1 " We will be judged according to our ability. The retired couple who count the offering every Sunday, never divulging the amount anyone in the congregation contributes, will not be tested in the same way as the millionaire who wants an inscription on the stained glass window, so everyone will know who donated it. Some of the most severe tests will be given to the [preachers] for the way in which they handled the Word of God. There will be no reward for leading others astray in lifestyle or in doctrine through false teaching. "
" He was almost at his door when Vik’s earsplitting shriek resounded down the corridor. Tom was glad for the excuse to sprint back toward him. “Vik?”
He reached Vik’s doorway as Vik was backing out of it. “Tom,” he breathed, “it’s an abomination.”
Confused, Tom stepped past him into the bunk. Then he gawked, too.
Instead of a standard trainee bunk of two small beds with drawers underneath them and totally bare walls, Vik’s bunk was virtually covered with images of their friend Wyatt Enslow. There were posters all over the wall with Wyatt’s solemn, oval face on them. She wore her customary scowl, her dark eyes tracking their every move through the bunk. There was a giant marble statue of a sad-looking Vik with a boot on top of its head. The Vik statue clutched two very, very tiny hands together in a gesture of supplication, its eyes trained upward on the unseen stomper, an inscription at its base, WHY, OH WHY, DID I CROSS WYATT ENSLOW?
Tom began to laugh.
“She didn’t do it to the bunk,” Vik insisted. “She must’ve done something to our processors.”
That much was obvious. If Wyatt was good at anything, it was pulling off tricks with the neural processors, which could pretty much be manipulated to show them anything. This was some sort of illusion she was making them see, and Tom heartily approved.
He stepped closer to the walls to admire some of the photos pinned there, freeze-frames of some of Vik’s more embarrassing moments at the Spire: that time Vik got a computer virus that convinced him he was a sheep, and he’d crawled around on his hands and knees chewing on plants in the arboretum. Another was Vik gaping in dismay as Wyatt won the war games.
“My hands do not look like that.” Vik jabbed a finger at the statue and its abnormally tiny hands. Wyatt had relentlessly mocked Vik for having small, delicate hands ever since Tom had informed her it was the proper way to counter one of Vik’s nicknames for her, “Man Hands.” Vik had mostly abandoned that nickname for “Evil Wench,” and Tom suspected it was due to the delicate-hands gibe.
Just then, Vik’s new roommate bustled into the bunk.
He was a tall, slim guy with curly black hair and a pointy look to his face. Tom had seen him around, and he called up his profile from memory:
NAME: Giuseppe Nichols
RANK: USIF, Grade IV Middle, Alexander Division
ORIGIN: New York, NY
ACHIEVEMENTS: Runner-up, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
SECURITY STATUS: Top Secret LANDLOCK-4
Giuseppe must’ve been able to see the bunk template, too, because he stuttered to a stop, staring up at the statue. “Did you really program a giant statue of yourself into your bunk template? That’s so narcissistic.”
Tom smothered his laughter. “Wow. He already has your number, man.”
Vik shot him a look of death as Tom backed out of the bunk. "
3 " Epitaph n: an inscription on a tomb showing that virtues acquired by death have a retroactive effect. "