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Angel of Destruction

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Angel of Destruction

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Author: Susan R. Matthews
Publisher: Baen, 2014
Roc, 2001
Series: Jurisdiction: Book 4
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Bench Intelligence Specialist Garol Vogel is one of an elite few chartered by the Bench to uphold the rule of Law by any means he sees fit, to rewrite policy, assassinate corrupt officials, and topple planetary governments at his discretion.

His most treasured achievement was the amnesty he brokered for the Langsarik rebels. But someone is raiding depot stations in the Shawl of Rikavie around Port Charid, torturing and murdering with unprecedented savagery. Vogel knows the Langsariks are innocent, but who could be to blame, and how can he prevent a Judicial crime of horrific proportions?

Garol Vogel finds the answer on the wrong side of the Judicial order he's served faithfully all his life, and once he sets foot on a path of subversion and sabotage there will be no going back for him, forever.



Garol Vogel stood in the wheelhouse of the flagship as the Langsarik fleet came off the exit vector and dropped to sub-tactical speed. The Langsarik commander stood beside him; together they watched the massed ships of the Jurisdiction's Second Fleet come to position, flanking the Langsariks as they progressed toward Port Charid and their new home.

Their prison.

The Langsarik commander -- Flag Captain Walton Agenis -- stared impassively, her expression so flatly neutral that Garol knew it was a struggle for her to contain her emotion. The Langsarik fleet surrendered under escort with full military honors, true enough, but surrender was surrender nonetheless, and now they were wards of Jurisdiction.

The terms of their probation were not punitively strict. Port Charid was a small tightly knit community dominated by the Dolgorukij Combine, people among whom the Langsariks would stand out by virtue of their accent and their non-Combine blood. The Bench was counting on Port Charid to deny the Langsariks access to space transport and to provide a certain basic level of population monitoring -- roll call, head count, attendance reconciliation.

In return Port Charid received the Langsariks, a population of five thousand souls with sophisticated technical skills, proven adaptability, and nowhere for them to work but as cheap labor to fuel Port Charid's commercial expansion in cargo management and freight handling.

"Are we clear?" Agenis asked; and one of her lieutenants stood to answer. Hilton Shires was actually her nephew as well as her lieutenant, though Garol didn't think there was more than twelve years between them; and Agenis had yet to see forty years, Standard. She and Garol himself were almost the same age.

"Reports are complete, Captain, the fleet has cleared the vector. Standing by."

Walton Agenis had been a lieutenant herself when the Jurisdiction had annexed the Langsariks' home system. She had risen to command over the fifteen years of the Langsarik fleet's stubborn if futile resistance, forging what had been a local commerce patrol fleet into mercantile raiders whose continued evasion of Fleet's best efforts to locate and contain them had become a scandal from one end of the Bench to the other.

She'd seen her family either ostracized on her home world -- where it was no longer expedient to admit to having kin with the Langsarik fleet -- or lost in battle; and now she stood witness to the final loss of the fleet itself.

Still, it was only the ships that they were losing.

The Langsariks themselves -- people who had made the Langsarik fleet a challenge and a reproach to Jurisdiction -- would live; and someday yet be free. Eight years of probation as Port Charid's labor pool was not so terrible a price to pay for reconciliation with the Bench; and once eight years had passed the Langsariks could go home.

"Specialist Vogel," Flag Captain Agenis said, not looking at him. Garol bowed in salute at her side.


"The fleet is assembled in good order and ready to surrender the controls as agreed. Your action, Bench specialist."

Langsariks didn't salute. It wasn't the Langsarik way. "Thank you, Flag Captain. Lieutenant Shires, if you would hail the Margitov, please."

Jils Ivers was on the Jurisdiction Fleet Flagship Margitov, waiting. She had worked as hard as Garol himself to see this happen: a peaceful solution to the Langsarik problem, one that avoided the crying waste that simple annihilation would have been. Lieutenant Shires made the call; and piped Jils Ivers's voice over the public address in the wheelhouse.

"Jurisdiction Fleet Flagship Margitov, standing by. Prepared to assume direction."

It was tactful of Jils to say "direction," and not "command" or "control." The reality of it was hard enough for those proud people to accept. They were under no illusions as to the impact of the change in status waiting for them. It was to their credit that they went forward into a sort of bondage as bravely as they ever had confronted the Bench in sortie.

"By direction from Flag Captain Walton Agenis," Garol said, choosing his words carefully. "Properly delegated by the Langsarik fleet to do so on its behalf. The Langsarik fleet surrenders the motivational controls to remote direction. Now."

Lieutenant Shires sat back at his post and folded his arms.

The images on the panoramic screens that lined the wheelhouse walls, the picture of space on monitor, faltered; then steadied again.

"The ship is on remote direction," Lieutenant Shires said, looking over his shoulder at Flag Captain Agenis. "They've got us, Captain."

I hope we're doing the right thing.

Shires didn't have to say it for the message to be clear, and Agenis didn't need to answer.

The Langsariks had made their decision.

They had agreed to accept amnesty and terms.

Not all of the Langsariks had agreed that it was their last best chance for survival under Jurisdiction: but the entire Langsarik fleet had sworn to be honor-bound by the majority vote, and Langsariks kept their promises. Sometimes all too well.

"Your ship, Bench specialist." Captain Agenis bowed her head and stepped back half a pace. "What are they going to do with it, may I ask?"

After the obvious, of course, repossession, disarmament, and evacuation of all Langsarik personnel on arrival at Port Charid. The Bench had hired transport from the mercantile resources in port to ferry the Langsariks from orbit to Port and from there to the nearby settlement that had been prepared for them.

Under the terms of the amnesty no Langsarik was to own, lease, direct, or appropriate space transport for the duration of the probationary period, unless under immediate and direct supervision by non-Langsarik employers. And these ships, the ships of the Langsarik fleet, the ships whose computing systems had just been surrendered to remote control, these ships had been home to the Langsariks for more than fifteen years.

"I believe they're to be taken back to Palaam." The Langsarik system of origin had a technical claim on the ships. Once the planetary government -- the puppet government -- of Palaam had formally repudiated them, the Langsariks had become pirates in the eyes of the law, and the hulls they fought with and lived on belonged to Palaam. "I don't know what the Palaamese government will do with them."

Agenis made a sour face, but it was gone almost as quickly as it had appeared. In a sense it was no hardship for the Langsariks to be forbidden to return to Palaam for eight years, Garol knew. As far as the Langsariks were concerned they had been betrayed by their own government, their families, their communities all turning their backs under pressure from the Bench. Maybe after eight years the Langsariks would come to forgive their home world for bowing to pressure. They were about to gain first-hand knowledge of how dispiriting life under Jurisdiction could be.

"Well. I hope they get some good maintenance people in. The condition of quarters, really, Bench specialist. It's shocking."

But her forced humor could not cover up her grief; and Garol could offer no help. He had already done everything he could for the Langsariks, not only to get the amnesty approved, but to structure the amnesty so that it would not become intolerable to the Langsariks. He felt responsible for them now; it was his doing that they were to accept probation here, his and Jils's. It had to work. Criminals by Bench definition, no question, but they were brave, smart, stubborn, strong-willed people, and the Bench could not afford to waste the resource they represented for the sake of mere vengeance, or ego-gratification on the part of Palaam's Bench-appointed puppet government.

Since he could not change the hard facts of the matter, Garol attempted to provide reassurance of another sort, instead.

"I've inspected the settlement, Flag Captain. All new construction." Put up in a hurry, and not the best quality. Fleet contracting, let to the lowest bidder, but Garol had been given the authority to demand some of the less satisfactory elements be upgraded and improved.

It wasn't luxury.

But it would keep weather out and heat in; and the Langsariks would be able to make changes themselves, as time went on. "Paint job all one color, more or less, but at least it's clean. Funny thing, though. Not a trace of rose gold to be seen in the entire settlement."

She smiled, as if despite herself, and glanced down at the front of the uniform that she wore. Rose gold. The colors of the Langsarik fleet. "Do we surrender our clothing as well, then, Garol?"

Negotiations had gone on for months, and they'd been intense. In all that time, she'd never used his personal name. Garol was pleased and honored by her grant of intimacy, formal though it was, and at the same time grieved by the depth of her personal distress.

"You'll remove all rank and insignia on the ferry shuttle between the ships in orbit and Port Charid. But no. You keep your clothing." The Langsariks didn't have any other clothing, not after fifteen years. For all Garol knew they slept in uniform. "There'll be a concession store to serve your needs at the settlement, but they haven't selected a vendor yet. Food service and clinic and utilities, yes."

There were five thousand people in the Langsarik fleet, men, women, and even children born to a people at war with the civilized worlds and the Bench that governed them.

There were many logistical details yet unresolved, but Chilleau Judiciary would do the best it could for the Langsariks.

Chilleau Judiciary had no choice.

The First Judge -- the single most powerful individual under Jurisdiction, the woman who held the tiebreaking vote on the Bench -- was old; the Second Judge at Chilleau Judiciary was ambitious, and well placed to mount a bid for the First Judge's position when it became vacant. But there were nine Judges in all, several with their own ambitions with respect to the ultimate position of influence under Jurisdiction, and the Second Judge had suffered a staggering humiliation within the past year.

Chilleau Judiciary's political rivals had made full use of the lurid details of torture, murder, and waste of lives and property that had been taken into evidence during the trial of the Domitt Prison's administration for failure to uphold the rule of Law.

If the Second Judge was to reclaim her honor from the blow it had received in the court of public opinion after the scandals at the Domitt Prison, the Langsarik settlement could not be allowed to fail.

Copyright © 2001 by Susan R. Matthews


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