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1636: The Vatican Sanction: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Monday, October 30, 2017 19:21 EDT



    With the sun burnishing its rippled surface, the Tevere River seemed to move more slowly, like a flow of indolent, cooling lava that was not in a particular rush to go anywhere or do anything.

    At least that’s how it appeared to Cardinal Gaspar de Borja y Velasco from his window on the highest floor of the Palazzo Borghese. Everything in Rome seemed to move slowly, from its resentful population to the sluggish tempo of trade, to the rebuilding of those parts of the Holy City that could, in fact, be rebuilt at all.

    As to the lethargy of the population, that was no mystery to Borja. He had been in Italy long enough to recognize the signs of decadence and hedonism when he saw it. How else could it be that the direct inheritors of the glories of Rome were now unable to rise up as an equal to any modern nation, were unable to establish even one colony in the New World, were incapable of perceiving his own ascension as but their own first step on the road to new prestige and power? Granted, those heights would be dictated and groomed by Spain, but with the proper coordination between the secular capital of the Christian World — Madrid — and its spiritual citadel — Rome — what could such an alliance not accomplish? Perhaps the Italians did not wholly lack vision, but in their current, debauched state, they had lost all the vigor of their Roman forebears.

    The slowing of trade was indicative of the greater, more expansive rot abroad in the world: namely, the so-called Reformation of the Protestants. And their mortal sin was infinitely worse than the venal sloth and venery which afflicted Italy: it was blasphemy and heresy, aimed like another spear at the side of the crucified Christ. Lacking only horns and tails, the fallen princes of Germany and Scandinavia had conspired with the perfidious Jews to ensure that commerce to and from Rome had all but ground to a halt. And leave it to the carping town fathers of the so-called Eternal City to repeatedly and obsequiously maintain that the drought of goods and capital in their streets was not due to a Protestant conspiracy, but rather, fear over the “uncertain conditions and laws” which now prevailed.

    As if there was anything uncertain about Rome under the redoubtable hand of Cardinal Gaspar de Borja y Velasco! All could rely upon his swift and decisive — if need be, brutal — enforcement of not merely secular law, but holy writ. When push came to shove, he did not leave such matters solely to the bribable magistrates who were likely buggering young boys beneath their robes of office. No, the next pope, Gaspar de Borja y Velasco himself, occasionally made the time to ensure that justice was done throughout his city, no matter the cost; of this, they could be sure.

    And of the delays in rebuilding the Holy City? Well, that was simply an effect brought about by the confluence of the first two causes: Italian sloth amplified by the Protestant embargos that made it difficult to pay local workers. Who, in typically decadent fashion, refused to work for credit and the promise of bread in the meantime. Similarly, the masons and architects complained of the lack of necessary stone, mortar, tools, and manpower to rebuild or create new edifices approximating the shattered grandeur of the Castel St. Angelo and Hadrian’s Tomb. So of course they all had to be forced to do their jobs, often with firm prodding from Spanish halberds. And if the workers and stone were both weak, and the latter often collapsed and crushed the former, well, was that his fault or problem? All creatures had their appointed place in God’s creation. His was to propose; theirs, to dispose. His to rule; theirs to obey. It was astounding that they were such dull creatures, unable to see even that simple and inevitable hierarchy in the order of things. Hard to believe that their ancestors built aqueducts, invented wonders, and conquered almost the entirety of the known world. Oh, Borja lamented silently as he took another sip of rioja and contemplated the apathetic and insolent river of fading fire, how the mighty have fallen. Sic transit gloria mundi, indeed.

    “Your Eminence,” a familiar voice called from the entry.

    Borja did not bother to turn, simply raised a hand and curled his fingers inward. “Come, Maculani. Share a glass of wine with me.”

    “I thank Your Eminence for the kind offer, but may not partake. Not while we are still receiving transmissions from Besançon.”

    Borja closed his eyes to gather both strength and patience, then turned. “They are still tapping away at each other over the Alps, then?”

    Maculani, a solid body surmounted by a square face with intense, bright eyes, nodded. “They are, Your Eminence. We have received word that the assassins our agents solicited in Luzerne have, as hoped, arrived in the company of this fellow von Meggen.”

    Borja leaned forward eagerly. “Excellent. When will they act?”

    “There is no word on that yet.”

    “Well, have you pressed them, Vincenzo?”

    Maculani bowed slightly. “Even now, the radio operator is conveying your desire for the swift finalization and execution of our plan. We should have the answer within the hour, if the transmitting conditions hold that long.”

    “They had better hold that long,” Borja grumbled, before realizing that what the radio operators called “atmospheric conditions” was not a variable subject to human control, and that God might take a dim view of a cardinal — even a favored one! — railing, no matter how indirectly and unintentionally, against acts of divine will. But blast it, why could that will not have delivered the functionally apostate Urban into Borja’s righteous and eager hands by now? Why did the Lord Himself seem intent on making the campaign to save his own Church on Earth so convoluted and filled with frustrations? Borja reflected that if one broke apart the letters of his surname, one could spell “Job” and still have an “r” and an “a” left over. Perhaps, he thought, putting down his wine, there was a lesson in that.

    Maculani stepped closer. “Is there anything else I may do for Your Eminence?”

    Borja rose. “Pray for favorable conditions between here and Besançon. Every day that Urban is able to sow his heretical dogma in both innocent and infernally-motivated ears, the more damage suffered by Mother Church.” Borja stared at Maculani, who stared back, unafraid. The cardinal smiled. “Your father was a bricklayers, was he not?”

    Maculani frowned. “Yes, my father laid brick, Your Eminence. Indeed, for a time, so did I.”

    Borja nodded. “An honest occupation. Would that more of the consistory who now support Urban had a similar background. Their nobility is simply a mistake of birth, rather than of character developed through labor and perseverance.” It occurred to him that he, and his core supporters — the Spanish Cardinals, as they had been called for centuries — were as much, if not more, the scions of aristocratic privilege. In an attempt to leaven that nagging hint of irony, Borja added, “After all, our savior was a carpenter.” But somehow, that didn’t quite have the effect he had hoped for. The opposite, perhaps. No matter.

    “Yes, Your Eminence,” Maculani answered in a carefully neutral tone. Which was unlike him, but the bricklayer-become-bishop seemed perplexed by the profoundly philosophical direction of Borja’s discourse.

    The cardinal turned to look at the Tevere again. “You know, Vincenzo,” he sighed, “it is a daily wound to me that I have not the power to make you a cardinal. Yet.”

    Maculani — with a surprisingly quiet, almost stealthy, tread — came to stand alongside him. “I am aware of and humbled by Your Eminence’s kind opinion of this servant of Mother Church. But my lack of a biretta is but a small consequence of Urban’s continued obstruction of your path to the cathedra. The great danger lies in his continuing ability to create what others still see as legitimate cardinals, and so, to reconstitute a consistory of those who are foolish enough to take his side. Thankfully, the radio gives us the ability to direct the means whereby that flow of new cardinals may be cut off.”

    Borja nodded, but found he was no longer seeing the Tevere’s bronze glow. Now, rekindled memory repainted it a sullen gray-blue, flecked with ice: rare, even in early February. But the winter just past had been cold for Rome, and, on that particular day, Borja had chosen against continuing to look out through the large, expensive panes of the glass window. He had drawn the thick curtains closed once again, thereby cutting off the chill that radiated from it.

    Maculani had been there, as now, taking notes. The matter being discussed was too sensitive to entrust to mere scribes. Borja had learned that the hard way when, just last year his secretary Ferrigno had been caught passing information along to the so-called Lefferti — the revolutionists who had styled themselves after the up-time assassin and adventurer, Harry Lefferts. Happily, in the end, they had been slain in the hundreds, Lefferts himself nearly caught with them.

    And the architect of those victories over the up-timers, as well as the sleuth who had uncovered Ferrigno’s treachery, had stood before him, radiating no more warmth than the wintery Tevere: Pedro Dolor. Who had, but a moment before, brought news of Urban’s new location and with it, a powerful argument for Borja to adopt a device he detested and instinctively distrusted: the radio.

    “So, how is it that you happen to have an agent with a radio in Besançon, Señor — er, Don Dolor?” Borja did not approve of promoting commoners so easily to titles, but it was the fashion in which Olivares’ increasingly rare letters to Borja referred to this operative, and there was no point in doing anything that might annoy the count-duke.

    Dolor shook his head. “My agent is not in Besançon, Your Eminence.”

    “Then how can he make so confident a report of Urban’s presence there?”

    “My agent has been tracking various signs of activity involving movements by the elite forces with which the USE is likely to protect Urban. He was in Basel when he got word of this colloquium that Urban is convening in Besançon.”



    “A colloquium? What does this mean? Why does he not summon a Council of the Cardinals?” Borja idly wondered if a sufficiently large bomb could be fashioned to send Urban and all of his heretical red hats into the heavens for judgment and damnation, all at once. Of course, such a powerful device would also necessarily be imprecise. Many innocents would no doubt be killed. But they would also no doubt be received in heaven as martyrs whose lives had been sacrificed to ensure the continued safety of Mother Church.

    Dolor did not so much as blink as he explained. “The colloquium is expressly ecumenical, Cardinal Borja. My agent in Basel learned of it because of an invitation that had gone out to a leading Calvinist theologian who was wintering there.”

    “A C-calvinist?” Borja sputtered.

    “We feared as much, Your Eminence,” Maculani muttered darkly as he scratched at the paper before him.

    Borja resisted the urge to put a hand to his forehead; such a pose was not consistent with the firm and resolute image he wished to convey. “So, at the same time that this parasite upon the Church is whelping litter after litter of new cardinals every time he touches his chest and murmurs, ‘in pectore,’ he is traitorously inviting heretics to help him spin a wider, unholy web. It warrants a crusade!”

    Maculani’s restless scrawling ceased. “That would be a — a most difficult and provocative undertaking. Your Eminence.” From his startled tone, the recently elevated bishop seemed unsure whether Borja was speaking figuratively or literally. Borja was not entirely sure himself.

    Dolor folded his hands. “I have few details of this colloquium beyond the fact that Urban has sent inquiries far and wide. Judging from other reports, there is an intimation that the United States of Europe are facilitating this with their dirigibles.”

    Maculani’s inquiry was swift. “Not radio?”

    “No, Your Grace. From your change in expression, I suspect you see why.”

    “Yes. These radio transmissions give an adversary routine access to codes, since they are always free to be heard by all who know the correct — er, is the word ‘frequency’?”

    Dolor bowed his head. “Bishop Maculani’s knowledge — and foresight — are most excellent.”

    Borja could not help a proud smile from curving his lips slightly. Vincenzo Maculani had been a rare find: a cleric with an excellent education, a willingness to get his hands dirty (what former head inquisitor could do otherwise?), and an early life that made him familiar with the cynicism and brutish reality of the streets. So far as stratagems and their execution were concerned, he was nearly Dolor’s equal.

    But then Maculani went and ruined it all: “Your Eminence, this news — what it portends, and how we vouchsafed it — compels me to renew my appeal that we retain the services of a radio operator.”

    Borja almost groaned aloud. “Not this again, Maculani.”

    “Please, Your Eminence, consider how Don Dolor’s report demonstrates the indispensable nature of this technology. Not only did this intelligence reach us from distant, winter-locked Basel within a day of its acquisition, but it was conveyed by a roving agent. Two radio operators, moving with two guards could furnish us with urgent news weeks, even months, before standard couriers could bring it to us.”

    Borja shifted. Which must have let Maculani know that this was the moment to press home his decisive argument: “And if we wish to stop Urban from creating more cardinals to build his appearance of legitimacy and of Church dominance, we must be able to control — carefully and precisely control — the operations we have considered mounting to stop him.”

    Borja stared at him, half annoyed, half hoping that Maculani would somehow find a different path.

    But the square-headed and square-chinned bishop — who would probably have made a formidable wrestler — only stared back and added, “The operations we have considered will be most delicate, Your Eminence. Indeed, it would be quite advantageous for the hands not to know precisely what the head is planning until just before they are set in motion.”

    Borja glanced at Dolor.

    Who shrugged. “Your Eminence certainly knows my opinion on this matter. Last year, when pursuing Urban VIII, I was forced to communicate with our agents in Venetian territory via pigeons. And once events moved beyond the reach of the coops the pigeons knew, our agents were left to their own crude devices. If we had had a capable radio operator traveling with or near them –”

    Borja flicked a sharp, irritated wave in Dolor’s direction, even as he looked away. “Yes, yes, you have made it quite clear how the outcome could have been much different.”

    Dolor did not reply, simply nodded and looked at Maculani.

    Who looked baleful. He was not comfortable with Dolor. Last September, shortly after the assassin-turned-intelligencer had returned from Spain with letters patent from none other than Olivares, he had paid a respectful visit to Borja, even though he no longer answered to the cardinal. Maculani, not a talkative man in his most extroverted moments, sat as still and silent as a graven image during that brief meeting. When Borja later asked him of his impressions of Dolor, Maculani’s frown had deepened. “He makes it hard to form an impression; he reveals so little of himself. Which I do not trust.”

    But on this particular winter’s day, Maculani’s crucial and possibly only ally was this selfsame man he did not trust. He turned his eyes back to Borja. “Your Eminence, I understand that you wish to guard Mother Church against infernal up-time devices. So do I. But it may be that we may not protect her adequately without making an exception in this case. You know that Don Dolor and I often have very different opinions on our strategies and their execution, but we are of one mind on this. I believe I speak for both of us when I beseech you to consider: is not the good to be done by retaining the services of a radio expert far greater than any danger it might pose?”

    In fact, Borja was not convinced of that easy formulation. Something told him that the greased slide into a world dominated by the up-timers and their devices began with just such “exceptions” as this. Ultimately, such exceptions would become more routine, then plentiful, and then ubiquitous, until, finally, the up-timers had recast reality in the form that suited them and their inscrutable, but certainly nefarious, designs. But the cardinal also had to admit that instant communications had been a far, far more decisive factor than the weapons or airships the up-timers had used to best them the prior summer. And he could not allow Urban VIII to continue on his present, ruinous course — ruinous both for Mother Church and Gaspar de Borja y Velasco. Concepts which, in his mind, had begun to elide and merge into one.

    “Very well.” Borja sighed. “We shall take this step. Who must we consult to find a reliable operator and technician?”

    Dolor cleared his throat. “In acquiring a radio for my own operations, I have encountered a number of operators who might serve your needs.”

    Borja nodded. “Very well. Who do you recommend most highly?”

    Dolor seemed to reflect for a moment, which struck Borja as slightly odd; Dolor always seemed to know his intended path long before he was asked to reveal it. “Bruno Sartori, a Venetian.”

    “A Venetian?” Borja was happy that Maculani’s voice had joined his own in a chorus of dismay and aversion.

    “A Venetian,” Dolor persisted quietly, “who was disowned upon being revealed as one of our agents last summer. He has been living in Rome since September, and has been unable to find suitable work.”

    Maculani’s frown became a scowl. “And if this Sartori is so accomplished, why have you not retained him yourself?”

    Dolor shrugged. “By the time I knew he had fled to Rome, my needs were already met. He would not have fulfilled them, anyhow: he does not speak enough languages. Only Italian, German, and weak French. Much of my work involves monitoring USE transmissions, and many of their operators use English or Amideutsch. Furthermore, he is a functionary, not a man for field work. He will be happy to receive a good salary in Rome, where he may have his creature comforts.”

    “Could he be bribed by our enemies, do you think?” Maculani asked in a low mutter.

    “Possibly, but for the same reason he would not be serviceable in the field, he should not pose a security risk. So long as his salary is sufficient, I estimate him to prize safety from retribution more than the additional funds he might realize by becoming a double agent. However, if you are looking for an upright pillar of the faith who would serve out of principle, I fear I do not have any such candidates to recommend. My duties rarely put me in touch with such persons — at least not those who have the skills you require.”

    Borja huffed lightly. Hardly an ideal candidate, this Sartori. On the other hand, a paragon of virtue might not be what they needed in this case. Particularly not with the orders they inevitably would have to send to their operatives in Besançon. Pontificide would trouble the conscience — and perhaps loosen the guilt-ridden tongue — of a more upright man. So, on second thought, perhaps this Sartori was indeed the ideal candidate, specifically because he was not the ideal Catholic. “The Venetian should do. Send him to us as soon as you may.” And now the delicate part of the meeting, which hopefully Dolor would not realize as the reason Borja granted him an audience so swiftly. “I understand that you traveled a bit before returning to Rome. Searching for radios and operators to recruit for your own operations.”

    Dolor’s nod was almost imperceptible. “You Eminence is extremely well informed.”

    Hah. Dolor can be surprised! One of the frequent weaknesses of spymasters was that they often believed that they, and their immediate enemies, were the only ones doing any spying. “Did your own travels take you to Besançon?”

    “I am sorry to disappoint Your Eminence, but no, they did not. It was not needed.”

    “Not needed?” Maculani asked.

    “Yes, Your Grace. As His Excellency Count-Duke Olivares already had taken steps to have an agent placed in Besançon to observe the changes wrought there by Bernhard Wettin, it was deemed extraneous for me to go there myself. I merely needed to get an update from the agent.”



    Borja frowned. “I do not understand, Don Dolor. You did not visit this agent yet you received an update from him. How was that effected?”

    “By radio, Your Eminence, when I passed through Basel. At that distance, and without a mountain range in between us, reception was very easy and reliable.”

    Borja felt the wheels of a plan spinning toward each other in his mind, mesh together. “So. Olivares’ man in Besançon is already furnished with a radio.”

    “Yes,” Dolor confirmed. “Although I do not know if I would call him specifically the count-duke’s man. He was placed there on the count-duke’s order. I do not know to whom he reports directly. However, given his broad mandate, I suppose he is providing diverse information to a number of the crown’s.”

    Carefully now, Borja thought, and could tell that Maculani was thinking the same thing. “And is this agent’s employ strictly reserved for the crown’s business?”

    Dolor thought. “I do not know. I do not believe so. Some of the agent’s information suggests he was also financing some trading ventures himself. Although he is descended of a grandee family, he is from a branch that has fallen upon lean times. I doubt he would be specifically constrained from doing business of his own while abroad; I cannot recall such restrictions ever being placed upon our foreign factotums.”

    Of course not, since Spain, from the king on down to the most impoverished hidalgo, runs on money. “And so I presume you would not be averse to telling us who this agent is and how to reach him?”

    Dolor frowned slightly. “I suppose not. His name is Javier de Requesens y Ercilla. I shall give you the times of day and frequencies whereby I reached him.”

    Borja nodded toward Maculani, who provided Dolor with a sheet upon which to write the information. As he did, the bishop looked up at Borja. “Once we have the radio, Your Eminence, we might be able to get a better idea of who Urban is making cardinals in pectore.”

    Borja frowned. “What do you mean by this, Maculani?”

    The bishop spread his hands in what seemed half explanation, half appeal. “Well, we have reports that Urban is resorting to up-time documents to arrive at a list of likely candidates, using them to determine which men his up-time self raised to the biretta. With the Papal Library lost to us –”

    — a nice euphemism for what had actually happened: Neapolitan troops running wild through the Holy City, carrying off everything that was, or looked like it might be, valuable, and burning much of the rest —

    “– Urban’s copies of the up-time records were either destroyed or are among the remaining documents that are still being sorted. However, if we were to furnish a confidential agent in Grantville with a radio, we might be able to access a copy of that list ourselves, and determine which of Urban’s later-life allies he is now raising up to — ”

    Borja killed that notion with a guillotine chop of his hand. “Had we known to do so two, three months ago, that might have made a difference. Now, any of his intended in pectore cardinals that are not still hiding in their cellars are on the road to Besançon, beyond our reach.” He drew himself up to his full height. “We shall know who the traitors are when they enter that city for his so-called colloquium, for now we shall have a contact there who may report their arrivals.” He smiled at Dolor, who was stepping back from the table. “Thanks to you.”

    Dolor bowed. “I am gratified to have been of help, Your Eminence.”

    Borja held up a hand to detain him. “There is one further courtesy I ask of you, Don Dolor. Because you have been a confidante of mine and a friend to Mother Church’s attempts to reestablish order and its own imperiled legitimacy, the bishop and I deemed it safe to speak frankly of the grave measures that we might still need to undertake, an inevitable continuation of your efforts last year. We therefore presume that now, as then, you will keep these discussions in strictest confidence, not even sharing them with secular authorities. These are, properly, Church matters and should remain within the Church.” He paused, looked long into Dolor’s hazel eyes. “I take it that I make myself clear?” Which the assassin could not possibly translate in any way other than, If you tell Olivares, I will come after you.

    “I understand perfectly, Your Eminence.”

    Borja was certain that he did. “I appreciate your discretion, as our situation is most difficult. Particularly here.”

    “In Rome?” Dolor asked.

    “Most certainly,” Maculani said emphatically. “Let us presume that God graces us by removing the heretical Urban. Will his followers come back? Of course not. They have turned their backs on the Church’s true mission, so they know what awaits them here. So what will they do? Why, appoint themselves as a consistory and elect one of their own number pope. It has happened before.”

    Dolor shrugged. “You have a consistory also.”

    “And that,” Borja said with a sigh, “is the larger problem. Or, I should say, the large problem of our smaller numbers. At this moment, we count — how many, Maculani? Seventeen cardinals, all told?”

    Maculani leaned his head to the side as he recalled the list. “There’s Doria, di Savoia, Moscoso, Galamini, Bentivoglio — who had to be compelled to declare for His Eminence — Spínola, the other Spínola, Torres, Borghese, Albornoz, Pamphili, Pallotta, Trivulzio, Centini, Campori, Salamandri, Zacchia. Urban has at least twice as many in support of him. Perhaps three times. And many of those who are ‘unreachable’ are, in reality, keeping their heads down until this crises has passed. You may be sure that they will then reemerge testifying that they were always ardent supporters of the pope — whoever that turns out to be.” He glanced at Borja quickly. “A figure of speech, only, Your Eminence. If God pleases to see that justice in the Church Mundane be done in compliance with the writ of heaven, then you shall soon sit upon the cathedra.”

    Borja was pleased — and reassured — by Maculani’s emendation, but only for a second: rather than nodding, Dolor’s face seemed more grim than ever.

    “I understand your concern, Your Eminence. For if Urban is not removed by divine or mundane means, you may well have to defend this place. If you can.”

    Borja refused to be rattled by this dire projection. “And what could overcome my forces?”

    Dolor shrugged “The entirety of occupied Italy’s enraged population. Probably swollen by the forces of the unoccupied or neutral states that would stand to gain from your loss.” He bowed a slow farewell. “Your Eminence.”

    Once the door had closed behind Dolor, Maculani leaned forward, his hard, heavy hands knuckles-down upon the mahogany table before him. “I do not trust him.”

    Borja waved a dismissive hand. “That is wise, insofar as Don Dolor is under Olivares’ control, not ours. But I have had Dolor under observation and see no cause for worry. He is not devout, but then again, there is no evidence that he cares for any faith or philosophy at all. He is a materialist, yet neither takes bribes nor lives hedonistically. If he were Greek, I would presume his ancestors were Spartans.

    “But whereas Don Dolor lacks a theologically enlightened sense of duty to Our Savior in heaven, he understands the hard realities of this terrestrial vale of tears. He is a singularly useful tool and counselor within the limited scope of his expertise and interests. Beyond that, he demonstrates little affinity for anything else, and no perceptible passions which might be used to move him to treachery of any kind.”

    Maculani nodded. “And that is precisely why I do not trust him, Your Eminence.”

    Borja smiled at the Dominican whom he had made a bishop and had brought away from his duties as Rome’s head inquisitor. Maculani’s mind was too sharp and too practical to waste upon the usually futile task of attempting to redeem undeserving heretics and unbelievers. Before, that is, they succumbed to the tortures that destroyed their bodies in order to compel them to repent and so, save their souls. “You are a suspicious fellow, Vincenzo,” Borja murmured. “I like that.” Because you are my suspicious fellow.

    Yet Cardinal Gaspar de Borja y Velasco had found himself still staring at the door through which Dolor had departed on that cold February day, filled with unease.

    It was the same unease he felt now as the Tevere glimmered more faintly beneath the setting May sun while he waited for the radio report from Javier de Requesens y Ercilla in Besançon. A large part of what made Pedro Dolor so unnerving was his almost preoptic foresight. Yes, his assassins had failed to kill Urban last year, just as his jailors in Palma de Mallorca had failed to keep rescuers from spiriting away the young hostages Borja had meant to use as leverage against the up-timers. But in both cases, Dolor had made initial recommendations that others — even Borja himself — had denied or ignored. And, in both cases, had his advice and requests been heeded, it seemed likely that the outcome would have been quite different.

    But Pedro Dolor’s foresight was, in fact, not the primary trait that made him unnerving. The greater part resided in his silent acceptance of outcomes and almost mechanical reflex to simply address the new challenges that resulted — without overtly or obliquely calling attention to the fact that, had his superior comprehension and anticipation been heeded, there would have been no failure in the first place.

    Borja took up his glass of rioja again and sipped at it, a bit more deeply than was his wont. It was a matter of course that some men had greater abilities than others. But for a man not to revel in the triumphs enabled thereby, to fail to call attention to his superior perspicacity in order to accelerate his own ascension while undercutting the rise of possible rivals?

    That, Borja concluded with yet another worried sip at his glass, was not merely distressingly atypical; it was positively inhuman.

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