Night Visit (Mating Flight 207/240)
Night Visit (Day 1131 or 1132 depending on how one counts)
I have been sleeping on the kitchen floor, because the bed smells nasty and has a disgusting lluyew, even after Nrararn chased all the insects off of it. The kitchen floor was easy to scrub, being made of tiles. It was also probably horribly uncomfortable for a hoven, but you know my opinion of discomfort. Nrararn was sleeping on top of me, which he found comfortable and both of us found friendly.
Of course we both woke up instantly — OK, Nrararn a bit more instantly than me — from the danger roaring at the door. A loud and grumbly sort of roar; it could kill us or hurt us badly, in our soft shapes. We shrugged at each other, and I put the Hoplonton around us both, and the Ulthana’s Targe. With that protection the roar quieted down to a grumbly mumble.
By that time, the danger had gotten out a jangly set of keys and opened the door. We looked, and saw a pack of intruders. Some were harmless: the superintendant, Quarri, Sporthen, two other judicial-looking hovens that I did not know. The danger was three others: Branner and two other hovens. They looked plenty dangerous. Each one held a quite large twistor bazooka, such as one might use to rip a tank into bits if one liked weapons. The weapons were the loudest danger, but the three warriors themselves were only a big softer.
“Good evening,” I said to them.
“You’re still up and dressed at this hour?” asked the superintendant.
“I am,” I said, because I was. “You are too,” I said, because he was too.
“A few questions had arisen about your recent application to RARU,” said Sporthen. “May we come in?”
“To save you the inconvenience of firing twistor cannons through the walls? Certainly, come in,” I said. They did. “I’m sorry that I can’t offer you all seats. The superintendant hasn’t been rushed about getting furniture.” The superintendant scowled at me.
Sporthen put a professional tone in his voice. “We have noticed certain inconsistencies and peculiarities in your stories. We would like to entertain the possibility that you are guilty of nothing worse than an entirely understandable cowardice and confusion of communication.”
I grinned. “And waking a girl up in the middle of the night by breaking into her apartment is the best way to figure that out?”
“You don’t seem to have gone to bed yet,” he said. “Were you alerted somehow?”
“No, I was sleeping in my clothes, and my cat woke me up from your noise,” I said.
One of the other judicial people, who had been looking around my apartment, said “Your bed hasn’t been slept in.”
“I don’t like the way it smells,” I said, getting another frown from the superintendant. “Does my habit of sleeping on the floor in my clothes render me unfit for RARU? Of the sort that needs three augmented soldiers to deal with?” The three of them smirked.
Sporthen shook his head seriously. “Not that. Not to put too fine a point on it, Joffinet, but there are serious questions about whether you are what you say you are. We wonder that you might be a spy or an agent provocateur, a traitor to your species and your nation.”
I had to laugh. “I’m certainly not a traitor to my species or my nation.”
Nobody else laughed, except Nrararn who did it quietly. Sporthen said, “In which case you have nothing to fear, and your application to RARU will be approved. In the meantime, we wish to investigate certain matters.”
“What, then?” I asked.
“First of all, there is the matter of your identity. It is impossible to live in Trest for any length of time without leaving certain administrative traces. There are databases of religious affiliation, voting records, addresses, tax payment, and many other things. Going further back, there are educational records, confirmations, parentage, and so on. An exhaustive search of these finds not a single mention of one Joffinet Meragathium or any reasonable variant thereof. Joffinet is of course one of the most common personal names; Meragathium seems to be invented of whole cloth.”
I asked “Nobody ever approaches a revolutionary organization using a false name?” «Nrararn, remind me to ask Tarcuna about those records before next time.»
“It is not unheard-of. It does not make a strong basis for an application, however,” he said.
“And you bring warriors and cannons to deal with the people you reject?” I asked.
“In general we simply avoid the matter. In your case, though, there are suggestions of exacerbating circumstances. You told Quarri quite distinctly that you saw the movies of the cyoziworm surgery, but you told me just as distinctly that you saw the event itself. An inconsistency — not criminal in itself, but one which indicates a more general falsity of your story. In any case, you seem quite sure that cyoziworms are real, and that the punishment camps are intended to contain them. One is moved to wonder that you might be an agent of the dragons sent to RARU to break our unity of spirit.”
I smiled. “I’m definitely not that!”
“Again, I look forward to your proof that you are not. I will make a sincere apology when that happens. Unlike the draconic propensity to kill people or toss them into punishment camps on a whim, we uphold Trest’s legal traditions as best we can.”
“Right. What else?” I couldn’t think of anything clever to say.
“The most worrisome part of the story is your speed of reaction. You caught an upset cup of cocoa before it could fall in Versley’s apartment, which is so extraordinary that Quarri took note. I had the waiter at the Laich Street Cafe drop a tray, and got to witness your extraordinary speed myself.”
“I am faster than most hovens.” Physically. Not so fast of mind. Not only had I given myself away, I hadn’t even realized it ‘til he told me.
“Branner, could you do that? Catch a falling restaurant tray in one hand and right two things on it, without spilling much, as has been described?”
Branner grinned. “No problem.”
“Could you before you were augmented?”
Branner snorted. “No. Don’t be silly. No person would have much of a chance at it without augmentation. Not as you described the scene before.”
“Plus, there are such minor matters as your extraordinary quantity of money given your backstory, and your persistant use of the word ‘hovens’ rather than simply ‘people’. We are thus forced to consider the extremely disturbing case in which you are an augmented agent in the service of the dragons.”
“I’m certainly not that,” I said, because it was true.
“Your claim is noted. We are, sadly, unable to have a full trial with proper witnesses. Especially since you seem to have no history in Dorday, and hence no witnesses for us to call. So, would you submit to an injection of truth drugs? The alternative of course is up to these military gentlemen.” The warriors grinned dangerously. They rarely got to fight their own kind.
Nrararn made the decision for me. He rather elegantly breathed a bolt of lightning that forked in three and ruined all the twistor bazookas. The room became much safer.