up in the car-park underneath the Palace of the Inquisition.
“Here we are,” said as I
turned off the motor and began opening the door, but, before I had got
more than half way out, Roquana was at my side, ready to take my arm
and help me in case I fell.
“Thank you, my dear,” I
quavered, still in character.
“Thank you for bringing us
through,” she said. “Are you going to take us to see
I took off my snow-white wig, straightened
my spine, squared my shoulders and let my face relax out of the
anxious, puzzled look I had assumed, adding as I did so two or three
inches to my height and taking a couple of decades off my age.
“I am your Voice,” I
said. “I have been with you since just before Gulls and
Madame LaTower came to your mother’s house. My name is
Tadler, Sulamun Tadler. I’m an Inquisitor.”
Roquana gasped and clutched Tommuz’s
hand for support.
“An Inquisitor? Then this must
be the Palace of the …?”
“The Palace of the Holy
Inquisition,” I said. “Don’t be afraid, my
dear. As I said, I have been with you through all your
adventures. It was I who advised you to resist Lord Savark, to
walk in the water, not to resist the Tohu. I have seen all the
wickedness you have seen, and I have heard how the Sunday Development
Corporation has mistreated the original inhabitants of this world,
which I assure you, was completely unknown to the Inquisition. I
have brought you here for one reason and one reason only: so that you
can meet the President and tell your story to her – but first of
all, I think you both need some food. You’ll feel much
better after we have had lunch, and there are in this quarter of the
city a number of very nice restaurants.”
They both did feel much better after good
lunch, and we set off for the presidential palace in good spirits.
Her Excellency the President of Sunday was
an exceptionally tall, one might say, statuesque lady, a former
entertainer, whose appearances in any theatre or on any screen would
guarantee a large and enthusiastic audience.
“Gosh!” she said as we
entered, “I’ve never actually met an Inquisitor
before. They say you chaps can read everybody’s minds, so
what happens now? Do you take down my particulars?”
At this point she gave a wild snort and
smacked her left hand with her right.
“Naughty girl,” she
said. “Mustn’t make silly jokes. I’m
sorry, Doctor Tadler, but you can see how nervous I am. How can I
“Madame President,” I said,
“first let me assure you that I can’t read people’s
minds. That’s not how the Inquisition works. What I
have come here for is to introduce to you two young people who have
been through some very harrowing experiences in the course of which
they have discovered that all is not as it should be or as it seems on
Sunday, and that some very important people are engaged in extremely
I then asked Roquana to tell her story
from the beginning, which she did, interrupted from time to time by
shocked ejaculations from the President.
“Gosh! I always thought
Jamal Fittlutt was a pretty queer fish, but I never suspected anything
like that. Everyone always seemed to treat him as a modern-day
“Oh, golly! No wonder I’ve never been
invited to Savark Court if that’s what goes on.”
That the Tohu were not savage,
flesh-eating apes, eager to kill human beings and feast upon their
still warm corpses, but themselves human, the original inhabitants of a
world that was none other than the long-lost and ever lamented Earth,
had her pacing up and down in extreme agitation.
“I don’t know what to
do,” she said at last. “You’ve come to me
hoping I can put things right because I’m the President, but
I’m virtually powerless. I’m just wheeled out on
ceremonial occasions to be the face of the Government, and otherwise I
just have to sign whatever is put before me. I’ve got no
actual power or influence at all. They put me here because people
used to like me when I was on telly – just a harmless entertainer
who will do as she’s told.
“I must say I was beginning to smell
a bit of a rat, but I never suspected things were as bad as this.”
“But couldn’t you bring it
before the Senate?” said Roquana. “Surely the Senate
could start an investigation.”
“Well you might think so,”
said the President, “but the Senate is just about as powerless as
I am. They take their instructions from the Procurator of the
Holy Synod. I suspect he’s the only one with any real
power. He tells me what
to do, he tells the Senate
what to decide, and he’s very good at making it all seem totally
democratic, especially if there’s likely to be any sort of
“He comes to me and says the Senate
and the Holy Synod are both agreed on this, so, of course I say, well,
I don’t like it much but if that’s what the others say I
suppose I will have to agree. Then he goes to the Senate and says
the President is very keen that this should pass, and the Holy Synod is
in favour, so, of course, the Senate agrees too.”
“So it’s the Holy Synod that
makes the decisions in the final analysis,” I said.
“We could tell the
Archbishop,” said Roquana.
“Golly, I don’t think that
would do any good at all,” said the President. I’ve
got quite friendly with the Archbishop since I’ve been President,
and the impression I get is that he and the other members of the Synod
are just there to rubber-stamp the Procurator’s decisions.
I think the real power must lie with the MCC.”
“MCC?” said Roquana.
“The Monopolies Control
Commission,” I said. “Every planet in the
Commonwealth has one. The idea is to prevent major capitalists
building up unchallengeable monopolies and ensure that new settlers
have a fair chance of establishing businesses. It’s
essential for the growth of the economy of each new world we
“Except,” said the President,
“that on Sunday the function of the MCC is to ensure that the
members of the Sunday Development Corporation retain control of the
monopolies they have established. Lord Savark, for example,
controls all the communications on the planet: the phone and computer
networks, the broadcasting stations, the book-publishers and the
newspapers and magazines, all the film-production companies, all
the recording studios, everything, right down to the personal music
players and the songs on them that everyone carries around in the
streets. If you’re a songwriter you depend on Savark
Enterprises to record your songs, just as you do if you’re a
singer. Even my own shows were owned by Savark Enterprises,
actually, and the more successful I was the more money his firm raked
in. I owe my success to Savark Enterprises, and it is Savark who
has made me powerless.”
“You said,” put in Tommuz, who
had kept silent till then, “that the man with the real power is
the Procurator of the Holy Synod. Couldn’t we report all
this to him.”
“I don’t think that would do
the slightest good,” said the President. “Monsignor
Gulls takes his orders from Lord Savark.”
“Gulls!” they gasped in unison.
“Gulls is Procurator?” I said.
“He is,” said the
President. “He takes his orders from Savark and the rest of
us just dance to his tune. I’ll certainly have a think, but
it seems you had a wasted journey. I’m not your strong oak
tree, I’m afraid – just a broken reed.”
We left. I took Roquana and Tommuz
to another of my favourite restaurants, bought them a substantial tea
to keep them going, and advised them to find their Tohu friends and
return to the underground settlement of the wild people of the woods,
where they would be safe. I myself would consult with my closest
colleagues among the Inquisitors to see if anything at all could be
done to break the stranglehold that Savark and his associates had on
the planet. We discussed sending a message to the Commonwealth
Conference, but I could see no way of getting it past Savark. He
controlled all communications on Sunday and would be certain to have
computers analysing all messages leaving the planet, identifying key
words, and deleting anything that might reveal his secrets.
I reassumed my disguise – I’m
not sure why, but it seemed like a good idea – and I drove
Roquana and Tommuz out of the Government Quarter and back to Cathedral
Square. They got out of the car and walked off to find their
friends. I was about to drive back to the Palace of the
Inquisition when I heard a sudden commotion, and, looking up, saw that
Roquana and Tommuz had been surrounded by a gang of hoypyu and were
being hustled away between the shanties.
I sprang out of the car to follow, but the
milling crowds made it impossible to get near before they had
disappeared. Something was very wrong. At first I
couldn’t put my finger on it, then I realised: those hoypyu were
not the usual scrawny teenage thieves. They were big, muscular
young men – the sort who patrolled the deserted half of Cathedral
Square. They were Government guards.
I leapt back into my car and drove quickly
to the Palace of the Inquisition. I raced to my office, tore off
my snowy wig, swallowed the potion, lay down on the bed, connected my
body to its life-support system, and concentrated on finding Roquana.
“I am here,” I told her, and I
felt her gratitude.
She was in a small room with a man –
Monsignor Gulls, and he was sneering and honking at her.
“So you think you can plot and
scheme against Lord Savark
and against ME! Well,
find what happens to people
like you. Have you heard of
League of Blind
who you’ll be
joining. But don’t
worry, my little sweety, we won’t
spoil your beauty.
You’ve seen those pretty-girl beggars
with the luminous silvery
eyes, haven’t you?
thought it happened through
some disease? Well, you’re
wrong! The League of Blind Beggars uses special
blind their recruits while
leaving them pretty enough to
charity. But I’ve got something even more special for you,
just to teach you a lesson for rejecting His Lordship.
There’s a section of
the League that’s just right for you:
the Guild of Blind Whores.
“You thought you were too pure to
oblige Lord Savark, didn’t you? Well now you’ll be
forced to oblige anyone who
can pay for your
services. The League
of Blind Whores is much in
favour with members of the
Establishment. We all like the chance of fucking a pretty girl,
and a blind whore will never
know who her clients
are. I may even
make use of you myself before
you get too shop-soiled, but if I do,
you’ll never know – and if
you suspected any of my
associates or I, well, no-one would believe a blind beggar would they?
“So, my sweet little housemaid,
you’ll be taken to the
blind beggars, who will be only too glad
to have such a pretty new
recruit. You’ll be given special
potions to drink, and then
they’ll put the drops in
eyes. I’m told it burns in a truly agonising way, but then,
that’s what you deserve.
“However, before you pass into
everlasting darkness, there is one last thing I want you to see.
You assaulted Lord Savark in
the very seat and citadel of
so now your filthy little boyfriend is going to pay the price.
He’s going to be recruited into the League of Eunuchs, so the
last thing you will remember seeing will be Tommuz begging the eunuchs
to castrate him. Then
you’ll see his testicles brandished
in triumph, and, as
you’re led away to be
know that His Lordship will soon be enjoying another little treat of
fried bollocks … shee-hee-hee-hee