Tuesday, August 19, 2014

56 - Literate Redcap

“By m’ father’s Pen an’ m’ mother’s Page why do *I* havta call in t’ Immoderates death?”  Darcy sat in the centre of the barracks and looked around at everyone’s eyes.  They were steady, and implacable.  For all that they had helped him when he’d been put out to do insane work, they weren’t going to step in when the harvester, in effect, sank into the quick sand.

“You were there, Darc.” Haig said.  “You saw.  It’s in code most-like but we needta call Prime an’ call t’ Captain o’ t’ Immoderates. ‘N tell ‘im.”

“’Snot like ‘e can kill y’ over t’ line.”  That was Sumner.  Snarky bastard.  But he was right.  It had somehow become his responsibility.  Darcy stood up, tugged his tunic straight before looking Haig and Palmer straight in the eyes.  “I’ll callum.  Y’ bring t’ body.”

They swallowed but didn’t argue.  Not that there was much left of the body.  There were all the ceramic and metal fittings, the cloth.  But hair and flesh and nails and even the soft parts of his leather boots were gellified goo.  The bones had continued breaking down, even after they’d hurriedly scooped up what had been left of the Immoderate.

Darcy had a cold sweat going on and the night desert had him shivering.  He looked up at the sky, full of the glitter of falling stars.  The pop-up barracks and garages where were where he wanted to go, not the Immoderate’s outer office. It was the one place nobody wanted to see.

There was no one trained to use the equipment, no one authorized to do anything. They had no permissions for anything outside growing the lifeweed.  The elegant high-tech fertilizer machine wouldn't run for anyone lower than second class. He’d have to figure something out.  Maybe there would be a big-red emergency call button or something.  Pretty stupid, he thought.  To only have one person capable of using the specialized equipment.

Behind him, Haig and Palmer came shuffling out, with the tarp carrying what was left of Versace.  He was glad that his filters were working as the wind blew from them to him.  It really stank pretty badly and it was continuing to break down, oozing along the waterproof tarp and dripping off the ends.

The door to the Immoderate’s office wasn’t locked thank the Page.  There wasn't enough left of a right palm to unlock it.  Darcy opened the door, stepped into the Inquiry office.  He stood, nervous and shrinking, looking around at the bare room that had the desk and the chair of inquiry in front of it, and nothing else but a stylized image of the Font of All Knowledge that made him look very godlike, frowning down at him. He reminded himself that the neural transmitter had been destroyed with the Immoderates body, but he was having trouble holding onto his bladder.

Haig and Palmer left their gruesome burden right behind him, and then made scarce, standing well back from the building.  There was a reason that the Immoderates were called that.  The service unit might decide to erase all failures.

“Hello?”  Darcy said.  “There’s an emergency.”

It was like the phrase was a code.  He found himself slammed to the floor, unable to move.

“Scanning.  Two DNA sources. One functional, one non-functional.  Non-functional DNA  is Immoderate  Wexford Thurminson Dale Versace.  Functional DNA is Illiterate Darcy, number 422.  Explain the nature of the emergency.”

“Um… well, I’m sorry I can’t address you by name but…”

“State the emergency.”

“Immoderate Versace was killed by a predator… one of the wrapping things… he’s kind of melting… we have no contact with home and all of us are Illiterates… we cannot make the higher orders of machines continue working… We need a Literate. We need to let his family know...”

“Sent message to Glass Mountain.  Sent message to Capitol Office of Inquiry. There is no one available to rule on the resolution of your problem.  I am Redcap.  Until further notice from Glass Mountain, this service unit will be your Literate.”

“Thank you,” Darcy began and found himself able to stand up.  He got up gingerly and then jumped to one side as the door in the back of the office snapped open and a sealed stretcher ran out to gather up the seeping remains, mercifully cutting the stink as it hissed shut and trotted out to the freezer shed.  “Am I… um… allowed to call you Redcap?”

He convulsed as a jolt of electricity shot through him, leaving him on the floor once more, on hands and knees, quivering.  “Literate Redcap is appropriate. Inappropriate behaviour will be corrected. Rules and regulations shall be followed to the letter.  I am Versace’s operating unit and until further notice I shall be running this facility.  There is no mobile unit immediately adaptable so you will report to me here, daily.   

Once the metal horse is repaired… I have a repair order for it listed here.  A software problem it appears.  Once it is repaired I shall load myself into the mobile unit and be able to supervise more directly.”

The horse had locked into immobility when Versace had died, the access codes for its continued function no longer available.

Oh. Wonderful. Darcy managed to swallow through a dry throat.  He didn’t dare say another word, but crawled backward out of the office.  He hadn’t thought things could get worse, but the service unit was worse. He’d almost made it out the door before he was flattened with another minor jolt of electricity.

“I had not yet dismissed you, and that was very rude and improper. Rules shall be followed. Every action shall be appropriate. Every one.”

“S…s…sorry,  Literate Redcap.”

“Better.  You are now dismissed, Illiterate Darcy.”

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