by Edward M. Erdelac -
Considine had to smile when he thought about how impressive Gorsh’s office had seemed to him only this morning.
It was a bug hunter’s bait shop compared to Aloysius Morgenstar’s plush, cathedral-like office, which was dominated by a smooth-lined desk in front of a dazzling viewport that looked down on Eclectia below.
He sat in a comfortable chair with two security officers standing over him for a half hour before a side door hissed open and Morgenstar himself entered in no great hurry.
He was younger and fitter looking than Considine had expected. His hair was the color of sandstone, not a strand out of place, and his sea-blue suit fit him better than Considine’s skin fit his skeleton. He was refined and assured in the extreme, but there was a hint of something in his eyes that was familiar, that twinge of madness Considine would know anywhere.
“Inspector Considine,” said Morgenstar, unbuttoning his jacket and easing into his chair. “I hope you weren’t waiting too long. I had an important meeting concerning what to do with you.”
“A meeting with Gorsh and the Peacekeepers’ Council?”
“Oh no no no,” Morgenstar chuckled. “I wouldn’t trust such an important decision to them. They were supposed to chaperone you and look how that turned out. No, it’s been decided that you’ll suffer a mental breakdown – shock, from having witnessed the death of one of your enforcers. You were apprehended by my staff after having wandered into a cafeteria and attacked and murdered one of my employees. You’ll be remanded to the care of the staff at St. Christina’s Clinic for the Neuro-Atypical. Not a top of the line facility, but the PKC insurance won’t cover anything better I’m afraid.”
“What’s so amusing?”
“I was wondering if any of your employees will be able to get the taste of Orin Bantry out of their lunches. You can scour that autochef with a fleet of de-con bots for a year and they’ll still probably never eat there again. Office gossip travels so fast. They’ll be saying Bantry’s nose turned up in a bowl of soup a week after the kitchens reopen.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re able to amuse yourself. You’ll have a very long time to do so,” Morgenstar said.
“You won’t be able to keep me there, Morgenstar. You must know that.”
“I know you’re resourceful, yes. I’ve read up on your career. That’s why I’d like to make you another offer.”
“No, you’ve lived so long without it you’re accustomed,” said Morgenstar. “I was thinking more along the lines of salvation.”
“Here it comes at last,” said Considine.
“Why don’t you tell me what you think you know, Inspector? To amuse me.”
“I know you allowed Orin Bantry to provide Almer Croix with a substantial amount of detonite from your company’s stores, and that he intended to use it to destroy the angel colony on the lip of the Boatic Trench. I know there’s something down there. Something even the jelly rollers don’t know about. Something that wants out. It’s an organism, kept in check by the angels. Probably their opposite number. It got to Croix via some sort of parasite, and convinced him it was god.”
He leaned forward in his chair, studying Morgenstar.
“What I couldn’t figure out was what your angle is. But now that I’ve seen you, I think I know.”
“What do you know?”
“You’re not infected by one of these parasites. These pilot organisms, they extend the psychic influence of whatever’s in the trench, influence human minds, but they’re detrimental to the physiology of the host. And you don’t look sick, so you must be insane.”
Morgenstar stiffened, but quickly regained his look of arrogant indulgence.
“How did they convince you to help them, Morgenstar?” Considine asked.
“Let me tell you what you don’t know, Inspector,” said Morgenstar. “You believe you have evidence of the existence of an unknown submarinal species held under a false quarantine in the ZMB facility planetside. Perhaps it was your intent to deliver it to the council once you had amassed more evidence of a conspiracy.”
Considine’s face fell and his eyes narrowed.
“Your Dr. Kes has relinquished your evidence in exchange for more gainful employment.”
“With you?” Considine sighed.
“Now, a similar choice lies before you.”
“Is salvation more gainful employment?”
“Oh yes, much more. God has need of a vehicle, to complete the work you and your enforcers interfered with.”
He raised his hand, and the side door opened once more.
A woman in a sharp suit emerged, bearing an opaque, water-filled container, in which an eel-like shape, about the size of a kitten, undulated.
Considine started to rise from his chair and the guards shoved him back down.
“But you must accept the will of God yourself,” Morgenstar frowned. “Resistance can damage the pilot organism and the host both. Irrevocably.”
“What’s the alternative to salvation?” Considine hissed, gripping the arms of the chair.
“Lobotomy,” Morgenstar smiled. “
Catherine’s may not be the most reputable institution, but they still have
their admission standards. It wouldn’t be right to commit a mentally healthy
“Maybe you should get a room, Morgenstar. You’re the one praying to a tapeworm.”
“This is not God, but a servant of God. A finger….”
“I’ve a finger for you,” Considine quipped.
Morgenstar waved the woman with the jar off. She backed out of the room, the door hissing shut behind her.
“I can see you’ve made your choice, Inspector. You disappoint me.” He rose from his chair and buttoned his jacket, shaking his head as though he truly were saddened. “Inspector Considine isn’t feeling well, gentlemen,” he said to his security guards. “Take him to see a doctor.”
The security guards hoisted him to his feet.
“Gorsh will be looking for me.”
“No, he won’t,” said Morgenstar over his shoulder, as he went to the side door.
They dragged him from the office.