Project Pope

Project Pope

by Clifford D. Simak

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Robot believers at the far end of the galaxy endeavor to create a true religion, but their efforts could be shattered by a shocking revelation

Far in the future, on the remote planet End of Nothing, sentient robots are engaged in a remarkable enterprise. They call their project Vatican-17: an endeavor to create a truly universal religion presided over by a pope, whose extreme godliness and infallible artificial intelligence are fed by telepathic human Listeners who psychically delve into the mysteries of the universe. But the great and holy mission could be compromised by one shocking revelation that threatens to inspire serious crises of faith among the spiritual, truth-seeking robotic acolytes while tearing them into warring religious factions.  For the Listener Mary is claiming that she has just discovered Heaven.
There are those among the Clifford D. Simak faithful who consider Project Pope his masterpiece. But whether the crowning literary achievement of a multiple Hugo and Nebula Award–winning science fiction Grand Master or merely another brilliant novel of speculative fiction to stand among his many, Simak’s breathtaking search for God in the machine ingeniously blends science and spirituality in a truly miraculous way that few science fiction writers, if any, have been able to accomplish.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504024143
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 317
Sales rank: 641,233
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

During his fifty-five-year career, Clifford D. Simak produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.

Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.
During his fifty-five-year career, CLIFFORD D. SIMAK produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.
Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Read an Excerpt

Project Pope

By Clifford D. Simak


Copyright © 1981 Clifford D. Simak
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2414-3


Jason Tennyson, fleeing for his life, came in low over the precipitous mountain range that lay to the west of Gutshot. Immediately after he caught sight of the lights marking the town, he pressed the ejection button and felt himself flung upward with a greater violence than he had expected. For a moment he was enveloped in darkness; then, as his body spun, he saw the lights of the town again and thought that he also saw the flier. But whether he saw the flier or not, he knew, was of slight importance. It would continue over Gutshot, angling slightly downward over the ocean that hemmed in the tiny town and spaceport against the towering mountains. Some fifty miles out to sea, if his calculations were correct, the flier would go into the water and be lost. And lost as well, he hoped, would be Dr. Jason Tennyson, lately court physician to the margrave of Daventry. The radar at Gutshot space base undoubtedly had picked up the flier and would track it on its course across the water, but at its low altitude, the base would soon lose contact with it.

His fall was slackening and suddenly, as the chute popped open to its full extent, he was jerked sidewise and began swinging in wide arcs. An updraft caught the chute, forcing it back toward the looming peaks and slowing the swinging; but in a moment it slid out of the updraft and was floating smoothly downward. Tennyson, dangling at the end of the lines, tried to make out where he would land; it seemed toward the south end of the spaceport. He held his breath and hoped. He threaded his arms through the chute straps and clutched his medical bag, holding it close against his chest. Let it go well, he prayed — let it continue to go well. So far it had gone surprisingly well. All the way he had held the flier low, rocketing through the night, making wide circuits to avoid feudal holdings, where radars would be groping skyward, for in this vicious world of contending fiefs, a close watch was always kept. No one knew at what time or from what direction raiders might come swooping in.

Peering down, he tried to gauge how close he might be drifting to solid ground, but the darkness made it impossible to judge. He found himself tensing, then consciously willed himself to relax. When he hit, he had to be relaxed.

The grouping of lights that marked the town was some distance to the north; the spatter of brilliance that was the spaceport was almost dead ahead. A blackness intervened to shield out the spaceport lights and he hit the ground, knees buckling under him. He threw himself to one side, still holding tightly to the bag. The chute collapsed and he struggled to his feet, pulling on lines and shrouds.

He had landed, he saw, close to a group of large warehouses at the south end of the port. It had been the bulk of the warehouses that had cut off the spaceport lights. Luck, he realized, had been with him. Had he been able to plan it, he could not have chosen a better landing site.

His eyes now were becoming accustomed to the night darkness. He was situated, he saw, near an alley that ran between two of the warehouses. He saw also that the warehouses were set on pilings; a foot or so lay between the ground and the foundations of the buildings. And there, he thought, was where he could hide the chute. He could bundle it together and push it as far into the space as he could reach. If he could find a stick of some sort, he could even push it farther. But all that was needed was to push it far enough that it would not be spotted by a passerby. This would save him considerable time. He had feared that he might have to try to dig a hole or find a clump of trees in which to hide the chute. All that was necessary would be for it not to be found for several days; hidden underneath the warehouse, it might not be found for years.

Now, he thought, if he could find a ship and, somehow, get aboard. He might have to bribe some member of the ship's personnel, but that should not be hard. Few of the ships, most of which were freighters, that touched down at Gutshot would visit the port again for a long time, perhaps for years; others of them might never come this way again. Once on the ship, he would be safe. Unless someone found the chute, there would not be any evidence that he had ejected from the flier.

The chute safely hidden, the bag now unstrapped from about his waist and carried in his hand, he made his way down the alley between the two warehouses. At the mouth of the alley, he stopped. Out on the port, directly opposite where he stood, was a ship. The gangplank was down and a long line of people — all of them aliens of various sorts — were being herded up the plank and into the ship by a small group of ratlike creatures. The line extended some distance back from the ship, and the ratlike guards were yelling at the aliens in the line, waving clubs at them to hurry them along.

The ship would be taking off soon, Tennyson told himself, puzzled at what kind it was. Few passenger liners came down at this port, and this one did not have the appearance of a liner. It was a dumpy old tub, blackened and disreputable. Its' name was painted above the port and it was some time before Tennyson could make out that it spelled WAYFARER, for the paint was flaking and there was much rust upon the hull. There was no smartness to the ship. It was not the sort of craft that any self-respecting traveler would choose. But, while he looked at it with some distaste, Tennyson reminded himself that he was not in a position to be discriminating. The ship apparently would be leaving soon, and that was far more important than knowing what kind it was. If he could manage to get aboard, that would be good enough. If his luck still held for him....

Tennyson edged out beyond the alley's mouth. To his right, beyond the warehouse, a splash of light flared out across a walk that paralleled the perimeter of the field. Walking out cautiously a few feet farther, he saw that the light came from a small bar.

Some sort of altercation had arisen at the bottom of the gangplank. A spiderlike alien, all arms and legs, was arguing with one of the ratlike creatures that were superintending the boarding. As Tennyson watched, the spidery alien was pushed out of the line, with one of the rat beings following, prodding it with a club.

The front of the warehouse lay in deep shadow and Tennyson edged along it rapidly. He came to the end and stood still, looking at the bar. His best course, he figured, would be to get beyond the bar and approach the ship from its forward end. Huddling in its shadow, he might be able to approach the gangplank and wait for a chance.

The last of the line of passengers were snaking up close to the gangplank. In a few more minutes, the boarding would be completed. The ship might not take off immediately, but he had the hunch that if he was going to get aboard, he would have to act quickly.

To get past the bar, he decided that he would simply walk past, moving confidently, as if he had the right to be there. Someone might see him but probably would pay no more than passing notice of him. The spidery alien had disappeared and the guard had returned to a position near the gangplank.

Leaving the corner of the warehouse, Tennyson set off down the walk that passed in front of the bar. Beyond the bar, deep shadows again lay in front of another warehouse. If he could reach that warehouse without being challenged, he probably could make it to the ship. On a secondary port such as this one, security measures were not tight.

Now he was passing in front of the bar. Looking in one of the three windows from which the light poured, he glimpsed a coat rack standing beside the door. He paused in midstride, riveted to attention by what he saw. Hanging on the rack was a blue jacket, with the word WAYFARER stitched in gold thread across one breast. Above it rested a cap that matched the jacket.

Acting on impulse, Tennyson swung toward the door, went through it. A mixed group of humans and aliens were sitting in tables at the back; a few were lined up at the bar. The barkeep was busy. A couple of people lifted their heads and looked at him when he came in, then went back to what they had been doing.

Swiftly he reached out to grab the jacket and the cap, then was out the door again, his shoulders hunched, expecting an outcry behind him. But there was none.

He slapped the cap onto his head, shrugged into the jacket.

The line in front of the ship's gangplank was gone; apparently everyone had boarded. Only one ratlike creature remained standing at the gangplank's foot. Swiftly, purposefully, Tennyson strode across the field, heading for the ship.

The one ratlike guard might challenge him, but he doubted it. The jacket and cap should be sufficient disguise. More than likely the guard would not recognize him as an intruder. Few humans could recognize any particular alien; to them all aliens looked alike. The same was true of aliens, who ordinarily could not distinguish one human from another.

He reached the foot of the gangplank. The ratlike creature made a sloppy salute.

"Welcome, sir," it said. "Captain has been asking after you."


After a time, one of the ratlike crewmen found him in the small, closetlike equipment hold where he had squeezed himself to hide. The crewman hauled him out and took him to the captain, who was alone in the control room, sitting at his ease in one of the three chairs. At the moment nothing needed to be done; the ship was running on its own.

"What is this you have?" the captain asked.

"Stowaway," the rat creature said. "Dug him out of a small aft hold."

"Okay," the captain said. "Leave him here. You can go."

The rodent turned to go.

"My bag, please." said Tennyson.

The rat turned around, still holding the bag.

The captain said, "Give the bag to me and then get out of here. Get the hell out of my sight."

The rat turned over the bag and left hurriedly.

The captain examined the bag thoughtfully, then lifted his head and said, "So it is Jason Tennyson, is it? M.D.?"

Tennyson nodded. "Yes, I am a doctor."

The captain set the bag down on the deck beside him. "I've had a few stowaways in my time," he said, "but never a doctor. Doctor, tell me, just what is going on?"

"It's a long story," said Tennyson, "and I'd prefer not going into it."

"You'd been in that hold for hours," the captain said. "I suppose you sneaked on at Gutshot. Why did you wait so long?"

"I was about to come out," said Tennyson. "Your rat-faced friend beat me to it."

"He is no friend of mine."

"My error," said Tennyson.

"There aren't many humans out here," the captain said. "The farther out you go, the fewer you will find. I have to use this kind of scum to man the ship. And I have to haul loads of other scum out to End of Nothing and —"

"Out to the end of what?"

"End of Nothing. That is where we're going. Don't tell me you weren't headed there?"

"Until this moment," Tennyson said, "I had never heard of it."

"Then it must be that you were intent on leaving Gutshot."

"That, Captain, is a fair assumption."

"In some sort of trouble there?"

"I was running for my life."

"And popped onto the first ship that was taking off?"

Tennyson nodded.

"Sit down, man," the captain said. "Don't stay standing there. Would you like a drink?"

"That would be fine," said Tennyson. "Yes, I could use a drink."

"Can you tell me?" the captain asked. "Did anyone see you duck into the ship?"

"I don't think so."

"You're fairly sure?"

"Well, you see, I went into a bar. One of the spaceport joints. When I left, it seems that somehow I got hold of the wrong jacket and wrong cap. I was, if I remember, in somewhat of a hurry...."

"So that's what happened to Jenkins's cap and jacket. Jenkins is my first mate."

"I'll return the jacket and the cap," said Tennyson. "I left them in the hold."

"I find it strange," the captain said, "that you did not take the pains to find out this ship's destination. You, apparently, have no wish to go to End of Nothing."

"Anyplace away from Gutshot," said Tennyson. "They were closing in on me. Well, maybe not, but I had the feeling that they were."

The captain reached for a bottle that was standing on a table beside him and handed it to Tennyson.

"Now I'll tell you, mister," he said, "I am convention-bound to quote the rule book to you. It says in Article Thirty-nine, Section Eight, that any stowaway must be placed in detention and returned thereafter, as speedily as possible, to the port where he had stowed away, there to be delivered up to the port authorities. During the intervening period, while he is on board the vessel on which he stowed away, he is required to do such tasks, however menial, the captain may assign to him to help defray his passage. Are you aware of these provisions, sir?"

"Vaguely," said Tennyson. "I know it is illegal to stow away. But I must tell you —"

"There is, however, another matter which I feel compelled to consider," the captain told him. "I have the feeling, knee-deep as I am in alien scum, that humans, under whatever circumstances, should always stick together. We run fairly thin out here and it is my opinion that we should be supportive of one another, overlooking transgressions if they be not too odious...."

"Your attitude does credit to you," said Tennyson. "There has been something I've been trying to tell you and haven't had the chance. You see, sir, I am not a stowaway."

The captain turned steely eyes on him. "Then tell me what you are. If you're not a stowaway, what are you?"

"Well, let us say," said Tennyson, "that I was simply pressed for time. That I did not have the time to arrange for passage by going through the formal channels. That, for compelling reasons I have revealed to you, I couldn't afford to miss your ship, so came aboard in a rather unorthodox manner, passed on board by an unsuspecting alien crew member who mistook me for the mate and —"

"But you hid away."

"Easy to explain. I feared that you might not give me the time to explain my situation and be so conscientious as to heave me off the ship. So I hid and waited until there seemed little chance you could do anything but continue on your way."

"By all of this, do I understand you to be saying that you stand prepared to pay your passage?"

"Most certainly I do. If you'll only name the figure."

"Why," said the captain, "most willingly indeed. And I'll charge you not one tittle above the regular fare."

"That's considerate of you, sir."

"Dr. Tennyson," the captain said, "please go ahead and drink. You have not touched the bottle to your lips. It makes me nervous to see you sit there and merely fondle it."

"I'm sorry, Captain. I didn't mean to make you nervous." Tennyson tipped the bottle, took a generous swallow, then lowered it again.

"Marvelous," he said. "What is it?"

"It's a concoction called Scotch," the captain told him. "It first was brewed on Mother Earth."

"You mean Old Earth?"

"That's right," the captain said. "The home planet of us humans."

"I have a great curiosity about Old Earth. Have you ever been there?"

The captain shook his head. "Few humans have ever set foot upon its sacred soil. We are scattered far and thin in space, and few of us go on that pilgrimage we always promise ourselves that someday we will make."

"Ah, well," said Tennyson. He tilted the bottle once again.

"To get back to our arrangement," the captain said. "I fear I have to tell you that I have no place for you. The cabins, the few that I have, are filled. Even my own quarters are rented out to a horde of scaly horrors who are pilgriming to End of Nothing. At the end of the voyage, I shall have to fumigate the place before I can move back in, and it may be years before I am rid of the stench of them."

"Why let them have it, then?"

"Because of money," said the captain. "This particular band of scum is filthy rich and they must have my best accommodations without regard to cost. So that is how it is. I charged each of the bastards a triple fare. Although I think now I may live to regret my greed. The mate and I are sharing his quarters, turn and turn about. The mate is a devoted garlic eater. Thinks it keeps him healthy. Only dire necessity forces me to crawl into his bunk."

"The mate is the only other human?"


Excerpted from Project Pope by Clifford D. Simak. Copyright © 1981 Clifford D. Simak. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Project Pope 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
wonderful. Cover reads, 'on the rim planet fitfully called The End of Nothing, a bizarre society of robots and humans toiled for a thousand years to perfect a religion that would create a new and all-embracing faith--- no novelty in a galaxy crowded with religions. but one project was hidden from the hordes of pilgrims welcomed to Vatican-17. trained human sensitives weresending their minds ranging through all of time and space, gathering all the information that cou;d exist. With that information, a computer of infinite knowledge, wisdom and infallibility was being constructed in secret--- the ultimate Pope. but now the project is being threatened by a young woman journalist on the trail of a sensational story... and, even more incredibly, by one of the searcher sensitives who, while drifting in unsuspected dimensions, claims to have encountered Heaven!' a must read with wonderfully believeable prose.