The Church of the Holy Engineer

Many years ago I read Lois McMaster Bujold’s novel “Falling Free.” In that novel a sign was mentioned that read (paraphrased from memory): “On the eighth day, God saw that he could not do it all, so he created Engineers.”

The moment I read that “The Church of the Holy Engineer” was born.  The key doctrine is that building is an act of creation, an act of worship.  Building, pushing the limits of what can be built, and doing it with superb craftsmanship are acts of devotion.  Likewise is pushing back the frontier of knowledge to expand what can be built.  Inventors are honored as prophets.

Needless to say, adherents have a strong tendency to go into science and tech fields.

I haven’t actually used it yet in any of my published work, but it plays a part in this snippet:

In the Number Three Power Room, Particle Engineers Mate Second, Eric Thomas ignored the general quarters alarm as he hung suspended above Particle Generator G, Gertie as the crew called her.  Haste would only delay his task.

“How’s that, Vel?”

From her position at the test station, Vel Sanders, Particle Engineer’s Mate First, ran a test signal through the recalcitrant primary feed then examined the readout.

“A bit more, Eric.”

Thomas chewed on his lip and turned the adjustment screw one more sixteenth of a turn.  Inside, that modest movement was divided several million times, tweaking the position of the feed unit a small fraction of an atom’s width. “Now?”

Sanders repeated her test and nodded, satisfied, “Spot on, Eric.  Button up and clear the area.”

“Right.” Thomas reached into the inspection port and removed the test crystal from its holder.  He sealed up the Particle Generator, lowered himself from the rail above it and quick-marched out of the generator room.  The massive shield door shut behind him.

“Fire it up,” he said into the intercom beside the door.

“Let us sing praises to the Holy Engineer,” Sanders said and activated the Particle Generator.  Inside, the feed, joined with hundreds of others met at a tiny point at the center of the generator, a point smaller than an atom, smaller than a proton, as much smaller than the proton is than the proton is smaller than a baseball.  At that tiny point the beams induced a self-sustaining implosion compressing the mass energy of the beams smaller still.

For an instant, the smallest of black holes formed at the center of the particle generator, formed and almost as quickly exploded.  Then, for the barest instant after exploding it left a naked singularity in its wake. For that unmeasurable instant of time, in that equally unmeasurable point in space, the laws of physics ceased to exist.  Anything could come from that pure chaos, anything at all. But by tuning the conditions around it, where the laws of physics still held, Particle Engineers could control what came out of it. And what came out of this one was antimatter, specifically anti-hydrogen.  Auxiliary systems grabbed the antimatter and fed it into the first stage reaction chamber where it met ordinary matter, simple water in this case, producing the energies used to drive the Noah.

“All green,” Sanders reported. “And, Eric, helmet.”

Reflexively, Thomas unzipped his collar, allowing the flexible helmet bubble to unfold, surround his head, and seal itself back to his collar.

Thomas swore as the output of Power Room Three dropped again.  A shorted feed had burned out Hepzibah. Secondary radiation from a near strike had fried Imelda.  Jezebel had just not worked. Now Kailani had failed.

“Vel, what’s up?”

No answer.


Thomas swore at the silent com link.  He motioned for the work crew that stood with him outside the door to the power room to step back while he keyed in the override for the door. Moving his lips in a silent prayer for luck, he stepped into the doorway.

He didn’t drop dead so the particle generator must have shut down.

Another hit had torn into the power room.  It did not seem to have hit the particle generator but…Thomas visualized the power routings.  Yes, it had cut the primary feed to the generator. Kailani was probably okay if they could just feed her with juice.

Sanders still was not answering.  The same hit that had clipped the cable had also vaporized the access ladder.

“Vel?  Come on, Sanders, Answer.”

Still no response.

Thomas switched to local broadcast on his com link to address the work crew. “Break out five meters of number three power cable from Locker Twelve A.  I’m going to check on control.”

“On it, Engineer’s Mate.”

Thomas looked up at the control room again.  The access ladder was gone, but that would hardly stop a particle engineer’s mate.  He leaped and caught hold of the support structure, curling his body he reached up with his legs to hook them over another brace then twisted to find a new handhold.  In seconds he reached the door of the control room and wormed his way through it.

Another hit had punctured the hull, cutting through a corner of the control room and spraying it with superheated plasma.  Sanders charred corpse lay crumpled in the corner.

“Shit.  May your Engineer keep you, Vel.”  Shaking his head, Thomas switched to the engineering frequency. “Engineering, Power Room Three.  I need a particle engineering rating here.”

“No can do, Power Room Three.”

“Look,” Thomas said, “I can get this thing back up, but I lost my partner.  I need someone to run the board while I work the hardware, or someone to work the hardware while I run the board.  Either way, I can’t do it alone.”

“You’re going to have to.  Nobody’s available.”

“The access gangway is gone.” Thomas felt his voice rising. “I had to climb up the support structure to get in here.  I can’t….”

“You’ll have to.  Nobody’s available.  Now do your job and clear this frequency.”

Thomas shut off the com link. “Right.  And fuck you too.” He wriggled the rest of the way into the control room.

The control board revealed its secrets to his probing hands.  The telltales revealed where the power feeds were damaged and he rapidly worked out where he’d have to install bypass cable to get Kailani back up.  He would have to drop back down to the power room to supervise the work crew in making the repairs then climb back up into the control room to test them and restore power.  He could do it. It would just take forever.

He did not have forever.  The near miss of an antimatter warhead sprayed plasma into the power room so fast he did not have time to realize he was dead.

One thought on “The Church of the Holy Engineer”

  1. I use the Engineer as a religious term in The Book Of Lost Doors, but I took my inspiration from Clive Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart”.

    There is a catchphrase that several of my characters use, “Blessed is the Engineer, and blessed are the works of His hands.”


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