Maggie looked around the large room as women seated themselves in various groups, quietly talking among themselves. She could hear snippets of conversation here and there as she walked among the different groups. Of course this was being broadcast all over Cassandra. This was the second most important topic, if not the most important topic, of any conversation on the whole planet at the time. It concerned the Heroes of Earth; that made it a prime subject. Administrators, archivists, caretakers, data processors, supervisors, plus all the other jobs and groups all waited for the start of inquest.
"As most of you are aware by now, I'm Maggie Secretary. Some of you also knew that I was also Maggie Counselor when the need arose. Ten weeks ago, I again became Maggie Counselor, upon the return to Crossroads of the body of Jimmy MacDonald, Earth Hero.
"What most of you don't know is after a preliminary investigation and hearing, I was directed to turn my duties as counselor over to another counselor. That was done for two reasons. The first one, which was the publicly released reason, was it was just too painful for me to continue in that capacity with my friend Kathrine, as she had been Jimmy's Caretaker. She needed more than I could give, and we had been too close prior to her becoming a caretaker. Jimmy had been on his second rescue when he was killed. I'll come back to that in a moment. The second reason my job was changed, and known only to those at the highest levels of the governing counsel, was to investigate the circumstances surrounding Jimmy's death. I became the first Superintendent. There appeared to be too many anomalies during the preliminary investigation for the things that had happened to have been entirely coincidental. I was tasked with finding out exactly what was happening on Chaos, Crossroads, and Cassandra; and, if possible, Earth. Our Earth Heroes were dying, on Chaos and on Earth, and it seemed possible that they were being deliberately murdered. We had to determine which was the case and stop it.
"I said I would get back to Jimmy's second rescue when he was killed. That is also when I lost my Phillip, on his second rescue, so many years ago and I still miss his touch every day I'm alive. But you know as well as I do that it happens: just as our Damsels face death each and every time they go to Chaos, so do the Heroes that go to rescue them. That has been the primary premise upon which the relationship between Cassandra, Crossroads and Earth for many, many years has existed. What has come to light in the last few weeks has been the attempt to destroy that relationship and the attempt to literally bring the women of Cassandra into bondage by controlling our access to the men of Earth. You are all well aware of our need for the men of Earth. Them, and the generations of stronger children they present, is our main hope to keep up our civilization and our home world from dying.
"Also I am very sure that you are aware of the war currently being waged on Chaos by the four Generals to stop the slave trade that is a direct result of a man by the name of Carl. This man may or may not be acting with other individuals on Earth and Chaos. We know for a fact he is working with at least one and probably as many as three people here on Cassandra."
That woke them up, as a collective gasp was heard from around the room. Maggie continued to watch the room trying to watch the three individuals who she thought were in league with Carl. As she watched them with occasional glances two of them sat quietly while the third was fidgety in her seat.
Either those two are extremely cool individuals or they are not involved. Time will tell, as always, we just have to wait and see what develops.
"As I said earlier, Jimmy MacDonald's death brought certain anomalies to light with our handling of our Heroes information and rescues. We thought our data was as comprehensive as it could be possible be made. In this we were wrong, as our files have been tampered with, are defective, and some may even be totally useless.
"The current system is the culmination of hundreds of years of use. Jimmy chose the mission to rescue Ava Foreman based on the information provided him by Kathrine Caretaker from our system. He would normally have been able to remove Ava from the kidnapper holding her for ransom and then returned to Crossroads. Based on the information in our system, Jimmy, a second rescue mission Hero, was evenly matched and possibly even slightly more skilled than the individual known as Chirurgen. This rescue should not have been a problem. Instead, he received a knife to the throat. A second mission Hero should not have been shown the mission to rescue Ava Foreman. It was, for all intents and purposes, a suicide mission for Jimmy because the files that are supposed to be linked to give us cross-reference information had been sabotaged. The cross-linked files would have shown Kathrine Caretaker that the individual known as Chirurgen was also known as The Surgeon, the most deadly knife fighter on Chaos. The Surgeon also almost killed Sid Jones with a poisoned knife when he subsequently rescued Ava. It has been determined that the link between the two files did in fact exist at one time. Someone removed that link and attempted to hide it sometime prior to the rescue mission. The individual that removed the links on those and other files that we have found is directly responsible for the murder of Jimmy MacDonald and at least one other Hero who has been killed on Chaos."
The silence in the room was near deafening. Maggie watched the previously fidgeting woman slowly stand and start walking toward an exit, very slowly, very erratically. Slowly all heads in the room turned toward her as they watched her walk. Maggie motioned at three women and then pointed toward the receding woman. "Take her into custody, she is to be questioned when we are completed here. She is NOT to be left alone under any circumstances; she is to have three women with her at all times."
I surveyed the groups as the woman was escorted from the room. My other two suspects were still sitting calmly as if they don't have a care in the world.
Science Fiction /