Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Honest Work 1



The Terran space station Norrin Radd at Lagrange point 5 behind the dwarf planet Ceres was a way station to the rest of the System G2-10+Roman and beyond.  With nearly one hundred thousand residents and another one hundred thousand military and scientific personnel on board, the Norrin Radd was the biggest, busiest space station in the System.  Three levels turning like bicycle wheels around a quarter mile-wide spoke, generating enough gravity to walk in.  The permanent residents in the middle wheel adapted quickly and it was easy to tell who was a tourist and who wasn’t.
"I saw something," Diana Welles said.  The conference room she was in was comfortably large by station standards, with six seats at the table.
"And what did you see?"  The Inquisitor sat across the conference table from her and her Attorney.  The judge sat at the head of the table and a court reporter was taking notes on a tablet computer in the corner.
"It was an --- an apparition.  Vaguely humanoid in shape, made of smoke or steam," Diana said, her Witness robes seeming heavy on her shoulders.  "It wasn't a foglet."
"Foglet?"  Andreasson arched an eyebrow.  "A cloud person made of nanomachines?"
"Right.  It wasn't one of those."
"You know that foglets are illegal in this system don't you?"
"Let's not be accusatory, Inquisitor Andreasson," the Judge said.  “We’re merely checking the veracity of her report.”
"Yes, Your Honor," Andreasson said.  "Have you seen a foglet person on the Station before?"
"Not in person," Diana said.  "I have Witnessed a contract that involved a foglet and a Felinis over a video feed."
"Judge Bean," Diana's Attorney said.  "Is this line of questioning necessary?  My client is following up on her report to the System Witness Authority and is not under arrest."
"But I ---"  Her Attorney put a hand on her forearm and gave her the agreed-upon look that said Don't answer that.
Philippa Bean tapped on her own tablet and looked over the top of her glasses.  "Attorney Daggett has a point, Inquisitor.  Is this going somewhere?"
"Yes, Your Honor.  The Witness has reliably reported seeing something like this before."  The Inquisitor tapped twice on his screen, nodded and tapped again.  "I just sent you the file."
"Ah," the Judge said, looking down at her screen.  "I see why you're asking, but let's move it along.  Witness Welles is not under investigation for illegal activity.  Admitting the first report."
"Yes, Your Honor.  Witness Welles," Inquisitor Andreasson said, "What was the 'apparition' you saw in the Ellison Corridor?"
"That was more than ten years ago."  Diana was taken aback.  She moved her eyes from Andreasson's face and frowned slightly.  "That apparition was not a foglet person, either."
"How do you know?"
"Because the person - excuse me - people I spoke with on the Bradbury Common were the same ones I met in the Ellison Corridor."
Attorney Daggett tapped three times on his tablet's screen then put a hand on Diana's forearm.
"I've sent you a copy of her report, too, Your Honor, and one to Inquisitor Andreasson," he said.
"Admitting," the Judge said.  She nodded at Diana.
"In my report from the Bradbury I said as much, Inquisitor," Diana said.  "I said that there were three distinctly different voices and faces, though they were shadowy and only gave me a sense of physicality rather than showing any detail."
"How long have you been in the civil service as a full-time Witness?"  Andreasson didn't look up from his screen.
"Ten years, six months and seventeen days, Earth Standard."  Diana leaned forward across the table.  "I understand you have to do all this Inquisitor, but there's a real danger approaching and it's coming fast.  Can we get to that part?"
"Relax," Judge Bean said. "The System Marines are monitoring this session and acting to avert the danger should we determine what you say is true."
"How can you prepare for something that we didn't even know existed?" Diana was a little shrill and she backed off.  "I'm sorry," she said dropping her eyes to the table and bristling under her robes.
"May we continue?"  Andreasson was nonplussed, patient and aloof.
"Yes," Diana said.
"How many cases have you handled in that time as a Witness?"
"I've logged over twenty-five thousand Station hours as a Witness."
"You were born and raised on the Norrin Radd?"
"Yes," Diana said.  "My parents were among the second wave of residential tenants thirty-two years ago.  Their lives are matters of record."
"Yes," Andreasson said.  "They are both deceased?"
Diana nodded.
"Your father ---" Andreasson swiped his fingertips over the tablet’s screen several times, searching each file as it flew past.
"He suicided," Diana said.  "At the meeting where his marriage to my mother was to be dissolved, he used a radium gun."
Andreasson, Daggett and Judge Bean nodded in sympathy.
"You were the Witness of record for that meeting?"
Diana gritted her teeth behind terse lips and nodded again.  "Yes," she said in a barely audible voice.
"Do you know why he did that?"  Andreasson's voice was cool.
"There was a note that was discovered later on," Diana said.  She swallowed.  "It said that his marriage deteriorated due to his not believing my report from the Ellison Corridor."
"You were estranged from him then, when that meeting took place on sixteen October?"  Andreasson cocked his head.
"Yes," Diana said.  "There were no ill feelings, though.  There were no feelings at all. I loved him because he was my father and he raised me, but that was all."  She shifted in her chair and she looked at Attorney Daggett.  He indicated with his eyes that she should continue.  Diana took a deep breath.
"I had no idea that I was going to be the Witness to the dissolution of my parents' marriage contract," she said.  "He paid the scheduler to make sure my name came up and keep the names off the appointment."
"Is that unusual?"
"Not knowing the names isn't," Diana said.  "But making sure that I was the one who got the assignment was.  That person who scheduled was terminated when the Guild Master found out what had happened."
"Your Honor," Daggett said.  "I don't understand why this line of questioning is important.  All this is in my client's file that is accessible through the System Witness Authority."
"Noted," Judge Bean said.  "Time to move along, Inquisitor."
"Very well.  Witness, what did the foglet person say to you in the Ellison Corridor?"
Diana glared at Andreasson.  "It wasn't a foglet, I told you."  She appealed to Judge Bean.
"A slip of the tongue," the Inquisitor said.  "What did the entity you encountered in the Eee See say to you?"
"That I should report accurately what I'd seen and experienced.  That there was a great danger coming and that everyone should prepare for it." 
"What sort of danger?"
"An entity they called Brahmen was making its way to our Universe, bent on wreaking havoc," Diana said. "This being is supernatural, akin to the old concept of a god."
"We have the affidavit of reliability, Your Honor," Attorney Daggett said tapping at his Tablet computer.  "I've sent it to you and the Inquisitor."
"Admitted," Judge Bean said.
"I continue to object to the document, Your Honor." Andreasson's voice was cool though Diana heard a familiar edge to it.  “As well as the continued assertion in something supernatural having happened.  It has been well proven by eminent scientists that there are no such things as spirits and apparitions.  She must have seen an illegal foglet person in the Corridor.”
"Noted and overruled, Inquisitor," the judge said.  "Continue."
Andreasson sighed through gritted teeth, almost growling.  He swiped viciously at his tablet’s screen and scowled.  "The controversy over the nature of your report and your age at the time overshadowed the actual message of the --- what did you call it?  The being that communicated to you?"
"A spirit," Diana said.
"Why did you call it that?"
"That's what the figures in the cloud called themselves; spirits of others in the form of this cloud of steam or smoke," Diana said.  "I was never able to determine which it was."
"How long, then, did you speak with the entity?"
"My best guess was less than five minutes," Diana said.  "A good portion of that time was spent with me disbelieving what my eyes saw and the spirits trying to convince me that they were real."
"Were you able to convince anyone of their - 'essential message' at the time?"
Diana nodded.  "No."
"So what is different this time?"
"The entity I met in the Bradbury Common was much more specific," Diana said.
"In what way?"
She looked at her Attorney, then over at the Judge.  "Answer the question," Judge Bean said.
"There is a group on board the station that is bent on destabilizing the governing body here," Diana said.  "They will do this with bombs, gas attacks and riots in key areas."
A chime sounded through the room.  Everyone looked up to a speaker in the center of the ceiling.  "Attention, Attention," the female voice said.  "An emergency has been reported.  Mandatory evacuation is ordered.  Please move to your designated lifeboats.  Attention, Attention."  The chimes sounded again and the message repeated. 
Another chime sounded, this time a message for the judge herself.  She touched her jaw just below her left ear and then covered that ear with her hand.  She said, "Hello, Phillippa Bean," and listened to the call that came to her 'tooth.  She nodded several times, said, "I understand.  Thanks."
Daggett, Diana and Andreasson watched as she turned to the court reporter and said, "Pack up and get to the ark, Jane.  No kidding."  The reporter's eyes went saucer-wide.  "Go on," the judge said.  "Take everything."  She turned back to the conference table.
"There's been an explosion in Harrison-Fiddler," the judge said.  "There are military personnel on their way to escort Witness Welles to a safe location.  We are under attack gentlemen.  Follow your professional protocols and good luck."

Thanks for reading Honest Work. Come back next Wednesday Click here for Part Two, won't you?  And tell your friends!

©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 

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Donna Carrick said...

Great cliffhanger, Jason! I'll be back...

Jason Arnett said...

Thanks, Donna. Glad you liked it.