It took some getting used to, this brotherhood. There was plenty of mucky-mucky like Elijah had told him, but no secret ceremony. Apparently, Pius One's anointment was enough. Amos Two was given an electric golf cart to travel to the Cathedral every day. It lacked heat, but with the side curtains drawn, extra underwear, and a sweater under his robe, Amos Two found it comfortable enough. He could have been walking. In fact, he preferred walking and only took the cart when he had greater distances to go in a short time. Still, driving the cart along newly plowed roads with high banks of white snow was quite freeing, releasing him for a moment from the incessant grind that was the nature of the monastic order.
With Elijah One gone, all of the responsibility for completing Pius One's vision of an electronically enhanced Cathedral fell on him. His pions, mostly computer geeks, came and went at the whim of the order. It was obvious that no one was to get too familiar—too close to how things worked. He found himself constantly having to double-check work, and, sometimes having to go back in, rip out wiring, and then have to rewire it again, himself.
He grew to like the Cathedral. The Master's touch was exquisite and everywhere. He kept discovering subtle nuances in the design. Just the right curve of metal and glass reaching a higher meaning than just structure. Without the Master, the great Crystal would never have been cast and cut in some far off glass factory in New York State. Amos Two tried to make sure that all the wiring, microphones, speakers, and cameras were placed so that they were nearly invisible in the scheme of things. Highly functional and subtle, just like the rest of the magnificent design.
Every morning he would get up, take a hot shower, and then either go through the cafeteria line or order from the fry cook. There was no more chanting, but they were obligated to listen whenever Pius One gave a lecture or sermon. Fortunately, those tirades were few and far between since the Man was continually jetting off in his new toy to warmer, and more exciting climes. Although they would go through their traditional Catholic celebration of Ash Wednesday and the fast leading up to Easter, Pius One saw fit to celebrate Mardi Gras in Venice rather than spend time and effort once again in the Cathedral. Amos Two prayed for and loved that decision when it came.
There was a lot to learn. With Pius One in far-off locales, the weekly broadcast became a nightmare of logistics. Usually, someone in his entourage would hire a hotel lobby, balcony overlooking some mountain valley, a temple, or other setting suitable to the Man, and then members of the entourage would have to set up microphones, a satellite link, and other necessary connections for the mass and sermon at the far-off location. Because of time zones and other matters like bad connections and failed equipment, it was always a strain to pull it off. Pius One was a great ad libber and often winged his sermons with ease. Making sure that the choir would come in on cue and that the faithful would line up on time to accept the holy sacrament was another matter. Amos Two sighed in relief after every Sunday program was over. Occasionally, when the One was indisposed, Amos Two would have the pleasure of using one of his canned programs from the past. This approach always made things much easier.
All of this work led to an increasing awareness of the network that permeated every corner of the Vespers. From the administrative access that he obtained by virtue of taking over for Elijah One, Amos Two had a clear view of the entire network of servers, back up storage units, printers, peripheral devices, cameras, and microphones. There were thousands of cameras and microphones. Amos Two was glad that he did not have responsibility for the maintenance and operation of those devices. He didn't know who did and didn't ask. He assumed it was some brother who was considered to be chief of security. As part of keeping his nose clean, he didn't open any of the servers that served those cameras and microphones. Instead, he made sure that he only dealt with the computers, servers, tape, and tape devices used in the weekly programs in the Cathedral. He just assumed that he was being tested. Having easy access to the entire network would have been tempting for some. But Amos Two was well aware of the big brother nature of the order. He followed Elijah One's advice and stayed clear of anything that didn't concern his work.
In mid-January, there was a thaw. The sun came up for several days and the temperature reached 65° one day. Snow in the surrounding countryside had accumulated to about six feet and began rapidly melting. Fortunately, most of the drives in the Vespers were blacktop. Those that weren't became a muddy mess. Finally, a cold front came through and it rained. By morning, all of the trees had a thick coating of ice. As Amos Two rode his electric buggy over patches of ice that had been puddles the day before, he marveled at the beauty of nature that surrounded him. All the trees were clothed in ice like a crystal fairyland. The deep snow had subsided to about 4 feet and its surface had become a shimmering wavy mirror of ice as the underlying snow followed the contours of the land. The reflection was so intense that the air felt warmer than it was, about 20°.
When he was about half way to the Cathedral, Amos Two heard barking off to his right. About 100 yards away, in what had been a cornfield during the summer, near the edge of a wooded area the Vespers used to cut firewood, Amos Two saw a deer floundering in the deep snow. With every step it was breaking through the ice up to its knees. Three dogs were harassing it, biting at its haunches. The deer didn't have long to live. Amos Two sprang into action. He left his cart and, with some effort, breaking through the ice crust, to the snow beneath, he managed to get up on the snow pack and work his way toward the deer. It was slippery, very slippery, but with his boots he managed to get upright and skate towards the attack. It seemed like a very long time, because he kept falling and breaking through the ice, but it was only about five minutes before he arrived to where the dogs were attacking and the deer was kicking as best he could.
There was nothing to grab onto, not even a stick, in what had been cornfield and the woods was too far away, so Amos Two waded in with both arms flailing, yelling at the top of his lungs, trying to drive the dogs way. All three were mixed breed farm dogs. One large collie, a medium-sized terrier-looking mutt, and a beagle. The collie, seeing an authority figure, backed off and started back towards the woods. The beagle stood his ground and bugled his peculiar howl—not a real threat. But the terrier, excited by the fever of the hunt and the taste of blood, attacked him. Without hesitation, the dog leaped to Amos Two, and as he threw up his left arm in protection, clamped onto it.
Amos Two felt the searing pain and strong jaw of the dog as his teeth sunk into Amos Two 's left forearm. The 70-pound weight of the dog knocked him off his feet, and he was falling backward. All he could think of was that the dog would release his grip on his arm and go for his jugular next. With his free right arm and all his might, he karate chopped the dog on his neck at the base of his skull. The terrier went stiff and spasmed, and then went limp, releasing his jaw grip, blood flowing from his nose. Amos Two rolled to his right and threw the dog off of him. The collie had retreated to the woods and the beagle, while standing his ground and bugling, remained no threat. There was the ripping sound of a snowmobile in the distance. It grew louder, and soon, it was upon him gliding over the shimmering icy surface in the morning sun.
"What's going on here, brother? Fighting off dogs?" The guy in the gray parka on the red snowmobile was all questions. His sunglasses hid his eyes. There was a pistol strapped to his side. Amos Two had seen them from a distance from the Cathedral. He had heard shots, too. Thought that it may be brothers hunting squirrels.
"This buck was in trouble. Those three dogs were about to kill him. I had to intervene. Look at him. He's exhausted. He wouldn't have lasted five minutes if I hadn't come." The large buck, his antlers shed for the winter, was still lying there, up to his knees in ice and snow, his tongue out, panting. Blood from his hindquarters leaving a growing red blossem in the white snow behind. "I think we can still save him if he doesn't die of fright."
"I'll call for help and the vet." With that, the guy behind the sunglasses whipped out a cell phone and made a couple of quick calls. He looked around and shook his head as if in disbelief. "I've seen plenty around here working security, but this takes the cake. What in hell were you thinking, taking on three vicious dogs with your bare hands? And you killed that one! What have you had--military training?"
"Well, I did do a bit of hunting where I come from in Minnesota. I'm not afraid of dogs. Most dogs will back off if you show them who's boss. This one was different. I had to defend myself." Amos Two pulled back the sleeve of his robe to reveal that he was bleeding some from the dog bite through his robe and sweater. Once again there was the ripping sound of snowmobiles to break the stillness as two snowmobiles pulled up being driven by identical sunglasses clad gray parka security men. One of the snowmobiles was pulling a sled.
The guy pulling the sled drove it up alongside the buck and jumped off. He pulled a small pistol from a backpack and shot a dart into the rump of the buck. It had an almost immediate paralyzing effect and the buck went limp. "Come on, give us a hand," he said, so Amos Two joined the others as they gently lifted the hundred and fifty pound deer onto the sled. The buck was quickly tied down with a couple of bungee cords. The dead dog was thrown on behind, and the driver was back on the snowmobile and driving away.
"That was our vet. He'll have that guy stitched up and back to health in nothing flat. As for you. Hop on the back of my snowmobile and I'll take you to the doc. After the doctor stitches you up, we’ll have to give you a rabies course until we get that dog tested. Don't think he's got rabies though. These farmers around here let their dogs run free, so they often pack up and start harassing wildlife. I've had to shoot a few. Here, take this scarf and tie it tightly around your eyes. You're not allowed to see where you're going. Don't worry, I'll take care of your cart and make sure that it gets back to your residence. What did you say your name was?"
"Amos Two, I'm the guy who runs Pius One's weekly broadcasts. I'm also turning the Cathedral into a smart building for him."
"Amos Two, huh? Can't say that I've heard of you. Let's see. That blindfold looks tight enough. Now, hang on tight so you won't fall off. The blindfold may disorient you a bit. We should be there in no time."
They were careening off through the ice at what Amos Two surmised to be about 30 miles an hour. He tried to keep track in his mind where they were going, but it became difficult after the driver changed direction so many times. Still, he could feel the sun on his right shoulder, indicating that they were going generally northeast. After about a mile they appeared to be on an ice-covered road and Amos Two could hear other snowmobiles, vehicles and people talking. He couldn't make out any conversations. They came to a sudden stop and the ripping motor just putted until the driver turned it off.
"Okay, we're here. Keep your blindfold on and I'll guide you on in. The doctor will see you soon."
The security man led him through a door that was unlocked. He stopped for a moment to stomp the snow off his feet, so Amos Two did the same. Amos Two could feel a coarse rug or mat under his feet. And then they stepped off onto what appeared to be a hard floor with a high gloss finish down a narrow hall. They turned right into a small room, and the security man said, "You can take off your blindfold now, the doctor will see you soon."
Before Amos Two could get the blindfold off, the security man had slipped out the door. The room was bright and airy, though windowless, with medical posters on the walls and an examining bed in the center. A typical clinic room that was probably made in some factory and transported to Vespers. When Amos Two gently tried the door, it was locked. And then thought better of it. He sat down on the only chair and carefully pulled back the sleeve of his robe and then his sweater. Already, under the blood that had stopped flowing and dried from two or three puncture wounds, his arm was turning black and blue from the crushing jaw of the dog. He wanted to wash it off in the sink, but decided not to, waiting instead, for the doctor to arrive. He knew he was being watched. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw at least two cameras in the ceiling tile. Saw him trying the door. Not a good time to talk to himself either. Microphones were listening.
The door sprung open suddenly, and the doctor entered, followed by a brother Amos Two didn't recognize. Amos Two did notice the beautifully carved bronze cross that hung from his neck. The doctor was typical—white coat with a stethoscope hanging loosely from her neck—but she was statuesque and beautiful in and engaging sort of way for blue-eyed blonde woman of about 40.
"Hello, Amos Two. I'm Dr. Sarah (the bronze badge on her coat read Sarah P. Robinson, M.D.). I understand that you have been bit by a dog while you were trying to fight off dogs that were attacking a deer. That's noble, but a bit foolhardy. Here, let me take a look at that." She spoke through a perfect set of pearl white teeth while her steady eyes flirted with the thought and she gave him a slight wink. "Joshua, could you give me some alcohol rubs to clean this wound?"
The brother left his place by the door and reached into a cabinet. Both he and the doctor were soon cleaning the wounds. Amos Two winced a bit when the alcohol opened the dried blood clogged wounds again and they smarted. Dr. Sarah examined the wounds carefully and then said, "Those are pretty nasty. I'm going to have to stitch these two up (she pointed a gloved index finger at the two deepest ones). The other one will heal okay by itself. We've opened them up so they're bleeding a bit to clean them out. But, I'm going to give you a course of antibiotics and a tetanus shot just in case. By the way, I'm also going to start you off on a rabies course until we have that dog tested to find out if he had rabies. I doubt it. We have very few cases of rabies around here any more."
Within five minutes, she had stitched up the two largest puncture wounds and checked his arm to see if anything was broken. Aside from the bruising, the arm was not swelling, a good sign there were no fractures. Soon, she had taped on a large, sterile bandage and Amos Two was able to pull his sweater down over it, followed by his robe sleeve. "Okay, you are ready to go. If the dog turns out to be rabid, I will send a brother to give you your daily shot each day where you work—the Cathedral, right?"
"Yes, I work in the Cathedral every day."
"Good. Please get back to me if those wounds infect or anything else happens within the next 24 hours or so. Okay?" She didn't tell him how he could contact her and he didn't ask. Dr. Sarah and Joshua left the room. When he checked it, in passing, behind his back where the camera couldn’t see, the door was still locked. He sat back down and waited. His arm started to ache. Time crawled. Finally, another security guy in a gray parka came into the room.
"Is that your scarf? He asked.
"No. It was given to me by a security man, like you. You want me to use it as a blindfold?"
"Yes... and please hurry, I have to get you back to the Cathedral."
After the security guy checked to see that his blindfold was tight, Amos Two heard the guy use a key to open the door and they walked down the polished flooring again to the door and outside. Once again he was on the back of a snowmobile. Before it started up, he could hear voices, motors, and other activity in, what he assumed, was Pius One's inner compound. Once the snowmobile motor started, he heard little except its raspy roar until they arrived at the Cathedral and he was allowed to take his blindfold off. "I'll make sure to have your electric cart here before Vespers." The security guy said before he drove off.
His aching arm slowed Amos Two’s work. Fortunately, there was no infection and it got better each day. The next day, about 10am, a brother he didn't know appeared and said that he had to give him his rabies booster. The brother didn't come back the day after so Amos Two figured that the dog had proved negative for rabies. He wondered about the woman doctor, Dr. Sarah Robinson. Wondered why she was there and if there were other women in the inner compound or at the Vespers. One more thing to worry about. She certainly was attractive. He wasn't sure whether it was her perfect face and body or her mind that attracted him more. It didn't matter. She certainly wasn't interested in him. Perhaps it was Pius One, and all of his money, that she favored.
It turned colder again and there was more snow. Not as much as earlier, but still enough to make for a very unusual winter. It could have been blamed on global warming or just the natural cycle of nature. Brothers and pions didn't get to discuss such things and there was no outside news, so his contemplation was all in his head. While he still enjoyed the morning drives in the brilliant sun or cloudy snow, all the sounds intensified by the fact that the electric motor made virtually no sound and the rubber tires only occasionally crunched ice on the blacktop drive. He didn't encounter any more life or death dramas like dogs chasing deer. Mostly, he would just catch the cheerful sound of chickadees or the occasional clucking of a squirrel. Winters in Wisconsin woods were often silent except for the occasional sound of wind in the leafless branches.
Amos Two was glad that he did not have to produce a Mardi Gras show. The closest they came to that was the Ash Wednesday Mass that followed by Lent, the period of fasting where the pions suffered and the brothers did not. There was no change in his choice of food now that he was a brother. As Easter approached and he completed the Cathedral wiring ahead of schedule, he was given a simple aluminum cross to wear. He wondered why he was allowed to skip the carved wooden cross he saw some of the brothers wearing, but he didn't ask. He was just glad to be moving up—getting closer to the gist of things