combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 03 Number 04 Fall ©Oct 2005

The Abyssinian Mission
sequel to The Lion of Judah

I. The Public Prosecutor

          "Would you state your name for the record?"

          "Yakov Andreyev."

          "What is your occupation?"

          "Acoustical engineer."

          "Who is you employer?"

          "I've been self-employed for these last six years ... as a consultant."

          "Where are you from?"

          "Tokyo ... most recently. I live in Tokyo."

          "Is your name Russian?"

          "Yes ... you might say so."


          "Yes, it is Russian."

          "Are you married?"

          "Yes, three children."

          "Were you in Vatican City on the night of April 25th , 2030?"

          "Yes ... yes, I was."

          "For what purpose."

          "I was there in the hope of interviewing Pope Leo XIV."

          "At 3 AM?"

          "I should have said I was preparing myself for the possibility. I was too excited to sleep."

          "Had this interview been prearranged?"


          "And what possible reason could you have for believing an audience would be granted?"

          "I'm not sure. I had hoped my technical expertise might ... impress His Holiness or his secretary ... or someone."

          "You came here from Tokyo on just that ... hope?"

          "Yes, I know it sounds foolish. Perhaps it was, but in my field optimism — even groundless optimism — can sometimes be an advantage."

          "Will you tell the court what you saw in Vatican City?"

          "Well, that was the odd thing. I saw nothing — at least nothing that I would have expected to see. No Praetorian guard around, in fact no security at all. But I did see a young woman."

          "What was she doing?"

          "She was weeping."

          "I'm going to show you a photograph."

          "All right."

          "Is this the woman?"


          "Let the record show the witness has identified Katrina Fermi ... a member of a new militant order of nuns, someone rumored to have been the Pope's mistress."

          "You ... no one can be sure of that."

          "Do you have reason to doubt it?"

          "No ... and none to believe it."

          "Do you know why she was weeping?"

          "I can only guess."

          "Then guess."

          "Because she was sad."

          "This is not a game, Mister Andreyev."

          "I know. I didn't intend for my answer sound frivolous. I apologize."

          "Did you see anyone else on the night of April 25th?"

          "Yes ... a young man."

          "Here is another photograph."

          "That's him."

          "Let the record show that the witness has identified Tommaso Gabrielle, a Vatican astronomer — the youngest son of Pope Leo XIV and a suicide on the night of April 25th."

          "You can't be sure of that."

          "Do you have any reason to believe it wasn't a suicide?"

          "No ... not that ... the other."

          "That Gabrielle was the pope's bastard issue? Indeed we can. We can be completely certain. DNA evidence has confirmed it."

          "DNA? I didn't realize that was possible."

          "As a scientist you seem to have missed quite a lot."

          "Yes, I have ... I ... apparently ... have."

          "And did you also fail to see the Pope on that mysterious night?"

          "Yes, I did."

          "Did what?"

          "I mean to say I did see him."

          "You saw him."

          "Yes ... as I have just said."

          "Do you realize, Mister Andreyev, that would make you the last person to see Pope Leo XIV before he went missing over a month ago?"


          "Well, I must say then that this court is waiting — in fact the whole world is waiting to hear your story — along with the lunar colonies. You were called here only as one of a dozen mere background witnesses who were interviewed in the most recent routine canvass of tourists in St. Peter's square. So I must admit I am astounded that you have relevant information about this matter — and that you haven't voluntarily come forward sooner."

          "Yes, but regardless of why or when I have come, I am here to tell the truth."

          "Then Mister Andreyev, pray tell it. Look into the camera there and put all the world wide speculation to an end. Because it has been suggested that His Holiness has eloped again, that he is mortifying his flesh in a Syrian desert, that — following surgery — he has taken the veil or even that he has been abducted by aliens. No manhunt in history has been comparable. It has cost literally billions of new-lire. So if you know what has become of the Bishop of Rome then, for the love of God, tell us."

          "I do know. And as I have said, I am here to tell the truth."

          "Then do so, for Christ's sake!"

          "He ...."

          "Yes ... Yeeeessss."

          "I want to say first ... for the record ... that if the testimony that I am about to give is not the truth, then ... may I never see ... Christ in the face."

          "What is your testimony, Mister Andreyev?"

          "As a matter of fact ... he was."

          "Was what???"

          "He was ... he was abducted ... abducted — if that is the right word — and by an alien — not aliens. There was only one."

          "This is your sworn testimony."


          "That an alien abducted Pope Leo."


          "Are you currently under psychiatric care, Mister Andreyev?"


          "Have you ever been?"


          "Well, then, Mister Andreyev, let me now ask you a question, the question you have just asked me. How can you be sure? How can you be sure that he was carried off by an alien? Did you see him being whisked away?"

          "Yes ... well, yes, you might say so."

          "Might say so??? Surely you either did or did not see an alien abduct him?"

          "Yes, well no ... let's just say that an alien did abduct him. You have my word of honor on that."

          "But why can you not say whether you did or did not see an alien abduct him?"

          "That seems to exhaust every possibility, but in fact it does not."


          "Because ...."


          "Because I ...."

          "We're all waiting, Mister Andreyev."

          "All right then. I'll say it."

          "Please do."

          "Because I am the alien who abducted him."

II. The Clinical Psychologist

          "Good morning, Mister Andreyev."

          "Good morning."

          "My name is Anna Giovanni. I am a court-appointed psychologist. And so I am an officer of the court. I have been assigned to interview you, if you do not object."

          "I want to cooperate."


          "I know that I caused the attorney who questioned me yesterday some embarrassment. That was not my intention."

          "I believe you, Mister Andreyev. But I'm afraid he experienced a good deal more than embarrassment. He was fairly or unfairly humiliated before the largest audience in history — five billion viewers, I'm told."

          "I'm so sorry. I realize now he believed he had broken the case — only to discover he was interviewing a ... madman."

          "So ... do you want to ... amend your testimony?"


          "But you've admitted that your statements were those of someone who was ... unstable."

          "I only meant that he thought he was interviewing a madman."

          "You swore you were an alien who carried off the pope."


          "Can you tell me today's date?"

          "May 30th, 2030."

          "Do you know where you are?"


          "Do you know why you are here?"

          "I'm being held as a material witness. I understand the Italian government has a perfect right to do this under extraordinary circumstances — and I admit these are. However, since this administration does not believe my story, it can hardly claim it wishes me to bear witness to it. So my detention is illegal. For me to be held legally, I should have been charged with perjury."

          "Did you perjure yourself?"


          "Voice analyzers indicate you were speaking under stress."

          "I often am when five billion people are watching me."

          "You believe you are an ... alien?"


          "DNA analysis says otherwise. It says you are human."

          "Yes, I should hope so."

          "How can you be both an alien and a human being, Mister Andreyev?"

          "Well ... I guess ... it's rather like a playwright writing himself as a character in his own play."

          "So it was you who created the whole world?"

          "... well, I didn't mean ...."

          "When does ... the curtain fall?"

          "No, I didn't mean that. It's more the other way around. The analogy is imperfect. I'm ... confused ... now."

          "Would you like me to come back later?"


          "How did you abduct the pope? I mean how did you do it?"

          "In my flying saucer."

          "Where is it parked?"

          "Five hundred meters above Vatican City."

          "That's odd. No one's seems to have looked up this last month."

          "I know you don't believe me, but it is visible only when I permit it to be."

          "Why don't you permit it now?"

          "I can't ... because of the panic it would cause. Doctor, please ...."

          "If I fired a gun straight up in St. Peter's Square, would I hit it?"

          "No. It is equipped with a remarkable collision avoidance system."

          "That reacts more quickly than a bullet?"

          "Three times more."

          "Don't you think you ought to just tell me the truth, Mister Andreyev? There has never been a Yakov Andreyev living anywhere in Japan."

          "But this verifies my story —"

          "It does quite the opposite."

          "Please, Doctor, have you read the history of the mid-fifteenth century? I need to speak to someone familiar with the Abyssinian Mission."

          "Mister Andreyev ...."

          "I know. I know. I'm very aware of how all this sounds."

          "Mister Andreyev, you have sworn you are a human-alien from outer space-Tokyo with a spaceship-invisible from which you, an uninformed scientist, created the world that created you."

          "Outer space? ... uh ... I didn't ... I didn't create it."

          "It's time ... to tell ... the truth, Mister Andreyev."

          "All right. I will tell you the truth. And I promise to tell you everything if only you will get someone in here who is familiar with the Abyssinian Mission ... and ...."


          "The Russo-Japanese War at the beginning of the twentieth century."

III. The Military Historian

          "Well, good morning, Mister Andreyev."

          "Good morning."

          "My name is Antonio Fellini, Professor Emeritus at the Istituto Il David. I am a historian. I understand you have one on order."


          "Were you expecting someone younger?"

          "May I ask how old you are, Professor Fellini?"

          "I am ninety two years old. And you are understandably bewildered. The reason that your hosts here have had to dig up a relic like me is that warfare is no longer studied in the academy — as though to mention it is somehow to approve of it. War has become unspeakable, but, as we all know nowadays — what with the Canadian Civil War showing no sign of abating — certainly not unthinkable."

          "Do you have any special knowledge of the 1904 Russo-Japanese War or of the Abyssinian mission?"

          "I have no special knowledge, Mister Andreyev, but I do have one advantage over my colleagues. I am not mystified when either one is mentioned."

          "Then you will do very nicely, Professor Fellini."

          "I am glad to hear it. And, if it is convenient now, perhaps you will tell me your story. I saw you on television yesterday along with everyone else. So you need not repeat that part."

          "My story begins a hundred years before I was born. In 1905 when Japan defeated Russia — against every expert prediction — she did something very much out of character by taking some two thousand prisoners. One of these was my great-great-great grandfather, who along with the rest, fiercely resisted repatriation. He and the others were serfs back in Russia and, strangely enough, a Japanese jail was a step up socially. But Japan was then and is today no melting pot. So eventually the prisoners were all sent back to Russia — or, at least, almost all. A few dozen — along with three female nurses (who had picked up Japanese very quickly) — managed to escape and found work as virtual slaves among the criminal class. And as minions they were never permitted to live among the Japanese. In time they formed what was to become a white ghetto in Tokyo. On two occasions they were threatened with immediate deportation, but my ancestor and the rest informed the authorities that this would result in a fight to the death. This must have been believed because an uneasy truce was reached until the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Foreigners were held responsible — don't ask for the reason. There can be no reason when one hundred and forty thousand are dead — and the ghetto was attacked. Only a few survived."

          "May I interrupt for a moment, Mister Andreyev?"

          "Of course."

          "I'm not quite sure why a Japanese prisoner would necessarily be better off than a Russian serf."

          "Normally he would not, but these particular prisoners were also Catholics. The double stigma back home was, more often than not, deadly."

          "Thank you. Please go on."

          "It was decided by the survivors of the 1923 pogrom that every effort should be made to secure the borders of the ghetto against another assault. But no conventional barrier could discourage a tank. Consequently, some sort of super barrier had to be constructed inside of which my Russian forebears could grow vegetables and tend their pigs in peace. With his survival dependent on his success, this forebear of mine actually managed to create a force field."

          "What was his power source, Mister Andreyev?"

          "Thunder. I know it seems mad to think thunder could ever be controlled. But the whole human race once felt the same way about electrical storms. And yet electricity is everywhere."

          "I see."

          "There was only one car within the barrier — running only on atmospheric energy. But it could power every dwelling in the ghetto. Despite this self sufficiency the 1923 massacre gave my ancestors a shock from which they refused to recover. So they remained by choice as isolated as ever. But by the year 2000 — with Japan becoming so much more cosmopolitan — some ghetto dwellers began to leave for short periods — some even taking outside jobs — at least until the tsunami of 2010 when everyone was slain who happened to be outside the force field at the time."


          "Japan was still crucifying its misfits as recently as 1930, Professor. And one of her longest traditions has been the slaughter of foreigners after a natural disaster. She is a great country with ... great faults."

          "I see. I'm sorry to interrupt."

          "Not at all. After the massacre we all decided that next time we would have to possess some means of escape because Japan had by then developed the technology to knock down any barrier we could erect."

          "And so you built a saucer shaped craft?"

          "Yes, the ghetto wasn't long enough for a runway."

          "And by alien' you were using the more prosaic meaning of the word."

          "Yes. I've studied Latin intensely — we were all well outside the Vatican II loop. So Italian came easily, but I haven't as yet mastered all the colloquialisms."

          "And when you had written yourself as a character in you own play, you meant you had placed yourselves simultaneously in and not in Japanese society."

          "Yes ... well, maybe ... perhaps I meant that the Japanese were always adjacent to us but never with us."

          "Why did you need to talk to someone familiar with the Abyssinian mission?"

          "I didn't think anyone would believe our story who was unfamiliar with a precedent."

          "I'm an old man, Mister Andreyev. I remember less and less each day. But, as I recall, Abyssinia — which was, I believe, present day Ethiopia and northern Chad — Abyssinia was cut off from the rest of Christendom by the Arabic conquest of Egypt in the seventh century — and from which nothing was heard for a thousand years until a mission showed up at the Vatican."

          "Yes! Entirely correct!"

          "And now you, who were also cut off, have come back as well."

          "Yes, that is exactly right."

          "But you'll have to help me, Mister Andreyev. I've forgotten now why the Abyssinians came?"

          "Oh, they came for clarification of certain doctrinal issues."

          "You kidnapped the pope to get his spiritual advice?"

          "He came willingly, but I did not object to the prosecutor's use of that word yesterday since it now clear to me that a flying saucer hovering over you and letting down a ramp before you might be a very strong invitation."

          "I see."

          "You sound disappointed."

          "It's just that I thought for once that ... I thought Pope Leo XIV had saved earth the way the first Pope Leo had saved Rome ... by going out to meet Attila in the field ... all alone. I thought our Leo had at long last done something redemptive ... just an old man's childish fancy."

          "He still had to walk up that ramp, Professor."

          "Yes! I see what you mean. He still had to walk up the ramp. Just so ... so that is your whole your story."

          "Yes. And the Praetorian Guard can certainly confirm it. Why have they not been questioned?"

          "Oh, they have, Mister Andreyev, but all tested positive for both alcohol and hallucinogenics that night. Some sordid party earlier with the Sisters of Divine Mercy, it seems. Their accounts have been confused and conflicting."

          "So no one will ever believe me — you must understand that I can not make my ship visible for ethical reasons."

          "There is the ghetto itself."

          "The ghetto disbanded after my return on my recommendation. Everyone's returned now to the new Russia — each swearing to have no further contact with anyone else. You can imagine how important assimilation is to people who lived more than a century as pariahs."

          "Yes, but the ... thunder technology or the force field will be a kind of confirmation."

          "But we all took an oath to reveal our discoveries little by little because of the worldwide unemployment a complete disclosure would initially create. In fact this was the issue we wanted sorted out."

          "Mister Andreyev, I fear that this will all sound very convenient."

          "And yet it's the truth."

          "Do you know why the Vatican astronomer, Tommaso Gabrielle, took his own life?"


          "Neither does anyone else, I'm afraid, but, of course, whenever human behavior is inexplicable, we must consider the wild card of love."

          "Yes, but what about this girl Katrina? Can she not confirm my story?"

          "I'm sorry, Mister Andreyev, Mister Gabrielle cut her throat as well. He was quite determined to, it seems."

          "... determined?"

          "Pathologists inform us that he ... cut his own first. And then perhaps because she was unmoved by this gesture ...."

          "Dear God. Then I might be locked away here for ever. I admit that I would not believe my own story if I were from your world."

          "Perhaps there is another way to convince us."

          "Needless to say I've turned this over in my mind, Professor. But everyone I've counted on, it seems, is either dead or ... delusional."

          "Perhaps not everyone."

          "Who's left?"

          "The Pope."

          "Yes, of course."

          "Is something wrong? Do you know where he is?"

          "Yes. You might say so."

          "The whole world has been jealously scanned by GPS, Mister Andreyev. Special powers were granted by the Italian Parliament to permit a search of every house in Rome. Other governments have cooperated and similar sweeps have executed in each major city to which Pope Leo could have been taken within the time frame. Every swamp in Europe has been drained. The whole length of the Tiber has been dragged. Therefore, Mister Andreyev, if you know the whereabouts of the leader of Christendom, kindly divulge them."

          "I have learned a tragic lesson, Professor."

          "Which is?"

          "The projection of power, benign power, can be just as lethal as the other."

          "He's dead then?"

          "Yes, he's dead. His son and his lover. Everyone there that night. They're all dead."

          "How did he die?"

          "Pope Leo collapsed at the top of the ramp. His heart ... I think. In my mortified anguish I rashly buried His Holiness at sea."

          "You were ashamed?"

          "Yes. Horribly so."

          "But you have claimed that he offered you spiritual counsel. How then could he have advised you to reveal your discoveries slowly?"

          "Quite directly, you might say."

          "Mister Andreyev, please! How could he have advised you that your new and awesome power should be disclosed with care?"

          "By his death."


The author is grateful to Meg Upchurch and Amy Rutenberg for their invaluable suggestions.

by David Choate
... who is a professor of mathematics with no combat experience outside of the classroom or beyond the halls of academe. His poetry ("Easter Island", "Ode to an Academic", "Song of Sums") has been published in Amelia and Defenestration; his science fiction ("The Kid Catcher", "There Came Forth She Bears") in Starwind and Space & Time; and his "Christianity and Cannibalism", a philosophical essay, in Sophia. His fine work has previously appeared in this literary magazine.

Table of

C O M B A T, the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones