WHITE SMOKE, BLACK FIRE! c 1986, 2001

Part IV:
White Smoke, Black Fire!
The Shrouding

Twelfth Chapter

      Episode Four

             The triggermen sent by Blix blended in as they moved throughout the six story Metroplex Mirror southwest of downtown Dallas between I-35 and the Trinity River. The unpatented mylar mirror strips were placed behind computers on the five floors of offices and in the main bay where the huge web presses were being prepared for prepping.
             The inks were being mixed, the massive two-ton rolls of high quality newsprint hydraulically lined up. By six p.m. tonight the first edition would be sent down from production and plates electronically laid out in galleys. Gone were the days of setting lead type. Speed and efficiency were paramount in the age of instant news. Competing against cable TV, news radio and the internet had necessitated changes that drastically reduced jobs and impersonalized so much.
             If only this night it had impersonalized everyone so that only machines were left vulnerable to the Legion's destruction. Machines could be rebuilt. Buildings could be reconstructed. New roads could be paved. But one human life could never be replaced, ever. No matter how much one evangelized for cloning and the medical benefits it might produce for others, it had no soul. It was not created in goodness. Soulless creatures have no role in God's Master plan.
             Within the confines of the Metroplex Mirror complex this afternoon machines were powerless without the human intellect. As many as two hundred people were busy at their duties in producing a daily newspaper. They were so engrossed in compiling everything that would be in the November 6th issue that few even saw the triggermen as they slipped right in and slithered right out. Mylar strips with chips were left in all five elevators and the main plant to assure a complete implosion.
             Those workers who decided to go home early this day would forever be thankful they acted on a gut hunch, whether that was selfish or not, at least they would still be alive. Not so, it seemed, for those poor unfortunate souls who were conscientious to their jobs or those motorists who, the fates determined, would be driving by right at 4:30 this afternoon.
             Terrorism in Iraq yes. That was the mid-east. But Dallas? Homeland Security was too well employed for terrorism to penetrate the perimeters of the U.S. Ever since 9-11-01 that had been top priority for several years. Without realizing it, millions and millions of Americans had freely forfeited their constitutional rights of freedom and privacy in return for feeling secure. How secure they would feel tonight was another matter.
             Journalists, secretaries, composers, artists, sales people, accountants, executives, mail room employees, maintenance, repair and security guards had no idea. Most were busy preparing tomorrow's early edition.
             The fleet of Metroplex Mirror trucks were backed against the fifteen bay doors, ready to receive the bundles and distribute them throughout the metroplex area. Dallasites had come to expect it, especially for the coupons and specials, not to mention crossword puzzle. It was also a means to trump the competition. With such marketing savvy Blix had gotten the jump on the rival Dallas Morning News. The latter had long been the only paper in town until the Metroplex Mirror took the area by storm with an advertising and promotional discount blitz during a strike at the Morning News. Blix had bankrolled not only the new endeavor, but also the strikers of the Morning News. By 8:45 p.m. the trucks would be rolling. By 9 p.m. tomorrow's first edition would be on the street.
             The Basilisk could not allow that sequence; would not allow it. Blix was a Master at planning, plotting. He had used the fabric of the media as a cover to manipulate and build his power. Few realized Blix International had for years funded terrorism and trusts, mayhem and museums, philanthropists and philanderers, charities and chaos, judges and jihads.
             Vic had gone to his death willingly for the cause. Others would not have a choice. Such was the collateral damage of war with the Devil. Few knew that less than 40 minutes away all hell would break out in their own back yard. By taking Corrie along with him, Blix was counting on the fact there was no one that could warn anyone in the Metroplex of the impending holocaust. The clock was ticking and there were few who knew the devastating omen that lurked just 40 minutes away.

      Dateline: Vatican City - St. Peter's Square - November 5, 10:50 p.m.

             In Rome this night it was the calm before the storm. Piazza San Pietro had been cleared. Though thousands had planned to camp out in St. Peter's Square overnight, Italian gendarmes and Vatican security had put the kibosh on that idea. Thus there was an eeriness that pervaded the grounds this night. In the very center of the piazza the great Egyptian obelisk from Heliopolis pierced the night sky like a needle; appropriate since it was called that in medieval times - the aguglia. The porticos and all 140 colossal, magnificent statues were floodlit and backlit, creating a glow around them. The lights focused on the front facade of the great Basilica as well.
             Against this backdrop, a few field reporters were preparing to file reports; one was Colin Rembert for Global SatNet.
             Standing with Colin was His Eminence Malachi Chester Lewiston. This New Zealander Cardinal was the Aussies' sentimental favorite to be Pope.
             "Cold, your Eminence?" Colin asked.
             "I'll be fine, thank you," responded the ruddy complexioned Prelate, standing two inches taller than the six-foot Rembert.
             "Very well. When I press this button and nod you'll know we are on. Are there any questions you don't want me to ask?"
             "Only my choice for Pope. That is between God and I," asserted Lewiston.
             "I quite understand, your Eminence," Colin responded, holding the pen up. "Shall we?"
             He held the 'penultimate' at less than an arm's length. The small spoon-sized dish emerged and folded out, then he pushed the button.
             "G'day mates from Rome. This is your friendly correspondent Colin Rembert again. While most of you are just getting up throughout Oceania in what is essentially tomorrow, here at the Vatican night has arrived. It is nearing 11 p.m. and things are relatively quiet right now. Throughout the day this Square behind me was packed."
             He pushed another button on the pen, and took a deep breath.
             "Right now, your Eminence, we have 15 seconds. They are seeing what I shot earlier. Now, shall we?"
             With that and right on cue he clicked another button and held the pen towards the two of them as he moved to the Cardinal's side, holding the penultimate a full arm's length in front to capture both of them.
             "We are privileged this evening to be standing with one of twenty-one who will be secluded tomorrow in the Sistine Chapel. Malachi Chester Cardinal Lewiston, the Archbishops of Christchurch. Thank you, your Eminence, for taking time out from your busy shedule."
             "You are quite welcome," the Cardinal politely replied.
             "You had the privilege of being consecrated by James Darcy Cardinal Freeman in Sydney, correct?"
             "Yes," smiled Lewiston. "He was consecrated by His Eminence Cardinal Gilroy in 1959."
             "Ah, Norman Thomas Cardinal Gilroy who preceded Cardinal Freeman," Colin added.
             "Yes." agreed the Cardinal.
             "Well, then, you can see why all of Australia is pulling for you, your Eminence."
             The Cardinal's frown warned Colin he was treading on dangerous ground. Rembert picked up on it immediately.
             "I meant, your Eminence, know of our affection for you as our favorite son, as it were. Now you know, ladies and gentlemen, that all the Cardinals are sworn to secrecy once they enter the sacred threshold of the Sistine Chapel. Therefore, in respect for your confidentiality, your Eminence, I will not test your patience by asking personal questions."
             "Thank you," Lewiston said, showing relief in his eyes.
             "But I will ask you, kind sir," Colin continued, "Do you feel the Church can recover from this terrible tragedy?"
             "Yes, with God's help, and only with His help," complied the Cardinal.
             "What do you think should be the first course of importance for the new Pontiff once he is elected?"
             It was a loaded question and Colin knew it. He was counting on catching the Prelate off guard much in the manner another broadcaster - Barbara Walters - had gained fame for setting interviewees at ease and then springing a question on them which they answered before they realized it. Once out, it could not be recalled; maybe explained away, but not denied. This had always been her tactic. It served as the open sesame to other topics that delved deeper into her subjects. For once they were put on the defense, they would try desperately to explain away perceptions which, in turn, opened new vistas into their personalities and psyche. She was a Master at it and Colin had gone to school on her technique.
             After hesitating briefly, the Cardinal felt impelled to give Rembert's audience some kind of answer.
             "I think the first matter of importance is reorganizing the Roman Curia," stated Lewiston simply, not realizing he had just given Colin the opening he had been waiting for.
             "So then, your Eminence, with the ranks of the College of Cardinals now reduced to 21...," Colin jumped to another question, cleverly disarming the interviewee. "Ah, your Eminence isn't that the smallest number since 1471 during the conclave that would elect Pope Sixtus IV?"
             "Yes, you are correct," Cardinal Malachi informed.
             "Well," continued Rembert as if on cue, "do you feel it vital to hold a consistory fairly soon after the election to increase the ranks?"
             "Well, that of course depends on the eligible harvest of worthy Bishops. It is something the next Pope must carefully examine and seek feedback from the various--"
             "But, your Eminence, isn't that thinking conciliar in the nature of depending on the collegiality factor?"
             What kind of question was this, thought Cardinal Lewiston. "Well, I think--"
             Again Colin Rembert interrupted. "Let me put it this way, your Eminence. Is there a danger that there will be a deadlock, a polarization during the conclave, that it is possible factions will be drawn and whoever comes out victorious will stack the deck toward that persuasion, whether it be liberal or conservative or moderate?"
             That was a loaded question if ever there was one. "We cannot presume, sir, that such a scenario will evolve."
             "But if it did," Rembert probed further, "would not there be more resentment from the losing side?"
             "You, and, I fear, your viewers," as the Cardinal looked directly toward the penultimate, "have forgotten the power of the Paraclete - the Holy Ghost."
             "Yes, true," signaled the Australian reporter. "But how can the world and the Church recover from the slaughter of over a million people through the worst kind of fanatic terrorists this world has ever known? Does it not seem to you, as it does to millions around the world, that, indeed, all of hell has been unleashed on the earth?"
             "The world, the Church may never fully recover. We leave that to divine providence. But I assure you, as Christ has assured us in Matthew 16: 18 that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church."
             "We would hope and pray you are right, your Eminence. Tell me then, how would one go about rearranging the Roman Curia?"
             "I believe that the new Pope must get back to basics. Over the last century the offices within the Holy See have become too departmentalized, too secularized, too focused on temporal needs and not enough on the needs of the soul."
             Spoken as a true shepherd. Colin was unwittingly lobbying for Malachi Chester Lewiston as the next Pope. He would be ideal, a moderate with conservative ideas. While this might have been favorable to the masses that tuned in this morning during their breakfasts down under, it would work against the Cardinal with those who counted: his fellow colleagues in the College of Cardinals.
             Long it had been said that he who would enter the Sistine Chapel as a possible Pope more often than not exited still a Cardinal. Those who knew how the Holy Ghost worked realized that once the Sacred Conclave began, man had to give way to God. Only in this way could the convening Cardinals allow the power of the Sanctifier - the Third Person of the Trinity - to do His work, enabling the miracles which Cardinal Lewiston spoke of in his reply to Rembert's probing questions.
             "Your Eminence, tell me, can we expect--"
             "I'm sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Rembert and your viewers. I must be at Matins. Please forgive me for cutting this short. May God bless and keep you all. I ask you to pray for me and my fellow Cardinals that we will do God's will."
             With that Cardinal Lewiston quietly slipped away toward the Bronze Door and the Sistine Chapel side of the Basilica where they could enter on the north side through the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

      * * * * * * *


             Fasif came closer. He was smiling. Around him a glow, an aura of holiness. 'Elias is at peace. You have served well, Niki. God is pleased. Vic has gone home. Follow your heart. Keep the faith. Beware of the deceiver. Wake the Angels. Wake the Holy Doctors. Danger is near. Wake the Angels and the Holy Doctors. Look for the Door beneath the Chair. There is the Door to the See. Danger is near. Wake the angels, Niki.'
             "Niki, Wake up, it's Doctor Ogidi. We've got to get out of here. Wake up, Niki."

      Dateline: Rome - In the bowels of the Coliseum - November 5, 10:59 p.m.

             Niki opened his eyes. Makuta Ogidi stood over him.
             "You were in a deep sleep, my friend," the doctor remarked. "Come, we must prepare. We must be at the top of the hill in half an hour. Hurry. Here is a flashlight. Use it sparingly. We cannot afford detection. I will leave now. We will meet at 11:30 across from the warehouse. Set your watch."
             "Go with God, Doctor," Fr. Andriopoulos called after him. "I will be there."
             Niki yawned and stretched his 6' frame. Had he only been asleep for three hours? He felt refreshed, energized, ready to go forth for the Lord against His enemies, Niki's enemies. He would not fail his Maker. He would not fail his mentor Fasif Khadid.
             "You did not die in vain, my dear, dear friend." Niki said to Fasif as if he were there. To Niki he was.


      Next: PART IV: The Shrouding TWELFTH CHAPTER Episode Five

"White Smoke, Black Fire!" is an original work, registered with the Writers' Guild and all rights are the exclusive rights of The DAILY CATHOLIC who owns the copyright. Because of the nature of the internet and the importance of sharing, we hereby give the reader permission to collect and disseminate by e-mail each episode as it is presented in each issue of The DAILY CATHOLIC, provided that one includes this 1986, 2001 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, seventeen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. However names, characters, places and incidents are used fictionally and any resemblance to actual persons and events, except those recorded in history, are purely coincidental.

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