Chains of Command: Or Why André Answers to a Chaplain

Ah, Army logic, and military logic in general (pun intended). In the Familiars world, the Spell Eruption Event caught a lot of people by surprise, including military around the world. As happens with most [all?] bureaucracies, the military was slow to sort out just how to deal with this, or if magic existed at all.

According to tradition—and each branch of the US Armed Forces claims it for their own—military magic began with a ticked-off NCO who possessed greater creativity of invective than most. Somewhere in Southwest Asia, this ticked-off NCO cursed the guy shooting at him, with more intensity and vehemence than usual. The Army version that André heard was that the curse was something along the lines of “may your [manhood] turn into fleas with claws and halitosis, and your ammunition turn into locusts.” Whatever the actual phrasing, the results were 1. a suddenly exhausted sergeant who beheld 2. a suddenly screaming foe who dropped his weapon and his trousers, grabbed his [groin region] and fled, 3. with his associates not far behind.

Duplicating this success proved to be more of a challenge. Finding a place for magic in the military made sending multiple abyssal creatures back to their places of origin at the same time look easy by comparison. For their part, those magic workers already in the military were not entirely pleased with having their faith traditions turned into part of the Table of Organization. The Wiccans especially could not quite get it through the heads of the Powers that Be that their magic was not suited to short-notice, battlefield applications. Those who followed Asatru handled it a bit better, but there were still warm differences of opinion. Things like “ill-intent returns three-fold” and “harm none, do as thou wilt,” are not concepts bureaucrats of any kind take at face value.

I can tell that you are not at all surprised by this.

The US Army, in its collective wisdom, decided that since magic came with curses, and curses were sort of traditionally religious, therefore the best place to deal with magic was . . . the Chaplains’ Corps. And no gainsaying or opposition would change the minds of the Pentagon. The Roman Catholic chaplains sort of shrugged, some of the Protestants were OK with it, and others came unglued at being forced to have responsibility “for people who handle the tools and arms of Satan.”

By the time André came into his (undesired) power, things had sorted out. He and Rodney are assigned as special assistants to the chaplain’s office of an infantry unit, and officially answer to the chaplain. In reality they answer to the command chain of the unit just as if they were any other specialty temporarily tacked on for a mission-specific need. No, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s the Army Way. André goes where he’s sent, does what he’s supposed to (most of the time, or at least when there is a large enough number of witnesses of sufficient rank), and has stopped asking unanswerable questions like “Why?” and “In what plane of existence does this make sense?”

This becomes sort of important in Intensely Familiar.

25 thoughts on “Chains of Command: Or Why André Answers to a Chaplain

  1. Soinds like this will be great fun to read.
    Like “adventures”, in other words, nasty, dangerous, uncomfortable things happening to other people a long way away, because if it is happening to you, here and now, it’s an “oh sh*t” moment.

  2. Surely they should have fallen under the Education Department? I mean, if a magic worker has difficulties, it’s because he can’t spell . . .


  3. Thought about this three times, including a second check to ensure Tay hadn’t replaced my coffee with decaf.

    You created something more cataclysmic and far-reaching than the 1947 Key West Agreement, or the Spell Eruption Event. You turned the Chaplain Corps into part of the line, no longer combat service support. Think of them like Field Artillery, Aviation, or Signal. Chief of Chaplains now has an outside straight chance of becoming Chief or Vice Chief of Staff.

    Lesser and greater demons cannot withstand the righteous fury of earning a combat command slot.

  4. Makes as much sense as any other option, really.
    Plus, chaplains tend to be good-natured, and if they have something to prove, it isn’t to the BC.
    A TAD as chaplain’s driver was considered a plum gig.

  5. In the Lord Darcy series, the Church licenses Magic Workers although generally speaking Magic Workers are under the authority of Secular Powers including IIRC a Magic Worker Guild. 😀

    • In Tokyo Ravens, Yakou Tsuchimikado plundered the secrets of Japan’s religious sects to create the Imperial Onmyodou magical system. Yakou later died performing a ritual that went so badly that Hirohito decided that surrender was necessary, and Imperial Onmyodou was demilitarized into General Onmyodou.

      Obviously, I find that a dissatisfying explanation for WWII. So my fanfic requires some additional world building.

      Looking at it as history, I notice that I’ve only created the backstory needed for the story I’m doing. As history, there would have been answers to some of these concerns before and prior to the BIA forming their organization. So I may need to have a couple of the interested parties do a ‘well, akshully’ discussion.

      The BIA’s organization was the basis for the American WWII organization that developed the American military’s first modern magical system. Lovecraft died a couple of decades /after/ the war, and was a key player in the WWII organization. After the war, he served as a commanding officer of the magical side of the occupation, which continued in part after the regular occupation ceased, and is now headquartered out of Fort Lovecraft in Japan. A lot of the officers and maybe NCOs of that occupation organization have been trained at Robert E. Howard Defense Seminary, which is not a genuine seminary of the sort that trains priests and ministers who have a vocation. The graduates are very definitely not Chaplains.

      • Oh, I didn’t get far enough into Tokyo Ravens for that. But it makes sense to analogize Imperial Shinto into also having Imperial Onmyodo, given that official Onmyodo practitioners did use to be part of the Imperial bureaucracy. (Okay, several centuries ago, but who knows what’s going on in the inner recesses of a bureaucracy?)

      • I think that wasn’t addressed to me, but I’m fairly familiar with Index.

        My project is actually a crossover, that attempts to merge several anime bizarre takes on theurgy that are somewhat incompatible.

        The obvious issue with Index is that Stiyl and Index are blatantly a little young for vocations, and the whole situation smells of church leadership failures. (Of course, what we find out later about the senior Anglican church leadership figure in Index…)

  6. Interesting twist, and PK is right… And the competition between the chaplains would be ‘interesting’ to watch… from a distance, a great distance… I did know an Army chaplain, colonel, one each who was also a pretty good magician. His ‘sermons’ were… interesting!

  7. It gets worse … chaplains as a combat arm now get a much higher seat at the Acquisition table, where the money flows.

    Army and Marines both want the lightweight XM12 Psychic Combat Operations System (yes, PSYCO) with a copper- silver layer in its spall liner (now a spell liner). The Navy suffered infighting over remains of the A-12 program moving from Aviation to Weapons, in support of the Mk52 Area Mer Neutralizer (AMEN), for use on mer-folk, marauding Deep Ones, and the Mod2 nuclear version for kaiju.

    Air Force won’t say, but expects Geat Things from their prime contractors. However, the Army took great delight in funding a new silver-alloy round in 30mm, for the A-10. Just for “interservice cooperation,” mind you.

    Incoming carp and a bucket of cold water would be a relief. Your mind wanders in Familiar ways, when mulching on a humid morning.

  8. Note that this potentially has Geneva Conventions ramifications, as chaplains overseeing combatants may end up losing their Retained Persons status.

    • The chaplain already does this. His driver is trained infantry, armed, and is authorized to use deadly force to protect the chaplain.
      The enemies who wouldn’t maintain observance of the status, are the same ones who wouldn’t observe the G.C. either.

    • Index really doesn’t make sense, in a lot of different ways. There’s maybe two people working in anime who actually have any idea how devout Christians think, much less Catholics or Anglicans. And if it seems normal at first, you have to hold on tighter in preparation for crackiness. (See Vatican Investigators. Hooboy. Or don’t.)

      Of course, there’s a wide variety of people working in anime who don’t really understand Shinto or Buddhism, either. Or who don’t care.

      • To be fair… pre-modern times expected earlier vocations, just as they expected apprenticeships and training as a soldier or farmer to start early. In practice, minors weren’t usually bound to permanent oaths, but it was just as common for a kid to be given at elementary school age to a convent or a cathedral choir as to a master craftsman. It was training, yes, but they were already entering their professional/vocational lives.

        The reason they usually didn’t bind minors permanently to a vocation was that puberty changes people.

        But there were plenty of examples of kids who announced their vocations early and stuck with it their entire lives, and it would be silly to keep kids back entirely.

        Index seems to be some kind of ovate, where her parents gave her up to the Church or she was an orphan. (I don’t remember the Index backstory these days.) This went by the precedent of how Hannah gave Baby Samuel to the Lord (via the high priest Eli) as a thank offering for her prayer for a child being answered.

  9. Well, wouldn’t that make it likely that there are also civilian contractors and civilian consultants wandering around who are mages, etc.? I mean, anybody working directly in the military would probably be more combat-concerned, but they’d need other stuff sometimes.

    Also, if you are working for the chaplain corps, wouldn’t that get you involved with chaplain stuff like packing up people’s things? (And checking for curses?)

    • Checking for curses, yes. The Chaplains’ Corps tries to keep magic-based and faith-based functions somewhat separate.

      There are a few civilian consultants, but the Army at least prefers to keep magical things “in house.” That may change over time.

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