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“I hear they might let your pope back into Rome.”
“My pope? Aren’t you Catholic too?”
Ethan chuckled. “Not really. I mean, my mom says I was baptized, but I guess it didn’t stick. Some of us just aren’t the religious type like you.”
Philip adjusted his glasses and let the comment slide; he was used to Ethan’s attitude towards religion. “What’s this about the pope, though? I didn’t think he’d be leaving London anytime soon.”
Ethan leaned on the desk. “The Italian caliph was just interviewed on Embed News, and he said he’s considering letting Pope Gregory go back to St. Peter’s.”
“I’m sure there’ll be conditions.”
“Suppose so. I just read the headline.”
As Ethan walked away, Philip decided to find out more at his next break. The pope hadn’t stepped foot in Rome since the overthrow of the old Italian government in 2037. To the surprise of many, however, the new caliphate left Vatican City untouched after the pope fled the country. There was hope among Catholics he’d be able to return eventually. Until then, Pope Gregory XVII had taken up residence in England, the only European country free of Muslim control.
Philip had more immediate concerns, however. He was leaving for the Tech49 Conference in DC the next day, and he still wasn’t finished with the software project his boss at NajahNet gave him last week. She made it clear he needed to arrive at the conference on time, but that he wouldn’t be leaving until his project was finished. He was still chasing a few lingering bugs that scurried into darkness whenever he got close to eradicating them. Philip was hoping to get at least a few of hours sleep before his trip.
A few minutes later his Embed pinged—it was Sophia. Philip flicked his finger, saw his fiancée on his screen, and smelled her favorite perfume through his Embed. Philip couldn’t help but smile. “What’s up, Sophie?”
“Hey honey—are you going to make it over to my parents’ tonight?”
“I doubt it. I’ve still got a lot to do before I leave tomorrow. Tell ‘em I’m sorry.”
“Don’t forget the meeting with the photographer on Monday—you’ll be back in time, right?”
“Absolutely. The conference ends on Saturday, I’m going to check out DC on Sunday, then drive back late Sunday night. I gotta go now. Love you.”
“Love you too.” Sophia’s image and perfume faded away, replaced by code Philip would rather forget. Philip mindlessly scratched his stubble, which Sophia joked he let grow to cover up his baby face. “It’s gonna be a long night,” he muttered.