Requiem for an Android
by Bertil Falk
Table of Contents
Chapter 3, part 1
appear in this issue.
Chapter 3: The Extreme Abyss
part 2 of 2
At first, Carolus Brainflower thought he had misunderstood the teleportation officer. He repeated: “There are no teleportation communications with the Moon, only local traffic with space shuttles, which are used by tourists from all star systems. But why? Jet propulsion is ancient and used only on the fringes of the Federation, where teleportation stations have not yet been built.”
“The Moon is a shining exception,” the teleportation officer joked and pointed at the blood-red disc of the full moon, that rose above the horizon of the space station. “To be honest, I don’t know why,” the man added. “Robert! Come here!”
An older man came towards them.
“Why is there no teleportation communication with the Moon?”
The man called Robert stroked his violet moustache. “An old agreement between the Federation and the Holy See. The Pope was given teleportation monopoly for one ancient order of the Church. Thirty years ago, a local Moon politician tried to get the agreement cancelled. By Jove, what a hullabaloo it triggered!
“The politician is now governor on the Moon. Furthermore, he has been bestowed the papal decoration of the Personites, of the fifth magnitude, with a crucifix in a test tube on which you can read ‘H2O’.
“Oh yes, it is supposed to be a very rare distinction. The governor is, to be sure, the only person ever awarded it. The Vatican has not used its monopoly for hundreds of years.
“There is a legend that an android, which had been ordained by mistake, was teleported from the interior of the Earth once long ago to a Personite monastery in the crater Tycho, on the Moon. It is said that the android never reached its destination. A monk in the monastery on the Moon was stricken with a short circuit in his brain, and at the same moment that the teleportation equipment began to transmit, he smashed the receiver.”
“Really?” exclaimed Carolus Brainflower.
Carolus had not been idle. He had succeeded in finding out that Cardinal Mobades had retired to an existence as a recluse in the ruins of the monastery of his enemies, the Personites, on the Moon. After that, nobody had heard from Cardinal Mobades. The ruins had been searched, but only food scraps by a simple wooden table in the airless national park were found.
The disappearance of Mobades could be dated to just about the same time as the android XM anthro 95G was manufactured on Deimos, one of the moons of Mars.
When he understood this, Carolus Brainflower arrived at a decision, and he looked up an old flame, Teresia Nightmare, who had repeatedly rewarded his interest in her with common physical practices but always turned him down when he wanted to institutionalize the liaison.
“Are you at it again?” she said.
“No, you win,” Carolus Brainflower said with a touch of bitter resignation in his voice. He told her the story.
She bit her sanguine upper lip. “I'll go with you,” she said abruptly.
* * *
The crossing to the Moon took a while. The densely populated satellite was, like Earth, covered with settlements, which extended kilometers under the surface of the Moon.
A force field situated at a height of 100 meters constituted an invisible shell around the satellite and enveloped an atmosphere that made possible the cultivated rooftop gardens filled with leafy greenery.
The crater Tycho was situated in the national park, which bathed in its lacuna of airlessness. Teresia Nightmare and Carolus Brainflower went to the entrance of the park and rented a high-speed vehicle from Elvis Rent-a-Rocket. The vehicle was equipped with easy-to-wear space suits.
They traveled above the greenish-gray scenery of well-maintained craters. When they flew above the crater Tycho, they immediately saw the great Newton monument to the memory of the red-haired national hero who once had his home together with the android, the robot, and the transplanted brain in the crater.
“I've never been here before,” Teresia Nightmare said. “It's very impressive.”
In silence they passed above the 1000-meter long, 1000-meter high, and 1000-meter broad cube, the mausoleum of the space heroes, the most stylistically pure structure that any architect ever built of a material collected from a far-away solar system.
The ruined abbeys emerged almost opposite them. They landed quite close to the main building and stepped out into the airless silence in their space suits.
* * *
The Jesuit brought Saulcerite to the sarcophagi, which stood with lids of glass. Saulcerite made shocking discoveries. Gregoria I, about whom she had written her thesis, had been an artificial human being. The decayed android corpse showed an early steel skeleton.
And when Saulcerite wiped the dust off the sarcophagus, did she not read GREGORIA I but GREGORIUM I. But the most traumatic experience was, after all, the body of Cardinal Personit. He was terribly well preserved — white as chalk. His features were fixed and determined.
“He almost looks as if he were made of marble,” Saulcerite marveled.
The Jesuit nodded and pointed at the back of the head.
A part of it was gone. The fragment rested on the pillow and showed a mineral fracture, which would have fit in the opposite fracture in the head.
“He is made of marble,” the Jesuit corrected her.
And now Saulcerite saw it clearly. An ortoceratite in the form of a small pre-human shell was intermixed with one of the closed eyelids.
“But where is he, himself, then?” Saulcerite exclaimed.
Her call resounded in the galleries of the catacombs and the echo roared and disappeared fading and weakening into distant tunnels and shafts where people might not have set foot for thousands of years.
They walked around the magnificent monument and caught a glimpse of the sarcophagus of Pope Cassius III. On the other side of the resting-place of the cardinal, the footboard of the sarcophagus had old-fashioned hinges.
“Look, it can be opened here,” the Jesuit said. He seized the edge of the footboard and prised. Soundlessly, the board opened. The inner part of the sarcophagus became illuminated, and sweet organ music crowded in on the two visitors. A staircase covered with a green carpet descended abruptly down into the depths. And on both sides there were dark, empty chasms.
“I would guess,” the Jesuit muttered, “that we have found the secret entrance that leads to the legendary monastery of the Personites.”
Saulcerite shuddered when she looked down the radiant stairs, that was lit as far as she could see, kilometers down into the abyss. “Will you go with me?” she asked.
“No, I must go back to my cabin.”
“What are they to do with me?”
The Jesuit laughed in a low voice. “Are you afraid?” he asked.
“I think so.”
“Remember that the Personites are Christians. They will not do you any harm or hurt you — whatever they do.”
Of course he was right. Saulcerite began to walk down the stairs. She did not look around for the first ten steps. Then she turned about. What she saw — or rather what she did not see — caused her to scream hoarsely, because there was nothing behind her, absolutely nothing at all!
Where it should have been an opening through which the Jesuit looked down at her was nothing. Where the ten steps she had walked should have been was only some gray nothing.
Filled with fear, she tremblingly sat down on the broad staircase and looked down.
Precipitously, down through eternity her way sloped steeply, as straight as an illuminated arrow. Trembling, she grasped at comfort and perceived a kind of calm when she felt the beads of the rosary on her rough skin. “Atta unsar, tu es in himinam,” she prayed in the obsolete Gothic tongue.
Copyright © 2007 by Bertil Falk