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 IV: The War of Independence
Chapter 12: Constitutional Issues
    “Monsignor Procurator,” interrupted the Grand Inquisitor, “before we undertake an action that may be felt in certain quarters to be too precipitate, I feel that I ought to draw to your attention the fact that the Commonwealth Inquisitor has been made aware of the accusations against Dr Tadler, and is most insistent – most insistent – that disciplinary action against any Inquisitor, on any charge whatsoever, can be instigated only by the Commonwealth Inquisition, that an Inquisitor can only be tried by his peers, and that it is then for them to decide whether or not he should be handed over to the civil authorities of his home planet.
    “That being so, I submit that it is not, and cannot be, within the remit of even the Holy Synod to try, and certainly not to condemn, any member of the Holy Inquisition.”
    “Nnnngh!” honked Gulls.  “You are too late.  We have already tried and condemned Sulamun Tadler on a charge of High Treason, for which the Privy Council itself would demand the death penalty.”
    “I fear,” said the Grand Inquisitor, “that the Procurator in his all too apparent zeal for the good of Sunday may have inadvertently exceeded the authority vested in the Holy Synod, and I think we should be very careful not to, so to speak, tread on the toes of those Commonwealth bodies to which we owe our allegiance, and indeed our very existence.”
    “Nnnnngh!” honked Gulls, but before he could say anything more, he was interrupted by the Archbishop of New Jackrusselham.
    “His Holiness, the Dolloy Pope of Conterbrew, has also been informed of the possibility of legal proceedings against Dr Tadler,” he said, “and he has asked me to make it clear that he regards the Inquisition as an arm of Holy Mother Church, and, as such, not subject to the civil authorities unless the Church shall decide otherwise in particular cases.  The Holy Father is therefore very clear that Dr Tadler must be handed over for investigation and trial by the Office of the Commonwealth Inquisitor, who will be expected to consult with the Holy See of Conterbrew before there can be any question of handing him over to the civil authorities of Sunday.”
    There was a sort of buzzing hum among the members of the Holy Synod.  They had been totally convinced by Gulls, but the intervention of the Grand Inquisitor followed by that of the Archbishop showed that the Inquisition and the Church were now involved at the highest level, and, if that were so, other Commonwealth institutions might also take an interest.  For the Bishops of Beddleham and Jarwick Hoe the position was clear: if they were not to lose all hope of further preference they had to side with Conterbrew.  A Senator who had recently received the Order of Merit fingered his medal thoughtfully, obviously wondering if honours could be withdrawn, and another, who hoped his turn would come soon, looked covetously at the medal, then nodded in agreement with the religious authorities.
    The Lord Chief Justice cleared his throat and gave his opinion, which was that the Constitution of Sunday derived its authority from that of the Commonwealth, and that the Constitution of the Commonwealth was quite clear that a priest of the Church could only be tried in the first instance by a Consistory Court under the presidency of the Pope, a Cardinal or an Archbishop, and that only they could determine whether the civil authorities should be allowed to take the matter further.  The same, he said, was true of an Inquisitor.  It was therefore for the Commonwealth Inquisitor to determine whether Dr Tadler should be tried locally on Sunday by a court presided over by the Grand Inquisitor of Sunday, or whether he should be summoned to the Inquisitorial Court in New Lundun on Yowkoy One.
    The President of the Bar and the Chief Writer to the Signet both signified agreement with this judgment.  The Procurator protested that the intervention of the Grand Inquisitor and the Archbishop constituted a grave and serious insult to the status of the Holy Synod, but, greatly to his discomfiture, the members decided, severally and collectively, that it was not in their interest to offend the Commonwealth, and agreed that I should be handed over for safe keeping to the Holy Inquisition pending a decision as to my ultimate fate, which would be made by the Commonwealth Inquisitor.
    Back in the Palace of the Inquisition I was told that my own office was out of bounds to me and that I was under house arrest within the palace and under strict orders to contact no-one other than the Grand Inquisitor and the officer delegated to watch me.  His Eminence, showing unusual good sense, had given this task to Ulixonder Drow.
    “While the Big Cheese was arguing with that long-nosed shit Gulls,” said Ulixonder, “I beetled off to my office and sent a message to the Commonwealth Inquisitor.  I kept it brief, just: Inquisitor Tadler has been arrested and is to be tried by the Holy Synod on a charge of misusing inquisitorial powers.  There wouldn’t have been any keywords in it that the Communications Computer would have picked up, so it went through.  I then told the Big Cheese what I had done, and, before he could blow me up, the CI came on the line, congratulating him for getting the information through so quickly and encouraging him to resist any attempt to undermine the privileges of the Inquisition.
    “The CI said he would inform the Pope and suggested we tell our own Archbishop, which the Big Cheese promptly did.”
    “Well,” I said, “We all know that the Archbishop has been preparing his case for having his see upgraded to a Metropolitan Patriarchate, which would mean a Cardinal’s hat for him …”
    “… which would make him possibly papabile at the next conclave …” continued Ulixonder.
    “… so he’s not going to do anything to offend the present Pope or the College of Cardinals …” I concluded.
    Just then the Grand Inquisitor joined us with the news that a Papal Nuncio and a delegation from the Commonwealth Inquisition were on their way to Sunday.  After he toddled off again, we talked about what had happened when Roquana and Tommuz were rescued from the crypt.  They were carried shoulder-high to the steps of the Pantheon, where the man who had freed Roquana from the Government Guard tried to whip up the mob to drive the Guild of Eunuchs out of the crypt.  Another tried to drum up support for an attack on the Government Guards, while a third, the most successful, proposed a protest march.  This was taken up with enthusiasm by most of the crowd, who ran around looking for material to make banners and drums, then formed themselves into a disorderly line.  There being no other suitable road to take, they marched out towards the city gate, and, when they got there, had no idea what to do next.  A few set out to march back to the Pantheon, but most had tired of their protest, so they gave up and went home.
    Meanwhile a small group had gone back to the bronze doors of the crypt, but, finding them firmly locked, contented themselves with hammering on them and shouting insults.  After a while it was apparent that nothing further could be achieved, so, in ones and twos the demonstrators sloped off, until, finally, there were so few there that they realised their assault on the doors was pointless and all went home.
    A slightly larger crowd surged into the empty side of the square between the Pantheon and the Government Quarter, shouting angrily and brandishing any sticks they had been able to find.  The Guards were alarmed and retreated behind the railings.  The crowd shouted various mutually contradictory slogans, generally hostile to the Government, or at least to the Guards, until one of the officers ordered his men to fire their guns into the air.  At this the crowd fled
    In the meantime Roquana and Tommuz had disappeared.  I hoped they had found their way back to their Tohu friends and been smuggled out of the city.  If I had been allowed into my office, or at a pinch, any office, I could have rejoined Roquana, but I was confined to the ground floor of the Palace, and any information I received would have to come through Ulixonder or through the newspapers and television broadcasts.
    These now began to suggest that the Commonwealth Ministry of Planetary Ecology had determined to set aside large areas of Sunday as reserves for the Tohu.  Journalists fulminated against the high-handed stupidity of outsiders who did not, and could not, understand the conditions in our world and who simply discounted the many accounts of attacks on peaceful settlers by the vicious, carnivorous apes, whose one desire was to kill and eat human beings.
    There were interviews in the press and on television with tearful settlers whose friends and relatives had been seized by the Tohu.  Particularly affecting was the account published in the popular press of a heartbroken mum whose children had been carried off into the woods, where she could hear their agonised screams as the Tohu tore them to pieces to feast on their flesh.  The only good Toho is a dead Toho the article concluded, and this became a slogan to be repeated again and again.
    More details were given about the plans of the Commonwealth Ministry of Planetary Ecology.  It had become clear that the civil servants running the Ministry had been threatened with cuts, and, in an effort to stave off redundancies, had picked on Sunday as the ideal world in which to undertake a new project – one which would actually necessitate an increase in the number of officials.
    Despite all the reports from Sunday the Ministry had placed before the Privy Council an account in which the Tohu were presented as intelligent aliens with their own civilisation, which, far from being savage and uncontrolled, was in many ways admirable with much about it from which the Commonwealth could learn.
    Further fulminations from leading journalists followed as the news grew darker and darker: most of the planet was to be given over to the Tohu, with the colonists strictly limited to the territories they had already settled and a total ban on further human immigration.  Not only that: the whole project was to be financed by new taxes on the colonists, taxes so extortionate that they would force the colonists back to a subsistence level.  The long-term aim appeared to be to end the Sunday colony and turn the entire planet over to the Tohu, under the administration of the Ministry, thus securing the Ministry’s own long-term future and guaranteed constant expansion.
    It came as no surprise then, when all the communications media announced that Sunday was to secede from the Commonwealth, and that, in order to cope with the resultant state of emergency, the Senate and the Holy Synod had asked Lord Savark to act as Supreme Director, with full powers to take any measures that he considered necessary.
    Perhaps more surprising was the announcement that, following earnest entreaties by the Senate and the Holy Synod, Lord Savark had reluctantly agreed to the establishment of a monarchy to underline the definitive withdrawal of Sunday from the Commonwealth, and that he was to be crowned King Muckswill I in the Pantheon.  The heir apparent, his eldest son, would, on the same occasion, be inducted as Prince Muckswill of New Jackrusselham.
    The Big Cheese told us that he and the Archbishop had been expelled from the Holy Synod, which had now been reconstituted as King Muckswill’s Privy Council, membership of which was henceforth to be by invitation of His Majesty.  The Papal Nuncio and the delegation from the Commonwealth Inquisitor’s Office would be taken as hostages.  I myself could expect to be re-arrested on the orders of the Privy Council and executed.
    Scarcely had he finished telling us this than Gulls arrived with a squad of Government Guards.
    “I have a warrant for the arrest of Sulamun Tadler,” he honked, and I was immediately handcuffed.
    “You won’t be around to see what is about to happen, because we intend to execute you tomorrow morning,” sneered Gulls, “so I shall tell you what our plans are.  The Papal Nuncio will be taken hostage and there will be no communication with Yowkoy One.  By the time the Commonwealth realise what is going on we shall have a battle-fleet able to stand up to anything they send, if they care to send one at all, for we shall be in contact with nearby planets to form a United Federation outside the Commonwealth.  In the meantime we shall set about exterminating all the Tohu, and, I’m not at all sorry to say, your young friends will inevitably be caught up in the massacre, and that will eliminate another of our problems.
    “Take him away!

    It was not a happy night that I spent in the cells under the Government Guardhouse, nor was I exactly on top of the world when, the following morning, a squad of silent Government Guards opened the door and indicated by nods and gestures that I was to follow them along the harshly lit, white-tiled corridors to the underground garage, where a Black Moria Wagon waited.
    We set off, and, although I could not see out, I realised that we had come to the gates dividing the Government Quarter from the rest of the city.  Mine was obviously to be a public execution to cow the populace by showing them the fate that awaited anyone foolish enough to defy the new regime.

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Roquana:  Index.  --  Chapter 11.  --  Chapter 13.

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