THE SILVER BULLET

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CHAPTER 28

7. 03 P.M.

VATICAN APOSTOLIC LIBRARY, ROME

The Vatican City is thrown into chaos when the specified time of the greatest explosion ever recorded in Roman history was made public by the terrorists.

There was commotion on the major roads and streets as people scampered out of the city to nearby states. The airport terminals were overcrowded as those who could afford the exorbitant prices of emergency flights made their escape by flight while others took to the Adriatic Seaport.

Stampedes were reported at various areas in the city. Tourist hotels were counting their losses as tourists checked out in numbers.

The College of Cardinals in Rome had been whisked away to nearby Venice in a bid to conduct the Easter celebration for the first time in the history of the church, outside the walls of the Vatican City.

Today would be one of the most horrible days in the history of the church; it had been nicknamed the ‘infernal Easter’.

A total of ten passenger planes had been either blown up or hijacked.

Chief Monte Pique and his men had since prevented two bombs from detonating, one in the Vatican Pinacoteca and another in the Belvedere Palace.

At the moment, his men were working on another bomb that had been discovered by the bomb squad of the CTAN who were working with his men. They had tracked down the bomb to the Vatican secret archives.

Pique stood at a reasonably safe distance and had on a blast suit. He observed the bomb detonators do their job on the five-minute time bomb.

He was yet to fathom how the terrorist or whoever that planted the bomb beneath a marble stool that was carved into the floor of the library could do that. Just like other bombs, it was tracked by the bandwidth signal it was receiving from a remote location that was far away from Italy.

Pique was convinced that only the Pope, the Carmelengo, the Prefect of the Vatican secret archives and the Cardinal Dean had access to it. His men had confirmed that no one had walked in there for close to three days now and there had been no forced entry equally. He had been trying to figure it out but couldn’t. The security camera records came up clean.

He wondered what he would have done if not for the timely intervention of the CTAN agents. It had to be someone from the inside, someone who knew all the ins and outs of the Vatican. He had long suspected that someone high in the hierarchy of power in the Vatican must be behind all this.

3 MINUTES LEFT

Activity increased in the archive as both agents and Swiss Guards ran helter-skelter trying to remedy the situation.

He lighted a cigar and took his time to take in, for the last time, the beauty of the four-hundred and thirty-two year old library. He knew the history by heart, just like every other major structure in the Vatican City.

Pope Sixtus had commissioned Italian artist Domenico Fontena to design the magnificent Vatican library, and it was completed between 1587 and 1590. The ceiling and other ceilings in the Vatican were designed by Michelangelo Bounarotti and featured lurid details of scenes from the Old Testament.

In previous years, different Popes had them renovated, equipping them with modern hi-tech security equipment. The original manuscripts and papyri were encased in indestructible glass vials, accessible only with the correct access codes.

The overall humidity of the building was being monitored and moderated by a supercomputer to prevent further wear and tear of the old scripts. Security cameras graced every nook and cranny of the library and provided live feeds to the central command center.

“We’ve got barely a minute. Begin to pack up!” Pique announced from the oak table he had been reclining on.

The bomb squad was yet to detonate the bomb. Pique had lost all hope and had little faith that the reinforced non-Newtonian polymer urethane glass would minimize the damage to the priceless scrolls.

He closed the visor of the blast helmet and made to leave.

“A fuse to go!” one of the CTAN agents trying to defuse the bomb announced as he took another defusing device from his tool box and set to work. The bomb was attached underneath the marble and it didn’t make the job any easier as he had to lie on his back to defuse it.

“How long would it take?” Pique asked. He was starting to get worried about their safety.

Swiss Guards were already leaving the archive, carting away as much volumes of the vialed scripts as they could, but even at that, more than half of the shelves had not been cleared of their contents.

“Thirty seconds to go!” Pique announced.

“You better leave that alone! I’m leaving!” he said, running for the exit.

He secured himself behind a temporal plexus- glass barricade.

Pique was worried, as well as the other agents, but the CTAN bomb experts were so defiant. He took consolation in knowing that they knew their job pretty well.

“They’ll end up as pieces of barbeque,” a Swiss Guard standing beside Pique said. Pique shot him a look that made him wish he could swallow his words.

3 SECONDS

The four bomb experts were yet to come out. They were a total of five initially but one of them had given up. Pique grabbed ear muffs from a CTAN agent passing it around and wore it over his ears.

Five seconds later, nothing happened and the seconds rolled into minutes. He wondered whether the ear muffs had reduced the noise to nothing. Five minutes later, the four of them rounded the bomb shield and pulled off their head gear.

“We made it, guys!”

In spite of the situation, a round of applause erupted.

“You guys would sure receive a medal for this,” the bomb squad leader, a heavy set black man said giving each of them a bear hug.

They all heaved a sigh of relief. Pique personally was impressed; he shook hands with them.

“Let’s hurry up, five hours before this whole place goes up in flames. I’ve arranged a plane to cart us away if things get too bad,” Pique added.

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