Excerpt From A Crime That Has No Name

Embessage

Helwaz fled through the narrow, orderly, whitewashed streets of God's Bounty. He gasped for breath and staggered with his child clutched in his arms. All the people strutting by looked so purposeful, so happy. Where was he?

And so he wandered, in a daze, to the place of last resort.

The Embassage Terrene was an eccentric jumble, all spires and additions and turrets and strange angles. It sprawled for a quarter mile across an odd-shaped wobble of land at the top of a hill. The homes and shops which nestled within the hollows of its awkward outline were thought tainted by the colonists, who would not tarry within that building's shadow any longer than they had to.

The narrow Petitioner's Door was always deserted, save in the dead of night. Helwaz might have been the first to climb those crooked steps in the light of day. The act reeked of shame.

Far away, the great Harmony Bell struck three.

The guard wore a velvet mask, as was the fashion of Earth. His uniform shone with gold filigree and glossy black. He spoke not a word to Helwaz, but led him through the twisting corridors that no man would admit to having tread, and at last to Nieman Rusk, Ambassador.

Helwaz sneezed from all the dust in the air. Before him Rusk lounged on a lavender settee, stroking a hairless cat with his pointed fingernails. The room had an excessive number of sides, no vertical lines, not enough light and entirely too many books. It exuded an air of studied unwholesomeness.

"Lovely child" said Rusk in a fluting falsetto "have you come to betray your country? We love to see beautiful boys betray their countries, don't we my smooth little cat." He drew the word "smooth" out into a long, liquid sound. The cat presented his belly to be rubbed.

"I do not know." Helwaz replied "I am in desperate need, and I think that I would do whatever was required." He spoke softly, so as not to wake his child, whom he felt should not witness this unimproving scene.

Above his velvet mask the ambassador's eyes glinted with a mixture of amusement and avidity. "You are Helwaz Dablard. My little cat Mekhmet and I have heard of you. So, your lover has managed to commit the ultimate outrage against God and Nature. We are intrigued. How was it done?"

"Rodolf was the genius, not I. They were so impressed with him at the Lyceum that he had free run of the labs before he was even a student. I do not know all the details, but I can tell you that he somehow placed a chromosome from each of us into an egg with no genetic material of its own. He then got the zygote to attach to the outer wall of his duodenum, and carried the infant to term. I performed the cesarean myself, following his verbal direction. Rodolf was very good at concealing his condition. We nearly got away with it."

"And the technique whereby this dark miracle was wrought upon the world?"

"Largely unknown to me. I would have thought that such procedures were commonplace on Earth."

Rusk shook his perfumed locks. "No." he said, "We lag behind the rural provinces in perversity. Earth's culture is too stagnant even to collapse, I fear."

"Can you find a scientific rationale to save us, then?"

Rusk paused, then plucked at one of Mekhmet's nipples as though deep in thought.

"There is a price, my lovely boy." he burbled.

Helwaz felt disgust roil up within him, but it quickly changed to cold, clear wrath.

"No", he said "If I were willing to whore myself, Justicary Koonz would pardon him outright. My tastes and youth do not make me a slut-- why can none of you understand this?"

"Fah!" said the Ambassador "I never worship at the unclean temple of rape. A rapist takes the easy, unrefined path to vice. How much more difficult it is to profane God at every step without such crude theatrics. No, I want something far more vile from you."

The baby stirred and Rusk lowered his voice to keep from waking her.

"Treason." He trilled the word. "We want you to renounce your citizenship, claim the protection of Earth, denounce the Justicary, expose his hypocrisy in defiance of all good taste and proclaim the cause of buggeration across the cosmos. Ah, Jesus fuck! Such a crime! I shall spend!"

Helwaz, recoiled at the thought of denouncing such a prominent citizen. It was unthinkable- the shame of it. Yet Rusk's evil plan had a flaw, he was relieved to note.

"That might save me", he said, "But what of Rodolf, who would still be a citizen of Fresh Beginning?"

Rusk was ready for this, having saved the best for last.

"What is that, smooth little Mekhmet?" He put his ear to the cat's wattled throat. "Not enough crime? Helwaz must marry Rodolf too, and profane the very order of the universe? Mekhmet, you wicked, wicked cat!"

"How could I do that?" gasped Helwaz. He meant that the impropriety of the idea was staggering, but Rusk misunderstood him.

"It does not hurt." He fluted "one signs some papers, one leaves for our orbital platform, never to see his home again. One then testifies against one's country, people and way of life. Betrayal is so easy that it's almost dull."

Helwaz considered which course of action was less repugnant, which monster he could trust more to keep its word.

"And if we claim Earthly citizenship, but then refuse to testify against anyone or give up any medical secrets?"

The Ambassador shrugged, as if to say that it was none of his affair.

"I don't understand. What do you hope to gain from all this?" Helwaz asked.

"The natural order of things is cruelty". said Rusk. "All law and reason supports it. Therefore kindness is a crime of the most sordid caste. But it is another acknowledged fact that Crime is Beauty. Therefore compassion is a foulness in which I revel."

"I have to think". Helwaz shook his head like a dog shedding water.

"Do not delay too long, unless it sweetens the act for you." Rusk stifled a yawn. "We would rise to shake your hand, but I am recovering from a wound I took in a duel last week."

"You are a duelist?" Helwaz was incredulous.

"Rated seven thousand five hundred and forty-fifth." Rusk modestly confessed. "It is a rank that must be frequently defended."

Helwaz bowed and took his leave, feeling more confused and troubled than before...

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