I skated over and come to rest beside the elder Ienas, surveying the mess on his patio with a sanguine eye. “I shall have to stop coming to your establishment, Ienas. I seem to be a harbinger of destruction for you.”
He cast a look at me. “Beggin’ the exalted’s pardon and thank the Blessed and Most High Ten fer that, but this ain’ about the exalted. Yeh jus’ happened to be here when the flippin’ thing went down. Excuse m’ language.”
I smiled, almost automatically now. “Stinkin’ right, your forzak language is awful. But understandable under the circumstances.” Even as my mind tried to wrap itself around that odd idea.
The son’s caste accent was much less pronounced, his learning foreign tongues had softened and blurred it. “As m’ father says. I recognized several of those bullies and they’d come before to try and force father and Dorn to pay security… mostly against themselves.”
They were, indeed, telling me it had nothing to do with me? I must have blinked foolishly as he went on. “Those villains! They’ve been terrorizing the whole district!” I could see the same look in his eyes that I could catch glimpses of in either Chevenga’s or Kallijas’s eyes. The look of a man who has seen a true battlefield. Real blood. I wondered for a moment if what I had seen with my sire gave me a fraction of that look, then I shrugged. It wasn’t important.
“Are they?” I’d missed the Pages articles on this. I felt, again, like there was a whole other world under the one that I was familiar with… like the night I’d walked alone to the Mezem and been offered work out of the shadows and been chased by two boys for the lace on my night clothes and when I had become a fessas scholar, and then again when I’d been a Dyer messenger. What was civilization after all, layered like an onion, or a pasta bake?
“The Serenity’ll get ‘em,” Ienas Jr. nodded firmly. “With the truth drug. What I seen – “ his accent became much more fessas as he got more fierce – “what I seen… Arko are better off fer truth drug an’ the Wool Hair Imperator made it useful fer more common folk and ferretin’ out such like, rather than jus’ fer hisownself.”
He stared me in the eyes as if testing to see my reaction to such plain speaking. People really didn’t know how to react to me at all. “You’re right,” I said. Ailadas glided over on his old skates, robes and hair flapping, eyes bright behind his spectacles.
“That was brilliant!” He said not coughing at all. “Absolutely exceptional!” He stopped expertly – of course – and a whooping, cheering spatch of fans and players and old team-mates swooped around the lot of us as the Sereniteers showed up and hauled the unconscious and dead criminals away. Joras had managed, in the midst of jumping, fighting, screaming bodies and uncertain light to dart a number of the thugs and completely miss all of the guests. The thugs he had darted were the lucky ones, or perhaps the most unlucky ones for they would be hauled away and truth drugged. My other guard, Rias Kanakas, an elite solas, had just struck to kill any one of them who had come near me. Sensibly that had only been two of the thugs.
“This,” I said to myself, quietly in the midst of the old guys celebrating their victory, for victory it indeed had been… “raises a number of questions.”
“Shefenkas did indeed make it easier for these ones to use truth-drug to catch criminals like this, but He also made it possible for those vile ones to arise this time as much as those ones have,” Minister Rafas explained to me in his precise way after he had taken my statement.
“Well, there always had been a policy of randomly truth-drugging certain of the city population. Certain neighbourhoods, certain groups within the city. Some social associations. There was a list of types where these ones would occasionally find the seeds to organize violent crimes. Truly, Arko was, and to this one’s pride, remains one of the only countries on the Earthsphere that this one knows of that has tiny guilds of criminals, unlike elsewhere. The Zak are notorious for the size of the organized criminal element.”
“And how and why did that stop? Was it the sack?”
“No, it was the former Imperator-by-will of the Ten. The exalted one did not tolerate random truth-drugging of individuals. Something that Yeolis hold to very strongly. The Most High said it was a violation of those ones rights.”
I didn’t even say ‘I see.’ I’d come across the idea many times in Yeoli writings and I’d never really been able to reconcile the individual rights idea with the collective action/submit to the will of the group. It always seemed like a kind of paradox that Yeolis could maintain simultaneously in their heads.
“Shefenkas struck that law,” Rafas concluded.
I nodded and thanked him and went off to think. Should that particular law be returned to Arko’s books? Would violation of the individuals’ rights in question justify the suppression of the organization of violent crimes in the Empire?
Of course, with bar owners like Ienas and his ilk the organizers of protection rackets would not have an easy time of it and the owners working with the Sereniteers, with truth-drug, should be able to handle the sprouting tumor in the body civil. Hmmm.
I went off to do some research before I sat in the Assembly. If Kallijas did so, I thought it behooved me to do so as long as I could do my continued education and other work.
The random truth-drugging had really been desultory at best. Father hadn’t cared so it had only been diligently pursued by good Ministers of Serenity, and those had been few given that the post had gone to people less than trained in some cases, just whatever happened to strike the fat guy’s fancy if the position came up.
The profiles of those picked to be interrogated had very little rhyme or reason to them, mostly going on Sereniteers’ gut feelings and the questionings had periodically removed some of the organization, knocked it down, but never managed to eradicate it entirely, ever, as far as the records I could see. People seemed to want to take advantage of the least problem in society and try and shove a pry-bar of some kind into it, for only their own good.
I told myself not to be cynical and went off to sit in Assembly, still thinking about it. I knew what Chevenga thought of the idea but perhaps I would write him about it to get his reaction on the ethics of not-quite random truth-drugging for the greater good.