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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 70: Slade 112
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“I thought that went well,” Slade said to Joe. Joe walked quietly beside him. “What, you didn’t think so.”
“I--I don’t really know,” Joe said. “You do realize the general was trying to get you to put an end to the matter.”
“That was the point of asking whether you objected to letting it remain open. If you’d objected, the panel would have had to decide whether formally to close the inquiry or leave it open.”
“So you think I should have objected, and they’d have closed the inquiry, and that would have been the end of it?”
“Well, I thought that at the time, but now I’m not as certain.”
The pause was long enough that Slade felt it necessary to comment. “Because?”
Joe shrugged. “There’s probably some sort of appeals process. The captain moved to keep the inquiry open. If you’d objected, then it almost doesn’t matter which way the panel decides, at least from their perspective. If they agree with you and close the inquiry, the captain takes an appeal and you and he have to travel to some higher authority somewhere to have the matter heard there. If they agree with him and overrule your objection, then you appeal and you and the captain have to travel to the higher authority to have the matter heard. Either way, it takes it out of the hands of the general, and while that might not be what we want, it’s obviously what he wants, because he feels like he’s trapped between the competing interests of an alleged nobleman--you--and a career officer, the captain, who was described as ‘of good family’ if I remember correctly. So you’ve kept the decision here, which is probably good for us in one way because we won’t have to travel to be heard by the higher court--a court that probably has the resources to determine that your claim doesn’t fit the history of their world. But it might also mean that we’re expected to stay here until the matter is resolved, and it’s not going to be resolved because the general doesn’t want to decide whether you are or are not who you claim. It’s what they call a politically sensitive decision.”
Slade smiled. “Wow. I never thought I’d be a politically sensitive problem.”
“But m’lord,” Shella interrupted, and it took Slade a minute to realize she was addressing Joe, not him, “why would they not accept our testimony that he is indeed Sir Robert Elvis Slade, Lord of Slade Manor, Friend and Ally of the Djinn and of the Caliph of the West Wind?”
“Because he could be lying,” Joe answered. “He could be some ordinary commoner trying to put on airs and pretend to be someone he’s not.”
Shella seemed shocked. “You mean, commoners would have the audacity to lie like that, and in court?”
Kondor grinned. “I’m afraid so, Ma’am. Besides, in this particular place, they’re not going to take my testimony for anything, because I’m--“ he paused, remembering what she’d said when they first met--“foreign.”
“Ah, yes, I see. And of course I could not testify, because I’m a woman.”
Slade wasn’t sure what that had to do with anything, but then, he remembered that sometime in ancient history women weren’t allowed to vote, so he supposed there might have been a time when they weren’t allowed to testify in court, either. He never prevented women from testifying in his court, but then, it rarely happened that anyone asked a woman to do so, so it might be that it wasn’t expected. The trio walked in silence for several steps.
“So,” Slade said, “what does anyone think we should do now?”
“It depends on whether you want to be able to return here or not.”
“Oh? How so?”
“We could just leave, and probably find our way back to Mlambo. He won’t be eager to see us, but he will allow us to enter if we can get there between the battles. But if we vanish in the night, the captain will insist that he was right all along and we probably won’t be able to return.”
“We could stay here,” Slade reasoned, “but then there will be another hearing, and maybe it won’t go as well next time. I don’t particularly like either of those options. Do we have another?”
“Well,” Joe said, “We don’t know the protocols, but of course when we arrived we had a cover story that said we were going to have to leave eventually, and we’ve been stretching our stay. You could tell the general that you think you’ve stretched the delay as long as you can, and you need to take me to that weapons development center, wherever we’re pretending it is, but that you will make every effort to return to face the captain’s claims. Then we can double back to the other location, stay a bit, pick up our things if necessary, and figure out where we’re going from there, and still be in good graces here even if somehow we were delayed more than the month.”
Slade nodded. “I like that plan better. I think, though, that we should keep to business as usual for at least a few days, so it doesn’t appear that we’re fleeing the scene under an excuse. That will also give you a chance to pass your patients to the by now well-trained medical staff of the camp.”
Kondor grinned again. “We can only hope,” he said.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #243: Verser Redirects. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: