At this hour, the doors were closed to the public. Normally brimming with tourists and the Faithful, the marble hall was now all but empty.
Fr Krause stood admiring one of the sculptures surrounding the High Altar.
"'St Longinus' by Bernini," a voice said, from behind him.
Fr Krause turned to see that Pope Xavier had joined him. "Yes, the man who pierced our Lord."
"Indeed. A beautiful sculpture. Perhaps Bernini is a saint himself, inspired by the subjects he depicted ... but, you did not ask to see me to admire art, nor to discuss the saints. What is it, that you had to speak with me in person?"
Fr Krause sighed, "Your Holiness ... Father. In Avignon, things are not well."
Pope Xavier lets out a sharp laugh, "Tell me something I don't know. I've heard that you were unable to meet with the Cardinal; rather, you were not permitted to. What are you talking about, then?"
"About a week ago, a young lady came to confess to me. Unlike many of the penitent, she was truly guilt-stricken with horror." He looked at the Pope with weary eyes, "She jumped from the top of Notre Dame des Doms ... she confessed to me here, in Rome, and then, while I'm in Avignon, she leaps from the very residence of the cardinal whom I'm trying to interrogate."
"Don't throw that word around lightly, Father. The last thing the Church needs now is another Interrogation."
"The last thing the Church needs now, Your Holiness, is another Schism."
Pope Xavier looked at Fr Krause for a bit, then nods, "You think this was more than a coincidence. Maybe it is, Father. But what would that mean?"
"I'm not sure," Fr Krause shakes his head slowly, "I would guess ... I would guess that the Cardinal ... the Cardinal is trying to frighten me away. To cow me into submission. He sees me as an obstacle to his Anti-Papacy. And I'm afraid ... not for myself, but for those around me. For anyone I've ever known, or spoken to. Am I so dangerous to him ... ?"
They both let silence settle. Fr Krause again looked to the sculpture.
"Because of Truth, because of His teaching," Pope Xavier began, "Christ was dangerous to the Jewish status quo, and so dangerous to the Romans, who feared a Jewish uprising. You, Father, know Truth, and you can spread it to others. You are dangerous to the French status quo, and so, dangerous to Avignon.
"Christ died for us. And so, we die for Christ. When God is your strength, there is nothing to fear.
"Saint Longinus, martyr, pray for us." And with that, the Pope turned away, and made his way back towards the door which led into the Papal chambers.
"So there I was," Miles Bell narrated, "cornered in an ally by the Gibbous Vandals, probably the fiercest gang on all of Luna. Their leader sneered at me and pointing his chubby finger snarled 'Y' wants'a bleed, new-moon?'" He paused to scan his audience for a reaction, and was met by eager faces, hanging on his every word.
Oh this is great. They're eating this up. Better make it good ...
"Now, what you need to understand here, is that, in the Lunar vernacular, new-moon is probably the worst slur for an outsider there is. I was none too happy about being called a new-moon, so, you know what I did ..." breathless anticipation, "I pointed my finger right back at him, and I said 'Yeah, I'll bleed, chubgut. But first, you've got to promise me something ...' Looking around at his crew, he snorted, 'Ha. Y'ear tha' boys. Th' bleeda wants a promis'. A'righ' bleeda, what's'th' promis'.' And, all the while he was laughing with his gang, I took the opprotunity to ready myself, and, when he turned to me, I gave that Gibbous Vandal the hardest kick I could, right in the kisser. I probably knocked a few teeth loose, and I definitely heard his nose break. And as he lay there bleeding on the ground, I tell him 'Don't cry if you bleed first.'"
Upon concluding his story, Miles was cheered and patted on the back, and probably punched , jovially, in the arm a few times. "You sho'd them Lunatics a thing'er two, eh." "Never did like Moon-men m'self, buddy." "Lemme buy you a drink, guy."
Miles lifted his hand, "Actually, sir, if you wouldn't mind, I'm actually a tad hungry, so ..."
The big, hairy man guffawed, "Well, y' just needta ask, guy. You like lobster?"
"I'd love lobster"
"Too bad, I can't afford it." The table explodes with drunken laughter. "Haha. Just some humour there, guy. They don't serve lobster here anyhow. I'll get you something you're bound to like."
An hour later, his drink-drenched companions all stumbled away, one by one, as their shuttles were departing the platform. Eventually, Miles was left alone with his stir fry.
I'm certainly getting sick of stir fry.
Quickly running out of funds, and with no way to contact his connections, Miles decided to earn as many free meals from bar patrons as he could. Mostly from telling fabricated stories. As it turns out, the Gibbous Vandals were an obscure Lunar Rock band.
The bulk of that story was taken directly from their near hit, "New-moon Bleeder".
He hadn't been lying about having a run-in with a Lunar gang, but he certainly didn't know what moniker they went by, if any; they never cornered him in an ally; and he certainly never knocked their leader out with a kick to the face.
I've never fought anyone, for that matter. Never been a violent person, never will be. I'd much rather run from my problems.
As he thought this, a figure entered the diner, heading his way ...