Thursday, June 21, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 48
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, our heroes prepare to go back in time to rescue whoever was next on Klangfarben's List but it appears she must have already returned from the past and succeeded: no one can figure out who the likely target was! But Johann Nepomuck Sauerbraten thinks he recalls a name his father used to warn him about as he figures out how to transfer the Time-Device's code from the central computer into his own device. Meanwhile, back at the courthouse, pandemonium breaks out and a child named Mozart makes an uncomfortable discovery.
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Judge Willa Fortune had been screaming her head off until she broke her gavel once the courtroom descended into chaos following the revelation about Mahler’s score. The crowd had turned decidedly ugly, chanting “death to the Trespassers.” When she turned back to demand Smighley call for back-up, she discovered he had disappeared along with all five of the Trespassers. The guards had been too busy trying to control the crowd to have noticed their escape but perhaps, as she tried sorting things out, Smighley planned on returning them to custody. Her bailiff had noticed nothing.
When Officer Polletto returned from the corridor yelling he’d found a pile of handcuffs and chains and then, further down the hallway, another pile of prison jump-suits, Judge Fortune knew somebody’s goose was going to get royally cooked as a result of this serious security infraction, and she had better get the process rolling before it would be hers.
Rushing back into the courtroom, one of the men who’d helped carry Mozart out after he’d fainted was yelling to be heard over the commotion but no one except those next to him could hear him. Only gradually did the news circulate through the crowd that the man disappeared before their very eyes, replaced by a very young child.
“I have no idea what happened. Kid says his name is Mozart.”
Brahms looked at Schumann and asked, “Mozart? Who is Mozart?”
Robert and Clara both looked at him, shrugging their shoulders.
“I’ve never heard of him.”
The guards began forcing the crowd out into the lobby and from there, they descended into the street, raising their fists as they continued the catchy chants, “Kill, baby, kill” and “Death to the Trespassers.” Brahms was desperately trying to control the crowd, getting each of the different groups to chant antiphonally, maybe even turn it into a fugue. But the mob resisted all attempts at control as it marched off in different directions, some to Einstein Hall, others to the police station and still others to Stravinsky’s Tavern where the Trespassers were first spotted.
Rumors were flying that these Trespassers – there were really hundreds of them but these were only the leaders – had come to destroy Harmonia-IV. They would plunder the Ark of the Manuscripts, carrying everything back to Earth. The invasion from the Other Side would destroy Harmonia which would soon be covered by shopping malls, used car lots and nail salons.
The child who called himself Mozart was shoved about by the crowd and nearly trampled when a large burly man picked him up to carry him outside.
“I am Mozart,” the boy told his rescuer. “Many kings and queens have proclaimed me a most amazing prodigy.”
“Mozart, eh? Well, let me tell you,” the man said, “prodigies are a dime a dozen, here. Have you ever heard of Johann Nepomuk Sauerbraten? Now, there was a talented composer, cut off in his youth. No one would ever know who he could become – a great loss, Sauerbraten…”
Young Mozart was crestfallen at this response, having been so used to adulation that his being ignored and shoved about like any non-entity made him wish he had never been born. Where was Nannerl, he wondered. Frightened, the boy missed his mother, even his father whose domineering ways at least fed his ego, giving him a sense of worth.
What was the point, being one of many, if it took twelve of them performing before a crowd to earn a mere dime? Talk about “trained moneys,” remembering the complaints he’d heard about his father’s showmanship. Life in this odd place would be very strange indeed without his family or the adoring crowds and monarchs he was used to.
“Who are you?” the boy wanted to know.
“Me? I am a music-loving botanist by profession with a passion for cataloguing things. My name is Köchel.”
“Köchel? Well,” the child countered, “I’ve never heard of you.”
Smighley looked back to see the mob pouring out of the courthouse onto the square, loud and angry, and decided he and his newfound colleagues should take another route to get to the New Coalton Time-Gate. He hoped by now Officer Schleppenfuss would already have his crack team of security agents assembled in place. This could get very ugly. He knew if the mob arrived there before the police did, the violence could easily escalate till any Trespassers caught there would find themselves in grave danger – “no pun intended,” he added for Det. Ste.-Croix’s benefit.
“You see,” he continued explaining, “there’s no threat saying you’ll kill someone who’s already dead. Your bullets would merely wound them only slightly, you see. Our bullets would only stun them into a state of suspended animation – an hour later, they’ll come to. It’s not the end of everything like shooting a living person might be. More humane, too.”
She thought it might have its benefits but what effect would this have on a living person? She didn’t feel it necessary to kill Kent-Clarke, whether or not he’s the one who stole Mahler’s score. Maybe he was dangerous enough they couldn’t let him get back to Earth with it, but killing him was not, for her, an option. Arguing that stunning someone wasn’t likely to be much of a crime-deterrent among Harmonians, a shoot-to-kill order against Kent-Clarke was not only not a deterrent, it would probably prove unnecessary. After all, he was only a conductor.
The whole process of space travel – how she got from Earth’s Point A to Point B in some distant parallel universe in a matter of what she was convinced was only seconds – continued to bother her. There hadn’t been much time to discuss the details with Dr. Kerr who didn’t appear to have much grasp of the issue.
Unfortunately, Smighley, a Harmonian himself, was unable to satisfy her curiosity any better. Initially, he looked at her the way a rocket scientist viewed someone who didn’t understand simple quantum mechanics: where would you even begin?
She couldn’t get past the idea time was not necessarily continuous: the past automatically led to the present, moving forward into the future. In a case, evidence or “facts” produced a logical flow toward the solution.
“Alas,” Smighley argued, “those are old-fashioned arguments no longer applicable to today’s scientific reality.”
This, from a man who died 160 years ago…
“If we could focus on the crisis at hand,” Rondo Sharrif interrupted, pointing out they were arriving near the New Coalton Gate without a policeman in sight.
“Of course you can’t see them,” Smighley indignantly grumbled.
“You don’t suppose that has something to do with quantum mechanics?” Ste.-Croix, considerably irritated herself, was not going to let this go easily.
“You expect someone’s going to walk right into a trap if he sees there are signs everywhere saying ‘This way to the trap’?”
Smighley quietly tapped on the radio medallion pinned to his lapel and whistled.
“We see you, sir,” a voice crackled in response, “along with two others.”
Smighley turned to his colleagues with a look of vindication, nodding out toward the open field.
“How many do you have, Officer Schleppenfuss?”
“There are a dozen here, sir, posted around the field’s perimeter. You’d better move, though – anyone coming up the road could see you.”
“Good.” As they moved over behind a small group of bushes, Smighley thought Ste.-Croix’s khaki raincoat and the horn player’s light blue shirt will stand out like a sore thumb in this darkness. What happened to security’s “stealth dress code?” Then he asked Schleppenfuss if he’d received any updates about the direction the crowd from the court-house was taking. “Negative, sir. Polletto may have been exaggerating that the crowd was over a thousand.”
“Good grief, it couldn’t possibly be over a hundred – the courtroom is only so large.”
“Considering quantum mechanics,” Ste.-Croix whispered, “are you sure?”
Harmonians rarely got passionate about their politics: very little ever happened here, Smighley explained, to incite protests but one issue for sure, he said, was these Time-Gates. Crime in Harmonia almost always centered around some Trespasser. When a whole bunch of them break through like this, people start imagining all kinds of horrors and the whole place goes nuts.
They don’t realize many Harmonians travel back and forth on a regular basis to the Other Side. It was like an old trade route or something – a futuristic Silk Road or more accurately, a Time Road.
“It’s very different compared to what we… uhm, what do you call people like me – Earthlings?”
“No, we’re all Earthlings – we just live in different places, now.” Harmonians were generically Parallelians, residents of numerous parallel universes existing side-by-side with Earth. People still living on planet Earth are usually called Otherians (pronounced “oh-theer-ians”).
It sounded odd, being called an “Other.”
“Anyway, what I was going to say was,” as she pointed toward the empty field, “it seems a little bleak for what we Otherians think of as these grand Pearly Gates, welcomed by St. Peter and…”
“If it makes you feel better, new souls arriving here enter through a portal in the Thanoshpere, a kind of cosmic processing center.”
He explained it was more universal, like a great international airport located in the center of Myrios Kronos (unlike this Time-Gate which was only a localized entrance). From there, each soul is distributed to its respective universe.
“But it still matches no religion’s image of what the entrance to the after-life will be like.”
“Sounds daunting to be met by a bunch of bureaucrats stamping your passport instead of a choir of angels…”
“Several friends,” Sharrif recounted, “arriving as martyrs expected to be awarded their 72 houris, but only found there were none – a great disappointment…”
It’s not that Ste.-Croix had thought much about the after-life at this point. Though she had lost both her parents when she was a child and they had been in their thirties, she still thought of herself at 40-something as invincible. She’d never been sick, much, and death was not on her radar. This didn’t seem like death, here.
In the quiet moments of the night, waiting for the return of Kent-Clarke, Smighley considered the case’s options but also thought about how he was actually beginning to like this Detective from a place called Pennsylvania.
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To be continued…
- Dick Strawser
The novel, "The Doomsday Symphony," a music appreciation thriller written between 2010 and 2011, is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.