Roquana


by
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 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 breakfast?”
    “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 breakfast.”
    “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 taken hostage.
    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 of Savark.
    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 planets.
    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 them.
    “Is your name really Bonita Bananas?” he asked.
    “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”
    “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 Roquana’s.
    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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Roquana:  Index.  --  Chapter 12.  --  Chapter 14.

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