The Summer I Died
Author: Richard Anthony

Chapter 4
The Black Pope

The planet Nuevo Vaticano or New Vatican was in the same solar system as Hispania. It had been terra-formed by the Rths to meet the exact specifications that El Papa or The Pope and the Nueva Iglesia Católica (New Catholic Church) had asked the Rths to build. The Pope dedicated the whole planet to The Church and to God.
The Society of Jesus or the “Jesuits” claimed the northern territories for the training of those called to their order. Each Brother had intensive military indoctrinations followed by years of spiritual training. The Jesuits were also responsible for most of the scientific or medical research that the New Spanish Empire conducted.
The Augustians claimed the southern territories for the training of those “friars” called by God to become preachers of the gospels and to serve the poor. These “Franciscans” chose to follow the example of their patron saint, Saint Francis of Assisi.
The Pope and the New Vatican City as a place where the Holy See and the main Cathedral resided claimed the eastern territories. The central governing body of the New Catholic Church lives and works there as well.
Finally, the Order of Preachers or the Dominicans also known as the “Hounds of the Lord,” claimed the western territories. Few know anything about this secretive order of the Church or their teachings and dealings with spiritual affairs other than their fanatical dedication to keeping God and His Works pure.
The Black Pope called the top leaders of the three major orders together for a meeting to discuss the attack on the outpost. They met at their usual meeting place, the ‘General Curia’ located in a very remote corner of the Vatican City. Present at the meeting was the Superior General Father Antonio de la Medida of the Jesuits, more commonly known as “The Black Pope.”
Also attending was Prior General Rodrico de la Sagrada with the Augustians order. Master of the Order Father Francisco de Acebo of the Dominican order was there. Finally, Arch Bishop Pedro de Pietro of the Jesuits, the Black Pope’s right hand man, or as others would say, ‘the Black Pope’s eyes,’ rounded out those seated at the table for the meeting.
He was the only religious leader at the meeting with a mechanical drone hovering above the table working as his consultant. The Black Pope cleared his throat and everyone settled down.
“So do we know for a certainty what the intelligence section of the Armada is planning?” he asked.
“No, we do not,” admitted Arch Bishop de Pietro.
“Not for any certainty Father,” he finished saying.
“But we can estimate what we think they are planning to do,” said Alsecka, Bishop de Pietro’s drone.
“We might as well consult the stars or better yet bring out the Tarot cards,” laughed Father de Acebo.
“I must protest, Superior General!” de Pietro said.
Father de la Medida looked over at Father de Acebo and shook his head. “We all know your animosity towards our friends the drones, Father,” the Black Pope stated. “I must ask you to table your feelings or get someone else from your order in here to replace you. You saw the same report that we all did regarding the outpost. Father, we could be dealing with a chain of events that could very well lead to the death of every man, woman and child of The Church. We cannot allow that to occur!” he stated flatly.
“Si, Señor,” acknowledged de Acebo. “I will table my feelings for the duration for the good of the Church, but I will not be swayed into believing that these mechanical beings are ‘our friends,’ as you put it. As far as me and my order are concerned, they are an abomination.”
“Spoken by a true fanatic,” whispered Prior General de la Sagrada to no one.
“Again I must protest most strongly,” said Arch Bishop de Pietro. “The drones were created by the Rths to help us and administer to our needs.”
“Ah, you have said the telling part, Arch Bishop,” acknowledged de Acebo. “They were created by the Rths, not by God.”
Before Arch Bishop de Pietro could say anything the Black Pope interjected, “Again, now is not the time to go over age old arguments, Brothers. Now is the time to unite behind a common goal and do God’s work and to protect His people. The Pope has entrusted me with this task and I will see it done, with or without either of you,” he told them.
“Si, Señor,” they all said.
“Good, then let’s get to it,” de la Medida said.
“The report that was submitted via one of our drones at the outpost gave no information as to who the intruders were or what they looked like,” Alsecka informed them.
“All that we received was a brief message that they were under attack from several sectors in a concentrated assault that eventually wiped them out,” he acknowledged.
“I have nothing else to add, Superior General,” added de Pietro.
“We thank the drone leadership for all the information that they have provided, so far,” stated de la Medida.
“What little we have,” interjected the Master of the Order.
“True and how can we rectify the matter?” asked Prior General Rodrico de la Sagrada.
The Black Pope sat back and sighed, “By gathering more intelligence, Brothers, it always boils down to that. We must know our enemies and by knowing them, destroy them,” he stated.
“The Drone council has come up with a plan, Sir,” informed de Pietro. “If we can spend a moment and outline it for the group?”
“Si, Arch Bishop, continue,” replied de la Medida.
Arch Bishop looked over at Alsecka and nodded.
“We believe that the only way to collect further information will be to calculate approximately where the invaders will go next, seek them out, covertly, and gather the information we need,” the drone said.
“Easier said than done, drone,” said de Acebo acidly.
“Nothing that is ever good comes easy, my brother,” acknowledged de Pietro.
“But we know nothing of how to be ‘covert’ as the drone puts it,” said de la Sagrada.
“Then we must learn,” de la Medida, said. “I am sure the drone council has a way of implementing the plan they came up with.”
“We do, Superior General,” stated Alsecka.
“Fine, you and the Arch Bishop will confer, put together the best plan to gain this important information and get back to me with a fool proof proposal so that I might take to The Pope,” he ordered. “Do so quickly, time is not on our side.”
“If we don’t have anything else to discuss then I suggest we go back to our orders and let those who need to know, know and then get on our knees and pray for God’s deliverance,” he finished.
The meeting broke up and as they were gathering their things to leave the Black Pope spoke with Arch Bishop de Pietro, “Stay with me, we need to talk.”
Just outside in the corridors of the General Curia Master of the Order de Acebo stopped the Prior General.
“It seems that a meeting within a meeting is taking place without us,” said de Acebo.
“The Superior General and ‘his eyes’ have always been as peas in a pod,” stated the Prior General. “The combination of teacher and student bonds them even tighter.”
“Yes, but are we weaker or stronger by that bond?” de Acebo asks.
“The Jesuits have always had their own thing going on in and around The Church, Father,” the Prior General said.
“Yes, yes, I know,” de Acebo, stated. “But the stakes, if we believe the drones, are extremely high and we have to make certain that their ‘own thing’ coincided with God’s Will,” he finished saying.
“What are you suggesting, Father?” asked de la Sagrada.
“I’m suggesting that both of our orders keep an eye on what the Jesuits come up with,” Acebo suggested. “Let’s make sure whatever plans they may have, we have a counter plan to offer.”
“What sort of counter plan do you suggest?” de la Sagrada asked.
“We need someone that may be used as an equalizer against their plans,” de Acebo suggested. “We have to bring the Knights of the Hospitallers into our plans.”
“I noticed the Grand Master was missing from today’s meeting,” said de la Sagrada. “If there are to be any military operations the Knights have to be alerted.”
“And why they haven’t been alerted as yet are reasons known only to the Jesuits,” accused de Acebo.
“Now, let’s not attribute something that maybe innocent to what you are thinking is deliberate, Father,” suggested de la Sagrada. “There might be a simple explanation as to why the Grand Master wasn’t here today.”
“Prior General, your order the Augustians, have always kept your heads in the clouds,” admitted de Acebo. “It is time to stop doing that. The further you stick your neck out, the easier it is to get it chopped off.”
“All I’m saying is the Superior General has the ear of the Pope,” de la Sagrada said. “You know whatever proposal he and the Jesuits come up, the Pope will agree to and it will be our only strategy.”
“Yes, I’m certain it will,” replied de Acebo. “That is why we need to make sure that plan is our plan, Father.”
“And what is ‘our’ plan?” the Father asked.
“That I’m still working on,” started de Acebo. “The Jesuits may be ‘God’s Marines’ but we have our own ‘God’s Hounds’ to counter them with whatever they have planned.”
“With the Franciscans and the Knights in the middle balancing out the two?” asked the Prior General.
“Or, when or if the time comes, over balancing it,” de Acebo said smiling.
“To have it swing in your favor, no doubt?” asked Father de la Sagrada.
“No, Father to have it swing in God’s favor,” de Acebo stated smiling.

As the room cleared out the Black Pope and his ‘eyes’ sat down once again.
“It’s clear from his actions and words that Father de Acebo and his order plans to impede us at every step,” the Superior General stated.
“Yes, that does appear to be so,” replied de Pietro. “And what did I teach you about overcoming objects?”
“To ‘Clear my mind and make the object work for me not against me’,” the Arch Bishop replied.
“Excellent, I see my teachings have not failed to make an impression upon you, my son.”
“Never, Father, never.”
“I will leave it up to you to accomplish this matter,” ordered the Black Pope. “In the meantime what does the drone council really suggest?”
“I’ll let Alsecka answer that, Superior General.”
“The council has recommended that in order to carry out the plan that we spoke of, steps need to be taken to see to its success,” stated Alsecka.
“And those steps are?” asked the Superior General.
“The council spent a considerable amount of time almost 2.589997 seconds specifying the many methods it may take to accomplish our goal,” Alsecka said.
“What did they finally come up with?” de la Medida asked.
“Their line of attack took in all available information both past and present from the Rths and the New Spanish Empire,” Alsecka said.
“Yes, and?” the Black Pope asked.
“I’ll take over now Alsecka,” Arch Bishop de Pietro said.
“The council concluded that we have no way to defend ourselves against these invaders. There is no recorded information from either source that can help us determine who they are or why they are doing this. They concluded that these invaders seek only the death and destruction of the Empire,” stated de Pietro.
“Therefore, our best course of actions is to send an exploratory fleet back to the old Sol system to make contact with our former home in hopes that they will help us defeat this new enemy,” de Pietro suggested.
The Black Pope sat back stunned.
“We realize that this is an enormous task,” Alsecka stated.
“Enormous doesn’t even compare to what you are contemplating,” advised the Black Pope. “Do either one of you, have any idea of what you are proposing?”
“Yes, we do, Sir,” said de Pietro.
“I don’t think so, Pedro,” admitted de la Medida. “I don’t think so at all.”
“Father, we need to face the fact that nothing we or the Rths have ever run across covers this emergency,” admitted the Arch Bishop.
“Superior General, the council and all the drones were created to help guide you through everything that the Empire might come across,” began Alsecka. “We are also here to protect you. The Rths were a peaceful civilization. They were explorers and gatherers of knowledge, not warriors.”
“Sure they created system wide orbital defenses that will repel space objects but nothing on the scale of what could repel an attack,” Alsecka concluded.
“As of right now, we are totally defenseless against this foe,” added de Pietro.
The Superior General crossed himself and said, “God be with us.” He looked up at the hovering drone. “So your superiors believe our only hope is traveling a few billion kilometers and seeking out our ancestors?”
“Yes,” Alsecka replied.
He sat back in his chair and steeple his fingers in front of his face, the way he always used to do when deep in thought. “If, and I said ‘if’ we do decide to take on this huge undertaking what guarantees do we have that the Earth is still there?” de la Medida asked. “Or that the civilization that resides there could or would help us?”
“None, Father,” admitted de Pietro. “However to do nothing would condemn us all to death. We must have faith.”
“Yes, faith, an interesting choice of words, Arch Bishop,” the Black Pope began saying. “Should we exercise that faith, we’d be condemning our immortal souls to hell, so the Dominicans would say. They would see this as heresy.”
“They would see this as us leaving the Garden of Eden to go back into the corrupt world that God rescued us from,” he concluded.
“Any step we take will have its dangers,” admitted de Pietro. “What will be the alternative if we don’t act? I’ll tell you, we will be condemning all of God’s children to death. I don’t envy your decision on this matter, Father.”
“Nor should you,” de la Medida stated sadly. “Very well come up with a solid plan that includes every argument for and against taking these steps, bring it to me to look over and then I’ll spend time on my knees talking to God and getting his guidance on this. You may go.”
Arch Bishop de Pietro stood up and said, “The Hounds will be dead set against this from the start, Father. They will try and put up every obstacle they can to prevent this expedition from happening.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” said the Black Pope.
“We will need to have eyes and ears in the ranks when this expedition launches,” suggested de Pietro.
“I figured that out on my own, Arch Bishop,” de la Medida said. Who will you have to accompany them?”
“The council has recruited two of the ruling members, incognito of course, to attach itself to a senior member of the piloting crew and the Knight Hospitallers,” Alsecka informed him.
“The Knights Hospitallers?” de la Medida asked. “Why, the Knights?”
“They will have control of the medical and scientific portions of the expedition,” Alsecka stated. “A key player in a key role may have an enormous impact on the success of this journey.”
“I agree,” de la Medida said. “I noticed that the Grand Master of the Hospitallers wasn’t present at the meeting today.”
“That was by design, Sir,” the Arch Bishop said.
“I will find it a little disturbing to know that he was told about this plan before I even had the chance to say yes,” the Black Pope cautioned the Arch Bishop.
“The council, as I said earlier, came up with the plan quickly and started implementing certain aspects of it before anyone was informed of the destruction of the outpost,” mentioned Alsecka. “We do realize that the Church plays an important role in the lives of the Empire but only just one role. The Empire consists of many different parts playing a role.” “Well thank you for that assessment, Alsecka,” stated the Black Pope. “I will keep it in mind.”
“The King, his staff and the military leaders were also informed at the same time as you, Superior General,” said Alsecka.
“Yes, sometimes I forget that we, The Church, are not the Empire, even though some of us may think we are. As I said, please have those plans to me as quickly as possible and thank the council for its help,” he stated sincerely.

 

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