Justice: Chapter 1
“Floor 1!” said the intercom.
Floor 1: It took 3.7 seconds exactly for the elevator to ascend from the ground floor past the first story. 3.7 seconds was industry standard. 3.6 seconds and the journey might feel rushed. 3.8 and the passengers would complain from the second they left the lift all the way to the phone where they would call the elevator manufacturers to complain about the inefficiency of the elevator system as a whole.
To enter the first floor would be to enter the doldrums of youth, a world of unfulfilled ambitions, of pseudo-intellectuals and university graduates who thought that 3.7 seconds of rising would be enough to reach the top. This was a miscalculation.
“Floor 2!” said the intercom.
Floor 2: Home of pencil pushers and desk jockeys with too much time. They thrived off of bureaucratic inefficiency. They breathed red tape. One step too far and he’d be lost in a morass of cubicles and cheap lighting.
“Floor 3!” said the intercom.
Floor 3: Now, one has accomplished something. One is able to buy artisanal furniture. One brings expensive coffee to work in 2 by 2 cardboard cup trays. One lives in a 300 square foot studio in the most expensive part of town. One buys whole-wheat bread. One does not proceed to floor 4. Floor 3, worth a whole 11.1 seconds of ascension, is success enough.
He had made the calculation many times. The results were always the same. But he wanted to be sure, so he iterated through his fingers while a chip in his head did the heavy cognitive lifting and he came out with the same answer as the week before and the week before that.
“Floor 102! Storage,” said the intercom.
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a calling card. It told him:
Venture once again to uptown Newer York and rise through 201 floors of the tallest, flashiest tower on the horizon. Your presence is eagerly awaited [insert name here]. Your friend and employer, Reems.
Past the popcorn ceiling horizons and plexiglass skies.
“Floor 201!” said the intercom.
“THEY DID WHAT? No no, I’m sorry for yelling. Well who is they? No, t-h-e-y. Well who-- yes. No, that’s not-- God damn it the-- the whole city? Not a building, the whole damned city? You have to be f--”
The ear piece interrupted with a muted protest.
“Oh yeah like I give a shit about some diaguh slum. You’ offended by that? Yeah, you know what? I hired you for--let me finish-- I hired you specifically because I owned 30% of that cesspool. Do you know how many of you I could have bought, sold, eaten whole, and reconstructed with that kind of money? A lot! Point is you are disposable, my investments are not-- Don’t tell me-- All of them. Well that’s just great. 7 trillion dollars down the toilet because of that psychopath Buchanan. Get that rich piece of shit on the line-- HE’S DEAD? What do you mean he’s dead? Well thats great, and I suppose I’m just supposed to pay off my debts by selling my holdings in Newer York. Ask if they can forgive the debts? Do you have any idea how-- Wait, what were you saying about that war criminal? Macheath? What does he have to do with this? Damn it all. Ok, forward me the memo--”
A spherical metal taxi flew dangerously close to the windows behind the desk.
“God damn it all-- yeah floor 50? Floor 50, call the traffic police and tell them to take a look at my building, I think some a-hole with a cheap Hermoor blew out some windows below me. Going 400 god damn miles per hour. Oh yeah sorry to keep you on hold-- yeah just forward me the memo. Yep, goodbye.
Yeah get me one of those spicy wheat rolls. And some red-eye. God I need some red-eye.”
His head turned to the leather couch in front of him.
“I’ll be right with you justiciar.
Medium. No condiments, just medium. Please. Thank you.”
“Let me see your employee card. Yes, yes. Yes. Ok. Yes. Excellent. Justiciar, comes from Newer York-- oh a denizen! How nice. Brams. Brams is it?”
“My father’s side sir, several generations ago. I am American by birth. Ethnically the German is greatly trounced by my--”
“Well at least you aren’t a diaguh! Ha!”
“Yes, that is--”
“Excellent. A name… a number. Number is 78. Justiciar with number 78. Can I call you that? Thanks, excellent. Excellent. Ok sorry to have kept you waiting.”
Justiciar 78 readjusted the placement of his thighs in the sagging leather couch. Sweat strolled down his forehead. Veins in his neck bulged and teeth grit as he strained to expose his neck to the air. Too hot for autumn.
“Have we met before justiciar?”
“I believe we have. A few weeks ago. Business about anarchists.”
“Unsavory topic nowadays. Nobody of consequence wants to pay any mind to the creeping social entropy that these barbarians culture. Glad you sorted that out then.”
“I failed sir. Not enough time.”
“Of course, of course you did, 78. Please forgive my poor memory, I’ve seen so many people in the past few months.
“And what would you have me do now, Mr. Reems?” Justiciar 78 asked.
Mr. Reems took a translucent blue tablet and flicked the screen with his finger.
“You have a new memo sir.” the metallic voice said.
Mr. Reems read through the memo, nodding and humming until he finished.
“Do you know why the doctors set limits on how much cybernetic enhancement one can undergo? It’s the same reason why you only have perception and cognitive processors. It’s the same reason why metal-boxers aren’t genii and genii can’t fight for shit. You can only change so much in your body before you go insane. Rather, before you become a slave to the circuitry.”
“I am aware of the Lamentation, Mr. Reems.”
Pauses. Flicks screen with finger. No eye contact.
“Of course you are. You are a justiciar. You are aware of it. But you do not know it. At least, not like I do.”
Mr. Reems rifled through a bowl of mints, grabbed one, and extended his gift-bearing hand towards the justiciar.
“Conversational spearmint-candy? Or perhaps a Roaring-brand cigarette?” Reems reached into his jacket with his other hand.
“Roaring-brand cigarettes are notoriously addictive. Only diaguhs and criminal scum smoke them. Not only that, they are cheaply made and leave a terrible, pasty aftertaste. That is what the superiors say during--”
Reems took his hand out of his jacket. His facial expression did not change. Strained tolerance. Barely a grin.
Hems. Hands together. Begins again.
“The ubiquitous Lamentation virus is just that: ubiquitous. We’ve managed to suppress its unsavory effects in nearly all bionic enhancement to date. But too much enhancement and no amount of psyampromine can stop the pain, the slow mental degradation, and eventually, the inevitable destruction of the mind. Nothing remains but a servile and malleable spirit. No conviction. No work ethic. Just--”
Bobbing plastic bird. Paperclips stacked into a pyramid. Yellow sun shining through the windows, blue towers. And an increasingly dark silhouette of a desk and a gesticulating plutocrat. Too bright for autumn.
“I am aware of the Lamentation, Mr. Reems.”
“Of course you are, justiciar. You are, of course, a justiciar. Right. Now about your job.”
Mr. Reems picked up his tablet and began scanning through several lines of text, ceremoniously.
“69% of all non natural deaths in the past year, countrywide, have occurred within a few square miles of one city.”
The justiciar moved his fingers, closed them, let the circuitry behind his eyes follow the lightning fast movement--
“Oh can you just stop it with that counting shit? The numbers are the same as in the memorandum I sent you last week, damn it."
Strained brows, teeth showing. No longer that disingenuous smile. Then shoulders relaxed, and his voice continued.
“Macheath. Does that name mean anything to you? No? Well it should. War criminal, standard stuff for high-profile types like him. Lamentation got to him not too long ago. The syndicate thought they could control him. Well, they couldn’t. Bishop Buchanan thought he could use him. Well, he couldn’t either. In a period of a few months, Captain Brennan Macheath removed 93% of the organics in his body. Nine-ty-th-ree-fuck-ing-per-cent. A low-profile psychopath before, a mindless horseman of death after. That, and the drugs. Too many drugs.”
The elevator door rang out the arrival of someone new. A shiny metal man walked out with a platter in one hand and a vile in the other. Reems grabbed both, used the Red-eye spray modestly, and sniffed the food. A sheepish glance up towards the justiciar.
“No need to look so glum, justiciar.”
He closed the platter and shooed the robot away.
“One of our best arbiters went missing just around the time that Macheath began stirring up a storm. I’ll give it to you straight…”
A glance towards the employee card on the desk.
“...sev-ehn-tee-ate. The Rompopolis… hell the whole state of new Missouri is lying in fragments. You're going there to pick up the pieces."
Another surreptitious glance towards the platter of food. Reems lifted the cover quietly, pinched a bit of something, ate the bit of something, swallowed and put the cover back.
“I understand sir,” the justiciar said.
"Now listen here Mr. 78. I’ve sent tens of arbiters and grunts to that god-forsaken city, and not one of them has produced anything tangible. Tens of them! Nothing accomplished. Wasted time and money. Let me tell you something about work ethic 78..."
“...and some people just don’t understand how much work it takes to make it in a country where every person is completely, completely free to do as he or she”
“Yes sir. No sir. Yes sir.”
“True justice, true order can only be achieved when”
“Yes, sir. No sir. No, sir.”
“...the entire reason why my organization exists”
“Of course, sir.”
“Anarchism! The bane of civilization!”
“Yes, sir. I understand sir. I’ll get going now sir. Thank you sir.”
Obese plutocrats like him didn't understand the first thing about ethics and justice.
The justiciar limped towards the elevator, balancing his weight between his two flaccid, prickling legs. A voice called out again, and he grimaced.
“Actually 78, why don’t I fly you back to your Newer York flat? I’ve got quite the Hermoor waiting on the roof.”
The city's cold blue towers blended with the welcoming yellow of sunset. Too yellow for autumn.
They descended onto a street near a flat only 20 stories tall. A dwarf compared to the giant of the upper city that loomed above it.
“I live in a shadow Mr. Reems. I suppose I have never truly had to reconcile the yellowness of autumn.”
Another forced, affluent smile. Plutocrats like him could afford to be disingenuous. They had the capital.
“I suppose so, 78.”
You annoy me. Your voice annoys me. You are concerned with trivial and silly things. I am better than you.
Mr. Reems’ face finished his thoughts.
Reems grabbed the Hermoor and feigned an attempt to exit with the justiciar. A weak raised hand declared the action unnecessary.
“I’ll come to pick you up in the morning 78”.
And he departed.
The stairs he had to climb presented a welcome retreat from the constant, unimpeded verticality of city life. Elevators, stories, and Hermoors, those speeding metal orbs that blew out windows and tumbled down towards the ground in a fiery steel mush, far too often. Public transportation.
In spite of the recent drought, the ever-warming Earth, the encroaching kiss of the biggest star in the sky, the justiciar thought that the sunset seemed too yellow this autumn. He even typed his thoughts down into an electronic journal, in the form of a short poem:
Yellow sun weaves and sows
Blue towers are pins
And the weather
Strangely Uncharacteristically hot
“Good night journal.”
“Good night justiciar. Sleep well.”
I am your slave justiciar. I am the Lamentation. I haunt your dreams, your circuitry, your soul. Your thoughts are safe with me. As you chisel them into my electromagnetic canon they become my thoughts
The pulsating neon city outside lulled him to sleep.