Chapter 1 – The Mission
It was a June day of 1983 when I was urgently summoned by Colonel Stefano Selvatici, the Commander of the IV Mobile Battalion Carabineers stationed in Mestre, a locality not distant from Venice. The head of the detachment was a man approaching his sixties, of middle stature, slight, with already whitening hair that ill-matched with the juvenile spirit he was endowed of. In that particular moment he seemed to be agitated, and was perspiring profusely, probably owing to the stifling heat. And indeed, although summer had just begun, the elevated degree of humidity rising from the Venetian lagoon, made the sultriness unbearable. The colonel was pacing back and forth in his room and, judging by his panting, I realized that some serious problem troubled his mind as, usually, he was of a reflexive and a serene disposition.
“Please, do sit down, Lieutenant Giacomo Merlin! The matter I wanted to discuss with you will take some time. Would you like a drink? Perhaps a grappa, eh? I have just been presented with a special bottle indeed, a “Rossi d’Angera”, aged quite at the right point.”
“You have hit the mark, Colonel! Three are the things one never refuses: a tot of grappa for agreeing; a Lucan bitter for digesting and a glass of black foam, obviously, only and exclusively “Spumador” for quenching the thirst. But please, pour me only a pick-me-up because today I am on duty.”
“Will that do?“ – he asked, handing me a glass.
“Yes, thank you! But, please, tell me the reason why you have urged me to come.”
“Oh, well, that’s a rather entangled affair. Have you ever heard of Father Pellegrino Ernetti and of the machine he himself invented, in collaboration with other twelve scientists, which some researchers have christened Chronovisor?”
“Yes, I have, but only in details.”
“That’s more than natural since you are young and at that epoch you were not born yet, but you must know that already in the early ‘fifties it started to circulate in certain scientific milieus the news about the invention of a machine designed to capture the images of past events, including their protagonists. It was said that such an apparatus permitted to display remote facts, just like when one projects a film. The realization of this extraordinary machine was attributed to Father Pellegrino Alfredo Maria Ernetti, a Benedictine monk who apparently had collaborated with scientists of worldwide fame, among whom: Enrico Fermi, a brilliant student of the same; a Japanese Nobel-Prize; the Portuguese researcher De Matos and Wernher Von Braun, inventor of the German V-2 who later became the director of the NASA, to intend us, the conceiver of the first space shuttle which has carried man on the moon.