A scientist is held to account for a few serious blunders.
If I could remember the last time I felt this way, it might have made things different, but the fact remained, I couldn’t. I felt betrayed, angry, and more than a little foolish. Had I played the stumbling buffoon until I truly became one? Had I lived so long that my dignity became less important than this perennial charade? I had forgotten the purpose for my act and now lived a life below my true stature. That others of my kind allowed, encouraged– no, pushed me into the role, did not excuse me from my own foolish guilt. Now I am standing before a tribunal to answer for my “crimes.”
The Grand Inquisitor looked like he ate lemons for breakfast, but I didn’t blame him. In the White Court, he did the Emperor’s dirty work, as did I for that matter. If I could forget my purpose, the odds are that the Emperor had as well.
“Doctor Belluri Ageos, you are called before the Emperor’s Tribunal to account for acts both despicable and careless. I will summarize each of your offenses for those present and then ask you for your plea.” The Grand Inquisitor shuffled his folios, which I knew were full of more fiction than fact – if they only knew the truth.
“To the count of giving the secret of fire to the aborigines of Orpheon IX, how do you plead?”
“Guilty,” I answered because I was guilty as sin. I did it and so what!
“I ask the court to view the evidence provided in Exhibit A.”
A hologram of Orpheon IX shimmered into view. It was a blue and green world without icecaps or deserts. The image zoomed until it showed a primitive village constructed in the treetops of a vast jungle.
“This is a scan of Orpheon IX before Doctor Ageos arrived in on world for a routine ecological survey. It is a pre-agrarian planet covered in tropical forest and a moderate sentient population divided into three distinct species, one aquatic and two arboreal. Please observe what happens after a mere three hundred and fifty local years of interference.”
I knew what the hologram would reveal next. The most aggressive of the arboreal species would steal the secret of fire from the weaker one and use it to wage a destructive war of global dominance. The forests began to dwindle and when the smoke and debris from industrialization soiled the oceans, the marine sentient species became extinct. By the end of the ecological war, only one aggressive and chest-pounding people remained living nomadic lives amid shifting deserts and temperate forests. I had to agree that it wasn’t the best of outcomes, but the Emperor got what he wanted, a warrior race ready and willing to serve him. Most of these scientists are only lying to themselves when they say they are neutral and only concerned with pure research.
“The Legions of Orpheon IX fight for the Emperor and are recognized for their courage and valor,” I chimed in, hoping to remind the judges where my loyalties lay. Hopes of an Imperial reprieve were faint, but if I could lead them to believe that the Emperor was somehow on my side, my final sentence might be tolerable.
“The accused will remain silent until the end of this tribunal unless specifically asked to respond,” came the predictable Judge’s response to my outburst.
“To the counts of setting yourself up as a God on Galdanon III, Protor XX, and Mordisol I, how do you plead?”
“Guilty,” I answered, relieved at last. I had gone into each of these worlds in disguise. What I hadn’t figured on was the psionic abilties of each of their civilizations and it wasn’t long before I was discovered. When they couldn’t kill me or even draw blood, I was involuntarily elevated to the rank of Godhood before I could get the survey ship to extract me within the standard three hundred and fifty local years. I have to say, those years were the best of my entire life.
“While the court should note the profound accomplishment of adding these worlds to our Empire, we must reveal the cultural cost in Exhibit B.”
The hologram showed workers in an unidentified city on Proctor XX pulling down a delicate temple tower to erect a monstrous likeness of myself. I smiled a little, because I had to say I still had the old good looks. I couldn’t talk them out of it.
“To the count of giving singularity technology to Archon IV how do you plead?”
“Not guilty, but I would like to explain,” was my response.
“Since this is the most serious accusation, we will allow you to elaborate, but a Mentat from Galdanon III will be monitoring your thoughts for honesty.
“It was an accident and done without my knowledge.”
“When we arrived for resupply at Archon IV, the local orbital station requested a couple of antimatter power units as a show of benevolence from the Empire. My chief engineer misunderstood the request and sent them two singularity drive modules instead.”
“Could you tell the court what happened when the engineers of Archon IV orbital station installed what they thought were power units?” The Inquisitor almost sneered at me.
“There was a gobble event,” I muttered under my breath.
“Say that again so the entire court may hear you, Doctor Ageos.”
“There was a gobble event! Two singularities ate the station and we barely got out of there.”
“What else happened afterward at Archon IV?”
“The singularities’ orbits decayed and sent them planet-side. There is nothing but a blackhole there now.” I played along because I knew something the court did not. Only the Emperor knew the facts. The “accident” wasn’t one at all. Rebel operatives from Archon IV had stolen the singularity modules and there hadn’t been a request for power modules at all. It was their fault for trying to use them within a deep gravity well.
“Four billion dead and you blame it on an engineer? We ask the court to levy the highest possible sentence for these heinous acts.”
The three justices looked at each other and leafed through the evidence folios, discussing the matter under a sound isolation blanket. I only had to wait five minutes for my verdict.
“Doctor Belluri Ageos please stand,” said one of the Judges.
I stood up and waited for fate to descend upon me.
“Doctor Belluri Ageos, the Emperor has declared that you must be pardoned for the two lesser offenses since they both resulted in a greater boon for the Empire, but for the third offense we are free to levy punishment as this court sees fit. For the third count resulting in the destruction of the fealty world of Archon IV and thus robbing our Empire of its cultural and resource worth, we sentence you to the maximum punishment allowed: Death by disintegration.”
One of the other Judges looked down at me and asked, “Is there anything you wish to say before your sentence is carried out?”
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M. Andrew Sprong