The night outside the Vatican felt dark and oppressive to him.
Standing at his window, overlooking the plaza below, Pope Leo XIV sighed. It was bad enough that mankind wanted to destroy himself, but now that had another incantation of the warrior-princess to deal with! When would they ever be free of her, he wondered.
Staring at the starry sky overhead, he found himself wondering about the multitudes in space. Millions had left earth in the colonization waves, and now trillions filled the galaxy. What would become of them during all this? How many lives were going to lost in the coming conflict?
He turned from his window and crossed over to his sitting chair. Dropping into it, he reached across from a glass of water. Sipping at it slowly, he felt the pressure of the world on his shoulders.
Adamantly against the idea of war, he was torn about what to do. If Almir was left alive, the chances of mankind surviving the conflict would increase dramatically. However, if she were to die, the resulting conflict was liable to bring upon the Second Coming.
Decisions, decisions, he thought sourly.
Leo looked over at the man sitting in another chair. Dressed in descript clothing, he was able to slip into and out of the Vatican without being noticed. That allowed him to move under the radar of the multitudes that were hunting him. For while they had heard of him, none of them had seen him, making him able to blend in easily where ever he went.
“You need to do something about that woman,” Leo said.
“We’re working on it,”
“That’s not good enough,”
“It’s the best you’re going to get,” the man said. “My organization has been cleaning up your messes for centuries now; don’t you think we know what we’re doing?”
“Not all of your work is sanctioned by us,”
“No it’s not,” the man agreed. “But we have to do other jobs to stay sharp, and to make money.”
“You were originally created to work for us,”
“Well,” the man said. “Guess what: times change, and people change. Get over it. We are who we are, and if you want to do business with us, fine. If you don’t, then that’s fine too.”
“Just make sure she doesn’t live,”
“Why do you think I just showed the Sagnar four years of Intelligence I worked hard to get?”
“Because you have your own plans for her,”
“Granted,” he said. “I have desires I would like to take care of in this; however, you’re paying us to make sure she dies. You can guarantee that will happen.”
“You disgust me,” Leo said. “Sometimes I think you’re as bad as the people running the government.”
“I think you’re overreacting,”
“You want her eliminated,” he said. “And my people want to have their…sport. So, why can’t we both have what we want? That way we all end up happy.”
“I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with your idea of ‘sport,’”
“You’re predecessors didn’t have too much trouble with it,” he said. “Especially after we took care of Missy Brown for you.”
Leo sighed as the bitter truth hit him. He was right, Leo told himself, Father Church has used these men many times to eliminate threats. Just like three hundred years ago, this was going to be exactly that same. With Almir out of the way, things would get back on track and hopefully lead to the Second Coming.
“It doesn’t mean I have to like it,”
“No you don’t. But what you have to do is let us work.”
“Fine! You’ll have all the freedom to move, but answer me one question.”
“What purpose did you have in giving your Intelligence to the Sagnar.”
“First off,” he said, smiling. “Who said I gave all my Intelligence away? I’ve got copies of everything they got.”
“That still doesn’t answer my question,”
“I was coming to that,”
“There are lots you aren’t aware of,” he said. “That Carver is doing. First off, he has been using biological weaponry on Sagnar colonies in the Beta Scorpii sector.”
Leo felt himself sag in his chair. This couldn’t possibly be happening, he told himself. George Carver wasn’t just a ordinary madman, no, he was pure evil personified! The very thought of the lives lost made him sick to his stomach. Could things get any worse?
“As bad as that sounds,” the man said. “Almir stumbled upon the plot. By answering a distress call, she placed herself directly at ground zero.”
“How does this tie in?”
“I was getting to that.”
“Once they realized that Almir was unraveling their plan,” he said. “Fleet Command sent false information to the Sagnar, putting the blame on her.”
“Yes,” he said. “So, I decided to countermand it with what we knew. It was a calculated gamble, with the Sagnar wanting to destroy my organization, but it was worth it.”
“What were the results?”
“From my sources in MI6,” he said. “The Sagnar have decided to help Almir stay alive. While their ultimate goal is to have her steal the prototype that Carver is building, it still plays into our hands.”
“How do you think it plays into our hands?”
“Once she comes back to Earth, she will be arrested. That much is an absolute, so she will end up stealing the prototype whether she knows it now or not. After committing grand theft, especially on such a large scale, she will have to find a government willing to give her asylum.”
“Okay, I follow.”
“Well, once they give her asylum,” he said. “It will make it much easier for us to take care of her for you.”
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