The Six Sigma Saint

Nine hundred million Catholics — practically all of them — were kneeling in VR prayer next to the holographic avatar of Pope Thomas' miracle box.

(Even Cardinals, who had confessed to each other their doubts about His Holiness' state of mind, prayed with as much sincerity as they could manage. The Vatican's Office of Data Analysis had been clear: for too long there had been no miracles capable of renewing the Church's dwindling numbers, and without one it would keep falling behind competitors brasher, more nimble, and more suited to the moods of the times. And who said sanity was a requisite for sainthood?)

Hence the large box encrusted with two billion dollars of quantum engineering, the cyanide that would be released but for a billion-to-one chance, and the Physicist Pope that would, calmly, one assumed, await inside for God to cheat at His own game of dice.

"Creation is one, but every human choice spawns a world," Thomas said to attendants now past scandal as they helped him into his almost-certain tomb. "There will be a billion more after you close the lid, and one of those God will save through a six-sigma miracle."

"And the other worlds, Your Holiness?" asked the youngest technician, the truest believer of them all.

"Damned," said the Pope, with the cheerful precise enunciation of the solidly mad. "But my soul will be in the one where I survive."

Those were his last words before the box was closed.

The young technician tweaked a small part of the machine nobody was looking at, and the one-in-a-billion chance became none.

His faith strong, he knelt to pray for the box to open, the Pope alive.