Copyright Robin Gordon, 2013
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Index to Roquana
Book IV: The War of Independence
Chapter 13: The Lord High Admiral
The Black Moria Wagon
did not stop in Cathedral Square – so it wasn’t to be a
full scale public execution, more likely a hole-in-the-corner affair in
the woods, after which it would be given out that Inquisitor Tadler,
having come to believe his own lies, had fled the merciful justice of
Sunday to take refuge among the Tohu, and they had torn him to pieces
and eaten him.
On and on went the Black Moria Wagon until we
eventually arrived at the spaceport. Still handcuffed between a
couple of Guards I was loaded aboard a shuttlecraft. Various
officials also came on board, and among them I heard the mellifluous if
somewhat nasal tones of Procurator Gulls. I still had no idea
where we were going until we eventually docked inside a spaceship and
Gulls and his retinue left the shuttlecraft. I remained where I
was for another two hours, till one of Gulls’s men reappeared and
told the Guards to bring me.
Outside a door I was released from the handcuffs
then shoved through.
“Good Gods, man, you look a mess!”
snapped a tall man in a navy blue uniform liberally ornamented with
gold braid and medals. “You haven’t shaved and your
clothes look as if they’ve been slept in!”
“That’s because they have, Your Royal
Highness,” I replied. “I’ve been in a prison
cell since yesterday, and, when they brought me out this morning I
thought I was about to be executed.
“I don’t suppose you’ve had any
“I haven’t had anything since yesterday
morning,” I said.
“Right,” said the Lord High Admiral, for
that was who it was, and he pressed a bell.
To the servant who appeared he said, “Take
Inquisitor Tadler to a guest suite, run him a bath and get him some
“Thank you, Sir,” I said, bowed, and
followed the servant.
Up to this point I have described events as they
took place before my own eyes or the borrowed eyes of Roquana or
Tommuz, or recounted a conversation I had with my colleague Ulixondir
Drow. Now I have to draw together various threads, things that
happened while I was otherwise engaged or locked up, things I was told
about at various times by the servant, by Ulixondir, by the Grand
Inquisitor and by the Lord High Admiral himself, and it would produce
far too confusing a narrative if I introduced all this information
piecemeal in the order I learned it, so I shall summarise it and tell
the story more or less in the order that things happened.
You will recall that when I was first arrested the
excellent Ulixondir used his initiative and sent through to the
Commonwealth Inquisitor’s Office a message saying that I was to
be tried by the Holy Synod, and that, as a result, the Commonwealth
Inquisitor informed the Pope, and together they decided to send a Papal
Nuncio and a Commission of Inquisitors.
What neither I nor any of the bigwigs in the Senate
and the Holy Synod knew was that, when a gang of angry proletarians
advanced on the gate to the Government Quarter, shouting, shaking their
fists and behaving like a revolutionary mob, one of the Guards’
officers panicked and sent a message to the Commonwealth Military HQ
claiming that there was a full-scale insurrection in progress and that
the Government Quarter was being invaded by armed gangs intent on
murder and mayhem.
As a result the Commonwealth authorities decided to
send the Papal Nuncio and his companions, not in a luxury passenger
liner but in a battleship, to avoid any possibility of their being
This was just as well, for the kidnap of the Nuncio
and his companions was exactly what Savark and Gulls intended.
When they detected a ship materialising from hyperspace they
immediately sent Guardships and converted freighters to surround it,
with the intention of crippling it, preventing it dematerialising or
sending messages, and taking off the passengers and crew.
Fortunately the ship that appeared wasn’t a defenceless passenger
liner but HMS Victory. The surprise attack launched by the Sunday
fleet caused some minor damage, but a ship of the line under a skilled
commander can react quickly, and, before the attackers knew what was
happening, the Victory had her force-fields up and had launched a
counter attack that knocked out all the crews and paralysed the ships.
While they drifted helplessly in space there
materialised nearby the Ark Royal, the flagship of the Lord High
Admiral, which, naturally, given her size, took some time. Once
the Ark Royal was totally within space-time she dragged in the Sunday
fleet, placed the crews under arrest and the Lord High Admiral
questioned their captains. While this was going on Commonwealth
Communications Headquarters officers set about analysing the total
communications output from all Sunday channels over the last
month. Within half an hour the Lord High Admiral knew all about
the announcements that President Bananas had become incapacitated and
been replaced by the Procurator of the Holy Synod, that the
Commonwealth had been accused of planning to transform the planet into
nature reserve for the Tohu, and that Sunday had thereupon declared
itself independent under its new monarch, King Muckswill I of the House
The Ark Royal immediately took total control of the
whole Sunday communications network and an announcement was made asking
everyone to stand by for a broadcast by the Lord High Admiral.
“You all know me,” he said, “and
you know I’m not one to beat about the bush with mealy-mouthed
politically correct slogans like most of these self-interested
politicians whose careers depend on fooling you into voting for them
with promises they have no intention of keeping. In fact you know
very well that when necessary I’m quite prepared to call a spade
a bloody shovel, so when I tell you that you’ve been deceived by
your ruling class you’d better damn well believe it.
“Now, you’ve been told that the
Commonwealth has a plan to turn over this world to the Tohu and make it
a nature reserve in which there would be no place for hard-working
citizens. I’ll give you three reasons why that’s a
lie. Firstly the Commonwealth has never heard of the Tohu, though
I can tell you that now I’m here I’m going to make bloody
sure that we find out all about them. Secondly ministries are run
by Ministers of the Crown, not by civil servants, and no civil servants
would ever be allowed to hijack a ministry for their own personal
aggrandizement, and they’d certainly not be allowed to take over
a planet to increase their influence and jack up their salaries.
Thirdly, listen carefully to this: there is no such department of state
as the Commonwealth Ministry of Planetary Ecology.”
He then went on to announce that he was taking
control of the Sunday colony under the provisions of the Commonwealth
Emergency Act, and that he ordered the Government to hand over
Inquisitor Tadler for questioning by the Papal Nuncio and the Deputy
Commonwealth Inquisitor, and also to send up representatives so that a
peaceful return to the rule of law could be negotiated.
That was why I had been brought aboard.
Monsignor Gulls was the Government's representative, and, before I had
been taken before the Lord High Admiral, Gulls had spent a couple of
hours with him, deploying the full armoury of his sliding rhetoric of
hypocrisy to persuade him that I was a dangerous subversive and that
Lord Savark had only assumed temporary control of Sunday in order to
restore order and prevent the insurrection from spreading to other
While I was away getting bathed and breakfasted the
Lord High Admiral called Gulls in again to ask why I had been allowed
to believe that I was being led to my execution. Gulls had a
ready explanation. According to him I was a dangerous
anarchist. I had for years been misusing my position as an
Inquisitor to spy on members of the Government with a view to
subverting the constitution and seizing power for myself. I was a
compulsive and expert liar, a born deceiver and a consummate
hypocrite. Gulls had hoped that by bringing me in front of the
Lord High Admiral unexpectedly I might have been caught unprepared and
more easily made to reveal my wickedness. Now, alas, thanks to
the Lord High Admiral’s most generous nature, that advantage
would be lost and I would come before him with a web of lies ready
constructed. His Royal Highness should be on his guard, for I was
one of the most plausible villains it had ever been the
Procurator’s misfortune to encounter.
That was doubtless why, when I reappeared before
him, the Lord High Admiral received my account with a degree of
scepticism that I found upsetting.
In the meantime he had sent for Her Excellency
President Bonita Bananas, instructing Gulls that the Lady was not to be
distressed by being made to believe that she was about to be
killed. I had come to the end of my story, and the Admiral had
put some searching questions, when an aide told him the President had
arrived. Though not alarmed by any report of her imminent demise,
Her Excellency had been given no clue as to her destination. She
had been driven to the spaceport, led aboard a shuttlecraft and taken
to an unidentified spaceship. She was therefore rather surprised
to be ushered into a palatial hall, far bigger than she would have
expected on any spacecraft, and even more surprised at coming face to
face with the Lord High Admiral.
“Oh, golly! … whoops! … I mean:
Your Royal Highness.”
Here she attempted a deep curtsey, wobbled alarmingly, then
stuck. I hurried to help her up.
“Thanks, Old Bean,” she murmured, then,
to the Admiral she said: “Bit wobbly on the old pins, what?
Not surprising really. Been confined in durance vile in a dark
and dirty dungeon for ever so long – in fact ever since our jolly
old Inquisitor here brought to my attention some quite disturbing
information that some rather ghastly people thought I ought not to
have. They dragged me straight off and clapped me in clink, then
that frightful little Procurator came and told me that they’d
announced to the world at large that I’d gone totally doolally,
and I needn’t think I’d ever get out again because, when
the time was right they’d pop me off with a poison-pill and tell
the world I’d died after a long illness, so when they took me out
today I’d no idea what was on the jolly old cards … and
I’m talking too much, aren’t I? – Sorry.”
“Not at all, not at all,” said the Lord
High Admiral. “I’m delighted to hear your side of the
story. It’s clarified my mind considerably as to whom I
should believe. In fact, after hearing what you have had to say,
I’ve decided that we need a proper enquiry. I shall want to
hold formal interviews with you, Madame President, with you, Dr Tadler,
with Monsignor Gulls, with Lord Savark, Jamal Fittlutt, Mrs Bonpoint,
even Old Wullum. Now, is there any way we could get hold of
Roquana and Tommuz, and, of course the Tohu elders?”
“If I can have access to my office in the
Palace of the Inquisition,” I said, I may be able to contact
Roquana. It has been several days, but I was with her for so long
that the connection is probably still there. If, as I hope, she
has managed to escape from New Jackrusselham, she may have gone back to
the Tohu. If so, I hope I can persuade their leaders, and the
Translator of course, to come to the spaceport.”
“Excellent,” said His Royal
Highness. “I’ll give the orders right away.
Now, Madame President, have you had anything to eat?”
“Just one of those awful snacks they give you
on the shuttlecraft,” she replied. “Gosh, now you
mention it, I realise I’m so hungry I could eat a horse –
not that I would, of course.”
“Both of you must have lunch with me,”
said the Lord High Admiral. “It’s just about time, so
let’s go through.”
He took the President’s arm and I followed
“Is your name really Bonita Bananas?” he
“Gosh, no,” she replied. “I
was my agent’s idea when I first started in show business.
It was supposed to express some sort of frightful zany quality in my
brand of humour. Well I proved quite popular, so now I’m
stuck with it. My real name’s Ontoonia
“Furtescyow-Broyne,” said he.
“No relation of Bonzo Furtescyow-Broyne, I suppose?”
“My pater, actually.”
“Jolly good! How is old Bonzo?
Haven’t seen him for ages.”
Oh well, I thought. At least the old boy
network is going to work to the advantage of justice this time.
The Lord High Admiral gave orders. There would
be a tribunal. He would chair it and the other members would be
the Papal Nuncio and the Deputy Commonwealth Inquisitor. Parties
of Marines were sent out to collect the witnesses, and one party
escorted me back to the Palace of the Inquisition, where I went through
the usual preparations and set off to relink my mind into
I found her, as I had hoped, in the underground city
of the Tohu, where she was sitting quietly, talking idly with Tommuz.
“I’m back with you,” I said.
“Voice!” she cried. “We
thought we’d lost you. Where have you been?”
“Under arrest most of the time,” I said,
but things have suddenly got a whole lot better. The Lord High
Admiral is here and he has taken charge. He wants you and Tommuz
and the Tohu leaders to come aboard the Ark Royal to give evidence to a
new tribunal. I think that this time it’s all over for
Savark and his ghastly crew.”
Roquana found one of the young hunters who knew both languages and
asked him to request a meeting with the Elders.
Through the Translator, Vayhal, she told them that
her Voice had returned with an important message.
They were, of course, sceptical. A young girl
who heard voices in her head wasn’t an entirely unknown
phenomenon, even among the wild people of the woods and it was scarcely
wise to base one’s conduct on what she might say.
Through Roquana, who repeated my words in short
phrases, which were then translated by Vayhal, I explained that I was
an Inquisitor and that throughout the Commonwealth the Inquisition made
random checks on members of the population, not only to discover
criminal activity, but also to ensure that the people were happy and
did not suffer any sort of discriminatory disadvantages or
deceptions. Vayhal confirmed from his own experience as the
colonist Moiku that this was true.
I told them that I had been with Roquana throughout
her experiences at Savark Court and on her journey to New
Jackrusselham, that I had arranged for her an interview with the
President, and that after that I had helped rescue her and Tommuz from
the fate Gulls had prepared for them. Soon after that both the
President and I had been arrested, but that messages had got through to
the Commonwealth Central Government on Yowkoy One, and that the Lord
High Admiral had come and taken charge of the Colony. He had now
set up a tribunal before which members of the Savark establishment
would be called, and he wished to call Roquana, Tommuz, Vayhal and
representatives of the Elders of the Tohu to give evidence.
There was suspicion and discussion. Roquana
and Tommuz insisted that anything the Voice said could be trusted and
wanted to go to the tribunal. Vayhal, who had taken a strong
liking to both young people, but especially to Roquana, was also in
favour of going. After more discussion three of the elders
agreed. I told Roquana that I would meet her again at the
spaceport and left to report to the Admiral.
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