Saturday, January 7, 2012

Better Than Truth? [Chapter 26]

I've started posting the chapters of Resolution 786. I'll post each successive chapter roughly every 3 or 4 days. Here's Chapter 26:

Adam Hueghlomm hopped briskly up the white marble stairs of World Court, moving quickly underneath a plain gray sky. The wide, sweeping steps and all the streets outside were empty, not a soul in sight. Hueghlomm wore a conservative black suit, a deep blue shirt and a tan tie. He carried a black leather briefcase as he strode through the high, regal halls of World Court, moving quickly to where the Tribunal was to be held, in the East Room. Hueghlomm approached the room’s stately wooden doors.

The East Room’s heavy, noble doors were made from a deep, reddish brown wood that had dark, black veins running through it. The two doors stood erect, stuffed, and as ceremonial and proper as the personal guards of a Queen Mother. Each door had three wooden rectangular panels on it, panels of equal size placed in vertical stacks that together filled the full length of both doors. Bas relief scenes had been gouged deep into the panels, formed from darkly scarred patterns, like a tribesman’s facial markings. The scenes depicted moments of thunderous historical and spiritual significance, perpetual and eternal moments that marked important beginnings, pivotal epiphanies, seminal sacrifices, and Promethean discoveries.

The doors fell open before Hueghlomm, a slow, choreographed opening, falling back and away in practiced, mirrored movement. As the heavy curtain pulled aside, it uncovered in waxing phases the patrician grandeur that was the East Room. The doors made their long arch across the imperial entry, moving over a hard marble floor of deep gray tiles punctuated with a subtle, disperse network of soft, white clouds. The marble had been shined immaculately, and it caught and packed small bursts of light here and there, tossing them back into the belly of the room in soft, graceful twinkles.

The room had an open vastness to it, the ceiling so high that it was almost not visible. A long, narrow marble path sliced a sharp, straight walkway from the entry towards the high and imposing tribunal bench, cutting the viewers’ gallery into two equal parts along the way, leaving long wooden benches on either side. A wooden rail stood guard in front of the forward most viewers’ bench, separating the plebian gallery from the prosecutor, the defendant and the tribunal. Beyond the wooden rail and before and below the towering tribunal bench sat two small worktables, a simple chair behind each. The witness stand sat alone, abandoned, to the right of the bench, its empty chair circled by a waist-high rail. The tribunal bench itself was cut in tight, squared angles and had three high-backed black leather chairs behind it, the largest and highest sitting in the middle. Each chair had a gavel at its place. A plain clock hung from the wood-paneled wall behind, centered above the tall, middle chair. A large door hid within the paneling behind the bench. Its perimeter cut a subtle, black outline that was noticeable only if someone knew it was there and looked for it. Every piece of furniture and paneling in the East Room looked as though it had been cut from the same tree as the heavy, wooden entry doors.

Adam Hueghlomm entered the East Room with a determined gait, pacing quickly down the marble center aisle. He pushed aside the rail gate, turned sharply and quietly placed his black briefcase onto the prosecutor’s table, sitting down.

Moments later, the majestic, hidden door at the head of the East Room slowly fell open. The bailiff ordered, “All rise!” Thomas Torquemada, the Inquisitor General, entered the courtroom flanked by his partners, Morilla and Martin. Torquemada’s portly body stretched his black judge’s robe wide at the waist, his expression serious, stone. His face was full, authoritative, unforgiving. His jowls hung like heavy sacks, pulling at his eyes, dragging them towards the ground.

Martin and Morilla both wore long, black monk’s robes, topped with sharp, bright, white collars strapped around their necks. Morilla was a miniature replica of Torquemada. Although Torquemada’s sternness came easily and naturally, Morilla seemed to be working hard at his. He was short, with a spherical head. His nostrils stood out like tiny dark spots below a pug nose that sat at almost the exact center of his circular face. His eyes were two buttons of dark chocolate pressed into cinnamon dough, his mouth held tight, giving an air of general dissatisfaction, a warning of an explosive temper. He had short, black hair that stood in menacing spikes over his rounded scalp. The sides of his face, his chin and the strip of skin over his stiff mouth were always cloaked in a heavy shadow of beard no matter how recently he’d shaved.

Martin, slight and small-boned, wore a hat of iron gray hair over his gaunt eyes and thin lips. His face had a grandmotherly gentleness to it. His hair, combed back in a softly waved pompadour, formed a subtle widow’s peak centered above restive, gray and slightly bushy eyebrows. Martin had an emotional lightness about him, something that separated him from his colleagues, and he managed to give Hueghlomm a small smile as he entered the East Room.

The Tribunal took the bench, grave, expressionless.

Hueghlomm stood before them, behind the prosecutor’s table, his hands folded across each other below his waist. A stack of brimming manila folders sat on the table in front of him. His unlocked black leather briefcase rested next to the stack of beige. Hueghlomm’s face was neutral, waiting.

The defendant’s table sat obtrusively empty. Silent moments later, the stately wood doors of the East Room fell open and a large, gruff guard led the Lord into the courtroom, handcuffed and sullen. The Lord wore the same white-stripped shirt, gray slacks and scuffed black shoes that he had on at his arrest. His shirt was worn, pilled at the elbows. His clean-shaven middle-aged face had deep vertical creases on either side of his thin-lipped mouth. His eyes were brown, beady, shifting. Although he had a full head of dark brown hair, portions around the top and back betrayed a subtle thinning, giving the impression that he would soon bald. He was two or three inches taller than Hueghlomm and had a medium build. He carried himself more like a middle-income department store manager than the Creator of the Cosmos. His guard and he shuffled across the floor, the Lord pensive, looking this way and that around the empty viewers’ gallery. When he and the guard reached the defendant’s table, the Lord moved to sit in the adjacent chair. His guard stopped him.

Torquemada spoke. “You may be seated.” A mild swoosh of fabric and air sounded as everyone recessed into their seats. “Dr. Hueghlomm.” The Inquisitor General’s voice was gravelly and matter of fact. “Has the defendant been afforded an adequate Edict of Grace?”

“He has, Your Honor,” said Hueghlomm.

“During said period, did the defendant confess?”

“He did not, Your Honor.”

Turning to the Lord, Torquemada said, “Please confirm for the Court: you were provided an Edict of Grace during which time you did not confess. Do you confirm that for the record?”

The Lord chuckled a few times, saying nothing.

Exhaling dramatically, Torquemada explained. “Sir, we must reconcile the charges against you. We must follow due process and procedure. I ask your participation to insure a fair and speedy inquisition.”

“And how does my forced participation validate the fairness of your said proceedings?” asked the Lord, a mocking, sarcastic voice.

“Sir, the court is not the object of this inquisition. You are. Please help us treat you in a fair and just manner. That is our most fervent desire. That is the bedrock of the philosophy by which we live.” He exhaled in a long, winding sigh and continued. “You were given an Edict of Grace during which time you may have confessed to the charges in your indictment. Did you?”

“I did not,” said the Lord.

“Very well. Let the record show that the defendant did not confess during the Edict of Grace.” Torquemada looked up from the bench with a slanted smile. “Do you see the fairness with which this inquisition is proceeding?” He raised his index finger and shifted his eyes towards the Lord. Martin and Morilla smiled, nodding affirmations.

“Now, then,” continued the Inquisitor General. “In our unending efforts at fairness, we must confirm the prosecution’s report that you have declined counsel. For the record, have you declined counsel?”

“That’s lie number one,” said the Lord. “I expressly asked for the Fallen One.”

Hueghlomm spoke for the prosecution. “Your Honor, the defendant has been informed that the Fallen One does not exist. We’ve pointed tachyon beams to the north, we’ve pointed them to the south, we’ve pointed them to the east, we’ve pointed them to the west. He hasn’t materialized. He doesn’t exist.” Hueghlomm stopped, resting in Torquemada’s gaze. The Inquisitor General tilted his head down and peered at Hueghlomm over black bifocals, his jowls heavy on either side of his face, pulling down at the corners of his mouth, creating his signature permanent frown.
Hueghlomm realized that he had failed to follow procedure. He corrected himself by making an appropriate statement for the record. “The Fallen One does not exist. Defendant refuses to appoint alternate counsel.”

“He exists!” shouted the Lord. “Go through the written records that you yourself used to indict me. Selective inclusion and exclusion, the opening move of all corrupters!” The Lord’s body shivered as he spoke each angry word. “That’s the farce of this whole exercise. That, and this self-righteous know-it-all!” He pointed accusingly at Hueghlomm, his gesture and stare moving easily across the chasm between the prosecutor and himself.

“Defendant will address the prosecution respectfully,” Torquemada reminded the Lord. The Inquisitor General turned to Hueghlomm. “Dr. Hueghlomm, has the prosecution exercised due diligence in attempting to locate the Fallen One?”

“It has.”

“Has it located said ‘Fallen One’?”

“It has not.”

Their exchange was mechanical, for the record.

Torquemada turned to the Lord. “Defendant is instructed to choose alternate counsel.”
The Lord stared at Torquemada in disgust. He huffed sarcasm. “Alternate counsel — I’d like to tell you to go to hell, but that’d put you right back in that same chair at this same moment.”

“Please answer for the record, sir,” pressed Torquemada. The Inquisitor General followed his narrow and straight path as well as he understood it, with persistence and rigor. He insisted that others do the same.

The Lord was obstinate. “I don’t want counsel. Why waste another being’s time with your silly exercise?”

“Let the record show, defendant has refused counsel,” answered Torquemada, and rapped his gavel. He turned again to Hueghlomm. “Dr. Hueghlomm, please review the charges against the defendant.”

Hueghlomm looked down and read from the indictment that he had written, flipping the pages as he recounted each allegation. “Your Honor, the defendant, the Lord, is accused of the following: Count One, Mass Infanticide. Count Two, Homophobic Genocide. Count Three, Felony Animal Cruelty.” Hueghlomm paused a moment and glanced at the Lord. The Lord was struggling to suppress laughter, looking as if he’d just thought of a dirty joke while sitting in church. Hueghlomm continued, his voice louder. “Count Four, Conspiracy to Violate Resolution 786. And Count Five, Multiple and Varied Violations of Resolution 786.” Hueghlomm stopped and looked at Torquemada.
Torquemada turned to the Lord. “Sir, how do you plead to these charges?”

The Lord sighed, realizing that he would have to play along. “So that’s what you nailed to my door,” he said to Hueghlomm, pointing limply at the indictment papers. “I guess, ‘Not guilty.’” The Lord raised his hands and made mocking quotation marks in the air to underscore his plea.

“Please provide the basis for your plea,” said Torquemada.

“Your Honor,” said the Lord. “The charges are grounded in contextual misunderstandings and lingual misinterpretations.”

“Sir, you will have to do better than that,” said the Inquisitor General.

“Better than Truth?” said the Lord, suddenly serious.

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