Last Reviewed on May 1, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1258
The prologue reviews the history of Jesuit priests as being "the vanguard of exploration" and how this history is continued by a new mission beyond Earth. While the United Nations debates for years about making human contact with the newly discovered world known as Rakhat, the Society of Jesus quickly and privately decides to send out a mission. The goal of the Jesuit scientists is "to know and love God's other children."
On December 7, 2059, Emilio Sandoz is released from the hospital and secretly transported to the Jesuit Residence in the Vatican. The next day, a Jesuit spokesman explains to the media that Emilio is the only known survivor of the mission to Rakhat, and his return was made possible with help from the UN and a mining corporation. The spokesman refuses to comment on the "allegations regarding Father Sandoz's conduct on Rakhat."
Emilio is observed by Vincenzo Giuliani, the Father General of the Society of Jesus. Giuliani and Emilio have known each other for sixty years, but Giuliani still does not understand him.
Three weeks later, Johannes Voelker, Giuliani's private secretary, calls Father John Candotti and tells him to come see Emilio. Candotti is a priest from Chicago who has been brought to Rome to help Emilio prepare for the hearings.
During their first meeting, Emilio tells Candotti that he wants to withdraw from the Society; Candotti explains to him that the Jesuit hearings will be "nothing compared to what they'll put you through outside." Before leaving, Candotti notices a drawing of a group of VaRakhati, whom Emilio calls his colleagues.
Voelker and Giuliani meet. Giuliani defends Emilio as a good man; Voelker calls Emilio a whore who "killed a child," telling Giuliani that they should let him leave the Society. Giuliani resists this, reminding Voelker that he is not Emilio’s judge.
At the Arecibo Radio Telescope cafeteria in Puerto Rico, in February 2019, Peggy Soong talks with Jimmy Quinn. She has heard that Jimmy has been "assigned a vulture," and she urges him to refuse to cooperate. Jimmy tells Peggy that he wants to find a way to meet the interests of Arecibo's Japanese owners and its employees.
That evening, Jimmy meets Emilio Sandoz, a Puerto Rican priest he met through George and Anne Edwards. Jimmy asks Emilio his opinion about whether or not he should cooperate with a vulture. Emilio advises him to "hold out for a while" and to ask for "someone good." Emilio admits that he has been “done” by a vulture and mysteriously describes it as "an interesting experience."
The next section of the chapter reviews Emilio Sandoz's career with the Jesuits. As a young priest, Emilio demonstrates an amazing ability to learn languages. Jesuit leadership send Emilio around the world on various assignments, none of which he is able to complete before abruptly being moved somewhere else. As a result, Emilio learns five different languages in a span of three years.
While on assignment in Sudan, Emilio receives a transmission from the Society instructing him to report to Cleveland to allow artificial intelligence experts to codify his method of learning languages.
Years later, on Rakhat, Emilio recalls that moment in Sudan and wonders if it was not "the punchline to a three-year joke," as he had initially called it, but part of the punchline of a joke set up over a lifetime.
In Rome, January 2060, Father John Candotti is going to see Emilio after their first meeting several weeks before. He plans to help Emilio understand what a difficult situation he is in. The Contact Consortium crew, which had sent Emilio back to earth, has already publicized his story. When they found Emilio and reported scandalous details about the mission to Rakhat, public opinion had turned sharply against the Jesuits.
(The entire section contains 1258 words.)
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- Chapter Summaries