Eucharist for a Sinless Mankind
by Bertil Falk
“Requiem for an Android”|
appeared in issues
248 and 249.
Chapter 1: The Bureau of Salvation
part 1 of 3; section 1 of 3
Mother Saulcerite of the planet Bavaria is now a Cardinal and head of the Bureau of Salvation. She is well regarded and may become Pope. However, a new test awaits her: Brother Urbanus Collectus is assigned to aid her in the investigation of a newly discovered species near Betelgeuse. The species is sentient but has not tasted of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The Rose Garden was situated like a delightful oasis inside the chaotic monastery town with its alleys and nooks. The town was itself a sheltered workshop surrounded by a three-meter tall stone wall as a protection against the noisy world around. The church, with its Gothic towers of ancient wrought iron, stood in the very middle of this accumulation of houses built in the pattern of the medieval, so-called Hanseatic towns.
Outside the wall, private vehicles rushed by. They were track-bound to the invisible beam-rails that made up the old-fashioned transportation structure. Nowadays, it was used only by boastful people living in luxury, those who could afford to abandon the much faster teleportation system in favor of a dated infrastructure of times long past. But still, inside the walls, the only means of transportation was the horse-drawn vehicles made available by the Benedectine friars.
Within the walls of the silent monastery town, on a small, secluded and always very well swept back street, and overlooking the Rose Garden, was The Bureau for Assuring the Salvation of Newly Discovered Mankinds. No signboard disclosed that one of the most important institutions of the Church was concealed behind the face of this simple three-storied chrome-plated building.
Inside the structure, there was almost nothing that directly revealed what momentous function of Church business the administrators were administrating between the bare walls. In addition, the house was on the whole outmoded, a copy of the functional houses of ancient nations.
The designation Bureau for Assuring the Salvation of Newly Discovered Mankinds was a kind of cover not only for the normal missionary activities of the Church in the universe but above all for a more common, illegal activity: the spread of the Word. This fact was evident in the motto of the bureau: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
It could be read in old-fashioned Garamond font on a dirty plastic plate hanging aslant close to a small group of armchairs and sofa in the hall on the second floor. As a number of mankinds in the universe were reluctant to accept missionaries’ zeal for conversion, the Church diplomatically downplayed the Christian slogan in its external affairs. Secular authorities had legislated limits to the Church’s authority to conduct unsupervised missionary work among newly discovered mankinds.
In a study, where everything was less time-infected than in other parts of the anachronistic monastery town, the powerful chief of the bureau, Cardinal Saulcerite, sat in state. Mother Saulcerite was one of the most trusted representatives of the Church and it was generally believed that she had the makings of a Pope. But there was no point in anticipating such blessedness, considering all the competition she had to face. The Cardinals Björn Personit and Mervil Tojas — both representatives of the small but mighty Order of Personites — had their ardent advocates within the College of Cardinals.
The day when things began to happen, Cardinal Saulcerite received an unexpected visitor. She was irritated that he had not informed her in advance of his arrival. Disapprovingly, she pursed the lips of her toothless mouth and rubbed the thick carapace of her flat palm against the back of her claw-equipped right paw.
She gave the young Earthling’s light blue eyes a piercing, triangular look. The tonsured Urbanus Collectus had arrived at a time when the Cardinal would be ending her work for the day and devoting herself to vespers.
“Who sent you?” she said sternly.
“Cardinal Mervil Tojas.”
“My old sparring partner. Are you a Personite?”
“Oh no. I belong to the Order of Celibateurs.”
“Are you an android?”
“Neither am I,” said Mother Saulcerite. “I guess that you know that Mervil is both ways?”
Brother Collectus nodded and regarded the cardinal’s “hand,” which was covered with fish-scales.
“Why did Father Mervil send you to me?” Saulcerite’s triangular eyes looked fixedly at the young priest’s visage, which radiated the paleness characteristic of unworldly scholars oscillating between incunabula and computer screens and seldom or never staying outside the monastery walls in order to breath fresh air. Sunbathing was not even to think of.
“Cardinal Mervil Tojas is of the opinion that the observation I’ve made is of urgent concern to the Salvation Bureau.”
Saulcerite stroked one of her extremities across the sticky tanglers of her lips. If her triangular eyes had had eyebrows, she would have raised them. “What was that?”
“The Bureau for Assuring the Salvation of Newly Discovered Mankinds,“ the young priest hastened to correct himself.
”And what can be so pressing that you came here unannounced?” The cardinal accepted the clarification by not dwelling upon the vulgar expression “Salvation Bureau.”
“It’s about a mankind that from the point of view of salvation behaves... how to put it...” He was at a loss for words. “Immorally may be the right word.”
The eyes of the young Celibateur were wandering, not helplessly but rather in a fumbling way. Mother Saulcerite regarded him with a sense of loss and envy. At his age, she had been a candid woman who fought against what she perceived as obscure forces within the Church. Even at a mature age she often seemed to oppose the prevailing hierarchy. It was just that she belonged to the Establishment now. She was painfully aware of the fact but refused to accept it emotionally.
In her youth, she had not striven after a career in the clergy. But now, with the papal mitre within reach, there was at the depth of her heart an unchristian wish to mount the throne of Peter. She lacked the humility that ought to mark a Christian person. She coveted the honor she knew had nothing corresponding to the humility of a genuine Christian.
“It’s a long story.” Urbanus Collectus roused her back to reality from her absent-mindedness.
Saulcerite made a sign to him to sit down. She had already abandoned the idea of attending vespers. “Immorality is a normal function of original sin,” she said. “I presume that this species has been around and sinning for several million years or so. What’s the hurry?”
The Celibateur looked confused, and Mother Saulcerite continued: “What does Mervil Tojas propose?”
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk