Stomata and Stress

<< A Blackjamb Transmission Vector

Lawrance: “After getting a full belly at the Granth-Granth-Potts-Granth residence and a visit to Wenrich-on-the-River’s greenware community in Central Avenue, I had to check in with my colleagues and make sure my next goal hadn’t changed. It’s one thing to check if another soul’s found methods in the day’s madness – my built-in utilities keep up to date with the body of material we’ve got under closest scrutiny, and nobody else working on the Foughen proceedings had reported anything to put my antennae up. It’s another thing entirely to assume everybody else sharing your workload has come down with a case of spontaneous incompetence, and additionally assume no one has made progress except for you.”

Lawrance: “As it happens, no further developments came forward while I sidetracked to Esther’s place. Sorry, amendment – no further developments beyond expected case progress, namely our people organizing a few more interviewees and chipping away at the salt mine of forms-and-reports with a soup spoon. Nothing had really broken in our favor, but neither had anything expired or gotten lost. We had to deal with people protesting the accused’s sentences as well as those protesting the fact those sentences weren’t carried out within the hour, but that’s just business-as-usual. Unlike provincial containment centers, we don’t need to worry about running out of space in the Tower for holding detainees. We do often need to go to war for the right to move prisoners of law to the Tower in the first place, yes, but happily they keep me away from those proceedings these days.”

Lawrance: “No, they’re happily keeping me working on very different social avenues, especially those involving asking questions. I’m trusted with interviews and consultations because I narrow down which two or three or four answers do the most good very quickly. With that in mind, my people pointed me at a series of consultations and told me to consult.”

Lawrance: “The first of the warehouse clients to be consulted marked the most interesting point of the lot, sadly. That made the experience easy to remember.”

Lawrance: “It was also easy to remember my first chat with Dr. Derrickard Larinn because he left me both annoyed and initially pleasantly surprised. I was looking at a man copied from the same general structure as myself, not quite so plump or purely focused or brusque, but still intent on study and measurement first and the surrounding day-to-day details second. Same hair and eyes, same agitated way of sitting still. Were I inclined to poetry I’d have called him a reflection of myself in a golden mirror, stained with dark oil smudges and wearing a slightly singed jacket. My given name, even, was very similar to his familial one. Alike in seeming, so very different inside.”

Lawrance: “Larinn arranged the meeting just outside the warehouse block. Nice Údanese restaurant with great dumplings, lots of emphasis on the presentation, spectacular care in keeping their customers’ business private if they wanted. He’d decided on green-black hair as the fashion of the hour, and his mustache ended up carrying half a salt lick and a condiment pot by the time I left. Apparently I wasn’t in line with his romantic notion of an auditor: no commanding presence, no obvious brawn, no groomed natural beauty. He recognized that as an asset but seemed to feel disdain for my appearance anyway. Poor guy.”

Lawrance: “First thing out of his mouth was a run-on of pointed queries about how the unfolding events might negatively impact Blackjamb’s procurement lifecycle. Did we have contact with the stevedores, AND the contractors in charge of closing deals? Did we have any leeway to reimburse those adversely affected by proceedings? Where could a digest of our findings be consulted? What was my explanation for allowing this to happen?”

Lawrance: “It was nice to let him meander for a while, I learned a great deal about many powers of manipulation and compulsion that I’d never known I possessed.

Lawrance: “Larinn shut up for a while and let me ramble through some of my standard monologues. ‘You can assist us and while we could invoke your duty to your nation we hope your love of order and reason will suffice,’ followed by ‘your contributions to this case entitle you to some amount of information to further studies but this does not permit exchanges on any discussed topics with anyone outside those with whom you are interviewed in tandem,’ and ‘we ensure you retain rights to restitution and protection should your involvement as an auxiliary element or deputy or other apprenticed occupation cost you in discrete measurable ways.’ Lots of signatures confirming receipt-of-notice, and many complaints.”

Lawrance: “Eventually I got around to asking about his relationship with the suspects thus far identified as related to the case. Records indicated prior interactions, and also indicated that one of the warehouse staff in the hot pink arrests – answering to the name of Pitir Kirinama – was an alum of Blackjamb; two others had come from lower positions in the institute. He mentioned integumentary knowledge of other employees of the warehouse – including Byland – but only after their having worked with Blackjamb’s Acquisitions and Material Controls staff, and only indirectly. I wanted to hear his biases and favoritisms from his own mouth, though – what he chose to say, or shout, or shut up about.”

Lawrance: “Remember, my dear children: the lateral of motive and opinion can be just as or more important than the mechanical embroidery of baremetal facts. You can’t use it to build a case in its entirety, no. If you ignore it, though, you’re like a motorcycle with a scramjet engine bolted on. You’ll go much much faster, and you might be able to withstand the acceleration unaided – but you’re ultimately crippling yourself with speed. You need to be able to turn and course-correct. You need to proceed so you can observe the dimensionality of the world around you. You need to take advantage of perspective.

Lawrance: “Now, obviously my greatest wish would be for Larinn to have said, ‘Yes, I head a ring of hot pink sellers and the Blackjamb-affiliated people you’ve mentioned are my apprentices; I had begun grooming them to take over the business and they are devoted enough to our cause of filling addicts’ crippling needs that they sacrificed themselves on the impossible off chance they’d succeed in keeping you from breaking our organization – curse you and your handsome intelligent self.’ Instead, he explained that Kirinama in particular was known to him; he’d met one of the other Blackjamb employees but never fostered any sort of connection. He hadn’t worked hand in hand with Kirinama, but could comfortably say the man had usually operated in a less constricted research circle compared to most souls in Blackjamb. As it turns out, planting a series of black holes around an institute goes some way toward dissuading break-ins AND ensuring that materials-and-tuning-fields experiments of a volatile nature have limited ability to explode or infect or drown more than a small portion of a city district… but that doesn’t mean you should slack on compartmentalization of information.”

Lawrance: “In any case, Kirinama had assisted some big names with a couple of projects centered on aspects of life’s adaptability and mutagenic potential. A lot of the work revolved around nonsentient fauna and flora and fungi, and since that required a bunch of growing organisms to maturity, Kirinama was familiar with the more common means of cheaply obtaining agar and alternative nourishment substrate.”

Lawrance: “Larinn went quiet, then said in impatient but respectful fashion that Blackjamb’s supply chain was his biggest concern. They’d gotten delayed, but between license maintenance and operating costs they still found the shipping cheaper than synthesizing their own goods by several orders of magnitude. With the warehouse’s activities cyclically falling into and climbing out of furlough, though, they had some deciding to do: should they take measures to bypass the warehouse’s pileup – and eat the fees for breaching contract? Steep fees, mind. If they wanted to circumvent the pipeline, get earlier-sent Blackjamb supplies out of the way, they’d be bleeding money on the scale of a hundred dats for every one of the goods’ initial price. The narrow margin of profit in pretty much all businesses around Rhaagm, around Bequast, around Yrdky, around any place with an economy tied to extrafacetary markets… It’s hard enough to humor even simple add-ons to a budget. No matter which road they took, Larinn had a stack of projects waiting and the same went for his higher-priority coworkers and dependents. Projects that needed specialized tooling and construction material, stabilizers, custom ritual ingredients, shipments of hypercompressed data. That pipeline had to be cleared.”

Lawrance: “I told him that if he had issue with how I and my fellow auditors were carrying out our investigation, and its consequences, he could voice any such issue as he saw fit. Answers and mitigation? Not likely, but still possible – he deserved that small possibility. On the off chance that I couldn’t or wasn’t permitted to offer assistance, I also forwarded a few names. Based on the meeting thus far, I had every expectation something else would demand my attention before he got his satisfaction.”

Lawrance: “My pleasant surprise came when he admitted he’d been letting stress get the better of him for days, and apologized. That’s quite rare for me, people deescalating from hostile to flustered, and it’s one of the best ways to make an auditor happy. I confessed I also had some weight on my joints, and asked that he bear with me if I got fixated. The effect was somewhat spoiled when he seized upon the conduct of my superior, Floors, who’d essentially served as the highest level contact surface between auditorial activities and the warehouse. He was something between haughty and overbearing, according to Larinn. The phrase that really stuck out was, ‘That man’s due for a disappointment. He has too much expectation of good things coming from the satisfaction of his wishes, and he has too much investment in those wishes coming to pass.’”

Lawrance: “I asked him to tell me how he really felt. In response, he asked me if Floors – or other people in my circle of coworkers – had recently been working on anything else open to public knowledge. When I didn’t respond immediately, he pushed to learn if any of my nears-and-dears were looking into the rolling shambles surrounding Booker Mamph Dolman, and her fellow representatives on the Council of Books. Dolman’s indiscretions – in particular, the detailed journals of her ‘subordinates’ – had lain in the open air for about twenty days by this point, and the news circuits had long since settled in for stripping flesh from the carcass.”

Lawrance: “Dolman and her Booker collaborators were – and still are – the sort of creatures I consider BENEATH contempt. Their little pet project was doing unspeakable things to people living on multiple facets. Abductions, substitutions of one person on one facet for another, creative mental inducements to see how various people survived a rug-pull of their entire existence – artfully making holes in lives and realities. None of this was really hidden, merely disassociated from the Council of Books. Yes, it was done through a hundred kinds of catspaws, and Mamph Dolman made sure to appropriately outline how she’d never actually broken a single law. No, she’d never even think of picking up a human and putting him on a planet suitable mostly for fregnost habitation, or introducing a megalomaniac with impossible charisma to a naive warless society. She just… encouraged certain behaviors and made life easier for droves of absolutely-not-employees; simply ignore those individuals’ personal records that named her and other Bookers, please. After the first links started fitting together, though, Dolman et al made no move to justify or denounce the principles behind throwing people out of their own metaphysical homes. They came clean.”

Lawrance: “There are two kinds of coming clean about your sins: the one where you recognize your error, you offer contrition, you throw yourself on the mercy of another, and you wear your scars openly to teach and to learn… and the one where you bare all because you cannot admit or understand that you have done wrong. As the old Údanese saying goes… ‘Remember what the skin eater knows: beware, lest you get everything your heart desires.’ Dolman had most of what her stiff-necked raised-nose charred raisin of a heart desired, and the only positive was how her unhappy fulfillment and wanton idiocy made her come clean earlier than she might have otherwise.”

Lawrance: “Can you tell I get worked up about this sort of subject matter? Funnily enough, Larinn and I were at a level about this type of nonsense. The firing-off of influence and power with little regard for where the charges land, or what they’re loaded with, the expenditure of needlessly forceful privilege… At times, the pro-extrafacetary bigotry of our nation – both in public and in private – makes us ashamed that we have a duty to serve them. More than I like to admit, some days when I’m honest.”

Lawrance: “Now, as a matter of fact, three of the people I regularly passed in the Tower’s halls had found themselves tapped to pad the response teams mustered when Dolman’s victims first gained the spotlight. I couldn’t confirm or deny that, though. I told Larinn as much and added that such specifics ran right up to the beach of Classified Island – confidential rather than secret controlled information, granted, but he didn’t need to know that and it would have made no difference. He took that as tacit admission which, curse him, coincidentally fell on the same territory as the truth. Very unscientific of him.”

Lawrance: “If it wouldn’t have gotten me in just as much trouble for making deliberately false statements about controlled information, I’d have lied and said nobody I’d ever known had anything to do with cleaning up Dolman’s dungheap. The Maker gave us Crippled False as a surety of detecting certain lies, but – given the infinitesimal possibility it might decide to spare me for reasons beyond my understanding – I had a microsecond where I genuinely considered perjury by invoking it in oath. You swear by it, and it ends you, and you’re a known liar as well as destroyed… or it leaves you whole and you’re generally acknowledged as telling the truth.”

Lawrance: “Yes, Crippled False has spared liars in the past. That does not equate to having odds of surviving an oath forsworn; it means it has an occasional idiopathic touch of mercy.”

Lawrance: “Larinn and I kept circling each other for a while, but neither of us could get anything further from our interactions. I had a lean psychological profile to add to this man’s dossier, he had his coincidentally correct conclusions about my coworkers’ history. I didn’t like him or what he was saying by conjuring Booker Dolman or his putting words in my mouth, but we parted ways without desire for bloodshed and that was its own victory.”

Lawrance: “Three hours later, I was talking with a prickly little succulent of a personnel resources staffer, busily explaining that I couldn’t cough up miracles, I didn’t exist to solve her inconveniences, I didn’t have reason or authority to tell her what we’d gathered about her company’s activities by Monolith monitoring, and it was only because the distribution of one of her client companies went through a certain part of the city that I was even talking to her at all. When she started saying something about an inquest, I told her that she was the most chafesome person I’d met in the last three months, and it would have been the last two years except that I was still counting dead people in that list. I would have begged to get back into the saddle with Larinn again.”

Lawrance: “I suppose that’s a warning against despair while talking with merely annoying academics and their ilk.”

Lawrance: “I’d like to say my day calmed down there. Sadly, it did not. The prickly little succulent brought up Kirinama, and mentioned that he had ties to one of the syndicates calling Southsea home. My priorities… shifted.”

Lawrance: “When he… wait. Wait. Dlg give me strength, we’ve got a live one. Big brother attack, duty calls, the sun orbits the city yet again. I’ll get back to YOU later.”


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: