ineffable glory. For You, the inexpressible God, existing uncreated before the ages and ineffable, descended upon the earth, and took on the semblance of a servant, and were made in the likeness of man. Because of the tender compassion of Your mercy, O Master, You could not endure to behold mankind oppressed by the Devil; but You came and saved us. We confess Your grace. We proclaim Your mercy. We do not conceal Your gracious acts. You have delivered the generation of our mortal nature. By Your birth You sanctified a Virgin’s womb. All creation magnifies You, for You have revealed Yourself. For You, O our God, have revealed Yourself upon the earth, and have dwelled among men. You hallowed the streams of Jordan, sending down upon them from heaven Your Holy Spirit, and crushed the heads of the demons who lurked there.”

The Colonel breathes on the water in my palm and says.

“Wherefore, O King Who loves mankind, come now and sanctify this water, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” (three times)

“And grant to it the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it the fountain of incorruption, the gift of sanctification, the remission of sins, the remedy of infirmities; the final destruction of demons, unassailable by hostile powers, filled with angelic might. Let those who would ensnare Your creature flee far from it. For we have called upon Your Name, O Lord, and it is wonderful, and glorious, and awesome even to adversaries.”

The ground beneath my feet trembles mildly for no more than 58 milliseconds. No one else notices.

The Colonel then blesses the water by dipping the fingers of his right hand into it and tracing the Sign of the Cross three times.

“Let all adverse powers be crushed beneath the sign of the image of Your Cross.” (three times)

“We implore You, O God, that every obscure phantom of the air may withdraw itself from us; and that no demon of darkness may conceal himself in this water; and that no evil spirit which instills darkening of intentions and rebelliousness of thought may descend into it with her and him who are about to be baptized.”

“But show this water, O Master of all, to be the water of redemption, the water of sanctification, the purification of flesh and spirit, the loosing of bonds, the remission of sins, the illumination of the soul, the washing of regeneration, the renewal of the Spirit, the gift of adoption to sonship, the garment of incorruption, the fountain of life. For You have said, O Lord: ‘Wash and be clean; put away evil things from your souls.’ You have bestowed upon us from on high a new birth through water and the Spirit. Therefore, O Lord, manifest Yourself in this water, and grant that she and he who is baptized therein may be transformed; that she and he may put away from herself (himself) the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh, and that she and he may, in like manner, be a partaker of Your Resurrection; and having preserved the gift of Your Holy Spirit, and increased the measure of grace committed to her and him, she and he may receive the prize of her and his high calling, and be numbered with the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, in You, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

“For to You belong glory, dominion, honor, and worship, together with Your Father, Who is from everlasting, and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The Colonel: “+ Peace be unto all.”

People: “And to your spirit.”

Beatrice: “Let us bow our heads to the Lord.”

People: “To You, O Lord.”

The Blessing of the Oil of the Catechumens.

Beatrice holds the vessel containing the oil and the Colonel breathes upon the vessel three times and likewise makes the Sign of the Cross over it three times with his right hand.

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “O Lord and Master, the God of our fathers, You sent to them that were in the ark of Noah, Your dove, bearing in its beak a twig of olive, the token of reconciliation and of salvation from the flood, the foreshadowing of the mystery of grace, and provided the fruit of the olive for the fulfilling of Your Holy Mysteries. You thereby fill them that were under the Law with Your Holy Spirit, and perfect them that are under grace. Bless also this holy oil with the power, operation and indwelling of Your Holy Spirit, that it may be an anointing unto incorruption, an armor of righteousness, to the renewing of soul and body, to the averting of every assault of the devil, to deliverance from all evil of those who shall be anointed with it in faith, or who are partakers thereof; unto Your glory and the glory of Your Only-begotten Son, and of Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

Beatrice: “Let us attend!”

The Colonel makes the Sign of the Cross three times in the water with the oil. Each time he chants:

The Colonel: “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

People: (each time) “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

The Colonel: “Blessed is God, Who illumines and sanctifies every man that comes into the world, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

The Anointing.

The Colonel proceeds to anoint my twins. He dips his two fingers into the blessed oil and traces the Sign of the Cross first on Easter then on Saturn as follows:

On the forehead.

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Easter, is anointed with the oil of gladness; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

On the breast and shoulders.

“Unto the healing of soul and body.”

On the ears.

“Unto the hearing of the faith.”

On the hands.

“Your hands have made and fashioned me.”

On the feet.

“That she may walk in the way of Your commandments.”

On the forehead.

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Saturn, is anointed with the oil of gladness; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

On the breast and shoulders.

“Unto the healing of soul and body.”

On the ears.

“Unto the hearing of the faith.”

On the hands.

“Your hands have made and fashioned me.”

On the feet.

“That he may walk in the way of Your commandments.”

The Baptism. Finally!

After the anointing, the Colonel takes Easter for baptism. Keeping her facing toward the East, the Colonel immerses her in the baptismal water three times, saying:

“The servant of God, Easter, is baptized, in the name of the Father, Amen. (Immerse); and of the Son, Amen. (Immerse); and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. (Immerse)”

The Colonel then takes the white baptismal garment, and placing it upon the newly baptized, says:

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Easter, is clothed in the robe of righteousness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

People: “Amen.”

Easter: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

As she is being clothed in the baptismal garment, the following Troparion is sung in Tone eight.

“Grant to me the robe of light, O Most Merciful Christ our God, Who clothe Yourself with light as with a garment.”

After this, the Colonel handles Easter to Rebecca and takes Saturn for baptism. Keeping him facing toward the East, the Colonel immerses him in the baptismal water three times, saying:

“The servant of God, Saturn, is baptized, in the name of the Father, Amen. (Immerse); and of the Son, Amen. (Immerse); and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. (Immerse)”

The Colonel then takes the white baptismal garment, and placing it upon the newly baptized, says:

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Saturn, is clothed in the robe of righteousness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

People: “Amen.”

Saturn: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

As he is being clothed in the baptismal garment, the following Troparion is sung in Tone eight.

“Grant to me the robe of light, O Most Merciful Christ our God, Who clothe Yourself with light as with a garment.”

The Chrismation.

After Easter and Saturn have been clothed in the white garments, the Colonel prays.

The Colonel: “Blessed are You, O Lord God Almighty, Source of all good things, Sun of Righteousness, shining on those who were in darkness the light of salvation, through the revelation of Your only-begotten Son and our God. You have given to us, unworthy though we be, blessed purification through hallowed water, and divine sanctification through life-giving Chrismation. Now, also, You have graciously regenerated Your servants that have received Illumination, by water and the Spirit, and have granted to them remission of sins, whether voluntary or involuntary. Likewise, O Master, compassionate King of kings, grant to her and him the seal of the gift of Your holy, almighty, and adorable Spirit, and participation in the holy Body and precious Blood of Your Christ. Keep her and him in Your sanctification; confirm her and him in the Orthodox faith; deliver her and him from the evil one, and from all his workings. Preserve her soul and his soul in purity and righteousness, through the saving fear of You; that she and he may please You in every word and deed, and may be children and heirs of Your heavenly kingdom.”

“For You are our God, the God Who shows mercy and saves us; and unto You we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The Colonel dips his fingers into the Holy ‘Chrism and anoints Easter and Saturn, tracing the Sign of the Cross on the forehead, the eyes, the nostrils, the lips, on both ears, the breast, the hands and the feet, and saying each time.

The Colonel: “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The People respond each time: “Sealed!!!”

The Rite of Ablution and Tonsure.

The First Prayer.

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “O Lord, through holy Baptism, You have given to Your servants remission of sins, and have bestowed upon them a life of regeneration. Likewise, the same Lord and Master, ever graciously illumine their hearts with the light of Your countenance. Maintain the shields of their faith unassailed by the enemy. Preserve pure and unpolluted the garment of incorruption with which You have clothed them, by Your grace, the seal of the Spirit, and showing mercy to them and to us, through the multitude of Your mercies.”

“For blessed and glorified is Your all-honorable and majestic Name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

A Second Prayer.

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “O Master, Lord our God, through the vast palm of their natural mother You bestow heavenly illumination upon them that are baptized. You have regenerated Your newly-baptized servants by water and the Spirit, and have granted to them remission of their sins, whether voluntary or involuntary. Lay Your almighty hand upon them and preserve them by the power of Your goodness. Maintain, unassailed, the earnest of the Spirit, and make them worthy of eternal life, and of Your favor.”

“For You are our sanctification, and unto You we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The Prayer with Heads Bowed.

The Colonel: + “Peace be unto all.”

People: “And to your spirit.”

Beatrice: “Let us bow our heads to the Lord.”

People: “To You, O Lord.”

The Colonel: “With us, they who have clothed themselves in You, O Christ our God, also bow their heads to You. Keep them ever as warriors, invincible in every attack of those who assail them and us; and make us all victors, even unto the end, through Your incorruptible crown.”

“For Yours it is to be merciful and to save us; and unto You we ascribe glory, together with Your Father Who is without beginning, and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins (they actually bowed their heads, which makes me think they’re getting it): “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.” (Are these smallest kids of mine the smartest of all? Just wondering, sorry to interrupt.)

The Colonel then dips the sponge in water and sprinkles Easter, saying:

The Colonel: “You are justified. You are illumined. You are sanctified. You are washed: in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.”

With the sponge the Colonel washes the oil and Chrism from the face, the head, the breast and all the other places, saying:

“You are baptized. You are illumined. You have been Chrismated. You are sanctified. You are washed: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The Colonel then dips the sponge in water and sprinkles Saturn, saying:

The Colonel: “You are justified. You are illumined. You are sanctified. You are washed: in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.”

With the sponge the Colonel washes the oil and Chrism from the face, the head, the breast and all the other places, saying:

“You are baptized. You are illumined. You have been Chrismated. You are sanctified. You are washed: in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The Tonsure.

Beatrice: “Let us pray to the Lord.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “O Master, Lord our God, You have honored mankind with Your own image, You have fashioned us with a reason-endowed soul and a pleasing body (for the body serves the reason-endowed soul). You placed the head above and endowed it with the chief portion of the senses, which, nevertheless, do not impede one another. You have covered the head with hair, that it not be injured with the changes of the weather, and have fitly joined together all our members, that with them all we may give thanks to You, the Great Creator. Likewise, O Master, through Your chosen vessel, the Apostle Paul, You have given us a commandment that we should do all things to Your glory. Bless, now, Your servants, Easter and Saturn, who have come to make a first offering shorn from the hair of her and his head, and likewise their Sponsor; and grant that they may all exercise themselves in Your law, and do those things which are well-pleasing in Your sight.”

“For You are a merciful God, Who loves mankind, and unto You we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The Prayer With Heads Bowed.

The Colonel: + “Peace be unto all.”

People: “And to your spirit.”

Beatrice: “Let us bow our heads to the Lord.”

People: “To You, O Lord.”

The Colonel: “O Lord our God, through the fulfilling of the baptismal palm of their natural mother, by Your goodness, You sanctify them that believe on You. Bless these Your servants, and let Your blessing descend upon their heads. And as You blessed David the King by the hand of Your Prophet Samuel, bless also the heads of Your servants, Easter and Saturn, by the hand of me, a sinner, inspiring them with Your Holy Spirit; that [as they increase in stature, and even unto a full age,] they may ascribe glory to You, and behold the good things of Jerusalem all the days of their life.”

“For to You belong all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

Taking the scissors, the Colonel cuts the hair of the newly-chrismated in the form of a cross, saying:

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Easter, is tonsured: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

People: “Amen.”

Easter: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Saturn, is tonsured: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

People: “Amen.”

Saturn: “Amein.”

Me: “Amein.”

My twins are now fully clothed.

Psalm 31 (32)

Guy (the helicopter guy, Guy): “Blessed are they whose wrongdoings are forgiven and whose sins are covered.”

“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not count or consider and in whose mouth there is no deceit.”

“Because I kept silent my bones grew old through my groaning all day long.”

“For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; I was reduced to misery while a thorn was stuck in me.”

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not hide my lawlessness. I said: “I will confess my sin to the Lord against myself.” And You forgave the ungodliness of my heart.”

“For this everyone who is holy will pray to You at a suitable time.”

“Then in a flood of many waters they will not come near him.”

“You are my refuge from the trouble surrounding me; my Joy, deliver me from those who encircle me.”

“I will teach you and instruct you in this way you should go, I will fix My eyes upon you.”

“Do not become like a horse and a mule which have no understanding, whose jaws you must hold with muzzle and bridle or they will not come near you.”

“Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy surrounds those who hope in the Lord.”

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous, and shout for joy, all who are honest in heart.”

Then the Colonel leads Easter and Saturn, and Rebecca and Yvonne, holding them in their arms, in a circular procession around my right hand. I have to lift my arm a bit so they can pass underneath. Everyone sings:

All: “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Alleluia!” (three times)

The Epistle Reading.

Beatrice turns to face Guy and says.

Beatrice: “Let us attend!”

The Colonel: + “Peace be unto all.”

Guy: “And to your spirit.”

Beatrice: “Wisdom!”

Guy: “The Prokeimenon in the third tone:”

“The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?”

People: “The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?”

Guy: “The Lord is the strength of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?”

People: “The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?”

Guy: “The Lord is my light and my salvation…”

People: “…whom shall I fear?”

Beatrice: “Wisdom!”

Guy: “The reading from the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Romans.”

Beatrice: “Let us attend!”

As Guy chants the appointed Epistle, Beatrice takes up the censer and says to the Colonel.

Beatrice: “Bless, Master the incense.”

The Colonel: + “Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.”

Beatrice: “Amen.”

Beatrice does a Lesser Censing, beginning with the Holy Gospel and table, the surroundings, the Colonel, and the People. She then returns and gives up the censer.

Guy: “Brethren, do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Upon the completion of the Epistle, the Colonel blesses Guy.

The Colonel: + “Peace to you who read.”

Guy: “And to your spirit.”

Beatrice: “Wisdom!”

Guy: “Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

Guy chants the two Alleluia verses. After each one, the people sing the Alleluia.

Beatrice: (to the Colonel) “Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.”

The Colonel: “Illumine our hearts, O Master, Lover of mankind, with the pure light of Your divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Your gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Your blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things that are well-pleasing to You,”

“for You are the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto You we ascribe glory, together with Your Father, Who is without beginning, and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

Beatrice: “Amen.”

The Gospel.

“Wisdom! Let us attend! Let us listen to the Holy Gospel.”

The Colonel: + “Peace be unto all.”

People: “And to your spirit.”

The Colonel: “The reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew.”

People: “Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You.”

Beatrice: “Let us attend!”

The Colonel: “At that time the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'”

People: “Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You.”

The Colonel replaces the Gospel upon the Antimension. Beatrice bows to the Colonel, goes to her place and says.

The Litany of Fervent Supplication.

Beatrice: “Let us say with all our soul and with all our mind, let us say.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

Beatrice: “O Lord almighty, the God of our fathers, we implore You, hear us and have mercy.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.”

Beatrice: “Have mercy on us, O God, according to Your great goodness, we implore You, hear us and have mercy.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.” (three times)

Beatrice: “Again we pray for Madame la Présidente and all civil authorities of this country and for those serving in its Armed Forces.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.” (three times)

Beatrice: “Again we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, and visitation for the servant of God Rebecca, the Sponsor, and for the newly-illumined servants of God, Easter and Saturn, and for the pardon and remission of their sins.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.” (three times)

Beatrice: “That they may be kept in the faith by a pure confession, in all godliness, and the fulfilling of the commandments of Christ, all the days of her and his life.”

People: “Lord, have mercy.” (three times)

Beatrice returns to her place to the right of the Colonel.

The Colonel: “O Lord our God, accept this fervent supplication of Your servants, and have mercy on us according to the multitude of Your mercy. Send down Your bounties upon us, and upon all Your people who await the rich mercy that comes from You,”

“for You are a merciful God, and You love mankind, and unto You we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.”

People: “Amen.”

Twins: “Amein”

Me: “Amein.”

The Churching.

After the Baptism has been performed, The Colonel, while taking Easter in his arms and making the sign of the Cross with her, says.

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Easter, is churched: In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

As he walks into the Church with the child, the Colonel says:

“She enters into Your house, to worship towards Your Holy Temple.”

In the middle of the church. (I can’t see an actual building, so I imagine one.)

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Easter, is churched: In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

“In the midst of the church shall she sing praises to You.”

Then the Colonel carries the child a couple of meters more and says.

“The servant of God, Easter, is churched: In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

After the Colonel has given Easter in the arms of Rebecca, he is taking Saturn in his arms and making the sign of the Cross with him, he says.

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Saturn, is churched: In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

As he walks into the Church with the child, the Colonel says:

“He enters into Your house, to worship towards Your Holy Temple.”

In the middle of the church. (That I imagine.)

The Colonel: “The servant of God, Saturn, is churched: In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

“In the midst of the church shall he sing praises to You.”

Then the Colonel carries the child a couple of meters more and says.

“The servant of God, Saturn, is churched: In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The Canticle of St. Simeon.

“Master, now let Your servant depart in peace according to Your word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all people: a light for revelation to the gentiles and for the glory of Your people Israel.”

The Colonel now returns baby Saturn to Rebecca. As she did with baby Easter a few seconds before, Beatrice breaks a corner of unleavened bread and, dipped in a chalice of red wine, places it on baby Saturn’s lips. Like his sister, he gulps it instantly. I sense less gravity in my feet. Wow! Beatrice, how about you… I get an ice slip on my spine, together with a “Shhh!” from Beatrice. Guess that I must calm down. Which I do.

The Dismissal.

The Colonel turns toward the icon of Christ and prays.

The Colonel: “Glory to You, O Christ, our God and our hope, glory to You.”

People: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

“Lord, have mercy.” (three times)

“Father, bless.”

Standing in the center of the platform (I can see a marker there), facing the congregation, the Colonel says.

The Colonel: “May He Who deigned to be baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation, Christ our true God, through the prayers of His most pure Mother; of the holy, glorious, and all-laudable Apostles; of our father among the saints, (John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople or Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia); of Saint Michael (Patron Saint of Paratroopers) of Sainte Barbe (Patron Saint of Pioneers); of Saint Bernard and of Saint Stephen, whom we commemorate today; of the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna; and of all the saints: have mercy on us and save us for He is good and loves mankind.”

People: “Amen.”

The Colonel: “Grant, O Lord, a prosperous and peaceful life, health, salvation, and furtherance in all things, to the newly-baptized servants of God, Easter and Saturn, and to their Sponsors and Parents, and to all those gathered here, and preserve them for many years.”

People: “God grant you many years!”

The Colonel: “Legio Patria Nostra!”

People: “Legio Patria Nostra!”

“Légionnaire d’un jour, légionnaire toujours!”

Thus ends the long ceremony, with the people (paratroopers, pioneers, chefs, pilots and I don’t know what other occupations they may have) breaking ranks and, silently chattering, going round back to the elevator. By round I mean that they visit Easter and Saturn for a smile, a little hand shake and a blessing, then they wave at me before heading for the exit. I’ve put a happy smile on my face, having my right eye over the crowd and my left focusing on the soldier who approaches in line to wave, or say “Hello!” or “Good job!” or “Gee, you’re big!” or just “God bless!” or “Peace be upon you!”

As I blink them back (with one eye), I count them (a total of 1234 képi blancs) and scan them properly. Many Caucasians but a confident third of Middle Eastern looking men, then few dozens of Asians and Africans.

Hey! Anyone. What am I about to do with the water in my hand here?

“Oh, darling,” speaks Beatrice to me, “drink it and tell me how it feels.”

An order or a suggestion? I don’t care. Slurp and the palm is dry again (I know how to slurp with high efficiency). How do I feel? Well… Nothing special… Nothing yet… No difference… Just… that… tickle in my feet… my calves feel light and jolly… Oh my! Can I? Beatrice? Can I fly?

“Be my guest!”

Whooohaaa… yoo-hoo… That is amazing! How did you do this?

“Me? I did nothing.”

But you did very well assisting the Colonel during the ceremony. I was wondering…

“Yes…”

“This Baptism was performed according to the Eastern Orthodox rite.”

“So it was.”

But I’ve noticed a fair number of Lutherans, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists… In fact, the Lutherans make the majority, followed closely by the Catholics with the Orthodox soldiers coming on a distant third place. I don’t quite understand.

“You don’t understand because you think with a religious mind.”

Wasn’t this a religious ceremony?

“It was not. Apparently, it looks that way to religious people. But you know, we have told you, that we are not religious people.”

I’m at lost…

“Again… Oh poor dear Astarte… Are you a goddam goddess?”

Of course not. I’m a woman.

“But did men and daemons see you as a goddess.”

Yes, they did.

“However, you were a woman then like you are a woman now. Hey! You can even fly now. Then you couldn’t.”

You’re saying?

“I’m saying that many of our interpretations run on wishful thinking.”

Good. Then what kind of ceremony was this?

“It was a military operation.”

Beg your pardon?

“You’ve heard Rebecca talking about that tablet thing, a computer from Kronos. Right?”

I did.

“The Colonel stays in touch with Kronos, who is extremely concerned about the well-being of his twins.”

My twins…

“And his. You didn’t make them by yourself.”

This is correct.

“Kronos asked the Colonel to perform the Baptism according to the Eastern Orthodox rite.”

But why?

“Kronos wants an optimal formula for the upbringing of your twins.”

Which is?

“This Baptism has just registered them on a superior level of existence.”

I know, but any kind of baptism could have done the same thing. Even the simple saying of an ordinary woman could have had them added up that level.

“Indeed. Just that Kronos, and the Colonel, expect more from the twins. Nothing that fits the ordinary. This is why the Baptism had to be done by the book, in order to stand beyond time.”

I still don’t get it.

“You will, these days. You will.” Beatrice turns to congratulate Rebecca and Yvonne – each holding a twin in her arms.

“Oh, Rebecca! You are the most wonderful Godmother of all times. I’m so happy for you… Oh! Happy Birthday to you! Today you turn one hundred. Not bad. Not bad at all…”

“You’re such a gem, Beatrice. This is the most magnificent present…” Rebecca is interrupted by Beatrice.

“How about you thank Astarte?”

“Thank you, Astarte, for this priceless birthday present!”

You’re welcome! Happy Birthday, Rebecca!

“And you, Yvonne, the best doctor in the universe!” Beatrice swiftly turns to her.

“How could you know that?” Replies Yvonne in disbelief.

“Just a metaphor, dear. Besides, be prepared to hear more exaggerated compliments through the coming days.”

“Really? Are you insinuating that the Colonel was serious last night?”

“I do.”

“They wish to make a mad scientist out of me. Huh?”

With all due respect, dear little thing, but you have to admit…

“Yes, Astarte, I admit: turning men into women is crazy science. That was my work, my achievement, but rejuvenating Rebecca and helping her birthing a pair of twins at the age of eighty-one years? This is not my do. Why should I be acclaimed for something I did not?”

Wait, wait! Hello!!… Darlings?… What are you talking about?…

“The Colonel informed us that in seven days the twins will mature. Is this so?”

It is, more or less… Seven days, yes…

“You can’t get on the public Tubes parading seven days old toddlers that look like Michelangelo’s David and Raquel Welch, can you?”

Hey! Hey! Why get my twins in the media?

“Look, Astarte. You’ve just told us that the Golden Age is about to begin; that the ancient Romans had celebrated Saturnalia but that era belonged not to the past because it’s just ahead of us. Remember?”

I did. Yes. This is true.

“Seems that your lover boy, and father of your children, has transmitted the same info to the Colonel. The difference between Kronos and you is accuracy and planning as opposed to dreaming and dreaming. You see what I mean?”

And what’s the plan? Always those men planning for us. Uhm…

“Easter Johannson and Saturn Johannson have been born on August 20, 2003, to Rebecca and Alain Johannson; they are French citizens like their parents. Madame la doctoresse Yvonne Loiret, graduating that year, has presented an innovative method of rejuvenation and pregnancy carriage in an eighty-one years old woman’s womb. Kronos is altering the public memories of those involved so that Yvonne will be no more the outcast she is now but one of the most publicly praised doctors of the century.”

Can Kronos do that?

“He did it before. As simple as altering the backups. Hell, he was capable to disfigure an entire universe. So yes, he can! And he did it again.”

Good. Then why did the Colonel invite over a thousand people to the Baptism? Isn’t this a conflict of interests?

“Seemingly. Depends where you look.”

I look straight, dear Rebecca. I was thrilled and euphoric during the ceremony of giving my twins to Christ. I even had an imponderable moment. It was sublime… and short-lived… because now I’m given to hear… and make some sense of… a whole bunch of new daemonic machinations. This Golden Age from the dreams of Kronos… what’s the price for it? My twins? The truth? You’ve already stolen my babies to use them for your purposes. Without consulting me first. How comes?

“Consulting you first?, when you were an open book for any passerby to read? Really?, Astarte… Put your feet on the granite and think a little.”

Ah, that… Oh, wait. You mean that… Since when do I have an option to hide my mind from humans?

“You don’t. At least concerning your entire mind. But, since you’ve birthed the twins, took part in the Baptism à la carte… and drank the holy water from your palm, you have cleaned yourself enough to retain control of private data. The subject of our discussion is classified, this means it must not be available to any public telepathy cloud you may encounter. Do you understand?

“And even if she won’t,” chimes in Beatrice, “I’ve made sure to encrypt these data for her. Astarte, this conversation will look like gibberish to outsiders. Hope you don’t mind.”

Minding? I thank you for taking so much care of me. I never could do this on my own.

“The Colonel has assigned paratroopers and engineers, along with some intelligence minds, to be present at the true history as we have written it together. These people are witnesses.”

“Or insiders,” intervenes Rebecca. “They are about to befriend Easter and Saturn and train them for their mission.”

Men with a mission… That scares me!

“Me too, dear. Me too!”