Robin Gordon

Auksford crest: a great auk displaying a book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
Auksford 2013

© Copyright Robin Gordon, 2013

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Book III: New Jackrusselham
Chapter 9: Old Bonita Bananas

    We drew 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 my Voice?”
    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 help you?”
    “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 unpleasant activities.”
    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 saint.”
“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 opposition.
    “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 settle.”
    “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, now you’ll find what happens to people like you.  Have you heard of the League of Blind Beggars?  That’s 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?  Perhaps you thought it happened through some disease?  Well, you’re wrong!  The League of Blind Beggars uses special eye-drops to blind their recruits while leaving them pretty enough to attract 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 your 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 his manhood, 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 blinded, you’ll know that His Lordship will soon be enjoying another little treat of fried bollocks … shee-hee-hee-hee …shee-hee-hee!

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Roquana:  Index.  --  Chapter 8.  --  Chapter 10.

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