Tlanslation: Svyatoslav Albireo
— We’ve consulted with your research and are deeply impressed, — lied the Emperor, pointing at the pile of books in front of him.
The uppermost one was entitled «The Truth About the Worldwide Conspiracy of the Reds» with a small note in small letters: «A new research from the author of the topical bestsellers «The Root of All Disasters» and «How to Genetically Improve the Nation». The author of the research respectfully perched on the edge of the guest chair, gazing at the monarch enthusiastically.
— People like you are the real support, the foundation of the state. If all citizens were as vigilant as you, m-m … — The Emperor almost said «mister», but the word required addressing by the name that had completely flown out his mind in the very first minute of the conversation.
He urgently had to depict a dreamy expression on his face, so that the mooing would be taken as he was overjoyed with the sight of billions of vigilant citizens, that had allegedly appeared in August mind’s eye. Belatedly realizing that the name is written on the books, he glanced sideways at the pile, but the chance was already lost.
— Your Majesty, — said the writer of the topical best-sellers, using the hitch to get into the conversation. — I always believed in you with all my heart! Madly! I am madly glad that you paid attention to the problem. Now is the time, it’s still not too late to take action, but before we act, I would like to tell you the whole truth. I confess, I did not dare publish everything, but for you …
— It’s good you didn’t dare, — the Emperor interrupted. — Don’t let the enemy know that we have found out his plans. From now, we demand to keep from now on strict secrecy and do an actual job. How many reliable associates do you have?
— Four, — said the best selling author after a moment of contemplation.
— Enough for a start. You are appointed the head of the secret department C-1207 in the secret police …
— 1207? How many of them…
— The departments are intentionally numbered randomly to confuse the enemy, — lied the Emperor again. — Your people are submitted to you from now. The strictest secret. Hide that you were here and that you are working for the special services. The publications should be discontinued in order not to show the enemy the degree of our knowledge. Give to the coordinator all the collected materials, especially the lists of individuals posing a danger. By the way, he’s expecting you in the waiting room to complete the necessary formalities and give the first instructions. You can go.
— Yes, Your Imperial Majesty! — the newly-minted officer of special services jumped up, stretched out into the frunt and saluted, vigorously clicking his heels. Well, at least he tried and even managed to give out everything that was allowed by the loose physique, the backside and the worn-out shoes.
— Go and remember: the future of the Empire is in your hands.
— Yes, Sir!
The sorrowful face of the coordinator of special departments flashed In the half-opened door. Despite the insanely high salary and many benefits, his position in the special services was not quoted. Those appointmented there were usually guilty of something.
Saturday breakfast was a special event. The Emperor always spent it with a circle of selected persons and with pleasure dragged it for many hours, if the conversation was worth it. As usual, the company was made up of the Personal Poisoner of Existence and a specially chosen guest. Today it was a woman about forty, pretty, graceful, with very intelligent and penetrating eyes. She looked older than her years, and it was conspicuous, but it did not spoil her. This was more the result of a stress of being in opposition than the age. She looked very gloomy and determined.
— It’s good to see you, Sheley, — said the Emperor, as the door closed behind the footman. — I know, you from your side would prefer not to see me, but I had to invite you. It’s not for nothing I throw my special services into despair, hiring legions of ideological informers, schizophrenics and conspirologists, forcing them to reread their writings.
The woman just snorted, and, the same old Poisoner of Existence ignored the introduction at all. He pulled up a dish of vegetables and pretended he was absorbed in the slicing of cucumber. In the presence of the Emperor, he basically ate only the simplest food to emphasize the depth of contempt to the surrounding luxury.
— Once I’ve noticed the more people write denunciations about someone, the it is more interesting to communicate with him, even if I don’t share his worldview. And so was born our tradition to invite to Saturday’s breakfast, how to say, the winner. In most cases, my theory was confirmed. As for you, Shelley, — at this point he took a delighted look at his silent audience, lingering it on the woman, — you are not just a winner, you are a record holder. From the thousand two hundred and seven stacks of clowns, six hundred and fifty-three were reported on you, including a psycho, obsessed with a worldwide conspiracy of redheads, whom we recruited just a week ago.
— How ma-a-any? — the Poisoner of Existence stared at the guest, forgetting about the cucumber. For the first time ever, the Emperor saw admiration in his eyes.
She really was red, except for a gray strand, starting just above her left temple. The Emperor suddenly found himself thinking that it was damn attractive.
— I’m intrigued, — he admitted honestly. — After that, I considered it is my duty to see you personally. You are not arrested. It’s just a breakfast…
— Great, — said Sheley, — So, I can leave right now.
— Wait! You miss a unique opportunity!
she wouldn’t have stopped if it was the Emperor who had shouted, but the voice was of the Poisoner of Existence. He jumped up excitedly, ready to rush after her. Something scattered on the tablecloth, but no one paid any attention to it.
— What an opportunity? To entertain him?
— No, tell him everything you do think, without any consequences.
She shrugged and went on heading for the exit.
— He already knows everything.
— I swear to you, this son of a bitch does not just listen, he takes notes. I have breakfast with him every … ghm … well, almost every Saturday, and it’s not always just a chit-chat. This is your chance to be heard. Believe me, at least! You know who I am. I haven’t any reason to be his yes-man.
She came back.
— It was the longest and the most interesting breakfast in my life, — said the Emperor, admiring the sunset through the crystal glass. — She is gorgeous! Indeed, it is impossible to earn the hatred of the best degenerates of the country, just shouting slogans. For this is necessary to think boldly and unconventionally, to back up your words with actions, disturbing the collective unconscious with your unwillingness to be part of a stable but unpretty picture of the world.
The Poisoner did not condescend to an answer. Since Sheley left, he didn’t say a word.
— What’s happened with you, my faithful enemy? You have never tried to stop a departing guest. And how did you argue with her for eight hours in a row! I see that the conversation cost you at least an annual supply of words. So, isn’t there even one single curse word left for me?
Instead of an answer, the Poisoner took an apple from the tray and began to crackle it, looking away.
— Oh, great, — the Emperor summed up. – There is jealousy between us, now.