This story was an entry into a short story competition but I was not successful so I am free to share it here. It is just over 7,000 words.
I feel that I should begin by introducing myself. I have a need to assert the very ordinary routine that is my life, and how I am just a citizen of Wexton that takes pride in my employment. My name is Scott E. Pinkerton. I am employed as a criminal investigator for Planet Wexton. This is not as grand as it sounds as there is only one inhabitable landmass on Wexton, roughly the size of what was known on Earth as Russia. I investigate crimes and am credentialed to work both Laical and Churchmen criminal cases, although I typically find myself working primarily on Laical crimes. This is part of the reason that I find this personal request for my services so extraordinary, that and the meeting being held at Churchmen Sanctuary.
On my arrival at the sanctuary, I walk up to the imposing wooden door and knock. It swings open to reveal a tall smartly dressed man.
“Hello! I am …”
I don’t even get the chance to state my name and business before being interrupted with a terse order.
I resist the urge to check if I am wearing a sign that says my name and why I am here. They must not get many visitors, which might explain the rudeness and assumption of who I am.
There is no conversation as I follow the man, despite my attempts to initiate one. We have been walking through corridors in a meandering manner reminiscent of a winding river bed with my only distraction being the sound of my trench coat dragging on the rough stone floor and frequently having to tug it free. I make yet another of my repeated mental notes to get the hem fixed.
I find it comforting to hear the familiar rattle made by the pens and spiral notepads stashed throughout its numerous pockets. I process thoughts more fully when applying pen to paper. So my trench coat is usually full of the implements I require for my investigatory thought processes. I may be old fashioned in some of my investigative approaches but I still get results.
I did have one other distraction. I was worrying about whether my fedora might be brushed from my head because the archways that I have already walked through were not as high as my imagination led me to believe. I am rarely found without my fedora as it serves to disguise the pattern baldness plaguing the top of my head. However, I usually take it off on entering a building but there was nowhere to put it in the Sanctuary and I was reluctant to set it down and potentially lose it.
I realise that overall I am feeling even more of a traditionalist than normal because the Churchmen hallways are adorned with the accoutrements of modernity that they favour. My growing discomfort is not being eased by the silence. I find myself being intimidated by the man in front of me, not least because he is wearing clothing that I recognise to be far more expensive than those I am wearing or own. His long coat does not catch on the rough stone floor but I can see him wince each time mine does.
I have given up on attempting to memorise the route and begin wondering if the point of this long walk is to further disconcert me. I find my mind wandering back to this morning when my supervisor Ivan Scott informed me of the request from Morta Wexton to attend this meeting. From my research I am aware that Morta is the daughter of THE Adam Wexton, the originator of the Churchmen and who remains as its paternal leader to this day. He is the central figure of many a Laical folk tale about the Churchmen and for many Laical children he is the bogeyman we are told we should avoid by behaving ourselves.
I bring my thoughts back to Morta’s request. It stated that “a dastardly, immoral crime” had been committed. A crime that I was being requested to investigate, despite there being a number of my Churchmen colleagues available who would be more culturally aware. I found myself to be equal parts terrified of what I might find and in that finding what I might lose. But I am also curious and the combination is not a bad emotional mix from which to begin an investigation.
As I approach the heavy door that Anonymous has knocked on, behind which I assume is Morta, I realise that I am nervous. To calm myself, I repeatedly remind myself that I routinely walk through doorways without giving them any thought. But I cannot avoid the awareness that this door is special because no other Laical has ever walked through it. Or at least no Laical in doing so had afterward had the capacity to share the fact that they had been there. I swallow hard and really hope this is not to be the cost of my curiosity.
The room that I am poised outside of is one that I have only dreamed about, part of the inner Sanctum itself. It is a room from the fairy tales of my childhood. It is half magical in that I have often dreamt about the mysterious riches that could be contained within but it is also half horror because when I was a naughty child, the threat of being sent to this room was the ultimate restraint on my behaviour.
I wish I could record what I was seeing so that I could replay it later and really take in more than I will be able to in this moment with the unique pressures of this meeting. I ache to share my experiences with other Laical’s but I know that to do so could mean my certain death and theirs. My compromise is to dredge my memories of what I imagined this room to look like and then mentally place those images beside what I am seeing. After which, I … plan … to … just … breathe … it … all … in.
To those observing I must look awkward, just standing still at the egress of a room. I hope I still look professional and not like the scared little boy that I feel like. To distract myself, I wonder who is waiting in the room and what they are thinking. I have been formally announced, so those inside know that I am here.
I wonder if they are expecting me to genuflect as a sign of the appropriate amount of awe for their position on Wexton in relation to my own. Or will they expect me to just accept what they tell me without question? I worry that I am considering seeking their permission in order to investigate a crime. It is as if in crossing this threshold, I somehow surrender all my professional and personal autonomy. Can I even do my job feeling like this?
I have procrastinated enough! It is time for me to man up and enter the room. As I do so, my eyes roam restlessly from object to object. They stop on the figure of a frail sombrely dressed young woman that I assume to be Morta. Her appearance is unfamiliar to me despite my prior research where I focussed on images and interviews about, and by, Morta or her influential family. Sitting on the settee beside her is an older man who is visibly supporting her with his arm around her shaking shoulders.
I once more look for a hat stand to place my fedora upon and suddenly remember that the Churchmen do not wear hats. Neither person has stood at my entrance or offers me their names, so I take a seat opposite them in a chair that seems out of place in this room. As I sit, I hold grimly onto my fedora, like it is my lifeline and I try to settle my thoughts. My first impression is that of shock at the appearance of the couple. They do not look like I expected the members of the powerful Wexton family, leaders in the Churchmen society, in their place of power, to look like.
The air in the room has a palpable feeling of despair and I find it disconcerting. I had expected to feel inferior in their presence and yet I did not. They looked like any other victim of crime that I had worked with. Their life dulled in the aftermath of violence that is etched onto their strained and pale faces. Like any other victim they are looking to me to get justice or a return of what they had lost.
With a longer glance I see something discordant in the facial expression of Adam but it is too fleeting to label. Something about Adam sets my nerves on edge. However, this fleeting and unconscious assessment of the couple strengthens my professional persona. I pull out a note pad and pen and prepare to focus on the story they have to tell.
The woman speaks first, in a quiet tone with an undercurrent of grief present.
“I am Morta Wexton. All I can remember from last night is waking to a dull ache in my chest that radiated down my left arm. I felt hot and clammy and struggled to catch a full breath. I don’t remember anything else until this morning when I woke to find that I had been transitioned. This was not my choice. I want you to solve this crime and identify those who need to be held accountable for it.”
She stops speaking as a sob erupts from her throat. As the silence, interrupted only by her sobbing, continues I realise that this short explanation answers my basic questions. Prior to last night, Morta had been first generation and had the appearance I found in the media coverage. In order for her to be transitioned into her second generation require knowledge and skill in the ritual of transition. A ritual only known by the Churchmen,
This meant that the crime had to have been committed by one or more Churchmen. Knowing that, Morta knew her chances of getting justice if investigated by a Churchman was marginal. With a penalty of final death, which innocent or not included Morta, few Churchmen would want the responsibility that initiated this punishment.
Recently Morta had been vocal in her demand to be allowed the right to refuse transition. She had flirted with reprisal for risking the publicising of Churchmen secrets. What she agitated for, the right to final death, is what the Laical consider to be a curse. Laical live for one generation, their body is buried on the death of their mind soul. However, what we call the body and consider an essential part of our identity, the Churchmen refer to as a vessel. To them the vessel is simply the container for mind souls, its value lies in its genetic ability to enable a mind soul exchange.
Normally Churchmen will not deny or supply information, they just carry on as if the Laical were not worthy of that knowledge. I expected this would continue even in this instance when I had been asked to investigate and access to that information might help me solve this crime. For Morta to openly oppose Churchmen law in such a public manner meant that she was either extremely determined or that she felt safe in her position as a Wexton. The difference between Laical and Churchmen life spans is an ongoing oft silent, under – current of contention between the two cultures. One that rises to prominence at each burial of a Laical not granted transition simply by virtue of their genetic line.
I find myself listening to this heart wrenching story from Morta like an audience member observing a play. I am engaged in what I am hearing and observing but it doesn’t really affect me. I never experience this type of emotional distance at a Laical murder scene because those dead remind me of my own mortality. I feel no familiarity or compassion to what Morta says she is experiencing. I realise that I had thought Morta’s desire to give up transition as insane and in some ways lacking gratitude for what her genetic makeup granted her. I realise that I am not devoid of bias but as an investigator I should be.
I force my attention back to what Morta is saying and try hard not to judge her from my bias.
“Far worse than just the crimes committed against me, is that the vessel was my cousin Ruth’s. She shared my views on compulsory transition. She would not have willingly done this. Not to me.”
I am stunned. The act of forcing a transition on any party is so foreign that the consequences for mind soul Ruth are yet to be fully realised. If I have any empathy it is for mind soul Ruth who potentially might be dead in a Laical sense. In contrast it is hard for me to understand Morta’s pain, since she is in front of me telling me about it.
“I have instigated emergency protocols to enable a vessel to be ready should mind soul Ruth be able to transition”
It is the first time I have heard Adam speak and he bites of the ends of words as if having to use them at all is an inconvenience. I find Adam interesting or is he a study of contrasts? While I easily believe Morta’s emotion to be genuine, there is something in Adam’s presentation that jars. It is like he is an actor playing a role in a play, to an audience of one, that being me. I feel that he is acting how he feels shows that he is distressed, rather than being genuinely affected. Being generous I wonder if it is simply the affectation of a mind soul as old as Adam is.
“There is limited time for mind soul Ruth to enter this vessel.”
Morta shrieks denial at Adam’s blunt statement and begins to weep inconsolably. I watch Adam and while he appears to comfort Morta, he just seems to do so for my gratification. Although Adam did not say it, it was clear that he thought that this lack of mind soul Ruth’s utilisation of the provided vessel boded ill for her survival. I was not given the time frame but I sensed that it was days rather than weeks.
“What precisely are the crimes I am being asked to investigate?
I look to Adam to clarify this. In Morta’s distressed mind everything connected to this transition was a crime in one form or another. And yet to me, a Laical, they were not in the strictest sense. Not illegal according to the law that I routinely operated under. Laical had no transition; therefore they did not require a law for managing it.
“Is it attempted murder of mind soul Ruth or is it is theft of vessel?”
I cannot simply lodge a missing person alert as a disconnected mind soul is invisible to those I would be alerting.
“Was Morta kidnapped and her mind soul forced to remain alive against her will? I need to see the crime scene or scenes and have access to those Churchmen with the skill to perform transition”
Finally I get an authentic response from Adam.
“No you will not. The ritual rooms are off limits to Laical. You would not understand what you saw anyway. I have questioned the ritualists and all have alibis. You have enough. Leave and investigate, Morta requires rest”
I still had questions but no one to ask of them, as Morta and Adam exited on the echo his final word.
I feel stone walled. There is no physical evidence to assist me, no crime scene to examine. I do not have to worry about countering criminal counter measures because Adam is already ably doing that job for the perpetrator.
For the time being all I can do is follow the still anonymous man back to my car and start to work with what little information I have. I let my mind wander as I switch my car out of auto motoring to manual control and head back to my office. The mechanics of driving relaxes my mind after the tensions of the meeting. I can’t get the echoes of Morta’s sobs out of my mind or the discordant aftertaste of Adam’s feigned despair.
I hang up my fedora, cross to my office chair and recline back into it with my feet resting atop my old scarred desk. This desk always grounds me because where my feet now rest previous generations had likewise placed their feet. It is the only form of immortality available to a Laical. I use this ritual to put myself in thinking mode before I set up my crime board. I love the computer with its instant access information but I think better in the physical presence of the crime, even if that presence is simply photographs and snippets from my notes. To solve this crime I would take whatever I could that helped me stop being an interested audience member and assisted me to be a fully engaged investigator.
I begin by tacking up my photos of Morta and Ruth but rather than following my normal practice of labelling them as perpetrator or victim, I simply write their names. I place the updated image of Morta post transition in the middle of the first two because that vessel had contained both mind souls and current ownership rights were somewhat blurry.
I try to imagine being a mind soul and walking around in the skin of someone else. Could it be likened to a snake shedding an old skin for a flash new one? How odd it must feel to speak and move as I usually did but the image staring back at me in the mirror is a stranger or a cousin. I just can’t get my head around it. My imagination is just not that good.
My investigatory process has always been to work backwards from the crime in order to determine the motive or motives that may have led to it. Those motives then direct me to create a list of the potential perpetrators. I create a detailed mental plan from my notes, interviews and scene photographs which I then log into the Scenario Computer so that I can watch each version of the crime play out. From each scenario I generate new questions that might narrow down which best represents the actual crime. I realise that to solve this crime I would be working more from virtual scenarios than from any access to the actual crime scene or potential witnesses that could equally be perpetrators.
There are definitely at least two crimes but they were so entwined that solving one should solve the other. I labelled what happened to Morta as a form of kidnapping and to Ruth the same with the potential to develop into a murder charge. I noted down a question about whether Morta could have chosen in the detached mind soul state not to enter the vessel and what might be the consequences of that.
Morta’s public campaign to assert the right to choose for or against transition appeared to support that there was little individual choice for a Churchman. However, it equally indicated that a choice might be possible but was currently against Churchman law or was it Adam’s inviolate decree? If making a choice was possible and Morta chose to complete the transition, did she have knowledge in that state about who previously owned the vessel? Was Morta a party to the crime against mind soul Ruth?
If I consider Morta a kidnap victim who stood to gain by her being forced into transition? Adam is my obvious first choice. That choice is not exactly logical since it is based on my uneasy feelings but I just cannot ignore them. It is the persistent feeling that Adam is putting on a show. The rationale for his guilt could be that Adam could not bear to lose his daughter. However, with the number of generations Adam has lived he has got many daughters, weakening the likelihood of this being his motive. I am more biased toward the idea that he is outraged that a daughter of his would publically oppose him.
Could Adam’s motive really be that simple? Was all this his response to a perceived familial betrayal that might threaten his power base, if not his ego? I was unsure of why mind soul Ruth’s vessel was chosen. That was until I found media coverage that indicated that she had been actively supporting Morta. Was the motive for this crime a second version of perceived familial betrayal?
I did have to consider that Adam seemed to be supporting Morta to report what happened. This could be seen as an act that might contravene the very laws that Adam had originally formulated. I had always thought that laws were solid concrete but it seemed those connected to this case were a lot more porous. I had so many unanswered questions. Including whether Adam could be that manipulative? Or was he being smart in inserting himself into the investigation so that he could monitor my progress. That monitoring also gave him the opportunity to further hinder my investigation.
I was disconcerted at the thought that a father could really force his daughter to undergo something she so vehemently opposed. Could he actually have sacrificed his niece in this way and if he did, how did he reconcile his conscience to see her vessel every day knowing that he had murdered her mind soul?
Did a man this many generations on even still possess a conscience or had it withered to naught over time? I knew that Adam had numerous daughters and nieces who never caused him any problems. Maybe it all added up to his being prepared to sacrifice a few in order to perpetuate his power base and possibly demonstrate the flexing of his authority in a way that should stifle any further opposition.
The single worst realisation I had was that there were hundreds of potential perpetrators. I would be able to reduce the number of suspects if I was satisfied that those Churchmen capable of performing the ritual had been cleared through Adam’s alibi checks. But I was not satisfied and these nameless Churchmen remained on my suspect list.
I had no current plan on how to access or assess this suspect pool. But I shouldn’t have worried since Adam seemed to already be steps ahead of me. The buzz of my fax machine alerted me to the arrival of a list of further restrictions. I was now being excluded from any further interviews with any Churchmen, including Morta. Any questions I had were to be directed in writing to Adam and it was at his discretion if the people I wished to question were even informed of my intention, let alone given the opportunity to answer my questions.
I heard a sharp crack and realised that I had snapped my pen in my growing frustration with the mounting restrictions as to how I might be allowed to pursue my investigation. I was beginning to question why Adam didn’t just carry out the investigation himself and decided to put that very question to him, face to face, making an appointment for the following afternoon.
Putting my frustration to one side, I was worried that my preoccupation with Morta and Adam meant that I was not giving mind soul Ruth the attention that she deserved as a victim of such a heinous crime. Her position was the least powerful because she had no body or voice that would keep her story to the fore. I did keep checking my phone in the somewhat vain hopes of receiving a text or phone call that alerted me to her utilisation of the prepared vessel. A sudden thought struck me. I only had Adam’s word that he even had a vessel prepped.
Mind soul Ruth publically agreed with Morta so I could not see her assisting in forcing Morta to transition. I could conceive of Ruth reacting selflessly to Morta’s sudden death, offering her vessel when habit or tradition won over her controversial point of view. Mind soul Ruth’s potential rationale for doing this could be that she was promised her own transition or perhaps she had desired final death and took this opportunity to achieve it.
As I leave my office for the day, I hope the act of closing my door meant I left the investigation there until the next morning. But it was not to be as I had a restless night of endless questions and frustrated silences in response. I feel somewhat sluggish as I return to the Sanctum, tiredness and frustration heavy on my mind.
Once again my trench coat’s faulty hem causes problems on the rough stone floors, Anonymous sighs and I mentally note to take it to be repaired. This time as we walk I do not attempt to make conversation; instead I consider all the questions that I generated from yesterday. I have to be realistic. In this situation some questions I might never get the answer to. Other questions I might not want the answer to and some I needed to know if I was to solve these crimes.
I am back at the same closed door but the sense of awe of yesterday has gone. Now I have a notebook of questions, a mental filing cabinet of motives and perpetrators and I need to start digging in. The hard part might be to keep the dirt my digging was dislodging from burying me.
Today I am able to observe more about the room than yesterday. It has rich fabrics adorning the walls, floors and furnishings but there was nothing in this room that might not be in any Laical home. The chair that I sat in yesterday is no – where in sight reinforcing my belief that it had been placed there for my use. Apparently, today I was to remain standing, while Adam was seated on the same settee he shared with Morta yesterday.
I am able to assess Adam more closely now that my focus is not divided. He is a tall man with no obvious fat, his eyes are sharp and he holds eye contact with ease. I no longer felt like a Laical outsider standing on my tiptoes peering through the window and hoping I wasn’t going to get caught. I was an investigator, token or not, I was going to investigate.
With this new found purpose I started my cross examination of Adam. I was looking for more detail, differences from the previous morning’s version and a greater understanding of my perpetrator pool. I am not sure that Adam realised I suspected him.
“Do you know what time the transition was?”
“Who might have been awake and seen something”
“No one has come forward”
“How long before mind soul Ruth can be declared dead?”
“If she is to be declared dead who has the authority to do that?”
Adam appeared open in sharing information but only in a general manner, skirting any great detail about the transition or other equally relevant information to my investigation.
“I want a list of those capable of performing transition and their whereabouts at the alleged time of transition, as well as an interview schedule for me to meet with them”
For the second time it seemed my questions had provoked a real reaction from Adam.
“NO. You have all you need. All you could comprehend. Do your job!”
I needed a moment to consider this.
“You need to find another investigator. I cannot and will not work like this.”
And then I left. I choose to stride from the room as if I knew where the exit was and just keep going.
I would guess that Adam had never had anyone walk out on him before because I was almost back to my car before he came striding after me. Or it could be how often I had to change direction before I finally made it to the exit that gave him the time to think. I could feel my phone vibrating in my pocket and guessed that some of the time I spent walking away; Adam had spent alerting my superiors to my behaviour.
I ignored the phone and turned to respond to Adam’s repeated calling of my name. He was obviously angry but then so was I.
“How can you call yourself an investigator? You find it that easy to abandon Morta and Ruth? You are a party to their not getting justice!”
Adam’s derisive tone taunted me. I tersely and instantly lob back at him.
“The possibility of my finding justice with all the restrictions that YOU have put upon my investigation is miniscule. Why don’t you do it yourself? Or is that an oxymoron with you being the investigator AND the perpetrator?
There was stunned silence as Adam appeared to process what I had just said. I observe fleeting expressions crossing his face, including shock, anger and then resignation.
“So you know or think you know I did it? Well why shouldn’t I? How dare they question me? I gave them their life and I can sure as hell take it back! They are ungrateful children!”
Adam’s righteous anger is the first emotion that he has shown that I actually believe to be real. I am also familiar with what Adam is compelled to do. He wants me to know he committed these crimes because he believes he controls the sharing and that he faces no consequences in doing so. But Adam underestimated me or possibly overestimated my acceptance of his “show”. He had failed to notice when I slipped my hand into my coat and switched on my voice recorder.
“I can offer you the one thing your miserable life lacks – transition! Laical are so stupid to accept that they were not eligible based on genetic incompatibility. They are not eligible because I said so!”
My only thought is that this man is a monster.
“All you have to do is stop the incessant questions about things you could not possibly understand. Officially close the case with a finding of guilt for mind soul Ruth. Then sit back and enjoy your eternal life! I am sure there will be other ways that we can be of assistance to one another”
It is all very tidy since Adam confesses that she was dead the moment she was evicted from her vessel. There need not be any public arrests or discussion because she had already paid the ultimate price. Did he realise that his last sentence felt like I would be entering into servitude with him and not just for one generation?!
Adam appeared to have no emotion beyond anger at mind soul Ruth’s duplicity in publically agreeing with Morta. There is no remorse or fear or any other emotion that I would expect a person confessing to a capital crime to demonstrate. Maybe this was finally the real Adam. I didn’t like this one any more than the previous versions.
“I need to think about this. I never thought the gift of transition would be possible for me. Give me till tomorrow and I will have your answer. If you are thinking of ‘offing’ me, don’t. I have copies of all my work to date, held in a secure place, including the scenario that summarises my assumption of your guilt. They would become public knowledge whether I am alive to release them or not. It might not prove your guilt but it would leave niggling doubts that you don’t want to answer!”
It was so hard to restrain my anger to convince Adam that I am considering his offer. He seems to readily accept that I am as devoid of conscience and morality as he himself is. As I walk to my car, my back itching as if he had already lodged a knife there, I swallow the vomit that this discussion, this man and his skin of evil has caused.
This time I leave my car in auto motoring, I resist the urge to run him down and shut my eyes. I replay the recording of what Adam had said and consider my options. I know that I lack the normal evidential proof of his guilt in order to obtain a conviction. I also only have his word that mind soul Ruth is dead and I do not want my actions to further risk her if that is not true. I try to think past the numbing knowledge that Laical might well be able to transition and might well always have been.
I am still considering my options when I pull up to my office building. I just sit in my car and continue to think. In my heart I have always considered the foundation of my professional effectiveness to be the trust I held for my superiors, both Laical and Churchmen. The Churchmen did not have to work. I had come to respect them for doing so rather than simply lolling about in their superiority as so many of the Churchmen did. With that reminder, my decision is made.
I do not ask for a meeting as is protocol I simply walk into the conference room and wait for the attention of my gathered superiors to centre on me. I realise that they had been discussing my recent actions after being alerted by Adam. I choose not to speak and simply push play on my recorder and wait for the response. Let Adam’s own words condemn him!
“So you know or think you know I did it? Well why shouldn’t I? …”
In the sudden silence I am not sure which side is more stunned; the Laical or the Churchmen but they are definitely stunned.
Over the next few hours there is heated discussion and I am all but forgotten. I find myself slouching into the wall more and more as time passes unable to bring myself to leave. The arguing gets louder with the arrival of the Government men. I find myself just observing how the powers– that–be shuffle justice and human rights as if they are just chess pieces that need to be played at just the right time, for the greatest negotiating power. When did we become so distanced from the fact that each of those chess pieces represented actual human lives that we could turn it all into a game of one up man ship? In this moment, were we any better than Adam in how we were behaving?
When the room falls silent and I am once again the centre of attention I find that my anger is still present and for the first time in my career I refuse to simply accept an order from my superiors.
“I AM NOT A CHESS PIECE FOR YOU TO MOVE AT YOUR WILL!”
I know that makes no sense to them as they are not privy to my thinking but it is the first thing that comes out of my mouth.
This time I have to know justice is served for Morta and Ruth but even more compelling for me is that there is justice for the Laical.
I am angry that when my ancestors came to Wexton they allowed the old power structures that existed on earth prior to the human exodus to simply continue on Wexton. According to the history books Adam had been wealthy on earth and he was used to power, I assume he chose a third choice planet like Wexton because he could more easily reinstate his power than if he had bought a place on a first or second choice planet. Each succeeding Laical generation had simply accepted that they would die while the Churchmen continued to live.
I know that there were offences committed against the Churchmen as well because if Morta had been right, Adam was forcing them to continue to live when some might have preferred final death. The opportunity for a meaningful relationship between the two cultures had been irrevocably damaged. The perpetrator for all of this was Adam Wexton and the motive appeared to simply be his need to be the most powerful being on Wexton and the one who wielded the control of who lived or died.
I think I straightened to concede to the plan of my superiors and Government but found I just couldn’t.
“This is wrong. We are no better than Adam if we in anyway accept what he did. He is guilty. The guilty are punished. It is that simple! If you won’t hold him accountable, if you consider all the lives that he has cost acceptable losses then I will see what the public think!”
At the end of my rant I am yelling and I just walk out to the background noises of many protestations and threats if I go to the media.
I am becoming more comfortable with exiting unconscionable meetings whose outcomes simply transgressed my basic ethics. I head to my office, slam the door, throw my fedora at the coat rack and sit putting my feet onto the desk in the hopes that it would soothe me. But this time it doesn’t. It can’t because those previous generations are dead and need not have been. Adam Wexton had to pay for some of it and not just slide because of the power and knowledge that he wielded. He was guilty. There should be no differentiation of guilt based on accumulated wealth, be that monetary or knowledge based.
My immediate superior Ivan enters my office.
“You are both wrong and right. We cannot change what was done but we can change what happens next. There can be no healing if Adam Wexton is a party to it”
I can now listen to what is proposed because I know that Ivan shares the same worldview as I do. Adam is to be punished but it will be at his own hand, as he has 14 days to organise his affairs and seek final death. In what seems contrary to his actions so far Adam negotiated sole punishment for himself in order to save those undisclosed but involved Churchmen.
The Churchmen are to begin genetic testing of Laical who want to consider transition on their death. In the two weeks after this surreal two days many other things change although what is publically known and secretly negotiated remains unclear. I guess transparency is still a long way off but the degree of separation between Laical and Churchmen is decreasing.
I have one more conversation with Morta, when she comes to my office. Her words tumble out in a stream of information. It is as if she has been saving them and wants to make sure they are not stopped mid flow.
“Hello Scott. I wanted to come and thank you for what you did. It sounds odd since your actions ignited the wick that will extinguish my father’s life. But he is so distant and I am not sure he even realised what a father could really be, both to me and to his people.”
She takes a breath, and then quickly continues.
“I never really wanted final death. I just wanted a voice in the conversation about transition, an end to compulsory acceptance and blow the consequences. I am going to use my second generation to open a universal vessel donor bank to serve all the people of Wexton. I think it would help not to have to transition into a family member and all the guilt that it brings with it. Well at least I feel guilt. It will be named after Ruth. She has been officially declared dead, did they tell you?”
There is no space in her words in order for me to reply so I just nod yes and that seems to satisfy her. Shortly after she leaves and I return to my thoughts about what I needed to be satisfied.
I finally decide that I want to talk with Adam. To try and understand why he did what he did. To ask him why he involved me and thought I could be bribed into silence?
On the penultimate day before his final death I meet with Adam at the Sanctum. He appears to be just as arrogant and self–assured as previously. We sit facing each other and the silence is only broken when I speak.
“Why did you involve me?”
It is not the question I thought to ask first.
“Is that your only question? For if it is, you continue to disappoint me and this is a waste of my precious time.”
His tone, as much as what he just said, grates across my nerves.
“It is the one only you can answer”
I realise I will never understand why he did it, even if he explains it fully.
“Fine! On paper you seemed to be ideal, too stupid to utilise much of the available technology at your disposal. Pen and paper!! Who still uses pen and paper? You had credibility in your solved cases but I believe that you had help in order to make those arrests. But it was enough to appease that snivelling Morta and stop her threat of prattling to the media. There! That is your answer. Does it satisfy you?”
I ask myself, how can a man so close to final death remain so arrogant? But yes! I think I am satisfied. It is no small thing to know that I made him angry the day before his final death.