Battle Brothers, and Battle Sisters
The idea of female Space Marines is often debated on 40K forums, with each new generation of gamers end up asking the same questions as my generation did. The topic never dies for long, and reawakens with new gamers wanting answers and having dreams of creating the ultimate Amazons. In a sci-fi setting almost anything is possible in theory, but no female Space Marine has ever been portrayed in the background of 40K. This seems to be an absolute rule. However this is not the whole story, and delving into the deep past of 40K, it seems the Sisters of Battle started out pretty much the same of the Space Marines in many respects...
In the beginning: The Space Marines of the Rogue Traders where 'chemically enhanced' and lacked all the implants we know about today - except for the 'black carapace' which has been there since the beginning. There was no mention of the Primarchs, or the Horus Heresy. During this early era the Space Marines were merely tough storm troopers, and not that different from the Sisters of Battle...
The Sisters were pretty much a match of the Space Marines in every way: they had the same gear and abilities, a similar organisational structure, and actually went toe to toe with the Space Marines. To put it into perspective it's the Sisters who police the Space Marine Chapters, and will take down a Chapter they judge as impure. The Sisters were as strong, and as powerful, as any Space Marine - an equal match.
Even the old style of the Sisters armour was basically the same as the Space Marines, smaller shoulder pads and a matron's bosom chest armour - but pretty much 'Female Space Marines'.
Power creep: The Space Marines kept getting stronger and stronger over the editions, they gained the whole Horus Heresy, implants, and Primarchs. The Sisters gained nothing.
Re-balance: If the Space Marines can be retconned into demi-god Herculean beings, why not boost the Sisters in the power stakes too?
In order to rebalance the power divide between the two, I suppose you could down graded the Space Marines (shock-horror), or upgrade the Sisters. I would go with an upgrading to the Sisters.
The Sisters need a new background to explain these powers, and they need their own 'Horus Heresy' level epic (which they have in part). Instead of retconning the background to make this fit, how about the Sister's big story is contemporary to current 40K - their story starts now?
Ideas - 'marine': In effect the Sisters should be upgraded to match the current Space Marines in ability, but how to go about this is in a way to make them different is a bit of a head scratcher. I suppose you could go with straight copying, and have 'female' Space Marines, as in female that go through the current marine process, but the marines are such a male archetype, and the process so extreme, any woman who goes through the process would probably look like every other marine. No vestige of femininity would remain at all, which kinda defeats the whole purpose of a 'female' Space Marines!
To accomplish this I imagine that the Ad-Mec/ Apothecaries would first turn the women into a man (sex-change), and then turn the 'man' into a marine. However that is an extra step, and there are loads of men (I sure there are other theories that avoid this step). Yet the basic fact remains that no matter which why you go there would be nothing feminine about a 'female' based Space Marine. They would have a very masculine face, with slight giantism, and look more 'male' than most regular males!
If you move away from this, and attempt to emphasis the feminine, you run into problems. If you try and make 'her' look female, by adding curves to the power armour, it will diminish the heavily masculine iconic design of the armour. In truth you would be hard pushed to better than the current Sisters of Battle armour design, but it is not heavy and masculine like a marine. I like the current Sisters armour, but how do you ramp up the power yet keep them feminine?
Perhaps the answer is to look an the classical female ethos and traits, and draw from the archetypal aspects of women in goddesses and heroes and play to that. Women would go about things differently, and their reasons to fight and war are grounded in deeper drives of survival rather than bravado. These deeper drives, the fight for survival, and faith may provide an answer. More matron than psycho.
Ideas - faith: Perhaps their faith based powers could be expanded?
These powers could strengthen their bodies and minds instead of the marine like implants. All natural. This could be explained as channelling the power of the Emperor, and form of 'warp enhancement'. It would tie into the old story that human are latent Psykers, and the Sisters are tapping into the power of the Emperor in his near death state (and possible nascent godhood), to release powers humans do not normally exhibit (yet they may have naturally, but are normally latent).
Perhaps this could be combined with closer ties with the Adeptus Mechanicus, as some factions of Ad-Mec could consider the Space Marine project a failure (half turned to chaos) and seek to empower the Sisters. They could do with some more advanced power armour (perhaps their sleek armour is just as good?), perhaps instead of the black carapace they have full MIU, maybe combine it with synth-skin technologies.
As a final flourish I would like to see more anti-Psyker abilities, anti-daemon powers, wards, and weird 'miracles'. Push the Sisters much more an 'angels' and 'saints'. Women transforming into angels?
Opposite forces: It would be like Ying and Yang. Equal but different. Where Space Marines derived their power from are implants and physical ability, the Sisters would gain their power from faith in the Emperor which now (in this idea, and for current 40K) translate into actual power ups.
The Sisters would be 'blessed', they are stronger and more resilient than most mortals because of their faith inducing psyker like effects.
Perhaps to pay up the Ying Yang idea, the Sisters have toughness in other ways; like rapid healing and regeneration, and able to 'faith heal'. All attributed to the Emperor of course (the latent Psyker element would be downplayed in doctrine, as the Sisters are none to keen on Psykers and chaos).
The Saints would be the extreme of this.
As an archetype I suppose it is moving them closer to that of 'cleric' in the RPG sense with older, more experienced, Sisters channelling more and more power. I know a few female gamers and they do tend to like cleric types.
In the end the Sisters would be as powerful as the Marines but not in the same way. The Sisters would not be bio-enhanced super women, they would remain natural women, but at the same time it would be clear the Sisters could take on the Marines and win. After all - when they were introduced; they were responsible for policing the chapters, and would destroy chapters that had (in their judgement) become corrupt. They would invade a home world and actually take Marines down with bolters and hand weapons - toe to toe (a bit hard to believe in with the current fluff).
Equal yet different.
I guess they would also fight in a different manner, perhaps more falling back to kill zones, and generally being more adaptable and fluid in their tactics. In a martial arts sense the Marines would be the personification of 'hard styles' and the Sisters would be the personification of 'soft styles'. I think it would make for an interesting dynamic, but I admit it may not be everyone's cup of tea, as it does make the Sisters all uber.
As for more regular women in the Imperial armed forces; I think the IG has tons of women in all roles.
Final thoughts: As the end of the day a lot of people like the idea of the Female Space Marine, the Amazon archetype, and the Sister could easily fulfil that roles with a decent work up and not mess with the whole 'Space Marine' vibe. I think GW has started to work up the Sisters, and there is power creep, but it needs to be ramped up.
As to the Sister's 'big story', perhaps the Sisters start to hunt all Space Marines as abominations sometime post Heresy?
Hmm, I quite like the 'resistance is treason' line, very Borg like. Once a few chapters have fallen to the Sisters, perhaps the Sisters will be taken more seriously?
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Could the End of the Age of Apostasy not qualify as the Epic story arc for the Sisters of Battle?
Especially as - unlike the Space Marines in the Horus Heresy - they were basically on the "wrong" side throughout most of the conflict and then all of them made a heel-face turn in the last second.
Yes is does.
I tend not to like overly retconning the background (though it is a GW tradition!), so I would prefer to ramp up in power of the Sisters starting now (as in current 40K). Perhaps with some new special characters (perhaps 'Champions of the Emperor', similar in principle to 'champions of chaos' but good, boosting their followers). A carry on from the old Star Child story arc.
If GW did decided to retcon the background while boosting the Sisters' abilities then the 'Age of Apostasy' would be a good place to first manifest their new powers.
This is amusing considering some of the (fan) supplements that I'm working on at the moment, be it "psykers," "Marines," or whatever. With the forthcoming "Deathwatch" game, I've been wondering how FFG will manage to make the game appeal to a broader RP community that tends to see them as somewhat dull and uninteresting. It seems that according to that community they're doomed from the outset. I'm not talking about the demographic that drools at all things Marine (and which has even acquired a name!), but rather the average Jo(ann) Q Roleplayer?
My own answer to that question is to take a stance to the Marine's armour and wargear that is similar to how FFG took the starship in Rogue Trader (as other games have done with equipment before them). Or, rather, to take it a step up beyond that. Thus, for me and at the moment, Marines have a relationship with the armour and use it as a form of developing "technological powers." A suit, for example, may come with some form of heroic legacy and, as a result, might have certain associated powers—better armour, "Terror Sight," or whatever. Alternately, a different aspected RP campaign might emphasise the achievements of the individual, allowing them to develop those powers.
In GURPS terms, which is what I'm using to model this stuff, a Marines' powers comes with with Gadget Limitations. (The zygotes/organs are something else, and the armour has certain basic characteristics, but beyond that...?)
A Sister of Battle, however, doesn't enjoy the same biological enhancements. But do they really need to do? How useful are most of the Marines' augmentations when it comes down to it...? Thus, Faith. It functions much the same, mechanically, but you just "sell" it differently. The suit of armour has the same history, but it's powers are based on holiness and faith rather than ancient technology or whatever.
In GURPS terms? Rather than Gadget Limitations, now you go for Pact limitations. The Sister is required to live a given lifestyle, believe certain things. The Marine might share some of these concepts, but for them it is not the source of their power.
As to "clerics?" Now ask me about the Adeptus Custodes... 😉
How about those Adeptus Custodes? 🙂
I like your take.
I would add that marines could have similar powers to these faith based powers, as the Primarchs had warp enhanced strength and abilities and this leaves the door open for us fans. A marine may have innate warp enhancement and this may explain some of their heroics. I doubt these (possible) powers of a marine are being channelled via the Emperor in any way, but the effects and outcomes may be similar to the a Sisters (possible) faith based powers. In this set up the marine could be limited compared to a Sister; the marines powers are capped as they are innate (hard-wired so to speak) whereas a Sister is unlimited and could channel vast amounts of energy if the Emperor wills it (or the Sister's mindset can draw on that power).
This types of hidden powers, be they innate or channelling, could be used to explain some of the more extreme breaks with reality in 40K stories. Humans are latent Psykers (apparently), chaos is part of the fabric of the universe and part of us, and it's been said that humanity are chaos' greatest agents. They could be a lot more overlap between the materium and immaterium. A lot more grey areas (as 40K needs more grey areas :P)
Now there has to be a first time for everything. Is yonder a blue moon that I spy?
That remains a possibility, of course. In terms of the applicability to the concept of the Marine, however, I would tend to veer away from it. Why? They do not actually have the same Pact-based relationship, subconscious or otherwise, with the "Emperor" (that's a separate topic, see below if I remember). Their Primarchs just don't have the warp cahoonies to pull of this type of relationship. So, no to Pact-based powers, for me. Well, except as an exception.
As to latent psyker abilities. If one were to take a leaf out of Dark Heresy (which I don't normally do, but in this case I agree with it), while it might be true to say that all humans are "latent psykers," for intents and purposes this is just a generic statement. That is, they don't actually have latent abilities—that's a whole separate thing altogether.
So, Marines and "Faith-based" powers? Not for me.
I try and reduce things as much as possible in a variation of 40k "K.I.S.S." In this case, Marines are heroic. Why bother diluting this with giving them uber-Faith powers on top of that? They already get super cool gadget effects. They're Iron Man, for cripes sake, so do they really need be Iron Man as well as Professor X, The Hulk, and Harry Potter?
Effect is, for me, different to source, which is itself predicated upon the focus. As applied here the source of a Marine's power is the armour (well, other than their biology!); for a Sister, it is their Faith (but she also has power armour, but that's different to Powers, even if it can be modelled the same!). They might both be able to smite a foe with it, but the explanatory framework is different.
This bit gets an indeed, or at least as I understand it. The Marine is in this case limited by the focus, which is "technology," or their armour. While the Faith of the Sister is not likewise limited, it is practically limited by the extent of that Faith. Mortals are, after all, fallible creatures.
Well, it sounded appropriate for some reason.
This really ties into a "Faith in the Imperium" article that I've got in note format on my netbook (hopefully that motherboard won't fry out!). This article looks at and describes the powers and extent of my interpretation of the deities of the Imperium and how this intersects with the Imperial Cult, the Cult Mechanicus, etc. It's all part of the GURPS Rogue Trader fan supplements that I'm throwing together. (Powers of the Mind is broadly done, so I'm moving onto fun territory...)
Anyway, the basic premise of these "deities" is that they subscribe to a trinitarian model based around what I refer to as The Corpse, The Twin, and The Child.
The Corpse: This is Watson's "Many Mind," the fragmented consciousness of the Emperor that was left when Horus mortally wounded the Emperor. With its psychic energy gone—this is the basis of the The Child—The Corpse must create an ersatz soul in the forum of the energies provided by the Sacrifice, or those that kneel at the base of the Golden Throne and give up their energies to it.
The Twin: This is the god that forms in the warp in the image of the "Ascended Emperor" provided by the Imperial Cult. It is a dark god of retribution, punishment, and fear. If one were to remove the smoke and mirrors, it is essentially Malal made manifest to give the 40k universe a bit of symmetry.
The Child: The Star Child, that will one day be born as both alpha and omega, warp "deity" and new messiah.
Sooo... this gets into the realm of Sanctity. The Corpse is basic an entity with an ersatz soul whose abilities are fairly limited in scope. The Companions of the Adeptus Custodes are indoctrinated into a "cult" of the Emperor-as-The Corpse, and are gifted Powers that are limited by the sanctity of the Imperial Palace and the reach of the entity.
On the other hand, most individuals acquire their Faith powers from The Twin. These powers tend to work more strongly in areas sanctified to the Imperial Cult, but are also not so negatively impacted by the influence of Chaos.
Faith powers of The Child, however, are much rarer to come by. Very few places are sanctified to this entity...
...Okay, this is getting long enough and I'm meant to be writing about archaeological deposits. Food for thought, anyway.
Thanks for posting your thoughts on the Adeptus Custodes, and I had similar thoughts of how to shoehorn Malal in 40K. The Emperor becomes a new chaos god, claiming to be righteous, but is as malevolent as the rest of them and commits great evil in the name of good (the 'greater good'). I also thought of him as a personification of 'chaos undivided' and imbued with the worst attributes of all of them. The Emperor becomes the king, and the chaos gods his princes. Kinda like Satan in some respects, and heralded by the 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' (the chaos gods).
Getting back to the Space Marines, I wasn't suggesting they actually had faith based powers. I didn't want them to be the same as the Sisters. The powers I was suggestion for the Space Marines are more like the innate ability of the old navigators in Rogue Trader, and the first versions of the Primarchs. I suppose the difference could be summed up as Cleric (Sisters), Wizard (Psyker) and the demi-god Hercules (Marines). The marines would be intrinsically supernatural but are unable to use spells like a Cleric or Wizard, yet they remain 'magical'.
The funny thing is that it isn't as much as a shoe-horn as you see Merrett pulling out of his derrière.
I personally think that it is far more interesting not to lay this at the feet of the Emperor, but as a natural product of the warp and the bastardisation of "faith" that the Imperial Cult really is.
They already get enough with "implants" and "technology," in my book at least. I personally try and tame down the more "high fantasy" aspects of the setting, preferring more "mundane" sci-fi. But there we go. Whatever twiddles the 'ole biscuit.
I would have to see how this works, rather than the analogy or how it is sold.
The Primarchs, in many ways, are 'demi-gods'. The Space Marines inherit (via technology) a lot from their 'bloodline'. It's a bit like Hesiod's Works and Days, and the five ages of man, with each generation less than the one before it. As to how it would manifest in the game, I imagine higher than natural stats, supernatural. They would lack psionic or psyker abilities, but may gain sixth sense (very likely with the Blood Angels considering the precognitive powers of their Primarch, but I doubt any are going to start flying (aside from Arkio :P)), or even manifest as simple 'fate points'.
I was thinking of the Emperor more as a means to an end. That he is corrupted by power, and as he literally looses his grip on reality (his physical body) he looses his mind with it. Once dead his connection with humanity is gone, he is no longer stable, and goes insane. The Emperor is merely a catalyst, a focus, for what is inevitable. In the same way the Eldar were the catalyst for Slaanesh, and their soul were absorbed by Slaanesh to create a god with a gestalt soul, just as the Emperor is a gestalt soul and consumes Psykers in the thousands every day. I image that the universe, fate, would always make an 'Emperor' in some form because all that emotional energy, all those needs within humans, will find a focus. The Emperor is a manifestation, a personification made real, of the god of man.
I will say once again: horrible TinyMCE interface. It's just too restricted and the HTML function is next to useless since you've got to deal with CSS styling inline, something that should be handled by the WordPress stylesheet.
In short, forgive the liberties that I'm going to have to make with formatting.
And this is how it is commonly approached in the materials. It once again references "Golden Ageism" in a tiresome way. With that said, Marines are lesser than the Primarchs.
They already do... Of course, if you're trying to substantiate their phsyical (etc.) prowess by referencing Hesiod and "supernatural descent" rather than biological augmentation then, once again, I'll point out that the ultimate effect is the same. They still have the zygotes, etc. If you don't want to view them as biological augmentation, that's your gig.
With that said, there are transferable qualities, but it depends on how you want to interpret them. Genetic or otherwise. The "sixth sense" that you allude to can be explained in a any number of ways.
At the moment, I'm rocking with the trinity approach, thinking that it adds a bit more to the setting. Or at least Kage-verse setting. Again, must write up that article.
I like a lot of the ideas that are thrown around on this website. Whenever I get bored I sort of just click through and see what I can see. There's some great food for thought throughout the entire site, each little bit inspires little stories in my head all over the place and I have to thank you for several inspirations.
I like everything you've said so far about this topic, probably one of my favorites so far. Although you've strayed from the original topic and seem to be arguing the same point in different words. I felt compelled to put in my two-cents and see what you guys think about it!
First, Sisters of Battle: There are plenty of psychic establishments in the 40k universe, and their use is becoming more and more common. Psyker battle squads, Guard Primaris Psykers, the incredible boost in power that Marine psykers have been given, not to mention the normality of Inquisitors having psychic powers.
I would not be surprised for the Sisters of Battle started to exhibit a similar acceleration and expanse of ability, any advance in this area would be seen as direct intervention from the Emperor himself. And since belief and feeling seems like a common basis of power in the 40k universe (belief in the Chaos gods and negative emotions gives Chaos power, for instance) the extreme faith exhibited by the Sisters should provide them with a certain level of immunity from corruption. Not to mention the fact that the Emperor must have enough power to actually be able to influence things because he is still keeping the broken Webway gate on Earth closed, he's still keeping the Astronomican going and the Horus Heresy novels support the fact that, even in his absence, the Emperor's power has sway. (Galaxy In Flames: Euphrati Keeler banishes the Horror that was summoned by Kyril Sindermann after reading a passage from the Book of Lorgar by invoking the Emperor's name and using an Aquila pendant). So using power that is funneled through Him might lend some protection in itself.
Although... Chaos Sisters could be an interesting- something approximating Word Bearers? Or maybe just more similar to a Radical Inquisitor than Chaos Marines, using demonhosts and the like- believing that unleashing the power of the Enemy on itself is the best solution and that their Faith will protect them from possession or the malign influences of the Warp.
Second, Space Marines: A Space Marine's power comes from his training as much as his technology and biology. Their mental conditioning helps them resist demonic possession, helps them overcome the pain of lost limbs and other severe battlefield injuries, survive in the vacuum for a month, face insurmountable odds, and generally kick total ass.
However, you cannot deny the power of their tech, power armor allows them to fight in any atmosphere (including no atmosphere), distinguish friend from foe on the fly, see farther, hear better and outperform anyone or anything physically. Although, it is important to note that their biology is there to support the tech- imagine it as a framework on which the tech is held up, their armor basically interfaces with their special organs and feeds them the energy and chemicals that they need to perform their superhuman feats of awesome.
Last, My Point: Sisters of Battle can be given a Faith Points mechanic that gives them Acts, Miracles or what have you, but their stats should be able to be augmented through Faith as well, otherwise they will always be incomparable to Marines, who will be able to overcome them physically every time.
Assuming what you want to do is bring the Sisters to the SAME level as Marines (as opposed to slightly more powerful in order to act as a police force, or a little less powerful to keep Marines as the pinnacle of the human fighting machine) then you need to leave the discussion about Marines alone- trying to 'fix' both can only end in disaster.
So the Sisters can be given minor psychic feats, for example: Oath of Strength (brought to the physical strength of a Marine), Prayer of Fortitude (brought to the toughness of a Marine, or given something like Feel No Pain), Litany of Accuracy (enemy rerolls successful Armor saves) etc...
As well as major psychic feats performed by the Canonness: Flame of the Emperor's Glory (Armor piercing flamethrower of some kind- designed as a marine-killer), Damnation from the Skies (a pillar of fire is manifested and consumes a certain part of the battlefield), Live by His Word (rally all Sisters instantly) etc...
Although balancing can be an issue when creating special rules like that it certainly adds a good deal of interesting options that open up fun play styles. That's my take on how you could balance Sisters with Marines.
I look forward to your response!
I think you raise some interesting points especially about the chaos sisters. If the sisters can channel the power of the Emperor as if he were a god, and he really is becoming a god within the warp, then this raises some interesting questions about the nature of this new God. In warhammer background the lesser gods (Khaine) are often portrayed as aspects of one of the big four (Khorne). It seems even the gods of law in the old Warhammer Fantasy RPG background were merely more chaos gods but in a different flavour, and Malal the renegade chaos god was still a chaos god. At some point in the background all the gods seem to be related to each other and all 'gods', regardless of personification, as all entities in the warp - the raw stuff of chaos (or Kaos if Interex). In effect a chaos god = warp god. From an 'god's eye view' of the Warhammer setting; all 'gods' are 'chaos gods', however those who worship them may see it very differently (I sure the Eldar do not think of their gods as 'chaos', or that Khaine is an aspect of Khorne, or composite aspect of more than one chaos god)
If this is actually what is happening, and assuming the above assertions are correct, then the sisters are fulfilling the role of champions of the Emperor god, or 'champions of chaos'. Their perception of this new god will probably not be one of 'chaos' so the sisters would not be seem as your typical 'chaos champions', but in effect the position or role of chaos champion is already taken up within the ranks of the sisters. If the Emperor is chaos undivided, or some 40K version of Malal, it is unlikely the sisters would swap to another god. They would be too invested in the Emperor, and are already on the path to salvation (damnation). As such it would be very hard to them to be corrupted and fall to chaos, as they have already been corrupted and fallen to a new form of chaos (much the same as the old form of chaos but in a shiny new packaging).
This raises some interesting ideas about the nature of faith and strong emotions and the nature of its conferred resistance to chaos. It may be that faith, and all the emptions that brings with in in action an life, included anger and doubt, despair and hope, all balances out the influences of chaos in the grand scheme of things. Faith may be the corner stone 'chaos undivided' and hence no one chaos power can claim the faithful, but all can assist - in the hope of later corruption (as power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely) so raising the faithful to a position of power may be exactly what the chaos gods wants. The new Emperor God may be the personification of 'chaos undivided', which draws upon the power of the big four. Perhaps the Emperor 'defeats' chaos by becoming the most powerful of all the chaos gods, and in turn the big four become aspects of the Emperor (or always were - in a weird mind bender of convoluted logic). Maybe the universe, humanity etc. is still evolving and so are the warp entities. the Emperor God is merely missing at the moment, but the foundations could be seen as already being in place. If this were to come to pass the Chaos Gods (big four) would remain kings of their own domains, but they would then be under a new Emperor.
Such an Emperor god could be far more dangerous to humanity than any single chaos god, or all combined. The acceptable face of chaos worship within the Imperium. Of law and order. Where all humans comply and lack individuality, the state becomes all powerful, law and order are absolute, and the chaos is moved from the streets into the hearts and minds of the oppressed. Deep seething emotions of fear, anger, despair at the state of their own lives, punctuation by moments of wanton excess to escape these never ceasing feelings. All this constant emotional pressure would be feeding an ever more powerful Emperor god. What would he so with such power? Perhaps he is the one destined to bring about Armageddon and the end of times (When Russ will return!).
If this is the case; then law and order, and what society builds once law and order are established (such as commerce and cities), are quite literally the Engines of Chaos. Once we have massive city states and military industrial complexes the levels of violence and destruction escalates and with it so does the fear and anger towards such a system. Eventually it reaches the point we have now, where mutual annihilation is assured and weapons become a deterrent, and the fear and anger is then constant. To compound this, weapons like nukes ensure power on the world stage, and so every country wants them as both deterrent and bargaining chip.
All this brings me to the conclusion that the Sisters of Battle can not be corrupted by chaos: as they have been corrupted by a higher power. The Emperor. Though it is debatable if the Emperor God is actually 'bad', and could be seen as 'good' - the God of civilization standing over the gods of selfish desires and moral weakness. Uniformity. It all depends how much weight you put on personal liberty and freedom, or more precisely how much tolerance you have for differences in others combined with your willingness to engage with others who are different.
The Sisters do not like 'different'. There is one God, and he is the Emperor. Anything else is blasphemy.