0041 – Leftenant Faulkner: A Good Man, Part 4

Faulkner pushed open the door to his commandeered cottage, and hurriedly closed it behind himself. A plume of floating spores had jettisoned themselves into the house along with him. Another door separated this first antechamber from the rest of the house, and he had left it shut before his departure. This meant that the small room could serve as a kind of makeshift airlock for the purposes of keeping said spores out.

He brushed his gloves and the sleeves of his jacket first, before pulling it off to dust the back. The little particles seemed to get everywhere. They were in his hair too, and he did his best to shake them out. Normally, after coming in from outside, he would bathe to remove them completely, but he found himself in a hurry on this occasion. The boy, K’Pale, was still waiting in his cell.

Faulkner was here for one reason: clean paper. With confident strides, he made his way toward the smoky little study, and opened the door forcefully.

Inside, the golem was slapping its right hand ineffectually against the surface of the desk, leaving deep scratches with every thudding motion.

Half of the desk, and much of the floor, was covered in paper bearing neat, repetitive lines that read: “ALL PAGES TO YOUR LEFT.”

Faulkner cried out in frustration.

“You stupid bloody machine!” He screeched, clipping the golem across the head. This resulted in nothing but a minor injury to his hand.

Faulkner’s plan for the golem had involved using it to copy sullied forms – which held no legal weight in Regulan law – onto clean paper, relying on the automaton’s ability to reproduce the originals exactly. This would, technically, have been cutting a few corners. One couldn’t simply draw up Regulan paperwork – the army had Scribes, men whose sole duty it was to print, safeguard, distribute, and in some instances, fill in the vast array of papers that constituted the backbone of the Regulan legal system.

The problem was that Scribes, much like anyone else involved with the more respected and literal-minded strata of Regulan administration, would only accept information presented on – yes – clean paper.

Under normal circumstances, Faulkner would simply have approached a Scribe and requested a blank copy of the required form for interviewing K’Pale, 873/C/A/iv. However, as K’Pale did not speak English, he required an Agarthan interpreter. Faulkner had found one, in the shape of Auxiliary Pak’ton, but ranks simply didn’t come any lower than “Auxiliary”, and the rules were clear as day:

ADDITIONAL SIGNATURE BY TESTIFYING OFFICER IS REQUIRED IF INTERPRETING PARTY HAS NOT ATTAINED AT LEAST THE RANK OF OPTIO.

Faulkner knew from former, bitter experience, that he himself could not serve as the testifying officer, since he was acting as the interviewing officer. This presented, according to King’s Rules and Regs, a conflict of interest.

As the only Leftenant in the occupation force, Faulkner was also the second highest ranking officer available – and one of only two who met the minimum requirement rank to serve, in this case, as a Testifying Officer. The other was Captain Perrin himself, but his signature would be required as the Occupying Force Commanding Officer, which presented a conflict of interest once again.

Faulkner rubbed his temples, trying to keep track of all this. A Scribe would have to serve as the Testifying Officer, he realised. A quick thumb through his dog-eared copy of King’s Rules and Regs confirmed this as a viable option in the event of no ranking officers being available for the role.

His plan to present an interview transcript to a Scribe – on clean paper – and have them use it to fill in form 873/C/A/iv would have been pointless anyway, since the Scribe in question, due to the need for a Testifying Officer, would now have to be present at the interview.

Faulkner threw his hands up in exasperation, and clutched at his hair. A few dark blue spores came loose in his fingers. He took his frustration out on the golem by opening its thick head and using a small slip of paper to issue it the futile instruction: “PICK YOUR NOSE.”

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Scribe Cassius had no need to commandeer a residence. Scribes had caravans. This was considered necessary for a variety of reasons, chief among them the sheer amount of paper (all of which must be correctly filed at all times) that travelled with any Regulan detachment. Breaking it all down into cargo, and reassembling it at acceptable premises at the destination, was impractical compared to the effective – if slow – solution of simply tethering an entire office to a few strong beasts of burden and letting it follow behind the army.

However, this had caused a few problems of its own. It was, as should be apparent by now, impossible to get more or less anything done in Regulan territory without reams and reams of paperwork, yet the library caravans that travelled with each Scribe were often several days behind the rest of the army by the time it arrived at its destination.

This meant that Regulan soldiers spent, on the whole, a lot of time waiting around. In fact, Faulkner bitterly recollected, they would have entered the Shroud nearly a week earlier had they not found themselves waiting for the appropriate requisition paperwork which would allow them to actually take the breathing kits out of storage.

Cassius opened the door very, very slowly. The caravans had but one entrance, the entire interior being comprised of a single large chamber. To allow a plume of spores to blow in through the threshold here would be catastrophic.

Faulkner shuffled in, carefully, soundlessly. Cassius closed the door so eagerly that its wood scraped hard against Faulkner’s uniform, skimming it of dust.

Cassius finally exhaled, unwinding a notch from “neurotic” to merely “uptight.”

“Leftenant.” He greeted Faulkner. “What can I do for you?”

Faulkner smiled with schadenfreude..

“Cassius!” He clapped the Scribe on the back, causing a visible wince. “Get your gear on. We’re going outside.

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