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 3 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.
Mother Saulcerite’s need of sleep was regulated by atavistic relays situated somewhere in her counterpart of the Earthlings’ reptile brain. Instead of a diumal rhythm, she belonged under paretim rhythm, which corresponded to six one-tenths of twenty-four hours.
Therefore she slept more often than Earthlings did, but in return she slept for shorter periods, not eight endless hours. Thus, even though she went to bed at about the same time as her new collaborator, she was up again after a few hours and participated in the early matins that followed after the midnight mass.
The alarming message that Urbanus Collectus had brought her made her more anxious than she wanted the newcomer too see. She had often wondered about what would happen if, one day, they found a civilization of beings who did not live according to the plan of the Creator. If what she now had heard was true, then such non-humanity or unmankind had been found.
Betelgeuse. Betelschös. Alpha in Orion. Magnitude varied between 0,5. Irregularly pulsating red giant. 1,400 light-years from the Vatican. Had it had Sol as its center, then its diameter would have stretched far beyond the orbit of Mars.
The territory in the surroundings had earlier been annexed to the Federation. The exploration of planet systems in its immediate surroundings had neither been completed by the Federation or by The Bureau for Assuring the Salvation of Newly Discovered Mankinds.
Though the political organization and the Church could not be said to be competitors, the exploration of new planets nonetheless took place in an atmosphere of supposedly friendly competition. On the one hand, a group of missionary priests, nuns, monks and lay people made a point of converting — not infrequently with fanatic zeal — the newly found mankinds before the Federation arrived in force.
On the other hand, at least as many and equally fanatical officers and cadets of the Federation — with the law at their backs and the unruly desire of adventure in their eyes — did everything to forestall the people from the Salvation Bureau. They did it by “hoisting the flag,” which was the euphemism for incorporation into the Federation.
The Federation personnel wanted to be on the ground before the despised missionaries “managed to put fads and fancies into the thought patterns of other mankinds,” as the marshal of the Planet Patrol, Ezra Gurney, once put it. This unofficial antagonism dated from the time between the 3rd and 5th millennia.
The representatives of the universal as well as the spiritual powers regarded the competition between the secular and the clerical field workers with a certain indulgence. But sometimes the rivalry between an assiduous federal representative with the manners of a bailiff and a fanatic propagator of The Word could blaze up and be manifested in a very, very bad way.
Mother Saulcerite had many problems like that. They had to be handled with all possible speed. Therefore she was forced to adjourn the serious interview she felt constrained to carry on with Urbanus Collectus.
The first meeting that day was about that kind of antagonism, which had surfaced nearby at Deneb, where the troops of the Federation by means of a quantum sling had transferred a newly built convent cum monastery from an out-of-the-way planet to a parallel world.
Priestess Skrrrmplr Rrrbrrp, a reptile from Galtrism with many years of experience in missionary activity in the territory in question, had escaped being transferred for the simple reason that when the attack was carried through, she was exploring the gas- and fungizone on the planet FungiX78fuga.
Now the alligator-like lady was hanging over the elbow-rest of an old imitated monkchair — a three-legged thing with a triangular seat — in the conference room, where Cardinal Saulcerite received delegations and visitors.
Together with Skrrrmplr Rrrbrrp was a group of missionaries of different mankinds and orders. They were all parts of the party responsible for the conversion activities on FungiX78fuga. They had escaped because they had been at the main camp of the expedition on the planet FungiX93fuga in the Fungi system.
There was not enough space in the room for the three-meter long, fleshy tail of Ms. Skrrrmplr Rrrbrrps. The door to the corridor had to be open wide and a guard was posted to prevent anyone passing by from treading on the sensitive tip. With the telepathic, cow-like calm that the beings from Galtrism possess, Mother Skrrrmplr Rrrbrrps both orally and mentally accounted for the situation that had arisen on FungiX78fuga.
Nobody in the room noticed the fair-haired woman who came walking three meters up in the air, just under the ceiling, with a man in tow crawling on all fours.
“We had established a fine contact with the species on the planet,” Mother Skrrrmplr Rrrbrrps explained to her chief. “They belonged to a group of intelligent vegetables of Category 2. In other words: they have no DNA-relationship with us who belong to Category 1.
“As to everything else, all the variables tallied with what can be demanded from a mankind that should be an integral part of the Church. There was not one single mortal sin that they didn’t exercise at the same time that they longed for goodness. Their esteem for saint-like fellow-beings was obvious.
“We built our head convent cum monastery and began a successful penetration of their culture with Sunday schools, mentally directed studies, and proselytizing cerebral high masses. Then came that patrol from the Federation, or to be exact, from The Department of the Incorporation of New Worlds.
The patrol was lead by Captain Xavier Pascal. He came completely unglued when he found that we had arrived before the Federation and had already established a presence. Absolutely unprovoked, he attacked one of our colonies, turned his quantum gun on the office and moved it to God knows what parallel dimension.”
Mother Saulcerite frowned or something to that effect. “This must immediately be reported to the Federation Government. They must immediately return the place to our dimension and Captain Xavier Pascal must be punished.
“This is contrary to the concordat the See of Rome concluded with the Federal Government at Proxima Centauri after many clashes of opinion,” Mother Saulcerite established. “We must immediately do something about this breach of agreement.”
At that moment the blonde woman and her floor-kissing tow disappeared into a time bend.
The clerical career of Saulcerite had not always been staked out so clearly. When she was first drawn to the center of events, she had been an ordinary parish priest on the fairly remote planet Bavaria. To be sure, it was located in a densely populated central part of a medium-sized star cluster, but it was the only planet of an insignificant system. Bavaria was not only a planetary back street. It was something of a planetary cul-de-sac.
For Saulcerite’s part, everything changed when she unexpectedly became the protagonist in a controversy within the curia, one that dated back thousands of years. However, chance alone did not account for her involvement in the quarrel. She had worked on her doctoral thesis about the first, not apocryphal female pope.
Circumstances that it would take too long to enter into here led to Cardinal Mobades’, a close friend of Pope Leo LX, sending Saulcerite to the android XM antro 95 G, known as Paxinterra.
At the end, Paxinterra turned out to be Cardinal Mobades himself. The real Paxinterra turned up only at the final stage of the drama. Paxinterra was now an ordained priest and the secretary of the millennia-old Cardinal Björn Personite, while Cardinal Mobades assumed his original shape.
In short, thanks to Mother Saulcerite, a long-standing theological conflict was resolved, and she stood out as a leading figure within the Church. Her career was sped up thanks to her good relations with Pope John XXXIV, an artificial reptile, and his sister, the prioress of a convent cum monastery of Saint Birgitta.
Mother Saulcerite soon became a bishop and was even more quickly promoted to Cardinal. She was selected to manage the “Salvation Bureau,” to quote the slangy expression she vehemently disapproved of.
She had not had such an exceptionally difficult problem to deal with for a long time. She had to manage some previously scheduled meetings, but she did ignore a long-scheduled round of Mah-Jong.
Thus, the day continued with a series of meetings. During a short break, she found time to call up a display of the system of planetoids near Betelgeuse, where the beings free of sin hung out.
It was not until the vespers that Urbanus Collectus came into sight. She discovered him at the end of the divine service, just as the priest — a Rigelian of some order — pronounced the closing words: “Through the intercessions of our Holy Forefathers, please Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us.”
At the same moment that the choir with impressive force came out with “Amen!” Mother Saulcerite went after Urbanus Collectus and grabbed hold of him in the corridor before he returned to his cell.
“We won’t wait till three o’clock tomorrow,” she said. “We’ll begin now.”
Urbanus Collectus nodded humbly, but his nod had not even come to an end as a change set in. It seemed to him as if Mother Saulcerite was made thinner, turning into a ghostlike being in keeping with the immaterial nuns from Gutta, the ones who had a diaphanous image and were suspended in the church during vespers.
The Cardinal was stretched into unthinkable nooks and angles. At the same time he was being thinned away from the view of Mother Saulcerite’s triangles, and then his whole existence was set rocking. It was as if a curtain of rainbows were encircling them. The last thing Urbanus Collectus saw was the wry, encouraging face of Cardinal Mother Saulcerite. It was stretched ad infinituuuuuummm...
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk