Coffee Break Read – Flexible Morality

Imagine waking up one day unable to recall who you are or where you came from – only to find you are serving a sentence as a convict conscript for crimes you have no memory of ever committing…

“I will make it a priority to produce my formal recommendation as soon as possible,” he said, keeping his tone brisk but conciliatory. “I appreciate how important it is to your department, Var Tyran, to have a speedy resolution one way or the other, but I will not be able to give you the recommendation you seek. This man is a very high risk individual – even within my Legion he is regarded as being dangerous. You heard the Sergeant and I can assure you he will be speaking from a depth of experience of this soldier no neurocologist ever could possess. I will need more than the usual amount of convincing to let this one loose.”
The woman shrugged on a light jacket as she came back towards him.
“I quite understand Commodore, true integrity is a rare and valuable trait in an officer serving the Coalition. Rare enough so I did not expect to find it here. My mistake, judging the Special’s high command by their troops’ reputation.”
Vane’s goodwill evaporated a little.
“I think, Var Tyran, you should be more careful about making such assumptions. There is no corruption in the military. But perhaps your colleagues in the security forces have more flexible moralities.”
“Well, of course we do, Commodore, we have to – it’s part of the job description.” She smiled, her teeth pressing slightly into the softness of her lower lip. “But then morality is something that is not clear cut in this particular case.”
“There is so much that is ‘not clear cut’ about this case,” Vane said, giving voice to the doubts that had gnawed at him from the moment the interview began. “How can we even be sure the man has truly lost all his memories? He speaks as if highly educated and shows no remorse for his deeds. Sergeant Hynas offered a very good analysis, I feel.”
Var Tyran held out her hand to him, with its beautifully manicured nails. For a moment Vane thought she was attempting some kind of farewell gesture. Then he realised she wanted to show him the device linked on the inside of her wrist.
“Yes, your Sergeant was right in one thing Commodore, that man has been wired to the Lattice for over five years. He can’t have a thought or emotion without us being able to tell something of the nature of it. I can promise you he did not lie once in your presence, I would have known if he had.” The woman took a tiny step closer as she spoke and looked up, directly into his eyes as if willing him to understand the importance of what she said. Her own eyes were arresting – many shifting, subtle, shades of blue. “Apart from kinaesthetic skills, the language centres were the only memory related areas unaffected by the trauma. Believe me, my people wish it was not so. He could have given us so very much. When we first brought Revid in we took him to pieces neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse. So we know there is nothing there. We also know there is no evidence of any brain damage. It is as if something just wiped entire swathes of his memory clean – like resetting a data store.”
“I’m not sure how something like that could happen,” Vane said, frowning.
“You are not alone, Commodore. We still don’t know what caused it, only how little it left behind.”
“So what do we know?” he asked. The woman looked away, consulting a screen perhaps or just thinking, it was hard to be certain. She gave a sigh, her breasts lifting as she did so.
“Alright. What we know. Revid has a marked curiosity about what life is like outside the Special Legion. He accepts he is responsible for the crimes he committed but is confused around it. It is not real to him that he once had a wife and daughter, that he killed them or that he went around blowing up innocent people. His only experience of life has been in the Legion, and his only taste of something approaching a normal human relationship is through one friendship which he values above all else. Apart from that, he sees the Coalition as being the only thing that matters. When he speaks of wishing to serve, I can promise you he is not using a platitude.” She looked up into Vane’s eyes again and he could read her sincerity. “That is the man you saw standing before you – and that man is many things, but he is not the ruthless murderer we used to see in the news reports. In his own experience he has never been that ruthless murderer.”
Vane took a few moments to think. He would like to be able to find some common ground, some way he could bring this through that worked for them both. But he struggled hard to see how.

From Trust A Few book one in Haruspex, the second Fortune’s Fools trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook which is only 0.99 to buy for a limited period.

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