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Space Pope of the Twenty-Fourth Century: A Crisis of Faith

By Kirk Shimano

Pope Innocent XXIII, Supreme Pontiff of the Vacuum Regions, knelt quietly in

the aft chamber of Saint Peter’s space station. His eyes turned inward and his breathing

slowed. The whole of his body tensed and waited, hoping to hear a single sound within

the vast walls of steel and infiglass. But there was nothing. Sighing his discontent, he

opened his eyes and looked at the altar before him.

“Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Amen.” The words emerged

automatically from his lips and echoed through the vessel’s empty cabin.

“Any luck this time?” asked a voice.

“None,” replied the Space Pope. “I am hesitant to admit it, but I am beginning to

fear that I am expending my energies to no purpose.”

He turned to the ante table where he had set his magic talking hat before

beginning his meditation. The hat ruffled the Space Pope’s hair reassuringly as it settled

upon his head.

“Well, you know, it’s probably all just metaphors,” the talking hat continued.

“You’re really supposed to think whatever you want and then claim you heard it from

God. That’s usually how these things work.”

“The Earth Pope receives communication from the Lord twice daily,” countered

the Space Pope, smoothing the creases in the magic hat. “The Lord consults the Earth

Pope on every possible matter, not excluding the paint color of the rectories.”

”The Earth Pope is an egomaniacal liar and you know it,” said the hat.
“Judge not…” warned Innocent XXIII.

The onboard computers ignited the cabin lights as the Space Pope rose to his feet.

He whirled around, still uncomfortable with the ship’s attention to his slightest

movement. The door slid silently as he left the room. Silent as a tomb, he couldn’t help

but think.

The Space Pope made his daily trip past the now unoccupied living quarters. He

walked across the grand kitchen where he had become accustomed to preparing his own

meals. Through each open doorway, he could see the lights rise on another vacuous

room. He stopped at every glint of movement and each muffled scuttle, hoping that it

might be one of the other space cardinals coming home at last. This was never the case,

of course, and each of these fancies was disproved as quickly as it was conceived.

A siren erupted through the artificially oxygenated air, breaking the Space Pope

from his reverie.

“It’s the papal computer!” exclaimed the hat.

The Space Pope scrambled through the hallways, nearly tripping over his robes.

He reached a small, unadorned apse that was dominated by an assemblage of lights and

wires. The primary monitor flashed a blinding red, as the papal computer only did in

times of spiritual crisis.

“A little girl in Athena Major has stopped believing,” read the Space Pope.

“That hardly seems like a case worthy of your attention,” said the hat. “Thousands

of people must lose their faith every day. I don’t see why you have to go fixing her.”

“Nevertheless, the papal computer deems it so,” said the Space Pope. “I fear the

matter is not available for discussion. We depart for the Ship of St. Martin at once.”
In the late twenty-third century, a wealthy shipping magnate was stricken with a

vision. He dreamed of a ragged child perched on a tower of paper that stretched down

into infinity. The child’s face was blurred; the child’s voice was distant; yet there was no

mistaking that the child was crying. The trillionaire watched as tears fell upon the tower.

With every drop, a leaf of paper transformed into a fish and swam into nothingness.

The man awoke remembering the creatures disappearing into oblivion. He feared

this was an ill omen and set about to help the world’s children. His first act was the

donation of his largest interstellar whale transport to a local schooling board. With the aid

of a generous trust fund, this vessel became the vacuum region’s foremost educational

institution. Tuition was free to all, so everyone from the daughters of interstellar

diplomats to the sons of dirt truckers could sit in the classrooms, live in the dormitories,

and come to associate the thrill of learning with the smell of old fish in the halls of the

Ship of St. Martin.

Innocent XXIII watched the floating barge approach on the pope pod’s view

screen. He noticed his reflection in the monitor and tried to adjust the angle of his

vestments, remembering how much more authoritative Pope Pius had appeared just

months before. Vanity is a sin, he scolded inwardly, though he was still grateful as the

magic hat wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

“Identify your vessel, please,” stated a voice on the communicator.

“This is Pope Innocent XXIII, arriving on official business.”

“Good heavens!” exclaimed the voice. “I was not aware of this! Please tell his

holiness that we were expecting his arrival several days from now, though we were
scarcely sure if he would appear at all.”

“I don’t think she realizes who you are,” whispered the talking hat.

“We agreed that you would not speak whilst we attended to this,” the Space Pope

whispered back.

“There’s no reason to be embarrassed about this. I’m sure Pope Pius faced the

same problems when he was first ordained.”

Innocent’s voice began to rise involuntary. “Do not presume to know what is on

my mind simply because you sit atop my head!”

An awkward silence seeped into the pod. The Space Pope was thankful that the

ship’s video link had never been upgraded. “I’m sorry, there must be a problem with our

connection,” said the voice on the communicator. “Could you please repeat what you last

said?”

“I was clarifying the fact that you are, at present, speaking directly to the pontiff,

my sister.”

“The comets and stars! I did not realize you were in the habit of piloting your own

ship! Well, of course, I was informed of the tragic details of your appointment (not to say

your appointment was tragic, mind you, as I would never suggest that!) but I would never

have fathomed that every last pilot was taken by those events. The planets and solar

bodies!”

The nun continued to chatter as the pope pod docked in the bottommost chamber

of the Ship of St. Martin. As the pod door glided open, the Space Pope aligned his gaze

parallel to the horizon. He felt the folds of his robe fall majestically before him as he

began to disembark. But just as his foot neared the ground, his eyes caught their first
glimpse of the nun. She had tentacles where he had expected her arms to be. Her pear-

shaped head highlighted the trumpet-like appendage that sprouted from her ear. The

Space Pope’s foot, as startled as the rest of his body, nearly missed the ground altogether.

“My name is Sister Roberta Francesca,” said the nun. The Space Pope began to

reach out his hand, noticed the acidic substance dripping from the nun’s suction cups, and

decided to opt for an awkward nod of the head instead. He was trying to affect a look of

stern detachment when Roberta Francesca let out a musical whistle from her right ear.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed,” she said. “I’m not surprised that you have

yet to me an Arguinian. Our kind isn’t commonly found out here. This way, if you

please.”

Roberta Francesca led the Space Pope up a narrow, spiraled staircase. “I am most

appreciative that you have responded to our prayers, for it really is a most uncommon

case. Little Sally-Anne has simply stopped believing in everything. She has stopped

believing in heaven, the church, the Holy Father. But she has also stopped believing in

her teachers and her classmates, in the seasons and the stars. She no longer believes in

eating, in sleeping, in bathing…

A resigned breeze emitted from her ear. “We have tried everything we could -

unless you’ve had second thoughts about the laws against corporal punishment?”

She paused to emit a quizzical whistle that sounded suspiciously like glee, though

the Space Pope diplomatically offered no response. “Oh well,” said the nun. “I suppose

some luxuries shall never be returned to us.”

Roberta Francesca led them up another ancient flight of stairs. The layers of rust

and dirt had been compacted by thousands of footsteps. “Mind the missing step,” she
said. “We are most generously supported by our patron, but I fear our school still badly

wants for some repair.

“Our destination is the recreation platform, on the ship’s topmost deck. That’s

where Sally-Anne is.”

They continued to ascend through the halls of the ship. They passed through the

kindergarten area with its macaroni bushes and finger paint ponds (“Do mind your step,”

said Roberta Francesca, “as the crayon trees are beginning to drop their fruit.”). They

walked through a living book in the midst of recreating the French Revolution (“The

children are only allowed to experience approved literature, of course, and even then we

are careful to avoid over-stimulation.”) and walked by the piloting simulators where

teenage boys were earning their flying licenses (“Really, all they need is one nearly-fatal

traffic accident. That will educate them.”)

At last, they reached the playground, a vast field of bioengineered grass that

spanned the ship’s entire upper deck. The maintenance robots had just finished chalking

the foursquare lines while a flock of mechanical sentries herded the children away from

the ground’s edge. A massive dome of tempered plastic soared over the grounds,

separating the children below from the universe above.

“Sally-Anne is the young woman on the swing set, over there,” pointed Roberta

Francesca. “I fear she has become somewhat of a recluse.”

The Space Pope looked at the little girl. Her pigtails, which should have reached

down to her shoulders, were knotted atop her head. They were pulled so tight that her

eyelids seemed to strain upwards. Her fingernails were clean enough to house microchip

construction and her starched blue uniform was equally immaculate. She sat alone on the
swing set, her legs kicking out as if punting an unseen puppy.

“Sally-Anne?” said the Space Pope, approaching the girl. She kicked harder,

swinging back with such fury that the Pope scarcely had time to duck before she came

hurtling back, knocking the magic talking hat from his head.

A shrill blare blurted from Roberta Francesca’s ear. “Apologize immediately!”

“I don’t believe in apologies,” said the girl.

“This is the Supreme Pontiff of the Vacuum Regions!” scolded Roberta

Francesca.

“I don’t believe in the Supreme Pontiff and I don’t believe in the stupid Vacuum

Regions, either.”

“But yet, I stand before you now,” said the Space Pope.

“I don’t believe in talking to strangers,” said Sally-Anne, swinging higher as she

peddled into the air.

“It’s not as if he’s the Easter Salmon. You don’t choose to believe in him or not,”

muttered the talking hat.

Roberta Francesca emitted a surprised screech, looking suspiciously in the

direction of the hat. Innocent turned his back to the nun and reached to retrieve his

headwear from the ground.

“She’s not worth your time,” said the hat.

“The Papal Computer has led me here and I intend to see this through!” whispered

the Space Pope. “Incidentally, I don’t suppose you have any suggestions as to how I

should see this through?”

“You mean the Papal Computer didn’t tell you what to do?’ the hat muttered
back.

“Perhaps I was expected to already know.”

“Well, just talk to her. That’s what popes usually do.”

The Space Pope placed the talking hat on his head and turned back towards

Sally-Anne. He carefully angled his head in an authoritative fashion and said, in a deep

resonating voice, “Child, please tell me why you have chosen to stop believing.”

“I don’t believe in answering stupid questions, stupid.”

“But Sally-Anne, beliefs are how we organize the world. My beliefs tie me to the

world around me, and when I believe in others they believe in me in return. Beliefs are

the gravity which anchor us in our mortal lives.”

Sally-Anne raised her hand to her mouth in a theatrical yawn. “I especially don’t

believe in boring speeches.”

“Comets and meteors! Sally-Anne, you will most certainly be punished for your

insolence.” A long, slow whine, like the air being slowly released from a very

embarrassed balloon, emerged from Roberta Francesca’s ear. “Thank you very much for

coming, your holiness, but I fear we have already wasted too much of your time.”

The talking hat gently squeezed the pope’s forehead in agreement and nudged his

forehead down into a nod, but the Space Pope refused to comply.

“Sally-Anne. Maybe you would believe in me if you saw the three papal

armaments.”

The nun emitted a surprised whistle. “Surely, this is not necessary!”

Innocent ignored the increasing pressure from the hat. “I believe it to be so.”

“I don’t believe in field trips,” said the little girl.


“Then that shall be the first belief we will change,” said the Space Pope,

suppressing a small smile. “I believe the papal computer indicated some miners who are

in need of assistance.”

In twenty minutes time, the pope pod alighted upon Terra Gamma, a small

asteroid in the mining sector. The space pope removed his staff from his ship as a man in

a laser-scalded helmet ran up to meet them.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I don’t believe in giving my name!” shouted Little Sally.

“Not you, darlin’, this man here with the big stick and the fancy hat.”

“I am the Supreme Pontiff of the Vacuum Regions.”

“You’re the what-the-hell-there of the why-should-I-care?”

The magic talking hat leaned in a bit and whispered, “He’s the Space Pope.”

Innocent XII continued before the miner could ask about the source of the voice.

“The papal computer has informed me that you have unanswered prayers.”

“Oh really? No shit. Yeah, so Vern’s been trapped under a boulder for what’s

goin’ on six hours now, and hell if I know what to do about it. So you’re here to answer

our prayers, eh?”

“No, I am merely the Lord’s agent. I do not have the power to answer your

prayers, but sometimes it is His will that I should endeavor the best I can.”

“Well, whatever. Vern’s over there.”

They approached the corner of the mine where a man was trapped beneath a large

boulder. His legs were completely crushed, as if the boulder had swallowed every part of
him from the waist downwards. He could scarcely wheeze as he saw the Space Pope

approaching.

The Space Pope appraised the situation and produced a small device from within

his robes. It was shaped like a seed, but it glowed as if it were reflecting light from every

angle at once. Innocent held the strange treasure in front of Sally-Anne so that she could

inspect it.

“This is the Transubstantiator,” he explained. “It is one of the three papal artifacts,

and because I believe in His will, I can use it to transform one thing into another.”

He carefully removed his crucifix form his staff and placed the Transubstantiator

in its place. The device began to soften and ooze, blossoming into a bright array of green

and red. Sally-Anne watched as the light focused to a single point within the artifact,

causing it to glow so bright that it was nearly unbearable to view. “I don’t believe in this

thing,” she said, though her eyes scarcely dared to blink.

The Space Pope placed the staff to his forehead. He closed his eyes and tried to

picture the boulder in front of him, feeling the asteroid from whence it had come. He saw

it zooming back into time - saw when it had once been a mountain, worn by the current

of a mighty river in a galaxy no human had ever known. He felt how the rock yearned to

become part of that stream - to be swept away into tiny particles of motion. The Space

Pope scarcely noticed Sally-Anne’s sharp gasp. He opened his eyes and saw that the

boulder was no longer. All that remained was a cloud of dust rising up into the cosmos.

The Transubstantiator was now black, the air around it cool and icy.

The miners rejoiced. Vernon, still broken, but alive, sat up so that the Space Pope

could kiss him on the forehead. Innocent XII turned to the little girl, the sweat on his
brow the proof of a successful mission.

“Now, do you believe in me?” asked the Space Pope.

“I didn’t see nothing,” said Sally-Anne stubbornly. “I was looking at that rock

over there.”

“Well, then it’s a good thing we’re not done yet,” said the Space Pope, dragging

her back towards his small spacecraft.

On the surface of the Earth’s moon, the space farmers gathered in a circle of

desperation. Their crop of lunar corn was dying. They relied on regular shipments from

the Earth’s moisture factories to raise their rare and delicate crop, but a series of solar

winds and meteor showers had made the last moisture shipments increasingly impossible.

“Your holiness!” shouted a farmer as the Space Pope emerged from his pod. “Our

prayers have been answered!”

The farmer immediately dropped to the ground and began to kiss Innocent

XXIII’s feet.

“We should really visit more places like this,” said the talking hat.

“I am afraid I have no time for honorifics,” said the Space Pope in his most regal

voice. “Sally-Anne, please observe and believe.”

With that, the Space Pope produced two keys from the folds of his robe. The first

was short and solid, as if it had been carved from a single block of stone. “This is the Key

of the Earth,” explained the Space Pope. With one swift, solid motion, he plunged it into

the surface of the moon. It glowed with a white heat as he turned it, causing the ground

below him to shake.


A small mound of dirt began to rise beneath the Space Pope’s feet. This mound

became a pile, then a heap, then a hill, then a peak, until finally he towered twenty feet

above the cowering farmers. He then took hold of the other key. This one was nearly

invisible, as weightless as if it was made of nothing but air. From Sally-Anne’s vantage

point at the bottom of the mountain it looked as if he was holding nothing at all. “This is

the Key of the Heavens,” the Space Pope shouted. He thrust it into the air, the subtle teeth

disappearing into nothingness. The blackness of space opened up into a miraculous shade

of blue when, with neither thunder nor lightning, a torrent of rain began to pour forth

from nowhere.

The farmer’s rejoiced, dancing in the rain as the lunar corn broke through the

ground’s surface and stretched towards the falling water. They prayed and laughed and

praised the Space Pope, but one little girl present who refused to be moved.

“It was probably going to rain, anyway” said Sally-Anne. “You just got lucky.”

“Maybe you really should reconsider that ban on corporal punishment,” said the

hat as they returned to the pope pod for a final trip.

As the Earth completed its journey towards the opposite end of the sun, the pope

pod alighted upon its final destination. Bended Oaks, the solar system’s largest free-

floating retirement community, was besieged by falling meteors. The elderly residents

scuttled about, the falling rocks approaching dangerously near to their reasonably priced

post-employment habitation units.

Sally-Anne clutched the side of the Space Pope’s robes and buried her face within

the fabric. “I don’t believe in being crushed by falling rocks from outer space,” she
whimpered.

“Do not worry, for that belief will not be tested today,” said the Space Pope. “But

in order for me to help, you will need to step away for just a moment.”

Sally-Anne complied, wiping her nose on her no-longer pristine sleeves. Innocent

reached into the folds of his robe and produced an empty censer. Though average in size,

its perfectly polished titanium surface created an otherworldly glow about it. Sally-Anne

watched as the Space Pope began to swing the censer on its shining chain.

“Ángele Dei, qui custos es mei, me, tibi commíssum pietate…”

The chain began to glow, though the Space Pope had lit no fire. He continued to

chant, swinging the censer in broader strokes. Sally-Anne had not seen him put anything

into the container, and yet the smell of incense wafted through the air. A thick, black

smoke curled up towards the sky, weaving into a thick net even blacker than the night

sky.

The Space Pope flinched slightly as a meteor collided with the smoky net, forcing

his will to steel against the deadly boulders. Sally-Anne returned to his side and clutched

the leg of his robes, jumping slightly as each meteor was deflected. When the meteor

storm subsided, the aged residents applauded as best their arthritic hands would allow.

“Now do you believe?” asked the Space Pope.

Sally-Anne was silent. The smoke began to shrink into itself as the Space Pope

returned the titanium censer to his robes.

“It has been a very long day for us both,” he said. “It is time for us to return.”

The Space Pope returned Sally-Anne back to the swing set in the Ship of St.
Martin’s playground. He lifted her back into the seat and crouched down to her eye level.

“Please tell me. Do you now believe in something?”

Sally-Anne fidgeted with her pigtails, the knot now loose enough to resemble an

unbaked pretzel. She looked down at the ground, her eyes catching specks of the

transfigured boulder beneath her fingernails.

“Maybe she just needs some time to think,” said the talking hat.

“I truly believed that I could help her,” said the Space Pope. He kissed her on the

forehead and gathered his vestments about him. He began to walk across the playground,

the quiet reminding him of the emptiness of St. Peter’s Space Station.

He was halfway to the staircase when he heard a shrill whistle sound through the

playground. The perimeter robots were herding a group of three girls away from the

edges of the dome. With their identical uniforms, synchronized haircuts, and matching

smirks, they projected the cold precision of a military death squad. One happened to spot

Sally-Anne, and the three immediately skipped towards her with a single, vicious mind.

“Hey look, it’s Stupid-Anne!”

“Yeah, or maybe Sally-Stupid!”

“Did I tell you what I did?”

“You did tell me, but tell me again, ‘cuz it’s a good story.”

“Well, I told Stupid-Anne that she was my best friend, and she actually believed

me!”

“That’s such a Sally-Stupid thing to do. She really really believed you?”

“Really really!”

Sally-Anne jumped from the swing and ran towards the Space Pope. “I didn’t
believe you!” she shouted. “I don’t believe in anything!”

“Liar! Liar! Face on fire!”

“This is boring. Let’s leave Stupid-Stupid and go.”

“Yeah, this is boring. Goodbye liar.”

The three girls locked their hands together and skipped towards the nearest

transport tube, leaving a confused Space Pope without a single word to say.

Sally-Anne clutched the end of his robe. “I didn’t believe her,” she said. “I didn’t

believe her, I don’t believe her now. I’m not going to believe her ever again!”

She stamped her feet into the ground, raising small clouds of synthetic de-

allergenized playground dirt. She clenched her fists and bunched her eyelids, jumping up

and down as a scream escaped from the corners of her mouth.

The Space Pope placed a hand upon the girl’s shoulder. “Perhaps it’s time for you

to calm down,” he said.

“I don’t believe in calming down!” she shouted. The Pope’s hand was flung back

to his side as she rocketed three feet into the air. Sally-Anne floated back down to the

ground, too absorbed in her tantrum to notice that she had gone airborne. She stamped

her foot in the dirt again and the force of her impact sent her even higher than before.

“This can’t be good,” said the talking hat.

The Space Pope grabbed for Sally-Anne’s hands. “Now Sal…”

“NO!” she screamed, and with one final jump she propelled herself starward, the

force of the world no longer able to bind her. She floated to the top of the playground’s

dome, her back sliding against the surface of the tempered plastic.

At first, she did not realize her location. She waved her hands about frantically in
an attempt to regain her balance and found that she was unable to align her body in any

position. Her feet slipped on the underside of the dome as she continued to drift upwards,

the familiar playground growing steadily smaller.

Innocent could feel the sweat beginning to collect on his forehead. “Sally-Anne!

Come down here at once or Sister Roberta Francesca will be most displeased!”

“I don’t believe…” she began, but her mind was already occupied. Before she

could stop herself, she giggled. She tried putting her hands to her mouth but another

giggle escaped through her fingers. Her pigtails flopped on her back as she paddled

through the air and touched her fingers to her toes, cartwheeling on nothing before

flipping backwards into the air. “I’ll never believe!” she shouted, and Innocent couldn’t

help but wonder if she understood something that he did not.

But then the cracking started.

It began as a low creak – the sound of an old door in an abandoned shack. The hat

noticed it first and began to squeeze the pope’s head in anticipation. The sound grew

louder. It seemed to echo from all around. Sally-Anne landed a handplant on the top of

the dome with a sickening snap. She moved her hand to see the glint of a small fracture in

the dome’s ceiling.

“I want to go home now,” she whimpered.

The Space Pope scanned the playground frantically for a ladder or a climbing

pole. Sally-Anne began to cry, then to scream. A crowd emerged from the ships lower

quarters, pointing as the cracking became ever more persistent. Sister Roberta Francesca

shoved her way forward, her ear emitting a panicked squeal.

“The comets and meteorites! Surely, your holiness, there is something you can
do?”

“Maybe he’ll transubstantiate a zone dodge ball into a jet pack!” said a voice from

the gathering crowd.

“No, he’s going to use the Key of Heaven to unlock a tornado,” said another.

“If I were him, I’d use the titanium censer to build a bridge of smoke,” said a third

voice.

“Well, whichever artifact you use, you better use it fast,” said the talking hat.

Pope Innocent XXIII, supreme pontiff of the vacuum regions, closed his eyes and

turned his gaze inward. His breathing slowed. The whole of his body tensed, then

relaxed. He could no longer hear Sally-Anne, could no longer see the fissure steadily

growing. Yet he knew they were there, he knew that he was not alone now and, for the

first time, he realized that he had never been alone before. He felt a warmth spreading up

into his chest, a certainty that calmed his mind and expanded into his soul. When he

opened his eyes, he knew exactly what he had to do.

The Space Pope laid his staff upon the ground and cupped his hands to his mouth.

“My child, do you believe that sunshine is warm?” he shouted.

“The galaxies and dark matters!” exclaimed Roberta Francesca, but the Space

Pope ignored her.

“Sally-Anne, if you can hear me, please answer me. Do you believe that sunshine

is warm?”

The plastic screeched as the crack grew by another hand’s length. The little girl

wiped tears from her eyes. “Yes…” she answered weakly.

“That’s very good,” said the Space Pope. “Do you believe that puppies are soft?”
“I think so…” repeated the girl. The squeal of the dome grew ever so slightly

quieter.

“Do you believe that candy is sweet? And that jump ropes are fun?”

“Yes,” said the girl. She turned upright as her hands gravitated off the edge of the

dome. “Yes, I do!”

“Do you believe that birds can fly?”

“Actually, lots of birds can’t fly. Like penguins, duh,” said the girl. Her hand fell

back up to the plastic. “But, but, I believe all birds wish they can fly.”

The crowd emitted a collective gasp as Sally-Anne lowered an inch closer to the

ground.

“Do you believe that people can be good?”

“Yes.”

“And sometimes we must have faith, even if it means it leaves us vulnerable to

mockery?”

“Huh?”

“Sometimes you need to believe in others, even if it can hurt.”

“Oh,” said Sally-Anne. “Like I can’t let those bullies mean I never believe in

anyone again.”

“Yes, exactly like that,” said the Space Pope.

Sally-Anne remained suspended in the air. The Space Pope held his hand to her,

but she still floated just out of reach. She pulled on the ends of her pigtails, the last bit

braids falling out of its knot and smoothing across her back.

“I guess I can’t stay hanging here alone forever,” she said. She reached down and
took Innocent’s hand, allowing him to gently guide her back to the ground.

“I am sorry those girls misplaced your faith,” said the Space Pope “I simply hope

you find a vessel for your beliefs that is worthy of the privilege.”

He kissed her forehead once more. She retrieved his staff and placed it into his

hands, flushing slightly when he thanked her.

“What do we say to the Supreme Pontiff?” asked Roberta Francesca.

“I even believe in you now, Space Pope!” said Sally-Anne, wrapping her arms

around his cloak and embracing him.

In the aft chamber of Saint Peter’s Space Station, the Space Pope placed the

magic talking hat back onto the ante table. He closed his eyes and kneeled down to

resume his prayer.

“You know, it was probably all just a malfunction in the gravity unit.”

The ship’s lights brightened automatically as Innocent turned to face the hat.

“You make an unusual skeptic, considering that you are a talking piece of headwear.”

“I’m just saying, artificial gravity units have very small localized glitches all the

time,” said the hat.

“If that I what you choose to believe, it is your right to do so,” said the Space

Pope. “Now, I believe that I should return to my prayer.

He turned away from the hat once more and rested his eyes. Innocent listened to

the silence, feeling the cool air pass through the surface of his skin. He felt the weight of

his body upon his feet as surely as he felt the security of the thoughts upon his mind. As

the ship’s lights faded he fell deep into prayer, for the first time feeling ready to handle
whatever the future would bring.

Little did he know, the papal computer’s light was already beginning to flash read

once more…