Sister Maria was a picture of silent, calm, unworried indifference as she sat outside of Mother Superior’s room in the convent. She was systematically walking through the last week of her life to find out if she had somehow violated church rules or code of conduct. After she eliminated every action and conversation she had, she put aside her mounting nervousness and sat back quietly knowing she was not there to be chastised.
The door opened and the Mother Superior’s aide called her name. Sister Maria got up and went in to find out why she was there so early in the morning.
As she stepped into the room and saw the array of Church elders in the room, Sister Maria’s stomach decided to do a couple of back flips. The Mother Superior, who was carrying on a conversation with someone who had his back turned to Sister Maria, held up her hand to stop the conversations going on around her and smiled at Sister Maria.
“Thank you for joining us Sister,” Mother Superior said.
“You summoned and I obeyed, Mother,” Sister Maria replied.
The man that Mother Superior was talking to turned around and Sister Maria’s stomach twisted into knocks.
“It’s good to see you again Sister Maria,” Brother Delgado said.
“It is very surprising to see you again, Brother,” she replied.
“Oh?” Mother Superior asked. Sister Maria smiled at her superior.
“Yes, we had a chance meeting a few weeks back in the hallway after Vespers, Mother,” she stated.
“And no communication since then?” she asked.
“No, Mother, none,” answered Brother Delgado.
“She is completely unaware of what we have planned for her, Mother Superior,” said Arch Bishop de Pietro. The knots continued to grow bigger and bigger as Sister Maria stood there.
“I see,” said Mother Superior. “Enough standing around please everybody take a seat and let’s begin shall we?”
“So, you see Mother Superior,” began the Arch Bishop. “Sister Maria will not only fit in perfectly with our plans but as Brother Delgado has pointed out, she could very well enhance our chances.”
The Mother Superior took a deep breath and look down her long, pointed nose at Sister Maria. “And what do you say? Do you have anything to add to this incredible plan the Arch Bishop…”
“His Eminence’s plan, Mother,” the Arch Bishop interrupted. “We are just tasked to implement it.”
“Yes, fine then,” Mother Superior, stated. “Do you have anything to add to Superior General Father de la Medida’s plan?”
Sister Maria looked down at the table in front of her and slowly shook her head. “I can’t begin to understand the full scope of this plan and how I can ‘enhance it’ as the Arch Bishop says?”
“There are still many things to work out with the plan and we will do so on the outward journey,” Brother Delgado interjected.
Mother Superior looked over at the Arch Bishop and said, “This one is quite sure of himself, it seems.” The Arch Bishop smiled at her and said, “Si, God has given him the ability to see hidden things that escape even the critical eyes of the Black Pope. Although Brother Delgado is well seasoned and much traveled, he is also rash and impetuous. It is his belief that these flaws in his character would be canceled out by the presence of Sister Maria. We expect that with Sister Maria’s calming influence on Brother Delgado, the mission will stand a better chance of success.”
“I have come to know Sister Maria’s abilities to be analytical, thorough and calculating,” Mother Superior, said. “She might very well be the counter weight to your young Brother Delgado’s rashness but I would not be a good steward if I were to just order her to take on this burden.”
Sister Maria looked up at the Mother Superior and studied the faces sitting around the table. She went back to her brother’s face and saw the intensity that burned in his eyes and saw, for a moment, a brief flicker of desperation. She knew that she would not let her brother go on this mission without her. Family was family and she would keep her brother safe and they would both come back home to Papa.
As the meeting broke up, Brother Delgado motioned for his sister to come and speak with him. They both made their farewells to their superiors and headed out of the room.
In the hallway, Brother Delgado stopped and looked at Sister Maria. “I apologize for having you shanghaied into going with me on this mission,” he admitted.
“I should have seen this coming when I knew you were going,” she said. “It’s my fault for being caught surprised by it.”
“Please, you always do that,” he protested. “Just this once let the blame fall where it should, squarely on my shoulders.”
“And what good would that do?” she asked. “Maybe ease the guilt you are feeling for this elaborate scheme that the Jesuits are playing on your rivals the Dominicans?”
“It doesn’t always boil down to us versus them,” he admitted.
“But this time it really it does, I think,” she stated. “Let me see if I got this right. The Jesuits, the Drone Council, the King and Queen’s military advisors, the Knights Hospitallers, the Admiral and some of his officers are in some kind of spitting match with the Dominicans?”
“The Hounds oppose this mission,” he stated.
“Who can say they are not doing their duty, as they see it, to combat heresy and keep darkness away from the Empire?” she asked him.
“Maybe they see what they are doing is right by their narrow interpretation of God’s Word,” he admitted.
“Doesn’t everybody interpret God’s Word to justify their own viewpoint dear brother?” she asked.
He smiled at her. “Now do you understand why I need you so desperately aboard with me?”
“You baited me,” she declared in exasperation.
“No,” he said.
“I gave you another valid reason why you should be on this mission,” he reasoned.
“I’ll not blindly follow or agree with all your decisions unconditionally you know, dear brother,” she stated.
“Nor would I expect you to,” he replied.
“I will pick apart and analyze every detail as I see fit,” she said.
“As expected,” he stated.
“I will have my books and any research material that I deem necessary,” she added.
“Of course,” he said.
“And I will not be coerced or bullied into making rash decisions,” she flat out stated.
“So, just like old times then huh?”He asked as he chuckled.
“Si, just like old times,” she admitted.
“But this time, the stakes are much higher, sister,” he acknowledged. “What you heard was only information we could say in front of the Mother Superior.”
“You mean there is more?” she asked.
“There is always more, Sister,” he admitted. “We have to be very careful with information because there is always someone lurking around the corner listening. They will use any such information to destroy our chances of getting to the Old World.”
“Then we must take care to whisper and to guard every word, Brother,” she said. “Because if we fail in this mission, the Empire and Holy Mother Church will be broken and if there is any history written afterward, our failed efforts we will not be looked at too kindly.”
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