When we were in the elevator the Monsignor reminded Frank to keep me on encrypted mode. I would have surmised when we left the Monsignor’s office we would head for one of Papal palaces behind Saint Peters. I knew that few humans were allowed inside. However the Monsignor took us to an elevator and then down a long corridor and then onto the elevator we were now in. It was one of those high security elevators. Cameras everywhere and from my sensors and my data base I could tell we were not headed to any place shown on the tourist maps of Vatican City. I theorized that maybe we were going to some hidden Roman ruin with decadent murals and statues. I must admit that sometimes my digital imagination algorithm are a little unpredictable.
When the elevator doors opened we were in an area of very modern, but posh, architecture. Gone were the Renaissance statues and the religious artwork. There were no dead popes in crystal coffins or anything that looked religious. The Monsignor took us through a couple of well decorated rooms and then into an underground courtyard with a very large round pool. Even though we were at least 180 feet underground there were countless flowering bushes and greenery surrounding the pool. The walls were covered in clinging vines where there were not floor to ceiling windows. It had the feel of a very exclusive resort. I guess you could call it Club Medici.
In the pool was a naked girl. I could not see her front, but she was no more than 25 years old. Across the pool were several patio style groupings of tables and chairs. I could see another naked human sitting and enjoying a glass of wine. I put it at 99% probable that it was Pope Alexander IX.
The Monsignor walked us over and as we approached Pope Alexander got up to greet us.
“Mr. Huntington. I was told you would be visiting me just now. Have a seat. Monsignor, go get both of you a class of wine. It’s over there.”
Frank always tried to take things in stride, but I could tell by his look that he was out of his league on this occasion. The Monsignor did not say a word but did do as he was told. Frank clumsily sat as far away from his Holiness and still be at the same table. Yes, my Master was definitely spooked.
The Vicar of Christ pointed towards the pool and asked Frank, “Would you like to take a dip before we talk Frank? Is it okay I call you Frank?” It took Frank a second to get his answer out, but he finally managed to say, “Sure. I mean, Frank is okay, but I’m fine just sitting for now.”
The Monsignor gave Frank a glass and then stood by Frank to his left.
“Your Holiness, I have briefed Mr. Huntington about our concerns. He has asked to talk with you.”
“Sure, what do you have in mind, Frank?”
Frank took a quick sip of courage and then set the glass on the table, “Monsignor told me you recently have had a change of heart about your faith in God. Is that true?”
“Yes and no. I lost my youthful convictions about five years after becoming a priest. I don’t think I was ever totally into religion, but I did love the aura of religion. I also found out rather quickly that life as a Bishop or higher was pretty good. The first bishop I worked for had the best taste in wine. I learned all I know about wine from Bishop Segius. However, after what happened two weeks ago I have lost all feelings I had for religion. However, as a man of the cloth who has made it to the top, I just couldn’t walk away. Who the hell would want to give up all this” he said pointing toward the nude girl that was climbing out of the pool now.
I am sure Frank must have recognized her immediately. I had after we had walked over towards the table and my cameras could see the girl from the front. It was Princess Marianne. And she was still in her birthday suit. Again, as she approached I could see Frank was flustered. She grabbed a towel by the edge of the pool and wiped off her perfect body. She then put the towel around her shoulders so her hair would not drip on her. The towels only made her breasts look more amazing. She made no attempt to cover anything else as she walked over towards Pope Alexander.
“Come set yourself on my lap, dear.”
She did just that without so much as missing a beat in her walk. She picked up the Pope’s glass and took a sip and then looked over at Frank with an innocent smile and said, “Hello Frank.” Frank said “Hello Princess” at a barely audible level.
Alexander took the glass from her and took another sip and said, “You two have met before. I know you broke the story of her marriage to Sir Terrance.”
“Yes Sir, I mean your Holiness.” Frank said trying to regain his focus, “I thought I knew the Princess fairly well, but I see she can still be full of surprises.”
The Princess only showed a slight smile and arching of her eyes at Frank’s observation.
“She is an amazing woman” the Pope said with a big smile on his face.
“Have you been helping the Pope deal with his new atheism?”
“No, I don’t think he has much of any issues with that” she purred.
The Pope did not notice the irony in Frank’s voice when he had spoken to Marianne. I could see that by the way the Pope responded to Frank’s question.
“No Frank, I’m fine. I got your drift, but I have no suicidal tendencies. By the time I became a bishop I had a string of mistresses as well as a good wine cellar.”
“What about your work with the poor that made you so famous?”
“Oh, I do feel for the poor. Many of them around the world have no choice but to be poor. Their culture or their masters keep them poor. I enjoy the finer things in life, but I prefer to see the poor not suffering. The history of economic growth has been one of raising the poor out of poverty. Everyone is better if you can enlarge the middle class. While I saw the church as a way for me to have access to fame and fortune, I did not see a need for me to do it by exploiting the poor. I hate poverty and I know the poor hate it, too.”
While Alexander was talking he gently circled one of his fingers around Marianne’s nipples. Frank imagined if he was not there that something quickly would be taking Alexander’s attention away from world poverty. Frank was focused now and did not let this surreal display of sexuality get to him.
“Your Holiness – “
“Shit, Frank, call me Alex. I’m off duty and I sure as hell don’t look holy.”
That did bring a smile to Frank and so he rephrased what he was going to say, “Alex, so you didn’t feel anything when the other two did?”
“No, I felt something. I felt liberated. I also felt less inhibited. I got these monkeys right where I want them. The curia I’m sure is pissed at me, but they know I still can put on a good show for the religious masses. I still take care of business and I see no reason why I shouldn’t continue to do so. Compared to my predecessor I have increased donations for helping the poor by 400%. I love shaming the rich to give until it hurts. They all want to think they can go to heaven by giving me a hundred million.”
“No feelings of hypocrisy?”
“Listen, there isn’t a world leader who believes in the fucking Bible, but they all know they need to play the game if they want to get elected. Even the despots play the religious game. Anyone in my curia who tries to come out and say I am an atheist know I would fuck them. You don’t get to the top without knowing how to deal with enemies.”
“You realize I have written many articles trying to reveal what assholes politicians are.”
“Sure I’ve seen some of your stuff. Even Popes read the Wall Street Journal.”
“Aren’t you afraid I will spill the beans?”
“No I’m not. I know your beast over there has been on encryption. What you have seen here no one would believe. But you are not here to see my big dick, you are here to discuss this religious mystery we have. Someone is fucking with religion. They fucked with me. Luckily, I was already fucked up as far as faith goes. They didn’t know that. I’m sure they are wondering why I haven’t gone and hanged myself or told the world Jesus is a joke. But the fact remains that whoever and however they are doing this needs to be stopped. I’m not sure what Pietro has said to you, but the masses need religion. They can’t handle a world without a personal god and free tickets to heaven. They can’t cope with all the crap in the world without religion.”
“I think they could under the right circumstances.”
“Maybe. Most likely many could, but many could not. Many will refuse as they have already refused to listen to the likes of famous atheists like Coopersmith or their dead saints, like Sagan or Hitchens. You know, Mr. Frank, it really comes down to the old concept of there being two kinds of people – gods and clods. The human gods can face the truth about the Universe. They always have – just look at the Greeks like Epicurus. Clods on the other hand have always lived within their times accepting what the majority accept and questioning nothing. They are easy to lead. Trust me on that. I have worked with the poor. I know how easy it is to make them sheep of the church. This sudden loss of religion threatens not only my gig, but the current world order. They refuse cold hard logic on how ridiculous religion is and so they would be totally lost if their faith was magically removed.”
“I don’t think it is magic that is doing it.”
“Neither do I fucking believe it is magic, but my geniuses that we have consulted don’t know how it is happening. All they have said is whoever is doing it is just in the beta testing phase. Geek babble for what most would call practice shots. Do you know how it is being done?”
All this time the Princess kept sitting on the Pope’s lap. She would passively encourage him to enjoy her body. I could tell that it was distracting to Frank, but he was using anger to keep himself in check. Not that he was angry at her, per say, he was angry at the world for being so insane. It was obvious that the Pope was used to such foreplay and could still focus on business.
“No. It’s a dead end. Can’t be anything that has been done before. Princess, have you ever asked your husband if he has any idea how this could be happening?”
She smiled and got up from the Pope’s lap and went and sat down next to Frank. I am not sure why she did that. Hard to say why she would leave such a cozy spot. Once she sat down she first looked at the Monsignor and said “Would you be a dear and bring me a glass of lemon water?” Then she turned back to Frank and said “I showed your article about the nuns to my husband and we did briefly talk about it at dinner some time ago. He really didn’t have much of an opinion on it other than to say religion sucks.”
“What about the Buddhists?”
“I don’t know if he saw your article about suicide.”
“Did he say how someone might medically extract religious faith out of someone?”
“No, but I could ask him.”
The Pope looked at her and said, “He is the most fucking smart scientist in the world. He should be able to know if it is possible. I would love to go with you and ask, but I don’t think my curia would appreciate that.”
The Monsignor gave out of sigh and said, “No we wouldn’t, so get that out of your addled head your Holiness.”
“Then get me another glass of wine, Pietro.”
Frank let out a small laugh and said, “You can’t go, but I can. Can you arrange it?”
“No you don’t. You need to attend catechism tonight,” the Pope said doing a mock genuflect.
“Seriously Alex, I can’t stay forever. The press will start another diatribe about my disappearing again and my husband may get suspicious.”
Frank said, “Tomorrow or the next day would be fine.”
With that said, the Pope got up and stretched his arms high above his head. Frank took another sip and the Princess looked pleased.
“No suits required and the holy water is nice and warm.”
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