Vatican Assassin, page 1
BY MIKE LUOMA
BOOK ONE OF THE VATICAN ASSASSIN TRILOGY
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Dedicated to my Dad.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood...
The moon; our bright light in the night sky, a cratered white orb shining on a field of stars. When she shines full you can see the glint of metal off of mankind's home on her surface, the main city on the moon, Lunar Prime.
The Moon, now home to more than a million people. An independent state, not allied with either of the factions in the ongoing war between Earth and Mars.
Both sides in the ongoing war seek Lunar Prime's favor. Both sides respect and maintain the peace of Lunar Prime. It's one of the few homes of mankind not involved in the war; one of the few places the two sides can still meet as they try to negotiate an end to bloodshed.
When they bother to try.
The Governor of Lunar Prime, Meredith McEntyre, is popular with leaders on both sides of the conflict. She's used her position to gain power both for herself and for Lunar Prime. Her stature makes her an attractive ally. And an attractive target.
She's using her power to bring the opposing sides together with a peace conference on the moon. A conference gathering representatives from all involved parties: The Universal Trade Zone, the UTZ, who control most of Earth, Near Earth orbit, and who once controlled the moon itself. The Universal Islamic Nation, the UIN, who control Mars and the maglev-shipping highway connecting Earth space and Mars. The New catholic Church, allies of the UTZ. The NcC, with a small "c" to represent "catholic" in it's broader sense, the new church which includes all of Earth's Christians (except for the Mormons) ever since the Great Reunification of 2104, five years ago.
Representatives from other faiths are also present at the conference, invited to participate by the governor. Many faiths are now based on Lunar Prime, forced or otherwise driven off Earth during seventy years of fighting between the Christian UTZ and Moslem UIN.
The governor has invited the representatives of these other faiths to attend to hopefully cool some of the heat between the two foes. The war has been raging hot and cold since 2041, since the destruction of Jerusalem. It's still not really clear who was actually responsible for the destruction of the Holy City, but each side naturally still blames the other.
After Mecca was destroyed in 2070 there was no turning back.
The war has heated up of late, and for the first time threatens to spread to the Moon. The governor hopes to stop this. This conference is a start.
The representatives are gathering in the main conference center on Lunar Prime, the great hall used for the moon's affairs of state. The conference has all comers on their best behavior. People who would otherwise shoot each other on sight sit silently at tables across the auditorium from each other awaiting the governor's keynote speech.
Some stare out the giant windows on the long side walls of the hall, out at the gray lunar landscape, at the other domes, tubes and buildings that make up Lunar Prime, and out at the infinite carpet of stars. Some stare at the empty dais and podium and the giant picture of the moon that hangs on the wall behind the dais. Some simply stare at each other.
The Moslems from Mars all wear red colored variations on their ancestors' traditional desert garb. They have been driven from their homes on the Earth but maintain their ancient ways defiantly in the face of those who destroyed Mecca and stole their home. They glare, ignore, and sometimes nod at others in the crowd.
The UTZ delegation is all in business suits. In a way they, too, honor their own ancient traditions. The suit, the tie, the ancient garb of the businessman.
The NcC delegation next to them in the great hall is also in traditional dress, a Cardinal in red, other priests in black, dark purple, blue and green with clerical collars. Their group deliberately ignores the Moslems across the way.
The tension is palpable in the air, electric, you can almost smell the ozone, as if lightning were just about to strike.
The governor waits in the green room for her cue. About a minute left before she's to go out and make her speech to the assembled crowd. To open the dialogue. She has engaged both sides in less public dialogues as well.
The UIN have been very reasonable, nice people, she thinks.
They seem willing to talk and work together. David deals with some of them, and they seem sane enough. The UTZ are all business, no warmth. And the NcC Cardinal and the Vatican delegation are almost a joke. You can't talk to him about public policy. Although they do have a new man up direct from the Vatican. David says he's dangerous. A dangerous priest! He popped in here by mistake just a minute ago and he seemed nice enough. Ah, there's the cue.
The governor walks into the auditorium through a door to the right of the dais. The low buzz of conversation fades as she's seen, as she walks up the dais to the podium. She stands behind the podium and looks out at the crowd.
Some of these people's fathers and mothers fought each other. What chance does anyone have of bringing them together? What chance do I have? Well, somebody has to try. Here goes...
"Welcome, everyone. Thank you all for agreeing to come here, for agreeing to see each other in peace, arms put aside for the moment to talk. Attending this conference is the bravest act yet on either side in this war. I applaud you."
The governor steps back and applauds. Her solo clapping is joined by one of the rabbis in the crowd, and then the applause spreads. The spontaneous ovation drops off after about a minute, as the governor smiles and again approaches the podium.
"We are right to cheer this hope for peace. We begin with hope. We put the battle aside for the moment for this chance at peace.
"Lunar Prime is often in the middle of these battles. We haven't been hit physically in this last long round of conflict, but we've been hurt by this war all the same. Hurt by both sides. No side is blameless.
"Lunar Prime remains neutral in spite of our pain. Because we are so close to the Earth, the Universal Trade Zone exerts untold pressures upon us. As their only refuge in Earth space, we also feel extraordinary pressure from the Universal Islamic Nation.
"The Moon... "She stops. A puzzled look crosses her face.
She collapses like a puppet whose strings are cut. It happens fast.
Governor Meredith McEntyre looks up at the moon, the picture of the full moon on the wall up behind the podium she had just been standing behind. Standing on the moon. Her Moon.
She lies flat on her back, losing consciousness.
What was she thinking? The UTZ war with Mars and the Universal Islamic Nation puts the Moon in the middle too often. Her Moon.
My moon. The moon in the middle...
She can hardly hold her thoughts, hardly keep her eyes open.
She looks up and sees the moon. Her moon.
She rolls her head from side to side, sees less and less of her moon. There are people rushing around her, grabbing her arm... people are trying to help her as she lies on the dais.
She sees the Moon one last time.
"The Governor is down! Call a med squad! Get me more security! Close this place off, now! Nobody leaves without answering to me first! No one gets in, either, without my say so!"
Lieutenant Governor Marc Edwards finishes barking orders and looks down at his boss, his friend, Madam Governor McEntyre, lying on her back.
His aide is checking her
"How is she?"
"I think she's dead, Mr. Edwards... there's no pulse!"
Edwards pushes his aide out of the way. He reaches down and feels for a pulse along McEntyre's neck. Nothing.
People are beginning to crowd in.
"C'mon, c'mon, a little space, please!"
Two men in blue med uniforms rush up the stairs of the dais to the edge of the group gathering around the Governor.
"Medics, Mr. Edwards... "
"Make room! Let them in here!"
The EMTs work on the Governor. Edwards watches as they pound her chest, send tubes down her throat, and scramble to try to revive her.
Edwards looks around the room; diplomats, envoys from the UTZ and UIN, representatives from every religion practiced on Luna. They look on in shock.
The Governor is not responding to any of the EMTs ministrations.
They defib her, but she doesn't respond.
They keep trying... three, four, five minutes.
They do all they can.
Edwards looks up from her still form at the crowd staring back at him. The delegations are looking at him and the scene on the dais, but they also glare at each other as they mill about, waiting for news, waiting to leave the auditorium.
Waiting for it to sink in.
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