The Next Chapter (Three)

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Chapter Three
The Vatican 2012

The gathering in the Vatican’s largest chamber was designed and intended to be the most closely guarded secret since the Normandy landings. For the last few hours men and women from a variety of highly qualified occupations had been arriving from many different parts of the world. They came in the dark of night, some disguised as priests or nuns. Others arrived in vehicles with darkened windows. The Swiss Guards were on high alert watching for unauthorized personnel in the immediate area.

Once the group was carefully checked off the list and it was confirmed everyone had arrived, they were directed to their accommodations to relax, unpack and change clothes. Early the following morning Vatican staff directed the visitors to seats around the arranged tables of the cavernous meeting room. As the visitors began finding seats the hum of conversation noticeably increased and reverberated off the huge domed ceiling. Old friends and colleagues greeted each other with smiles, handshakes and pats on the back. The chamber had taken on an atmosphere similar to that of a high school class reunion. A noise at the far end of the chamber caused the guests to turn their heads in the direction of the sound. A large ornate door at the head of the chamber had creaked as it opened allowing Cardinal Perrocelli to enter the room. He was dressed in a finely tailored dark blue Italian suit, crisp white shirt and plain tie. The Cardinal was fit and lean and carried his sixty-nine years with an air of confidence and ease. His decision to wear civilian clothes was intended to create a neutral atmosphere rather than one of the Church and Holy City.

The chamber quickly hushed as the Cardinal positioned himself at the front of the room and prepared to speak. “Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to first welcome you all to the Vatican and to offer the greetings from the Holy Father. We are all painfully aware we have a most serious situation to deal with and have much work ahead of us. I’m sure our various governments have stressed the vital importance of this meeting. However, I think each and everyone of us are very much aware of the grave threat facing the world. The possibility of a world war is all too real. Indeed, if it were to happen it would truly be a war to end all wars. Each of your governments has sent the very best minds in their nations in the hope that together we can resolve this dire situation. The hours and days ahead will be very difficult for all of us. The decisions we might reach can possibly save or destroy the world, as we know it. For several years now we have watched Islam rising while the Christian world is shrinking at an alarming rate. All over the world we are losing our faith, our churches are almost empty. I must stress this is not just a catholic issue it affects every denomination. It is not merely an issue of religion, but of our whole western civilization. The dangers are spreading throughout our nations invading the very fabric of our governments and institutions. Middle Eastern countries are building up huge stock piles of nuclear arms and weapons. Islamic fanatics are pushing their leaders for a new Jihad, one like the world has never seen. They see us as weak and lazy only interested in our bank accounts and possessions. There is little purpose in my further reiterating these issues as I’m sure you are all very well informed of what is at stake. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s get to work and with Gods help may we reach a speedy and positive solution, time is of the essence”

At the end of three long and grueling days and late nights nothing conclusive had been achieved. Several ideas had been floated and just as quickly sunk. It seemed more time was wasted with silly ego inspired arguments rather than of making any real progress. In frustration Cardinal Perrocelli called a halt to the proceeding; there seemed nothing more to be gained by continuing further talks. He suggested everyone take home the ideas and information gathered here, talk with their own people and perhaps someone would see a way forward. Perrocelli offered a blessing and wished the members a safe journey home. As people began shuffling to the exits he turned and headed for his office. He felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. The past three days of extremely hard work had taken its toll, he was weary and disconsolate. His hand had barely touched the doorknob when he felt a slight tug on his sleeve. Standing beside him was a small elderly man who looked vaguely familiar from the meetings. He couldn’t quite put a name to him but seemed to recall he was a minister from a small parish located somewhere in Scotland. In fact he had been a little puzzled as to why the British government had considered this strange little clergyman might have something of value to offer the gathering. Throughout the three days Perrocelli could not recall him even speaking; he certainly had not offered any ideas or asked any questions.

The Reverend Angus MacDonald was indeed a minister from a small church in the town of Inverarary, Scotland. Inverarary was a picturesque little town nestled deep in the Argyll Highlands on the banks of Loch Fynn. His ministry had begun some forty years ago and he was still very much loved by his congregation. In his early years fiery sermons had matched his wild red hair. Over the years his sermons had moderated somewhat and his hair was now almost snow white. He’d loved the Highlands from the first moment he set a foot on the heather. Angus had no wish to ever live anywhere else. Nevertheless, in his long and varied career in the ministry he had never before been called upon by his government to perform such a strange and secretive duty as he now found himself involved in. Before flying out to Italy a government agent met him at Heathrow with instructions. Strange instructions indeed, he was to speak privately with the Cardinal about the old army base above Inveraray and suggest a very strange but possible answer to the present situation.

“Would yea have a wee minute Cardinal I have a wee idea to put to you”. “Of course Reverend um, sorry but your name escapes me, what do you have in mind? Angus MacDonald it is Cardinal, I nay expected you to remember me amongst all those important people
“Come in to the office Reverend, please, have a seat and make yourself comfortable. I’m sure your Government considered you as important as anyone else that attended the meetings, or why else would they have sent you? It’s been a long three days my friend, will you join me in a glass of wine? “Aye thon’s very kind of you Cardinal, but might you perhaps have a wee dram of whisky in the place, I’m no keen on the grape”.
Perrocelli nodded to an aide who quietly slipped away, returning moments later carrying a tray with two glasses, a carafe of wine and an unopened bottle of Chivas.
He poured a glass of wine and placed it on the Cardinal’s desk. Then turned to the minister and asked if he wished ice or water with his scotch? Angus smiled and said Nay lad just the whisky is good; both men sipped their drinks, for Angus it was more of a gulp than a sip. So, Cardinal Perrocelli said, you have something you wish to discuss. Aye I do your Eminence. The cardinal raised his hand please, let us not stand on ceremony here, please call me Benito and if I may, I will call you Angus. Aye, Benito it is then. I didna speak out about this at the meetings because I doubted anyone would have taken me seriously. Indeed yea may no take me serious either once I have explained my idea. Angus, only yesterday another terrorist bomb exploded in Paris killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people, that is the sixth one this month. There are areas in New York, London and Toronto where Sharia law has been imposed. Only heavily armed police squads dare enter those places, even armed they risk life and limb. You will not have heard the latest news yet. Early this morning the Australia Government imposed martial law and troops are now patrolling the streets of all her major cities”. “On Sunday in the city of Melbourne six churches were fire bombed by Islamic fanatics during morning services”. “It is believed that some fifty people died and many more were seriously injured”. “The Australian Government has said enough is enough and declared martial law with enforced curfews. All reserve troops are being called up. Muslims are being ordered to leave the country within a seventy-four hour period. Those who remain after the deadline will be arrested and placed in concentration camps that are presently being built. Airports and the docks are jammed with people trying to get out before the deadline. Already thousands have left and those remaining fear for their lives. The Australian troops are angry and showing little mercy. While I understand the Australians and their concerns, it worries me that many Muslims are just innocent bystanders and this will only force them into the camps of the fanatics. Deportations and concentration camps are all too much of a reminder of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and 40’s. We are standing on the brink of what would be the most horrendous world war anyone could imagine. Please believe me when I tell you I’m prepared to listen to any and all suggestions. A catastrophe awaits us all. Angus, if you have a solution to offer, no matter how wild an idea, I’m more than ready to listen”.

Angus drained his glass and refilled it, “tis a long story Benito, I hope you have the time and patience to listen”.

“This story or maybe it is better described as a saga began in1943 during the Second World War”. Angus sat back in the comfortable leather chair as he continued. “The Ministry of Defense had an ultra secret research base hidden deep in the Highlands just beyond Inverarary in County Argyll. None of the local population had any idea of what went on at the base; the whole area was a restricted zone. So secret in fact it was guarded by a company of elite commandos. When the war ended the camp shut down and was forgotten. It remained that way until a group of intellectuals from Oxford University reopened it in the early 1970’s. Once more it appeared to be cloaked in secrecy; commandos had been replaced with cameras and high fences. Large signs giving stern warnings of illegal trespassing were everywhere. But as you can imagine the locals were a canny lot and wild stories soon began to spread. Unlike the army the people working at the base needed to buy food and supplies in the town. They often needed the help of the village tradesmen, cooks, plumbers, cleaners and such. Leaks and rumours were bound to happen. Inverarary is a small place and soon everyone got to know the strangers from the camp. Slowly they integrated into the town attending social gatherings, dances and the Saturday night sing-a-longs in the local pubs. Whisky has a way of loosening the tongue and soon rumours became more factual. It was believed the camp was involved in some sort of quantum physics. However, locals simplified that down to calling it time travel. Indeed most townspeople considered the Sassenachs as crazy outsiders and believed the only time travel they achieved was traveling to the bottom of a bottle of scotch”.

“I was appointed to the ministry in November of 1976. My first church was the wee Church of Scotland which is set in the center of the town. This grand old church has a very interesting history; it was started in 1792 and completed by 1802. A wall in the center of the building divided and housed two separate congregations. On one side of the wall the English or Lowlanders worshipped and on the other side Gaelic or Highlanders worshipped. In 1957 the Gaelic end was converted into a church hall and a door joined the two areas as one. It is told that in the late 1870’s a. Och I’m sorry Benito, I’m rattling on about my wee church when there are more important things to talk about. “People tell me it’s a fault of mine to drift and wander a wee bit when telling a story”

“When I first arrived in Inverarary my congregation was on the wee side. I was a young and very committed preacher with an anxious desire to please and impress my superiors. The first task I set myself was to increase the size of my congregation. One of the many things I did to build up my numbers was to send a letter to the camp inviting their members to attend the Sunday services. My letter received no response and no new faces turned up on Sunday morning. I was a wee bit disappointed but decided to wait a couple of weeks then try again. This time rather than sending another letter I would visit the camp in person. Perhaps if I were to introduce myself I might stir some interest and maybe win a few new members to the congregation.

I set off up the long hilly and winding road on a frosty Monday morning, my trusty wee pre war Austin seven, puffing, panting and rattling over each bump. To my amazement the tiny car succeeded in reaching the base in one piece.
I stopped at the main gate; it was firmly shut with a chain through the bars. The large sign with bold red letters attached to the gate said No Entry. On the other side stood a uniformed guard who approached me with a suspicious look on his face. “Can I help you father? He said. Ah, actually its reverend, I’m a Church of Scotland minister; I wondered if I might meet with the superintendent of the camp? The guard looked me up and down then said. Wait here father, then turned and headed to a small guardhouse to use a telephone. I stood for what seemed like ages thinking this was not perhaps such a good idea after all. Suddenly the guard reappeared he strode purposefully up to the gate and unlocked it. He waved me through pointing to an office block in the north corner of the compound.

I slipped the old Austin into first gear and moved slowly through the compound toward the building the guard had indicated.
As I drew near a tall gray haired man with a beaming smile came out of the office to greet me. He was dressed in a rumpled tweed suit with a bright red bow tie and looked every bit the absentminded professor. It almost seemed as if he was expecting me, he certainly appeared very happy to see me”.

“As I stepped out of my car he came forward offering his hand. “My dear Reverend Mac Donald what a pleasure it is to finally meet you”. “Indeed, how fortuitous that you chose this moment to visit”. “I was bemused to say the least, he apparently already knew me, yet I’d never met him before that day”. “Please come in out of the cold Reverend MacDonald, can I offer you a cup of tea, or perhaps something a little stronger?” “Ah, tea would be fine uh sir. Oh dear I’m being rude, please forgive me. I’m Professor John Carson, but please call me John. Come in come in, I’d like you to meet my colleagues”.
The large untidy room was warm and furnished with several well-worn comfortable leather chairs. A cloudy mixture of cigar and pipe smoke drifted in the air and a few discarded newspapers and magazines lay scattered on the floor. Three other people were in the room and they rose as I entered. “Reverend may I present. Professor…excuse me uh, I mean John, before we start introductions might you just call me Angus, reverend is a wee bit formal” “What a grand idea” laughed the professor, “Angus it is then” “I would like you to meet my three esteemed colleagues, this is Doctor Mary Jackson our newest and youngest member to join our team and I might add, by far the prettiest. We shook hands and she said, please call me Mary”. I guessed Mary to be in her late twenties or maybe early thirties, a lovely young woman with golden hair and blue eyes. “I’m Professor William Watson, Bill, please to meet you Angus”. Bill looked to be around forty he was of medium height with thinning hair. From the look of his untidy and well-worn suit I guessed him to be a bachelor. A rather short plump man wearing thick glasses stood and extended his hand. “I’m Carl Henderson, pleased to meet you Angus”. Jack said; don’t be fooled by appearances Angus, Carl is our renowned and critically important computer wizard. As I shook Carl’s soft pudgy hand a young girl I knew from the village appeared carrying a tea tray and a plate of freshly baked scones. She placed them on the table and turned slightly in my direction giving a wee nod to acknowledge she knew me.

After the girl had gone Bill stood and said, “Shall I play mother and pour the tea, does everyone take milk and sugar? John offered me a seat beside the fireplace, and then sat opposite. The cups were passed around and scones offered which I declined .I was far too curious about the strange welcome provided by these mysterious people to eat anything.
John opened the conversation. “Angus, I’m sure you are a bit confused and wondering why we seem so happy to meet you. Aye, Angus replied, it did cross ma mind, I didna think it was because of my letter. Ah, the letter, yes I’m so sorry about that, I really did mean to answer it. But you know with one thing or another I just never got around to it. Now I must be honest with you Angus, we have been discussing the possibility of seeking your help for some time. However, now that you are here we can save some time and try to explain our difficulties and hopefully how

About irishroverpei

Author of "Lily & Me", "The Royal Navy & Me" and Chapter XXl Armageddon. Writer, blogger and RN Submariner, antique automobile enthusiast.
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