Friday, July 15, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 4: “The Two Fathers” • by Pete Wood


Welcome to Odin III, a grubby little mining world on the dark and dusty backside of nowhere. It’s a world where everything that’s worth having is already owned by Galactic Mining, and where people have come to squander their hopes and lives, working for the company and dreaming of striking it big. It’s also a world where some very strange and fantastic things have begun to happen, and it all started just a few days ago, in a little bar called Weber’s Place, when Ray Cornwall didn’t merely warp the fabric of space/time, he totally bent it…

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

“The Two Fathers”

by Pete Wood

“I’ve got good news,” Constable Jenkins said to Father Francis in the sitting room of Francis’s quarters. “Bingo should be no problem. The church has an exemption.”

Father Francis, an overweight bald man who was usually in a good mood, blinked. “Why would I want Bingo? I want you to tell me that we can’t have gambling.”

Jenkins took a sip of the Father’s excellent merlot, from one of the top vineyards in Italy. Vatican City had it shipped in for the clergy, one of the few perks out here. “I’m sorry. I just assumed.”

Francis glared at her. “You assumed wrong.”

Jenkins did not want to risk angering the Catholic Church. They were one of the few institutions in the boondocks of the galaxy with more clout than Galactic Mining. Even the priest for the backwater Church of St. Philip Neri could make waves. “Perhaps you could enlighten me.”

In a conciliatory gesture, Father Francis leaned over the ancient oak table and topped off Jenkins’ glass of merlot. “Sorry, Constable. I’m just trying to head off a disaster. Father Luigi is returning.”

Jenkins’ stomach lurched. She knew this day would come. “I thought he had two years left in the southern parish.”

“Father Pavel pulled some strings.”

Luigi had been a screwup his whole life. He’d worked for Galactic until his late twenties, when after numerous infractions and reprimands and at least one cave-in that the company couldn’t pin on him, he’d joined the Church. That made the Church reconsider its liberal recruitment standards, but now they were stuck with him.

“He’s stopped drinking, hasn’t he?” Jenkins asked.

Francis raised his glass. “Have I stopped drinking?” He gulped his wine and poured another glass.

“Remind me what happened with the Bingo again?” Jenkins asked.

“Where do I start? The church lost money. On a fundraiser. How does that even happen? He went through the communion wine. We had four arrests. A prost—”

Jenkins held up her hand. “I remember.”

“And we can’t just fire him,” Francis said. “That’d take the action of a Cardinal. We want to keep priests happy in the boondocks, Constable. Some priests anyway.”

* * *

Jenkins next saw Francis at Weber’s two weeks after Luigi arrived. She wasn’t used to finding the priest in the bar on a weekday in the middle of the afternoon.

Francis motioned for Jenkins to take the stool beside her. “Give some of that merlot to the Constable,” she said to Ingrid, the bar’s owner.

Jenkins took a sip of the wine. She winced. This was not the caliber of the priest’s private stock.

“What are you doing down here, Father?” Jenkins asked. “I thought you had better stuff than this back at the rectory.”

Francis looked at his merlot sadly. “‘Had’ being the operative word.”

“I’m sorry.” She leaned down and scratched the cat, a former stray, that had adopted Ingrid. The bartender called her Sheba.

Francis closed his eyes and took a sip of wine. “Father Luigi traded my private cellar to Father Pavel for several kegs of stout from the Brotherhood of St. Rico.”

Jenkins had heard of the monastery high in the mountains of southern Odin III. She was not aware they brewed beer.

“Not a fan of beer, Father?”

“Nobody likes this beer. Observe.” He waved at Ingrid. “Could I have a Rico stout?”

She crinkled her nose. “Sorry, Father, we don’t carry that.”

“How about a Rico lager?”

“Sorry. We carried their stuff a few years back, but nobody bought any. No offense, but it kind of tasted like—”



Ingrid left to tend to another customer. The door opened and Popov entered. The Galactic supervisor joined them. She ordered a straight vodka.

“You know, Luigi’s working for Father Francis again,” Jenkins said.

“We’re not taking him back. He’s the church’s problem now.” Popov downed her shot and signaled for a second. She didn’t beat around the bush. .

“I don’t care where he goes. I just want him gone. He took confession yesterday. And the advice. Good lord.” Father Francis closed his eyes and massaged his temples.

“You know, Father, when Galactic can’t fire someone, they send them away to a satellite site,” Popov suggested.

Francis frowned. “The Church sends people here.”

Jenkins snapped her fingers. “Ever heard of the Rock People?”

“The Rock People! Hah!” Popov snorted.

Francis shook his head.

“Some of those crazy people on mushrooms say they live under the mines,” Jenkins said.

“I’ve never seen any,” Popov said.

“I’m not saying they exist,” Jenkins snapped. She turned to Francis. “Send Luigi on a mission to convert the Rock People. He’d be out of your hair.”

Francis paused for a few minutes and stared into his half-finished merlot. “He’d be gone, or he’d quit.”

“They’ve got miles of abandoned tunnels down there,” Jenkins said.

“Hundreds of miles,” Popov said.

“Are they safe?” Francis asked.

“Of course, they’re safe,” Popov grumbled. “Clean, well-marked. But I don’t want him down there.”

“I’ll give you a couple of kegs of beer,” Francis said.

“You got a deal,” Popov said. “But he stays out of the operational shafts.”

The door opened and Luigi rushed inside. Even in his mid-thirties he still had that confused disheveled look of a teenager who had overslept and was late for school. He spotted Francis and jogged over.

“What’s wrong now?” Francis sighed.

“You know you can’t get that Rico beer here? It’s really hard to find,” Luigi panted.

“That’s the beer I’m going to give you, Popov,” Francis said.

Popov shrugged. She had to know she’d been had if Luigi was involved, but she’d probably just unload the beer on somebody else.

Ingrid got up from behind the bar and made a show of slamming the front door that Luigi had left ajar.

“Look, Father Francis, do you have an extra key for the van?” Luigi asked.

Francis stared at Luigi. “No. We went over this. Why?”

“It’s locked and the engine is running.”

“The engine is running? How in—Never mind. I’ll give Sidorov a call.”

“I’ll get him,” Luigi said.

“No! I’ll get him.” Francis smiled. “Luigi, you’ve been doing some good work lately. I have a new assignment for you.”

* * *

Three weeks later Jenkins found Father Francis in Weber’s at the bar. “Still haven’t replenished your private stock yet, eh, Father?”

“It’ll be months.”

Ingrid handed Jenkins a beer.

“Any word from Luigi?”

Francis threw up his hands. “He likes it down there. He actually likes it.”

Jenkins blinked. “He likes it? What in God’s name—Sorry, Father.”

“I don’t know. I’ve given up trying to understand Luigi. I just know that he always finds a way to mess things up.” Francis let out a heavy sigh. “Every single damned time.”

Jenkins took a sip of beer. “Well, he’s not up here.”

Francis nodded. “Yeah. He’d have burnt down the church by now. But one thing bothers me.”

“What’s that?”

“What if he actually finds these Rock People?”


Pete Wood is an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his kind and very patient wife. His first appearance in our pages was “Mission Accomplished” in the now out-of-print August 2012 issue. After publishing a lot of stories with us he graduated to becoming a regular contributor to Asimov’s, but he’s still kind enough to send us things we can publish from time to time, and we’re always happy to get them.

For the past year or so Pete has been in the process of evolving into a fiction editor, God help him, first with The Pete Wood Challenge, then with Dawn of Time, and now with The Odin Chronicles, a 30-chapter shared world saga that will be running here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next ten weeks, and that features the creative work of Roxana Arama, Gustavo Bondoni, Travis Burnham, Paul Celmer, Jenna Hanchey, Carol Scheina, Jonathan Sherwood, and of course, Pete Wood. We suspect that Pete’s real love is theater, though, as with the print version of The Odin Chronicles now mostly finished he’s off working on the audio version, which looks to be an even bigger production that his short movie, Quantum Doughnut — which you can stream, if you follow the foregoing link.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the next installment of The Odin Chronicles, “Where’re You From?,” by Roxana Arama, coming next Monday.



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