Razor Mountain — Chapter 31.5

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

The Secretary of Labor sat in the chair on the other side of the desk with legs crossed and hands steepled. He wore a dark suit with a narrow tie that only further accentuated his lankiness. He didn’t speak, he just looked at Christopher.

“Well, since I’ve been asking everyone else, I suppose I had better ask you too: do you need more evidence that I am who I say I am?”

Reed frowned. “Is that what the others have been doing?”

“Some of them.”

Reed shook his head. “As I said before, it seems like the reasonable thing to do is wait. If what you’ve said is true, then it shouldn’t be long before we have all the incontrovertible proof we could ever desire.”

“What would you like to talk about then?” Christopher asked.

“I was under the impression that this meeting was for your benefit,” Reed replied. He picked up the briefcase next to his chair and set it on his lap. “I’ve taken the liberty of organizing some reports. It’s obviously not practical to condense decades of work, but I’ve summarized a few of the more interesting projects, and the things that are currently in progress.”

Christopher took the proffered papers and set them on the desk.

“I’ll take a look. I’m sure it will take some time to get caught up with everything.”

“Yes, half a lifetime of work. I’m sure by now Cain has mentioned his many concerns that everything is more or less falling apart around here, but I think you’ll discover for yourself that his claims are overblown.”

Christopher heard a faint sigh escape Cain from across the room.

“Honestly, I don’t think that’s been the nature of our conversations at all,” Christopher said.

“I see. Well, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by some of the advancements we have made in your absence.”

Reed stood, abruptly enough that Christopher sat back in his chair. His hand touched the gun under the desk.

“If there’s nothing else?”

Christopher shook his head. “No, I suppose there isn’t, at least for now.”

Reed left as stiffly as he had entered, briefcase in hand.

When the door had closed, Christopher said, “That was odd.”

“He came in expecting an argument,” Cain said.

“Why is that?”

“I assume it’s because he and I rarely see eye-to-eye on anything, and he thought I’d be busy telling you how awful he is.”

“Is he? From what I remember, he was competent enough.”

“He does his job well enough, from what I can tell,” Cain said. “It’s the way he always tries to do little bits of other peoples’ jobs as well that tends to irritate me.”

“I see. He’s one of the ones who has been trying to expand his kingdom, so to speak?”

“That’s my opinion,” Cain said. “Obviously I don’t expect you to take my word for it. You can form your own opinions. But that’s more or less the root of our particular disagreements.”

Christopher thought about the strange mix of people within the cabinet. God-Speaker had sought out a set of qualities in his administrators. They were supposed to be reasonably good at their jobs, but they also had to be servile and content with the limited power they had. Above all, God-Speaker had tried to build a place where he was safe and in control; a protective shell around himself.

Cain was a perfect fit for the job. He enjoyed the work and sought out improvements. He kept the trains running on time, so to speak. Beyond that, he had little ambition. In fact, he was so eager for God-Speaker to come back, he had almost single-handedly engineered it. It was a rare combination of personality traits.

“When did you send back the oracles?” Christopher asked.

Cain scratched his scalp. “We sent one an hour or two after you were found. Then everyone argued about how we would know if it had worked. The next morning we sent two more. The last two were a couple days after that. At that point, there was only one left. Despite all the arguments about whether or not the oracles were of any use at all, nobody wanted to send the last. Of course, at some point he aged out, as they all do.”

Christopher shook his head. “I remember now. I remember getting those messages, for all the good it ended up doing.”

“So they did actually make it?”

“They made it. But they didn’t tell me who the threat was.”

Christopher cocked his head, listening. “Nobody knows exactly how the oracles work. Not even the voices under the mountain. I received messages, but it’s hard to say if they were from you.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

Christopher waved a hand. “It’s not important. I remember being on my guard. I knew something was coming. Whatever happened, I wasn’t prepared.”

“We didn’t know who had done it either,” Cain said. “We couldn’t send you a proper warning.”

“That should have been enough.”

Christopher rose from his chair.

“I think I had better sleep. Maybe in the morning we’ll know the truth.”


Razor Mountain — Chapter 31.4

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher no longer felt the freedom of anonymity to walk around the city unrecognized. Although nobody outside the cabinet would know who he was, public areas would be dangerous: someone acting on the murderer’s orders might attempt assassination anywhere. Cain suggested he remain in the highly restricted areas reserved for himself and the cabinet, where even high-level advisers and well-vetted guards were rarely permitted. It would force the traitor to involve themselves personally in any assassination attempts.

Christopher insisted on one excursion, despite Cain’s attempts to dissuade him, so Cain called a lieutenant colonel he trusted to act as personal body guard, and they set out without warning anyone that they were going. They took service hallways and elevators to the levels below the city center, and made their way to the section that served as the city’s military prison.

Cain led the way, showing credentials and speaking to the guards at the entrance. Prisons, it seemed, did not like unexpected visitors. There was some discussion among the guards (and Christopher suspected some complaining just out of earshot), but they were eventually allowed through. One of the guards took them down a maze of hallways to another checkpoint, where they were let through immediately. Then more hallways.

Finally, the guard swiped his card over the black Plexiglas square on the wall and held the door open for them. Cain stepped through and Christopher followed. The door shut behind them with a solid sound, like an airlock sealing.

“I don’t like this,” Cain said.

“Isn’t this one of the most secure places in the city?” Christopher asked. “There are cameras covering every nook and cranny. And plenty of witnesses.”

Cain shook his head, but didn’t complain further. Christopher understood what he was feeling. Regardless of logic, it felt like they were trapped. He supposed that was the whole point of prison architecture.

At the end of the hallway, where only specific guards were permitted to enter, there were four cells. For decades now, according to Cain, only one of them had been occupied. Drawing on the confusing swirl of memories available to him, Christopher was able to calculate that the woman inside should be sixty-six. She looked far older.

The cell was lavish, compared to the one that Christopher had been kept in. It was about twenty feet square, with a real bed, a desk and chair, and a stainless steel privacy partition for the toilet. It still wasn’t a place he would want to spend days, let alone decades.

Moira McCaul was sitting at the desk in the middle of the cell, well back from the bars. She didn’t stand, or even turn to look at them.

“It’s been a while, Cain.”

“Longer than it should have been,” Cain said. “I could make excuses, but they hardly seem adequate in the face of your situation.”

She laughed, though it was little more than a papery whisper. “I accepted my situation years ago. I think it’s your guilt that keeps you coming back to visit me.”

“It’s not guilt,” Cain said. “I did what I could to try and free you. I just thought it might make it a tiny bit more bearable if you had someone to talk to once in a while.”

“Maybe if you were a better conversationalist,” she said, dryly. “Though I appreciate the effort. Now I imagine you’re not here to rehash the same old conversations again. Who have you brought with you this time?”

“It’s me,” Christopher said, without thinking. There was something different in his voice, something he didn’t recognize.

Moira turned her head sharply. It was clear she recognized it.

Christopher was momentarily submerged in new memories: a young McCaul taking the elevator to the top floors for the first time, their early meetings and her guarded excitement. The young face faded from his inner eye, leaving behind the wrinkled and far older version that sat before him in the cell.

“You actually came back,” she said.

“I did. Through a truly ridiculous series of events.”

“Nobody said it would be easy, coming back from the dead.”

Christopher scratched his head. “I don’t suppose you were the one who killed me?”

As soon as it came out of his mouth, he thought it might be the worst thing he could have possibly said. There was silence for a moment, and then she laughed, a real proper laugh this time.

“Did you pick up a sense of humor while you were away?” she asked.

“I picked up a few things,” Christopher said. “Unfortunately, I’m still missing memories, and a few of them are important ones.”

“I see. Well, as I’m sure Cain has already told you, I didn’t kill you, and I don’t know who did. I gave up trying to figure it out a long time ago.”

“There may have already been another attempt to kill me,” Christopher said. “Poison, this time. You don’t seem to be in the position to pull that off.”

She nodded, but her humor had fled.

“I promise you, I’ll release you as soon as we know who the killer was.”

“I appreciate the thought,” she said, “but it comes a few decades late.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, not your fault. Certainly not your fault. You’ve had all that being dead to deal with.”

“Everything under the mountain is my responsibility,” Christopher said.

“Maybe so, but what’s done is done. Even the oracles couldn’t undo it.”

They stood in silence.

“Was that all you came to say, then?”

Christopher sighed. “I guess it was. I felt like I needed to speak to you in person.”

“To know that it really wasn’t me? You always were convinced you could read anyone, up close. Did it do you any good?”

Christopher didn’t know how to reply. “I’ll see you again when we know who the killer is.”

“Just make sure you take care of it this time.”

“I will.”

They left the way they had come, and Christopher felt the oppressiveness of the prison lift bit by bit as they passed the checkpoints. There were no traps and no assassins.

Even safely back in his office, Christopher couldn’t banish Moira’s face from his mind, the young face from years past superimposed on the unnaturally aged face of the imprisoned woman. He realized what really unsettled him was her calm in the face of it all. So much of her life had been taken from her. There was nothing she could do about it, and she had accepted that.


Razor Mountain — Chapter 31.3

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

David Tull was the Director of Media, responsible for overseeing all the books, movies, television and any other forms of text or video that originated inside or outside the mountain. Perhaps more importantly, it put him in charge of censorship and ensuring that no information entered the mountain that would go against the narratives that had been carefully constructed for the general populace.

He was a short man with a precise gray crew-cut. He entered the office wearing a salmon dress shirt, a wine-red tie, and khaki pants with a crisp crease. He talked fast and spoke little, and struck Christopher as decidedly unfriendly.

The first thing he did after sitting in the chair on the far side of the desk was to hand over one of the two manila folders he carried. The topmost thing within was a page of questions, double-spaced and numbered.

“These are all the questions I could think of that only God-Speaker would know,” he said.

Christopher glanced down the list.

“Would you like me to answer them right now?”

“Yes, that’s the idea.”

“And your opinion of whether I am, in fact, God-Speaker will depend on my success.”

“It will be a contributing factor,” Tull replied.

Christopher sighed.

“As I said before, I haven’t yet regained all of my memories. I also have to say that some of these things…I just don’t care about, and I will never remember.”

The corners of Tull’s mouth turned down a fraction of a millimeter.

“I believe you are the twelfth person to hold your current position,” Christopher said, starting down the list. (This was either incorrect or very incorrect, depending on how specific he wanted to be about the position and its predecessors, but accurate to what Tull knew.)

“Numbers two and three I’ll just write here, and you can look at them. I assume you don’t want to talk about those things in detail with others present,” Christopher continued. He glanced over at Cain, who was sitting in a chair off to the side, ostensibly working on a laptop while observing the situation.

The other questions ranged from pretty reasonable indicators to complete ridiculousness.

“I don’t remember what color the halls in section B-22-F are painted, but I would assume something awful in the range of dull gray to dull green. If the maintenance rounds still work like they did before my absence, they will have been repainted…three or four times.

“The last edition of official city history was finalized in 1974, with the usual yearly updates. That’s again assuming that there hasn’t been an updated edition and you’ve all just been keeping up through those updates. The list of disallowed topics was 1975, with the same caveats.”

As he worked his way through the list, Christopher became more and more distinctly aware of the knot of thoughts and emotions that he felt as God-Speaker’s presence in his head. These thoughts were both irritated about satiating a slightly annoying subordinate, and mildly pleased to finally be getting back into the workings of Razor Mountain. The place had decayed in his absence, but that also meant new opportunities to fix things. To make them right again.

Christopher felt uneasy discussing the various ways that information was manipulated within God-Speaker’s society. The God-Speaker thoughts, perhaps in response, were about whether it was really much different beyond the confines of the mountain.

Christopher was also constantly aware of the gun slung under the desk, ready for quick access. It served as a reminder that any of these people might have betrayed him, might be ready to do it again.


The new Secretary of Justice was named Justine Vahn, and Christopher knew nothing about her beyond their brief encounter at that first chaotic meeting with all the secretaries. She wore a stylish navy business suit, offset by a gauzy yellow scarf.

“Is there anything I can do to reassure you of my identity?” Christopher asked, after she had introduced herself.

“Oh, no, no, no,” she said, waving the question away as though it were an insect. “Your story and Cain’s clearly line up, and I don’t know what reason Cain would have to lie to us.”

She turned in her chair to talk to Cain. “You’re not exactly the power-hungry type, are you? And if you were, you wouldn’t wait three decades to get ’round to your secret master plan for taking over.”

She turned back to Christopher.

“No, I think the big question now is how we can all readjust to your presence. It’ll be a relief to have everything properly organized again. No more petty squabbles among the cabinet. Of course, we still have the matter of who exactly this traitor is, but I have every confidence we’ll get that business out of the way soon. With any luck, you’ll confirm that the cabinet convicted the correct person, and we can get back to doing our jobs.”

“You’re not worried that it might be someone else?” Christopher asked.

“The truth will out,” she replied. “I trust that my colleagues did not take it lightly to convict and imprison my predecessor. Obviously that was before my own tenure. I was relatively new to the deputy secretary position at that time, so I really didn’t have the access to know the details.”

“You didn’t go back and look at the events in retrospect?” Christopher asked. “I assume you have access to all those records now.”

“Well, of course. But it hardly seemed appropriate to re-litigate.”

“Even if the result is that my murderer might remain free and in power, among you?” Christopher asked. This was entirely God-Speaker’s irritation leaking through. “You’re the Secretary of Justice.”

“You have to understand, there was no authority to appeal to,” she said, for the first time sounding a little more hesitant. “Without you around, the cabinet is a council of equals. We each have our own domains of control, and no particular authority over each other. There was a great deal of debate as to whether I should even be permitted to take over the position. Nobody was supposed to be appointed to the cabinet without your approval.”

Cain chimed in from the corner. “It seemed like a better option than giving one of our remaining number double-duty.”

“I must say,” she continued, becoming more prim with every word, “it was quite a shock to learn how everything really works. I felt rather out of my depth. I certainly didn’t feel like I ought to be leading a charge to reopen the investigation. There was a certain period where I thought the whole thing might just fall apart.”

“Luckily, everything seems to have worked out,” Christopher said, through the barest hint of a smile. “Here I am.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “It’s remarkable.”

“…Although it may not have worked out so well for Moira McCaul,” Christopher said.

There was the faintest hint of a twinge in Justine’s dimple. Her smile had begun to look a little artificial.

“Yes, well, I suppose we’ll know soon enough.”

“I suppose we will.”


Razor Mountain — Chapter 31.2

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher rubbed his eyes and forced the complaints of the voices out of his head. He found himself back in the apartment entryway, in front of the stone doors. On the wall screen was an image of Cain, standing awkwardly in the hall beyond the doors and holding a brown paper bag.

Christopher opened the door. Cain stepped inside and held up the bag.

“Breakfast, unfortunately.”

They made their way to the apartment kitchen, where Cain poured out a pile of pre-packaged breakfast foods. The cardboard boxes and plastic wrappers gave Christopher an odd emotional twang. These were cheap, probably unhealthy, and shockingly normal. They were the sort of thing he might eat in a hurry when he was late for work. They felt out-of-place and alien here.

“I was hoping to have a proper chef cook you something fancy, to celebrate your return,” Cain said, by way of explanation. “Instead, you get the bounty of my personal freezer. I’m afraid I have a weakness for the kind of food that takes no effort to make. I usually just want something I can throw down the hatch and get on with what I’m doing.”

He hefted his belly. “The results are self-evident.”

“This is fine,” Christopher said. “Maybe even weirdly appropriate for this morning. Besides, this is exactly the sort of thing I’d eat when…well, in my other life, I suppose you could say.”

They selected breakfast burritos and microwaved them while Christopher put a skillet on the stove and tore open a package of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage links. Cain made a move to get in front of the stove, but Christopher waved him off.

“I’m not an invalid,” he said, then worried that he might come across as irritable. “I don’t mind doing things for myself. I don’t expect to be treated like a king.”

“Sorry,” Cain said. “It’s been a long time, and I’m not sure how to navigate…all this.”

Christopher chuckled. “Believe me, I get it.”

“I just thought today deserved some sort of, I don’t know, ceremony,” Cain said. “Of course, it should really wait until everything is resolved. I discovered that the hard way, this morning.”

“What do you mean?”

The microwave beeped, interrupting their conversation. Cain took one burrito and handed the other to Christopher. He ate one-handed and gave the half-thawed sausages a shake in the skillet.

Cain sighed. “There was a meal prepared—rather nice, I thought—but we did a test run last night, and I gave it to one of my engineers. Called him first thing this morning, and he was knocked out with food poisoning. Maybe proper poisoning, the doctors are looking him over now. Thus…”

Cain raised his partly eaten breakfast burrito.

“You used someone without their knowledge to test my food for poison?” Christopher said.

Cain shrugged. “I honestly thought it was far-fetched. But there were a number of people who would have known what I was doing and guessed the food was for you.”

“I don’t like the idea that someone might die that way.”

“You’d prefer to eat the poison?” Cain asked.

“Of course not. But don’t you feel bad about doing that?”

“I feel bad that the man is ill, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad choice. And hopefully it turns out to just be some coincidence or allergic reaction.”

Christopher studied Cain’s face. There was a streak of cold, unemotional intellectualism there that Christopher hadn’t noticed. The man was an engineer, and Christopher had known one or two engineers like that, who unexpectedly failed to grasp the emotional import of some things, despite being incredibly intelligent in other ways.

“So whoever killed me last time around may or may not be trying to poison me now?”

“We’ll have to make sure you only eat and drink things that we’ve thoroughly vetted,” Cain said. “I’ve also got people trying to trace the ingredients. The chef is also being thoroughly questioned, although I’ve known him for some time, and I don’t think he’d purposely do something like this, unless someone had some kind of serious leverage over him.”

Christopher took a fork out of the drawer and shuffled the sausages around the pan as they began to sizzle.

“This would all be a lot simpler if I could just shuffle through these memories in some kind of orderly way and open up the ones I need.”

Cain nodded. “But you’ve said that’s not how it works.”

“No, that’s not how it works.”

They stood in the well-appointed kitchen, finishing off their breakfast burritos, the sizzle and smell of the sausages filling the room. Christopher felt untethered from reality, unable to really believe in the sequence of events that somehow ended in this moment.

He dumped the sausages onto a plate. Cain followed him into the adjoining dining room to eat them.

“So what now?” Christopher asked. “There must be something I can do while I wait for the eureka moment.”

“I had some thoughts on that,” Cain said. “I thought it might be beneficial to meet with some of the other secretaries today. We’re all still getting used to the idea that you’re really back, and it would probably do them some good to talk with you in a venue other than a chaotic conference room. Of course, there’s some risk involved, whoever has it out for you might try something, but we can take precautions. And it might jog some memories loose.”

“It might,” Christopher said.

“If anyone does try something, it can be at the battle-ground of our choosing,” Cain added. “We have to assume they’re getting desperate, and that should play to our advantage.”

To Christopher, Cain sounded a little too much like a man playing a game. He wasn’t wrong, as far as Christopher could tell, but the man wasn’t in the cross-hairs. Christopher could feel worry lodged in the too-tight muscles of his shoulders and neck, the constant knowledge that someone nearby was desperate to kill him.


Razor Mountain — Chapter 31.1

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher awoke.

Christopher. Not God-Speaker. Not yet.

His inner landscape had changed once again. There were still stray memories, like flags in the wind, untethered and confusing. Others were sorted and collated, slotted neatly into larger narratives, anchored to times, places, and events. The swirl of emotions in his chest had a different timbre, a different color. He couldn’t explain it to himself in less synesthetic terms.

He realized that the desire to return home, to return to Christopher’s life, had faded, even if it wasn’t quite extinguished yet. That life felt impossibly remote, and how could he ever return to it? How could he make sales calls with the voices of the mountain ringing in his ears. How could he visit his parents and talk about how the back-yard garden was coming along?

The things that made him Christopher hadn’t gone away, but they were being diluted by the flood of God-Speaker washing over them. Christopher had thought that the transition might be like flipping a switch. Now he realized it was more likely that he wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the moment when he crossed over. Perhaps he already had. Christopher wouldn’t go away. He would become a few small branches in a very large, very old tree of thought and memory.

He could see now that he wasn’t unique. There were many other branches like his. After all, this was how God-Speaker had always achieved his immortality. He jumped into the body of another. These vessels were typically prepared for the experience, and it would be done with great ceremony when the new host was a few years into adulthood. He didn’t like to make the transition more often than necessary, but if he was going to take on a new body, why not one that was young and healthy?

These new bodies weren’t empty. They brought with them the thoughts and memories of their original occupant. They weren’t wiped out—they were incorporated. And while God-Speaker was the dominant personality, especially with the accretion of years and memories, these others were still present in some way. They could not easily be pried apart; they were no longer their own entities. But Christopher could sense that some of them might be disappointed by what had become of them, while some would hold some amount of satisfaction or pride at being incorporated into this larger whole. Together, they were a power, a unique creature on the face of the earth.

The voices had also changed, or he was hearing them differently. They no longer grated against him or overwhelmed his other senses. They were still present, but he could more easily “tune” them in or out. He could set them aside and listen to the quiet of the room. He could concentrate on other things again. If he focused on them instead, he could hear them with a new clarity.

They still had a neediness, an irritating quality of demanding attention despite being utterly powerless. They were kings without kingdoms or subjects, still issuing opinions and decrees, and Christopher was the only one who could really hear them. Now, though, he understood that they were subservient. If they had some morsel of knowledge, he could take it, and they had no say in the matter. They wanted so badly to strike at him, to make him obey, but they could not. Some trick of evolution and brain chemistry prevented them from entering into him the way he entered into a new host body.

There was a buzzing sound, and Christopher realized it was the sound of someone at the main doors to the apartment. He stood, but he was in no hurry. This internal world was too interesting to set aside just yet.

He focused intently on the voices. There were many of them, but not as many as he had initially thought. They were a choir, not a crowd, even if they didn’t sing in harmony. They were so much like God-Speaker, and of course they were, they were the ones who had taught him the original trick to immortality. Despite their current impoverished state, they were far more than God-Speaker.

Christopher reeled in shock as he saw a flash of them as they truly were. They were so very old—less individual personalities and more geological forces. God-Speaker’s reign of a few thousand years under the mountain was nothing in comparison to them. It was too much time for Christopher to fit in his mind.

They were creatures born in the adolescence of a strange world. They had learned many things, and eventually, a few of them learned the trick to immortality. They had warped their people and their world around them, just as God-Speaker had done with Razor Mountain. They were true kings. They had watched a young world grow old and weary, and finally die. Even then, they remained kings, albeit diminished. They set out into a vast universe, confident in the long arc of time. Eventually, there would be another world, another people who were compatible enough to continue their endless line of immortal rule.

But destiny had a cruel streak, or a sense of humor. Something had gone wrong. They had found a new place, a new people ripe for control, but there was an accident. They had come down in a streak of fire and light, cracking the mountain asunder, bathing it in noxious smoke, and burying themselves deep in its roots. Still, it might have been fine, if not for the other problem. The people of this place, as primitive as they were, were somehow immune to the interlopers’ power. Their minds, so similar to the invaders’, were impenetrable. Most of them could barely even hear the voices howling their futile anger from buried caverns.

There was one who heard better than the others, one who followed the voices down into the darkness. But even that one could not be used. The voices remained trapped. Even worse, they were at his mercy, used for his own ends. They were forced to watch his petty kingdom rise up around them, in defiance of the vast domains that now lived only in their memories.

No wonder they were pissed.


Razor Mountain — Chapter 30.2

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

There were other rooms accessible from the hall: a living room with luxurious couches, a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen. At the end of the hall were two more heavy doors, and these led out onto a balcony carved directly from the side of the mountain. Christopher unlocked them and stepped out.

It was drizzling, and the patter of it was a balm to his exhaustion. The balcony was cleverly concealed from below, and a roof of stone kept it mostly dry, but the far end was open to the elements. The small drops ran down the heavy stone railings and ran together, flowing into narrow slits in the floor.

Christopher lay on the cold rock with his head in the rain. He looked up, blinking against the drops. Fast-moving gray clouds streaked the black sky, but he could see a dark sky and a few stars beyond. Instinctively, he reached out a hand for a presence on his left. There was nobody there to grasp it. An aching loneliness filled him. He remembered a woman’s face, but he couldn’t think of her name. Whoever she was, she was gone. Thousands of years gone.

Other faces came to him then, and some he could put names to. Strong Shield, and others who had betrayed him. There would soon be another to add to that list. But really, who hadn’t betrayed him? They all died, all left him behind, going away and never returning. Going where he couldn’t follow. Wouldn’t follow.

He stood and wiped his eyes. Back inside he found the bedroom. He stripped off his wet shirt. There were still clothes in the drawers here, only faintly musty. He found something soft to wear and lay on the bed, on top of the blankets. The images still flickered on his eyelids. He held up a hand. It looked steady, but he felt as though he were shaking.

He stood and walked across the room. There was a long strip of dark glass, a gas fireplace stretching the length of wall. He turned the knob and pressed the ignition switch, setting the flames racing from one corner to another with a satisfying whoosh. It immediately put out heat, more than he really needed in the already-warm room, but the flickering firelight comforted him. He lay down again, imagining himself alone in a cave with a roaring campfire as his only company.

Is that what it had been like, after he lost the rest of the tribe? Had he found some wood while wandering the halls of ice and stone? Had he somehow been able to set it alight? He couldn’t remember. Those ancient caves were a dream place. He couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it had ever been real, even if their remnants still existed, far below him.

He had wanted to give up. That was all he had wanted, really, ever since Makes-Medicine had been taken from him in the warm valley where the tribe had wintered. When he had lost the tribe, there was no reason to keep going. No reason except the voices. They kept pushing him, kept telling him what he could build. He could make a tribe, lead it himself. He could be in control of everything. He could be the greatest shaman anyone had ever known. They would give him secret knowledge of the world.

Of course, he wasn’t really a shaman. Perhaps there was something wrong with his brain, something that had once convinced him that a chunk of rock in the vague shape of a man could somehow speak. Something that made him think he could see the magic and spirits behind the ordinary world. Maybe it was that same defect that let him understand the voices of the mountain when nobody else could. He wished they would shut up, even for just a moment.

As Christopher’s consciousness grew fuzzier with sleep, he turned inward. It felt like looking down an endless well. Or perhaps up into the endless blue light above the chamber of the voices. God-Speaker was waking up, and he was a vast ocean of thought and memory. Christopher was just a drop, and his gut tightened with the fear that he would cease to exist.

He was dreaming now, the flickering images still playing across the sky above the endless ocean. He wondered if he would still be himself when he woke.

The mountain was there, in the ocean. It was the mountain of old, its freshly split peak still vomiting black smoke. People, like insects, swarmed over it and built upon it. They scratched its surface and begin to dig. They dug deeper and left the surface altogether. They popped out only briefly, connecting new little structures to their network of holes and tunnels. Soldiers marched around the perimeter, protecting the mountain from a strange outside world. But it wasn’t really the mountain they were protecting. It was the lone figure at the center of the mountain. It was God-Speaker.

He was in his body again. So cold and so tired, his hands were dirty and bleeding, but he couldn’t stop. They called to him. He stumbled and crawled through the rough, uneven tunnels. There was no light. He was far too deep. And yet, there was something blue in the distance. It hurt his eyes, even when they were closed.


Razor Mountain — Chapter 30.1

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher stood before an array of screens. Some of them were tuned to the places outside his apartment: the hall that led to the long staircase, the balcony, the other, secret exits. Some showed areas of the city. Some showed the places above, where only his cabinet and their subordinates could tread. Some showed the places below, the military facilities, the geothermal plants, and all the areas that were generally off-limits to the civilian population. Once, this had been one of the few places in the city where he could be sure he was not watched by cameras. Now, even this sanctum had been invaded, with little gleaming lenses in the corners of most rooms.

There were several keyboards on the console in front of the screen. The keys were familiar. His hands moved across them and the pictures changed. He didn’t need to know what keys to press. His hands knew.

This was the center of the panopticon, where the head jailer had been long absent. Or perhaps he was the head prisoner.

He felt suddenly uneasy in the presence of the screens, as if the too-wide view of his little world would overwhelm his senses and he would lose himself. The irony wasn’t lost on him as he stepped out of the dark room, into the brighter hallway. The process of losing himself was already well underway. Visions of past lives still flashed through his mind   now and then, as something new bubbled to the surface.

He couldn’t escape the screens completely. There was another one on the wall by the main doors, showing the hall and the wide stairs beyond. There were blank screens in almost every room. They were all tied into the ubiquitous system that sent its nerves throughout the walls of his apartments. The phone in his pocket—a parting gift from Cain—could control all of them.

Cain had suggested he sleep, and Christopher knew it was good advice. He was exhausted, and rest would help him deal with whatever was happening inside his brain. It just felt unlikely while his body was vibrating like a plucked string. When he closed his eyes, moments from the past were projected onto his lids. Like an electric current, it was too much, but he had seized up. He couldn’t let go, so he had no choice but to let it flow through him.

Down the hall, he found his office, or at least one of them. The room was paneled in dark wood, with absolutely no stone to be seen anywhere. It didn’t matter. Christopher could still feel it. The weight of the mountain was always pressing down, no matter what clever decorations were used to hide it.

He perused the tall bookshelves along two of the walls. It was an eclectic mix, with many old volumes and even a few carefully preserved behind glass, but several shelves were filled with mundane modern works that had clearly been printed within the city. There were reports and statistics and other dull bookkeeping. Christopher wondered why he had bothered to have these things printed.

One shelf was filled with sheet music. Much of it was from beyond the mountain, again a disparate mix. Some of it was hand-written, and this, he realized, was his own work. Christopher had never been a musician beyond a few piano lessons in grade school. His mother had played sporadically. Even with memories and knowledge from God-Speaker bubbling through his thoughts, he had a hard time imagining the sound of the orchestra from the marks on the page.

What was more strange was how he felt, holding those pages of music. There was familiarity there, but little emotion. Did God-Speaker love music? Christopher couldn’t say with any certainty. Christopher got the impression that the old man felt almost obligated to have hobbies like this. After all, a person had to derive enjoyment from something. It was something with no real, objective measure of quality. Was this great music? Terrible music? Did it even matter? Christopher set it aside and moved on.

There was a large wooden desk dominating the center of the room. A wide screen, keyboard and desk lamp were the only things on its surface. The lamp had a timeless quality that Christopher liked. It was black wrought iron with a shade of stained glass in reds, oranges and yellows. The screen and keyboard looked oddly anachronistic, the sort of thing that would have seemed futuristic in the eighties or nineties.

Christopher wondered how powerful these computers actually were. This one was surely old by Razor Mountain standards. But how far ahead of the rest of the world was Razor Mountain? The buzz of the voices played perpetual counter-melody to his thoughts, and he knew that they could provide him with an understanding of electronics far beyond anything any human had ever built. Still, there were limits to what the small population under the mountain could realistically build. Advanced computers required incredibly specialized factories. For some things, Razor Mountain would have to seed knowledge out into the world, relying on the vast manufacturing capacity of the rest of the planet to produce what they needed.

He sat at the desk, and once again his hands knew what needed to be done to start the system and log in. Some things had changed, but most of it was straightforward. He found himself scrolling through messages, reports and data. He was tempted to scroll back to the day he had died, to see the chaotic flurry of information that would surely follow. Instead, he bounced between random things that had happened in the intervening years.

There were endless meeting minutes, reports and data logs. He noticed a report flagged as a severe problem. He re-sorted the reports by priority. A wave of red filled the screen. Cain had made it sound like the cabinet had kept the ship afloat while God-Speaker was gone, but it was clear that there had been plenty of leaks, and despite whatever patches had been attempted, the whole thing was taking on water. Plenty of things in the list remained unresolved. Christopher wondered how long they could have continued on without him.

Those would be problems to address in the weeks and months ahead. Christopher wasn’t prepared to work on any of those things now. He turned the screen off and stood up.


Razor Mountain — Chapter 29.3

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

“I suppose I can pick up the story from there,” Cain said. “Christopher was eventually deemed to be an accidental arrival, not a significant threat. It was left to the court system to determine what to do with him, with the expectation that he would likely become a permanent resident. He must have made some friends, because his advocate registered an unusual request for relief. It was that report that was flagged in the system. When we were planning Christopher’s extraction, I set up some regular searches across all the systems I have access to, just in case someone caught wind of my plans. Those searches flagged this report by a Specialist Gabrielle Speares, the subject being none other than Christopher Lamarck.

“When I got over the shock, I immediately intervened. I confirmed that he was, in fact, the person I was looking for, and I brought him to the chamber of voices, the heart of the mountain.”

“And here we are,” Christopher said.

“Here we are.”

“All it took to recover your memories was a trip to the chamber?” Cas Bell asked.

“The process has started,” Christopher replied. “As I said, it’s going to take a while. This is not as neat and tidy as the usual ritual, where the host is a well-prepared adult, and the transfer happens under controlled conditions in the chamber itself.”

“Why is it different?” she asked. “There were hosts being groomed back then.”

Christopher blinked. He knew in his bones that it was different, but he wasn’t sure how to respond. The truth was that the chamber didn’t belong to him, not really. It was built by the voices, for their own purposes. Despite all he had built, he was still the interloper, using their tools as best he could.

“The process is difficult, and it’s not easier when making the jump under the stress of a knife in the gut. I overshot the mark, so to speak. After that, I was forced to latch on to whatever host I could find.”

“In this case, a newborn in Minneapolis,” Cain said.


There was a moment of heavy silence around the table. The bald man at the far end was the first to speak.

“I suppose the question we must resolve now is whether we should believe all of this,” he said.

Christopher stared at him.

“I’m sorry, I can’t recall your name.”

The man nodded. “I’m Reed Parricida, Secretary of Labor.”

“For what it’s worth, I can corroborate a fair bit of Cain’s account,” Cas said. “My people were involved in monitoring Christopher, and, of course, in the failed extraction.”

“That doesn’t prove he’s God-Speaker,” General Reese said.

Christopher looked around the table, spending a moment on each face. It was still a mix of familiar and unfamiliar, but he could feel relevant memories rising from the depths. He grabbed an empty piece of paper from the open folder in front of Cain, and a pen from the middle of the table.

“Ask me something you think only God-Speaker would know,” he said. He looked from face to face and began to scribble on the paper, tearing strips off as he went.

“Can you even remember the names of all your secretaries?” Reed asked.

“If you were a fake,” Cas said, “it would be expected that Cain would have coached you.”

“You already offered yours,” Christopher said to Reed. “There’s Cain Dolus, Secretary of Energy; Cassandra Bell, Director of Intelligence Operations; General Simon Reese, Director of Military Operations; you I don’t recall, although I suspect you must be the Secretary of Justice, which means you were the deputy secretary under Moira…”

In the end, he could remember about two-thirds of the people around the table, although some of them seemed more real in his memory than others.

“Surely there must be things I would know that Cain couldn’t have told me,” Christopher said. He had finished writing on his strips of paper, and began folding them in half and passing them to particular secretaries.

“For example,” he continued, “I believe I gave every one of you a code. You were each told that only you had a code, but I have to confess, that was a lie. This was a code specifically to confirm my identity after I moved to a new host. Unfortunately, like everything else, I don’t remember all of the codes yet. But perhaps the ones I do remember will at least convince a few of you.”

The secretaries’ eyes went wide as they opened their slips of paper. General Reese took out his phone and tapped the screen a few times, before holding the paper up to it for comparison.”

“God Damn,” he said at last.

“I have a question,” Reed said. He had not been a recipient of a slip of paper. “Can you tell me what you had asked me to investigate in the days before your death?”

Christopher rubbed his forehead and stared at Reed. He waited for a few seconds, in the vain hope that some memory would present itself, but nothing did. He wanted to dig for it, but that didn’t seem to be how these memories worked. They came to the surface when they were ready, and in no particular order.

“I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“Do you have any idea how long it will take to fully recover your memory?”

Christopher sighed.

“No. It’s been a very long time since this has happened. Thousands of years. It’s a lot of memories to recover.”

“No doubt. Can we assume then, that you’ll let us all know when you remember which of us betrayed you?”

“Of course,” Cain interjected. “And now, everyone knows that it’s only a matter of time. Until then, I will ensure that God-Speaker is safe and monitored, so any further attempts to harm him will be subject to the harshest spotlight possible.”

“Perhaps a foolish question,” Cas said, “but how fair is it to trust you with that?”

“I’ve done more than anyone to bring him back,” Cain said. “If that isn’t enough to exonerate me, I don’t know what is.”

Christopher felt a headache creeping from the nape of his neck toward his forehead. He suddenly felt as though his brain was trying to burst his skull. Too many memories, he supposed. Surely a human brain couldn’t hold thousands of years of memories without ill effects?

“I understand this has been shocking,” he said, massaging his temples. “I promise you, it has been even more shocking for me. I know there will be many more questions and things to resolve, but I think this is about as much of this as I can take, for the moment.”

“What will you do now?” Cas asked.

Christopher suddenly remembered a suite of rooms at the top of the city, filled with cozy firelight. A balcony to look at the stars. A private office full of books…and his sheet music! He had forgotten about his compositions.

“I think I’d like to go to my apartments.”

“I’ll bring a team to set up the surveillance,” Cas said. She turned to the room. “And we’ll make sure all of us have visibility.”

“Great,” Christopher said, the migraine now throbbing between his ears.

“Follow me,” Cain said. “I’ll take you home.”


Razor Mountain — Chapter 29.2

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher studied the faces in the room. Again, there were a myriad of different expressions, from those who looked confused or irritable to those more prepared to believe. If this had been a movie, Christopher thought, someone’s face would betray their guilt when Cain accused them of harboring a murderer. He didn’t see anything like that, but he supposed that whoever had done it had already fooled him once, back when the deed was done, and he had known more back then.

“Look,” the Secretary of the Treasury said, “If this man really is God-Speaker, shouldn’t it be a simple thing for him to tell us who killed him? Or are you claiming that he doesn’t know either?”

“That would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Christopher said. “Unfortunately, I only just visited the chamber. It’s been a long time, and the jump was unexpected, for obvious reasons. I’m beginning to recover my memory, but it’s going to take a while. Days, at least.”

“Why bother revealing yourself now?”

“We thought it best to have it all out in the open,” Cain said.

“I’m still curious how you got here,” said a voice from the far end of the table. The tall, skinny, bald man.

“Well,” Cain said, “I had agents around Christopher for years. I had them push on things here and there, where I could. For example, making sure he got a promotion that would put him in the position to travel north.”

Christopher’s eyes widened.

“No shit. I thought some things about that whole process seemed strange. You had people in the company?”

“Of course.”

Christopher shook his head.

“So Sean Wallace probably did deserve the job more than I did. I thought he was going to get it.”

Cain frowned at him.

“Does that really matter at this point?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“In any case, an opportunity to get him to Alaska finally came up. At that point, I decided I had no choice but to bring someone else in on the project. I told Cas what I had been doing, or at least what little she didn’t already know. We put a team in place. We made arrangements so that Christopher would be on a plane with our people. He would be drugged, the plane would be taken off the grid, and would land here, at the airstrip.”

“We have an airstrip?” Christopher asked.

“It’s tight and carefully camouflaged,” Cas said, “and only used for special cases and emergencies. But yes.”

“As it turns out, the airstrip wasn’t used,” Cain said. “You got on the plane, but the plane never arrived. We lost contact with the team during the flight. We were only able to find the crash site a few days ago. I thought we would have nothing but forensics to try to piece together what happened.”

“That certainly seems to paint Cas in a suspicious light,” said a man in a smart green uniform. The name rose to the surface of Christopher’s mind: General Simon Reese, Director of Military Operations. His purview would be mostly local to the mountain; the military administration. No doubt one of the people who would most often vie with Cas over certain arenas of authority.

Cas held up her hands.

“Cain had access to all the same information I did.”

“No offense, Cas, but I’ll reserve any judgment,” Cain said. “Perhaps God-Speaker can shed some light on what happened?”

Once again, all the eyes in the room shifted to Christopher. He took a deep breath.

“I don’t have all the answers, but I can fill in some blanks. I woke up on the plane—drugged, I now realize. I discovered pretty quickly that it was empty. No other passengers, no crew, just me. I would have to guess that your team bailed out while I was still sleeping, and they assumed that I would ride that plane right into the side of a mountain. Instead, I tried to fly it, and when that failed, I jumped.”

Christopher remembered his confused thoughts in those frantic moments. The drug they had given him was certainly part of it, but there was something else. He remembered waking up, seeing a strange vision of a cave, hearing strange voices. He remembered something compelling him to fly the plane, to change direction, and finally, to jump into the lake.

His eyes widened. “I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know I was God-Speaker. But some part of him must have been awake in the back of my head. I changed the direction of the plane, and I jumped. I don’t know if that’s something I…Christopher…would have done on his own. I landed in a lake and somehow managed to swim to shore. I was hurt and I’m sure I was verging on hypothermia. Practically delirious. I found a bunker, one of the furthest of the old Razor Mountain out-buildings, although I wasn’t aware of that at the time. And when I punched some random keys on the keypad, it just happened to be the right code.”

“God-Speaker guided you,” Cain said. He wore a faint smile and glaze-eyed look of religious conviction. It made Christopher uncomfortable, but to the God-Speaker portion of his mind, this seemed only appropriate.

“The bunker saved my life and gave me the opportunity to recover,” Christopher said. “Not knowing who I really was, or where I was, I only hoped to be rescued. But days went by with no sign of human life, apart from the cryptic things I occasionally heard on the radio. Eventually, I decided to investigate other locations marked on a map that I found in the bunker.”

“The numbers station,” Cas said. “Coded orders.”

“Did you sense that you needed to go toward the mountain,” Cain asked, with the air of a defense attorney leading the witness.

“No, not back then,” Christopher said, honestly. “It was just a strange-looking peak in the distance. All I was hoping for was to find people and get back home. So I made a makeshift sled, packed supplies, and set off. I won’t bore you with the details, but I hiked until my supplies were gone, and all I had managed to find was what appeared to be the ruin of a building.”

“Where were you, exactly?” Cain asked. “It could have been that failed Tokamak site from the ’40s.”

“I don’t think it’s important,” Christopher said. “What matters is that I was out of food and lost in the woods, and I probably would have died if someone hadn’t found me.”

“Who found you?” asked the bald man at the end of the table.

“Some exiles,” Christopher said. “Traitors who fled the mountain and were holed up in another one of those old out-buildings.”

“Hold on,” Cas said. “You’re telling me there is a group of deserters that left the mountain without authorization? Why hasn’t this come up in any of our cabinet meetings?”

General Reese held up a hand.

“That situation is already handled. Two of the traitors gave themselves up, along with the positions of the rest. We rounded them up a few days ago.”

“All of them?” Christopher asked.

General Reese glanced away for a moment, and Christopher read a flash of uncertainty on his features.

“There’s one who is still at large, but the situation will be wrapped up soon.”

“I want them unharmed,” Christopher said. “Especially the girl that your soldiers are no doubt chasing aimlessly through the woods right now.”

“I don’t think we should be discussing sensitive intelligence in this meeting,” the bald man at the end of the table said, “at least until we understand this situation.”

“He clearly already has knowledge of the situation,” General Reese muttered.

“Write it down,” Christopher said, pointing at the general. “No harm to any of them.”

“They’re traitors.”

“They’re the only reason I’m here, alive, right now,” Christopher said. “When I was lost in the woods, and someone from the mountain was taking pot-shots at me, that girl got me out safely, and those exiles took me in. Granted, they immediately interrogated me, but it was a much more pleasant interrogation than what I received when I got to the mountain proper.”

“How did you finally get here?” Cain asked.

“Those two traitors who gave themselves up,” Christopher said. “They wanted a little extra bargaining power, and at least one of them was convinced that I was some kind of spy. So they tied me up and snuck me out from under their compatriots. Then they brought me here, gave me up to the authorities, and begged for mercy.”

Christopher turned to General Reese. “Did they get any mercy?”

“They’re incarcerated in preparation for military tribunal,” General Reese said.

“So was I,” Christopher said. “I was thoroughly interrogated in a variety of ways that we will reevaluate in the near future.”

“Our methods with outsiders are not new,” General Reese said, scowling. “Perhaps you’ll be able to remember who instituted those policies in the next few days.”


Razor Mountain — Chapter 29.1

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.

Cain nodded.

“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.”