The False Infinite
Below is a sneak peak at the first section of my new science fiction novella, The False Infinite. If you like what you see, click over to Amazon and get the rest in ebook, paperback, or hardback along with some of my other short fiction (including one all-new short story).
Marceline Gagnon snapped out of her thoughts abruptly as the hovertram came to a stop. Though she had much on her mind that morning, the steady pattering of the light rain against the windows had certainly done its part to lull her into a state of inattention. Before stepping off onto the curb she paused at the door and gazed into the retinal scanner that would bill the trip to her expense account. Reaching into her satchel she retrieved the mini-umbrella, shook it out with a single, firm whipping motion, and began the short walk to the front doors of the International Criminal Court. A security guard rushed to the door to hold it open for her.
“Bonjour, Madame Gagnon,” she said, before averting her eyes in what could have been taken for a bowing motion.
Marceline had made it a point to learn the names of all the security guards very early on in her career with the ICC. With Nozomi she always took pains to let the woman practice her unsteady French. Others might have viewed such things as a matter of personal preference, indifference even, but Marceline viewed it as a crucial part of her plan to rise through the ranks quickly. Perhaps, in the case of Nozomi, there had been something more.
Behind her back (but not always beyond her hearing), Marceline had become known as “Napoleon” around the office, in part from her diminutive stature, but predominantly due to her divide-and-conquer outlook on professional life. With Nozomi, however, she had been “Lina” almost from the outset, the nickname that was hardly known, and even more rarely used, by anyone save her parents. Looking back now, Marceline could see how she must have given off the sense of needing a mother figure upon arriving at The Hague. Whether it was an actual need on her part, she could not say, but Nozomi had filled the apparent void to the best of her ability, more than once rescuing the young prosecutor from dinner by herself by inviting Marceline back to her tiny flat at the end of the day.
Marceline’s plan had succeeded almost better than she could have hoped. That rainy morning was, in fact, the one-year anniversary of her appointment as the Chief Deputy Prosecutor for the ICC. At age thirty-six, she was the youngest person to hold the position in the history of the Court. Marceline was well aware of the fact and was well aware that everyone else was aware of it. But she had her sights set even higher and would not hamper her own plans by gloating over her relative youth and sudden rise to prominence.
After Nozomi had shepherded her around the security checkpoint in her usual, motherly way, Marceline entered the elevator for the swift ride to the top floor of the building. When she first began working for the Court, the top floor had seemed like a confusing labyrinth of offices and conference rooms designed to confuse those who ventured into it from floors below. Now, however, it was much more open and seemingly inviting. The redesign had been largely her doing despite the fact that such duties rarely devolved upon the Chief Deputy.
Her office, though farther from the center of activity than she would have liked, did have the advantage of sitting in a corner of the building, giving her ample natural light almost from dawn to dusk. The heavy gray clouds that hung over The Hague that late spring morning, however, greatly reduced any such advantage, and as she entered her office Marceline instructed the office computer to give her the “morning work” light setting.
She set her satchel down on the conference table and walked over to her desk as the lights gradually brightened. As they did so, a file folder that had not been there when she left the evening before caught her eye. This was the usual manner for her assistant to bring her new cases, but she could never recall one being placed on her desk in the middle of the night. Satisfied that if it had been any kind of emergency she would have been called last night, Marceline set about locating her electric kettle to make her morning tea. It was, she admitted, an archaic procedure, but the ritual of it helped her focus her thoughts. Then again, the practice of putting new cases in paper files forced one to conclude that (in some arenas, at least) humanity had not advanced quite as far as they liked to think.
As the tea leaves steeped, she sat down at her desk, set the new folder to the side, and began reading all of the non-urgent messages that had been sent overnight. One notified her that an arrest had finally been made in the Andean Pacific Region of the Union of South American Republics. A handful of the warlords who had tried to forestall the unification process remained at large, but they would be found and would be brought to justice for their crimes against the international community.
The South American situation was one of the very first cases Marceline worked on when she began her career at the ICC only a few years ago, but it had been an ongoing investigation for years before that--almost a generation actually. It was the kind of thing that she would have to see through to the end, but would do little for the progression of her career. She scanned the headings of the other messages and decided that there was nothing that couldn’t wait before she turned to her tea and then the folder.
Marceline opened it to find several pictures clipped to a witness statement. On a first glance, the pictures appeared to depict piles of unremarkable rubble. She set the pictures aside and began to read the narrative. It was relatively brief, but by the time she had finished and sat back in her chair to reflect, she had convinced herself that her career track was about to be put into hyperdrive.
It was only the sound of others arriving at the office to start the day that finally jolted her out of contemplation.
“Luca,” she called out into the hallway, beckoning her assistant. “Can you come in here, please? We need to get started on this new case.”