Shame filled Henry where he sat across from the two detectives. Even though what it should have been was guilt. The cops had put the black box through the revealer, only to discover that it was an apartment console. Even though he was at the station only as a witness to a crime against him, he had to answer for why he, as a travelling salesman, had such a console in his luggage. A console that should have been safe and secure at the University for Complex Beings.
“Who are these people, and why are they travelling in your suitcase? Be aware that you are entitled to an advocate, as we might be charging you with a violation of the rights of Complex Beings. A crime punishable by a lifetime imprisonment, as well as regular sessions of cruel and unusual punishment as defined by the legal mandates of 2083 in relation to careless treatment of non-humans”.
Henry sighed heavily, his washed-out face sagging with ingrained grief. He explained as best as he could. That one day, on a hike in the Paradise Mountains, the one at the North Eastern Section of the Globalist’s National Park, he had stepped on what he had assumed was an anthill. Realising that no ants were scurrying from him in panic, Henry had taken a closer look.
That had been his first encounter with the little people of Salt. They had been living in the mould, and his careless ramble had destroyed their home, killing countless. As the gravity of his misdeed became apparent, Henry had used his big clumsy hands to try and gather the crushed pieces back together. Thin shrills had followed this useless endeavour. That was when he had felt his skin crawling, leading him to a dead faint.
On recovering consciousness, he had discovered that the famed rare and elusive Salt particle had been dropped in his ear. This allowed him a magnified vision of the harm he had caused. Vicious soldiers of Salt had reproached him vehemently for killing their women folk, babies, and old ones without a care. They had provided him with a sudden death warning, little soldiers proceeding to line up along the hairs of his arm to jointly pierce his skin with the poisoned tips of their little spears.
That was when he had offered to rehome them in the apartment console, which was a first-class top of the line living ecosystem for Other Beings of a Certain Size and Intelligence. The little people of Salt were a simple but intelligent species, so when the elders consulted on this unusual situation, they had allowed the unfortunate Henry to make an online purchase with same day delivery. The box had arrived within a few hours and had been inspected thoroughly by the soldiers of Salt.
On ascertaining that it was safe, what was left of the people of Salt were ushered into their new home. With Henry made to promise, on his life and that of his family and future generations of them, and with repercussions of unceasing nightmares, that they would come to no harm.
They had heard of the University for Complex Beings but that had not appealed to them, as they were a nomadic people.
So, Henry had taken them on the road with him, the console in his suitcase. His clothes around the console provided extra insulation so that they could regulate the energy consumption of their new home. A built-in state of the art gravity control made sure that the constant movement of Henry’s car did not jostle the residents too much.
The little people had multiplied through the years, with marriages and babies. Because he’d had the foresight to get an apartment console with the added setting of Room to Grow, it would be another fifty years or so before the little people would need to be rehomed.
The detectives stared at Henry in awe and pity. The revealer had shown them the scared faces of the little people of Salt. They now understood that it was not fear of Henry that was causing their terror. Rather, it was the fear of losing their home.
Using due diligence, and a discreet translator, as they did not possess a Salt particle, the detectives were able to corroborate Henry’s story with the elders of the little people of Salt. The apartment console was returned to the unfortunate Henry, who glumly left the station with his moral charges.