Dream Leaper 8: The Inquest


Tildalune looked strangely calm.

Was it resignation, or something else? It was impossible to tell.

The Inquirer walked in the room. Any inquest was serious, of course, but this was a Senior Inquirer. Tildalune had never even seen one before. The Presenter she knew passingly from previous dealings … but not when she was the subject of the Inquiry. The Presenter was staring at her, unsure what to make of her calm manner.

The Inquirer began abruptly. “Why you kill your partner?”

Tiildalune responded: “I did not kill Ysandre. My wand never discharged.”

The Inquirer looked at the Presenter, who did not wait for the question. “The wand showed no evidence of discharge.”

Tildalune continued. “My partner used a level 10 discharge. “ The Presenter nodded in agreement when the Inquirer looked his way.

The Inquirer looked straight at Tildalune, and then at the plethora of equipment monitoring her. The equipment constrained her, of course: any deliberate deception would be evident. But it constrained the Inquirer as well to questions with straightforward answers. “Your partner was very experienced. Why do you think level 10 was chosen … certainly that is excessive . A level 3 will stun, and 5 will normally kill. Why a level 10?”

Tildalune resonded: “I don’t know. “

The Inquirer looked at the Presenter, but Tildalune could not see what the Presenter was doing. Presumably, he was interpreting the output of the equipment monitoring her. The Inquirer repeated the question: “Why a level 10?”

Tildalune responded again: “ I am not certain. But I can guess, if you wish.”

The response was apparently adequate for the Inquirer. “Continue.”

“My partner thought the human dangerous … and disliked my attitude. The level 10 was for my benefit. Normal practice would have been a level 3 or maybe 4. The human could not be debriefed if it was killed. “

The Inquirer spoke: “What about your attitude irked your partner?”

Tildalune sighed. “My views on the value of humans are well known. Presenter will verify that I have published numerous opinions that we should consider them more than complex bio mechanical environmental modification machines. This viewpoint is not generally accepted, but is not unusual in agents who have to work with them. Presenter, please verify.”

The Presenter nodded.

“Debriefing techniques used by the Presenter’s guild cause significant stress and pain in a being that I consider sentient, that I believe has at least the beginnings of a soul. Presenter will please verify that these viewpoints are all on file; my late partner’s vehement disagreement with them is also on file.”

The Inquirer stopped Tildalune. “Your views on humans is not a matter for this particular proceeding, though it may be examined later. If you did not kill your partner, what did?”

Tildalune looked at the Presenter. The Presenter stated, “The deceased was terminated by a force 8 discharge bearing characteristics consistent with her own wand. The discharge was force 10, the deadly blow a force 8, but they likely came from the same wand at approximately the same time.”

The Inquirer looked at the Presenter. “How is that possible?”

“I do not know. The wand was fired only once. There was no other wand in the area we know of that could have had that signature. Certainly not Tildalune’s.

The Inquirer looked at Tildalune. “What happened after the discharge?”

“There may have been a brief pause. I was close enough to my partner to be knocked back by the level 8 discharge. I was somewhat disoriented, but I grabbed him and fled. I was too dazed to realize he was dead.

The Inquirer looked at the Presenter, and the Presenter said, “That is consistent with the facts we know”.

The Inquirer looked at Tildalune. “What is the current location of the involved human?”

Tildalune responded, “I do not know. I have had no contact with the human or its family for some time before the incident. “

The Presenter added, “Its whereabouts are presently unknown.”

The Inquirer paused before speaking. “This is a very grave matter. We have an unexplained death, a rogue human interested and possibly skilled in mathematics and engineering, complete with books, a possibly unrestrained computer, who’s activities and location cannot be determined. You may be called to another Inquest. However, regarding the current matter at hand, it is evident you were not responsible for the death of your partner. We so declare.”

The presenter looked at Tildalune. She did not smile, did not relax, she simply got up and left. It left him puzzled. There were a lot of questions that came to his mind; mostly, they were questions inappropriate for an Inquest, questions that would have not been welcomed by the machinery that had surrounded Tildalune. The most vexing question was, why was she so completely calm?

At a separate location, unknown to any but a few, a different kind of inquest was taking place. It was far less formal, and no attempt was made to use machinery to verify testimony. Someone was taking notes, typing away on a computer keyboard. “Have we reached any conclusions about the discharge?”

Another voice responded. “Yes, it was at least a level 9, maybe higher, definitely lethal intent. The parabolas sewn into the jacket managed to channel back in the vicinity of 80% of the energy directed at them. The energy came from a single source. If there was a second assassin they didn’t fire. The energy seriously compromised most of the reflective parabolas, and the jacket was near to its maximum safe absorbtion. A second blast would have been deadly, even at a fairly low energy the jacket itself would likely have killed its wearer.

Bob spoke up. “There were definitely two. And the one that didn’t fire bore an uncanny resemblance to sketches made by my kids. They called it Tildy something-or-other. After the blast it seemed a bit dazed for a moment – then it looked straight at me, raised some sort of stick, shook its head and dragged the other one away.

He paused.

“I’m sure it could have killed me if it wanted to. “

The notion that some of them might be sympathetic did not sit well with most people in the room. In time, this would come to be a serious problem. For the moment, however, aside from some disapproving glances and murmuring the comment was unanswered.

A new voice opined. “We’ve learned a lot from the jacket. We can tweak the chemistry of the parabola material and provide substantially better protection. We have also been able to determine details of the energy itself, and can now finally reliably reproduce it. We have been able to start production and can now mass produce quantities of devices to do that without difficulty. The device we’ve captured recently shows no improvement over a device captured decades ago. They do not appear to be innovating. Our mass produced model offers numerous improvements over theirs. In short, they have a larger organization than we do, and a well-developed infrastructure. However, our weapons are superior, and they do not appear to have any notion of what we are doing, and have developed no security against it.”

A lump rose in Bob’s throat. He wondered why Tildysomething didn’t fire, and what kind of world he was helping to create for his kids. His kids … he wondered if he’d ever see them again.

In yet a third location, it was dark. It was night. Shari knew the documents were meant for her. One was hand written, in Tildalune’s handwriting, about 40 pages long. It was titled, “Classical logic”, and the first page was a greeting written by Tildalune, warning her to never reveal the book to anyone. The other was from her father; it appeared to be a basic primer in geometry, along with a similar warning. Did Tildalune know her father? While she understood the gist of the materials, she knew it would be a while before she was able to understand the details. She knew they contained terribly dangerous concepts, and she would have to keep them hidden from her mother and even from Milo.

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