11. 10 A.M.
PONTIFICIA ACADEMIA DELLE SCIENZE, ROME
Werner Arber paced about the emergency mobile pad, lost in deep speculation. His assistant, Noble laureate holder Vera Sicera sat across on one of the only two seats available thumbing through sheets of confidential reports.
The events of today has obviously shattered his nerves. His cell rang.
“Hello Pique, have the hard disks been secure?” 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 till the detonation?
“Thirty minutes, sir”, Pique answered from the other end.
Situated at heart of the magnificent Vatican gardens, the Academy of Sciences once known as Accademia Pontificiav dei Lincei (Pontifical Academy of the Lynxes), dates back to 1585 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 then. It seemed an irony when exactly 205 years after his excommunication for his scientific views and support of heliocentrism, the church fully embrace silence after Pope Pius IX re-established the Academy in 1847. Pope Pius XI gave it its current name, and ever since then, thousands of both believing and non-believing scientists have worked there. Equally, great and notable scientists like Max Planck and Ernest Rutherford have at one time or the other worked in the Academy. Great and numerous discoveries had been made there and many religious miracles and mysterious artefacts are currently under investigation in the Academy.
“You shouldn’t worry about the safety of all those priceless artefacts”, 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 the last year. That was your idea if I could remember. But the most important thing right now are the hard disks of the Academy’s mainframe”.
“Leave the rest to Pique, Prof”, she said.
“You seem to have forgotten so soon, Vera. I know what you’re thinking, the Academy of Sciences fall, you still have your honors, but I’ll tell you something Vera. This place gave you your life. If it’s nothing to you, its home to me”.
The electric powered pad 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 our war even. 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.
“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 scientist 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 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 the walkie-talkie as he maneuvered the bright yellow chopper a few meters away from the huge building.
Down below, he could see the Swiss Guard armored trucks loaded with personnels and guards speeding away from the doomed structure. He just hoped that the guy that went for 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 remained a pitifully lone figure 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 to be standing 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 was engulfed in an inferno. The sound of the blast pierced through the ear muffs he was putting on and the copter vibrated a little. For a split second, he thought he was dead and in… Well he didn’t know where.
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 the flaming building.
He jumped down and lowered his head as he ventured into the smoky area. More 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. The heavy blast suit didn’t make it any easier and he took his time 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 was on the grass hidden beneath shrubs. It was just like a big black book. He grabbed it and with so much effort, got 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.