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.”