Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.
Christopher let Cain lead the way into the conference room. The cabinet members were already seated around the long, rectangular table. The group was quite old, most of them white-haired and heavily wrinkled. Through windows along one side of the room Christopher could see a panoramic view of the city below.
He had waited in a nearby room for the rest of the cabinet to arrive for the meeting. “Better to explain once than invite questions from each and every one of them as they enter,” Cain had said. Of course, that meant that Christopher would now truly make a spectacle of himself as the stranger entering the most private meeting of the de facto rulers of the city.
“Who is this, Cain?” one man grumbled, before Cain had even made it to his seat. Some of the others had taken notice of the stranger in their midst as well. They watched as Cain pulled out the chair at the head of the table and gestured for Christopher to sit. There it was, the king on his throne.
Cain cleared his throat.
“There really ought to be more fanfare, but I suppose we’ll make do. This man was born Christopher Lamarck, but he is, in fact, the reincarnation of our long-missing leader, God-Speaker.”
He pulled out a chair next to Christopher and sat, as if the matter was now settled. For a moment, it was quiet enough that Christopher could hear the clock on the wall ticking.
And then the clamor of voices rose up like a wave to crash over him. He leaned back in the chair involuntarily.
He was distinctly aware though, of a feeling lurking beneath the discomfort and uncertainty. There was a giddy, self-satisfied feeling. It came from a place that Christopher was beginning to recognize as God-Speaker’s influence, and it was slowly growing.
“What kind of game are you playing, Cain? He’s been dead for decades.”
“This is absurd. Why would he need you as his mouthpiece?”
“How is this possible? Are you sure?”
The general feeling Christopher heard in the cabinet’s exclamations was disbelief. One or two of the secretaries immediately suspected Cain of some sort of soft coup. One or two others, however, seemed more willing to hear him out. Christopher did not consider himself terribly good at reading people’s emotions, but God-Speaker did. Christopher noted the crease of a brow here, the shape of a mouth over there. It was almost like a movie, where the camera zoomed in on some tiny clue, and the voice-over explained what it all meant.
Christopher found that he recognized some of these people. There were familiar faces. He had names or titles for some, but not for others.
A woman in a black silk blouse stood and held out her hands over the arguing secretaries like a benediction. Christopher’s brain helpfully offered up a name and title: Cassandra Bell, Director of Intelligence Operations.
“Everyone, stop. This isn’t productive. Let them speak, and then have your argument when there’s something substantial to argue about.”
Cain stood as well.
“Thank you, Cas.”
She nodded and sat.
“I think I know more than most, but I’d still like to hear what you’ve been up to. From the beginning.”
“If he’s really God-Speaker, why don’t you just let him speak?” asked a man at the far end of the table, whose name Christopher couldn’t yet recall.
“I’d actually love to hear what Cain has been up to,” Christopher said. “I haven’t gotten the full story yet.”
“Of course,” Cain said. “As most of you know, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time down in the basement, in the chamber of voices, the resurrection chamber, the place where the oracles learn their craft.”
“Or at least where they used to learn it,” someone muttered.
“Yes, yes, we all know about the basement. Can we get on without your mystical pomp and circumstance?” someone else said.
“This is the culmination of half a lifetime of work,” Cain said. “I think I should be allowed a little ceremoniousness.”
Christopher sighed. These were the rulers of Razor Mountain. He could imagine the years of petty squabbling that had gone on in his absence.
“While I appreciate all your hard work, I think we had better be concise for now,” he said.
“After the body was found and the Secretary of Justice was…convicted…I began spending as much of my time as possible down in the heart of the mountain. At first, I was simply hoping to find clues to the murder, or some explanation as to why nothing had happened when the oracles were sent back with their warnings. And very slowly, I began to see glimpses of things.”
“Is this all going to boil down to you seeing the truth in a vision?” said a man halfway down the table. The Secretary of the Treasury, Christopher thought.
“Is that strange to you?” Cain asked. “Is that any different from what the oracles do? What God-Speaker does?”
“The oracles are a rare few,” the man said, “and they all age out of their abilities when they’re far younger than you. And of course God-Speaker is altogether different.”
“Be that as it may, I began to see things,” Cain continued. At first it was nothing but jumbled images. Eventually I began to notice the same things repeating: the same rooms in a particular house. The same few people over and over again. And all of it revolved around one person: a child named Christopher.
“Now I will readily admit, I had no evidence. I had only grief. But I had an unshakable feeling that this child was God-Speaker. I became convinced that he had reincarnated, as he always does, but it had somehow gone wrong and he was far away from the mountain.
“It was at this point that I enlisted help for the first time. I began “borrowing” external operators from Cas every now and then, and I collected as much information as I could on this boy, while doing my best to not reveal who I thought he was.”
Cas Bell smiled. “I will say, it took me entirely too long to realize what your suspicions were. You’re not the worst spy.”
“In any case,” Cain continued, “Our people found the boy, his family, and his house: everything I had seen in my visions. I discovered that Christopher was born on the same day God-Speaker died, perhaps even the very moment of his death. It was too perfect to be a coincidence. The more I learned, the more convinced I was, and more determined to keep my beliefs hidden. I knew I needed to bring him back here, but I didn’t know how to do it without revealing what I knew, or putting him in danger.”
“What danger, exactly?” said a tall, bald man at the far end of the table.
“He had just been murdered,” Cain said. “There was no reason to believe it wouldn’t happen again, especially if he came back in the body of a small child.”
“McCaul was already locked up,” someone said. Christopher recognized that name. Moira McCaul had been the Secretary of Justice, head of the civilian police under the mountain.
“McCaul never had a trial, and she wouldn’t have been convicted if she had,” Cain replied. “That was a sham, and I think most of you know it. You all wanted some sense of closure, but there was never enough evidence to know who did it.”
“We’ve been over and over that case a dozen times,” the bald man said.
“Not enough, it seems,” said a woman near Christopher’s end of the table. She was clearly the youngest of the secretaries. Christopher suspected she must be the new Secretary of Justice, the deputy who had taken the position when her boss was imprisoned. He couldn’t come up with a name.
“There is very little doubt in my mind that someone in this room was responsible for God-Speaker’s murder,” Cain said bluntly. “And if they did it once, they’ll do it again.”
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