Chapter XXXIII

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Earth. 3rd Planet from the star, Sol, Italy, Rome,

The Vatican City

Eighteen Earth Years Ago

The two men stood talking under a dim street lamp on a quiet tree lined street, one kilometer from Emilio's hotel.

"So, you want me to ride in the trunk?"

"Sì," the old priest nodded. "Do you want to see it or not?" he asked, his voice low. The priest's eyes darted around nervously.

"Very well," Emilio replied. He looked around and then lowered himself under the man's raised arm and into the trunk of the black 1963 Mercedes-Benz 220SE.

"I did put a pillow in there for you," Father Agostino said with a smile.
"You watch your fingers," he added and then closed the heavy lid with a thud, sealing Emilio inside the dark, metallic box.

The ride was bumpy, the outside noises muted, but Emilio passed the time playing a game on his cellphone in the dark. "Such an odd way to spend a weekend," he thought. Either way, he realized he was soon to witness something that only a select group of people on the Earth had ever been privy. He was to see the actual weapon that killed Abel and read an unpublished book of the Bible, one evidently sanctioned by the Holy Church, but never released to the masses. True, a percentage of humanity would give a body part to experience an event such as this, but for an archaeologist, it would be worth risking your life.

The brakes squealed as the car rolled to a stop and Emilio pressed the power button on his cell. He began to stow it in his jacket's pocket and then thought of something. The archaeologist quickly removed the device once more, turning off the ringer for good measure, and turned on the GPS locator app he used when he was out on a hunt. He heard the door open, then slam shut, footsteps crunch on the pavement, and then keys rattle. He shoved the phone down his pants as the trunk lid lifted. "Father...I...wait, you are not Father Agostino."

"Quiet, Mr. DeFranscesco," said a priest in long black robes, wearing sunglasses, and holding a silenced 9mm pistol. The barrel pointed directly at Emilio's head and the hand holding it was not shaking.

The museum curator noted the sash around the man's neck bore a different symbol than the typical crucifix. The mark it bore resembled a three dimensional black cube traced in red. Emilio eased himself from the trunk, hands in the air, and walked around the car. He spotted Father Agostino standing calmly at the front of the Mercedes-Benz. The old man smiled reassuringly.

"You need to understand, Emilio, we have to be careful. Just do as you are told and everything will be fine," the priest said as he lifted a red velvet sack up and over Emilio's head.

"Walk," said a voice.

Emilio felt hands grasp him on each arm, guiding him forward. He could hear his own breathing and felt each warm exhaled breath amplified beneath the hood. Light and dark were the only things he saw and they came in red-tainted shades. Nothing substantive beyond these sensations were available to any of his other faculties apart from the occasional odd voice or noise, like a door closing, or his and his escorts' footsteps echoing down some unfamiliar hall.

Then the procession stopped and the red cloth lifted from his face. Emilio squinted as his eyes attempted to adjust to the light in the brightly lit, stark white room. As his vision improved, he noticed he was not alone, but standing in the center of a cylindrically shaped chamber occupied by approximately ten or so Catholic priests, all wearing sashes bearing the same odd markings as the armed priest.

Father Agostino stepped forward. "We have come to a decision, Emilio," he said, arms outstretched, indicating the men encircling the Italian archaeologist were in some sort of agreement. "...that you are worthy and will be allowed to read from Book Zero and to see the Shechita of Cain."

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