- Oct 31, 2006
- Los Angeles
(main party timeline)
Patriarch Nikon II waited intently in a small salon, secluded away from the rest of the guests. After a few minutes, a somewhat hidden side door opened and the Pope stepped in.
"Your Holiness," the Patriarch greeted him.
"Your Holiness," the Pope responded.
"I'm surprised you came," the Patriarch said, walking over to a decanter and pouring himself a glass of wine.
"You should not be, my reason for being here is obvious."
"Is it?" The Patriarch said, pouring the Pope a glass, "does it have anything to do with the Holy Inquisitor currently harassing priests in Pannonia?"
Taking the glass the Pope responded, "he has no secular intentions, and last I recall he is only interviewing Catholic priests. No Orthodox priests have been bothered by him. Of course, I can't imagine why anyone would be so threatened by a fat old drunk and two bookworm nuns."
"So, then, if he is here on a purely spiritual mission, I assume you do have secular motives."
"Partially. With this arrangement reaffirming what the most recent conflicts on central Gallia-Germania have made real, there are now millions more Catholics under Imperial control, with no obviously safeguards. This may not be a new development, but this moment serves as an opportunity for dialogue."
"Your Holiness, with all do respect, what are you asking for? Cardinal Lombardi, the man you insist on harassing, is already one of her Majesty's closet advisors. He speaks for the Catholic interest in court. And the war is over--it is now time to rebuild--the Duomo in Gonzaga will be rebuilt--her Majesty insisted on it!"
"I'm sorry for wasting your time, your Holiness. It is clear that there is no request I can make that you have the power honor."
The Patriarch was visibly taken aback by the Pope's statement. "What do mean?"
"I could beg you to ensure the rights of Catholics are protected in this country... but you can't protect the rights of Orthodox, or any religion here."
"Leave politics out of this. For the sake of Christ, I don't care what you or that hedonist friend of yours think."
"We don't get to avoid politics. As much as we may want to. When was the last time you went to your emperor and asked him to help someone or some group of people? Do you even feel comfortable asking for his help giving aid to marginalized people? When was the last time you felt comfortable asking for something that wasn't a new privilege for the church or a condemnation of someone you didn't like?"
he paused for a moment, "it's all political, Nikon... and that's why you cannot help me, or anyone, because you have no power and are too comfortable to try... again, I'm sorry for wasting your time."
some time later
The Holy Father did not mean to stay long in @Tarusa , after speaking with the Patriarch and a few good-byes to other world leaders, he was back on a plane bound for Tibur.
Papa Juan José had always struggled to sleep during flights, and this time was no exception. Even though he was tired, and sipping his third Mojito, sleep would not come to him. He tried to read some, hoping to satiate his mind, when one of the pilots came to alert him
"Santo padre," he said, "the Rheinian air force has sent four fighters to escort us."
The Pope's face grew concerned, "is everything alright?"
"There was an attack in Tiversk. The Tsar is dead, the president of Natal is dead and... and... El Presidente was very badly injured. They're flying him to Palmira as we speak."
"Mi hijo," he whispered, he made the sign of the Cross and started praying, silently. As the pilot started to head back towards the cockpit, the Pope spoke up: "no, we are not going back to Tibur tonight. Reroute us to Palmira!"
Santa Cruz de Taumántico, San José
The room smelled sanitized, artificially clean, and it was echoed in appearance with the white surroundings of the hospital room, at least when you didn't take into account the myriad of equipment that surrounded the bed with its occupant, Presidente José David Constanza, who himself smelled and felt artificially sanitized. That combined with the cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics he was on left him in a state one could reasonably argue was adjacent to limbo. It was a medically induced high, of sorts, to keep him relatively conscious and comfortable while his body slowly recovered from his injuries, internal and external, and the surgery that had been done to mitigate the worst of the damage.
It was miserable, he felt trapped in the worst high of his life.
Not to mention the fact that, technically, he wasn't out of the woods yet. He had overheard the doctors talking while he was drifting in and out, and he noted how, although his condition had improved, it was still uncertain how long the recovery process would take... or if it'd even be successful. Passively confronting his own mortality was the last thing El Presidente wanted to do, given how he had been actively avoiding the subject for as long as he could recently, but here we were, forced into it thanks to some terrorists in Tarusa who wanted him dead so badly they'd take out two other world leaders to succeed.
It was then that the nurse appeared in the doorway, in his peripheral vision, and said something about him having a visitor. Given the security around his hospital room, as the Josefino secret service was taking no more chances with their vulnerable leader, this was a bit surprising. Who in the world would be allowed past that barricade?
Turns out, Il Papa can open many doors otherwise shut, and ensure some privacy between the two men while he was at it.
It was an immense effort for El Presidente to turn his head towards his Spiritual Father and close friend, who strode to his bed with the calm serenity of a father worried sick for his son: a brave and convincing appearance, but the concern remained visible. "Dios mio... mi hijo." the Pope began.
The Josefino smiled, "It's good to see you too, Padre Santo." His voice was weak, breathless, to even speak took so much energy. "I didn't expect to be seeing you again so soon for confession, and in this state, but here we are."
The Pope furrowed his brow in confusion and further concern, "Confession? Mi hijo surely you're not-"
"Not if I have anything to say about it." El Presidente interrupted, "But... just in case... I've overheard the doctors, and I'm so plagued by my thoughts, Padre Santo. Please, if you could humor me, I promise you can tease me about it later."
At this, the Pope smiled, and sat down in the chair next to President Constanza's bed and made the sign of the cross, prompting the Josefino to intone, "Bless me, Padre, for I have sinned."
"What sins have you committed, mi hijo?"
At that, El Presidente began recounting, slowly, excruciatingly slowly, every debauchery his addled mind could think of, ranging from drug usage to sexual conquests to simple lies and political shenanigans. By the twentieth example, it was the Holy Father's turn to interrupt, "Mi hijo, I asked for your sins, not a recounting of your life."
El Presidente managed a strangled chortle that could conceivably be called laughter. When he settled back into breathing he responded, "Lo siento, Padre Santo. I did not mean to waste your time." His smile then turned a bit more serious. "I... have doubted God, Padre Santo. I have become Doubting Thomas. I have doubted the ability of good to triumph over evil, over the conspiracy. I have doubted heaven and hell, and I am afraid of death, Padre Santo... no, that isn't true. I'm afraid of the void."
He turned to stare directly at the Pope, a rare, public display of vulnerability (that fortunately was as far away from the general public and press as possible, god forbid they overheard), "I've seen that void, in the eyes of the Carian Prime Minister, in the Tarusan Tsar, in President Poole. I don't want to be lost in the void, Padre Santo."