11 .10 A.M
PONTIFICIA ACADEMIA DELLE SCIENZE, ROME
Prof. Werner Arber paced about the emergency mobile pod, lost in deep thought. His assistant, Noble laureate holder, Vera Sicera sat across him on one of the only two seats in the pod, thumbing through sheets of confidential reports they could salvage during the emergency evacuation from the Academy of Science.
The events of today had obviously shattered his nerves. His cell rang.
“Hello Pique, have the hard disks been secured?” he asked. “That’s not exactly the answer I was expecting. We are talking about over two hundred years of research work, and I need a positive response. How long do we have until the detonation?”
“Thirty minutes, professor,” Pique answered from the other end.
Situated at the heart of the magnificent Vatican gardens; the Academy of Sciences once known as Accademia Pontificia dei Lincei, dates back to 1603 when it was founded by Federico Cesi, a young Roman prince.
One could hardly believe that Galileo Galilei who was excommunicated by the church was the President of the Academy at the time. It seemed an irony when exactly 205 years after his excommunication for his scientific views and support of heliocentrism, the church fully embraced science when Pope Pius IX re-established the Academy in 1847.
Pope Pius XI gave it its current name, and ever since then, thousands of believing and non- believing scientists have worked at the Academy. Equally, great and notable scientists like Max Planck and Ernest Rutherford had at one time or the other worked in the Academy.
Numerous great discoveries had been made there and many religious miracles and mysterious artifacts are currently under investigation in the Academy.
“You know you shouldn’t be worried about the safety of all those priceless artifacts,” Vera said, still engrossed in her work.
“Of course, they are the least of my worries. I trust their safety in those destruction proof glasses they were encased in last year. That was your idea if I remember correctly. But the most important thing right now is the hard disks of the Academy’s mainframe,” he said pacing up and down the pod restlessly.
“Leave the rest to Pique, Prof,” she said.
“You seem to have forgotten so soon, Vera. I know what you’re thinking; if the Academy of Sciences falls, you still have your honors, but I’ll tell you something Vera. This place gave you your life. If it means nothing to you, its home to me.”
The electric powered pod jerked as it rounded a corner, the indicator pointed out that they were only two minutes to the famous Roman Appian Way.
“Don’t you get it, Werner? We’ve lost and it’s not even our war. For the records, I didn’t say I’m happy about all this. Has the Pope called yet?”
“What of the Chancellor?”
Werner shrugged. Then he understood the angle she was coming from.
“Is the hard disk safe with you, Buoni?” Pique shouted into the phone above the whirl of the helicopter blades.
They had detected and located the bomb a bit too late and they had only five minutes to do whatever they had to do and evacuate the premises. All the clerical scientists and the over five hundred personnel employed in the service of the oversized science research center had already been evacuated.
Chief Pique had sent in Buoni, the best bomb expert on the Vatican security crew, clad in blast suits and armed with the latest bomb detection and defusing gadgets.
Three minutes to go and yet no success, the last thread that he clung unto now was the main storage location where all the hard work of the church’s scientists and research had been stored.
“All the guards should evacuate the premises immediately! I repeat all the guards should evacuate the premises!” he shouted into his walkie-talkie as he maneuvered the bright yellow chopper a few meters away from the huge building.
Down below, he could see the Swiss Guards armored trucks loaded with personnel and guards, speeding away from the doomed structure. He just hoped that Buoni who had went in to retrieve the hard disk came out in one piece.
Just then, he spotted a figure running out of the building. He seemed to be patting the overstuffed blast suit overall he wore. He was now a few inches away from the courtyard but other guards had exited the premises. He kept running for his life across the expansive lawn.
Chief Pique looked on hopelessly. He could do absolutely nothing because the two-hundred-year-old academy had only ten seconds before it blows up in an inferno and instincts told him that the guy had to be Buoni, one of his best men.
He switched the chopper to Hover mode and shut his eyes as the building collapsed in on itself and is engulfed in fire. The sound of the blast pierced through the ear muffs he was putting on and the chopper vibrated a little. For a split second, he thought he was dead and in…well he wasn’t sure where he would end up.
He opened his eyes and swerved the chopper a bit to the west; toward the direction he had last seen the guard.
Thick clouds of smoke clouded his vision as he landed on a lawn at a safe distance from the flaming building.
He jumped down and lowered his head as he ventured into the smoky area. Minor explosions occurred and reverberated the ground; probably the heavy machines in the laboratory had finally blown up.
Soon, he found the man lying almost lifeless on the grass. He tied a handkerchief over his nose and began pulling on the heavyset man.
“Buoni! Stay with me!”
The heavy blast suit didn’t make it any easier. He eventually had to pull it off the man. When he was through, he upturned the man; a smile crept over his face. The silvery box-like device is on the grass hidden beneath shrubs. It looked just like a big black book. He grabbed it and slid it into his back pocket.
He dragged the unconscious guard towards the helicopter. By the time he finally had him safe in the chopper, he was almost out of breath.