Father Forward (Part Three)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A priest with a rare power of healing is intercepted by another from the distant future in order to heal the country's ailing president, and rescue the only such healer of the future, the kidnapped child, Element the Follower.

Submitted: April 08, 2011

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Submitted: April 08, 2011

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Fifteen hours and 35 minutes after the arrival of Colonel Dansizen’s team, their unbeknownst backup squad plundered into the hoverport much the same way–invisible but hardly invincible; ready for anything. Obedientor Evan Eversing removed his helmet, brushed off his velvet robe. “Heard enough about this place, but never been here.”

Looking out the window at the marvelous place, Pinegully sighed. “Wo. We’re truly in deep.”

He was helped off the ship with a warning. “President wants you to save others when we find this mansion, and for me to save you. Lets stick together, Okay?”

“Okay.”

They didn’t stick together. Once inside the hoverport terminal, searching for a ride, Eversing accidently pushed his friend through the zip zone that the others had overlooked.

“What the hell happened! Where is he?” He felt the thing literally suck the priest through.

A flight attendant explained that passing through the two vertical bars was instant access to a different place in the city. There was an entrance here, and a return over there. If he had looked, the bars had writing on them that designated the location. And the location? Downpopulous premise, of course!

Panicking, trying to follow his friend, the portal did not activate. “Let me through, dammit! Let me through. Why won’t…”

“I don’t know why it won’t. It should,” came the flight attendant’s reply. Then she looked at a nearby table with piles of metal knick-knacks. “Customers are supposed to empty out all metal. Metal breaks down the system. I think your friend’s metal chair corrupted the system. I’ll call management.” But instead of waiting, he turned and left the scene.

 

The other side of things, inside Downpopulous, was a different world–an indoor world consisting of a long, wooden hallway, weapons of various sorts hanging from a yellowish wall, and guards there to greet them. Guards that had a rough way of saying hello, and the small group was hassled almost immediately, their arms violently grabbed, their bodies flung to the side. Dansizen, however, did not flinch, instead:

“Let go you idiot. We have clearance from Premiere Ruecoff to escort this prisoner to the barracks. Now,” he said, shaking his arm free, “We’d appreciate your help with this priest. He’s a crazy one. He’s been shouting nonsense to the Lord on the property for hours.”

Goodcross caught on and played along. “Ohhhh, yes! The Lord’s gonna send a fish to destroy all of Oceania! A big fish!” In so saying, he took important notice. The layout of the zip zones in and out of the mansion were laid out exclusively at this location. Four of them, coming in and going out. Two local, that they had just used, and two next to them that read “To Hoverport” and “From Hoverport.” That, Goodcross realized, was an important thing to know. He would memorize his every step. The guards, meanwhile, fell for the charade. The little team fell back as they let the Downpopulous sentries lead them to the holding cells beneath. They journeyed down the initial drab hallway, turned left down another, where they met up with a capsule-shaped, official turquoise elevator. One of the guards keyed something into a color-coded box attached to the wall, and, following an uncomfortable wait, the door opened and they entered as routinely as possible. As the strange elevator began its descent, someone broke the tense silence. “I’d better call this in. I’d better…”

“And in the DAYS of old, the whale ate Jonah whole,” cried out Goodcross.

“No need,” Dansizen said soothingly, resting his hand on the guard’s knuckle. “It’s done. Boss doesn’t want to be troubled any further on the matter.” And he had a hunch that that boss was probably Ruecoff himself. A restored Ruecoff.

The door opened. They stepped bravely into the dungeon before them, Goodcross lowering his head; eyes alert. Not much wider than the halls from above, the candlelit, dingy prison block housed a series of jail cells, each one empty…except one. There, in that one, stood Element the Follower, a battered, dark-haired child of ten, ready for anything, no longer surprised by anything.  He stood here, scared to a point beyond frightened, angry to a point beyond expression. He just felt cold. He felt all right physically­ and mentally–whatever they did to his mind had worn off; they apparently achieved their objective–and now he just waited, a tool for their convenience. But what was this? Who was this? Strangers arriving in his dark corner. Another captive?

Father Goodcross passed by the boy’s cell. ‘Thank God I’ve caught the fish,’ he might have said had he actually been the mad preacher man he had been portraying. As it was, he still had to catch him, but at least he knew he was in the right ocean. It was time for part two of the plan they had rehearsed before entering Downpopulous. They’d have to move quickly. Quickly, precisely, and forcefully. Colonel Dansizen caught the priest’s wink. It started with a swift elbow shot to the stomach of the nearest unsuspecting guard. Four-on-four, it was an even match, but one had to survive. That one would be the guard nearest Element’s cell. He would have to open it. The scuffle was handled neatly before they realized what hit them, and three Downpopulous guards fell haplessly to the floor by three searing gun blasts, drawn from within garment pockets. The other was pinned against the bars of Element’s cell, entrapped by Dansizen and his troops. With gun held to his head, the small team frisked him clean, and he was forced to comply.

“Open the cell, or you die on the spot,” barked the colonel.

“You’ll never get away with this!”

He nudged the weapon closer. “Open the cell before I get bored with all the clichés and finish you right here and now.”

Upon the colored buttons on the control panel, he keyed in one yellow, two greens, and another yellow. The code. The jail door opened. Quickly, Element was snatched by Father Goodcross and the guard pushed in, the door slammed shut.

“You know what to do, father,” commanded Dansizen. “We’ll cover you.”

Holding the small boy in his arms, the tall priest elected to ascend a stairwell next to the elevator due to the possible complications of the elevator being stopped.

“I’ll get back with you,” Dansizen promised, pointing at the now imprisoned guard. “About somebody’s whereabouts.”

The other spat, nearly pelting one of the dead guards strewn on the floor. Dansizen caught up with Goodcross, covered his plight in front, while his two troops held up the rear. So far, there was no counteraction as they ascended the stairwell. So far. Retracing their steps in the hallway above was another matter. Suddenly, lasers were crisscrossing between the walls. No guards, though, and as they grasped urgently yet carefully, stop and go, for the zip zone ahead on the other side of the green, horizontal light laser show that led to the hoverport, Goodcross and the boy prayed. In front of them, they heard Dansizen yell out ‘Man Down!’ and they knew instantly that one of their own had been killed by the blasts. They would later learn that it was Troop Sizemore. Finally, albeit sloppily, they took a literal leap of faith through, and checking themselves afterwards, found themselves to be alive. They hoped and prayed it was the same story for their remaining friends. There was hope. They are professionals, and they know how to dodge lasers, was what Father Goodcross told the boy. In reality, Dansizen had spotted, shot and disabled the lasers’ control panel near the zip zones immediately after his friends had departed, but not before he had to watch his other soldier, Brink, succumb to its barrage.

Man and boy emerged instantaneously at the other side of Oceania, at the hoverport whence they had come, but they did not stop there. Goodcross carried the boy out of the port and into the ship bay where they had landed. They would not, of course, make it to the ship. Outside, waiting, in the sun, with a gun, Gon-Jor was there. The nozzle of his weapon pressed itself firmly against the priest’s head. Instantly, he knew he was just a pull of a trigger away from a very bad death indeed. He felt his morale sink like a ship.

“Going somewhere, Father. Funny how what comes around goes around, eh?”

Element closed his eyes, still in the arms of the priest. Gripped by frozen terror, there was nothing either could say. But there was a God in His heaven, and there was something somebody else could see. Jostling for position, high above, upon one of the cities elevated walkways, Obedientor Evan Eversing was watching the show. His shot would have to be perfect. There was not time for error. He set his sights. First to the head. No–the fatal shot could still be made by the villain. He lowered it to Gon-Jor’s gun. Yes–he would have to fire two shots. First the gun, knock it out of his hand, and then deliver the final blow. He fired his weapon. He did waste one shot after all was said and done, but not the critical one. The weapon sailed from Gon-Jor’s hand. The second shot missed the head, pounding the pavement between he and his captives. When Gon-Jor turned, attempting to follow the line of fire to its source, he met only a third–a sizzling dagger of green that said “lights out.” To be sure, a fourth shot was made. Gon-Jor was dead, and Eversing made his way down. It was time for Father Goodcross to take Element the Follower back home.

Watching now from below, Obedientor Eversing saw them out safely, the jet enveloped into that strange tunnel-like Seasnatch that served as a portal into and out of the city. Then, in a blink, it disappeared. The LIGHTS OUT technology had been engaged. He couldn’t help but smile. Mission accomplished. At least in part. It was time to finish the other part, and watching his friends leave sparked an idea. Eversing returned to the hoverport and his own waiting jet. He himself had a certain feature he wanted to test out and possibly re-activate. For safety reasons, regulations prohibited flying in the bubble city. It was a rule that had been enforced since its inception. But not today.

 

Colonel William Dansizen had found his way into the Downpopulous ventilation system in the ceiling.  He was in a privileged, secure place–for now–lying on his stomach, and peering down into the private quarters of Baron Ruecoff.  What he saw was not only a plush, gaudy room, but a very alive, if malevolent looking Baron Ruecoff. A grotesque figure, alive only by the means of the channeled supernatural energies of one boy, here was a man who had slits for eyes, seemingly glued into a sallow, bald head, and a mouth that was roughly triangular with lips that never closed. Behind him, a giant aquarium housed a single monstrously giant squid. Evidently a pet.

A sentry guard in the room was reporting… “and the intruders took off with the boy, my lord…”

“They won’t get far,” came the ugly, choking voice. “But I’m sore afraid, neither will you. You disappoint me, and…Mr. Legalith is hungry.” He snapped his fingers, and instantly two sentries were clutching the guard’s arms. “Resistance, of course, is futile,” Ruecoff added, and the man was forced forward, prodded to ascend a ladder that led to the top of the glass aquarium, a dozen feet high. Once there, Ruecoff pressed another button on the remote he held which opened the lid. The guard was pushed in, and the lid was closed. The rest was hard to watch. In fact, after seeing a tentacle wrap itself around the man’s body and pull him inward, Colonel Dansizen avoided the rest of the scene. He only heard it. A vulgar sucking sound and bones cracking. Mr. Legalith had enjoyed his late afternoon snack.

“Now, if you men don’t want to meet the same delicious fate, I suggest you find the other prisoner and bring him to me!”

“He might be off the premise, my lord.”

Baron Ruecoff rubbed his chin. “I don’t think so. I’ve got something he might want.” And Colonel Dansizen watched him press yet another button on the remote that activated a curtain-like sheet behind him, though it appeared to be digital, to raise up. The colonel was stunned when he saw what was revealed behind it. The man was caged in a laser capsule. It was a man he had seen before. It was that wheelchair priest the president had introduced him to. Unbelievable. How in the world? He continued to observe. It was all he could do from this vantage point.

“ Aw, and you,” Ruecoff was looking toward Pinegully, addressing the two sentries in the room. “A most unusual specimen, don’t you think?” He walked closer to Pinegully. “So what brings a cripple like you to my doorstep? You say you are a priest. You’d better start praying.”

“I think I’ll pray for a beautician.”

Ruecoff ignored it. “So you and your little groupies thought you could just waltz into my world uninvited and steel away my life-giver. Well, as you can see, you’re a little late…and now you’re going to be a little dead!”

Pinegully remained silent.

“Shame, shame.” Then, in a mockingly bright tone– “maybe we should be thinking celebration. To my health. Lets dance on the roof, shall we? Prepare the way to the top floor. This is an exclusive party just for me and my crippled friend.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Colonel Dansizen began to slink back, meticulously, the way he had come, then thought better of it. The elevator in the room might be the only one that could take him to where they were going, and he just might have to use some persuasion to use it. 

Baron Ruecoff disengaged the laser capsule of the priest, and pushed him to his private elevator. “I think you’ll like the view just as much as I do! Especially in the fall!” and his laugh, distorted and with no rhythm could be heard echoing through the walls.

The elevator opened, and the earth’s last villain pushed Pinegully out onto the flat projection upon the roof. He parked the wheelchair, took a deep sigh, and seemed to take in his great love for the freedom of this isolated spot. As he did so, they both heard the elevator close and return to its default location at the top floor of his quarters. Pinegully observed that the overhang was something like fifteen feet wide, and perhaps thirty feet long. He noticed the black fence around it.

His adversary made a round, strumming his fingers between the bars as he walked. At the end, he opened the gate–a three or four foot wide single gate, and strolled back the other way, continuing to fan his fingers between the bars.

“You know, priestman, it’s a little drafty up here. Needed to open the gate.”

Even for a man of faith, Pinegully knew it was over. There was nowhere for him to turn, nothing for him to do. He clenched his fists as the brutal dictator clenched the handle of his chair. He started forward slowly; the momentum building. He could smell the languid odor of Ruecoff behind him as the chair picked up speed, headed for the opening between the gates and the death drop. In a seemingly unreal moment, it happened. There was nothing below him. He was at gravities mercy. He was falling. But then:

“Ruecoff!” Colonel Dansizen charged out onto the overhang from the elevator.

The evil dictator turned to face him from the open gate. As he did so, the monster from behind the bed made his attack. A snake from nowhere coiled around his neck. It bit him in the torso, just below the shoulder. No, not a snake. It was a cable. Swung around his neck, a grappling hook tore into his shoulder. It spun him around, broke his neck, downed him.

Dansizen watched the lifeless body as it was dragged a few feet to the opening of the gate where it bridged the gap. He ran to it, peered over Ruecoff’s body to grab hold of the cable that held Father Pinegully swinging like a pendulum twenty feet below. As he looked down, straining to pull up, he saw a miracle. Underneath Pinegully’s mid-air crisis, a jet, one of their own, blinked into visibility, hovering. An open hatch aligned itself to the helpless Father. When everything was aligned, its pilot, Obedientor Eversing, cut the cord. Pinegully, in the end, only had to fall a few feet.

Up on the overhang, Dansizen re-fastened the grappling hook securely to the fence and climbed his way down to safety and into the plane.

“Let’s finish this mission!” said Evan Eversing.

“Bomb it?” Pinegully wanted to know.

Eversing was shaking his head. “No, we can’t use bombs or poison down here. We’d destroy the entire bubble nation. This calls for a quick and easy, finite fix. We vaporize it.”

Eversing began programming something on the jet’s control panel. “We’ll just set the laser width to the approximate parameters of the mansion, and…” He aimed and fired. “Bingo, as I believe the people of your time would say.” A wide, pink laser fanned the side of the stronghold, literally vaporizing the section it came in contact with. “Always start out smaller than your target, so you don’t vaporize more than you want to. Then you just go back and pick up the pieces.” They watched in awe as the evil mansion was silent erased.

“Now what?” said Pinegully.

Eversing winked. “Now, my friend. We go home. Goodcross has informed me that you don’t have much time.”

 

Back at the White House, er, the Enforcement House of the Children of God, there was a welcoming unlike any that Father Pinegully had ever seen. They wined and they dined, adorned with festive live music played by children using strange looking instruments. They got to know each other better, and the social hour marched on joyously until someone bellowed:

“Here he his, here he is…the president’s on.” All eyes shifted then to the viewing screen.

… “and finally, this mission could not have been a success without the merits of one remarkable man. A man with a gift. I want to personally thank Father Martin Pinegully for being there for me in my hour of need, for his service to God and country in, frankly, a very foreign land for him…Father Pinegully, if you’re watching this…Thank you from the bottom of my heart. May God bless America.”

Just when it all died down, the gala subsided and Pinegully found himself nodding off, a hand on his shoulder awakened him with a start. It was Willowman Goodcross.

“There’s someone who would like to see you. In the chapel.”

There, young Element the Follower waited beneath the crucifix, cleaned up now, in a green vest, white trousers and personal crucifix around his neck. He had been in prayer, making the sign of the cross when Goodcross arrived with Pinegully. This would not be their first meeting; they had met since the return long enough for the wheelchair priest to introduce the lad to a deck of cards and some magic with a quarter he happened to have. The child had listened attentively, with admiration and a bit intrigued by this unique holy man of old.

Now, Goodcross arranged the awkward moment to which they were about to embark. Seemingly leaving nothing to chance.

“Ele, you said your rosary?”

The boy told him that he had.

“I want to conduct a short mass before these proceedings begin,” Father Goodcross said to a nonexistent laity. (By choice).  Together, the present members recited the Apostles Creed and the ‘Our Father’ before Father Goodcross had them face each other near the tabernacle.

“Dear Lord, may You bless each of these, Your children, as you bring them together–and may Your will be done. Amen.”

Each made the sign of the cross. In unison, they reached up and touched hands together. President Lantern had by now joined their company to witness the miracle phenomenon as it then took place. At the instant of contact, a shower of white, light rays shot out from their fingers. The beams twisted then, amalgamating and twisting apart into separate, tiny, star-like atoms that rotated around them. There was a great, mutual feeling of indescribable warmth and comfort, and then–between them–they all knew it to be true, an image of the Saviour appeared–if only for a moment–then disappeared, pulling in with Him the particles of light that had formed.

“God bless you.” Miraculously, the words were spoken, not by one, but by both. At the same time. It was done. A smile of sheer joy was shared between the undertakers of the magical, holy event.

“Our Lord has spoken,” Goodcross announced.

President Lantern congratulated them both. “And as for you,” he touched Pinegully’s shoulder, “I believe I owe you a second favor, but I can’t…remember….if we ever established what it was?”

 

It was the third inning when they walked in, Pinegully and Element, hand in hand, to join the dartball game already in progress. For Element, he was seeing the sport for the first time, and Pinegully, actually able to walk up to the line, was seeing it all over for the first time. My how the game had changed!  According to Lantern’s staff, the sport had gone national in 2050, international in 2070, and as the regenerated priest now saw, apparently intergalactic sometime later. He recognized the sport, but barely.  There were nine guys on each side of the board, as usual, but the board itself seemed to glow, and each puncture made into it by the thrown darts mended themselves instantly after they were pulled, so the board remained in perfect condition. The distance in which they threw was farther, also, twenty feet rather than the old fifteen. Tonight, the D.C. Diplomats played the Dallas Angels.

Pinegully saw immediately that the games’ sense of fellowship had not diminished when he and Element were asked to play, were given some darts, and even placed in the lineup, as D.C. had some guys missing that night. The priest found the ninth chair, and stood before it as the teams recited the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ for the second game, but could not–would not–sit down.

“You’ll all forgive me, but I’ve done enough sitting for awhile.”

As he stood there, he got to see Element throw his first single, watched the excitement on his face, and was a part of the team’s subsequent victory. As for him, Martin Pinegully, 21st Century Dartball champion, twenty feet seemed like a long way. And he was suddenly up higher, too. The latter, especially, was something he could get used to very quickly. Yes, very quickly indeed.

“Are you okay?” it was the concerned voice of Element, suddenly by his side.

“Good game, Ele. Yes, I’m fine. But I’m feeling a little strange. Very tired all of a sudden. The time is growing near, isn’t it?”

The boy took his hand. “Let’s go.”

Father Goodcross was waiting outside of the church in the hovercraft. Element steadied his friend as he entered. “So much for the gravity deal,” he said, struggling to keep awake, and all aboard, the hovercraft took off.

“We love you,” he heard Element say.

He struggled against unconsciousness to repeat it. “I…l..ove y…” and he drifted off to a deep sleep during the ride.

 

When he opened his eyes, he was home. Home in a St. Jerome van, stretched out stiffly in its back seat. Urgently, he felt his legs. My God, it was true. He was actually ambulatory! He shook his head to wake up. Outside, the church bell tolled, it was the start of some hour–wait, no, a brand new hour. He opened the door, stepping out into the parking lot. He tested out his sea legs. A little wobbly at first, but they worked. “Oh, Peoria,” he said, and continued his walk to the church, one foot in front of the other.

“Father Pinegully?” It was Deacon Ron. “Is that you? You’re…you’re on your feet!”

Upon his shoulder, the priest rested his hand.

“How in the…”

“Let’s just call it God’s will, old friend. And…I had a good doctor, too.”

Welcoming him back, Deacon Ron told him the story of Curate Long’s dismissal, and how he had been proven guilty of sabotaging the sanctuary lift… “which I guess we won’t be needing anymore.”

“So…who’s been filling in as senior pastor?”

“We had a volunteer from Chicago. A certain Father Packle.”

“Packle? Ernest Packle?”

“That’s the one.”

“Really?” Pinegully recited that he’d known him in Rome and even sat beside him at graduation. Suddenly, the priest began applauding right there in the parking lot. “Congratulations Packle.”

Deacon Ron looked at him quizzically.

“Inside joke.”

Then, a silence hung in the air, long enough for the returned priest to remember something. Pinegully hung his head. “How’s the pope?” he managed, a strange feeling of defeat sweeping over him.

“Oh yes, the pope,” the other replied sorrowfully, also lowering his head.

There was a brooding silence.

Then, Deacon Ron jerked his head up with almost cartoon-like animation. “He’s fine! You did it! His recovery was complete within hours after you left!”

Pinegully’s countenance brightened immediately. “Why, you kidder! I’ll give you something to recover from! That’s fantastic!”

They stopped in the parking lot in front of St. Jerome’s, and turned to each other. “So how’s it feel to finally be on your feet?” the deacon wanted to know.

 Father Pinegully, metering his words said:

“How does it feel? I gotta tell ya. Chair or no chair, walking or sitting, it’s not what’s important. I’ve come to this conclusion while I was away. Anybody can develop their walk with the Lord. That’s it. It’s your walk with the Lord. That’s what counts, my friend. That’s what counts.”

Deacon Ron smiled. Honest as the day is long. He watched his friend walk into the church, a man barely able to lift his foot one week and then walking with the best of them the next. That was progress. That was faith. That was Father Pinegully for you.


© Copyright 2018 CP Dawson. All rights reserved.

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