Thursday, October 27, 2016
"I am not much into evolution," I responded. "What does this have to do with the murder?"
"Well, Mr. Roundtree," he continued, "Vermelia Surne was found dead in her home from sonic shock. It had an anti-blaster detection system, but it was no good against this. We had at first assumed it was a native until a sonic pistol, obviously designed as a weapon, was found in her husband Karlin's desk. But our tests show that the pistol could not have been what killed Vermelia. We think it is more likely it was a native, but we are unsure. Unlike the identifying of blasters from their burn signature, no one has worked out the identifying of sonic blasts, that I know of. We have a team of researchers working on it right now, but they are only getting started."
"So what is the current theory?"
"Karlin claims it is some sort of insurrectionist group. Trying to drive us Terrans out by committing terrorist acts, killing his wife and framing him for it. That is why you were brought in as a representative of the empire. I have not noticed much insurrectionist activity during my time as governor. But Karlin claims to have found evidence for some groups deep underground. I am giving you the services of Ronkavir, one of our finest native policeman. He is fiercely loyal to the empire, feeling we have lifted them out of barbarism. He does not like to go out except at night, but that is also when you will find the other natives about."
That evening we called on Karlin Surne. He was generally humanoid, though not quite Terran. His skin had a distinctive orange hue, which was normal for him. "I had no reason to want to kill my wife," he stated, "we had a totally open relationship and were not at all possessive. She had her passing fancies and I had mine, but nothing of a permanent nature. And we both had plenty of money for whatever we wanted. You can check it all out."
"Do you know of anyone who would have wanted to kill her?"
"As I told Governor Samuels, I think it was some sort of insurrectionist group. I cannot imagine anyone else who would want to. There was a young man she was once involved with, Germer Dourn, who was at one point getting sort of possessive. But I cannot see him going that far."
"You have evidence of such groups?"
"Evidence is too strong a word. I have heard rumors. Here is my list, but all of them will certainly deny it."
"I cannot imagine why anyone would revolt against our benefactors from Terra," stated Ronkavir, as we left the building. He was a thin scarecrow of a being, with oversized ears and large air sacs under his chin.
"Let's go find out," I replied.
The first person on the list was Kelioha. He was the head of a former craft guild and was now the unofficial head of some of the local workers. "I am very grateful to the empire," he said. "My way of life is so much nicer now."
"Any complaints?" I asked.
"Well it does seem we have lost something in the way of craftsmanship. We have better stuff, but it is all standard. But on the whole, I think we are better off."
"What if I told you some of your people wanted to kick the empire out?
"I would say, show them to me and I will beat some sense into them."
The next was Custu Pulinore , head of a local religious organization. "We serve the God who became Julmanu and died and rose again to pay for our sins. The empire claims it is tolerant of all beliefs, and so far it has lived up to that. But it is basically worldly in its philosophy. This is a temptation for some, but such temptations must be endured."
"Would you support a move to overthrow the empire?" I asked.
"Violence is never the answer to such problems. Temptations will come, but we must trust God to overcome them."
I agreed with Custu Pulinore's beliefs and liked him. But this was an investigation and I had to be objective.
Fuhikore was the son of a former tribal leader, who was now a factory worker. "Yes, my father and his chief warriors were killed when they charged the original imperial exploration party. And I would have been tribal leader and now I am nobody. But to be honest with you, I would rather be a nobody with a modern computer system than chief over a batch of people with longhouses and spears. Some might feel otherwise, but that is my feeling on the subject."
Besides, why would I want to kill Vermelia? I have been with Vermelia. So have a lot of other people, out of those for whom it is anatomically possible, anyway. I have heard even the governor was included, that he and Karlin did a straight trade."
Tursore was a former tribal wise man turned university professor. "It is clear they gave me this job merely to humor us Jurmalians. I teach Jurmal history and culture. But there is no going back for me; nobody at this point would take my science seriously. At this point, if the empire were kicked out, I would be an unemployable laughingstock."
The next evening I met Karlin at his house. "So why did you do it?" I asked.
"Do what," he asked.
"Kill your wife. Its clear enough you are the one who did it."
"I was tired of her. Her mannerisms, her voice, they all grated on me. I could have divorced her, but then we would have had to split the property, and I had no intention of doing that. It was easy enough to hire a native to blast her. But I figured any smart cop could have figured that out, so I had the pistol made and hidden. I figured they would be able to tell the difference, and if not, I had made my own discreet tests and knew I could put forth my own experts."
"Then you tried to blame the whole thing on an insurrection. The problem is, I know insurrections and insurrections do not work that way. They tend to throw bombs, not concoct elaborate frameups. The truth is, there is no insurrection. The Jurmalians are still too grateful to the empire for raising their standard of living." Sooner or later they would come to realize that the empire was oppressive and that the bulk of the profits and the best jobs were all going to its cronies. But that would take awhile, maybe even a generation or two. "So you concocted a batch of suspects, but it did not wash. People may deny their association with terrorism groups, but these groups do not hide their existence. They want people to be afraid of them, and they take credit even for things they did not do. The whole thing was a coverup, and you were the logical person to be doing the covering up."
"Very clever. Shame you are not going to have a chance to tell anyone," he said, pulling a blaster out of his robe pocket. "There is one blaster allowed by my blaster detection system, and that is mine. I could not use it on Vermelia without giving myself away. But you have a bad reputation in some quarters at Central. I am sure I can concoct some plausible reason for killing you."
He fell, hit by three directed sonic blasts. "That will teach him to try to turn the empire against us," stated Ronkavir.
"You all heard his confession?" I inquired.
"Yes, I am told we have very sensitive hearing to make our echolocation work," returned Ronkavi. His two assistants wiggled their ears in agreement.
Later, while I was worshiping in Custu Pulinore's church, I felt forced to mediate on how small and petty could be the roots of evil. Especially when all moral restraint was taken away.