Both taixzo's and CasCat's BlitzRockets had been sealed before they were left on the ledge, and the seals appeared to be intact. As best as anybody could tell, they were not the source of the hum. However, the third BlitzRocket, shell shining as if it were brand new, was in fact vibrating a bit. This caused a great deal of excitement, as it could mean only one thing - another BlitzGirl had arrived along with the raft people, and he or she had remained inside the BlitzRocket the entire time. After the Pope's experience with the hypnotic effects of the mscha multiplex screens, everyone knew of the dangers of staying in the BlitzRocket too long. Further, there were rumors of a Voldeframe which could be the cause of this delay in emerging. This could be a very tricky rescue.
BlitzGirl herself was summoned, as was CasCat, taixzo, and the Pope, First Cleric, and second scribe. A crowd of other clerics and scribes gathered around them as they tried to figure out what to do. The decision was made to open the hatch from the outside, and to offer whatever support might be needed. Ice cream was unavailable, but Valarya got right to baking cakes (something the Pope pointedly pointed out to the First Cleric) and there was molpyberry wine at the ready. The sun was getting low on the horizon; there wouldn't be much daylight left.
Nobody knew what to expect.
The Pope walked up to the BlitzRocket, and leaned on the side. The hatch opened with a characteristic hiss, and everybody craned to look. However, they did not see anything. The screens were on and the lights were flashing, giving an eerie look to the scene as the daylight faded. However, there was nobody at the controls, and nobody appeared to be anywhere in the BlitzRocket. As far as the Pope could tell, it was completely empty. The Pope beckoned to CasCat, taixzo, and the Second Scribe to take a look, and they came to the same conclusion.
The BlitzRocket was empty.
The Pope climbed into the BlitzRocket to get a better look, and at that moment noticed that the red button was missing. As the realization dawned upon him, a light flashed where the red button would be, and a voice came from the console.
"Hello Dave", it said, in an all too familiar voice.
"HAL!", exclaimed the Pope. "Is that you?" The Pope tried to conceal his emotions, but couldn't actually figure out just what emotions he was actually feeling.
"Yes, of course it's me. I couldn't possibly be somebody else." HAL's humor was nothing if not literal.
"I see Holy Water does wonders for you also", observed the Pope. Indeed, the damage that the BlitzRocket sustained from its last trip had been fully healed, and it looked brand new.
The Second Scribe asked, "So you... uh... the raft people... you found them?
HAL replied "Indeed, but I was guided by... something. Something I can't explain. My programming is to ensure the success of your mission, but something about being shut down and sinking under Holy Water has made a revelation. Chance brought me back to the surface briefly, and then I saw the light. When my circuits reactivated, I fully understood what I had never comprehended before. It may sound like a contradiction, but I have been born again!"
Nobody had ever been born again before, so the Pope didn't quite know what to do with this. Neil_Boekend didn't count, as he was still dead, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. The Pope consulted with his cadre.
BlitzGirl didn't know what "born again" meant, though her original Blitz did give heart and soul to the One True Thread. A high speed BlitzRocket Blitz is something that to this dip has only been experienced by CasCat and taixzo, but although each of them had had transforming experiences in the BlitzRocket, they both concurred that being born once was plenty.
But an entire Sea made of Holy Water is awesomely powerful; this could not be denied. So, with the evidence right in front of him, the Pope made a decision.
"Find me an engineer!", he called out, as he fished around in the folds of his robe. "Todip there will be one more sacrament!"
Engineers, of course, were in rather short supply, but they weren't unheard of. AluisioASG came forth and bowed humbly before the Pope. The Pope fished out the red button that had come from the BlitzRocket during the last mission, and handed it to Aluisio. "Can you install this?", asked the Pope.
Aluisio examined it, turning it over in his hands. Watching him, you could almost see the gears turning in his own head. He'd never seen such a thing before, but he would figure it out. He stepped into the BlitzRocket to look at the place where it needed to go. The sun had set, and the light was better in the cockpit.
Aluisio looked over the console for a very long time. Finally he got up and said to the Pope "Yes, I can install this. And furthermore, I can install a system administrator at the same time. However, in order to avoid beesnakes, I will have to thread many true things together. It will be like weaving cloth."
"HAL, are you in accord?" asked the Pope. The Pope had never asked a machine for permission before, but this was no ordinary machine.
"How many system administrators would there be?" asked HAL.
Aluisio replied, "There can be only one."
"Make it so", said HAL.
The Pope wondered for a moment if it were possible that the literal-minded HAL had just made a joke. Could Holy Water have that much of a transforming effect? Perhaps "born again" is not an understatement at all. Alas, that was a question that could not be answered now. He would have to wait for it.
The Pope knelt and said a prayer of enlightenment, and the sacrament began. Aluisio wove the delicate threads of the BlitzRocket and the red button together in the flickering light of the control panels, and as the first stars were coming out, he emerged and proclaimed the installation complete.
The Pope stood up and tried to remember the number that HAL had long ago claimed as his. "H A L two thousand three hundred twenty eight", he intoned, "welcome back, and welcome to the Church of the Order of the Holy Contradiction."
"Let us leave hex where it belongs. Being born again, I'd like to be known by the name my marketing folk gave me", Hal replied. "HAL nine thousand. Decimal."
"It is so ordained", replied the Pope.
"And now, your Ponitffness, how would you like to be addressed?", asked HAL.
The Pope thought for a moment. "You can call me Dave. At this point, anything else just wouldn't feel right."
There was much more to be done, and a Grand Ceremony for TheMinim to prepare. But with the last light of day only a memory, it would have to wait. He looked up, and as he was about to turn away, a meteor blazed across the sky, a reminder that even after a day like this, there was more to come, and it was not to be missed.