First Draft Excerpt from Measure of Adulthood

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I had to wait a few seconds longer than the minute and a half on the clock when I walked into Adulthood Services, which was what I expected. My number was called by a young-looking man with a vaguely Hispanic look to him. "I'm Grace," I introduced myself as I approached him.

I saw him notice my official badges. Epaulets showing brown triangles embossed on a bare metal circle may have been derivative authority - but there weren't a lot of people walking around with connections to a Nonus. Add in the green triangle (with stick figure) of a Fourth Order Guardian on my Achievement Bar, and a lot of people overlooked the lowly white disc next to it that said I'd last separated from the military as a Staff Private. Especially since I also had the small red triangle of a Tertius-in-rank. "Is there something I should know, anb?" he asked in Technical.

I shook my head, "I'm here in a personal capacity. Notice the circle is plain - I'm a specialist, not a viceroy myself - and my personal badge of rank is present separately." Tertius-in-rank had no personal authority, it was only a sign of eligibility. I still had more to learn before anyone would consider giving me charge of even a Primus' district. "I can only wield viceregal authority in connection with assigned duties." I didn't tell him I was an Investigator; that would likely only fluster him for the remainder of my visit. It may be derivative authority, but Investigator is as broad as derivative authority gets.

He relaxed,"Pedro Mendoza, amn." Even the amn honorific was pushing it, but cut him some slack - like I said, the brown triangles of a Nonus' authority were rare. "What is the nature of your personal business?"

"I got a notice that my son has been sentenced to a loss of adulthood, and if I was willing to assume responsibility for him to present myself to this office."

"Your identification?"

This was official government business. I had to use my real Imperial ID, not a graycode. I gave him the twenty-digit identifier in base sixty.

"First key?"

That was another twenty digits - what the Empire used as a password to confirm identity in non-critical cases. Everyone had three levels of key. I entered it directly into his system.

"Oh," he said, "Lemarcus Wilson. One of the more interesting cases. Your son didn't name you as a potential guardian - your relationship came up in a secondary search after a lack of response. It's been almost a year; your son is in stasis."


"Because he's operant. If nobody volunteered to become his guardian, he would have been transported to exile next week."

"What was his offense?"

"Fraud and mindrape."

Oh. The Empire got really hardcore about mindrape. Justifiably. Abusing the operant gifts to force compliance was an assault upon the entire identity of the victim. Conditional exile was a light sentence for mindrape - any of the actual criminal offenses could result in a death sentence if egregious enough, but mindrape was one of the three where a death sentence was common for offenders and 'special circumstances' meriting specifically barbaric punishments wasn't rare. With our mental abilities, the advantage was with the defender, so most often the victim of mindrape was a Natural State human. Natural State humans were still five-sixths of the population - if they thought operants had any kind of official sanction for mindrape, we'd have riots that would make the demonic raids look attractive. The thought of my son committing mindrape gave me a sharp spike of nausea - but I clamped down on the puke reflex with necris. Let's be clear - there was no way you could pass two of the adulthood tests without understanding what mindrape was or that it was a crime, so he was evidently a real piece of work. But I owed it to him to try to bring him up to being a human being. The alternative was to pretend I wasn't his mother, that I had somehow been coerced into conceiving and birthing him, step back, and lie to myself and everyone else for the rest of my life.

"What do I need to do?"

"He's physically in stasis in Minor Habitat Three, but you need to agree to an assumption of guardianship, then they will bring him back to Earth soon as they can schedule a trip. When he arrives, you will be required to sign for custody."

"He's that dangerous?" Meanwhile I read the guardianship agreement. It was shorter than I expected, although there was an attached explanation I didn't need that was significantly longer. I was agreeing to be completely responsible for my son and anything he did. Given that he was a convicted major criminal, not an insignificant consideration. His travel would also be restricted until he regained adulthood. I noted the exit clause - If he proved beyond my ability to raise, there had to be a way to halt the damage done. I'd still be responsible for what happened before, and until he was once again in custody, after which his sentence of exile would be reinstated. That was a necessity, as no matter what I owed my son, I also owed obligations elsewhere, and everyone's resources were limited.

"Probably not to a Fourth Order Guardian such as yourself. But he's been convicted of mindrape. The Empire is not willing to risk further repetition of his crimes. Regaining his adulthood will require full mental examination, and he will be required to wear a damper until his adulthood is restored. Will that be a problem?"

"How strong a damper?"

"One bar."

It'd make it harder to use my Guardian abilities around him - comparable to walking around with a weight on my wrists and ankles. For the Seventh Order Scimtars, I doubted it would even be noticeable. But the other spouses were another matter. Some of them were weak Second Order - within a couple ififths of Lemarcus, it'd be like having their external abilities cast in concrete or steel for something my son had done. But Scimtar had to have known that when he gave me permission - and not only were the weaker spouses full Guardians where my son was not, they could expect assistance if required. "Where do I get one?"

"He'll come to you already fitted with it. The charge will be levied against his fine. If he breaks it, an alert will be triggered. Repairs or replacement will also be charged."

"I presume I will be among those alerted?"

"If you request. You may also request additional alerts."

"I live in Indra System, with my husband's family."

"Register with Adulthood Services upon arrival."

"One more thing. My husband's family is politically important. I'm exposed to their rivals here. Is there any way to expedite his return to Earth, or that I can physically go fetch him?"

"Are you authorized for the habitat?"

I was authorized to be anywhere, particularly anywhere under Scimtar's jurisdiction. "Let me check... apparently yes."

"Not many are, so you might want to message ahead. Otherwise, they might ship him before you get there. Your acceptance of the guardian contract is on record. Remember to notify the Adulthood Services branch for your local Secundus when you arrive - here is a copy of his official record. They will ask for it. Make sure you get an acknowledgement in case of legal complications, and let them know if you want a notification of his damper malfunctioning to you or anyone else."

"Is there anything else?"

"Local Adulthood Services will likely assign you a contact as a monitor and for special requests. Be advised anything special will involve a charge, as will the examination for restoring adulthood - your ward owes the Empire money for his care and reimbursement to his victims. The Empire is not a charity, but there will likely be some charities willing to help with rehabilitation." There were charities for everything in the Empire. I contributed to several myself. "That covers it," Mr. Mendoza finished.

"Thank you for your assistance." I got up to leave, shook his hand, and walked out.

Copyright 2023 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on May 16, 2023 7:00 AM.

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