Chapter Fifty-Nine

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A spotlight shone on Clairbourne. He tried to shield his eyes with his hand, but it was too bright, he squinted and blinked furiously.

"For the record, could you please state your current role?"

Clairbourne's head moved from side to side, trying to locate the person asking the question.

"Who, are you? How dare you do this to me? Have you any idea who I am?"

"Answer the question, Mr. Clairbourne please."

"Mr. Mr! I'm Professor Clairbourne and you will address me in the correct manner, do you hear?"

"Mr. Clairbourne, we do not recognise or acknowledge any terms or titles which could directly or indirectly both elevate your position or demean the position of others. Now, answer the question. What is it that you currently do for on behalf of Michael Briggs's government?"

"I'm not telling you anything," Clairbourne smirked and stood up, brandishing a clenched fist.

"I strongly urge you to sit down, Mr. Clairbourne."

The last sentence had an incendiary effect. Clairbourne began to rant and rave, spittle flying through the air, glistening in the spotlight. He paced around the chair, his language as colourful as the bruising around his right eye. However he wasn't so lost to his rage that he didn't hear the click of a handgun being cocked.

He stopped and stood wide eyed. For the first time since he'd been brought downstairs, he looked scared.

"I will ask you to sit down for the last time, Mr. Clairbourne." The enunciation of the word, Mr was mocking and confrontational. "I strongly recommend you do just that."

Clairbourne rubbed at his wrists, the red chafing from recent bindings very apparent. Without further a word, he sat down.

"Your role, Mr Clairbourne?"

Clairbourne sighed, closed his eyes and lowered his head. "My current role is Lead Scientific Officer", he began. "I advise General Briggs of current and proposed scientific policy."

"Thank you. Is it true that you also hold responsibility for the SPR process and therefore the systematic degradation and debasement of the majority of this country's population? Isn't that so, Mr. Clairbourne?"

"What? No, no, that's not true at all. The SPR system allows our government to manage our limited resources very effectively. Without such a system, where would we be?"

Amelia Dexter laughed. "Indeed, Mr. Clairbourne, where would you be?"

Clairbourne shifted in his seat.

"So, Mr. Clairbourne, I would now like to know about Briggs's plan to raise the Flawed threshold. What can you tell me about that?"

Clairbourne squirmed in his seat this time. "I'm sorry...err... I don't understand what you mean."

"Come, come, Mr. Clairbourne. Are you telling me that someone of your importance, your stature in this government doesn't know of this great plan? Surely, you would be at the forefront of this, considering how important the management of our country's resources are."

"I...I may have heard something, but I've forgotten ..."

"Would you like us to help you remember?" Amelia interrupted.

Clairbourne's eyes showed he would not.

"Very well," he sighed, "General Briggs decided that the Flawed level is to be raised to eighty-five. To be honest, I don't really see the need, but he insists. He said that because of that Hannah girl being so damned perfect, we should be working on ways to improve our general level of perfection and that raising the bar will help do just that, amongst other things."

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