He walked briskly along with the ‘pilgrims’, passing through the Hamburg boroughs of Hardburger, Barfendorf, Nordic-Hamburg and Windyspek, all filled with classic German architecture. To Joe’s surprise the streets here were much more calm than those of Denmark. The martial law enforced army tanks on every street corner might have had something to do with it, but the people themselves also just seemed calmer and less shaken by recent events.
They crossed a bridge over the River Edible, and then their destination came into view. Ahead was the imposing campus of the Hamburg University. A famed meat processing research institute, the Hamburg University had been founded on April 1, 919 as a practical joke by Doctors Stern, Sour and Grouch. Somehow, somewhere along the line it had gotten out of hand and actually became a real university, now with a student body of thirty-nine-thousand seven-hundred and five-and-two-thirds. The final third of a student was currently on lone to an Italian university for tests on breast cancer prevention. The two-thirds of the student still present in Germany were currently taking a break from dating to work on her thesis, so she had decided to do some good with the rest of herself.
Joe followed along at the back of the line of his traveling companions as they approached the front steps of the main university building. There was gathered a large crowd of local Germans, all wearing pointed hats, although their design varied greatly and most seemed to be homemade. Many in the crowd also wore more elaborate costumes: flowing capes printed with strings of text and numbers, long coats with strange symmetrical designs of circles and lines, and T-shirts printed with black and white images of very scholarly looking faces.
Slowly and with great reverence, the pointy hatted crowd filed into the university. Through another door they were then leaving after a short pause inside. Suddenly Joe realized what these pilgrims were doing. They were loyal believers in the scientists who had recently come under attack, and they were now flocking to the universities and research laboratories to show their support for the academics who were being accused of fraud. They were coming to the university to speak words of belief to the professors, and to in turn receive words of hope from them.
This was happening all over Rome, especially in the capital itself. There believers from all over Europe were gathering to visit the halls of the Imperial Cult, to see the words and remember the deeds of Rome’s greatest minds, the work of whom was now being challenged as the recent climate research was shown to be more false with each passing day.
At the steps of the Hamburg University, the tram operator and the other passengers merged with the crowd, shuffling slowly in line as they awaited their turn inside. Some chanted, others sang, and a few crawled along the ground on their hands and knees, uttering prayers to the scientists in whom they had instilled all hope of the future.
Suddenly a deep murmur went through the line of waiting pilgrims. In a widening ripple they collapsed to the ground as if shook by an earthquake. Stepping forward, Joe saw that they had fallen to hands and knees as they cleared the way for a professor leaving the university. He was a middle-aged man, likely not long in tenure. At first he was surprised by the gathering, but he quickly collected himself and began nodding gratefully to the pilgrims.
“Thank you all very much for coming all this way.”
A reverent cry sounded from the crowd as they raised their hands respectfully.
“All of us in the university understand how worried recent events have made you, so it pleases me greatly to see such a fantastic turnout today.”
The crowd gazed at him, seemingly awaiting something.
“I assure you that we are all continuing to work to keep Rome a free and healthy nation!”
Great cheering flowed over the steps as the pilgrims all leaped to their feet gleefully. Some of the bolder believers ran forward to bow and speak to the professor.
“You’ve taken a burden off my shoulders!”
“That’s what science is for, ma’am.”
“My family and I are so grateful for all the work you do. We don’t want you to lose hope.”
“Your faith gives us all hope and the drive to continue striving for a better future.”
“Professor! Please, if you can fix the world, I’ll give you my daughter’s hand in marriage!”
The scientist looked for a moment at the young woman who had been placed before him. “Well,” he said, “I’ll do what I can!” The girl squealed happily as she leaped into his arms.