Mind Fuck, Manna Francis; Chapter Seven
Toreth’s back at work after his SimTech-related shenanigans, only to be advised by Sara that his boss wants a word with him and that he doesn’t sound happy because he took a day off without holiday leave scheduled.
We haven’t heard much about Tillotson yet (other than the rumours that Toreth is sleeping with him in order to get the good cases: a rumour which is all the more ridiculous when you meet Tillotson in the series) but he’s another one of those believable, easily-recognisable public servant characters, like Chevril. Unlike Chevril, though, he’s presumably a lot more ambitious, a lot more by-the-books, and a hell of a lot less fun. The fact that a guy like Tillotson is a manager isn’t just convincing, it’s bloody typical. Personal bias has tainted my view of Tillotson: I can’t stand him because I recognise him in a lot of ineffective, micro-managing, mired-in-irrelevant-details, pompous, managerial types I’ve encountered. He’s so believable and typical and blank that I wonder if I have a normal reaction to him or an attitude problem. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Promising to tell Sara about Warrick later on, Toreth goes in to see Tillotson after requesting a coffee from his admin. Sara frequently uses coffee as a way of smoothing over edges, and in some cases, Toreth uses asking Sara to make him a coffee as distraction. (I love their dynamic.)
If Toreth’s apprehensive about a meeting with Tillotson, it’s understandable. At I&I, the only people scarier than the lower-level workers are presumably the ones who have worked up from that position and who are more skilled and adept at dealing with people than them. I mean, who else wants a senior level interrogator for a boss when it comes to those awkward getting-called-into-the-office moments? And Toreth, after his running up costs at the restaurant and the hotel for not-really-professional means, knows exactly what he’s dealing with.
When Tillotson decided to elicit confessions of illegitimate time off or expense account fiddling, he tended to go in for heavy-handed verbal traps.
Surprisingly, though, and thankfully, for Toreth, he’s not hear about that, he’s asking about the Sim seminar and how that went– and advising Toreth that he has a new case for him when Toreth gives him, well, some of the truth. (And omitting the rest.)
Phew, right? Except for the bit about how the new case is involving SimTech because someone died there. Toreth doesn’t declare any personal involvement with the players in the case because he’s curious (and presumably doesn’t want to get dropped for conflict-of-interest issues) and because he doesn’t feel his interactions with Warrick constitute anything serious enough to warrant disclosure.
The dead woman was Kelly Jarvis, a grad student with a seemingly unspectacular spotless record. Not the sort of thing which I&I usually deal with, though Toreth is then advised of the other part of the case: Jon Teffera, a corporate big name has also died and while the media reports have said it was from natural causes, they left out the bit abuot how he was found dead on a sim couch.
“[…] I didn’t think they were for sale yet.”
“They aren’t, except to corporate sponsors and their close, influential friends.”
Hearing about the case– and the issues surrounding it– gives us a peek into the bureaucracy that is the Administration. It hasn’t been a straightforward case up until this point; with the Justice department calling it corporate sabotage only to change their minds and decide to head down anyway. Just like in other government organisations, it seems that some relationships between departments are a trifle strained, and I&I and Justice seem to be two with such issues. Departmental reorganisation is something they still don’t have down to a fine art in the Administration’s time. (The beauty of it, again, is that it’s something all too familiar to life in the world of today.) So under the veil of everything being perfectly controlled, we still have companies fighting amongst themselves, and the government departments who are meant to be keeping everything in check fighting amongst themselves.
I&I, we learn, now focusses its attention on political or politically important crimes, while Justice gets the lower-end civilian stuff– where previously I&I seemed to get everything that had a rather extreme (death or the ominous-sounding re-education) sentence attached to it. (Presumably, too, the shift in responsibilities would have pissed off Justice employees who would have lost the more “prestigious” cases.) This case falls uncomfortably between Justice and I&I with a “regular” civillian death, and one of a powerful more noticeable figure… which suggests corporate involvement.
Anyway, Tillotson wants Toreth to sort everything out, and quickly, and he’s given him the order to clear everyone else away and get things wrapped up.
Toreth arrives at the research centre to see a heap of Justice officials and one of his investigation team members, Belqola.
The interactions through the book between Belqola and Toreth are again, realistically crafted, and they add to the story. (I love hearing about Toreth’s team and their interactions with him: he has a knack for getting the good ones and is apparently high in demand, and like everything he does professionally, he has educated reasoning behind it even if other people can’t see things the way he does. He assembles a really good team of subordinates, for the most part.) Belqola was presumably chosen because he had very good training grades, and while Toreth has a policy about not sleeping with his team members, he’s also easy on the eyes. Belqola is flaky, though, having run late from home, and now been sanctioned to outside the investigation because he has no supervisor present. Toreth isn’t impressed though he doesn’t really have time for this shit and gets to work securing the investigation.
There’s a bit of quibbling with Justice who still want the investigation, but Toreth moves them off fairly easily and his own team arrive, so he hands the paperwork and liaising with Justice part over to Belqola. (Ouch.) When the others– and some temps– get there, he gets them working on their respective parts in the investigation and goes off to talk to the legislator’s admin who was on the scene with Justice earlier. (And presumably, whose presence necessitated getting the whole thing sorted out quickly.)
Keilholtz was waiting for him in a small office on the first floor. As Toreth entered, he stood up. Ten years experience had taught Toreth that many people who saw an I&I uniform approaching under these circumstances appeared a little apprehensive.
Again, loving the details here; revealing without obviousness. Toreth is clearly competent and experienced in his role (and a good manager of people– which possibly explains why he’s not in Tillotson’s role– ha!)– and also, the mention of the influence of the I&I uniform is interesting to note as well. The Administration likes uniforms, it seems: the admins wear grey, presumably office-type garb, the Justice officers wear blue (which makes it easy to imagine that they’re in a police-type role), and I&I– have a somewhat ominous, sci-fi series bad guy black getup.
However hard the Administration pushed the line that the Investigation and Interrogation Division was a virtuous force for ensuring the safety of citizens against terrorists and other criminals, for those caught up in an investigation, the second “I” tended to take on overwhelming significance.
Again, I love this. I love that there is fear and distrust about the division and the system, despite the fact that speaking out against it is regarded as an act of sedition. And in spite of that, the Administration still uses publicity and fear-mongering about terrorism– to try and mollify the population. Very human, and all too reminiscent of how things operate at the moment. Clearly terrorists are still scary in the future, though later down the track and with some more clues about the world they’re living in, it’s possibly easier to see that there could be a tad more justification there than there is, say, right now.
Toreth begins the interview with Keilholtz who explains that he’s there on behalf of the legislator– the Science and Technology Law Division need to keep in mind that there needs to be regulation around virtual worlds and the technology allowing for them. (Which all sounds smart– and typical. I can’t help but think about how long it’s taking the world to get its shit in order regarding legislation around the internet and copyright– the technology surpassed the authorities in governing it and slapping down laws on things. After that, you can understand why they’d be a bit quicker on the uptake when it comes to technology used to create virtual worlds.*)
* By the way, an article I was reading last night suggested that in ten years, we’re going to have graphics which will be indistinguishable from reality. I always thought it was going to happen, but didn’t know when and assumed it wouldn’t be in my lifetime. I would also like to point out that this world– even with its advanced technology and its characters who may be extraordinary in some ways (but who are still well-rounded enough to be believable) is still far more skilled at suspending my disbelief than a certain other thing I’m reading at the moment which is set in modern day America. Basically, I believe that the events in The Administration are more likely at some point in time, than any of the batshit crazy that is in 50 Shades of Grey. There. I said it.
Clearly the legislator realises the potential of the sim and what it could possibly spell for the world. While Toreth points out the prohibitively expensive nature of the technology, the legislator Keilholtz is representing, Legislator Nissim, is of the opinion that one day it’s going to be affordable and accessible for everyone. (Hmm. I’m inclined to agree when I think about how IBM thought there’d be a market for eight computers way back when… but I’m also thinking about all those “future technologies” TV shows that were on the air when I was a kid which told us that in the year 2000, we’d have flying cars and Trekkie technology.) Nissim clearly has an interest in the sim and seems to be in support of SimTech and all for assisting them.
Toreth turns the interview back to the case and asks about the dead grad student. Keilholtz has no idea who she is, and was only here because he was meant to be having a demonstration of the sim himself. He explains that the legislator already has the sim technology at home and that once the murder was discovered, Justice moved him out of the way.
Since he’s the admin of a legislator— and he doesn’t seem to have much else to say– and he’s going to be inconvenienced by remaining in London when he’s due back in France– Toreth lets him go, and has a look at the crime scene for himself. He doesn’t know the dead girl, it wasn’t the same room he’d used with Warrick– he thinks.
Over his career Toreth had learned not to rely on anyone’s recollections, even his own; he had heard too many witnesses give honestly recounted but wildly inaccurate stories.
Hmmm. While that’s actually true and can be backed up with psychology references, it’s probably further exemplified when torturing information out of someone is a legal part of the interviewing process.
The forensics people are already there getting a handover from the Justice forensics people, and we get a bit more insight into intradepartmental politics: the service providers get a rather enviable position of not really being in conflict with any of the other departments. (Again, it makes perfect sense.)
After introducing himself to Toreth, the head of the Justice forensics team explains what’s going on with the dead girl, which only gives reason for more questions.
“[…] How, when– all the usual.”
“Twenty-two hundred, give or take a little. How, you’ll have to ask them.” He gestured to the I&I team. “Although there were lots of things it wasn’t. She hasn’t been shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten to death or poisoned with anything I can pick up here.”
“Give me a guess.”
The man looked pained. “I’m not psychic.”
“Come on– you’ll never have to see her again.”
The man smiled wryly. “There is that, Para. If you insist– I’d say she stopped breathing. That’s what it looks like to me. I know–that’s only a symptom, But I’m not going as far as a cause; you know what’s likely as well as I do.”
So there’s nothing decisive yet, just more questions about the how, the why, and the overall nature of her death.
Bringing his own trusted forensics people in, he gets them looking at things, and goes on to see Warrick.
So here we have the beginning of the investigation, and, as a reader, the realisation that there is a HEAP of stuff going on, and the subplots and the details and even the most random of characters are all fleshed out wonderfully. The writing is also tight and concise; with this much going on it’s amazing that it doesn’t get really fucking wordy, but the pacing is done well: while you’re not stuck in one spot for too long going, “Damn, I’m bored, I think I’ll go read something else/Hey! I’m going to watch an entire season of anime!/Hmmm… you know what I’ve always wondered about? Thermodynamics. Let’s start reading as much material on that as possible…” you’re also not whisked through everything too quickly for it to have any meaning or personality.
I love, too, that the sexual relationship between Warrick and Toreth doesn’t overshadow the thriller aspect of the novel, and it doesn’t feel like it’s been pasted in to spice up a futuristic crime novel either. It’s just a beautiful combination of so many rarities all at once.