Eucharist for a Sinless Mankind
by Bertil Falk
Chapter 2: The Not-Sinning Ones
part 1 of 7
Cardinal Leonida Brown felt uncomfortable in her new role under the protection of the Church. She wished she were back as an ordinary bishop surrounded by a fabulous garden and an ornithological sanctuary, where birds under threat of extermination found a sheltered workshop.
She had almost forgotten that it was about time for the quarterly Mah-Jong meeting, but she remembered it just a few hours before they were supposed to meet. She plugged herself in and sat at the imaginary table of pasemite floating in the midst of the room.
There were her colleagues: her former enemy Mervil Tojas and Björn Personit, also a Cardinal and the founder of the Order of the Personites. Thanks to a conked-out teleportation receiver in the past, he had been preserved in suspended animation for millennia. The only one missing was Mother Saulcerite. After a short while they realized that something must have happened to her.
When Leonida Brown contacted the venerable institution known as The Bureau for Assuring the Salvation of Newly Discovered Mankinds, the Mah-Jong players understood that Cardinal Saulcerite had been de facto swallowed up by... well, it was not easy to know what she had been swallowed up by. Matters were not made better when Cardinal Mervil Tojas realized that the young Celibateur Urbanus Collectus, whom he had assigned to his colleague from Bavaria, had also disappeared.
Their irritation about these events was great. But they solved the problem of their colleague’s absence by contacting the old atheist Carolus Brainflower. Not only did he sit down with pleasure at the imaginary table, he also amazed his believing friends by making tidy Mah-Jongs.
“Look, a real sandberger,” he said, satisfied with his lovely construction of walls of winds and red dragons.
The disappearance worried Leonida Brown. It was not the first time she had had reason to feel anxious about the well-being of Mother Saulcerite. Before, when Saulcerite had been the subject of persecution by the Personites with Mervil Tojas at the head, her anxiety for the young priestess had overshadowed most other problems. At that time, Carlus Brainflower and Teresia Nightmare had served as catalysts and helped in resolving the conflict that lay heavily upon the Church.
Leonida Brown had always admired her woman friend from Bavaria, her unselfishness, fearlessness and lack of ambitions. She had seen her rising in the ranks of the Church. At the beginning, Leonida Brown had been proud of Saulcerite’s straightforward career. But as Mother Saulcerite’s character had matured, Leonida had noticed more and more careerism, which she found repellent. But now her old anxiety returned for the welfare of her woman friend.
“You religious people are always involved in strange things,” said Carolus Brainflower, the former chief forest officer. “What makes you believe that they’ve been transferred to a parallel dimension by a quantum mechanic transporter?”
“We know that the method was used when a complete convent cum monastery disappeared from the planet. The vanguard of the Federation under the guidance of a certain Captain Xavier Pascal used a quantum sling. The news has just now been released by the Vatican media.”
“Good God,” Carolus Brainflower sighed.
“Hear, hear! The heathen invokes God,” Cardinal Leonida Brown said mockingly.
“Like hell I do,” said Carolus Brainflower, to put Leonida Brown in her place.
The Cardinal stroked her long, red hair and regarded Carolus Brainflower with a thoughtful expression. “I don’t think that the staff at the Bureau for Assuring the Salvation of Newly Discovered Mankinds can handle this emergency in a proper way.”
“Why not? The Bureau sends out brave persuaders who are strongly rooted in their faith and have no scruples.”
“On the planets, yes. But over at the Bureau for Assuring the Salvation of Newly Discovered Mankinds, the only people who are left lack bravery, are afflicted with doubts, and have scruples. The staff at the Bureau feel that God has summoned them but they didn’t pass the test. They lacked the willpower, the boldness, the motivation and the fanaticism required to carry out the task. Therefore they were assigned daily housekeeping duties at home.
“The Bureau is like a sheltered workshop, filled with clones of Doubting Thomas. Furthermore, Saulcerite has had a tendency to surround herself with collaborators who are able and efficient, but she has been careful not to recruit people who could be a threat to her position as the undisputed chief of the Bureau. Now that she’s gone, there’s nobody who can take over.”
Carolus Brainflower started laughing.
“Is this common among you Christians? Oughtn’t someone like Mother Saulcerite to be above such things?”
”Only a heathen could say something like that,” replied Mother Leonida. “We all have our weaknesses. We’ve all inherited original sin. That’s why it’s called original sin. That’s why we always confess wholesale and retail.”
“I’ve never understood that,” Carolus Brainflower said. ”I’ve not inherited any sin.”
“Of course you’re free from sin,” retorted the carrot-haired Cardinal venomously, “but I know that you like Mother Saulcerite and will help find her. You have useful contacts... What’s her name, that vulgar teleport specialist who released Cardinal Björn Personit when he was shut up in that timeless transportation pattern?”
“Teresia Nightmare!” he exclaimed. His face reflected great surprise.
“That’s right. That’s her. She could help us now, if anyone can.”
“And you are sure that the Department of the Incorporation of New Worlds has kidnapped Saulcerite?”
“It seems so. Can you get in touch with Teresia Nightmare?”
“Sure, but I doubt that it would serve any purpose.”
“Why is that?” Leonida Brown sounded irritated now. “Teresia did an excellent job when Mother Saulcerite was in that fix.”
“Do you really know anything about the Department of the Incorporation of New Worlds?”
“So what if I know? I’ve never had anything to do with it.”
“I understand that. Then you don’t know who the mighty under-secretary of that department is?”
“Certainly not. Why?”
“Her name is Teresia Nightmare.”
This piece of information should have hit Leonida Brown like a hard blow, but it was rather like hitting empty air. She did not turn a hair to betray that she was surprised by the unexpected information.
“Very good,” she said. “Then we can go straight to the one who is responsible for the behavior of The Department of the Incorporation of New Worlds. I did not expect you might have useful contacts in the form of straight tubes.”
“By all means,” he said.
“She was your mistress,” said the Cardinal with a sweet-sour smile.
“Rather, she had me as an off-and-on-lover,” Carolus Brainflower answered.
“But no longer?”
“She traded you for a newer model?”
“Don’t talk about that!”
The voice of the Cardinal was dripping, but Carolus Brainflower did not let himself be poisoned. He bit back. “The name of her new one is Xavier Pascal.”
It was a direct hit.
The struggle of the giants was over. For a moment, the imaginary form of Carolus Brainflower remained sitting as the victor by the non-existent table of pasemite, whereupon he desynchronized and disappeared, a malicious smile on his lips.
Too late, Cardinal Leonida Brown regretted that she had been self-important. But she always got irritated with Carolus Brainflower. The first time she had met him, he vented his spite upon all religious beings. Now she sat defeated by simple facts.
Teresia Nightmare was under the protection of the secular power, and her lover was the nemesis of the Salvation Bureau, Xavier Pascal, a captain on patrol, a man who heaved convents cum monasteries from one dimension to another, and who was probably behind the disappearance of Mother Saulcerite.
In other words: Curtains!
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk