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art by Wi Waffles

By the Hands of Juan Perón

A Hugo Award nominee and a Nebula award winner, Eric James Stone is also a winner in the Writers of the Future Contest. He has had stories published in Year's Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and the Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. Eric is also an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show. Read his other stories for Daily Science Fiction at ericjamesstone.com.

In 1987 someone broke into the tomb of Argentine dictator Juan Perón and removed the hands from his corpse. An unknown group subsequently demanded eight million dollars in ransom for the hands. Despite an extensive investigation by the Argentine government, the culprits were never identified. As for Perón's hands, they remain missing to this day--in this timeline.
An average Argentine citizen would be almost paralyzed with fear upon opening the door at three in the morning to find two Imperial Police officers. But despite his wishes to the contrary, Tomás Alejandro Perón was not an average Argentine citizen. Even if his father had finally decided it was time to be rid of his troublesome Catholic priest son, there was no point resisting. He got in the car and let them drive him to downtown Buenos Aires.
The car pulled into a rear entrance to the Casa Rosada, where he was given over to the custody of two military guards. Tomás followed them through the unfamiliar corridors of the new imperial wing of the Casa Rosada. It was new to him, at least; though he had grown up in the presidential palace, he had not returned since taking his vows as a Catholic priest, twenty-five years ago.
As the guards escorted Tomás into a large room, Juan Domingo Perón--Emperor of Latin America, Protector of the Southern World--rose from a couch and strode to greet him with a hug. "Tomasito, I'm glad you came."
Instead of pointing out his father had told him never to return, Tomás returned the hug. "You're looking well, Father."
"Not bad for a hundred and ten years old, no? I look younger than you. But we can change that easily enough."
"The Church has not changed its moral position on artificial rejuvenation," said Tomás.
His father turned abruptly and paced to a window. "And what moral position allows your church to kill your brother?"
"Mario?" The news seemed to hollow Tomás's stomach. "Mario's dead? When? How? Is Mamá all right?"
"Yesterday. I've muzzled the press for now. Not even your mother knows, but the news will get out soon." His father turned to look him in the eyes. "It was a public appearance, the opening of a new orphanage run by your church. And when one of the nuns gave him a hug, she burst into flames, right there on the steps of the orphanage. The guards tried to put the fire out, but it was no use. Mario burned to death, screaming."
"And you think the nun did this on purpose?" Tomás sat down as he tried to process the information. "The Church does not condone suicide or murder."
"Still you defend them?"
Now was not the time to argue the point. Tomás said, "What will you do?"
"I cannot stand by and allow them to murder the President of Argentina, my designated successor as Emperor, without consequence."
"You..." Tomás swallowed. "You are not planning to harm the Pope?"
"That frail old man? Kill him and another jumps in his place. No, your Church has deprived me of one son. I feel it only just I take the other in exchange."
"I'm but a humble priest. Killing me will not impress them." Tomás felt no fear, just puzzlement. Had his father gone mad at last?
"Kill you? No, I will appoint you President of Argentina. I will designate you as next in line to be Emperor."
Tomás shook his head. Mario had been the ambitious one.
"But more, I will take your loyalty from them. Oh, how they must have laughed when you turned from me to them. And they did not even give you a position commensurate with your status. A simple parish."
Rising to his feet, Tomás said, "I love the people of my parish, and my calling is sufficient. You cannot bribe me with titles, and you cannot shake my faith. Goodbye, Father."
"Wait. I have proof you must see."
Tomás stopped. "Proof the Church was behind killing Mario?" He did not want to believe it, but sometimes people became overzealous.
"No. Even more than that. You have faith your Pope is guided by God?"
"I have scientific proof he is not."
Tomás frowned. "You cannot prove such a thing scientifically. It is a matter of faith."
"Like the existence of God?"
His father smiled. "I have scientific proof God exists. Can you shut your eyes to such?"
"If you have such proof, why have you not shared it with the world? You hate the Church enough, so why have you not proven the Pope a fraud?"
His father waved a hand dismissively. "The world is not ready for the truth. But you are. Come with me." He marched out the door.
After a brief hesitation, Tomás followed.
His father said nothing as they walked to an elevator. Two imperial guards boarded with them, and one pressed a button that started the elevator descending.
"You remember the bomb plot in 1987, yes?" his father said.
"I read about it." It had happened seven years after Tomás had become a priest. He had tried to see his father in the hospital, but had not been admitted.
"The bomb did not explode completely when I opened the briefcase. But I lost my hands."
Tomás hadn't known that. He looked at his father's hands. "So you grew them back."
"Yes, now we do it all the time. The marvels of Argentine medicine--" His father gave a strange laugh. "--and the wonders of stem cells from the spleen. But twenty years ago, the science was in its infancy. The cells would grow wild without a proper foundation. The experiments were awful. So I needed a pair of hands on which my cells could grow in the proper pattern."
Nauseated, Tomás said, "You stole someone else's hands--"
"No! I am not so monstrous. Besides, I did not want another man's hands. But you know of quantum mechanics, yes?"
What did quantum physics have to do with his father's hands? "Something, yes."
"The theory that there are other worlds, parallel to ours? It is not just theory, it is fact. We have a machine that can travel to these other worlds. That is where my hands came from: the Juan Perón of another world."
The elevator stopped, and Tomás realized they had been descending the whole time. They must be far underground. "And this Juan Perón from another world, he just gave you his hands out of pity?" They stepped out of the elevator into a well-lit white corridor.
"He did not mind. He was dead. Fortunately, his hands were sufficiently preserved that my doctors could use them as a foundation for my living cells to take over."
Tomás wasn't sure what to say.
They stopped in front of a large metal door.
His father said, "Do you know why Argentina rose to become the undisputed world power? The leader in armaments, engineering, medicine, even entertainment?"
"In 1947," Tomás recited from the memory of lessons learned as a schoolboy, "President Perón instituted his first five-year economic plan. The valiant workers of the nationalized industries--"
"What I will show you is not in the schoolbooks. But at least you have the correct year." His father pushed open the door and walked in.
Tomás followed. Beyond the door was a balcony overlooking a cavernous room, in the middle of which there was a thick, hexagonal piece of featureless gray metal, fifty meters across.
"In July 1947, our navy was performing maneuvers in the Pacific. This flying disc crashed and sank in the water nearby. At great expense it was recovered and brought secretly back to our shores."
"A flying disc?" Tomás could not keep the excitement out of his voice. "Were there aliens on board?"
His father nodded. "Three were still alive when we got inside, although two were so wounded that they died within a few weeks."
"And the third?"
"She still lives."
As a boy, Tomás had loved reading science fiction. The idea of a live alien with a flying disc excited him, yet he remained wary. When his father offered someone something, it was always for his own advantage. "And this alien has been giving you advanced technology?"
"Fortunately for her--and for us--the disc crashed in the water, and it managed to maintain its integrity. In the United States timeline, the disc crashed in their territory, but was torn apart on impact. That is why we have the advantage."
"The United States timeline? What advantage? I do not understand." Tomás tried to comprehend the implications of what his father had revealed. Church doctrine did not rule out the many worlds of quantum mechanics, nor the existence of alien life, so this was not the proof his father had threatened.
"The United States timeline is the one where I got my hands. We name the timelines after the dominant power. Come, let us sit and I will explain all to you."
They sat down in a conference room with a glass wall overlooking the flying disk.
"There are not an infinite number of parallel worlds," said his father. "There is only one real timeline. This is not theory, it is scientific fact the aliens have proven."
"But then how could your hands come from another timeline? How can you travel to timelines that do not exist?"
"The aliens believe in God. No, they do not believe--they know. They call him the Prime Observer, because it is his observation that chooses the real timeline from among the parallel worlds."
"This is not a new idea," said Tomás. "The suggestion that God collapses the quantum mechanical wave function for the universe as a whole has been around a long time."
"Yes, but the fact is he collapses the wave function only when he observes the universe. And he has not done so since August of 1945, or possibly a little earlier."
"How can you know that?"
"Because that is when the timelines start to diverge. There are no timelines where Hitler won, or where the United States did not drop the atomic bombs on Japan. There are no timelines where the Roman Empire never fell, or timelines populated by intelligent dinosaurs. But my researchers in the other timelines have found slight differences in newspapers published in September, 1945. The differences become greater the farther you get from August, 1945." His father leaned forward. "Do you not see? God has not paid any attention to our world in sixty years, so he certainly has nothing to do with your Pope."
Tomás felt his heart pound. There had to be another explanation. "Does it have to be God who observes? Many experiments show conscious observation can collapse a wave function, and sometimes not even that is needed."
"It requires an observation from outside the wave function. We cannot do it ourselves. Not even the aliens observing us could do it. Who but God observes the universe from outside? These are scientific facts, Tomasito; you must accept them."
Tomás suddenly realized how dangerous the situation was. His father had just revealed the most important secrets of the empire, and if Tomás was not careful, he would "disappear," becoming just another of the thousands of desaparecidos. Even if his father was making this up for some devious purpose, Tomás must show he was open to accepting it. "I need time to absorb all this," he said. "A flying disc, aliens, alternate timelines--"
Before Tomás could finish, his mother entered the room, the hem of her black dress sweeping over the floor. "You think to keep secret from me the death of my own son? How could you let this happen?"
His father rose. "Eva, I was--"
She turned to Tomás and held out her arms. "It is good you have come, Tomás."
Accustomed to his mothers' mercurial nature, Tomás hugged her and kissed her cheeks. He was glad to see her, and not just because her knowing he was here made it less likely his father would have him quietly disappear.
She turned back to his father, who seemed to wither a little under her gaze. "What are you doing?"
"Taking care of Argentina and the empire. Tomás will become president and my designated successor as Emperor."
Tomás said, "I have not agreed yet. Mamá, you know I have no head for politics. Explain to Papá."
She shook her head. "That doesn't matter, my son. We all must make sacrifices for the good of the people. And the people need a Perón to lead them."
Tomás knew too well that his parents, united, were almost impossible to oppose. He had only managed to become a priest because his mother remained Catholic--even if her smooth skin under her perfectly coiffed blond hair proved she did not follow the Church's teaching on rejuvenation. Tomás needed time to find a way out. "I must consider this, think through the implications. And I want the proof you offered."
"I've told you already," said his father.
"Do you believe everything you are told?" Tomás waved his arm at the gray shape beyond the glass wall. "How do I know the flying disc out there is not a prop on a movie set? I want to talk to the alien, travel to the parallel timelines. Only then can I know for myself what you say is true."
"You have no faith in me?"
Patting his chest, Tomás said, "You are asking me to abandon my faith. You must give me something stronger to replace it: knowledge." He still was not sure the existence of the alternate timelines meant what his father claimed, but demanding to be shown the evidence would give him time to think.
"The timeline ship will not be back for months. We must announce Mario's death and your appointment as president within a few hours." His father sighed. "But you may meet with the alien and see inside the flying disc. Will that be enough?"
"I won't know until after I've heard what the alien has to say."
According to his father, the alien came from a perpetually clouded world and was overly sensitive to visible light. The alien's room was dim and red, like a photographer's darkroom, and it took a few seconds for Tomás's eyes to adjust.
The alien--Angelica, they called her, instead of her true unpronounceable name--was a small humanoid, with a big bald head and large dark eyes. She looked so much like the stereotypical movie extraterrestrial that Tomás thought for a moment she had to be a hoax. But after watching the fluid grace with which she used her three-fingered hands to manipulate the levers of an unrecognizable contraption sitting on the table in front of her, Tomás realized no puppeteer could be controlling her. Members of her race must have been seen by humans, thus creating the stereotype in the first place.
Angelica finished what she was doing and turned her attention to Tomás and his father. Her mouth did not move, but a feminine voice said, "You are the one who serves the Prime Observer."
Tomás frowned. "I am a priest, if that's what you mean. How do you know that?"
"Your mother has spoken to me of you. She showed me images."
The alien's voice was not coming from her body: it emanated from a speaker on the table. Tomás turned to his father and said, "How do I know you don't have someone on a radio faking her end of the conversation?"
Before his father could answer, the voice spoke. "Direct neural interface to a computer that synthesizes human speech for me." Angelica tapped the side of her head with a long finger, then moved the finger to her mouth. "My own vocal apparatus is not capable of making the sounds for your speech."
It made sense. Tomás took a deep breath, then let it out. He needed to confirm or refute his father's assertions. "You mentioned the Prime Observer. Is that the same as the Creator of the universe?"
"That is not known to my people. It is possible: a Creator, if it existed, would have to be external to the universe, as the Prime Observer is."
"And according to the science of your people, the Prime Observer has not observed the universe in sixty of our years?"
The skin of the alien's face wriggled. "That is an incorrect analysis of the available data."
Tomás grinned with relief. His father had gotten the science wrong.
"The Prime Observer has not observed your world in sixty years. It is your world's wave function that is in a state of superposition, not the wave function of the entire universe. My own world's wave function collapses separately from yours, which is why I was willing to help your father."
"Help my father?"
His father spoke before the alien could answer. "We do not have time to go into that now." He put a hand on Tomás's shoulder. "You can talk to Angelica more later, and even travel to other timelines if you wish, but after you are president. You must agree."
Tomás knew he could still refuse. Mamá could probably protect him from being killed, but she probably would not object to his being kept as a prisoner in comfortable quarters. But it felt as if he had known all along he would have to accept. The only question remaining was whether he could do some good with what was happening.
"I will accept, Father," he said, "on the condition you restore to the Church all the lands you confiscated."
"I cannot. Some of those lands have been given to important people, or used to house the poor."
His father making excuses was a good sign. "Just compensation, then, for the lands that cannot be returned."
"The Church killed your brother. How can I reward them for that?"
"Think of it this way, Father: the return of their lands will ensure they do not send an incendiary nun after me." Even though Tomás did not believe the Church was behind Mario's death, his father believed it. He could use that.
His father looked thoughtful. "And you claim to have no head for politics."
Argentina was the preeminent nation of the Empire, and the Empire was the lone superpower. But Tomás soon discovered being President of Argentina meant little while his father ruled the Empire. After three months, Tomás had found only one thing to love about life as a mostly figurehead president. He missed the people of his parish, and his attempts to talk to palace personnel about spiritual matters met with only polite apathy. His hopes of using his new political position to help the poor seemed to be blocked by interminable layers of bureaucracy. And his parents were usually too busy with affairs of the Empire to give him even the pleasure of getting to know his family again.
But he had access to histories and current news transmitted by agents in the other timelines. There were only four others; according to Angelica, only five travelable timelines could exist in superposition. Other timelines existed in the wave function as their probabilities dictated, but they could not observe each other.
Tomás perused the latest reports.
The Iraq war in the United States timeline appeared to be winding down.
The Third Depression in the United Nations timeline had just entered its second decade, and the Secretary General had announced a new round of wealth redistribution which he claimed would help those hardest hit by the economic problems.
The news from the Soviet timeline seemed even more unreliable than a government-approved Argentine newspaper, but by carefully analyzing what was not said, Tomás was fairly sure the communists were in slightly better economic shape than the United Nations timeline.
But the Chinese timeline was where the real excitement lay. Seven of the ten taikonauts orbiting Mars aboard the Chiang Kai-shek were preparing to descend to the surface.
Tomás had always regretted that Argentina's space program had not gone beyond establishing orbital microwave power stations and a small permanent scientific base on the Moon. With a flying disc to study, Argentina's space program should have been capable of much more, but it appeared his father had focused on timeline travel.
As he read about the taikonauts, one of the physicists from the underground laboratories asked for permission to speak with him immediately. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear as she was ushered into his office.
"I wanted to speak with your father," said Dr. Martín, "but he is unavailable, and this is urgent."
Tomás repressed a wince. His father's unavailability was probably due to his being ensconced with one of his mistresses. "I will make sure he is informed as soon as possible. What is the problem?"
"Our neutrino detector in Bariloche picked up a large burst of neutrinos this morning. It has been confirmed by the Japanese and the Canadians. The source was near Baikonur, Kazakhstan."
The name sounded familiar to Tomás. "A weapons test of some sort?"
"No. Such a neutrino burst is characteristic of an incoming timeline portal, but it was not ours because we've learned to mask the effect. We thought the Chinese timeline was the most advanced technologically, but it seems the Soviets have quietly been working on timeline travel."
Tomás stood up. "I must consult with Angelica about this development."
Dr. Martín hesitated. "But the Emperor..."
His father had never allowed him to talk to Angelica alone, so Tomás decided now was his chance. "My father is not here."
It took over an hour of blustering and emphasizing his position as designated imperial heir with the imperial guards, but he eventually was admitted to Angelica's presence. Dr. Martín went to the observation room, where Tomás was sure she would be recording his conversation.
"This was anticipated," Angelica told Tomás after he explained about the neutrino burst. "The estimate was we had five to ten more years, but we have already begun our preparations. We need merely to accelerate the timetable."
"What preparations?" asked Tomás.
"For the comet impact."
"A comet is going to hit the Earth?" Tomás tried to remain outwardly calm, but offered a silent prayer he had misunderstood.
It might be necessary to withhold such information from the public to prevent panic while preparations to handle the disaster were underway, but even as a figurehead President of Argentina, he should have been informed. "When? Can we stop it? And what does that have to do with the Soviets traveling the timelines?"
His father's voice came from behind him. "We must catch God's attention."
Turning to face his father, Tomás said, "What?"
"The Soviets will figure it out, if they haven't already." He waved a hand at the electronic equipment on the table next to him. "Their scientists will detect our travels. Soon they will realize only one timeline will survive when God observes our world--the rest will vanish as if they had never been. It is a race to see which timeline can force God's hand. Fortunately, we've had longer to plan. We began adjusting the orbit of the comet twenty years ago, gradually, so it would appear natural."
"The original plan was for impact five years from now," said Angelica, "but if we make certain adjustments at perihelion, impact will be in six months."
Tomás stared at his father. "You're planning to use a comet to wipe out the Soviets in their timeline?"
"No," said Angelica. "Your father thinks that would likely call attention to their timeline, not ours."
It took a few moments for the implication to work its way through Tomás's mind. "You cannot mean to hit our Earth with it? How many of our people would that kill?"
"We will adjust its course to hit in the northern Pacific," said his father. "Our people will not be the ones dying, mostly. And those who do, die for the survival of the Empire."
"You cannot do this!" Despite the desaparecidos, the executions, the assassinations, the wars of conquest, Tomás had never believed his father monstrous enough to murder on this scale.
"I am the Emperor. No one tells me what I cannot do--not you, not your mother. I took Argentina and built it into an empire." He clapped his hands to his chest. "Me. This timeline is mine--it is guided by my hands. And I will not see all my work destroyed by the Soviets or anyone else."
Tomás turned to Angelica. "How can you go along with this? Do you not realize how many people you will kill?"
"What happens to individual members of your species is not of great concern to me. I am merely doing what I think best ensures my own survival."
"But so many deaths... hundreds of millions of innocents." Tears of frustration welled up in Tomás's eyes. His father had truly gone mad.
"Do not count the dead," said his father. "If another timeline is chosen, none of them will have ever existed, so it makes no difference to them. I am choosing life for the people of our world."
Tomás struggled to find an argument to sway his father. "There must be another way. Destruction cannot be the only way to catch God's attention."
His father shrugged. "We cannot know if something else will work. But the timelines diverge after the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. That destruction attracted God's attention."
With sudden clarity, Tomás understood how there might be times when the Church would condone murder and suicide. Had the Church known of this plan? Had Mario been part of it? If Tomás but had the capacity to spontaneously combust and kill his father now, he would use it.
As a child, Tomás had taken to his heart Christ's instruction to turn the other cheek, and he had not retaliated when Mario pushed him around. All his life, Tomás had been the calmest and gentlest member of the Perón family.
So his father and the imperial guards were slow to react when Tomás sprang forward, reaching for his father's throat. Tomás lacked the benefits of a military background, though, and his father's rejuvenated body had both the training and reflexes to begin moving out of the way. So instead of grabbing his father to strangle him, Tomás almost missed him entirely, smashing into his shoulder before sprawling facedown on the floor. Tomás heard the crash of equipment hitting the floor behind him.
Tomás could see the boots of one of the guards approach, and he knew an automatic rifle was aimed at him. He waited for his father to order his execution.
The seconds seemed to stretch out. Even if his father was willing to kill hundreds of millions, perhaps he was willing to show mercy to his own son.
"He's dead," said one of the guards behind Tomás.
"You're sure?" said another.
"Look at his head. No doctor can fix that," replied the first.
Several hands reached down and lifted Tomás to his feet.
"You all saw it," said one of the guards, a lieutenant. "The Emperor slipped and hit his head on the edge of the table. It was a tragic accident, and there was nothing we could do to prevent it. No one here is to blame."
"Your eyes are weaker than mine in this light," said Angelica. "I saw very clearly what happened. It was--"
As Angelica spoke, the lieutenant raised his rifle and pointed it at her head.
"--very clearly an unavoidable accident," Angelica finished.
Tomás stared at the corpse of his father. In the dim red light, one glassy, sightless eye seemed to stare back disapprovingly; the other was buried under a boxy metal piece of equipment that had fallen from the table.
The lieutenant turned toward Tomás and saluted. "All hail the Emperor Tomás Perón!"
"Hail the Emperor Tomás Perón!" said the rest of the guards.
Tomás closed his eyes. The guards probably thought they were guaranteeing the stability of the empire--and hoped to avoid punishment for allowing his father to be killed while under their care. Becoming emperor was not what he wanted, but he would use the power for now. He walked over to Angelica.
"My father said you could adjust the course of the comet," he said.
"Yes," said Angelica.
"Show me."
Her alien fingers pecked at a keyboard, bringing up windows of information. "The thrusters are positioned here, here, and here," she said, pointing to orange triangles positioned on a three-dimensional model of a comet head."
"Send it into the sun," Tomás commanded.
"The thrusters do not have enough fuel for such a radical course change," said Angelica.
Tomás leaned close, staring into her dark eyes. "If a comet hits anywhere on Earth, you may suffer an accident like my father's." He felt suddenly nauseated and broke eye contact. He had killed his father, and now he threatened to kill someone else. This was not the kind of person he wanted to be.
Angelica tapped some commands on the keyboard. "I did not say a collision with your planet was unavoidable, merely that steering the comet into the sun would take more fuel than the thrusters have. They are built to cause small course changes that become greater with time. At this distance, only a small course change is sufficient to miss your planet in five years."
"Make it a big course change anyway. Burn all the fuel." He didn't want anyone changing the course back.
"As you wish. Just because I am indifferent to the fates of humans does not mean I desire their deaths."
Tomás watched the screens as the readouts for the fuel for each thruster ticked toward empty.
"Your father may have been wrong about the comet drawing the attention of God to this timeline," said Angelica. "Nobody knows what will actually draw the attention of the Prime Observer. I was only doing this because your father threatened my life if I did not do as he said."
A sudden pity welled in Tomás's heart for this being, held prisoner by his father for decades. "If I set you free, where would you go? What would you do?"
"I am a technician," Angelica said. "I would stay here where the best technology on your world exists." She brought up a window that showed the course of the comet compared to Earth's orbit. "The thrusters' fuel is exhausted. The comet will now miss your planet by almost two million kilometers. There is no need for any more... accidents."
"Good." Tomás turned and, stepping carefully around his father's body, walked out of the dim red room into the bright light of the corridor.
Escorted by two guards, his mother swept down the corridor toward him. "Tomás, is it true?"
Unsure what she had heard, Tomás simply said, "He is dead." He caught her arm, stopping her from entering the room. "There is nothing you can do for him."
She sagged in his grip, but only for a moment. "There are preparations to be made. You must be crowned as soon as possible, so our enemies do not take advantage. Unless, do you think the pope would do it, since you are Catholic? It would be worth waiting if he--"
"Mamá, did you know what he was doing with the comet?" His father had said she knew, but he had to hear it from her own lips.
She shrugged. "You know your father. Who could stop him when he set his mind?"
"You could, if you set your mind. Hundreds of millions were going to die, and you did not stop him."
Her face turned away, a faint redness rising in her cheeks.
If she could still feel shame, there was still hope for her soul. Tomás had to believe there was still good in her heart. "I have stopped the comet, so there is no damage done," he said. "I forgive you."
"You are a good son, Tomasito. A good son." She straightened. "I will see your father now. I must say goodbye."
Tomás let her go. A good son, she had called him. He hoped she would never know that he had killed his father--intentionally, even if it hadn't happened the way he had intended.
"Emperor Perón, What are your orders?" said the lieutenant.
Emperor. Even with his father gone, Tomás doubted he was capable of transforming the empire into something good--the military would certainly overthrow him if he tried. He had done what he could to prevent the worst mass killing in history, but everything touched by his father's hands was corrupt. "Here are my first and last orders to you: don't call me your Emperor, and never bother me again."
"But without a Perón on the throne there will be chaos in the Empire."
"Perhaps chaos is better than we deserve." Tomás continued to walk as the guards halted in confusion. He did not look back.
Nuestra Señora de Cura is a Franciscan monastery on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Spain is technically not part of the Empire of Latin America, but even so the monastery receives frequent charitable donations from Her Imperial Majesty María Eva Duarte de Perón, Empress of Latin America and Protector of the Southern World.
The Empress Evita is as generous as she is beautiful, her imperial subjects often say. It is a safe thing to say when others might be listening.
One of the monastery's friars is known for his tireless work to help the poor and sick. Brother Tomás is kind and gentle, and never loses his temper no matter what the provocation. He is considered a model of what a Franciscan monk should be, except for one quirk: he never prays.
He does not wish to draw God's attention to his timeline.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, July 26th, 2013

Author Comments

I'm a member of an online writing forum, the Codex Writers, that has periodic writing contests to encourage us to write more stories. One contest involved picking at least one element from three different lists of rather random things. One of the items on one list was "The spleen of a former South American military leader." Since my father was born and raised in Argentina before immigrating to the U.S., and because I'm a fan of the musical Evita, that item naturally made me think of Juan Perón. (I actually was living in Argentina when Perón's widow, Isabel, was overthrown by the military. I got to stay home from school that day.) While researching Perón, I found out about the theft of his hands, and that got me to wondering about reasons why someone would steal them. The story just grew from that like spleen stem cells on stolen hands.

- Eric James Stone
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