Author : Grady Hendrix

The carriage stopped at the entrance to the NASA Space Propulsion Laboratories and the Grand Inquisitor of the State of Florida strode forth into the facility sending scientists scurrying like frightened chickens. They all knew why he was there: Dr. Stewart’s son.

“Take me to the boy,” the Inquisitor demanded, seizing a passing research assistant. At the security checkpoints the assistant whispered his Disarming Word to the locks and they opened, except for the one that didn’t. The Inquisitor tapped his foot while the assistant plucked a mouse from his Security Satchel, slit its throat and let its blood drip onto the keyhole. Satisfied, the electronic lock snapped open. The assistant babbled all the while.

“Only the fifth prodigy in forty years. It speaks to the orthodoxy of Propulsion Sciences,” he said through chattering teeth.

By now the Inquisitor could hear the boy’s voice: an obnoxious piping that made his ears itch.

“What makes our shuttles fly isn’t the goats we sacrifice before take-off, it’s internal combustion,” the brat was saying. “And we have the science for faster-than-light travel, I don’t know why everyone is so scared to develop it. Even I can work out the calculations.”

“Blasphemy!” roared the Grand Inquisitor.

The room froze, the scientists listening to the boy’s words turned pale.

“I am no blasphemer,” the fifteen-year-old puppy said. “I keep faith with God.”

The Inquisitor looked at the scientists, trying too hard not to study his face. He looked at the boy, too young to temper his knowledge with wisdom. He looked at himself reflected on a monitor screen, still excited to be playing the old game.

“People should know that the space shuttles fly not because our scientists accept Jesus Christ as their own personal savior but because of physics. Even a Hindoo could build a working space shuttle.”

“If there were any Hindoos left,” the Inquisitor said, still circling the boy.

“I have committed no sin,” the boy said.

“Oh, you have. But not blasphemy,” the Inquisitor said. “Pride. Look at these wise men around you. They know much of what you are saying, but they keep their own counsel.”

“Then why are they listening to me?” the boy asked. “Why have they let me preach science?”

“Because, they want to see what happens to you,” the Inquisitor said. “They’re curious to know if the punishment for faithlessness in our faith-based space program has lessened in recent years. I’m here to answer their question. This isn’t about you, my boy. You are merely a piece of paper on which I shall write my reply.”

Dr. Stewart’s wife had to stop attending the formal launch services for a while, at least until the remains of their only child, crucified on the chain link fence by the security gate, had decayed enough to be unrecognizable. But the following year, God blessed Dr. Lasseter with a son. In fifteen years, they would ask their question again. It was the scientific method. Hallelujah!

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