The Jerusalem Enquirer has just learned that Augustus has recalled Quirinius to Rome for failing to arrest a group of shepherds who leaked eye-witness testimony about the alleged birth of a rival emperor in the small southern town Bethlehem. The Governor of Syria will face a charge of treason, and a Senate sub-committee has already been appointed to arrange a secret trial for Quirinius who, if convicted, will face the death sentence. The Vice Emperor has called the leaks “the work of a terrorist agricultural network, known as ‘El Seraphim’, that threatens to unravel the very fabric of the Pax Romana.” Another source close to the Emperor declared, “Crucifixion is too good for these traitors.” The shepherds are thought to have left their flocks by night and are now in hiding on a lonely mountain steep.
The Enquirer has also learned that Herod has sent secret agents to apprehend three Persian consuls, members of a secret astrological society, who have also publicly divulged first-hand information about the alleged birth of the Messiah after the Palace had warned them that, under the Prevention of Messianism Act, diplomatic immunity notwithstanding, they would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law were they not to report back solely to the King. It is thought that, when detained, the three informants will be taken to an unspecified location (probably the citadel of Machaerus) at which they will be subject to what a Palace spokesman called “intense interrogation”. When asked whether this procedure might include torture, the spokesman answered, “Your words, not mine,” adding: “we have ways to make heaven and nature sing.” There is, however, concern that the astrologers, who are said to be very smart, are carrying not only highly explosive balms but also large quantities of gold with which they will attempt to buy their way back to the East through underground contacts.
A joint statement by Rome and Jerusalem declares: “It is clear that the shepherds and astrologers are part of a global conspiracy to undermine imperial security and destabilise the international community. They hate our freedoms. No effort will be spared to bring the culprits to justice.”